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The History of Clarke County in the Early 1850s


Posted By: Karen Brewer (email)
Date: 12/21/2021 at 21:30:47

The Osceola Sentinel, Osceola, Iowa
August 17, 1899, Page 11

Benj. Arnold a Resident Since '50---Among
First of Three or Four Families---History of the Mormon Colony, and Other Highly Interesting Reminiscenses.

In May, 1850 Bernard Arnold, wife, three daughters and one son, Benjamin Arnold, the subject of our sketch, drove over a wild and trackless prairie and settled down near the Mormon colony, almost in the center of Green Bay township. Land was rented from the Mormons and corn planted. The other settlers in this county at the time were John Sherer, who had married one of the Mormon girls and settled near them; (they were the parents of Frank Sherer); Robert Jamison and family had arrived a month or so before and were living in Franklin township, and James Glenn. These in connection with the Mormon colony were all the residents then in the county.
Mr. Arnold was fifteen years old when his father settled here. His remembrances of the Mormon colony are better perhaps than any citizen now living in the county. A colony had emigrated from Nauvoo, Illinois in the early part of 1846 and started to the far west to avoid persecution. Six or seven families, comprising those of two Langwells and two Conyers and two or three others had stopped in the middle of Green Bay township and settled down under the slope of a hill as if to avoid detection. A large body of Mormons had settled at Garden Grove for the winter, but these few families had lost their way and settled on this location which they appropriately names Lost Camp. They afterward abandoned Lost Camp and moved over to what is now known as the James Wade Farm. They had stald four years up to the time Mr. Arnold's arrived. They had built a cluster of cabins and numbered about forty people including their numerous children. They remained several years afterward, leaving about 1854 and going on to Salt Lake City. They raised stock and became pretty well-to-do. Mr. Arnold tells of their saving the life of a family names Winter or Wetner over in the edge of Decatur county during the severe winter of '49 -'50. when the snow lay five or six feet deep for several weeks. They carried provisions to them on snow shoes and saved them from starvation. These Mormons had but one wife each. In December, 1849 when Mr. Arnold looked over the land that he entered he was entertained by them.
Mr. Arnold says his father was the second man to enter land in Clarke county. He rode to Mt. Pleasant to enter it but the books were soon afterward taken to Chariton. After they had built their log cabin in May, 1850 and settled down to frontier life they saw very few other families come in that year. John Kyte and family, Ivisson Ellis, William and Levi Gardner (unmarried), Alexander Collier and William Rook, who settled in Liberty township were all who moved in that year. These settlers planted sod, corn, pumpkins, buckwheat and turnips and managed to raise enough to eke out a living for the winter.
At that time the county was a wilderness of rank prairie grass and timber. Bands of Fox, Sac and Pottawattamie Indians roamed over the country. The Pottawattamies were more numerous. There were numerous deer, wolves and occasionally a stray elk would be seen. Prairie chickens became thicker as the country settled. They thrived and increased from the grain field. The first fall Mr. Arnold and the dogs killed thirteen wolves who came to fields and ate roasting ears and turnips until they were groggy, as the prize fighters say, when the dogs could soon run them down.
Mr. Arnold tells a good joke on himself. One day he was hunting with an A No. 1 gun. While walking up one of the White breast creeks he suddenly confronted a fine, fat buck within twelve feet. It was doubtful which was the most surprised--Mr. Arnold or Mr. Buck. The gun was jerked around in an awkward position, the trigger pulled, the load went off and so did Mr. Buck. It was a plain case of buck fever. Mr. Arnold forgot to sight.
The first school in Clarke county was taught by Miss Eliza Jane Arnold, his sister, in one of the Mormon shanties in the fall of 1850. A. M. E. church society, perhaps the first in the county, was organized at his father's house about 1853. For some time they got their mail at Chariton where one store held forth. Later a post office was established at Mr. Arnold's house and it was here that the Hopeville colony people came for mail. At first the residents went to Chariton to vote on state and national tickets. The first county election was held in the fall of 1851 at Vest's grove four or five miles southwest of Osceola, the present residence of William Bell. Mr. Arnold says there were just enough voters present to divide the offices among themselves. J. A. Lindsley was elected county judge, Ivisson Ellis, Sheriff, Perez Cowles, recorder and treasurer; Israel Miller, clerk of courts, Wm Arnold, Dickinson Webster and John Sherer, county commissioners; Jerry Jenks, surveyor, Robert Jamison, school fund commissioner, George G. Glenn, assessor.
Mr. Arnold recalls the George Howe moved a stock of goods from Red Rock, near Pella, to one of the Mormon houses in August 1851, where he continued in business until a hewed log house was built for him by Mr. Farley on the northeast corner of the square in Osceola a few months later. This was the first structure in Osceola, besides the two rail pens put up by John Sherer on present site of Howe's Hotel, where he kept hotel for early settlers. John Arnold built and operated the first blacksmith shop. At first all houses were log, both in Osceola and in the county. Goss & Cowling put up a small general store in 1852 but it was closed out by the sheriff a year later. Jacob Butcher & Co. started a general store in 1853, the company were David Brewer and John Butcher; Robert Beckett bought Brewer out in 1854 and in 1855 bought the interest of the others. When he was elected county treasurer shortly afterwards he sold out. The third house in Osceola was a log residence built by M. R. Lanson. A saw mill was established in the southeast part of Osceola somewhere in '54 by Wattson Phillips and Thomas Glenn. Mr. Arnold was on the scene of this mill a few moments after Lorenzo D. Fowler, father of P. L. Fowler of Des Moines, was accidentally sawed in two and instantly killed in August 1854. Mr. Fowler had bought the lot of the Shearer hotel and was helping to saw logs for building a new frame hotel. This mill enabled the early residents to put on airs somewhat in the way of sawed board houses.
For the next six years all hay was cut with scythes. Mr. Arnold remembers the first mower brought to his neighborhood. It was purchased by Ellis Gentry in 1856. In those days grain was thrashed by horse tramping it, or by flail. Mr. John Harbin bought the first threshing machine of a man named Jacobs from Hopeville, 'long about 1858. A big crop of wheat was raised that year and he charged six cents a bushel for threshing it, four cents for oats, and made piles of money, so our informant says.
Mr. Arnold can tell many interesting stories of the hardships and privations of pioneer days. It was not all hardship, however. There was the same mixture of joy and sorrow, stormy days and fruitful seasons, and variety of good and bad fortune as now. The pioneers were more skilled in individual resources, therefore their life many be said to have been more peaceful in many respects. Mr. Arnold has lived a long, useful and honorable life in our midst. He has seen the wilderness blossom and fruit into a thriving community of 13,000 people. The above is only a brief synopsis of experiences that would fill a book.
Transcribed as published


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