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Jackson Township, Parke County Indiana

"From the History of Vigo and Parke Counties, together with Historic Notes on the Wabash Valley, Gleaned from early authors, old maps and manuscripts, private and official correspondence, and other authentic, though for the most part, out-of-the-way sources. By H. W. Beckwith, of the Danville Bar; Corresponding Member of the Historical Societies of Wisconsin and Chicago. Chicago: H. H. Hill and N. Iddings, Publishers. 1880." (Pages 371 - 379)


        The township of Jackson derived its name directly from the general and president whose name it bears. The hills and hollows are as rugged and lasting as is the name of Jackson, "eternal." "The hills of Jackson" is a common expression among the people of the surrounding region; jet there is wealth here, and much wealth has been produced and carried to other parts. The giant forest has been converted into palaces and industrial establishments in other parts of this country, and the saw-mill still does its work. This township occupies the southeastern corner of Parke county, and joins Union township on the north, Raccoon township on the west. Clay county on the south, and Putnam county on the east. The Big Rac­coon creek cuts off the northwest corner, entering the north line in Sec. 5 and passing out at the northwest part of Sec. 18. Along this creek lie the rich, alluvial bottom lands, more valuable than any other kinds of soil. The rest of the township is more or less broken, being somewhat level in the southeast.  Long Straight, and Branch Rocky fork, Otter creek, and Little Rocky fork, are small streams that find their way through the township till they empty into the Big Raccoon creek. In Jackson township are many natural springs, the most celebrated of which is the sulphur spring, known for many miles around, and at which no one coming near fails to drink and become refreshed.  The Indianapolis & St. Louis railroad passes across the southeast corner, which has done much toward developing the southern part of the township, giving rise to the village of Lena.

The early history of Jackson township is veiled much by the grave. A few years ago old men — men who had seen and made the infant days of this section of civilization — were alive to relate the incidents of early hardships, struggles, and simple and real jolli­fications of pioneer life among these hills and along the principal stream; but they, recently, too, “shuffled off this mortal coil,” and departed to a country of peace and plenty. The first settlements were made in the Big Raccoon valley about 1820.  At that time the Indian strolled up and down the Big Raccoon, but had met the white man in his wanderings, as he searched for new and wilder homes.  About 1820 the first cabin in the township was built where Mansfield now stands. This primitive germ of civilization was erected by Kelson and Hubbard, for James Kelsey, as a residence, probably while he built the mill known as Dickson's mills, Mr. Dickson being in some way connected in business with Kelsey.  George Kirkpatrick and Nash.  Glidewell came from Ohio and entered land in about 1821.  A brother of Nash. Glidewell, Robert Glidewell, father to Mrs. Levina Kemper, now of Jackson township, had surveyed through this section of country about 1816, and about 1823 entered land, his patent being signed by President Monroe. In 1821 Zopher and Emily Coleman sought a home in the wilds of Jackson, settling a short distance north of the present site of Mansfield. They hailed from South Carolina. In the same year a son was born to them, and they called him Zopher Jr. They might, had not one Yance been in the way, have called him Jackson's Adam, but Zopher gives the honor away, and says he thinks this " Vance” was the first born in the township.  Mr. Coleman is the oldest native born inhabitant at present. The elder Coleman lived to see some change in the condition of Parke county, and died in 1856. George Hansel was born in Pennsylvania in 1795, and when the war of 1812 broke out he enlisted. He aided in the defense of Fort Hamilton, also crossed the White river and helped destroy an Indian town.  Prepared by these experiences, he came to what is now Parke county in 1820, and entered land in the northwestern part of what is now Jackson township, but he did not settle at this time. In 1822 he returned and made his permanent home on the land he had selected.  Mr. Hansel was much engaged in the surveys of this region, and constructed with his pen a map of this county, showing all the sections and streams. Although there is a small error in the location of the streams, yet it is a noteworthy piece of work. Mr. Hansel served as a justice of the peace for many years, and was the first officer of that kind elected in Jackson township. The old farm is now owned by Jacob Cole.

