W. G. BrownI was born in Whiteside county, Illinois, in 1850. My parents moved to Benton county, Iowa, in 1852, traveling in a covered wagon drawn by oxen. We crossed the Mississippi in a ferry boat and located five miles northwest of Vinton, near the Cedar river, where there was an abundance of wood, water and wild game. There was very little land under cultivation at that time. The small grain raised was cut by cradle and threshed by making a rail platform and piling the grain on it, pounding it out with a flail, or would pile it on hard ground. I have ridden one horse and led another in a circle over the grain to tramp it out, then take off the straw, gather up the grain and wait for a windy day to clean it. Then came the wooden cylinder tread power. We thought this a great improvement: still we had to depend on the wind to separate grain from the chaff.
Indians were numerous during the winter months, hunting wild game and begging for "porky meat." I remember how worried I was when word came for father to get ready to meet the Indians at the time of the Spirit Lake massacre, and what a relief it was when we heard that the troops had them under control.
My first school days were spent in a log schoolhouse. The seats were logs hewn down on top and holes bored out for legs and had no back or desk.
In the spring of 1868 brother Tom came to Grundy county and bought land in Colfax township for which he paid $6.00 an acre. My first trip to Grundy county was nearly 55 years ago, about the 1st of May, 1869. I came to break prairie, brought with me a four horse team and a load of grain for feed, made the trip of 55 miles across the prairie in two days. The first afternoon I got stuck three times, each time having to unload the grain, which was in sacks, and carry it across the slough, then reload again. I was glad to find a place to stay that night and left part of my load there, for I knew that I could not make it with the full load. The next day I got along fine; only had the horses down once. I broke the land I later bought, still own, and upon which I spent most of the 55 years that I have lived in Grundy county, having left the farm to come to Grundy Center but two years ago. After finishing breaking I returned to Benton county for harvest. When I started for Benton county I had just 75 cents. I had to stay all night on the way and get supper, breakfast, and lodging for myself and teams. I was worried about how I was going to meet the bill in the morning and it was a "grand and glorious feeling" when the landlord said the bill was 60 cents.
I came back the following year about harvest time. One year brother Tom and I raised 7000 bushels of wheat, some oats and barley. Most of the wheat was cut by header. In this way we could cut and stack 20 to 25 acres a day. It was quicker to thresh on account of handling less straw. This crop we hauled to Steamboat Rock, Eldora, Parkersburg, Cedar Falls and Marshalltown. The price received was from 50 to 80 cents per bushel. The lumber in one of the barns on my farm was hauled from Marshalltown and the rock for foundation from Steamboat Rock.
When I first came to Grundy county our nearest neighbors were the Frank Crippen family. Crippen sold to Herbert Quick's father. I remember Herbert as a "book-worm," who has made of himself a great author. Then the McClures came, whose son, Wayne, became an evangelist. McClure sold to William Doak, who later was elected county treasurer. We all knew the Campbells as "Uncle Geo." and "Jim." Their house was small, but they always made room for travelers.
Across the road from Campbell's was the J. N. Vennum home. John was one of our early sheriffs. Others were Horace Bancroft, John Wardle and John and James Cowie.
When I started farming in Grundy county the work was done with very little machinery and I am glad to have lived to see the time when it is done largely by machinery and to have seen Grundy county as a prairie and changed to a land of beautiful farms and homes.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 14 February 1924, pg 1