Blue River township was organized on April 7, 1828, as one of the three original townships. At first it included the entire eastern portion of the county, but at the May term, 1831, it was cut down to its present dimensions. One change has been made since then. At the January term, 1836, Center township was enlarged and took two sections, 2 and 11, out of the northwest corner of the township. It then kept those dimensions until March 11, 1853, when all the townships were given their present boundary lines.
Blue River civil township is located in two congressional townships. A strip two miles wide off of the west side of the civil township lies in congressional township 15 north, range 7 east; the remaining portion of the township, consisting of eighteen square miles, lies in congressional township 15 north, range 8 east,. The township is five miles east and west by six miles north and south.
The surface of the township is probably a little more rolling than the surface of some of the other townships. This is occasioned by the streams. Blue River, its largest stream, and into which practically the entire county drains, crosses the southeast corner of the township. Six Mile Creek enters Blue River township at about the middle of the east line of section 16 and, except for the distance of one-half mile or a little more, remains in the eastern part of the township until it reaches Blue River. Nameless Creek, formerly known as Straight Creek, enters the township about the middle of its north line and pursues a course almost due south until it reaches Blue River at a point about a mile above the south line of the township. Three or four large open ditches have also been constructed through different parts of the township leading to the larger creeks. The creeks, together with the large open ditches and their blind arms, complete a perfect system of drainage for the township.
Blue River township received the first settlers who made their homes within Hancock county. Andrew Evans is said to have built a log cabin in the township in 1818. Other settlers followed. In 1822 Thomas Phillips began operating a blacksmith shop, and in 1833 Elijah Tyner built the first store. This store was located in the southeast quarter of section 35, township 15, range 7, on the east side of the road running north and south parallel with the east line of section 35. The store building stood in the angle made by the turn of this road to the southeast.
A large number of family names that are still familiar may also be found on the entry docket, showing by whom the land in Blue River townshipo was entered. Among them are Henry Wilson, John Justice, Joshua King, William New, Elisha Butler, Hugh Sparks, Samuel Parker, John Foster, William Tyner, Joseph Fort, Homer Brooks, John Smith, Elizabeth Wood, Abraham Smith, Jacob Smith, Arthur Lewis, Nathan Hill, Isaac Davis, Josiah Bundy, Charlotte A. Butler, Reuben Bentley, George Kiser, Meredith Gosney, John Ogg, Isaac King, Daniel New, Elias Marsh, William Hamilton, Samuel Hendricks, Richard Tyner, Silas Porter, James Sample, Festus Hall, Basil Meek, James Tyner, Jr., John Haskit, Robert Wilson, Abraham Miller, Benjamin Lineback, Benajah Binford, Joseph Cox, Robert White, Samuel B. Binford, Abraham Cook, James L. Loehr, John C. Wilson, Thomas C. Chapple, Silas Moore, Zachariah Coffin, Joseph Myers, John Hill, Elijah Ballenger, Daniel Smith, Benjamin Miller, Fielding Willis, Jacob Wolf, Harmon Warrum, William A. Crider, Adam Allen, Samuel Hill, Abraham Lineback, Phineas White, James L. Binford, Mathew Simmons, George Bundy and Joseph Andrews.
The store of Elijah Tyner, above mentioned, became one of the best known stores during the early history of the county. Mr. Tyner continued to do business at this place until 1872. The old store buildings are still standing. People came to trade there from the entire southeastern part of the county, as well as from Shelby and Rush counties.
Following are some of the earlier industries of the township:
Grist and saw-mill, erected in 1824 by Joshua Wilson along Blue River, near where the range line crosses it. Wilson operated the mill for about two years, when Henry Watts purchased it and attached a bolt to run by hand. The mill was probably moved about this time to a point on Blue River below the Hancock county line, though a large portion of the mill race was constructed in Hancock county. It was purchased in 1840 by John Wolf, who also attached a carding and spinning machine for weaving. This mill, like Tyner's store, was patronized by people from the southeastern part of Hancock county as well as from the adjoining counties of Shelby and Rush. It was later owned by a man named Bacon and was familiarly known for many years as Bacon's mill. During the seventies Jacob Wolf, a son of John Wolf, the former proprietor, bought the mill and operated it until in the nineties, when it burned.
Saw-mill, erected about 1830 by James P. New, Abraham Miller and Silas Moore, on Nameless Creek, just east of Westland, and operated until about 1855.
In the early fifties Isaac Beeson established a pottery at the southeast corner of section 12, township 15, range 7, on the site now occupied by the Western Grove church. He made jars, jugs, etc., from clay which, after being burned in a kiln, were dipped in a solution and then burned again until glazed. The potter's wheel was in operation for about nine years. Some of the first tile in the county were also made by Mr. Beeson. He began making round tile in 1858, just before Jacob Schramm began making the "horseshoe tile" in Sugar Creek township. Some of Mr. Beeson's tile are now in the museum at the state house.
Cooper's shop, maintained by Solomon Catt from a very early day, on the north half of the northeast quarter of section 14, township 15, range 7. Barrels were made in great numbers at this shop and shipped by wagon loads to distant points.
Shingle factory, operated by Elihu Coffin during the forties and fifties on the west half of the southeast quarter of section 12, township 15, range 7. Shingles were made by a machine operated by horse power. Walnut and poplar timber was used. It was cut into lengths of eighteen inches, boiled for several hours and then made into shingles eighteen inches long and from one-half to three-quarters of an inch thick at the butt. The machine could cut about five thousand shingles per day.
Saw-mill, erected by John Hunnicutt on Nameless Creek, near the lkine dividing sections 19 and 30, township 15, range 8.
Grist and saw-mill erected by Jesse Hunt, on the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section 7, township 15, range 8, sometime during the latter forties.
Saw-mill, erected by Lewis Rule at the southeast corner of section 1, township 15, range 7.
Wiley's saw-mill stood for many years on the northwest corner of section 24, township 15, range 7.
Saw-mill, erected by Caleb Pusey at the northeast corner of section 1, township 15, range 7.
Saw-mill, erected by Charles Bash on the southwest quarter of section 5, township 15, range 8.
Tile factory, erected by Elias Marsh on the south half of section 13, 5township 15, range 7, just about a mile west of the Westland post office.
