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Sugar Creek 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 442 - 448)


Sugar Creek township is situated in the north center of the county, Fountain county being on the northern border, Liberty township on the west, Penn on the south and Howard township on the east. It formerly comprised the territory now known as Howard township and part of Penn, but was divided in 1855, and now contains twenty-three full and five fractional sections. The land is very much broken and only a small portion of it is available for raising grain, but the rougher parts furnish splendid pasture for the large herds of cattle, sheep and hogs owned here. Greene, Brush, Mill, and Sugar creeks and their tributaries flow through the township and furnish power for the various mills located on their banks.

•In 1826, at the narrows of Sugar creek, was built the first mill in this part of the county, by Salmon Lusk. He cut the mill-race through the rock and erected a large and complete flouring establishment, and shortly thereafter built a packing-house, engaging extensively in shipping grain, pork and flour to New Orleans, and forwarded as high as twenty flat-boats annually. At the same placer in 1830, Prior Wright opened the first store in the township, which, along with the mill and all the other buildings, was swept away on New Year's morning, 1847, by a freshet. In the northern part of the township the settlers began to arrive in 1827, among the first being David Alien, T. Poplit, John Summers, Daniel Myers, Thomas-Ratcliffe, Walter Clark, Jesse Barker, John and Thomas Cachatt and Esquire Moore; in the south Joseph Thompson, Elisha Heath, William Floyd, William Jenkins, James Bacus, William Cox and Zimri Hunt were among the earliest.

The second mill was built on Mill creek, on the site of what is-now known as Russell's Mills, by Joseph Thompson in 1829, the dam being formed by felling a large poplar tree which stood on the-bank of the stream, and letting it fall across the creek; this dam lasted twenty years. The original mill was a small affair in a log building, in which the corn was cracked by a pair of nigger-head burrs, the grain being bolted by a hand-power arrangement; the-water-power bolting machine was added at a later day by Mr. Miles Ratcliffe. Kinworthy bought the mill from Thompson, and after running it some time disposed of it to Thomas Cachatt, who operated it until 1842, when he died. It was then sold to Jerry Kemp, who conducted it for a few years, and sold it to Joe Russells; eventually it passed through the hands of Gephart, Bannon, and Rubottom toils present owner, J. C. Ward. The mill is now fitted up with all the latest improvements, is run by both steam and water power, and is now managed by Mr. W. R. Cooper.

Wilkins mill was built on Mill creek by Jessup & Hunt in 1835 being constructed originally as a saw-mill; afterward it was fitted up with a carding-machine, and later with a set of corn-cracking burrs. In 1852 the original proprietors sold out to Wilkins, who took the old mill down and rebuilt it on the south side of the creek, It was finally burnt down in 1877, and has not been rebuilt, owing to the death of Mr. Wilkins.

The first meeting-house erected in the township was a log structure near the center of Sec. 16, about 1830, by the Methodist brethren, the Rev. Porier being the first preacher. This building has-now disappeared. About 1834, a Missionary Baptist meeting-house was put up on what is now the Catterson place. Old Tommy Cayson and Sam Medley used to conduct the services here; this house is also gone.

In the northeast corner of Sec. 1 stands a log structure, 20x22 feet, which is the oldest church building still in use in the county, and probably in this part of the state. It was built in 1835, by the old Baptist denomination, and is known as the Wolf Creek Baptist church, being situated on the banks of that stream. The congregation was instituted on October 13, 1833; John Summers was the-first clerk, while Father Shirk, R. Stapleton, John Lee and others of the pioneer preachers conducted the services. The trustees are Elder Swereinger, J. B. Barker and Isaac Summers. The records are now kept by Mr. Barker, and the membership, though small, is in a good state of organization.

Following Prior Wright's store at the narrows, in the same year, 1830, was that opened by Thomas Cachatt, on Sec. 16 ; another at Russell's Mills by George Grimes, and in 1848 Miles Ratcliffe began business at the same place; also at Wilkins' Mill, in 1853, a store was opened by Moore & Wilkins.

The first school-house we find to have been erected on Wolf creek in 1829, with Nathaniel Morgan as teacher; another north of the narrows, in 1830, where an old man named James Downey instructed the youthful pioneers. Old Mr. Haines, a man who, by all accounts, possessed a first-class education, instructed in a log building on what is now the Keller place.

