R. M. FinlaysonMy Recollections of Early Times in Grundy County
I was born near Mount Carroll, Carroll county, Illinois. I graduated from the Mount Carroll High School when I was eighteen years of age, and then worked for my father on his farm during the summer, and taught school in the winter season, until the spring of 1867, when I came to Iowa, returning to Illinois in the fall.
In the spring of 1868 my brother, George, who was two years my senior, and I came to Tama county, Iowa, and located on a farm about midway between the present site of Garwin and that of Green Mountain, which I had rented the previous fall.
Soon after our arrival my brother, who had saved a little money while serving three years as a private soldier in the Civil war, came up into Grundy county, and bought the northeast quarter of section nine, Lincoln township, the price being $5.25 per acre.
I had no money with which to buy. I could have bought without making any payment down, but lacking the courage, I did not do so.
I saw Grundy county for the first time in June of that year, when I brought a load of corn from Tama county with which to feed our teams while breaking my brother's land. Very little corn was raised by the few farmers here then, as wheat was the chief crop, and the large number of new settlers coming in soon used up the small supply on hand.
This country looked good to me then, and it has not changed in that respect up to the present.
The roads were mere trails over the unbroken prairie, winding along the top of ridges as much as possible, to avoid the sloughs and other low ground, because of the probability of getting stuck in the mud. Streams had to be crossed at fords as a rule, as there were few bridges, and those few were make-shift affairs, usually being only a foot or two above the water when at a low stage, and out of sight when the stream was swollen, making them very dangerous at such times.
The northern part of the county was very sparsely settled. L. D. Tracy, in his "Historical Sketch," says: "In 1865 there was only one house on the Fairfield road between the Wm. Houck farm and the Hyatt farm in Fairfield. Going over that road that year with an Eastern man, he declared it would never be settled up." The Houck farm is that which is now the home of E. E. Groote, a mile and a half north and a half mile east of town. The Hyatt farm is now the home of Hilka Arends, being the SE 1/4 of Section 18. The distance as roads now run is exactly fifteen miles. Mr. Tracy knew, as he then lived just across the road from the Hyatt farm, and frequently came to Grundy Center.
Few settlers had come into that part of the county between 1865 and 1868, so that conditions had changed but little.
We broke up all that was tillable of my brother's land during the summer, and built a small house on it, and then returned to Tama county for the winter.
We moved to Grundy county in the spring of 1869 and I have lived here continuously since that time. My brother, George, was a resident of Lincoln township about twenty-eight years, when he moved to Summerfield, Kansas, where he now lives.
We raised our first crop, mostly wheat, in 1869, and had a fair yield. We had paid $1.50 per bushel for our seed wheat, but the price had dropped to 50 cents a bushel, and I think some was sold for 40 cents during the year. Times were very much as they have been during the past three years. War prices had prevailed until then. Work horses sold from $150 to $250 each. An ordinary farm wagon cost $150, and all farm machinery in proportion. Corn, which had been a partial failure the previous year, was sold as high as $2.50 per bushel.
This sudden and fearful drop in prices was a calamity to all of us, but even greater to those who were just making a start, after buying the material with which to farm, at such a high price, than to those who had made a start and had less to buy.
For a number of years, after we came to Grundy, we hauled our wheat to Cedar Falls, a distance of fully twenty miles, usually in the winter, for the reason that we could do so then without interference with our other work, and also because the ground was then frozen, and we had less trouble getting stuck in the mud, although we often did get stuck in the snow.
The business men of that town had more business to see to at that time than they could manage and do justice to their customers. When we arrived at a mill or warehouse we usually found from 10 to 50 wagons ahead of us, waiting their turn to unload.
When we sold our load we were given a ticket bearing a number which marked our place in the waiting procession. Our grain was always sacked, because of the necessity of having to unload frequently on the way when we stuck in the mud or snow. This with the slow, primitive methods of handling grain then in use made the work of unloading a very tedious experience to be obliged to wait in the street from one to three hours for our turn to come while the mercury stood 20 to 30 degrees below zero.
When we went to get coal, lumber, etc., as was nearly always necessary, we had a repetition of the same annoyance.
If we had no bad luck we might expect to get back home from 8 to 10 o'clock in the evening, but we were often out until midnight, and sometimes until morning.
I remember of one instance, when the weather was extremely cold, that I left home about 5:00 in the morning and owing to various mishaps such as getting stuck in snow banks, tipping over several times, which made it necessary to unload, move my sled forward, and reload, while wading thru snow up to my knees, etc., I was out doors all of the first day, all night, and until noon of the second day. Such were a few of the numerous difficulties which we all had to meet in the early days of residence in this county.
The men folks did not have all of the trouble by any means. While they were away on such trips as I have described, the women of the family, frequently only one woman in the house all alone, and a mile or more away from the nearest neighbor, did the chores as evening came on and awaited the return of her husband. A good supper was prepared, and the house kept warm for his comfort. In case of delay, as the weary hours dragged by, she worried, thinking he might have met with some disaster. No night was too long for her to sit up and wait for his return. I have no doubt but that she suffered as much at such times as did her husband in the performance of his task.
As I recall these things, so real in my own personal experience, I wonder that they were met with such patience and courage, and were so soon forgotten or dismissed from our thoughts.
I do not remember of many complaints, such as might have been expected. Such troubles were regarded as being unavoidable, and were accepted with patience and good nature; the people were hopeful, happy and enjoyed life to the limit.
Among the people who lived in Lincoln township when I first came were Wm. Houck, one of the very early settlers, Mr. Holmes, John Young, who I think was Sheriff at that time, Alex and Urial Relyea, Charles Philbrick, Mr. Vasey, then a widower, and his sons, William, Matt, Ted and Albert and six daughters, two or three Elliott families and a few others whose names I do not recall.
At that time Geo. W. Warner, who had been a Methodist Episcopal minister until within a year or less, lived on the Lincoln-Colfax township line, on Section 12, in Colfax, later the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Rabenburg.
He, in company with two partners, Messrs, Hough and Dewey, had bought about 2,000 acres of land in that vicinity. During the summer of 1868 they had thirteen plows, under the management of Mr. Warner, breaking up their land. About one-half of the teams used were horses, three in a team, the remainder being oxen, three or four yoke as a team.
They employed a blacksmith, with a complete set of tools, with which to sharpen their plow lays, and make necessary repairs, right on the spot.
Mr. Warner, who was then about thirty years of age, six feet one or two inches in height, was one of the busiest men I have ever known.
He made one or two trips to Cedar Falls each week for necessary supplies, using horses when the roads would permit. At other times he hitched several yoke of oxen to his wagon and made the trip regardless of the weather.
Later he farmed on an extensive scale and also bought large numbers of cattle which he fed for the market. He owned, while farming, a large number of all kinds of farm implements, and was liberal to a fault in loaning them to his neighbors, some of them five or six miles away. I was under obligations to him for the loan of implements at different times.
Mr. Warner was a fine type of a man, and was held in high esteem by every one who knew him, and his acquaintance was wide.
I would be glad to give the names of others of the early settlers who are well worthy of mention, but time and space forbid.
When I first saw Grundy Center it was a very small village scattered along Main street. The only store of any sort was owned by Mr. D. E. Munn, who later owned and lived on a large farm near Morrison.
His store was in a small building on the corner on which the post office building now stands. A small hotel, known as the Copp House, and later as the Eagle House, stood on the south side of Main street, about where the skating rink now stands.
The courthouse, a two-story wooden building, octagonal in shape, stood in the center of the block, on the spot now occupied by the present building. It was divided below in two equal parts by a hall running north and south, and each half was divided by a partition into two parts. The room in the northeast corner was used as an office for the County Treasurer and Recorder, and the other room was the Sheriff's office. On the west side of the hall, the south room, was the office of the Clerk of Courts, and the north room was the county Auditor's office.
I think that the hall originally ran all the way through the building, allowing for two outside doors, but the north end of the hall had been converted into a sort of vault in which to store the books of the various offices, so that the only outside door to the building was on the south side. A person in going into the building from main street had to walk half way around it to gain an entrance.
The upstairs part of the building was divided into a court room and a small jury room. As there was no church in the town, the court room was used on Sundays as a place in which to hold religious services.
The building had been nicknamed the "cheesebox," probably on account of its circular form.
The first time I went into the court house I was attracted by loud and angry talk coming from the Auditor's room. As the door was open I stopped and looked in. A large, rather fine looking man, who apparently was very angry, was talking loudly and swearing like a pirate. Another large-sized man replied in caustic language, and as I thought, tried to spit vitriol all over the other fellow. Another man with a very pleasing countenance tried to quiet them down by laughing and joking them about the subject under discussion. A few other men occupied seats with them around the table at which they sat, but said nothing.
I waited a few minutes, expecting that a hand to hand fight would show up, but the talk continued about as when I first came.
I finally walked into the County Treasurer's room and asked Mr. E. H. Beckman, then county treasurer, who those men were. "They are our Board of county Supervisors," he replied. "What is the matter with them?" I asked. "Nothing at all, I guess," he said. "That is the way they always do business."
Later I got to know that the man who was angry was Judge Elias Marble, who had been County Judge, County Treasurer and was then quite a prominent man in the county. Later he was largely instrumental in locating the town of Holland, and took a prominent part as leader in the fight to remove the county seat from Grundy Center and to locate it at Holland.
The man at whom Marble aimed his attacks was Coker F. Clarkson, then a resident of Melrose township, who later moved to Des Moines and in company with his sons, Dick and Ret, purchased The Register, which they continued to publish for a long time. Ret Clarkson was the editor, Dick the business manager and the elder Clarkson was editor of the farm department, and, in my opinion, one of the best writers on matters pertaining to the farm who ever served the public in that line.
When a resident of Melrose township, he was thought to be about the poorest farmer in the entire country, which goes to show that the man who can tell just how things should be done, and the one who can do them, is rarely the same person.
The men who tried to "cast oil upon the troubled waters" was L. D. Tracy, then a resident of Fairfield township, but who had a short time before hauled a printing press, type and other fixtures from Cedar Falls and started the first newspaper actually printed in the county, called the Grundy County Atlas. He continued to live on his farm in Fairfield and made several trips to Grundy Center each week while acting as editor of his paper.
He was a man of ability, of a genial disposition, and was prominent in public affairs as long as he remained in the county, and was well liked by everyone, so far as I know.
I soon became very well acquainted with both Tracy and Marble, and slightly acquainted with Mr. Clarkson.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 17 January 1924, pg 3
Letter No. 2
More new settlers came into Grundy in the spring and summer of 1868, 1869 and 1870 than at any other period in its history.
While moving from Tama county in the spring of 1869, our teams seemed to be tired out before we reached Grundy Center, so my brother, George, and I decided to stay there until morning, but when we went to the hotel the landlord told us that he could not accommodate us, as his beds were already all taken and every foot of floor space in his office and dining room was engaged for sleeping purposes. Neither could we find shelter for our horses.
We decided to go on to Mr. Houck's, as he frequently housed people who wanted to stay with him, but on our arrival we found that there was no chance for us there, as his house, stable and sheds were also full. He directed us to his son's place about a mile away, where we stabled our horses in an old shed and slept on the floor in the house. The woman of the house told us that she could not give us breakfast, but fortunately we had provisions with us.
Many of the new-comers were from our old home county, Carroll county, Ill. This was due in part to the fact that Lyman Cole, a former neighbor of my father's, had moved to Grundy in 1856.
He had several brothers and other relatives in Carroll county and when visiting them he told of the fine farming land open to settlement here. He lived many years a little more than a mile east of the Center, and his house, regarded as a large one at that time, still stands on its old location on the north side of the road, and altho somewhat dilapidated, is still used as a residence.
Mr. Cole was kind and helpful to all new settlers, and particularly to those coming from Carroll county, Illinois.
He was successful in accumulating property, and was known as a public spirited man. He was a large contributor to the building of the first M. E. church in our town, and was a first class citizen in every way.
Among the dangers encountered by the early settlers were the prairie fires, which swept over the country every fall after the grass died and became dry. We rarely knew how, when or where the fire started, but having been once started, it was impossible to stop it until the entire country was burned over, except by the intervention of some barrier interposed by nature, such as a rain, or a wide stream of water.
I never saw a more impressive sight than the line of fire stretching across the country a distance of ten to twenty miles, and often a much longer distance, usually driven by a strong wind.
Above was a dense cloud of smoke, which rolled and tossed like billows on the ocean, as it rose on its way toward the sky.
It was even more impressive in the night. The entire country around was brilliantly lighted, while the sky colored a bright red, reflected the various objects below in a constant and ever changing panorama.
Buildings, grain and hay stacks, and everything of an inflammable kind had to be protected in some way or be burned. Usually a fire break, as it was called, was made by plowing a wide strip of ground around and at some distance from the object to be protected, but frequently the wind would carry a bunch of burning grass a long distance, and if it happened to cross the fire break, the loss of the property was certain to follow. Scarcely a season passed when one or more farmers did not lose their grain or hay, or both, and sometimes their homes and even their teams, or other live stock.
One season in the early 70's during the threshing season nearly all of our horses were attacked by a disease generally known at that time as "The Epizoo," being a corruption of the technical term by which it was called by the veterinarians. It was similar in most respects to influenza in the human subject, as it made them weak and unfit for hard work. I was running a threshing machine at the time and was compelled to stop work, as did all others engaged in the same business, as horses furnished all the power, and all of the threshing not already done had to be put off until the next spring or summer, a great inconvenience to everyone.
In the spring of 1874 I bought 240 acres of land in Sections 35 and 36 in Beaver township, the price being $16.66 per acre.
I broke up as much as I could that summer, and commenced to farm it to wheat the next season, and I had a house built on it in the fall of 1875.
On the 24th of December, 1875, Miss Janetta U. Dubois, whose parents then lived in the northern part of Beaver township, and I were married, and we commenced housekeeping in our new, but unfinished, house the first week in January, 1876.
Among the residents of Beaver township at that time were A. V. Stout and his brother, Peter D. Stout, C. G. Courtwright, who was one of the very early settlers of the county, C. S. Huntley, J. R. Scott, Phillip Hess, Martin Janisch, M. H. Groeneveld, and some others. William Peck, who is named by E. H. Beckman in his "Early History" as being the first white man to settle permanently in this county, lived just across the line in Fairfield township.
I served the township for a number of years as township clerk and later as township assessor, rather unwillingly, because my farm required all of my time, but I found the duties pleasant, as I soon became acquainted with nearly every resident of the township.
Times were hard, and money scarce, and farmers were fully as dissatisfied as they are at the present time. The organization known as the "Grange" spread over the state, and I think every township in the county had a Grange. I belonged to the Beaver Township Grange, and attended most of the meetings. Many of the speakers who came to address us talked common sense and gave us good advice. Others fed us on "bunk" and some of those who were candidates for some high office promised us everything reasonable and unreasonable. A shrewd, level-headed German neighbor of mine, after listening to a speaker who was a fluent talker, and promiser as well, who had said in substance, "Go home and take it easy, and we will pass laws that will put all of you on your feet" said after coming out doors, "We will get out of the hole we are now in, but we will do so by working hard, living economically, and by saving our money, and in no other way." The years following proved the accuracy of his prediction.
The Grange was a fine thing in a number of ways; particularly so as a social affair, as it brought the scattered settlers together and many new and lasting friendships were formed between people who might otherwise have never known each other. This was even more true of the women folks than it was of the men, as many of them had little or no opportunity to become acquainted with neighbors only a few miles away.
