History of Porter County, 1882County history published by F. A. Battey and Company . . . .

Source Citation:
Goodspeed, Weston A., and Charles Blanchard. 1882. Counties of Lake and Porter, Indiana: Historical and Biographical. Chicago, Illinois: F. A. Battey and Company. 771 p.







UNION TOWNSHIP was named in commemoration of the Federal Union, and is spoken of by many as the "Peaceful Township." It was first created and organized in 1836. It is five miles from east to west and six miles from north to south. There is nothing peculiarly striking in its physical make-up, though it, with Jackson Township, is the most diversified, with rolling lands and ridges, of any in the county; yet, no part of the land is rendered unfit for easy cultivation from this cause. The only two streams of importance are Salt Creek (Wum-tah-gi-uck -- Indian name for deer lick), which took its name from the numerous salt springs along its coupe, and Taylor Creek; the former has its chief source in Sager's Pond; just south of the city of Valparaiso, and, after bisecting the eastern boundary of the township and flowing north, it cuts through the northern boundary, near the northeast corner, and empties into the Calumet. The latter takes its rise in Hollister's Lake (formerly Lake Ann), in the southern part of the township, flows northeast, and empties into Deep River. The only Lake of importance is Hollister's, and comprises some five or ten acres. At one time there was considerable marsh land (for which Indiana seems to be peculiarly remarkable), and in comparison with the same amount of territory in other States, there is still considerable; but much of it has been drained and is now plowed, and of those marshes that remain, two or three yield quite an abundance of cranberries. The "Twenty-Mile Prairie" extends into the northern part. This was so named because, as an old settler facetiously said, it was "twenty miles from anywhere" -- meaning, of course, that it was twenty miles (or some multiple of twenty) from the nearest trading post, being twenty miles from Michigan City and La Porte, and forty miles from Chicago. The soil in the middle of the township is chiefly sandy. There is also some loam, and so much hard clay all over the township, that little corn is raised; but it makes a good grazing country.


Wheat, oats and rye are among the chief products. The southeastern part is the hilliest, and this, as well as the entire southern part, is cut up with ravines. To one passing along the beautiful roads intersecting the broad stretches of prairie, here and there, the song of the reaper and mower, on his every side, can suggest naught but thrift. In early times, deer were as numerous as sheep now, from five to ten a day being the "sport and prey" of the hunter's bullet. Bears were few, only now and then one straggling across the sparsely inhabited tract. There were a few prairie wolves, but many gray wolves furnished ample music for the youthful swain as he, in company with neighbors' daughters, went jaunting through the "dim, unventured wood." The lynx, badger, otter and wildcat conspired to complete the medley in the forest's depths.

Facts of First Settlement. -- Wm. B. Blachly, Benjamin McCarty, James Walton, Mr. McAfee, John Brewer, John G. Forbes, B. Bunnel, Sylvester Forbes, Andrew Wilson, E. W. Fouts, Joseph Wilson, George W. Turner, Lewis Walton, Richard Henthorn, David Spurlock, John E. West, Joseph Willey, Wilford Parrott and Noah Fouts, were among the first settlers of Union Township, having come there, some of them in the spring of 1836, and some earlier. The following men were residents of Union Township in 1842, as shown by the enumeration of polls: Ebenezer Blachly, Aaron Blachly, Cornelius Blachly, Boyd Blachly, Jeremiah Burge, William Brewer, Thomas Buel, John Brownson, B. B. Bunnel, James Burge, Isaac Brewer, James Congdon, J. M. Curtis, H. Cross, D. G. Crogan, John Currier, T. H. Fifield, S. Forbes, F. A. Forbes, H. G. Hollister, Stephen Hodsden, Benson Harris, Ira G. Harris, Levi Melvin, James McAfee, Lyman Melvin, Mr. McGruder, Wilford Parrott, Otis Robinson, D. P. Strong, O. H. Serviss, Orson Strong, C. Spafford, Harvey Smith, John Sturdevant, Philo Shepard, Nathan Sawyer, Edward Saunders, R. P. Saunders, Abijah Taylor, G. W. Tabor, Edmund D. Wolf, James Walton, Stephen Welch, Joseph Willey, Joseph Wilson, H. B. Wells and John E. West. Total forty-eight. The above men, for the year 1842, paid a total tax of $109.41, which was distributed to three funds -- State tax, county tax and road tax. There were 6,973.51 acres of land, valued at $15,217, including improvements. Total amount of taxables, $24,361. Total assessment of tax, $302.26. All this amount was not received, however. In those early times, the experiences of the hardy pioneers were indeed weird and romantic. Indiana was then the "far West," and where, away back in the '30's, the mournful howl of the gray wolf made those gloomy forests more gloomy, now we are startled with the shriek of the whistle and are found in the very midst of the din and bustle of this wonderful age of traffic. When we realize the incredible change in forty or fifty years, we are led to ask, Is there a limit? Yet, even then,


