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History of Darke County, Ohio, from its earliest settlement to the present time .. (Volume 1) online

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Carson and James Whitman as trustees, and a building was
erected about 1826. This was the beginning of the Chris-
tian church of Versailles, making it the oldest denomination
with a continuous history in that village. Among the pioneer
settlers might also be mentioned Aaron Grier, Henry Swisher,
Peter Radabaugh, William McGrifif, John Wyland, Thomas
Bayman and N. York.

Wayne township was named after Cen. Anthonv ^^^avne
and when first laid off hv the countv commissioners in 1817.



DARKE COUNTY 605

comprised all of the county nortJi of a line commencing at the
northwest corner of township 12 north, range 1 east, and run-
ning thence east to the northwest corner of township 9 north,
range 4 east, thence south to the middle of said township, and
east to the county line, thus including the territory now in-
cluded in the township of Mississinawa, Allen, Wabash, Pat-
terson, Jackson, Brown, York, Wayne, over half of Richland
and part of Adams. In 1819 that part of Wayne township
lying in township 9 north, range 4 east, was taken into Adams
township. In 1820 all of Wayne township that lay in range
1 was attached to Washington township as then constituted.
In the same year Richland township was formed, the north-
ern part being taken from Wayne and the southern from
Greenville and Patterson. In 1841 Patterson township was
taken from the north end of Wayne and contained all of that
township that lay in townships 12 and 13, range 3, and town-
ships 11 and 12 in range 4.

The southern part of this township is drained by the main
stream of the Stillwater, the central and northern part by the
Swamp creek branch with its tributaries. As before noted
the central part was originally very swampy. It has been re-
claimed by extensive drainage and is now quite productive.

The C. C. C. & St. L. railway runs through the central part
of the township in a direction generally south of west. The
C. H. & D. traverses the northeastern section. Versailles in
the central part and Webster in the south central part are the
principal villages. The entire population of the township, in-
cluding these villages, in 1910 was 2,954.

As a French colony became established here in the "thir-
ties" we herewith incorporate a sketch of the "Holy Family
Parish of Frenchtown," which throws considerable light on
the history of this settlement:

Holy Family Parish, Frenchtown.

We have noted in a previous chapter that the first French
settler arrived on the site of Frenchtown in 1836, and was
soon followed by other families of the Catholic faith who
banded themselves together in a small community, observed
public worship according to the customs of their faith under
the zealous and saintly Navarron, and, in 1838, erected a hewed
log church at St. Valbert's in conjunction with the little com-
munities at Russia and Versailles.



606 DARKE COUNTY

The years immediate!}- following were times of trial, hard-
ships and privation but the active French peaeants by indus-
try and frugality soon made large openings in the dense prim-
e\al forest, cleared and cultivated their fields, erected substan-
tial habitations and made the wilderness blossom as the rose.
For many years oxen were used to help turn the soil, to haul
the heavy timbers, or to follow the rude trails. We have a
beautiful and touching word picture of the trials encountered
by the faithful in order to be present at the stated worship
in those days written by a pastor of the flock.

"At the appointed hour on Saturday afternoon the march
began for St. Valbert's. With a compass for a guide, headed
by Father Navarron, the little band entered the woods and
with a hatchet, blazed the trees as they walked along to aid
them in their journey until they reached St. Valbert's. The
trees once being blazed, the future they considered a real
pleasure when the weather was favorable, but not so during
the heavy snows of winter and the rainy seasons of spring and
fall — for then, walking became rather difficult — with the snow
one and two feet deep clinging to their wooden shoes in their
attempt to pick their way. Swamp creek, which still bears
the same name and pursues the same course, though not so
violent as in the early days, had to be crossed on the way,
and after a heavy rain would overflow, together with its many
branches, making it almost impossible to cross. Nothing
daunted, the low places were sought for and then, with shoes
and stockings in hand, the creek and streams were forded and
the journey continued. * * * *

"For nine long years these hardships, these trying times of
faith were endured and the spring of 1848 found the Holy-
Family parish, Frenchtown, worshipping for the first time in
their own temple, rude and rough in its construction of large
logs, but neat in appearance, while its modest interior spoke
of the pride of its worshipers to beautify and adorn the house
of God. * * * *

"These three parishes remained united until 1849, when the
alloted time of good Father Navarron with his kind and faith-
ful people being spent, he was transferred to other fields and
Father Loui, his successor, became pastor of the self-sustain-
ing parish, which, in the meantime had increased to forty
some families.