Grundy Center was under the handicap of having no railroad until the 5th of September, 1877, when the first train ran into the town. This event was celebrated by a barbecue to which everyone was invited. At this celebration a free dinner was served, and as part of the preparation two oxen, twenty pigs and forty hams were cooked. One of the oxen, weighing 1110 pounds, was the gift of Geo. W. Warner. After dinner speeches were made by Gen. E. F. Winslow, representing the railroad company, and by W. S. Larmon, A. Methfessel of Blackhawk township, H. H. Beaman, E. P. Baker, J. M. Rea, Wm. Smythe, H. A. Yonge, Edward Estabrook, F. G. Moffett, Silas Raney, Rev. E. C. Mitchell, John E. Owens, Chris. C. Chuler, Capt. J. G. Strong, John Underwood, E. H. Beckman and others. Daniel Kerr was Mayor of the town and Dr. E. A. Crouse was chairman of the occasion. There were several brass bands and glee clubs present. The crowd was estimated at from 5000 to 7000 people. A grand time was had, as a railroad running through the central part, and entirely across the county, was a matter of great importance to all the people in it. Up to that time the only railroad which touched our county was the Illinois Central, which crossed the northeast corner of Fairfield township.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 24 January 1924, pg 10
On the 22nd of September, 1878, the body of a man was found in the creek about a half mile up the stream from the depot in Grundy Center.
The body had evidently floated down the creek during high water and in passing over a barbed wire fence which crossed the stream the barbs on the fence had caught in the man's clothes and had held the body there until the water went down, as the body was found lying on top of the fence, face downward. Wounds on the head indicated that the man had been murdered, and the condition of the body showed that he had been dead a week or longer.
The body was recognized as being that of a young man named Peter Nelson, who had been living in town for some time.
Investigation made by the authorities resulted in the arrest and indictment of two men, Charles Halquist and George Clevenger, both temporary residents of Grundy Center.
Clevenger asked and was granted a separate trial, and Halquist was brought to trial on Nov. 4, 1878.
I had been subpoenaed to appear as a juror. I asked to be excused because of the fact that I had no one to care for my stock, etc., during my absence, but my request was not granted.
Judge D. R. Wilson presided and J. B. Powers, who was the district attorney, represented the state in the trial. Both men were, I think, residents of Dubuque. E. P. Baker and Capt. J. G. Strong, both of Grundy Center, were the attorneys for the defendant.
The evidence showed that the three men had been running a threshing machine on the farm of Lew Bockes, southwest of town, but had been stopped by a heavy rain. They were in a saloon in Holland until a late hour on the night of Sept. 12, and all were somewhat under the influence of liquor. On the morning of Sept. 13 Halquist and Clevenger went on with their work on the Bockes place, but Nelson was never seen again, until his body was found as above described.
Mrs. J. S. B. Thompson, the wife of one of the early settlers, who then lived in their house situated on the northeast corner of the SE 1/4 of Sec. 2, Palermo township, was alone on the night of Sept. 12, except for a small boy who was in the house. She heard a wagon go south during the night and later heard the same wagon, as she thought, go back north, toward Holland. In the wagon were several men who were talking loudly enough for her to hear them, although she did not understand what was said.
Instead of going on toward Holland, they turned off the road toward the east and went into a meadow and on toward the creek. This aroused her curiosity and she opened her window and heard the voice of a man begging, as she thought, for his life. She also thought she heard blows.
In a short time the wagon came rapidly back into the road and went south. She felt certain some tragedy had been enacted, but she had no means of notifying anyone.
On the 13th Clevenger was noticed to go up on the straw stack on the Bockes farm, and a few days later Mr. Bockes found a pair of overalls in the straw, which were badly smeared with blood. He brought them to town and gave them to the authorities before the body was found. A Grundy Center merchant testified that he had sold a pair of overalls of the kind found in the straw to each of the men, Halquist and Clevenger. A bloody hammer was found at the spot where Mrs. Thompson thought the wagon stopped near the creek.
Other testimony of a similar nature was introduced. The trial lasted eight days, when we finally received the instructions of the judge and retired for consultation. My recollection is that we were unanimous in find Halquist guilty. Under the law at that time the jury was required to fix the penalty, and on that we could not at first agree.
All believed him guilty, but some did not favor the death penalty, so we spent the night in trying to come to an agreement, and after daylight brought in a verdict of guilty. The penalty was fixed at imprisonment for life. Some of the men who served on that jury have since died, and I know nothing of the present whereabouts of any of the other men with whom I served, with the single exception of Mr. D. E. Aukes, who is now, as he was then, a resident of Shiloh township. I saw Mr. Aukes a short time ago and I am glad to be able to say that he had not changed very much since the time when we served together on that jury.
Clevenger was granted a change of venue and he was tried in Black Hawk county at a later date.
No doubt the evidence was the same as that given at the Halquist trial, and in addition Halquist, who had made a full confession after having been placed in the penitentiary, was brought to Waterloo and was used as a witness.
His story was said to coincide very closely with the evidence given at his own trial. He admitted that Nelson was robbed of the sum of $40, which he had on his person, and which was thought to be the real cause of the murder, as was brought out in his own trial.
I feel certain that our jury thought Clevenger as guilty as Halquist, and he was regarded by some as the instigator and leader in the crime. The Black Hawk county jury found him not guilty.
No matter how serious or solemn a task we may be engaged in, some amusing event may occur with regard to it.
The Halquist trial lasted eight days, and when Saturday came most of us were anxious to go home for Sunday, a request which the judge was not anxious to grant.
He finally decided to adjourn court until Monday morning, but before adjournment he told us in forcible language that we must not discuss the case with anyone. If any person attempted to talk with us about it we should inform them that we were serving as jurors and if they persisted in talking about the case we should inform him of the facts and he would inflict the severest penalty allowed by the law, etc., etc.
As we came down the rickety old stairs one of the jurors asked me if I could obey the instructions just given by the judge. I thought I could. "Well," said he, "I guess I can, because I will not go home until the trial is ended. But if I went home and stayed all night with my wife, darned if I would not tell her everything I know about it." He was not a young, or newly wedded man, either.
I would not like to swear that the instructions of the court were strictly obeyed by all of us, but if there were any failures on our part, I think the affair was treated as being strictly a family matter, and it was never known outside.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 31 January 1924, pg 1,6
In the winter of 1879-80 an epidemic of diphtheria started in the southern part of Butler county and spreading rapidly, soon reached our neighborhood. If there were any quarantine laws at that time, they were not enforced. Doctors seemed to be helpless and unable to give relief, as the present methods of controlling the dreadful disease were then unknown.
I do not now remember that many adults died, but few children who contracted the disease survived. Some lived one or two weeks after becoming sick, and many died within two or three days.
Our only child, a little boy about three years of age, was called away. My brother, George, lost a little girl. One of our neighbors lost four children. So far as I can now remember, not a single family of children in our neighborhood escaped. Neighbors did everything in their power to help each other, as trained nurses were not known in this country at that time. After the death of our child my wife and I did all we could to try to assist the sick, and in every way in which we could be of service to them, until we finally were forced to stop from sheer exhaustion, and I have no doubt but that many others had the same experience.
We have great reason to be thankful that the physicians of the present day have found a method by which they can control this terrible disease, and render it comparatively harmless.
In the early 80's A. V. Stout, who was then serving as the member of the Board of County Supervisors for Fairfield and Beaver townships, resigned because he had been appointed a member of the Board of Trustees of the College of Agriculture at Ames, and I was appointed by our County Board to fill the vacancy, without any solicitation on my part, probably at the suggestion of Mr. Stout. At the end of the year Mr. E. H. Beckman, then the member of the Board from Palermo township, and I were appointed a committee to examine the books of the various county officers, a duty now performed by State Examiners, or Checkers, as they are known. Mr. Beckman had served several terms as County Treasurer, was a good accountant, and familiar with the methods of bookkeeping in use in the different offices, and was competent to perform the duty assigned to us. I tried to be useful as his assistant, and the knowledge I then obtained proved to be very useful to me at a later date.
In the winter of 1882-83 my health failed, and by the advice of our local doctor I went to Des Moines, where I submitted to an operation and received treatment from my brother, Dr. D. W. Finlayson, of that city.
I was in a critical condition, and some of the doctors who examined me did not hesitate to express doubts as to my recovery while in my presence and hearing. I left early in February and was unable to return home until some time in June following, and while I was greatly benefited, I was not well and too weak to do any manual labor.
Among our near neighbors and intimate friends living farther away at that time were the following families: Eugene A. and G. J. Wright and William Meyers, all of whom are now residents of Cedar Falls, but who still own their Grundy county farms. Fred M. Hemmerling, Wm. Roadman and son, Harvey, Daniel Parks, Eli F. Crouse, at present visiting a son in South America, John Cutts, James E. Thomas, John T. Cable, Wm. Jackson, John Lingelbach, Wm. Strack, A. V. Stout, Mr. Steffen, whose son Adolph now lives in Grundy Center and Henry near Dike, Robt. Sterling and others, whose names should be mentioned if it did not extend this article to an unreasonable length.
Among those mentioned above all of the men have been called away, with the exception of the Wright brothers, Wm. Meyers and Eli F. Crouse.
Of the women, Mrs. Meyers, Mrs. C. J. Wright, Mrs. Hemmerling, Mrs. Harvey Roadman, Mrs. Parks, all of whom live in Cedar Falls, Mrs. Cable, now of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and Mrs. Strack of Grundy Center, are all that remain.
My brother, George, took charge of my affairs during my absence and he and his wife did all that brother and sister could do for us. My wife's father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. B. M. Dubois, and her brothers and sisters were ever willing and anxious to assist us. All of our neighbors were good and kind.
As my thoughts go back to those old times, it is my sincere belief that no better class of people ever trod the face of the earth then those early settlers. Kind and considerate toward everyone, each had a feeling of dependence upon the other, and with that feeling a willingness to help to the full extent of their ability.
There was perhaps not a College graduate among us, but all had a fair education and all were intelligent, and wide-awake to every matter that affected the public welfare. They were industrious, economical, patient, persevering and fairly successful in their undertakings. While by no means perfect, their good qualities towered far above their failing. Occasionally a dishonest, or shiftless and worthless family drifted in among us, but their stay was nearly always of short duration.
My neighbors urged me to be a candidate for some of the county offices to be filled by the election of 1884, and I was a candidate for the office of County Auditor in the Republican convention, but was defeated by Mr. C. W. Gibson, who was the incumbent of the office at that time.
Early in January, 1895, Mr. Gibson died suddenly, and I was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to fill the office during the remaining year of that term. I was elected to the same office at each of the four elections following that term. One of these was extended one year by act of the legislature, so that I served as County Auditor ten years, lacking a few days.
I was elected Secretary of the Grundy County Agricultural Society at one time, and served as such two years, for which no salary was expected, or paid. I claim just one good mark for that service.
When I took charge, there was not a tree of any kind on the grounds. I succeeded in interesting some of the other men who had the welfare of the Society in mind, and we planted fifteen or twenty trees on the grounds near the halls then in use. Some of the trees were our own gift and the remainder were the gift of Mr. Jeff Morrison, from his farm near the town of Morrison. I think that most, if not all, of those trees are still alive, and others have been planted since.
The question of the removal of the county seat to Holland had been agitated from the time the railroad was built in 1877, and those who favored the removal had canvassed the entire county quite thoroughly and had done about everything they could to accomplish their purpose.
The main inducement was the promise to contribute the sum of $18,000 toward the building of a new court house, collateral being placed in the hands of the County Auditor to secure the payment of the sum promised when needed for the building of a new court house in Holland. To settle the matter, the question of building a new court house in Grundy Center was submitted to the people at the regular November election of 1888.
This proposition was defeated by a vote of 1110 votes for to 1200 against.
The citizens of Grundy Center, who up to that time had shown but little interest in the matter, now woke up to the necessity of taking action upon the matter at once, and a subscription paper was circulated and something more than $5,000 was promised to aid in building a new court house in the Center. This subscription was guaranteed by 32 citizens of the town who were known to be financially responsible.
This subscription paper, and also $300 in cash, with which to pay the expense of a special election, were placed in the hands of the County Treasurer.
At their regular session, in January, 1891, the County Board ordered a special election to be held on the 24th day of February following, at which the question of the erection of a new Court House in Grundy Center should be submitted to the people. The question to be voted on, briefly stated, was: "Shall the Board of Supervisors be authorized to build a new court house in Grundy Center, to cost $40,000, payment of same to be made by the $5,000 donated by the citizens of Grundy Center, the Swamp Land funds of the county, and by a tax of three mills on the dollar on all taxable property in the county? Those favoring such proposition shall mark their ballots "For tax, and Court House," those opposed: "Against tax and Court House".
Both sides canvassed the county and a red hot fight was on until the day of election arrived. Prominent men used their influence by writing articles to the papers and in other ways, some for and others against the proposition.
When the returns came in and were canvassed by the Board, it was found that the proposition had carried by a vote of more than two to one. There were 2677 votes cast: of which 1442 were for and 635 against the proposition, the majority for it being 807.
The townships giving the largest majorities were as follows:
Washington --------127 1
Palermo -----------410 2
Melrose -----------110 6
Lincoln ----------- 98 11
Colfax ------------ 26 130
Shiloh ------------ 42 68
German ------------ 10 69
Black Hawk --------124 126
The other township all gave a majority for the proposition.
The editor of one of the Grundy Center papers gave a prize to the two men in Palermo who had voted "Against" if they would announce their names, but they did not do so.
It will be noticed that the question was not that of the removal of the county seat, except in an indirect way, but that of building a new court house in Grundy Center.
Many who would not have favored the removal of the county seat voted "Against" the building of a new court house, as I was told at the time by some of those who said they had voted that way.
Quite a few of our German citizens had formerly lived in Stephenson Co., Illinois, where a contract was made for the erection of a new court house at a time when prices of labor and material were at their lowest point. Soon after the advent of the Civil War caused them to jump to the highest point ever known up to that time, resulting in the failure of one contractor after another, until the county finally had to complete it at an enormous cost. When completed, the building had cost the county three or four times the amount of the original contract.
Other counties had a similar experience, and the people who were familiar with these facts were timid about voting for a new building.
Many of our shrewdest and best citizens told me at that time that they had no expectation that our building would be completed for less than twice the sum estimated, some of them placing the supposed amount as high as $100,000.
It may be of interest to some to explain the matter of the so-called Swamp Land funds. The Swamp Land Act was enacted by Congress in 1850, amended in 1855 and again in 1857. By this Act, all swamp land unfit for cultivation without extensive drainage, then owned by the government, was given to the states in which they were located. Later Iowa conveyed such land to the several counties in which they were located.
Grundy county made a contract with J. C. Savery, of Des Moines, to establish a claim for swamp land in Grundy county on a 50-50 basis, but this was abandoned, and a contract was made with C. F. Clarkson to do the same for 30 per cent of all land and money obtained from the government.
Clarkson was censured and criticised so much with regard to this contract that he offered to cancel it and accept $3 per day for the time actually spent by him for the county and his actual expenses while serving the county, which offer was accepted by the county board. Mr. Clarkson succeeded in establishing a claim for something more than 2000 acres of land, but he could find only 40 acres in Grundy county then owned by the government. Under the law, as amended, he was allowed to go into some newer county where government land could be found, and locate the number of acres allowed. He secured title to the SW 1/4 of SE 1/4 of Section 2, in Felix Twp., Grundy County, and obtain Government Patents for remaining number of acres to which this county was entitled in Emmett county, between the present location of Estherville and that of Armstrong.
I think that some money was also received from the government, but am not certain about that.
Judge Marble, as he was generally known, was the chief instigator and promoter of the project to move the county seat from the Center to the new town of Holland. His home was in the grove about one-half miles south of Holland. He had taken an active part in getting the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railroad, as it was then called, to build their road into the county, and succeeded in having a depot built on his own land, and the town of Holland was laid out. He was the owner of something more than 1,600 acres in that vicinity at that time.
He seemed to have no doubt about the removal of the county seat and he risked everything he had on the result. After the voters had decided against the removal, he became financially embarrassed and took in some men as business partners, who evidently cared more for his property than they did for him, and he soon failed and left the state.
He lived in South Dakota for a while, parted from his wife, who was well liked by her neighbors in Grundy county, went to Idaho and later to the state of Washington, where he died not so very long ago.
