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Story of Nevin (Iowa)

by J. Loran Ellis (1901)


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Chapter IV, 1858

The Fuel Question || Colony Township Organized || A Surprise Party || Amasa Child || Early Births || The Harlows


During the first two weeks of January, 1858, there was a gradual thawing of snow.     On two or three days the streams near Nevin were so high as to be completely impassable without boats.  The Nevin people in general passed the winter in trying to keep warm; and thus fuel was the leading question.  Their pioneering needs in the matter of fuel seemed to place them in much the same relation to the unoccupied native groves around, as was that of the Indians in their relation to wild timber, game and fish.    Wood for fuel, was cut and hauled from non-resident land, with but little compunction of conscience, for a few years after the coming of the early settlers.    Jayhawkers were not by any means confined to Kansas.  Mr. John Barnett, lived on his farm, but twenty miles away, so hardly anybody presumed to "hook" any live trees from his fine grove four or five miles south of Nevin.  Mr. Josiah Elliott lived only twelve or thirteen miles from his fine grove in section 15, and as he came to see it occasionally, but few of his live trees were taken off after 1856.   There was no one to care for the little Mormon-camp grove, on the creek, northwest of the Austin farm; so, its smaller trees, went off to keep some newcomers warm.

The "Ingles" timber, some five or six miles down the stream from Nevin, was a favorite resort after the first three or four years in settlers' life; and in following years was largely denuded of its surplus wood, by the prairie settlers, having none of their own.  Mr. Ingles lived much farther away than did Messrs. Barnett, Elliott and Boyd; some one sent him word, that his Adams county timber trees were being hauled away in several directions.  He was said to have sent word back in return, that it was all right; that the settlement of the country was the one thing needed to give salable value to the land of speculators; and that the settlers were doing more to increase the worth of his Iowa land than he had done, or expected ever to do.

Bystander here tells a story; he says that on a certain early-day Sunday, his proxy being present that morning at the Austin home; the fire in the family stove needed replenishing.  The orthodoxly trained Mr. Austin requested his nephew, the young Joseph Ballou, to go out, and bring in some wood from the door-yard.  Presently, Mr. Austin looking out from a window, discovered Joseph in the act of chopping the wood to bring in.  This was too much.  What!  Breaking of the Sabbath? -- Mr. Austin hastened to the door and called out to the young man to "put that ax down."  It seemed that Mr. Austin on Saturday morning before going from home, had told Joseph to take the oxen and haul home some wood, and cut it up, ready for the stove to last over Sunday.  He had hauled the wood home, from a not faraway grove, but for some reason he had failed to cut it up for the stove.  Query:-- Did they have any more fire in the stove that cold Sunday?


On February 1, 1858, the Adams county court, acting on petition from Nevin, set off township 73, of range 32, to be called "Colony" township.  This was the third township organized in the county; Quincy and Jasper townships being previous.     At an election ordered to be held at the New England House in Nevin, on Monday April 5th, the following township officers were chosen:  John Bixby, J. L. Ellis, and R. H. Eastman, trustees; B. O. Stephenson, township clerk;  J. L. Ellis and R. Stephenson, justices of the peace; G. F. Bixby and R. H. Eastman, constables.    There were seven, all of whom voted for the same candidates for township officers.   There were seven votes cast for a "hog and sheep restraining law."   On the county ticket, the full seven votes were cast for Benj. Neal to be county judge.  It would seem that the Quincy democrats did not mistrust that Nevin possessed a democratic voter, and so the place was not canvassed: otherwise Wm. A. Shields might have secured the vote of R. Stephenson.

Three weeks later Mr. R. H. Eastman returned east, and Mr. G. F. Bixby was appointed trustee in his place.


February 19th, 1858, was moderately cold; and the sleighing was good.  The Fontanelle settlers wanted to see Nevin and meet the wintering Yankees there, as well as to enjoy a sleigh-riding party on a lark.  So they, to the number of thirty-five persons, in the afternoon took their driving outfits and invaded Nevin from the north, putting up at the hotel early in the evening.  With the many additions of the village folks who came in to welcome the invaders, they all had a great social time.  Mr. Ellis had been to Fontanelle in the forenoon and while there he had discovered their surprise party plans.  When he reached home in the afternoon, he gave Mrs. Stephenson a hint of what was impending from the north.  The hotel folks soon had a pork ham on to boil, and Mrs. Stephenson sent over to her near neighbor, Mrs. Ellis, to see if she had any eggs on hand, that she could spare her.  The Fontanellians got their supper all right, and in good season.  The folks, after supper, spent the night in talking, dancing, card and chess playing, some songs of mirth, and other amusements; keeping it up till daylight, then the Fontanellers had breakfast before starting for home.  The staid Nevinites, however, went home much earlier.


