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Story of Nevin (Iowa)

by J. Loran Ellis (1901)


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Chapter V, 1859 and Later.

Literary Societies || Mrs. Norman's Letter || Grant and Sawyer || Dr. Taylor


On the evening of January 22nd, 1859, the Nevin Lyceum was organized at the new school house, and on the evening of February 1st, its first session was held.  The question discussed was, "Which Is the greater Evil, Intemperence or Slavery?"     Occasionally a part of the weekly exercises would be a lecture from some one.    Among the lecturers were Mr. I. Harlow, a Mr. Crista and Miss "Debby" Stephenson.

In December, 1861, a literary society, styled, the "Farmers's Club," was formed, to succeed the Nevin Lyceum of 1859.  Discussions were had on various subjects, at the weekly evening gatherings.  Some were agricultural, some on social subjects.  A few lectures were scattered along.  One, was from Rev. Davis.     The ladies conducted a paper, called the "Grand Splurge."    Miss Harriett White, Miss Mary Stephenson and some others, were, in rotation, editors-in-chief.   Everything was fine.

In December, 1862, the winter sessions of the club were resumed.  Mr. George White gave a lecture upon Ancient Agriculture in Egypt.  Mr. Caleb Atkins gave a lecture.     The ladies paper discussed and reviewed current events, happenings and neighborhood gossip, -- in one case down, even to young Quimby Jewett's black hen.


On Thursday, May 5, 1859, occurred the third wedding within Nevin limits, Mr. Alonzo M. Norman and Miss Julia Harlow were wedded, at her parent's home.  Rev. Sheets officiating.  Most of the Nevin people were present by invitation.  They had a big dinner, piano solos, etc.

This Mrs. Julia Norman, now of Oregon, sent a long letter containing remembrances of the very early days of Nevin, to Mrs. Dr. McDermid, in December, 1897; from which the present writer has taken extracts as follows:  "On September 14th, 1858, we women and children, and one man, Mr. Ivory Harlow, bade good bye to the east, and turned our faces westward.  We reached Fairfield, the end of the railway then over 150 miles east of Nevin.  There we found five covered wagons awaiting us and our luggage, and one for supplies for Stephenson's store.  I soon recognized my father, Mr. Arad Harlow, in the crowd (?) of men awaiting our arrival.  I knew his smile, though his face was tanned as I had never seen it before.  After the necessary delay, caused by loading, etc., we were off on what was to me a novel journey, riding, as we did, in 'prairie schooners' drawn by oxen.  (Then it was thought that oxen were best to break prairie with.)  I could fill pages right here; but will only say we were a jolly company of sixteen, traveling for ten or twelve days, sleeping at night in barns or houses along the way, --- meeting with all sorts of experiences, yet ever pressing on towards the goal before us.  The last night of the trip our accommodations bid fair to be poor, so the men decided to cross a certain creek, and 'camp,' --- and then strike out early the next morning for Nevin.  But alas!    the heavy loaded wagons made bad work with crossing.  Several crossed, but one stuck fast.   And it was quite a task next morning to get us all safely over.   We were finally on our way, and father said to me 'you will soon see the place where your home is to be.'  O, how I strained my eyes!  I began to 'fix up' a little.  He laughed.  'No hurry,' he said; 'we won't get there yet awhile,' and we didn't , --- not till about 4 o'clock in the afternoon.

"As I write, I see face after face, --- not only of those with whom I had been journeying, but of those who greeted us.  Where are they now?  Scattered and gone --- most of them, --- and all changed.  Of the seven Harlows who were together there that day, I alone remain 'this side.'  Little Johnnie, an invalid boy whom we brought with us, survived the trip only six weeks, and we laid him away, --- one of the first to die in Nevin; and a white stone marks his resting place.  Mr. Ivory Harlow was the next to go; he died in Denver, about twenty years later; then 'James,' in Denver; then father, in Kansas, in 1887; then mother, back in the old Massachusetts home, just before Xmas ...... But this has nothing to do with the subject before us.

