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The following article was taken from The New Castle Democrat issue 21 May 1897
INTERESTING REMINISCENCE OF ITS EARLY SETTLEMENT
Paper read before the Henry County Historical Society by
Winchester H. Adams
Henry county was first divided into four townships; Dudley, Henry, Prairie and Wayne.
Henry township embraced what is now Liberty, Henry, Greensboro and part of Harrison township.
Many of the first settlers of Liberty township were from New Castle, Henry county, Kentucky,
and these gave the name of Henry to the new county, and New Castle to the county seat.
In 1823 Liberty township was formed out of a part of Henry township and lies in the extreme
eastern part of the county.
The first election was held at the house of Ezekial Levell. Jacob Thorp and Cyrus Cotton
were the first overseers of the poor, and John Smith was chosen road supervisor. From 1825 the
elections were held at the house of Samuel D. Wells and he was made inspector of the elections.
In 1825 another tier of sections was added to Liberty township on the west and it is now the
largest township in the county, being six miles north and south by six and three quarters east
and west. It embraces a very fine body of land, almost every foot of which is susceptible of
cultivation. It is not so flat as Dudley, being slightly rolling, yet itís soil is very rich.
The eastern part of the township is drained by Symonís creek, a tributary of White Water,
which flows southwest. Thus the township forms a watershed between these two streams.
The person who discovered and named Flat Rock certainly did not first see itís headwaters in
Liberty township, for the name is anything but appropriate here. The stream is sluggish and,
and flows through what was originally marsh lands. If we follow down this stream to the
southern part of Rush and the northern part of shelby counties the name becomes very
appropriate. There itís clear sparkling water glides over miles of unbroken rock.
When Liberty township was first entered by the white man, it was an unbroken forest of valuable
timber. Nearly all of this has disappeared before the blighting touch of the ax, and the broad
fields with nothing to hinder cultivation now stretch out where this forest stood with not a
tree amiss seventy six years ago. Literally have the people of Liberty obeyed the command
"to go forth and subdue the earth". The log cabin and the log stable have given place to fine
dwellings and barns. No other township in the county has so many fine farm dwellings as Liberty.
Some land settlements were made before the land sale in 1821. Christopher Main, it is said was
the first to settle in Liberty township. John Odom and family settled near where John Henry
Hewit now lives, before the Indians left this locality. Most of the early settlers of the
township came from the neighborhood of Jacksonburg, Wayne county, and they were originally from
Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Those coming from Pennsylvania were of
German descent and were usually Dunkards or German Baptist.
The eastern, southwestern and northwestern portions of the township were first settled.
The eastern settlement around what was known as Chicago and south formed the northern part of
the celebrated Levell Neighborhood, and the southern part being around Jamestown. In the
neighborhood John Levell and Ezekial Levell settled, the Levell neighborhood had the distinction
for many years of furnishing nearly all the county officers. Of the first seventeen persons
who entered land August 16, 1821, fifteen of these were around Chicago and south of it.
They were William Roe, Jeremiah Hadley, Kincher Johnson, Moses Robertson, Jeramiah Strode,
John Beard, William Bell, David Brown, Joshua Hardman, Jesse Martindale, Thomas Ralston,
John Levell, George Handley, Thomas Robson and Samuel Southran. Thomas Batson entered the west
half of the southwest quarter of the northwest of section twenty one on the same day, being some
two or three miles west of the other entries. By the end of the year 1824 all the land in the
eastern part of the township, with few exceptions, had been entered. Here we find the names of
Johathan Adamson, Samuel Lear, Christian Hale, Daniel Miller, Samuel MacMullen, Abraham Huffman,
Thomas Roe, Josiah Bradbury, Christopher Main, Henry Myers, Prosper Mikels, Evan Benbow,
Jacob Schaffer, Henry Leash, William Campbell, Joseph Hoover, Peter Halstead, Jacob Rinehart,
Peter Rinehart, Watson Roe, Samuel Halstead, John Daughtery, William Baughn, Isaac Sellers,
John Bell, James Boyd, Daniel Wampler, Henry Brown, Jonathan Pearson, James Dunbar, Jesse Pearson,
Jonathan Emmons and John MacLucas who entered land. Most of these were actual settlers and
many others whose names have been forgotten settled here. Almost every family built in the door
yard what is known as a bake oven; This was built of rock and clay and later of brick. It was
constructed by making a level foundation and upon this a wooden arch or dome was built with two
openings in the sides and this was covered with clay mortar and when dry the wooden arch is
burned out and it is ready for use. They would put wood in the oven and let it burn to coals
while they were molding the dough in stick and straw pans, for they had no iron or tin pans.
