History of Franklin Township, Darke County Ohio
From: History of Darke County, Ohio
From its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time
By: Frazer E. Wilson
The Hibart Publishing Company
Milford, Ohio 1914

This township was formed in June, 1839, by taking all of township 8 north, range 4 east, that is, within the limits of Darke county, and adding one tier of sections from the eastern side of township 9 north, range 3 east, from Van Buren township, giving the new township 24 sections in all.

The surface is a level plain broken here and there by gravel cairns, and the soil is deep and rich, having been formed largely from the alluvial deposits of the immense swamps that originally covered large portions of the land. Painter (or Panther) Creek enters the southwestern corner of the township, trends northeastward and crosses the eastern county line in the southeastern corner of section 9, draining probably over half of the entire area. The northern part is drained by a branch of Greenville creek, and the southeastern portions by minor tributaries of the Stillwater.

Irwin C. Mote, esquire, deceased, wrote thus of pioneer days in this township: "In the early forties we lived on the highway between Franklin township, and the Stillwater mills. We lived there where Laura is now, and all the travel between that township and the Stillwater mills had to go by our place of residence. Many times there would pass our house a team of one horse and a cow hitched up to the fore part of a wagon. Some times there would pass two or three on horseback or cowbacic, going to the mill, and at other times a lone man or boy would pass riding a cow with a sack of corn thrown across its back, destined for the Stillwater mills." * * *

"At the time that I write about, Franklin township was a wilderness, and it was nearly one half covered with water the year round, and was full of nearly all kinds of game, such as squirrels, turkeys and deer. There were also different kinds of vicious animals in the wilds of that township, namely wolves, bear, catamounts, etc. * * * That part of Darke county is the garden spot of the world, but it took work and labor to make it."

Among the early settlers were Samuel Hall, who located in section 18, and John Haworth, who located in section 33 about 1824 or 1825. Eli Inman settled in section 8 in 1826, and Daniel Oakes settled in section 19 about 1828. Later settlers were Martin Brandt, Henry Finfrock, Theophilus T. Penny, Wiliam Hess and Christian Newcomer.

The following excerpt from the writings of Mr. Henry Layer, whose biography appears in Volume II of this work, contains many interesting items of early history and throws some strong side lights on early social life. This article was written about 1908:

"John Hess, who formerly lived near the village of Painter Creek, but who is now deceased and buried in the Newcomer cemetery, helped to build the first school house in this township. It was a log structure put up near the west bank of the stream of Painter Creek on land at present owned by Jonas Rhoades and in process of time this was lathed and plastered and was made a comfortable house for those times and it was in this log structure that the writer of this sketch received his first instructions in the rudiments of education. To the best of my recollection, David Olwine was the first teacher who taught in this building, and I think he taught about three winters in the same place, the schools at that time being supported mainly by subscription, that is money donated by the patrons of the school district. Those teachers who succeeded David Olwine in this newly organized district were George H. Martz, Benjamin Hathaway, B. M. Richardson, Joseph Mote, Moses Bonebrake, Joseph Drew, Amos North and R. T. Hale, who came from Indiana and was a very efficient teacher. In due time there was another log school house built on land now owned by Edward Eck in section 32, and also another on land now owned by Van Rench in section 20, and in process of time there was another log structure erected as a school house in what is now Red River. The first house built in this township for religious meetings was erected on land now owned by Samuel Beane Ain section 30. This was used for religious meetings as well as for singing schools. John Hess, deceased, and Lewis Hess, who now lives in Yorkshire, Patterson township, being the teachers who taught the rudiments of music in the book known as the Missouri Harmony, and a great many of the musical pieces used in the book then in use are still set forth in our present system of song books. The second house built in this township to be used for a meeting house was built by the Newlights or Christian church on land now owned by the John Spider heirs in section 29. This house later on was known by the name of "Buckneck," from an incident which occurred in the immediate vicinity of the house, wherein a man by the name of Ogan killed a male deer and gave the neck of it to his near neighbor out of generosity. However, these log structures for schools as well as religious uses have all been superseded by twelve good and substantial buildings for school purposes and four large frame structures for devotional services as well as for Sunday school.