they had their amusements. If a settler wished to have a cabin erected, he invited the neighbors and they, unburdened with modern formalities, "hitched up their shoes" and flocked in from their rustic haunts. The cabin up, they whiled away their time in drinking beer, playing ball, etc. Dancing did not seem to be much in vogue, but it had its substitute in the "bussing-bee" which term may, perchance, carry a peculiar twang to the ear of the modern youth. They did their principal trading in Michigan City; but they also traded in La Porte and Chicago. Their sleighs were rude affairs, as might be expected, the runners consisting of saplings curved at either end, making them like cradle-rockers; they were fastened together with the roughest cross-pieces, and the whole structure was drawn by oxen. They used the old "bull-tongue" plow, until this was replaced with the "Chicago Clipper." Their drags consisted of two pieces of rough timber crossed and fastened with wooden pegs for teeth. They dragged about twenty acres per day. All their farm machinery, which was indeed not very extensive, was of this rough nature. It was customary for one of the settlers to go to mill with the grain of his neighbors. The mill being some thirty miles away, and the motive power being several yoke of oxen, it took three days to go and return, and, for this manifestation of brotherly love, the recompense was one-third of the grain or flour. In 1838, John Curtis, in preference to going to mill, made a mortar by burning out the top of a stump, and pounded his corn with a pestle. The hams of deer sold at two and one-half cents per pound, but the shoulders could not be sold; the hides were cut into "breaking-lashes." Calico was from twenty-five to forty cents per yard. The population of Union Township in 1860, was 867; 1870, 1057; 1880, 1054.

Elections. -- By order of the first Board of Commissioners a local election was held, for the first time in this county's history, on April 30, 1836, for the purpose of electing Justices of the Peace. We give a verbatim copy of a reference to those who voted at the first election held here: "At an election held at the house of George W. Turner, in Union Township, Porter County, and State of Indiana, on the 30th day of April, 1836, for the purpose of electing one Justice of the Peace, the following-named persons came forward and voted: John G. Forbes, B. Bunnel, Sylvester Forbes, Andrew Wilson, E. W. Fouts, James Walton, Joseph Wilson, George W. Turner, Lewis Walton, Richard Henthorn, David Spurlock, John E. West, Joseph Willey, Wilford Parrott, Noah Fouts. James Walton, inspector." We also give a copy of the "Tally paper:" "We, the undersigned Inspector and Judge at an Election, held at the house of George W. Turner, in Union Township, Porter County, and State of Indiana, the 30th day of April, 1836, do certify


that for the office of Justice of the Peace Joseph Willey got fifteen votes, and -- for the same office got -- votes. Testimony, E. W. Fouts, Joseph Willey, Clerks; James Walton, Inspector; George W. Turner, B. Bunnel, Judges." It is seen that fifteen voted at the election in 1836. At the election of township officers, in the spring of 1882, the total number of votes polled, in Union Township, is 195; at the State election, held in October, 1880, the total number is 232; at the last Presidential election, held in November, 1880, the total number is 245. The following is an exact copy of a return made by a Justice of the Peace of Union Township, in 1836:

                Union Township.