Saw-mill, established by King Lewis on the west side of the southwest quarter of section 17, township 15, range 8, during the sixties and operated until during the seventies.
Tile factory, erected by Walter Luse on the southeast quarter of the southwest quarter of section 8, township 15, range 8.
Saw-mill, erected immediately south of Cleveland during the early seventies, in the northern part of section 4, township 15, range 8; moved from Leamon's corner in Jackson township and operated by Walton & Rule; later by Thomas L. Marsh and another. Moved from here to Eden in 1881 and operated by C. Mingle.
The first railroad constructed through any portion of Hancock county was built across the southeast corner of Blue River township. It followed the south valley of Blue River and was known as the Knightstown-Shelbyville Railway. Work began on it about 1846 and trains began running in 1848. The railroad was operated until about 1855. The old grades may still be followed without difficulty. The road was constructed of what were known as flat bar rails. Cross tiles were put down, on which four by four wooden stringers, twelve or sixteen feet long, were laid. Iron bars, about one and one-half inches thick and two inches wide, were then placed on the stringers and both spiked to the cross ties with spikes eight or ten inches long.
The railroad maintained one stop in Hancock county for taking on and letting off passengers. It was known as Petersburg, named in honor of Peter Binford, who erected the first log cabin in the neighborhood of the station. It was located at the northeast corner of the southeast quarter of section 33, township 15, range 8, or on the county line east of the Handy school house.
Silas Haskett sold a small lot at the corner above described to John Young for the purpose of having a store started in the neighborhood. Young conducted a store and eating house at this point for several years and then sold it to Daniel Haskett, who kept a general store there until after the railroad was discontinued. The station and a large platform for loading were across the line in Rush county. It was a very accommodating railroad, it is said. If one failed to reach the station, he could stop the train anywhere along the line by waving his handkerchief.
Blue River has no railroad at this time except the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis, which is built directly upon the north line of the township.
Capt. P. A. Card also conducted a store about a half mile west of the southeast corner of Blue River township for four of five years after 1872.
Westland was never laid out as a town and no plat thereof is recorded in the recorder[s office. The first store was erected there about 1852 by Samuel Heavenridge. Like most other buildings of that day, it was just a small log house. Later owners were Levi Reece, Ambrose Miller, Henry Newby and Calvary G. Sample, who quit business at the outbreak of the Civil War. Later, another store was opened by William New, who was followed by Lemuel Harold and Levi Cloud. James L. Binford then owned the store for a time. It burned on April 13, 1881, but in the eighties another building was erected and the store was conducted for a number of years by M. A. Catt and John Howard. About three of four years ago it was bought by the present owner, Francis C. Landrus.
In addition to the stores above mentioned, there have been blacksmith shops from time to time and it has formed a central meeting place for the people of the township. A postoffice was maintained for many years, until the rural routes were established from Greenfield. Route 3 from Greenfield, which distributes mail through Blue River township and in the vicinity of Westland, was established on October 1, 1900.
The first school is said to have been built in the township in 1823. It was located on the northwest quarter of section 36, township 15, range 7. Lewis Tyner was the first teacher. Early log school houses were built in different communities, as they were needed. Nine district schools were finally established in the township and used until the first movement was made towards consolidation, on September 1, 1893. On that date William toms, trustee of Blue River township, and the patrons of districts numbers 4, 5, and 8 of said township, petitioned the county superintendent of schools, asking for the consolidation of the above-named districts. This petition was signed by a majority of the patrons, and on April 25, 1894, Mr. Toms, trustee, gave notice to the citizens of Blue River township and to the patrons of the districts above named that the petition would be presented to the county superintendent of schools, at his office in Greenfield, on May 15, 1894, asking for authority to consolidate the three districts above named and to establish the site of a new school building for the use of said consolidated district. The point selected for the new building was the southwest corner of section 18, township 15, range 8.
This movement, of course, aroused more or less opposition and a protest was filed by Robert B. Binford and fifteen others against changing the site of the school in district number 5. The matter came up on hearing before Quitman Jackson, who was then county superintendent of schools, and authority was given the township trustee to establish the site of a new school in the consolidated district at the point above designated.
This was the first effort made towards consolidation of schools in Hancock county. It was a vision of Mr. Toms that finally all schools in the township should be consolidated at this building and that there should be established in the school a complete high school course for all the children in Blue River township. In starting this movement, Mr. Toms was wholly unselfish, even moving the site of the school to a point a mile farther from his residence than it had been before. His dream was no doubt realized more completely and at an earlier date than he had anticipated. In 1894 he erected a two-room building. In 1901, during the administration of J. F. Coffin, trustee, two rooms were added to the building. In 1909 two additional rooms were built and in 1914-15, during the trusteeship of O. J. Coffin, all of the children of the township were, for the first time, conveyed to this central building. Seven teachers have been employed for the past several years. Four grade teachers and three high-school teachers. All of the children of the township have the advantages of graduation such as is offered in city systems. A complete four-year high-school course has been maintained for a number of years, and for the past two years the school has been listed among the unconditioned commissioned high schools of the state. The township has also erected a long barn, with thiryt-two stalls, in which children may leave their rigs while attending school.
The high school work was commenced in the fall of 1894. The first teacher was Aldice Harold, who had the high school work and also some of the grade work. He resigned during his second term and J. E. Radcliffe finished the term of 1895-6. Following are the names of the principals who have been in charge of the school since that time: J. J. Brooks, 1896; Edward Geiss, 1897; Mary Catherwood, 1898; Walter Orr, 1901; R. E. Cavanaugh, 1905; W. M. Stafford, 1906; F. C. Landrus, 1907; C. M. Conger and William Brandenburg, 1910; Walter Orr, 1911; F. C. Landrus, 1914.
The school has a good library. Graduating classes have left beautiful pictures as memorials in the building, and two or three years ago the local Woman's Christian Temperance Union of the township, upon dissolving, placed a beautiful portrait of Frances Willard in the high school room. Almost fifty dollars in cash was also donated for library purposes.
Noble Crider, one of the teachers of the township, has taught at the building now for a period of nine years. Horatio Davis, another native teacher, was an assistant in the high school for three years or more; Miss Hazel Binford, also a resident of the township, has been an assistant in the high school for the past five years.
