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.







WHAT is now known as Liberty Township, with an additional tier of sections on the north, consisting of thirty square miles in the northern half of the county, was formerly attached to La Porte County, and was included in the large tract of Government land sold at auction at La Porte in 1835, from which were formed the counties of Porter and Lake. At this sale, the land speculators, with their usual shrewdness, offered a quarter-section to the settlers who agreed not to bid against them, and thus they obtained -a two-fold benefit. They bought their land at a low price, and secured its rise in value by the improvements made upon the part given away. Liberty Township being heavily timbered was especially valuable to them, and the greater part was obtained, and held long after other portions of the county were quite densely populated. As a natural result, this township has been considerably retarded in its development, but it has advantages in soil and location which, in time, will make it the equal of any spot in the State. In another way the Government favored these unscrupulous speculators to the disadvantage of the settlers. Much trouble and annoyance were occasioned by the settlers locating upon land which, at the time of the treaties with the Pottawatomies, became what were known as "floats," or reservations. These "floats" consisted of a claim upon a quarter, a half, or a whole section of land, or sometimes more than one section. The claims could be bought of the Indians or half-breeds, who were unconscious of their value, for a mere song, and of this the traders and speculators took advantage. The settlers became much incensed, and sent several petitions to Washington, praying for an adjustment of the system. One of these claims was laid upon a quarter-section in the northeast part of the township, owned by William Snavely, and which he had bought of William Crawford. This led to what is commonly called the "Snavely war." Peter White became the owner of the claim, and he took action to remove Snavely from his land, but this was not to be accomplished so easily. Sheriff Charles G. Merrick, with a posse of men, was sent to remove him and obtain possession, but he, like the yeomen of England,


considered his house his castle, and resolved, with the help of his sons, to defend it. The Sheriff and his men, after several vain attempts to gain admittance at the doors or windows, bethought themselves of the roof, which they immediately ascended, and began to remove, whereupon Snavely climed to the loft and fired upon them, wounding one of them severely. Supposing by the commotion caused that he had killed him, he became frightened and attempted to escape, but was arrested and taken to jail. As the man shot soon recovered, he was discharged upon the payment of a fine and the relinquishment of his land. Since his death, his heirs have obtained a partial compensation.

Forest Productions and Water Supply. -- The surface of this township is generally very level, and in the western and northwestern portions there is considerable swamp land. The soil consists of a dark loam, or clay, and, when properly drained, will become as good land as there is in the county. This soil seems especially favorable for the production of timber. The most valuable is oak, of which the forests produced the finest quality. The other varieties are maple, hickory, ash and elm, with more limited quantities of black walnut, butternut and white wood. Were the trees standing to-day which forty years ago were split into rails or burned up in the log, they would be of the greatest value to the citizens. Two creeks of considerable size, with three small lakes or ponds, form the chief water supply. Salt Creek, which widens to form one of the ponds, passes through the southwestern part, and furnishes considerable water-power. Long Lake, in the southeastern part, the largest of the three, is connected by a narrow channel with Flint Lake in Centre Township. Coflfee Creek runs through the northeastern part, and furnishes power for several mills along its course. It widens to form the third pond.

Early Settlements and Improvements. -- Probably the first settler of Liberty Township, or at least one of the very first, was Owen Crumpacker, who came from Union County, Ind., in June, 1834. He settled on the place now owned by Mrs. E. P. Cole. During the same year, William Downing, Jerry Todhunter and Elijah Casteel came also. The next year, Peter Ritter settled on the place now owned by Amanda Mott. Thomas Clark, commonly known as "Bee-hunter" Clark, located on the place owned at present by H. Kimball. During the next two years their number was increased by the arrival of John Dillingham, E. P. Cole, William Gosset, George Hesing, Asa Zane, Ira Biggs, David Hughart, John White, Frederick Wolf, Samuel Olinger, Daniel Kesler, John Sefford, M. Blayloch, Jerry Todhunter, Abram Snodgrass, Solomon Habany, William Calhoun and others; also, Joseph and Jesse Morgan, who settled in what is now a part of Westchester Township. At this time the people


were commonly divided into three settlements known as the Dillingham, in the eastern part, Zane, in the central, and Salt Creek in the western. At the latter place, immediately after his arrival in 1836, William Gosset began the erection of his saw and grist-mill, and thus the settlers of this part of the county were spared the necessity of going forty or fifty miles for their lumber and flour. William Gosset also built the first frame building in Liberty during this year. This was one story, and about twenty-four feet long by thirty-two feet wide. It is still in existence, having been used successively for a church, schoolhouse and kitchen.