"The first justice of the peace in this township of whom I have any recollection was John Haworth and I think he was succeeded by Daniel Young, who was succeeded by Ezekiel Mote and then William Hess was elected, who held the office to the time of his death in 1868, others who held the office at different intervals whom we might name, but time and space will not allow it.

"The first Sunday school organized in this township was in the log meeting house built by the Newlights, of which I have made mention. When I was about twelve years old I attended Sunday school for the first time at that place, it being about two miles from where my parents lived, and I went by myself. The superintendent being John Wilson, who knew me, gave me a book the title of which was "The Story of Jane C. Judson," and he told me to take it along home with me and read it through carefully and bring it back the next Sunday then he would give me another, which I did, and in this way I continued on and in process of time the superintendent would occasionally give me one of the primary classes to teach, which greatly encouraged me in the work. At present there are duly organized Sunday schools in each of the four meeting houses in this township.

"My parents settled in this township when I was about three years old, having moved from Schuylkill county, Pennsylvania, with another family, an uncle of mine, who located in Clay county, Indiana. Both families moved in wagons a distance of about six hundred miles, coming through Harrisburg and crossing the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains, passing through Columbus, which at that time was a small place comparatively speaking.

"The population of Franklin township in 1840, was 291, and in 1880 it was 1,871. Thus we see that the township was very sparsely populated and people neighbored with each other who lived from two to three miles apart, it being no uncommon thing for people to go three miles to a log rolling or house raising, or barn raising and even not excepting corn huskings, those gatherings being common in the early settlements of this township as well as others.

"The first settlers in this township in selecting a site for their buildings always chose the highest place on their land without taking into consideration their outlet to any public road, of which there were very few. The first public road of which I have any recollection was what is now known as the Milton pike. People who first settled here made their own outlets, cutting roads diagonally through the woods in such a manner as to best meet their own conveniences without paying any particular attention to section or half section or quarter section lines."

The sketch of the "Church of the Brethren" in chapter ten contains some interesting history of that church in this township. Besides these churches there is a Union Christian and Mennonite church at "The Beech," in the northwest corner of section 7, and a Christian church on the eastern side of the Milton pike in the southeast quarter of section 29.

The educational spirit of the citizens of Franklin township is shown by the impressive fact that it contains the only township high school thus far established in Darke county. This high school was organized in 1905, and the first class, dontaining twelve members, was graduated in 1908. Minor McCool, now principal of the Greenville High school, was the superintendent, and J. D. Crowell the principal of the school at that time. A substantial modern school building containing five rooms and a basement, 44 by 60 feet in size, was erected n 1907 at a cost of $7,500. This building is heated by steam and lighted by a gasoline light plant. A stable and shed capable of sheltering twenty horses and twenty two buggies was erected in 1913. A report issued in the fall of 1913, shows 49 graduates, 30 teachers instructed, 42 pupils in the high school, 14 pupils from other townships attending the school. A splendid physical laboratory and a library of some 300 volumes are notable features of this school. The school is in a flourishing condition and has a splendid outlook. The following persons have served as teachers since the establishment of the school; Supt. Minor McCool, B. S.; Prin. J. D. Crowell, B. S.; Margaret Bridge, A. B.; Supt. Chas. A. Wilt, B. S.; Prin. Mabel McCurdy, A. B.; Prin. Alice Flory, A. B.; Prin. Ruth Dull, A. B. The members of the board in 1913 were: H. H. Bireley, J. L. Swinger, David Landis, Benj. Landis, David Forman and Josiah Eikenberry.

The only village in Franklin township is Painter Creek located on the Milton pike in sections 19 and 30. It was platted in 1870, and now contains a town hall, public school and tile factory. There are good roads on nearly every section line, besides the Greenville and West Milton pike, which crosses the western line near the center of section 13, ands leaves the county near the southeastern corner of the township. Besides the staple grains of this region, a large amount of tobacco is raised and the land is accounted among the best in the county.

The population in 1910 was 1,469, while in 1890 it was 1,731 indicating that this township, like most purely rural sections of our country, suffered a decrease during this period on account of the rush for the towns and cities. This condition, no doubt, is temporary as the fertility of the land and vast improvements will eventually attract a dense population. The tax duplicate for 1913 showed real estate to the value of $1,798,730, and chattels amounting to $467,520.

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