The two streams that cross this township were
called by the Indians the Big Coon and Little Coon; but when
the whites settled the country they gave them the correct
name of Raccoon. From these the township derived its
name. This township is six miles square and contains
20, 040 acres. It is situated in the southern tier of
townships, and is bounded on the east, north and west by
Jackson, Adams and Florida townships, and on the south by
Clay county. The land was formerly densely covered
with timber, which had to be cut down by the "woodman's axe"
before it could be cultivated. The land consists of
the creek bottoms and uplands. Little Raccoon enters
the township in Sec. 5, and leaves it in Sec. 7; Big Raccoon
enters it in Sec. 13, and passes out in the northwest corner
of Sec. 31, both flowing in a southwesterly direction.
The land in the Raccoon bottoms is a rich alluvial soil,
yielding large crops of corn and wheat. The other
portions of the township have tolerably good land, but does
not produce so abundantly. It is not sufficiently
drained, especially in the southeastern part, and the soil
being of a very argillaceous nature, cannot endure the
extremes of wet and dry weather. All kinds of cereals
common to this climate are raised in Raccoon township, and
much of the timber land is used for grazing. The Ten
O'clock Line, which is the dividing line between the old and
new purchases, crosses the township from Secs. 36 to 6.
There are many
conflicting statements as to the first settlements in this
township. Man is mortal, and his memory is weak and
uncertain, hence much of the early history of this township
is buried in oblivion of the past. James
Kerr and Dempsey Seybold came into the
township and selected land in 1816, but we have no authentic
account of any permanent settlements until about the year
1818. At this time Dempsey Seybold came
with his family from Kentucky, and settled on Sec. 20, now
the Jeffries property. Mr.
Seyold brought his wife and at least one child,
Thomas K., born 1816, who afterward married and became
the father of a family, among whom are W. H. H. Dempsey
C., John N. and James H., now residents of
Raccoon township. Mr. Seybold was the second
settler in the township north of the Big Raccoon creek,
there being only one other in that vicinity at that time,
and only three families in the (now) county north of the Big
Raccoon. Mr. Seybold became very active in the
public affairs of his region of country. He helped
locate the county-seat and court-house square of Vigo
county, in Terre Haute. He was afterward judge in the
associate court. He always played well his part as a
pioneer in the improvement and development of the country.
He died June 3, 1835, leaving at least two sons, Thomas K.
and Dempsey, to perpetuate his history.
Thomas K. was murdered at Terre Haute, April 9, 1850,
and the foul hand that perpetuated the crime was not known
for several years, when at last a man in Illinois, when on
his death-bed, confessed the deed. Before the Seybolds
could reach the whereabouts of the sick man death had
removed the criminal, so that the mystery was never
satisfactorily unveiled. Dempsey, Jr. has
followed in the footsteps of usefulness, deviating only for
wider scope. The Mitchells must have come about
this time also, as William D. Mitchell was born in
Raccoon township February 22, 1818. The Millers
settled in the township about 1818 or 1819, for John B.
Miller was born here August 25, 1819. It is said
that the first log cabin built in the township was by one
Richardson, just east of where James Kerr now
lives. John C. Gilkison says that the
Adamses - Samuel Adams Sr., William Adams, Andrew Adams,
James Adams, John Adams, Samuel Adams, - William Nevins,
and some others, settled in Raccoon township in 1818 or
1819. Samuel Adams settled on the N. W. 1/2 of
Sec. 32. James Adams settled on the N. E. 1/2
of Sec. 31, and in 1821 sold out to Reuben Webster
and settled in what is now Adams township. In 1819
Nathaniel Bliss Kalley, a youth of nineteen years, came
from Ohio to Raccoon township, and leased a farm from
David Hansel, - the farm on
which Jacob Miller now lives.
Then there were not white men enough to raise Dickson's
mills, so Indians were called in to assist.
