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Wayne Township


The first two or three settlers in Wayne Township located on the site of Kendallville, where the first log cabin was erected in the autumn of 1832, or perhaps the spring of 1833, by David Bundle. It is said that he was assisted by the viewers appointed to establish the Fort Wayne and Lima road, along the route of which travel had already begun, as settlers from Ohio, or farther east, first went to the land office at Fort Wayne, and then came north to occupy the land they had purchased. Bundle's cabin was little better than a wigwam, as it was very small and the roof was covered with bark. The floor at first was the bare ground, until he constructed one of rough clapboards. In the fall of 1833 Mrs. Frances Dingman, whose husband had died at Fort Wayne, while the family were in search of a home in the Indiana wilderness, appeared at Bundle's cabin, and, having purchased whatever right or title he had to the property, took possession of it with her five or six children, several of whom had almost reached their majority. Mr. Bundle disappeared and was no more heard of in this locality. Mrs. Dingman, who was a woman of resolute character, and was well provided with money, turned the cabin into a sort of inn for the entertainment of the traveling public. With hired assistance she cleared a few acres of land, and in 1836 erected, near the old log cabin, the first frame house in Kendallville. In the following year she married Truman Bearss, she and her bridegroom walking to the Haw Patch to have the ceremony performed. Within the next two or three years other settlers appeared on the site of Kendallville, including George Ulmer, William Mitchell, Thomas Ford, Ezra T. Isbell, Henry Iddings and Daniel Bixler.

Soon after this settlers began to buy land in other parts of the township, among whom were Nicholas and Daniel Bixler, Reuben Chamberlain, John Cosper, William and Stephen Sawyer, John A. Forker, S. W. Gallop, Joseph Graden, Henry Grubb, Erastus Harlow, Richard Horsley, George L. Kimmell, John Brundage, and others, and in 1844 there were forty-two settlers residing on land of their own. Others had also come in, but after a short residence had left for other localities. The organization of the county in 1836 caused a great rush for farms. The land was cheap and a comfortable home could be secured with a little money, supplemented by a good deal of hard work, of which the average pioneer was not afraid. John Sawyer, who came from Knox County, Ohio, entered several hundred acres a mile or two northwest of Kendallville, on which land he found an Indian graveyard. He was the first blacksmith in the county. As in most of the other townships, the first settlers were often troubled by wolves, some of which on one night in 1844, destroyed nine out of the ten sheep belonging to John Longyear.

A tannery was conducted by William Welder, on section 22, as early as 1845, and the leather manufactured was sold to the settlers, who had it made into boots and shoes for their families by journey cobblers, who traveled from place to place in search of such employment. Traveling tailors were also thus engaged to transform into clothes the cloth previously purchased in quantity. Sometimes, however, the shoes were made by the father of the family and the clothes by the mother, both parents through practice acquiring dexterity in manufacturing these home necessities. Log rollings and house raisings were frequent, at which the men of the neighborhood assisted. It was customary on such occasions to keep them liberally supplied with whiskey, which cost at that time 50 cents a gallon. In 1840 a sawmill was built on the Elkhart River, in the southwestern part of thee township, probably by Stephen Sawyer or Joseph Graden. It was operated first by Mr. Sawyer, but afterwards passed through various hands and was in active service most of the time for twenty years. The next sawmill was built at Kendallville, to supply the old plan road with lumber. The road was extensively traveled by runaway slaves from the Southern States on their way to Canada, who were assisted to escape by some of the residents along the road, especially by S. Whitford, John Longyear and old Mr. Waterhouse. Mr. Longyear was appointed postmaster about 1850 and retained the office seven years. Mrs. Dingman, previously mentioned, kept the first tavern, and about 1838 another was opened, on the Fort Wayne road, by Luke Diggins. For the first few years, the settlers were obliged to go to Brush Prairie for corn, wheat and vegetables, and, as money was scarce, they paid for them in other merchandise or in labor. It was customary at the time taxes were to be paid for some settler who could be depended upon to obtain from each tax payer the necessary amount of money, and then proceed to the county seat, where the claims of the county and state were adjusted. Mr. Weston often did this for the settlers in Wayne Township. When the settler ha no money the agent would accept furs or other articles in lieu of it, which he would sell at the county seat and thus settle the claim. The marshes in the township produced many cranberries, which were gathered and sold, a small amount of cash being realized in this way. The woods were filled with wild hogs and rattlesnakes, which were killed whenever found, the former for their meat and the latter because they were useless and dangerous. The history of the churches and schools may be found in other chapters of this volume.

