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Kinyon Digital Library
Copyright © 1999-2013,
History of Cedar
Arrivals in 1836.
May -- On the 10th, David W. Walton and family reached their new home, the first cabin built within the territory of Cedar County, in what is now Sugar Creek Township.
June -- Andrew Crawford, his daughter Phoebe, George McCoy and Stephen Toney arrived on the 10th. Crawford settled on the west half of the southeast quarter of Section 34, in Town 80, Range 2, on the farm now owned by Andrew J. Crawford. George McCoy and Stephen Toney at Rochester. Ben Halliday, John Halliday and Samuel Hulick came a few days later, and located in the northwest quarter of Section 34, Town 79, Range 2. Harvey Hatton settled on the northeast quarter of Section 32, Town 79, Range 2. C. C. Dodge, Abram Stebbens, Alanson Pope and Peter Crampton settled at Pioneer Grove. Stebbins is the only one of the Pioneer Grove colony remaining in the county.
July -- Robert G. Roberts, his wife and six children, settled in the neighborhood of the farm now owned by -------- ---------. Henry arrived at his present residence on the east half of the northwest quarter of Section 32, Town 80, Range 2, on the 5th, having crossed the Mississippi River on the 4th. On the 7th, Aaron Porter, wife and six children, settled on the southeast quarter of Section 7, Town 79, Range 2. James Poston arrived on the 8th, and settled in Poston's Grove, in the southeast quarter of Section 1, Town 80, Range 1. William Baker settled on the northwest quarter of Section 18, Town 79, Range 2.
August -- Joseph Olds settled on the northeast quarter of Section 32, Town 81, Range 3. John Jones and John Barr (his step-son) settled in the southeast quarter of Section 35, Town 81, Range 3. The Sterrett family, consisting of the mother (generally known among the settlers as "Granny" Sterrett) and three sons, Robert, William and Hector, the last two of whom were married, settled in the northeast corner of Section 22, Town 79, Range 2.
October -- Richard C. Knott settled on the west half of the northwest quarter of Section 32, Town 80, Range 2. John Roper was an unmarried man, and boarded with Knott. He located a claim on the land now covered by the farm of James T. Huddleston. David Barras, an unmarried man, came about the same time. Solomon Knott settled on the northeast quarter of Section 1, Township 80, Range 3. Reuben Long settled on the southwest quarter of Section 31, Town 81, Range 3. W. A. Rigby settled in Red Oak Grove, on the farm now owned by William Dallas. James Burnside and John Burnside settled in the timber land now embraced in the estates of Joseph McCrosky and P. F. Carl. James Leverich settled in the same timber. Ira Leverich settled on the farm now owned by George Zimmermaker, Sr., near Col. Hardman's. Jacob Turner is also credited to the arrivals of this month.
November -- Rev. Morten Baker made a claim in the northwest quarter of Section 18, Town 79, Range 2, in May, but did not come to occupy it with his family until about the 15th of this month. John Scott came at the same time. William M. Knott, the builder of the Goose Creek schooner, "Sally Acker," made a claim of the land now covered by the city of Tipton.
December -- Robert Miller occupied as a claim the farms now owned by E. C. Chrisman and Reuben Swartzlander, in Center Township.
Joshua King came in the Fall of this year. James W. Potts, Jesse Potts and Elisha Edwards are also credited to this year, but the exact date of their arrival is unknown. The Potts family settled on the east half of the northeast quarter of Section 19, Town 79, Range 2. Edwards settled in the same neighborhood, and became a prominent county character. James W. Tallman, H. B. Burnup and Isaac Dickey were also among the settlers of 1836. Tallman was the first Sheriff of Cedar County.
Arrivals in 1837.
April -- John Ferguson filed a claim on the south half of Section 12, Town 81, Range 3 west -- Red Oak Township. He lived on that claim about twenty years, and then removed to his present residence. Charles Dallas settled in Red Oak, and commenced to improve the farm now owned by John Darcus. John Safely settled on the farm he now occupies. William Coutts settled on the west half of the southeast quarter of Section 14, in the same township range. He still owns the farm, but removed to his present residence, one half mile east of Tipton, in 18--. John Chappell settled on the south half of the south half of the southwest quarter of Section 10, same town and range. He still remains a resident of the township, but the old farm is occupied by James Chappell. Charles Swetland settled in Rochester on the 3d of the month. William Mason settled on the farm now owned by the Rhodes' brothers in Linn Township, on the same day. On the same day, George Miller settled on the farm now owned by Alexander Buchanan, also in Linn Township. John Miller settled on what was known as the Moffett farm, and adjoining the Armentrout farm. Nicholas Miller commenced the farm now owned by Ed. Rate. Henry D. Brown, carpenter, settled at Rochester on the 24th. James Buchanan, and his brother Henry, settled on Section 21, Town 81, Range 4, and commenced the farm now owned by John B. Mason in Cass Township.
