A small area on the north side of German Church Road, just east of St. Thomas Lutheran Church, once housed the small hamlet of Frances. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
A small area on the north side of German Church Road, just east of St. Thomas Lutheran Church, once housed the small hamlet of Frances. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

VAN WERT – A group of small hamlets located south and west of Van Wert in the mid-1850’s used gardening, sharing and the use of huckster wagons in distributing food needs to those clearing forests and making pathways for connection in the new territory in Van Wert County.

One of the first hamlets, Frances, was located to the immediate east of St. Thomas Lutheran Church, located on German Church Road.

The history book, “Greenwood to Wren,” notes that Frances came into existence after Middlebury.

“Frances came into existence after Middlebury. Philip Germann built the store which contained the post office,” states the history book. ”Germann and his family were the only people who had charge of the mail. A huckster wagon went from the store to neighborhood homes.

“Frances consisted of a farm house, store-post office and a building that a cornet band practiced in,” continued the history. “Conrad L. Germann was the last postmaster at Frances.”

Huckster wagons were used into the early 1900s as a matter of selling vegetables and groceries and collecting vegetables and fruit to be sold along the way.

Germann noted that mail was delivered on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday between Frances and Glenmore between the hours of 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

“The trip was made in all kinds of road and weather conditions,” states the history. “He passed the hamlet of Leslie in his rounds. He walked the distance from rail fence corner to corner when roads were impassable. A first class letter could be sent for two cents. He recalled using a horse and cart to carry the mail.”

Another one of the hamlets Germann passed through in his mail delivery was located a little over a mile south of Frances at the intersection of Wren-Landeck and Glenmore roads. Like Frances, Leslie was built around a store containing a post office, owned by William Bechtol. The history states that Bechtol was operating an active huckster wagon around 1892.

Leslie, also known as Bech’s Corner, contained a house that was moved from its original site to a spot up a lane to the left on Glenmore Road, just south of its original location.

Another huckster wagon community, Watt, was located on both sides of the Indiana-Ohio State Line Road less than a mile north of US 24. John McGill, who had moved from Middlebury to Wyatt, ran a store where he sold dishes, yard goods, groceries, garments, kerosene and many other household goods.”

“Huckster wagons were sent out from the store to neighboring homes,” stated the history. “Walter Book was in charge of one of the wagons in 1911.”

The postal route which also carried many of the huckster wagons included the (now) ghost hamlets of Watt, Wolfcale and Daisie where goods were commuted to and from Convoy, the only present-day survivor of the early hamlet towns.