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Copyright 1999-2013,
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Story of Nevin (Iowa)

by J. Loran Ellis (1901)


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Chapter V, 1859 and Later (continued)

The Deacon's Sheep || Alexander || Crops in 1859 || Church Conference || The Fair of 1859 || The Southalls


There were deacons and deacons in Nevin history, but there never was but one such that kept sheep.  The Chamberlains, now in their new home, gave their daughter Phebe in marriage to Mr. Ambrose Kelley, of Geneva, Ohio, on November 8th, 1859.  This was the fifth wedding within Nevin lands.  The memorable house-barn was hauled to the new place the next February, and the old site sold to Mr. John Jewett.

The deacon was enterprising in many ways.  In August, 1860, he introduced a flock of nearly 300 sheep from Missouri; and, by the way, the sheep brought the troublesome coclebur to Nevin farm lands.  Having neither fenced pastures nor proper shelter in the winters, nor yet tame hay, the sheep suffered loss during the storms of the inclement season, that nearly equaled the increase from new lambs of the springs.  Then he let some of them to Eben Davis, the parson's son.  Finally about 1866, be sold the remainder of his sheep.

Some old settlers may remember Mr. Chamberlain's big breaking plow, drawn by three or four yoke of oxen, with which he at a certain time, broke up Nevin common; so deep did he plow that some of the corner boundary stones were buried so far below the surface that they never afterwards could be found.  At another time, with some six yoke of oxen to his great plow, he plowed in back-furrow manner, a road then located running west past the Beath shop in Nevin, down through the long bottom of wet land, now in Mr. Reed's fenced pasture.  Deacon Chamberlain was a leader in the work of the church and Sunday school of the place.

Mrs. Chamberlain, sometimes called "Aunt Sarah," was a strong, massive, erect woman, of commanding presence.  She was the one woman politician of the colony, and could ably discuss matters of state.  She was well versed in American and English history.  How many times did Mr. Stephenson, or occasionally, Mr. Ellis, or maybe, even Mr. Grant --- call in during some winter day, (when "Peter" would be busy with his sheep and other stock chores,) and become quite interested with her talks on passing events, as well as the measures of the political parties of the day.

In 1872, Mr. Chamberlain and his versatile wife, getting somewhat aged, sold their Nevin farm to Mr. O. J. Silverthorn, from Muscatine, and moved to Ohio to spend their later years near Mr. and Mrs. Kelley.  Mr. Chamberlain died at Geneva, Ohio, in the year 1877.  Mrs. Chamberlain during her latest years was an invalid in the family of their children, Mr. and Mrs. Kelley, where she was tenderly cared for by them, and where she died June 2nd, 1900, aged 91 years.


Mr. Richard S. Alexander from the rock-ribbed coast of northeastern New England, landed with the outlines of this incipient "city of the prairies," on May 30, 1858.     He proposed to do big farming on some land he had purchased from Messrs. Turner and Smith, the Boston land speculators.  He soon began the erection of a cottage upon his 10-acre lot No. 56.  He also bought some young oxen for farm work.    His wife Annie, who was a cousin of the later coming Mrs. G. W. Grant, came out in November following.  His house being unfinished they rented room in the chamber of the Ellis house.  This Mr. Alexander had a special talent as a prayer meeting leader.    They became acquainted with Miss Newcomb, a step-daughter of Col. Z. Lawrence, now Mrs. H. G. Ankeny, whom they invited to Nevin.   She was supposed to have had a most unique visit in that cold chamber.  They soon tired of farming; so he sold his ox team and some of his land, and in May, 1859, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander and son, returned to the east.

CROPS IN 1859.

This year, for the first time in Nevin history, there was an abundance of corn raised in Nevin.  There was also some wheat and rye, and plenty of potatoes, and lots of small truck.  Among other things produced, was Yankee pumpkins; one man putting 350 pumpkins and twenty-five squashes into his cellar to make pies from over winter.

The first sorghum molasses ever made in the place was made this fall by Mr. Hazeltine.     He used a small three-roll horizontal iron cane-mill, and a plain black sheet-iron boiling pan.

