NEW DURHAM TOWNSHIP.
New Durham township is one of the original three which formed the county when organized, and it then embraced all of range four, within the limits of LaPorte county. Since then its territory has been diminished to form Coolspring and Michigan on the north, and Clinton, Cass and Dewey on the south. It now occupies congressional township thirty-six, the civil township being commensurate with the congressional, that is, exactly six miles square. This township was named by Miriam Benedict, mother of Levi J. Benedict, who chose for it the name of the place of her nativity, Durham, Greene county, New York. The first settlers were the Benedict family, Henly Clyburn, who had married Sarah Benedict in Illinois, and Thomas Clyburn. This was the first white family that settled in the county. It is possible that there may have been trappers, hunters or traders before them, but they were not settlers, and removed as soon as game became scarce, and the land was cleared up. None of these had their families with them, or if so, they had Indian wives, and were more nearly identified with the aborigines than the whites.
Stephen S. and Miriam Benedict and their children; Joseph H., Alpha M., Levi J., John K., Holland, James W., and Sarah, migrated from Durham, Greene County, New York, in the year 1827, and moved to Illinois. They stopped a short time at Chicago, and then moved to Ottowa, where Stephen died. In February of 1829, the family started for Chicago. They remained there but a few days, when they resumed their journey in an easterly direction, and arrived in New Durham Township on March 15th, 1829. They were accompanied by Henly Clyburn. After their long and tedious journey with an ox team, the snow being a part of the time eighteen inches deep, they encamped about sixty rods north of where the Westville railroad depot now stands.
Prior to their arrival, they had managed to send word to Pokagon Prairie, in Berrien County, Michigan, that they wanted assistance in putting up a log cabin. Samuel Johnson and William Eahart had arrived at the designated point a day before the Benedict party arrived. Johnson and Eahart were so pleased with the area that they went back to Michigan and returned with their families the following April. They brought with them Jacob Inglewright, who made a claim of the farm now owned by Hon. C. W. Cathcart. That same year Charles and James Whittaker and William H. Shirley arrived and on July 16th, the first white child in the county was born. It was Elizabeth Miriam Clyburn, daughter of Henly and Sarah Clyburn.
In 1830 William Garwood entered three hundred and twenty acres of land on section fourteen, in the vicinity of New Durham, and moved on to it with his family. A large number of Ottowa and Pottawatomie Indians were encamped in this vicinity, but they gave the settlers very little trouble. They bought the surplus crops, paying for them in furs, etc. These were converted into cash, by sale to the agents of the American Fur Company. With this money many of the early inhabitants were enabled to pay the government for their lands, when they would have found it very difficult to have done so without such a market. Only one instance is known of the Indians having committed any depredations, and that was the killing of an ox belonging to Henly Clyburn. For this he eventually received the cash, by having it stopped out of their annuities at Chicago, where they were paid. Some idea of the remoteness of neighbors, the scarcity of stock, and the consequent inconvenience of the loss of the ox may be formed, when it is related that Clyburn was obliged to solicit the loan of a yoke of oxen from the Carey mission, located at Niles, Michigan, in order to make up a breaking team.
Among the settlers who came to New Durham township in 1831 was Alden Tucker, who settled on section thirteen; but this was a comparatively dull year for settlement and there were not many arrivals. The year 1832 witnessed the arrival of many more. Among them were Josiah Bryant and family, Jeremiah and Jonathan Sherwood, Charles Campbell, and Wilson Malone. Rev. James Armstrong, the pioneer Methodist preacher, conducted the first religious services in the township, and the Black Hawk war broke out
The settlers had been told by the Ottawas and Pottawatomies that " as soon as the leaves on the trees became as large as a squirrel's ear," it was the intention of the Sacs to invade the settlement and murder the inhabitants. During the month of May, rumors came from Chicago bringing tidings of the approach of their enemies. The settlers left their homes and retreated to Door Village, to the block house, where they stopped until all appearance of danger was passed. They then returned to their homes.
