History of Van Buren Township, Part 2


By Stephen Jackson | For The Times-Post

Van Buren Township is unique as in all its history it has contained only one town, Summitville, which was called by several names, including Wrinkle and Skipperville.

According to some old timers the town once was called “Wrinkle” because of its diminutive size.

Skipperville was only a nickname and was used in derision (ridicule or mockery).

One of the older residents remembered an incident that occurred in the early life of the village, which explains the origin of the name “Skipperville.”

Two weary travelers were passing through the village and being hungry bought some cheese and crackers at one of the small stores.

The cheese proved to be over-ripe and inhabited by germs that had long passed the microscopic stage.

The crackers were stale and musty and the travelers were forced to journey on with appetites unappeased and hearts filled with resentment.

They accosted everyone they met with: “If you want skipper cheese if you please, go to Skipperville on the hill.”

It was called Skipperville in jest, but when the surveyors marked the line of the old Indianapolis & Fort Wayne state road, long before any settlement was made where Summitville now stands, they marked that point as the highest ground between Fort Wayne and Indianapolis.

The name Skipperville not being very dignified or euphonious, was changed to Summitville, which corresponded to the report of the surveyors.

A logical choice.

That elevation is north of town near the old Musick Cemetery.

It acts as a watershed between the valleys of the White and Mississinewa rivers because water flows north to the Mississinewa and south toward the White as clearly demonstrated by two nearby streams flowing in opposite directions.

Although unsubstantiated, years ago it was thought the name Summit Village was first suggested but was shortened to Summitville.

With increased travelers on the Fort Wayne Trace, Samuel Fennimore made an addition to his cabin in 1839 to attract passersby.

He opened a hotel and tavern to provide meals and lodging.

Summitville started with a saw mill surrounded by three or four houses.

The mill was operated by Moore, Wellington and Herrold, and it was believed to be the first in Van Buren Township.

The first grist mill was owned by Columbus Moore and Aaron Williams.

Robert Robb opened the first store in 1838 and a tannery was established by Aaron Williams in 1847, the same year the first post office was established.

The town of Summitville was laid out in 1867 by Aaron M. Williams on a part of his farm.

He established a tan yard, kept a general store and also entertained travelers at his residence.

A settlement grew up around the store and tannery.

Mr. Williams sold several lots by metes and bounds (a system of describing ground using physical features when describing property) before any regular plat of the town was made and recorded.

Aaron Williams can be considered the town’s founder.

On Dec. 31, 1881, Summitville was incorporated by order of the board of county commissioners, though town officers were not elected until May 1, 1882.

A tile plant once operated in the north part of Summitville and was considered one of the largest in the world.

It was bought by Samuel Cowgill who improved its operations and provided employment to around 100 people.

It later became National Drain Tile Co., and along with Kraft-Phoenix Cheese Co. and Summitville Caning Co. were the main manufacturing interests a hundred years ago.

But, during the Gas Boom (1887-1902) Summitville’s industry was much, much larger.

At one time there were four glass factories in operation.

Two additional place-names complete Van Buren Township.

One was Coggletown which was mentioned in a 1970 newspaper article as being a suburb of Summitville.

No other information about it has been found.

I believe that reference was most likely a misprint and was meant to be Cowgilltown honoring Samuel Cowgill’s significant contributions to the growth in area.

Today, that same area is known as North Summitville, which is the name given to the area of homes and other properties clustered around the intersection of County Roads 200E and 1700N, the northwest corner of which was the site of the former drain tile plant.

The North Summitville School stood opposite the plant on the southeast corner of County Roads 1700N and 200E.

Madison County Historian Stephen Jackson is leading a series of “First Sunday” presentations covering the History of Madison County townships. The talks are set for 2 p.m. on the first Sunday each month in the Bowman Room at Museum of Madison County History, 11 W. 11th St., Anderson. The talks began Sept. 4 and run through Nov. 5, 2023. The information he prepares for those presentations form the basis of this series of columns in The Times-Post.

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