While living in Washington he sent back a "Sketch of Early Grundy County History," written by himself, which was published in one of our county newspapers.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 7 February 1924, pg 6
In Mr. Marble's "Sketch" he charged the early county officers and his former associates with dishonesty and rascality of the basest sort.
Five of our most highly respected citizens of early times were made the object of his most venomous attack. They were C. F. Clarkson, Daniel Kerr, Lyman Cole, L. D. Tracy and E. H. Beckman.
"Clarkson stole county funds from me under circumstances unworthy of a sneak thief." "He stole county swamp lands and money."
"Tracy, Cole and Beckman, as county officers, robbed the county just as though they had cracked the safe and took it in the darkest night, and Dan Kerr took guard on the outside."
"Kerr is the hound of the pack; he is a dangerous man." "Dan Kerr, Lyman Cole and L. D. Tracy put the job through."
Even George Wells, with whom he had always been on intimate and friendly terms while he lived here, had fallen from grace in Marble's estimation. "We would have built the railroad through to Ackley that year if Wells had not betrayed us." The foregoing are only a few of the many charges made against these men in the "Sketch."
Mr. Kerr, who was the only one of those above mentioned living at the time of this publication, put the only possible favorable construction on this tirade of abuse in his reply, published in the same paper, by saying, "It is evidently the product of a disordered mind."
I was employed by Mrs. Marble in the fall of 1890 to run a threshing machine which he then owned, and while doing so I boarded in his home. Later I rented farm land from him and we became more or less intimately acquainted. My personal estimate of him is that he was a man of much more than ordinary ability, energy and perseverance, and had other good qualities, but he was handicapped by a fierce, almost ungovernable temper. His manner was imperious and over-bearing, and when angered his language was profane, insulting and abusive.
Had he taken less interest in the county seat contest and had given more attention to his own business, there is little reason to doubt that he might have been one of the wealthiest and perhaps happiest men in the county. But have we not all made mistakes?
At the time a new court house was ordered built by the voters the Board of Supervisors was composed of C. S. Huntley, of Beaver Twp., A. Meyer, of Colfax; John L. Flynn, of Grant; Alex. Rait, Washington, and John Lister, of Felix. The Board requested each township which was not directly represented on the regular board to elect at the special election one of their citizens to act on an Advisory Board, which would meet with the regular board and confer with and advise with them with regard to all matters pertaining to the new building.
In response to this request an advisory board was elected, composed of the following persons: Fairfield, W. H. Taylor; German, Jurgen Spieker; Shiloh, Geo. W. Mastin; Lincoln, Wumke Wumkes; Black Hawk, I. N. Meyers; Palermo, C. M. Sprague; Clay, A. H. Barnes.
Our county officers at that time were: Treasurer, R. W. Sayre; Clerk of Courts, E. H. Allison; Sheriff, Thomas Brown; Record of Deeds, John P. Suttman; Supt. of Schools, George Kennard; County Attorney, R. J. Williamson, and the writer was county auditor, and I was a busy man from that time until after the completion of the new building.
The county board had been trying to sell the swamp lands owned by the county for several years, but without success. I had advertised these lands for sale, by order of the board, sealed bids to be received until Nov. 12, 1888, but no bids were made.
At the September meeting, 1890, I was instructed to go to Emmet county and personally inspect the land in that county, with a view to ascertain its probable selling price. After arriving in Estherville I learned that our land was in an unsettled part of the county, where a stranger would be unable to locate it, so I employed the county surveyor to go with me and we located the corners by a method I had often used in Grundy county.
We started at a known corner per
--online pg 4 does not contain the middle of article. I think the remaining portion of the article in this edition is from DeSeelhorst - so will need to re-locate it - but placing it here for now until missing portion can (hopefully) be located
eral of us who were then teaching belonged to both. We always had crowded houses and much interest was taken in the debates, readings, papers, etc. These meetings were very beneficial to the young people and were encouraged by the parents and teachers. Some of the teachers then in the work still living in this vicinity are Jake Martz, Mrs. Libbie Severance, Mrs. Margaret Will, Mrs. Harvey Meyers, Mrs. L. B. DeSeelhorst, E. H. Allison, Mrs. H. N. Dilly, and a little later Mrs. T. H. Meyers, Mrs. J. H. Meyers, Mrs. R. V. Koons, Mrs. Ed. Nelson and Mrs. G. W. DeSeelhorst.
Some of the early county superintendents were L. D. Tracy, J. M. Rea, G. R. Stoddard, Mrs. Beers, W. S. Larmon and J. D. Haile. These officers made an effort to visit the schools at least once each year. Some went in buggies, J. D. Haile afoot and W. S. Larmon in a lumber wagon. He usually took hay and grain along for his team and unhitched and fed them at noons. His wife frequently went with him. They took dinner with them and made themselves at home with the teacher and pupils. The salary, I think, was four dollars for each working day. A later superintendent resigned because he thought he was not earning his salary. These days it is different. The teachers received twenty-five to thirty-five dollars per month. I imagine I hear someone say the schools did not accomplish much in the early days. That is absolute "bunk." Many went from the district school into the schoolroom to teach.
Pioneer life was not without some interesting and amusing incidents. In 1873, I think, a joint debate was held in the old court house on the question, "Resolved, That the Republican Party Has Done More for the Country than Has the Democratic Party." On the affirmative were George Baldwin, J. M. Venuum and the writer. Those upholding the negative side of the question were S. Ray Raymond, T. Marshall Moffett and Ed. Lane. The judges were A. J. Hyde, Arthur Paddock and B. E. Benton. The affirmative speakers referred merely to notes while the negative read from manuscripts. We contested every inch of ground, but Raymond in a flight of oratory declared the only thing worthy of note the Republican party ever did was the purchase of the God-forsaken country of Alaska. That staggered the speakers of the affirmative. They answered the best they could, but the judges being one Republican, one Democrat and one half Republican and half Democrat, decided against us. Well, we had the experience and lots of fun. The actors in the drama, except Mr. Raymond and myself, have crossed the Great Divide, as near as I have been able to ascertain.
In 1873, a son of a Presbyterian minister of Grundy Center, taught the summer term of school in district number four, Palermo. He boasted that the boys of that vicinity would learn from him how to do things. Accordingly, the boys of the neighborhood many ready to entertain the young pedagogue. He was invited to go sniping one night. He was very eager to have the experience and wanted to hold the sack. He was granted the privilege. A seat was provided which spanned a small stream. Seated on a board holding the sack, he waited for the snipes to run in. After allowing our friend to hold his seat until nearly midnight the lights were extinguished and the teacher returned home somewhat wiser and vowing the hayseeds were one ahead.
In the summer of 1872 Win McClure, who in after years became a railroad evangelist, laid out on section one, Melrose township, which was then an unbroken prairie, a race track. Horse racing on Sunday was a pastime during the summer for those inclined that way. Another track was opened on the George Frost farm west of where his house now stands. There frequently races were run and occasionally a fight took place.
In 1877, when the railroad was completed to this place, Jas. Aplin, then cashier of the Beckman Bank, organized a small cavalry contingent to meet the first train that rolled in along the majestic Black Hawk. We were located on the open field from the Fullerton lumber yards to the depot. Soon the whistle of the first locomotive reverberated through the Black Hawk valley and all was excitement for the thousands that met to celebrate the event. A barbecue was held near where W. D. Wilson's home is now, where oxen were roasted, hams boiled and everything else for the big feast was prepared and furnished free. Music and speaking was indulged in and Grundy Center took on new life in every avenue of business.
In the summer of 1875 or 1876 a baseball club was organized and we played Saturday afternoons on the southeast quarter of section 6, Palermo township. Our friend, Herbert Quick, was with us frequently, but was handicapped in playing owing to a lame leg.
In 1874 there was held a Fourth of July celebration in Hickory Grove, described by Herbert Quick as "Crabapple Grove" in "Vandermark's Folly," where gathered a large number of people of the surrounding country. I think C. F. Clarkson was speaker of the day and E. H. Beckman chairman. The anti-monopoly sentiment was at its height. It really was a Grange picnic. Several banners besides the Stars and Stripes were in evidence. The Grange from Lincoln and Colfax planted their anti-monopoly banner in front of the speaker's stand. He, being a wheel-horse of the Republican party refused to speak unless they were removed. Chas. Philbrick, the two Relyeas, W. S. Larmon and others protested and made dire threats if any attempt was made to lower it. I stood within a few feet of the platform and these men and was much interested in the outcome. In the course of a short time the advice of cooler heads prevailed, the banner remained and the speaker proceeded. Herbert Quick was present at this meeting.
In 1869, when I broke the land I now own, on Section Seven, Palermo, being on the north Eldora road, which was then laid out, very few vehicles except wagons passed that way. In fact a buggy or carriage was a rare sight. I remember C. F. Clarkson was the owner of a one-seated carriage and passed that way frequently. But now that way of travel is entirely too slow, even for buggies and carriages.
In August or September, 1877, a brutal murder was committed in Melrose township, near the Clarkson schoolhouse, when Wypka Martin, fourteen or sixteen years of age, lost her life. She had been a pupil of Mrs. L. B. DeSeelhorst the winter before. Her body was found in the cornfield a few rods from the road. A man by the name of Glyndon was arrested at Eldora the same night and accused of the crime. He was brought to Grundy Center the next day. That afternoon a large gathering of men of western Grundy county and eastern Hardin county came to Grundy Center with the avowed purpose of lynching Glyndon, but they lacked organization, and through the skill of Sheriff Levi Dilly and his deputies he was taken to Waterloo and lodged in jail. He was afterwards tried and sentenced to the penitentiary for life, served forty years and was pardoned out.
On October 31st, 1878, I married Nellie Fenton of Hardin county. Times were the hardest that year we had known since coming to the state. Wheat, the main crop, was selling for 35 cents per bushel, oats and corn 15 cents and 16 cents, hogs $1.90 to $2.40 per hundred. Interest rates were 24 per cent, which was usuary, the legal rate being 10 per cent. But to avoid violation of the law, when we borrowed a hundred dollars for a year, the bank would give us $86.00 and the note would draw 10 per cent. So when we were married, instead of taking a little wedding trip as we had contemplated, we took invoice of our cash and concluded it could not be done. We both taught that winter, I receiving thirty dollars per month and my wife thirty-five dollars, both having the same grade certificates, but teaching in different townships.
Wheat was the main crop in the '70s but the farmers saw that to continue in that course would lead to bankruptcy so they changed to diversified farming and stock raising.
The present bankruptcy law, the most obnoxious law ever placed on our statute books, was unknown. Granges, Farmers' Alliances and Farmers Institutes were organized, working together to better our condition. I helped to organize the first Institute in the county. Such men as "Tama Jim" Wilson, L. S. Coffman, John Cowie and Henry Wallace came and helped us along until recently the Farm Bureau has taken the work in hand and is doing a fine work.
Until 1879 Palermo and Washington township were one district school township. In March that year Grundy Center was set apart from Palermo township and organized an independent district, and the others as district townships. The first officers of Palermo District Township were D. O. Collins, President; L. B. DeSeelhorst, Secretary, who served thirty years, J. F. Lynn, Treasurer, serving twenty-eight years; directors, Albert Clark, Samuel Bockes, Henry Bockes, Edward Ranger, John Estabrook and A. P. Walker. The first officers mentioned served as directors in their respective districts. Many other things came under my observation that I might relate, but they have been very nicely written by others.
In February, 1909, we very reluctantly left the farm and the business we had followed for over forty years. I was always in love with my work and ready at all times to defend its principles. This calling has made rapid strides in the last half century and may well be called the bulwark of our great commonwealth. We have seen great changes in the past fifty years. What is in store for the rising generation in the next half century?
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 21 February 1924, pg 1, 4, 8
I regret that while mentioning the names of the members of the County Board of Supervisors at the time the court house was built, by some error those of Mr. John J. Schultz, member from Pleasant Valley township, and Mr. N. Brickman, member from Shiloh township, were omitted.
Both of these men were members of the county board and Mr. Schultz served as a member of the Building Committee from the first until the building was completed. Mr. Brickman was appointed to fill the vacancy on the Building Committee caused by the resignation of Mr. John L. Flynn, who was chairman of the County Board.
Mr. Schultz and Mr. Brickman gave excellent service as members of the County Board and also of the Building Committee.
Referring to the matter of the sale of swamp lands received from the government by the county, the proceeds of which were used as part payment of the new court house, I find that the statement of receipts as given in my letter of last week is $697.75 short of the full amount collected, that sum having been collected as interest on deferred payments, after the report from which I quoted was made to the Board.
A final report of the proceeds of sales of swamp lands sold made at a later date gives in detail the following items: number of acres sold; description of same; name of purchaser; cash payment; deferred payment. This report was examined and approved by the Board, and from it I take the following items:
Total amount of Swamp Land received, 2273.85 acres, of which 40 acres were in Grundy county, for which the sum of $1,000 was received. The remaining amount, 2233.85 acres, was located in Emmet county, Iowa, and it was sold for $15,444.43.
The sum of $1,385.34 was received as interest on deferred payments, making the total sum received from the sale of all swamp lands amount to $17,829.77.
Prior to 1891, there was no uniform series of text books in use in the schools in the county. Each district used such books as they happened to have, which was a serious expense and annoyance to all families moving from one district to another.
In accordance with a statute recently enacted, our Board met in May of that year as a Board of Education and selected a series of text books to be used in all of the schools in the county and made contracts with the publishers of same, four in number, by which all old books then in use in the schools could be turned in to the different book companies within a period of two years and a new book of the same kind and grade would be given for it.
As an inducement for the selection of their books, the publishers also agreed to make a gift of certain books to each school.
The American Book Company agreed to furnish three sets of readers to each school, amounting to 1,815 in all, to be used as supplementary readers. The other companies were to furnish in the same way Primary Geographies, Advanced Geographies, Spellers, Primary Histories, Easy Lessons in Science, Living Creatures on Land, and in Water and Air, Familiar Animals and their Wild Kindred, Friends in Feathers and Fud, and Neighbors with Hoofs and Claws, numbering 1,089 books, which with the readers made a total of 2,904 books in all.
The value of these books at retail price as sold by the different companies was $1,109.11. These books were all delivered in accordance with the contract and distributed among the schools by the Supt. of Schools.
In order to facilitate the exchange of old books for new, and to accommodate the public, an agent was appointed in each town in the county and also in the towns outside, but near the border, to receive new books and sell them and also to make exchanges. These agents, 17 in all, were in most cases men who had been handling school books up to that time. Each of them had to give bond to secure the county against loss.
The law put the transaction of all of this business in the county auditor's office, instead of that of the superintendent of schools, where in my opinion it properly belonged. Coming as it did at the time when the new court house was being built, it was a terrific burden, and much more difficult to manage than any business in connection with the new building.
When the time limit for the exchange of old books expired, the agents sent in their reports and the school book companies also sent in their's, with claims for sums due them under their contract.
The two reports agreed with regard to the number of new books received by the different agents, but differed greatly with regard to the number of old books sent in by the different agents in exchange.
After a long time spent in trying to effect a settlement, I happened to be in Chicago and called at the office of the American Book Company. They showed me the packages received from the different agencies in our county, and the difficulty was easily seen.
Comparatively few complete old books were sent in, and in many instances a few leaves were fastened together and listed as a book.
The Company claimed that some old books had been divided up into several parts and each part called a book. Some of our agents had put leaves of all kinds of books in an indiscriminate mass, which they had listed as a certain number of books.
I presented the matter to the Board, and asked for advice as to getting a settlement of the matter. They thought that while the agents had evidently been much more careful to protect the rights of their customers than those of the book companies, we should stand by the agents until their reports were proven to be wrong.
I wrote to each book company, saying that by instruction of the Board I was ready to send them county warrants for the sums due them as shown by the agents' reports as soon as they would accept such sums in full settlement. I was deluged with letters from the different book companies for several months following, but had no time to reply to them.
