Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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1883 History of Owen Township
Cerro Gordo County, Iowa


Alonzo Willson   Abiel Pierce   C.W. Wicks
Chicago Willson   Brazil Updike   Rial Barney
Jesse Hill   Malcolm C. Andrews   A.H. Quackenbush
Judson Quackenbush   Garret S. Armitage   W.A. Wells
Neil Fullerton   E.W. Jacobs   Asher M. Stevens
    H.P. Meloy 

Early Settlement

Alonzo Willson, of New England, came in 1855 and settled on the northeast quarter of section 6, where he remained until 1878, when he moved to Mason City.

Abiel Peirce, of Massachusetts, a second cousin of President Pierce, came to the township and entered land on the northwest quarter of section 5. He improved this place and remained thereon until 1869, at which time he sold to Jesse Hill, and moved to Iroquois Co., Ill., where was still living in 1883.

C.W. Wicks, a native of Massachusetts, came to Owen township in 1855, and entered the southwest quarter of section 5. He was frozen to death in December of that year.

In 1856 a man named Willson, known by all of the pioneers as Chicago Willson, in distinction from Alonzzo or Yankee Willson, who came about the same time, came from Chicago and settled on section 3, where he died a few years later. His widow lived in Mason City in 1883.

Brazil Updike settled in 1858-9 on the northwest quarter of section 12, which he improved and lived upon for some years, but now lives at Shobe's Grove, Cerro Gordo county.

But little settlement was effected in the township during the years of the [Civil] war. Among the settlers coming prior to 1876 were Rial Barney, Jesse Hill, M.C. Andrews, Judson Quackenbush, G.S. Armitage, W.A. Wells, Neil Fullerton, E.W. Jacobs, A.M. Stephens and H.P. Meloy.

Rial Barney was born in the town of Grafton, N.H., June 8, 1831. When but two years old he moved to Lowell, Mass., remaining there two years, thence to Maine and spent two years. From there he moved to Manchester, N.H., where he remained until he was seventeen years old and then removed to Illinois. In January, 1853, he was married to Elizabeth Prickett, a native of England. He bought a farm in McHenry county, and resided there till 1866, then moved to section 34, of Portland township. He remained there until 1882, when he built a frame house in Owen township on the southeast quarter of section 3, on land that he had previously purchased. In June of that year he moved to this place. Mr. and Mrs. Barney are the parents of eight children - Belle, Henrietta, Frank, Warren, Clyde, Katie, Delton and Clarence.

Jesse Hill, an early settler in Owen township, is a blacksmith by trade and has interspersed the labors of a farmer with those pertaining to that calling, and has made both a success. He was born Dec. 21, 1827, in Licking Co., Ohio. He obtained a fair education and developed in manly strength on the farm until eighteen years of age, when he entered upon his apprenticeship for his trade, at which he served three years. After spending two years as a journeyman, he opened a shop in Hancock county. He operated there two years and in 1851 bought land in Clayton Co., Iowa, where he settled as a pioneer and spent a year improving his property. he then engaged in blacksmithing in Garnavillo, the county seat. In 1855 he decided to go to Minnesota and accordingly made a claim of government land in Kyota township, Olmstead county. He was a pioneer there, and with his characteristic energy pushed the improvements on the place he bought and built a log house. In 1855, associated with his brother, he bought a saw-mill which they managed five years. he sold out and went to Marion, Minn., where he worked at his trade one and a half years. In 1865 he again bought land in Frankville, Winneshiek Co., Iowa, on which he lived four years and in 1869 came to Cerro Gordo county. He purchased land on section 5, of Owen township, where he now resides. His farm includes 440 acres. In 1849 he was married to Sophia A. Barnum of Hancock Co., Ohio. Mary M., Frank, Simon, Willie and James are the names of Mr. Hill's children.

Malcom C. Andrews came to Cerro Gordo county in 1869, and bought the northeast quarter of section 5, Owen township. Here he erected a comfortable frame house, improved his land and made this his home until his death, which occurred July 24, 1877, leaving his wife and eight children. he was born in Middletown, Conn., May 15, 1830. When he was quite young his parents located in McHenry Co., Ill., where he grew up on the farm, receiving a common school education. He was there married in 1855 to Phoebe D. Bailey, born in Cambridgeshire, England. They lived on his father's farm in McHenry Co., Ill., until 1861, when they moved to southern Illinois, bought a farm in Shelby county and spent the summer there, but in the fall of the same year sold out and returned to McHenry county, where he remained until 1863, when he came to Iowa. Upon arriving here he rented a farm in Delaware county on which he lived until he came to his home in Owen township in 1869, and on which his widow still lives. His children are - George W., James B., Walter S., Richard J., Andrew J., Nellie A., Frank, John R., Harriet A., (died in Illinois, aged two years and eight months), Cora E., died in infancy.