Nathaniel used to wrestle and have other sports with
Indian Bill. He raised a crop and returned
to Ohio in 1820, and in 1821 or 1822 came back with his
father, mother, and family of wife and one child, Ruth,
having been married to Rebecca Hansel in Ohio.
He rented till 1831, when he entered the W. 1/2 of N. E. 1/2
of Sec. 11, T. 14 N., R. 7 W., and his patent was signed by
Andrew Jackson. In 1838 he entered the S. 1/2 of
S. E. 1/4 of Sec. 2, Van Buren signing this
instrument. He, too, was one of the township's best
men. He served many years as township inspector, which
then included all of the public business of the township.
His father, David, entered 120 acres east of
Nathaniel's, where he lived till his death. Among
the settlers who came about this time, and a little later,
were Jacob Bell, John Blue, John Morrow, James Barnes,
John Robinson, Joseph Ralston, John Prince and
In 1820 William Rea, father of the first
clerk of Parke county came, in company with James Boyd
and James Fannin, from Chillicothe, Ohio, and settled
on the S. W. 1/2 of Sec. 7, in Raccoon township, and built a
log cabin, which still stands there and is used for a
dwelling house, and has always been since its erection.
He was the first settler on Little Raccoon. In the
fall of 1820, or spring of 1821. John Sunderland,
Sr., and his son John Jr. came from Ohio and
settled on the N. E. 1/2 of Sec. 6, and a son-in-law of
Mr. Sunderland. Henry Green, settled on the
E. 1/2 of the N.W. 1/2 of Sec. 5. In the fall of 1820
Thomas Gilkison, in company with James Buchanan,
came to what is now Raccoon township, and entered land.
In the spring of 1821 Thomas Gilkison came to the S.
W. 1/4 of Sec. 5, built a cabin, cleared off a few acres of
land and tended it in corn, and in the fall of that year
brought of wife, and five children from Kentucky, and
settled in what was then a wilderness of wood and wild
animals. In 1821 Jeptha Garrigus moved to
Raccoon township, bringing his family in a boat down the
Ohio River, up the Wabash river and Big Raccoon, into the
southwest part of Raccoon township, where he settled.
Jeptha is said to have brought the first rats to this
region in his baggage. He had thirteen children, and
had been a colonel in the war of 1812. A rather
peculiar marriage ceremony took place when Jeptha was
married - probably his second marriage. The following
is the ceremony, which was administered at Jeptha's
request: "I, Tobias Miller, justice of the
peace for the county of Parke do hereby certify that
Jeptha Garrigus and Polly Kratdzer are joined together
in marriage as long as they could agree, by me on the
29th day of August, 1834. - Tobias Miller." Recorded
Octoer 24, 1834, John G. Danis, clerk. It is
evident that Mr. Garrigus did not believe in caging
the lion and panther in one cage without a way of escape.
At about this time there were three general settlements in
Raccoon township. There was the Bell and
Garrigus settlement in the souther part: the settlement
around "Sodom," so called on account of its distillery and
the general wickedness of the place; it is now Bridgeton;
and the settlement in the northwestern part, called the
Pleasant Valley settlement.
From 1820 to 1830 James Hopper, the Hartmans,
Charles Beacham, Samuel Crooks, William Rea and
Robert Martin appear among the prominent settlers.
The early settlers of Raccoon township were men of the
sturdy, honest yeomanry of the eastern and southern states
who desired homes of their own. They want undaunted
through hardships and trials that their children could not
now endure, nor can they even imagine. We have traced
a history of the township from its first settlements to the
time when nearly all those who now reside in the township
who were born in it are John B. Miller, Jacob B. Miller
and Abraham Kalley.
mills were first called the Lockwood mills. They were
built by Lockwood and Silliman in about 1823, but
were owned by Oniel and Wasson. The last
named gentlemen bought the land where the mill was built;
Daniel Kalley now has the deed for the land where the
mill was built. They sold the mill to James Searing,
who began to improve it. He operated it a few years
and it burned down. The next fall the people made a
"frolic" got out the logs and built a log mill. The
property after this changed hands a number of times, and is
now in possession of Ralph Sprague since 1862.
