(By Mrs. Margaret Winter)
Nearly a hundred years ago the little inland town of Prairie Grove lay basking in the sun. The now extinct town was located in the northwest corner of Washington township.
It consisted of fifty, more or less, dwelling houses, two general stores, two doctor's offices, the inevitable saloon, a church and school house combined and the very necessary grist mill.
Life, love, romance, birth and death ran their course in this little town. Some of our best pioneer stock sprang from these hardy pioneers. Jacob and Lucinda Butler purchased land about a mile southeast of the town in January 1857 from the U.S. Government. Here they built a snug two-room cabin entirely of native walnut lumber. Jacob died a year later leaving Lucinda, two minor children and a daughter, Martha Secrease who died about the same time as her father.
Great, must have been the hardships of these worthy first settlers. This farm was later owned by Wes Green, S.J. Ray and others but for the past forty-nine years has been owned and occupied by W.M. Winter and wife, and at present by their heirs.
It was the cherished hope of these early settlers that a railroad would eventually come through their thriving village, but in this they were disappointed as the Great Western came about eight miles northwest, missing Peru by a hairbreadth, it also being an inland town. What is now known as East Peru is an off-shoot of West Peru formerly known as Old Town.
The C.B. and Q. came later a few miles to the northeast and Truro was born.
Prairie Grove received its mail by pony express which passed intermittently between Winterset, Madison county-seat, to Osceola.
In these pioneer days families were constantly crossing and criss-crossing the country by means of the covered wagon or prairie schooner. Every door was open to the weary travelers as the hospitality of thse good people knew no bounds.
A family was detained by the critical illness of their little daughter who later died. No cemetery had been established at this time so John Fields suggested from the kindness of his heart that the grief stricken parents lay the little one on his land close to his dwelling place.
A small clearing was made and from time to time new graves were added. Later years the brush and trees were cleared away and the beautiful little cemetery known and loved by many came into being and was named for its founder as Fields cemetry.
Some of the more visionary conceived the idea there must be gold in "them thar hills" and busy prospectors washed for gold in the waters of South river but it was never found in sufficient quantities to be interesting.
Indians were frequent callers but did no particular harm. Time marches on and few people are living today who remember the old town. The buildings disappeared one by one until only one of the original dwelling houses remains. However each spring time brings back memories of dear old Prairie Grove and the loving care of those who dwelt there, for sprinkled up and down the hill can be seen clusters of lilacs, flowering vines and clumps of the old favorite known as "butter and eggs."
On moonlight nights when all is still the whip-poor-will comes forth with his plaintive chant and if you listen carefully you can hear again the happy voices of children, a mother's lullabye or an earnest voice in prayer.
We are constantly in the midst of changes and as they take place they seem to those who live them so unimportant. However if some of the pioneers of Prairie Grove had thought its history of interesting value, how much we would appreciate the facts for we grope so fruitlessly. Facts concerning the history of a town which lay baking in the sun--near a hundreds years ago.
The following article appeared in The Osceola Democrat , Thursday, November 10, 1989, pg. 5. It is a good record of some of the earliest settlers in NW Washington township.
Died, September 30, 1898, of poverty, Prairie Grove postoffice, aged 46 years.
Prairie Grove postoffice was born (established) in Washington township, Clarke county, Iowa, in 1852, with J.C. Smith as postmaster. Its patrons at that time were J.F. Field, G.P. Dodd, Horace Bristol, Zebedee Conner and the postmaster, J.C. Smith, some one of whom carried the mail in his pockets for awhile. Then came a little canvas bag with lock and key, and we could not get the mail until we presented the bag. M.R. Lamson, the postmaster at Osceola, was a careful official and required us back-woodsmen, as we were called, to conform to the letter of the law.
Some time in 1853 William Bennum, Sr., was appointed postmaster in place of J.C. Smith, who resigned. The business increased as immigration advanced. Some time in 1854 the postoffice burned, and so little was saved that the department at Washington sent a new supply of books, blanks, etc.
In 1858 or '59, G.P. Dodd was appointed postmaster and served two years, when he resigned in favor of Solomon DeLong, who held it four years with E. Courter, W.P. Hoag and G.P. Dodd as deputies.
William R. Smith was the next postmaster and held the office four years.
Isabel Guthrie was W. R. Smith's successor, and was removed by President Harrison for political reasons near the expiration of her term.
Dr. W. R. Bolibaugh was the next postmaster and served to September 30, 1898, when the office was discontinued.
This is a short history of the "rise and fall" of the second postoffice established in Clarke county. Its death is mourned by many, but there was not enough in it to pay any person to look after its affairs longer, and so we say it died for want of support.
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