Cephas Fort (b. 11 Feb. 1800 d. 22 Feb. 1869) was born in Virginia to James Jacobus and Elizabeth (Dille) Fort. The Fort family later moved to Ohio. In 1818, Cephas and his brother Benjamin came to Indiana. They bought land for a dollar and acre along Montgomery Creek, which was just three miles north of Knightstown. The boys, only sixteen and the other eighteen, tried to plant a crop, but the birds and squirrels ate most of it. Feeling dejected, the boys went back home to Ohio. Cephas married Anna Parkhurst, daughter of Jacob and Anna (Craft) Parkhurst, on June 15, 1826 in Austintown, Ohio.
A few years later, the whole Fort family moved to the land that the boys had purchased and built a farm. Cephas later moved to the north-west edge of Hancock County to a place called Phoebe Fort’s Corner. The post office bore the name of Walpole, which was named after a prominent attorney at Greenfield. Cephas bought land just south of Phoebe Fort’s Corner. In February 1849, Cephas plotted the original thirty-three lots of land that he owned for a town that was called Fortville in his honor. Thus, the town of Fortville was born.
Cephas and Anna Fort had nine children: Washington, William, Cyrena, Rickey D., John P., Parkhurst A., Elizabeth, Henry C., and Martha. To learn more about the families of Cephas and Anna Fort, a family tree is available to view at the Fortville Library.
George McCarty (b. 31 Aug. 1883 d. 11 Sep. 1961) was a prominent Fortville businessman for over 50 years. George was the son of James and Sarah (Roudebush) McCarty and born in Fishersburg, Madison County, Indiana. In 1885, the family moved from their farm near Lapel to Fortville. George followed in his father’s footsteps to help with the undertaking and furniture business. George was the youngest embalmer in the state of Indiana at the time that he received his license. He became the proprietor of the business after his father’s death in 1903.
George McCarty started his funeral and furniture business in the old I.O.O.F. building in Fortville. In 1912, he built a new building at the corner of Staat and Main Street. This new building was called McCarty Furniture and Undertaking until 1931. The funeral home part of the business moved down Staat Street to the A.B. Ayers home in 1931.
Nema (Hunt) Hiday
Mrs. Nema (Hunt) Hiday started teaching at the No.1 School, near Gravel Lawn Cemetery, in September of 1928. The No.1 School and the Hardscrabble School merged and became Center School in January of 1930; at which time they moved into the new school building. Mrs. Hiday taught 684 different students at Center School while it was open, or 1,552 students counting each grade per student.
Mrs. Hiday retired at the end of the school year in 1970, and was given a special reception by the Center School PTO; it was held on Sunday, May 24 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at Center School. When she retired, Mrs. Hiday received congratulation letters from then-Prsident Richard M. Nixon, Indiana Gov. Edgar Whitcom, and from Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh. On Jan. 21, 2000, Mrs. Hiday received the Sagamore of the Wabash award from Gov. Frank O’Bannon.
J. S. Merrill
James S. Merrill (b. 27 Jan. 1827 d. 2 Aug. 1907) was born in Clark County, Ohio, to John and Nancy (Gardner) Merrill. After James’s mother died in 1834, he and his sister Hulda came to Hancock County with their uncle, Archibald Gardner, in 1837. By 1847, James bought eighty acres where he made his home. This grew to 240 acres. James Merrill kept up with modern agricultural technology of his times, and he promoted enterprises for the public welfare. He would heartily support any project for the advancement or improvement of the community. James was the first in the township to buy a separator and threshing machine, twine binder, and improved cultivator. He also originated the first newspaper in Fortville called The Sun. James also brought gas wells to Fortville .
James Merrill even made a journey out to the Rocky Mountains in March 1859 in search of gold, but her returned by October of the same year. James also went out west to Yellowstone Park in 1895. He then set up a museum in his home of minerals and various animal horns and heads.
James S. Merrill’s home sits near the southwest corner of 1000N and Fortville Pike. He raised “pets” there that included antelope, deer, and elk. He even had a chair made from the horns of the deer. James also built a house in 1897 for his son which sits at 627 S. Poplar Street, Fortville.
Israel Fred (b. 8 Jan. 1822 d. 17 Dec. 1900) was born to Jacob and Rebecca (Belvel) Fred in Clermont County, Ohio. Israel Fred married Mary A. Perkins, daughter of Isaac S. and Margaret (Emery) Perkins, on September 2, 1841. This was also the same year that Israel settled in McCordsville. Israel Fred had a general store. He sold hardware and farm implements of all kinds as well as carriages, buggies, and spring wagons.
Mary Fred passed away on October 16, 1864. Israel Fred went on to marry three more times: Mary J. Jones (b. 1831 d. 1868) in 1865, Susan E. Hanna (b. 1835 d. 1870) in 1868, and Catherine Franklin (b.1830 d. 1905) in 1871. Israel had 13 children total. At his death, he had 24 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. The Fred family history is also available to view at the Fortville Library.