During his possession it was again burned in 1869, and
replaced with a fine large structure 36 50 feet, four
stories high, costing $14,000.
The first saw-mill on Little Raccoon was built by
Thomas Gilkison in about 1823.
Away back in the
early days, when the surrounding country was almost all a
wilderness, and the old stage routs connected the principal
points of civilization, there began on the banks of Big
Raccoon what is now the pleasant and prosperous village of
Bridgeton. The first industry was a mill that cracked
corn. This was in about the year 1821. The first
man who kept store there was Nathaniel Smock.
Afterward there was a distillery started and kept here for a
good many years. From this the settlement derived its
principal support. The place was appropriately named
"Sodom." But it has improved in morals and character
until it is now apparently safe from the doom of the ancient
city whose destruction is recorded in holy writ.
Another store kept the early times as by James M.
Mulligan & Ketchum. They continued together a
short time, then Searing bought out Ketchem.
These kept store together for about two years, when
Mulligan bought Searing's share in the store.
In the meantime the town was laid out by Searing, and
another store owned by "Smock & McFarland." Mr.
Smock has kept store at different times in Bridgeton
during nearly all of its history.
In 1856 Dr. James Crooks settled in Bridgeton,
and has ever since been identified with its history.
His father, William B. Crooks, was the first
physician in Raccoon township. He was very successful,
especially in his treatment of "milk-sick." In the
early days the people suffered much from this mysterious and
dread disease. But with the cultivation of the soil
and advance of civilization it has disappeared, and the
people are left to wonder "whence it came and whither it
Bridgeton was so named from the bridge that was built
across Big Raccoon about the time the town was laid out.
It is a nice little town of about 120 inhabitants, and has
one mill, one drug store, two blacksmith and wagonmaker
shops, one grocery store, two churches, a township graded
school, and a district public school.
Rev. William H. Smith, for many years one of the most
active and successful Methodist preachers in Indiana, came
to Parke county and bought the land in the northwest corner
of Raccoon township. Here Mr. Smith lived till
1859. In 1861 there stood three farm buildings on the
land which Catlin now occupies. These were owned by
Hiram Catlin, Mr. Montgomery and Henry Miller.
In that same year, 1861, the Evansville and Crawfordsville
railroad, since known as the Logansport division of the
Terre Haute & Indianapolis railroad was built.
Thomas Catlin and Thomas Harshman immediately
built the warehouse now occupied by Catlin & Puett.
In this they bought grain and also kept a general stock of
merchandise. This was the nucleus of the future town.
In 1861 James Sanderson built the first blacksmith
shop, and Joseph Terry soon built a wagon shop.
J. Sullivan also built a blacksmith shop in 1861,
which he has run ever since. In 1862 James Geller
built two or three dwellings. The early growth of
Catlin was due more to the progressive spirit of
James Ray, who came from Ohio to Vigo county in 1820,
and in 1861 came to Catlin. Here, in 1862, he
built a saw-mill, and in 1865 a grist-mill, which formerly
did a large business but is now idle and belongs to the
Harshman heirs. In the same year Mr. Ray
built a store-room with al hall above. The Masonic
lodge has occupied this hall since its organization.
Mr. Ray has built seven of the better class of
buildings in Catlin.
In 1862 or 1863 a post-office was secured and Thomas
Catlin made postmaster, the office and town reeiving
that gentleman's name. In 1868, W. H. Elson and
father built the commodious building now occupied by Mr.
Elson. In this store has been done the principal
business of the town in general merchandising.
Catlin is the depot of the stave trade, and has two
saw-mills in its immediate vicinity, owned by M. Hamilton
and H. C. Wakefield.
CHURCHES AND SCHOOLS
two churches in Catlin. Methodist and Christian; the
former is in Florida township. Rev. J. B. Demott
is the Methodist preacher, and Revs. G. C. Price and
D. W. Woody are the Christian preachers, all
residents here. There are also three resident teachers
The first preaching in this township was by the
Methodists, at so early a time that its exact date cannot be
determined. Daniel Kalley says the first
preaching was held at the residence of James Crabb.
