Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Indiana

Published by Baskin & Forster & Co.

Lakeside Building Chicago, Ills. 1876

Pages 283-284

Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin

DeKalb County

DeKalb County is near the northeast corner of the State, having Steuben County on the north, the Ohio line on the east, Allen County on the south, Noble county on the west. Its area is about three hundred and sixty-nine square miles; its average length , east and west, being about twenty and one-half miles, and its breadth eighteen miles. The soil is good, and was originally covered with a fine growth of timber. There are a few small lakes in the county, and but a few swamps, all easily drained, so that there is not probably a quarter-section of land in the county that does not contain some good plow land. There are no prairies, properly speaking; no stone quarries, and no minerals, if we except a few fine specimens of lead ore, found in the western part of the county. These specimens are of the kind known as "genlena," but as it is not believed to exist in paying quantities, it has attracted but little attention.

Rivers, Etc.

The St. Joseph River crosses the southeast corner of the county, flowing to the southwest, until it joins the St. Mary’s at Ft. Wayne, in Allen County. Fish Creek, one of its tributaries, crosses the northeast corner, while Cedar Creek and its branches pass through the central part and flow into the St. Joseph in Allen County. These streams all furnish some water power, the best being at different points along the St. Joseph. Many of the smaller streams, that formerly furnished power for different mills in the county, are now so nearly dried up by the settling of the country, that they no longer furnish sufficient power to be available.

Early History.

The first settler in the county was John Houlton, who located in the northeast part of what is now Franklin Township. In 1831, he passed through the northeast part of the county, and, seeing a good location, he concluded to settle there and make a home. In 1833, sometime in September, he returned from Ohio, and erected a log cabin, the first white man’s home in the county. In this he lived for many years. It stood on the site of his present residence. Mr. Houlton died in the spring of 1875, after a long and useful life, in good circumstances, and respected by all who knew him.

John Fee settled near Houlton, in 1834, and these, with Luther Keep, Charles Crain, A. F Beecher and Peter and Charles Boyer, were among the early settlers of Franklin Township.

In the southeast part of the county, among the early settlers were the following: Samuel Widney, John P. Widney, Benj. Alton, a minister of the Disciple Church, and who preached the first sermon in the county; Elder James Hadsell, of the same church, who is still living, and who was not only the first minister ordained in the county, but assisted to organize the first church in the county, at Coburn’s Corners, east of the St. Joseph.

William Matthews built the first grist-mill. It was a corn-mill, of the modest pretensions and primitive construction. But it served well in its day. It stood on Bear Creek, near the center of Concord Township.

The first persons who were married within the county, and who resided in it, were Nelson Ulm and Elvira Lockwood, in 1837. But in the spring of 1836, Robert Work, then a resident of Allen County, was married in what is now Butler Township.

The first marriage licenses

were issued on the 5th of September, 1837, to Francis Smith and Maria Gunsenhouser, and to John Platter and Ann E. Walden. Both marriages were solemnized by Washington Robinson, the Justice of the Pease in DeKalb County.

The first male child

born in the county was B. A. Hadsell, son of Elder James Hadsell. He was born the 14th day of November, 1836.

Joseph Miller was the first County, Surveyor. R. J. Daniels was the first Justice of the Peace, in Smithfield Township. James McCrum, who assisted in building the first school house in Auburn, and John N. Miller were among the first settlers of Wilmington Township; William Miller, the first settler in Jackson Township; Abram Fair, Charles Crouse, George De Long and Andrew, John and Jacob Surface were the first settlers in Butler Township.

The first store in the county

was opened in Orangeville, in 1837, by John Platter, William Rogers and a Mr. Savage, each partner contributing $200. The building was of logs, sixteen by eighteen feet. The logs for this were cut in half a day, by John P. Widney, who was one of the earliest settlers, and who after ward filled several important offices, including those of Justice of the Peace and County Clerk.

The first store in Newville was owned by N. L. Thomas; the first one in Auburn by a man named Comstock; the second in Auburn was by T. J. Foreman, who began with a cash capital of $170.

Col Solomon De Long was among the early settlers , a prominent citizen, and, during the Rebellion, was in command of a regiment.

Among the other early settlers, some of whom are still living, and in the enjoyment of an honorable and well earned competence, may be mentioned the following: Isaac G. Smith, George Ensley, Henry Willis, Henry Hogue, Rev. S. B. Ward, Ira Allen, Lewis Holbrook, Lyman Holbrook, Daniel Moody, Daniel Strong, Kneeland Abbott, Asher Coburn, John Webster, Samuel Tarney, Joshua Feagler, L. Abel, S. W. Hackley and Jeremiah Rhodes.

