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Montpelier Indiana 1800's and Founders

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  • John Cook (deceased)
    Abel Baldwin, a veteran of the War of 1812, was the leader of this group of Vermont natives. They named their community Montpelier, after the capital of their original home state. Baldwin and his son-i...
  • Dr. William Tetlow Shull (c.1818 - 1890)
    At Montpelier, W.T. Shull, 1847-'70, (first physician in Montpelier), and H.H. Bennett, 1871-'80 are now retired. The Blackford County Medical Society was organized before the war, and has been kept up...
  • Newton Putnam (1805 - 1888)
    Ezra Putnam mentioned in the record of Newton Putnam Name Ezra Putnam Gender Male Son Newton Putnam Name Newton Putnam Gender Male Christening Date 13 Jan 1805 Christening Place DANVERS,ESSEX,MASSACHUS...
  • Clarissa Putnam Simpson (c.1804 - 1866)
    The Baldwin genealogy from 1500 to 1881 (1881) Author: Baldwin, C. C. (Charles Candee), 1834-1895 Subject: Baldwin family Publisher: Cleveland, O, [Leader printing company] Possible copyright status:...
  • Abel Baldwin (1791 - 1839)
    The Baldwin genealogy from 1500 to 1881 (1881) Author: Baldwin, C. C. (Charles Candee), 1834-1895 Subject: Baldwin family Publisher: Cleveland, O, [Leader printing company] Possible copyright status:...

The purpose of this project is to gather information on founders and early inhabitants of Montpelier, Indiana. Immigrants came from Montpelier, Vermont and named the town after their beloved Vermont home land. Abel Baldwin platted out the town on September 5, 1837. Montpelier was incorportated in 1870. Read information below:

1. In 1836 and 1837 a considerable number of emigrants cane from Vermont and settled in and around the territory now included in the city of Montpelier. Abel Baldwin was the leading spirit among them. He was born in the town of Cavendish, Windsor county, Vermont in 1790. His father’s name was Abel and his grandfather’s name was Isaac. His maternal grandfather, Captain John Coffeen, was the first white settler in the town of Cavendish”. Mr. Baldwin acquired a good education and was successful school teacher. He was in the army in the war of 1812. With his family he left Vermont in October 1836, and came through the state of New York, and by water to Detroit and on to this county by way of White Pigeon and Goshen; his brother, Franklin G. Baldwin, and Joseph Streeter and David Pierce started from Vermont in September and came through in wagons. With them came Newton and Kendall Putnam and their father, who settled across the line in Wells county. Nearly all these family is were related in some way to the Baldwins. The following year the Spauldings came also from Vermont. Judge Isaac Spaulding was a fine scholar and an excellent citizen; he was a half brother to Jesse Spaulding, the father of the other Spauldings who came who were John C., Franklin B., Francis G., Salome, Stephen S., and Freeman H., and their widowed mother, Sarah Spaulding. Abel Baldwin laid out and platted the town of Montpelier, September 5, 1837.


Montpelier was born in a time shortly after the Indians were run out of the Indiana territories. The year was 1836. The state of Indiana had just been formed and admitted to the union 20 years before (1816) as the 19th state. The Indiana Governor was Noah Noble, a Whig, and the President of the United States was second termer Andrew Jackson. Martin Van Buren was erected to tee President starting 1837 Santa Anna and 3000 Mexicans had just overrun the Alamo in the newly recognized independent republic of Texas and Samuel Colt patented the pistol with a revolving chamber.

Indiana, spurred by the success of the Erie Canal, (opened in 1833) plus being urged by the ever present need for better transportation, embarked upon the "Canal era" with the enactment of the "Mammouth Internal Improvement Bill" which carried an appropriation of $13 million, well over 10% of the states total assessed valuation. The bill provided for a vast network of canals and turnpikes and a railroad. One year later the "panic of 1837" struck the nation and the State government became bankrupt.

