"The first settler in Township 91, Range 9, was William
Bunce, now residing in Buchanan County, who made his claim and did
some breaking in the Summer of 1848.
The next to make locations were William Pitkin
and Mr. Potter, who settled late in 1851, and
built a cabin on Section 35, on or near the spot formerly occupied by an
Daniel Greeley began to build a saw-mill in
1851, which he completed the following year. He was then living in
Buchanan County, where he married Almira Sayles,
and from whence he removed to his mill, when he had a house ready for his
bride. He died the following year.
In 1852, Rev. James Burch and Isom
Edwards settled in this township. The former was a Baptist
clergyman. His family was composed of six sons and two daughters. In the
Summer of 1853, Mr. Edwards became sick, and died in the September
following, his remains being interred in what is now Oelwein Cemetery.
In 1853, Benedict Belt settled and built a
cabin, but soon after, becoming dissatisfied, he disposed of his place and
left. The same year, Aaron Belt and Malachi Clow also chose homes in this fertile and
attractive neighborhood. The same year the population was swelled by the
arrival of Asbury Belt, Thomas
Beckley and Judson Jarrett.
The additions in 1854 were John Burch, E. W. Clark and James Holroid
The same year A. G. Wickoff began to improve the
place he had entered in 1851 but did not permanently settle on it till
1856. Mr. Wickoff was a surveyor by profession.
The first election was held in August, 1854, at the house of A. Elridge. The Judges were James
Burch, Thomas Beckley and A. Elridge; Samuel Herrold, Clerk. Fourteen votes were cast,
and the officers chosen were A. Elridge, James Burch, J.
B. Morehouse, Trustees; E. W. Clark, Clerk;
Thomas Beckley, Frederick Oelwein, Justices; Lewis Burch, Constable.
The township received its name during the day, the appellation of "Hoosier"
being rejected for the more statesmanlike title of "Jefferson."
The first marriage celebrated in the township was of Mr. N.
Burch and Miss Louisa Garrett, in 1855.
In the Fall of 1854, the settlers decided that the time had come to
erect a temple of learning, where the sciences based on "Webster's
Elementary," "Ray," "Mitchell," and "Primer"
could be taught and exemplified. Each settler agreed to haul a specified
number of logs to the spot agreed upon, and when all were drawn, they met
and raised the edifice, covering it with a "shake" roof. The
interior was finished with seats made of slabs. The desks were basswood
boards, fastened to three of the walls, so that the pupils, when they
desired to improve in penmanship, would face about, and vice versa when
they were ready to study other lessons. The upholstering of the desks and
seats was done with a jack plane.
J. G. Woods settled about the same time, and Mr.
Beckley, believing the former to be well qualified for the office to which
he had just been elected, resigned the office of Justice and had Mr. Woods
appointed in his place. Two cases only appear of record as having been
tried before Justice Woods, which were transcribed by Justice
Bennett, who adds a memorandum that the docket of his predecessor
consisted of one sheet of paper.
Thomas Hanson came all the way from Yorkshire,
England, to Jefferson, in the Spring of 1857, bringing with him his wife
and three children. This new settler was very poor. He had neither team
nor wagon, and very little money. He had ten acres of breaking done, which
he paid partly in work and partly in cash. The next Spring, to plan his
crop, he must have a team. He borrowed some money and bought a yoke of
two-year-old-steers. His vehicle was a rude sled, made by himself. With
this very insufficient outfit, he got through the year 1858 as best he
could; but he has not reaped a rich reward, for he has acquired a handsome
competence in twenty years, in spite of his unpromising beginning.
The first Fourth of July celebration was held near the Beckley school
house, in 1860. On this occasion, James Beckley
was badly burned by the explosion of a quantity of loose powder.
In June, 1864, Gen. Bell had a team of horses
stolen about 8 o'clock in evening, from a shed where he had left them
stand to cool off. Diligent search was made, but the animals were never
The third school house in the township (log) was built in 1864, but in
1867 five frame school houses were erected in Jefferson, costing an
average of seven hundred dollars each.
The present (1878) officers of Jefferson Township are A.
J. Farley, Isaac Scott and Homer
Saunders, Trustees; George W. Smith, Clerk; Dr. W. Chase and E. J. Harwell,
Justices; Minor Paign and R. A.
Hackett, Constables; Jared Baldwin,
The old township records were destroyed by order of the Trustees, two or
three years since."
"This little village was laid out in 1856, on the northwest corner
of Section 34. A Post Office, named Jefferson, was established here, about
the same time, but it was soon after re-christened with the cognomen borne
by the town. Mr. Woods opened a store here, and
kept the post office till his death, which occurred about 1860.
The first blacksmith was D. Hayes. The second
store was started in this place by B. H. Bennett,
followed by another kept by H. S. Day.
Later on, Mr. Bennett formed a partnership with L. L.
Carpenter, by which means the stock of goods was much increased - a
great convenience to the neighborhood, which was then far distant from any
considerable town. Mr. Bennett removed to Oelwein in 1873.
