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Early Mt. Valley Township History


Posted By: Gordon Felland (email)
Date: 7/8/2008 at 14:41:27

Mt. Valley Township Proud Of Its Land, Its History.

Early residents of Mt. Valley township describe it with superlatives-among the earliest to be settled, the richest township and the township which had to be "carried" by those seeking public office in the county if they were to be elected.

Mt. Valley differs from the other townships in topography as its name implies, it is a combination of hills and valleys (in the early days, sloughs) with an abundance of natural timber in contrast to the treeless parries to the west of it. Farmers had to clear the land before planting and this was hard work in those days with the lack of mechanical aids. But the land was good and the yield satisfactory, going as high as 40 bushels per acre.

Arne Vold, long time resident of Mt. Valley was born in Norway in 1865 and came to Iowa with his mother, Mrs. Oleana Vold, in 1883. A brother. Haaken Vold, had come here 9 years before this and was settled on a farm in Forest township bordering Mt. Valley. After a number of temporary jobs including work in the Tom Jacobs store in Forest City. Vold went into the well digging business with Matt Johnson. They used an auger and horse power and dug their first well on the Jacobs farm charging $1 per foot

In 1888 Vold was married to Gunhild Rusley and at that time purchased 80 acres of land at $10 per acre about 1 mile east of the central point of the township, where be lived for 62 years. Mrs. Vold was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ole Rusley. Jacob, Targie and John Rusley, brothers of Ole were among the early settlers in the township; all were immigrants from Norway.

Settled in the neighborhood several years before Mr. Vold was the family of Gunder Levad. Four generations of Levads have operated this farm: Gunder, his son, Henry, who still lives there and his son, Gordon, who with his family now occupies the original house and farms the land. One of Gunder Levad's daughters, Anna, became the wife of Carl Carlson, whose father, Tollef Carlson, came here in 1869.

Widowed, she later married L. R. Fjelstad. Again a widow, she now resides in Leland but has spent the majority of her years in Mt. Valley where she still owns her farm. A daughter of Mrs. Fjelstad, Mrs. R. W Branstad, resides with her husband, on a farm originally settled by a relative of his, Gunder Olson, and which has remained in the family during the intervening years. Rasmus Haugland who was a cousin of Gunner Levad, and a friend and neighbor of Tollef Carlson, lived here previous to 1889.

Peter Hanson was remembered by Vold to be one of the very first settlers in the township. The farm he originally settled is still occupied by a member of his family, a grandson, Valier Nelson. Another of the earliest settlers was William Higinbothham, who lived in the southwest part of the township.

Vold came to America in his late teens and had received his education in Norway but attended school here in order to learn the English language. At that time school districts had not been formulated. The Brones school, named for Nels Brones on whose property it stood.

Other schools which existed before the districts were set, each named for an early settler who owned land near by, were the Vatney school, the Dahlen school and the Paulson school. All of these buildings were moved at the time of districting to equalized the territories served by them. Among the early teachers were Emma Hanna, William Hanna, Katie and Helen Halvorson and Christian Flugum. Ole Kringlaak and Ole Flugum taught "Norwegian" school or religious school. Vold served as a school director for 11 years.

The schools served as early community centers for religious and educational meeting and for voting. The Brones school was the scene of many baptisms, weddings, etc. for residents of eastern Forest township as well as for Mt. Valley.

The Rev. Jens Dahl, first resident Lutheran minister, came to the township as a missionary in 1872. He first resided with Arne Martinson and held services in the school and in private homes over a wide area. Later, just over the border, in Center township he erected a church which for many years bore his name. The original church burned and was replaced by the present structure, know as Winnebago church. Rev. Dahl was an outstanding leader among the people and served as a doctor as well as a minister. He was active until the time of his death in 1906. Serving the parish at present is the Rev. Beckstrand.

The population of Mt Valley township was primarily Norwegian, although there were a few Swedish people. Vold recalled that much of the written business, insurance policies, letters, etc., in the early days was in the Norwegian language. Vold wrote for a weekly paper published in Lake Mills,-- not only items of current interest in the neighborhood, but also a number, of short bits of poetry, in Norwegian.

Some of the early farming in Mt Valley was done with oxen, but Vold owned horses and says he was the first to own a gang plow and a wire corn planter. Often a farmer would serve the community in some capacity besides his farming. Andrew Drugg and Michael Skore were threshers; Hans Lovik was a blacksmith; Ole Peters was a "horse doctor", and Vold too, served in this capacity having learned something about it from Matt Johnson who was a veterinary.

Vold who has been totally blind for the past 5 years, had particularly good eyesight in the past and frequently early settlers came to him to have him remove obstacles that had got in their eyes. His keen eyesight and steadiness of hand made him good at this.

Source: FOREST CITY SUMMIT - Forest City, Iowa - Thursday July 28, 1955.


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