Genealogy Trails

CASS COUNTY INDIANA
BETHLEHEM TOWNSHIP HISTORY


Bethlehem Township lies in the northern part of Cass County and embraces all of Congressional Township 28 north, Range 2 west. Its boundaries are Fulton County on the north, Adams Township on the east, and the townships of Clay and Harrison on the south and west, respectively. The general surface of the county is level, and the greater part was originally covered with dense forests of the finest timber, walnut, poplar, maple, beech, elm and the different species of oak predominating. A portion of the township was at one time quite low and marshy, but by a successful system of drainage all the waste lands have been reclaimed, and Bethlehem now presents as fine and as well developed agricultural region as is to be found in Cass County. The soil is a black loam, sand-mixed in some localities, and of great depth and fertility. It rests on all impervious clay subsoil and is rich in plant food, as is attested by the fact that all the fruits and cereals indigenous to this latitude are sure of certain growth and large returns.

The only water course of any importance is the west branch of the Twelve Mile Creek, which rises near the central part of the township and flows a southeasterly direction through Sections 15, 16, 22, 23 and 25, crossing the eastern boundary about one mile and a quarter north of the Clay Township line. This stream affords a natural drainage for a large area of territory and it was on lands adjacent to the same that many of the early settlers located their homes.

Agriculture is and always has been the principal occupation of the citizens of Bethlehem, and in point of buildings and general improvements the farms of this township will compare favorably with those of any other division of the county. On every hand may be seen the comfortable residences, commodious barns and other evidences of thrift which go to show that the farmers of Bethlehem are a prosperous and contented people. Stock-raising has engaged the attention of many of the citizens of late years, and as the country seems peculiarly adapted to the business it promises, at no distant day, to become an important industry.

Settlement.—Prior to the year 1830 no permanent settlement had been attempted on any portion of the territory embraced within the present limits of Bethlehem Township. In that year, however, a man by the name of Shore, acting as scout and Indian trader, visited the country, but took no steps toward improvements of any kind, his business being, exclusively, that of traffic. The first permanent settler was Mr. John R. Hinton, who moved from Putnam County and fixed his abode upon the southeast quarter of Section 23 some time during the summer of 1830. He purchased his land from the Government in 1833, and was a resident of the township a number of years. He subsequently moved to Miami Township, and later to the State of Nebraska, where his death occurred a few years ago.

The next year followed that distinguished citizen, Gen. Richard Crooks, who settled in part of what is now known as the Bookwaiter and Leffel farms, near the eastern boundary of the township. Gen. Crooks had emigrated from Washington County, Penn. He was an energetic, brave man, and a man of more than ordinary intellectual abilities. Serving under Gen. Harrison during the war of 1812 he won the rank of brigadier-general. His abilities and experience, coupled with the privations and hardships while a soldier, combined to make him a fit leader, as he virtually was, in the settlement, organization and development of the township. In 1831 came also Joel Martin, who settled on the farm owned at the present time by Arthur Leffel. He was a man of mark in the early history of Bethlehem, and remained in the township until 1854, at which time he moved to Laporte County, where he died later. William Foy came to the township as early as 1832, and located a home on what is now known as the Samuel Metzker farm. Early in 1833 John Dalzell, son-in-law of Gen. Crooks, and also from Washington County, Penn., settled on the farm now owned and occupied by his son John A. Dalzell. Another son, Robert Dalzell, resides in the township a short distance north of Metea village. Jerry Skelton was an early settler, and chose for his home a part of the Krider farm, upon which he lived for a short time. He subsequently sold to Henry Krider, father of Isaiah Krider, and moved to other parts. Josiah Skelton, brother of Jerry, came about the same time, and located the farm now occupied by Edward King. The Skeltons came as early as 1833, and before the close of that year several other men and their families became residents' of the township: among them was John Eurit, who moved from Lewis County, Va.. and laid claim to what is now known as the Abshire farm. His son. Stephen Eurit, came with him, and can be appropriately termed an early settler, although living at the present time in Adams Township. Noah Martin came as early as 1833, and settled on the farm owned at the present time by Samuel Williamson; and prior to 1834 a Mr. Bailey was living on the Sylvester Coukling farm, in Section 26. In 1834 came Eli and Peter Demoss, who settled in Section 15, on the Penrose and Buchanan farms, respectively, and Josiah Powell, who located where his sou now lives near the village of Metea.

Among those who came in 1835 were George M. Smith, on the place now occupied by Lewis Brown; James Miles, in the same neighborhood; W. Carter and William Steward, whose places of settlement were not learned. Prominent among those whose arrival antedates 1837, was David Williamson, who settled on the northwest quarter of Section 27; John Hughes, where John Dalzell now lives, and Thomas Bennett, who secured a home in the southeastern part of the township.