Among the first juries will be found many of the most prominent of the pioneer names of the county.

Incidents of Early Settlement

As is often the case in a new country, the settlers had much difficulty in getting their grain ground into meal or flour. The mills that were at first erected were far apart and very imperfect. Many of the settlers had to go a long distance to these mills, and often with very poor means of transportation. It was no unusual thing to be obliged to carry on the back the little grist which was frequently their entire stock for the time being. Owing to these difficulties, many of the pioneers made a sort of substitute for a mill, by cutting off a log of hard wood, about three feet in length, and of sufficient size for the purpose, and by hollowing one end a very large mortar was made. This is hardened by fire. Then a rude pestle is constructed, and the grain usually corn in a case of this kind, is pounded into a sort of meal. In this way many a tedious trip to mill has been saved, and many of the wealthy inhabitants of the county at the present time are not ashamed to say they have had many a hearty meal of this home-made bread.


The First Mill

The one owned and built by William Matthews is thus described by Mr. S. W. Widney, author of the "Pioneers of DeKalb County:" "It was a small affair truly. The stones were about two feet in diameter, and were turned by means of a ‘flutter wheel’ on an up right post set in a tub, through one side of which the water was made to pass. The whole machinery was set in a small rickety frame without weather-boarding. The corn dropped, a grain at a time, into a little hopper, so that in twenty-four hours, with good water, eight bushels might be cracked. I remember carrying a half bushel of corn from my brother’s, at Newville, to the mill, a distance of four miles, on my shoulder, waiting half a day to get it ground, and then carrying the meal back in the same way. My Brother, James, in the fall of 1837, took a bushel of corn to be ground at this mill, and after it had been grinding some time, went below to see how much meal was in the little store-box used for a meal chest, and, to his dismay, found a large yellow dog eating the meal as fast as it came from the spout!" Flour was at one time $14 per barrel, and corn $1.50 per bushel; both frequently of a poor quality. Salt was $2.25 per bushel, and all of these had frequently to be brought from Fort Wayne by means of boats, or pirogues , as they were called. This voyage by river was often one of great difficulty. Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Wasson, two of the early settlers, pulled a loaded pirogues , from Fort Wayne to Spencerville, and a great part of the way the work was performed by laying hold of the bushes that grew along the bank, and so pulling the boat along. This time the voyage lasted a week. John P. Widney and others came up with a boat load of provisions in November, 1836, when the river was high and full of slush ice. The boat was propelled with poles, and the weather was so cold that these were constantly covered with ice. What added no little to the severity of this labor was the fact that the poles had to be handled with bare hands as gloves or mittens could not be used.

John N. Miller took a job of chopping at four or five dollars per acre. This was in the winter of 1837. He took his pay in provisions, and one cold evening in March, took a bushel of potatoes and seventeen or eighteen pounds of pork on his shoulder and started for home. After traveling through bush and darkness for about six miles, he came to Buck Creek, over which he must cross on a small limber tree. Encumbered with his load, he fell into the stream. The water was high, but he succeeded in wading out with is load, and after a long, heavy tramp, finally reached his cabin in safety.

But little trouble was ever had with Indians; but a short time before he settled in this county, John Houlton and three other men, who were putting up a mill a short distance east of the Ohio line, were visited by a large number of Indians, and robbed of a considerable quantity of pork and flour and a barrel of whisky. But no attempt was made upon their lives. Houlton tells a good story on John Fee, also one of the early settlers in Franklin Township. Fee had frozen his feet, and got a large pair of moccasins to wear, as his feet were too sore to wear boots. He went hunting one day, and after wandering around awhile came suddenly upon a monster moccasin track, the largest he had ever seen. His astonishment found vent in expressions like this: "What an almighty big Indian had been along here! The d__dest big Indian that has ever been in these woods!" On looking back, however, he discovered it to be his own track.

After the place of holding the court in Auburn was removed from Park’s hotel to the school house, the Judge had his seat erected on a platform of rough boards, a fence of similar material being arranged for a bar. An old cracked stove was used to heat the room, and its copious clouds of smoke often melted to tears both court and bar. Even the most hardened criminals did not disdain to wipe their eyes while under the influence of its eloquent appeals. The learned counsel in those days were obliged sometimes, on great occasions, to complete their outfit, in the matter of dress, with one boot and on shoe; at least, so it is said.


