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Story of Nevin (Iowa)

by J. Loran Ellis (1901)


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Chapter III, 1857 (continued)

Home Making || July 4th, 1857 || Nichols, Jones and Fales || 1857 Farming || Harris and Stephenson Get Farms || A Blue Streak || The Mill Property


During early June, Mr. Chas. Jones finished building a small one story, board dwelling, on the hazel-brush bluff west of the stream crossing his father's 160-acre lot No. 22.     This was the third dwelling built on Nevin land.  On the 10th, the three single men, Messrs. Jones, Smith and Fales, moved thereinto, and kept bachelors' quarters awhile, or until the Sul. Pierce family moved there.

The Whites, soon after getting to Nevin, went to work in a small way to make a home on their 40-acre lot.  They at once planted a garden; then finding signs of a spring on the 40, they dug a well, and at a depth of about fifteen feet, found plenty of good, cool water.  This was the first well as deep as that, furnishing good water, in Nevin, Mr. Austin's, perhaps, excepted.  Their next work was the building of a small dwelling with lumber from the mill, into which the party lately from Boston moved on the 26th of June.  This was the fourth dwelling built in Nevin.

During the first week in July Mr. George White and one of the Harlow young men started for "Traders Point," a landing on the east bank of the Missouri, a few miles below the outlet of the Platte river opposite, to get their housekeeping goods.  The goods had been shipped from Boston by railroad to the Ohio, and thence by steam packet down that river and up the Mississippi and the Missouri, to its destination.  The men with their loads got back in six days.  Of the six men comprising the White-Harlow party, but one--George White, remained long enough to be called a permanent settler.     The others sooner or later went to pastures new, farther east.

JULY 4, 1857.

This year, the Nevinites were in limited numbers, but they did the best they could to celebrate the day of Independence.  There was no church bell to ring.  There was no liberty pole from which to display the flag.  There were no facilities for a big dinner, nor plans for a display of high flown oratory.  There was not even a bunch of Chinese fire crackers in the place, to fire off in their attempt to relieve their pent up patriotism.  So Mr. White, the cooper, took his gun and ranged South grove for wild game; while Mrs. Ellis took a walk over north to the Austin farm, to have a neighborly visit with Mrs. Austin and Martha.  Mr. Ellis, after tacking a notice--"Gone to the 4th of July"-- to his door, took that "buckwheat" trip on foot, noticed elsewhere.  What the others did is not reported, except to say that all were home again in season for supper.


Soon as Carpenter Nichols had finished the Turner-Stephenson store building, the last week in June, 1857; he, with Mr. Jones, the student, and Mr. Fales, the inventor, made a trip to Kansas; finding nothing there more inviting than Iowa, they, after a month, returned; Mr. Nichols to Fontanelle and the others to Nevin.  Mr. Jones remained in the west till August, 1859, when he returned east.  His father, Rev. Jones, never came to Nevin to go into farming.


Quite an amount of prairie breaking was done on Nevin lands during June and July, 1857.     Mr. Austin, Mr. Day and Mr. Met Smith, who owned work oxen, had the largest tracts turned over; while Messrs. McDougall, Harris, White and Ellis had smaller pieces broken on their respective lots or farms.  Mr. McDougall had made an exchange of land with Turner and Smith, he getting the south half of 160-acre lot No. 41, just over the county line, in Adair county.  Later, was the "Black" homestead.   Here was where "Uncle Mack" did his 1857 breaking.

The planting and seeding this year was slim, but all of the 1856 breaking was utilized some way.  In May, corn hauled from Dallas county was worth from two to three dollars per bushel; some of it was used for seed, but it proved to be without vitality, and therefore little or none of it grew.  There was neither wheat nor oats sown on Nevin lands this year; though, it may be remarked, Mr. Dunlap at Hazel Green raised a good crop of wheat on previous year hazel breaking.  Potatoes for seed were rather scarce, but the few planted produced a good crop.  Messrs. Samuel Moore and Joseph Scott, of the Moore settlement in Carl township, were earlier settlers in the county, than those who came to Nevin this year, so they had potatoes so plenty as to haul several loads to Nevin in the fall, to sell.  During the first week in July Mr. Ellis, finding that his chopped-in corn, had not sprouted, went afoot, sack in hand, to the John Ammon farm ten miles west of his home, where he bought half a bushel of buckwheat, which he carried home, going home by way of the Austin farm.  The next Monday, he, with the use of Mr. Austin's yoke of oxen and wooden toothed harrow, covered in his seed, sown on Jewett's last year breaking.  The crop was good.  About fifteen bushels of flail threshed, cleaned grain, was harvested.