John Gilliland moved from Adams Township in an early day, and settled the place now owned by Ira Krider, and about the year 1836 a man by the name of Guy made some improvements near the Presbyterian Church, in Section 25. John Conn came to the township prior to 1838, and located near the Dalzell settlement, and about that date, or perhaps a little later, James Hensley purchased from Eli Demoss what is now known as the Penrose farm. Thomas McMillen, William Heed, James McMillen and James Troutmau were living in the township prior to 1838, as were doubtless many others whose date of settlement could not be ascertained. Among those appearing soon after 1837, and deserving of special mention, were Reuben Perry, John Yuud (who is still living), James Buchanan (who came in 1839, and settled on the farm now the home and estate of his son, James M. Buchanan), David H. Conrad, Dr. A. B. Buchanan, John Ferguson, James McClung, Andrew Long, Alfred Guy, Garvin Black, Benjamin Enyart, Albert Hodges and others. The following, additional to those mentioned, came to the township from time to time, and can be appropriately classed with the pioneers of Bethlehem: James Piercy, William Crooks, Ebenezer Bridge, William Skelton, William McIntosh, David Flinu. Lewis Crain; Samuel Ward, George W. Miller, Daniel Scott, D. S. Chestnut and S. G. Sperry, the majority of whom entered lands and obtained patents for the same prior to the year 1840.

Land Entries.—The land of Bethlehem Township was ''put upon the market" in 1832, and the first entries were made the same year by John Dalzell, in Section 23, John Ewing, Section 24, and Michael Shaw, Section 23. The following year entries were made in Section 23 by John R. Hinton, and in Section 24 by John Gilliland. During the years 1834-35 the following persons entered tracts in various parts of the township, to wit: Alfred Willis, J. Blackburn, Samuel F. Dodd, William Rodgers, Albert Hodges, S. G. Sperry, James McClung, G. M. Smith, William Nees, Abner Bailey, Chas. Todd, Joel Martin, James Henry, Jeremiah Skelton. Wm. McIntosh, George G. Murphy, Mary Hubbell, John Martin, E. H. Gaylord, B. Westlake, Nathan Gillum, Samuel Ward, Geo. W. Miller, H. A. Johnson, John Hornady, William Smith, John Sutton. Isaac Kerlin, D. S. Chestnut and Daniel Scott.

Other entries prior to 1837 were made by Chas. Polk, Peter Demoss, O. M. Spencer, Sydney Williams, Samuel Crowell, J. K. Place, John Trimble, Jacob Kuns, William Carter, J. H. Bard, Wm. Redd. Joseph Galbreath, Abraham Cline, Wm. Hughes^M. McMinneman, John W. Shannon, John Banta, Henry Banta, Samuel Anderson, Morris Lancaster, Daniel Snivley, David Lary, Jacob Taylor, Benjamin Powell, Oliver Cromwell, John Williamson, George Harland, William Hinton, Noah Moore, William Myers, Daniel Fuller, L. Shoemaker, C. J. Todd, William Hunter and Joseph Douglass.

Pioneer Life.—For many years during the early history of of Bethlehem, the pioneers' life was by no means an enviable one. Their trials were numerous and the obstacles they were obliged to undergo would discourage the bravest-hearted of the present day. Many of the earliest settlers "squatted " upon their lands, being too poor to pay the entry price until after the harvest of the first or second crop. Money was very scarce, and people were often enforced to resort to barter in order to effect exchanges. The comparative demand and supply regulated the price of all articles; a yard of calico was worth so many pounds of butter; a deer skin was worth so much sugar or coffee, and an ax represented the value of so many bushels of potatoes. Sheep were early introduced, and those that were not killed by the wolves supplied wool, which was taken very often by the backwoods mother, and washed, rolled, carded, woven into cloth, cut and made into suits, without once leaving the house where it was clipped from the sheep. The settlers brought nothing with them but what the necessities of the situation demanded. One wagon generally sufficed to bring the family, household furniture, farming implements and frequently two or three months' supplies. It requires no great amount of consideration to conclude that luxuries, or even comforts, could find no place in such an outfit, and so the pioneer, after constructing a shelter for his family, found his skill and ingenuity taxed to the utmost in order to supply the deficiency.