The facilities for obtaining religious instruction are many, there being, in addition to Wolf Creek church, five places for public wor.ship in the township.

The Methodist Episcopal congregation was organized in 1855, in .a school-house near Daniel Heath's residence, where they worshiped until 1858, when they built a frame house, which was burned down by incendiaries during the war. The house was rebuilt in 1862, and opened for worship on January 5 of that year. This society was constituted through the efforts of Mr. Edwards, an old Welsh gentleman, who preached at this point for six months, and was followed by Daniel Demutt, who was the first regular preacher. At this time the membership was fourteen; now in numbers over thirty, with Rev. S. M. Haves in charge, and E. Robbins as class-leader. The present church building was erected at a cost of $1,100. The Sunday-school in connection with this church meets during nine months of the year, and has an average attendance of twenty scholars. Albert Swaim is superintendent, and Tilda Hirsbrunner keeps the record.

The Universalist church was built in 1859, and dedicated Christmas night of the same year by the Rev. T. C. Eaton, the society having been gotten up by his efforts and preaching. The building is 30x40, and stands on the land owned by Mr. Pickard. At present there is no regular congregation of this society here, but the house is used for general religious purposes.

Pleasant Grove Christian church (New Light) was instituted at the school-house in 1868, where the meetings continued to be held until 1870, when the present church building was erected, 36x42 feet, which cost $1,000. The first preacher and organizer was the Rev. L. W. Bannon, who began with a membership of thirty persons ; now it numbers 160, with great interest manifested, under the pastorship of Rev. J. T. Phillips. There are two Sunday-schools connected with this church, one at the meeting house, and the other held at No. 7 school-house. That at the church was organized in 1870, and has an average attendance of twenty scholars; Jacob Ewbanks, superintendent, David Watt, secretary. The other, at the school-house, began in 1876, and is one of the best in the county, with an average attendance of forty. The officers are Jesse Barker, superintendent, Leonie Phipps, secretary, Albert Swaim, chorister. Both schools meet all the year round. The present church trustees are L. W. Bannon, Elisha Pethord and John Ratcliffe.

Union church was instituted by the Society of Friends, but the meetings are entirely undenominational. The church, 30x40 feet, was built in 1875, and cost $1,000. On Christmas night in the same year the building was dedicated, Levi Woodey being the first preacher. The present membership is forty, and a union Sunday-school is conducted by the church, with P. F. Owen as superintendent. Trustees of the church are J. H. Brewer, Isaac Lindley and J. H. Newlin.

The United Brethren have a church building in what is known as the Bristle Eidge neighborhood.

The first physician to settle in the township was Lancelot Ewbanks Sr., father of .L. C. Ewbanks, who came from Dearborn county, Ohio, and also built the first frame house in the township.

The early settlers suffered great inconvenience from the lack of roads, which were expensive to construct, owing to the broken nature of the country. The advent of the first public road through this territory was hailed with joy. This was what is known as the Greencastle and Perryville road, and was built in 1835, James Bacus being the supervisor during the construction of it.

On Sec. 16 stands a two-story frame building, 24x40 feet, the under storv of which is known as school-house No. 7, the upper floor as Liberty Hall. The house was erected in 1873 by the trustee, in partnership with a stock company, the whole building having cost $800, of which the company's share was $350. The most of the shares are now held by Parke Lodge, I.O.O.F., which occupies the hall as a lodge-room. Liberty Grange also holds its sessions here.

Parke Lodge, No. 498, I.O.O.F., was instituted August 26,1874, by John T. Sanders, of Indianapolis. The charter bears the date November 18, 1875. The first officers and charter members were John J. Garrigus, N.G.; R. H. W. McKey, V.G.; W. R. Cooper, secretary; Wyatt Morgan, treasurer; John P. Lungren, Miles Ratcliffe, Samuel Brooks and William Brooks. The past grands of the society are Miles .Ratcliffe, John P. Lungren, Dr. McKey, John J. -Garrigus, Wyatt Morgan, William P. Floyd, W. R. Cooper, John A. Kirkham. Enos Atkinson, Aaron Walton, Stephan Harlan, G. W. Downs and L. W. Bannon. This is. one of the brightest lodges in the county, great interest being manifested in the affairs and objects of the society by every brother, while pervading the whole .membership is that spirit of friendliness and respect for each other without which no organization can be successfully conducted. The -oldest brother in the lodge is Miles Ratcliffe, who has been a member of the fraternity for over twenty years. The oldest man is Jacob Myers, who was initiated at the age of sixty-four years. The brethren meet weekly in Liberty Hall, which they have fitted up with all -the paraphernalia of the order, and furnished in a handsome and comfortable manner. The emblems and regalia are tasteful and rich. The present membership is forty, and the following brethren are in office : Valentine Martin, N. G.; Dr. Williamson, V. G.; J. C. Hirsbrunner, treasurer; S. P. Bannon, recording secretary; W. R. Cooper, permanent secretary.

