History of Liberty 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


Liberty township formerly embraced the territory included in Lincoln township, but being inconvenient for the settlers that resided in (now) Lincoln township to attend elections, in June, 1866, according to petitions of Lincoln settlers, it was detached and made an independent township. Liberty is generally known as being among the first settled townships in St. Josephs county. The first settlements were made in 1833 near North Liberty, by John Kane, John and Jacob Earhart and Isaac Townsend. But few other settlers came into the township till 1836. John Rupel came in January, this year, soon followed by David Rupel, Jas. Cole, Jacob Rupel and Joseph Liggett.

In May, 1837, the township was organized by the following persons: Daniel and James Antrim, John and David Rupel, Samuel Loring, James Cole, Jacob Repel and Joseph Liggett. The first election was held the same spring, in North Liberty, at the house of Jas. P. Antrim, who was elected Justice of the Peace. In 1838 Mr. Waldsmith, father of Geo. Waldsmith, a present resident of Liberty township, settled on section 30.

Then the early settlers met with hardships the present settlers know nothing of. They had to go to Elkhart in order to get wheat or corn ground for bread, and sometimes would have to wait nearly a whole week before their turn would come, all the while their families at home subsisting on nothing but what we call " hard tack " and wild meat. The wives of the settlers shared their trying lot with great patience and boldness of spirit. Their husbands were compelled to go away from home and work, leaving home just as soon as the morn of Monday would break; go to a place ten or twelve miles distant, where he would labor all the week and not return home till the stars had lit the sky on Saturday evening; and as he would plod his weary way along the Indian trail bearing a piece of fresh beef, which was a part of the fruits of his week's labors, frequently the hungry wolves would get scent of the precious meat he had, and he could hear their howling in the distance, then a little nearer and a little nearer till their incessant howls only told that they were persistently too near. Then he would be compelled to drop his meat to be devoured by the angry wolves and would have to go home at last without meat for his family. At this time the Pottawatoinie Indians strolled in bands through the forests of this vicinity in search of Big Iiijun's deer," which roamed in great herds through St. Joseph county. The Indians at this time were peaceable, but by their savage and warlike actions would frequently frighten the settlers' wives. At one time in mid winter about a dozen of these red skins called at the house of Mr. Waldsmith, and he not being at home, Mrs. W. was greatly terrified. They (the Indians) would stand around the fire, and, scraping the snow off their "leggins," would stop and point their huge bowie knives at Mrs. Waldstnith's children and say, " See, dat is de white man's pappoose; de white man's pappoose." This frightened Mrs. W. almost to death and she treated them with great hospitality, - with a great deal more than human nature would do under any other circumstances. She gave them food and almost everything in that line, and finally they departed, much to the joy of their benefactor. But it was only a few years before the Indians were removed westward.

In 1837 a grist mill was built in North Liberty, much to the convenience and accommodation of the settlers. In 1839 Hiram Bean and Alonzo Hill built a saw mill not far from where the present grist mill stands.

The land of this township, as already stated, was very thickly and heavily timbered, and it was not till about 1850 that the work of grubbing and clearing began to be faithfully prosecuted; but since that a great portion of it has been cleared up, thereby reducing to cultivation a body of land unexcelled in fertility and productiveness of all kinds of grain. The leading industrial pursuits of the settlers are farming and lumbering. Five saw mills are actively running in the township. Live stock rearing is fast becoming a leading feature of the industry of Liberty township. Among the leading farmers of this township we find the names of D. W. Reece, V. S. Balla, Henry Reamer, Jacob D. Row, A. H. Price, Ort Cook, Samuel Williams, L. flecoutres, Gee. Waldsmith, C. Schroeder, Franklin Pearce and his two sons L. S. and N. W. who are stock raisers; N. S. Miller is a merchant and farmer; W., R. Cole, Jacob Geiger and Levi J. Knepp, farmers and mill sawyers.

The inhabitants of Liberty township are mostly of German ancestry, or what are called Pennsylvania Dutch, but they are a very enterprising class of people.

The only village that Liberty township contains is


It is situated at the conjunction of section 28,29, 32 and 33, and contains a population of nearly 400. It was laid out in 1837 by Daniel and James P. Antrim, and was surveyed by T. W. Bray. No houses had yet been built on the site, but the "distant future lent enchantments," and soon after its location James Downey built a house; the same year four other houses were built. The first store in the place was opened by Daniel Antrim in 1837. He did business one year, then sold his stock to E. S. Reynolds, and in 1840 he sold to A. P. Richardson, who kept the store till about 1845, when James Harvey purchased the stock and started a general store. Mr. Harvey continued in business till 1867. In 1875 the Houser Brothers opened a general store. They still continue in business. In 1865 Mr. Norman S. Miller opened a large dry goods establishment, which he continues. In 1866 Cole Brothers built a. large planing mill and manufacturing establishment, which was burnt the winter of 1871. Jan. 1, 1873, a company was formed named Cole, Ragon & Co., consisting of Cole brothers, Houser and Knepp, and they built the North Liberty Manufacturing establishment. They continued in business till 1875, when Houser & Knepp purchased Cole Bros.' interest in the establishment and have kept it in operation.

The home manufacturing company started in business in the fall of 1873, but has since discontinued; and the machinery was purchased by Schwartz & Tischer and moved to Walkerton, where they erected a planing mill.

The present business of North Liberty consists of two large dry goods establishments, two boot and shoe stores, one drug and hardware store, one grocery and hardware store, one planing mill and manufacturing establishment, one grist mill, one millinery store, one butcher shop, one barber and four practicing physicians. There are also three churches and one school house.

The first church in Liberty tp., was erected by the Methodists in North Liberty, in 1851, during the pastorate of Rev. A. Badley. This was used till 1878, when, during the administration of Rev. R. H. Sanders, a new and commodious structure was erected. The persons that aided principally in the founding of the Church at North Liberty in 1851, were: John Rupel (since deceased), Jas. Cole, John Quigley, Henry Reamer, Samuel Williams, Sumner G. Williams and D. W. Reece. The class leaders of the North Liberty M. E. Church are Henry Reamer, Isaac R. Cole and Thos. Faulkner. Perhaps no other quarterly conference in Northern Indiana can boast of having sent more men from the private ranks to the active duties of the ministry, nor of men who under God have more faithfully wielded the weapons of Christian warfare, which in their hands have been mighty to "the pulling down" of "strongholds," among whom are Revs. Samuel T. Cooper, H. B. Ball, Nelson Green, James Green, Samuel Godfrey, J. C. Metsker, S. Lamb and C.W. Miller, of the North Indiana conference, and John C. Baker, of the Illinois Conference.

The second. church in the township was the Seventh Day Advent church at North Liberty, which was built in 1868 by donations from James Harvey, Elias Styles, Jacob Styles, Anson Worster, Adam Rupert and Russel Hoag, since deceased.

The Episcopalians also built a church a few years ago.

There are also five other churches outside of North Liberty, - two Dunkard churches, one Evangelical, one German Lutheran, and one United Brethren church.

The first school house in Liberty township was erected near the site of the Dunkard church, one half mile south of the village, in 1838. It was built of logs, and had a huge fire place in one end of the room. The windows were one sash with three lights. One was in each side of the room. In 1840 a school house was built in North Liberty, and in 1868 a high school building was erected. A graded school has since been kept; Mr. J. N. Reece is the principal and George Sands is the teacher in the lower department.

North Liberty is a very pleasant little town and is surrounded with wealthy men. All the disadvantage that this place meets with is the lack of railroad facilities; but should a railroad be constructed through this place it would become one of the most nourishing towns in the county.

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