by James P. Murphy
extracted from Atlas of Grundy County Iowa, 1911
Grant Township is situated on the east line of Grundy County. It is moderately rolling, except along the Black Hawk creek, which runs from the northwest to the southeast corner. This stream was usually overflowing its banks in the early days of the settlement of the township, and was a source of annoyance to the early settlers, who had to ford it for a number of years until bridges were built. The first bridge was built on what was known as the half sedction line road, near the present site of Zaneta, in the year 1867. The bridge between sections 10 and 11 was built in 1868, but the grade was not constructed until 1869.
The first family to settle in Grant Township was that of Abraham Kenniston. They came to the township in March, 1862, and built a cabin on the bank of the Black Hawk creek, on section 8, where a daughter, Lottie Amelia, was born in November, 1863. This was the first born in Grant Township. After the family settled, a son, Homer Clarence, died in 1867, this being the first death in the township. After two years residence here, Mr. Kenniston learned that he had located on the wrong section. He then moved to section 16, where he remained until his death in 1874.
It is hard for the young generation, or the people of Dike, from where can be seen the grove set out by this brave man, to realize that forty-nine years ago the nearest habitation was six miles. The nearest town was Cedar Falls, which was fourteen miles distant, with no bridges or culverts to facilitate the progress of such a long trip, while at this time the sloughs, like the creeks, contained water the year around; and no other than the early settlers can realize the hardship to be gone through to get to town.
In November, 1864, John B. Murphy and family, the second family to locate in the township, settled on the S. W. ¼ section 16, joining Mr. Kenniston on the west. His two sons, Thomas D. and Patrick are now living on the homestead. Mrs. Murphy died in 1894 and Mr. Murphy in 1910.
James Rugg moved on section 24 in 1865, and opened up a large farm. Being that the farm had a creek on it, Mr. Rugg saw the opportunity, and made it one of the best stock farms in the township. Elijah Thomas also came in 1865 and settled near where now stands the town of Dike, and in 1868 moved to section 16. John Thomas came to the township in 1866; also, Katzenburg brothers, who settled on section 25.
The year 1867 made a large gain in the number of settlers, by the advent of the following: George Wagner, who settled on section 35; George Bashford, section 26; T. P. Sweetzer, section 27; M. P. Ashley, section 34; Zebelon Terrall, section 27; Henry Konitzer, section 16; and W. H. Smith on section 22. In 1868 Sylvester Henry settled on section 34; Harvey Henry on section 31, and Frank Vaughn on section 22. In this same year, Murphy brothers, of Dubuque county, having bought section 28 in 1867, broke up a large tract with oxen. At this time, George Wagner, who lived on section 35, did the blacksmith work for the neighbors, which was a great convenience to them on account of the distance to town.
In 1868 the Board of Supervisors of Grundy County, at the June session in Grundy Center, notified the electors that Township 88 N., Range 15 W., of 5th P. M., be organized into a civil township to be known by the name “Grant,” and authorized them to meet at some convenient place in the township on the 3rd day of November and election of State, County and Township officers. Electors met as ordered, on said date. James Rugg was elected president; A. R. Green, secretary; Zebelon Terrall, M. P. Ashley and Henry Konitzer, judges; J. A. Ashley and A. R. Green, clerks.
They then held a general election and the following township officers were elected: Justices of the Peace, T. P. Sweetzer and Elijah Thomas; Trustees, Zebelon Terrall, James Rugg and Elijah Thomas; Clerk, J. A. Ashley; Assessor, M. H. Ashley; Constables, Chas. Sweetzer and H. Collins.
In the spring of 1869 there was quite an addition to the population of the township by the arrival of the following settlers:
Michael Doorley, Wm. Bowes, Thos. Salt, Herbert Purce, Patrick Cunningham, Dan Ryan, and six Murphy brothers. Murphy brothers opened up a large tract of land and farmed together for a few years. As each one married, they settled on different tracts. John settled on section 15 in 1874, having lost his health while serving in the Civil War. He died in 1877. Stephen M. settled on section 28; Thos. F. on section 20; Patrick on section 28; James P. on section 20, and William F. on section 28, the old homestead, where he has lived since March, 1869.
Of those who settled in the township in the sixties, there are living in the township at present: Zebelon Terrall, Thos. D. and Patrick Murphy, and James P. and Wm. F. Murphy.
