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Harrison County Iowa Genealogy

Calhoun Township
excerpts from the 1891 Harrison County History

Calhoun Civil Township was organized in 1856-57 and named for the first village platted in Harrison County, and that from old Fort Calhoun which stood on the Nebraska bank of the Missouri River, at a point not far distant from where the village of Calhoun was platted. The name of John C. Calhoun doubtless was the origin of all the points thus named in Harrison County.

Calhoun Township is south of Magnolia and Taylor Townships, north of St. John's and La Grange and east of Taylor Township. It contains 19 sections or 12,160 acres. The timber found here is chiefly extensions of Brown's Grove and Spencer's Grove, the former in the northwestern portion and the latter along the south line of the township. There is also a good sized grove in the eastern part of the township, in all amounting to three thousand acres.

Willow River, the chief stream, flows from the northeast to the southwest, with several lesser streams forming junction with it from the north side. Hog Creek is a small stream in the southeastern part of the township, having its source in Magnolia.

The Chicago & Northwestern railway traverses one section in the extreme southeastern corner, but the only hamlet within its borders is Calhoun. In 1885 the State census gave the township a population of 451.


The first settlement in this township means the first in the entire county. Prior to 1847 it is not known or believed that a white man ever invaded this section of the great Missouri slope, for the purpose of becoming a settler, but during that year two came in for actual settlement. One was Daniel BROWN, who had been a pioneer in Illinois and left at the time of the Mormon exodus, he being of that religious faith himself. He came from Florence, Neb., in the autumn of 1846; he came on a hunting expedition to the county and found land that suited him, where the village of Calhoun now(1891) stands. He came back in January,1847, built a log cabin and split some rails, but owing to sickness at his home in Nebraska he was called home--one William LITZ coming over at the request of the family to notify him of the serious illness of his married daughter, Mrs. Polly Hammond, who died in the month of March 1847. Early in April of that year he brought his family to his newly chosen location in Calhoun Township. He and his son William "claimed" the northwest of the southwest of section 31, and also the northeast of section 31. He platted Calhoun village in 1853, and was a resident until his death in 1875. His daughter, Mrs. B.H. DENNIS, now lives at Missouri Valley. The date of his actual settlement was April 7, 1847.

Closely following Brown's settlement came William LITZ and the following May came four other families who settled in the county--Messrs. J. VINCENT, O.M. ALLEN, G. CLEVELAND and Eleazor DAVIS. These settlers at once began tilling the soil and were blessed the following autumn by a beautiful crop. Soon after harvest they found ready sale for all they had to spare to the large number of Indian traders, passing north to hunt and trade. Mr. Brown used to relate how he did not see a dollar for months at at time and had hard work to keep clothing for his family. The money put in circulation by these traders helped him over these troubled times.

A sufficient number of settlers had made calims by 1852 to justify the organization of a county. Committees were sent to the land office at Council Bluffs to bid on claims and protect the working citizens from the heartless speculator. These committees were instructed to bid one dollar and a quarter per acre and to carry death into the ranks of those who should bid against them. The first land bought in Harrison County was sold to Daniel BROWN--an eight acre tract, where Calhoun was subsequently built.

The next family to locate in the county was Uriah HAWKINS, who settled in Cass Township in July,1847. In Calhoun Township the next to effect settlement after pioneer Daniel Brown were the following: William LITZ and father, Ezra VINCENT, O.M. ALLEN, E.T. HARDIN and Ira PERJUE. In 1849 came the WILLS family--Jesse, Charles, Silas, William H, John, and Erastus, also George W BINGHAM, an early teacher, perhaps the second in the county.

Peter R SHUPE, of section 17, came to the county in January,1851, first settling in Raglan; James HARDY came from Mills County, Iowa in 1853 and first settled at Magnolia, where he platted an addition. He built one of the first mills in the County and was an early County Judge. Other early settlers included William McDONALD in 1854, Harrison D MEECH with his parents from Vermont in 1855, Matilda P RATLIFF in 1855, Nelson G BOYNTON in 1856, James KENNEDY in 1857, and George NIECE in 1857.


