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History of Fayette County, Iowa,

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

Page 565

Jefferson Township


"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 Indian camp.

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 and others.

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 recovered.

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, Assessor.

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 same building.

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 grain.

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. H. Bennett.

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 instruction.

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, Tiler.

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 ninety members.

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 moon.


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.


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