History of Wayne 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


As in Greenville and other townships the actual first settlers of Wayne township Were preceded by the surveyors and the "old squatters." Among the latter might be mentioned "Kill Buck," a half breed, or chief who built a cabin near "Bald Hill" in the northern border of the Stillwater settlement (Webster) in the early years of the century and remained until the arrival of the first settlers. Associated with his name is that of Connor, the old trapper and copper distiller who lived to the north of Killbuck on a knoll skirting the western side of Swampy creek, near the present site of Versailles. While Connor hunted, trapped and carried on his varied activities, his son cultivated a small patch of corn with an old ox, which he also used to go to mill at Greenville Falls or Fort Rowdy (Covington, Ohio). With the advent of the settlers these eccentric characters moved further west. Isaac Finkbone, a stalwart frontiersman, succeeded Connor and distilled "firewater" for the use of the first settlers, who consumed large quantities of "bitters" at log rollings, cabinraisings, sheep washings and "huskin bees."

The first notable settlement in the township was made by a party from the Stillwater settlement in Miami county, near Pleasant Hill. It is said that this party canoed up the Stillwater keeping up the east branch, until they encountered a district of murky swamps and ponds to which they gave the name of "Black Swamps," while the lazy stream was called "Swamp creek." Here a small settlement was made which became known as the "Swamp creek settlement." David Ward, who settled in section 18, in 1815, is said to have been the first actual settler.

One of the moving spirits in this settlement was Thomas Childers, the old order or "Hardshell" Baptist preacher previously mentioned, who settled about one mile southwest of Versailles. Here a church was erected about 1819 or 1820, being probably the second church erected in the county. Among the families connected with this congregation were the Childers, Carlocks and McDonalds of the border Stillwater settlement and the Wards, Bakers, Yorks and Holes of the Swamp creek settlement. The early Baptist burial ground adjoined this church. This building was afterwards moved to north Versailles and later to the Wood addition where the congregation worshipped for several years, but finally disbanded, leaving no successor in this vicinity.

Among the early settlers on Indian creek and Swamp creek at and neat the present site of Versailles were the Atchisons, Lewis Baker, Richard Brandon, David Ward, and William Hotel. It is interesting to note that the families comprising this settlement were largely of the "New Light" denomination, and that William Hotel deeded three or four acres to the Christian church as a site for a church building and burial ground about 1821. A society was organized in 1822 or 1823, by Rev. Samuel Kyle, of Piqua, with William Hoel, Aaron Carson and James Whitman as trustees, and a building was erected about 1826. This was the beginning of the Christian church of Versailles, making it the oldest denomination with a continuous history in that village. Among the pioneer settlers might also be mentioned Aaron Grier, Henry Swisher, Peter Radabaugh, William McGriff, John Wyland, Thomas Bayman and N. York.

Wayne township was named after Gen. Anthony Wayne and when first laid off by the county commissioners in 1817, comprised all of the county north of a line commencing at the northwest corner of township 12 north, range 1 east, and running thence east to the northwest corner of township 9 north, range 4 east, thence south to the middle of said township, and east to the county line, thus including the territory now included in the township. of Mississinawa, Allen, Wabash, Patterson, Jackson, Brown, York, Wayne, over half of Richland and part of Adams. In 1819 that part of Wayne township lying in township 9 north, range 4 east, was taken into Adams township. In 1820 all of Wayne township that lay in range 1 was attached to Washington township as then constituted. In the same year Richland township was formed, the northern part being taken from Wayne and the southern from Greenville and Patterson. In 1841 Patterson township was taken from the north end of Wayne and contained all of that township that lay in townships 12 and 13, range 3, and townships 11 and 12 in range 4.

The southern part of this township is drained by the main stream of the Stillwater, the central and northern part by the Swamp creek branch with its tributaries. As before noted the central part was originally very swampy. It has been reclaimed by extensive drainage and is now quite productive.

The C. C. C. & St. L. railway runs through the central part of the township in a direction generally south of west. The C. H. & D. traverses the northeastern section. Versailles in the central part and Webster in the south central part are the principal villages. The entire population of the township, including these villages, in 1910 was 2,954.

As a French colony became established here in the "thirties" we herewith incorporate a sketch of the "Holy Family Parish of Frenchtown," which throws considerable light on the history of this settlement:

Holy Family Parish, Frenchtown.