John Burge, James Burge and Orson Strong was brought before me, Joseph Willey, a Justice of Peace, for trial for killen sum hogs, on or about the first day of December, 1836, and I proceeded on the 8th day aforesaid to hear the proofs and allegations, and the defendants was acquitted for the above offense. Nicholas Mount, tried for profane swearing, committed, and paid his fine.


                JOSEPH WILLEY, J. P.

The following persons voted at the Presidential election in Union Township, November, 1836, the election being had in a house formerly occupied by George W. Turner: William Huntsman, A. L. Ball, M. Pierce, Wm. S. Thornburg, James Walton, Joseph Willey, Jesse Pierce, John B. Turner, Moses Wilson, Samuel Wilson, Preston Blake, Abraham Lute, Lewis Walton, Miles Mattox, Moses Maxwell, James Hurd, Joseph Wilson and John Burge. Total, 18.

Accidental, Criminal, Incidental, etc. -- In November, 1872, while Royal White, of Lake County, and his brother-in-law, McColby, were at the Cascade Mills, Mr. White was accidentally killed. While waiting for their grist to be ground, they passed away the time in hunting ducks on the mill-pond. After an absence of an hour or two, they returned and deposited their guns in the wagon, after which they hitched the team, and, as McColby was preparing to drive, Mr. White reached into the wagon box and took the gun by the muzzle, and, in pulling it toward him, one of the hammers caught on a sack, and the barrel, heavily loaded with buckshot, was discharged, the load passing through the wagon box and entering his right breast. McColby ran into the mill and notified A. G. Hardesty, who closed the mill and went to the scene of the accident. The wounded man was on his knees, drenched in his own blood, with both hands pressed to the wound, but he arose and walked to the house of David Hardesty. Dr. Vincent, of Deep River, was called, then Dr. Pratt, of Crown Point, but he was beyond the reach of surgical skill. Splinters of the wagon box, two inches long, and portions of gun-wadding, were taken from his lungs, a few hours before death. He died in about three weeks. His remains were placed in the Crown Point


Cemetery. In 1840, Gen. Brady passed through this county from Michigan with 1,100 Indians. They camped for the night on Section 20 of Union Township, and Dr. Cornelius Blachly, on whose premises they located, says that when morning came, the chief, who became dissatisfied from some cause, stepped to the door of his tent, and, by a signal from him, every warrior sprang to his feet, with a gun, ready for action. The General told them that, although they had the mastery now and could butcher them all, yet "The Great Father at Washington would be avenged." They finally quieted down and marched off. This year was also known as the year of the great wheat blight.

The summer of 1836 was wet, and the harvest was backward. From 1838 to 1842-43 there was snow but once, and that was in 1841, when it was five inches deep for two weeks. The winter of 1842-43 was one of the severest in the history of this county; great numbers starved to death, and many froze; the snow was twelve inches deep in April. In 1844-45, New Year's Day was warm; it was dusty and dry; the winter was unusually mild. In 1839, nearly every able-bodied man in Union Township left for the gold fields of California. In 1864, New Year's Day was remarkably cold. Twenty-Mile Prairie was once an inland lake, with occasional islands. Boyd Blachly was the first white man that ever ran a wagon from Valparaiso to Deep River. He, with his brothers and one McCarty, also opened the road from Valparaiso to Deep River, by hitching ten yoke of oxen to a tree some fourteen or fifteen inches through at the base, and dragging it through the long grass. Mr. Blachly has a relic that few, if any, in this county possess. It is a rifle that his grandfather used in the Revolutionary war. The barrel is five feet or more in length, and its breech is graced with an old-fashioned flint lock. It was loaded with an ounce ball and nine buckshot. "Tell them," said he, "that you have seen a gun that was used seven years in the Revolution, declaring independence to you as well as me. It has killed many a Tory."

