Clinton County Sesquicentennial, 1830-1980
JOHNSON TOWNSHIP HISTORY
by Mrs. Richard Grove
It is believed that Johnson Township was a lake many thousands of years ago. More recently it was a part of the Miami Indian Reserve; this fact kept the township from being settled as early as some adjoining townships which were not included in this tract. In 1838 the United States government purchased from the Miami Tribe a strip seven miles wide lying along the western part of the reservation (sic). This was afterward ceded to the state of Indiana for the completion of the Wabash and Erie Canal. The plan was to build the canal from Celina, Ohio, to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Early surveys had established the route of the canal about one and one-fourth miles north of Hillisburg, and abstracts of some farms in this area show that at one time the Erie canal was scheduled to go through these farms. Depletion of funds stopped the progress of the canal in western Ohio and eastern Indiana. The subsequent building of railroads reduced or eliminated the need for the canal; therefore it was never completed.
The land came into the market soon after the treaty with the Miamis was signed, but settlement was not rapid because the land was low and swampy. Many early settlers coming into the area looked it over and rejected it, thinking it would never be possible to drain the land for growing crops. They settled instead on slightly higher, more easily drained land in townships nearby. There is no better soil in Clinton County than the dark, rich loam of Johnson Township, and after untold thousands of man hours of back-breaking labor with primitive tools, the land was cleared and drained and sown with wheat and corn. In spite of the pessimism of those first settlers who passed it by, the land of Johnson Township is well suited to the production of corn, soybeans, and wheat. It is watered by Kilmore Creek; one branch rises in the southwest part and flows in a northeasterly direction; the extreme southern fork flows into Sugar Creek.
In 1838 three brothers, George, William, and Charles Thomas, became the first white men to settle in the area. They cleared the first land and raised the first corn and wheat grown in the township.
According to information contained in an atlas dated 1878, the following men were among the earliest settlers in the township. In 1841, William Burget, Mathew Orr, Jacob Kirkendall, John Bradburn, John Stephens, and John Kirkendall came and built homes.
In 1842 Isaac McClelland, David Galbreath, a Mr. Nutter and his son. and John Merritt settled in the township.
A man, his horse, and his girl
The following year, 1843, brought Uriah Edwards, Adam Merritt, William Hobbs, Joseph Munnell, a Mr. Rockwell, and James Hodgins and his mother.
Those coming in 1844 were James Ransopher, William Edwards, Jeremiah Davis, Smith Voris, James and Henry Abraham, Isaac Gano, James Clark, Frederick Scott, George Roland and D.W.Wilson.
In 1845 Willis Ball, James Brown, E. McKenney, Abraham and Ira Burnham, George Pickoler, John Bristow, George and Jackson McKinsey, and in 1847 James Frier, Hiram Keever, and Adam Scircle are the only names listed, with no names shown for the year 1846.
Oct. 7, 1841, Lydia Burget, wife of William Burget gave birth to a daughter Jane believed to be the first white child in the settlement. The first marriage look place in 1844 when Lucinda Bradburn was wed to Samuel Thompson, The first death in the township was that of Mr. Nutter, who died in 1844.
The Baptists held the first religious meeting in the cabin of William Burget in 1844. Later, the denomination known as Christian Disciples began holding meetings in the cabins of David Galbreath and Isaac McClellan. This denomination built the first church, a primitive, hewn-log structure with puncheon floor, in 1850; the first preachers were Lewis Wolcott and Solomon McKinney. The next church was built by the Methodists and was known as Swamp Creek Chapel; this was located near the Swamp Creek Cemetery, now known as St. Paul.
In 1844 the first school was built by William Burget. Isaac McClelland, and Mathew Orr on Mr. Orr's farm and these three men, using their own private funds, hired Poler Stowers to serve as the schoolmaster during the winter of 1844-45. His salary was $10 per month and board. Some other early teachers were Elizah Bowley, Nelson Purdon, William Loudon (or Loweden), George Merritt, and Alfred Carver.
Johnson Township was organized at the March 1843 term of Commissioners' Court. They authorized an election to be held the first Monday of the following April at the home of William Burget. who acted as inspector. Mr. Burget was chosen as the first justice of the peace, a position he held for 18 years. First trustees were Mathew Orr, Jacob Stroup, and John Bristow; Lewis Vencill, George Kent, and James Frier also served in this capacity in early years. William Ball was the first constable. Until 1882, Johnson Township included the area which is now Forest Township.
