Some Early Settlements, Elkhart County, Indiana
From: Pioneer History of Elkhart County, Indiana
With Sketches and Stories
By: Henry S. K. Bartholomew
Press of the Goshen Printery
Goshen, Indiana 1930


ACCORDING to tradition there was one white settler in Elkhart county as early as 1820. This was Dominique Rosseau, a French trader who located about four miles above the mouth of the Elkhart river. However, he should be styled a squatter rather than a settler, as he remained here only a few years, then moved farther west.

There were two settlements in the county as early as 1828. One near the mouth of the Elkhart river and the other on Elkhart prairie. To Andrew Noffsinger doubtless belongs the honor of being the first permanent settler within the present bounds of the county. In a paper read before the Old Settlers Association in 1870. Thomas Thomas tells of his coming to this county in the fall of 1828, crossing the Elkhart river at the ford at Benton, the same place where nearly all of the first settlers crossed. He found two families living in a tent on Elkhart prairie. These were Elias Riggs and his son-in-law, William Simpson. The prairie was dotted with wigwams, occupied by Pottawattamie Indians. Passing on down to the mouth of the Elkhart river, crossing the St. Joseph river, then continuing down that stream about three-quarters of a mile, he found Andrew Noffsinger, already mentioned, and who, he said, had been living there several years. On Pleasant Plain were Jesse Rush, Joseph Coe, Levi Perry, Aaron Skinner, William Skinner, George Wilkinson, and John Nickerson. These had all come in the spring of 1828. Within the next two years came John Bannon, Jacob Puterbaugh, George Huntsman, Howell Huntsman, Jesse Morgan, John Powers, Isaac Compton, Peter Diddy, James Tuley, Andrew Richardson, David Penwell, Eli Penwell, Clark Penwell, and Abraham Livengood. The most of these settled on the north side of the river.

Mr. Thomas did not remain long at the settlement, but went on to Cary Mission, where he spent the winter of 1828-29. In the spring of 1829 he and George Crawford and Chester Sage came to the county and built a cabin on the north side of the St. Joseph river a quarter of a mile below the mouth of the Elkhart river. This cabin became the home of Chester Sage and was the place of meeting for the commissioners appointed by the legislature to select a site for a county seat in 1830. It was also the place where the first meeting of the circuit court was held. So it was really the first seat of justice for the county, although it remained so but a short time.

During this period the prairie settlement also grew quite rapidly. In 1829 Col. John Jackson, Major John W. Violett, Azel Sparklin, Balser Hess, Sr., James Frier, Christopher Myers, Mark B. Thompson and several others settled there. In an article in the Goshen Democrat in 1865 Col. Jackson said that before corn planting in 1829 the prairie was surrounded with squatters. A number of them, including Col. Jackson, returned to their homes after the corn was planted and brought their families. As has been told in another chapter, these two little settlements were destined to figure conspicuously in the early history of the county, particularly in the controversy over the selection of a site for a county seat. One was also to become a great business and manufacturing center while the other became one of the best farm communities in northern Indiana and so remains to this day.

Besides the controversy over the county seat, there was another concerning the first white child born in Elkhart county. John H. Violett, who was born on the prairie, and Isaiah Rush, who was born on Pleasant Plain, both claimed that distinction, and each one went to his grave believing that he was the one. That one or the other was the first native born white child who grew to manhood is quite certain, but it is probable that neither one was the first child born here. Elias Simpson, son of William Simpson and grandson of Elias Riggs, was born on the prairie in 1828, in all probability when the family was still living in a tent, but he never grew up. He died at the age of seven years and was buried in the Jackson cemetery. His birth is known to have antedated that of Mr. Violett and it was probably before that of Mr. Rush.

The earliest settler in Harrison township was Daniel B. Stutsman, who came in 1831. He built a log cabin in the woods and began clearing away the timber preparatory to farming. Following him came David Y. Miller, Conrad Brumbaugh, James Stewart, William Stewart, James McDowell and Samuel Buchanan. These with their families were all of the residents of the township in 1835. About 1840 a postoffice was established at Cabin Hill. The only fixture in use for the office was a box or cabinet about three feet square, which was presented some years ago to the Elkhart County Historical Society by E. A. Yeoman, son of Solomon P. Yeoman, who was postmaster there in 1847.

The first settler in Jefferson township was Thomas Kerrick, a hunter and trapper. Soon after him came James Wilson and James DeFrees. The year of their coming is not known but it was in the early 30's. Joseph Gardner, Sr., came in 1835, and Richard C. Lake Sr., in 1837. Both of these men were residents of the township more than sixty years, Mr. Gardner dying in 1896 and Mr. Lake in 1898. William Newell, Joseph Newell, Elijah Adams and John Neff, Sr., located in the township before 1840. The first election in the township was held in 1837, when there were thirteen votes cast. The voters were James DeFrees, William Martin, Joseph Gardner, Sr., Benjamin Cornell, Richard C. Lake, Sr., John Neff, Sr., Ozias Stotts, John T. Wilson, Henry Cormany, Thomas Kerrick, Charles L. Murray, Daniel Stutsman and Thomas Settle. These names were given to the author in 1897 by Richard C. Lake, Sr., the last survivor of the thirteen, who remembered them after sixty years had elapsed. A Mr. Bissell built the first saw mill in the township. It was located on Pine Creek where the Col. Davis saw mill was located.