May -- Jackomyer Baldwin and family, 2d, settled in Mason's Grove. John Kenworthy settled on the farm now owned by Edward Rate, in Cass Township; John Matic, in Mason's Grove. John W. and Phillip Wilkinson first came and made claims in January, but did not occupy them until this month. John W. settled on Section 8 and Phillip on Section 9, Township 80, Range 3. William Greene settled at Rochester and erected the first saw-mill built in the county. William Young, location unknown. Christian Holderman settled on the southeast quarter of Section 23, Township 80, Range 3.
June -- Benjamin Fraseur and three unmarried sons, William, Jacob and George, came on the 17th; the family settled on the west half of the northwest quarter of Section 35, Township 81, Range 3. Duncan McLaren came to Rochester on the 6th. George W. Parks settled in Mason's Grove on the 10th.
No data could be found to fix the month when the following named settlers came to cast their fortunes with the Cedar County pioneers of 1836:
Charles Warfield and his wife settled at Antwerp and boarded with James W. Tallman. Warfield & Diltz were merchants and opened the first store at Antwerp. Peter Diltz came at the same time. John Blalock settled on the northeast quarter of Section 6, Township 80, Range 3. Noah King in Section 7, Township 80, Range 3. William Kizer settled on the northeast quarter of Section 5, Township 80, Range 3, where he remained until his death, some five years ago; his widow still occupies the old home. Abraham and Nicholas Kizer settled on the east half of Section 4, Township 80, Range 3. Richard Ransford settled on the southwest quarter of Section 5, Township 8, Range 3, and commenced the farm now owned by Sem. Simmons. John G. and James Foy settled on the northeast quarter of Section 14, Township 80, Range 3, now known as the "Stone Mill property," and owned by Shearer and Gray. Samuel P. Higginson settled in what is now known as Bunker's Grove, and commenced the farm now owned by Moses Bunker, Esq. Higginson is now a resident of Wilton, Muscatine County. A. L. McLaren settled on the northeast quarter of Section 7, Township 80, Range 2, on the farm of Reuben Owen, and known as the Bradley farm. Samuel Yule settled in the northeast corner of Red Oak Grove, where he continues to reside. George S. Smith commenced improving the farm now owned by Joseph Wyrick; he built a saw-mill and corn-cracker on Rock Creek, near the Widow Huber's farm. William M. Stockton and James D. Stockton were unmarried men and made their homes with Jehu Kenworthy. John C. Higginson and John S. Sheller commenced a store in the town of Centerville, on what is now known as the Agnew farm, seven miles southeast of Tipton. Moses B. Church, the first school teacher, settled on the east half of the southeast quarter of Section 32, Township 80, Range 2 west. Joseph Wilford, Sr., and Joseph Wilford, Jr., settled on the farm now owned by William Leech, in Sugan Creek Township. John Finch settled on Section 27, Township 80, Range 2; he was killed by lightning, in Harden County, some ten or fifteen years ago. Jonathan Morgan settled on the east half of the northeast quarter of Section 24, Township 80, Range 3. William H. Bolton settled on the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 19, Township 80, Range 2. Daniel Hare settled on the southeast quarter of Section 4, Township 79, Range 2, now known as the Edge farm. Milton Phelps settled on the south half of the northeast quarter of Section 29, Township 79, Range 2, now known as the Jennings farm. Clements Squires settled on the land now known as the James Doty farm, in Iowa Township. William C. Long located on the south half of Section 33, Township 80, Range 3. Asa Young settled on the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 17, Township 81, Range 3. Felix Freeland settled on the northeast quarter of Section 17, Township 81, Range 3, now owned and occupied by Frank Moffett. Elias Epperson settled on the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 20, Township 81, Range3, now owned by Aaron Wisener. Callahan Dwiggins settled on the northwest quarter of Section 34, Township 81, Range 3, now owned and occupied by his son James.
Of the above named settlers of 1836 and 1837, many removed from county ere many years had flown; others followed from year to year, in hopes to better their conditions in other localities; others have passed to the "shining shore" of the beautiful river; while many others still remain in the enjoyment of the homes their industry, endurance and enterprise fashioned and founded in the beautiful land of the Cedar.