During the past six or seven years George Mace has acted as janitor of the school. He is an old sailor, and from 1866 until 1874 roamed the seas. He first shipped from New Bedford for the South Pacific islands, in 1866. He went round Cape Horn, cruised along the western coast of Chili, finally reaching the East Indies, the Yellow sea and other points in the Pacific. He came back to Chili, where he worked in a copper mine for several months and then shipped back to England on a copper-oreman. He next made several cruises to the Mediterranean sea, visiting Sardinia and Messina. On another cruise he went from England to Calcutta through the Suez canal, then back around the cape of Good Hope, stopping at Capetown and also at the island of St. Helena, where Napoleon was held prisoner for a number of years. H later made one more cruise around Cape Horn into the Pacific ocean, then left the sea. He is an authority on geographical questions.
Blue River township has a population of 904, as shown by the census report of 1910. Two hundred and eighteen children between the ages of six and twenty-one years were enumerated in the township in the spring of 1915. The enrollment in the schools during the school year of 1914-15 was 197. Of these, forty-two were in the high school and 155 in the grades. The total cost of maintaining the elementary schools was $2,902.10. The total cost of maintaining the high school was $2,077.20. The total amount paid teachers in the township for the year was $3,916. The estimated value of the school property is $14,000. The total taxables as reported by the assessor in 1914 was $1,099,610. Transportation of school children during the year 1914-15 cost the township $1,952.07.
The following men have served as township trustees since the enactment of the law creating the office in 1859: B. P. Butler, 1859; N. D. Coffin, 1860; James New, 1863; Lemuel Hackleman, 1865; B. F. Luse, 1869; Samuel B. Hill, 1873; Lemuel Hackleman, 1877; Thomas E. Hill, 1880; Robert B. Binford, 1882; Samuel B. Hill, 1884; Henry White, 1886 (resigned-term finished by Theophilus Hargrove); William Toms, 1888-1890; J. F. Coffin,1894; Reuben F. Cook, 1900; Morton Allender, 1904; Obed J. Coffin, 1908; Harry Fletcher, 1914.
The local courts have been presided over by the following men since the organization of the township: John Osborn, 1834; Samuel A. Hall, 1836; Richard Hackleman, 1836; Richard Hackleman, 1840; Adam Allen, 1848; Richard Hackleman, 1851; John Coffin, 1856-57; Thompson Allen, 1865-69; John O. G. Collins, 1869; Edward L. Coffin, 1872; Walter S. Luse, 1877; Elijah Tyner, 1878-82; John O. G. Collins, 1884; Nathan Newby, 1888; Eli O. Catt 1892-96; Adam Sivard, 1900-02-06-10.
Among the county officer that Blue River township has furnished are William Handy, representative; George W. Hatfield, county treasurer; George W. Hatfield and Calvary G. Sample, county surveyors; William New, Augustus Dennis and Theophilus Hargrove, commissioners.
Among the early families of Blue River township were the Andrews, Binfords, Brooks, Butlers, Coffins, Catts, Beesons, Gates, Hacklemans, Hatfields, Hills, Hunts, Jessups, News, Puseys, Samples and Tyners. These families and their descendants have contributed generously of their strength and substance to make the township what it is today. Others who have accumulated property and who shared the burdens of civil administration by the payment of taxes in 1915 in sums exceeding one hundred dollars are: Morton Allender, $140.91; Lydia Ann Binford, $113.22; Joseph L. Binford (estate). $409.02; Albert Binford, $220.12; Joseph Omer Binford, $252.60; Joseph Butler (estate), $154.22; Richard A. Bennett, $117.56; Leander Billman, $216.24; Robert W. Brooks, $187.68; Jesse W. Beeson, $106.28; Oliver M. Brown, $272.95; Eli O. Catt, $148.10; R. F. Cook, $290.70; Cerena Fort, $148.51; Dayton H. Gates, Jr., $127.87; Margaret Gates, $169.12; Lemuel Hackleman, $278.87; Henry D. Holt, $109.75; Carl V. Hardin, $197.12; Lewis C. Jessup, $138.52; Mary A. Jessup, $173.40; Sebrone Jessup, $142.39; James Lindamood, $152.79; Albert L. and Maude E. New, $149.33; James H. Parnell, $105.26; Lewis G. Rule, $145.04; William S. Rutledge, $114.85; James E. Sample, $116.89; Pearl E. Tyner, $182.90; George S. Wilson, $466.32; Franklin E. White, $106.54; Daisy S. Wilson, $355.31; Huldah A. Binford, $149.33; Robert B. Binford, $350.27; Oliver L. Binford, $112.00; William Penn Binford, $150.96; Oliver M. Binford, $150.55; John H. Binford, ----; Mary Bast (estate), $220.73; Mary Bash, $103.22; Lemuel Ball, $309.67; William N. Bassett, $114.44; Benjamin P. Catt, $130.15; Riley A. Catt, $101.59; Martha J. Elliott, $292.74; George W. Gates, $482.26; John W. Gardner, $117.91; George Gates (agent), $233.62; John T. Hatfield, $116.69; George W. and M. J. Howery, $127.10; Levi Jessup, $180.13; Sylvester Jessup, $149.53; Mary J. Lynam, $157.28; Cicero Newhouse, $118.52; Caleb W. Pusey, $102.00; Samuel C. Pitts, $101.59; Claude Poer, $149.74; Caroline Righter, $188.50; Abram Romack, $296.45; George W. Scott, $196.66; John Unger, $118.93; Lydia White, $117.10; Wilbur T. Wright, $102.20; James A. White, $170.75.
Blue River township has not had a great number of resident physicians. Probably the first one was Doctor Edmondson, a one-armed man who also conducted a little store on the angling road northwest of Mooresville. He was followed by Doctor Newby, who had an office in the eastern part of the township on the north line of the northeast quarter of section 28, township 15, range 8, across from Mooresville, where Joshua Moore maintained a blacksmith shop for a number of years. Among other physicians were Joseph O. Andrews, who was engaged in the practice of medicine during the seventies and early eighties. He was located on the road angling to the southeast through the east half of the northwest quarter of section 20, township 15, range 8. Dr. A. T. Hunt and Doctor Trump were also engaged in the practice about the middle of the eighties, and probably earlier. Drs. Charles K. and Mary L. Bruner located immediately north of the Friends church at the southeast corner of section 18m, township 15, range 8, early in 1886 and remained until the fall of 1888, when they established themselves at Greenfield.
