Wabash 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 336 - 339)
This is one of the western tiers of townships in the county, and is bounded on the north by Reserve township, on the east by Adams, on the south by Florida, and on the west by the Wabash river. Along the river and in places running back some considerable distance are the Wabash bottoms; these are considered the richest land in the state, although up the river at the northwest corner of the township the land is higher but not broken, and is therefore the most valuable in this part of the county; the middle and northeastern part of the township is quite hilly, the bluffs in places rising abruptly to & considerable height. These hills are to quite an extent under laid with coal; a fair quality of braiding stone is also obtained in places; and iron, too, is said to exist upon Iron creek, m the northeast part of the township. Raccoon creek, the only stream of any importance in the township, enters it from the south and winds northward some little more than half way through the township, then turns west and rims almost directly to the river, On this stream Mr., Abner Cox built the first mill of any note in this part of the county, To it came the pioneers some in row boats, some with cart and oxen, aid some from the more inaccessible parts of the country, came with grists on horseback, winding their way over hills and through the thick forests of timber that were then scarcely broken by the sturdy settler's axe. This mill was built near Armiesburg, After the mill came other improvements in the way of a mill to grind out whisky from rye and corn, making a home market for formers produce. (It was discovered a few years later that there was a worm in this still-house that was more venomous than any reptile ever found in Parke county.) In about 1830 Patterson, Silliman & Go, (Mr. Alexander McCune being the company and furnished the money) started a store here, where pork could be sold for $1,50 per hundred, and salt could he bought for $7 per barrel and calico for 35 to 40 cents per yard,
It is known by some now living that the first settlers had hauled wheat to Chicago, Louisville and Cincinnati, Ohio, and sold it for 60 cents per bushel and hauled back merchandise*
Among the early pioneers may be mentioned Isaac Ghormly and family, Daniel James and Aquilla Justice, Lucius Kebby and family, Aquilla Puntenney, Mark and Thomas Cooke, William Hixon, Azariah Brown, James and Aquilla Laverty. Many of the descendants of these pioneers are the men of Wabash township, though some have barely left a representative.
At the time the early settlers came the Indians were numerous. In this township was one section of land given by the state to Christmas Dazney, mention of which is made in another part of this work. The Indians were peaceable but idle and shiftless.
MILLS AND OTHER IMPROVEMENTS
The Mecca saw-mill was built in 1832 by Mr. Alexander McCune and Samuel Lowery. In 1833 a factory for wool-carding, and one year later a fulling-mill, was added to the place, and in 1855 these enterprising men built the present merchant and custom grist-mill. In September, 1860, Mr. McCune sold out and left the business. The grist-mill is now owned by George W. Batman, and in successful operation, being repaired and renovated throughout, and having a never-failing water supply. In 1873 a very substantial bridge was built over the creek at this place, protected from the weather by a shingle roof. This place is about two miles up the creek from Armiesburg. This latter place derived its name from the fact that it is on the place where Gen. Harrison crossed the Raccoon creek, and camped with his army, when on his way to the famous battle of Tippecanoe. The marks of the path of this victorious army were visible for many years.
Interments at a very early date were made in the most convenient places, and in some instances, where the early settler found his last resting place is now producing fields of golden grain, and the public road passes over the graves of two young men, early pioneers, who were killed by the Indians; but for the last forty years this part of humane respect and religious rite has been more carefully observed. In about 1836 Leatherwood burying-ground was begun, and in 1849 was deeded by Isaac Silliman to the trustees of the society of United Brethren. The ground is fenced, and a neat little church, 25 x 35 feet, has been erected. In this place is buried four of Mr. Pittman's daughters: Rebecca, Mary A., Susan A. and Sarah.
Several years ago Mr. William Hixon deeded to the trustees a piece of land in Sec. 19, T. 15, for a burial place for the dead. About the first buried there was a Mr. Vandivier, but previous to that a number of the early settlers were buried just west, below the bluff. The present place is far above the country's level, on a beautiful hill. On this eminence, many years ago, stood the Methodist Episcopal church. In 1868 it was taken down and moved to its present site on the Terre Haute and La Fayette state road, about two miles south of Armiesburg.
The first school-house was built in 1834, by Mr. A. McCune, about three-fourths of a mile southeast of Mecca. It was built of logs, with one log left out. Over this aperture was pasted greased paper. This served as a window. For seats they used split logs, flat side up. The backs the children brought with them in the morning, and invariably took them home at night.
Flat-boat building was an industry carried on by some of the early settlers, as well as boating down the river to New Orleans. Among some of the most conspicuous in this business were Mr. A. McCune and Mr. A. D. Brown, they having made many trips down the river. Mr. McCune says he went over thirty-five times to New Orleans.
If any one township in Parke county more than another can boast of her (unfinished) railroads it is Wabash. In 1873 Mr. Young, of Chicago, started the Indiana Division of the Chicago, Danville & Vincennes railroad. It was graded about half way through the township from the south side, running through the Raccoon bottoms. The truss bridges were also erected. In 1854 the Illinois Central and Indiana Central surveyed a line through the northern part of Wabash township, but never built the road. In 1874 a company formed to build the Springfield road. This line passed over the old survey. On October 15, 1875, the contract was let to Dolby, Lockie & Co. to build and own the road from Montezuma to Indianapolis, via Rockville. The grading was begun in the fall of 1875, and in the winter of 1876 they failed and the road was abandoned. Thus the fond hopes of the Wabash people, as well as those of Rockville, perished, and like the morning dew flitted away, and the prospective railroads, like the canal, are hopes deferred."
One of the most extensive land owners in this township, if not in Parke county, is Aquilla Laverty. He owns 3,636 acres of land, two of the best business houses, and the best private residence in Montezuma.
Among the first accidents of the township was the drowning of Mr. Isaac Hunter while assisting a neighbor drive his cattle to the mainland from a rise of ground on the Wabash bottoms during an immense overflow of the river. While swimming his horse through some drift he was washed off, became entangled in the drift, and sank, and was not found till the water abated. A Mr. William Killgore was drowned by being unavoidably run over the dam at Armiesburg mill, on a raft of lumber. As the raft plunged in the water below the dam he was washed off and drowned. Two young men, names now unknown, were found dead near the Indian encampment. They are supposed to have fallen victims to the bloodthirsty savages. They now lie beneath the hard bed of the wagon-road some distance north of Armiesburg. Miss Brant, a girl of about fourteen, went to bathe in Raccoon creek about one mile above Mecca, got into deep water, and, not being able to swim, was drowned. A young man, about a year from that time, came to his death near the same place in the same manner.
It was impossible to find out the date of the organization of the township, or its first trustee. We know that Mr. James T. Brock-way is the present trustee.
If you have any information you would like to add, please send it to my attention. Thank you. James D. VanDerMark