Union Lodge, No. 198, Degree of Rebecca, I.O.O.F., also meets here, and is the only lodge of this degree in Parke county.    It was -organized August .9, 1879, the following being the charter members: Dr. McKey, W. R. Cooper, Jennie Cooper, W. P. Floyd, Elizabeth Floyd, Thomas Clark, Anjenetta Clark, Miles Ratcliffe, E. J. Ratcliffe, S. Harlan, Mary Harlan, J. C. Hirsbrunner, L. W. Bannon and Angelina Bannon. The first officers were W. P. Floyd, N.G.; Matilda Floyd, V.G.; Jennie Clark, treasurer; Bertha Hirsbrunner, secretary. The number of members is twenty-six, two of whom come from Rockville. The officers of the lodge at present writing are Stephan Harlan, N.G.; Bertha Hirsbrunner, V.G.; Matilda Hirsbrunner, secretary; Mrs. Jane Ratcliffe, treasurer, who meet on the second Saturday of each month.

Liberty Grange was organized in 1874, and has been an institution -of considerable size and importance; now, however, interest in it has dwindled away. Efforts are being made to revive it once more. The society organized with forty members. Now they have fourteen or sixteen, with John P. Lungren as master, and L. C. Ewbanks as .secretary.

Jefferson Grange, No. 1208, was organized  in 1871 at school-house No. 8, and is in good working order, with a present membership of between forty and fifty, who all take a lively interest in its affairs. The present officers are: master, Henry Roach; secretary, Henry Myers. Meetings are held every two weeks.

There are no towns in this township, but at Russell's Mills post-office is a large flouring establishment, a dry-goods and grocery store, drug store, blacksmith shop, and two physicians, Drs. McKey and Garrigus.

At Grangeburg is a large grange store, conducted by Mr. John P. Lungren; a shoe shop, and one physician, Dr.Williamson.

The last Indian killed in this part of the country was Old. Johnny Green. He was a bad Indian, in fact; his own people would not allow him to associate with them. One day Henry Litzey and some more of the old settlers were at Old John Beard's mill, at the mouth of Sugar creek, after flour; the old Indian also happened to visit the mill at that time, and began boasting of the number of women and children he had killed. In place of going on the war-path with the warriors he used to skulk around the settlements and slaughter the defenseless females and infants, and on this occasion was boasting of his exploits in that line, and telling with great glee how he used to impale the little innocents on saplings, and laughed as he described how they would shriek and toss their little arms about. This aroused Mr. Litzey's manhood, and he at once proceeded to inflict corporal punishment on the old heathen. The other men, however, interfered, and the matter dropped. On his way home on horseback Mr. Litzey heard the report of a gun and felt a bullet whistle past him; glancing behind he observed the Indian, with the smoking rifle in his hand, peering from behind a tree. Being unarmed, he at once put spurs to his horse, and rode at a lively gait for a mile or two, when, .thinking he had got out of the reach of danger, he again dropped into a walk. Again he heard the report of a rifle, and again felt the wind from the bullet pass close by his head; and, not being willing to run the risk of a third shot, proceeded home as fast as possible and arrived in safety. On reaching the house he took his gun and went off on a hunt, and Johnny Green was never seen again in that part of the country. It was never known for certain who had put him out of the way, but public opinion always gave Mr. Litzey the credit •of the act, though he would never acknowledge it, always stating that the last time he saw the Indian he observed him sitting on a flat rock, in Sugar creek, just below the narrows, fishing; suddenly he jumped up. as if crazy, and dived into the water, from which he never rose.

In this township there are eight school districts, and eight school-houses in a good state of repair. Dr. McKey being the present township trustee. The value of real estate is $194,400; of personal property, $73,810; the population is 903, an increase of twenty-five during the last ten years.


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