Tippecanoe, White, Jasper and Newton Counties, Indiana
Originally Published in 1899
by Lewis Publishing Co.
John Frain. Few citizens of Pulaski County are more widely known or have taken a more active part in the up-building and development of this section of Indiana than John Frain, who, for some fifty-five years has been a resident here. Like all of the frontiersmen, he was obliged to endure many hardships in the early days, but he possesses the courage and force of character of his German ancestors, and by persistence and determination won a decided victory over difficulties that would have daunted many men.
The original spelling of our subject's surname was Frahn, it is believed, and by accident or design it was changed to its present form. His grandfather Frain was born in Germany and was for years a resident in the environs of Philadelphia, where he was engaged in the teaming business. The parents of John Frain were Peter and Rebecca (Bilger) Frain, both natives of Maxatawney Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania. The father, who was small in stature, and weighed only one hundred and forty pounds, was a stonemason by trade, and while working and lifting received injuries from the effects of which he died, December 28, 1822, at the age of forty-six years. At that time he was making his home near Middleburg, in Centre Township, Union County, Pennsylvania, and his remains were laid at rest in the old Hosinger Lutheran churchyard. He was a lifelong member of that church. His will was probated before Peter Hachenberg, at New Berlin, January 4, 1823, John Bilger, his brother-in-law, being named as his executor.
His widow, Rebecca Frain, who was born December 14, 1785, died January 31, 1874, and was buried in the Grubb churchyard in Union County, Pennsylvania. She had become acquainted with Mr. Frain in childhood, but their marriage took place in Union County, where she thenceforth made her dwelling-place. Four years subsequent to the death of Mr. Frain she became the wife of Frederick Meiser, who was a substantial farmer and the proprietor of a saw and gristmill. They had two sons, namely: Joseph, born November 12, 1827, and Frederick, June 23, 1829. The elder son, who died in 1896, never left the old homestead in Union County, and in addition to owning considerable valuable real estate he was the owner of several mills. He married a Miss Schadel first, and had five children by that union, and later married another lady and had several children. Frederick, the younger son of Mr. and Mrs. Meiser, is now living in Perry County, Pennsylvania. He has been married three times, his first wife being a Miss Houser, and several children graced their union. Mrs. Rebecca (Frain) Meiser was a large woman physically, and was exceedingly active and energetic. Doubtless her children inherited from her much of her strength of constitution and keenness and vigor of mind and disposition. Her father, George Bilger, a tailor by trade, came to America from Germany prior to the war for independence, and during the Revolution he was employed in making clothes for the soldiers. His eldest daughter, Elizabeth, married Robert Hasley, a carpenter, and lived in the Keystone State. Rebecca (Mrs. Frain) was the next in order of birth, Susan, the next, first married Samuel Boyer, a tanner of Middlebury, and later she became the wife of a Mr. Keller and had several children. Jacob, the next of the family, married Mollie Gilbert, and he, as well as his younger brothers, George and John, were stonemasons, all living in Pennsylvania. John was engaged in farming also, and for his wife he chose a Miss Wetzel. Frederick, the youngest of the family, also a farmer, was born November 6, 1787, in Maxatawney Township, Berks County, and married a Miss Katherine Boyer.
John Frain is the fourth child of Peter and Rebecca (Bilger) Frain. The eldest, Sarah, was born March 20, 1809, died February 6, 1893, and was buried in the Winamac Cemetery. In her girlhood she became the second wife of Lewis Guss, who was a tailor by trade. She bore him eighteen children, eight of whom are living, and Edward and Peter reside in Pulaski County. Catherine, born about 1811, died and was buried in Michigan. She was the wife of Benjamin Shetherley, a farmer of that state, and a number of children blessed their union. Peter, born February 2, 1814, in Middleburg, Pennsylvania, died in that town May 6, 1889. He was a tailor by trade and followed that calling throughout his active life. For a wife he chose Nancy Baughmann and they became the parents of John, Charles, Howard, Mary Elizabeth and Martha. ELIZABETH, born July 14, 1818, in Middleburg, married MICHAEL WOMER*, who was born December 15, 1818. When they had reached middle life they were quite substantial people, physically, as he weighed two hundred and forty-five pounds, while her weight was about two hundred and twenty-five or thirty. Their children, seven sons and three daughters, were also remarkably large and strong. Peter married a Miss Rouch and moved to Michigan, where he has become wealthy and highly respected. He owns about thirteen hundred acres of fertile land, most of which is under high cultivation. George, born September 7, 1820, in Middleburg, died and was buried in Lafayette, Indiana, in November 1893. He came to the west in 1842, and, after spending a year in Logansport, went to Lafayette, where he made his permanent home. For some time he was engaged in running a tailoring establishment, but later he dealt in real estate and did teaming and transferring. He married a Miss Cook and their only child was Oscar. Mary, born May 4, 1822, died in Perry County, Pennsylvania, at the age of fifty-five years. Her first husband, Henry Sechrist, was a prosperous farmer, owning large islands in the Susquehanna River. They had two daughters. After the death of Mr. Sechrist his widow married Henry C. Clemens and they had several children. Both are now dead.
The birth of John Frain, of this sketch, occurred October 3, 1816, in the town of Middleburg, Union County, Pennsylvania. He was young when death deprived him of his father, and after his mother's second marriage the lad was offered sixty dollars to stay with them until he was eighteen years of age, Lewis Guss being made his guardian. Six months at the blacksmiths trade, however, was as much as the youth desired, and he left home and worked for George Lyman, a carpenter, for two years, and learned the trade, Mr. Lyman giving him only his board for his services. He then completed his trade at Lewistown, Pennsylvania, and worked as a journeyman until June 1839, when he started west, believing that he would have better opportunities in a new country.