Physicians from Greenfield, Charlottesville, Carthage and Morristown have practically always divided the practice of the township.
Mooresville is a collection of a few houses located along the south line of section 21, township 15, range 8, about a quarter of a mile west of the county line, and a little more than a quarter of a mile east of Hardys Fork school house. At a very early day, probably in the latter forties or early fifties, one Sim Williams operated a blacksmith ship at this place. Later the shop was operated by Joshua Moore. Moore took the shop about 1854 or 1855 and operated it for twelve or fifteen years. At the same time Doctor Newby established his office just across the road from the shop and engaged in the practice of medicine from this point for a number of years. Joe Pusey, a grandfather of Caleb Pusey, also had a small store at this point for a number of years following 1855.
It seems that originally the little town, if it can be called a town, was known as Mt. Pleasant. For the last half century or more it has been popularly known as Mooresville, in honor of Joshua Moore.
Doctor Edmondson, the one-armed physician previously referred to, engaged in the practice of medicine for a number of years, his office being located about fifty rods northwest of Hardy's Fork school, on the angling road passing through the southwest quarter of section 21, township 15, range 8.
The residents of Blue River township, and especially the Friends, have always been active and earnest temperance workers. Several Woman's Christian Temperance Unions were maintained in the county during the later seventies and eighties, and on May 26, 1877, the Blue River Township Temperance Association was organized at the Westland Friends church. Forty-five persons signed the pledge and became charter members. The purpose of the association was "to plan and carry forward measures which, with the blessings of God, will result in the suppression of intemperance."
Any person could become a member of the association by signing the following pledge:" We, the undersigned men, women and children, of Blue River township, feeling that the use of intoxicating liquors has reached a point no longer to be endured, do, by the help of God, promise to use our utmost endeavors to banish this evil from among us; and, in order to strengthen our influence in this regard, we hereby agree to abstain from the use of all intoxicating beverages and we will discourage their use in all possible ways."
The society had an executive committee, whose duty it was to decide upon the time and place of holding meetings; "to produce a program at each meeting for the one following; to see that those on duty are informed thereof, and to give them such assistance as is necessary in the preparation of their duty."
After the organization of this association, meetings were held at the school houses in different school districts of the township. Literary programs were given and people were solicited to sign the pledge. During the early eighties the association numbered almost four hundred members, ranging from children to grandparents. An organization was maintained in the township until two or three years ago. The ladies sewed, served lunches at sales, and in various ways raised funds. When the association dissolved, it had almost fifty dollars on hands, which was donated to the Westland high school to be used in purchasing books. The ladies also presented a biography and a beautiful portrait of Frances Willard to the school.
The Hancock County Insurance Association, which has been discussed elsewhere, and which now carries a great number of risks in Hancock county, had its inception in Blue River township.
The church building known as Mt. Olivet church was purchased for the township by William Toms in 1894. It was used as a general meeting place where it originally stood, and in 1903 it was moved to Westland, by R. F. Cook. Since that time it has been used for voting purposes, concerts and other entertainments.
The Westland Cornet Band was organized about 1880 and played until the fall of 1885. Isaac Davis, of Greenfield, was its first teacher. The boys had a band wagon of the popular type-high at each end and low in the middle. Like all rural bands, its membership kept changing continually, but among the players whose names can be recalled were Reuben F. Cook, Edgar V. Toms, Frank Bools, Lin B. Newby, Joe Outland, John Allen, Abe Coffin, John Andrews, Jasper Glascock, John Curry, Riley Cook, Aaron Scott, Logan Glascock, Sam Staley, Jonas Bates, Joe Burton and Elwood Burtch.
The Gilboa Methodist Episcopal church was located at about the middle of the west line of the southwest quarter of section 4, township 15, range 8. It was among the first churches and religious organizations in Blue River township. The society was organized about 1830 and their meetings for worship were held at private residence for about two years. The meetings were conducted principally as prayer bands, with an occasional visit of a preacher in the neighborhood. The membership increased and in 1832 the society built a log church on the ground donated for that purpose by James Sample and Benjamin Miller, two of its first members. This church stood near the site above described. In the summer of 1852 a frame building was erected, which was used as long as the congregation remained in existence. In the year 1876 the enrollment was twenty-one members. In 1895 there were only six members, some having moved away and other died. No regular Methodist services have been held at the church since the early nineties.
The church building has now been moved, and nothing remains as an evidence of the former site except the burial ground which adjoined the church. The old Gilboa cemetery has buried within it some of the oldest citizens of the county. Several of the stones marking the graves show that the persons whose memory they are to perpetuate were born during the latter part of the eighteenth century.
Among the families that belonged to the church were James Sample and family, John Sample and family, Elizabeth Wood, Sarah Sample, Polly Meek, Arthur Lewis and family, Adam Allen and Family, Benjamin Miller and family, Johnson McGinnis, James Lemay and family, and James McGinnis and family.
Mt. Olivet Christian church was originally organized in 1838, in what was known as the Allen school house, in district number 3. Among its early ministers were the Reverends Hubbard, Epplesizer and Jonathan Lineback. Among its early members were John Lineback and wife, Absalom Davis and wife, Eli Risley and wife, John New and wife, and Miss Lizzie Miller.
About 1862 or 1863 the church was reorganized by Elder William Grose, at what is now known as the Temperance Hall school house, which stands in the northwest corner of the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of section 8, township 15, range 8. Among the charter members of the reorganization were Jonathan Lineback and wife, Thompson Allen, Elijah Allen, John Allen, Nathan Newby, Richard Richardson, Jesse Hunt, Mary J. New, James Veach and Walter Luse. It was then known for a time as the Christian New-Light organization. Among the early pastors was one Jonas Burkett, a blind minister. In the course of time the membership of the church reached about sixty.
In 1871 a building was erected, at a cost of one thousand dollars, at the southwest corner of the east half of the southeast quarter of section 7, township 15, range 8, on land donated for the use of the church by William New. It was erected by A. H. Allison and was dedicated in June, 1871, by Elder Homer.
