Harrison Folsom, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Harrison Folsom

HARRISON FOLSOM. This venerable and honored citizen of Hebron has been a resident of Porter county since his boyhood days and his memory forms an indissoluble link between the pioneer epoch and the present period of opulent prosperity. Here he has maintained his residence for fully seventy years, and within this period he has witnessed and aided in the development and up building of the county along both civic and material lines. His reminiscences concerning the early days are most graphic and interesting, and to the younger generation his tales are a veritable revelation, as he remembers the time when the Indians were still much in evidence in this section of the state, the while he has many thrilling stories to tell relative to his prowess and manifold experiences as a hunter of wild game, his fame as a Nimrod having been one of high order in the earlier period of his career in the county. He has made his life count for good in its various relations and has been an exponent of industrial and social progress, besides which he has so ordered his course as to merit and receive the unqualified esteem of the community which has been his home for many long years. Further than this, Mr. Folsom is a scion of staunch New England colonial stock and the ancestral record shows representatives among the valiant soldiers in both the War of the Revolution and that of 1812, besides which members of the family did their part in maintaining the integrity of the Union in the dark and climatic period of the Civil war. It is a matter of much gratification to be able to present in this publication even a brief review of the career of the sterling pioneer citizen whose name initiates this paragraph. Mr. Folsom was prominently identified with agricultural pursuits in Porter county for many years and later controlled a large and prosperous business as a manufacturer of brick in the village of Hebron, where he is now living in generous retirement after years of earnest application as a productive worker.

Harrison Folsom, the eldest in a family of four sons and one daughter, was born in Merrimac county, New Hampshire, on the 6th of October, 1829, and is a son of Robert P. and Adaline (Perkins) Folsom, both of whom were likewise natives of New Hampshire and members of families founded in New England in the early colonial era of our national history. Samuel Perkins, maternal grandfather of the subject of this review, was a gallant soldier in the Continental line in the War of the Revolution, in which he sacrificed his life, having been killed in battle. Robert P. Folsom and four of his brothers were soldiers in the War of 1812, and their record in the same redounds to the honor of the family name.

In the year 1842 Robert P. Folsom, who had become deeply impressed with the opportunities afforded in the western country, left the old New England home and set forth with his family for Indiana, his arrival in Porter county having occurred on the 5th of July of that year. He here secured a tract of forty acres of wild prairie land in Porter township, and he paid for the same at the rate of one dollar and twenty-five cents an acre. He built on the place a log house of one room, and this primitive dwelling remained for some time the largest in the neighborhood, with the result that the same was in requisition in holding the services of the Protestant Methodist church in the pioneer days. This sterling pioneer paid two dollars an acre to have his land broken and prepared for cultivation, and in accomplishing this work from eight to ten yokes of oxen were utilized. He reclaimed his farm and in due time prosperity crowned his efforts, with the result that he became one of the representative farmers of the county, the while he gave to his children such advantages as were afforded in the little log schoolhouse of the pioneer days. Robert P. Folsom and his noble wife continued their residence in Porter county until their death, and their names merit enduring place on the roll of its honored pioneers.

Harrison Folsom was about thirteen years of age at the time of the family removal from New Hampshire to Porter county, and about one year later, as a wide-awake, energetic and independent boy, he had a "falling out" with the teacher in the little pioneer district school, and after he had received what he considered an unmerited corporal chastisement on the part of the teacher he "absconded" from school, to which he never returned, his subsequent education having been a matter of self-application and one of discipline gained under the direction of that widest of headmasters, experience. With his vigorous whipping as his sole academic diploma, Mr. Folsom bent his energies to hunting and trapping, in which he became associated with a youthful and equally ambitious partner, Lorenzo Brennard. They made their incursions into the wilds a source of definite profit as is evident when it is stated that on a single occasion they sold the pelts of thirty-six hundred musk-rats. They frequently encountered Indians during their trips through field and marsh and forest, but never had any trouble with the aborigines who first had dominion here. Mr. Folsom and his associate confined their hunting and trapping to certain defined limits along river and through marshes, and the Indians respected their rights in this connection.

In the early summer of the year 1858 Mr. Folsom laid the foundation for a career of signal usefulness and honor by taking unto himself a wife, and she has continued his devoted. Companion and helpmeet during the long intervening period of more than half a century, within which they have encountered their quota of joys and sorrows but during which they have been sustained by mutual love and sympathy. Soon after their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Folsom settled on a farm of eighty acres about two and a half miles past of the present village or Hebron, the locality having then been known as Indiantown, by reason of its being the headquarters of an appreciable band of Indians. In a primitive log house of the type common to the pioneer days Mr. and Mrs. Folsom began their wedded life, and they applied themselves diligently to the work of making a home and winning such measure of prosperity as lay within their powers. Children came to gladden the little home and the farm yielded to the labors put forth in its reclamation and cultivation, with the result that the years did not fail in tangible rewards for the industry and thrift exemplified. Working early and late, Mr. Folsom was enabled to purchase additional land and he eventually became the owner of a fine farm of one hundred and seventy acres, the same being now one of the valuable places of the county and one on which the results of the labors of Mr. Folsom remain in evidence -- substantial buildings, fine shade trees and many fruit trees being monuments to his thrift and his appreciation of pleasing environments.