Montpelier was platted in as a part of Jay County until 1839. In 1839, Blackford County, was organized. It was named for Judge Issac Blackford. From 1824 to 1836, this area was a part of Delaware County, and from 1836 to 1839 it was a part of Jay County. Until 1824, all the Central and Northern portions of the state were held by Indians. Indiana was named from the "Indiana Territory" that was separated from the Northwest Territory. When Indiana became a state in 1816, the name Indiana was retained, which means "land of the Indians".

When Able Baldwin and his son­in­law, John J. Cook founded the city in 1836, they named it for the capital of their home state, Montpelier, Vermont.

Montpelier was located on the Salamonie River and the L.E. & Western Railroad which made it an ideal location. The city was platted so that on each corner of the main street in the business district there would be a city park. These parks remain today and are maintained in joint effort to help beautify the city by the city government and various organizations.

The city was incorporated in 1871 with a population of 231. Oil was discovered in 1887 and the population grew from 900 people in 1890 to 3000 in 1895 and to 5000 in 1896. The people poured into the town known as "Oil City".

These new people were a rough breed; drillers from the gas and oil mines, factory workers from the new industries sprouting up on the outskirts of town and laborers from the newly­opened limestone quarries east of town. They weaved drunkenly through the streets at night, singing songs. These were the same streets the ladies of the Temperance League had walked only a decade before, singing different songs. Now the streets were paved with tar and macadam; the sidewalks with stone and cement. Montpelier became a full­fledged city, chartered in 1895. The new city recorded more killings per population than any other city in the state. Money and whiskey flowed freely, street fighting was common, and saloons and other recreational activities that would please a tired laborer were numerous.

During this period, the Ohio Oil Company (now Marathon Oil Company) was taking many barrels of oil a week from their wells and a million dollars a day was passing through their new office building. The building is now the Community Building housing the office of the historical society. The Ohio Oil Company was just one of many oil companies located in the area at that time. Many of the cities sub­divisions were platted by the Standard Oil Company.

In 1896 Montpelier had two Hotels, three banks, many general stores, 7 doctors, 3 dentists, eight industries, and an opera house with a seating capacity of 600. This Opera House is still in existence as are many of the other establishments of that era. Montpelier also contained an infamous reputation of having 15 saloons and 13 houses of prostitution. The most popular gaming house being a two story brick building built for the sole purpose of prostitution the "Blue Front Hotel". The Blue Front Hotel was owned and operated by a madam referred to as "Black Bess".

Black Bess was a philanthropists of sorts and contributed quite frequently toward the growth of Montpelier. She is said to have had the prettiest girls in the State of Indiana and built her business on that reputation. She also had a very fine stable of horses and some very fine surreys. The girls that worked for Black Bess were not allowed to do business on Sunday but were seen frequently on the streets on a warm Sunday afternoon, dressed in the finest silks and satins, riding in the surreys behind the black velvet horses.

The Blue Front Hotel was razed in 1969 and until that time some names of the girls and patrons remained on the walls where they had been written many years before. All that remains of the infamous hotel now is the memory, rumors, and the vacant location.

In 1896 the city hall was built, and the water works and distribution system was laid in 1897. (The water works was rebuilt in 1928 and a new building was built in 1994.)

(After the turn of the century, the gas and oil ran out. The people working in these industries left Montpelier. Industries closed one by one, and the city reverted to an agriculture community once more. Tar and cement roads lessened the need for stone and quarrying also declined. The population dropped sharply and continued to decline until after World War II. Although Montpelier's population today is less than half that of the peak reached during the boom period, the city had endured and has begun to grow again.)

Nearby cities: Muncie, Indiana, Anderson, Indiana, Richmond, Indiana Coordinates: 40°33'5"N 85°16'56"W

3. Above information ( 1 and 2 above) found in the following reference: Biographical Memoirs of Blackford County, Ind: To which is Appended a Comprehensive Compendium of National Biography ... Embellished with Portraits of Many Well Known Residents of Blackford County, Indiana

Benjamin Granville Shinn January 1, 1900 Bowen Publishing Company

4. Woodlawn Cemetery Association Founded: 1858 Location: Montpelier (1858– )

In 1858 several Montpelier citizens, headed by the town’s founder Abel Baldwin,

organized the Woodlawn Cemetery Association to create and run the community’s cemetery. Eight lots were sold on the day of the association’s founding. Prices ranged from sixty cents to two dollars per lot. As with most burial grounds at the time, the association did not create a fund for the perpetual care of the gravesites.

