Go to: Home Page * History Index *

Harrison County Iowa Genealogy

Roots of the RLDS in Southern Iowa

Extracted from the 1989 Roots of the Reorganized Latter Day Saints in SOUTHERN IOWA by Pearl G. Wilcox; 

Published by Pearl G. Wilcox 116 South Pleasant Independence, MO 64050

Transcribed and submitted by Alvin Poole

Magnolia and the Memorial to Pioneers

Part III:  Saints in Harrison County    

Magnolia, Iowa became the county seat of Harrison County in 1853, but later the county seat was transferred to Logan.  The whistles of the locomotives in nearby Logan seemed to drown the musical name, "Magnolia."  It was left an isolated village--and it still is.

At Magnolia a memorial log cabin has been erected in the city park in appreciation of those first pioneers who came in the "fifties".  This log structure is filled with pictures and relics of those pioneer days.  It was dedicated August 26, 1926, during the forty-second annual meeting of the Old Settlers Association, which had its beginning August 25, 1885.

Every log in the cabin -- except three -- was donated by pioneers or their descendants.  The brick in the fireplace and the west door are from the Magnolia High School, famous in its time.  Replicas of the old-time puncheon floor are found on either side of the fireplace, which is from one of the oldest homes in the county.  On one side of the fireplace the puncheons are made of cottonwood from the Missouri Valley bottoms, on the other they are of bass and linn wood from Elk Grove.  The builders intended to make the cabin a secure place for historical records and provide a permanent monument, so took the liberty to add a cement floor, chinking between the logs, and added asbestos shingles.

On the dedication day fifteen thousand pioneers or their descendants came to Magnolia.  It was a day when old and young met and reviewed the failures, successes, hardships, and triumphs of those early days in Harrison County.  Since this part of western Iowa was largely settled by Latter Day Saints, they were well represented.  Mingling among the crowds were the families of the Chatburns, Condits, Chases, Crabbs, Cadwells, Butlers, Mahoneys, Adamses, Carrios, Seddons, Fryandos, Mintuns and other church members who had helped to build up the community and their church.

The first visitor to register that day was James C. Crabb, age ninety-three.  "Uncle" Henry DeLong from Council Bluffs, ninety-two years old offered the invocation.  Amasa Merchant, age eighty-one was there.  Julia Vincent Shepard, seventy-nine, pulled the unveiling cord.1 It was a day long to be remembered.  


Magnolia Church Pioneers

Daniel Brown, credited as the first settler in Harrison County came here from the scattering of the Saints from Nauvoo.  He had joined the exodus from Illinois, but left the migration at Florence, Nebraska, to come to Iowa on a hunting expedition.  He found land to his liking where the present village of Calhoun is now located, and had built a cabin and split some rails when he was called back to Nebraska because of the illness of a daughter, Mrs. Polly Hammond.  She died in March 1847.  In April of that year, he brought his family from Nebraska to his newly located home.  With his son William he took claim to additional choice prairie land where he later patted the village of Calhoun.  By 1849 he was able to welcome his new neighbors—Uriah Hawkins, J. Vincent, O.M. Allen, G. Cleveland, and Eleazer Davis.  These settlers were all tillers of the soil and able to find a market for their surplus crops among the Indian traders passing through the country.  “These were the happiest days of my life,” wrote Brown,, who remained here until his death in 1875.2

Donald Mauel and his family came to Harrison County in 1851.  They endured the hardships of 1856-57, as well as the grasshopper plague that followed later.  A peaceful tribe of Indians were there only neighbors.  He was born June 23, 1821, in Scotland, the son of John and Mary Mauel.  His first sixteen years were enjoyed in sports and pleasures common to Scottish youths.  Then he served as an apprentice on board a Scottish vessel, and for the next eleven years he was a sailor.

In 1844 he married Jane Fotheringham, a native of Scotland, and they became the parents of John, Margaret, William and Sarah.  They joined the old church organization, and in 1849 came to America, landing at New Orleans.  They steamed up the Mississippi River to St. Louis where Donald found employment.  It was here his wife Jane and two of the children died.

In 1850 Donald married Christina Crawford, who was born September 16, 1831, at Peebles, Scotland.  They became the parents of James, Mary J., David, George E., William, Joseph D., Charles R., Emma E., Albert H., and twins Margaret A. and Minnie M.  On coming to Harrison County in 1851 they acquired a quarter section (160) acres of land in Raglan Township where they built their log house with puncheon floors.  They eventually increased their holdings to a 700-acre, well-improved farm.  During the 1860s the Mauels united with the Reorganized Church and in 1865 Donald was ordained an elder.  All the family were valiant in the work of the Magnolia Saints and Donald throughout western Iowa.  Christina died in 1895, Elder Mauel then married a woman referred to as Mary and she died July 10, 1911.  Elder Mauel died March 18, 1919, on the homestead where he had lived for sixty-six years.  He was survived by the following children; Mrs. Harriet Hight, Mrs. H.L. Fry, Mrs. Nellie Cassiday, Mrs. Elizabeth Smith, Edward LeMay Mauel, and William A. Mauel.3  (Through research and www.findagrave.com, the last name is actually spelled Maule).