Finally one company after another decided to settle on the basis of our agents' reports, and the matter was soon closed, and I felt greatly relieved. It had been the most annoying and difficult matter I had ever had in charge. This school book matter was later turned over to the superintendent of schools, much to the relief of every county auditor in the state.
Our records show that the old books received in exchange for new amounted to $1,355.77, and the entire expense to the county was $190.08. At the prices now charged for school books, the old books would, of course, make a much larger sum.
The idea of uniformity of school books in the different schools of the county was without doubt very good, and it would have been still better if it had included the entire state.
Toward the close of my term of office as county auditor, I purchased a small interest in the First National Bank, of Grundy Center. Some time afterward it was thought best to make some changes in its management, and I was elected cashier.
Geo. Wells, of whom the town of Wellsburg was named, had been president of the bank for a number of years, but his interest not being large, he gave the bank little or no attention.
Mr. Wells was a Connecticut Yankee who came west without means, but being a man of good business judgment and boundless energy, he had acquired a large tract of land and other property.
He commenced to break up his home farm in 1855 and later moved on it, making it his home until the time of his death.
During the Civil War he traveled over Iowa and adjoining states buying cattle for P. D. Armour, the meat packer of Chicago, and I think got his start that way. At one time he owned more than 7000 acres of land in Grundy county, but later sold the greater part of it and invested his money in cheaper land in Kossuth and Emmet counties.
He served one term as representative in the legislature from this county, but preferred to do business and did not ask, nor want, another term.
He was a shrewd dealer, brusque and short in his speech, but honest and upright in business.
At the time that I took charge as cashier, Mr. Wells bought a controlling interest, and so we were closely connected with each other in a business way. He was very positive and determined when he made up his mind on any matter of importance, but we got along very nicely.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 28 February 1924, pg 10
Although Iowa was strongly Republican in politics, Horace Boies, of Waterloo, was elected governor on the Democratic ticket in 1890, and served as such the four succeeding years.
He was an able attorney and had practiced law in the courts of our county for a long time, owned something more than four sections of land a short distance from the Center, and was well acquainted throughout the county.
He gave the state a good businesslike administration, without any fuss or feathers, was not strongly partisan, and enjoyed the approval of all. After his retirement in 1895 he quit the practice of law and gave his time to the management of his farms near our town, making his home there.
His record as governor had given him a wide and favorable acquaintance through the country, and he was frequently mentioned as a probable candidate for the nomination as President of the United States by the Democratic Convention of 1896. One day Mr. Wells remarked that he was going to Chicago to the Democratic convention to see Mr. Boies nominated for President and urged me to go with him. When the time came one lone Republican boarded an excursion train in company with fifteen or more good Democrats, among whom were Geo. Wells, R. J. Williamson, Geo. W. Mastin, Chris Schafer and others. Of course, I had to stand a good many jokes which were thrown at me in a good natured way by the bunch.
The first night we were in the hotel Mr. Wells and I had a room to ourselves, but occupied different beds.
The second night we were asked to double up, and the second bed was given to two other men. One morning we were surprised to find a fifth man sleeping on a cot which was crowded in between the two beds.
He explained that he was a Delegate to the Convention from South Carolina, but had been delayed and could not come with the other delegates from his state, and had trouble finding a place to stay. To accommodate him the hotel clerk had opened our door, and put the cot in our room upon which he had slept.
Mr. Wells was provoked and said they had no right to open our door after we had retired.
In talking, the man asked me if I too was a delegate, to which I replied that I was a Republican and simply an onlooker at the Convention.
He evidently thought he had got into a nest of Republicans, and went on to say, "In our state, and in fact all over the South, only carpet baggers, poor white trash and niggers belong to the Republican party. But I understand that in the North it is the other way around, and the best people there are Republicans, while the Democrats have most of the worthless crowd in their party. I am sure that if I lived in the North I would be a Republican, as I always like to associate with the best people."
I had a good laugh at the expense of my Democratic friends.
We were unable to get seats together in the Convention Hall, and I was seated alone, so far from the speakers' stand that I could neither hear nor see the orators of the occasion very well.
While seated there one afternoon my southern friend came along the aisle, recognized me, and stopped a moment to comment on the distance I was away from the seat of war, and then went on.
He returned in a few moments and motioned for me to come with him, which I did. He led the way, his badge as delegate probably giving him the right of way, until we reached the platform on which were seated the delegates. Chairs for the alternates were in the immediate rear of the delegates, and he seated me in one of the numerous vacant seats reserved for them, and I was nominally at least acting Alternate Delegate from the great state of South Carolina for the afternoon. When the Convention adjourned, he asked me to meet him next morning at the hotel where he was then staying and he would get me a seat in the same place for the next day, but I was too late to find him when I called; and I have never seen him since.
The Boies headquarters were at the Sherman House, and we spent a good part of our time in the evenings marching and shouting for Boies. A Boies for President parade was put on one day and we had a line of men many blocks in length in the streets, and made a very good showing of strength.
The day finally came when W. J. Bryan, almost unknown up until that time, made his famous "Cross of Gold" speech. A young woman snatched a flag from its moorings, went up and down the aisles waving it and shouting like a crazy person, the audience sprang to their feet--and pandemonium reigned. Under the wildest excitement Mr. Bryan was nominated.
Of course, we were badly disappointed. I thought then, and I still think, that of the two men Mr. Boies, if elected, would make much the best President. He was a man of plain, common sense ideas, and his mental make-up was such that he would carry them into execution regardless of opposition. Mr. Bryan is of a visionary turn of mind and a dreamer. His best service is rendered as a teacher and inspirer of others, and I think that history proves that men of that type have generally proven failures when called upon to act.
These are my own personal opinions, and I do not claim any special wisdom on the subject.
In the summer of 1898 a stranger came into town and stayed several weeks. He had it understood that he was employed as a detective by one of the large agencies, but made no statement as to what he was looking up.
He spent most of his time out in the country and awakened the curiosity of the people by his frequent appearance in the vicinity of the Boies farm.
One day our bank received a letter from Frank Keys, a live stock commission man of Chicago, dated July 7, 1898, which said: "We received two cars of cattle today from a man claiming to be John Hayden, of Grundy Center, but the cattle were shipped from Beaman, Iowa. He wanted the currency, amounting to over $2200, but as he could not identify himself, we refused to give him the money."
"He refused to allow us to wire to either place for identification, so I think there is a 'nigger in the fence' somewhere."
"He finally asked us to deposit the money in the First National Bank of Grundy Center to his credit, but I prefer to hold it until I know I am sending it right. They were grass cattle weighing 1122 pounds and sold for $4.30. Let us hear from you at once."
I wired Keyes to hold the money until he heard from us again.
As there were no country phones at that time, I drove out at once to Gov. Boies' place, as I had heard the stories about a stranger having been seen in his pasture several times.
He had been mowing and was just driving up to the barns as I got there. He had not missed any cattle, but he got into my buggy and we drove out to a pasture where he had been keeping forty-nine head of steers, which he intended to feed the next winter. The fence was down and the cattle were gone.
It developed that the thief had gone into the pasture to get the cattle accustomed to his presence.
He had ordered two cars in Beaman a few days before, in which to ship the cattle to Chicago. He had stolen a horse from John H. Blewitt, a farmer who then lived a short distance away, had torn the fence down in the night and driven the cattle to Beaman, assisted by a young man who was frequently seen with him while on his tramps.
Chas. Wilhelm, who lived on the Beaman road, heard them go past his place about 3 o'clock in the morning, and suspecting all was not right, got up and went to the Desmarias farm, where he counted the cattle there and finding them all right, went back to bed.
Mr. Blewitt, missing his horse, called on Sheriff Freese to assist him, and they went to Iowa Falls, where Forepaugh's Big Show was that day, where they made a thorough search, but without results. A few days later Mr. Blewitt was notified that his horse was in a pasture near Beaman, where the thief had turned it loose.
The fellow had smooth sailing until he reached Chicago, and he then lost out.
Mr. Boies offered a reward for the apprehension of the thief, but so far as I know he was never heard of again. We obtained the money for Mr. Boies, but of course he suffered a loss, because the cattle were not ready for market and were sold at a low price.
Grundy Center experienced the most destructive fire in its history in the early morning of February 9, 1899.
The fire was first discovered by Henry Boysen, the night watch, and he promptly gave the alarm. It started in the sample room of the Central Hotel, owned and run by M. H. Post, which was situated on the corner now occupied by the post office. It was a frame building veneered with brick, which made it more difficult to control the fire than if it had been built of either material only.
The first to respond were F. J. Frost, Ben Lee, A. E. Albright, Otto Wegstein and Lou Robins. They got out the hose and attached it to the hydrant and turned on the water, and they think they could have controlled the fire if they had had sufficient help to handle the hose properly at once. There was a strong wind and the thermometer was down to 32 (some say 38) below.
The boys tried hard to confine the fire to the hotel building, but failed; and it went on in its furious rage, and the Herald building, Blewitt's harness shop, DeSeelhorst & Clark's furniture store and Daniel Kerr's building were burned like so much chaff.
"Mr. Post's loss was $12,000; insurance $5,000. The building in which the Herald was located is a total loss, and also the material, including the presses. We are informed that Mr. Hand had no insurance. The building was owned by the Hunter brothers of Des Moines. John H. Blewitt's loss was $900 on building and $500 on stock, partly insured. DeSeelhorst & Clark's loss on stock was $5,000 insurance $3,000. The building was owned by DeSeelhorst & Morse, and was insured for $1,000. Misses Ballou and Shaw's building was torn almost to pieces in the effort to stop the fire. Daniel Kerr's building was insured for $400; loss $1,000. Oltman and Ayken's stock was mostly removed, insurance $300. The Odd Fellows hall was torn down to stop the fire.
"Fire items. Ed. Cole's dog, Pete, lost his life in the first. Jas. T. Wilson lost 25 pounds of meat. Mayor Burns led in the fight against the fire. The M. E. Parsonage was on fire three different times. Hotel Wegstein furnished hot coffee free to the fire boys. The material in the Democrat office was taken out, for fear of fire. Two of the Central House guests failed to get into their clothes until after they reached the street. A. P. Colvin's residence and barn were on fire several times. Mrs. J. C. Bourne opened her house to the men and boys who assisted in fighting the fire. Fred Taft froze his heels while standing on the M. E. parsonage putting out fires. Alex. Campbell, who was sick, was removed from his room in the hotel, but not until it was filled with dense smoke. Mrs. Stella Sargent and Mrs. Wm. Moffett served hot coffee to the men and boys. Will Hardie, who lived upstairs in Kerr's building, lost his cook stove, some fruit and $15 worth of paint. The guests of the Central House who lost all of their clothes are H. A. Willoughby, Matt Helberger, Mike Duffy, D. A. Moser and Alex Campbell. Landlord Post's family saved only a small part of their clothing and other effects. They made their way out of the building through a window on the second floor. Geo. W. Morrison expected his building to go, and he removed his horses, drays, harness, etc. Jacob's Department Store was in line with the fire, and they used plenty of salt and water as a protection. A number of the boys had their feet badly frozen. James J. Dalgliesh froze the toes on one foot and will limp for a month. F. J. Frost suffered a like injury to one of his feet while at the hydrant. D. W. Reynolds had a thrilling experience in the Hotel building. Post called for help to handle the hose and Charley went to his assistance. After a while the hose was taken to another part of the building. The smoke was so dense that Charley could not find his way out. He had about given up hope of ever getting out alive when he heard a voice, and going in the direction from which it came, he found the stairway and made his way into the street."
The foregoing items are taken from the Grundy County Democrat, published in Grundy Center.
The burned district has since been built up with much better buildings than those that burned.
Geo. Wells, our bank president, approaching old age, failed in health, and his mind weakened to such an extent that his sister, Mrs. Nelson, of Faribault, Minn., petitioned the Court to appoint a guardian to take charge of his person and extensive property.
Charles Biebesheimer, of Wellsburg, and I were appointed such guardians at the September, 1905, Court, and our surety bond was fixed at one million dollars, which was furnished by two eastern companies, each furnishing one-half of the required amount. This was said to be the largest bond ever given by private individuals in the state of Iowa up to that time. It was certainly the only matter amounting to a million dollars with which I was ever connected as one of the principals, or ever will be. Williamson & Willoughby and A. N. Wood all of this place, were our attorneys. We immediately made an inventory of all of the property for which we were then responsible and employed Robert Hamilton to continue as general overseer and manager. He had been acting in that capacity for Mr. Wells for a number of years and had proven himself both competent and reliable, and knew more about Mr. Wells' farm affairs than he did himself.
Mr. Wells continued to fail in health and died August 2nd, 1906, when a few months over 85 years of age. His wife had passed away about eleven years before, and he had no living children. An only child, George Frank, died in 1861 when about eight years of age. He had made two wills, one before the death of his wife, in which he left most of his property to her, and another a few years before his own death in which most of his property was given to his own relatives.
A legal fight was on at once between the relatives of his wife, who claimed the last will was made after he had become incompetent, and his own relatives, who denied such allegations. Some of the best legal talent in the state was employed by the litigants, including Judge Wade of Iowa City, now holding the position of U.S. Judge of Southern Iowa. Almost an entire year was spent in preparation for the legal contest, when the parties at interest came to an agreement and the case was settled out of court.
After Mr. Wells' death Mr. Biebesheimer and I were appointed Special Administrators of the estate, and we continued to have the care and control of all the property until we filed our report in the Clerk's office, which was examined by the attorneys on both sides and approved by the Court at a special session, held in September, 1907.
We had been in charge about two years in all and our report shows that we had accounted for personal property amounting to $465,518.24, of which $310,483.30 was deposits in banks, mostly in Chicago.
The remainder of the personal property consisted of bank stock, live stock, farm machinery and notes, all of which had been appraised under direction of the court.
The real estate consisted of 1440 acres of land in Grundy county appraised at $192,400.00 and 7255 1/2 acres in Kossuth and Emmet counties appraised at $239,611.22, making a total of 8,695 1/2 acres, of an appraised value of $432,011.22.
In addition to the above there were 40 town lots in Germania, Iowa, two lots in Steamboat Rock and a half interest in 752 acres in Kossuth County, Iowa, the other half being owned by E. G. Seymour, of Germania, and the old Wells homestead of about 100 acres near Bristol, Conn.
Of course, we were prepared to make a showing of all of our acts with regard to the management of the property in the event that it should be necessary, but were pleased to learn that none of our acts were objected to by either side.
I supposed that my connection with the matter of the estate of Geo. Wells had ended with our dismissal as special administrators, but about a year after our discharge I received a notice that I had been chosen to act with James L. Gavin, an attorney of Indianapolis, Ind., whose wife was one of the heirs, as special commissioners whose duty it was to divide the estate into six parts as nearly equal as possible.
The heirs of Mr. Wells' estate consisted of a brother, Ralph Wells, who had been an inmate of an insane asylum in Minnesota for a number of years; Mrs. Mary Nelson, of Faribault, Minn.; Mrs. Sophia Robinson, of Hartford, Conn., and the heirs of three deceased sisters, who were scattered over the country from New York City to the Pacific coast.
These people had been unable to agree upon a plan of dividing the property of the estate, and such division was held up for about a year by their disagreement. They finally entered into a compact to have the real estate divided into six parts, one for each of the family branches, and Mr. Gavin and I were selected as commissioners to make such division, we to select a third man if we thought best to do so.
After some correspondence with Mr. Gavin he came here, and we selected Robert Hamilton, who was thoroughly acquainted with all of the land, as he has served Mr. Wells as manager for years, and filled the same position for the special administrators, to act as the third man.
We went carefully over each tract and made notes as to its location, improvement, soil and all other items having a bearing on its probable value. We then divided it into six parts, making a separate division of the land in each county from that in the other counties, and adjusted all differences in values by cash amounts.
We had six plats made which were numbered from one to six, each of which showed the land included, with the valuations of same and amount of cash adjustments.