            About 1825, or earlier, William Bullington arrived. He had come into the state from Kentucky in 1815 having in 1807 moved with his parents from Virginia to Kentucky. He says there were not men enough in Parke county to raise a good cabin, and that many of those who were here lived in their wagons and camped out. Mr. Bullington accompanied the Indians from Mansfield to St. Louis when they were removed from Ohio to the Osage country. The Indians, 1,200 in number, were divided into three detachments, separated from each other a day's journey, so that the hostility existing between different tribes might be controlled. Mr. Bullington was twenty-three days with these Indians when he returned. He was a mason by trade. In 1869 he moved to Union township, and now lives in Hollandsburg at the advanced age of four-score years. Jesse and Amelia Moore, both born in South Carolina, emigrated to Kentucky in a very early day, and in 1826 sought a home in Jackson township. They started October 8, and arriving here leased seventy acres of the N.E. £ of Sec. 9, agreeing to build a house, set an orchard, besides clearing the seventy acres,  They had the privilege of using the whole quarter. There were three families of them: the old folks, Jesse and Amelia; Naoma Pruett and husband, with family of two children; Thomas Moore and wife, with one child; and Joab, a single man. Jesse and his son Joab worked one half the land, and Thomas and Stephen the other half. Thomas is now the wealthiest man in Jackson township. In 1829 Michael and Elizabeth Pruett came .to seek their fortune, hailing from the Blue-Grass state, bringing their son Calvin with them. They bought land not far northeast of Mansfield. Mr. Pruett lived here till 1864, when he moved to Putnam county, where he now resides. His sons Calvin, Cyrenus and James, and other children, have spent their lives tilling the soil in this township. When the public school law was first presented to the public, and subjected to the ballot, Calvin was radically in favor of the new law, and was the only man in Jackson to vote for it. The people hooted him for his seeming folly; but Calvin stood, though alone, for a principle which he saw must ultimately become established. He openly hoped that the day would come when there would be a law requiring a school in each district supported by direct taxation,-and predicted this would come to pass within his lifetime. At the next election, at which this school question was made an issue, Calvin had two or three supporters, and in a few years saw his hopes realized. Cyrenus Pruett has been active for many years in an official career, having been township assessor about thirteen years, and was elected county assessor. James Pruett faced fire and ball in the civil war. and spent fifty-two days in Andersonville prison.

In 1830 there were probably twenty or more families in the township, as indicated by the thirty-two votes east at an election in that year. Thomas W. Moore, Joseph Coombs, John Coombs, Mahlon Stark, James Pursley, Hugh Vinzant, Presley Tyler, John Young, Stephen Mannon, Samuel Johnson, Solomon Garrigus, were among the pioneers, coming to the township, as they did, during the early period of settlement.

About 1837, owing to the great depression in business in all parts of the country at that date, there was a corresponding interruption to the stream of immigration which had been flowing into the country and which again set in a few years later with redoubled force. During the last decade Jackson township has progressed more rapidly than her sister townships. The census of 1880 gives the population as 1,442, a considerable increase over 1870, while some other townships show a falling off.

The two villages of Jackson township are Mansfield and Lena, the former being much the older of the two. The log cabin of Mr. Kelsey, already mentioned, must have been the beginning of what was then literally and truly a man's-field, although in a very wild state. Here was situated one of the finest mill sites in this section of country. The bed of the Big Raccoon creek is here solid rock, affording an imperishable foundation both for dam and mill. Nature having provided and constructed the foundation, it was natural that Messrs  Kelsey and Dickson should choose this location and found a mill on a rock that neither winds nor water would destroy. This mill must have been built about 1820, yet the date is somewhat uncertain. Thomas Woolverton? who bought land in Union township in 1820, aided in raising the mill, and as he departed that year for Virginia, where he stayed five years, then returned, the mill must have been built either in 1820 or 1825. The evidence favors the for­mer date. White men were so scarce some of the Indians were called to assist; also Nathaniel B. Kalley aided, and he went to Ohio about 1821 or 1822. The mill was thirty feet square. Here came the grists for many miles, and Kelsey and Dickson did a good busi­ness. After passing through the hands of several parties, among whom were Judge S. Gookins  of Terre Haute, and Gen. G. K. Steele, it now belongs to Jacob Rohm. The mill has been enlarged from time to time until now its size is 50x60 feet. The original building forms a part of the present structure. It is to be torn down in the fall of 1880, and replaced by a building 26x36 and three and a half stories high.