Clinton County Sesquicentennial Committee
Some township histories state that the first post office in Johnson Township was located in Berlin, it is true that this post office, first called Rich Grove, was established at an early dale, Aug. 21, 1847 and then the name was changed to Berlin, Sept. 5,1848. No doubt this post office did serve the residents of Johnson Township, since the town was located partially in Johnson and partially in Sugar Creek Township, at the present Intersection of State Road 28 and County Road 100E. The town was laid out on Indian Prairie in 1847 by Jacob Kysor, Jesse Hopkins, Daniel Scott, and Leonard Kirby. There is some question as to whether the post office was on the north side of the road, in Johnson Township, or on the south side of the road, in Sugar Creek Township. The first postmaster was John F. Johnson, and the Berlin post office was discontinued in 1877. It is an interesting and surprising fact that in spite of the many years that have passed since there has been any visible trace of the town of Berlin, some of the town lots have never been legally vacated and are still listed as lots on county real estate records.
The post office in the village of Burget's Corner, located two and one-half miles north of Scircleville, was established Dec. 28, 1860. The first postmaster was Joshua Harlin, followed by William Burget, who served until the post office was discontinued Aug. 19, 1879. Mr. Burget also operated the first store there; the building he erected to house his store and the post office was later moved to 'Scircleville and was used for a saloon by Luke Scott, then for Keever's General Store. Orville Blackburn then had a small restaurant and store in the building followed by the Charles Amos Grocery, Charles Benjamin Grocery and William Frazier Grocery In.... G.A. Grove had a blacksmith shop and auto repair and welding shop in the building.
The town of Mortonsville or Martinsville was located in the northern part of the township, three miles north west of Burget's Corner, in a portion of the township which is now in Forest Township. The postoffice here was established July 30, 1863 and discontinued August 18, 1875. The first Postmaster was Martin Davis.
Taylorsville was located one mile north and three-fourths mile north??? of Hillisburg. James Clark gave the land for Taylorsville on Feb 7, 1853. Some of those who bought lots were Jeremiah Clark, John 0. Trotter, William Clark, Clarkson Spencer, LeRoy McAntire, Thomas Weaver, William B, Randall, Lark Epperson, Harriett Shaw, and Jacob Huffer. The post office was established May 10, 1849, before the town was laid out, the name was changed to Anniss April 26, 1861, and discontinued Sept. 16, 1852, The first postmaster was Ellhu Sanders.
The town of Cheadle, named for Congressman Joe Cheadle, was located at the intersection of the present county roads 30ON and 200 W...... After Congressman Cheadle, a resident of Frankfort who had been elected by the Democratic party, left his party for the Populist party sometime after its organization in 1891, the disgruntled residents of the area started calling their village Gaylor in honor of a Mr. Gaylor who operated a store there. However, the records of the U.S Post Office do not show that the name of the post office was ever officially changed before it was discontinued June 19, 1895. Only two postmasters are listed from the time the office was established Jan. 17, 1890, until it was closed, Levi Swem was the first, followed by George Land.
All of these towns — Berlin, Burget's Corner, Cheadie and Taylorsville were the victims of progress, Scircleville and Hillisburg had the advantage of being located on the Lafayette, Muncie and Bloomington (Illinois) railway, then narrow-gauge, which crossed the southern part of the township from east to west. This railroad later became the Lake Erie and Western, then the Nickel Plate, now the Norfolk and Western. The first train came through the township Oct. 5,1875.
Trailers back then
As the railroad improved its schedule and service, it was only natural that most of the business in the township gravitated to the only two towns on the railroad. The postmasters of the small towns a few miles from the railroad had to meet the mail trains each day. This daily task could range from a simple, pleasant trip in good weather, to an uncomfortable one in disagreeable weather, to a virtually impossible ordeal in bitterly cold weather when snow was piled high on the roadway between rail fences.
In the latter part of the century the railroad offered to rural residents almost unimaginable possibilities for travel. Excursion trips were offered to many places which otherwise would have been totally inaccessible to them. Excursions were run to Michigan City, Rochester, and other lake towns in northern Indiana, usually for a charge of $1. This provided a rare treat for township residents — to be able to spend a day or two at a lake resort. Later, for $7.50, it was possible to board a train in Scircleville or Hillisburg and join an excursion train going to Niagara Falls. Excursions were available to St. Louis, Dayton, and various other cities in adjoining slates, at comparable prices. An entry in an old diary, dated June 19,1876, states, "The first railroad excursion was to Dayton, Ohio. Price $2." The entry for the following day, June 20, 1876, says, "The new depot just put in service " (This was referring to the Hillisburg depot.) The railroad surely wasted no time in starting excursions. These entries and those referred to earlier are from the diary of John Cripe, born in 1851,,,, His mother died when he was about 9 or 10, and the many children in the family (one source says there were 19) were placed in different homes with families who were willing to keep them.) This man's diary, kept over a period of many years, gives a fascinating glimpse of life as it was during the 1870s, 1880s, 1890s and early 1900s.
