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Biography of James Knox Polk Decker, Indiana (Father: Pennsylvania & Ohio)

(His first cousin Amos Decker has a biography here.)

Biographical History of Tippecanoe, White, Japer, Newton, Benton, Warren, and Pulaski Counties, Indiana. Volume I.
Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1899

Page 184 – 187;  Retrieved 1/22/2010 from:


James Knox Polk Decker

Born September 24, 1845, on his father’s homestead in Indian Creek township, the subject of this article has always been identified with the welfare of Pulaski county.  His great-grandfather Decker was a hero of the Revolution, prior to which great conflict his ancestors had settled on one of William Penn’s colonies in Pennsylvania.  His son, John, a native of the same state, died in Seneca county, Ohio, in the early part of the ‘50s, when over three-score years of age.  He married Julia Ann Royer, and their children were as follows:  1. Jacob, who was twice married and lived in Seneca and Huron counties, Ohio; his children were: John, David, Amos, Milton, and Barbara.  2.  John, who married Jane Taylor, and whose home was in New Orleans for a period, later in Wells county, Indiana, where he bought half a section of land, and after selling that property, came to Pulaski county.  His son, Charles, owns one hundred and eighty acres on section 22,
Beaver township.  Julia, the eldest daughter, became the wife of Jacob Nice, Jr., who owns a farm of one hundred and fifty-three acres on section 30.  Ellen married Henry Jasper Emler, who cultivates a homestead of two hundred acres on section 22.  Dora is the wife of Benjamin Herrick, who carries on a one-hundred –and-twenty-acre farm on section 17.  3.  Samuel, the father of our subject was the next in order of birth.  4.  Elizabeth became the wife of William Heater, and in 1860 removed from Seneca county, Ohio, to Richardson county, Nebraska, where she is yet living.  She is the mother of seven children: Lydia, Hattie, Julia, Catherine, Freeman, John and Austin.  5.  Sarah wedded Peter Barguer, a farmer of Seneca county, Ohio.  6.  Adam married a Miss Romig and had one son, Samuel, who resides in Seneca county, Ohio.  In the ‘50s Adam Decker came to this county and settled upon land in Tippecanoe township (on sections 17 and 20).  For a second wife he wedded Catherine Hatton, and their daughter Sarah, who married Ed Young, resides upon a farm of forty-seven acres on section 17, Tippecanoe township, while the son, John, married and had the following named children: Julia, who died at the age of eighteen years; Elizabeth; Mary, who is married and lives in Bellevue, Ohio; Alice, wife of Joseph Felker, who owns eighter acres on section 21, Indian Creek township; Olive, who married Benjamin Dipert and lives in Kewanna, Indiana; and Laura, unmarried.  8.  Catherine, the wife of Thomas Harpster, removed to Richardson county, Nebraska, in 1865, and later dwelt in Gage county, same state; but both are now deceased.  Their children were named Freeman, Elizabeth, Sarah, John, and Hattie.  9.  David married Mrs. Margaret Highland, a widow, and, coming to this state in the early part of the ‘50s, located in Fulton county.

Samuel Decker, the father of the subject of this sketch, was born January 27, 1813, in Berks county, Pennsylvania, and when young accompanied his parents to Wayne county, Ohio.  Later he lived in Seneca county, same state, and in 1842 he located in Logansport, where he engaged in teaching school for a year.  In the spring of 1844 he came to this county, where he had taken up two hundred acres of land from the government the preceding year, and built a log cabin.  This property, now owned by our subject, is situated on sections 10 and 11, Indian Creek township, one hundred and twenty acres on the first-named section, and the rest on section 11.  The first small cabin was supplanted by a good hewed-log house at the end of eight years, and this was burned down February 17, 1863, a few clothes, only, being saved, as the mother was alone there at the time.  After he settled here he entered forty acres of land on section 17; eighty acres on section 24, and another tract of forty acres, all in this township.  The patents to his first two hundred acres are dated April 10, 1843.  At the time of his death, June 27, 1894, he owned two hundred and forty acres, one hundred and eighty of which had been under cultivation, while forty acres is covered with timer.  This land, originally deeded to John Reeder by the government, April 1, 1843, was purchased by Mr. Decker, May 27, 1847.

