The Shelbyville News
We had at the beginning of our history
sketches the thought that the intimacy and friendly contacts of the
small villages surpassed those of the larger cities. Perhaps this
is because folks of the small town are more dependent on each other
for their social and mutual well-being. Anyway we have found in our
seeking for facts concerning the small villages a very friendly
attitude. We would not have missed the contacts we have made through
these sketches for anything. When our editor suggested that we
continue the sketches to include those just over the border where
there is really no distinction of location it was a pleasure to
continue our stories. And so we begin in Acton, the village which in
its early days became famous as the Acton Camp Meeting ground.
Saturday May 15, 1948
YOUR TOWN — ACTON
By Hortense Montgomery
While most of the villages started by
a few settlers and the industries needed to meet their wants it was
thought the building of the New York Railway brought Acton into
being. The railway was nearing completion in 1852, the year that
Acton was laid out.
Acton is in the southeast part of
Franklin Township, Marion County and is located on a part of the
tract originally owned by the pioneer settler Peter Carberry
but which in 1852 was owned by Thomas Wallace; it was laid out
by John E. Stretcher, surveyor for Thomas Ferguson, the
town plat being recorded October 22, 1852. The railroad was opened
for travel in September of 1853.
Like many of the villages we have
named it began with another name and ended with another, to avoid
confusion in the mail service. It began as Farmersville and was
changed to Acton since there was another Farmersville in Indiana. John Daily was the first postmaster; now Acton has a woman
postmaster, Mrs. Rachel Pfendler, who has served since 1933.
A new post office will soon be ready for occupancy.
The first merchants of the village
were John Albright and William Duval who opened their store in
a log building in 1852. Early in its history Doctors William
Scott and Johnson located in the village but remained only
about a year; perhaps the people were too healthy to make practice
pay. But Doctor Samuel McGaughey came in 1856 and remained in
practice in the village and vicinity until his death.
The schools of Franklin Township
progressed slowly, and rather uncomfortably for the students, which
hewed logs for desks and seats, but common to all schools of the
early settlements. The first recorded school of Acton is that of
the four-room, two-story building erected in the southwest part of
town. This served the graded and high school until 1912 when the
present building was erected.
has had from very early days two men’s lodges, the Pleasant Lodge,
No. 134 F. and A.M. organized in 1852 in Shelby county and then
moved to Acton, and Acton Lodge No, 279, I.O.O.F. organized in 1867. These serve as an outlet for the fraternal spirit for the men.
has its own woman’s auxiliary. The women have a literary club and
a church organization “sponsored by the Presbyterian Church with a
membership made up of representatives from a number of near-by
churches, showing that the club is providing a spiritual and cultural
program that is appreciated.”
Acton had been marked from the first
by religious fervor and it must have been that that culminated in the
Acton Camp meetings. The Methodist congregation originated in the
home of William Rector one and a half miles north of Acton
about 1827 which was some years before the town was laid out and a
church building erected on his farm in 1830. Then a class was
organized in Acton in 1852 and met in the school house until 1856,
when they dedicated their church here.
In 1852 the Acton Presbyterians were
organized though the congregation really originated in 1833 at the
home of Mrs. Mary Sabern in Perry township. In 1870 the
present brick building was erected and their first pastor was Rev.
William A. Holliday.
The Baptist church was organized
January 13, 1866; at this time the members held a revival adding to
their membership until it was possible to give a call for a regular
minister, James M. Smith who was one of the revival ministers.
The Presbyterians gave their church over to be used for these
The land of the Camp Meeting Group
adjoining Acton on the northwest was purchased by Rev. John V. R.
Miller about 1859 for $1,000 and buildings were erected for the
meetings, including a pavilion and a number of cottages about three
hundred where folks lived for the duration of the meetings. Twice
the buildings were burned and twice rebuilt, but about 1905 they were
burned and never rebuilt. Sundays were the big days and during the
week social visiting and lesser services were held. The Big Four ran
excursions from several cities along the way and brought immense
crowds. This was before the day when autos were not even a dream but
old Dobbins brought his share of folks where ever he could make the
distance. It was estimated that as many as 40,000 people attended
the meetings in one day; this must have been when the famous
preacher, T. DeWitt Talmage and “the Grand Old Man,”
William Gladstone, Prime Minister of England were the
speakers. They could draw people out of the air. Mr. Excell,
noted musician and song leader had charge of the music part of the
We spent just one day at the camp
meeting when the enthusiasm was past its prime. We were a guest at
the Conrey cottage, the hottest day that ever blew and the day was
burned into our memory. We had on a summer frock but very heavy,
with a choker up to our ears the style then. We thought we’d die
before the day was over; otherwise we had a splendid time!