It was necessary to manufacture tables, chairs and bedsteads before they could be used, and some of the most striking incidents of backwoods life are founded upon the almost universal dearth of ordinary comforts. A section of a good sized log, smoothed with a common chopping ax, and furnished with a rough back, or often without a back, served as a seat or settee for the family, while the bedsteads were often made by boring a hole in the cabin wall, in which rested one end of a long pole, the other end being supported by a forked stick driven into the ground. Upon this were placed impromptu slats, supported by one side of the cabin and this rail, and upon this structure the bed, made of dried leaves, hay or straw, was placed. This composed the beds of many of the early settlers; and though scarcely "as soft as downy pillows are," sufficed until more elaborate accommodations could be provided. A few nails and some glass and hardware were occasionally brought in by some well-to-do immigrant or thoughtful pioneer, but the other picture had its counterpart in almost every settlement in the county. But with such inconveniences the people, many of whom had known something of refinement in older communities, had no time for repining or melancholy, and it is often said by those who survive to the present, that they seemed to enjoy themselves more then than today. In a community where " the richest were poor and the poor lived in abundance," there was no chance for the growth of caste, and families for miles around were linked together as one neighborhood by the social customs of the times, which, in the spirit of tru3 democracy, drew the Hues of moral worth alone. The amusements of the people, taking their character from the general surroundings, were here chiefly adapted to the masculine taste. Hunting and fishing were always liberally rewarded, while log-rollings, raisings, the occasional holiday, with its scrub horse race, wrestling match, jumping or quoit-pitching, afforded entertainment that never lost its zest. The women of those days ate not the bread of idleness. They were, indeed, the helpmates of father, brother and husband, and nowhere in the world did man prove such an unbalanced, useless machine as the unmarried pioneer in this western wild. While man, with masterful energy, conquered the difficulties and asserted his sovereignty over the unsubdued wilderness, it was woman's hand that turned its asperities into blessings, and made conquered nature the handmaid of civilization. To card, spin, dye and weave were accomplishments that all women possessed. Housekeeping was crowded into the smallest possible space, and the preparation of linen, linsey woolsey and stocking yarn, with their adaptation to the wants of the family, became, to vary the catechism, the chief end of woman. About these homely industries gathered all the pride of womanly achievement, the mild dissipations of early society and the hopes of a future competence, a social foundation of which the proud structure of this great commonwealth bears eloquent testimony. Pioneer customs and habits [have passed away with the times and circumstances that gave them birth. Although the early settler possessed some characteristics repellent to refined ideas and modern culture, yet in their social intercourse with each other they displayed those exemplary traits of character which might well be esteemed a bright legacy to a more advanced age.

If they deviated from the strict rules of morality, and indulged themselves in habits and excesses which have been discarded by progressive civilization as enervating and ruinous, they still retained those estimable virtues which are the tokens of a generous and sympathetic people.

Unpretentious, they tendered whatever of hospitality their houses afforded, and were assiduous in their efforts to provide for those whom chance brought within the circle of their charities. Affectation had no place in the cordial entertainment tendered visitor or stranger, and self-seeking was never the incentive which prompted tL eir opeu-doored hospitality. Their whole lives were the grand, simple poems of rugged, toilsome duty, bravely and uncomplainingly done, and the examples of their industry and the results of their arduous struggles are among the richest legacies to a grateful posterity.

The Game.—The early settler in Cass County, though deprived of any near source of supplies, found no difficulty in supporting himself and family. Deer were found in great abundance, and the backwoodsman experienced but little difficulty, even if not an adept in the use of the rifle, to kill all he needed without leaving the precincts of his cabin. Large droves of these animals were seen in the woods, and the pioneer, who was in the habit of carrying his gun wherever he went, need not spend much time in the special duty of providing meat for his family. Turkeys were found in unlimited numbers, and no cabin was deprived of this delicacy. Wild geese, cranes and ducks were found in great profusion along the ponds and water courses, while squirrels and other small game were hardly deemed worfch the ammunition required to kill them. The wild hog, a gaunt, long-legged species, which had escaped from older settlements and run wild in the course of nature, were at one time almost,as plentiful as the regular game of the region. These were not as desirable eating as the domestic hog, but they furnished a variety in the fare, and their hides, it is said, were very serviceable, when properly dressed, to patch the harness or make a collar. They were often hunted for sport. Wolves, however, were better for the purpose, while their scalps brought in a very respectable revenue. They were very plentiful, and of a cowardly nature, though their howling at night did not tend to impress the hearer with their friendly disposition. In the winter, when driven to desperation with hunger, or attracted to the cabin by the scent of food, the inmates could distinguish their footsteps about the door and hear their vicious snapping at each other. Other wild animals, both numerous and ferocious, infested the forests, but as population increased they fell before the hunters' rifles or stealthily departed to safer retreats.