"My first winter in Nevin was not the first of its existence, but there was enough of newness and privation connected with it to fasten it upon my memory.  I was not married, and did not feel the care and responsibility of anything, yet I remember the good housewives were sorely puzzled to make appetizing dishes from musty, sticky flour, the flabby pork, the black molasses, and the scarcity of --- I might say --- necessaries.     I remember the buckwheat --- so gritty, from being threshed on the ground, that it soon 'wore the teeth down,' to eat it.  I also remember the sorrel tarts and pies, which were regarded as quite a luxury after our stock of dried fruit had disappeared.   I remember seeing the box containing my piano, out doors resting on blocks, and covered with hay to keep out dampness.  Untoward circumstances, fever and ague --- one thing --- had hindered house building, and the little house in which we Harlows managed to exist that first winter, had no room for a piano.  At last Deacon Chamberlain made room for it in his barn (he was living in his barn that winter).  In that barn we held meetings --- probably one reason being that we might have the use of the piano."

These two Harlow brothers had married sisters.  They all four were very lovable in life; in death, the memory of them is still pure and fragrant.

Mr. and Mrs. Norman are still on their southwestern Oregon farm.  Their six children are living on the Pacific coast.  Fred, Edd, and Arthur are married, and each have one or more children.


The first immigrants to Nevin in 1859, were Mr. George W. Grant and Mr. Edwin Sawyer, unmarried, from Maine, who came March 10th.  They proposed to be farmers in this aspiring burg, near the crest of southern Iowa.  Six days later, Mr. Andrew S. March, the mutual friend of both Mr. Grant and Mr. Ellis, came from Massachusetts with his father-in-law, Mr. Solomon Hutchings, to examine his western land investment; he having bought the north half of the original Ellis quarter section, situated west of the village and of the river.  Here he located Mr. Grant and Mr. Hutchings, to operate his farm.     Mr. Hutchings, who was a widower, remained in Nevin several years before returning to Boston.

On Sunday morning, September 22, 1861, at the village home of Mr. and Mrs. Ellis; the Rev. I. S. Davis tied the knot that made Mr. Grant and Miss Julia Woodward, just from the east man and wife.  They at once took up housekeeping and home making on the March-Hutchings farm.  After nearly fourteen years of life (mostly near Nevin), they, in 1875, went and occupied an 80 acre tract of the Alvin Smith land, northwest of the village, that he, in 1870, had bought.  This land is part of his present farm.

Mr. and Mrs. Grant several years ago left their farm and went to York, Maine, where they occupied the home place of her mother, near the sounding ocean.  They have five children living, three of whom, Hattie, Dwight and Benj., are married; the first two have children and reside in western Iowa.

Mr. Grant's Miss Woodward, like Mr. Ellis's Miss Trask, came all the way from their parental homes, near the sea coast, to be wedded here, to their respective affianced husbands.  Brother Grant, among other characteristics, is a natural poet.  Some of his rhymes signed "G. W. G." may be found among these pages.

Mr. Sawyer married Miss Katie Harris, at the Harlow home, August 24th, 1859; the fourth marriage in Nevin.  They lived in or near the place nearly two years; when he enlisted, and served "Uncle Sam" nearly 3 1-2 years; returning in July, 1865.     The two were Nevinites many years.  In 1878 they moved to Prescott, where they are still.  On Saturday, August 23rd, 1884, their silver wedding anniversary was observed at their home, by their neighbors, and their friends from the old colony..


Dr. Cephas R. Taylor and family from St. Johnsbury, Vermont, relatives of the Hazeltines, came to Nevin in June, 1859.  Mr. Hazeltine for him, had, in the fall before, bought 2 1-2 acre lot No. 118 from  Mr. Ellis, at the price of $100.  On this lot a house was now in process of building.  Soon as the structure was sufficiently near done, they moved in.  The Dr. had practice from the start.  He was the first resident physician in the place.  The next physician was Dr. R. N. Hall, in the year 1868.  On September 5th, 1859, Dr. Taylor's wife died, and in November the eldest daughter died.  Soon after Mrs. Taylor's death, the doctor sold his place to Chamberlain; who, with his family, moved in, October 15th, 1859.  This, is the house where Mr. Jack Bonar now lives.  Dr. Taylor and his two young daughters went back to his old Vermont home during that fall.



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