"The parish continued to grow in numbers and under the
direction of Father Loui, an addition was built to the old log



DARKE COUNTY 607

cliuich, which became too small to conveniently accomodate its
members. With the passing years prosperity smiled upon his
happy band, the many trials and hardships known to the early
settlers gradually disappeared and the worship of religion wa^
elevated to a high standard.

"Each year saw its newcomers and raised the membership
of the parish. Filled with an earnest desire to serve God in
the best manner possible and actuated by the lofty ambition
to make him better known and loved, they appealed to their
beloved pastor for a larger church, a more suitable and up-to-
date building. Father Brisard heard their plea and relying on
the earnest co-operation of his faithful flock, he at once set to
work to satisfy their wish. Plans were prepared and no time
was lost in putting them into execution. With all their will-
ingness and ready help it was a very difficult task.

"Brick masons were scarce, as also were skilled carpenters.
The bricks were burned on the ground near the cemetery,
while the stone was hauled over fifteen miles of heavy, rough
roads. A few weeks saw the old log structure razed to the
ground, but it required the labor of many long months to re-
place it with the present brick edifice. Gumption and work,
and still more work, backed by a firm and fixed will to suc-
ceed, kept them steadily employed.

"The corner-stone was set in place in the year 1866 and a
few weeks later services were held within the sacred walls.
They had given their best efforts to its completion, and were
now reaping the reward of their many sacrifices." * * *

"In Jime, 1899, to meet the crying needs of his good people,
Father Denning superintended the building of an addition to
the rear of the church which included a large sanctuary and
two sacristies which not only increased its capacity, but also
enhanced its beauty."

"The Rev. James Kelly succeeded Rev. Denning as resident
pastor and during his short term, the commodious nine-room
pastoral residence was planned and completed.

In March, 1905, Rev. Kelly was succeeded by the Rev. Fred-
erick Veil, who after a three-year pastorate was followed by
the present pastor. Rev. John Gnau.

The line of pastors since the founding of the church has in-
cluded the following names: Navarron, Loui, Rollinet, Hob-
ryam. Converse, Henneberg, Langlois, Brisard, Kreusch, Kay-
ser, Richert, Heurer, Roth, Bourian, Boehiner, Jaknb, Missler,
Denning, Kelly, Veil and Gnau.



608 DARKE COUXTY

"The first road which was cut through the northeastern
section of the county was that done by the government in
1847, and called the Fort Recovery road, connecting French-
town and Versailles. The state road through the southern
part of the county was also cut through at this time."

Versailles.

Versailles, the largest village and most important trading
center in the northern part of the county was laid out in 1819
by Silas Atchinson under the name of Jacksonville. It's lo-
cation, no doubt, was determined by the intersection of four
important highways, viz. : the state road, running from Belle-
fontaine, through Sidney to Jacksonville and thence to Green-
vile; the Piqua, Fort Rowdy (Covington) and Fort Recovery
road ; the St. Mary's and Greenville road, and the Sidney Cyn-
tha Ann and Jacksonville road. These roads in early days
were distinctly mud roads, ungraded, corduroyed through the
swamps and bridged after the "hogback" style over the small
streams. However, they were relatively important and were
a determining factor in Jacksonville's growth and prosperity.
The erection of the "Bee Line" railway through here in 1853
instead of through the county seat was another factor of great
importance in determining the future of the village. Its inter-
mediate location with reference to Greenville, Sidney and
Celina also contributed materially toward making it the com-
mercial center of the northeastern part of the county. That
part of the town lying north of the creek was known as
Georgetown in early days and later as North Jacksonville.
The coming of large numbers of French settlers about 1833
caused the two towns to be incorporated under the name of
Versailles, in honor of the old French capital. Although lying
in the Swamp creek valley, one of the most fertile sections of
the county, Versailles is built on a glacial knoll, slightly ele-
vated above Indian creek, has a sanitary location with plenty
of good water and good drainage facilities. Being eighteen
miles from Sidney and some thirteen from Greenville, it has
a large territory from which to draw trade and has prospered
in a commercial way. A disastrous fire razed the central and
business section of the village on July 6, 1901, causing a loss
estimated at some four hundred and fifty thousand dollars
with insurance approximating two hundred and twenty thous-
and dollars. The fire started mvsteriouslv in Sheffel's old