William G. and Martha C. Mefford:  He came to Harrison County prior to 1851, first locating in Jefferson Township where he remained until 1853, then settling in Douglas County.  At his arrival there were but four voters reported .  William and his father, George Mefford, who made the first improvements in the township.  It was in their log home that the first church services were held.  Also the first school, taught by Nathaniel Mefford, was held in the Mefford home in the winter of 1855-56.

William Mefford was born May 20, 1832, in Muhlenburg County, Kentucky, where he lived until 1847 when, with his parents and a party of eight including his grandfather and John Hunt, he came to Pottawattamie County.  All were members of the old church organization.  It was from here the Meffords moved to Harrison County.  William married Martha G. Leslie in Harrison County September 5, 1864.  She was born July 1, 1836, in Illinois.  At her death June 1, 1881, she was survived by William and four children, Nancy, Andrew, Amanda C., and George W.; two children preceded her in death.  William subsequently married Mrs. Caroline Kester October 6, 1898.  He died in Woodbine June 3, 1906, survived by Caroline, a son Andrew, and daughters Nancy and Amanda.4

Amos S. and Sarah Chase:  He was born in Bristol, Vermont, in 1820, the son of Abner and Amy Chase.  On becoming of age he left the Green Mountain state and came to Nauvoo, Illinois, where he married Sarah Silsby in January 1848.  She was born April 14, 1824, at Northfield, Vermont.  Amos and Sarah were among those who left their home in Nauvoo to become part of the trek to the “Valley of the Mountains.”  On reaching Kanesville, they decided to make a temporary stopover to raise extra money before continuing their trip.  In the fall of 1848 they turned northward about forty miles and settled near the mouth of Soldier River in Harrison County.  Here they remained about a year before seeking higher ground.  They pre-empted government land near the Little Sioux River about two miles from the future location of Little Sioux village.  Others settling nearby were Ezra Vincent, Samuel Coon, Ira Prejue, Silas Condit, Thomas Neely, and E. T. Hardin, some of whom went on to Utah.  Near the Chase log home rush beds abounded along the river bottomlands, making good winter forage for livestock.  Amos took a government contract to watch cattle, at the same time watching cattle for his neighbors. all to earn money to continue his trip to Utah.  About half a mile from the Chase home lived some Morman cattle thieves who were considered “not good Neighbors.”   These men knew Chase to be a good Mormon with a reputation for being incorruptible.  Nevertheless, they suggested to Chase that he help steal cattle from the “Gentiles,” alter the brands, and send them to Winter Quarters to supplement the Mormon herds.  Chase went to Kanesville to report the matter to the church officials, and he was told to “go slow with the boys.” He quickly replied, will not!”  He was then warned that he might be cut off from the church to be buffeted by Satan.  “Cut and be damned,” he replied.

Chase continued to oppose these robberies, and he soon was cited for trial “for not minding his own business and keeping his mouth shut.” His answer was, “I’ll not be tried by such men.”  Then came the notice that the case had gone by default, and he was assessed a fine of one hundred dollars.  He promptly notified the officials he would not pay and was notified he would be cut off from the church.  Still Chase did not blame the general authorities, thinking it was only the fault of the local leaders at Kanesville.  He and his family continued to make preparations for their journey to Utah.  By the time the Chases were prepared to finance their trip across the plains, talk of polygamy was heard more and more, and Sarah decided that she could no longer follow the teachings of Brigham Young.  The Chases then moved to Preparation, Iowa.  Here they became acquainted with Charles Thompson, who had assumed the title of “Baneemy, Chief of Patriarch of Zion.” and was calling the scattered Saints into a community “of all things common” to prepare for the coming of the Lord.  The Chases decided to try the man’s claim, but soon found that all things were not equal.  They left the group after a few months.  Again Amos and Sarah loaded their possessions onto their ox-drawn wagon and headed northward.  They stopped at Yankton, South Dakota, where he erected a sawmill.  From here in 1860 he was sent to Omaha as a member of the early territorial legislature.  While at Omaha he received a copy of The True Latter Day Saints’ Herald.  After reading it carefully and later sharing it with his wife, he was ready to accept the claims of the Reorganization.  Sarah hesitated, however, and became more cautious.

