Montgomery Township History

The township of Montgomery is one of the oldest settled divisions of Owen county and dates its organization from March 4, 1819. As originally formed it included the present townships of Jackson, Jennings, Taylor and the western parts of Wayne and Harrison. Changes were made with the formations of the other townships to its present limits.

The early pioneers who first settled among the forests of Montgomery township, were to become some of the most prominent citizens of the county. Land was entered in the township as early as 1816 and about two years later came the first permanent settlement. It is said that John Hudson was the first white man to settle in Montgomery township and make improvements. He made the first entry of land in October of 1816 and moved his family there in the spring of 1818. John was a native of Tennessee and had a thriving business in boating grain and lumber to New Orleans. He later moved to Gosport and then on to Texas.

Early in 1818, Lloyd Cummings settled in section 22 and later migrated to Putnam county. Henry and Samuel French were among the first arrivals in section 27 as early as the summer of 1818. They were unmarried on their arrival here and later married and remained in the township until about 1858 when the migrated with several other families to Texas. Joseph Bartholomew was another early settler in 1818 as was Richard Morris who settled on Mill Creek in Section 32. Morris later sold his land to Samuel Steele.

In 1817, entries were made by Neely Beem and Benjamin Freeland in section 27; Ninian Steele in section 22 and James Steele in section 27. S. Gwathney in section 32 and Hugh Barnes in the same section. John McNaught, Jesse Steele and William Dent in Section 31, all of whom later became prominent residents.

Ninian Steele was one of the prominent citizens of Montgomery township and did as much if not more than any other man toward the moral and physical developement of the township. Mr Steele was among the first to take and interest in the cause of religion in the township and gathered the settlers for the organization of the Presbyterian Church at his residence. His death occurred about 1858.

Hugh Barnes was a pioneer preacher in the county. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and his home was used for a church in the early years. In later years he turned to the medical profession. Joseph Montgomery, Henry Devore and John Treat all became residents as early as 1819. About a year later William Milligan settled in section 33, William McDonald came to the southern boundary of the township, William Devore, brother of Hugh obtained a patent in the northern section of the township; David Fain settled not far from Santa Fe and Thomas and William Bull settled in the southwest portions of the township.

The years 1823 and 1824 showed the population increase with the following names;

Jonathan Payne and his son, William; Cornelius T. Gwinn, Joseph Wering, William Montgomery and step son, Samuel Steele, William Willoughby, Joseph Clark, Henry McAlister, Joseph Warren, George Walker, William Watson, Isaac Teal, David Kerr, Samuel Pickens, James Smith, David Owens, Martin Melick, Abraham Keller, John Couchman, William Coffman, George Coutchman, Samuel Faris, Zebedee Parish, Frank Brown, M. Westfall, Jeremiah Hill, Andrew Taylor, Isaac Hendricks, Jonathan Howard, Moses Acres and many others.

The first wheat grown in the township was by David Fain and most of this was used for seed that he shared with his neighbors and waited till the following year for his payment from them. The first frame house in the township was erected in the year 1825 by John Hudson. James Steele built the first brick home in the same year and George Coutchman erected a brick residence as early as the spring/summer of 1826. Although these homes were small, they were viewed as mansions in that early day.

Richard Morris planted the first orchard in the middle 1820's. Other early orchards in the township were set out by James Steele, George Coutchman, John Hudson and David Fain. One of the first industries of the township was a small distillery built by Henry Devore as early as 1828. It operated a few years and another distillery was operated by Thomas Bull. The first mill in operation was that of "Bass" Milligan and stood in section 33. The next mill was built about the year 1832 by Thomas Alan and stood on the East Fork of Mill Creek near the central part of the township. This mill operated about 25 years and passed through several hands, the last being Cornelius Jones. The first saw mill in the township was erected by a man by the name of Wills and stood on Mill Creek in Section 19, although the date is not certain, it was prior to 1840. In 1853, James Baker erected a combination saw and grist mill on the creek just below the Allan Mill. The last owners of this mill were John Moderell and Alexander Allan, it was washed out by a freshet in 1865. Jesse Steele and Newton Fain operated a tannery in the southeast corner of the township as early as 1830.

Among the early deaths in the township was George Coutchman in 1825, he was buried at the Bethany Graveyard, as were Ninian Steele, John Fain, Mrs Ninian Steele and Polly Coutchman. The Bethany Cemetery or Presbysterian Graveyard was the first ground laid out for burial in the township. The Santa Fe Burying Ground was the next place laid out, there are two other graveyards in the township; the Milligan Cemetery and the Steele Graveyard.

Among the earliest pioneers who married were; William Payne and Annie Beem, James Allison and Julia Payne, Samuel Payne and Nancy Craddock, James Barnes and Matilda Wilson, M. Westfall and a Miss Painter, Ninian Steele and Miss Westfall, Howe Steele and Miss Killough, William Craddock and Polly Warren, Samuel Richard and Julia Ann Gallaway, M. Snoddy and Eliza Steele, Archibald Burke and Jane Steele; all of whom married prior to 1835.

The earliest children were born to the families of Ninian Steele, Howe Steele and David Fain soon after their settlement in the township. James Lyons, son of Valentine and Mary Lyon was born in the year 1824 as was Jerry Devore, son of Henry Devore. Hugh Devore, brother of Jerry was born two years earlier. James Hill, son of Jeremiah Hill dates his birth from the year 1830.

The first school in Montgomery township was taught about the year 1825 in a little cabin which stood near the old Bethany Church and was taught by Andrew Sinex. William Hudson and Mr. Woods also taught there in an early day. Another early schoolhouse stood in the southern part of the township on land owned by Thomas Wilson and was first used by Isaac Teel.

As early as 1825 a small log house was built in the Payne settlement. the first teacher there was Isaac Westfall, after which came William Shields, Andrew Sinex, and Clement Lee.There were other early schoolhouses built in the Alverson and Hill neighborhoods and on Joseph Clark's land in the southern part of the township.

During the school year of 1882-1883, there was paid for tuition a sum of $695.79. The teachers for the above year were: Joseph A. Williams, F. A. Williams, Mollie Hensley, A.B. Milligan and W. Cheatwood.

Santa Fe

This village was situated in the western part of the township with the greater part lying in Section 24. It was surveyed in the year 1851 for William L. Hart, proprietor and consisted of 66 lots. The first store was opened by Mr. hart who kept a general assortment of merchandise and ran this establishment for about eight to ten years. The next merchant was George Moore who held the business for about 7 years before moving out of the area. Other merchants were: William Davis, Allan Layman, Alfred Dicks, Frederick Hale, Alvin Rockwell, H. Jones, Samuel Pickens, Jerry Pritchard, William White, Phillip Miller, William Moss and William Melick. In the late 1880's a general store was kept by J. C. McCoy, there was also a blacksmith shop, shoe shop and chair factory.