Both Scircleville and Hillisburg had stockyards to which the farmers walked and drove their livestock when it was ready for market. The animals were placed in pens where they were fed and watered, then loaded in stock cars for shipment by rail to Indianapolis, or occasionally to Chicago. There was a local freight train each day, traveling west in the morning and east in the evening, from Tipton to Lafayette; this train would stop at each little town along the railroad, delivering and picking up freight. This train hauled the livestock. It was possible for a farmer to order a car to be left on the siding in the morning as the train went through Scircleville about 8 or 8:30; he could
Clinton County Sesquicentennial Committee
drive his livestock to the stockyards and load it in the afternoon, and it would be picked up when the train returned. which could be any time from 4 in the afternoon until about midnight. The car would he taken In Tipton and transferred to another railroad, which would bring it to the Indianapolis stockyards, during the night or early morning. On occasion, the crew would fall to leave a car as ordered. Expecting it In he nn the siding, the farmer would drive his stock to the yards, only to find to his dismay that the car was not there. When this happened, if the returning train happened to have an empty car, the station agent would insist that the crew put the car on the siding, wait for the farmer to load his stock and then take the car to Tipton. This caused no small amount of agitation among the members of the crew, but the station agent was adamant, Tipton was the "division point" where the crews changed, so this meant that the crew who forgot to leave the car was the same crew who had their already long day lengthened by the amount of time required to correct their own error.
There were grain elevators in both Hillisburg and Scirclevllle,to which farmers could haul their grain, from these elevators it was shipped to various grain terminals in Chicago or in the eastern part of the United States.
The railroad served the residents both in life and death. On at least one occasion a train left Frankfort bringing a body for burial in Baker Cemetery east of Scircleville, along with a group of relatives and friends of the deceased. The train slopped at the cemetery, let them off, went on to Tipton. turned around on the turntable at the railroad yards there, came back and stopped at the cemetery, picked up the mourners, and took them back to Frankfort.
Less dramatic, but very important to the residents of the area, was the convenience of having six passenger trains every day. Three eastbound trains and three westbound each day provided easy, economical transportation to Frankfort and Tipton for a day of shopping, taking care of business in the county seat, or just visiting with friends or relatives.
Hillisburg was laid out in 1873 by John E. Hillis. About 120 lots, were platted at this time, but prior to this official beginning, there had been four or five cabins and a grocery store run by a Mr. Brammell (one source refers to him as "John'', another as "Billy" ......and this little settlement had gone by the name "Hillisburg" even before the town was platted. The story was told that Mr. Hillis approached Mr. Scircle at the time Scircleville was platted and asked to be given a lot; he was told the lots were for selling, not giving, so he decided to plat his own town two miles west. Possibly this was the beginning of the not-too-friendly rivalry which existed between the two towns for many years.
Among the first businesses in Hillisburg were: J.M. McGrimmes dry goods and drugs; Corpse & Gumm, saw mill; George Mann, grist mill; Jones Bros, carriage and blacksmith shop; J. Swisher, carriage and blacksmith shop; Charles Davenport, hotel and general merchant; Drs. Thurman, Randles and Cook, physicians.
The first baby born in Hillisburg was Fred Jones, born in 1875 in a room back of his father's and uncle's blacksmith shop.
There was one church, a Separate Baptist Church, and a brick school. Amos Goff was probably more instrumental than anyone else in getting this church built, John Laymon was the first, minister, but Amos Goff also preached. Quoting again from Mr. 'Cripes' diary: "Old Amos Goff is a preacher of the Gospel. Some are very troublesome and like to make trouble. Amos Goff carries a gun to church, and he is a preacher. Some of the boys say if he can't preach good in them, he will shoot it in them, according to legend.
Hilllsburg had the reputation of being a rough, tough town in earlier days and many entries in this diary indicate that the reputation was well deserved. There are numerous references to fights in saloons, quarrels among men, ending in brawls, and the same names appear over and over again in this connection.