They organized a society there in about 1825, though
they had preaching before that time. In the same year
they organized a society in the neighborhood of James
Strange, brother of the noted Rev. John Strange.
These two societies were in the same circuit. Several
years afterward the Big Raccoon was made the dividing line
between them, and Pleasant Valley was made a part of the
Russelsville circuit. There was a church built on the
farm of James Crabb same time afterward. The
first preacher in Pleasant Valley was some time afterward.
The first preacher in Pleasant Valley was William Taylor.
The church was quite successful for a long time. There
was a revival in about 1859, by Jacob Cozadd and
J. C. Stringer. It lasted about twenty-one days,
and a large number joined the church. The present
church at Pleasant Valley was built about 1855. At one
time there were 113 members in this church, but it was
weakened during 1861 and 1865 by so many going to the war,
moving away, etc. The church in the Crabb
neighborhood was not very successful. The society in
Bridgeton was organized in about 1866. They first held
meetings in the Union Baptist Church. Their first held
meetings in the Union Baptist church. Their first
preacher was the Rev. John Adell. There were
quite a number of United Brethren in the community, and they
united with the Methodists in a successful revival.
The present church building was erected in 1868. It is
a large, nice church building. The society had at
first about thirty six members. The first preacher was
Rev. Thomas Buck. The present preacher is the
Rev. T. C. Webster. There has always been a
Sunday-school connected with the church until this year,
when it untied with the Baptist church Sunday-school.
Situated in the northeastern part of the township is Salem
Methodist Episcopal church. Its history is rather
obscure, as the old members have mostly passed away.
The church was built somewhere about 1836, and the
organization numbered between thirty and forty members.
Stewart Webster, Robert Catlin, William Jackman, Dempsey
Seybold and Azariah Hopper were prime movers in
the erection of the church and its early history. This
society has been prosperous, and done much for the good of
the community. Rev. Mr. Demotte is minister in
For the history of the Baptist church in Bridgeton we
are indebted to Dr. J. W. P. Seller, who has the
records of the church and is its present secretary. In
about 1850 Elder P. Swaim came from the New Discovery
church and held meetings in private houses around Bridgeton.
After him came Rev. P. T. Palmer. At this time
the members all belonged at New Discovery. In about
1853 a committee appointed by the New Discovery church made
arrangements and built a church. It cost $900 and was
about 36 x 50 feet. June 3, 1853, there convened at
Bridgeton a council which represented the churches of New
Discovery, Freedom, Goshen and Liberty, and organized a
society. Elder P. T. Palmer was moderator,
R. Davis, clerk. A joint letter of forty-two
members from New Discovery church was presented, asking to
be organized into a church, and were so recognized by the
council. They adopted a church covenant and
declaration of faith. Their first pastor was Peter
M. Swaim. The first moderator was Jeremiah Kirk,
and the first clerk, Jacob Smock. The
membership has been about fifty or sixty. There have
been 300 or 400 different persons taken into the church
since its organization. This church has licensed and
ordained four ministers, C. B. Allen, Jacob Smock, James
N. Steward and James M. Crooks. As the
first Baptist church was built by all classes, the other
denominations held services in it. In 1879 they
erected a fine church, 30 x 45, costing over $900. The
present membership of the church is about forty. At
present the other denominations are united with them in
Sunday-school work. Dr. J. W. P. Seller is
On Sec. 32, Raccoon township, there is a regular
Baptist church, which was organized in about 1835, with a
membership of twenty-five or thirty. The first
preacher was Isaac W. Denman, who preached there for
about forty years, or until August 31, 1875, when he met his
death by being run over by the cars. The present
church building was erected in 1858 and cost $500, one half
of which Mr. Denman paid. The old members of
the church are nearly all dead. Mrs. Denman is
the oldest living member, and is eighty-two years old.
