Mrs. A. E. AlbrightBorn on April 30, 1862, on the old McMartin farm near the present town of Beaman, has given me the opportunity to remember things of interest concerning Grundy county for a period of nearly sixty years.
My parents, Henry and Betsy Van Nest, settled here in 1858, coming from Johnston, N.Y.
When a small child, I remember distinctly the prairie fires which were a very common occurance in early days.
Rattlesnakes were also a thing of fear. It was bad enough to encounter them in the open, but I have seen them in our home. Especially do I recall the one found in the wood box, one in the pantry and one coiled under the bed.
Large flocks of sheep also come to my memory. My father had a flock of six hundred. The howling of wolves always brought much anxiety to the men folks for they drove them away on horseback.
The prairie chickens were plentiful. At one time my mother dried the breasts of one hundred and fifty.
Our neighbors in this locality were the Glasses, Stahls, Beamans, Millers, Bargers, Maloneys and Snyders.
Marshalltown was the nearest town for us, although there was a store called Jerusalem south of the present town of Beaman.
My first school was one located a little distance east of the Consolidated School of Beaman. I recall two teachers at that early period, Chauncey Hyatt and Horace Avery.
It was on this farm that I experienced the burning of our home. I still have in my possession three relics that survived this fire.
When I was five years old my father died. We continued farming here for two years with the assistance of one of my brothers and Amos Meyers.
Later my mother was married to T. G. Hoxie, whom some early settlers may recall as the first sheriff of the county.
My stepfather's farm was located just across the road on the north of the J. S. B. Thompson farm. The lumber for this place had been hauled from Independence.
Dr. Louis Heffelfinger and family were neighbors to the west where Earl Merritt now resides and Jonas Lamb across the road from them.
Later William Clark located where the elder Merritt family lives and Albert Clark south of the Thompson farm.
Lucius Clark, the father of William and Albert, lived on what has always been called the Beckman Grove farm of later years. It was on this farm that I ate the first ice cream that I had seen. The Methodists were holding an ice cream sociable at the Clark home. L. D. Tracey brought the ice cream from a large freezer.
The first school I attended in this locality was located west on the Hoxie farm. Prof. O. E. Taft, Clara Moffett, Mary Raymond and Littie Randle were teachers in this school.
Dr. Heffelfinger lived on the farm to the west of us and practiced medicine. It was here he died leaving his practice to his son, Ed., who went to college and fitted himself as a doctor and later returned to Grundy Center to practice his profession.
I wonder if Jonas Lamb remembers buying a dress for a little girl in those early days? It was my first worsted dress and no doubt that fact alone has kept it fresh in my memory.
About this time Dr. Crouse came to this county, in 1872. My mother had dislocated her leg. Dr. Etter could not come, so the young Dr. Crouse was summoned against her will. She objected seriously to his age. Nevertheless he did the work successfully and has always been held in high esteem by our family.
I recall a prairie fire to the north of this place which destroyed all grain stacks between here and Cedar Falls.
The old courthouse known as the cheese box was used for services for all denominations in early days. I attended Sunday school there. Miss Ann Raymond and Mrs. Frank Moffett were teachers. School was also held in the courthouse. I attended under the teaching of Prof. S. D. Gaylord.
When we first saw Grundy Center there was one general store located across the street to the north of the courthouse. It was run by Robert Pitkin.
Two of the largest houses in the town at that time were the present home of Mrs. E. H. Beckman, later built larger, and the home of John Young, who lived in the second house west of our present hotel.
The cemetery for the town was located two blocks south of the old cheese box, where Dieke Dieken now resides.
Lumber wagons driven by both oxen and horses were our means of travel.
I remember well the Hickory Grove Celebration and the Barbecue of 1877. The coming of the first railroad was wonderful. Being located so close to the railroad, my mother boarded forty men during that time.
The murder of Nelson in 1878 will long be remembered by me. Mrs. Thompson came to our home the next morning and told us all she heard. She was positive some foul play had been done. It was my custom to go down the railroad track to the town to attend Sunday school. The Sunday morning his body was found by Chas. Severance floating in the Blackhawk creek I encountered a large group of men coming up the track. I was frightened, but when I recognized E. H. Beckman and Jack Heffelfinger my fears were subdued. They asked me if I knew anything about this body that was found.
In 1870 I was married to Amos Albright, who was setting type for Keiter and Stoughton in the old Republican office which was located where Hotel Columbia now stands.
I was away from this county for eleven years but returned, making my home here continuously ever since.
--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 6 March 1924, pg 4