Mr. Gookins laid out a plat of ground in lots, and from this time it was called a town, and known as Mansfield.  During the building of the mill Mr. Hardesty kept a blacksmith shop, and a store was soon opened by Mr. Dickson. About 1825 a post-office was secured and the mail carried from Terre Haute, and Mr. Dickson was the first postmaster.  In 1829 G. K. Steele opened a store, and kept a general stock. He became owner of the mill in 1838 and conducted store and mill till 1846.  There was no regular hotel here, but Colonel Johnston accommodated travelers with meals and lodgings. The first doctors who settled here were Drs. Noffringer and Britts; then came Drs. Dailey and Furrow. The Methodist Episcopal church is situated here.

In the history of Mansfield the ladies of that town and vicinity have performed one deed that should live in history until the blot of intemperance is removed from the earth. Prior to the wan and during that struggle, Mansfield was harboring slavery within her midst in the form of intemperance. Rising in their majesty they made open war on the traffic, and with their own efforts rolled the barrels of liquor into the street and spilled the contents. Mrs. Samuel Johnston was one of the leaders in this whisky insurrec­tion. The ladies were victorious, and Mansfield drew full inspira­tions of pure air. Some time after, another saloon was opened in a building that stood on the bank of the creek. One night some gentleman hitched his oxen to the building and dragged it from its position into the creek, whose current finished the work. To-day a permit for the establishment of even a drug store cannot be obtained.

A thriving little town known as Lena is located in the south­eastern part of Jackson township. The village of Lena, Sec. 35 T. 14 1ST., R. 6 W., was laid out by Robert King in 1870, and com­prises twelve blocks of eight lots each, with streets sixty feet wide. Its origin is due chiefly to the completion of the Indianapolis & SL Louis railroad, which made Lena a convenient shipping point for the great quantities of lumber and staves cut from the square miles of virgin forest around it. Adjoining Lena, on the south, is Marysville. Clay county, but both towns are popularly known as Lena. J. B. Cochran, sandwiched between the two, occupies the position of oldest inhabitant. He was the first merchant, first postmaster first railroad and express agent. Thornton Wilson was the first blacksmith: the first shoemaker William Girton: first millers Hasty & Son. The town is young and prosperous. Everything wears an air of freshness and vigor. Dr. J. H. Rauch, of Chicago,, member of the Illinois state board of health, and a large landowner of this vicinity, passed about two years here erecting buildings, im­proving streets, grading roads, manufacturing brick, mining coal and in other ways developing the neighborhood and improving the town of which he was and still is a principal owner. The religious interests are sustained, and the moral character of the town and vi­cinity preserved and improved, by services held in both the Christian and Methodist churches. The educational work is carried on in a neat edifice, and instruction has been imparted by James M. McFarland, the first teacher in the new school building. The house is 28x36, with four tiers of seats, and capable of accommodating sixty-four pupils, and was built in 1875.

Lena Lodge, A. F. and A. M., was organized September 29. 1874, in Murph's Hall, in the town of Lena, with a mem­bership of eight. The officers elected were Wellington Peach. W. M.; James Smock, S.W.; Levi Woodrum. J. W.; John A. Welch. secretary; Jacob Plummer, treasurer; M. R. Plummer, S.D.: Mathew G. Quin, J.D.; Jesse Williams, Tyler. Dr. Crooks, of Bridgeton, deputy grand lecturer, present, continued under dispensation until May 22, 1877, at which date the lodge was presented with a charter. Since its birth the lodge has ever been prosperous. Concord and harmony have prevailed. This lodge has continually added to its membership, till it has numbered forty-six. Eleven have demitted, leaving at present thirty-five in the Lena society. The lodge occupies a well furnished hall, and is-free from debt, with a comfortable balance in

the treasury. Death, the fell destroyer, has never entered the circle, but has left the chain unbroken. The officers for the ensuing year are: William White, W. M.; John A. Welch, S.W.; Henry Vinzant, J. W. .; James Jacks, secretary; Truman White, treasurer; James Combes, J. D.; John A. McFarland, S.D.; Peter Cobble, Tyler. Stated meet­ings are held on Saturday nights on or before the full moon.