Interestingly, the association predates the formal existence of the town. Montpelier was

not incorporated until 1870. Most of the remains of the earliest settlers of the settlement can be found in the northwest corner of the cemetery, designated as “Old Cemetery.”

5. Montpelier is a city in Blackford County, Indiana, United States. This small rural community, the county's first to be platted, was established by settlers from Vermont, and is named after Vermont's capital city of Montpelier.Montpelier was a central participant in the Indiana Gas Boom, as natural gas was discovered near the community in 1887. More importantly, the county's first successful oil well was drilled on the south side of Montpelier in 1890. Its population quickly grew from 808 in 1890 to about 6,500 by 1896. The Gas Boom, mostly an oil boom for Montpelier, gradually ended during the first decade of the 20th century.Like many boom towns, the city's population has never matched that of the boom years. The city's population was 1,805 at the 2010 census. However, the city's population stabilized many decades ago, and the community has multiple industries and an active community association. Montpelier is located near the former Godfroy Indian Reservation, and a statue of an Indian is featured prominently in the downtown district.HistoryIn 1836 and 1837, several groups of settlers from Vermont moved to East Central Indiana, and settled on the high ground on the south side of the Salamonie River. Abel Baldwin, a veteran of the War of 1812, was the leader of this group of Vermont natives. They named their community Montpelier, after the capital of their original home state. Baldwin and his son-in-law, civil engineer John Cook, surveyed the area in 1836, and it was platted on September 5, 1837. The original plat had 16 blocks with a total of 154 lots.


Information on Emigration from Vermont Gathering and Interactions of Peoples, Cultures, and Ideas Migration from Vermont

by Sara Rooker I have once more resumed my pen, though far away among strangers in a strange land, to let you know that I am well and have not forgotten you begins one of the many letters written home to Vermont and New Hampshire from the West. Sarah Town, from Franklin, Vermont, went on to describe her journey to Will County, Illinois, in 1846. That journey took her through New York by canal boat and then across the Great Lakes on a steamer loaded with 1,000 passengers heading west.

The 1830s and 1840s saw the first widespread "western fever" in Vermont and New Hampshire. Emigrants were moving to southern Michigan, northern Illinois, and southeastern Wisconsin—a "next step" from the 1820s migrations to New York and central and southern Ohio. One early New Hampshire emigrant, Eleazar Jewett, was the first permanent white settler in Saginaw Valley, Michigan. He ran a trading post for the American Fur Company and later kept a ferry. In 1831 he met and married Azubah Miller, who had traveled with her mother from Hartland, Vermont. They settled in Green Point, Michigan, in a very isolated log cabin.

What pushed so many west? In 1811 William Jarvis introduced Merino sheep into Vermont, leading to a fairly rapid change in farming practices: Many farms were consolidated as it became more profitable to raise sheep on a larger scale. By 1837 there were over one million sheep in Vermont providing wool to the large textile mills in Massachusetts and over 100 smaller mills in Vermont. Windsor County was one of four in the state that counted 200 sheep per square mile. From 1829 to 1835, the average flock size throughout New Hampshire was 500-1,000 head. Walpole, N.H., recorded 20,000 sheep.

The booming wool industry created disparities in wealth as the demand for larger acreage increased land prices. Not everyone could afford a farm and the 1830s saw many young would-be northern New England farmers heading west. "Beware of the 'western fever' and above all, sell not your farms to your rich neighbors for sheep pastures," warned Windsor's newspaper, the Green Mountaineer, in 1834. While some Vermont and New Hampshire farmers prospered, the sheep and wool boom was short-lived and its longer-term consequences were damaging. Environmental degradation, primarily deforestation, and the collapse of the local industry in the 1840s as a result of cheaper western wool and the end of the tariff, both accelerated westward migration from the region.

