BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE FIRST SETTLEMENT AND ORGANIZATION OF THE VARIOUS TOWNSHIPS
CITY OF WAVERLY
At the time when the first settlers located in what is now Waverly, all that part of the present site east of the river was covered with heavy timber, consisting of oak, elm, basswood, ash and hard maple. There being much of the latter kind and for many years after the town was first settled much maple sugar was made. The timber extending beyond the eastern limits and from a mile to a mile and a half east of the river. But on the west and the south side of the river there was but little timber.
I believe that Jacob Hess and Jonathan Goforth with their families were the first persons to settle within the present city limits. Hess was a son-in-law of Rev. C. N. Martin and came with him and his sons in 1850 and settled south of the river and built a log house just west of where Wm. Brooks now lives. He afterward built the stone house that still remains in that neighborhood. Mr. Goforth is credited as having come at the same time and settled on land in the northwest part of town, near where Winnie Eldredge now lives.
In 1852 Frederick Cretzmeyer, with his wife and two girls, settled on a tract of land east of the present site of the court house, which was afterward platted and became a part of the city.
Wendeline Cretzmeyer came the same year and secured ten acres from his brother, upon which he built a log house. Both these families had considerable to do with the early development of the town.
The founder of the town was W. P. Harmon, who, in the spring of 1853, came west on a prospecting trip. On arriving at what is now Waverly, he was impressed with the natural advantages the spot had for the location of a town, and at once set to work to take advantage of the situation. He secured the la.,nd and had 0. H. P. Rosell, county judge of Buchanan county, survey it into lots. When this was finished he went to Cedar Rapids where he met R. J. Ellsworth, his brother-in-law. From there he went to Independence, accompanied by Mr. Ellsworth and family. At Independence he was married, July 28, 1853, to Miss Alzina Reeves. The next morning Mr. and Mrs. Harmon and the Ellsworth family started for Bremer county, arriving the same day. They lived with Frederick Cretzmeyer until they could build a log house for themselves. Then the work of starting the new town began in earnest. A dam, made of logs, stone and other material, was built across the river and a saw mill was erected at the east end. While this work was being done other settlers came. The first was Samuel Henderson, who built a log house just south of where the First National Bank is now situated. James Null came next and built a log house in the same locality.
In August of the same year Porter W. Earle (a peddler) came with a pack of goods and was persuaded to unload his goods and start a store. In the fall W. H. Hamilton came from Cedar Rapids and started another store.
There were quite a number who settled in Waverly in 1854, among them being Ebenezer Martin and family (his wife being a sister of W. P. Harmon and of Mrs. R. J. Ellsworth), Henry Harmon, Doctor Burbank, H. A. Miles, P. B. Foster, William Reeves, David Milburn, Dennis Buckingham, Philip and Elizabeth Smith, Charles Ensign, James W. Wood, N. L. Turner, Hayward Howell, Nelson and Samuel Flynn, Hamilton and Horatio Geddes, Amos A. Case, James and William Sturdevant, Doctor Fisher, J. C. Hazlett, Jeremiah Ferris, Theodore Hullman, H. W. Lehmkuhl, Daniel Lehman, Alexander Buckmaster and Ira Sturdevant.
In 1855 the settlers were more numerous, among them being Moses Lehman, John Brownell, Philip Oberdorf, Jacob Gish, Samuel Cottrell, Hiram Lampson, Samuel Patterson, B. F. Perkins, John Goddard, J. J. Smith and his brother, W. 0. Smith, Nicholas Cavanaugh and Thomas Downing.
This year the dam across the river was made higher (about the height of the present dam), and the few complaints that were made about the overflowing of land were settled without much trouble. The dam was planked this year and, as a bulkhead for the west end, a saw mill was built there by Eben Martin and N. L. Turner. This mill was sold in 1857 to Oberdorf and Brownell, but was not used after 1861.
As nearly as I remember, in 1856 a grist mill was built by Harmon and Reeves, a few rods south of the east of the dam and a water race was built from the dam to it. On the water race were later built a turning lathe shop and a woolen mill. About 1854 a Mr. Buckmaster equipped a shingle splitting machine which supplied shingles made of oak for the first houses. James Wood later built another one. About 1859 a tannery was built near the end of South Water street east, so that about the beginning of 1860 there were the following industrial enterprises located at Waverly: A grist mill, two saw mills, a woolen mill, a tannery, a turning lathe mill, two shingle cutting machines, a grain cutting machinery reaper, three blacksmith shops, a couple of tailor shops, two shoemaker shops and a harness shop.
The first merchant was Porter W. Earle, who opened a store in 1853. The next was W. B. Hamilton, who started business a little later the same year. Then came J. C. Hazlett, who built a dwelling and store building on the north side of Bremer avenue, near the center of the first full block east of the river.
The first death in Waverly occurred in the winter of 1853-54, the party being a sister of Mrs. Wendeline Cretzmeyer. She was buried on the bluffs south of town. The next death was that of Mrs. Scarf, in 1854. She was buried on the west side of the river.
The first birth was a son to Mr. and Mrs. James Null. This occurred early in 1854. He was named William Waverly. The first name in honor of William P. Harmon and the latter in honor of the town.
The first marriage in Waverly was that of Norman A. Reeves to Miss Rhoda Willis.
The first school was taught by Charlie Ensign, in a log house standing near the center of Bremer avenue near the east end of the bridge.
The first religious services were held in a little log cabin built by R. J. Ellsworth, the minister being Rev. James Burley, a Methodist Episcopal circuit rider.
The first store was started by Porter Earle, who afterward built the stone bililding on the corner where the Savings Bank now stands. Mr. Earle was also the first postmaster in Waverly.
William B. Hamilton erected the first frame building in the winter of 1853-54 and started the second store.
A minister by the name of Barclay was the first preacher to locate in Waverly.
The first school building—a stone one—was erected during the summer of 1855.
P. B. Foster erected the first brick store store in 1855.
The first building used as a hotel was erected by Harmon and Ellsworth in 1853 and stood where the First National Bank now stands. The landlord was J. J. Smith.
The first bridge across the river was erected in 1857 and was swept away by a freshet January 26, 1858. The second bridge across the river was built in 1859, and on February 26, 1871, it was swept away by ice and high water. The present structure was built in 1899.
In 1859 Waverly was incorporated as a town and officers were elected. In 1868 it was incorporated as a city of the second class.
In December, 1864, the first train of cars ran into Waverly. Up to this time the growth of the town had been rather slow, but after this the town grew more rapidly. In 1866 this railroad, then called the Cedar Falls and Minnesota, now the Illinois Central, was extended to Charles City.
The first election in Waverly was held at the house of Frederick Cretzmeyer.
Last updated 4/9/16
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