Our County History
by County Historian Marion W. Coplen

Have you ever wondered why Leesburg was located where it is? Or why Packerton failed to become a large community? Or why a flourishing village like Sevastopol would wither and all but die away?

The rise and growth of our towns form an interesting part of our county history. The reasons for the location and development of towns are many and complex. In recent years the partial industrialization of our county has made the study of town development more difficult. In studying the earlier years, however, when we were nearly 100 per cent agricultural, our task becomes a little easier.

For more than a half century from the time that Lewis Keith laid out the town of Pierceton in 1852 along the proposed route of what is now the Pennsylvania line, the railroad was not only the most important, but it was the controlling factor in the location and growth of our county's towns. Atwood, Etna Green, Mentone, Burket, Claypool, and Sidney, as well as Pierceton, owe their start to the coming of the "iron horse."

But what was the important factor or factors controlling the location of our towns before the coming of the railroad? Many cities in other areas developed along rivers at the site of landings and ferries, or were located where two important land arteries crossed. However, none of our streams are navigable, and, although we were along the line of travel from Fort Wayne to Chicago, we were not on any main north or south route. The famous Michigan road passed through Rochester and Plymouth up to South Bend.

Actually, Kosciusko county's first towns developed at the centers of small farming communities usually around mill sites. Along the Tippecanoe were the mills of Willard and French at Oswego and the Harris Brothers at Monoquet. Along Turkey Creek were the mills of Crosson and Ward at Syracuse and John Egbert at Milford. Isham Summy built a mill on Trimble Creek and Ephraim Muirhead [built] a mill at the outlet of what is now Webster lake. Palestine and North Webster developed at these places. The location of mills seems to be the most important factor in town development prior to 1850.

Warsaw Times-Union Tues. Feb. 9, 1954