History of German 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 is known geographically as township 11 north, range 1 east, and was formed in 1820 from the southern part of Washington township with the addition of one tier of sections from the northern portion of Harrison township. It comprises about thirty three square miles or over twenty one thousand acres of land, most of which is exceptionally fertile. The eastern part is drained by the upper waters of West branch, the northwestern section by the head of Crout creek and the southwestern portion by the upper waters of the Whitewater river. The West Branch prairie is gently rolling and although somewhat boggy in early days, it has been reclaimed and is one of the choicest farming and grazing sections of the county. This valley, with its numerous springs, its gentle slope and its beautiful groves of maple, beech, oak, etc., was a favorite dwelling place for the Indians who built several villages here as well as on the upper waters of Crout creek, and left numerous distinct marks of their extended habitation. The western part of this township is flat, but the south central portion is somewhat broken. The pioneer settler was probably James Cloyd, who settled land on the prairie just south of the present site of Palestine in 1814. Jonathan and Alexander Pearson settled in this same neighborhood about 1816. Samuel Loring settled in the southwest quarter of section 14 about this time and later laid out the town of Palestine. John Wagner, who originally came from Berks county, Pennsylvania to Ohio in 1806, and settled with other Pennsylvania Germans at an early date in the Miami valley, entered the northwest quarter of section 24 on the edge of the West Branch prairie about 1816. In the fall of that year he sent his sons Daniel and William with some stock which they were to feed on the luxuriant prairie hay that grew in that region. Here they erected a rude temporary but and spent the winter with two or three Indian families as near neighbors. Several emigrants came in the fall of 1817, among whom were Martin Ketring and family, and George Teaford, who settled in section 22, Henry Ross, who settled in the northwest part of section 24, and George Stingley and family, who settled in the southeast quarter of section 12. John McNeil, James Woods and Wear Cassidy are also mentioned as early settlers. As in the other townships the most attractive, best drained and easiest opened sections were entered first. Thus it happened that the wet, level land in the extreme southwestern part of this township was not entered until 1826. The first school house was built as early as 1820, in section 14 near Palestine, and the second in 1822 on the northwest quarter of section 13. William R. Jones was the first teacher. The residents of German township have always taken much interest in educational matters. Until recently there were ten special school districts in the township besides the Palestine school. Two of thek have recently combined with the Palestine district and erected a commodious, modern brick school house having six rooms at a cost of about $15,000. Four teachers are employed in this school, two of them teaching in the high school, which gives a three year academic course. This school is located on the south side of Cross street near the western limits of the village of Palestine. Prof. Harter Wheeler is the efficient superintendent.

The Lutherans are credited with employing the first minister, Jacob Ashley, who came monthly from Germantown, Ohio, and preached in the settlers' cabins, receiving therefor a yearly compensation of twelve dollars. This little society erected the first log church in the southeast quarter of section 22, one mile south of Palestine, in 1826, and continued to worship here alone for several years. Then a Reformed congtegation was organized in the same locality and in 1866 the Lutherans merged with them, Rev. John Stuck becoming the first minister under the new organization. The United organization, known as St. John's Reformed church, erected a new frame building in 1868 and worshipped here for several years, but finally disbanded.

The German Baptists also held services in early days under the preaching of David Miller, son of Jacob Miller, the first elder of that denomination in the Miami valley, and Benjamin Bowman, both of whom came here from Indiana for that purpose. An organization of a society was effected early by these preachers, but meetings were held in barns and houses until 1868 when a commodious frame meeting house was erected about half a mile south of Palestine. The early preachers were John Weaver, John Crumrine and William Marius.

The Methodists probably erected the second church structure in the township in the northwest corner of section 29 and the Lutherans the third, in the southeast corner of the northeast quarter of section 24 along the east township line on the farm now owned by E. T. Wagner. Like St. John's church this afterwards passed to the Reformed society and is now known as West Zion.

The Christian denomination effected an organization as early as 1836 under elder Elijah Williamson, who, with Richard Brandon, preached in an old school house in Palestine where a church was built in 1859. The United Brethren society was organized in 1857 by Rev. Jacob M. Marshall and in 1859 erected the Pleasant Grove church in the northeast corner of section 3 along the Washington township line. The Universalists organized in 1868 under Rev. Elihu Moore and a few years later built a substantial frame church on the north edge of the village of Palestine where they still maintain worship. The Disciples organized in 1873 under John M. Smith with about twenty members, and in 1877 erected a church in Palestine.