All of the heirs were notified to meet with us at the Auditorium Hotel, in Chicago, on the 21st day of December, 1908, when a final division would be made. Each of the different families was represented by one or more of its members, including Ralph Wells, who was represented by an attorney.
The plats were distributed among them and our method of making the division explained, and they were told to ask any questions or make such objections as they might wish to make before we proceeded further.
No objections being offered, we placed cards numbered from one to six in a box. A bell boy was called in, blindfolded, and told to draw a card for the oldest family head, and so on down to the sixth and youngest of the family groups. Of course each number drawn gave to that particular family for whom it was drawn the tract of land shown on the plat designated by that number.
A family dinner had been ordered, and we spent two hours or longer visiting, and I am certain that a better family feeling existed among them than they had ever known before; and I also feel certain that whatever jealousy may have arisen with regard to the property to which they had fallen heir was extinguished.
They each thanked us for our services and the evident fairness with which we had made the division, and assured us that they were entirely satisfied with the manner in which it had been done. If there was any dissatisfaction among them, I have never heard of it.
Once more I felt thankful to have assisted in performing a task which might have proven very unpleasant, but which ended with apparent satisfaction to all concerned, including ourselves.
In writing about the trial of George Clevenger for the murder of Peter Nelson, I made the assertion that he was tried in Black Hawk county, which was an error.
Not remembering very much about that trial, I went to the office of the Clerk of Courts and with the assistance of the deputy we traced the Record until we found that at an adjourned term, held in December 1878, Clevenger's attorneys asked for a change of venue to Black Hawk county, and same was granted. Supposing that ended the matter, we did not look any farther into the record.
It seems, however, that H. B. Fouke, who had been elected district Attorney at the November election to succeed J. B. Powers, took the matter up at the January session of the Black Hawk county court, and asked that the case be remanded back to Grundy county for trial, giving five reasons therefore, the principal of which were that no showing had ever been made that the defendant could not have a fair trial in Grundy county and that the change of venue was by agreement of the attorneys on each side, which was illegal.
After arguments by the attorneys, Judge Bagg, presiding, made an Order remanding the case back to Grundy county.
Clevenger, although indicted for murder, was allowed to give bail, which was first fixed at $1000, but at this term it was reduced to $500.
The case came on for trial in Grundy Center and the jury rendered a verdict of "Not Guilty," May 6th, 1879.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 6 March 1924, pg 1, 4
The people of the present day, who are accustomed to nearby railroad facilities, cannot understand their value to the same extent as do those early settlers, who had to go a long distance, over bad roads, in all kinds of weather, to market their products and get necessary supplies.
There was not a railroad town in the county until 1877, and less than one-fifth of a mile of track on Grundy county land, those few rods being where the Illinois Central railroad cuts off a small corner of Section 1 in Fairfield township. The residents of the county were compelled to go to towns outside our border in order to do their marketing, usually a long distance from their homes, until the B. C. R & N. R. R. was built across the central part of the county, furnishing new life and activity to Grundy Center and establishing the new towns of Reinbeck, Holland and Wellsburg.
The C. & N. W. was built across the southern part of the county in 1880, where the flourishing towns of Conrad and Beaman are located.
In 1884 the C. & G. W. was built across the southeastern part, giving to Reinbeck a second railroad line.
In 1899 the C. & N. W. built a second line, this time across the northern part of the county, establishing the towns of Dike, Stout and Zanetta.
I doubt that it is very generally known that a railroad was built from Liscomb in Marshall county to Beaman, which was operated for about a year and a half, during which time trains, such as they were, pulled by a steam engine passed over it. Later it was operated by horse power and finally abandoned.
This railroad was known as The Farmers Union Railway. The company was organized in Liscomb March, 1874. John W. Tripp was president and William Battin, secretary. Stock was subscribed by farmers along the line and by business men in Liscomb in sums of from $100 to $5,000. The road was a narrow gauge and the rails were of wood, which was in all probability the chief cause of its failure. The ties and rails were obtained from timber growing about a mile west of Liscomb, where Mr. Tripp had a saw mill, and the first mile of the road was built from that mill to Liscomb.
The first train entered Beaman the day before Christmas, 1875, the engineer being Herb Brown, said to be a competent man, with John Stahl as fireman. Mr. Brown's father was the superintendent of the road.
Trains were run between Liscomb and Beaman until June, 1876, when the wooden rails shrank and the road became unsafe. The first, and perhaps only accident, happened in April, 1876, when the little engine tipped off the track while going through "Uncle" John Conrad's cow pasture, a short distance south of where Conrad is now located. Although the train was thought to have been moving at a speed of almost thirty miles per hour, both engineer and fireman escaped injury by jumping from the little engine to the side opposite that to which it fell.
The engine was placed on the tracks again and things went as usual until June of that year, where the company which had furnished the engine, not having been paid, became alarmed and took it away.
After the engine was gone two Liscomb men planked the bridges, put small cars on the road and operated it a few months by horsepower, but finally it was abandoned and the road disappeared.
The C. & N. W. used about two miles of the grade just west of Beaman and their trains now run over that much of the road.
The town of Beaman was platted in 1875, just before the road was built. About three miles of grading was done and piling driven for two bridges on the way from Beaman to Grundy Center, the intention being to build the road to this place.
It was an unfortunate disaster for the men who invested in it. Solon S. Beaman and his two sons, H. H. and H. S. Beaman, were badly hurt financially, as they were among the heaviest investors and most enthusiastic stockholders. I am very glad to be able to say that they were able to overcome the disaster in time and were in very good circumstances before the death of the elder Mr. Beaman. H. S. Beaman, the only member of the family now alive, is a resident of Monrovia, California.
Elias Macy, of Melrose township, was the first county superintendent of schools. He was elected in 1856 and there were at that time only ten schools in the county.
The Grundy Center schoolhouse of that time was a small frame building which stood near the corner of the block, about where the Nickerson garage now stands. This small building was used for school purposes during the week and religious services were held in it on Sundays.
The first school teacher in Grundy Center was Miss Ellen M. Lawrence. Prof. S. D. Gaylord had a sort of Normal, or preparatory school, in the court room of the old court house for a year or two, but lacking sufficient patronage, it finally was abandoned.
The second school house was a frame building on the block now used for school purposes, which was built in 1874. It was a two story building with but two rooms, one above the other. The lumber for this building was hauled from Cedar Falls. Four or five years later an addition was built on the north side, giving it two rooms below and the same above.
In 1884, a brick building of fair size, two stories high, having four rooms below and the same above was built close to the frame building and almost in the center of the square, and the frame building was removed from the block. This building met the needs of the town fairly well, until 1894, when a commodious brick school building was erected in the southeastern part of town and for a few years both buildings were in use.
In 1915 and 1916 the old brick building was taken down, the ground graded and the present fine structure was built. After the completion of this last building the brick schoolhouse in the southeast part of town was donated by the citizens to the German Reformed Church to be used as a College.
The building has been remodeled, a fine Dormitory for the use of non-resident students erected, and other improvements made.
The name has been changed to "Grundy College," and under the wise and efficient management of Dr. Bode, the president, it has grown in a very satisfactory manner. Students gather from all parts of the country to receive the benefits of a Christian education which it is prepared to give. May it continue to prosper, is the hope of all.
For more than twenty-five years I was honored by being elected a member of the School Board, a part of which time I was further honored by being selected to serve as president of the same, and as a result I was fairly well acquainted with the teachers then employed.
My reason for mentioning these facts at this time is that I wish to pay a tribute of respect to the superintendents and teachers who served this community so faithfully and well during that period.
With but very few exceptions, our School Superintendents gave excellent service and are deserving of credit for the work done by them.
Without any intention of being partial in my estimate of these men, I think that four of them, W. D. Wells, J. E. Stout, C. L. Love and H. C. Moeller are deserving of special mention.
Prof. Wells took charge when the school was not properly graded and was in a comparatively low condition, and was much in need of a master brain to guide and improve it. By his untiring energy and fine ability he soon placed it on a high plane along every line of its activities.
Prof. Stout, scholarly, industrious and able as a teacher and devoted to his work, left the imprint of a genuine Christian gentleman upon all who were so fortunate as to be under his care and influence.
In addition to his faithful and successful attention to his ordinary school duties Prof. Love, being a good musician, organized a boys' band in his school which he trained one or more evenings each week, and in an incredibly short time he had a Band of which he had every reason to be proud. For such extra services he neither asked nor received any pay in money, but was no doubt well paid by the genuine satisfaction he felt in having served and inspired the boys under his care.
Prof. Moeller was a teacher in fact as in name, and no effort was too great for him to give toward the advancement of the school.
He was scholarly, industrious, and a genuine friend as well as teacher, and I think his services were known and appreciated by the community in general.
These men, in my judgment, were in point of ability much above the average superintendent employed in towns of this size. They gave their entire time, energy and ability to our school and are worthy of the gratitude which I feel sure all of us have for them.
Prof. Wells was called from his earthly labors a few years ago. The fine qualities and superior abilities of the other men have been recognized and all have been promoted to higher positions in their profession.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 13 March 1924, pg 1, 12
When I first saw Grundy Center, in 1868, it had no church building, and all religious services were held in the small, one-room schoolhouse on the north side of West Main street, and in the court room in the old court house.
Mr. E. H. Beckman, whom I regard as good authority on all matters pertaining to the early history of the county, says that the first religious services held in Grundy Center were conducted by Rev. Martindale, a Baptist minister, in the home of John Freel some time in 1855.
The first sermon by a Methodist minister was preached by Rev. Bethuel Holcomb, August 5th, 1857. The M. E. church organization was formed in 1862 with a membership of only seven persons. They were: Freeman Wass and wife and son, Albert, Lucius Clark and wife, and L. D. Tracy and wife. Rev. Van Anda was pastor. The first resident minister of that denomination was the Rev. Wm. Fawcett. The first M. E. church was built in 1868, a parsonage having been built the year previous.
A new building was erected in 1869-70, and the present building in 1891.
The Rev. A. Carpenter conducted the first regular Baptist church services in 1867. He then lived in a small village known as Secor, or Xenia, which was on the west side of the river, a short distance north of Gifford, in Hardin county, and which for a short time was the county seat of that county.
The location is still marked by three or four old sandstone buildings, long since abandoned. He gave half of his time to the church here for $300 per year. A church was built in 1875 and a parsonage in 1879.
A fine new building was erected in 1902, costing about $16,000, but this building was destroyed by an accidental fire in 1917 and a still more costly building erected in 1918.
A Congregational church was organized at an early day and a wooden building erected, but lacking sufficient membership, the church building was sold to the Brethren membership here, and the members joined the other churches of the town.
The Presbyterian church was first organized in 1869 with a membership of ten. Rev. C. W. French, the first pastor, held services in the court house. He was succeeded by Rev. S. W. James who preached alternate Sundays here and in Steamboat Rock.
The first church building was erected in 1878 and there were sixty-six members at that time. The manse was built in 1884, and the present church building in 1901, at which time the Rev. W. H. Jordan was the pastor.
The Church of the Brethren purchased the wooden building owned by the Congregationalists, and held services in it for a while. Before that time services were held in the schoolhouse for a term of years by Elder H. P. Strickler and others. The church here was at no time an independent organization, but was a part of the Melrose township church, and later a fine new church was erected at Ivester and this branch abandoned. The Ivester building is one of the finest country church buildings in this part of the state, and the church has a large membership and is in a flourishing condition.
The Catholic membership of this town was first served by the Rev. Father J. J. Hanley, who also served the church in Grant township at the same time. He it was who first stirred up an interest in a new church building here.
Rev. Father Hogan was sent here in 1896, as the first resident priest, and the church has been in charge of a resident priest ever since. The church is steadily prospering under the care of the present priest, Rev. Father McDonald.
The German Presbyterian church, with a good sized membership, is a comparatively recent organization. It is a strong, growing church, the membership being mostly Germans as its name indicates. Rev. H. F. Sinning is the pastor, and under his guidance the church is steadily advancing.
While the Grundy College is not a church, Rev. Bode, its efficient President, and several of the professors are ministers, and regular church services are held each Sabbath day and at other times.
There are a number of prosperous country churches, such as the German Reformed church at Lincoln Center and the church in Colfax township for so long a time under the guidance and care of Rev. Drake, which are of untold value to the communities in which they are located. I regret that I am not well enough informed with regard to them to give a more extended account of their activities.
Owing to the changing character of the resident in each community, several country churches, once prosperous have been allowed to become extinct. In 1869 the Adventists were quite numerous in Fairfield township and the surrounding country and about that time they erected a comfortable wooden church building in the southwest corner of Section 5 of that township. A resident minister was employed and the church had a membership larger than many of the churches in the nearby towns. Camp meetings were held regularly each summer in a grove, just across the creek north of New Hartford, which were largely attended by people, some coming a long distance, and from all directions. Of course all who came did not do so from religious motives and occasionally an event happened on the grounds which would not have been allowed if it had been generally known, or if the grounds had police protection. For this the church people were not to blame, as they were honest and sincere in all they did.
At the close of these meetings each year it was the custom to baptize the new converts, by immersion, in the Beaver Creek not far away.
On such occasions a crowd much larger than usual gathered, as the practice of baptizing out doors in a running stream was not a common one at that time, and is much less so now.
As time went on and some of the people left that community, others taking their place, the church lost membership, and finally became extinct. The church building stood vacant for many years, a monument to the good people who built it, but it was finally removed, to be used for some other purpose.
Of course every town in the county is now well supplied with churches of various denominations, and there are also quite a number of prosperous churches in the country, but I am not sufficiently informed to speak intelligently with regard to them.
In early days when wheat was the principal crop raised in this part of the state, a flouring mill was to be found in almost every town where sufficient water could be found to supply the necessary power.
They depended upon the country near by to supply the necessary grain, and also ground grists of wheat brought to them by the people of the surrounding country for their own family use, and to that extent they were a great convenience.
In 1877 David Kepford built a flouring mill near the depot in Grundy Center, but as water power was not available, steam was used instead. He received some financial assistance from the citizens, but the project did not prove to be profitable, and was finally abandoned. After changing hands several times, the building was torn down and removed.
In 1880 J. R. Lynn and J. H. Lighter, two prosperous farmers living in the southwest part of Palermo township, became convinced that a mill in Grundy Center would be a paying investment, and they succeeded in forming a company for the purpose of building a good flouring mill in Grundy Center. In addition to Messrs. Lynn and Lighter the company was composed of the following business men of the town: C. C. Schuler, Daniel Kerr, W. C. Williams, F. G. Moffett, Geo. N. Stark and H. G. Geer. E. H. Beckman extended aid by contributing money, but took no stock.
A frame building of good size was built on a side track near the depot, and it was equipped with the latest make of machinery and everything was put in first class shape for the business for which it was intended, but the expense amounting to more than $42,000, was much in excess of their expectations.
The farmers of this section had quit raising wheat as the leading crop, and what was then raised was not of very good quality as a rule, so that most of the wheat used by the company had to be shipped from Minnesota and the Dakotas. The mill was operated at a loss from the start, amounting to something more than $5000 the first year.
As it seemed impossible to avoid suffering heavy losses, it was in operation only eighteen months, when the building and entire outfit was sold and removed to Brainard, Minn.
The company lost every dollar they invested, and it proved particularly disastrous to Messrs. Lynn and Lighter, as they gave their time to it and invested much heavier than any of the others.
Such occurrences are very unfortunate, not only for those who invest their money, but also for the town and community, as it discourages and tends to block all new enterprises. They should demonstrate the folly of attacking those men who invest in business which happens to turn out profitable, a habit altogether too common in these times, as they have to assume all the risk of failure, which is very much greater than is generally supposed.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 20 March 1924, pg 1, 10
T. G. Copp, one of the earliest settlers, is said to have built the first hotel in our town. It was a frame building, built in 1857, and was of fair size for that time. It was known as the Eagle House, and was situated just east of the Skating Rink on the south side of Main and west of Fifth street as our streets are numbered now.