While fluctuating land values and the difficulties of making a living at farming pushed people to leave, the lure of better economic opportunities out west and in regional textile mills pulled people from Vermont. The Vermont Chronicle lamented, "Within a few weeks the daughters of Vermont have passed by our doors by the score at a time, to be employed in factory work in another state." In 1846 there were 1,200 Vermont girls in the mills of Lowell alone. Letters from the mill girls describe their working and living conditions. Mary Paul wrote to her father in Barnard that all the girls living with her were from Vermont. She was enthusiastic about her new life, saying "I think the factory is the best place for me and if any girl wants employment I advise them to come to Lowell." (Mary Paul to her Father, Bela Paul, 1845.) In New Hampshire, the Amoskeag mills also drew many farm girls. The many letters written home from the West were also enthusiastic, describing the climate as milder and healthier and the land as cheap, fertile, easy to clear, and, most important, flat:

I should think that a man in Vermont would be sick of home if he was to be here one season and work over the soil. we do not have to travel on side hills where we have get hold of the twigs of trees to hold footing-one mile here on the prairie is not so much to travil over as a half mile is there up and down the hills. (John Petrie, Greggisville, Illinois, to Eli English, Hartland, Vermont, 1838.)

It was not unusual for migrants from New England to move from place to place before settling down. The example of Heman Rice Gibbs, a native of Jericho, Vermont, and his family is instructive. Gibbs left Vermont for LaPorte County, Indiana, in 1837 at age 22, where he farmed and was a teacher. He then went to Wisconsin and worked as a miner for six years, eventually meeting his wife, Jane Debow, in Illinois. In 1849 Gibbs took his new bride to the Minnesota Territory, and they became the first white settlers in an area marked by crossing trails used by Dakotah Indians. They sunk their roots there and Gibbs became a successful farmer and leading citizen, serving in various local offices and writing for the newspaper. The house Gibbs built supposedly resembled the family home back in Jericho. Still sitting on its original site, the house is now the Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakotah Life in St. Paul. Not coincidentally, one of Gibbs' brothers also settled in Minnesota, a sister settled in the same Illinois town where he had met his wife, and his own son married a woman from Vermont.1 Chain migration and association with people of similar backgrounds were common features of the migration experience.

Gold also drew Vermonters to the West. By 1850, 11,000 Vermonters had reached California, many bound for the gold mines. Most of those headed to California to seek their fortune traveled in groups, often a dozen or more men together. It appears that most opted for the sea route around Cape Horn or the water-and-land journey across Central America at Panama or Nicaragua rather than the 3,000-mile trek across the continent-though those trips were considerably more expensive. Nearly a dozen such groups of Vermonters going to California from Caledonia County between 1849 and 1855 have been documented, numbering more than 200 men. In addition to searching for gold, they kept stores, ran hotels, shipped freight, and found other types of work that were often more profitable than mining. Some of them made good money, some of them failed miserably, some died out west, and a few of them stayed in California. But most of these men returned to Vermont. Interestingly, of three companies of these Caledonia men studied in depth by historian Lynn Bonfield, almost half of those who returned to Vermont resettled their families to the Midwest before the Civil War.2

Vermonters already living in the Midwest also moved on to California. Dennis Townsend had previously moved from Montpelier to Illinois but was not content to stay. In an 1852 letter to his sister Aurelia, he wrote:

I am bound for another country. It will take about three weeks for me to get ready and then "Ho for California." It is thought by some that there will be suffering on the plains this season in consequence of the great tide of immigration to the gold region. I shall take my chance with the rest.