By 1840 Kendallville had assumed the appearance of an embryonic village. A post office had been established at the cabin of William Mitchell a short time before, but a few years later it was removed to the residence of Hiram Iddings, and in 1848 to the store of Samuel Minot, established a year or two before. The growth of the place was slow, as there were not more than a dozen families there in 1849, Lisbon being then a larger and more flourishing village. Mr. Minot built an ashery and manufactured a considerable quantity of pearlash, which he sold at Fort Wayne. He also erected a sawmill and did a good business manufacturing lumber for the plant road. By 1857 the population of Kendallville had increased to over 300, the most rapid growth occurring in 1852, when it had become certain that the Southern Michigan & Northern Indiana Railroad was to pass through the village. More merchants and artisans arrived, and Samuel Minot built a large, frame, four-storied gristmill, which a few years later was purchased and improved by George F. Clark. About the beginning of the civil war it fell into the hands of Toledo parties, and after it had been heavily insured it was burned to the ground, and the insurance money was demanded and obtained. Damaging charges were made but were never substantiated. F. & H. Tabor built gristmills in 1857 and in 1865, and sawmills in 1859 and 1864. Luke Diggins opened the first hotel of consequence in or about 1848. It was generally known as the "Calico House," from the Dolly Varden style in which it was painted. Doctor Cissel, the first physician in Kendallville, settled there in 1850. Four years later Jesse Kime built the old Kelley House. As time went on manufactures increased. John M. Sticht began manufacturing buggies, wagons, etc., in 1868, and the business was afterward continued by his son and others. Isaac R. Ayers also engaged in the same business. Reed, Hamilton & Gallup established a factory for the manufacture of handles and snow shovels, employing from seven to twelve hands. Lucius N. Reed for many years, starting in 1869, conducted a planing-mill, sash, door and blind factory, a general hardware store and a large lumber yard. A foundry was begun in 1856 by Williams & McComskey, for the manufacture of domestic articles, implements and plows. This establishment afterwards passed through several hands, until, about the time of the war it came into those of Flint, Walling & Co., who made a specialty of agricultural implements. In 1874 the plant was enlarged and the manufacture of pumps and windmills introduced. It has since developed into one of the larges concerns in the United States, an vies with the McCray Refrigerator Company, a concern of comparatively recent origin, whose extensive plant gives employment to a large force of workmen.

Kendallville was incorporated as a town in 1863, at which time various public improvements were made, street lamps being established, sidewalks built, and a sewer system begun. Its dignity increased so rapidly that on October 6, 1866, it must needs become a city, and an election was held, "Tim" Baker being elected mayor; A. A. Chapin, clerk; D. S. Welch treasurer; James Vanness marshal; George Sayles street commissioner; A. B. Park and John Emerson councilmen for the First ward; K. B. Miller and Moses Jacobs councilmen for the Second ward, and James Colegrove and George Aichele councilmen for the Third ward. A code of city ordinances was adopted. A few years before this a fire company had been organized, which has since developed into a present department, provided with good modern apparatus, and which minimizes the danger of disastrous fires, somewhat too prevalent in former years. But such danger cannot be completely obviated, even with the best fire company, as was proved on March 21, 1914, when a conflagration destroyed the city hall, on which there was an insurance of $20,000. This hall was put up in 1907, at a cost of $27,000. The appraisement of damages after the fire was $6,672.75, and $10,000 insurance money was collected. The present fine building was then constructed on the same site, at an approximate cost of $40,000. It is built of brick and concrete and has two stories and basement, with quarters reserved for the fire department.

A waterworks plan was established in Kendallville in 1887 by a company which subsequently sold the plant to the city, and it is now municipally owned. It is situated on the east side, on the edge of Bixler Lake, though the water is obtained from wells, the lake water being used only as an additional supply in case of an emergency from fire. In 1917-18 the waterworks were remodeled, and are now provided with a 500,000 gallon concrete reservoir, and have a pumping capacity of 3,000,000 gallons in twenty-four hours. Fire plugs to the number of 104 are placed at convenient points throughout the city. The street-lighting plant was installed in connection with the waterworks in 1893. The commercial lighting plant, established in 1889 by a corporation, was bought by the city in 1900, and in 1901 a new plant was installed in connection with the water and street-lighting plants. In 1913 the present lighting system was installed, with Mazda lights for street purposes. The Indiana Fuel & Light Company furnishes the city with gas for heating purposes, which is pumped from Auburn Junction in DeKalb County.