This county was organized by an act of the Legislature, in the winter of 1836-7, and three commissioners, one from each of the adjoining counties, were appointed to locate the county seat. These were Messrs. Littlefield, of La Grange County; Gillmore, of Steuben, and Work, of Allen. Auburn, the site chosen is still the county seat. Wesley Park, who laid out the town, was appointed by the Governor to act as Sheriff until one was elected.

The First Election was held in July, 1837. A. F. Beecher, Peter Fair and Samuel Widney were the Commissioners chosen at this election. John F. Coburn was elected Clerk and Recorder; Arial Walden and T. L. Yates Associate Judges, Hon. Charles Ewing being, at that time, the Presiding Judge. The Commissioners held their first session in the same month.

The first court was held in Park’s hotel, which was eighteen by twenty feet, and one and one-half stories high. The upper room of the hotel was used as a jail Prisoners were taken into the loft by means of a ladder that served as stairs. The Sheriff then by the simple act of pulling away the ladder. When a school house was built, the court was held there until the erection of a court house in 1843. The first Circuit Court was held in the spring of 1837. The following are the names of:

First Grand Jury, 1837

John Rose, Daniel Rhodes, William Miller, John Watson, Ira Allen, Jacob Platter, C. Woodcox, John Smith, Benjamin Alton, John Houlton, Solomon Showers, Henry Miller, C. Robinson, John Blair, N. Wyatt, James Stanley, J. F. Rhodes and Samuel Eakright.

First Petit Jury, 1837

William Monroe, Jesse Jackson, John P. Widney, F. A. Wilbur, Jeremiah Rhodes, Samuel Johnson, William Matthews, Dudley Thorp, James Hadsell, Ezra Dickinson, J. J. Gunsenhouser, Henry Robinson, Homer Abel, Leonard Boice, Elmore French, Peter Draggoo, Joseph Miller, Joseph Vandoler, Henry Bricker, Levi Lockwood, S. M. Hackley, Jacob Miller, Samuel Headley and Chris. Hall.


Among the first lawyers in the county may be mentioned the following: Judge Mott, who settled in Auburn in the year 1843; Judge Morris, who came to the same place in 1844, and Hon. T. R. Dickinson, who came in 1847. All of these gained a successful practice, and lived to see the county of their adoption one of the most prosperous in the State. Dickinson has represented his district in the State Senate.

Public Buildings

The first court house, a wooden one, was built in 1843. The present one of brick was erected in 1864, and const about $30,000. The first jail was built in 1838, and was composed of squared logs, laid up in block house fashion. If was about twenty feet square, and eight feet high to the eaves. This served until 1853, when the second jail, a frame building, was erected. The present jail was erected in 1875. It is a fine structure of brick, having a basement of stone, with stone cells, caps, etc., and iron cornices. It has all the improved appliances belonging to such as establishment, and is considered a model of its kind. The total cost was about $29,000.


This is situated about three miles northwest of Auburn, and had connected with it a farm of 160 acres of good land, and has ample accommodations for the poor of the county. The farm and improvements cost about $14,000.

Agricultural Society.

The Northeastern Indiana Agricultural Society is located at Waterloo, and is in a flourishing condition. The society was organized in 1872, with a capital of $10,000. It owns the land, thirty-one acres, on which its fairs are held, has a good track and good buildings, and competition is free to all the world for all articles usually exhibited at fairs.


Quite a number of religious denominations are represented in this county. Of these may be mentioned the Methodists, Presbyterians, United Brethren, Baptists, Disciples, Lutherans, Reformed Dutch Church, Evangelical, Catholics and some others not so numerous. Many of these have churches scattered over different parts of the county, besides many fine buildings in the different towns.

Sabbath Schools

Most of the above named churches support flourishing Sabbath schools. And beside these, there is a County Sabbath School Association that has been established for a number of years past, and meets once a year at the some point most convenient for those interested—usually at some of the more considerable towns. This society gives a great impetus to the work, and many Sabbath schools, in no way connected with any church organization, are organized and sustained by its influence.

Present County Officers

The present Commissioners are George H. Duncan, C. R. Wannemaker and Nelson Griffith; Clerk, George H. K. Moss; Auditor, Isaac Hague; Treasurer, Nicholas Ensley; Recorder, D. Z. Hoffman; Sheriff, William L. Meese; County Superintendent of Schools, J. A. Barns; Surveyor; J.J. Van Auken; Coroner, J. J. Latson.