These meetings must have left their
imprint on all who attended then and no doubt had something to do
with the fine spirit of the village which now characterizes it. Driving over it recently we found a village with the look of an
interested citizenry, keeping up with the progress of the times. It
now has a population of 700. There are several good stores, the
Tedway Corporation for manufacturing power law mowers, a grain
elevator, a canning factory, a locker plant, two garages, a
blacksmith shop, a beautiful funeral home, and a large sale barn
where a community sale is held every Wednesday. A number of Acton
workers are employed at Beech Grove and the International Harvester. The Hutchinson Bros. are large growers of the Premier Hybrid Seed
Contributed by Barb Huff
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The village of Acton is
situated in the southeastern part of Franklin township, on the line of the
Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Chicago Railway. The land which
forms the site of the village is a part of the tract originally owned by the
pioneer settler, Peter Carbery, but which in 1852 was owned by Thomas
Wallace. The village was laid out in that year by John E.
Stretcher, surveyor, for Thomas Wallace and Thomas Ferguson,
the town plat being recorded October 22d in the year named. There would
probably never have been any village at that point but for the building of the
railroad, which was at that time approaching completion, and which was opened
for travel in September of the following year. The original name of the
town was Farmersville, which was afterwards changed to Acton, to avoid confusion
in the mail service, as there was already a post-office named Farmersville in
Upon the establishment of
the post-office at Acton, John Daily was appointed
postmaster; and his successors in the office have been (in order named) Joseph
Pierson, Samuel Rosengarten, Reuben Conway, Joseph Brenton,
George W. Morgan, N. T. Parker, George W. Vaughn, D. W.
Pierson, John Foley, and (again) D. W. Pierson, who is the
The first merchants of
the village were John Albright and William Duval,
who opened their store in a log building in 1852. The next was John
Daily, who opened in 1853, and continued until 1855, when he sold to Joseph
Pierson and William Leeper. The latter sold his interest in
the store to Pierson, who carried on business until 1858, when he sold out at
auction and removed to Iowa.
Salathiel T. Pierson
commenced merchandising at Acton in 1853, and continued till his death in
September, 1855. Dugald McDougall commenced in 1854, and
continued about one year. James Morgan and Peter
Swigart commenced at about the same time. John Threlkill
commenced in 1855, and continued in trade about three years. N. J.
Parker commenced about 1858 and continued till 1864. Rev.
Thomas Ray was a merchant in Acton from 1858 to 1860, and Warren
Stacy from 1860 to 1866. The three general stores of the village
at the present time (January, 1884) are carried on respectively by D.
W. Pierson, George W. Swails, and James W. Swails.
The first physician of
Acton was Dr. William Scott, who came in 1855, and reamined but a
short time. Dr. -- Johnson located in the village in the fall
of 1855, and remained about one year. Dr. Samuel McGaughey, who was
reared and educated in Franklin County, and married a daughter of Madison
Morgan, of Shelby County, Ind., located in Acton in 1856, and has remained
in practice in the village and civinity until the present time. Dr. T.
N. Bryant came about 1857. He was in partnership with Dr.
McGaughey for about a year, after which he removed to Illinois, but returned to
Marion County and located in Indianapolis. Dr. Philander C. Leavitt,
who resided at Pleasant View, Shelby Co., at the opening of the war of the
Rebellion, entered the service of the United States as a private soldier, was
promoted to surgeon, and soon after the close of the war located in Acton, where
he remained in practice till his death in 1882. Dr. J. W. Spicer,
who is not in practice in Acton, located in the village about 1879.
Acton is now a village of
about three hundred and fifteen inhabitants, and has four churches (three
Protestant and one Catholic), one school-house (built in 1876, at a cost of six
thousand dollars), one graded school, three physicians, three general stores,
one boot- and shoe-store (by Henry Baas), one drug-store (by John
Curry), two wagon-shops by Daniel Gillespie and Hamilton
Brothers), two blacksmith-shops, a steam saw-mill built in 1853 by John
McCollum & Sons, and now operated by A. H. Plymate),
a steam flouring-mill (built about 1860 by Jacob Rubush, John
Ferrin, and Solomon Hahn, and now operated by Mr. Hahn),
a Masonic lodge, and a lodge of the order of Odd-Fellows.
Pleasant Lodge, No. 134,
F. and A.M., was organized at Pleasant View, Shelby Co., in May, 1852, with
eight members. About four years after the organization it was removed to
Acton, where a frame building, twenty-five by fifty feet in size, was erected,
and the upper story fitted and furnished as a lodge-room, while the lower story
was rented store purposes. In 1873 the building was destroyed by fire,
with a total loss of the furniture and records of the lodge. In 1875 a
brick building, twenty-four by sixty feet in size, was erected on the same site,
at a cost of four thousand one hundred and sixty dollars. The lower story
is occupied as a store by D. W. Pierson, and above it is the
Masonic Hall. The lodge has now a membership of fifty. The present
officers are William Cooper, W. M.; William T. Cummins,
S. W.; John Hanahan, J. W.; Austin Daugherty,
Sec.; Solomon Hahn, Treas.; George Clover, S.
