by Eli F. Crouse
extracted from Atlas of Grundy County Iowa, 1911
I was born in Stahlstown, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, in June, 1844. In 1874, with my wife and two children, landed in New Hartford, where I worked at the blacksmith trade during the winter. My wife and children lived in part of her father’s, William Roadman’s house in Fairfield township. In the spring, I rented 80 acres and began to farm. Paid $11.50 for the first land I bought.
Fairfield township was originally a part of Grundy township. Grundy township was composed of Beaver and Fairfield. After its boundaries were defined by the State Legislature in 1853, it was attached to Buchanan County and then to Black Hawk for election, judicial and revenue purposes. The first election was held at the home of Wm. S. Peck, in Grundy precinct, Black Hawk County on the 2d day of April, 1855. The following men were present: Silas Peck, Martin Cartner, Henry Collins, John Collins, Wm. S. Peck, Worthen Ingalls, John Plummer, Henry Hammer, T. S. Taylor, Jasper Ingalls and Nelson H. Peck. At this election, eleven votes were cast for a Prohibitory Liquor Law, two votes cast against the Liquor Law. Worthen Ingalls acted as clerk of election, May 5, 1856. At the election in 1856, Jasper Ingalls, Wm. S. Peck and Philip Taylor acted as judges; John Wilson and Worthen Ingalls acted as clerks. Special election was held at jasper Ingalls’, July, 1857; forty present and they all voted unfavorable for a certain railroad bill. Harrison S. Wilson was township clerk during the years 1857-58-59. At a meeting of the trustees held in April, 1859, they decided to pay one dollar per day for men working on the road, also one dollar for team.
The county line between Butler and Grundy was laid out by Joseph Ingalls of Grundy and Chas. Ensign of Butler. Fairfield township is first mentioned in the clerk’s book on November 6, 1860. Tax for school purposes was first levied in Fairfield in 1860. In 18?4, N. Deacon came from Dubuque to Cedar Falls and then to Fairfield. Paid five dollars per acre for his land, seventeen miles from his farm to the county seat with just one house between the two places.
Henry Hammer claims to be the first settler in Fairfield. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hammer on April 16, 1854 in a prairie schooner, crossed over the Grundy County line and located on what subsequently became known as the Henry Hammer home. For a part of the first summer, Mr. and Mrs. Hammer had no other shelter than that afforded by their prairie schooner (wagon box with its cover placed on the ground). Mr. Hammer originally entered but 80 acres of land, but subsequently added to this holding. Mr. and Mrs. Hammer claim the honor of being the first settlers of Grundy County, which clearly belongs to them, and at this late date, it is quite a treat to have them relate experiences of those pioneer days. They well remember the winter of 1856-57. On December 1st and 2d, 1856, two feet of snow fell. Early in January following, it started to rain and the temperature was such as to cause this rain to freeze on top of the two feet of December snow. The ice was from three to four inches deep; this crust was so smooth that the deer could not travel and many deer were slaughtered by hunters armed with no other weapon than a club. Subsequently more snow fell, but owing to the smoothing of the ice, this snow was constantly changing its position. This winter, Mr. Hammer relates, he marked the extinction of the deer in this vicinity.
It was during the summer of 1854 while Mr. and Mrs. Hammer were domiciled in their prairie schooner as related above, that George Belz, in company with John Hieber, first met this pioneer couple of Grundy County. It was at that time, 1854, that my father (Geo. Belz) entered his 120 acres. My folks did not move on this place until about 1858 and resided there for about forty years. Mr. and Mrs. Hammer resided on their farm for a like period of time.
Both Mr. Hammer’s and Geo. Belz’s U. S. Patent bear President Franklin Pierce’s signature.
Jessie Wilson settled in Fairfield in 1854; William Taylor and Harrison Wilson arrived in 1856. Harrison S. Wilson plowed a furrow from his farm to the county seat, a distance of eighteen miles, as he did this in order not to lose his way when returning after dark. L. D. Tracy came a few years later, at that time, he was quite a prominent mane, justice of the paece, doctor, preacher, auctioneer, farmer and even pleaded law cases and was representative in 1867. Rasmus Larsen settled in Fairfield in 1868 and at that time lived in one of the largest houses in the neighborhood, and traded at Cedar Falls. Peter Johnson settled in 1874. William Roadman moved from Wesmoreland County, Pennsylvania with his family in 1872 and bought his land of the government for $1.25 per acre. In 1875 he built a large frame barn, 100 feet long and hauled the lumber from Cedar Falls. J. H. Roadman settled in Fairfield with his father in 1872, and during ’73 and ’74, herded cattle for the neighbors, putting the cattle in shelter for the night. George Belz and John Hieber walked from Dubuque in the fall of 1853. It cost six dollars to ride on the stage coach, but they arrived before the stage coach, as many wet sloughs caused considerable delay. Arriving in Butler, they sat down to eat their lunch, feeling rather discouraged, but after eating felt better and decided to move on south. After looking upon the beautiful land in Fairfield, they decided to buy. Silas Ranney settled in Fairfield in April, 1869, drove from Wallace County, Wisconsin, bringing fiteen head of horses and paid $22.50 per acre for his land. His daughter, Mrs. Tom Pollock and son, F. S. Ranney, settled in 1868. Advent church was built in 1869. E. H. Collins located in 1854. Eber Dunham moved from Lake County, Illinois, in 1854, and bought land, but did not bring his family out until the spring of 1856, drove through with three yoke of oxen and a team of horses. Father, mother, and four children settled on land in Fairfield, paying $1.25 per acre; this land is now farmed by a grandson, son of E. J. Dunham. Arrived the 7th day of June and as soon as possible, planted corn and potatoes, and even then it did not rain until July. They harvested an excellent crop. Lumber was hauled from Dubuque to build the house, three rooms were built, one being plastered.
