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Story of Nevin (Iowa)

by J. Loran Ellis (1901)


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Chapter III, 1857 (continued)

Getting Married || New Colonists


On Friday afternoon, June 5th, Mr. Ellis took a walk from Nevin to Fontanelle, to see and visit his affianced, and to complete arrangements for marriage and setting up housekeeping at the new house in Nevin.  The following morning he started out to procure the needed license to wed.  The county judge, John J. Leeper, was with his family, on their farm several miles southwest of the little county seat.  Mr. Ellis found the judge and his wife in the field, planting corn; she was dropping the seed by hand, into previously made furrows, and he was covering it with a hand hoe.  Mind you, there were no machine corn-planters in those primitive days, not even a hand corn-planter.  The single shovel plow was just being introduced in the west.

Mr. Ellis secured the marriage license, paying the judge's fee of 35 cents; then he had to take it to the recorder, Mr. Valentine, who officially signed the document.  His legal fee was $1.

The two young people rather preferred that the knot should be tied in Nevin.  The Austins had been previously consulted in the matter, but the official to perform the ceremony had not been engaged.  There was  a Rev. Walker then living in Fontanelle, and Judge Leeper was also a person authorized to do such things.     Evidently one of them would have to be asked to go to Nevin on the morrow.

About noon, however, as luck would have it, there arrived on the stage from the east, the Rev. Norman Harris, who wanted to go to the Austin home that afternoon, to visit with them (he was a brother of Mrs. Austin).  And again very fortunately, a Mr. Crane, a settler of Washington township was with his two-horse team that day in Fontanelle on some trading business.

Mr. Ellis had a load of housekeeping goods there, that he wished hauled to Nevin that day.  So, this Mr. Crane was employed by Mr. Ellis, to haul the whole outfit to Nevin that afternoon or evening.

First, the trunks and household goods (the latter unboxed) were packed into the farm wagon, then the passengers, -- Miss Trask, Mr. Harris, and Mr. Ellis, together with driver Crane, were placed in on top of the goods.  The passengers being quite elevated, the load seemed rather top-heavy,--even to vibrating.

There was no road, and a wagon-trail extended only a part of the distance, the surface of the prairie was rough.  There were two streams to ford, one at Chapman's grove, the other about a mile before reaching the Austin house.  The daylight was fast disappearing, but they finally arrived at the hospitable home of the Austins (notwithstanding some solicitude on the part of the "tenderfeet" of the party).     Here, the young woman and the minister were left to spend the night, and the others proceeded on to the Ellis house, in the to-be village of Nevin.  Then Mr. Crane, after being divested of the balance of his load of goods, trunks and passengers; drove to his farm home, ten miles away, that night.  But that high-up, vibrating ride to Nevin, was never forgotten by any of that party.  Rev. N. Harris, many years a missionary in India, had often, in that country ridden his own elephant on long journeys, to his different stations of mission work.  This vibrating ride, was pronounced more intensely novel, more supremely ludicrous, and more persistingly shaking, than ever was any elephant, giraffe, camel, or burro ride,--if you have a mind to look at it in that light.

Sunday, June 7th, 1857, was fine and sunny.  About noon, Mr. Ellis and his particular friend, Mr. Fales, made their way north to the Austin home.  Here Mr. Ellis and Miss Trask were officially united in marriage; Rev. N. Harris administering the ceremony.  This was the first marriage celebrated within the bounds of the Nevin colony lands.

After a light repast at the Austin home, Mr. and Mrs. Ellis in the mid-afternoon of that mild, spring day made their short honeymoon trip.  It was simply a walk of about two miles, from Mr. Austin's to the Ellis home, over unbroken sod and grass, without road, path or trail.  There were no showers of rice nor throwing of old shoes.     Arriving at their own home, their knock at the door was responded to by his friend, Mr. M. D. Smith, who was there awaiting them.  They were ushered in, and their "at home" was initiated.


