Peeking Into Lake City's Past
This Well-Known Family's Origin was Virginia
This is a story that enhances American history and pioneer life in its realistic form, depicting one of the many circumstances under which our culture was formed. It began in Ireland during the late seventeen hundreds, shortly after the American Revolution, when three brothers of Protestant Christian faith decided to leave their native land and come to this newly founded country called "the land of the free and the home of the brave." Their family name was Eakin.
Shortly after their arrival in the new world, the three Eakin brothers settled in Virginia. The first subject of our story centers around a son of one of the three Irish brothers. This Eakin boy grew to manhood on his parents' farm in Virginia, later following his family when they moved to the mountainous area of Tennessee. It was here he became an evangelistic, traveling preacher, affiliated with the Methodist Church. His family became plantation farmers and, as it was the custom for farmers to own slaves to till the soil and harvest crops, the Eakins were no exception to this custom. The young Rev. Wm. Eakin is remembered as a devoutly religious, preaching evangelist who traveled from settlement to settlement, riding his horse, carrying his bible, expending every effort to save the souls of sinners. During Rev. Eakin's evangelistic career, many events took place that have touched the lives of our generation.
It is somewhat difficult to realize that when the Reverend Eakin, called the "grand old man of the mountain" was saving Americans from sin, what was known as the primitive west began in Ohio, continuing on through Indiana, Illinois and throughout the state of Iowa which was a prairie wilderness.
When the Rev. Eakin reached adulthood at Chunky City, Tennessee, he married a pioneer girl named Miss Mary Reeve and became the father of six children. He lived the balance of his life on the family farm, passing to his demise in 1861, ending the colorful career of a highly respected iterant preacher of Protestant Methodism.
Our next subject will be the youngest of Rev. Eakin's six sons, named after his father and mother, William Smith Eakin, born September 4, 1843. Young Bill Smith Eakin was a patriotic young man who attempted to further his education by attending a military academy. However, in 1863 at age 20, he was drafted to fight in the War Between the States, serving on the side of the Confederacy, assigned to Company A Tennessee Infantry.
His Company participated in the battles of Jackson and Vicksburg, where he was wounded and taken prisoner by the Union Army. Later he was selected for a prisoner exchange and after returning to Tennessee, he was assigned to a cavalry unit, where he remained until the end of the war. Bill S. Eakin was mustered out in 1865 when the Confederacy surrendered.
Soon after young Bill Smith Eakin returned home to Chunky City, Tennessee, he went back to his father's home town, Abingdon, Virginia, where he was united in marriage to a young lady whose family, the John Jones, were friends of the Eakins in Virginia and Tennessee. The young bride's name was Miss Mae Elizabeth Jones. The marriage ceremony was performed on November 1, 1866. The young couple became parents of nine children, one died in infancy, while eight grew to adulthood. Names of the children will be listed later in this article.
Like most southern families, the Eakins suffered greatly during the post Civil War years. History tells how renegade soldiers and criminal minded opportunist from the north swarmed through tht conquered states looting homes and farms, raping women and children, driving people from their homes and plantations, after which the real estate would be sold for delinquent taxes. To expedite such activities, criminals and hate endowed citizens would harass the Negro's who stayed to be employed by their former masters telling them they were now free and their employer was their enemy and they should leave the plantation. Mary Elizabeth Jones Eakin told about one of their slaves called Old Black Joe who was harassed, causing him to leave. After a period of time he returned, sick half starved and improperly clothed. The Eakins took him in and nursed him back to health. It wasn't long until he submitted to harassment again and left home. This happened several times, each time he returned, he was down and out and calling for help.
Yes, life was unbearable for the Wm. Smith Eakin family of Tennessee. They were intelligent people who did their best to overcome adversity. One day during a trip back to Virginia, Bill Smith Eakin met a land speculator who sold him a quit claim deed for 80 acres of prairie land in Calhoun County, Iowa for a sum of $300.00 or $3.75 per acre. The land was located in section eight, Jackson Township, west of Lake City. They had stuck it out in the South for 12 years following the war but could endure such hardships no longer. Soon after acquiring the Iowa land deed, they loaded necessary items on a prairie schooner and headed north and west. It was a long and arduous journey. Their family at this time consisted of four children. The other four were born in Jackson Township.
Upon arrival, they were faced with the task of building immediate shelter for the family, that would cope with the oncoming winter. The quickest and cheapest way to solve the problem was to use natural materials available on their land. Bill S. Eakin decided to build a temporary house from prairie sod.
To be continued...