The advent of the railroad in Jefferson Township, passing within sight
of Otsego, and the location of the depot two miles away, has prevented
this hamlet from growing larger, at least for many years."
"This flourishing town, located on Section 21, dates its birth from
1873, when it sprang into existence with almost the same rapidity that
characterized the building of Aladdin's palace in the Arabian tale. There
was no genii present, however, save the spirit of the age, which has a
strange facility in despoiling one town of its business in order to lay
the foundation of a new and more flourishing one. The place was first
named Hazleton; but the name was soon dropped, and the name of a respected
German farmer and pioneer settler of Jefferson Township substituted.
The first building erected in Oelwein were constructed hastily, in
October, 1873, by business men of Independence, who were anxious to retain
the profitable business they had enjoyed from this part of Fayette County.
King and Kenyon were the first to begin
business, their building being stocked with hardware. N.
O. Lawton opened a stock of dry goods soon after, and M. A. Campbell started in the grocery trade in the
Before New Year's, 1874, Mr. Von Ferber and Applegate Brothers started stores, and quite with
the same promptness, J. C. Miller removed his
building from Otsego and started a drug store, and Irvin
and Bennett built a frame structure, 25x40 feet to
be used as an agricultural warehouse. L. Ellingwood, M. Freeman and D. Madison
began the blacksmithing business.
The post office was removed from Otsego by Dr. Pattison,
which practically ended that village.
A lumber yard was started, also. The Jefferson House was completed
November 1st by J. H. Kerwin, and it was not till
the 12th that the railway depot was completed. Thomas
Hansen erected a building, which was occupied by L.
Soener as a harness shop and another was completed by Benjamin Davis. Three grain warehouses were also
made ready for business about the same time.
Sixteen buildings, all but one representing some kind of business,
having been got ready in about as many weeks, the town began to attract
attention as a desirable business location, and in the next two years the
growth was almost wonderful. At the end of 1876, the town boasted of about
forty business men or firms.
A newspaper, the "Oelwein Clipper" had been established, but
its proprietor lacked the "snap" to grow up with the town,
although it gave him a hearty support.
A bank, owned by Hoagland and Jamison,
had begun operations, and, in 1876, drew $13,000 of exchange - an
indication of the importance of Oelwein as a shipping town for stock and
In 1874, the members of Jefferson Grange built a good sized grain
elevator, at a cost of $4,000."
Free-Will Baptist: organized March 1875 with
thirteen members; Rev. C. B. Messer. 1875 building committee: P. R.
Hillman, H. W. Saunders and N. Howell; Rev. H. J. Brown in charge of
church since January 1, 1878. Trustees in 1878 were: R. W. Bell, H. W.
Saunders and Jesse ______.
United Presbyterian: organized in Irvin's Hall,
Sept. 24, 1875, by Rev. J. Sawhill, sixteen persons enrolling themselves.
First elders: John McLachlan and William Edgar; Trustees, John Jamison,
John McLachlan and James Colvin. Subscription for the church building
obtained mainly by the solicitations of Mrs. George Brown and Mrs. William
Kennedy; building dedicated January 28, 1877. Present Pastor A. McMillan.
Roman Catholic: First meeting on the question of
a church building was in June, 1876. Building committee: John McDonough
and J. H. Kirwin; contract awarded to B. Little. Rev. T. Murtha of
Fairbanks is pastor.
Regular Predestinarian Baptist: Society formed
in 1855 under the direction of Elders Cottrell and Burch. J. B. Burch is
the present elder; L. M. Burch, Deacon; Asahel Hancock, Clerk. Meetings
are held on Saturday before the first Sunday in each month.
Methodist Episcopal Church: Organized in 1874,
with twelve members, by Rev. Jacob Heald. Rev. R. Wolf is Pastor the
present year. The Trustees of the society are M. Freeman, C. Hughson, B.
The First Universalist Church of Oelwein: Formed
in April, 1876, through the efforts of Rev. W. J. Hicks, of Strawberry
Point, with ten members, which has since increased to eighteen. Occasional
meetings are held in the Presbyterian Church. The officers are William
Bunce and E. J. Harvell, Deacons; P. L. Champlin, John H. Miller, William
Bunce, Trustees; Mrs. P. M. Champlin, Clerk.
The Baptist Church: Re-organized Sep. 1877; a
previous society having become dormant. The present society was formed by
the exertions of Rev. L. Ellingwood, and is now in a flourishing
condition. Meetings are held every other Sunday at the Presbyterian
Church. J. W. Drayton is Deacon; Mrs. Clara Slocum, Clerk.
The Union Sabbath School: meets at the
Presbyterian Church; average attendance of pupils is about seventy. Mrs.
Mary E. McMillan is Superintendent; S. C. Kenyon, Assistant; Mrs. Anna
Parish, Secretary; Miss T. McCurdy, Treasurer. Eight teachers give
Young Men's Christian Association: formed Dec.