On the evening of June 13th, a party of six men, right from Boston, drove up to the Ellis house door.  They were Joseph White and his two sons, George and John.     The old gentleman and George were married men, their families still remaining in the east.  The other three men were A. H. Harlow and his grown sons, William and Joseph.   The elder Harlow was son-in-law to Mr. Joseph White.

The six men put up at the new Ellis house.  On their way west, at Burlington, they had purchased a two-horse spring wagon team, with which to make the journey to Nevin.     Mr. Ellis as yet having no stable, they tied their horses for the night, to a saw-horse, well staked down.  During the night the horses got away and strayed off south to the South, or Beath-Whipple grove, where they were found grazing the next forenoon.  

The Whites reported meeting Mr. Stephenson in Boston sometime in May, and that he took them to the Kilby street office of Turner and Smith, where a long confab was held.     Mr. Turner exhibited to them their maps of Iowa, and of Nevin lands in particular: enlarging at a great rate upon the beauties of a life in their New England Colony of Iowa, and urging them that "now is the accepted time."

Mr. Joseph White had been for years conducting boarding houses in the city, and he wanted some change in business.  George was a cooper by trade, and it seems, was not averse to going west.  The elder Mr. White inquired about water, coal, and stone (water and coal were vital questions in Boston boarding houses).  Mr. Turner told him that water was found in abundance by digging wells about twelve feet deep, and that plenty of stone was in the streams nearby, also that coal was to be had at fifty cents per load at coal mines right there in Adams county.

Mr. Turner recommended them to a choice of farms while they were going.     Accordingly, Mr. George White selected 40-acre lot No. 9, and 160-acre lot No. 13, paying half down, the balance of the price being secured by a note and mortgage on the premises.  But by some oversight no note accompanied the mortgage in the transfer of papers.  A few years later Mr. White got judgment in a suit in an Adair county court, quieting his title to the 200 acres of land, and canceling the record claim under the mortgage.

The remark is made here, that as far as the writer knows, Turner and Smith never attempted to foreclose  any of those early mortgages on Nevin lands, executed prior to August 19th, 1857, and but few of them were ever paid.

On Sunday afternoon, June 14th, another party of men from Yankeedom appeared in Nevin,--seven persons, all from St. Johnsbury, Vermont.  These were John Bixby, a carpenter, and his brother George F. Bixby; Richard Eastman and his son, Charles V. Eastman; S. C. Chubb, A. D. Pike, and J. H. Hutchins.  They, too, all put up at the Ellis house.  This party of men came to Nevin in a two-horse lumber wagon outfit, that Mr. John Bixby had bought at Burlington on their way here.  It is not stated what they did with the horses that night, but they and the White horses must have been tied to opposite sides of the Bixby wagon.  The next day was wet and cold, and so the men remained indoors; some of them made some needed bedsteads.  The poor horses fretted and shivered in their chilling exposure at the lee side of the house.  It continued to be cold and showery  most of the two following days, and nothing was done outdoors, except that some of the Vermonters one day drove to Hazel Green and back.

The 17th of June was Bunker Hill anniversary.  The Whites being genuine Boston Yankees celebrated the event in going out and planting some corn on the Jordan last year's breaking.

One day soon after, the lately arrived parties held an indignation meeting in the Ellis house chamber, denouncing Mr. Turner.  They also passed resolutions, as to what the two Boston proprietors must do in order to retain them in the colony.  They mailed a copy of the resolutions to Messrs. Turner and Smith.  A day or two after this, the Vermonters decided that they would leave, anyhow.  And so they packed their tools and other things into their wagon and started; first for the mill, where Mr. Jordan persuaded the two Bixbys and the two Eastmans to remain till word could be obtained from Mr. Turner.     The Messrs. Pike, Chubb and Hutchins went on to Fontanelle and thence to the east, and never came back to Iowa any more.

The Bixby and Eastman men got employment at the mill to some extent.  Hearing from Boston after awhile, they now decided to remain, and came back to Nevin in August, preparatory to commencing work there.  Though finally, Mr. John Bixby was the only one of the four, that became a permanent settler.



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