Mr. Denman, when living, was the life and
support of the church.
The Christian church is represented in Raccoon township
by the Catlin organization. In 1867 there were quite a
number of the Christian faith in Catlin and vicinity.
Bro. Dailey had held a successful series of meetings,
and it became necessary to have some permanent organization.
Accordingly G. C. Price issued a call rallying all of
that belief, and an organization was effected with a
membership of forty-two. J. W. Jarvis and
Mr. Price were chosen elders, and John Pence and
James Nutgrass, deacons. A house of worship 52
x 41 was erected at a cost of about $1,600, in the little
village. Here Jacob Wright, Theodore C. Marshall
and William Holt have preached and taught the truth
as they understood the bible. In 1871 to 1872 Jacob
Wright held quite a revival. The church has
experienced a somewhat checkered career, and at present has
a membership of about twenty-five.
times of the log school-house, with its slab benches, dismal
appearance, and antiquated teacher, whose physical powers
were kept well exercised, and whose mental ability was able
to grasp the profundities of the three R's - Readin', 'Ritin'
and 'Rithmetic, - Raccoon township has acquired as good
school advantages, and has as well an educated class of
citizens, as any rural township in the county. Besides
the regular schools in each district, there is the township
graded school in Bridgeton.
The Catlin Masonic
Lodge, No. 402, was chartered May 25, 1869, with a
membership of sixteen. The charter members were
S. T. Catlin, Thomas Harshman, Marshall Gray, A. S.
Alden, Tomas Akers, John Pence, Asal Riggs, John Lollis, S.
R. Beal, Price Hawkins, Ira Jones, John Thomas, Harvey Gray,
Uriah E. Thomas, J. W. Puett, and Dr. George M.
Knight. The first officers were Marshall Gray,
W M.; John Lollis, S. W.; and S. R. Beal,
J. W. This society has held its meetings ever since
the organization in the Ray hall, which they have
fairly furnished. There are now twenty members.
The present officers are John Lollis, W. M.; S. M.
Hutzel, S. W.; H. B. Pendergast, J. W.; S. H.
Marshall, secretary; J. H. Overpeck, treasurer;
W. H. Elson, S. D.; James Logan, J. D.;
John Sullivan, tyler.
Bridgeton Lodge, No. 169, A. F. and A. M., was
organized in 1854. The petitioners for the
dispensation were M. G. Wilkinson, Mahln
Wilkinson, R. C. Allen, N. B. Smock, John Briggs, Jr., James
A. Cole, and Jeptha Garrigus, all except the last
named being members of Parke Lodge, No. 8. The
petition was granted with the title of Whitcomb Lodge.
M. G. Wilkinson was first master, and Mahlon
Wilkinson and R. C. Allen were wardens. A
charter was issued May 30 1855, and the title of Bridgeton,
No. 169 was given it. The meetings were held in the
second story of R. C. Allen's wagon-shop for eight
years, when in 1863, the limited room and increased
membership made it necessary to provide other quarters.
These were found in the upper story of Dr. Crook's
drug store, In 1868 the store, with its contents,
including the lodge room, library and other valuables, was
totally destroyed by fire. After traveling from one
place of meeting to another for some time, James Crooks,
whose zeal for the institution was here called into
requisition, rebuilt his store, adding a third story
expressly for a lodge room. From the organization the
following brethren have filled the east: M. G.
Wilkinson, two years; James Crook, present
master, seventeen years; Linus Deneline, one year;
R. C. Allen, six and a half years.
spring of 1860 Abel Mitchell and some others offered
a premium for the best colt that would be shown in
Bridgeton in June. At the appointed time there were
twenty colts brought, and about 500 persons were present.
This gave the idea of a fair. So June 16, 1860, was
organized what is now the Bridgeton Union Agricultural
Society. It is now a joint stock company, incorporated
under the laws of the state. The fair grounds consist
of about twenty acres and has a good trotting course.
Extensive improvements have been made, and the company is in
a very prosperous condition.