This township was organized
March 4, 1856, and was named in honor of Robert R.
Read, an early and much respected pioneer of the
county, whose sketch is given in the chapter of
"Illustrious Dead." He held various offices
at different times, and earned the high regard of his
fellow citizens. It is situated in range 4 west, and
of its twenty-seven sections twenty-four lie in
township 93 north, while two whole and two half
sections lie in the next tier south. There is both
wood and meadow land, and the soil is considered very
good. It is watered by several small creeks,a
tributary to Turkey River. The people of this
township are entirely agricultural, and there is but
one village, Clayton Center. The soil is well
cultivated, and the population is industrious.
The first settler within the
limits of Read Township (then a part of Garnavillo)
was Joel Post, who settled on or near section 9, in
the spring of 1838. After him came Elias Misner, who
settled on section 22, then sold out and went to
Texas. Then came Mrs. Mary Uriell, with her three
sons, Patrick, Michael and John, locating on sections
27 and 34, in the spring of 1839. Both of Michael's
brothers and their mother have since died. A sketch
of Michael's life is given elsewhere in this chapter.
Other early settlers were Martin Brassell,
Constantine Gallagher, Alexander Falkner, Patrick
Rogers, Eugene Rogers and Asaph Griswell. The
southern part of the township was settled mostly with
Irish, and the northern part with Germans and
Uriell was born in Ireland, Sept. 25, 1816. His
parents, John and Mary (Gleason) Uriell, were both
natives of Ireland. In that country Mr. Uriell died.
Mrs. Uriell soon after, in 1838, emigrated to America
with her three sons, of whom Patrick was the oldest.
Michael the subject of this sketch, was second, being
twenty-two, and John was the youngest. Patrick was
married before emigrating, but Michael and John were
single. All of the boys had passed their early life
on a farm, and had few educational advantages. They
possessed, however, the qualities most essential to
success, frugality, health, strength, energy and
indomitable perseverance, and so were well fitted for
the task of making for themselves a home and
acquiring a competence in this new country. That they
succeeded the citizens of Clayton County of Read
Township cheerfully attest.
Mrs. Uriell and her sons
landed at New Orleans, whence they proceeded to St.
Louis. Remaining there a few months they again
journeyed north, arriving at McGregor, Nov. 1, 1838.
They first went to Farmersburg, and then in the
spring, to what was subsequently made Read Township,
but was then a part of Garnavillo. Joel Post was the
only one who came before them. Mrs. Uriell, and
Patrick and John have all served their allotted time,
and are numbered with that throng fast swelling with
the departed spirit of Clayton's early settlers.
Michael settled on the
northwest quarter of section 29, and has lived there
ever since, with the exception of the first five
years after making his claim. He was appointed by J.
E. Fletcher, Indian Agent, to act between the
Government and the Winnebago Indians, which duty he
discharged for the term above mentioned, and then
settled permanently at home.
Mr. Uriell has never sought
office, indeed has rather avoided what his fellow
citizens would fain almost thrust upon him. He was
the second Justice of the Peace in his township, and
filled that office for two years. At the succeeding
election, Mr. Uriell relates, he wrote ballots
against himself all day, and escaped election by two
votes. He served as Supervisor four years under the
law directing that there be one from each township,
or twenty-two for the county, and since the plan of
three supervisors was adopted, he has served six
years. The only offices he has ever coveted are those
of School Director and Road Commissioner, for he is
deeply interested in having good roads and good
He was married Nov. 6, 1849,
at Dubuque, to Catherine Sullivan, of Dubuque, who
was also of Irish descent. They have had seven
children, and buried six. Frank is the only one who
Mr. Uriell is a man of
liberal views and high principles, and has won the
enduring regard of the citizens of Clayton County, of
all sects and of all parties. He is at the present
time President of the Old Settlers' association, in
which he has always taken an active part.
On the retirement of Mr.
Uriell from the Board of Supervisors, the North Iowa
Times paid him the following merited compliment:
"In the retirement of Hon. M. Uriell, the county
loses the services of a valuable and honest servant;
one who has faithfully discharged the duties devoling
upon him with a zealous and earnest desire to benefit
those for whom he was laboring. We believe we are but
expressing the feelings of the people over the county
when we say that in the retirement of Michael Uriell,
Clayton County has parted with an honest, faithful,
The Uriell brothers started
a large breaking team and broke the first farm in
Read Township, which was then about equally divided
between Garnavillo and Boardman.
"In those days,"
writes Michael Uriell, "business moved slow.
There was not a blacksmith shop in the county, and I
used to go to Prairie du Chien to get my plow fixed,
and to Catfish Mill, Dubuque, to buy a little flour.
"In these early days
Rev. David Lowry was agent of the Government for the
Indians on the 'Neutral Ground', as it was then
called, authorized to open up a large farm for the
Indians and teach them the arts of husbandry. This
drew the attention of men and teams to that place,
among whom was your humble servant. I staid there
during a part of three administrations, those of D.
Lowry, James McGregor and J. E. Fletcher, the latter
of whom finally led the Indians on to the Crow Wing
River, far up into Minnesota.
"All the grain raised
before the construction of the Elkader Mill was very
little profit to those who raised it, there being no
machines to harvest it and no market for it when
threshed. The wheat we raised in 1840 remained in the
stock-yard for four years, and could not be sold in
this county for twenty-five cents a bushel; but the
erection of the Elkader Mill by Thompson, Sage &
Davis, gave a new impetus to farming, and from that
date Clayton County began to prosper; the people had
bread to eat and a market for their surplus grain. No
men ever had more power over the inhabitants of a new
country than they had, and no men ever exercised it
"The people, after a
time, came in here to settle very fast, but we were
all quiet until Judge Price organized us into a
little body-politic of our own. The town was
organized just in time to take part in the
county-seat contest that first sent the county seat
to Elkader. At this election, held at the house of
John Barrett, the men who voted were in earnest.
Every man had a reason of his own, and as there was
no liquor to be had, it was pleasant to hear the
arguments pro and con. Victory, however, turned in
favor of Elkader by two votes, and in all subsequent
elections since that time. Read has stood by Elkader.
The first election held in
Read was at the house of John Barrett, Apr. 7, 1856.
The first religious services
were conducted in various private houses, by Father
Joseph Cretin, in 1841-1842. He came occasionally to
the settlements at first from Prairie du Chien, and
then from Dubuque. He was afterward the first Bishop
of St. Paul. The first church was built some time
after at Clayton Center by the Lutheran denomination.
The first school-house was
built of logs July 2, 1850, and the first school was
taught by James O'Kief. There are at present five
school-houses, and the school property is valued at
The first mill was the
celebrated "dry mill." Elisha Boardman
selected a site for a mill on a creek which seemed to
promise ample power, and engaging men to build the
mill, he left for Canada at attend to some personal
affairs. Not long after his absence the creek became
dry. The men, however, went on and erected the mill
according to instructions, and in the spring freshet
they managed to saw one or two logs. The water went
down again, and in this predicament the mill was
found by Mr. Boardman on his return. The cause of the
water's mysterious disappearance lay in the presence
of a sink a half mile up the creek where the water
goes into the ground, not reappearing until three
miles lower down.
No attempts have been made
since to establish either mill or factory in the
township by water-power, and this "dry
mill" has gone to decay. The creek on which it
was built is the only one suitable for mill purposes