Auburn, the county seat, is located in the southwest part of Union Township, which is the center township of the county. The town was first laid out by Wesley Park, in 1836. It is situated on the Baltimore & Ohio, the Fort Wayne, Jackson & Saginaw, and the Eel River Railroads. All three of these roads cross at one point, a little to the southwest of the town. They afford excellent facilities for trade, and have given to the town an impetus that will tend greatly to its future development. It has, in common with most other towns similarly situated, quite a number of manufacturing establishments, shops, stores, etc., and business of all kinds in flourishing.


Waterloo is in the north part of Union Township, about four and a half miles from the county seat. It is situated at the crossing of the Air Line Division of the Michigan Southern & Lake Shore Railroad with the Fort Wayne, Jackson & Saginaw Railroad. The north part of the town is known as Uniontown, and is much the older part. The first cabin was built by Wesley Parks, in 1838, and the first town plat was laid out by a man named Bowman. The south side, or town proper, dates from the completion of the Michigan Southern Railroad, in 1856. The first plat was laid out by Miles Waterman. The town was incorporated in 1863. It is in a prosperous condition. The fair ground of the Northeastern Indiana Agricultural Association is located at this place, just northeast of the town limits, and its annual fairs attract exhibitors from all parts of the country. It has a flourishing Literary and Library Association, and the McClure Workingmen’s Library is located at this place.


Butler is on the Michigan Southern & Lake Shore Railroad, about eight miles east of Waterloo, and is the most eastern station in Indiana on this lien. Being about three miles from the Ohio line. It is also the eastern terminus of the Eel River Railroad, which runs from Logansport to this point, on the Lake Shore Road. Business is good, and the town is improving.


This is the location of the division shops of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. It is on the line of that road, about four miles west of Auburn. The town was laid out when the shops were located there, in the winter of 1874-5. The town plat is owned by a company, under whose management the place has been built up with a rapidity hitherto unknown in this part of the country. Within ten months from the first laying out of the town, the place has two hotels, one a fine brick structure, stores of all kinds, one newspaper, shops, saloons, etc., and several hundred inhabitants. An effort will be made at once to have the town incorporated. They have, also, a school, just established, and numbering about fifty pupils. The round house, shops, etc., are very extensive.

Other Towns.

Corunna is on the L. S. & M. S. Railroad, about seven miles west of Waterloo; has several stores, churches, and a good two-story brick school house. Sedan is about four miles west of Waterloo, on the same road. Spencerville is in the southeast part of the county, on the St. Joseph River, and is a fine little town, located in an excellent country for business. It has some fine mills, stores, churches, etc., and a good school house. Newville is on the same river, about seven miles above Spencerville, being about the same size and having about the same number of mills, etc., and about the same number of business houses. One mile below Newville, and on the same side of the river, is Orangeville, a small place containing a few houses and a large flouring-mill. Spencerville, Newville and Orangeville are among the oldest towns in the county, most of the early settlements having been made near them. St. Joseph, a station on the Baltimore & Ohio Road, is on the river at the point where that road crosses the stream between Spencerville and Newville. Summit is a small station on the Fort Wayne, Jackson & Saginaw Road, about six miles north of Waterloo. De Kalb and New Era are stations on the same road, south of Auburn. Cedar Creek is a small station on the Eel River Road, about six miles southwest of Auburn. A small town is springing up at the junction of the three railroads, about a mile southwest of Auburn. Altona is a small place on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, a mile west of Garrett


The county has, at present, 115 school districts, and three incorporated towns with graded schools. Corunna, Spencerville and Newville also have graded schools. Most of the schools are in good condition, and improving. The finest school building in the county is at Waterloo. It is built of brick, with stone basement, and cost $20,000. The next in value is the Butler. This is of brick and cost about $14,000. Auburn has one good brick building used as a ward school, but the main building was destroyed by fire, in the fall of 1875. The number of brick school houses in the county is twenty-three; the rest are frame, there being none of the log ones remaining. Total value of school property, $114,385. Number of volumes in the township school libraries, 2,486. Total number of pupils admitted in all the schools in 1874, 4,399.


The county has four newspapers. The PRESS, published at Waterloo, and The REPUBLICAN, published at Auburn, are in politics, Republican. The COURIER, at Auburn, and the NEWS, published at Garrett, are Democratic. All seem to be receiving their share of patronage.


The population of the county, in 1840, was 1,968; in 1850, it was 8,251; in 1860, it was 13,880; and in 1870, the total population, as shown by the United States census, was 17,167.