A.H. Quackenbush was born in Orange Co., N.Y., Jan. 4, 1813. He moved to Chemung county in 1818, at the age of fifteen he was married to Catharine Edmister, Nov. 22, 1838. They moved to Columbia Co., Wis., in 1856, from there to Cerro Gordo Co., Iowa, in 1869, where he died, Sept. 22, 1880. They raised eight children - Mary, Charles, Arvilla, Nancy, Judson, John, Ann and Byron. His widow now lives in Rockford, Iowa.

Judson Quackenbush, son of Amos Quackenbush, is a farmer on the southwest quarter of section 2, where he is pleasantly situated on a finely improved and well-stocked farm. The buildings on the place are in every way suitable to the necessities and comfort of an Iowa agriculturist. Mr. Quackenbush was married Oct. 30, 1873, to Ermina Watkins, of Floyd Co., Iowa. They have two children - Bertha and Robert. Charles Quackenbush is a coal and lumber dealer at Rockford. Byron is a land-holder in Owen township, but is spending some time in Dakota.

Garret S. Armitage, trustee of Owen township, is a farmer by vocation, and is a pioneer settler of the township where he resides. He was born in Hoosick, Rensselaer Co., N.Y., and was there brought up a farmer, and obtained a fair education at the district schools. He was there married to Mary Randall, of Berlin. Three years after marriage he settled in Wisconsin, where he was a pioneer of Dodge county. he bought a farm ion Hustisford township, improved the land and built a house. He resided there fifteen years, when he sold and located in Hampden, Columbia county. Five years later, in 1867, he came to Iowa and rented a farm near Osage until 1869, when he came to Cerro Gordo county and spent the summer of that year in the Owen House at the grove. That fall he moved on to his farm, which he purchased in 1868, in Owen township, on section 9. He made first-class improvements from the beginning. He has a comfortable house and granary and temporary outbuildings, and a large number of shade and fruit trees. He has added to his real estate at times, by purchase, until he owned 440 acres of land. Mrs. Armitage died Feb. 23, 1859. Mr. Armitage was married again, Jan. 23, 1861, to Polly Wells, a native of the province of Ontario, Canada. The family includes two children. W.A. Wells, one of the oldest settlers of Owen township, located on section 20, in 1871. he is engaged in a dairy, raises stock and herds cattle. He was born in Canada, Sept. 7, 1834, and when eight years of age, his parents moved to Dodge Co., Wis., and were there among the early settlers. W.A. remained there until 1865, when he came to Iowa, settling first at Osage, where he lived six years, then removing to his present home. He was married in 1860 to Mary E. Burgess, of New York, by whom he has had six children - Hattie, Amy, Diadama, Clara, Cora, Martha and Robert E., an adopted son. Hattie was born and died in September, 1862.

Neil Fullerton, son of James and Janet (Muschie) Fullerton, was born in Inverness, province of Quebec, Canada, Dec. 10, 1831. His parents, natives of Scotland, settled at that place years previous to his birth. When he was fourteen years old his mother died and two years after he went to Coos Co., H.H., and was bound out to a farmer to serve until he was twenty-one years of age. He redeemed his obligation and received $100 as had been stipulated, when he returned to Canada. A year later he went to Hillsboro Co., H.H., and engaged in farming one summer, and the following winter worked as a lumberman. In the spring of 1856 he bought a team and engaged in supplying milk in the city of Manchester. In April, 1857, he was married to Mary Kerr, who was also a native of Inverness. About that date he bought a farm in the town of Bedford. The next year he sold the milk route and devoted his attention and energies to farming, remaining thus employed until 1863, when he sold his farm and bought government timber land in Canada. he took possession of his purchase, made a "bee," and in one day the logs were cut for a house, 16 X 18 feet, and the house built. he cleared forty-five acres of the primeval forest and remained a resident until 1871. In that year he settled in Cerro Gordo Co., Iowa. Until 1876 he rented land in Portland township, when he purchased the southeast quarter of section 25, in Owen township. Since that date he has rebuilt the house, erected a barn and made valuable improvements on the land. Mr. Fullerton has occupied a number of offices of trust, and is a member of the board of trustees. In 1867 himself and wife joined the Presbyterian Church, and are now communicants of the Congregational Church, at Rockford, there being no society of the denomination to which they originally belonged in the vicinity. They have nine children - John K., James E., Charles A., Peter G., Neil A., Robert, Angus M., Henry J. and Nettie.