Josephus Wolf owns more land than any one man in the county -- between 3,000 and 4,000 acres. He owns part of three sections in Union Township. The death of Mrs. McGruder was probably the first recorded in the township. The only post ofiice is at Wheeler, which is the only village of any importance in the township. Cornelius Blachly and father were the first physicians that settled in town.

Chauncey F. Page murdered his helpless and innocent wife, as well as his wife's mother. He murdered her through jealousy. He also attempted the death of Miss Fredericka Ludolph. Page had been married about two years, and, being a watch-maker, was absent a good deal. His young wife was one of more than ordinary mental qualities and beauty,


and being very fond of society, she was often found there. He would not enjoy life, nor would he allow her to enjoy it. Troubles arose in the family, and she was forced to return to her mother's house. January 15, 1867, found Father Long visiting his son, Christopher, on Coffee Creek. Mr. Long's house stood just across the road from the house of his son-in-law, Ephraim Crisman, at Union Mills. Page came to the house of his mother-in-law one night and demanded admittance. Being refused by Mrs. Long, with an ax he shattered the door, and shot down Mrs. Long, who was standing in the hall. He then murdered his wife, who was in bed. He was on the point of leaving the house, when he discovered Miss Ludolph's feet protruding from under the bed clothes; he said he felt sorry, but she must die. She begged piteously, and promised never to tell, but he shot her through the head; the ball passing just back of her eyes. He then fired another shot through her right knee, and one through her right arm. After this, he beat her over the head with a chair, but feeling her breathe, he pounded her once more. She was conscious, but held her breath. His next act was to saturate the bed-quilt with lamp oil and set it on fire. The burning building was seen by Homer Smith from the house of Mr. Eglin, a short distance east, where he was attending a party. He at once gave the alarm. Miss Ludolph was found standing at the gate, crimson with her own blood, and almost unconscious. Mr. Smith wrapped his coat around her and took her to her father's house. She still lives, though badly scarred, and since then, has visited friends in Germany. The murderer took a change of venue to La Porte County, where he was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to the penitentiary for life. After many unsuccessful attempts at suicide, he succeeded in taking his life. He was found in his cell, in Michigan City Prison, suspended by the neck.

Hoosier Nest. -- As one glances over a map of Union Township, and sees, not far from the western boundary, so suggestive a title as a "Hoosier Nest," he cannot help but feel that there is a history connected with the "Nest" that is decidedly peculiar. In 1835, James Snow put up one of the first frame buildings in the county, getting his lumber from La Porte. In this, it is said, he kept the first store in the township. This store was on the old Sac trail. In 1837, it was purchased by Oliver Shepard, from Connecticut. Being a "down-Easter," and thinking it would be entirely appropriate, he stuck out the sign "Hoosier Nest." This could not fail to attract the eye of the wayfarer, and, in time, the Hoosier Nest came to be known, it is maintained, five hundred miles away, in most any direction. Mr. Green kept this romantic inn after Shepard, and Green's successor was a Mr. Peters, who, with two wives and a son-in-law, lies slumbering beneath the green sod, not a stone's throw from the old


"Nest," which, refitted and re-adorned, stands a "silent witness of the change." Jeremiah Burge has found a place for it in the background, and on its old site has erected a fine brick structure, which he still occupies in his old age. and seems to be ever ready to sit down and tell to a curious listener the many reminiscences that hover around what he has since transformed into a horse barn.