About July 10th, 1857, Mr. Henry Harris and his new cousin-wife, Betsy, arrived at the Austin's from New York state, driving a $500 span of horses and carriage.  (He soon after sold the outfit to Rev. Norris Day for that sum.)

Mr. Harris and Mrs. Austin were brother and sister.  The Harrises remained at the Austin home while deciding about investing in Nevin real estate.  Along in August, during Turner and Smith's visit to Nevin, and after Turner and Smith had done some much needed work, Mr. Harris bought lot No. 6, of the 160-acre size, the one joining the Austin farm on its west.  During the fall he put up a barn on it, and then they moved into his barn-house.

On July 14th, Mr. B. O. Stephenson reappeared in the New England Colony of Iowa, having been gone east since the last of April.  Two days later, he made choice of 160-acre lot No. 43, the one in later years known as the Adam McKeen farm.  This farm and the Jones-Day farm were the only Nevin farms having native groves thereon.


Saturday, July 18th, was a day long remembered by many of the colonists.     Discontent had been growing, and was now intense.  Even Mr. Ellis, for the first time, was attacked with a "blue streak," at the delay of Turner and Smith.   At noon he went to see Mr. Joseph White, who was also badly affected, much in the same way.  They talked the matter over, heaping the blame on Mr. Turner's head.

Mr. Ellis went home again, and consulted with his wife, who suggested some methods of relief and hope.  As they stood side by side in the west doorway of their domicile, looking wistfully westward, with thoughts of the new openings for settlers just across the Missouri, in Nebraska and Kansas, she with true womanly courage, cheered him up.     She suggested to him that even if Nevin colony should fail in its purposes, and that they should lose every dollar there invested.  "We are young, strong and well; we can succeed in making a home over there in those new territories, where land with good titles can be had from government, to make a farm from, as many a young couple with small means were now doing."

Mr. Ellis was reconciled; let what would come, he had a partner to share his lot; and so the event soon passed off.

The same evening, not three hours later, Rev. Norris, the evangelist, and his son Elisha, arrived at the mill, and on the morrow he visited Nevin.  He was from Ohio, and had recently been to Boston to confer with Messrs. Turner and Smith, in regard to the purchase by him of an interest in the steam mill property at Hazel Green.

Mr. Day assured the disheartened settlers that the two Boston proprietors of Nevin lands would fulfill their promises, and that the proper plats of Nevin lands and lots would be filed for record in the two counties very soon.  These cheering words and assurances drove the "blues" away into thin air.


On the 20th, Mr. Day, Mr. Jordan, and the other colony men, had a meeting for conference; every Nevin interest was discussed, and plans were suggested for the future.     Conclusions were arrived at, that all would stick to the original purpose of colonizing Nevin lands.

The mill property seemed to have, or was thought to have, a vital connection with the settlement of Nevin.  It was acquiesced in by those at the meeting in Nevin, that Mr. Jordan should retain a one-third interest in the mill property, that Mr. B. O. Stephenson should have a one-third, and that Day and Whipple should have the remaining one-third interest.

Two days later, Messrs. Day and Stephenson started for Boston, to complete arrangements with Messrs. Turner and Smith as to the disposition of the steam-mill property.

On their way east, they at Winterset met a Mr. Sullivan Pierce, who, with his wife and child, and Mr. Haddow (again), were on their way from near Boston, to our Yankee settlement.  Mr. Day was led to decide that the Pierces were just what he now needed, and so he returned with them, to install them on the "Jones-Day" farm, and to set Mr. Pierce at work breaking prairie on that place.

After the Pierces were settled in the former Jones small house, Mr. Fales and Mr. Met Smith made that their boarding place.  Mr. Fales, however, remained only a month, or such a matter, after his return from the Kansas expedition:  He returned to the east, and married his Miss Lewis, settling at his former home and business in Walpole.  The two died rich in goods, many years ago.

Mr. M. D. Smith continued his breaking business the season of 1857.

There were many prospective settlers, who came to Nevin in 1857 and '58, who did not remain, so their names are not mentioned by this writer; excepting some for special reasons, later on.



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