History of Waltz Township, Wabash County, Indiana
From: History of Wabash County, Indiana
Compiles under the Editorial Supervison of
Clarkson W. Weesner
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York 1914


Waltz Township embraces forty eight sections in the southwest corner of Wabash County, being eight miles east and west and six miles north and south. It is drained and watered by the Mississinewa River and its tributaries, which traverse all but its northern sections; in these rise the headwaters of Mill Creek, which flows northward and empties into the Wabash below Wabash City. Ten Mile Creek, the chief tributary of the Mississinewa within the limits of the township, rises in the northern edge of Grant County, takes a westerly course through the southeast portion of the township, and enters the river a little east of Somerset.


The Mississinewa extends in a very crooked channel through the southern portions of the township, flowing in a generally northwestern direction toward the Wabash River, which it joins at about the center of Miami County. Its current is strong and has furnished an abundance of water power to the people of Waltz Township, who have established several fairly successful mills on its banks in the vicinity of Somerset and Mount Vernon. Mill Creek is so named not because of any industries which have been planted on its banks within Waltz Township, but because the Government built the old Indian mill on that stream not far from its mouth in Noble Township.

Waltz Township was of late development, and has never shown much progress from an urban standpoint. It is still almost purely a collection of rural communities and scattered farms, virtually the only attempts at condensed settlements having been made at Somerset and Mount Vernon, in the southeastern portion in the valley of the Mississinewa The only invasion of its territory by the railroad was in 1872, when the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan cut off a few acres of its extreme northeast corner.


The chief reason for the tardy settlement of Waltz Township was that the lands within its limits were all included in the Big Miami Reserve and, although they were surveyed in 1839, the year before they were ceded by the Miamis to the United States, the Government did not issue patents, or titles to them until 1847-48. The consequence was that settlers were loth to take up homesteads, the tenure to which was so uncertain, and especially as the bulk of the Indians did not leave the country until 1847.

Besides the canal and other public lands in Waltz Township, were several individual reserves to various head men of the Miamis, some of which were disposed of soon after the treaty was officially proclaimed by President Tyler in 1841. The chief of these special reserves were the Richardville tract of 1,280 acres (sections 4 and 5); Reserve 25, about 640 acres, on the western border of the township south of the Mississinewa River; Reserve No. 26, 960 acres on the northern banks of the river, about a mile east of No. 25, and a part of the Me-shin-go-me-sia tract, comprising 1,680 acres north of the river and west of the eastern boundary of the township in sections 13, 14, 23, 24, 25 and 26.


Chief Richardville had a grant of seven sections altogether, under the 1840 treaty, to be located at his pleasure, and his estate on Cart Creek, which his heirs held for years, cut out a large number of settlers there.

One tract of the Richardville grants was a little northeast of Somerset and was known as the Twin Springs section, named because of the presence thereon of two constant springs of clear, cold water. Even before this selection was made by the heirs of the chief in about 1841, a Frenchman named Krutzan is said to have located at that locality, with his Indian wife, built a rude log house and entertained travelers, who made of it a tavern on their way from Marion to Peru. It was about half way between these points. This historic tract afterward came into possession of Allen Hamilton, by virtue of a deed from the daughters of Richardville.


Moses Coppick, who built one of the first corn crackers on Squirrel Creek, Paw Paw Township, is said to have been in the Mississinewa Valley and made a like improvement in the Somerset neighborhood, before any white settler located within the limits of Waltz. But Coppick was apparently like John Anderson - even more so - considerable of a wanderer, and liable to be "first" in more than one locality in a pioneer country.

The first settler to come and stay was Samuel Oreutt, who migrated from Grant County, probably as early as 1837 or 1838, and bought an Indian claim near Twin Springs at the upper edge of Somerset.

LOCATED IN 1839-46

Among the settlers of 1839 were Francis F Cain, James T. Liston and William Shaw. There was quite an influx in 1840, occasioned by the treaty with the Miamis by which their lands were ceded, with certain reservations, for purposes of settlement. Those who located during that year in Waltz Township were: Levi Stanley, north of the river; Tobias Miller, north of the future town of Somerset; Tense Massey and his son, James, from Randolph County; Joab Price, Tense Massey's son-in-law; Benjamin Shaw; and John B. Eltzroth.

From 1841 to 1846 came the following: In 1841, David Leland, William Berry and David Ridenour; William Stewart, to the south side of the Mississinewa, in 1842; Daniel Hoover and John Wherrett, 1843; Enoch Jackson, from Wayne County, in 1845, locating in section 1 John Whiteneck, east of Mount Vernon, in 1846.


David Ridenour, who became a settler in 1841, accompanied his father from Tuscarawas County, Ohio. He married in Wabash County and had twelve children, all of whom lived to be married. The family homestead, upon which he was reared, was just west of old Waltz postoffice on a branch of Mill Creek. The treaty with the Indians had been made, but the original owners of the soil hung on for several years after the coming of the Ridenours. Neither had the land come actually into market for purchase; nor did not, until 1847. Like others who came early and waited for that happy time, they were "squatters." Afterward they entered their lands in a regular way and secured a clear title. David Ridenour became not only a large land owner, but invested in the sawmill near his place.


