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 part of his farm. He established a tan yard, kept a general store and 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 property by using physical features) 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 was considered one of the largest in the world. It was bought by Samuel Cowgill, who improved its operations and provided employment to about 100 people. It later became the National Drain Tile Company and, along with the Kraft-Phoenix Cheese Company and the Summitville Caning Company, formed 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 growth in the area. Today, that same area is known as North Summitville, an area of homes and other properties clustered around the intersection of county roads 200 East and 1700 North. The northwest corner of the intersection was the site of the former drain tile plant.
While the town of Summitville was named because its location was recognized as being the highest point in elevation on the Fort Wayne Trace, it’s close.
But the actual highest elevation point on the Fort Wayne Trace is north of Summitville on Madison County Road 100E near the Musick Cemetery. The elevation acts as a watershed between the valleys of the White River and the Mississinewa River.
That geography is clearly demonstrated by two nearby creeks flowing in opposite directions. Separated by only a short distance, Back Creek flows north to the Mississinewa River and Mud Creek flows south toward the White River.
January’s column will explore Boone Township, where there is one town that has had two names in its history and is partially located in two separate counties and four different townships.