Being a man of good education, Mr. Decker was interested in schools, and after coming to this vicinity he taught one winter, and later served as a school examiner for five years.  Very active and radical in politics, he was elected by his friends, on the Democratic ticket, to the legislature, where he served for two years, 1846-7.  After his return home he was a justice of the peace for three years, and at another time he held the office of township assessor for two years.  He voted for Douglas, and, while opposed to the policy of the administration during the war, he was loyal to the Union and assisted in raising Company H, of the Forty-sixth Regiment of Volunteer Infantry.  Subsequently he again ran for the office of state representative, and though he made numerous excellent campaign speeches he was defeated by the Whig candidate, the Rev. Mr. Sneathen, a minister of the Christian church.  Religiously, Mr. Decker adhered to the German Reformed church, in whose doctrines he had been reared.

For a wife he chose Matilda, daughter of John Wages, and their eldest born, Lewis, whose birth occurred September 24, 1844, died when but two weeks old.  James K. Polk, our subject, was the second child.  George Washington, born June 18, 1848, now serving as one of the commissioners of Pulaski county, never married but resides with his widowed mother on the old homestead.  Julia Ann, born August 4, 1849, married E.W. Hummell.  Rebecca, born September 28, 1851, married Ephraim Felker, of this county.  Sarah Matilda, born December 10, 1855, is a court stenographer, with headquarters at the county-seat, Winamac.  Mary Ann, born June 15, 1858, married George Bailey, and has one child, named Mary.  They live in Blaine township, Garfield county, Oklahoma.  Mrs. Matilda Decker was born August 4, 1824, on a farm near Westminster, Maryland, of which state her father, John Wages, was likewise a native.  He married Margaret Logue about 1820, in 1831 removed to Germantown, Ohio, and seven years later proceeded to Logansport.  Coming to Pulaski county in 1849, he located upon section 35, Indian Creek township, where he owned forty acres.  He died March 22, 1855, when about sixty years of age, and in March, 1869, his widow entered the silent land, both being buried at the graveyard in this township.  His father, Richard Wages, of Holland-Dutch extraction, married Ann Frizzle, and their children included John; Richard; Rachel, who married Caleb Roach, of Maryland; Elizabeth, who became the wife of a Mr. Frizzle; and Ann, who married a Mr. Penny.  William Logue, father of Mrs. Margaret Wages, was of Irish descent.  Two of his sons, Ambrose and William, emigrated from Maryland to the vicinity of Dayton, Ohio, at an early day, the former becoming a permanent resident there, but the latter returning to his native state at the end of a year.  The other members of that family were Eliza, Elizabeth, Jesse and John.

As stated at the beginning of this article, James K.P. Decker was born and has usually dwelt in Indian Creek township.  In his youth he had but limited educational advantages, and until he arrived at his majority he continued to aid his father in the care of the home farm.  Then for three months he worked at sixteen dollars a month as a farm hand, after which he engaged in ditch contracting, for which he obtained ten or twelve cents per yard, the ditches being made from twelve to fourteen feet wide and from four to six feet deep.  This line of business he followed successfully until 1885, chiefly in this township, but also in other parts of this and Starke counties, and employing from four to six men.  He then leased forty acres of land of Mrs. Susan Shideler, in Monroe township, on which property stands a house which was erected by George W., brother of our subject.

On the 14th of November, 1867, James K.P. Decker married Catherine Ann, daughter of Frederick and Margaret Reap.  She was born in Germany, February 2, 1846, and died October 26, 1870.  The infant daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Decker, Margaret Matilda, born March 1, 1870, died September 6 of the same year.  The second marriage of our subject, March 10, 1872, was to Semirah Elizabeth Shideler, daughter of Jacob Shideler.  Mrs. Decker was born September 4, 1851, near Dublin, Wayne county.  The children born of this union are Rosetta Isabella, whose birth occurred September 26, 1873; Viola Fances Pearl and David Oscar Newton (twins), born August 16, 1876; Charles Lewis, July 24, 1879; Samuel Isaac, born April 26, 1882, and died January 21, 1896; Barbara Alice, born September 21, 1891; and Jessie Agnes, born September 2, 1895.

Politically, Mr. Decker adheres to the early training which he received and is a staunch Democrat.  He is one of the trustees and is a valued member of the United Brethren church.

January 25, 2010