The people of the Dillingham settlement were more closely connected with those in Jackson Township. A mill and distillery having been erected on Coffee Creek by Casteel and Blayloch, they had the best of facilities for supplying themselves with aqua vitae and the "staff of life." Previous to the erection of the distillery, John Dillingham, who usually sheltered the "wayfaring" men that reached the settlement, dealt out the former article in quantities of not less than a quart. He, of course, unlike the "moonshiners" of the Alleghanies, paid a "government license."

The first houses in the Zane settlement were built by Asa Zane and Ira Biggs in the early part of 1835. During this year, David and William Hughart came from Greenbrier County, W. Va., having been forty-five days in making the journey. They built a house sixteen by twenty feet, in which both families, numbering fifteen persons, lived for several months. A camp of Pottawatomie Indians was situated within a hundred yards of their house, and in the spring they came regularly to make sugar, of which they prepared large quantities. This they exchanged with the traders for whisky. The Indians, when not crazed with fire-water, lived at peace with the whites, and scarcely ever "offered show of violence."

One day, in the fall of 1835, four or five of the red skins who were returning from Bailly's trading-post, having become, as they termed it, "cockazy," attempted to enter the house of David and William Hughart. The women, who were alone, were badly frightened, barred the door, and climbed into the loft. After much whooping and several vain attempts to break down the door with their tomahawks, the Indians departed just in time to escape the wrath of the Hughart brothers who were returning home from a hunt. William Hughart's wife was so badly frightened that she died soon after from the effects of the shock, and his mother did not long survive her. These were the first deaths that occurred within the limits of this township.

Pioneer Experiences. — Though these early pioneers were not compelled to endure the dangers incident to those who crossed the Alleghanies fifty years before, they lived amid their cares and labors with no


comforts, no conveniences, no roads. They were forced to be self-reliant and dependent on their own resources. Their bread was often made from meal mixed with water and salt, and baked on a split shingle before the open fire. Their meat, when they had it, was usually the flesh of deer or other game killed in the woods. For such necessaries as they bought they had to go, at first to South Bend, afterward to Michigan City.

They knew little of the so-called pleasures of to-day, yet unhampered by conventionalities they had enjoyments none the less rare. The raisings, log-rollings, shuckings, "bussing bees," and, occasionally, a wedding, at which "the cup that cheers" flowed freely, and the "wee, sma'" hours were spent in tripping it on the "light fantastic toe," furnished recreation suited to their life. The first of these latter occurrences was occasioned by the marriage of William Hughart to Elizabeth Zane on June 14, 1836, by Elijah Casteel, Justice of the Peace. The next was that of Daniel W. Lyons and Anna Dillingham February 6, 1837. On April 6, of the same year, William Calhoun and Sarah Sefford were married by J. C. Spurlock, and George Humes and Sarah Crawford by Thomas J. Wyatt, the latter couple in a small log house near where John Johnson now lives. This was the occasion of unusual festivity, and was the first important society event of the settlement. Some thirty or forty invited guests, young and old, were present, and as the house contained only one room, fourteen by sixteen feet, with two beds in it, the necessity for economy of space is apparent. The Justice and the father of the bride having indulged rather too freely in something stronger than coffee, became oblivious, it is said, to the surrounding festivities. The younger portion of the company, wishing "to thread the mazy," were at a loss to know how to dispose of the fallen heroes, as both beds had been used for wardrobes and hat-racks. The difficulty, however, was soon solved by rolling the worthy pair under the beds, and the joy of the dance was unconfined until "night's candles were burnt out."

Early Industries and Roads. -- The first saw-mill in the township was built by Samuel Olinger, on Damon Run, on the place now owned by J. Wilts, in 1836. It was run by T. J. Field until 1838, when he sold it to William Johnson, who, after seven or eight years, allowed it to fall into disuse. A little later in the same year, William Gosset began the erection of a saw-mill on the east bank of Salt Creek, opposite the site of the present mill. Having finished it, he sawed the lumber for several frame buildings which were erected the next year, when he also completed a grist-mill, which he ran in connection with the saw-mill until about 1844. These were of the usual capacity and arrangement of the ordinary grist and saw-mills of those days.