Among the families belonging to the church were Miles Cook and wife, Walter S. Luse, John Hackleman, Polly Lineback and others, constituting a membership of about forty. A number of the older members died, while some moved away, so that in the course of the next ten or fifteen years its membership became very small and in the early nineties services ceased to be held. In 1894 William Toms, trustee of Blue River township, bought the church building for the use of the township.
About 1888 a Christian Union church organization had been effected, with the following charter members: Thomas M. Smith, Joseph D. Willis, John W. Bash, Isaac Smith, George W. Smith, Margaret J. Willis, Mary A. Smith, Mary J. Bash, Milton C. Wood, Mary Smith, George W. Parish, Jennie Parish, James Bell, with Rev. N. L. Williams, pastor. After services ceased to be held at the Mt. Olivet church, the new organization moved to Westland and in 1894 erected a church building there, which is known as the
Services and a Sunday school have been maintained at this church since its erection, in 1894. This house stands in the southwest part of town and was dedicated by the Rev. Duckworth. The membership has been small, and at times services have been held at irregular periods. At present the church has about forty members. The average attendance at Sunday school is twenty-five. Three classes are organized in the church and adult members are in attendance.
When Blue River township was first settled it was a dense woodland. The struggle for a living and for future prosperity then began, and it may well be said that the first settlers sought a firm foundation of Christian principles on which to build character and association. There were many obstacles to be met in those early days. The people were few and the facilities were not as they are today for conducting church work, yet the true light of Christ was shining forth and the faithfulness of a few of their earnest endeavors was regarded with the flourishing churches of today. The work of Christ began with the daily toil of this newly settled land and soon the work of the churches was rapidly progressing until the attendance became a routine and a duty.
In the year 1832 Joseph Andrews located in the vicinity of Westland. He was followed by John Brown, in 1833, and Elias Marsh, Elisha Butler, Nathan Perisho, William Brown, Frederick Brown and others, until the year 1839. All of these being members of the Walnut Ridge Friends church, and having settled quite a distance from their regular place of worship, they held a meeting in the same year for the purpose of binding themselves together in church fellowship. In 1840 church services were begun by the above organization. The newly-born society was in charge of a committee that was appointed by the Walnut Ridge monthly business meeting and it remained under its charge for several years.
The society at that time consisted of about fifteen families. In the year 1841, at the Walnut Ridge monthly business meeting, they appointed the following named Friends as trustees: Samuel Bundy, Joseph Andrews and John Brown, who were to purchase a lot on which to build a church. They purchased two acres off of the farm owned by Nathan Perisho and wife, in the southeast corner of section 18, township 15, range 8, paying the sum of five dollars therefore. The lots have remained the property of the church to this day. Here the present church building is located and here lie many of the charter members and their children.
Soon a log house was erected on this lot and used as a place of worship. A teacher was employed for the education of their children and the school was held in the church building for many years. Among the early ministers which held meetings in the log house were Mary Hodson and Melissa Hill. A Sabbath school was organized, which was in charge of Abigail Hubbard. After a number of years of worship in the log house the society deemed it best to erect another house in which to hold their services. Willing hands set to work and a small frame house was built. This building served as a house of worship and for a Sabbath school until the year 1866. In the meantime the membership had increased, a preparative meeting had been granted, and in that year the present building was erected.
A committee composed of Elihu Coffin, Joseph O. Andrews, Jesse Brown and Benjamin H. Binford was appointed by the preparative meeting to consider the propriety of repairing the old house or building a new one. After investigation they reported to the meeting that the probable cost of repairing and enlarging the old house would be fourteen hundred dollars; also that the cost of building a new frame house, thirty by fifty feet, would be about one thousand dollars, furnished inside with new benches, outside with slat window shutters, painted inside and out. The meeting chose the proposition of a new building and directed the same committee to proceed with the work. A subscription had previously been taken to aid the carpenter in procuring material. Elihu Coffin was the contractor. The house was finished and furnished at a cost of one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two dollars and thirty-two cents. The old house was sold for a barn for seventy-five dollars and is used at the present time as such.
As the church prospered in membership and interest it began to assume new duties. In 1883, a home mission committee was appointed by Westland and Western Grove preparative meetings jointly, of men and women Friends, who met monthly for consultation and to receive reports of work done. A number of cottage prayer meetings were held; visits were made to the sick and aged, to the county infirmary and county jail, giving good literature to the inmates and trying to encourage them to live upright Christian lives. Often very interesting and encouraging reports are given by different sections of the committee. This work is still carried on.
About 1890 the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society was organized, whose main object was to raise money to help send and keep missionaries in the field. Raymond Holding, a member of Westland church, went to Cuba as a missionary a few years ago and still remains in the mission field.
In 1872 Walnut Ridge monthly meeting, endorsed by Walnut Ridge quarterly meeting, established a monthly meeting to be known as Westland monthly meeting of Friends, to be held on the fourth seventh day of each month at eleven o'clock a.m. (later on the time was changed to ten o'clock a.m.), to be held alternately at Westland in the even months and at Western Grove in the odd months. The first monthly meeting was held at Westland October 26, 1872. The committee appointed by the quarterly meeting to attend the opening of the meeting was composed of David Marshall, William Binford, Sr., George Swain, Micajah C. Binford, Sarah J. Hill, Eliza A Chappell and Elizabeth Hunt. Josiah Binford and Lydia A. Binford were appointed clerks. The first minister with a minute to attend the new monthly meeting was Charles Hubbard of Raysville monthly meeting of Friends.
On August 25, 1877, Joseph O. Andrews, Lemuel Harold and Benjamin H. Binford were appointed trustees of the meeting property. R. Barclay Binford and Jesse W. Beeson are trustees at the present time.
In the year 1890 a band of young Christians organized themselves into a Christian Endeavor Society. There were nineteen who signed the pledge as active members and started to battle through life with the great object in view of making themselves more useful in the service of God. The organization was small, but the true Christian spirit was prevalent, and the society grew steadily until the organization numbered about sixty members in 1896. Later, the members began moving away, going to school and teaching, until in 1906, it was deemed best to discontinue the society.