Then they would clean out the oven and take a long paddle and place the molded loaves in the
oven, close up the oven and leave them to bake. While the bread was baking they made the pies
and when the bread was done they placed the pies in the oven. Those who used to eat this kind
of bread and pies, tell me it was much better than our present bread, but I imagine that youth
and hard labor made motherís baking taste sweeter to them then. Chicago was the first village
in the township and continued to be the most important place of business, up to the laying out
of Millville in 1854. Since that time it has literally disappeared from the face of the earth
as a town, itís name alone remaining. Here in an early day a tavern known as the Four Mile House,
a small grocery store, a blacksmith shop, tailor shop, cooper shop, a post office and quite a
number of dwellings. Whiskey was kept at the grocery and hotel, and people drank it almost as
they do cider now. Here was the place to settle all difficulties and old Chicago has a local
reputation for her fighting qualities. No knives or pistols were allowed. It was a pure fist
fight. A ring was formed and when one said "enough" that ended the fight and the participants
usually became friends. It is said that eight or ten fights in one evening was no uncommon
occurrence. There was a school established at Chicago at a very early day. There is a deed on
record made by Jacob Medsker in 1836 conveying ten rods square in the northeast corner of
section 23 for school purposes. A school house was built upon this tract, and whether this was
the first school house or not at Chicago I have not been able to ascertain. The first church
house built here was built by that branch of the Christian church called Newlights about the
year 1848. This denomination held services for many years previous to this, at the residence
of William Bell.
The present Chicago church is a Union church. In the southern part of the Levell neighborhood
and in the extreme southeastern part of the township, the German Baptist formed a congregation
and built a church. This is known as the Locust Grove church. Near the center of this
neighborhood a log school house was built on the northeast corner of the farm now known as the
Dick Smith farm. One of the first teachers here was Joel Baker. On the morning of the first
day of school he carried an arm full of switches in and set them in one corner of the room and
it is said he found use for them during the term. Samson Fox, Jacob Filson and Enoch Shawhan
also taught here.
The northwestern part of the township was largely settled by friends. These Quakers, like the
other Quakers of Henry county ,selected a rich body of land for their homes. The first land
entries made here were made, September 12, 1821, by Thomas Cox and George Koons.
On December 6, 1821, John Marshall, George Hobson, Thomas Hobson and Thomas Wiles entered land
here. Those who entered land later were John Smith, Isaac Brown, Aaron Wiles, Richard Haines,
Luke Wiles, Stephen Potter, William Bond, Silas Davis, Jonathan Brown, David Mendenhall,
Jacob Ritter, William Bunndl, Luther Bennet, James Loer, Joel Reed, and many others.
Some land was entered here as late as January 1836. Some of the most prominent men of this
settlement were Isaac Brown, William Bond and Luke Wiles. Isaac Brown settled here in 1823
and entered 160 acres of land. He was a native of North Carolina, blacksmith and mechanic,
and had a shop on his farm and did work for his neighbors in his shop for work in return on
his farm. He made most of the coffins in which most of the early settlers of this neighborhood
were buried. Some of these he made out of split boards. When he first settled here he would
go to Milton on foot, work at his trade for a short time, buy flour with his wages and carry
it home on his back. He was a very industrious man. He had no early advantages of schools, but
his wife taught him to read and write and in later years he settled many estates, being noted
for his sterling honesty and sound judgment. He was the father of James Brown, lately deceased,
and the grandfather of Joseph M. Brown and Samuel H. Brown, all attorneys, who were born and
grew into manhood in this neighborhood. Isaac Brown was an ardent and faithful member of the
William Bond was one of the pioneer Quakers of the Flat Rock neighborhood. He was a good man
and for years sat at the head of the Flat Rock church. He carried no watch, and it was
remarkable with what precision he took his seat at the head of the meeting at the appointed
hour, 11 oíclock am and then how near 12 oíclock he could dismiss. He never varied but a few
minutes from the time. Luke Wiles was a prominent man of his day. He was a farmer, a school
teacher and a great worker in the Friends church. To him as much as to any man the county is
indebted for its early advancement made in the public schools. Two or three of his daughters
became preachers. His two sons William M. and Daniel Wiles, kept a grocery in Lewisville and
moved from there to Indianapolis, where for many years they conducted a wholesale store and
where Daniel still resides. William taught several terms of school in this county and at one
time was principal of the New Castle Academy.
