by C. E. Thomas
extracted from Atlas of Grundy County Iowa, 1911
When Grundy County was organized in 1856, all that part of the territory lying south of the correction line (that is all south of the north tier of townships), was included in one district called Palermo Township, and as the land was taken up and the settlers began to come, this township was divided from time to time, and portions set off by themselves, called other townships, having the same power and authority as did the original Palermo Township have.
In the spring of 1866, a petition signed by Wm. Houck, John Young, Alexander Relyea, Charles Philbrick, D. M. Fay, John Skelinger, Wm. Place, Conrad Pickelman and others, was presented to the Board of Supervisors, asking that Townships Nos. 88-16 and 88-17 be set off by themselves, and on the 4th day of June, 1866, the Board of Supervisors granted the petition as prayed, and the territory so set off was called Lincoln Township, to the memory of the Immortal Lincoln; on the 6th day of June, 1869, this township was divided and Township No. 88-17 was called Colfax and 88-16 remained Lincoln.
There being no natural timber in Lincoln Township, the early settlers were slow to look with favor upon her, but when they once became attracted by her beautiful rolling prairie, carpeted with a wonderful growth of blue-stem, and her never failing streams, which are fed by springs of pure sparkling water, the township then began to settle very fast with an honest, thrifty hard working people, and today Lincoln Township is one of the most prosperous townships in the county, as is evidenced by her herds of stock, her modern homes and spacious barns, protected from the cold winter’s winds by beautiful ful groves and orchards, she has not only gained a reputation for substantial progressive farming and stock raising, but that of an intelligent and thoroughly posted people, on all public affairs as well; this township has proven a mine of wealth to its many industrious, earnest farmers, who have come hither from other states and countries, and by dint of hard work and enterprise, have developed the resources which nature so liberally provided.
The development of Lincoln Township was largely due to the untiring efforts of Mr. A. F. Willoughby, who by his keen foresight saw the necessity of establishing public roads, and while this territory was yet a part of Palermo Township he presented a petition to the County Court, asking that all section lines in Township No. 88-16, be made public highways. This petition being granted, settled largely the question of public roads, and has saved the county a great deal of trouble and expense. The only road in the township, which this petition did not effect was the old stage road known as the Eldora and Waterloo road. This road was established by usage, on the half section line, through sections Nos. 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 and 36, and it was along this road that the first settlement was made.
The first family to settle in the township was that of William Houck, who located on the northwest quarter of section No. 31, in 1860; he was soon followed by John Young and John Skelinger, who located on the same quarter; why they did this we have been unable to learn. The next to come was J. Louk, who settled on the southwest quarter of section No. 33, on what is now known as the Vasey farm; Mr. Vasey locating there with his family in 1866. In 1862 Mr. Houck, while yet living on his farm in section No. 31, held the position of County Clerk, and Mr. Louk living on his farm in section No. 33, held the office of County Sheriff. It seems strange to one living now, to hear of these two men whose names were so nearly alike being neighbors upon the farm and holding and filling a county office at the same time. The next to come was Charles Philbrick who settled on the southeast quarter of section 33; then D. M. Fay, settling on the northeast quarter of the same section; then came Alexander Reylea, settling on section No. 32, thus making quite a closely settled neighborhood. After this first settlement was made, things came to a standstill, until about 1867, when she took a new lease of life and from that time on, the settlers came very fast. Among those who came about this time we might mention the name of Albert Dean, settling on the southeast quarter of section 16, on what is now the Wumkes’ farm. Mr. Dean was the first to settle in this part of the township. Others who came about this time were George and Robert M. Finlayson, locating on northeast quarter section 9 in 1868; U. Reylea in 1868; Arthur Elliott and family in 1868; S. B. Elliott, a son of Arthur, still resides on the old homestead on the northwest quarter of section 35, he being the oldest continuous resident of the township. Others who came in this year were Isaac Wiley and H. A. Bohal, Henry Rice, Eli Griggs in 1869; in 1870 we have several; they were Peter Hustin on the southeast quarter section 35; Alvin Still, Wm. Jackson, northeast quarter section 3; George W. Warner in section 17; Chas. Campbell southeast quarter section 9, and Richard Campbell, southwest quarter section 9; then came John Lingelbach on the northeast quarter of section 9 in 1871; D. H. Wallace on the southwest quarter section 35; D. H. Park on the northwest quarter section 1. About this time Mark McGrath settled in section 2; also in this year came Harry Wilson, O. A. Newton and Wm. Strack; Mr. Strack settling on the southeast quarter section 8. John T. Cable came in 1872. In 1878 we find Frank Cox, L. B. Davis, Isaac Wilcox, Henry Marks, and Jabez Tompkins. In 1870 came John Elliott; also Jerry Elliott, a son of John, who in 1879 purchased the farm on which he now lives, the southwest quarter of section 23. In 1874 we find Frank Garst, Carl Rabenberg, Solomon Hubbard, Ferdinand Zapf, H. Eisenberg and Asa Roberts. In 1875 we have Jurgen Alberts, B. Lamoreaux, C. E. Dirks, S. D. Field, and D. E. Roberts; also T. E. Reisinger and brothers. It was about this time that Q. M. Sargent settled on the southwest quarter section 1. In 1877 we find Ransom Bailey, Wm. Oxley, Eugene Dyer and Christ and Rolf Pabst. In 1878 we find Wumke Wumkes and M. E. Hunter. In 1879 Peter Knudsen and George Leonard and in 1880 B. T. Smith and J. E. Thomas. There are many others that we have omitted, not intentionally but because we were unable to find records showing the time of their coming.