The first settler in Union township was Daniel Bainter who located there in 1834. The first election in the township was held in his cabin and a sugar bowl was used for a ballot box. This bowl was sold at the sale which was held after his death in 1880. Into whose hands it went nobody knows. It is a matter of regret that it could not have been secured as a relic for the Historical Society's collection.

The first settlers in Olive township were Cornelius Terwilliger, Jacob Sailor, Frederick Morris, Samuel Martin, Levi Martin and David Allen. These men organized the township in 1836. Jacob Sailor was the first to locate in the township, coming in 1834. Th first election was held in April, 1837. The election was held at the home of Isaac Morris, when twelve votes were cast. Those who voted were Daniel Mikel, Jacob Sailor, Sr., Jacob Sailor, Jr., Samuel Martin, Samuel Moore, Moses Sailor, William Sailor, Cornelius Terwilliger, Isaac Morris, Frederick Morris, Aaron Meddars and James C. Dodge.

York township's first settler was William Hunter, who came in 1833. He located in the southern part of the township near the Little Elkhart river. The next year J. N. Brown, Wm. Cummins, William Hall, Friend Curtis, David Eby, Hiram Chase, Edward Bonney, John Van Frank, and Edward Joyce settled along the Vistula road. Luke and Mark Sanger, Samuel Eby and Nathan Whipple located in the township in 1837, and the same year the first election was held at the residence of Friend Curtis.

About a third of a century ago Dr. A. C. Jackson, a son of Col. John Jackson, in an article in the Goshen Democrat, told about the early residents of Benton as he remembered them. It is told so well as to be worthy of reproduction here.

"The original plat of Benton was laid out by Captain Henry Beane in 1832. Captain Beane was a very finely educated man, wrote a splendid hand and was a favorite school teacher. He was a mason by trade and made the first brick in Elkhart county.

"The first store in Benton was kept by Huston Taylor, son of George Taylor. The goods were furnished by Comparet of Fort Wayne. For a number of years this store did an immense business. The Taylor family consisted of the parents, three sons and a daughter. George Taylor, Sr., was an early justice of the peace and afterward county recorder. Dr. Francis W. Taylor was the first postmaster in Benton, was an eminent physician and was well known. He lived to practice his profession only eight or ten years. George Taylor, Jr., studied law and practiced a few years in Frankfort, Indiana. From there he went to New York and was associated with Joseph L.. Jernegan, the famous criminal lawyer, who once lived in Goshen and practiced here.

"Young George Taylor married a southern lady and lived in Brooklyn, where he was elected to congress. In the civil war his sympathies were with the south. He was sent by the Confederate government as an agent to Europe. Since then we have heard nothing definite from him. We were boon companions in boyhood days and many a happy hour we have spent together. We loved him then and now hold him dear to our heart whether dead or living.

"Jesse D. Vail, James Banta, Peter W. Roller, William H. Rector, Albert Banta, David Darr, Charles Vail, Samuel T. Clymer, Matthew Boyd and M. B. Thompson were some of the early merchants of Benton. They all kept busy places, were prosperous and happy. W. H. Hawks and Co., would be astonished at the piles of goods that were taken from their stores.

"Sylvester Webster, William H. Rector, Newton Mortimer and Joseph Fry were some of the cabinet makers. John Unger, Simon Farver, J. Burch and several others were the tailors. These shops made more suits to order than are made in Goshen now. The blacksmiths were, Isaac Dean, Joshua Hart, William Seaman, William Orr. Swegler Young, our worthy justice of the peace, whose shoulders were not then bent forward, neither was his head silvered over as now, but with a physical form rarely equalled, sleeves up and apron on, he and his employes shod more horses, ironed more wagons and sharpened more plows than any two shops in Goshen.

"There were other industries to mention. In short an ashery run by Taylor Vail, a tan yard by Gross and Loucher, a tinshop by Barnes and Blaine, a saw mill by Peter Darr, an extensive flouring mill by John and David Darr, a wagon shop by William Orr.

"Joel Behymer, Samuel T. Clymer, Mr. Stewart and Matthew Boyd were the principal hotel keepers. The Boyd house was opened in 1830 and kept by the same proprietor for forty years or more. Hotel keeping was very profitable. In early times the roads were lined with movers and travelers on horseback. Hotels were over run. In high water times Boyd kept the ferry also. It is probable that he took in more money every day than is taken in at Hotel Hascall and The Arlington.

"Besides Dr. Taylor, Dr. S. B. Kyler was an early and long resident of Benton, a very talented and worthy man. Dr. Paul Henkel, brother of our P. M. Henkel, a very excellent young man also came to Benton very early, but through a misfortune in dissecting, lost his valuable young life.

"Benton has not been afflicted with a lawyer since the days of the wandering Seavy.

"As we write, only a few remain of all those we have mentioned: Jesse D. Vail, aged 85 years; David Darr, aged 80; and Squire Young, 75. All the rest have, one by one, gone to join the silent majority.*

"We have written of the business only. Much could also be said about the social life of early Benton. It was far ahead of any of the surrounding places. To see a large gathering, a Fourth of July celebration, etc., the people went to Benton. The Bentonites were lively and happy, ready for any amusement that came up - a fox chase, a horse race or a deer hunt."*

Other early settlers are mentioned in the chapters on Elkhart county names and the location of the county seat.
* This was written in 1898.

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