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Edward and Margaret Mahan Family


Posted By: Cathy Joynt Labath (email)
Date: 7/30/2006 at 13:08:35

Edward and Margaret Mahan Family

Edward, the son of Myles and Anna (Flannigan) McMahon, was born near Limerick, Ireland in 1825. He immigrated to this country around 1838. The Irish were not all that welcome in those days and many left off the “Mc” upon leaving home. Also, it was sometimes the pen of the man at immigration that determined the name you and all to come after you would have. Edward and two of his brothers settled first near Springfield, Massachusetts, where he married Margaret Laughlin. They then moved to Kane County, Illinois, before coming to Iowa.

In July of 1856, they and six other families took up claims on the banks of the Des Moines River. Edward and Margaret settled on the east bank of the river in a grove of walnut trees. This was later known as Walnut Grove and the first Labor Day celebration was held here as a picnic for the settlers.

Four of the children came with them: Ann (1851-1928) was married to Joe Graettinger, John (1853-1943) was married to Julia Doran, Ellen (1855-1944) was married to Steve Guerdet, Myles (1856-1877) died young of black measles. On March 11, 1857, James Lott was born. He was the first white boy born in Palo Alto County. James married Katherine Graettinger. Two daughters were then added to the family, Margaret (1861-1936) who married John O’Connell and Mary (1869-1933). Mary was one of the early school teachers of the area.

It has been said that this was a very hard winter for the new settlers and they hadn’t much time to prepare for it. They didn’t have time to grow any food for that season and supplies had to be brought from Fort Dodge by oxen. Meat was very plentiful then; elk, deer, and game birds as well as a plentiful supply of fish.

At different times of the year the Indians would camp nearby. They were more of a nuisance than anything and they loved to play tricks. They thought nothing of stealing anything they fancied and the stock and supplies had to be watched at all times. On March 8, 1857 just thirty miles from the Irish settlement near Spirit Lake, Iowa, an outlaw Indian, Inkpadutah and a band of Sioux Indians, attacked the settlers there and brutally murdered over forty men, women and children. When word reached the Irish settlers a good number of them went to Fort Dodge and didn’t return until late spring. The soldiers from there stopped on the way up to Spirit Lake and asked for volunteers to go along. Edward Mahan was one of the men that went and as the Indians had fled with three women and a girl as captives, he helped to bury the dead before returning home. His name is on the plaque at Spirit Lake.

The cabin they built was about 8 x 10 feet. It had a dirt floor and one window. The ladder to the cellar was under the bed. This indentation can still be seen there although time has nearly filled it in. There was a loft where the children climbed up to sleep in. Some years later, they built a new house on the west side of the river, high up on the hill. It was a very prominent looking house for its day, with many big windows and a porch on two sides. There was a railing above these and a door from the upstairs leading out to a porch there. It was all built of square nails and the main support beams were of hand hewn oak from the surrounding timber. It has a rock basement with all the rock cut square. Edward was a stonecutter and cut stone for other homes in the area as well. The house still stands and is now owned by Mrs. Jerry Zitterich.

Edward passed away November 3, 1895 and Margaret on April 30, 1887.

--From Graettinger Centennial 1893-1993 p. 227


Palo Alto Biographies maintained by Cathy Joynt Labath.
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