1, 1877, with Rev. A. McMillan as President; Rev. R. Wolf, Vice President;
Samuel Irvin, Secretary; S. C. Kenyon, Treasurer. Since that time Rev. Mr.
Wolf has resigned, his place being filled by Rev. John Brown. The Board of
Directors is composed of Jason Nicholas, G. S. Furwald, J. W. Drayton,
Mrs. F. Clark, Mrs. Slocum and Miss T. McCurdy. The Association meets once
a month for the transaction of business, and weekly meetings are held at
the Presbyterian Church. Including ladies, there are forty-five members.
Hebron Lodge, No. 374, A., F. and A. M., was
organized March 4, 1876, with ten members, all of whom were provided with
an office, as follows: F. C. Kenyon, W. M.; B. Davis, S. W.; Henry Winett,
J. W.; D. O. Hill, Treasurer; Phil Kane, Secretary; Wm. Bentley, S. D.;
George Smith, J. D.; G. H. Murray, S. S.; E. D. Rogers, J. S.; L. Fraas,
Oelwein Lodge, No. 294, I.O.O.F., organized by
District Deputy W. A. Chase, October 25, 1874, with seven charter members.
George Minkler was first first N. G.; E. J. Harvel, V. G.; Wm. Bentley,
Secretary; Mr. Wolf, Treasurer. The present officers are: Dr. I.
Pattison, N. G.; G. W. Jamison, V. G.; L. D. Wellman, Recording Secretary;
William Bentley, Permanent Secretary; H. A. Miller, Treasurer.
Columbia Lodge, No. 83. A.O.U.W., was organized
by W. H. Burford, D.D.G.M., August 23, 1876, with twenty-nine charter
members. The Lodge now has nearly forty members now. (1878) The officers
are: W. H. Perry, P.M.W.; M. A. Campbell, M.W.; A. H. Blackman, F.; I
Pattison, O.; E. J. Christman, Guide; B. A. Barnes, Recorder; E. A.
Haskell, Financial Secretary; John Jamison, Recording Secretary; E.
Sparks, J. W.; E. J. Harwell, O. W.
Oelwein Lodge, No. 44, I.O.G.T., instituted by
Deputy H. Rickel, with nineteen members. E. L. Williamson was the first
W.C.T.; Frank Paign, W.S.' S. A. Kinyon is now W.C.T. The lodge has about
Jefferson Grange, No. 687, Patrons of Husbandry,
was organized Nov. 22, 1872, with twenty-nine members. Alva Smith was made
Master; G. E. Champlin, O.; Levi Joy, Lecturer; Minor Paign, Steward; N.
S. Burch, Assistant Steward; Rev. C. N. Martin, Chaplain; Chris. Smith,
Treasurer; G. W. Smith, Secretary; Hiram Hanson, Gate Keeper; Amanda
Martin, Ceres; Susan Westcott, Flora; Susan Smith, Pomona; Hannah Paign,
Lady Assistant Steward. Wm. Bentley is now Master; W. S. Preble, O.; B. H.
Bennett, Lecturer; Abel Bentley, Steward; G. S. Moore, Assistant Steward;
Alva Hockings, Gate Keeper; Susan Smith, Ceres; Maria Bennett, Pomona;
Mrs. P. M. Champlin, Flora; Mrs. E. J. Bentley, Lady Assistant Steward.
The Grange has thirty-six members. Meets Tuesday evenings before full
Company F, Fourth Regiment, Iowa National Guard, was organized May 14,
1878, and E. L. Williamson was made Secretary and Treasurer of the
Company. As soon as practicable after the first meeting, uniforms were
procured. The Company is armed with Springfield breech-loading rifles, has
its armory in Centennial Block, and meets twice a week for drill, in which
it is becoming rapidly proficient.
The first and second winters of Oelwein's existence, its school
population had to depend on a school house outside of the town. The
Independent District of Oelwein was formed, on the call of the District
officers, April 24, 1875. S. C. Kenyon and W. M. Irwin were elected
Directors, and a ten-mill tax was voted at the same meeting.
The first school taught under the independent organization was in the
winter of 1875-76, a term of four months; H. C. Bishop, teacher.
In March, 1876, I. Bear, H. Minnett, B. H. Bennett and Gus. Oelwein were
added to the Board. Miss A. M. Hough and Miss T. M. McCurdy taught the
Spring term of the school, which was graded also by the Board. The same
ladies taught another term in the Fall, supported by subscription.
In September, the Board bonded the district for $650, for the purpose of
buying a building. The height of the building was increased, at an added
cost of $300.
In March, 1877, Minor Paign, James Kerwin and A. McMillan were chosen
Directors, to succeed Messrs. Minnett, Bennett and Kenyon.
The present board is composed of A. McMillan, President; E. J. Harwell,
Secretary; H. Hoagland, Treasurer; Minor Paign, Fred. B. Nute, H. C.
Hollenbeck, G. A. Oelwein, H. W. Saunders, Directors.