By 1886 the town had a population of 250 and the businessmen at that time were: Miller & Hugh Shearer, general store; M. Shearer & James Stewart, drug store; Sandlin and Son, saw mill; A.J. Miller, grain elevator; John P. Moore, meal market; A.J. Chittick, W.B. Reynolds, and H. Holmes, Physicians. At this time, Hillisburg had two churches, Methodist Episcopal and Christian.
The Hillisburg Methodist Church was organized in 1877. It was built of brick, probably from the brick kiln west of Hillisburg. In 1916 a new church was built; this building is still in use and the only remaining church in the town.
The Hillisburg Masonic Order, F.&A.M, was organized in 1877 with J. Sandlin, Worshipful Master; Dr. Cook, Secretary; A.J. Sharp, Senior Warden, and Hugh Sharp, Junior Wadden; other charter members were Hugh Shearer, William Frazier, Samuel Boyer, and Mr. Walker. Hillisburg Order of the Eastern Star was organized in 1901 with Gillie Webster, Worthy Matron. In 1963 the Scircleville chapter joined with the Hillisburg chapter.
Both Woodmen of the World and Royal Neighbors organized chapters in Hillisburg about 1912 or 1913, but both disbanded after a few years.
Hitlisburg had a band at one time, organized in 1912 with Archie Davis as the band leader. After he resigned, Henry Fields of the Marion College of Music became the director. The band was well known and popular around the area and was privileged to play for the dedication of the T P.A. Park in Frankfort and also for the dedication of the Elwood Park, now known as Wendell Willkie Park. Following is a partial list of those who played in the band at various limes: Charles Armstrong, Joseph Foreman, Lem Reed, Ralph Kuhns, Coy Wood, Earl Cripe, Paul Barker, Ladoska Shearer, Russell Snyder, Homer Snyder, Glenn Dunn, Eldon Dunn, Everett Dunn, Brook Mechem, Claud Donnell, Charles Jones, Tom Cox, Vern Miller, Fred Paul, Fay Huffer, Claude Johnson, Oakley Sheets, George Auble, Frank Auble, and Dunk Hillis.
Hillisburg was plagued by fires: a large general store was owned by A.J, Miller situated on the site of the present Masonic building. The building burned and he went to Frankfort and opened a store there, A building on the north side of town was moved to this site and a general store was opened by Ike Pennington. The building also burned. The buildings east of the store building, housing the doctor's offices and a hardware store owned by Wash Reed and Frank Reed were also destroyed by fire. In the later 1880s or early 1900s the Hillisburg depot burned, along with the elevator owned by Benjamin Hillis and M.L. Clark. The grist mill, owned by George Mann, burned in 1884.
Another elevator was built in 1902 by John Smith and Joseph Snodgrass. In 1912 it was sold to Archie Davis and Joseph Foreman. It was later owned by Martin Cook. then Washburns, Mr. McCorle, and finally Samuel Johnson & Son. who owned It when it burned in the late 1920s, It has never been rebuilt.
One of the early businessmen in Hillisburg was Frank Niehrand, who came In Clinton County from Fayette County. His parents came from Alsase Lorraine. France, and he spoke predominantly the French language when he came to Hillisburg. He operated a small cigar factory in a little building by his home in 1895. He later had a restaurant and grocery store in Hillisburg for many years and also did custom butchering.
Clinton County Sesquicentennial Committee
One of his sons, Waller Nicbrurid, had a grocery about 1919 and another son, William, had a grocery in the 1940s, and also did custom butchering.
This Hillisburg Bank was organized in 1912, with W.A. Thomas, President; John Dunn, Vice-President; Archie Davis, Cashier, Joseph Foreman, Assistant Cashier. The bank opened August 5 as a private bank and closed during the depression, when many, many banks closed.
In 1888, the present Ind. 28 became the first gravel road in the township The first concrete road in Clinton County was constructed in 1919 Ind. 21iwasciimt-
Johnson Township first got electricity either in 1912 or 1915.
Noel Scott and Paul Mechem built the first telescope in Clinton County in the 1930s and Robert Butt, a student in Scircleville High School, built what was probably the first radio in the county in the early 1920s.