On the 25th of June, 1839, he and Rudolph Hoch embarked on a canal boat at Lewistown, thence going to Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, over the mountains to Johnstown, and by canal to Pittsburgh, down to the Ohio River to Cincinnati, and, after two days spent in that town, went by state to Indianapolis. There they found employment with Jonathan Gable, a contractor and builder, for three months, after which they went to Rochester, and there separated, Mr. Hoch going to visit his sister, Mrs. Abraham Bruce, in Fulton County, while our subject went to Laporte County, and worked at his trade with Mr. Griffith Treadway, until December, 1839. The two young men then joined their fortunes again, and prospered in various places, -- Laporte, Michigan City, South Bend, Plymouth, Rochester, Delphi Logansport and Lafayette among others, -- looking for work and a good opening for business. At the last named place they remained, being employed by J. L. Pfeifer until the spring of 1840, and thus Mr. Frain was enabled to attend the convention that nominated William Henry Harrison for the presidency, on the famous battleground at Tippecanoe.
In May 1840, the two young men came to Pulaski County, where Mr. Hoch has sisters residing. In 1842 Mr. Frain bought, for two hundred dollars in cash, the preemption claim of Jesse Klinger (uncle of Colfax Klinger, of Winamac). This tract of land, one hundred and forty-two acres and a fraction, situated on Section 19, in Monroe Township, Pulaski County, was improved by a small log cabin, and five acres had been broken and planted with corn. The patent to this property was made out to Mr. Frain, August 1, 1844, and signed by the President of the United States, John Tyler. IN the spring of 1844 he returned to this native state on a visit. In the autumn of the same year he came back to Indiana, but before going east he became the owner of another tract of land - thirty-three acres, bought of Henry P. Rowan, the payment therefore being one horse. In 1846 Mr. Frain settled on his farm, which has been his home ever since, and as the years passed he added to his possessions and improved his property until it bears little resemblance to the wild tract of half a century ago. In the home place he has about five hundred acres, in addition to which he owns forth-three on Section 19, same township; and one hundred and sixty acres - the old Helm farm - in Harrison Township, now managed by his son, Felix Frain. Altogether, Mr. Frain owns about eight hundred acres in this county, four hundred acres or more of this being improved and under cultivation, and three good dwellings and other buildings stand on this property. After coming here he resided in the old cabin for four years, and then built a large log house, which sheltered his family until 1865. That year witnessed the erection of the present house of our subject. He owns an interest in the Frain Hotel, at Winamac, and it is named in his honor, and besides this he owns other property there.
The marriage of John Frain and Rebecca Jane Donham, daughter of Daniel and Mary (Cohee) Donham, took place January 1, 1846. She was born October 15, 1820, in St. Clair Township, Butler County, Ohio, on her father's farm, and when she was but three years old her mother, then only thirty years of age, was summoned to the silent land. She left five children, namely: Rachel, Sarah, John, Rebecca and Nancy. The father married again, choosing Mary Lyman for his wife, and they became the parents of Mary, Julia and Samuel. The entire family of Daniel Donham (with the exception of Rachel) came west in 1837 and located in Carroll County, Indiana. The father died July 30, 1863, aged seventy odd years. He was of English descent, a son of Richard and Nancy Donham, of Delaware. Richard and Nancy Donham passed their entire lives in that state, and left three children: Rachel, Daniel and Hannah. The Cohees, as well and the Donhams, were Delaware people.
The children born to John Frain and wife are named as follows: Edwin, Daniel, George, John, Mary Emma, Felix B. T., Sarah Jane, William Henry and Alice. Edwin and Felix B. T. are represented elsewhere in this work. Daniel, born March 12, 1848, is the proprietor of a marble yard at Rochester, Indiana. He married Elnora Emory, and has three sons, William Henry, Carl and Howard. George, born February 2, 1850, was married on Christmas day 1872, to Fiana, daughter of William Wentz. She was born in Harrison Township, this county, March 25, 1855, and by her marriage has two daughters, Hilda Myrtle and Mary Belle, aged sixteen and eleven years, respectively. John, born December 6, 1851, died June 16, 1863. Mary Emma, born December 19, 1853, became the wife of George Washington Graffis, a farmer of this county, December 31, 1874. His birth occurred March 31, 1850, in Pulaski County. Their children are: Bertha Alice, born September 22, 1875; Virgil Warren, July 29, 1877; Earl Floyd, March 29, 1879; and Thomas Errett, June 6, 1881. Bertha Alice and Elmer Rouch were united in marriage July 12, 1892, and their two children are Otto Samuel, born June 7, 1893, and Grace Marguerite, December 15, 1894. Sarah Jane, born December 27, 1858, is the wife of David Wood, a miller, living at Terre Haute, and their children are Effie Frain and Otto. William Henry, born May 8, 1861, died March 17, 1872. Alice, born October 2, 1864, died October 1, 1865.
The ancestors of John Frain were stanch members of the German Lutheran Church, and he was reared in that creed, while his wife's relatives were Methodists. Some of their children are identified with the Christian Church, but without exception, the entire Frain family is always found on the side of righteousness, education and whatever tends toward the bettering and elevating of humanity. Prior to the Civil War Mr. Frain was a Whig, and since the organization of the Republican Party he has been loyal to its teachings. His word is considered as good as his bond, and his name is a synonym for integrity, justice and honor.