Mr. Folsom continued to give his attention to the work and management of his home farm until 1867, when he removed to the village of Hebron, where he has since continued to reside. At the time of the Civil War he was desirous of securing brick to wall up the cellar of his farm-house and went to Valparaiso to purchase the needed material. He was informed that the brick would be furnished to him for twelve dollars per thousand, and he naturally viewed this price as extortionate, but was told that the manufacturing of the product under the conditions obtaining at that critical period in the nation's history were such that the brick could not be manufactured for a less price. At all times independent and a master of expedients, Mr. Folsom returned to his farm, constructed a kiln and turned out one hundred thousand brick. After making the desired improvements on his house he found a ready demand for his surplus product, and this led to his engaging in the manufacture of brick in the village of Hebron, where he purchased fifteen acres of land and established large kilns, besides erecting the attractive home in which he has since resided. He employed no men and yet turned out an average of twelve thousand brick per day. He continued in this line of industrial enterprise for a number of years and within this period supplied the brick for the construction of the present large and substantial public-school building in Hebron as well as that for the erection of many other important buildings in the village and its vicinity. He has lived retired from active business since about 1900 and finds himself compassed by smiling plenty as well as by a host of friends in the county which has been his home for many long years. The residence property owned by him in Hebron was the site of the first church building erected in this vicinity, the same having been a log structure, built by members of the Methodist Episcopal church. The pioneers came from far and near to attend religious services in this primitive place of worship, and Mr. Folsom recalls in pleasing reminiscence that the women considered themselves suitably attired in the matter of head-covering when they wore the oldtime "shakers," the while the men appeared in homespun clothing. Buggies were at that time a distinct novelty and a man who adorned himself with a watch-chain was looked upon as vain-glorious and was made the subject of friendly ridicule. Mr. Folsom has witnessed the upbuilding of the village in which he now resides as well as the splendid development of Valparaiso, the judicial center and metropolis of the county, and he has ever done his part in furthering measures and enterprises advanced for the general good of the community. A book could he filled with his reminiscences of the pioneer days and especially those concerned with his experiences as a hunter and trapper. It seems wonderful to review all that has been wrought in this favored section during the lifetime of this honored pioneer, and well may his tales of the early days be treasured as an intrinsic and valuable part of the history of Porter county. He has made his life count for much as a productive worker and as a man of inflexible integrity and honor, and thus he is eminently entitled to the specific recognition accorded him in this volume. Both he and his gentle and gracious wife have the affectionate regard of all who know them, and another loved inmate of their home is his sister Emily, who likewise is now venerable in years. All are earnest members of the Christian church in Hebron and in politics Mr. Folsom gives a staunch allegiance to the Democratic party, the while he takes a lively interest in current events and especially in all that touches the welfare of his home county, which is endeared to him by many gracious memories and associations.

On the 9th of November, 1858, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Folsom to Miss Elsie Lightfoot, who was born in Holmes county, Ohio, on the 6th of May, 1835, and who is a daughter of John and Mary (Shreve) Lightfoot, the former a native of Maryland and the latter of Pennsylvania, who came to Indiana in pioneer days and who passed the closing years of their lives in Porter county, where the father was a prosperous farmer. Of the children Mrs. Folsom was the 5th in order of birth, and the names of the others are here given: Lydia, Mary Ann, Samuel, John, Ellen Elsie, Julia, Eli and Leander. Of the number one son and two daughters are now living. Leander Lightfoot was a gallant soldier in the Civil war and was killed in one of the battles of that great conflict between the north and south. Mrs. and Mrs. Folsom have two sons -- Marvin M. and Harry J., both of whom have well upheld the prestige of the honored name which they bear. Marvin M. Folsom is one of the progressive and representative farmers and dairymen of Porter county, and controls a large business in the shipping of his dairy products to the city of Chicago. He married Miss Loraine Tannnahill, and they have four daughters -- Fay, Elsie, Sylvia and Florence of whom Fay and Elsie became successful and popular teachers in the public schools of their native county. Fay is now the wife of Frank Nichols, of Hebron, Indiana, and Elsie is the wife of Glenn McConkey, of Porter township. Harry J. Folsom, the younger son, is a successful undertaker and funeral director in Hebron and is one of the popular and representative business men of his native county. He is especially fond of sports afield and afloat, and maintains a club house on the Kankakee river, where he enjoy many pleasing outings during the successive seasons in hunting wild fowl and in fishing. He married Miss Nettie Kidd, a native of Ohio, and they have no children.

Source: Lewis Publishing Company. 1912. History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests. Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company. 881 p.
Page(s) in Source: 468-472

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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