Sunday Schools and Churches. -- Benson Harris and Ira G. Harris, of Union, and George Bronson, of Portage Township, started the first Sunday school in these parts. It was established in 1838 or 1839. Although the place for meeting was just across the line, in Portage Township, yet, two of its founders residing in Union, and, in fact, the school being more intimately connected with Union than with Portage, it is undoubtedly proper to blend the history of these primitive religious efforts with that of Union Township. Not the least remarkable thing of all was their decided ignorance of the necessary equipments of a Sunday school, and the proper manner of conducting it. For instance, they were at a loss to know whether or not spelling books would be the correct things to use; and they preferred to have a suggestion or two as to its strict propriety, before they allowed the boys and girls to sit together; furthermore, as to whether they should take their dinner, prepared at the bountiful board at home, or feast on faith, they were again in the dark. But such preliminaries were of little moment, when those sturdy pioneers were so determined to heed the promptings of a Christian spirit. It was not long till the school came to have an average attendance of eighty. In times when the nearest neighbor was far away, this enrollment was truly wonderful. They came from all over Union Township and townships surrounding, and even from Lake County. Sometimes the attendance was more than one hundred. From this Sunday school some ten schools directly grew. We little know, as do those then inexperienced, though true-hearted settlers "the few that still live), what an influence they exerted, and what harvests are being now reaped from seed sown by them.

In the spring of 1836, Elder Alpheus French, a Baptist minister, preached at "Blachly's Corners." The services were conducted in a grove, and there were about twenty-five in attendance, some coming a distance of eight or nine miles. This was undoubtedly the first Baptist class in Porter County. Hickory Chapel, on the Joliet Road, was probably the second church in the township. The Methodist Church, the pioneer of church organizations in this county, had for its first Presiding Elder the Rev. Richard Hargrave. Jacob Colclazier, a missionary, held the first quarterly meeting in this county in a private residence on Twenty-Mile Prairie, at the Hoosier Nest, in January, 1840. Rev. James C. Brown was instrumental in building up and organizing the church at


Wheeler. Union Centre Baptist Church was started by letter granted from the First Baptist Church, of Valparaiso, bearing date April 10th, 1858, under the supervision of Deacons Cornelius Blachly, Orrin Peck and Captain Wood; they have a fine house of worship, ic having been remodeled and painted through the energy of J. W. Peck and others. It is located in a fine grove at Union Centre. There is no resident pastor. During the fall of 1875, through the efforts of Elder French, this society received a number of additions to its membership. In 1872, the United Brethren formed an organization at Union Centre. The upper story of the church building was fitted for church purposes, and the lower story for school purposes. Stephen Jones was the first traveling Methodist preacher in the county. The salary of young preachers was about $100 per year. Older preachers were paid in proportion to the size of their family.

Schools and Secret Societies. -- The first schoolhouse in the township was at the Hoosier Nest, in Twenty-Mile Grove. It was a log affair 18x20 feet, with a clapboard roof and puncheon floor. The teacher's desk consisted of a board resting on pins driven into the wall. The second school was at Blachly's Corners. They recited grammar in concert. Now schools are scattered throughout the township, and the neat appearance which the school buildings present, suggests the good judgment of the farmers, and foretells their future educational welfare.

Evergreen Lodge, No. 403, F. & A. M., was organized at Wheeler May 25, 1869, with the following first officers: Andrew J. Harrison, W. M.; D. S. Curtis, S. W.; Miller Shinabarger, J. W. In 1870, the present hall, a large two-story frame building, was purchased at a cost of $650; this is fully paid for. The present membership is thirty-one, and the lodge is in a flourishing condition. Magenta Lodge, No. 288, I. O. O. F., was organized at Wheeler November 20, 1867, with the following charter members: Josephus Wolf, George Sigler, Thomas J. Stonax, Dr. H. Green and Daniel Saunders. They own a good, well-furnished hall, worth about $300, and the present membership is thirteen.

