Another IAGenWeb Project
THE SETTLEMENT AT LAKEVILLE IN 1866—THE FIRST AFTER THE CLOSE OF THE WAR—THE WET SUMMER—HIGH PRICES FOR PROVISIONS—THE FIRST SETTLERS IN THE OTHER TOWNS—THE FUEL QUESTION—BURNING HAY—BURNING CORN—THE SOD SHANTY.
AFTER the close of the war the tide of emigration turned this way but slowly. Some few who enlisted from this county returned to their places in the summer and fall of 1865. It will be remembered that of those enlisting from this county a majority served in the Sioux City Cavalry. They were discharged in December, 1864, after having served about three years and four months. Some of them came back at once, especially those whose families were here. Others who had sent their families away temporarily to places of greater safety came back the following year.
There was no new emigration of any account until the spring of 1866 and but little then. About that time a party consisting of Joshua A. Pratt, George W. Pratt, Joseph A. Green, A. Price and some others came in and made the first settlement at Lakeville. Another party, consisting of James Heldridge, George Wallace, F. C. and Israel Doolittle, came in a little later and took claims on the prairie. They bought a timber lot in the Okoboji Grove, built small cabins and wintered in the grove, then moved to their claims the following spring. E. J. Davis and Jerry Knowlton came in the same summer as the others and took claims in the same neighborhood. A. D. Inman, Wallace Smith and a few others also came that same season.
This fact is mentioned here, not as being more important than other accessions to the population of the county that came in shortly after, but it is of interest from the fact that it was the first after the collapse of emigration at the breaking out of the Civil War. The summer of 1866 was a very wet one, resembling that of 1858, only worse if anything. There had been but little raised here the year before, and there was a general scarcity throughout the entire north part of the state, which, together with the impassable condition of the roads, sent grain and provisions up to a fabulous figure.
As yet there were no bridges. The streams were swimming deep and the sloughs were full of water and the roads were absolutely impassable. Mankato and Fort Dodge were the nearest points where supplies could be obtained. Flour retailed as high as thirteen dollars per hundred. Prices reached the highest point in the spring of 1867. At that time corn sold as high, as two dollars per bushel as far down as in Pocahontas County, and oats at a dollar and a half. Other prices were equally exorbitant. Of course this condition of affairs blocked emigration, or at least postponed it for a year or two. Still there were a few with the necessary staying qualities to grapple with the difficulties of making a settlement, even under these adverse circumstances.
In addition to those whose names have already been given as coming in the summer and fall of 1866, were John and James Skirving, Joseph Austin, W. S. Beers, John and Miles Strong and a few others in the south part of the county. In the north part of the county there came about this time L. W. Waugh, K. C. Lowell, George C. Bellows, O. Crandall, Curtis Crandall, A. A. Mosher, Lauriston Mead, A. D. Arcy, William and John Uptagraft, Chauncey and Nelson Read and a few others. About the same time, or perhaps a little earlier, Rev. Seymour Snyder filed a claim embracing the famous mineral spring on the west side of West Okoboji, which was the first claim taken on that side of the lake. Shortly after Rev. W. A. Richards settled near the north end of the lake.
The terms "Homestead Law" and "Preemption Law" have been used to some extent in these pages and it is possible their meaning is not as well known now as they were in pioneer days. Under the preemption law, a man, by sending to the local land office, which for this region was in Sioux City, one dollar and a notice stating that on a certain date he had entered upon and improved a certain tract of government land and that he claimed the same as a preemption right, was entitled to one year in which to prove up and make payment for the same on land that had been offered for sale in the open market, and on land that had not been so offered, his right was good until it was proclaimed for sale. The price was one dollar and a quarter per acre, .although many procured soldiers' land warrants or college scrip at prices ranging from seventy-five cents to a dollar an acre.
Under the homestead law, a man was required to pay an advance fee of ten dollars and file with the Register of the Land Office his affidavit that at a certain date he entered upon and claimed a certain tract of land under the provisions of the homestead act, giving the date. A person had six months in which to get to living on his homestead, and after five years' continuous residence, could prove up and perfect his title and the land was his.
Of course there were a great many details to both the homestead and preemption laws that have not been given. The first settlers, those living around the lakes and groves, took their land under the preemption law, as the homestead law had not then been passed; those coming later, under the homestead law, although when the latter went into effect a great many changed from preemption to homestead. The only opportunity there has ever been for buying government land by private entry in this county was about this time.