It was run as a hotel by Mr. Copp for a number of years and later by Wm. A. Elliott, E. A. Ford and others, until sometime in the seventies Jacob Slifer built the Slifer House, when it went out of business.
The Slifer House stood on the corner now occupied by the post office and it was the hotel of the town until the advent of the railroad in 1877, when a larger and more commodious hotel was needed. In that year the Slifer House corner was bought by the Smith Brothers of Marshalltown, and they built a three story, brick veneered building called the Central House on it.
The first landlords were P. B. Ellis and his son-in-law, Thomas Warner, who occupied the two upper stories only, the lower room on the west side was used by Worden and Geer as a general store and the room on the east side by Geo. Smith, one of the brothers who owned by building, as a boot and shoe store.
This building was bought by M. H. Post a few years later, and the entire structure was used by him as a hotel, until the disastrous fire of Feb. 9, 1899 destroyed it.
Mr. Post did not rebuild, and the only place for the accommodation of strangers then to be found was the Hotel Wegstein, a small frame building situated in the central part of the block across Main street from the location of the Central House.
This small hotel could not meet the demands of the traveling public, and the necessity of a new hotel was --unreadable-- was not regarded as being profitable and no one felt willing to invest money in it. It required a great deal of effort on the part of those who took an interest in the matter to form a stock company, but they finally succeeded in doing so in 1901, when enough money was pledged to build such a hotel as was thought necessary, and our present Hotel Columbia was then erected at a cost of something more than $14,000.
It was leased to Robert Lindon, who had had some previous experience in that line of business, and he succeeded in buying the stock at practically his own price. The money was advanced by those who took the stock for the benefit of the town, without any expectation of financial returns on their money invested, so there was little disappointment as to the final outcome. Mr. Lindon ran the hotel in a satisfactory manner for a number of years until his health failed, and he sold out to C. H. Ward, the present proprietor, and a worthy success to Mr. Lindon.
For many years the people of Grundy Center and surrounding country had no banking facilities within the county, and the first effort to furnish them was made by Mr. E. H. Beckman when he was County Treasurer.
He made arrangements with one of the Waterloo banks by which he was able to sell bank drafts to those who wanted to send money to distant places. It was difficult for our citizens to get loans of even very small sums because of their lack of acquaintance with those bankers who did business in the towns surrounding us, outside of the county. It was an almost universal custom for merchants to "carry" farmers thru the entire year until they threshed and marketed their wheat, which must have been a heavy burden and caused them many losses.
The entry of the railroad into town gave a great impetus to all kinds of business, and that year E. H. Beckman built a frame building on the spot now occupied by the Grundy County Bank, and in company with D. P. Holt, a resident of Waverly, Iowa, and owner of a number of farms in this county, they started a private bank, with James Aplin as cashier. A few years later Beckman bought Holt's interest the Leavitts of Waterloo and S. R. Raymond became interested and the bank was reorganized as the Grundy County National Bank, which is still doing business at the old stand.
Roger Leavitt, now of Cedar Falls, lived here for several years and took an active part in the management. S. R. Raymond was president of the bank until he moved to Oklahoma City, where he organized a large city bank, in which he is still interested, his son Will being one of the vice-presidents. Mr. Raymond's present home is in Long Beach, Calif.
W. C. Williams and C. C. Schuler also started a bank in 1877, first doing business in a building on the corner now occupied by Hotel Columbia, but later moved into a small wooden building on the First National Bank corner.
They did business as a private bank for a number of years, when Mr. Williams retired and the bank was reorganized, and has since been known as the First National Bank. George Wells, of Wellsburg, was the first president and retained that position until the time of his death.
At one time Aaron Wolf, of Freeport, Illinois, owned a large interest, A. Brannaman was an active officer and the stock was somewhat scattered.
At present the bank is entirely owned and controlled by residents of our town.
In comparatively recent times the Peoples Savings Bank was organized and it is doing business in its own building, on the north side of Main street, almost opposite the post office.
D. E. Munn is said to be the first man who had a general merchandise store in our town. He built a small building in 1860 on the present post office corner, and did business there until 1868. His goods were all hauled by team from Jesup.
Robert W. Pitkin came next as a merchant. He owned the east half of the block directly in front of the courthouse, and had a two story building on it, the lower story being used as a grocery store and the upper story as a harness shop.
A. F. Willoughby then owned and lived on the west half of the same block, but moved his house to the northwest corner of the block, where it stood for many years.
In 1868 Jacob Slifer built a small wooden building on the present hotel corner, and used it as a general merchandise and grocery store for a number of years. Just south of the Slifer store Clifford Clark had a farm implement store for a short time. He was followed by Cook and Carrier with a general store, and then by a man named Billings. D. M. Fay, who will be remembered by many of the old settlers, then took possession and did business for several years.
Geo. N. Stark, for many years a merchant here, first did business in that locality. Miss Sophia Severance had a drug store on the corner now occupied by Halden & Smith in '71 to '73, as nearly as I can remember. R. T. Miller had a general store and residence combined on the corner where the Hawkeye filling station stands, for a number of years. In 1877 Miller and the Elliott brothers built a two story building on the corner directly across Main street from the Hotel Columbia. Mr. Miller used the east part of the lower story as his store room and a Mr. W. N. Goodwin had the west part. The upper story was the town hall and the building was known as the Town Hall Block. This building burned a year or two later and was not rebuilt. A short distance west of the Town Hall Block Wm. B. Elliott had a shop for the repair of farm wagons, a very important business at that time. Thos. Armitage had a blacksmith shop near by.
The town was incorporated in April, 1877, when it could boast of only 437 inhabitants. The first city election was held on the 25th day of May of that year. The officers elected were: Mayor, Daniel Kerr, Recorder, W. C. (Billy) Shimer, Trustees, R. W. Pitkin, J. A. Colvin, I. F. Clark, Volney Kenyon and C. C. Schuler.
Among those who served as Mayor following Mr. Kerr were J. D. Haile, L. D. Tracy, H. L. P. Hillyer, Dr. T. M. Lynn, C. N. Elmer, G. C. Allison, William Stuart, Samuel Hayes, C. C. Schuler, M. A. Buchan, A. N. Wood, J. C. Rice, Dr. J. D. Burns, Dr. W. R. Lynn, C. E. Butler, F. W. Reisinger and others.
The town grew rapidly after the arrival of the railroad in 1877 and all of the principal business blocks were soon occupied by business houses.
On the 16th of January 1879, a disastrous fire destroyed all of the buildings from the First National Bank corner to the Kerr and Campbell building, near the west end of the block, now owned and occupied by R. I. Kurtz.
The damage was soon repaired by the erection of better buildings all made of brick while those destroyed were of wood.
In 1879 E. H. Beckman and C. W. Reynolds built the two story double brick building known as Central Block. Mr. Reynolds used his part for a drug store. The Beckman building has been used as a bank building from the time of its erection to the present.
The same year M. K. Swartz and the Sargent brothers, Joe, W. C. and Capt. E. M. Sargent, who was then a recent arrival from Ohio, built the double brick building known as the Commercial Block. The Sargent Bros. used their part of the building as a general merchandise store. F. G. Moffett bought the Swartz part and with his brother, Marshall, used it as a drug store.
In 1880 H. G. Geer built the building bearing his name and used it for a number of years as a general store.
In 1884 Geo. N. Stark erected the double brick building known as the Commercial Block, which he still owns. He was one of our leading merchants for a number of years. He sold his stock to H. M. Bigelow, who was a worthy successor to Mr. Stark. Both of these men are now residents of Los Angeles, Calif.
In 1885 Dr. E. A. Crouse and the First National Bank erected the present bank building. Jacobs Bros. built the large brick building on the south side of the street now owned by John Banse, in 1887. The I.O.O.F. Hall, Bailey and Raymond Garage the Hummel building and others came later.
Keiter and Kenyon's drug store on the corner where the Hummel building now stands was a prominent place of business for many years. The proprietors, Lou. Keiter and Theodore Kenyon, will be remembered by many. J. C. Bourne came here in 1875, and started in the hardware business under the firm name of Nye & Bourne; later the name was changed to Bourne & Co., and Mr. Bourne was at the time of his death the oldest business man in town as to the number of consecutive years he had been in business here.
Until 1897 we had no jail worthy of the name. An old make-shift affair which stood on the ground now occupied by the Electric Light Plant served as a jail until that year, when the present sheriff's residence and jail was built by the company which erected the schoolhouse, now the Grundy College.
Our first postmaster was Thos. G. Copp, and he was followed by Andrew Meyers, Sr., D. E. Munn, Sophia Severance and C. W. Reynolds, who held the office for 13 consecutive years.
It is said that John H. Keatley was the first lawyer to locate permanently in Grundy Center. He was followed by Capt. E. P. Baker, Capt. J. G. Strong, J. M. Rea, F. G. Moffett, Daniel Kerr, Wm. Smyth, Thos. J. Noll, Samuel Hayes, C. F. Bailey, A. N. Wood, R. J. Williamson and others.
Among the names of the early doctors, we find that of L. Heffelfinger, the first. He came here from Carroll county, Illinois, in 1867, and died in 1869. Dr. Randall, of unsavory reputation, Dr. Etter, Dr. E. A. Crouse, who came in 1872 and has been in constant practice of his profession from that time until the present. Dr. E. M. Heffelfinger, after several years of successful practice in southern Iowa, located here in 1874, and continued the practice of his profession in this place until the time of his death. Dr. J. D. Burns came at a later date and was the only homeopathic physician in our city. Others of a later date are worthy of mention if space would allow.
In 1868 L. D. Tracy, who then lived on his farm in Fairfield township, purchased a printing press, type, etc., moved it from Cedar Falls, and commenced the publication of a county newspaper, in Grundy Center, which he called The Atlas, and which was the first newspaper printed in the county.
Seven years before Mr. Hartman, who lived in Waterloo, caused his paper The Pioneer to be circulated here as a Grundy county product, but it was actually published in Waterloo and it is said the chief reason for calling it a Grundy paper was to obtain the publication of the delinquent tax list of this county. The publication of the Pioneer continued for only one year.
After about one year Tracy sold The Atlas to E. C. Peckham, who about a year later sold it to Geo. K. Shaw, but it soon came back and was again owned by Mr. Tracy.
In 1870 Tracy sold to J. M. Rea and F. G. Moffett, two young attorneys who had just moved here from Mount Carroll, Illinois. These men continued its publication until 1876, when they leased it for one year to Chas. J. Keiter, another Mount Carroll man who had just arrived here, and a year later he bought it.
In 1876 Daniel Kerr, with two partners, Stoughton and Overhoiser, started the publication of a paper called The New Century, which about one year afterward was consolidated with the Atlas, and the new issue was known as The Grundy County Republican. William Gray was the editor of this paper for a time, and then sold to C. I. Keiter, who was the publisher until 1888, when he was appointed postmaster. At that time A. L. Anderson bought a half interest and he was editor and publisher for a number of years.
He was followed by H. E. Moffett now of Eldora, O. E. Smith, now of Spirit lake, Frank K. Stillman, A. L. Rowan and Chas. O. Goodwin.
About the time of the commencement of the world war Goodwin sold to Chas. J. Adams, of Reinbeck, who has been editor and publisher until it was consolidated recently with the Grundy Democrat, which was owned and published by R. R. Clark and J. Vanderwicken. The consolidated paper now appears under the name of The Grundy Register, and the issue of but one paper in the county seat is believed to be a good thing for both publishers and the public.
A number of other papers have been published here, with varied terms of existence since Tracy started The Argus.
Capt. J. G. Strong and Jim Steen started the publication of a Democratic paper in 1877 called The Argus, but it soon passed into the hands of L. D. Tracy, who changed it into a Republican sheet, and it was owned successively by F. B. Hand, Daniel Kerr with S. L. McCoy as partner, and later by Kerr and his son, Geo. H. Kerr, who continued its publication until 1888, when the building in which it was printed, which was also owned by Mr. Kerr, was destroyed by a disastrous fire, which started in the furniture store owned by Fred DeSeelhorst and spread to other buildings. The entire printing equipment was destroyed and The Argus became a thing of the past.
In 1890 to 1893 a paper called the Courier, a part of which was printed in the German language, was published by John Snyder. At another time The Independent was published by a man named Walter Jewett for a short time.
Charles D. Houston, who moved from here to Cedar Rapids, where he was later elected mayor of that city, was engaged in the newspaper business for several years. The Hunter Brothers published one of our papers for a short time, but moved from here to Des Moines, where they were connected with a prominent fire insurance company.
F. B. Hand and A. G. Briggs were the publishers of the Grundy County Herald until it was destroyed by the fire of 1899.
In 1896 F. W. Alexander commenced the publication of the Grundy County Democrat, which he continued until 1902, when he sold out to J. Vanderwicken, who was editor and publisher until the time of his appointment as postmaster, when it was taken in charge by J. W. Conrad, who a year later disposed of his interest to R. R. Clark, who was editor and publisher until it was recently merged with The Grundy Republican, and is now known as The Grundy Register, in which Messrs. Adams, Vanderwicken and Clark are all interested.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 27 March 1924, pg 1, 4
Until 1896 kerosene lamps and other unsatisfactory methods of lighting were in use on our streets, business houses, and private residences. In that year Dr. B. E. Strickler bought a second hand electric light plant in Savanna, Illinois, and after making a contract with our city council as to lighting the streets and location of the plant, he moved the boilers and machinery here, and the plant was set up on city property, which our present light plant now occupies. On the first day of August, 1896, the machinery was started, and our town had electric lights for the first time.
The plant was run by Dr. Strickler for a little more than a year, but he operated it under several serious difficulties. He had no previous experience in the business and he lacked sufficient means with which to finance and keep it going and it was evident that a change of ownership was necessary to prevent entire failure. He tried to sell but could not find anyone who would buy. Several attempts were made to form a company which would buy the plant and keep it in operation, but for a time all such efforts failed.
Our streets, business places and homes were all fitted with electric fixtures, and it was felt that the loss of the plant would be a disaster to the town. After considerable effort on the part of our citizens, a stock company composed of local men was organized, the intention being to buy the plant, put it in good condition to give service, and operate it until it could be sold to some one competent to manage it.
The company was composed of the following persons: Capt. E. M. Sargent, W. C. Sargent, W. H. Scott, Will Scott, E. H. Allison, Dr. E. A. Crouse, Geo. N. Stark, H. M. Bigelow, George W. Morrison and R. M. Finlayson, each of whom subscribed for $1,000 of the stock, except the Scott Bros., who took $2,500, and Geo. W. Morrison, who took the remaining $500.
The sum of $9,000 was paid in cash for the plant, and the company took possession of it Jan. 20, 1898.
An expert was called at once to examine the boilers, which were said to be in bad condition, and one of them was condemned as being a menace to the safety of the public. A new boiler was bought and installed as soon as possible, and the other two were repaired.
Almost everything in connection with the plant was in an impaired condition, and had to be repaired or replaced. The service had not been very satisfactory, as electric current was supplied only from dark until the arrival of the morning train, due about 1:30 a.m. The streets were lighted only during the dark of the moon.
The management was given in charge of Capt. Sargent and E. H. Allison, who had the necessary repairs made, new machinery installed and the service improved as much as possible. In order to give more service and if possible make larger earnings for the company, steam pipes were buried in Main street and also in some of the cross streets and steam heat was furnished to every business house wanting it, and also to the court house, hotel, Presbyterian church and to several private residences. It was soon found that church heating was not satisfactory, and it was discontinued.
This method of heating the business places and the court house has, I think, proven to be very satisfactory to all concerned, and would be abandoned very reluctantly by those who are using it.
I am certain that no member of the company invested his money in the plant with the expectation of making a profit, and that it was done solely to prevent the loss of a service which had become almost a necessity in our homes and business. However, some of our citizens were impressed with the erroneous belief that the company was making large profits, and it did not enjoy the good will and encouragement which we thought it should have.
Our monthly pay for lighting the streets was sometimes unfairly reduced because of some failure for which we were not to blame.
