Sperry Township, 92 north,
range 6 west, lies just north of Cass Township, in
the western tier of townships. It contains both
woodland and prairie, and is watered by the Volga
River, with its tributaries.
In 1842 John Paddelford, of
Delaware County, visited the bottoms of the Volga
River, and staked out his first claim. There were
with him his brother Leveret and John Nagle. The
latter had already staked out his claim on what is
now known as the Gordon farm. There were but two
other white men in the neighborhood - Joseph Hewitt,
an Indian trader, whom the Indians called
"Kunckershucker," and Asa Parks. Mr.
Paddelford, after making his first claim here,
returned for a time to his home in Delaware County.
He came back again in 1845, built a house and
commenced breaking near where he now lives. He
brought with him 160 hogs, which he turned out in the
spring to get their living in the timber, and the
following fall all he could find of them were
twenty-three, which made him feel like a poor man. He
is satisfied that most of these swine did not die a
natural death, and he is also satisfied that the
Indians did not steal them, leaving one to infer that
the hogs had been killed by wild animals, or that
they had taken Horace Greeley's advice and "gone
The first white child born
in Sperry was Jane, the daughter of Asa Parks,
afterward the wife of Thomas Boots, of Elkader. She
died in Elkader in 1879. Elder Henry Gifford built
the first house on Volga bottom, and his two children
were the first interments in the graveyard near Volga
In the spring of 1847 James
Lowe, his wife Betty and his children moved from Dane
County, Wis., to the farm where he lived until his
death, Dec. 3, 1878, bringing with him his cattle,
sheep and household goods. Mrs. Lowe died Aug. 14,
1877. A few weeks later F.G. Cummings and family came
and settled on section 8, where Frank Davis, his
son-in-law, now lives.
At that time the other white
persons living in the neighborhood who have not been
named were Messrs. Chilson, Taylor, Nichols, Silvers
and William Boots.
In talking with some of
these old settlers of their recollections of the
early settlement of this township, they first speak
of the Winnebago Indians, who occupied a reservation
forty-five miles wide, lying north of the north line
of Sperry Township. The reservation extended westward
forty-four miles from the Mississippi. The Indians
were required to remain within these limits, but it
seems that they sometimes got over the line. Mr. Lowe
has seen a line of Indian camps, or wigwams,
commencing where Mr. Pardee's shop in Volga City
afterward stood, and continuing up that side of the
river for perhaps half a mile; and at another time
there were about 400 Indians camped on the bottom,
between where Mr. Paddelford now lives and the Volga
River. They came for the purpose of hunting and
fishing. The Indians are spoken of as being honest,
generous in their dealings with he whites, and always
peaceable, except when they were full of whisky - an
item of civilization introduced by the whites. At
such times the squaws would gather up all the knives,
guns and other implements that were lying around
loose, and hide them, to prevent accidents. It is
said that somewhere near the Volga a white man was
killed by some drunken Indians, and the same season,
as Mr. Lowe and his wife were getting ready one
evening to go to the house of William Boots to hear a
man preach, two Indians, partially drunk, came to his
house with a small keg, which they wanted filled with
"whis," and in payment they offered a
dollar. Mr. Lowe tried to tell them that he had none,
but they would not take "no" for an answer,
and still insisted on having some. As Mrs. Lowe and
the children, not without reason, appeared to be
somewhat afraid of them, Mr. Lowe put on his hat, and
coaxing the Indians to follow him, went some distance
from the house and laid down in the grass. The
Indians did the same, and so they remained till about
ten o'clock, when the Indians got up, shook hands
with Mr. Lowe and went away. If Mrs. Lowe then showed
any fear of the Indians, she got over it quickly, as
the following will show: One day, when Mr. Lowe was
away from home, the family heard a disturbance among
the sheep. Mrs. Lowe went to see what was the matter,
and there stood two Indians, whose dogs were chasing
the sheep. She told them to call off their dogs, but
they only laughed at her and then encouraged the dogs
to further mischief. The case was becoming serious.
Her children's winter clothing depended on those
sheep, and her patience soon gave way. She grasped a
hoop-pole lying near her, and went for those Indians
as only an infuriated woman can do. She whipped the
red-skins, drove off the dogs, and went home
The Indians were not stingy
in their dealings with the white people. Mr. Nagle
used to tell that while the Indians occupied their
reservation, some friends visiting at this house
wished to go and see them. Mr. Nagle took with him as
a present about half a sack of flour, which he handed
to a chief, who handed it to a squaw, with some
directions in the Indian language. When Mr. Nagle
went back to his wagon, he found the sac half-full of
maple sugar. The Indians were removed from their
reservation by the Government about 1849.
In 1842, buffalo were killed
near where Taylorsville now stands, and elks were
plentiful at that time, and later, as many as forty
having been seen sometimes in one drove. Mr.
Paddelford says that while sitting on his horse he
has counted as many as sixty deer at one time. There
were also bears, panthers, lynxes and wolves in
abundance; the wolves were of three kinds, black,
gray and prairie wolves.
The first school taught in
this district, which then included all of Sperry and
Cox Creek Townships, was in a house belonging to F.G.
Cummings. The lady teacher received $5 per month. The
following winter a male teacher, Noel Harrow, was
engaged, who received $10 per month. The first
school-house in the township was built of logs, and
was located between where Mr. J.G. Whitford and Mrs.