First death occurred in 1855, being Miss Adeline Taylor, cousin of N. H. Peck. William D. Peck moved from Kankakee County, Illinois, spring of 1853, with three yoke of oxen and one team of horses. Lived in Butler County about three months and in the fall of the year, built the first log house in the county or township. Paid $1.25 for the land in Fairfield.
The first birth in township was Henry Ingalls. In 1855, Chas. M. Ketchum was killed by lightning on the farm now owned by D. H. Hulbert. In 1855 occurred one of the worst thunder storms ever witnessed in Iowa. In 1856, Nels Peck, Martin Cartner and Sanford Peck shot a large elk, which weighted over six hundred pounds after dressed. N. H. Peck helped build the first school house in Fairfield township, also the first in Beaver. N. H. Peck acted as clerk of the first election. Silas Peck cast the first vote. October 4th, 1855, Philip Taylor and family settled in Fairfield. October 5th, 1855, Jasper Ingalls and family, Worthen Ingalls and family, Martin Cartner and family and a Mr. Jackson and family settled in Fairfield. July 4th, 1856, the settlers living near Clear Lake fled from Indians and camped in Butler a week, but soon returned to their homes, finding everything unmolested. C. H. Walker paid the first taxes in Fairfield. March 19th, 1855, occurred a terrible blizzard, lasting twelve hours, which caused much suffering coming at that time of the year. In the fall of 1853, Henry Peck and Nels Peck, while camping and trapping northwest of Parkersburg, had a very narrow escape from prairie fire. N. Peck, one of the earliest settlers, 74 years old, is still able to be around. In 1856, during a big prairie fire at midnight, as Mr. N. Peck says, “It is impossible to describe a great prairie fire at midnight.” Near the home of Henry Hammer, a young lady staying at Mr. Hammers home, was burned to death while fighting fire.
G. M. Bronson and brother, L. N. Bronson, came from Wisconsin to look at land. In 1868, they bought land for $12.00 per acre and traded a team of horses for one hundred and sixty acres of land. Two houses could be seen in the spring of ’69, and in the fall, seventeen houses were visible.
The first creamery was built in 1872, Joe Wells, president. This creamery was located on Section 8. Old fashioned setting pans were used and the cream was churned by horse power. Walter Carrington was the first buttermaker; H. H. Markley, first man to agitate the cream separator in this section.
Fredsville, Fairfield township, has a distinction of operating the first centrifugal cream separator in the United States. This pioneer creamery was operated by Jeppe Slifsgaard and his son, Truels, and is known as Fredsville Creamery.
Professor Mortensen of Ames, In his address before the creamery convention in Waterloo in 1910, stated with reference to this important instance; “As the cream separator was practically a new invention, Jeppe Slifsgaard, when he came to this country from Denmark in July, 1882, brought one with him. This separator was kept at the custom house in New York for two months, as the officers in charge were unable to decide whether this peculiar machine was constructed of iron or steel They finally decided it was constructed of steel and fixed the duty at ninety-three dollars.”
For introducing the cream separator in the United States, the name of Slifsgaard will ong be remembered by the dairymen of this country. Mr. Slifsgaard is still living with his sone, Truels, at Fredsville and is still hale and hearty at the age of eight-four years.
H. O. Chase moved from Allamakee County, Iowa, spring of 1869, driving overland. Edward Bisdee came from New York to Illinois. Marshall Fleming and Lucy Taylor were the first couple married in Fairfield; Joe Wells, justice of the peace, performing the ceremony. John Henningsen came over from Denmark in 1871 and settled in Fairfield. Peter and L. L. Henningsen came to Jackson County, Illinois, in 1872, and moved to Fairfield in 1873. Adam Boysen came from Jackson County, Illinois, in 1870. Haner and George Boysen came in 1873.
L. D. Tracy owned and published the only paper in the county for several years. His home was on the S. W. Quarter, Section 17, now owned by John Cowie. Tracy drove from his home to Grundy Center, a distance of nearly twenty miles, and back, two or three times each week in connection with the management of his paper. He was a member of the Board of Supervisors at the time that C. F. Clarkson and Elias Marble were on the Board. These men rarely agreed on anything and as a result their meetings were stormy, and the members indulged in language seldom heard in these milder days. Tracy was cutting and witty, Clarkson sarcastic and vitriolic, and Marble, when angry, swore like a pirate, so a meeting of the Board of Supervisors was regarded by the inhabitants as something in the nature of a circus. Tracy was a public spirited man, and he had a part in every matter of public interest for a great many years, and few men were so well known as he was throughout the county and state.