Fremont County, Iowa

Abandoned Towns

History of Plum Hollow


From late 1846 through 1889, there was a community on the northwest portion of Fremont County know by two names; Fremont City and Plum Hollow. It was founded by a group of people following soldiers who were going off to fight in the Mexican War. The site was chosen due to the the closeness of fresh water, fresh plums and good soil. The town grew through the decades but had to be renamed because there was already a Fremont City. You'll read below why Plum Hollow wasn't kept as the name.

Pages 30 - 31 of 'Thumbprints in Time' has the following information:

Plum Hollow was the name given to a post office established in November 1856 by Abraham Fletcher, who tried to name this settlement after John C. Fremont. However, folks were living in this coummunity, ten miles northwest of Sidney, long before, and they had named the area Plum Hollow.

On July 20, 1846, the Mormon Battalion of 549 men left Council Bluffs marching to the Mexican War 1,850 miles to San Diego, California. The church negotiated with the U.S. Government to supply men in return for money, firearms, and the transportation of many of their male members at the government's expense. Sixty women and some children accompanied them according to Mormon Church History. The first 180 mile stretch took them down the left bank of the Missouri River to Fort Levenworth.

The first part of the trail hugged the bluffs, following what became the Council Bluffs to St. Joseph, Missouri stage coach road. A map indicates the took today's Corridor Trail through Fremont County.

Also in July, 1846, Private David C. Study of the Mormon Battalion and George Forney accompanied Mrs. John Study, Mrs. David C. Study, Mrs. George Forney, Mrs. John Martin Ewell, Mrs. Fred Forney, Mrs. Henry Ettleman Sr., Mrs. John Huston and Mrs. Mary Ann Dyke and their children south from Kanesville on paths through the forest and the brush keeping the Missouri River always in sight.

It is not known if Private David C. Study, of Company "B" and Privates Frederick Forney, Martin F. Ewell, John Martin Ewell and William Fletcher Ewell of Company "E" were also accompanying the Battalion at this time.

The story told is that the women worked their way by cow team and covered wagon south along the edge of the bluffs. The cattle the ladies were herding strayed. They were found along a creek which flowed from a natural wide opening in these loess bluffs and was abounding with bushes of native fruits. Leonard Study, too young to enlist with his brother David, climbed the high hill (presently called Grasshopper) on the south of this opening high above a creek and looked in wonder. It was beautiful! He persuaded his mother and the rest of the women to stay. He pointed out the fertility of the soil, abundance of fruit, clear water and an excellent spot to stay until their hubands returned from the war. (SW 1/4 SW 1/4 S36 T70 (Scott) R43W). There, on the banks of Plum Creek at about the location of the present bridge in southeast Thurman, they halted and named the site, Plum Hollow due to the many plum thickets.

Historian Don Stanley described the sleeping arrangements these settlers designated to protect themselves from the Indians and the wild animals. "...While the Indians were always friendly, these women knew intoxicated Indians were not to be trusted. Therefore they built an elevated platform or scaffold on which they made their beds one common sleeping room; the last one up at night pulled the ladder up after them. Here they slept under the open skies, feeling comparatively safe from prowling Indians and wild beasts, both of which could be frequently heard beneath them."

When the men returned from the war, John Martin Ewell built a cabin south of Plum Creek and the Study and Clapper families built cabins on the north creek bank. The land was virgin - the forests untouched. There were no neighbors and the closest community was at Civil Bend. There were no roads except for the unbroken trails over which they had just travelled. There was no school except for the education parents could provide themselves. Lucinda Ewell Gay woul tell, "There was no sugar and no cane seed from which it could be produced. Sam Ettleman procured ten or twelve seeds by sending east for it. This he planted and as it grew to maturity, he built a small house around them to make certain they would reipen without being frosted. From these stalks the seed heads were carefully preserved, and with time there was seed for all."

In very early days a trading post was located north of Plum Hollow but up into Mills county where Chief Waubonsie's village was located three miles northwest of Tabor. There was also a post office and an agent building. The Government built a log house for Wabonsie to use there, one like it for Chief Shatee in Lacy's Grove. An Indian burial ground ws located on a high hill just west of the Dutch Hollow School which was about three miles north of Plum Hollow.