We have noted in a previous chapter that the first French settler arrived on the site of Frenchtown in 1836, and was soon followed by other families of the Catholic faith who banded themselves together in a small community, observed public worship according to the customs of their faith under the zealous and saintly Navarron, and, in 1838, erected a hewed log church at St. Valbert's in conjunction with the little communities at Russia and Versailles.

The years immediately following were times of trial, hardships and privation but the active French peasants by industry and frugality soon made large openings in the dense primeval forest, cleared and cultivated their fields, erected substantial habitations and made the wilderness blossom as the rose. For many years oxen were used to help turn the soil, to haul the heavy timbers, or to follow the rude trails. We have a beautiful and touching word picture of the trials encountered by the faithful in order to be present at the stated worship in those days written by a pastor of the flock.

"At the appointed hour on Saturday afternoon the march began for St. Valbert's. With a compass for a guide, headed by Father Navarron, the little band entered the woods and with a hatchet, blazed the trees as they walked along to aid them in their journey until they reached St. Valbert's. The trees once being blazed, the future they considered a real pleasure when the weather was favorable, but not so during the heavy snows of winter and the rainy seasons of spring and fall for then, walking became rather difficult with the snow one and two feet deep clinging to their wooden shoes in their attempt to pick their way. Swamp creek, which still bears the same name and pursues the same course, though not so violent as in the early days, had to be crossed on the way, and after a heavy rain would overflow, together with its many branches, making it almost impossible to cross. Nothing daunted, the low places were sought for and then, with shoes and stockings in hand, the creek and streams were forded and the journey continued. * * * *

"For nine long years these hardships, these trying times of faith were endured and the spring of 1848 found the Holy Family parish, Frenchtown, worshipping for the first time in their own temple, rude and rough in its construction of large logs, but neat in appearance, while its modest interior spoke of the pride of its worshipers to beautify and adorn the house of God. * * * *

"These three parishes remained united until 1849, when the alloted time of good Fsther Navarron with his kind and faithful people being spent, he was transferred to other fields and Father Loui, his successor, became pastor of the self sustaining parish, which, in the meantime had increased to forty some families.

"The parish continued to grow in numbers and under the direction of Father Loui, an addition was built to the old log church, which became too small to conveniently accomodate its members. With the passing years prosperity smiled upon his happy band, the many trials and hardships known to the early settlers gradually disappeared and the worship of religion was elevated to a high standard.

"Each year saw its newcomers and raised the membership of the parish. Filled with an earnest desire to serve God in the best manner possible and actuated by the lofty ambition to make him better known and loved, they appealed to their beloved pastor for a larger church; a more suitable and up to date building. Father Brisard heard their plea and relying on the earnest cooperation of his faithful flock, he at once set to work to satisfy their wish. Plans were prepared and no time was lost in putting them into execution. With all their willingness and ready help it was a very difficult task.

"Brick masons were scarce, as also were skilled carpenters. The bricks were burned on the ground near the cemetery, while the stone was hauled over fifteen miles of heavy, rough roads. A few weeks saw the old log structure razed to the ground, but it required the labor of many long months to replace it with the present brick edifice. Gumption and work, and still more work, backed by a firm and fixed will to succeed, kept them steadily employed.

"The corner stone was set in place in the year 1866 and a few weeks later services were held within the sacred walls. They had given their best efforts to its completion, and were now reaping the reward of their many sacrifices." * * * *

"In June, 1899, to meet the crying needs of his good people, Father Denning superintended the building of an addition to the rear of the church which included a large sanctuary and two sacristies which not only increased its capacity, but also enhanced its beauty."

"The Rev. James Kelly succeeded Rev. Denning as resident pastor and during his short term, the commodious nine room pastoral residence was planned and completed.

In March, 1905, Rev. Kelly was succeeded by the Rev. Frederick Veil, who after a three year pastorate was followed by the present pastor, Rev. John Gnat

The line of pastors since the founding of the church has inchided the following names: Navarron, Loui, Rollinet, Hobryam, Converse, Henneberg, Langlois, Brisard, Kreusch, Kayser, Richert, Heurer, Roth, Bourian, Boehmer, Jakob, Missler, Denning, Kelly, Veil and Gnat.