Also in 1832, the land sales occurred at LaFayette. There was no preemption law, and settlers had much difficulty with speculators who overbid them when the land was exposed at public sale. This occurred in many instances where the settlers had expended all their means in making improvements. Much of the land thus situated and located in New Durham, went as high as five or six dollars per acre.
On the first day of January 1833, Rachel B. Carter opened the first school ever taught in the township. It was in one side of a double log cabin on the farm of William Eahart, on section twenty-two. Among the eighteen students attending were: Levi J. Benedict, William Garwood, and several Morgan and Eahart children. In November 1834, Rachel married Isaac Jacobus.
In the years 1834 and 1835 settlers came rapidly, and the government land was nearly or quite all purchased. In 1835, Leonard Woods, now of Michigan City, opened a store at Cathcart's grove.
In 1836 a man named Pelton, of New Durham, started for the West with a considerable sum of money. Soon after starting he was waylaid, murdered and robbed. A man named Stayes was arrested and tried for the crime, and being found guilty he was hung at Valparaiso, the murder having been committed in Porter County.
The growth of the township was not confined to the opening of farms, although farming was the leading industry. In 1839 Israel and James Jessup built a saw mill which was the first one erected in the township. It was near the present town of Otis. In 1844 Henry Herrold built another saw mill south of Otis. It was run by water, and the site is now owned by W. F. Cattron & Co. In 1845 Philander Barnes built a mill about a mile west of Otis. In 1852, Capt. Joseph Davis and his son, Caleb Davis, built a steam saw mill in New Durham township, a mile and a quarter north of the village of New Durham. In the year 1854 or 1855, it was sold to William S. Medaris, who moved it to a point near the railroad. In 1860, a boy named Landon was drowned in a pond near Medaris' mill. In 1867, Patrick Daily was killed by Patrick Dunn. Dunn was indicted for murder, and tried at the April term of the circuit court of 1868. An argument was made for self-defense and the jury rendered a verdict of " Not Guilty."
Union chapel, the first place for religious worship in the township, was erected in 1839, on section thirty-four. Prior to this time public religious services were held in the school houses, in private houses, and sometimes in the beautiful groves which abound in the township. In May 1862, a most remarkable murder occurred in New Durham township, about a mile and three-quarters north of Westville. A man named Fred Miller had been missing from his home several days, and his dead body was found upon the shores of Lake Michigan. He had evidently been murdered. It was believed that his wife was a party to the deed, and they hung the woman a short time, for the purpose of extorting a confession. She told them that John Poston had committed the murder in her presence, and had promised to marry her if she would not denounce him. Poston was arrested and brought before Alfred Williams, Esq., for examination on May 31st, 1862, but the evidence of the woman was so contradictory and unsatisfactory that the magistrate felt constrained to acquit him. Poston afterwards joined the army.
In the spring of 1873, Bugbee, Luff & Palmer built a paper mill on Reynolds' creek, three quarters of a mile west of Otis. Later, another paper mill was built near Otis by W. F. Cattron.
In this township there are four villages, Westville, Otis, Holmesville and New Durham, or “Pin Hook". The oldest of these is New Durham (Pin Hook).
As early as 1837, this place had grown to be something of a village, and a post office was established with William Taylor as postmaster, but it was not until April 15th, 1847, that a plat of the village was filed.
In 1834, the first house in New Durham was erected by Leonard Woods for use as a store. During the next year, Hiram Wheeler and Woods were partners in a mercantile business. Woods later sold out to William Taylor, and moved to Cathcart's Grove, where he opened another store. Taylor sold out to Horner, who kept it ten years. Horner sold to Bill Jennings, and in 1856, A. G. Standiford and D. C. Standiford bought the concern. This partnership continued about one year, and then D. C. Standiford continued the business alone about three years, after which he sold to Asahel Reynolds. Reynolds sold to Henry Cole, who continued in business until 1863. The store was then discontinued.