There is a settlement of colored people in the northwestern part of this township which dates its origin from 1822, when James Clemens came from Rockingham county, Virginia, which county had passed a law that all free born colored people should leave the state. Clemens entered 320 acres of land. He married Sophoria Sellers, of his home county, and became the father of ten children, five sons and five daughters. Three of his sons, Charles, William and Perry, became ministers of the gospel. Being attracted by the location and natural resources of this part of the country, other colored families soon followed Clemens, among whom were Reuben Bass and wife, who came from Guilford county, North Carolina in 1823, and entered 200 acres of land. They were the parents of eight children. John Randles and wife and Thornton Alexander and wife of Virginia were also among the early settlers, who entered a considerable amount of government land. From this comparatively small beginning the settlement has grown until now it contains about 450 inhabitants, with two churches, four school houses and a number of prosperous homes. This settlement extends into Indiana and formerly supported an academy known as "The Union Literary Institute," which about forty years ago was in a flourishing condition. Some very prominent men of both the white and colored races were educated here and went out into the world to fill places of honor in nearly all the walks of life, as judges, lawyers, doctors, bishops, presidents of colleges, etc. The older people of the settlement now look back on this institution with pride and recognize that it was one of the means of holding the settlement together, providing several hundred acres of land and helping to establish a better school system. Tampico, the principal village in this settlement, was laid out in 1850. The people are generally religious, industrious, patriotic and temperate and have advanced moral ideals, commanding the respect of the gnral populace.

Palestine is the only village of importance in German township. It was laid out in 1833 by Samuel Loring. It now has two churches, a high school, a town hall and is known as a good trading center, but having no railway or traction facilities has made but slow growth, its population in 1910 being 216. Although there are but a few miles of railway in the southern part of this township, the real property was assessed in 1913 at $2,030,750 and the personal property at $513,550, indicating that it is one of the best rural communities in the county. The entire population in 1910 was 1,628, an increase of only 42 in ten years, and a decrease of 166 from the census of 1890, probably due to the unusual drain caused by the growth of the cities during this period. German township has been a good fruit growing section, and, like some of the other townships, contained some fine orchards previous to the great freeze in the late spring of the early eighties, which ruined many of the best orchards in the county. One of the most successful orchards of recent planting is that now owned by the Shields brothers and located about half a mile west of Palestine. It was started some fifteen years ago by Mr. Harvey Hill and was maintained by him until this year, being enlarged from time to time until probably fifteen acres had been planted, mostly in peaches of excellent variety and marketable quality.

We append herewith an interesting sketch relative to the early planting of fruit trees in this township, which was prepared by E. M. Buechly and published by him March 23, 1888:

"The earliest attempt at raising fruit trees in this county, of which we can learn was made by Henry Ross, deceased, of German township, in 1817. He was one of the earliest settlers, and brought with him some apples, of which he carefully saved the seeds, and together with some pears and peaches he had, planted them. Sometime after this he top grafted some of the trees. Of these trees he planted his own orchard and sold some to supply his neighbors. Mr. I. M. Ross, a grandson of his, now living in the northern part of the county, related the circumstances to us, and said he recently cut one of the old trees down and found that by counting the rings of annual growth that it corresponded exactly with that date. Most of the trees planted up to that time and from that time until about 1830 were either brought in from other parts of the state or were raised by the pioneers themselves; in either case they were nearly or quite all seedlings, grafted fruits being not yet disseminated much at that time. In 1831 was the earliest account of grafted orchards being set. They were on the farms of Zadok Ragan, southeast of Greenville, and Solomon Whitson. The trees were brought from the Hicks nursery, near Dayton. In 1835 there were several orchards set with grafted trees from the Richmond, Ind., nurseries. A few of these trees planted by the early settlers are yet standing, as it were, living monuments to the memories of the pioneers who planted them, but who have long ago crossed the Dark River.

* * * * *

"There was also a small nursery planted in Harrison township by a Mr. Lantry, who propagated some fine varieties of apples, pears, peaches and cherries. The writer is not informed as to whether they were root grafted and budded, or top grafted. If the former, he was the first to practice that method; if the latter, then the credit of first budding and root grafting in nursery belongs to Aaron and Jacob Crumrine, who had a farm in German township, on which they planted a nursery of several thousand trees, about 1840. Many of the varieties sent out by them afterwards proved to be worthless. Their planting was also discontinued."

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