DARKE COUNTY 609

idle mill on the west end of Main street and spread eastward
consuming all but two business rooms on the six blocks to the
east, besides two blocks of buildings on the south side of ]\Iain
street. Fifty-one business houses and twenty-nine dwellings —
the best of the town — were consumed. The enterprise and re-
source of its citizens was soon shown in rebuilding in a much
more substantial way than before, making it one of the best
built towns in the county. Today it has two large overall
factories employing about forty operatives each ; an immense
poultry and produce establishment operated by H. B. Hole,
with branch establishments at Dayton, Arcanum, Greenville,
Sidney, Covington and St. Paris ; the Charles Masoner tobacco
warehouse employing about forty people ; the Geo. H. Worch
lumber plant with branch establishments at Sidney, Osborn,
Springfield, and New Carlisle; the J. M. Blue Co., dealing ex-
tensively in Canadian lumber and shipping ship lumber to
Europe ; besides grain elevators, mills, monumental works,
brick and tile factories and extensive mercantile establish-
ments.

The Christian church is the oldest existing in the village
and is said by some to have been organized as early as 1818.
Among the charter members were the Whitmans, Brandons,
Hoels, Baymans and Carsons. The present church building
was erected in 1883, at a cost of about $6,000. Recent offi-
cials in this church were : Superintendent of Sunday school,
Ralph Stamm ; president Missionary society, Mrs. Stella ■Mar-
tin ; deacons, M. A. Finfrock, W. C. Hile and James Young;
trustees, H. A. Gilbert, Ed Reed, E. T. Swineheart, Charles
Shade; financial secretary, B. B. Campbell; treasurer, Marion
Martin ; pastor. Rev. H. F. Smith. The present enrollment is
about 380. This congregation is now planning to erect a new
church structure in the near future.

On account of the large number of French citizens who be-
long to the Catholic church, a brief sketch of that organization
rightly belongs in a history of the village. As before noted in
the sketch of the Frenchtown church, the first place of Cath-
olic worship was at St. Valbert's, two miles north of Ver-
sailles. To this church came the French pioneers of the Rus-
sia and Frenchtown settlements. The services were then held
in the French language. On Easter Sunday, 1849, the great
Archbishop Purcell preached in the English tongue, using the
stump of a great oak for a pulpit. When, in 1846, churches
were built at Frenchtown and Russia, St. Valbert's, the cradle
(39)



610 DARKE COUNTY

of Catholicity in Darke county, lost some of its early popu-
larity, became the resting place of the earliest settlers of the
place. Desirous of having their church closer to their homes,
the Catholic families of Versailles, in 1864, bought the prop-
erty of the old Baptist church heretofore mentioned, standing
at the corner of Main and Second streets, for $350. This struc-
ture was refitted and enlarged and became the first Catholic
church in the village under the rectorship of Rev. Brissard.
Here Rev. Kreish served from 1864 to 1873 ; Rev. J. B. Kay-
ser, 1873-1876 ; T. Richard and F. J. Roth, 1876-1878, and A.
N. Bourion from 1878-1886. Rev. Leo Boehmer succeeded
Rev. Bourion and gave a new impetus to religious matters.
Under his pastorate the present beautiful and commodious
church building was dedicated in 1888. The St. Denis Cath-
olic school was also erected about the same time and is now
conducted by the Sisters of the Precious Blood. The follow-
ing pastors have officiated since Rev. Boehmer : Revs. Louis
Hefele, Jacobs, Otto Missler, Joseph Denning, John Cattes,
James Fogarty, B. Bechmeyer and the present pastor. Rev.
Henry J. Schuer, who has successfully guided and guarded the
destinies of St. Denis since 1906. Although organized at a
later date than the Christians, the Methodists now have a
thriving congregation with a neat and substantial brick church
building on the corner of Wood and West streets, of which
Rev. J. O. Moffit is the present pastor.

The Lutherans have two churches here : Trinity Evangeli-
cal Lutheran on East Wood street of which Rev. Isaiah
Whitman is the present pastor; and Emmanuel's Evangelical
Lutheran church on East Ward street.