In 1837, Henry Harding opened and kept a hotel in the village, and in 1838 William S. Medaris manufactured wagons, and W. B. Webber a blacksmith shop. In the fall of 1839, James Flood and William Johnson opened a tailor shop. They succeeded David Christman.
In 1843, Richard Smith commenced the business of boot and shoe making and continued it until 1855. Dr. A. G. Standiford was the first physician in town, establishing his practice in 1846. In 1847 a Methodist church was built in New Durham and the first minister was Rev. J. J. Cooper. Rev. Mr. Parrott, previous to that time, had conducted religious services for the Methodists.
Archibald McAllister commenced the business of harness making in 1846, and Capt. Joseph Davis opened a store in 1847. Davis went to California in 1848 and the store was closed in 1849. About this time Daniel Pangborn commenced blacksmithing.
William B. Webber bought out William S. Medaris' wagon shop and Amos Perrin's blacksmith shop in 1850. In 1852, he manufactured one hundred and fourteen wagons and buggies, and mounted three hundred steel plows.
In 1854, a frame school house was built in New Durham and the post office was removed from New Durham to Beaver Dam, with Sylvester Goff as postmaster. This was an indication of the decline of New Durham, and the railroad having reached Westville, the pioneer town of the township ceased to be a place of any importance.
During the days of her prosperity New Durham had a rival. At the crossing of the old Chicago road and plank road, at the head of Flood's Grove, little more than a half mile distant, John Armstrong opened a very good dry goods and grocery store, and Henry Herrold a blacksmith shop. For a long time there was considerable jealousy between the inhabitants of the two places. The citizens of the Flood's Grove settlement gave New Durham the cognomen of "Pinhook," and the good people of the latter place retorted by naming the settlement of their neighbors, " Squatham."
Reckoning from the time when the first house was built, the next oldest town in New Durham township is Holmesville. This place was laid out upon the lands of Hiram Holmes. The plat was filed for record on October 2, 1855. It is in the northeast corner of the southeast quarter of section four, township thirty-six, north of range four west.
In 1833, Jacob Bryant built a saw mill and the first dwelling house, which at the time of this publication was occupied by John Moorman. After this no other building was erected until after the location of the railroad in 1850, when Mr. Prosser built a part of the house now occupied as a dwelling and store by Adolph Schaffer. Prosser sold goods in the building. In 1852 an addition was made, and it was opened as a public house.
In 1851, John H. Armstrong bought the saw mill and other property of Jacob Bryant. Immediately afterwards he sold to Hiram Holmes. In the year 1860, Samuel S. Davis bought out Mr. Holmes.
A post office was established at Holmesville in 1852, kept by Prosser, but was discontinued in 1856. In 1853 a warehouse was built by the Michigan Southern railway company; and the house now occupied by Samuel S. Davis was built by Hiram Holmes. William Booth also built a house here in 1856, and Charles Moorman built another in 1857. Francis Burkhardt, who died in 1869, bought the hotel property in 1856.
Holmesville has become somewhat noted for accidents and casualties. Two suicides have occurred here, one of a German who had boarded with Burkhardt, and the other an emigrant woman, who was on the journey to the west with her family. Four men have been killed here on the railroad, a Mr. Marshall, a Mr. Eaton, a, deaf and dumb man, and a man who was drunk and had lain down upon the track in the night. In 1862 there was a collision at Holmesville between a freight and an express train, which did much damage to the trains, but killed no one, and in 1866 a train derailed after hitting a cow.
Settlement of Otis began in 1851, but no plat of the town was recorded until 1870, when Solomon Tucker, on April 20, acknowledged and filed a plat for record. The description says that “LaCroix" is laid out in the south part of the northwest quarter of section five, township thirty-six, north of range four west, in La Porte County, Indiana."