Among the early settlers were some from the Eastern cities who were novices in agriculture. Under existing conditions, it was a hard test for the inexperienced. The writer calls to mind seeing two men stacking wheat. The man on stack used a clothes line to pull the bundles up, after the man on the load had tied the rope on the bundles and had given it a start. Another man, after having his help plant beans, noticed that the beans were on top of the ground after they started to grow, and accused those who planted them of not covering them, and sent them to push them down into the soil. Another man got one of his neighbors to help him start to sow wheat. After filling the seeder with grain all went well, but the operator failed to refull the seeder when it got empty, and consequently his day’s work was not as well done as he had thought it was. Still another, being taxed with work, concluded to wait until spring to harvest his potatoes, and was surprised in the spring when he went to dig them.
George Salt, son of Thos. Salt, who lived on the S. W. ¼ of section 21, died in April, 1870. He was the first adult to die in Grant Township. The first marriage to occur in the township was that of Albert Freeland and Susan Konitzer, in 1871. Thos. Salt, who was then justice of the peace, performed the ceremony.
The township settled up fairly fast in the 70’s. At this time about one-fourth of the land was bought up by actual settlers. However, after 1874-75, there was a large addition each year until all was occupied. As near as the writer can remember, the last sod was broken up in 1882. The present residents of the township, with groves, fine barns and residences, and other improvements and having the low land tiled and under cultivation, do not realize what the township was in the early days, or how difficult it was to build roads. The only method to build the roads, was to plow the sod, cut it with a spade and build the grade by throwing the sod up with a fork. This usually had to be done while standing in water. Looking at those grades today would give a faint idea of the amount of labor it took to make them what they are, as they would sink considerable for three or four years after they were first started. Of course, conditions are different now. New methods, King drags, and well groomed young men to give lectures and instructions along these lines. Well! Keep up the good work and Grant Township will always be in the van along this line, with much honor to the early pioneer.
The first school session was held in the residence of Thos. Salt on the S. E. ¼ of section 21, in the winter of 1869, with Thos. Salt as teacher. This school continued two years until the school house was erected in District No. 5. Until 1877 the nearest market for the township was Cedar Falls. At this time, the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern built a railroad through Black Hawk Township, which gave a nearer market for the people of Grant, being about seven miles from the center of Grant.
In the year of 1900 the Chicago Northwestern built a road through Grant, running from the S. E. to the N. W. corner of the township. This is the only railroad through Grant. In the same year, two new towns were laid out: Dike, located on section 5, and Zaneta on section 25. Dike is the larger of the tow, having a population of about three hundred. Dike is a prospering town, with a bank, three general stores, two hardware stores, two lumber yards, a meat market, two implement houses, two blacksmith shops, a furniture store, a jewelry store, a drug store, an opera house, livery barn, two hotels, a restaurant and two doctors. The town also has water works, a good school, a good telephone system, and is an excellent stock and grain market, having two elevators, and two firms buying stock.
Zaneta made some progress when it first started, but has dwindled down until it is nothing more than a shipping point.
The early settlers of Grant Township consisted of different nationalities: The Irish, German, Danish, English and the Yankees. They were pioneers from the eastern states, who came west to purchase cheap farms. A great deal of the land in this township was gotten from the government in the first place by land warrants. There were two large tracts obtained in that way, one known as the Robeling (this is the man who built the first suspension bridge over Niagara river), and the other, as the Stanton tract. These were sold to settlers from five to ten dollars per acre, through agents, and they seemed anxious to get rid of it at these figures, while the same land today is worth on the market from one hundred to two hundred dollars per acre; but the old settlers are the ones who made the increase in value by building up the roads, school houses, churches, fine residences, barns, pastures and general improvements. What forty years ago was a vast prairie, where the winds and blizzards had a clean sweep for miles, now is dotted all over with groves, orchards and hedges, and no township in the county has better roads.
Only a few of those early settlers are left to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Among them are Zebulon Terrall, who resides with his son on the far; M. J. Shearn, who lives on his farm; Fred Billman; W. H. Dubert and quite a number of the Murphys. H. B. Kelly also, still owns his farm in section 33, but for the past sixteen years has leased it and resides in Grundy Center, engaged in the insurance and real estate business. C. E. Sweetzer, also, still owns a two hundred acre farm, but is living in California. Fred P. Sweetzer owns the old homestead, three hundred and twenty acres and lives in Reinbeck, where he owns several houses and lots and has just finished a two story brick, one of the finest in the city.
Those that have held their farms, have found they have increased in value beyond their expectations. The soil is as good as anywhere in the county, and Grundy County securities are all over the United States, as above par and the very best. Where it used to be hard to make loans at 12 to 15 per cent, now it is very easy to make them at 5 per cent, as monied men are anxious to procure them.