About this time Indian troubles arose, forcing the Chases to abandon the mill.  There was no time to salvage any part of it; they were fortunate to escape and reach Sioux City safely.  Then, the Chases returned to Soldier Valley where they eventually united with the Reorganized Church, seeking anew the promises of the Gospel.  Amos kept a hotel for a year while living in Calhoun Township near Magnolia.  He also ran a hotel at Little Sioux.  In addition, he operated a sawmill, where he lost an arm in 1870 in a mill accident.  He then bought a farm on the Soldier River, in Jackson where the family remained until Amos died November 22, 1879.  Sarah died January 17, 1905.  Their surviving children were Amy Anjan, who was born in Pisgah, Iowa, and became the wife of Charles Vrendenburg; Julia, the second white girl to be born in Harrison County, became the wife of Vincent Shepherd; Asaph, who resided near Orson, Iowa; Mrs. May Gamet of Oklahoma; and Amos Milton Chase, who became a missionary and resided at Lamoni, Iowa.5

Magnus and Elsie Fyrando both came from Sweden.  He was born September 28, 1836, at Malino, and joined the Latter Day Saint Church at sixteen.  He was among the first to be baptized in Sweden.  At the age of seventeen he was preaching the gospel and enduring much persecution; he was whipped and imprisoned at the times for the sake of the gospel.  He married Elsie Oleson on December 5, 1858.  She was a native of Milano, born on December 8, 1826.6  Soon after their marriage the Fryandos began to hear stories of the Zion at Utah.  Being devoted members, they were soon on their way to America.  The journey across the water and then the plains was tiresome, but they were happy in the thought that they were going to find a place where the pure in heart could live together in peace.  Their first child, Josephine, was born during the trip.  The child’s first dress was made from her mother’s sunbonnet. 

On September 23, 1859, they arrived in Salt Lake City.  Like many other Europeans they had exhausted their resources during the trip.  They were forced to sell their wedding garments and jewelry.  The poverty they could accept, with hope of better days, but they could not tolerate the changes in religious beliefs.  They found that new doctrines had been added, members rebaptized, and priesthood members were being reordained.    The Fyrandos decided to leave the valley.  Twice they made the attempt, but each time their oxen were stolen.  After seven years they were able to flee to a neighboring village while most of the valley citizens were at a weekly dance.  Here they joined a wagon train headed for Omaha, Nebraska.  They now had two children, Josephine and a son, Alma M., who had been born July 26, 1865, at Mount Pleasant, Utah.  The arrived in Harrison County in July 1866 and settled near Magnolia.  Here they heard the Reorganized missionaries preach, and accepted the message.  Magnus was ordained an elder and, in 1875, was sent back to Sweden on a mission.  He remained in Sweden two years, enduring hardships which certainly were equaled by the family left behind.  Stories have been told by the family how Elsie often found her flour bin almost empty, but by some mysterious means it was always replenished.

When Magnus returned from Sweden he was immediately on a mission to Utah where he labored one year.  Eventually he gave up the missionary field and entered into business in Magnolia, but he continued to serve the church throughout the area.  After an eventful life he died November 22, 1890.  Elsie, his faithful wife, died February 17, 1909, survived by the two children.7

Stephen Mahoney, numbered among the early pioneers of Harrison County, was born February 13, 1809, at Elkton, Maryland.  Here he married his first wife Margaret.  They became the parents of Anna M., Harriet E., Theodore, James M., Stephen C., Jeremiah, William, Joseph, Hannah E., and Lucinda M.  Before the family was ready to leave Maryland for the west, Margaret died in February 1850. 

That same year the surviving Mahoney family, in the company of about 130 other Latter Day Saints, started for the west.  One of the Mahoney children, died before they reached Kanesville.  While preparing the family for the remaining trip, Stephen married Mrs. Martha Beaver on April 5, 1851.  She was an English convert also en route to Utah.  But, for many of the familiar reasons, the Mahoney family went no farther west.  Instead they settled in Harrison County in the spring of 1852.  They built a sixteen-by-sixteen log house and moved in even before the puncheon floor was ready.  By 1858 they were able to erect a story-and-half frame house for their increasingly large family consisting of six children:  Hiram S., Benjamin F., John T., Margaret A., Elisha, and Sarah E.  This family helped lay the foundations and promote the growth of the Magnolia community more than they realized during those first pioneer days.