The manner of bringing land into market was for the President to direct the Commissioner of the General Land Office to issue a proclamation offering the land in certain townships for sale to the highest bidder for cash. This auction sale was kept open a certain number of days and while it lasted no land could be bought in any other manner than by bidding for it. After the close of the public sale the land was subject to entry at the standard price of one dollar and a quarter per acre.
All of the land in this county except Center Grove and Spirit Lake townships, had been proclaimed for sale some time during Johnson's administration, and after the close of the public sale, was kept open for sale by private entry until 1869 or 1870, when it was withdrawn to allow the railroads whose grants extended into the county to file their plats and have the land to which they were entitled by the terms of the grant certified to them. The two roads receiving grants of land in this county were the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, then known as the McGregor & Sioux City, and the St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha, then known as the St. Paul & Sioux City.
Under the terms of their grant they were entitled to all of the odd numbered sections for a distance of ten miles on each side of their surveyed line, but inasmuch as through the east part of the state and as far west .as the Des Moines River the land had been entered up previous to this time, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Company were granted as indemnity lands the odd numbered sections on an additional strip of another ten miles on each side of the line, which in effect gave them nearly all of the odd numbered sections in this county. At the time the land was withdrawn from private entry but few entries had been made. The Davidson ranch of twenty-four hundred acres, southwest of Milford, was entered in 1868, and Doctor Lewis of Mankato entered several sections west of Sioux about the same time. A few minor entries were made by other parties, but the total amount of land that was entered by private parties up to that time, as an investment was little more than half a township.
The Iowa Agricultural College located a few sections of grant in this county, while Ringgold County located the indemnity land which she received in lieu of her swamp 1and here. Thus it will be seen that taking out the railroad land, the college land, the school land, the indemnity land and land sold at private entry, it left less than one-third of public domain of the county subject to preemption and homestead by settlers. As was before stated, the land was withdrawn from sale to allow the railroad companies to file their plats and make their selections, and was never restored, thus leaving the balance, whatever it was, subject to settlement under the homestead law.
It will be impossible henceforth to give many details of eve in the order of their occurrences as they would become too voluminous and uninteresting. There are but few events in the is settlement of the country that can claim particular notice as being more important than others occurring at the same time, or being more than an everyday occurrence in any local Even if it were desirable, there is neither time nor space mention the settlers by name, to give the date of their settlement, the numbers of land claimed and other things which are sometimes given in works of this kind. Such details soon become monotonous and have but little interest for the general reader.
It was not until 1868 and 1869 that persons in search a location would consent to settle on the prairie away from lakes and groves, and from that time until the vacant prairie was all taken up the settlement was quite rapid. Homesteads were taken in all parts of the county and a general revival of life and activity was the result. During the summers of 1869 and 1870 quite a large colony came from the neighborhood of Ossian, in Winneshiek County. This was brought about largely through the active efforts of A. L. Sawyer, C. H. Ayers and a few others. Prominently among the arrivals of that period were A. M. Johnson, W. W. Stowe, William Vreeland, L. J. and L. W. Vreeland, James and John Robb, H. C. and E. Freeman, T. Pegdon, C. E. West, R. C. and John Johnson, A. G. and C. E. Sawyer, L. E. Holcomb, Wiley Lambert, Samuel Allen and numerous others. Most of the Winneshiek emigration settled in the northeast portion of the county. Many of them left again at the time of the grasshopper raid two or three years later. They had been here just long enough to spend everything they had in opening new places and not long enough to realize anything from them.
Simultaneously with this movement from Winneshiek County was another and similar one from Mitchell County. The leaders in this enterprise were James and John Kilpatrick, R. B. and Clark Nicol, G. S. Needham, Leonard and Ellis Smith, James H. Beebe, Benjamin Peck, Samuel Walker, Richard and Samuel Campbell, D. C. Moore and some fifteen or twenty more from Mitchell County, together with a large number from other places. Prominent among these were G. Anderson, J. Sid, W. H. Anderson, R. K. Stetson, Samuel Bartlett, Robert Middleton and his sons, Henry, S. P. and George H. Middleton, H. H. Campbell and several others.
There were from thirty to fifty families connected with the movement. H. J. and Daniel Bennett have already been mentioned, among the arrivals of 1860 and 1861. Soon after corning here D. Bennett enlisted and went south, where he serve until discharged in 1862. Upon his return H. J. enlisted in the Second Iowa Cavalry and served to the close of the war In 1868, they, together with Rev. Samuel Pillsbury, another of the earlier settlers, joined in the new settlement at Lakeville, which soon became a decidedly lively neighborhood. A postoffice was established and maintained for several years with H. J. Bennett as postmaster, and a large schoolhouse built, which at the time was the largest in the county. The center of this settlement was near the corner of the four townships, Lakeville, Excelsior, Okoboji and Westport. Probably no other settlement in the county was so utterly demoralize by the grasshopper raid as the one at Lakeville.