What changes the intervening forty-two years have brought. The wild prairies of 1836 have been converted into magnificent farms -- gardens of beauty, comparatively speaking. The wigwams of the Indians and log cabins of the pioneers have given place to palatial-like residences. The camping places of the Sacs, Foxes, and kindred tribes of red men, are occupied by cities, towns and villages. Zigzag trails are superseded by broad, well-kept roads; and magnificent iron bridges span the rivers, where once bark canoes served to transport squaws and papooses from side to side. In nearly every part of the county, the puffing, snorting, screeching, whistling, jerking, backing, rumbling, roaring of steam locomotives, with their long, heavily-laden trains of cars, are heard in nearly every part of the county, at almost every hour of the twenty-four. Who can tell what the next forty-two years will accomplish? The question falls echoless.
Of the seven men who first settled in the Red Oak Grove neighborhood -- John Ferguson, John Safely, John Chappel, Washington A. Rigby, William Coutts, Samuel Yule and Charles Dallas -- are are still living in the county, and most of them in the same neighborhood, except Mr. Dallas, who now lives in California.
Safely, Ferguson and Dallas first crossed the Mississippi River in September, 1836, and stopped in Muscatine County, on the borders of Cedar, to make hay and other provisions for wintering their stock. Out of the whole number, all fell victims to the ague but one. The women became discouraged, as well they might for the outlook was anything but promising. A short time after their hay was stacked, a fire swept along over the prairie, and surrounded and destroyed their hay. This added to the distress already entailed, and they retreated to Knox County, Ill., where they went into Winter quarters. The distance from their pioneer Muscatine cabin to the next shelter on their line of travel, as they fled before grim-visaged want and destitution, was seventy miles. The advance winds and rains of Winter followed in their wake, met them in the front and whistled around them on all sides.
It was a dreary, cold, desolate journey, enough to discourage stoutest hearts, one would now think, and almost beyond endurance. But Scotch hearts had undertaken the journey, and earnest Scotch women and Scotch men hardly ever bow down in humble, abject submission to destitution, want or suffering. They learned lessons of bravery, endurance and fortitude from Bruce; and as he learned lessons of perseverance from a spider's struggles and trials to weave a web from wall to wall, in a barn, where he had taken refuge when overtaken by defeat and seeming disaster -- so these hardy countrymen and countrywomen of his, Ferguson, Safely and Dallas, looked not upon the darkside; they only sought shelter and food for the Winter, determined to return when the springtime came, a determination they kept, and are now securely sheltered and protected from all the elements of time and want. In April, 1837, they returned to the country west of the Mississippi River, and, as already stated, settled at Red Oak Grove.
Pioneer Incidents and Happenings.
The settlers who came in 1836 were very great sufferers. The Winter (1836-7) was terribly severe, and one for which the settlers were illy prepared. Their cabins were poor protections against the wintry blasts, and there was a great deal of suffering. Many of them lost more than one-half of their stock. The ground around the cabins and prairie stables was strewn with bones, and the prospect was anything but inviting.
One incident, as showing a woman's provident care, occurred during the Winter, that deserves to be recorded: Solomon Knott and family came in the month of October, too late to provide a sufficiency of good food for their stock. There was no corn to be had anywhere west of the Mississippi River, and little hay, except what had been made at Pioneer Grove and by Col. Hardman, that could be had for love or money. Hardman, Crawford, Roberts and the others who came with them, in June and July, had made some, but only enough for their own use. No one anticipated such a Winter as fell upon them; and, as a consequence, the pioneers and their stock were left at the mercy of the pitiless elements; and it was with the utmost care and attention that any stock was carried through until Spring came. It is related of Mrs. Solomon Knott, that she took every blanket and bed quilt that could be spared form the house, and had them wrapped around her cows, to keep them from freezing to death; and only by that means were her cows saved.
This is certainly an instance of care for poor, dumb, hungering animals, that is to the credit of Mrs. Knott, and entitles her to rank with Bergh, the Manager of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Dumb Animals. Most housewives would not have taken up the commonest rag carpet for such a purpose, let alone their blankets and quilts.
The seeds of Christianity, religion and church influences were planted when Martin Baker, already mentioned as settling two miles south of the present village of Rochester, in July, 1836. The very first Sunday after his cabin was completed, its one door was thrown open and the neighbors assembled there in a prayer meeting capacity ---- Mr. Baker conducting the exercises ---- which was the first meeting of the kind ever held in this part of the Cedar River country. And it is very questionable if songs of praise, prayer and thanksgiving were ever heard in any part of Iowa previous to that time.