Business Directory


pages 420-421


Rose & Hartman, Attorneys at Law

H. C. Peterson, Attorney at Law

A. I. Little , Attorney at Law

R. D. Tefft, Attorney at Law

E. Vordermark & Sons, Boots and Shoes

S. W. Sprott & Son, Boots and Shoes

Frank Jones, Carpenter & Joiner

Wm. H. McQuiston, Clothing, Notions, Staple and Fancy Dry Goods, etc.

Littlefield Bros., Druggist

R. H. Weamer, Editor De Kalb County Republican

T. C. Mays, Editor, Auburn Courier

I.N., Cool, Groceries, Provisions, etc.

John L. Davis, Hardware, Stoves, etc. Also Dealer in Foreign and Domestic Exchange.

F. N. Wright & Co., Lumber Manufacturers and Dealers.

J. J. Littlefield, M. D., Physician

J. A. Cowen, Physician and Surgeon

C. P. Houser, School Supplies, Dealer in.


R. W. McBride, Attorney at Law

J. L. Morlan, Attorney at Law

L. J. Blair, Attorney at Law

J. H. Clifford, Billiards

John Butt, Druggist and Grocer

Wm. Wallace, Harness Dealer

S. Stough, Physician

H. Froehlich, Marble Dealer and Importer of Scotch Granite.

J. N. Chamberlain, Physician and Surgeon

J. A. Matson, Wagon and Carriage Manufacturer and Dealer in Agricultural Implements.


E. W. Fosdick, Attorney at Law

A. I. Pinchin, Attorney at Law

H. J. Geiger, Carriage Manufacturer

A.J. Bodkins, Carriage Ironer

David Fay, Hardware Merchant, Dealer in Stoves, Tinware, etc.

J. R. Snively, Jewelry and Dealer in Books, Wall Paper, etc

J. B. Endly, Millnery and Fancy Goods

W. P. Carpenter, News Dealer

H. H. Cupp,, Pumps and Drive Wells, Satisfaction guaranteed

F. W. Fanning, Physician


J. A. Provines, Druggist and Postmaster

P. Bishop & Son, Dealers in General Merchandise

George Murphy, Physician


E. Knauer, Dealer in Dry Goods, Notions, etc.

J. L Miller, Freight and Ticket Agent

F. G. Fried, General Merchandise and Country Produce

W. B. Adams, Stoves, Tinware, etc.


J. A Phillips, Foreman B. & O. Blacksmith Shops

Robert Bell, Saloon Keeper


F. M. Bacon, Blacksmith and Justice of the Peace, Butler Tp.

Jacob Stamets, Farmer, Agent B & O R. R. and Proprietor of the Stamets House, Jackson Tp.

J. P. Simon, Farmer and Brick and Tile Manufacturer, Butler Tp.

D. W. Blaker, Farmer and Blacksmith, Stafford Tp.

Wm. Gorrell, Farmer and Carpenter, Butler Tp.

Jonathan Simon, Farmer and Carpenter, Butler Tp.

Abraham Spurgin, Farmer and Carpenter, Butler Tp.

J. W. Hall, Farmer and Carpenter, Jackson Tp.

John Smith, Farmer and Carpenter, Stafford Tp.

Wm. Shutt, Farmer, and Dealer of Agricultural Implements and Fine Stock, Concord Tp.

G. W. Dreggoo, Farmer and Justice of the Peace, Concord Tp.

J. Hemstreet, Farmer, County Commissioner, and Justice of the Peace, Smithfield Tp.

S. Widney, Farmer, Judge, County Commissioner and Township Treasurer, Concord Tp.

E. Shipe, Farmer and Justice of the Peace, Fairfield Tp.

John McOscar, Farmer and Justice of the Peace, Smithfield Tp.

H. Hines, Farmer and Justice of the Peace, Jackson Tp.

J. McClellan, Farmer and Justice of the Peace, Jackson Tp.

J. P. Wiant, Farmer and Lumberman, Butler Tp.

L. L. Irons, Farmer, Stock and Lumber Dealer, Butler Tp.

H. A. Miller, Farmer and Lumber Dealer, Butler Tp.

O. C. Clark, Farmer and Lumberman, Butler Tp.

S. H. Bartlett, Farmer and Lumber Dealer, Newville Tp.

Harris Rogers, Farmer and Manufacturer of Brooms, Butler Tp.

Richard Dudley, Farmer and Machinist, Butler Tp.

Frederick April, Farmer and Shoemaker, Jackson Tp.

I. W. Bowen, Saw-milling and Dealer in Lumber, Fairfield Tp.