In 1844, the mills needing repairs, and thinking that the west bank


offered better facilities for them, he began the erection of the present mill, but died in 1845, before its completion. It was then bought and finished by David Skinner, one of his heirs. From this time it was successively owned by Samuel Skinner, T. J. Fifield, S. P. Robbins, Abram and Peter Stafford, Blachly Brothers, and Blachly & Son, who control it at present. When first built, these mills had a large custom. People came from places fifty and sixty miles distant, and, at times, so great was the number of customers that they were compelled to wait three and four days for their grists. At present only a moderate business is done.

Closely connected with the history of these mills is that of a somewhat chimerical enterprise -- the building of a steamboat for the purpose of navigating Salt Creek, and its trunk, the Calumet River. About 1865-66, Abram and Peter Stafford, and Dr. Stanton, who afterward associated with themselves W. D, Cruthers, began the construction of a steamboat for conveying wood and timber to Chicago, by way of Salt Creek and Calumet River. It was about twelve feet wide and thirty feet long, and two or three years were consumed in building, after its completion, it was run up and down the creek once or twice, and was finally sunk in the Calumet River.

In 1842, a saw-mill was built by Cromwell Axe, on property now owned by William Harvey. It is still in existence. In 1858, a steam mill was built by Hunt & Kellogg. It changed hands several times, and was finally moved away. About 1854-55, Brown & Sellers erected a saw-mill on Coffee Creek. This was run a few years, but finally fell into disuse. In 1870, David Long built another mill, just below the site of the old one. In 1875, it was pulled down, and a grist-mill erected by Long & Wondes, at a cost of $5,000 or $6,000. The present owner is O. W. Wheeler, who does a large business.

During 1837-38, a chair and wheel factory was operated by Abraham Snodgrass, on Spring Creek. He soon sold out and went West, and it was used no more.

In 1836, after the county was organized, the first regularly laid out road was constructed. At the spring term of the Commissioner's court, Peter Ritter, Samuel Olinger and William Thomas were appointed to run a road from Casteel's Mill, on Coffee Creek, to William Gosset's Mill, through to the county line, which they accordingly did, and located the road where it now is. Previous to this time, Indian trails had been the only roads, save those that had been built before the county was organized. About 1851, the construction of a plank road to extend from Valparaiso to Michigan City was began. It passed through the eastern part of the township. After the building of railroads through these places, the necessity for such a road was no longer felt, and it was


never completed. In 1874, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was built. Much trouble and some litigation were occasioned in procuring the right of way.

Stores and Post Offices. -- The first store was opened by McPherson & Meyers, at Salt Creek, in 1845. Their stock was small, not much larger than is usually carried by a stout peddler, and consisted principally of those articles included in the comprehensive term, "Yankee notions." After three or four years of such extensive business, the store was closed, and the people of Liberty were without a mercantile enterprise, until about 1866, when W. D. Cruthers, who had an interest in the steamboat enterprise elsewhere described, opened a store in the upper part of the mill then owned by Abram and Peter Stafford. As before, the business carried on was not large, and after being sold to Robbins & Miller, was closed out by them. A few years ago, the present store was opened by George Wheeler, who still conducts it, keeping the usual stock, and doing the business generally done by a small country store.

There are but two post offices within the limits of the township, one of which was opened at Woodville, a station on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, a few months since. This will doubtless form the nucleus of a thriving village, as the proprietor has already erected a building for the storage of wheat, to accommodate shippers. The other office was instituted at Salt Creek about 1858, with John Beck as the first Postmaster. It has since been held successively by John Miller, Abram Stafford and George Wheeler, the present incumbent.

Elections and Population. -- The first election after the organization of the township was held at Daniel Kesler's. The following is a copy of the tally-sheet and list of voters used at that election:

At an elction held at the house of Daniel T. Kesler, in Liberty Township, Porter Co., Ind., on the 30th day of April, A. D. 1886, for the purpose of electing one Justice of the Peace for said township, the following-named persons came forward and voted, to wit: Peter Ritter, Thomas J. Wyatt, William Downey, Daniel W. Lyons, Joel Crumpacker, Joel Welker, John Sefford, M. Blayloch, Frederick Wolf, Richard Clark, William Calhoun, Isaac Zane, Owen Crumpacker, Hiram Snodgrass, Jerry Todhunter and Solomon Habanz. We, the undersigned Inspectors and Judges of an election held at the house of Daniel T. Kesler, in Liberty Township, Porter Co., Ind., on the thirtieth day of April, 1836, for the purpose of electing one Justice of the Peace, do certify that for the office of Justice of the Peace, Peter Ritter got thirteen votes, and Thomas J. Wyatt got three votes. Given under our hands this thirtieth day of April, 1836. Jerry Todhunter, Inspector; John Sefford, Joel Crumpacker, William Snavely, Solomon Habanz, Judges.