On the June 27th, 1874, Mr. Tucker also filed a plat for another addition. Otis was first known as Salem Crossing. This name was given to it by the Michigan Southern railroad. When the post office was established, and Matthias Seberger appointed postmaster, that name was adopted by the department at Washington. The Louisville, New Albany & Chicago railroad, however, insisted upon calling it LaCroix. When Solomon Tucker laid out and platted the town upon this land, he availed himself of the proprietor's right to give it a name, and upon our county books it is only known as LaCroix. Having two names, some of the inhabitants thought it best, as a sort of compromise, to give it a third, which should supplant the other two, and suggested the name of the representative in congress from this district, and for a time it was called Packard. Upon the recommendation of that gentleman, however, in 1872, the name of the office was changed to Otis. Matthias Seberger was the first settler in Otis, arriving there in 1851. In 1853, the Michigan Southern, and Louisville, New Albany & Chicago railroads were completed, and he acted as agent for both of them. In 1854 George R. Selkirk opened a grocery store, and B. Parker and Isaac Weston erected a hotel which was kept by Parker. Henry Wing bought it in 1857, and kept it until 1865. This covered the period of the war when the patronage of the hotel was the greatest. In those days, soldiers and others going southward from northeastern Indiana were obliged to go to Salem Crossing, and thence southward over the L. N. A. & C. line. This kept the hotel well filled most of the time.
Solomon Colby opened a blacksmith shop in 1858, and in 1859 F. Harriman established a meat market. Matthias Seberger opened the first general store in the same year.
In 1861, a saloon was built and kept by Jasper Fleming, not, however for the sale of intoxicating liquors. In 1867 Seberger & Wing engaged in the business of merchandising in partnership. A wagon and blacksmith shop was established in 1870; and Dr. Clark R. Warren commenced the practice of medicine, being the first resident physician.
The Methodist Episcopal church had the first regular preaching in 1870, and in 1872 a Roman Catholic church was built by the Polanders who are settled in the neighborhood.
The business of the village of Otis consists of two blacksmith shops, one carpenter, one depot agent, two druggists, three general stores, one hotel, one market, two physicians, two shoemakers, one tailor, one telegraph operator, one undertaker, and one wagon maker.
Westville is the most important town in New Durham township, being a place of considerable business, and a heavy grain market. The original town of Westville was located on the northwest quarter of section twenty-nine, in township thirty-six, range four west, by W. and J. A. Cattron, and the town plat was recorded on May 1, 1851. Afterwards an amended plat was filed by which seven lots were added to the original plot. On July 8, 1863, Henly Clyburn filed for record an addition embracing forty-five lots, James Concannon filed a plat for an addition embracing one hundred lots, on June 21, 1865. Smith's addition of ten lots, was filed June 5, 1858, and Clyburn's second addition, embracing twenty-two lots, on June 15, 1858. Ray's addition, consisting of eleven lots, was recorded February 10, 1868.
Westville is favorably located on the Louisville, New Albany and Chicago railroad; and has had a steady growth from the time of the completion of the railroad. The first permanent residence on the present site of Westville was built by Henly Clyburn in 1836, with James M. Ray doing the carpenter work. The first store was kept by John and William Cattron at a part of the town known as the "Four Corners." It was opened in 1848; and in 1849, D. M. Closser opened a dry goods and grocery store. In 1850 Jesse McCord commenced the business of blacksmithing. Bell Jennings opened a general store in 1851. In this year, there were two issues of a paper called the Westville Free Press, edited by L. P. Williams, printed. He afterwards went to Nashville, where he edited an agricultural paper, until near the beginning of the war, when returning to the North, he entered the Union army, and attained the rank of Major. He now resides in Washington, D. C.
The railroad was completed in 1853, and a depot was built, which gave the first business impetus to the place. During this year a steam grist mill was built by James Haskell, it was sold and moved away about 1860.
In 1853 a Methodist church building was erected which is now owned by the Catholics. The Christian church was built in 1859, and Elder H. Z. Leonard was the first pastor. The Methodist church was built in 1867-68 out of means arising from a generous bequest made by Daniel West. He also made a handsome bequest to the lodge of Odd Fellows, and with it a good hall was built in 1868.