Scircleville was platted in 1871 by Adam Scircle. Josiah Drake opened the first store with a stock of general, merchandise and John Scircle was the first drug store proprietor. After the railroad was completed in 1875, the town grew rapidly and by 1878, the town was established as the center of commerce for the township with Richy & Bros., Dry Goods Store; Samuel Armstrong, Groceries & Provisions; Charles E. Berryman, Druggist; Samuel Merritt, General Merchant; Charles Howard, Furniture & Undertaker; Andrew Fisher, Staves & Lumber; Abel Grove, Livery Stable; Albert Harrell. Shoe Shop, Mrs. C. N. Thomas, Millinery; John Moore, Hotel; M. Bristow, warehouse; Richardson & Co. Warehouse, Hayden & Grove, Blacksmith & Carriage Shop; Dr. Cooper, Bail & Bond; Attorney's Baker & Collier.
September 21, 1875 the first post office was established with Samuel Merritt being the first postmaster. The postoffice was discontinued Sept, 28, 1878, and reestablished Oct. 7, 1878. There was one rural route out of Scircleville. Walter Weaver was instrumental in establishing the route in the early 1900s and was the first carrier, for a brief period of time. He was followed by Jack Keever, a Civil War Veteran and then Stanley Cooper. During World War I, the route way discontinued from Scircleville and put on a Kempton rural route. After the war, the route was moved back to Scircleville and Floyd Donnell was mail carrier from 1922 until it was transferred to Frankfort in 1931.
The first school was located on the north side of the street which now runs along the railroad. The school had already been abandoned for school purposes when the railroad was built. The building was used during the period of railroad construction as a bunkhouse for a crew of Italian railroad construction workers. Later it was used as a storage shed for the ornate bandwagon which was used for transportation for the Scircleville Silver Cornet Band. Homer McLelland was director of the band and some of the members were: Giles Trask, Henry Grove, Thorpe Grove, Harry and Ed Keever, Clem Heaton, Turn Holmes. Orville and Riley Blackburn, Ben and Walt Merritt, Sanford and Oliver McLelland, George and Albert Finney.
The new four-room school was located on a site at the east edge of Scircleville. About 1910 or 1911,a new school was built at the northwest corner at Scircleville, The building was partially destroyed by fire in the spring of 1925. The school year was completed by holding classes in the church and the Masonic Building. The school building was repaired and ready for use by the time classes started in the fall. The building was used for all 12 grades until the new consolidated school was built in the 1950s. The Scircleville school was used for the elementary grades until the new consolidated elementary school was opened in the 1960s.
In 1890 a church was built. The building is still in use as the present Scircleville United Methodist Church. The original group, consisting of twelve members, first met in 1886; William V. McKinney gave them land for the purpose of building a non-denominational church. The present Scircleville Baptist Church, located one mile south of Scircleville, was established in 1850 as the Indian Prairie Church. John R. Scott gave the land where this church is located. The original building burned in 1942 and the present church was built the same year.
Scircleville Lodge No. 593, IOOF was organized in 1882. Swastika Tribe No. 451, Improved Order of Red Men was organized August 28, 1907. Joe Hooker Post 97. GAR was chartered August, 1882. All these organizations discontinued their Scircleville chapters before 1920. Twilight Lodge, Daughters of Rebekah also had a chapter in Scircleville in the early 1900s, but was discontinued before 1920.
Scircleville Lodge No. 84, F.&A.M. was chartered May 29, 1912. This lodge continued for many years finally merging with the Hillisburg F.&A.M. The Scircleville chapter, Order of Eastern Star was chartered in 1925. It merged with the Hillisburg Chapter.
In 1909 or 1910, the Farmers' Bank of Scircleville was organized as a private bank. The first president was Charles Pence. After operating as a private bank, it became Farmers State Bank and continued operating as such until it became a branch bank of the Clinton County Bank & Trust Co.
The Scircleville Telephone Company was organized in 1902 by charter members Granville Tudor, James McKinney, Everett Scott, Leonard Scott, John R. Scott, Restine Scott, Charles Rickers, and Alfred Weaver. The company had 12 or 15 phones, and the office was in the home of Rev. & Mrs T.E. Ploughe. Their daughters served as telephone operators. The company grew and served the Scircleville, Hillisburg and Pickard communities for many years from a small office at the south edge of Scircleville.
Indiana Bell Telephone Co, took over the company when there was extensive damage to the telephone lines during a severe sleet storm. Indiana Bell rebuilt the lines and closed the Scircleville office in 1957 and divided the old Scircleville subscribers between the Forest-Michigantown exchange and the Kirklin exchange.
Crowning Queen at Red Men's Pow Wow
Clinton County Sesquicentennial Committee