There was a log cabin on James Byrd's farm in which preaching was sometimes held. L. L. Alexander attended these religious services generally. One Sunday in the year 1855 the Judge was there on a prominent seat in the amen corner. The preacher being somewhat dull, or else being so good that the Judge would risk him to go it alone, he got to napping. About the time he was dreaming the sweet dream of the righteous, the preacher got to drawing on the facts of ancient history for modern religious illustration, and at one point, spokeout quite loudly: "Alexander! Alexander, the Great, wept because he had no more worlds to conquer." At the sound of his name the Judge awoke to consciousness in great astonishment, and for a moment was amazed at being named out before the congregation for having nodded in time of preaching. He finally comprehended the situation and gave good attention to the balance of the discourse, no doubt harboring the silent wish that the preacher had been content to have let Alexander the Great wept in peade. This story comes to us in confidence from a lady, but we presume the Judge will not recollect anything about it, and will probably prove that he was never at "meeting" in the log house named.
In 1851 Jeremiah Bradshaw had seven pet elks, four pet deer, two badgers and a sand hill crane and longed for an owl and a prairie dog. He had one pair of very large elks that were taught to work like horses. He used to frequently sleigh-ride behind them. He had harness made to fit them. They could trot as fast as ordinary horses could run. He finally sold the pair for one hundred dollars to a man from Savannah, Missouri.
The cattle introduced into the county at an early day were in rather superior quality. James L. Byrd and sons, Oliver Mills, S. M. Ballard, Ed Gill, T. B. Johnson and others of the pioneers brought with them cattle and horses of a better grade than were usually found in the new counties of Iowa. Oliver Mills, who has dealt in cattle and hogs in the county twenty years, informs us that the steers he bought from the settlers, in the years preceding the war were what drovers would call "smooth," and were fully equal to the "grades" of the present time.
A. J. Millsagel, or "old Slagel," as he was almost universally called, was a distinguished character in an early day. He was the first professional prairie breaker in the county, and was known to be here as early as 1852. He was fond of hunting deer, almost as fond of that sport as Jerry Bradshaw was, who had rather hunt than eat. Old Slagel was a great eater, and had a reputation in that line. Hunters who knew him would not allow him to accompany them because it was so hard to fill him. Corn dodgers set before him disappeared as by magic. A quarter of venison was hardly an appetizer for his wonderfully rapacious gastric organs. One time in the winter of 1853, Jerry Bradshaw was many miles north of the Indiantown settlement, on a hunting expedition, and his family started "old Slagel" up to Jerry with an enormous supply of provisions. He traveled with oxen and very slowly and when he got up to Jerry's camp he had eaten every pound of provision with which Mr. Bradshaw was to have been refreshed. Millslagel removed into Douglas township, Montgomery county, and bought the wife of a man named Wilson, and began to live with her. The neighbors became very much incensed at such conduct on the part of Wilson, Mrs. Wilson and Millslagel, and gathered about the house one night, in a mob for the purpose of expressing their disapproval of such demeanor, and for the purpose of warning them to leave the neighborhood. Millslagel grabbed his rifle and fired into the crowd, killing John Stipe, instantly. Millslagel was arrested, tried, convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to twelve years in the penitentiary. This was before the war.
In the winter of 1854-5, John R. Kirk, R. D. McGeehon, and Peter Kenoyer, put in sixty days in succession in building bridges and otherwise working and putting in passable condition, a road from Mr. Kenoyer's (near Wiota now) to Turkey Creek, near Lewis. This they did without pay, for the public good. Dr. G. Morrison and others did the samework from Kenoyer's eastward to Mr. Copic's in Guthrie county, (now known as Dalmanutha).
Peter Kenoyer was one of the old settlers. He improved the place in Franklin township where Mr. Dalzell now lives. Mr. K's home is now in California.
The first camp meeting ever held in the county, was conducted by the Methodists, in the Fall of 1855, in the grove near the 'Botna river, north of the present town of Lewis, on what was known as the John Mills place. Elder Shinn was the main preacher, and he made a grand success of the meeting. People were there from far and near, some coming as far as eighty miles. A large number of tents were spread and the provisions were ample for all. The meeting lasted seven days. Those in attendance are said to have been well behaved people, and no disturbance of the peace occurred. A number of the pioneer young gentlemen were there with pioneer young ladies, and one of the former believes to this day that he took one of the handsomest girls home from that meeting, that the world ever produced, and before he got her home he made her promise to be his wife. She kept her promise, and to-day the twain have a daughter quite as handsome as the mother was twenty-two years ago.
In the winter of 1856-7 one thousand deer were killed in the county.
The coldest winter that is now recollected by citizens of this county, was that of 1856-7. During that winter, the western stage company used sleds instead of coaches for thirteen weeks, on their line from Des Moines or Council Bluffs. Our fellow townsman and merchant, George Conrad, was one of the drivers. It was nothing unusual for the thermometer to go thirty degrees below zero, and at least twice the mercury sank to forty degrees below. There being a hard crust over the snow, during a part of that winter, deer were frequently caught by common cur dogs, after a comparatively brief chase.
Howell Cobb, of Georgia, made the first political speech that was ever made in the county, in the Fall of 1856, while he was on a stumping tour in Iowa, for James Buchanan and the Democratic party.
From the History of Cass County, Iowa Together With Brief Mention of Old Settlers
by Lafe Young, Atlantic, Iowa: Telegraph Steam Printing House, 1877, pp. 23-26.
Transcribed for Cass County by Cheryl Siebrass, July 2013.