The first Quaker church of this neighborhood stood west of Flat Rock on the north side of the
Brown road near the little graveyard seen there now. About fifty years ago it was moved about
a mile to the northwest and about fifteen years ago the present Flat Rock church was built on
the north side of Samuel Browns farm. Some of the early preachers here were Luke Wilesí first
wife, Abraham Dennis of Franklin, Mahlon Dennis, Miles Mendenhall and Joseph Stanley.
The first school house was a log house and stood on the Charles Bell farm. A part of the
Quaker church was next used as a school house. Dorothy Huff, Lucinda Jenkins, Charles Osborne,
the lat James Brown and William Wiles taught in these houses. This neighborhood received
its mail at the Messick post office, then called Ashland. When the Panhandle railroad was
built in 1854, the office was removed to Mullenís station and the name was changed to Ashland.
In the Devon neighborhood we find the following entries of land were made: Thomas Batson,
William Yates, Lewis Odom, William Bond, Samuel D. Wells, Wilson Wisehart, John Emmit,
Anthony Buggs, Robert Boyd, Isaac Baker, Enoch H. Goff, Elisha and Joel Long, William Baker,
William Grose and many others. The last piece of land entered in the township was entered by
Benjamin F. Carmine, September 29, 1836. This was a part of the farm now owned by Patrick
Johnson and is near the southwestern corner of the township.
Thomas Batson entered the land where the Batson cemetery is located. This beautiful cemetery
is the largest country cemetery in the county. It compares well with Southmound at New Castle
and Glen Cove at Knightstown, both in its dimensions and its beauty. The beginning of this
cemetery was the establishment of a little graveyard on the corner across the road from the
present Boyd school house where the monument of Christopher Long and wife now stands.
Mrs. Long was the first white person buried within the township. She died September 11, 1822.
Her husband died August 14, 1829, aged eighty-three years. Mr. Long was a Revolutionary
soldier. He and his wifeís graves though nearly in the road, are enclosed by an iron fence
and marked by a neat monument.
Though forty years had passed since the close of the struggle for independence, yet two of
these heroes were among the early settlers of Liberty township. Richard Conway, a
Revolutionary soldier, settled near the northern boundary of the township in 1821, on the
Henry Shultz farm. I have not been able to learn when he died. He is buried in the
neighborhood where he settled. When we remember that only seventy-five years have passed
since the first funeral occurred in the township that today there are eight or ten grave
yards, some containing many dead, and that these cities of the dead are constantly growing,
what must be their dimensions in centuries to come? If time lasts, what a throng will arise
when the dead come forth from their graves!
Robert Boyd, father of William and James Boyd settled on the James Boyd farm in 1825.
He arrived there in March built a log house and cleared and planted about four acres of corn.
The family came in July. Robert Boyd kept a post office at his residence for many years.
William Boyd was about three years old when his father moved here. He is one of only a few of
the early settlers now living. He was county commissioner for six years. Just west of the
Boyd farm, on the James Peed farm, Elijah Martindale, the noted minister lived for many years
and reared a large family, Judge E. B. Martindale of Indianapolis, was born here.
William Bland settled in an early day on the farm now owned by Henry Wilson, and for years was
one of the leading men of this neighborhood, and was one of the founders of the Universalist
church here. The first school house of this neighborhood was a round log house with a dirt
floor, which stood on the corner northeast from where the present school house stands.
Judge Thomas R. Stanford and Isaac Bader taught school is this house. The next school house
was built not far from where Isom Bond now lives. This was a hewed log house.
Elija Martindale, Benjamin Carmine and Isaac Huff taught here. Enos Bond settled on the farm
where his son Isom lives, in 1829. He was born in 1810, where Earlham College now stands.
