A. D. WileyHaving lived in Grundy county for 67 years, I will try to tell of a few indicents, trials and hardships of pioneer life as I may remember them.
The writer was born in Ohio, December 29th, 1840, and come to Iowa with my father's family in the fall of 1856, being a lad then of 15 years. My father had been out here the spring of '56, and bought 240 acres of land near Conrad Grove. So we came out by wagon from Ohio in the fall and moved out on this land, whereon we found one poorly built log cabin which we fixed up some and built an additional cabin. We also put up a prairie stable and, as we thought, were comfortabley fixed for winter, but it is my opinion now if we could have known the kind of winter '56-'57 proved to be we surely would have sought shelter over along the Iowa timber, for this winter was away and far ahead of any of 'em for blizzards, high winds, snow and sub-zero weather. The big snow storm of this winter began about 10 a.m. Dec. 1st with a northeast wind at a gait of 40 or 50 miles per hour.
The action of this storm reminds me of a story: A Negro engaged a white man to write a letter for him and asked, "Sambo, how'll I begin this letter?" "Oh," said Sambo, "just say you black blanket a blank and git worser and worser"
So with this storm, on the afternoon of the first day it was "worser" and with increasing fury it raged all night and all day on the 2nd, until just as the sun went down, when it quit. Such a dreary waste to look out on the next day! It would be more of a task to give all the details of this storm than I feel able to do, so will content myself to mention a few of the happenings of that ever-to-be-remembered winter of 1856-7.
It became necessary for the few settlers in the neighborhood, soon after this big storm, to break a road and get out to the mill and get some groceries. One whole day was spent with three yoke of oxen, sled and such other equipment as could be mustered for the purpose, but they didn't get one mile south from the Grove when they returned home very much discouraged, and it did look as though somebody was elected to go on short rations, but the weather moderated one night and it rained quite a shower, and again turning cold, a heavy, strong coating of real ice was formed all over the snow and this let us out, so to speak, and what fun us boys had o'er the ice and snow with our skates on.
But the drawback to this ice-snow was that whenever any snow fell on it we had a regular blizzard when the wind blew, and it surely did blow most of the time, for it seemed almost literally true as the old Quaker said, "Iowa was the whirlpool and bellows of the world." My father came near losing his bearing and freezing in this kind of blizzard one afternoon in February of that winter while assisting a neighbor to move his family and belongings from a "shack" out on the prairie to a house in the Grove. I don't think we even heard from the outside world that winter for two months at one time. Some felt like saying this country was only intended for Indians, buffalo, wolves, bears and other wild game, but we stayed on and father raised his first crop of wheat in 1857 on some land near by owned and "broke" the year before by Dr. Elias Fisher. He finished seeding some time in May and harvesting in September. The reason of this lateness of putting out and harvesting this wheat was the lateness of spring.
When we had this crop raised and taken care of, there being no shipping market or no available shipping point nearer than Iowa City, father didn't get but little money out of the crop.
In threshing this wheat out of the stack one of the larger stacks yielded 250 bushels and was threshed at one run without a stop by an old horse-power belt machine, and was the topic of conversation at dinner as I recollect. The second winter for us in Iowa, or the winter of 1857-8, we were very much better fixed, for it proved to be a very mild and open winter for Iowa, and this contributed to our reconcilation to maintain our abode here. In this sketch I shall not come down later than the early 60's, so will recite that in the winter of 59-60 I, as an 18-year-old taught school out northwest of the Center in the Hoxie district. F. G. Hoxie, old pioneer and first sheriff of Grundy county, was a school director. I remember I was to get $20 a month and my board at $1.50 per week. I was paid in $2.00 bills Iowa money.
In the summer of 1860 I attended school at Waterloo. Prof. John White, of Massachusetts, was teacher, and that fall I taught a term in the new schoolhouse built in Clay township at Conrad Grove. After this I attended several terms of school at Albion, Iowa, up to June, 1863, being back in Ohio on a visit, I enlisted in the army at Wilmington, June 25th, 1863, and was discharged by reason of the close of the war June 30th, 1865, at Cincinnati, Ohio.
The writer has voted beginning with the second term on the Immortal Lincoln at every presidential election since that time, a period of almost 60 years.
He has taught some thirteen terms "Deestrict" school, has been Justice of the Peace "since the time whereof the memory of man hardly runneth to the contrary," and has lived to see this, the banner county of the state, developed to what she today is, a very important--99th part of Iowa--"Iowa, that's where the tall corn grows."
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 28 February 1924, pg 1, 10