Versailles has taken an active part in political matters for
several years and has furnished several county officials includ-
ing Treasurer John Simons and Auditors J. C. Klipstine and
Frank Snyder. James R. Marker, the present state highway
commissioner, and formerly county engineer, is a son of
Leonard Marker and was raised in this village. Several ex-
cellent family physicians have practiced here and the town
is proud of the name and fame of Dr. John E. Fackler, M. D.,
who practiced in Versailles from 1870 imtil prevented by the
sickness which resulted in his death, January 7, 1898. He was
at one time a member of the Darke County Medical Associa-
tion, and for about twenty years, of the Ohio Medical Society.
He was a painstaking student, a clear and forceful writer on
medical topics, and a progressive but careful experimenter.



DARKE COUXTY 611

At the time of his death he was president of the \'ersailles
^Medical Association. Dr. J. S. Neiderkorn, Dr. W. C. Guter-
muth and Dr. C. F. Ryan have practiced several years in this
village and vicinity and are well and favorably known.

An idea of the development of Wayne township may be
formed from the tax duplicate of 1913 which shows over
$2,000,000 of real estate and nearly $700,000 of chattels in the
township exclusive of Versailles, while this village is listed
with $1,120,080 in real property and $533,870 in personal prop-
erty. Versailles has a water works and electric light plant
built by the city in the years 1900-1901, at an original cost of
$25,000, and is planning to pave j\Iain street and portions of
intersecting streets this year. It has two papers, the Policy
and the Leader, before noted. The first school in the village
was built in 1821. The present school house is a substan-
tial brick structure in which are housed eight grades and a
high school. It was built in 1876 at a cost of some $25,000.00.
The enrollment in the spring of 1914 was 321. The high
school was established in 1881 and has graduated 227 pupils
to date, 17 of whom were in the class of 1914. Its graduates
are admitted to standard colleges without conditions and its
teachers are all college graduates. A library of 2,200 volumes
is maintained by the school and the laboratory apparatus is
excellent. T. F. Jolinson, J. E. Yarnell, T. E. Hook and Chas.
E. Doust have served as superintendent in recent years.

The Masons, K. of P., I. O. O. F. and Woodmen, each have
a flourishing lodge in the village.

The following are the present city officials: IVIayor, H. B.
Hole ; clerk, John Meyers ; treasurer, Alfred Simon ; marshal,
Oliver Aliller ; fire chief, Charles Begin ; members of council :
H. A. Frankman, J. F. Gephart, John Voisard, A. J. Reed, Carl
Earhart, Caradon Hole ; Board of Education : Dr. John Bal-
linger, C. F. Whitney, L. L. Lehman, Ed Wood, A. F. Prakel ;
Board of Public Affairs: Nick Alexanders, Frank Ash, P. J.
Grilliot ; superintendent of the water works, Wm. Marl. Wes-
ley Ault, county sealer of weights and measures, is also a resi-
dent of Versailles.

In Greenlawn Cemetery a mausoleum was promoted and
built by Dr. J. P. Collett in 1913 and dedicated Sunday, May
24, 1914. It is constructed in pure Egyptian design, single
corridor plan of the same material as the Greenville mauso-
leum. It contains 120 cr3'pts, and is said to be the finest small
mausoleum in the central states.



612 DARKE COUNTY

The population of ^'ersailles in 1910 was 1,580, and is now
estimated at about 1,800.

Adams Township.

This township was organized in March, 1819. It originally
contained all the land east of a line running from the north-
west corner of section 4, township 10 north, of range 3 east,
to the southwest corner of section 28, township 9, of range 3,
and was taken from the east end of Greenville township and
the south end of Wayne. In 1820, sections 3, 4, 9 and 10 of
township 10, range 3, were taken into Richland township. In
June, 1838, all of township 8," range 4, and township 9, range
3, that were in Adams, was taken into a new township named
Van Buren, leaving it with about thirty-five square miles of
territory. Greenville creek, with some minor branches, drains
almost the entire southern part of the township. The main
stream runs in a general east and west direction, meandering
through the two tiers of sections. The Stillwater drains about
four sections in the northeast corner and Harris creek the bal-
ance of the northern portion of the township. The surface is
rolling, especially along Greenville creek in the southwest
portion. Lime rock is exposed along this stream near
Cromer's mill and Gettysburg and signs of considerable gla-
cial action are seen in the knolls and boulders which abound
in this region. The Pennsylvania railway, which divides into
two divisions at Bradford, near the center of the east line,
has two lines across this township. The Logansport division
runs north of west in a straight line from Bradford, and leaves
the township near the northwest corner of section 15. town-
ship 10 north, range 3 east. The Indianapolis division runs in
a straight line from Bradford to Gettysburg and then turns
almost southwest and leaves the township near the southwest
corner.