Messrs. Sargent and Allison became tired of the burden of management and after several years of service they declined to serve any longer and W. H. Scott reluctantly accepted the position of manager and he continued to serve as such until the plant was finally sold. The company continued to give the best service it could, but the members were unanimous in wanting to dispose of it at almost any price.
W. H. Scott and I made a trip to southern Iowa to look at some land which was offered to us in trade for the plant. Mr. Scott and W. C. Sargent went to the Dakotas for the same purpose, but without results.
The plant was finally bought by Mr. John B. Calderwood, the present owner, who took possession March 1st, 1909. It had been owned and operated continuously by our company for a little more than ten years. The steam heating feature had been added, as well as various other improvements. We had received but one small, dividend during that entire time, but the price received, $10,000, was only $1,000 more than that paid for it in its rundown condition when we bought it.
No complaint was made by the members of the company as all felt some satisfaction in knowing that we had done a good thing for the town, if not for ourselves.
The sale provided to be a very fortunate one for the community, as Mr. Calderwood is an ideal man for place he then assumed. He had the previous experience necessary to make the business a success, and was always able to get the funds needed for the continuous improvement of the plant.
He has constantly added new equipment as it was found to be necessary, the latest of which is a 200 horsepower oil burning engine at an expense of approximately $15,000, making a plant of which we all have good reason to be proud. Instead of a few hours of uncertain service given us when the plant was first started, we now have constant and reliable service both day and night. The owner is one of us, and he is always on the job, and when anything goes wrong electrically, a telephone call brings an expert to fix it within a reasonable time.
When Mr. Calderwood first took the plant in charge, he had a few more than 100 patrons; he now has more than 800 and serves every one who lives within a radius of nine miles from the plant who may want to use electric current. Those who live in the county have as good service as those who live in town, and quite a number of farmers are now taking advantage of the opportunity offered to use current for lighting and also for power.
A few are now using it as the motive power to run milking machines, grinders, etc., and there can be no doubt but that such use will increase in the near future. Our plant is said to be the only one now in the state which is owned entirely by a resident of the town in which it is located, and which confines its business to that town and the immediate vicinity, and in addition it can be truthfully said that it gives as good service at as reasonable prices as do any of the larger plants.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 3 April 1924, pg 1,4
Until a comparatively recent time, we did not have a Public Library, or other means of supplying our citizens with reading matter.
In 1894 the W.C.T.U. agitated the subject, and Mrs. Geo. W. Walker was appointed to confer with the Board of Supervisors and secure a room in the basement of the court house to be used as a reading room, and locating of a circulating library. She was successful in her effort, and a reading room was opened Jan. 22, 1895, and maintained until our present library was ready for use, a period of more than seventeen years.
On March 19th, 1910, Mrs. Stella G. Sargent, who had taken a prominent part in the management and support of the reading room then in use, wrote to the millionaire philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, who was at that time helping to establish public libraries in the cities and towns throughout the country, asking him to assist us in building such an institution here. Dr. W. R. Lynn, who was our city mayor, joined in the request.
A reply was received from Mr. Carnegie, under date of April 11, in which he promised to make a gift of $6,000 for the purpose in view, under certain conditions, which in short were: That the citizens would furnish a suitable site for the building, supply all funds needed for the completion of the building, if any were needed in addition to his donation; furnish all equipment necessary for its successful operation, and provide an annual fund, of not less than ten per cent of the cost of the building, for its future support.
The matter was submitted to our city council and they ordered a special election, in accordance with the law, which was held on June 14th, 1910, at which the question of the acceptance of the Carnegie gift and the levy of a tax for the support of a public library was submitted to the people.
There were 501 votes cast, and of those voted by men 172 were for and 66 against and of those cast by women there was 216 for and 47 against the acceptance of the Carnegie gift and the erection of a library building, being a majority of 25 in favor of the proposition submitted.
F. W. Reisinger, having been elected mayor at a recent election, appointed a Board of Library Trustees, nine in number, to carry out the work commenced. Those appointed were: Mrs. Stella G. Sargent, Mrs. Grace Scott, Mrs. Nellie M. Morrison, H. S. Beckman, Dr. W. R. Lynn, Fred J. Frost, W. D. Wilson, R. E. Lynn and R. M. Finlayson.
The trustees held their first meeting on June 21st, and organized by electing the following officers: H. S. Beckman, president; Mrs. Nellie M. Morrison secretary, and R. M. Finlayson, treasurer.
A site was obtained from Daniel Kerr and Geo. W. Morrison, on the east side of 7th street, and almost directly opposite the court house, for which the sum of $800 was paid, the money having been contributed by the citizens.
Plans and specifications for a suitable building were procured, and bids asked for the erection of same. All bids made were thought to be too high. Some changes were made in the plans and bids asked for a second time. A contract was finally made for the erection of the building for the sum of $5,829, and it was completed and accepted by the Board Oct. 12th, 1912.
The building is a substantial, one story brick structure, with a basement of the same size, all of which is used in connection with the main floor.
An additional cost of $500 was incurred in the purchase of steam radiators for heating, water pipes and other equipment.
It was first opened for public use Nov 6th, 1912, and has been open every afternoon from 2 to 5 and in the evening from 7 to 9, except Sundays, from that time until the present.
Mrs. Maud Halden was elected librarian and has acted in that capacity ever since the opening of the library and has served the public faithfully and intelligently.
Some books have been donated, and the book committee is constantly adding to the number on the shelves. The committee has always been careful to purchase only such books as are of a high grade useful and entertaining, and suitable for perusal by young people.
For a few years Palmer and Washington townships aided by voting a small tax for the benefit of the library, but of late years the only assistance received from an outside source is given by Palermo, which still assists by voting a small tax.
The present officers of the Board are Mrs. Stella G. Sargent, president; W. D. Wilson, vice president; Geo. B. Robinson, treasurer; and Mrs. Nellie M. Morrison secretary, a position which she has ably filled from the time of the organization of the first board.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 10 April 1924, pg 4
Our telephone system, like most new and untried conveniences had a modest beginning, and slow development.
In 1890 or before, the Bell Telephone Co. installed a long distance phone in W. R. Laybourn's hardware store, which was located in the Kerr and Campbell building, now owned and occupied by R. L. Kurtz. The phone was connected with the company's lines in Waterloo and locally with two or three residences, and the grain elevator owned by P. B. Ellis and his son, E. W. Ellis. Some time later, the Cedar Valley Telephone Co. took over the Bell Co. business, established an exchange, or central office, and made connections with a few of the business houses and private residences here in town and also with the farms owned by J. S. King, Horace Boies and Ransom Bailey.
Calls could be made from the farms to town free of charge but for a call from town to farms a charge of 10 cents was made. These were the only farms in the county which at that time had the benefit of a telephone connection.
Other farmers wanted to enjoy the same privilege and those living southwest of town built what is known as the X line, but the Cedar Valley Co. refusing to grant them connections privileges with their exchange, the terminal was placed in the office of Drs. Thielen and McAlvin.
Another, called the B line, was built, and for want of a more suitable place their terminal was put in the residence of Fred J. Frost.
The service given by the Cedar Valley Co. was very unsatisfactory, and at a meeting of the citizens held July 1st, 1901, the writer acting as chairman, and R. W. Reisinger as secretary, it was decided to form a local telephone company, purchase the interests of the Cedar Valley Co., if that could be done, and if not put in a new plant.
In pursuance of this decision, Philip Liebsohn and F. W. Reisinger were appointed a committee to negotiate with the Cedar Valley Co. for the purchase of their exchange. The committee went to Waterloo, but met with a cool reception, and were informed by the president of the company that the town of Grundy Center did not have enough money to buy their interests.
Another meeting was called and steps taken to form a local telephone company, secure a suitable place for an exchange office and attend to other details. As a result a stock company was soon formed and about forty of our citizens showed their interest in the movements by subscribing for stock.
It may be of interest to some of the old time residents to here give the names of the owners of the first stock issued as it may remind them of persons long since forgotten. They are W. R. Laybourn, F. W. Reisinger, E. H. Dodd, H. M. Bigelow, R. M. Finalyson, Philip Leibsohn, Geo. L. Frost, H. C Ady, Geo. W. Morrison, J. D. Burns, Wm. Moffett, A. L. Anderson, Cole & Morrison, DeSeelhorst & Coffman, McAlvin & Thielen, Jacobs & Co., J. C. Bourne, E. H. Allison, L. E. Grout, E. W. Ellis, H. E. Moffett, J. A. Yelderks, C. E. Thomms, Geo. B. Elliott, W. R. Lynn, C. E. Durfee, J. H. Blewett, W. C. Sargent, C. M. Sprague, E. A. Lillibridge, H. K. Snavely, S. H. Knapp, Mrs. J. S. King, Miss Agnes King, E. M. Sargent, C. T. Rogers, Fred J. Frost.
The new company organized by electing Fred. J. Frost, who had been one of the prime movers in the enterprise, as president and manager, a position which he has occupied continuously from that time and which he still holds.
A Board of seven directors was elected composed of F. W. Reisinger, W. R. Laybourne, Philip Leibsohn, H. M. Bigelow, E. H. Dodd, F. J. Frost and R. M. Finlayson. A central office was established, the farmers' lines were connected with those of the company and it has been the aim of the company to give the public the best service possible.
Miss Julia Post was the first operator employed by the company and her salary was just one-sixth of that now paid to each of our operators.
The Cedar Valley Co. sold their interests here to the Corn Belt Co., which continued to operate for a year or longer, but they finally decided to abandon a line of business which must have been unprofitable.
Miss Sadie Little (now Mrs. George Cox) who had been the operator for the Corn Belt Co., joined our company and served it and the public faithfully for a period of fifteen years.
In 1913 the equipment in use was found to be unequal to the requirement of the company and a new Central Energy, Western Electric Equipment, which was the last word in that line, was provided. It was expensive, but has proven to be all that was expected of it when purchased.
Before the street were paved the wires were removed from the poles which had supported them, in the greater part of the town, including something more than forty blocks, placed in conduits and buried in the streets, thus avoiding the necessity for unsightly poles and also the annoyance caused by the close proximity of the strong electric light current, which interfered with the service. Only a very small amount of aerial wire is now in use in town, and that only in the outskirts.
The county has now 913 regular patrons in all, of which 487 are in town, 82 are rural and the remaining 344 own their own lines, but are connected with our central office.
A trouble man is employed who attends to all matters which need his attention, and he keep all the company lines in good order.
There are four day operators and one at night, giving continuous service. The operators are always courteous and obliging, and are deserving of the same treatment from the public. Their position is not an easy one, as they are often crowded with calls coming at one time, when we are apt to become impatient and unreasonable.
The company under the able management of Fred J. Frost, who has had a long experience and understands the business thoroughly, is not only willing but anxious to serve the public to the best of its ability.
Like nearly all small towns, and many much larger than ours, we had no water system for many years, and each family supplied themselves as best they could, usually obtaining water from shallow wells on their own lot, or on some other person's property as near by as they could find it.
The use of such water for drinking or culinary purposes was a menace to the health of the --unreadable-- such circumstances were could be no adequate fire protection, and various devices were tried to overcome that difficulty, some of which were almost ludicrous.
A cistern was built in Main street, in which was placed a force pump with which through the medium of levers worked by hand it was hoped to force water through a hose to the fire, if near enough to be reached in that way. Later a well was dug on the south side of Main street, between the sidewalk and the street, at the northeast corner of the public square, over which was placed a derrick on which a windmill was mounted.
As a last resort, a chemical engine was purchased and used for some time. It was nicknamed the "Soda Fountain."
All of these "makeshift" plans proved unsatisfactory and in 1894 the city council made a contract --unreadable-- Turner to build a --unreadable-- tend water pipes from it to the different parts of the town, and this system has been extended as needed.
The water is obtained from a deep well at the electric light plant, which does the pumping. Our water is pure and good, and also abundant in quantity. A modern fire truck, hose and other requirements for extinguishing fires have been provided and they are in charge of an active and efficient fire company. A good supply of water is maintained in the standpipe, hydrants have been placed in suitable places for the attachment of hose, and we are now fairly well prepared to meet all emergencies in the form of fire with in the borders of the town. As a result we have had no disastrous fires since the present system has been in use.
A suitable sewer system is the logical sequence to a water system as it cannot precede it. In 1909 our city council contracted with M. Tschirgi and Son, of Dubuque, Iowa, to put in a sewer system, they to furnish all material and do the work for $15,550. The work was done by machinery, and the contractors met with numerous difficulties, such as striking large boulders in the line on which the pipe was to be laid, frequent caving of the ground in places where the ditch for the pipe was deeper than common before the pipe could be put in place, but all difficulties were overcome, a good job was done and it has given the service for which it was intended, without trouble up to the present time. It was a matter of regret that the contractors lost money on the job.
At the time the contract was made Dr. W. R. Lynn was mayor and R. V. Koons, M. J. Thorne, E. C. Kerr, C. E. Thomas and H. H. Frerichs were councilmen. The work extended into 1919, and John White and W. F. Benz were elected to succeed C. E. Thomas and H. H. Frerichs at the spring election.
Our town was very fortunate in having the water mains and sewer pipe put into the street at that time, as it was a necessary preliminary to paving which was also needed, and which came soon afterward.
Our first paving was laid by the Dearborn Construction Co. of Dubuque in the summer and fall of 1913. The material used was vitrified brick 4 inches thick, laid on a 2-inch cushion of sand, supported by a 5 inch base of concrete. Twelve blocks were paved, two of which were on Main street between Sixth and Eighth; the east, south and west sides of the public square; one additional block on Eighth, south of the public square; and the remainder on Sixth, or Depot, street. The cost was $1.98 per square yard, and the entire cost, including curbing and incidental expense, was $40,993.18.
F. W. Reisinger was Mayor, and the Councilmen were Koons, Stevens, Benz, W. D. Wilson and C. L. Kinney.
The second section of our paving was laid in 1915 by the Ford Paving Co., of Cedar Rapids. The materials used were a 2-inch wearing surface of asphaltic concrete, laid on a 5-inch concrete base. Fourteen block of this were put down as a cost of $1.65 per square yard, the total cost being $27,638.10.
C. E. Butler was Mayor, and the council was composed of the same men as in 1913.
Our third and last section of paving was laid in 1917 by the Ford Paving. The material used was bithulithic paving, a 2-inch wearing surface laid on a 5-inch concrete base. Forty-six blocks were laid at this time at a cost of $1.92 per square yard, at an entire cost of $112,112,13. C. E. Butler was Mayor and the same men were on the council as in 1915, with the exception of Dr. L. H. Carpenter, who had succeeded R. V. Koons.
We now have seventy-two blocks paved, at a total cost of $180,743.41, all of which was paid by the owners of lots abutting on the paving, except about $14,000, which was paid by the city.
We have so far only given attention to those matters which have been of some value to ourselves and others. It may be worth while to take a brief look at the other side of the picture, and see a few of those which have had a damaging effect, but which I am very glad to be able to say have not been so numerous or lasting in their effect as those of the better sort.
Our people have been very fortunate in having escaped losses by investment in grandulent schemes to a much greater extent than those who live in some other parts of the state, but we have not been entirely immune.
In 1902 Prof. E. J. Christie appears among us, as salesman for the stock of the Neptune Mining Co., of West Cliff, Colorado.
He made unreasonable statements with regard to the returns which --unreadable-- investments in this stock, and quite a few of our citizens were lured by his smooth promises into parting with their money.
I will quote from one of a number of letters written by him to be personally which is perhaps a fair sample of those sent to others. This letter, which I have before me, is headed as follows.
THE NEPTUNE MINING CO.
Operating the famous Bull Domingo
and other Mines at West
E. J. Christie
You have made a mistake: If you can secure an income of $4.00 per year from an investment of $1.00. I say you will be making a great mistake if you do not look into this investment.
Now Mr. ______ the Stock of the Neptune Mining Co. (operating the Bull Domingo Mine) is selling today at $1.00 per share, and this stock will certainly pay $4.00 per share each year in dividends. Just read the inclosed slip.