But the seed sown by Mr. Baker in his humble log cabin in the late Fall of 1836 grew and ripened into the fullness of a plentiful harvest. Until then, the stillness of the central and western part of the Black Hawk Purchase had never been broken by the voice of prayer and praise, unless the songs the birds sang were offered as a tribute to the glory of the Great Architect, whose hand unfolded these rich prairies and reared their grove-covered hillsides. Since that meeting of a little band of praying pioneers, however, a population of about 23,000 has grown up in Cedar County, who
"--------- sing of God, the mighty source
Soon after the prayer meeting referred to above, Mr. Baker commenced preaching at different points in the settlement, and in the latter part of 1836 preached regularly at Col. Hardman's and at Burnside's, the last named then occupying the place subsequently owned by William Ocheltree.
Those pioneers of 1836, as already shown, who were so unfortunate as to come too late in the season to provide comfortable cabins for homes or hay for their stock, encountered severe trials in meeting and buffeting the emergencies of Winter. Money was scarce, provisions of all kinds were dear, and not to be had nearer than the mouth of Pine or Rockingham, (Note: In the Spring of 1836, Benjamin Nye built a small mill at the junction of Pine Creek and the Mississippi River, about twelve miles above Muscatine. He also opened a store, started a blacksmith shop and made some other improvements, and having city aspirations, named the place Montpelier. By common usage, however, the site came to be called Mouth of Pine. Rockingham was a trading place on the Mississippi River, four miles below the site now occupied by the city of Davenport and immediately opposite the mouth of Rock River (Illinois). Rockingham was "laid out" as early as 1835, and forty years ago was quite a village, and boasted the best hotel on the west bank of the Mississippi River.) then small trading posts, Davenport being unknown. To make the situation and surroundings still more difficult, every little slough and creek between the settlements on Sugar Creek and the Mississippi were treacherous quagmires, in which wagons going for or returning with provisions were sure to settle with almost inextricable tenacity; and when once in the mud, there was no alternative but to leave the wagon where it "stuck" and go to the nearest settler for help, which, it is needless to say, was always readily tendered. Sometimes the assistance of two or three additional teams of oxen were unequal to the task of removing a loaded wagon. In such cases, the goods were taken from the wagon and carried by hand to the nearest elevation; then the wagon would be "hauled out," the goods re-loaded and the journey resumed. These were the ruling circumstances of Spring and Fall travel, not only during 1836-7, but for some years thereafter.
The Winter of 1836-7 commenced early, the last of November snow fell to the depth of eighteen inches, and its depth increased as the Winter advanced. It did not melt away, as the people have seen it melt almost every Winter since, but shut in the settlers and almost completely interrupted neighborly intercourse until the middle of April. The snow melted away before the last-named date, and the streams were swollen to impassable torrents, their banks were overflowed, and the lands adjoining became quagmires. Provisions became exhausted, sickness came upon many families, and the general condition of affairs was deplorable to contemplate. Stock died from sheer starvation, and the people themselves began to think that they would be forced to share the same fate.
Before the Spring suns began to melt away the snowy barrier, some of the more intrepid and self-sacrificing pioneers made journeys through two feet of crusted snow to Mouth of Pine, and Rockingham, a distance of thirty to forty miles, for provisions. These journeys were oftener undertaken on foot than with teams. They were attended with exposure, danger and peril that but few people would be willing to encounter now. On the prairies, in many places, the snow was piled up in great billowy drifts of five to seven feet in depth. To pass them with ox teams was out of the question. Provisions must be had. The only way to obtain them was for the pioneers to go on foot to the nearest trading place and carry them home on their backs. Who of the people of Cedar County, in 1878, would think of going on foot, even in the Spring, Summer or Fall season, over good roads, a distance of thirty, aye, even ten miles for a supply of family necessaries? The stoutest hearts will almost quail at the thought.