As stated, Enoch Jackson came from Wayne County in 1845. He built a cabin in the woods in section 1, his claim being on both sides of a creek. At that time the Weesners had settled south of him - Johiel Weesner in section 18 and Nathan Weesner and Joseph Weesner in section 13.


In 1847, under the Preemption Act of the preceding fall, most of the early settlers of Waltz Township made regular entries of their lands. Among the number were: Jacob Milnor, June 30th, southeast quarter of section 13, on the east township line directly north of the Me-shingo-me-sia Reserve, still owned by the Milnors; Johiel Weesner, July 20th, southeast quarter of section 18; Elihu Weesner, July 20th, southwest quarter of section 18, north of Red Bridge and on the north line of Reservation No. 26; Nathan Weesner, July 20th, northwest quarter of section 13, near the northwest corner of Reservation 26; Andrew R. Starbuck, August 10th. southwest quarter of section 25, four miles west of Somerset; Nathan W. Hiatt, August 10th, southeast quarter of section 26, next west of Starbuck's; James Shackelford, September 24th, northeast quarter of section 20, a little north of Sugar Grove Cemetery; John R. Davis, October 2d, northwest quarter of section 20, next west of Shackelford's; and Tobias Miller, October 4th, southwest quarter of section 28. across the river from Somerset.


The abstract of sales in Waltz Township, as taken from Land Office records, is as follows; 1840, 640 acres; 1841. 960: 1842. 880; 1843. 400; 1844. 1.745; 1845, 195; 1847, 8,018; 1848, 12.949; 1849, 232. Total, 26,179.01 acres. To that sum must be added the 4.560 acres embraced in reserves 25 and 26, the Richardville reservations and the Mesh-in-gome-sia tract, which makes a total of 30,739 acres. That is nineteen more acres than forty eight square miles, the area of the township; which is fairly accurate and must be allowed as against the inaccuracies of both surveyors and statisticians.


In May, 1841, soon after the Miamis had ratified their treaty with the Government, the Board of Commissioners of Wabash County created Waltz Township with the following bounds: Commencing on the township line between towns 26 and 27 and where the range line between 6 and 7 crosses, and running south to the county line, thence west to the southwest corner of Wabash County, thence north six miles along the line of said county to where the township line between 26 and 27 intersects the county line between Miami and Wabash counties, thence east to the place of beginning. The township was named in honor of Lieut. Col. Frederick Waltz, who was killed at the battle of the Mississinewa, December 18, 1812. He was a brave officer and a fine man, from every account we have of him.

Jesse Long was appointed inspector of elections and one was ordered to be held at the house of J. Eltzroth, on Tuesday, June 15, 1841, for the choice of a justice of the peace. The place for holding elections was afterward set at Lewis Oyler's, and at the June term of the board in 1845 to Alexander Jackson's, whose residence was across the river from the new town of Somerset.


Twin Springs, or Springfield, as it was called during the first three or four years of its existence, was surveyed by David P. Alder for Stephen Steenberger, proprietor, in December, 1843. Its location was on Twin Springs section, selected for Richardville's estate, as one of seven granted him by the treaty of 1840-41, and comprised sixty four lots on the south side of the Mississinewa River a short distance east of the mouth of Ten Mile Creek. Jacob D. Cassatt was wont to affirm that when he was a member of the Legislature from Wabash, in 1846 or 1847, a bill was introduced by him, which became a law, changing the name of the town from Twin Springs to Somerset.

At the time named, a few substantial forms of life had appeared at the place - a hotel by John Shackelford, two little stores kept by Derrick Lehmer and Daniel Hoover, John Wherrett's blacksmith shop, and a few dwellings.


About a mile further east, in the southwest corner of section 26, were also a few buildings standing upon the site of Mount Vernon (plat surveyed in July, 1847), about half a mile south of the river. Several years before Mr. Wherrett had started a blacksmith shop at that locality, but had decided that his prospects would be improved by locating at Twin Springs, or Somerset. By 1847 Peter King had started the grist mill on the other side of the river, east of the Mount Vernon Pike bridge, and several years afterward the mill on the south side of that stream, below the town, was erected. The former was quite an establishment for many years, but did nothing to enhance the growth of Mount Vernon.


Somerset, on the other hand, became a fair settlement for an interior town. Besides several new stores opened in the late '40s, Elihu and Allen Weesner established a tannery and Joseph Perry set up a cabinet shop. Other establishments came and went, and several mills were built on either side of the river both above and below Somerset. In 1861 Jacob Ullery erected a little woolen factory on the south bank of the Mississinewa, a mile below, but after a few years the venture was abandoned. In that locality several large grist mills were successively erected by Ferree & Albaugh, from fifteen to twenty years after the launching of the woolen factory, but each of them was burned and the builders and proprietors abandoned the site as something taboo.