The first Flat Rock Christian church was built west of Flat Rock, near the corner of the
Nicholson farm on the south side of the Dublin and New Castle pike, about the year 1835.
Elanders Martindale, Edmanson, and Thomas Burnon preached here. The present church was built
about 1866. The Universalists early held services in the Devon neighborhood at dwellings.
The first church house was built here about the year1850, and is the only organization within
the county. William Bland, Thomas Runyan, David and James Wilson were the founders of this
church and were devoted members and exemplary men.
Millville was not laid out until 1854 when Panhandle railroad was built through the township.
Hood & Becket moved their store from Chicago the Millville. Adam Welker, John Harshbarger,
Micajah Forkner and John Worl were among the early settlers here. Mr. Worl is still living
on his farm just south of town at an advanced age. He has been successful in accumulating
much property. Mr. Forkner was the father of Jude Mark I. Forkner, of New Castle, and has
been dead for man years. Ashland was not laid out until the Panhandle railroad was built
through the township. It was first called Mullenís Station, but was changed to Ashland when
the post office was located there. The first settlers were Wimmer Sr., John Odom, Thomas R.
Sanford, who lived on the John R. Millikan farm, Elias Pickens, George and Thomas Runyan.
Mr. Peter Wimmer settled a little southeast of Ashland in 1821 or 1822. William Wimmer, Jr,
was born here in 1829. He has resided all his life in the township except three years.
Mr. Wimmer now lives north of Ashland.
The first school house of this neighborhood was built in 1834 or Ďs5 on George Runyanís farm,
near the little ravine on the Hagerstown pike, southwest of Ashland. This was a log house
Harrison Magill, Newton Martindale, Jackson Batson, Phillip Stanford and Joseph Forney taught
in this house was taught in the winter of 1852 and Ď53. Near this school house about the year
1840, a steam saw mill was built. It was an old fashioned sash saw. The late James Goudy was
head sawyer for years and Noah Runyan hauled the logs to the mill with oxen. This mill was
moved to Ashland in 1857.
The late John R. Millikan first settled in Liberty township on the farm now owned by Nathan May,
where he had a blacksmith shop. In 1853 he purchased of Thomas R. Stanford the farm where his
son Isaac now resides, and here for many years continued to work at his trade of blacksmithing.
He always advocated free schools and when that question was submitted to the people, he,
Luke Wiles, and John Hunt were the only persons who voted for free schools in Liberty township.
He was in the Legislature two terms. At the time of his death he was president of the Citizenís
State Bank of New Castle. Jon hunt, father of T. B. Hunt, steeled on the Hunt farm east of the
Stanford farm. He came here from Ohio, and originally from New Jersey. He resided on his farm
about twenty years.
In its early days the township was Whig, although sometimes the Democrats elected their man.
For many years it has been very closely divided between the two great parties Now township has
been more active in politics, and in its early days it almost dictated the county officer.
I cannot refrain from mentioning some of the men who figured in the early history of the
township. These were not only known in the township but throughout the county. Ezekial Levell
was the agent of Henry county and afterward sheriff. Dr. T. J. Buckanan was the only doctor to
locate in the township at an early day. He lived in Levell neighborhood and afterwards moved to
Jacob Thorp was a bell maker and made cow bells, which have almost became a relic of the past.
He was associate judge at the time Elliott was on the bench. Thorpís blacksmith shop was
located in the eastern part of the Levell neighborhood. Jesse Forkner was sheriff of the
county. Samuel K. Wells was for many years justice of the peace, and very prominent in
politics. Green T. Simpson was a prominent resident. Joshua Johnson was sheriff and was the
last Democrat elected to a county office in Henry county. Moses Robertson was sheriff and tax
collector. William Dickson, of Flat rock was a prominent citizen. Thomas R. Stanford was in
the Legislature twelve years. He represented the county for a longer period than it has been
represented by any other man. Eld. Elijah Martindale was a prominent minister not only in
Henry county, but Eastern Indiana. Judge E. B. Martindale of Indianapolis, James Brown,
deceased, Judge M. E. Forkner, Joseph M. Brown and Samuel R. Brown, of New Castle, are
attorneys who came from Liberty township, and are well known in eastern Indiana.