In Richland township the more prominent of the first settlers were E. V. Davis, W. B. Flatt, William Campbell, J. C Davis, Randolph Freeman, David Farnham, G. W. and H. N Morse, Jacob Groce, Gid Mott, N. J. Woodin, G. Patterson F. N. Snow, Aaron Shultz and Simon Young. Most of these were here long enough to make substantial improvements and become identified with the after-growth of the place. Many others came in and made homestead claims, but either sold out or abandoned them without making much improvement. Of course this refers to the period previous to the grasshopper raid. There was a general change after that event. A few of these old timers as E. V. Davis, W. B. Flatt, Gid Mott an the family of A. Shultz ,and possibly a few others have stayed by through all the changes that have occurred since the fire settlement, and have witnessed its development from a wile desolate prairie to a prosperous agricultural community. The township was organized in 1872. The name was first suggested by W. B. Flatt and adopted by the township trustees
The conditions attending the first settlement in Lloyd township, which was named after one of its first settlers, John Lloyd, were similar to those already noted for Richland. The first settlement was made in 1869, the early settlers being John B. Smith, John Lloyd, John 'Wilkinson and Ole Gilbertson in the west part of the township, with Joseph Kinney, A. G. Saxe and J. Johnson on the north. Berg Bergeson and quite a colony of Norwegians occupied the east part. Other early settlers were J. S. Bingham, R. R. Haugen, A. Dodge, S. Randall, M. Chappell and several others. The Norwegians in the east part of the township transacted the most of their business at Estherville, so that they were not as well known here as the balance of the settlers.
The development of the township since the grasshopper invasion, although slow at first, has been stable and substantial. As before stated, the township was named for John Lloyd, one of its first settlers. Other prominent settlers in these townships at that time were, in Lakeville, Samuel and T. Emerson, James Stinehart, John and Jake Snyder, George Edmunds and a few others, and in Westport, J. Lusian, C. Ladd, Randall Root, J. Putnam, ________ White, and several others whose stay was temporary.
Okoboji was one of the older townships and its first settlement noticed farther back. Indeed all of the settlements for the first ten years were confined to the three townships, Center Grove, Spirit Lake and Okoboji. The other nine were in 1868 and 1869, although the boundaries were not established until 1872. The name Lakeville is in consequence of the many small lakes in the township together with the fact that West Okoboji forms almost the entire eastern boundary. J. Bennett and J. Heldridge are responsible for the name. G. Anderson first suggested Excelsior as a proper name for that township. R. A. Smith is responsible for naming Okoboji, and Seymour, Foster & Company, Milford. Center Grove was the name applied to the principal grove in the township long before it was applied to the township at large The name Silver Lake was applied to the lake by the old trappers long before a name was wanted for the township. On the contrary Diamond Lake was named by the first settlers as that name was not known among the trappers.
Diamond Lake was first settled in 1869 and 1870. Thy first settlers were M. W. Lemmon, P. P. Pierce, P. Nelson A. J. Welch, O. W. Savage, O. Sanford, Peter Vick, J. T., J. R. and H. Tuttle, William and L. H. Vreeland, G. Horn S. W. Harris and several others. A. J. Welch was a veteran of the Mexican war. So far as known, he and Christopher Davidson of Center Grove were the only Mexican veteran settling in this county. But few of the first settlers survived the grasshoppers. The more prominent of these were M. W Lemmon, the Vreelands, the Horns, Peter Vick, A. J. Weld and possibly one or two others. Of the settlement and growth of the township since that time, it will be impossible to writ in detail.
The first settlement in Superior township was made as early as 1867 by Robert McCulla, and his sons. He was soon followed by others in the southeast corner of the township Mr. McCulla had the distinction of having the largest family ever residing in the county, he having at one time twenty three living children. Estherville was the trading place o these first settlers in the east part of the township. Prominent among those who came a little later were R. S. Hopkins Oscar Norby, Gilbert Anderson, Alfred Davis, M. and C Reiter, John Morgan, Fred Jacobs and possibly some others.
