I sure learned a lot while I was working on this post. I started at the ending: John Harter died August 24, 1902 and is buried at Eel River Cemetery, Allen County, Indiana. However, he lived much of his life in Smith Township, Whitley County. Smith Township borders Eel River Township, Allen County, so he probably lived very near the county line.
His tombstone states that he was born August 16, 1830. It's likely that he was born in Licking County, Ohio, but that is not yet proven, although the census indicates he was born in Ohio and his parents were born in "E. Virginia". He was in Whitley County by 1851, because he married Mary Bennett there on April 20, 1851, one of the earliest marriages on the county's records. Mary Bennett was the daughter of Solomon Bennett and Margaret Farmer.
In researching this post, I learned that I probably have a mistake in John's ancestry. His parents weren't John Harter and Mary Bower, as I'd thought, but George Harter and Elizabeth Geiger. How do I know? Well, John aged 20 is listed in the household of George and Elizabeth in 1850, in Whitley County, Indiana. Of course, this could be a nephew, but in the 1870 census, John Harter and Mary Bennett have a 68 year old woman named Elizabeth living with them, and it says "mother to John", if I'm reading it correctly.
(So, I hang my head in shame because I have the wrong information on my tree, but I'm doing a happy genealogy dance because now it appears that I have the correct information. I will verify it in Whitley County before changing anything, and it may just be that I have the wrong parents but that George and John Senior were brothers. We'll see.)
In 1860, he was farming in Smith Township, with a value of the farm of $1200 and personal property of $860. He is next to a Henry Harter, and just a couple of houses down we find George and Elizabeth, who had had a son John born in 1830. In 1870, John and family are still in Smith Township, with land valued at $3500 and personal property not clear. A George Harter family is right next to him, but this would not be his parents. Perhaps it is a brother.
John was a widower in 1880, his wife having died November 25, 1876. He was only 50, young to be a widower, and had a son, Harvey and daughter in law, Laura, living with him. There was also a son, Henry, a granddaughter, Mary E aged 1, and Ellen Harshbarger, a boarder, aged 15. It appears that Laura and Ellen may have been sisters. Of course the 1890 census is missing. By 1900, he was living with daughter Elizabeth Claxton and her family. Elizabeth was 44 in 1900, and her husband, Richard, and four children were in that household, in Smith Township, Whitley County, Indiana.
John and Mary's children were Harvey, born 1852, Sarah Jane, 1854, Elizabeth, 1856, Clara Ellen, October 21, 1857, Lara, 1858, Mary E. 1859, and Henry, 1860. There are two John Harters from Indiana listed in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database, but it doesn't appear that either of them are our John Harter, even though he was of age to go. Also, his name is not listed on the Civil War memorial at the Columbia City Courthouse.
When (if?) the weather warms up I need to go to Whitley County (again!) to look for a will for George and Elizabeth, and John and Mary Sr, and also to look at land records to see if I can find a deed transfer that might tell me more about this confusing family. I love a mystery, and I love facts.
If anyone wants to look at the 1870 census and give me your interpretation of what it says after "Elizabeth" aged 68 in the John Harter family on page 25 of the Smith Township, Whitley County, Indiana census, I'd be grateful!
The line of descent is
John Harter-Mary Bennett
Clara Ellen Harter (Clarissa in two different censuses)-Emmanuel Harshbarger
Grover Harshbarger-Goldie Withers
Cleveland Harshbarger-Mary Margaret Beeks