When Plum Hollow was founded Don Stanley relates, "The first years here... were full of hardships and danger but... it had its' humorous side. An intoxicated Indian one day fell from his pony breaking his neck. Young Study was very desirous that his mother with the other white people as well as himself might witness the ceremonies connected with an Indian funeral. In order to do this he bargained with the lazy redmen that he, Len, and another small boy would dig the shallow grave if the whites were allowed to attend. The company of women, not sure of savage etiquette at such occasions, stood rather uneasily by, while the boys proceeded to throw away the dirt. One of the little girls, realizing this was a momentous occasion, determined not to miss seeing it all. She therefore changed her position a number of times much to the chargrin of her mother. Finally in reaching still another desirable place, she stumbled and sat down on the dead Indian! For a few moments it seemed as if bedlam had broken loose. The Indians were crashing through the brush in every direction grunting loudly as they ran. The children shrieked in terror while their mothers huddled together panic striken. All night long they watched, for they felt sure the Indians would return to tomahawk them. Later they learned that the Indians considered the accident a token of ill omen. Naturally, if there was going to be another disaster, they were anxious to put as much distance as possible between themselves and another death scene."

In October 1846 the first male white child of Plum Hollow was born to George and Catherine Forney and named George Washington. In April 1848 the first white female was born in Plum Hollow to the same parents and she was named Mary Ann. The husband's return from the Mexican War in 1847 and in October of 1847 the first marriage took place between Samuel Ettleman and Susan Forney. John Huston Sr. performed the ceremony at the David C. Study residence.

In 1847 other settlers came: Abraham Fletcher, Mr. Flannery (who pre-empted the land on which Thurman is now), John Leeka and his two sons, WIlliam and David. Before a post office was established in Plum Hollow, William Shepherd carried mail on horseback from Sidney to Penocia Landing near present Bartlett, but closer to the Missouri River. River boats brought mail for his return trip which took several days and was hazardous. Plum Hollow was one of his overnight stops where he changed horses. He was given this job by the government in recognition of having been the first man to sucessfully drive a team from Nebraska City to Salt Lake after the Indian troubles.

At first Dr. Venable took care of the sick, though Dr. Crouch, brother-in-law to Abe Fletcher came shortly thereafter. Dr. William Fletcher had studied some medicine but little is known of the practice of this son of Abe Fletcher. Rev. William Rector ministered to one's soul.

Other families who had arrived by 1855 were the Bursons, Baldwin, J. C. Gallup, Holloway, Johnson, Lucas, Martin, Mann, McCartney, Shirley, Snow, Woodrum and Wilson. In 1847 the first school was conducted by L. C. Study with just five pupils. In 1855 the first church, Methodist Episcopal, was organized with meetings held in a log school.

An Odd Fellow Lodge was organized in 1874 as well as the Masonic Lodge. In 1884, Dr. T. C. Cole and Mr. Ellis, while attending grand Lodge became so sensitive to the teasing about being from Plum Hollow that they decided to find a more suitable name. They applied to the post master general with the chosenname of Burnell. This was refused because there was a Burrel already in Iowa and the names were too much alike. Thurman was then selected and approved Sept. 1888 with William B Meek, post master.

In April 1889 the town council decided that the town's name needed to be changed to match the name on the post office. Thurman's namesake was Vice President Allen G. Thurman who ws with Grover Cleveland's first Presidency. Councilmen for the name change were J. M. Johnson, B. F. Beekworth, J. N. Smith, O. D. Woodrum and A. F. Wheeler. There were no nays. W. B. Meek was mayor. Joe Blair was the recorder. The Thurman Hawkeye published the special election notice ten days prior to election. Forty-eight people voted and forty-six were in favor. Two were not. Thus Plum Hollow and Fremont City were gone. (Material from a History of Thurman, 1957 by Donald Stanley: obituary of Lucinda Gray, 1933; Mormon Battalion records; and information from Bill Blackburn.)

In the late 1840's Abraham Fletcher (perhaps down on his luck) became the body guard of river boat gambler, Levi Shirely. Circumstances of the arrangement aren't known but Levi won property in Council Bluffs for Abe, who headed north from wherever this occurred and sold these lots. He then came to Plum Hollow in 1851 and pruchased acres and acres of land. he built the first residence, openend the first store, and in 1856 was the first postmaster for Plum Hollow. He laid the foundation for the town of Fremont City which was incorporated in 1879. However the post office name could not be changed due to another Fremont City in Iowa. Thus the town went by two names. officials elected were J. McFarlan Paul, mayor; W. R. Graves, marshal; and councilmen: William Green, J. H. Cole, W. R. Roberts, Joseph Blair, leonard Study and J. S. Jones.

In 1881 Fremont City had a population of 500 with eighteen businesses. It had a large brick United Brethren Church built in 1874 and a new brick High School with four rooms, two stories high. It cost $5,000 to build. There were 213 students taught by Principal, C. W. Durrett, and Misses Lydia DIlts and Nettie Stockton.

Any photos, stories or histories associated with Plum Hollow / Fremont City would be most appreciated!

Source:Taken from 'Thumbprints in Time', published by the Fremont County Historical Society in 1996. Transcribed by Tom Hodge in March 2012.

Check here for additional information about Plum Hollow, including some photos.


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