O. Winbern Kearns, who had been recorded a minister of the Gospel by Walnut Ridge monthly meeting about the year 1870, served as pastor of this church until his death, May 8, 1894. Other ministers occasionally visited the church, but the meeting felt the need of a regular pastor and secured the services of Micajah Morris for two years. Following him were James P. Price, 1897; Benjamin J. Mills, 1902; Frank N. Edwards, 1903; Levi Pennington, 1905; William J. Cleave, 1906; James D. and Marguerite Carter, 1907; Frank N. Edwards, 1909; Isaac N. Stanley, 1911; Thomas R. Woodard, 1914; Frank N. Edwards, 1915.
At the present time there are one hundred and twenty-one members, eighty-five resident and thirty-six non-resident. Average attendance for the past few years, about fifty-five.
With the exception of a few years at the beginning of the meeting, the Sabbath school has been maintained regularly, with an attendance of from fifty to sixty-five. There are seven classes. Adult members attend regularly. The oldest member attending is seventy-five years of age, and one member enrolled in the home department is seventy-nine years of age. This department has an enrollment of seventy-three and the cradle roll has thirty-three, with Martha J. Elliott as superintendent. Elma Binford is superintendent of the primary department.
The clock purchased by the Sabbath school in 1879 is still doing faithful service. The school has purchased and placed in the library three hundred volumes of good books. E. Clarkson Elliott is superintendent of the Sabbath school. The following is a list of past superintendents, according to records available: Isaac Harold, Mary L. Binford, Oliver Brown, David Newlin, William P. Binford, Lydia A. Binford, Lemuel Harold, Micajah Young, Mark A. Catt, M. C. Butler, Abe L. Coffin, Olive Binford, Charles Kearns, Naomi Binford, Charles Cook, John Curry, Abigail Butler and Eldora Binford.
The present house was remodeled and reseated in modern style in 1902, at a cost of eight hundred and ninety-six dollars and fifteen cents. The building committee was composed of R. B. Binford, M. C. Butler, James Lindamood, Eldora Binford and Charity Toms. John Anderson was the contractor.
now of Greenfield, was organized at the home of Solomon Tyner, nearly eight miles south of Greenfield, on the fourth Saturday in June, 1841. The charter members were Solomon Tyner, John H. Caldwell, John M. Duncan, Jemima Tyner, Nancy Duncan Caroline Randall and Rosanna Caldwell, who selected as help in this organization a council composed of the following: from Blue River church, Jacob Parkhurst, Samuel Ferguson, John Osborn, T. Porter and H. Bowen; Mt. Gilead church, J. Reeves and E. Brizendine; Mt. Carmel church, Morgan McQuary and George Pricket; Sugar Creek church, G. Hunter and J. Braman; Concord church, Stephen Harlan and Cicero Wilkinson.
The charter members selected Solomon Tyner for their moderator, who presented to their council for examination their constitution and articles of faith. After a careful examination, Morgan McQuary, the moderator for the council, gave the right hand of fellowshipo to the moderator of the brethren wishing to be constituted, and, in behalf of the council pronounced them a Gospel church to be known by the name of Shiloh.
At the first meeting after organization the membership was increased by the following: Nicholas Ridlin, Hannah Ridlin, Phebe New, Nancy Porter, Richard Hackleman, Peter M. Newhouse and Margaret Newhouse. The church selected Morgan McQuary for its first pastor, Richard Hackleman, first clerk, and J. H. Caldwell and Nicholas Ridlin, first deacons. In July, 1841, the church attached herself to the Lebanon association.
In 1853 the question of ordaining or not ordaining deacons was taken up and decided to vote to ordain.
In January, 1854, the church appointed brethren J. H. Caldwell, James Tyner and Richard Hackleman, trustees, to receive deed for ground on which to build a church. On February 25, 1854, on motion, the church agreed to build a frame meeting house, forty by fifty feet. The trustees were to learn the probable cost and report a next meeting. The committee made a favorable report and a new frame church was erected at a cost of eight hundred dollars. It stands at the southeast corner of section 26, township 15, range 7.
In February, 1876, the act of the church of 1841, requiring articles of faith to be read at each meeting, was repealed, the acts to be read whenever called for.
In November, 1891, the church voted to hold a business meeting in Greenfield on the first Saturday of each month, and to hold services on Sunday following. It was also decided, however, to still hold services on the fourth Sunday at the former place of worship in Blue River township.
In November, 1895, the church decided by vote to build a house on a lot on North street in Greenfield for a place of worship. James Tyner, D. H. Goble and Isaac Bennett were elected trustees to do all lawful business for the church; the total cost of the house and lot was three thousand nine hundred and thirty-two dollars and fifty-nine cents.
In February, 1904, the frame building in the country where this church used to meet was sold to the congregation of the Disciples of Christ, who now worship there, and whose history follows. In July, 1904, the entire debt of the new building in Greenfield was paid.
The following men have served the church since its organization: Trustees, James Tyner, John Tyner, D. H. Goble, W. T. Allen, George Allen, J. S. Thomas and Isaac Bennett. Pastors, Morgan McQuary, 1841; William Baker, 1852; George Zion and Elias Poston, 1853; Wilson Thompson, 1854; Jesse G. Jackson, 1857; David Candell and George Weaver, 1864; George Weaver, 1867; George Weaver and A. B. Nay, 1869; A. B. Nay and Harvey Wright, 1871; John T. Weaver and W. N. Tharp, 1885; R. W. Thompson and W. N. Tharp, 1886; R. W. Thompson, 1889. Church clerks of records, Richard Hackleman, 1841; J. F. Watts, 1871; W. N. Tharp, 1875; D. H. Goble, 1881; W. M. Coffield, 1885. Deacons, J. H. Caldwell, Nicholas Ridlin, James Tyner, Barnabas Coffield, D. H. Goble, Henry Mannon, J. N. Goble and W. P. Denny. Singing clerks, James Tyner, 1852; W. M. Coffield, 1882.
The membership in 1841 was fifteen; in 1881 thirty-seven; in 1891, seventy. The average attendance for the last twenty years has been about twenty-five.
Shiloh Christian church stands at the southeast corner of section 26, township 15, range 7. On the 24th day of March, 1854, Elijah Tyner and Sarah A. Tyner, his wife, donated to the Baptists the land on which to build a church, the same to be held so long as it should be used for church purposes, then to revert back to the donors.