We have been unable to learn the name of the first child born, but it is evident that there must have been children, born unto these progressive farmers, for a house known as the Houck school house was built as early as 1865, and it was in this school house that the first election was held.
The first election was held in what was then known as the Houck school house (now district No. 9) on the 9th day of October, 1866, with Wm. Houck and John Young, clerks and A. Reylea, Chas. Philbrick and D. M. Fay as judges. At this election there were 10 votes cast, the names of those voting were: John Young, Alexander Reylea, Lemuel Houck, Chas. Philbrick, D. M. Fay, Wm. Houck, J. W. Skelinger, Wm. Place, Conrad Pickelman and Nathaniel Tibbet. At this election the following officers were elected, for county supervisor, D. M. Fay; for justice of the peace, J. W. Skelinger, township trustee, A. Reylea, Chas. Philbrick and J. M. Young; for township clerk; Wm. Houck; for assessor, Wm. Place; for constable, A. Reylea; for road supervisors, A. Reylea and Wm. Place.
The first financial statement was made in the fall of 1866, and was as follows:
Cash received from county treasurer ...$692.50
Cash received from Palermo township ....315.00
The amount paid out ...................$899.57
Clerk’s commission ......................50.33
Leaving a balance on hand of ............57.55
The first religious services were held in the Philbrick school house, located in the southwest corner of the northeast one-quarter of Section 33 (district No. 8). In this school house Sunday school was held as early as 1870, and occasionally a minister from Grundy Center would preach; the name of the first minister was Rev. French. Later Sunday school and preaching were held in other school houses especially the Lincoln Spring and the Center school house. At these two places there were well attended earnest meetings, in which a great deal of good was done in framing the morals of all. In 1884, the Lincoln Center church, called the Christian Reform church, was built. The township cemetery, organized in 1880, lies just north of the church. It was organized on account of an epidemic of diphtheria which raged among the children at that time.
W. S. Lannon, who had been a Methodist preacher in Pennsylvania, bought the northwest one-quarter of Section 29, and lived on it until 1880, when he sold out to B. T. Smith, who now owns the farm. Lannon preached occasionally in the school house, served a short time as superintendent of schools by appointment by the board of supervisors, and was candidate for the legislature on the “Anti-Monopolist” ticket, popular in the early 70’s, but was defeated.
Geo. W. Warner, an itinerate Methodist preacher of great energy and enterprise, in company with two other men, Hough and Dewey, bought a large tract of land in Sections 7 and 18 in Lincoln township, and lived where John Rabenberg now resides in Colfax township. These men had thirteen teams breaking up the raw prairie in the summer of 1868. About one half of these teams consisted of four horses each, and about half of four yoke of oxen each. Mr. Warner employed a blacksmith on his place to do the necessary blacksmith work. He hauled most of his supplies across the prairie from Cedar Falls, a distance of nearly thirty miles. There were few streams or sloughs bridged at that time, and only a trace or trail for a road. When roads were very bad he used three or four teams of oxen on a wagon. Later Mr. Warner farmed more than 1,000 acres of land, and fed and shipped large numbers of cattle and was one of the most energetic business men in the country.
It may be worthy of note that Isaac Pritchard acquired his farm of 100 acres in northwest Section 2 by homestead. In some way the eastern speculators who entered all the country at an early date, overlooked this piece of land. In 1865, Mr. Pritchard discovered that it was still government land. He at once made application to file on it as a homestead, and immediately built a log house on the land, which was his home for nearly twenty years. Later, Dirk and Fred Rewerts bought the southwest quarter of Section 4 from a prominent New York banker, but the records failed to show that the government had ever given title for it to anyone. By advice of their attorney, they filed on the land as a homestead and acquired a good title in that way. John Pritchard, a son of Isaac Pritchard, referred to above, acquired title to 160 acres in Section 28, Beaver township, by homestead entry in 1865. Other homestead entries were made in Grundy County about the same date.
In the spring of 1868, section 9 was bought by four young men who were neighbor boys in Carroll County, Illinois. The northwest quarter was owned by Wm. H. Gunn, southwest quarter by Wm. Hild, southeast quarter by Daniel Hild, and the northeast quarter by George Finlayson, the purchase price being $5.25 for the northeast quarter and $5.00 per acre for the remainder of the section, the land having raised twenty-five cents per acre only a few weeks after the three quarters were bought. Gunn sold his land for $12.50 per acre in the fall. The Hilds sold theirs for a higher price a year or two later. These men each built a small house, making one on each quarter section. R. M. Finlayson was one of this party, but did not have the “wherewithall” to buy land at that time. These men broke up the entire section in the summer of 1868, and during the summer they killed more than seventy rattlesnakes, as witnessed by the rattles brought in each night.
O. A. McKeen owned and lived on the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 31, as early as 1867.
Time has brought many changes. There are only a few of these early settlers still residing in the township. Of these we might mention, S. B. and Jerry Elliott, Ferdinand Zapf, Mrs. Mark McGrath, Jurgen Alberts, Rolf Pabst, Wumke Wumkes, M. E. Hunter, Peter Knudsen, B. T. Smith, John Cox, a son of Frank Cox, Henry Marks, Rolf DeVries and Dirk Rewerts. Many have died and gone to their reward, others have retired from active service, some having moved to town, and a few to a milder climate, where they may spend their declining years in peace and happiness, which they so justly deserve.