E.W. Jacobs, a prominent citizen of Owen township, was born in Springfield, Ohio, Aug. 11, 1846. When he was four years of age his parents removed to Columbus, where he lived until he was fifteen, when they moved to Mt. Carroll, Carroll co., Ill., where his parents are still living. In 1858 he went to California, prospecting, exploring the Pacific coast from Lower California to the British possessions. After an absence of eight years, he returned to Mt. Carroll, staying until 1870, when he came to Cerro Gordo county and engaged in burning lime at Mason City, putting up the first patent lime kiln in that city. He continued in the business about three years, when he came to his present home on section 5, where he is extensively engaged in dairy farming, also in raising cattle, sheep and hogs. In 1881 he erected on of the largest barns in the county, having a stone basement and all conveniences. He married in 1866 to Mary Sheldon, of Illinois, who died in 1870, leaving one daughter - Lulu. He married, a second time, Maria L. Bradley, Nov. 26, 1871, by whom he has four children - Ray G., Mabel C., Guy G. and Ethel Gertrude. Mr. Jacobs has been active and prominent in town affairs, is the present assessor and justice of the peace, and is a worthy citizen.

Asher M. Stevens, township clerk, was born in Wayne Co., Penn., July 21, 1835. He is the son of Silas and Julia (Kellogg) Stevens. His parents settled in McHenry Co., Ill., when he was eleven years old; and there he spent his youth and fitted for the duties of life. He was married in McHenry county, in 1857, to Johanna Chesley. The year following he was engaged in farming, and in 1858 went to Pike's Peak. There he engaged in mining until the fall of 1860, when he pushed his way to Mexico and passed the winter in the same occupation. He returned to Pike's Peak in the spring of 1862. He returned to Illinois in the fall and resumed his former occupation. In 1867 he came to Cerro Gordo county and located at Owens's Grove and lived in the Owen House eighteen months. He rented land in Portland township until 1874, when he purchased land on section 4, of Owen township, where he had made valuable improvements and built his house. Mrs. Stevens was born in New Hampshire, Aug. 26, 1842, and died April 10, 1876, leaving seven children - Charles, Marcus, Clara, Katie, Herbert, Silas L. and Dollie.

H.P. Meloy is one of the most energetic and reliable of the citizens of Owen township. He had had double the experiences of most early settlers, having made several changes in his location during a period of less than twenty-five years. He was born in Otsego Co., N.Y., Feb. 22, 1839. His parents went to Wisconsin when he was five years old and settled in Rock county, where they were among the pioneers. Mr. Meloy was married Aug. 25, 1859, to Clarinda Keech, a native of that county. In 1860 he located in Mitchell Co., Iowa, and bought wild land near West Mitchell. McGregor was the market and nearest point for supplies, and from there, a distance of 115 miles. Mr. Meloy drew the lumber for his home, and there took his wheat to market. A trip consumed seven days. He remained on the place but tow and a half years, returning to Rock Co., Wis., and two years later he settled at Charles City, Iowa. He stayed there two years and removed to Floyd county, buying wild land near Rockford. He made the usual improvements and built a house. He sold again in 1876, and became the owner of a farm on section 2, Owen township, in Cerro Gordo county, where he has since pursued his chosen calling. In 1882 he built his present neat and commodious residence. Lyman B. and Bertha L. are the two children of Mr. and Mrs. Meloy.


The eastern one-third of Cerro Gordo county was organized into a township in 1854, and called Owen in honor of Anson C. Owen, one of the original settlers in the county. At an election held at A.J. Glover's, April 7, 1856, A.J. Glover, Adam Kramer and George Bence were the judges, and Charles W. Tenney, clerk. The following is a list of the voters at that election: Ira Williams, Daniel Reed, Robert Campbell, C.W. Tenney, Herman M. Redington, A.J. Glover, J.M. Malsberry, H.G. Gregory, Judson Ford, John Morgan, Oliver Ford, George W. Clymer, John Clymer, Adam Kramer, Joseph Gregory, Richard Monis, Elijah Wiltfong, Hiram Smothers, David Smothers, Chauncy Lugard, Enoch Wiltfong, Henry Day, Charles Bootan, W.M Redington, George Frederick, Malam Brown, George S. Burrel.