D.; Dr. J. W. Spicer, J. D.; John Means, Tiler.
Acton Lodge, No. 279,
I.O.O.F., was instituted June 20, 1867, with the following-names members: J.
C. P. Stage, E. T. Wells, Joseph Fittsgeval, C. C.
Weaver, Charles J. Phemister, J. G. Clark, Allen Drake,
S. Rosengarten, John A. Johnson, William C. Nicholas, John
Porter, James H. Clark, Joseph R. Johnson.
The lodge now has fifteen
past grand officers, sixteen active members, and property valued at about one
thousand dollars. The hall is in the second story of the building, over
the store of George W. Swails. The present officers of the
lodge are: John Craft, N. G.; James Matthews, V.
G.; J. Swails, Sec.; G. W. Swails, Treas.;
Charles C. Weaver, Per Sec.
The grounds of the Acton
Camp-Meeting Association, adjoining the village of Acton on the northwest, being
the southeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section 16, township 14, north
of range 5 east, were purchased of the Rev. John V. R. Miller for
about one thousand dollars, and laid out and buildings erected for camp-meeting
purposes about 1859. The buildings were destroyed by fire about 1863; were
rebuilt, and again burned about three years later, when the present building
were erected. The camp-meetings held yearly on this ground are very
largely attended, as many as forty thousand people having sometimes been present
in a single day.
The Union Agricultural
Fair Association of Franklin township was first organized as a grange
association, and its name afterwards changed to the present one. Hitherto
the fairs of the association have been held on grounds (about twelve acres)
rented for the purpose on the farm of John P. Overhiser, about
three miles west of Acton; but this arrangement was not intended to be a
permanent one, and the fairs will be held in future on grounds adjoining the
Episcopal Church at Acton was first organized at the house of William
Rector, on the northeast quarter of section 10, township 14, range 5
east, about the year 1827. It was formed by the following-named
members: William Rector and wife, George Tibbitts and wife,
John Walden and wife, Jeremiah Burnett and wife, with William Rector and
George Tibbitts as leaders. About 1830 they built a house of worship on
the land of William Rector, which was twenty-eight by thirty-six feet, and
constructed of hewn logs, as was the custom in that day. The church was
served by the following-named preachers or pastors (in what order cannot be
given) Revs. James Havens, Francis McLaughlin, Elijah
Whitten, David Burt, Jacob Miller, John V. R. Miller,
Landy Havens, George Havens, David Havens, James Corwin, -----
Baherrell, and Greenly McLaughlin, with William
Rector as exhorter and local preacher.
About 1846, William
Rector moved to Iowa, and the class began to decline and became quite
weak. In 1852 they organized a class at the school-house, one and one-half
miles southwest, where the village of Acton was laid out in the same year.
They continued to hold their meetings in the school-house until the fall of
1855, at which time they had a church edifice sufficiently near completion to
hold their services in, but it was not dedicated until June, 1856. In the
fall of 1853 they held the quarterly meeting in the warehouse of John
Daily, in Acton. After the class was moved from Rector's chapel to
Acton, John Daily, William Crosson, Henry McRoberts, David
Rayburn, Joseph Brenton, and C. C. Butler
were class-leaders up to 1860.
They had for pastors or
preachers the Rev. George Havens for 1853, Rev.
Thomas Ray for 1854-55, Rev. John V. R. Miller for
1856, Rev. John Brouce for 1857, Rev. -----
Chivington for 1858, Rev. Patrick Carlin for
1859, Rev. Elijah Whitten for 1860, Rev. M. Mitchell
for 1864, Rev. A. Lotten for 1865-66, Rev. J. H.
Tomlinson for 1867-68, Rev. Henry Wright for 1869, Rev.
B. F. Morgan for 1870, Rev. Thomas W. Jones for
1871-72 (number of members at this time, sixty-five), Rev. F. S. Turk
for 1873-74 (number of members at this time, eighty), Rev. E. S.
Spencer for 1875-76 (number of members at this time, one hundred and
twelve), Rev. P. S. Cook for 1877-78, Rev. William
Nichols for 1879-80, Rev. R. L. Kinnear for
1881, Rev. Albert Cain for 1882-83. Present number of
members, one hundred and thirteen. The church building was burned Dec. 24,
1879, the fire being caused by a defective flue. They commenced to rebuild
in May, 1881, and completed the building so that it was dedicated on the 31st of
July of the same year. The building is a brick structure, thirty-four by
forty-eight feet, and cost three thousand dollars.
History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana, B. R. Sulgrove,
Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1884, page 526-528
Township History Index