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History of Terre Haute Township

It seems strange, when one looks at the fine farms and beautiful homes that are now so numerous in the beautiful spot of earth of which we are now writing, that but a few years ago, seemingly, the naked savage, the howling wolf and the red deer roamed over it almost unknown to the "palefaces." What wonderful strides have been made in the sunlit road of progress in this part of the beautiful west within less than half a century! Upon the summit that has been so soon reached one can but stand and gaze upon the past in astonishment and bewilderment. Instead of the dusky warrior there is now the peaceful husbandman ; instead of the tall prairie-grass is the golden grain that springs from the earth at the white man's call ; instead of the rude tent is the handsome cottage and stately mansion.

Just the period at which the township or precinct of Terre Haute was first settled by the white man is a matter somewhat involved in uncertainty, but it was as early as 1835, and possibly earlier. One of the oldest settlers that is now living in Terre Haute is Mr. Steven Genung, who came to the country in 1842 with his father's family. They came from near Terre Haute, Indiana, and the village and precinct of Terre Haute, Illinois, was named for the well known city of the same name in the Hoosier State, at the request of the Genung family. Mr. Steven Genung, to whom we are indebted for information, was a soldier during the Mormon trouble, and represents that that was a time which tried men's souls who were for peace and good order.

Mr. Simeon Averett, who is also yet residing in Terre Haute, and who has reached a very ripe age, was also a soldier in the ranks of the law-abiding citizens against the fanatical horde who, in the name of a religion, was indulging in rapine, theft and murder, and spreading fear and discontent throughout the sparsely settled country. Mr. Averett was on guard at the Carthage jail the night before the notorious Joe Smith was sent to the "happy hunting grounds."

After the Mormon war was over and the law-abiding citizens of the country could again breathe the air of peace and slumber peacefully in their newly chosen homes, when the red hand of persecution had been paralyzed by the strong arm of law and justice, the new county commenced to settle rapidly. The few who were already making for themselves fine homes in this "new world" served as a guiding star for others, and ere long the busy hammer could be heard in every quarter, the wild grass fell in the furrows of the brave and industrious frontiersman's plow and the vast desert smiled with teeming. Terre Haute is a beautiful spot of earth. Land commands a high price and the farmers are generally disinclined to change. The soil is a rich black loam and the surface is just undulating enough to give the hand good drainage. Corn is the principal crop, and many of the farmers are paying a great deal of attention to high-bred stock culture. There are many fine horses and cattle as well as hogs to be found on the farms throughout the township or precinct.

The village of Terre Haute was surveyed and plotted March 22, 1854, by Wm. C. Rice, deputy county surveyor of Henderson county, and the document was filed by John L. Pollock, county clerk, March 25, 1854. This original plot covered a little more than 13 acres in the corners of sections 20, 21, 28 and 29. There have been some additions to the town. Wm. Archer was the first postmaster. The first house built on the present site of Terre Haute was erected by Wm. Reynolds in 1S48, and soon afterward Joseph Genung built the second. The first store-room was built by Alexander Bushnell, and is at present used for a wareroom by J. J. Bryan. Dr. Elson was the first physician, and went to the village on foot. Keokuk, chief of the Sacs and Foxes, then had his headquarters at Burlington, and was quite a frequent visitor to the Terre Haute neighborhood. Dr. Smith remembers of often sitting on the knee of the old warrior.

There are in the town several dry-goods, grocery and notion stores, as well as a drug store, restaurant, wagon and blacksmith shops and other general business found in a thriving country village. Dr. E. H. Trask, Dr. B. F. Hamilton and Dr. W. K. Smith are the physicians of the place. Among the gentlemen who have held the scales of the fair goddess of justice are J. Davis, Wm. Hartford, A. Bushnell, W. C. Reynolds and A. H. Magie. The present incumbents are Geo. J. Morgan and C. R. Gittings.


There is a flourishing lodge of the Independent Order of Odd- Fellows in the village. It was organized October 11, 1876, at Raritan. M. M. Field, J. C. Coulson, C. W. Hardisty, A. E. Stanley and L. W. Calhoun were the charter members. The lodge was transferred from Raritan to Terre Haute in 1879 and the name changed accordingly. Many of the most prominent citizens of the village and vicinity are members of the lodge.