The original forest contained much beech, together with
ash, maple and hickory.

This township is the second largest in the county and was
the second in order of settlement. It is in the center of the
first tier of townships along the eastern line of the county.
Abraham Studabaker, the second permanent rural settler in
Darke county, located on the south bank of Greenville creek,
opposite Gettysburg, in section 25, in 1808. Here he erected a
block house and remained during the perilous times of the war



DARKE COUNTY 613

of 1812, as elsewhere related. A few families settled about
Greenville and the nearest of these was six miles from this
lonely settler. David Studabaker was born here in 1814, being
the first white child born in the township. In 1816, the family
moved about two miles south of Greenville, in what was after-
wards known as the Studabaker settlement. A directory pub-
lished in 1819 mentions "Studabaker's block house," as a
promnent point on the Dayton and Greenville pike, nine miles
from the latter village. Major George Adams settled in the
neighborhood of the present site of Cromer's (Baer's) mill just
after the war of 1812. Here he erected a little corn cracker of
a mill, which turned out a small amount of coarse meal under
favorable conditions. A little grocery and whisky store was
soon established and "Adam's Mill" became a popular resort.
\\'hen the township was organized in 1819, it took the name
of the doughty major. As the population increased, the set-
tlers here, and in the neighboring townships took their grain
to the mills at Greenville Falls and Covington to be ground.

In 1816 Armstrong Cairipbell and Mr. Stewart settled in the
Studabaker opening ; the former in the southwest quarter of
section 30, and the latter in the northeast quarter of section
36. A settlement was made at and near the present site of
Xew Harrison, in 1816 and 1817, by William Cunningham,
Samuel Robinson. Barton Fairchild, Thomas McCune, Josiah
Carr, John Myers, Zadoc Reagan, Zachariah March and Eben-
ezer Byram. Isaac Hollingsworth and Thomas ^^'arren were
also early settlers. In 1830, John Reck, William Reck, Henry
Weaver and Armstrong Campbell erected the first school
house in the township on section 30, on the present site of the
cemetery near Gettysburg. Samuel Horner was the first
teacher. Previous to this time Jacob Herscher taught a sub
scription school. There are now twelve school houses in tht
township, besides those in Gettysburg and Bradford.

The Lutherans erected the first church about 1834, on the
pike south of Greenville creek in section 36. a short distance
east of the present site of school No. 8. This building was
afterwards moved to Gettysburg and used until the congrega-
tion disbanded. There is now a strong German Baptist
church in the southwest corner of section 12, known as Oak-
land church : a Dunkard church about half a mile north of
this in section 14: besides a Methodist church at Horatio, a
Presbyterian and M. E. church at Gettysburg and a Presby-
terian church at Bradford. Several "amilies nf Yorkers or



614 DARKE COUNTY

Old Order Ri\er Brethren li\e in the township, between Ho-
ratio and Bradford, who hold religious services in their homes.
We have referred to the early settlement about New Har-
rison. A village was platted here in 1837, by Samuel Robin-
son. By 1845, there were a dozen families in the place, a
M. E. church, two taverns, a physician, and probably a store
and a smithy. At that time the forest approached on all sides
and to the northwest there was an unbroken stretch of sev^en
miles in which there was not a single house. Deer and wild
turkeys were often seen in the village. This place of
promise was soon eclipsed by the growth of

Gettysburg

A village, which was established about a mile and a half east-
ward by a colony of emigrants from Adams county, Pennsyl-
vania, who came mostly between the years 1827 and 1831.
The new town was not platted, however, until 1842, when it
was named for Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in the above named
county. John Hershey was the proprietor and built the first
structure in the new village, which was used for a tavern.
James Auld was the first store keeper, postmaster and justice
of the peace. A blacksmith shop, a saddler shop and a cabinet
shop were established at an early date. The Presbyterians
built a church at tlie west end of Corwin street as early as
1847 or 1848 on land donated by Alexander Horner, who, with
William Carr, John Meyer and Dr. Darwin were active factors
in its erection. The organization has continued to this day
and the congregation now numbers about 150 members, in-
cluding many of the oldest families in the community. Rev.
Thomas Elcock was the first pastor.

The Methodists have a church on the southeast corner of
Corwin and Cla)^ streets w^hich was moved to its present lo-