A regular Baptist church was organized, with James Tyner, John H. Caldwell and Richard Hackleman as trustees. This organization used the property until about 1890, when they moved their congregation to Greenfield. A union Sunday school was then conducted for a time when, in 1903, after a short meeting held by Omer Hufford, of Charlottesville, an agreement was entered into by which the trustees of the Regular Baptist church, for a consideration of three hundred dollars, deeded the property to the trustees of the Shiloh Christian church. The trustees of the Christian church were Elbert E. Davis, George W. Matlock and Claude Poer.
The Shiloh Christian church was organized at the home of George W. Matlock, on the 6th day of January 1904. The charter members were George R. Siders, Rebecca Siders, John H. Huffman, Anna L. Huffman, Carrie E. Huffman, H. J. Strakey, George W. Matlock, Ina J. Matlock, Charlie H. Matlock, Mary J. McClintock, Elbert E. Davis, Laura Davis, Paul Davis, B. T. Bennett, Fannie Bennett, Nathan Hinton, Delphia C. Hinton, Claude Poer, Marzella Poer, Henry D. Holt, Daisy Jacobs, James Wilhelm, Margaret H. Wilhelm, W. H. Fleener, Lucinda A. Fleener and Andy Fleener. The church has a member ship of about forty persons.
On the third Sunday of April, 1904, T. J. Legg, of Indianapolis, dedicated the church. Some noble men have served the Shiloh Christian church in its short period of service. Among them have been Ernest Addison, of Knightstown; James Conner, of Indianapolis; B. L. Allen, of Indianapolis; E. L. Frazier, of Morristown; Carl Berry, of Carthage; N. D. Webber, of Indianapolis; Omer Hufford, of Shirley. Evangelistic meetings have been held by L. E. Murray, Erastus Conner, E. L. Frazier, N. D. Webber, M. S. Decker. Shiloh has maintained preaching services one-half time since its organization.
The attendance during the past few yeas has average about forty. A Sunday school has been conducted since the organization of the church, with an attendance of about forty. There are four classes. The superintendents have been Theophilus Hargrove, George R. Siders, Claude Poer, John Huffman and George W. Matlock. A Ladies' Aid Society has been organized in connection with the church.
Pleasant View Friends church stood at the southeast corner of section 9, township 15, range 8. It was established under the authority of the Spiceland quarterly meeting in November, 1850. The first meetings were held in the school house that stood on a lot adjoining the church. Among the members of this church were William Hill and family, Libni Hunt and family, Samuel Brown and family, Phineas White, Mathew Dobson, Daniel Hastings, Alfred and John Hunt, Eli and Robert Brown, Daniel and John Rein, Albert White, Enoch Pierson, Amos, Samuel and John Hill.
A Bible school was connected with the meeting and was well attended for many years. Samuel B. Hill, at one time trustee of Blue River township, and for many years a prominent citizen of the county, was one of the first teachers in this Bible school, and was connected with the church and Bible school for more than a quarter of a century. Services were not held in this church after the early nineties. Since that time the church has been torn away and no evidence remains of the original church site except a small cemetery connected therewith.
The Western Grove church stands at the southwest corner of section 12, township 15, range 7. In the year 1864 the Friends of this neighborhood, then forming a part of the Westland preparative meeting, made a request through that meeting to the Spiceland quarterly meeting, to establish a meeting for worship and a preparative at this place. Following is the record granting the request:
"The committee appointed on the request of Friends living west of Westland for a
meeting for worship and a preparative, report that they have visited Westland
Preparative Meeting and the Friends making the request, and are united in the
belief that it would be right to grant the same, which is united with and the
meeting established accordingly, by the name of Western Grove. The following
Friends were appointed to attend the opening thereof at the time proposed, in
Eleventh month next; Jesse Bond, Charles S. Hubbard, Jason Macy, Hannah
Dickinson, Elizabeth Edwards, Deborah Bond, Eliza Butler and Nancy
Pursuant to the foregoing minute, Western Grove preparative meeting was opened and held eleventh month, sixteenth day, 1864.
Following were the charter members: Isaac Beeson, Elias and Margaret Marsh, Jonathan and Mary Jessup, Jacob and Rebecca Jessup, Elihu and Nancy Coffin, Mahlon and Mary Beeson, William P. and Mary Annis Outland, John and Sarah Hunt, Mathew and Laurinda Jessup, Joseph J. and Lydia B. Lamb, Elkanah and Mary Reece, Josiah and Lydia Lamb, Timothy and Rebecca Lamb, Edward and Mary Butler, Martha Marsh and Aaron S. White. Jonathan Jessup and Nancy Coffin were appointed to time or sit head of the meeting. William P. Outland was appointed first clerk of the meeting. Jacob Jessup, John Hunt and Elihu Coffin were appointed trustees.
The house and lot, consisting of two acres, were bought of Isaac Beeson for the sum of four hundred and fifty dollars. The house, which was a hewed-log building, was used for several years previous as a "potter's shop," and was known by that name for nearly nine years, when a committee, composed of Jonathan Jessup, John Hunt, Lewis G. Rule and Elihu Coffin, were appointed to solicit money and material for a new church building. Much of the material was donated. The timber from which the seats were made was donated by Jonathan Jessup; also one oak tree sufficient in size when made into shingles to make the roof. Solomon Catt cut, rove and dressed the shingles by hand. Elihu Coffin donated the rock for the foundation and Henry Coffin and his brothers delivered them. Much time and help were given by all to forward the work. Elkanah Reece did the frame work of the bulding, the finishing being done by another carpenter. Beside the donations of material, the cost of the building was near fourteen hundred dollars. In the eleventh month, 1873, the dedicatory services were conducted by Caleb Johnson, with a crowded house.
Joseph O. Binford was the only resident minister until 1893. His work and services as a minister during these years were wonderfully blessed of God and the community is much better by his having lived in it. From 1893 until 1897 the meeting was without a regular minister or pastor. Following are the pastors who have served the congregation since 1897: Lindley A. Wells, 1896-7; Levi T. Pennington, 1903-5; William J. Cleaver, 1905-6; James D. and Marguerite Carter, 1906-8; Mary T. Wilson, 1907-9; Frank N. Edwards, 1908-10; John M. Binford, 1910-12; Charles M. Elliott, 1912-15; John R. Kitterman, 1916. Lindley A. Wells, who was called in the fall of 1897, was the first salaried pastor for the meeting.
