Historic New Carlisle, Inc.
Preserving the Past for Our Future...
The feature story is contributed by the New Carlisle News and writer Mary Ann Swope. Mary Ann writes very interesting stories about local families and various landmarks in the community. The following article was featured in the February 7, 2005 issue of the New Carlisle News.
Historical Homes - The James Reynolds Homestead 1861
By Mary Ann Swope
It is difficult to imagine the primitive living conditions and incredible hardships that most pioneer families endured coming to this country and/or establishing homesteads on the land so long ago. It is perhaps all the more remarkable when those beginnings eventually led to immense wealth and success in later years. This was certainly the case in the large Reynolds family.
The family history begins with Anthony James Reynolds who emigrated from Ireland before the Revolutionary War, settling in Virginia. Mary Fleming was his wife. Their son, Joseph Fleming Reynolds (one of eight children) was born in 1785 in Virginia. Joseph experienced life in Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, and two counties in Indiana, while each was still a primitive area.
In Ohio Joseph met and married Mary Starry Reynolds who was born in 1787, also in Virginia. In Missouri they were almost immediately driven out by the Indians, forced to leave every vestige of their earthly possessions behind them, and glad to escape with their lives. The family next moved by ox-team and a homemade wagon to Wayne County, Indiana where most remained until 1833.
James Reynolds, the youngest son of Joseph and Mary’s 11 children, was born in 1824 in Wayne County near the town of Richmond. A very poor family, the two eldest brothers, Stuart and John, made up their minds to leave home to find farm work elsewhere after being cheated out of their wages by a neighboring farmer. Their father was against their leaving but their mother encouraged her sons to look for a better situation. With only $1.31 to their name, the boys came to LaPorte County and found work. Between 1831-1833, with the rest of the family, James joined his two older brothers who had then settled on a site eight miles northeast of LaPorte on Chicago Trail at Hamilton.
Their father Joseph, who lived until 1866, was an educated man, considering the time and the unsettled life he had lived. He taught school in Hudson in the winter of 1833-1834. Because Joseph developed a severe fever sore, it became necessary to amputate one of his legs, which was done at home without the use of an anesthetic. Anesthetics were not available at that time and there were very few skilled surgeons. The surgery was bungled, though Joseph survived at the time. Both Reynolds parents are buried in the Rolling Prairie Cemetery, as were many of their children.
The prominence of the Reynolds family grew. All of the sons worked extremely hard and became well-to-do men. All were at first Whigs in politics and later Republicans. John was known as the richest man in St. Joseph County and at one time was a state senator. Over time, with one or more of his brothers, he garnered railroad contracts, claimed government land in Illinois, farming land in Indiana, mercantile ventures in Michigan, land in Iowa, property in the Chicago stockyard district, and real estate in South Bend. His Terre Coupee farm grew to over 1,000 acres. The John Reynolds Homestead on Chicago trail was featured in the New Carlisle News on July 23 and August 9, 2004.
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