In making one of these trips of love and necessity, Andrew Crawford almost lost his life. He started from Rockingham to wade home, thirty miles, through the snow, with a back load of provisions, for which he knew his family were hungering, if not suffering. When he had made about half the distance, a blinding snow storm set in, and every hour the snow drifted higher and higher. He lost his way, or, rather, the points of the compass, and guided his course by the wind. Late in the evening, he arrived at the banks of Sugar Creek, about two miles above his residence, but was so bewildered or blinded that he could not distinguish his whereabouts. Despairing to find his way home in the dark and snow drifts, he determined to walk on the ice until morning, and, although well nigh overcome with fatigue and cold, he did not dare to cease walking his lonely, snowy, icy "beat;" to do so was only to invite certain death. After a terrible night of suffering, the morning revealed to him his situation, and he started for home but soon became almost hopeless of ever again seeing his wife and children, or of delivering to them that succor for which he knew they were almost famishing. At last, just as he had determined to lie down in despair and submit to the fate that stared him so boldly in the face, he caught sight of a disturbance in the snow, and, making a last, desperate effort, he reached a pathway that James Burnsides had shoveled out to allow his cattle to get to the creek for water. That path was the means of saving his life. Dragging himself to Burnside's door, he fell there, more dead than alive. He was taken into the friendly and hospitable cabin and kindly cared for, but, while his life was saved, he was rendered a cripple for the remainder of his days. The flesh peeled from his face, his hands were badly frozen, and the ends of his feet fell off, leaving only the stumps or upper part the ankle joint. He suffered the most excruciating agony for a number of weeks, but finally so far recovered as to be able to go around with the aid of wooden helps. He was given the office of Constable of Cedar County, a position he held for a number of years previous to his death, which occurred in 1856.
Hector Sterrett had a similar trial, although it did not result so seriously. He had gone to one of the trading posts, and was returning with a load of provisions. In attempting to cross Sugar Creek on the ice, his team and wagon broke through where the water was about six feet in depth. Taking in the situation at a glance, he unloaded his meal on the ice on either side of the wagon, and then sprang into the water to rescue his struggling oxen. After being in the water about an hour, with the thermometer below zero, he succeeded in unyoking his cattle, but they were unable to ascend the steep bank. Mr. Sterrett was obliged to go to Mr. Bratts, a quarter of a mile distant, for help. A team of oxen was yoked, and Messrs. Sterrett and Bratts returned to the relief of the almost stiffened oxen. All this consumed time, and when they reached the place of the mishap, Sterrett's oxen were standing on their hind feet against the bank. There was no remedy but to hitch a chain around the necks of each of the four suffering brutes and drag them up the bank. The most remarkable circumstance connected with the adventure, was that, as he afterward affirmed, Mr. Sterrett experienced no unpleasant consequences, neither at the time nor subsequently from the exposure incident to the occasion. He attributed this fact to his continued exertion and excitement, which kept his blood in active circulation, and also to the further fact, that upon leaving the water his clothes instantly froze stiff upon his person, thus preventing the wind from coming in contact with his body.
While many of the pioneers were often reduced to scant rations, and often suffered hunger in consequence, the family of Mr. John Finch were perhaps the greatest sufferers. Mr. Finch had but limited means when he came to the country, and he was unable to lay in a stock of provisions sufficiently large to last his family during the Winter. The family fell sick; the roads were blockaded with snow, his larder was soon exhausted, with the exception of a small quantity of frozen potatoes, upon which the family subsisted six weeks, without even salt to season them.
Many of the pioneer families lived for weeks at a time on corn bread and coffee; some other families were known to have been six weeks without the sign of bread in their houses. When they were unable to procure corn meal, which was not unfrequently the case, and could get corn, or wheat, they would boil and eat it like beans. A number of families lived in cabins that were neither "chinked" nor "daubed." The whistling winds and drifting snow were kept out by quilts and blankets suspended from the joists or upper floor, if there were upper floors, which was but seldom the case. In one or two cases the settlers used hollow trees for chimneys set on end over the fire-place. Such chimneys needed constant watching to keep them from taking fire. Other settlers, instead of building cabins, made temporary dwellings by digging out a place sufficiently large to temporarily accommodate the family in the side of a hill. Here the cooking, etc., was done, while the unfinished cabins a short distance away were used as sleeping rooms. "R.. L. R.," in a series of articles entitled "Outlines of the History of Cedar County," published in the Cedar Post in 1872, says: "One old settler informed me how he slept in a cabin over which there was only half a roof. He could reach out from his bed and put his hand in a snow drift two feet deep, and that he used to get up and run bare footed to his "side hill" shanty (dug out, more strictly speaking), some fifteen or twenty rods distant to make a fire, and that he 'didn't think nothin' of it.'"
Those who had their hay burned, and had the means, bought corn meal at Rockingham upon which to winter their cattle. Corn meal was worth two dollars per bushel, and the readers of these annals will readily see that it was costly feed. Those who did not have the means to buy corn meal, and who had lost their hay by fire, lost nearly all their stock by starvation. Those were hard times -- times of trial and tribulation.