Milling and Merchandising. — In the spring of 1837, Boyd, Eben, Cornelius, Aaron and Josephus Blachly, erected the first saw-mill in the county, on a branch of Salt Creek. With their sash-saw and flutter wheel they sawed about 1,000 feet of lumber daily. Jacob Axe framed the mill. Benjamin Long had the second saw-mill in the township. He sawed about 2,000 feet per day. Some twelve or thirteen years ago, there was located, on the head waters of Little Salt Creek, a portable steam saw-mill. It was operated about two years, with an average of 2,000 feet per day. Boyd Blachly had the first carding machine in the county, and the only one in the township. It was built in 1843 or 1844. He averaged


about 150 pounds of wool per day. He also fulled and dressed the cloth. It has since been owned by Staffer Brothers, Thomas Ailesworth, Wilson & Hardesty and A. Wilson, the present owner. The first grist-mill in the township was conducted by the Blachly Brothers, in the building with their saw-mill. It was built in 1846. They used one set of buhrs and a turbine wheel, and ground corn only, averaging about eight bushels per hour. The Cascade Grist-Mills were built by David Hardesty, on Taylor Creek. They were built about fourteen years ago, on to a small brick mill which was constructed by him eighteen or nineteen years ago. The structure is some 18x40 feet, and two stories high. He put in two sets of buhrs, and, at that time, had the only overshot wheel in the county. David, son of Benjamin Long, and George Pierce, established, in B. Long's old saw-mill, what is now known as the Union Grist-Mill. George operated the mill awhile, but he gave way to his nephew, George W. Pierce, the present owner. It is located on Salt Creek. John Harris and Charles Arnold were prominent in the establishment of the first cheese factory in the township. It was established nine or ten years ago, and named "Cheese Factory No. 1" ("No. 2" being in Portage Township). From twelve to twenty cheeses per day were made. A. E. Woodhull bought No. 1, and still runs it.

The "Union Cheese Factory" was built in the spring of 1879, by the farmers of the neighborhood. The stock was divided into forty shares, and held by about twenty farmers. The cost of the structure was about $1,500. W. H. Jones was first President, and Charles Arnold first Secretary. Present officers are J. Burge, President; P. Robinson, Secretary; Farmers National Bank, Valparaiso, Treasurer; W. Jones, W. C. Janes and Stephen Hodson, Directors. Charles Arnold, of Wheeler, was the first cheese maker, and was succeeded by W. J. Wagoner, of Canada, the present incumbent. The capacity is 12,000 pounds of milk per day. The average daily consumption is about 6,500 pounds and 600 pounds of cheese. The average consumption of milk in Cheese Factory No. 1 is nearly as much.

James Snow had the first store in the township. James Blachly and and his son Edgar had the second store, at Blachly's Corners. It was there some five or six years before the Fort Wayne road was run through. Among the first merchants were Daniel and Samuel Sigler, and A. E. Woodhull, of Wheeler.

Wheeler was laid out in 1858 by T. A. E. Campbell, who owned, at that time, the entire tract upon which the town is located. Three business houses were built this year: First, the frame now standing back of Mr. Sigler's store, erected by Mr. Monfort, and first occupied, in the fall of 1859, by Sigler Brothers, who placed therein general merchandise


valued at $4,000, and increased in a year or two to about $10,000. Second, the Wheeler House, built by George Kimball, and conducted by him some five years, with Ichabod Hall successor, and abandoned about ten years ago. Third, a small saloon built by Carroll & Harner, and conducted about one year. Several saloons have been started since then, but in all cases have been short-lived. George Longshore was among the first residents, and was the first Postmaster. He was succeeded by George Kimball, who was followed by Samuel Sigler, the present incumbent. The first blacksmith shop was built in 1862 by D. McHenry. Dr. Arnold is at present the only resident physician at Wheeler. There are at present two business establishments: Samuel Sigler, who carries a large stock of general merchandise, and D. B. Lott, who conducts a general store, owned by A. E. Woodhull, of Chicago.



Transcribed by Steven R. Shook, February 2012


CSS Template by Rambling Soul