"The first road which was cut through the northeastern section of the county was that done by the government in 1847, and called the Fort Recovery road, connecting Frenchtown and Versailles. The state road through the southern part of the county was also cut through at this time."

Versailles.

Versailles, the largest village and most important trading center in the northern part of the county was laid out in 1819 by Silas Atchinson under the name of Jacksonville. It's location, no doubt, was determined by the intersection of four important highways, viz.: the state road, running from Bellefontaine, through Sidney to Jacksonville and thence to Greenvile; the Piqua, Fort Rowdy (Covington) and Fort Recovery road; the St. Mary's and Greenville road, and the Sidney Cyntha Ann and Jacksonville road. These roads in early days were distinctly mud roads, ungraded, corduroyed through the swamps and bridged after the "hogback" style over the small streams. However, they were relatively important and were a determining factor in Jacksonville's growth and prosperity. The erection of the "Bee Line" railway through here in 1853 instead of through the county seat was another factor of great importance in determining the future of the village. Its intermediate location with reference to Greenville, Sidney and Celina also contributed materially toward making it the commercial center of the northeastern part of the county. That part of the town lying north of the creek was known as Georgetown in early days and later as North Jacksonville. The coming of large numbers of French settlers about 1833 caused the two towns to be incorporated under the name of Versailles, in honor of the old French capital. Although lying in the Swamp creek valley, one of the most fertile sections of the county, Versailles is built on a glacial knoll, slightly elevated above Indian creek, has a sanitary location with plenty of good water and good drainage facilities. Being eighteen miles from Sidney and some thirteen from Greenville, it has a large territory from which to draw trade and has prospered in a commercial way. A disastrous fire razed the central and business section of the village on July 6, 1901, causing a loss estimated at some four hundred and fifty thousand dollars with insurance approximating two hundred and twenty thousand dollars. The fire started mysteriously in Sheffel's old idle mill on the west end of Main street and spread eastward consuming all but two business rooms on the six blocks to the east, besides two blocks of buildings on the south side of Main street. Fifty one business houses and twenty nine dwellings, the best of the town, were consumed. The enterprise and resource of its citizens was soon shown in rebuilding in a much more substantial way than before, making it one of the best built towns in the county. Today it has two large overall factories employing about forty operatives each; an immense poultry and produce establishment operated by H. B. Hole, with branch establishments at Dayton, Arcanum, Greenville, Sidney, Covington and St. Paris; the Charles Masoner tobacco warehouse employing about forty people; the Geo. H. Worch lumber plant with branch establishments at Sidney, Osborn, Springfield, and New Carlisle; the J. M. Blue Co., dealing extensively in Canadian lumber and shipping ship lumber to Europe; besides grain elevators, mills, monumental works, brick and tile factories and extensive mercantile establishments.

The Christian church is the oldest existing in the village and is said by some to have been organized as early as 1818. Among the charter members were the Whitmans, Brandons, Hotels, Baymans and Carbons. The present church building was erected in 1883, at a cost of about $6,000. Recent officials in this church were: Superintendent of Sunday school, Ralph Stamm; president Missionary society, Mrs. Stella Martin; deacons, M. A. Finfrock, W. C. Hile and James Young; trustees, H. A. Gilbert, Ed Reed, E. T. Swineheart, Charles Shade; financial secretary, B. B. Campbell; treasurer, Marion Martin; pastor, Rev. H. F. Smith. The present enrollment is about 380. This congregation is now planning to erect a new church structure in the near future.