Mr. Amasa Child, the "tall" farmer, from the Wooden Nutmeg State, came to the New England Colony, on the 7th of April, 1858.  He soon bought an ox-team, and did prairie breaking for himself and for others; and other teaming, during the summer.     Late in the season he built a dwelling on the southeast corner of his 10-acre lot, No. 10.  Then he returned east and late in November brought his wife, Sarah, and their two small daughters, Mary Ella and Emma Myra, to Nevin, and occupied their house and home till 1864, when they sold out and moved to Des Moines; the next year moving to Green county, where they still live.  Their five children are all married.   Mr. and Mrs. Child celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary at Jefferson, on Monday, February 25, 1901.


On April 17th, 1858, "Alden Porter," the first child and son of Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Ellis, was born.  This was the first birth within Nevin limits.

On February 22d, 1859, "Minnie," the first daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Bixby, was born.  The second birth in Nevin.

On April 15th, 1859, "Sophia," the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hoskins, was born.  The third birth in Nevin.

On July 16th, 1859, "Julia," the first child and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Beath, was born.  The fourth Nevin birth.

On August 24th, 1859, "Walter March," the second son of Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Ellis, was born.  The fifth birth in Nevin.

On August 28th, 1859, a third daughter and child was born to Mr. and Mrs. M. J. Hazeltine.  This was the sixth birth in Nevin.

On February 14th, 1860, "Fred Harlow," the first child and son of Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Norman, was born.  The seventh birth in Nevin.


The Harlow brothers, Arad T. and Ivory, with their sister wives, were of Plymouth Colony ancestors, and were born near Duxbury.  After many years of life there, they lived in East Boston; from there Arad and his wife, Augusta, with Ivory's son James, and Mr. Abram Buell, came to Nevin as settlers on May 5th, 1858.  Mr. Buell had left his family, as Mr. and Mrs. Harlow had left their daughter Julia, in the east, to come west later on.  Arad, together with Ivory and their brother-in-law, Mr. Pease, had bought from Turner and Smith, the Boston land speculators, previous to starting; 160-acre lot No. 20.  This farm lot they divided; to Arad the easterly 1-3; to Ivory the next or middle 1-3; and to Mr. Pease the westerly 1-3, of the quarter section.     "Uncle" Arad had bought also, 2 1-2-acre lot No. 29, as well as a 10-acre lot.

Mr. A. T. Harlow had been a farmer in former days, in the Plymouth Colony country, and thought to resume that occupation in this new land.  Upon arrival, the four adventurers found quarters at the hotel, while Arad and James, the carpenter, proceeded at once to build a temporary cabin, or small house, wherein to dwell, while the men, or James rather, should build the Harlow house proper, on the 2 1-2-acre lot south of the village centre.  For some unknown reason, the small house was erected on the slope that lies between the present school house and the Methodist church, about two-thirds of the distance from the school house to the church.  In August, after they had lived there nearly three months, they with oxen hauled it to the lot on which James was now building the larger dwelling.  The Harlow's continued to live in the crowded small house until the following April, when James had gotten the house near enough to completion, to permit of its being occupied by the crowded families.  Soon after that, the "movable house" was hauled to the north part of the Ivory Harlow farm land, and was there enlarged and fixed up for the "Ivory" family.  They moving in in May, to try amateur farming.

Mr. Ivory Harlow and wife had come to Nevin in September, as mentioned herein, elsewhere; and had lived with the "Arad" family over winter.  "Uncle Ivory" and his wife Olive, in their new house and home on the ridge, soon tired of rural life in the west; and so they went back to the old Bay state, where he was a missionary at large, among the needy in South Boston, for some years; before they again visited the "Great West."

Aunt Augusta was the first woman settler of 1858.  She and Uncle Arad sold their village place in 1861, and moved away.  In the spring of 1870, they, and the Normans, returned again to Nevin, and opened up new farms.  Mr. and Mrs. Arad Harlow celebrated their golden wedding in southwestern Kansas, at the Norman home, October 2, 1886.



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