Improvements.—One of the earliest improvements in Bethlehem, and one of the principal factors which induced immigration here, was the Michigan road, which runs through the township iu a northeasterly direction. '"As a general business thoroughfare, it was one of the most valuable improvements of its day, opening up a line of trade that tended, perhaps, most largely to develop the vast natural resources of the county." Along this highway were located some of the first improvements of the township, and its influence on the subsequent development of the country were very marked.

In 1835 or 1836 a hotel was built on this road, near the southern boundary of the township, by John Guy, who subsequently sold out to James G. Cox. The building was a double-cabin, and for a number of years was a favorite stopping-place for the traveling public. James Troutman kept a tavern near the Jacob Powell farm, as early as 1840, and later, in the same building, Jesse Conn. A Mr. Lumbert and Joseph Powland entertained such travelers as saw fit to accept their hospitalities. Another on the Michigan road, known as the " Seven Mile House," was kept by Wilson Booth, who opened it about the year 1860. Previous to that date Joseph Penrose kept hotel at his residence, near the northern boundary of the county, and passers-by, who made his house a stopping-place, pronounced it one of the best places for entertainment between Logansport and Rochester.

The first person to engage in the milling business in Bethlehem was John R. Hinton, who, as early as 1839, erected a saw-mill on Twelve Mile Creek, which he operated with fair success for several years. Aside from this, there have been no other industries of any importance in the township.

Organization.—Bethlehem Township was organized March 7, 1836, and named by Mr. Dalzell in memory of a village or township of that name in Pennsylvania, his native State. The organization was effected at a settler's cabin which stood on the Williamson farm, and the first justice of the peace elected was John R. Hinton. The names of other early officers were not learned.

Religious History.—Prominent among the influences necessary to the highest social progress in a new country are the church and school. Whatever success the individuals lacking these influences may achieve, a community can never prosper without them. The early settlements were considerably scattered, and it was for some time a difficult task to get more than two or three families together for religious services. The pioneer preachers were men of homely address, but were wonderfully effective in their self-denying earnestness. They visited from cabin to cabin, exhorting, counseling, reproving, as occasion might demand, and in every home were welcomed guests. The first religious societv in the township and the oldest in the county outside of Logansport is the

Bethlehem Methodist Episcopal Church, which dates its history from the year 1831. The organization was brought about by the earnest labors of Rev. Samuel Cooper, who visited the neighborhood from time to time, and held public worship at the residence of Joel Martin. Among the early members of the class were Joel Martin and wife, Richard Crooks and wife, John Eurit and wife, Mary Gilliland, Edward Gilliland, Henry L. Thomas and wife, Stephen Eurit, Lucy Dalzell, David H. Conrad and wife, and others. Meetings were held principally at the dwellings of Messrs. Martin, Crooks and Eurit, until 1847, at which time a log building was erected on ground donated by Mr. Eurit, in Section 24. This house was a comfortable structure, and was used as a place of worship until 1860. In that year the present building was erected, at a cost of about $1,200. It is a frame house, 35x50 feet in size, and stands near the spot occupied by the original building. Among the early pastors of the church are remembered Amasa Johnson, B. Westlake, Miles Huffaker, Enoch Holdstock, Richard Newton, Daniel F. Strite, Jacob Colclazer and J. C. Metsker. The preachers, since about 1853, have been the following: J. S. Hetfield, B. Webster, P. Stevens, — Calvert, J. C. White, H. J. Lacey, L. Roberts, W. J. Vigus, J. C. Metsker, Samuel Lamb, Mr. Lakin, William Comstock, V. M. Beamer, J. B. Birt, P. Carland, James Leonard, C. E. Disbro, R. J. Parrot, W. R. Jordan, F. A. Robinson, J. Johnston, J. H. Ford, G. H. Hill, I, J. Smith. The present incumbent is Rev. George Work. The officers of the church at the present time are Stephen Eurit, Arthur Leffel, John Dalzell, Martin Collett and Isaiah Krider, trustees; Lewis Brown and Robert F. McKee, stewards; and Stephen Eurit and R. F. McKee, classleaders. The church is in a very prosperous condition, and has a membership numbering about 110 persons. The Sunday-school, under the efficient superintendence' of Alonzo Cover, is accomplishing a good work in the community.