Our Company has decided to keep 500,000 shares of the stock in the treasury, never to be sold. But please remember that we will not sell over 25,000 and these will be sold at $1.00 per share until Sept. 1st, 1902.
We have a large excursion leaving Grundy Center, over the Rock Island Railroad, August 23d. This excursion will visit the Bull Domingo Mine at Silver Cliff and return before Sept. first.
This will be YOUR LAST CHANCE to secure any of the Treasury Stock of this Co. in $1.00 per share. On Sept. 1st the Board of Directors will hold a meeting and it is almost a certainty that the Stock will either go to $2.00 a share or else go off the market altogether.
E. J. Christie.
First ore shipped August 14th.
We will now become steady shippers.
I do not now have the "slip" he refers to, but no doubt it was made up of statements similar to those in his letter.
I doubt that any ore was ever shipped from the Bull Domingo Mine, or that Christie expected there would be. Some of those who went to Colorado on the excursion, the expense of which was supposed to be paid by the company but which no doubt was paid out of money received from the sale of stock came back and "booster" for the company. They had been shown a mine which appeared to them to be a promising affair and they very naturally wanted it financed, so as to hasten the time when they would get the wonderful returns promised.
I do not suppose that any one Christie included, ever knew the exact amount of money invested by the people here. I knew the amount so invested by certain individuals, which in the aggregate would amount to quite a sum, and my knowledge of the matter was very limited, so I feel certain that the entire loss must have been very large.
After several months had passed and the unreasonable promises made by Christie failed to materialize, the investors lost faith in him, he was arrested, and served several months in our county jail, and upon being released he disappeared from these parts.
Not very long ago his name again appeared in public print in connection with the invention of a "Gyroscopic Unicycle," which he claimed would be able to attain a speed of 250 or more miles per hour, and be entirely safe because of the gyroscopic principle involved in its construction. Only a few weeks ago the papers announced that he had committed suicide at Camden, New Jersey.
He had succeeded in swindling some of our people out of a large amount of money, but as is usual in such cases, he had nothing to show for it at the time of his death. A man of his ability and education, had he followed in "the straight and narrow way" might have easily made an honest living, and have enjoyed the respect, confidence and esteem of his associates and friends. What a powerful lesson for our young men and women.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 17 April 1924, pg 4
In June, 1910, E. A. Boggs, of Waterloo, Iowa, appeared among us as a trouble maker, but fortunately his operations were limited to only one case in this county.
He claimed to represent the Central Iowa Granite Co., of Waterloo, which company was composed of Boggs and one other Waterloo man for a time, but later Boggs was the whole thing.
The business of the company was to make and sell monuments, and his method of doing business was to sell a monument and take a contract signed by the purchased. Some of the contracts were either accompanied by a note, or a note was a part of the contract, and the purchaser sometimes signed both. The note was made payable when the work was set up and accepted by the purchaser.
In June, 1910, Boggs stopped at the Farmers Savings Bank, of Morrison, in this county, explained his business, showed several contracts he had taken from men in the county, which he left as security, and succeeded in borrowing $500. He continued to do that kind of business with the bank until the fall of 1911, when he owed that bank $62,500, with no means of paying any part of it.
He was arrested, indicted by the grand jury, and tried at the February, 1913, term of our District court. The particular crime for which he was tried was that of having collected the sum of $350 on a note given in settlement for a job of work set up by him, but which note had been given to the Morrison bank as collateral security for money borrowed by him, and appropriating the money to his own use.
It was also shown, during the trial, that in one case at least he had skillfully separated one of the notes from the contract to which it belonged and had used both note and contract as security for money borrowed, pledging them in different banks.
The trail lasted seven days, a verdict of guilty was brought in, and Boggs was sentenced to serve a term of five years in the penitentiary.
The stockholders of the Morrison bank promptly made up the large deficit caused by the transaction and no one but them suffered any loss, and business went on with them as if nothing had happened.
Mr. Reimers, who was the cashier of the bank at that time and who made the deal, or series of deals, with Boggs, might get a little consolation out of the fact that eighteen other banks, in Iowa and Minnesota, lost more than $129,000 by similar deals with Boggs, and that three of them were located in his home town, Waterloo, according to his own statement under oath, when being examined as a witness for himself.
He also stated that he had obtained something more than $34,500 from other monument companies, dealers in material, and private individuals.
Although he admitted that he had obtained more than $100,000 in all, he claimed that he then had no money or property except a small sum which he said was not his, but was given to him by his wife.
Boggs, according to his testimony in court, was then 45 years of age, born in Boone, Iowa, and a graduate of the high school. He attended Cornell college two years, had charge of the Commercial Department of the Albion Seminary about two years, was professor in the Boone School of Commerce two years, teacher of mathematics in the Waterloo High School, was auditor, and later auditor and treasurer of the Waterloo, Cedar Falls & Northern Electric Railway Co. for more than ten years, and while serving in that capacity he acted as Special Accountant for business houses and firms by checking up their books and accounts to ascertain as to their correctness.
He became interested in the Central Iowa Monument Co. in 1906, but did not give his time to it or become actively engaged in the business until 1910. Boggs personal history, as given by himself, is positive proof that something more than a good education and exceptional opportunity is needed in the making of an honest man and good citizen.
A sale of lots in an imaginary town, in the Pan Handle district of Texas, which proved to be a swindling game, was worked on our people some years ago, but no large amounts were involved, and no large loss suffered by any one person.
Various speculative schemes, involving the sale of land in Texas, were successfully worked at a later date, by which some of our citizens lost money. While they bore many of the "earmarks" of a genuine swindle, they may have been cases of mistaken judgment on the part of the originators, with no intention of dishonesty.
During the period of inflation caused by the late war when everyone thought they had plenty of money fraudulent schemes of many kinds originated in the cities of this and other states. Most of them took the form of meat packing companies and other companies of a similar sort.
The public was swindled out of hundreds of millions of dollars by them, according to an estimate made by those who are in a position to know.
Stock in these swindling concerns was peddled throughout the state by salesmen, who generally received 50 cents for every dollar's worth of stock sold by them, which was sufficient inducement to make them active in the business. This county was very fortunate in the fact that few of them entered it, and our citizens escaped with small loss.
Grundy Center, as it appeared forty years ago, or at any time before that, would be a strange sight if seen now.
Most of the houses were surrounded by some sort of fence. Some of them were ordinary farm fences as they were then made--posts set in the ground, eight feet apart, on which were nailed from three to five fence boards six inches in width and sixteen feet long. Others were what was known as "picket" fence. The pickets were narrow strips of pine, the upper ends of which were shaped like a arrow head, which were nailed in a perpendicular position to 2x4 timbers which extended from one post to another. Others were still more ornamental, and were usually painted white.
The Court House Square was inclosed by an ordinary board fence but instead of gates the openings had a number of round posts placed in them set in a zig zag position, so as to exclude cattle and horses, but a person dog or other small animal could pass through. The center of the square was ornamented by the "cheese box."
All sidewalks were made of wood and were constantly in need of repair. Those in front of business houses or in other places where they were exposed to much wear, were made of plank two and three inches thick, while those in the residence part of the town were made of inch boards.
Very few streets had a continuous line of sidewalk, as many lots had none, and when the ground was dry the walking was about as good as on the side walk, where nails were constantly working up above the boards and threatening to cause the pedestrian to trip and fall, or ruin his or her footwear. Wooden posts were set in a straight line, about eight feet apart, and four or five feet from the side walk, in front of most business blocks, which extended from one corner of the block to the other, to be used as hitching posts for farmers' teams. A chain was drawn through a hole near the top of each post, which extended from the first post in the line to the last.
During the time when a large crowd was in town, drawn by some attraction such at the County Fair, Fourth of July celebration, etc., every post on Main street would have a team fastened to it, while the wagons and buggies extended back into the street, making a very interesting sight. A similar line of posts extended along the street in front of the court house square.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 24 April 1924, pg 1, 10
As previously stated, for a number of years Main street was further ornamented by a well, over which was a tall wooden tower and windmill.
At that time there were no paved streets in town, and when it was wet teams waded through the streets in mud almost up to their bodies.
Our town was not peculiar in these things, as the description given would in most respects fit equally well most of the towns and cities in the state at that time. While I am not certain with regard to all of them, I do not think there was then any paving in Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Dubuque or Cedar Rapids, and other conditions were very much the same as ours.
In 1891 while I with other members of the court house committee was in Red Oak, then a nice town of several thousand people, a pond of water occupied the center of Main street in font of one of their best business blocks. Some wag had placed a small pole in the center of the pond, on which was a placard being the words "No Fishing Allowed Here."
Until 1900 lumber was comparatively cheap, while cement, now used almost exclusively and universally for building sidewalks, paving, culverts, bridges, etc., was so expensive as to make it almost prohibitive.
At the time our court house was built the contract provided that all cement used must be that made in Louisville, Kentucky. A good quality was then being made in different places in Minnesota, and the contractor tried to have the contract changed so as to allow the use of cement made nearer home, which could be bought very much cheaper, but the county board, perhaps wisely, refused to allow the change to be made.
The enormous demand and consequent manufacture of cement in large quantities throughout the entire country has revolutionized our entire system of improvement along all lines of work where strength and lasting qualities are necessary.
We have been noting the progress and improvement made in our own town, which is typical, with but few variations, of all of the towns and cities which had an early beginning throughout the state. But almost all of our material wealth is derived from the products of our farms and the prosperity of cities and towns is dependent upon that of the country in which they are located.
The changes which have taken place in the country are fully as great as those in the towns, the principal difference being that they are not so concentrated and cannot be seen so easily.
It should be remembered that the early settlers had little money. They could not raise a crop the first year the land was broken, as it required time for the tough prairie sod to decay and become tillable. It was profitable to plow the land a second time the first season, in the fall, which process was known as "backsetting" it.
Houses of some sort had to be provided for the families. The land near streams and groves was always settled first, as wood and water were among the prime necessities of life, and many of the shrewdest people doubted that the open prairie would ever be settled.
There was not a permanent resident in the county until August, 1853, when William D. Peck moved from Kankakee, Ill., and commenced to build a log cabin on the northwest corner of Section 6 in Fairfield township, into which he moved his family in October. Mr. Peck continued to live on that farm until the time of his death almost thirty years later.
He was prosperous and he and his sons, Sanford, Silas and Nelson, were prominent and respected citizens of Fairfield and Beaver townships for many years. Another son, Henry, lived in Fairfield for a number of years, and then moved to South Dakota, where he died many years ago.
Mr. E. H. Beckman, in his "History," says that when the first settlers came into the county deer and elk were plentiful, and an occasional buffalo was to be seen. In 1854 John Adams saw a heard of 50 to 60 elk come into his grove one evening, and he killed a half dozen of them the next morning. The grove referred to was about one mile west of Reinbeck, on the south side of the road as it now runs, on land formerly owned by Arnold and Emil Tschirgi, but now the home of Arthur Runft, who recently cut down what remained of the grove.
The vigorous howl of wolves frequently enlovened our nights, prairie chickens were so numerous that some hunters spent their entire time during the fall months in shooting and shipping them to eastern markets, and wild geese, ducks, swans and sand hill cranes made annual pilgrimages to the north in the spring and back again to the south in the fall. During these times they swarmed on the prairie by the thousand, choosing spots where ponds of water were in evidence. They rose in clouds in front of us as we rode across the prairie, and after circling around in the air a few times, came down to earth again in almost the same spot from which they arose. Rattlesnakes were too numerous for safety. I was one of four who killed something more than seventy of them on Section 9, in Lincoln township, while breaking it up in 1868. I do not now remember that anyone was bitten, then or later, in that neighborhood.
In order that we may understand more fully the conditions which then existed, I will quote from some of those who have left a written record of their observations and experiences.
I find the following facts mentioned in a very interesting sketch written by Mr. Eli F. Crouse, with regard to early days in Fairfield township.
Henry Hammer was the second resident to move into the township, arriving there in 1855. He and his family lived most of the summer in their "prairie schooner." Mr. Hammer says the winter of 1855-56 was unusually severe. More than two feet of snow fell in December and later it rained, forming a crust of ice three to four inches thick on top of the snow. The ice made it difficult for deer, which were then plentiful, to travel, and hunters chased them on foot and killed so many as to almost exterminate them. A young lady who lived with the Hammer family was burned to death while fighting a prairie fire.
Harrison Wilson, who came in 1856 and whose home was on the NW 1/4 of Sec. 16, but who worked for a while in one of the county officers, plowed a furrow all the way from his home to Grundy Center, a distance of more than twenty miles, so that he would not lose his way while returning home at night. The first birth was that of Henry Ingalls; the first wedding was that of Marshall Fleming to Miss Lucy Taylor, the ceremony being performed by Jos. Wells, J. P. The first death was that of Adeline Taylor, a cousin of Nelson Peck, in 1855.
In 1856 Nelson Peck, Martin Cardner and Sanford Peck killed an elk which weighed more than 600 pounds after having been dressed.
In 1872 a creamery was built on the southwest corner of Sec 8. Jos. Wells was president of the company and Walter Carrington was the butter maker. Old-fashioned setting pans were used, and the churning was done by horse power.
The Fredsville creamery (located on the northwest corner of Sec. 36) has the distinction of operating the first cream separator used in the U.S. It was brought here from Denmark by Jeppe Slifsgaard. Up to that time milk was set in pans until the cream rose to the surface, when it was skimmed off and churned.
When Mr. Slifsgaard arrived in New York the custom house officers held the new machine for more than two months before they could decide whether it was made of iron or steel. They finally decided that it was made from steel, and the duty was fixed at $93. Many people came to see the strange device when it was first put into use, some coming a long distance.
Prof. Mortensen, of the Agricultural College at Ames, told the facts with regard to this separator in an address made by him before the Creamery Association of Waterloo in 1910.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 1 May 1924, pg 1, 10
I get the following with regard to Melrose Twp. from an article written by Fred C. Hess
Father Klein (Rev. J. M. Klein) and family and I came to Grundy Center May 1st, 1866. It snowed that day until the ground was covered but it soon melted away. At that time there was but one school house, and no church in the township. No doubt some will wonder where the people stayed until they could build a house or shack. Some lived in their wagons during warm weather. We moved in with James Casey, whose house was 16x24, with no upstairs. It had just one room which served as kitchen, dining room, parlor and bed room. There were nine in our family and six in Mr. Casey's, with a big dog, but we did not seem to be crowded.
There were no roads in the country, and when a wagon went down in a slough we had to take it apart and carry it to dry ground, and get the horses out as best we could. We had no grader to use in fixing roads, so we plowed the tough sods in long strips, which we cut in pieces with a hay knife, while another man threw them into the road with a pitchfork. Our farm machinery consisted of a one-horse corn plow, walking stubble plow and a wooden drag, or harrow. Grain was all bound by hand on the ground until the advent of the Marsh harvester. We bought three 80's for $3.50 per acres, one-third down, balance in two equal payments.
From James P. Murphy, with regard to Grant township: The first family to settle in the township was that of Abraham Kenniston, who came in 1862 and settled on Section 8. Here a daughter was born, being the first child born in the township. A son, Homer Clarence, died in 1867, being the first death. After living on Sec. 8 about two years Mr. Kenniston found he had made a mistake as to the number of the section and then moved on Section 16, which was his original intention.
The second settler was John B. Murphy, who came in 1864. Some of the early settlers were novices at farming. Two of them were stacking wheat. The one on the stack pulled the bundles up on the stack by a rope which the one on the wagon had tied around them. Another waited until spring before digging his potatoes, and was surprised to find them worthless. Another was astonished to find his beans on top of the ground after they had been planted some time, and thought his men had not done the job right. Among the early non-resident land owners was J. A. Roebling, noted as being the man who built the first suspension bridge across the Niagara river, who owned a large tract which he sold at $5 to $10 per acre.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 8 May 1924, pg 1