In partnership with Jonas Chatburn, Mahoney built the first sawmill to cut the native lumber.  The pioneers remarked, “Now we can have doors and windows and tables in our homes.” Prior to building the sawmill Chatburn and Mahoney operated a gristmill propelled by water from Willow Creek which they damned for the purpose.  They remained as partners in the milling business for about sixteen years.  The Mahoney family provided a pattern responsibility and honesty throughout the Magnolia community.  They united with the Reorganized Church, where Stephen served as an elder.  He died February 22, 1888, at Magnolia.8

Phineas and Harriet Caldwell, early-day pioneers, have been prominently identified as developers of what was little less than a wilderness into well-tilled lands in Harrison County.  He was born in Lenox, Madison County, New York, on April 17, 1824, the youngest son of Colonel Ebenezer Smith Caldwell and Sarah (Clark), both of Scotch descent.  At the age of eighteen Phineas embarked on his life’s vocation in Racine County, Wisconsin, where his father had given him 160 acres of land.  Here he farmed and “batched” for about three years, then returned to New York and married Harriet Newell Fiske, on October 7, 1845.  Harriet was born May 31, 1824, in Madison County, New York.  To this union the following children were born: Charles F., born February 29, 1848, died October 8, 1861; Mary E., born November 29, 1849, died in infancy; William C., born June 28, 1853; Edgar F., born August 4, 1855; Frederick H.M., born December 8, 1860; Harriet P., born August 26, 1863; and Katie E., born October 6, 1865

The Caldwells located in Magnolia Township October 6, 1854, and acquired several hundred acres of land in Section 36, gradually increasing their holdings to over one thousand acres.  In January 1861, Caldwell was elected director of the State Agriculture Society, an office he held for the next twenty years.  He was also president of the Harrison County Agricultural Society for about the same length of time.  He served one term in the Iowa legislature.  By 1881 Phineas had moved from his homesite to some beautiful grounds one-half mile north of Logan, where he erected a fine home.  In 1874, with George W. Fiske, he started what was known as Caldwell’s Bank, operating in Logan and Woodbine. 

Phineas Caldwell had been reared in the Congregational Church, but in Racine, Wisconsin, he was converted to the early Latter Day Saint Church and baptized April 14, 1849, by John E. Page.  Later he became doubtful of the authority of Page as minister and was again baptized August 29, 1859, by James M. Adams.  He was baptized into the Reorganized Church by John A. McIntosh and ordained an elder March 5, 1870.9  The Caldwell story continues under “Magnolia Branch.”

James Frank and Mary Mintum:  He was born July 9, 1855, near Magnolia.  His father became acquainted with the early missionaries of the Reorganized Church who were bringing the gospel to this part of Iowa and expressed opinions favorable to their message.  However, because of the father’s love for worldly pleasures, and his proud spirit that would not be humbled, he would join the church before he died, but procrastination overtook him; he died at an early age, leaving the family in poor circumstances.

As a result, James was reared with few comforts and no luxuries, yet, with the efforts of his mother, he was able to get a high school education.  He taught school for eight years, and clerked in the general store of J. M. Harvey at Magnolia.  During this time James often accompanied his mother to preaching services, especially when E. C. Briggs and W. W. Blair came to their neighborhood.  After his mother was converted to the gospel all the missionaries were made welcome in their home.  Thus James had the privilege of hearing the gospel discussed by such representatives as W. W. Blair, Hugh Lytle, Silas Condit, Daniel and Jehial Savage, and J.C. Crabb.  James, like his father, was finding employment in the worldly pleasures of the community but, at the age of twenty-one, he began to see that his way of life was wrong.  He concluded it must be changed and began to investigate the religious beliefs of his mother more seriously.

On April 1, 1877, James married Mary E. Knight, who was born in Lucas County, Iowa, February 9, 1859, and had come here with her parents Allen W. and Mary (Jenkins) Knight.  Mary was not affiliated with any church, but together they attended the preaching services and studied the books of the Reorganization until they were thoroughly convinced.  While at church in July 1877 they learned a baptismal service was to be held.  They quickly returned home for a change of clothing and were both baptized.  During the confirmation of James he was told he would be the means of bringing money into the church.  On May 5, 1878, he was ordained an elder under the hands of Phineas Cadwell, Magnus Fyrando, and A. W. Locking.  In September 1879, he was ordained a seventy.

Mary died December 29, 1920, at the family home in Council Bluffs.  She had been a faithful church member who had always been willing to make necessary sacrifices in support of her missionary husband.  James died March 13, 1950, at the age of ninety-four, bringing to a close the life of one of the old-time missionaries who had ministered to man throughout Iowa and elsewhere.  The surviving children were Ruth I., born March 19, 1886; Alice E., born June 9, 1889; and Guy F., born June 1891.10 


Return to the Harrison County History Index page.