John Manche, one of the most prominent citizens and successful farmers of Sugar Creek township, Hancock county, Indiana, and one of the county's largest landowners, was born on the old family homestead in Sugar Creek township, just east of the town of New Palestine, January 26, 1845. He is a son of John Manche, Sr., and Catherine Lang, his wife, both of whom were born in Germany, the latter the daughter of John Lang, who emigrated to this country and became one of the pioneers of Hancock county. John Manche, Sr. was born about 1813 and as a young man emigrated to America, coming to this county, where he located in Sugar Creek township and where he met and married Catherine Lang. For a few years after marriage he resided on the old Lang homestead and in 1848 moved to his own farm of one hundred and sixty aces on the eastern bank of Sugar Creek, about one and one-half miles north of New Palestine. That land was then all virgin forest and John Manche, Sr. set about clearing the land and placing it under cultivation. His first home was a small two-room log cabin and log barn, but he did not live there long, for within a short time after taking up his residence in the wilderness he contracted pneumonia from driving hogs through the icy waters of the creek, from which he died, when about forty years of age. His wife survived him about eleven years and then fell a victim to the plague of spotted fever which swept over this section in 1864, two children, Catherine and Josephine, dying with her. There still remained five children, three girls and two boys, but two of whom survive. These are John, the immediate subject of this sketch, and Elizabeth, widow of George Lantz. Christina was the wife of C. F. Rafert, both of whom are deceased. Mary was the wife of E. W. Faut, and both are deceased, as is also Paulcer.
John Manche was but three years of age when his parents took up their residence on their own farm and there he spent his boyhood. He attended the early school of that section, taught by George Robinson, in the old Morford school house. He was only eight years of age at the time of the death of his father and thus early in life he felt the responsibilities falling upon the eldest son of the family. When but seventeen years of age he enlisted for service in the Civil War, in October of 1863, as a private in Company B, Ninth Indiana Cavalry. He remained in service until almost the close of the war, seeing much active service during that time. He participated in the battles of Franklin, Nashville, Pulaski and numerous less important engagements. He served under General Thomas until his regiment was ordered to New Orleans in the fall of 1864 and shortly afterward they were ordered to Vicksburg, where they remained until the close of the war. In the spring of 1864 he received his honorable discharge and in June of that year returned to his home, his mother having died in the meantime.
After the close of the war, John Manche assumed ownership of his part of his father's estate, buying out some of the heirs, so that he had in all eighty-nine acres, which he began to farm. The following Christmas, December 25, 1865, he was married by Alfred Potts, justice of the peace, to Mary L. Ashcraft, who was born in Sugar Creek township in 1847, a daughter of John Ashcraft and wife, both of whom were natives of Ohio and pioneer of Sugar Creek township. The spring after his marriage, John Manche remodeled the little two-room log house which his father had built, and lived there for about two years, when he gave up farming and went into the milling business. He purchased two water mills on Sugar Creek and felt he had before him an era of prosperity but his venture proved so unfortunate that within some six or seven years the steam power mill had practically replaced the old water mills, and he found his business going elsewhere. He disposed of his milling property and purchased a small tract of twenty-seven acres some four miles northeast of New Palestine, on which je practically had to start life anew. The land he purchased was part of an eight-acre estate and had on it a small log house and stable and all except about twelve acres were still covered with virgin forest. John Manche set about clearing his land and within eight or ten years had it all under cultivation and was meeting with success. He built a fine new frame house of eight rooms, cutting all the timber himself and hauling it to the mill and later took the finishing timber to Greenfield to be dressed, his home being one of the best in the community when completed.
In the ensuing years, John Manche bought out the other heirs of the eighty acres and added to his farm from time to time until he owned two hundred and sixty acres, which he farmed for a time. In later years he branched out and began buying and selling farming lands until he at one time owned twelve hundred acres of Hancock and Rush counties' best lands, all of which he has of recent years given to his four surviving children, a remarkable tribute of his generosity and affection and his trust in them. In January of 1911 John Manche suffered the great and irreparable loss of his life's companion through death. Mrs. Manche had throughout the years been a most loving and helpful wife and devoted mother and with her husband was a faithful member of the Methodist Episcopal church, of which he is also a trustee. To their union had been born six children, three boys and three girls. Emma, the eldest, is deceased; Charlie has been twice married, his first wife being Anna Ostermeyer, who bore him four children, one of whom died in infancy, and the others are Ralph, Claude and Mary, After Anna's death, Charlie married Dena Kleiman, who has borne him one son, Norman, William, the third child in the Manche family, is deceased. Della resides on the home place. Maurice married Daisy Scott and has two children, Raymond and Ruth. Elizabeth is the wife of Carl Hardin and has three sons, Herschel, Louis and Russell.
Mr. Manche gives his political support to the Democratic party, served two terms as trustee of Sugar Creek township and was afterward elected county commissioner, serving one term. During his term the new court house was completed and furnished, to which project he gave much time and effort, and after the expiration of his term, he retired to his farm and resumed his duties there. Mr. Manche has always been one of the foremost farmers of the county, following advanced methods of agriculture and has seen great changes come about in the field of his chosen life work. His first farm cost him twenty-seven dollars per acre, while the last ground he purchased cost him at the rate of one hundred and fifty dollars per acre, indicating the wonderful advance in the cost of local farm lands. Mr. Manche long since demonstrated his possession of unusual business ability, for he has prospered in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and is today one of the county's strongest men financially. For many years he was vice-president and one of the largest stockholders of the Farmers' Bank of New Palestine. As a man and citizen he is held in the highest esteem, his life record being replete with good deeds. Mr. Manche was the first farmer in the county to buy an automobile and also the first man to buy a farm tractor.
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 833-836.
Submitted by Sylvia (Rose) Duda, Laingsburg, MI September 11, 2001.
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