A few of these old timers, R. S. Hopkins, O. Norby and few others, are still living on the old places. Some have passed over the river and their homesteads remain in the possession of surviving members of the family. In addition to those already mentioned, there were a large number that too claims and some had built pretty fair houses, that is, fair for that time, but during the grasshopper visitation they weakened and either abandoned their places or sold out for what they could get, which in most instances was little enough. The town was organized in 1872. It is supposed R. S. Hopkins is responsible for the name. He, together with Gilbert Anderson, Robert McCulla, O. Norby and the Everetts, who came a little later, were in some way connected with all the early enterprises incident to the growth and development of the township.
To persons settling on the open prairie the fuel question was an all important one. At first it was the practice of those who took up claims on the prairie to buy a timber lot of from one to five acres and cut the timber off as their necessities required. In this manner most of the groves were divided up and their timber taken off. This practice accounts for many of the careless, irregular and perplexing descriptions with which the county records are encumbered. A man who wanted to buy a wood lot would go to the owner, and together they would pace it off from some known corner. Then they would make a description which they thought would cover it, and a deed would be made, the purchaser caring little what his title was or whether his description was correct or not so long as he was not disturbed while taking off the timber. These lots were afterwards sold for a mere nominal sum. The three acres comprising the Okoboji Cemetery were purchased for $2.50. These careless descriptions and titles have since then been the source of much vexation. But some were not able to buy timber lots, and those that were found that when they lived from five to fifteen miles from their timber patch it required a vast amount of hard work to keep up their needed supply of fuel. In many instances it was necessary to leave home before daylight in the morning, taking the "little dinner pail" along, work all clay preparing a load of wood, and then, if they succeeded in reaching home in the early evening, they had made a pretty good day of it.
But it was to those who hadn't the timber lot nor means to buy fuel that the country was indebted for a practical solution of the fuel problem. The use of prairie hay for fuel originated in this county and was practiced to a limited extent as early as 1870, but its use never became so general here as in Osceola and O'Brien Counties. At first thought it would seem impossible to maintain existence, and much less to enjoy any comfort from it, with nothing but prairie hay for fuel, but necessity is an apt teacher and the frontiersman a quick learner.
In a short time the art of twisting hay for fuel came to be an acknowledged accomplishment. After throwing a lock of coarse slough hay upon the ground, placing the left foot upon it, and then with the right hand taking enough of the coarse grass to make .a rope of the required size, twisting it hard and drawing it out at the same time until it had reached the required length, then it was coiled back upon itself and the ends neatly secured, thus resembling in shape an enormous old fashioned New England doughnut. In many families it came to be a part of the daily routine to twist hay enough in the evening to answer for the following clay's fuel. The litter which the use of it caused was something to which it was difficult for the neat and thrifty housewife to accustom herself, but in the language of a sturdy boy of that period, "Its was a heap better than freezing."
One thrifty inventor thought to make his fortune by inventing a hay twister, which, by the way, did very good work. Another invented a stove for burning hay under pressure which was really a success and would have gone into pretty general use but for the fact that building railroads through the country brought down the price of coal and enhanced the price of hay so that burning coal was the cheapest.
Burning corn was also practiced in some localities. Corn on the cob makes an excellent fuel, comparing well with either wood or coal, and with the low prices prevailing in many places in the West, was as cheap as anything, yet there were many who found it hard to reconcile themselves to burning corn for fuel. Many can remember the adverse criticisms indulged in by writers in the eastern papers condemning the wastefulness of the western people in using an article of food for that purpose. A moment's consideration will illustrate how senseless these criticisms were. In using corn for fuel they were using an article that one season would reproduce, while the wanton destruction of the eastern forests that is continually going on cannot be remedied in a hundred years and probably never will be.
Another makeshift of this period was the sod shanty, and it is truly wonderful the amount of genius that may be expended in the construction of a sod shanty. There was as much difference in the construction, appearance and arrangement of the sod shanties of those times as has been expended on the more pretentious residences that have succeeded them. Some had the rare faculty of endowing these primitive abodes with an air of comfort, convenience and even neatness, so as to give them a real homelike appearance. Others remained what they were at first, simply a hole in the ground. But the sod shanty era was of short duration. The opening up of the country by building railroads through it, placed building material within reach of the settlers, and as soon as circumstances would permit, the sod shanty was replaced by a more pretentious abode, but the memory of life in a sod shanty, with twisted hay for fuel, will be among the early recollections of many who now rank among the more prominent and progressive citizens of northwestern Iowa.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
DICKINSON COUNTY MAIN PAGE