Franklin  Township,  Marion  County

1875 Marion County Map

The  Shelbyville  News
Saturday May 15, 1948
Page 3
By Hortense Montgomery
          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.
          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.
          The village 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.  Each 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 meetings.
          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 time.
          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 Corn.
Contributed by Barb Huff

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          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 the State.
          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 present incumbent.
          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 RubushJohn 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 village.
          The Methodist 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

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