On account of the large number of French citizens who belong to the Catholic church, a brief sketch of that organization rightly belongs in a history of the village. As before noted in the sketch of the Frenchtown church, the first place of Catholic worship was at St. Valbert's, two miles north of Versailles. To this church came the French pioneers of the Russia and Frenchtown settlements. The services were then held in the French language. On Easter Sunday, 1849, the great Archbishop Purcell preached in the English tongue, using the stump of a great oak for a pulpit. When, in 1846, churches were built at Frenchtown and Russia, St. Valbert's, the cradle of Catholicity in Darke county, lost some of its early popularity, became the resting place of the earliest settlers of the place. Desirous of having their church closer to their homes, the Catholic families of Versailles, in 1864, bought the property of the old Baptist church heretofore mentioned, standing at the corner of Main and Second streets, for $350. This structure was refitted and enlarged and became the first Catholic church in the village under the rectorship of Rev. Brissard. Here Rev. Kreish served from 1864 to 1873; Rev. J. B. Kayser, 1873-1876; T. Richard and F. J. Roth, 1876-1878, and A. N. Bourion from 1873-1876: Rev. Leo Boehmer succeeded Rev. Bourion and gave a new impetus to religious matters. Under his pastorate the present beautiful and commodious church building was dedicated in 1888. The St. Denis Catholic school was also erected about the same time and is now conducted by the Sisters of the Precious Blood. The following pastors have officiated since Rev. Boehmer: Revs. Louis Hefele, Jacobs, Otto Missler, Joseph Denning, John Cattes, James Fogarty, B. Bechmeyer and the present pastor, Rev. Henry J. Schuer, who has successfully guided and guarded the destinies of St. Denis since 1906. Although organized at a later date than the Christians, the Methodists now have a thriving congregation with a neat and substantial brick church building on the corner of Wood and West streets, of which Rev. J. O. Moffit is the present pastor.

The Lutherans have two churches here: Trinity Evangelical Lutheran on East Wood street of which Rev. Isaiah Whitman is the present pastor; and Emmanuel's Evangelical Lutheran church on East Ward street.

Versailles has taken an active part in political matters for several years and has furnished several county officials including Treasurer John Simons and Auditors J. C. Klipstine and Frank Snyder. James R. Marker, the present state highway commissioner, and formerly county engineer, is a son of Leonard Marker and was raised in this village. Several excellent family physicians have practiced here and the town is proud of the name and fame of Dr. John E. Fackler, M. D., who practiced in Versailles from 1870 until prevented by the sickness which resulted in his death, January 7, 1898. He was at one time a member of the Darke County Medical Association, and for about twenty years, of the Ohio Medical Society. He was a painstaking student, a clear and forceful writer on medical topics, and a progressive but careful experimenter. At the time of his death he was president of the Versailles Medical Association. Dr. J. S. Neiderkorn, Dr. W. C. Gutermuth and Dr. C. F. Ryan have practiced several years in this village and vicinity and are well and favorably known.

An idea of the development of Wayne township may be formed from the tax duplicate of 1913 which shows over $2,000,000 of real estate and nearly $700,000 of chattels in the township exclusive of Versailles, while this village is listed with $1,120,080 in real property and $533,870 in personal property. Versailles has a water works and electric light plant built by the city in the years 1900-1901, at an original cost of $25,000, and is planning to pave Main street and portions of intersecting streets this year. It has two papers, the Policy and the Leader, before noted. The first school in the village was built in 1821. The present school house is a substantial brick structure in which are housed eight grades and a high school. It was built in 1876 at a cost of some $25,000.00. The enrollment in the spring of 1914 was 321. The high school was established in 1881 and has graduated 227 pupils to date, 17 of whom were in the class of 1914. Its graduates are admitted to standard colleges without conditions and its teachers are all college graduates. A library of 2,200 volumes is maintained by the school and the laboratory apparatus is excellent. T. F. Johnson, 3. E. Yarnell, T. E. Hook and Chas. E. Doust have served as superintendent in recent years. The Masons, K. of P., I. O. O. F. and Woodmen, each have a flourishing lodge in the village.

The following are the present city officials: Mayor, H. B. Hole; clerk, John Meyers; treasurer, Alfred Simon; marshal, Oliver Miller; fire chief, Charles Begin; members of council: H. A. Frankman, J. F. Gephart, John Voisard, A. J. Reed, Carl Earhart, Caradon Hole; Board of Education: Dr. John Ballinger, C. F. Whitney, L. L. Lehman, Ed Wood, A. F. Prakel; Board of Public Affairs: Nick Alexanders, Frank Ash, P. J. Grilliot; superintendent of the water works, Wm. Marl. Wesley Ault, county sealer of weights and measures, is also a resident of Versailles.

In Greenlawn Cemetery a mausoleum was promoted and built by Dr. J. P. Collett in 1913 and dedicated Sunday, May 24, 1914. It is constructed in pure Egyptian design, single corridor plan of the same material as the Greenville mausoleum. It contains 120 crypts, and is said to be the finest small mausoleum in the central states.

The population of Versailles in 1910 was 1,580, and is now estimated at about 1,800.

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