Several additions were made to Somerset - one by Stephen Steenberger and M. C. Crabill in 1849; another by William Snyder in 1853. and a third by William McLain in 1867.

In 1869 a public school was built for the accommodation of the townsfolk and neighboring families; church facilities were always plentiful, and in 1883 the Somerset Bugle was established. But though that journal did all it could to advertise the advantages of the place, it never boomed and has always been obliged to be content with the honor of being "the best town in Wabash County which has no railroad."


Perhaps the first religious organization in Waltz Township was the Sugar Grove Methodist Church. Meetings were first held at John R. Davis' cabin in 1843, the preacher being Mr. Merrill. For about seven years services were continued without a meetinghouse, but in 1850 a new hewed log house of worship was erected. It stood on its original site for fifteen years, when it was moved to College Corner, and to the immediate vicinity of the meetinghouse of that name belonging to the Disciples, northwest of Sugar Grove. The Weesners and Shackelfords were all early worshipers of Sugar Grove Methodist Church.


By 1846 there was preaching by Reverend Mr. Hawes, of Marion, a Presbyterian, to the people of Somerset and vicinity. In that year Rev. Andrew Luce organized a society and conducted services in a little log schoolhouse, a short distance from town.


Mount Pleasant Methodist Church originated in a class which was formed in 1845. Several informal meetings had been held before, but in the year named Enoch Jackson, who had but recently settled on the southwest quarter of section 1, threw open his large, comfortable cabin for religious purposes and a regular organization was effected. In 1847 a log house of worship was erected in that locality, and in 1865 the society built a neat frame structure. The Mount Pleasant Church proved to be strong and enduring.

The cemetery established in connection with the church was laid out in 1846, and is one of the oldest in Waltz Township. The first burial was that of the infant child of Robert Burns Jackson, which took place in August of that year. Various additions were made to the original cemetery plat, which is located about one and a half miles southwest of Pioneer. Many of the early settlers have been buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, and it is still extensively used.

The following deed for an addition in 1853 is interesting as an old document, made out and acknowledged by two stanch pioneers of Waltz Township, Enoch Jackson and Nancy Jackson, his wife, and acknowledged before Jonathan Weesner, justice of the peace, the latter the father of Clark W. Weesner, of Wabash:

"Enoch Jackson and Nancy his wife of Wabash county and the state of Indiana, convey and warrant to Joseph Kirby, John Roberts, Daniel W. Stradley, Joshua Bunch and Wesley Stubblefield of the same county and state, the following described real estate, to wit: Beginning on the center line thirty rods west of the center of Section one, in Township No. Twenty six north, of Range No. five east, and running thence south nine rods, thence east eighteen rods, thence north nine rods, thence west eighteen rods to the place of beginning, and containing one acre and two rods more or less; to them and their successors in office, to have and to hold forever in trust for the use of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and by them used for all purposes wished or desired.

"PROVIDED, however, that that portion of the ground now arranged and allotted for a burying ground shall forever remain free for all persons who wish to inter therein, who shall also be free to erect any stone or other monument to the memory of their departed friends. The place of burying however to remain subject to such rules and restrictions as may be adopted by the above named trustees and their successors in office, to whom the above premises are conveyed and warranted, for and in consideration of the sum of ten dollars, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, this twenty ninth day of January eighteen hundred and fifty three.

"State of Indiana ss. Wabash County. - Before me, Jonathan Weesner, a Justice of the Peace, in and for said county this 29th day of January, 1853, Enoch Jackson and Nancy his wife acknowledged the execution of the above deed.
JONATHAN WEESNER [ Seal] "Justice of the Peace."


About 1847 John Whiteneck, who was an elder of the German Bap tist Church, moved into the vicinity of Mount Vernon. There were a few of his people on both sides of the Mississinewa River and he began to preach to them. These meetings were generally held in cabins and schoolhouses and, if they promised to be largely attended. a barn was brought into requisition. In time a society was formed of German Baptists in Waltz Township. That organization so increased in membership that it divided into two bodies, and a separate brick meetinghouse was erected for each - one north of the river in 1871 and the other at Mount Vernon in 1874.


Pleasant Grove Wesleyan Church originated in the efforts of James Starbuck, of the prolific Wayne County family, the original society in Waltz Township being formed at his house in February, 1847. Rev. David Worth, a noted abolitionist and Wesleyan of that day, was the organizing minister. In 1860 the first house of worship was erected upon land owned by Andrew R. Starbuck in the southwest quarter of section 25. In connection with this, a cemetery was also platted, both west of Mr. Starbuck's residence.

The North Union Friends Church grew out of meetings held by Jemima Burson in 1847 and ten years later the Disciples organized a society in Somerset.

Such religious movements as these, showed the early religious tendency of the citizens of Waltz Township, who have always enjoyed a high reputation for sobriety and morality, as well as industry and conservative but solid building of all their institutions.

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