At the spring term of court, 1836, Daniel W. Lyons was appointed first Constable; Jesse Morgan and Richard Clark, Overseers of the Poor; E. Tratebas and William Downey, Fence-Viewers; Solomon Habanz, Supervisor of Roads.


On August 7, of the same year, an election was held at Kesler's house for State officers, at which time twelve votes were polled. At this election, T. J. Wyatt was elected Justice of the Peace. Since that time nearly all the offices, then held in the township, have been merged into Trustee. The present Trustee is Fritz Lindermann. The population of the township in 1880 was 901.

Schools, Churches, etc. -- The first school in the township was probably taught in a log house, built in the Zane settlement in 1836. Mrs. Sophia Dye was the first teacher. She had about fifteen pupils, and received $2 per week. This, like all others at that time, was a subscription school. The house was built by the neighbors in common, and its furnishings were of the rudest character. Its windows were formed of oiled paper, and its seats of slabs; the desks were made by driving pins into the wall and laying a board on them. The present frame house was built by Morris Risdon in 1854, at a cost of about $300.

A school was taught in the Dillingham settlement in 1837 by Anna Lyons, in a part of her father's (John Dillingham's) house. She had eight or nine pupils. The following year, a log house was built for school purposes, and E. P. Cole taught the first two or three terms. About 1856, a frame house was built; this was used until 1877, when the present substantial brick building was erected, at a cost of about $600. The present teacher is Miss Mary Mead, who receives $25 per month.

A school was maintained at Salt Creek from about 1837 until 1856, though no house for that purpose had been erected until the present one was built in the last mentioned year. The first teacher in this house was Miss Kate Hoste, who received $10 per month. The present teacher is Mary Love, who has an average attendance of fourteen pupils, and receives $25 per month. The house in District No. 5 was built in 1854, by William Babcock, at a cost of $300. In District No. 1 James Bradley built the house in 1858 or 1859; in No. 4 a brick was built in 1869, at a cost of $700. The house in No. 7 was erected in 1875. In 1882, the number of pupils between the ages of six and twenty-one years, enumerated by the Trustee, was 343. The present schools are as good as any county schools, and fully sustain the high character for educational facilities which the State bears.

Though an exceedingly quiet and law-abiding community, the people of Liberty have never possessed a church organization. A somewhat singular, and it might be said suggestive, coincidence is, that no saloon was ever established within the same limits. Though no chapel may be seen beckoning us with white spire, no den of iniquity casts its withering curses abroad to blight the happiness of the inhabitants.

The first minister who visited this township was Stephen Jones, a


member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He came at the invitation of William Gosset, and preached at his house. The services were held at 2 P. M., on Friday, the congregation having been called together by the blasts of a tin-horn in the hands of Mrs. Gosset. There were about forty persons present. A great interest in religious matters was aroused, and during the same year the Rev. Stephen Jones conducted a camp-meeting on Salt Creek, which lasted a week. People came from far and near, and many converts were made. During the next year, William Gosset erected a small church building, which is still standing, and is used by Mrs. Gosset for a dwelling. Salt Creek was now placed upon a circuit, and services were regularly held for some years. Among those who encountered the hardships and sufferings incident to the itinerant pioneer preacher for the purpose of dispensing the Gospel to this settlement, may be mentioned the Revs. Beer, Young, Forbes, Posey, Griffith and Colclasier. The circuit-rider as he once existed has disappeared, and only occasionally, except as they go to churches at a distance, do the people of Liberty have the privilege of meeting together for religious services.

The only secret society ever organized here was that of the Grangers. Three Granges were organized in 1875 -- one at Salt Creek, another in District No. 5, and a third in the southern part of the township. For a time these societies flourished and supplied a long-felt social want -- some place for friends and neighbors to meet and spend an hour or two together each week; but from a pecuniary standpoint, they were not a success, unless in the returns they brought the farmers. A co-operative store was established in a small building owned by George Fisher, and he was placed in charge of it. Some jealousies in regard to the distribution of the goods were manifested. After about six months of not very profitable business, the store was closed, and soon after the organization was abandoned, having been in existence about two years.



Transcribed by Steven R. Shook, February 2012


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