History of Harris Township, St. Joseph County, Indiana
From: History of St. Joseph County, Indiana
Hon. John V. Hadley, Editor in Chief.
Chas. C. Chapman & Co.,
Chiago 1880


This township lies in the extreme northeastern part of the county. It is bounded upon the north by Cass county, Mich., on the east by Elkhart county, Ind., on the south by Penn township, and on the west by Clay. There is much marsh land in the township, being in the middle and southeastern part, and running a southwest course into and through the northwest corner of Penn township.

This land is unfit for agricultural purposes, except for grazing and haying. The State cut a ditch commencing at the south edge of J. Baleen's farm on section 17, and running a south course about 160 rods, then turning southwest, which course it pursues through sections 20, 19, 30, 25, 26 and along the south line of the last named section, and also about 50 rods on the south line of section 27, where it takes a southwest course into and through Penn township. Great good has been accomplished, as this marsh was entirely covered with one continuous sheet of water, that lay upon the ground until late in the summer months, even after the abatement of the water, great portions of which was so boggy that it was inaccessible by man or beast; but this ditch has so drained this vast area that it has become solid footing, and hundreds of acres are mowed. Notre Dame University owns the largest farm in this township, most of which is marsh land, where they raise their beef and their milk supply for the University, of which further mention is made elsewhere.

This township took its name from Jacob Harris,of Ohio,who came in 1830 and settled on Harris Prairie, where he raised the first wheat that was cut in the township, it being. harvested in 1831. His neighbor, Jacob Meyer, who came the spring of 1831 and still resides in this township, on section 15, helped cut Mr. Harris' crop. Samuel Bell, a son in law of Mr. Harris, came with him in 1830. Adam Miller, a Baptist preacher, came in 1830 or '31, also Adam Ringle, and settled on section 15. Mr. Ringle died several years ago, and Miller either died or moved away. The first settlers erected cabins on this prairie.

David and Josephus Baldwin and family were probably the first settlers in this township, though other historians speak of Mr. Harris being the first. Mr. Baldwin stated that he was here when Mr. Harris came, and said he and his brother David came in 1828 or '29. Joseph Buel came in 1831 and settled on section 15. Arbogast Zaehnle came in 1834, and settled on section 22, where he still resides. Henry Augustine put in his appearance on section 15 in 1831; also Hartzel, the same year, on the same section. Robert Kennedy arrived in 1833 and built his cabin on section 14. David Ringle and his sons Samuel and Levi came in 1833 or '34 and pitched their cabins on section 14.

The first school house was a log structure built on section 10, on the north edge of Harris Prairie. Though struggling through the pressure of poverty and privations, the settlers planted among them the school house at the earliest practical period. An object so important as the education of their children they did not defer until they could build more comely and convenient houses; they were for a time content with such as corresponded with their rude dwellings; but soon better buildings were erected. As may readily be supposed, the accommodations of the earliest schools were not good. Stoves and the latest improved heating apparatuses were unknown. The house was built of round logs, 14x16 feet; cracks chinked and daubed with mud; door in the south end and a mud and stick chimney in the other; with earthen earth and fire place wide enough to take in a log nearly as long as the width of the house, and smaller wood was used to ignite the larger; logs better known by the old pioneers as "back logs." This rudely constructed chimney and fire place served for warming purposes in winter and a kind of conservatory in summer. For windows part of a log was cut out in either side and a few lights of eight by ten glass set in. Their writing benches were made of wide split pieces of timber puncheons, resting on pins or arms driven into two inch auger holes bored into the logs beneath the windows. The seats were made out of the same material; also the floor. The ceiling was of round poles or logs, and covered or plastered with mud on top. Everything was rude and plain, but many of America's greatest men have gone out from just such school houses to grapple with the world, and make names for themselves, and have come to be an honor to their country.

Robert Kennedy taught the first school in the township, that being in such a house as just described. The first church built was the Presbyterian, which stands in the woods near Mr. Kennedy's residence. There is but one other church, and that is owned by the Evangelical people. It is situated on the east side of section 21. The Christian Church was 'organized Jan. 7, 1863, by Elder Green, consisting of 31 members. The Church has been prosperous. Many of its members have moved to the West, and in consequence its membership is but a few more than when it was first organized. Its present minister is Charles Hendershot, who holds service once in two weeks. Present deacons are Robert Savage and James Lowry. They occupy the Presbyterian building. They contemplate erecting a house of worship as soon as they can secure a suitable site. This portion is not affected by the marsh, is in fair state of cultivation, and at no distant day the marsh will become tillable and settled by an enterprising people, at which time it will compare favorably with other townships that are settled with more wealthy citizens today.

The Grand Trunk railroad passes through this township, running a northeast course. There is no town upon this line in this township, nothing but a station, where there are a depot and postoffice, called Granger; no business of any kind is done.

The Indian trail leading from La Porte, or rather from Chicago to Detroit, passes through the southeast corner. Mr. W. and E. M. Irvin and Jas. Lowry, extensive farmers, settled here in an early day.

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