At this election Adam Kramer and Horace Gregory were elected trustees; Charles W. Tenney and George S. Bunce, justices of the peace; A.J. Glover, clerk; Jasper Gregory and Henry Day, constables; Charles W. Tenney, assessor. The first Presidential election in which the people of this township took part was that of 1856. There were thirty-five votes cast - thirty-two for the Republican electors and three for the democratic electors.

Constitutional Amendment

At an election held June 27, 1882, to vote for or against the proposed amendment, which was to prohibit the sale or manufacture of spirituous liquors within the State of Iowa, the vote stood as follows: Forty-eight votes for and twenty-seven against the amendment. At this election the question of voting a tax for the purpose of building a courthouse, was also submitted to the people with the following result: Nine votes for and fifty-nine against taxation. At the general election held at the Center School House, Nov. 7, 1882, the following officers were elected: Neal Fullerton, Robert Gray and G.S. Armitage, trustees; A.M. Stevens, clerk; E.W. Jacobs, assessor; C.A. O'Harran and Hugh Coyle, constables; Charles Squirer and Robert O'Harran, justices of the peace. The above justices of the peace failing to qualify, E.W. Jacobs and Wheelock Mowry were appointed.

First Birth and Marriage

The first child born in the township was Charles, a son of Abiel and Mary Pierce, born March 3, 1857. He is a teacher in the public schools in Iroquois Co., Ill.

The first marriage was Frank Shonys, to Alice J. Willson, Feb. 10, 1867. They now live in Rice Co., Kan.


In 1883 there were nine sub-districts in Owen township, eight of which are supplied with school buildings. In district No. 1, the first school house was erected in 1868, on section 12. It was a stone building which served the district until 1873. Belle Barney was the first teacher in this house. religious service have been held in this school house from time to time. In district No. 2 a building was erected in 1874, on the northwest quarter of section 9, at a cost of $125. Miss Bowe taught the first term of school in this building. In 1879 this house was removed to section 13, and the present house was built on the southwest quarter of section 3, at a cost of $600. Emily Trevett was the first teacher.

The first school house built in Owen township was erected in 1857; it was a stone house, two stories high, costing $2,200. There was a belfry on this building in which was placed a Troy Bell, costing $250. This was hauled from Dubuque by ox teams. This buildings was used for church service as well as school purposes, and it was for this reason that the building was provided with a bell. This house was used as a school house until 1873, when it was purchased by Alonzo Willson, who converted it into a granary. There are many hallowed associations connected with this building, which is dear to the hearts of all the old settlers; and could its decaying walls speak, they would tell of many a happy incident connected with pioneer life. In 1873 another school house took the place of the old stone school house, This new building cost $600. It was located on the southeast quarter of section 6. Katie McClement taught the first school in this building.

In district No. 4 a school house was built in 1875, at a cost of $450. It stood on the southwest quarter of section 20. George Curtis taught the first school.

The first school in district No. 5 was taught by Janet McClain in her father's house, on section 15. The first school house was built in 1870, on the northeast quarter of section 16. Kate Belle was the first teacher. In 1876 this building was removed to section 22. Religious services have been held in this house from time to time.

In district No. 6 the first school was taught by Alma Harroun, in the winter of 1879-80. It was held in a building removed from district No. 2. The first building erected in the district was in 1881, located on section 14. Julia Sawyer was the first to teach. In 1882 a union Sabbath school was formed at this house. Robert Gray was chosen superintendent of the school, which lasted only about ten months.

John Byrne taught the first school in district No. 7, in Neal Fullerton's granary on the southeast quarter of section 25. There was two terms of school taught in this building and two in John Cahill's house. The school house was built on 1878 on the northwest quarter of section 36. Lynford Getts and Sarah Garing were the first teachers in this building. District No. 8 had no school house in 1883.

In 1882 a school house was built in district No. 9, on section 32. Mary Wood was the first teacher.


The Owen Grove Cemetery was laid out in 1875, on the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of section 5.

History of Franklin and Cerro Gordo Counties, Iowa
History of Iowa 1883

Contributed by John McLaughlin



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