Bethlehem Presbyterian Church.-—The early history of this organization is involved in considerable obscurity, as the first records were burned several years ago. It was organized, however, about the year 1841, at the Hinton Schoolhouse, and among the original members were James M. Buchanan, Mary Buchanan, David Williamson, Clarissa Williamson, Thomas McMillen and wife, Thomas Dalzell and wife, John Dalzell and wife, and a Mr. Young and wife. Meetings were held at the schoolhouses and, not unfrequently, at private residences and a blacksmith shop, until abou^the year 1845, when the present frame temple of worship, situated on the Michigan road, in Section 29, was erected. The building is 30x40 feet in size, and has a comfortable audience room, capable of seating 300 persons. The church was organized by Rev. James Buchanan, who ministered to the little congregation for some time. Another early pastor was Rev. John Houston, after whom came several whose names were not learned. Among the pastors since 1860 were the following: Robert Irwin, Mr. Wright, David Todd, John Branch, — Lee, — Long, B. L. Adams, L. G. McNutt and A. Y. Moore.

The present officers of the church are Nathaniel Tilton, Levi Horn and Boyd Buchanan, elders; Dr. A. M. Buchanan, George Yund, James Buchanan, trustees. John Yund is superintendent of the Sunday-school, which is in good condition and well attended.

Spring Creek Baptist Church was organized in 1885, by^ Revs. Dunham and A. E. Babcock, the latter at the time being missionary of the Weasaw Creek Association. The original membership was few in number, and the first meetings were held in the McKee Schoolhouse, which was used as a place of worship until 1860. In the latter year measures were taken to erect a building more in keeping with the growing congregation, and within a short time the present substantial frame structure near Metea was erected on land donated by Joseph Penrose. The first regular pastor of the church was Rev. Dunham, after whom came Joshua Barrett, who preached with great acceptance for a period of two years. The third pastor was A. E. Babcock, who ministered to the congregation for a number of years and did much toward placing the church upon its present substantial basis. Rev. J. M. Maxwell was the next pastor, and after him came E. J. Delp, who in turn was succeeded by S. Marsh. Rev. H. L. Stetson, of Logansport, preached for the church for some time, and was followed by B. F. Harman, and he in turn by the present pastor, Rev. H. F. McDonald, who has already accomplished a good work in the community. The present membership is about fifty. The officers are Jerome Smith, clerk; Frank Brown, treasurer; A. McDonald, John Thomas and William Shadinger, deacons; A. McDonald, John Rhodes and William Shadinger, trustees.

Fairview United Brethren Church, in the extreme northern part of the township, was organized in 1869 at the Louderback Schoolhouse, in Fulton County, with a membership composed of the following persons: V. C. Conn, Angeline Conn, N. A. Louderback., Mary L. Louderback, Thomas McDougle, Catherine McDougle, Minerva McDougle and Jane Pownall. The organization was brought about by Rev. John Hott, who preached for about three months. The other pastors of the church, from time to time, have been Revs. James LaRue, E. Seathman, Joseph Beghtel, CharLes1. Purviance, J. Eby, William Lower, John F. Kersy, J. E. Leonard, Samuel Snyder, J. Farmer and Harris Butler, the last named being pastor in charge at the present time. The present commodious temple of worship situated on the Michigan road, near the Fulton County line, was erected in 1881, on land donated by Patrick Carlim The house is a frame structure, 32x44 feet, and cost the sum of $1,333. The society is in a prosperous condition at the present time, with an active membership of 84. The officers are N. A. Louderback, W. S. Louderback, David Studebaker, Joshua McDougle and Andrew Black, trustees; John Martin, class-leader; Andrew Black, steward, and John Redd, Sunday-school superintendent.

Cemeteries.—The first ground consecrated to the burial of the dead in the township is the Bethlehem Cemetery, which was laid off for the purpose prior to 1834. Among the persons buried here in an early day were John Kelly, Catherine Martin, wife of Joel Martin, and Christian Krider, grandfather of Isaiah Krider. The Spring Creek Cemetery was donated for burial purposes many years ago, and the first person buried therein was Martha J., daughter of James M. and Mary A. Buchanan.

Early Marriages.—The first marriage celebrated in Betldehems Township was that of Jacob R. Hall to Miss Rachel Martin. Tortus couple was born, perhaps, the first child in the township, viz.: Caroline Hall.

Village of New Hamilton, or Metea, a small hamlet of a couple dozen houses, is situated near the central part of the township;, on the Michigan road, of which it is an out-growth. It was laid out in 1853, by George Allen, but previous to that date a store had been established at the place by E. B. Buchanan, who sold goods for several years. Among the merchants at different times have been a Mr. Bennett, Andrew Black, Uriah Cowell, Jeptha Powell and J. GPowell. The present merchant is Boyd Buchanan, who is doing a good business with a general assortment of merchandise. Dr. A. M. Buchanan, one of the leading physicians of the county has been practicing his profession here for a number of years.

Source: The History Of Cass County Indiana by Thomas B. Helm


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