In no township in Parke county have the schools progressed more rapidly than in Jackson. Here once were the rough log pens of antiquity, and in these ignorance triumphed over in­nocence. But Time's effacing hand has changed the corps of teachers, and methods of instruction, and recompense for work done. The old regime did its work well in proportion to all other conditions of society, but progress must be universal. The log houses have given place to good, substantial edifices, well built and neatly painted. Some of these are well supplied with maps, charts and

globes and above all competent teachers preside. The school interests have been under the control of some of the best men of the township. G. K. Lankford was the first trustee elected in the township. Prior to him the subscription school was kept for perhaps two or three months per year, to defray the expense of which each parent paid so much per capita. The present trustee is F. D. Vinzant. Perhaps the best teacher of early days in Jackson township was William Goodin, said to have been one of the best read men in Parke county. The men of to-day who have been raised here and educated, look back to even the subscription school, as taught by Mr. Goodin, with satisfaction. Hugh Vinzant was also an early teacher, his time dating to about 1840. In 1850 G. L. Bailey taught in No. 2 Plank House, and in 1855 E. B. White was employed in No. 6. Calvin Pruett taught school in his days of mental vigor and usefulness. John F. D. Hunt taught in Mansfield public school in 1857-8. and two terms prior to that time in the Moore settlement. John Vickers was also an educator in the early days.



The influence of the church in any and all of its branches has ever been to elevate and make better the people. Jackson township is not without its debt, owing to these institutions of progress.

As early as about 1832 was built the first church or meeting­house. This was a Baptist church, and was popularly known as Rocky Forks church. There were about seven members in the first society. Lemuel Branson and wife and Jesse Moore and wife were among this number. Here services were held from Sabbath to Sabbath until the war. Since that time the church has never thoroughly revived. The old hewed log “meeting-house” still stands as a con­necting link between 1880 and fifty years ago.


Those of the Methodist persuasion worshiped in school-houses for many years, until about 1856 or 1857, when it was decided to build a church at Mansfield. Samuel Johnston, Milo Gookins and Wright were appointed trustees, and immediately began the solicitation of subscriptions. However, they did not wait for sufficient to be prom­ised to meet the full expense^ but ordered the material and con­tracted the work on their own responsibility. They built an edifice about 36x40, at a cost of about $800. All was finished and a deficit of $300 in the treasury. This Mr. Johnston settled. Mrs. Johnston organized a Sunday-school in 1858. The congregation of the church has generally been good. Those outside the church contribute very liberally to the support of the ministry here. T. C. Webster is the present preacher (1880) in charge,

Prior to 1872 those of the Methodist Episcopal faith living in the southern part of the township and neighboring vicinity of Clay and Putnam counties, desiring a more convenient place of worship, made an effort to build in Lena. A. J. Clark, W. P. Poff, P. A. Stokes, T. Is. Stokes, C. W. Gray, J. M. Vinzant and John H. Ranch circulated a petition asking for a suitable house. At a meeting held January 20, 1872, it was decided to build, and officers of the church were ap­pointed : A. J. Clark, local preacher; T. X. Stokes, steward, class-leader and Sunday-school superintendent; A. J. Clark, W. P. Poff and T. H". Stokes, trustees. The contract was let to J. N. Dobson to erect a building 32x42, with spire, and to cost $1,300. The work was completed, and on the second Sunday in April, 1873, dedication services were performed by Dr. Andrus, president of Asbury Uni­versity, with a membership of about fifteen. Worship has been held here since by able men. T. C. Webster officiated the first year. The present officers are A. J. Clark, local preacher, and Rev. 8. B. Grimes, pastor; J. M. Porr, Sunday-school superintendent. The present membership is about seventy.

In 1873 the denomination known as Christians erected a church building 36x40 at a cost of about $2,000, with a seating capacity of 500. Previous to this date these people worshiped in the Methodist church, in the grove, and in the mill. The house was dedicated April 10, 1874, by brother Thomas Goodman. The membership was about thirty-five. G. C. Price, now of Catlin, was in charge of tins church for the first twelve years. W. H. Williams has had charge since first Sunday in October 1878. The church has enjoyed some interesting revivals under Price and Loudermilk. Under brother Williams, in 1879, there were twenty-six accessions, and the work has prospered till the church now numbers 110. The officers of the first organization still hold their respective offices, and are: T. S. White, elder; Jackson Morland and Wm. Thomas, deacons. The church is pleasantly located in the thriving little town of Lena. Jackson township during the last twenty years has made rapid strides forward in development, and though her early record is somewhat broken by causes which man cannot now remedy, yet her history compares favorably with others, and her progress of late years has been second to none with similar resources and advantages. Let her citizens speak individually in their own life sketches

 If you have any information you would like to add, please send it to my attention.  Thank you.  James D. VanDerMark