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Delaware County, Iowa  



History of Delaware County, Iowa and its People

History of Delaware County, Iowa and its People, Illustrated, Volume I.

Captain John F. Merry Supervising Editor. The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1914 page 285-288



Chapter XXIV




Coffin's Grove Township lies to the west, on the Buchanan County line, and on the north of it is Richland Township. To the east is Delaware Township and the southern line is demarked by Prairie Township. Congressional township 89, range 6, was separated from Delaware Township by the Commissioners' Court, February 7, 1855, and named Coffin's Grove, in honor of its first settler, Clement Coffin. The schoolhouse, one of the first to be built, was designated as the voting place for the first election. The land here is very fertile and some of the best farms in the state are noticed, monuments of the judgment of those who first selected the land, and evidences of thrift and splendid husbandry.

Prairie Creek, sometimes called Coffin's Grove Creek, begins in slough lands in the eastern part of Buchanan County and flows eastward through the southern portion of Coffin's Grove Township, to join the Maquoketa above Manchester. In section 28, the channel of Prairie Creek is cut through a timbered, rocky hill. The drainage is excellent and conditions are equally so for stock-raising.

During the year 1840 immigration to the Delaware settlements began to increase and among those who sought homes in the groves and prairies of this county was Clement Coffin, who made his headquarters at Eads' Grove while he explored the country. He afterwards permanently located in a beautiful grove in the south central part of the township, which afterwards was given his name and he became one of the leading and influential citizens of the county. A friend, in speaking of him, passed this eulogium upon Judge Coffin: "He was a genuine and true man to his friends, of great fidelity to his trust, entirely free from anything like hypocrisy. He made up his mind with deliberation and then expressed his opinion whether his hearers were pleased or not and we always knew where to find him. He was a millwright and carpenter, a dairyman and wagon maker, and a successful, energetic farmer. Mrs. Coffin knew how to draw around her wilderness home the wise and the good. She raised her family well and fitted them for the highest and best social positions." Judge Coffin was largely instrumental in the organization of the county and always took a lively interest in its affairs. Among other offices held by him was that of probate judge, being the second person in the county elected to that position. The first frame barn raised in the county was built by Clement Coffin and Henry Baker in Coffin's Grove, in the summer of 1849. On the 4th of July of that year Judge Coffin had a "barn raising," at which the people from all parts of the county, from Delhi, Plum Creek, Colony, South Fork and other localities gathered. The barn was raised in the forenoon and settlers dined and supped at the Coffin home. Judge Coffin died July 28, 1867.

In 1841 quite a number of additions were made to the settlement in this county. Among those who came this year were Charles Osborn, Hiram Minkler, Henry Baker, Horace Tubbs and others.


Henry Baker, as has been stated, settled here in 1841, locating on section 22. At the time there were but four families in the township. His wife was Elizabeth W. Coffin, whom he married in 1840. She was a daughter of Judge Clement Coffin. The young couple arrived in the early part of June and pur­chased eighty acres of Government land in Coffin's Grove township, where they built a temporary log cabin 12 by 12 feet. There were at the time but two families besides themselves within the limits of the township. Deer, elk and bear were frequently seen. Mr. Baker killed quite a number of deer and one bear and for the first few years was seldom without venison for table use. The Winnebago Indians were stationed north of him and frequently passed through the neighborhood on hunting expeditions, camping within thirty or forty rods of his house for four or five days at a time. They always evinced a. friendly disposition and with the exception of begging food or some trifling trinket never molested him. In the fall of 1841 he erected a story and a hall-hewed log house 16 by 20 feet in dimensions, which he occupied for a number of years. In 1845 he purchased 200 acres of land and in like manner continued to purchase until he at one time owned over seven hundred acres. In 1856 he erected a handsome brick residence and a large frame barn a few years before that time.


Aaron Sullivan, an Ohioan, made a permanent settlement in this township in 1844, on section 28. This became one of the fine farms of the county and was the home of the Sullivans for many years.


Oscar Wellman left the old home in the State of New York in 1852 and in the fall of that year located on a farm of 320 acres in section 31, Coffin's Grove Township. In 1856 he built a large frame house, hauling the lumber from Dubuque— a distance of fifty five miles, which consumed four days' steady travel to make the trip there and return. The following year he put up one of the first large frame barns in the county. For a number of years he kept what might be called a wayside inn. Here the old-time stage coaches in their over­land route from Dubuque westward would stop for refreshments or put up for the night, and many were the times when the house was crowded with travelers and the haymows were resorted to for shelter and rest. At one time during a driving wind and rain storm the roads became impassable when the Wellmans furnished food and shelter for forty teams and eight men, women and children. One of Mr. Wellman's principal occupations on his farm was raising horses and cattle, in which he made a marked success.


William Cook settled on section 11 in 1853. He was one of the influential men of the township, and being held in high esteem, was elected to local offices by his neighbors.


Charles P. Tripp, by energy and good judgment, was successful in gaining a foothold in Coffin's Grove Township and became quite influential as one of its prosperous and leading citizens. He settled here in 1853 and in 1862 enlisted in Company F, Twenty-seventh Iowa Infantry.


Frank K. Smith took up his residence in Delaware County in 1853, and this became his permanent home. He drove through in a two-horse wagon from Ohio to Iowa and located on a tract of land consisting of 120 acres in Coffin's Grove Township. He built a log house of the regulation dimensions arid at once entered upon the pioneer life of the then far West.


Harvey Minkler was a native of New York. After living in Ohio a while he immigrated to Iowa in May, 1853, and settled on a farm on section 29, Coffin's Grove Township. Mr. Minkler was one of the first trustees of Coffin's Grove Township and at the time there were but fifteen votes here, five of which were cast by members of his family. He was a member of Company F, Twenty-seventh Iowa Infantry.


Alexander G. Alcock settled near the present Town of Masonville in 1854, coming from the State of Illinois. His first habitation for himself and family was built by driving poplar poles in the ground and then weaving willows in around the poles. The roof was of hay and for many years this house was called Willowdale.


D. N. Davis came from the State of New York to Delaware County in 1854 and settled in this township, where he lived for many years on section 30. Edwin Davis, a native of Connecticut, arrived in the township in 1854 and settled on section 28. That year he erected a log house. By industry and thrift he brought his farm to a high state of cultivation, became an extensive dealer in and raiser of fine stock and was looked up to by his neighbors as one of their leading citizens.


Among the pioneers of Coffin's Grove Township was James Towner, who came from New York with his family and located here in the spring of 1855.


Patrick Trumblee left the State of Massachusetts in the year 1855 and in September settled in Coffin's Grove Township, where he was successful as a farmer and held a high place in the estimation of his neighbors.



~ source: History of Delaware County, Iowa and its People, Illustrated, Volume I. Captain John F. Merry Supervising Editor. The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1914, Chicago. Call Number 977.7385 H2m. Page 285-288

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