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Harrison County Iowa Genealogy

Biographical Sketch of Daniel Brown
Written by Joe H. Smith in
1888 History of Harrison County, Iowa

That Daniel Brown of Calhoun was the first person to select a claim in the county, is now unquestioned, and that Mr. Uriah Hawkins of Cass township was the first person to permanently locate in the county, is conceded by all. Mr. Hawkins located on the claim on which he died, having lived there thirty years, during the former five of that thirty, as isolated from white society as Alexander Selkirk while on the Island of Juan Fernandez: "Monarch of all he surveyed, his right there was none to dispute," from Six Mile Grove westward to the Pacific Ocean, to the north pole, east nearly or quite to the present city of Des Moines. This condition remained until three years had elapsed before there were any additions in this locality in the way of settlement, when the spring of 1850, Mr. George Mefford and his family located near him in Twelve Mile Grove, and away to the southeast some twelve or fifteen miles at the same time, Mr. Samuel Wood, Wm. W. Wood and Uncle Billy Cox located at Union Grove, in Union township.

Daniel Brown upon settling on his claim about the 7th of April, '48, was not that sort of personage who permitted the affairs of this life to cumber his liberty to any extensive degree, and being the first white settler west of the Boyer river, I will take the liberty at this time to give the reader a short biographical sketch of this old pioneer from the time of his location here until the time of his death. This warm-hearted old pioneer, having quarreled with the Prophet, Brigham Young, in the spring of 1847, and being of that fearless disposition that would not brook insult from King, President or Prophet, at the date last named, while the Mormons were in winter quarters at Florence City just north of Omaha, and west of the old village of Crescent City in Pottawattamie county in this state, severed his connection from this peculiar people and struck out his own hook to seek a new home for himself and family where he could enjoy greater freedom. To this end he and a few others started out on a tour of exploration, crossing the Missouri river at Council Bluffs and from there kept up the Missouri bottoms on the left bank, at which time not a bridge was upon any of the streams between that place and the north pole.

How to cross these streams, when the same were swollen to the extent that they were, as full as the banks would hold, was the question, but the ingenuity of the pioneer is nearly always equal to the occasion; so fastening a large dry log, one to each side of the wagon and then forcing the oxen to swim the river, the driver swimming by the side of the team to give proper direction, brought the craft safely to shore on the side required. In this manner the Pigeon and Boyer rivers were crossed, and the party shortly after their start, camped in Harrison county at or very near the place where now is the residence of Mr. Tim. O'Conner, in section 35, township 79, range 43, at the place where the little stream now know by the classic name of "Hog Creek" emerges from the bluffs and enters the Boyer bottom. At the time of going into camp the sun was a little more than an hour high, and Uncle Dan wishing to have some venison for supper, shouldered his rifle and passed out from camp a short distance, and ia less than one hour had killed five large fat deer, and as he has frequently said, "It wa'nt a very good time for deer neither."

From this camp they passed up the Boyer valley and came to the present site of Logan, at which place they halted and expressed themselves as never having seen so beautiful a situation in all their lives, but supposing that there were better than this elsewhere, they followed up the Boyer until they came to the lands on which Woodbine is now situated, and, being highly pleased with this location, thought they were getting too far inland; they struck across to the Willow valley and followed this down to the place where this stream enters the Missouri bottom, and there felt satisfied that they had struck the place, for "which they long had sought and mourned because they'd found it not," but having found this, were wholly satisfied that, bhis of all others, was the place.

Here Mr. Brown staked out his claim and immediately went bo work building a shanty, getting out rails and preparing a place for his family to be properly housed, when they should be brought to this newly discovered "Eden," in the spring following.

Returning to his home, he spent the following winter there, and early in the spring, with transportation in the form of a covered wagon, and the propelling power two yoke of cattle, the wife and children snugly stowed away under the white canvass, bhe old patriarch, wife, children and all effects are on this unlimited highway for the "palace" on the Willow, which I bave stated was prepared the year previous.

The incidents of travel across swamp, river, and over hill and dale, are the same as before stated, only, in this passenger car, the freight is more precious than in that of the year before, but soon they arrive at this beautiful spot on the table lands of what was once and still is Calhoun, and are now masters of their own situation, happier than the Czar of the Russias, the Queen of England or even the then President of the United States.