A family remarkable for longevity is the Allen family. Mr. and Mrs. Amasa Allen have been married seventy-six years. Mr. Allen is ninety-five years of age and Mrs. Allen is ninety-one. The ages of their children now living are as follows : Martin, now living in New York is seventy years old; Hannah, sixty-seven; Mary, sixty-four; Joseph, sixty-one; A. F. 57; A. T., 52. The father, Mr. Amasa Allen, is yet quite a sprightly old. gentleman. The first fourth of July celebration at Terre Haute was in 1856, and was held in Edmond Genung's grove. The dinner was free and about six hundred persons partook of it. Mr. M. C. Paul was marshal and a Mr. Reed, or Reid, of Oquawka, delivered the oration. The old settlers yet living, who had the pleasure of attending that celebration, join in saying that there was never a better one and they love to call it to mind, and they feel young again in talking over the occasion. It is indeed a blessed thing, when age puts its mark upon us, to call to mind the many joyous days we had when we basked in the sunlight of strength and vigorous manhood.


The first church was the Methodist Episcopal. The first society of this denomination was organized in a class in the Genung school-house near where the village of Terre Haute now stands. In August, 1850, the La Harpe circuit was organized and Charles Genung was class- leader of this society, which was the northeast appointment of the La Harpe circuit. This society stands ahead of all others in the La Harpe circuit in their reports to the quarterly conference. In their support of preaching and benevolent work their report excels, per number, all other societies.

The society has a good substantial brick church building, which was dedicated in the summer of 1854. The first quarterly meeting was held in the new church on August 12 and 13 of the same year. Rev. M. J. Geddings and Joseph Milsap were the preachers in charge, and Rev. Milton Bourne was presiding elder. Charles Genung and Wm. F. Archer, stewards, and Mr. Archer and Joseph Allen class leaders. Rev. Wm. F. Archer was a local elder, but was two years on the La Harpe circuit as a supply. In the fall of 1860 Terre Haute was separated from La Harpe circuit by the annual conference, but at the first quarterly meeting of the La Harpe circuit a class-leader from Terre Haute, Mr. Joseph Allen, representing the church at Terre Haute, asked that it be continued with the La Harpe circuit, and the prayer of the petitioner was granted. F. M. Chaffee was the preacher in charge of La Harpe circuit, and Rev. A. Magee presiding elder. In the year 1865-6 Joseph Allen, E. Genung and J. Snick were official members of notoriety. In 1866 Terre Haute was permanently separated from La Harpe. The house of worship owned by the Terre Haute society is a fine brick structure 40 x 50, with a good basement. The roof has been blown off twice by severe wind-storms. Rev. P. S. Garretson is the present pastor of the society, and has been for near three years. They have preaching every alternate Sunday evening and Sunday school every Sunday at ten o'clock Class leader and superintendent, Joseph Allen; recording steward, C. R. Gittings; stewards, Chas. Curry, T. W. Jenkins, Steven Genung and Wm. Robinson ; trustees, George Morgan, Joseph Allen, Wm. Rogers, Jacob Snick and Steven Genung.

The Baptist Churchwas built in 1866 and dedicated in June, 1867. The society was organized in the Genung school-house in 1851, by father Sewell. At that time preaching was not always the most pleasant task. The preacher was often called on to use his fists as well as his voice to bring sinners to a realization of their wickedness, and many a man had to have a pounding before he got religion.

The number of adherents at the organization of the society were perhaps not more than half a dozen, but the society grew and flourished until 1866, when they spent nearly three thousand dollars in a church building. They now have from forty to fifty members. The society is of the Free-Will denomination. The Rev. F. W. Westfall is their present pastor.


The school-house in the village is very commodious, and the school buildings throughout the township about the same as in other parts of the country.

The town of Terre Haute is a very temperate place, the majority of the citizens frowning down drunkenness and rowdyism of every sort.

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Copyright 2006 by Connie Lovitt Bates

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