Kendallville City Park and grounds were purchased three years ago, and are in process of improvement. A bathing-beach has been formed on the shore of Bixler Lake, and in a short time the place will be developed into a beautiful and attractive resort. For a number of years telephone accommodations were furnished by two companies, the Home and the Bell, but a recent transfer of interests has left the Bell the sole company now in the field. An account of the railroads, banks, newspapers, schools and churches may be found in their appropriate chapters. The post office is an international money order office, and a postal savings depository, with four rural routes. It occupies a fine new building recently erected at a cost of $46,300, and which has been occupied since July 2, 1919. This office sold $400,000 worth of war savings stamps, and during 1918 did a total business of $500,000. The present postmaster, Guy C. Hart, who has been connected with it since Jun 1, 1903, took charge in June, 1916, succeeding Charles C. Weingart, who had been postmaster for nine years.

The city limits of Kendallville now enclose an area of 1,350 acres, and the city has a population of about 6,000. It is enjoying a steady growth, and the Gawthrop Inn, a large and up-to-date hotel, with full modern equipment, s sometimes unable to accommodate the large number of traveling men and other transients having business in the city. Another large manufacturing plant, in addition to those already mentioned-the Noble Motor Truck Company-has been established within a year, and a number of smaller concerns in various lines of manufacture, are doing for the most part a good business.

The agitation for a public library in Kendallville began as early as 1902, when a decided effort was made to establish such an institution. It was not, however, until 1911, that the Civic Club, made up largely of the members of the women's literary clubs of the city, began a campaign to this end, that real progress was made. In this effort it is but fair to say that scores of active workers took part, but the names of two individuals stand out prominently-those of Louis J. Keller and Mrs. C. W. Kimmell, the former a man alive to every interest that may be of benefit to Kendallville, and the latter the president of the Civil Club. Largely through the efforts of Mr. Keller, a library site was given the city, being donated by Samuel K. Jacobs and the heirs of Moses Jacobs and J. Keller. In the meanwhile Mrs. Kimmell worked energetically creating public sentiment, and actually started a library. In this many good citizens helped, and, on January 29, 1911, book shelves were placed in a room at the public school building, and on February 4th the first books were loaned, with Mrs. P. M. Teal installed as librarian. From this time on rapid progress was made. Working under the provisions of the new state law, a library board was appointed, the common council in September levied its first library tax of eight mills on the dollar, and at a special meeting of the Civil Club and the library board, all the books, money and management of the library were turned over to the library board. With an eye to the success of the project, Mr. Keller was working incessantly for a donation from Mr. Carnegie, and secured $12,000 under the regulations of the Carnegie Library Fund. On September 18, 1912, the library board, consisting of Charles Beckman, president, Mrs. L. A. Weinstein, Mrs. J. E. baker, Mrs. Estella Bunyan, E. T. Porter, O. E. Michaelis and L. J. Keller, entered into a contract with an architect, Grant C. Muller, of Chicago, to furnish plans. George F. Diggins was given the contract to erect the building, the corner stone of which was laid July 19, 1913, and the library was formally opened May 2, 1914. The cost of the building was $14,087.23, added to which was an expense of $871.36 for additional furniture and equipment. The librarian for the last five years has been Mrs. G. B. Bunyan.

The Masons, Odd Fellows, and several other fraternal orders established lodges in Kendallville at an early period in its history, the Masonic Lodge being organized about 1862, and the odd Fellows in 1868. Most of the leading orders are now represented in the city by lodges, including the Elks, organized about seven or eight years ago, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the order of Ben Hur, Foresters, Maccabees, Moose, Knights of Pythias, with the Pythian Sisters, Royal Neighbors, Modern Woodmen, and perhaps one or two others. The Masons in 1903 bought the second and third stories of a three-storied brick building, which they had occupied for a number of years, and which has been fitted up with a club room and banquet floor on the second story, the lodge room being on the third floor. Here the different branches of the order hold their meetings. The Blue Lodge has a present membership of about 250; the Chapter, 140; the Council, 130, and the Commandery, 250. ladies' lodges exist in connection with the Odd Fellows, Maccabees, and Knights of Pythias. There is also a Grand Army Post-Browand Post, No. 505-with a Ladies' Auxiliary.

The Kendallville Golf Club was organized in 1916 and now has sixty members. The club has a nine-hole course at the west end of Williams Street, ground being rented. A good club house has been built, and the membership includes some of the best known people in the city. F. B. Park is now the president, and J. A. Jones, secretary.

The present mayor of Kendallville is U. C. Brouse; clerk, O. E. Michaelis; treasurer, W. R. Gregg. The city council is composed of H. K. House, O. E. Stiver, W. S. Murphy, J. E. Lang, W. C. Harder and C. H. Kimmell.

Robert M. Waddell, History of northeast Indiana: LaGrange, Steuben, Noble and DeKalb Counties, Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1920, Noble County, pgs. 433-438.