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Story of Nevin (Iowa)

by J. Loran Ellis (1901)


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Chapter IV, 1858 (continued)

Mr. Lawrence's Whale || Farming and Crops in 1858 || First Bricks || Job and Ruth || The Party at Atkin's and Pratt's -A Poem || Stray Items


At the religious meeting set for Sunday, August 22nd, 1858, at Mr. Chamberlain's new barn, Mr. Z. Lawrence from his fine farm northwest of the present Carbon, made his appearance, and preached a very remarkable and very long sermon, to these his co-Yankee friends from the east; he himself having come from Maine a few years earlier.  His text was from Exod. 16:13 and Ps. 74:14.  He gave a wonderful account of the turning of Jonah's whale into living quails, to feed the Israelites in the wilderness.  A child happening to cry during the discourse, its mother was starting to take it out, when Mr. Lawrence told her to "Never mind,: as he himself was "father of a dozen and one."  His talk was so long that it seemed hours in ending.  Finally, he said that he guessed that they were all tired of hearing him preach the "Bible," he would now preach "Newspaper," and proceeded to tell about his going to Washington city, and into restaurants under the capitol, where they sold whisky and other kinds of stimulants.  He never came back to preach in Nevin again.

Mr. Zach Lawrence claimed to have been a privateersman, under United States authority, against provincial sailing crafts in Bay of Fundy, off the Maine coast, at one period during the war of 1812-1814 against Great Britain.


The crops of the year were quite limited.  Mr. Austin, who had two teams -- one oxen and the other horses, -- with Joseph to help, did considerable farming, but his tools were primitive and few.  Mr. Ellis did some farming, driving his plodding ox team out two miles west to his land and back, each working day, however, took off much time.     Some others had teams and did some farming.  There were a few small tracts sown to wheat, which grew all right, until the superabundance of moisture and heat just before July ruined much of the crop; -- it largely went to the ground with rust.    The buckwheat and potato crops were good and so was garden truck.  The corn crop was rather poor.  There was a little sorghum grown, but there being no canemill   in Nevin, no molasses was made.  Some wild plum trees, and wild gooseberry bushes, from the river nooks and groves, were set out.  The need of fruit compelled the use of the native crabapple, and the rather astringent plum from the groves.   Mr. J. Dunlap living at Hazel Green grew some sorghum, and having access to a wooden cane-mill, he made some molasses, selling some of it to several Nevin families at 75 cents per gallon


The first kiln of brick made within fifteen miles of Nevin colony, was made and burned near Hazel Green, by the Hennings, in September, 1858.  This enabled the Nevin home makers to substitute brick chimneys for the previous stove-pipe arrangements.

Some one passing just as Mr. Hoskins had topped out Mr. Ellis's chimney, discovered that he, though a plumber, had not made the chimney-top plumb.


In December, 1858, Mr. Job R. Pierce, came to Nevin, and soon after, plastered the new school house.  The lime needed was burned at Manchester, and hauled in bulk to Nevin.     He and Ruth, his wife, moved here from Arbor Hill, in Adair county, the following May, to plaster the hotel.  They remained in Nevin till June 20, 1859, when they went back to their new farm in that county.  Some four years later they sold their farm and drove their two-horse team, tree and fruit plants on board, overland, to a small fruit farm, among the Missouri bluffs, near White Cloud, Kansas; where he grew fine peaches, apples and other fruits, for the markets.  He died there, leaving Ruth, about the year 1891.

The following poem, written by the "Bard of Nevin," was written by invitation, for this particular monograph:


O, yes, 'twas a frolicsome time that we had--
    The party at Atkins's and Pratt's;
Nobody was sorry, nobody was mad,
    But we scared out the dog and the cat.

For it was a surprise, as intended to be:
    And none but the men folks at home.
And they were dumfounded the people to see,
    And wondered how many would come.

They came from the north, from the south and the west,
    And they came from all over town;
They hooted and hallooed, like they were possessed,
    Till the pictures and platters came down.

One, Amasa Child, was chief of the play,
    And others but little behind.
The din that we made would a savage dismay
    As it rose on the wings of the wind.

At last we were hungry, and some one proposed
    For the boys now to give us a treat.
Then Caleb got round in his everyday clothes
    With turnips and frozen pigs feet.

We passed them around in the handiest way --
    And passing was all that was done --
So we passed them around in the liveliest way
    And that was the most of the fun.

When the hours had grown small and the oil burned low
    And but little remained to be said,
We all started home, like "Kids" from a show,
    So pleased with the time we had had.

No one had yet seen such a time as we had;
    'Twas a wander the rafters staid on.
In the morning the dog and the cats were so glad
    To come home and find we were gone.

But we never have learned since that jubilant night
    With sport for all Nevin replete,
The time that it took them to set matters right
    And to pick up the frozen pigs feet.

Now you  who are living, of all who were there,
    Recalling Old Time in his flight,
Will smile and grow younger, wherever you are,
    When you think of that December night.

March, 1901.
        G. W. GRANT.


On August 19th, 1857,  Mr. Metcalf D. Smith returned to Walpole, Mass., to help his childless uncle, Mr. Lewis Clapp; hoping to get at some future day, the old gentleman's broad acred farm.  He sold his ox team outfit before leaving Nevin.     His Nevin land was rented a few years, until finally it too, was sold.     "Met," however, never inherited the old uncle's Walpole farm.

On June 23rd, 1858, the population of Nevin was sixty-five; on January 1st, 1881, but nine of those persons remained settlers.

January of 1859, was without snow till the night of 26-27th; when there fell thirty-one inches, on a level in the woods.

On May 2nd, 1859, Messrs. C. C. Jones, C. V. Eastman, S. Pierce, W. R. Harlow, and M. Longfellow, suffering with an attack of the then prevalent, "Pikes Peak gold fever," started for the far off "sunset land" for relief; but before getting half way there, they were struck with a counter state of mind, bringing them all back to Nevin lands, in about a month.

On January 9th, 1860,  death came to Sullivan Pierce, two and one-half years a western settler.  His widow, Ruth, remained in Nevin near two years, much of the time as housekeeper at the Hutchings and Grant home; when she and her daughter, Georgie, went back to their former eastern home.

In 1869,  Mr. H. Nock, English puddler, came, and bought a village farm.     He soon tired, and left after a year or two.  The Nocks settled in Colorado over twenty years ago; where he, Enoch and Tom are prosperous.



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