This leapfrogging across the country can make it hard to figure out how many from Vermont and New Hampshire were actually at the western gold mines. An 1870 census analysis of Montana revealed 227 men born in Vermont and New Hampshire with 42 living in Virginia City near gold mines. In Virginia City, 10 were married with children born in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Utah, revealing a typical pattern of multiple migrations. The slavery question also provided a pull for migration west. Kansas emigration societies were formed in Montpelier, Rutland, and Randolph, Vermont, as well as Sutton and Londonderry, New Hampshire. Rutland's Vermont Kansas Relief Company was formed "for mutual defense and protection" to aid emigrants to Kansas and funds were devoted solely to "men of good character." Money was raised as well as by the Vermont legislature, which passed an appropriation to help Kansas pioneers. Clarina Howard Nichols, editor of the Windham County Democrat and a vocal proponent of abolition and woman suffrage, moved to Kansas in 1853 to be on the front lines of the antislavery struggle. Some years later she was instrumental in Kansas becoming one of the first states to allow women to vote in local elections.

Other colonies and emigration societies were also formed. In the fall of 1835, the Rev. Sylvester Cochrane, a Congregational minister from Vermont, visited Michigan for the purpose of locating there permanently. Struck by the sparseness of population, he returned to Vermont to sell the idea of establishing a colony comprised of New England citizens within the township. He successfully convinced 42 families to join in, and in 1836 the first groups arrived, forming Vermontville, Michigan. Today, Vermontville is best known for its annual Maple Syrup Festival, the original maple sugar event in the state of Michigan!

By the 1880s, only 58% of native-born Vermonters actually lived in Vermont and the total population had grown only a little since the Civil War, with rural communities actually declining in numbers. This demographic stagnation, combined with increased numbers of immigrants in the more urban communities, raised anxiety among Vermont's leaders. The state Board of Agriculture published pamphlets aimed at attracting new owners for abandoned hill farms and promoted the idea of summer boarding at farms. New Hampshire's Governor Frank Rollins invented Old Home Week in 1899 as a way to rescue the state. "Come back, come back!" Rollins wrote in 1897. "Do you not hear the call? What has become of the old home where you were born? Do you not remember it—the old farm back among the hills, with its rambling buildings, its well sweep casting its long shadows, the row of stiff poplar trees, the lilacs and the willows?"

Hundreds of letters written home from the West survive in the Vermont and New Hampshire Historical Society archives as well as in the archives of local communities. They describe treks across the Panama Isthmus, encounters with Native Americans on the Oregon Trail, life at the gold mines, and breaking the prairie. Many of the letter writers encouraged their families and neighbors to join them in a land with a healthy climate, cheap real estate, abundant resources, easily plowed soil, and more profitable markets. Join them they did.

Footnotes: 1 Charles Morrissey, "The Road West," Vermont History News 35 (September-October 1984): 103-105.

2 Lynn A. Bonfield, "Ho for California! Caledonia County Gold Miners," Vermont History 74 (Winter/Spring 2006): 5-47.

Brief Bibliography: Hal S, Barron, Those Who Stayed Behind: Rural Society in Nineteenth-Century New England (Cambridge University Press, 1984).

Lynn Bonfield, Roxanna's Children: The Biography of a Vermont Farm Family (University of Massachusetts Press, 1995).

Lynn Bonfield, "Ho for California! Caledonia County Gold Miners," Vermont History, 74 (Winter/Spring 2006): 5.

Dona Brown, Inventing New England: Regional Tourism in the Nineteenth Century (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995).

Thomas Dublin, ed., Farm to Factory: Women's Letters, 1830-1860 (Columbia University Press, 1981).

Thomas Dublin, "The Hodgdon Family Letters: A View of Women in the Early Textile Mills, 1830-1840," Historical New Hampshire 33 (Winter 1978).

Linda Otto Lipsett, Pieced from Ellen's Quilt (Halstead & Meadows Publishing, 1991).

Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith, Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement (University of Oklahoma Press, 1994). See the story of the Shipman family of Vermont and Montana

Michael Sherman, Gene Sessions, and P. Jeffrey Potash, Freedom and Unity: A History of Vermont (Vermont Historical Society, 2004).

Lewis Stilwell, Migration from Vermont (Vermont Historical Society, 1948).

William L. Taylor, "The Nineteenth-Century Hill Town: Images and Reality," Historical New Hampshire, 37 (Winter 1982).