J.F. Campbell now live. The logs were cut and hauled
by Messrs. Cummings, Nagle and Paddelford, who made
no charge to the district for the time and material
used. At that time there was no County Superintendent
to either grant or refuse certificates to applicants,
but the three directors were the Board of Examiners,
who were to judge of the qualifications of the
applicant. There are now eight schools in the
township, besides the graded school in Volga City.
The first election held in
this precinct was in the spring of 1847, at the house
of Palmer Newton, near Brush Creek, and west of
Taylorsville. The precinct embraced the present
townships of Sperry, Cox Creek and Cass, and the
country west as far as the town of Fayette, in
Fayette County, and at the first election there were
about twenty-five votes polled. After the election
was over, the trustees drew cuts to decide which of
them should take the election returns to Guttenberg.
It fell to the lot of Mr. Paddelford to go, and he
made the round trip on foot. The rives and creeks
being swollen, on account of the recent heavy rains,
made the trip anything but a pleasant one. At an
election held at Volga City, in the spring of 1855,
Squire Morley presided, and exercised great caution
lest some unqualified persons should vote. He rather
overdid the thing, however, when he asked Frank Marsh
if he was a "natural born citizen!" When
Marsh replied that he supposed he was born as
naturally as other folks were, the objection was
withdrawn and the ballot was accepted.
The first blacksmith shop in
Sperry Township was in the southwest part, and owned
by Frank Crosby.
The first grist-mill was
built in Volga City, by Alvah Bevins. In 1876 Ensign
& Marble built the "Centennial"
grist-mill on section 29, which continues in
The Star Creamery was built
on section 36, by W.A. Simmons, in 1879.
At the time the first
settlements were made in this township, the nearest
postoffices were Prairie du Chien and Dubuque.
James Lowe organized the
first Sunday-school in this township, and had charge
of it till the first Methodist class was formed, in
1849, by Rev. J.L. Kelly. The class consisted of
seven persons - John Nagle, Leader; Mrs. Nagle, R.
Nichols and wife, Rachel A. Nichols, afterward Mrs.
J.H. Welch, and Mr. Taylor and wife.
A Free-Will Baptist society
was formed at the house of F.G. Cummings, in 1848, by
Elder Bixby. There were at first seven members - F.G.
Cummings and wife, James Lowe and wife, F. Crosby,
Samuel Garrotson and Mrs. Rogers. Two other persons
were baptized and admitted to membership the
The first public celebration
of Independence day in this township was held in
Volga City, July 4, 1855, and was a grand success. At
least none found fault with the excellent dinner that
was provided on that day. Wm. Gould was orator of the
day, and W.A. Penfield was reader of the Declaration
of Independance. When it was time to commence the
exercises they discovered that they had neglected to
provide a chaplain. After some trouble, a brother was
found who consented to come on the stand and pray
provided they would give him his dinner, to which
they agreed. A celebration was also held here in
1862, with Hon. B.T. Hunt as orator. The other
speakers were Mr. Chesley, Rev. A. Clark, Rev. R.
Norton and Rev. J.G. Whitford, who on that occasion
referred touchingly to the death of his son James, in
the army. The war had at that time commenced, and a
number of young men from this township had already
enlisted. Some had also fallen before the enemy. The
money received by the ladies of the sanitary society
for dinner, ice-cream, etc., which they provided, was
given for the benefit of the sick and disabled
soldiers. The people tried to be cheerful, but the
general feeling seemed to be that sorrow was treading
on the heels of joy. One of the toasts on that
occasion was "The ladies of Volga City Sanitary
Society. God bless them for the great interest they
manifest in the cause of the sick and wounded
soldiers." This toast was responded to by three
cheers from the assembled multitude, with an
earnestness rarely equaled.
The greater part of two
companies for support of the Union cause were
enlisted in Sperry Township.
The first Justices of Peace
in the township were Moses Hewett and F.G. Cummings.
The present incumbents are S. Hawthorne, W.H.Horton
and S.R. Graham.
Some of the early and
permanent settlers deserve particular mention. Among
the men who have labored to build up Volga City,
Henry White is conspicuous. Coming in 1860, he has
been prominent in nearly every enterprise of
magnitude since. He is the proprietor of an addition
to Volga City and of the Merchant Mill, and was
Postmaster from 1861 to 1875. He served several terms
as Supervisor, and one in the State Legislature.
Captain Alvah Bevins, who
came in 1854, was prominently identified with the
township. He settled on the farm now owned by Daniel
Green. He bought Mr. Gould's saw-mill, and built the
grist-mill as stated above. He also built the first
bridge across the Volga in Sperry Township. He was
chosen Captain of Company E, Ninth Infantry, and was
killed in the brave discharge of his duties at Pea
Lieutenant D.C. Baker was a
son-in-law of Captain Bevins, and enlisted at the
same time. He was promoted Captain and served two
years. Soon after the war he removed to Ottawa, Ill.,
and he is now at Grinnell, Iowa.
S. Pardee, one of the few
surviving old settlers, came to this place in June,
1851. He has been a prominent worker and a
public-spirited man. He has held the office of
Township Trustee oftener than any other man in the
Jas.F. Campbell was another
early settler and prominent man. He held various
township offices, and served the citizens most
acceptably. He died on the farm on which he first
settled, March 20, 1882.
F.G. Cummings and Jason
Butler, old settlers, died a number of years since.
John Nagle, one of the first settlers, sold his farm,
and removed to Hardin County, Iowa.