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Story of Nevin (Iowa)

by J. Loran Ellis (1901)


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Chapter III, 1857 (continued)

M. J. Hazeltine || Richard Sells to Alvin || First Bridge || A Matron from Boston || A Sudden Death || Thanksgiving, 1857 || New England House Occupied || Underground Railroad || Cemetery and College Lots || Kenada Timber


On September 27th, another Vermonter, Mr. M. J. Hazeltine entered the "New Boston" of Dr. Nevin.  He at once bargained for the southwest lot, in block D (across the street east of the hotel), and engaged Bixby and Stephenson to build him a house thereon during the winter, and he then went back.  On May 15th, 1858, he again appeared in Nevin; this time bringing his aged mother, and his wife, and their two young daughters, Minnie and Mattie.  They at once occupy their just finished house, the fifth dwelling built within Nevin limits.  He lived in the place till about 1863, when he removed his family to Illinois, where he was in the marble and tombstone business for years.  Later in life they moved again; this time to Des Moines, Iowa.  The old couple celebrated their golden wedding there in 1899.  His aged mother died in Nevin in August, 1858.  They have a married daughter, whose husband taught school in Des Moines, and later in Utah.


On September 30th, 1857, Mr. Richard B. Smith and wife, by his attorney, W. W. Cowles, deeded to his father, Alvin Smith of West Roxbury, all their interest in the Nevin lands.     The deed was recorded at Fontanelle on November 2nd, and at Quincy on December 1st, 1857.


The stream at South grove, was bridged the first time, on October 28th, 1857; stringers were cut from the nearby grove.  The covering was slabs, from the mill.  The labor was all contributed free, by the settlers.


Thursday, November 12th, 1857, was winterish and dull out of doors, but within the walls of the small house of the "Whites" it was warm, cosy and joyful, as the evening closed in on its inmates.  Mr. George White had during the day returned from an overland trip to the railroad end, bringing home with him his mother, Mrs. Joseph White, and his elderly sister, Miss Harriet White; just from the old Boston home.    Now, the three White men who have bached so long, will have the women to keep house and cook for them.

Their three friends, the Harlow men, had before this left the colony, two of them returning east, while William remained in the county until he enlisted in the army in 1861 or '62.


On the morning of Sunday, November 15th, 1857, a sad accident occurred in the Stephenson store; John Huse, a lad of some sixteen years, was shot dead by a ball through the head, from a revolver in the hands of C. E. Eastman.  This was the first death in Nevin.  The body was laid away the next day.  No grave stone marks the spot; but it was about eight rods from the southeast corner of Rose Hill cemetery.


November 26th, 1857, was Thanksgiving day officially, in Iowa, but there was no special observance of the occasion by Nevin people.  Christmas, however, was observed by many in Nevin and by those at the mill, in having a social gathering in the evening, at the Dunlap home at Hazel Green.  Those from Nevin did not return home till about midnight.


On October 6th, Mr. Stephenson's family, consisting of his wife Persis, their two children Mary and Charles, his father Reuben, and the lad John Huse, arrived in Nevin from Vermont.  Conveyed here from the railroad end, in the two horse wagon of Mr. L. Richmond.  They boarded at the Ellis house till late in November. 

Messrs. Bixby and Stephenson finished the outside of the New England House, and considerable of the inside work was done, including finishing the two rear rooms, the laying of all the floors, etc.

On November 25th, the Stephensons all moved into the hotel and commenced housekeeping for themselves.  A few days after this, they took in the boarders of the settlement.     And soon after that they commenced to accommodate the traveling public.

Mrs. Ellis, being thereby relieved from much of the incessant work of the summer and fall, had a chance now to rest up somewhat, as well as more time to adjust her home-making affairs.

The work on the hotel was continued partially into the winter, but the plastering was not done till May.  The sign,-- "New England House," was painted in big letters over the south door entrance, by Mr. J. Hoskins, in July, 1858.  Deborah, the elderly daughter of R. Stephenson, joined the family the same spring; but she returned east within twenty months, and was married there to Mr. George F. Bixby.  Mr. R. Stephenson died January 18th, 1861.  Young Chas. Stephenson died September 16th, 1859.


Along about the middle of the chilly forenoon of Sunday, December 20th, 1857, as Mr. and Mrs. Ellis happened to be looking from a south window of their house, they saw approaching from the south, a farm wagon, in which were seated two men driving the horses at a walk.  Presently the team stopped in front of the house, and while one of the men remained seated, the other one got out and walked around to the west door; where he inquired if they could get permission to "bring their load in and have it warmed."  Mr. and Mrs. Ellis looked inquiringly at each other, and then at the stranger, in a silent questioning attitude, as much as to say, "what does the man mean?"  He noticing their evident perplexity, proceeded to explain by saying that they had a "black man" in their wagon box, covered with loose hay to conceal him from any one who might chance to meet or pass them that morning, on the road from Quincy.

The black man of course was cold, riding in that prostrate position that December morning; and the men, knowing that Nevin was a colony of Yankees, and presuming that anti-slavery sentiment was rife here; ventured, with bated breath and apprehensive movements, to stop at this house to have the negro warmed.  Mr. and Mrs. Ellis of course said "yes, bring him in."  The runaway was of middle age, stout, and as black as an ace of spades.  He called himself "Aaron."  He said that he had left his master on the Missouri-Kansas border.

The two men were Mr. B. F. Allen and Mr. David Peterson, of Quincy, veritable abolitionists, and regular conductors on the Underground Railroad, running between the slave states, and the free states and Canada.

The darkey had by some unknown means gotten as far as Quincy; there he had been taken in charge by the local agent, who had confided the trust to Messrs. Allen and Peterson.     That morning, long before day, they had taken the man aboard their wagon, and had driven by round-about roads and cross trails to this New England settlement.

After the "load" had been sufficiently warmed, Mr. Ellis recommended the men to Mr. B. O. Stephenson, at the hotel.  Here the "contraband" was left, and the conductors went home by an unfrequented route.  Mr. Stephenson concealed the negro in some back room or place, until he could some night be forwarded on, by way of Winterset.

Father R. Stephenson, living at the hotel was an old-style New Hampshire democrat, and wanted no runaway slave about him.  But he didn't mistrust that the man, Aaron, was in the house, during all the nine days that elapsed before he was sent on towards the "Star of Freedom."


Ten-acre lot No. 49, was on November 22nd, 1858, deeded by Turner and Smith to J. L. Ellis, J. Bixby and G. F. Bixby, trustees of Colony township in trust for cemetery purposes.  The trust was to descend to their successors in that township office.     The deed was recorded on page 275, in "Book D," at Quincy.   At a later date, the lot was surveyed and laid out into burial lots, 2x2 rods in size; and into blocks,  of four burial lots each.  There were driveways, and a circular area in the centre for ornamentation purposes.  The cemetery is named "Rose Hill."   The divisional plat was also recorded.

The 1857 plat of Nevin designated 10-acre lot No. 52 as "College" lot.     It was found in after years, that the lot "dedication" was defective.   It was permitted to lapse, became delinquent for its taxes, and was finally lost by county treasurers' tax-sale deed in later years.

There were also in that same 1857 plat, a small block lot, marked "school," and  another one marked "church," both of which, on survey, were found to be unsuitable for such uses, and they , too, were permitted to become delinquent for taxes, and were later lost by tax sale deed.


Turner and Smith, in 1857, bought the "Kenada" 80 acres of timber land on the Nodaway just below Chapman's grove.  The next year it was surveyed into 5-acre lots, and sold to Nevin settlers, as wanted.



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