The older generation that organized the meeting has passed to its reward, but the church now has about one hundred members and is in a prosperous condition.
A Sabbath school was also organized in 1864. Some of the men and women who have served as superintendent of the school are, Lewis G. Rule, Isaac N. Hunt, Henry B. White, Thomas L. Marsh, Mary T. Wilson, J. J. Beeson, Riley A. Catt and Orlando F. Addison, the latter being superintendent at this time. The school has five classes with an average weekly attendance of sixty.
In 1898 the women organized the Women's Sewing Circle for the purpose of raising funds for remodeling the church, which had been used since 1873. In the spring of 1893 a committee was appointed to cooperate with them and the work of remodeling was done, at a cost of three hundred and thirty-two dollars. In 1914 the church was reseated with circle seats, at a cost of four hundred dollars.
The young people of Blue River township took a great deal of interest in literary and debating societies, exhibitions, etc., during the seventies and eighties. One of the societies that is well remembered was organized in the neighborhood of the Western Grove church. After the present frame church was built the old log house was moved a little to the north of the present building where it was used for many years for social and literary purposes. Exhibitions were given, debates were held and literary programs were rendered for a period of ten years or more. Among the young people of the community who took an active part in the society were Isaac N. Hunt, Lucinda Hunt, Harvey J. Catt, Jesse Reece, Mary A. Hunt, Luther Jessup, A. T. Hunt, Rebecca A. Catt, F. N. Coffin, Fannie Lamb, O. M. Hunt, Henry Coffin, Jennie Reece, M. A. Catt, Robert Lamb, Narcissa Coffin, Albert Reece, Lucinda Catt, Jennie Jessup, Eliza Lamb and J. W. Beeson.
Another literary society was organized during the early eighties in the neighborhood of the Gates school house, which stood at the northeast corner of section 36, township 15, range 7. Not only the young people of the immediate neighborhood participated in giving the programs of the society, but young people from Greenfield, including Will H. Glascock, Logan Glascock, S. E. Jackson and others, also appeared upon the platform with them. Among those whose names can be recalled are R. W. Brooks, J. H. Brooks, Sarah Brooks, Luther Hackleman, Alice Hackleman, Lida Ann Holden, Nora Holden, M. B. Morrison, Ada Morrison, Logan Glascock, Will H. Glascock, Edward Jackson, Ollie Bentley, D. H. Gates, Jr., Sarah E. Gates, R. D. Andrews, J. M. Tyner, F. M. Moore, and Lin Binford. The society met every two weeks and remained in existence from about 1883 to 1887.
On one occasion, probably in the spring of 1885, the society gave a play entitled, "The Queen of Welber Heights." A stage was built at the foot of the hill in the woods of Francis M. Moore on the east half of the southeast quarter of section 25, township 15, range 7; the audience was seated on the hillside and the play given in the open air. It drew an immense crowd, and the gate receipts on that evening were worthy of mention for the society. This play is still remembered as one of the star occasions of the society.
The Blue River Township Temperance Association also carried on its temperance campaigns during the latter seventies and eighties in all parts of the township by means of literary programs. Entertainments were given in the different school houses with the idea of getting something before the young people that was clean, wholesome and uplifting, and that also impressed upon them the dangers and evils of intemperance. Other societies of shorter duration were organized.
Since the decline of the old-fashioned literary society more systematic study has been begun by the organization of ladies' clubs. The first of these, which had its inception at the Mt. Lebanon church, but which included a number of ladies of Blue River township, was the Country Literary Club, Another was the
The Western Grove Woman's Club was organized in 1910, with fourteen charter members. The purpose of the club is mental and social improvement . It has both and active and an honorary membership, and is limited to twenty members of the Western Grove neighborhood. At present there are eighteen active and four honorary members. There are two standing committees-the program committee and the relief committee. The motto of the club is "To Promote the Welfare of the Community." The club colors are red and white; its flower, the carnation. Miscellaneous programs have been given. Special emphasis has been placed on the home. Economics, and the study of Indiana history, with music, readings and magazine articles will make up the work for 1916. The club has access to the Greenfield library and is a member of the County Federation of Women's Clubs.
Following are its active members: Marticia W. Beeson, Mary Bentley, Lena Binford, Rebecca Binford, Ella R. Briney, Pharaba Catt, Anna Hawkins, Gladys Hamilton, Jennie Jessup, Elmina Jessup, Laura Jessup, Mary Jessup, Grace Johnson, Amy Parnell, LaMerle Parnell, Hazel Powers, Eva Pusey, Catherine Pusey, Nelle White, Pearl White. On the honorary list are Grace Howard and Elmina Wallsmith. In Memoriam: Della Coffin and Bessie Snow.
The following ladies have acted as president: Ella R. Briney, 1910; Lena J. Binford, 1911; Rebecca Binford, 1912; Ella R. Briney, 1913; Elmina Jessup, 1914; Grace Johnson, 1915.
The Four-Corner Society was organized in the year 1913 and was federated with the Country Clubs' Federation of Hancock county in 1914. The club consists of sixteen active members of the Western Grove neighborhood. Its object is the intellectual and social improvement of its members. The phases of work of the club are domestic science, music and literature.
The Westland Ladies' Sunshine Club was organized in October, 1913, for the purpose of stimulating more friendly intercourse among friends and neighbors, and for the mental improvement of busy housewives and mothers. The club meets the third Tuesday in each month and the members discuss household problems, current events, and any other time of interest that may come before the club.
Light refreshments are served at each meeting and a portion of the time devoted to social conversation. With the exception of a small amount of charity work and flowers for the sick, the club has no special work to report.
Transcribed from History of Hancock County, Indiana, Its People, Industries and Institutions by George J. Richman, B. L., Federal Publishing Co., Indianapolis, Indiana, 1916. Pages 490-512.
Submitted by Sylvia (Rose) Duda, Laingsburg, MI November 30, 2001.
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