Pioneer Families

Holt Family

Liberty Legend Tells Of buffalo Hitched For Work

One of Liberty township's favorite pioneer stories is that of a team consisting of a steer and a buffalo, which were worked by John Holt. The following clipping, published some 35 years ago, makes reference to the team although it doesn't do justice to the legend which lives on in that community concerning that famous team. The clipping, saved by Mrs. George Evans of Woodburn and brought to the Sentinel office by Oren Marquis gives this account.

"Sterling Holt plowed a garden for Jacob Shively one day last week. As Mr. Shively watched the black loam slide away from the plow share and the two fine horses of Mr. Holt's answer his every command, he was reminded of those pioneer days back in the early 50's when John Holt, Sterling's father, was one of the few neighbors to Mr. Shively in Liberty township.

Captured Buffalo

At one time the pioneer Mr. Holt did his plowing under much more adverse circumstances than those of his son today. He was at one time without animals with which to turn the soil and he captured a young buffalo and with a steer which he owned did his plowing.

(Legend has it that the buffalo learned to lift up rails by pushing his nose between them and getting into stored corn. It is reported that the buffalo met his demise when he wandered to a neighboring farm after working hours, pushed his nose through the rails and was shot by the owner.)

Shively told the son many things about his father who died when Sterling was but three years old.

Early in the 1850's two families left Martin county, Indiana, for a new home in the then wild country of Iowa. They were John Holts and a family by the name of Woodruff.

Holt had two teams of oxen and Mrs. Holt drove one of the teams through from Indiana. When the immigrants arrived in this county it looked so wild and uninviting that the Woodruff's started back to Indiana without unpacking their goods.

The Holts settled on a farm and began breaking the sod and building a home. Children were born and although the times were hard and the privations many, they were happy and had fate been kind in all probabiity would have fared as did the others of their neighbors when times of prosperity began.

During the winter of 1863 the father and his brother-in-law Jacob Baker, went on a trapping expedition into the northwest part of the state. They had no sooner arrived at the trapping ground and set their traps than Mr. Holt suddenly took sick and before medical attention could be given him, died.

Left Wagon

It was in the middle of a bitter winter and in the face of a threatening storm Mr. Baker started on his sorrowful journey back to Clarke county. A blizzard made it necessary that he leave the wagon in which the body lay and search for shelter and after the storm continue. They buried the father and through the summer the mother worked and grieved and when the leaves fell in October she, too, went to join her companion, leaving eight children, a boy of 17 and a girl of 15 being the oldest of the family.

Kept Family

These two stout hearted children managed to keep the family together until they were old enough to shift for themselves. The boy is Lifus Holt and now lives in Lucas county; the girl is now Mrs. Allie Ferguson and lives at Spencer, Iowa.

Jacob Baker, the man who brought the body of John Holt home, died about 18 months ago at Galva, Iowa, near where the tragedy of long ago occurred, at the age of 101 years.

During a part of his childhood, Sterling made his home with his mother's brother, Charles Kilgore. Mrs. Kilgore is still living and resides in the south part of Osceola.

Thus it was in the early days of this country. Untold privations and hardships were suffered by the pioneers. Tragedy in the form of death and sickness haunted them constantly. From them has sprung our sturdiest men and women and our most loyal citizens. We of today can pay no honor too great for those men of 60 years ago."

Source: Osceola Centennial Issue...1851 to 1951, Osceola Sentinel, August 2, 1951, Section 7, p. 6.

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Liberty Township