Hollyhocks and Old Houses

Washington Township, settled in 1833, offered fertile land but faced challenges such as malaria, reptiles, and swampy terrain, pushing settlers to higher ground. The Roop family, the first settlers, lived unusually, leading to conflicts with incoming settlers. The Lehman family, Quakers from Ohio, contributed to the community by planting hollyhocks and promoting homeliness. Early education was informal, with the first school built in 1840. The first religious society was organized in 1839, but a permanent church wasn’t built until 1861 by the Lutherans. The township saw the development of essential mills, contributing to its economy, and faced issues with outlaws, leading to the establishment of a courthouse and regulators. Part of the township eventually joined Whitley County in 1860 for better access to roads.

The little township of Washington was settled in 1833, the settlers finding very fertile land, both low lands and highlands, and although the most fertile land was found to be in the low lands, the danger of malaria fever, reptiles of all kinds, much swamp land, with no chance for roads, forced them to the higher ground. Plenty of deer, bear and wolves were also there.

The first settlers were the Roop family of man woman and six children, building their cabin not far from where Jacob Weigel farm now is. This family were very odd, wearing no clothes in summer, the mother sewing clothing on them for winter and not removing those until warm weather came again. They had wolves tamed in yard which they later killed and served to some other settlers who soon began to come into the vicinity. When these new settlers learned from the Roop children what had been the fate of the pet wolves, they were horrified. Soon civilization got too rigid for the Roops and they moved on westward. Among these new settlers was a Quaker family (Lehmans) by name, from Ohio. They built a neat and much larger cabin. The wife had a precious pack of seeds, and man-like, the Mr. thought there was no room for planting hollyhocks, but she persisted, so the first real home was created. Mrs. Lehman saved and divided her seed that year with all the other wives. In that way the only landscaping except the natural setting, was our beloved hollyhocks.

Now the urgent need of schools prompted them to have school at their various homes, the first school being held in one room of a double log house owned by Paul Beezley, taught by Ross Rowan; the next year by Rufus Kinney in cabin on the Joe Adair farm. In 1840 the first school house was built in section 23 taught by Stephen Martin. A part of the first cabin where school was held still stands on the farm now owned by Dell Beers. At one time this same cabin was the post office; and general store being on the old “Goshen-Ft. Wayne” trail made by the Indians. It is believed this old land mark is 100 years old. Later another school house was built on the site called Salem. This building was later sold by the trustee Mike Bause to Adam Metz, who moved it to his farm where it still stands, serving as first residence of all newly wedded Metz’s over a period of three score and ten years. Many other log cabins still stand as landmarks, one on Asa Stump’s farm, another on old Gerider farm, still another on Hickman farm and many others all with more or less history.

The first religious society was organized at John Pricketts by elder Putman, a pioneer preacher of Free Will Baptist faith in 1839. A good sized congregation was organized–the Pricketts, Beezleys, Humpfries and others. No church was built however, but in 1861 the Lutherans built a big church on the site donated by Jacob Rider; This building financed readily by settlers who knew the value of the church in a community. Rev. Dillon was the first minister, some of the members being Jacob Weigel, Mike Bause, Iseral Cooper, Thomas Wilson, William Hindbaugh and many others.

John Rider built saw mill in 1848 and later a flour mill on the Tippecanoe River at Wilmot, this being the best flour mill in county. Noah Myers now built a saw mill on the same river. All these mills ran by power, the river supplied. The old flour mill with some repairs, standing and being operated constantly by different ones until 1929, when it burned. This old mill dam was a good place to fish, buffalo being plentiful in those early days, the people catching them by wagon loads. The Hunts were also among the first settlers. Mr. Frank Hunt riding a horse to California and back safely in 1849. —

Some form of protection was needed for outlaws were many and counterfeiters and robbers busy, so about 1834 the first court house was built for Noble County. It was soon burned. Another was built the following year. It was soon burned, then a bigger and more substantial one at Albion was built. It still stands. An organization was formed called regulators, who kept order.

Now the people in the extreme south part of township had no roads to travel on to pay their tax and were waylaid and robbed of their money on their way to Albion, so they petitioned to become a part of Whitley County, as they had a good road to that county seat, so were allowed to do so and in 1860 the final arrangements were completed and we lost a part of our Washington township to Whitley County.

Our first trustee was Joe Adair in 1837. He also being Justice of Peace. In 1838 he performed the wedding ceremony of Jacob Scott and Lyda Lamson. The first birth was Mary Prickett, who later became wife of Aaron Metz.

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