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History of Fayette County, Iowa,

A history of the County, its Cities, Towns Etc.


Western Historical Company,

Successors to H. F. Kett & Co.

Page 335

Before the camp fires of the departing Indians had ceased to burn, and before their moccasined feet had ceased to patter among the fallen leaves of the forests of the Turkey and the Volga, the sturdy western pioners began to enter upon the fertile lands they were leaving, and the plow of civilization began to obliterate the footprints of the savage almost before the green grasses on these beautiful prairies, bent beneath his light and noiseless tread, had lifted their dewy heads again to the morning sun.

The first cabin in Township 94, Range 8 (West Union), was built by Thos.J. Smith near a spring probably on the northwest corner of Section 15, August 15th to 20th, 1848, on the farm now know as the "Lippincott place." The next to locate and build a habitation was Lorenzo Dutton, who visited this region in July, 1848, and selected his location about a mile and a half east of north of T.J. Smith on Sec. 3, where he now resides. He returned in September following and built a hay cabin, * in which he and his companions set up a cook stove and lived like princes, on slap-jacks and wild honey for about a month, when their cabin took fire and burned and a more substantial log house was erected.  With Mr. Dutton came Henry Jones, Charles Jones, William H. Blanchard and William W. Bailey. The two last mentioned did not remain long, and Blanchard now lives in Chicago. Soon after Thomas J. Smith, Dutton and the Jones's, came other Smiths. One of them located about a mile and a half northeast of Thomas, on Section 10 or 11. David Smith built a cabin near little creek in the southwest corner of Section 17, and claimed the timber and the land where West Union now stands. Morris B. Earll and Jacob Oory settled on the bank of the little creek, on the northwest quarter of Section 16, and erected a cabin or cabins in 1848. Mr. Dutton broke some prarie in the Fall of 1848, which was probably the first breaking done in this township. Henry F. Smith and J.F. Smith spent part of the Winter of 1848-49.  Lewis Kerr, with his family, his mother, sister Polly, and two brothers, John and Thomas, settled on Section 22, Township 95, Range 8, in 1848. Kerr erected his cabin immediately after the Indians left.  John Downey broke some prairie on Section 32, but sold his claim to Jacob Rosier. George N. Rosier, Eliff Johnson and perhaps others, located in this township in 1848.

In July and August, 1848, Samuel Conner and Simeon B. Forbes built the first house in Township 94, Range 7, on Section 14, where Elgin was afterward laid out.

Immediately after the removal of the Indians, Lewis Kerr built a cabin in Township 95, Range 8, and settled with his family. His brothers, John and Thomas, his sister and his mother, came with him and his family. John Downey broke the first prsirie on Section 32, Township 95, Range 8, in 1848. William M. Rosier built a cabin on Section 32, the same year, and Jacob Roshier bought Downey's claim.

"In 1848, says Mr. Lorenzo Dutton, "soon after I came, Mr. Hadley, who had located about a mile a half north of me, had a 'log raisin'." Henry Jones, Wallace Bailey and I, went downyo help him 'roll up' his cabin. Besides us, were Mr. Hadley and his hired man, and John Downey and Thomas Downey -- seven of us. When the cabin was up Mr. Hadley got dinner for us. He had burned up his coffee-potand had only one kettle. First he cooked beans in the kettle, then pork and potatoes, and then made coffee in it. When supper was ready we gathered round, took our meat and potatoes and beans on chips for plates, and took turns drinkink coffee from two tin pint cups."
*Hay cabins werefrequently built by the early settlers to serve as dwelling places or "camps," until more substantial  structurescould be provided. Four "forked" or crotched" posts were cut in the neighboring timber and driven into the ground from ten to twelve feet apart., constituted the corners of the building. Two on one side were shorter than the others, to give the necessary "pitch" to the roof. On these "crotches" or "forks" poles were laid for plates, and on these other poles for beams and rafters. Sometimes only two posts were driven and one end of the rafters rested on the ground. After the frame is up more poles are laid across the roof, and these are covered with hay. Dutton's party were a little aristocratic and hauled some boards from Elkader, which they laid over the plates and beams of their primitive house, and piled hay on the top of them. The walls were made by cutting poles of the proper legth setting them up on the ground endwise, the upper eods lening against the plates, and pilling hay against them on the outside.  If s sufficent quanity of hay was used in their construction these hay cabins were very comfortable for temporary dwellings.


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