In 1859, the most of the wheat crop was threshed with a mule-power machine from Missouri, the first of its use in Nevin.  In 1860, grain in the field, was first cut with a horse machine, in the place.  Previously the grain cradle and the flail prevailed.  A note is here made that the one grain cradle used in the settlement was, in the spring of 1858, brought by Mr. Chamberlain from his "Saybrook" farm.

This year cattle during the grass season, were herded for the first time in the colony.     Mr. Abram Hubbard was herdsman, driving them out each morning to the unoccupied prairies, two or three miles east, and returning them at night when the owners could each drive their own home and in the morning bring them again to the rendezvous for the herder.

The herdsman's wages were provided for by assessing a part on the cattle in the herd and the balance upon the acreage of the adjacent unfenced land in crops.

The first live fat hogs sold from Nevin were two that Mr. Ellis raised and drove on foot to Rigg's grove, twelve miles away on December 2, 1863.  They sold for $20.     Their estimated weight was 730 pounds.


The Council Bluffs Association of Congregational churches, held its fall 1859 meeting in Nevin school house, on October 13th and 14th.  Rev. John Todd of Tabor was moderator.


The Adams County Agricultural Society held its second annual fair at Quincy, October 6th and 7th, 1859.  It used the enclosed court house square.  As there was no building nor even a tent, at the disposal of the committee of arrangements, they had put up temporary brush covered sheds near the north fence and under some trees, for the exhibition tables; and some rail pens for such of the live stock as could not conveniently be halter tied.

The Nevin people were there in liberal numbers.  They came in various styles of conveyances.  Some were drawn by oxen and some by horses.  The Beaths and Ellises came together in a farm wagon with "prairie schooner" cover drawn by two yoke of oxen, giving an appearance as unique as any outfit.  But the interior was the most ludicrous of all.  Mr. Ellis was "ox-puncher," and so he had to walk most of the distance.  The load consisted of all the common and some uncommon farm and garden products, --- from a sack of wheat to a pint of turnip seed, and from a half-bushel of beets to a mammoth pumpkin, together with the many culinary products of Mrs. Ellis's and Mrs. Beath's respective pantries.  On top of the load of vegetables and grain were packed Mr. and Mrs. Beath with their eleven-weeks-old daughter Julia and Mrs. Ellis with her two sons, Walter seven weeks old and Alden a year and a half old, while in the rear of this humanity was a straw mattress for the needs of the little ones.     In this style of equipment they had that morning started from Nevin long before daybreak, so as to be able to get to Quincy about 10 o'clock.

At this period there was quite a settlement at Quincy.  The people of this county seat hospitably opened their homes to entertain the Nevinites over night.  Mr. H. B. Clark, the merchant of the place and his wife, had a spare room with a bed; this was assigned to the Ellises.  Mr. Beath slept on the floor in the same room.  Mrs. Beath and child were entertained at a nearby neighbor's home.

During the second forenoon the fair premiums were awarded.  A large portion of the vegetable and grain premiums were awarded to Nevin competitors.  Mrs. Beath received premiums for best wheaten bread, and Mrs. Ellis the same for the best Boston brown bread.     After the premium business was through with the society elected officers for the next year.

The fair was considered a success; more especially when the inconveniences of the early-day times are considered.


It was about the last half of May, 1859, that Mr. Samuel Southall, English born, with his wife and their two daughters, Alice and Lucy, from Providence, R. I., came to Nevin.     He was a puddler or iron worker in foundries.  But now he aspired to becoming a worker in Iowan soil.  Before leaving the east he became the owner of a tract of the Turner and Smith Nevin land situated just west of the H. Harris farm, in Adair county.   He had also bought village lots.  They lived the first sixteen months in the Alexander house, where their only son was born; but it lived only two or three years.   He made improvements on his Adair land.  They returned east in the fall of 1860 and made a visit and then came back and moved to their house on the farm where he farmed near five years.  Then he let his farm to Mr. Demery, left his family in rented rooms in the village and went himself east again to work at his former trade.   After replenishing his money credits sufficiently he returned and bought the Amasa Child property near the George White 40-acre lot.  Here they lived some years.   Later on he again went east to earn more money and after awhile his wife went to him now at Rome, New York, where they have lived many years; probably thirty.  The two daughters married brothers by the name of Wilson, long years ago.  They all are supposed to be alive and still at the city of Rome.



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