In the year 1855, Jacob J. Mann & Co., built a reaper and mower establishment, and made a machine which they patented.
The first number of the Westville Herald was issued on May 2, 1856, by C. G. Townsend and Alfred Townsend. The partnership continued only until the following August, when the office was sold to a company composed of Samuel Burns, Henly Clyburn and James Concannon. Townsend conducted it until November, when Chas. G. Powell took charge of it, and having bought out the proprietors, removed it to LaPorte in the month of August 1859.
In the year 1858, Tobias Miller built a steam grist mill. After being sold several times it was owned by Mrs. Sloan Martin until 1870, when it burned. In the fall of 1862 a bedstead factory was started by Reynolds, Weaver and Smith. Weaver continued with the firm until 1865. The other members of the firm continued in the business until 1869, when they sold out to Charles Ruggles, who changed the business to that of manufacturing wooden bottom chairs, and in 1864, a machine shop was put in operation and run by Charles W, Carter.
On the 14th day of February 1864, a meeting of citizens was held at the new school house to take into consideration the propriety of incorporating Westville. At the September term of the county commissioner's court, held at the court house on Friday, September 9, 1864, it was ordered by the board that Westville be incorporated. The first election under the act of incorporation took place on September 15, and the annual charter election on November 16th. The first council consisted of W. L. Webster, D. C. Standiford, and William C. Martin, Mr. Webster being elected president. G. L. Thompson was the first clerk.
James Dolman, Sen., and James Dolman, Jr., erected a grist mill near the railroad track in 1872, and the next year sold it to E. and N. Dolman. Cattron's hall and building was finished in 1873.
Perhaps the one institution of which Westville may most justly feel proud, is the excellent public school which is recognized as one of the best not only in the county, but in all northern Indiana. The school is managed by Prof. J. G. Laird.
At the time of publication, Westville boasted: Two attorneys; two bakeries; two barber shops; two blacksmith shops; one butcher shop; two brick masons; sixteen carpenters; one chair factory; two dry goods, clothing and grocery stores; one well driver; one express agent; one gunsmith; four grocery stores; two hotels; two hardware stores; six harness makers; two insurance agents; two justices of the peace; one jeweler and watch maker; one livery stable; three milliners; four physicians; two-painters; four plasterers; one pump manufacturer; two restaurants; one saloon; two saw mills; one stationery store; three shoe makers; two tailors; one undertaker and two wagon manufactories. There is also a Hook and Ladder company; a Masons lodge; an Odd Fellows lodge; four churches; Baptist, Christian, Methodist and Catholic; and an efficient corporation government, consisting of a council, with president, treasurer and clerk, assessor and marshal.
Others living in the township who came very early to the county are: Hon. Charles W. Cathcart (1831), Evan Henton (1832), A. M. Jessup (1832), John P. Noble, Eliza Cole, Henry N. Cathcart, W. F. Cattron, John Warnock and J. R. Reed (all 1833), M. S. Wright, M. W. Robertson, Ralph Loomis, C. R. Robertson, William W. and W. L. Webster and Shep. Crumpacker (1834), and J. M. and J. G. Warnock, and James M. Ray (1835).
The township is thickly populated, and except Centre and Michigan townships, casts a larger vote than any other township in the county. The fertility of the soil in this township is unsurpassed and its farmers are prosperous. Among those who have held official positions is Hon. George Crawford. Other well-known citizens of the township are Alfred Williams, John P. Cathcart, Azariah Williams, Dr. B. B. Freeman, Dr. T. Fravel, Isaiah Thompson, Mrs. M. M. Duncan, H. Van Zandt, Daniel McKillips, M. W. Ray, I. D. Martin, L. R. Cole, Wash. Concannon, Mr. Armitage, and Dr. C. P. Cathcart. John P. Cathcart has served many years as county surveyor.
Transcriber’s Note: This is a condensed version of Jasper Packard’s 1876 history of New Durham township.