The will power of this old pioneer was always equal to the occasion, hut, at this time, being thirty miles from any settlement and no neighbors but the treacherous "dusky men and squaws" of the western prairies, he, at times, felt a little insecure, not on his own account, but for the safety of his wife and children.

The corn and potatoes are planted, the fence built, but the meal and flour in the barrel have become nearly exhausted and the last slice of bacon has been fried, and where are we to get a recruit of these until the harvest is come for corn and potatoes?  Himself and two of the sons soon started for the State of Missouri, two hundred miles away, there to assist the people in the gathering of the harvest, which was then ripe for the sickle. Arriving at that place, they enter heartily into the labor of gathering and soon have earned enough to load the wagon down to the guards, and no sooner is the task completed, than they are all on their way home bringing a good supply of food for the hungry ones in the cabin on the Willow; but the incidents of travel caused the utmost vigilance, for upon arriving at one of the branches of the 'Botna, which was bridged by a pole floor, and it having rained only a short time before, the team, consisting of two yoke of oxen, became frightened and began pushing in the yoke, when the floor of the bridge parted and the front yoke, or leaders, slipped through the bridge and hung suspended by their necks until Brown, grasping an axe, drove the staple out of the wooden yoke, and the cattle thus freed, fell into the water below, a distance of thirty feet. Brown was so much interested in the provisions that he did not look after the cattle which had disappeared, and when the substitute for a bridge was so repaired that he could bring over the wheel team and load, he began to look around for his leaders, and to his utter astonishment, saw them quietly grazing on the same side of the river on which he and the commissary stores then were. But what was his astonishment on arriving at home and learning from his wife that the thieving redskins had visited his place and cabin, and had appropriated to their own nse all the edibles and clothing belonging to him and the family, and that the family had been for the past three weeks living wholly on milk and young potatoes, the same being not larger than hulled walnuts. Where were the clothing and the corn and flour and bacon for the family during the winter to come from? The freedom of frontier life was affording more freedom than provisions, and the future did not look very promising; yet out of this dilemma there yet remained a hope, and this last effort was yet to be made. It was this: a hunt on the Sioux river near the mouth thereof. So early in the fall, Brown, with a few others, who had come into the settlement after his return from Missouri, started on a hunt to the mouth of the Little Sioux river, and when arriving there found the game so plentiful, that in a day or two they had their wagons loaded with elk and deer and wild turkeys, and Brown had in addition quite two barrels of wild honey. A portion of this he carted to Kanesville, sold the same for a big price, then laid out the proceeds of this sale in cotton domestics, jeans, shoes, groceries, etc., etc., and returned to his home with this recruit, the happiest man in all the broad expanse of the United States.

After this time the Indians were very troublesome, and greatly annoyed the settlement, but not until 1853 did they and the whites come to open hostilities; about which the reader's attention will be directed in other portions of this book.

The writer hereof has oftentimes heard Mr. Brown say, that on his return from the Bluffs, at the time he sold the honey, he felt like Alexander Selkirk did while on the Island of Juan Fernandez. He was "monarch of all he surveyed, his right there was none to dispute."

Here on the site selected by the subject of this sketch, in 1847, lived this pioneer from '48 until the time of his death, and here the family of two boys and four daughters developed into man and womanhood, all marrying at this place with the exception of one of the sons; yet at this date only two of the children are residents of the county, the others having gone on toward the setting of the sun, like the father, ever looking to the mighty west for better lands and more genial climate. Daniel Brown was a man of tremendous physical power, and a man upon whom nature had been lavish in the way of intellect. His youthful days were spent in his old North Carolina home without any of the advantages of common schools which the boys of the present age and place possess, yet in him was a mind far beyond many of those who had in early life partaken of the birch limb and small slices of old Kirkham, the Western Calculator and Olney's Geography. And findly, he was at and during all the time of the late civil war one of the most uncompromising friends of the Union, and never could bear to hear any one, at the time the very life of the nation was in peril, say anything against the administration of the sainted Lincoln.

Men of this cast are always needed for pioneer life. Men who never yield to any obstacle and finally never surrender until Father Time with his scythe says " 'Tis enough; this is the end."