Daniel BROWN was the first man to locate in the County, and the first one to purchase land in the township. The first death in the township was that of William BROWN, the son of Daniel, who died in 1854. The first school was taught in 1849-50, in a log house erected for such purpose at Calhoun, on the bluff. The teacher was Mrs. James CUMMINGS, wife of a Mormon missionary. The first saw and grist mills were erected in 1854. The first goods were sold from a store at the village of Calhoun in 1854. The first birth was that of Jerome BROWN, son of Dniel BROWN, in October,1848. The first marriage was that of William BROWN, in 1849 or 1850.


It appears that the first school in the county was taught at or near the village of Calhoun, in the winter of 1849-50 (see above). There were ten scholars, most of whom belonged to the ALLEN and BROWN families. Of course this was a subscription school. In 1855 George W BRIGHAM taught a school within a frame school-house, also in which Julia A BOYNTON taught in the summer of 1856.

It will be remembered that Calhoun is a small civil township. Today(1891) it is provided with four public schools, and has an enrollment of 150 pupils.

About war times a Methodist class was formed in the township, which had a membership of 70. It was on the Magnolia circuit. The following served as pasters; Revs. COE, ADAIR, BLODGET, DOUGLAS, SMITH, DESHLER, and HESTWOOD. The society has materially decreased and now only occasional services are held.


Perhaps no township in Harrison county can equal Calhoun in legends of romance and feats of adventure. Indeed, here some of the Indians were troublesome for the early settlers, not bloodthirsty savages, but sometimes mean and given to stealing and trying to frighten the whites. And who could blame them when we contemplate that this portion of Iowa was their home and earthly paradise. The Boyer Valley had its charms for the Native Americans as well as for the white settlers.

In the summer of 1847, when pioneer Daniel BROWN was away on a trip to Missouri, to procure provisions, the Indians came to his house and began to plunder and destroy all that could be found. Enough had been taken to place the family, in a starving condition ere the return of Mr. BROWN.

At another time a heavy skirmish ensued on the banks of the Boyer, between 12 whites and 30 Indians. A dozen or more rounds were fired, pro and con, when most of the red skins were captured and given a "French leave" to cross the Missouri River in a hurry.

For the most part, the Native Americans in Harrison County were there for hunting and trading, but occasional episodes continued until the county was further settled.


Mills and blacksmith shops of necessity, are the first branches of business enterprise to go into a new country, for without bread man cannot live, and where the grist mill is heard there one usually hears the clanking of the blacksmith's anvil and hears his fire roar. In 1854 E.T. HARDIN and Jesse WILLS built a sawmill, in Calhoun Township, which was located on section 19. They operated it about four years, when HARDIN sold to William MEECH, and later on the property passed into the hands of John MATTHEWS and Ezra VINCENT, but proving anything but a profitable investment it was abandoned, and finally decayed and washed into the waters of the Willow river.

The WAKEFIELD family later started a saw mill at this mill site, but around 1871 erected a flouring mill over the section line on section 30. This mill was soon converted into a "full roller" mill, of a daily capacity of twenty-five barrels. In 1890 they added steam power.

The "Hardy Mill" was a grist mill, erected on the banks of the Willow, on section 15, by James HARDY,Sr, and Jacob HUFFMAN. It was one of Harrison County's first mills for grinding corn. It was built in 1854. They obtained the burrs from the P.G. COOPER farm. This mill did grinding for the territory of 75 miles around.


Calhoun was the first village born of the county and was platted August 19, 1853, by Daniel BROWN. The beginning of business at this point was in 1854, when I.G. GATES put in a stock of goods, ran awhile and sold to W.S. MEECH. S.W. BABBITT and Jud DAILY operated a store from 1857 to 1862. In 1856 BOYNTON & DAY erected a building, and placed on sale a large stock of general merchandise. They continued as partners until the spring of 1857, when BOYNTON sold to DAY.

The first blacksmith at Calhoun was Patrick LEVI. He came from Ireland in 1855, built himself a shop, and remained at the forge about five years. He was a good workman, but had the bad habit of indulging too freely in liquor. He would frequently save up $100 and then go and "blow it in," using the modern-day expression. When he left the community lost a skilled iron worker, also a drunken blacksmith.

In 1856 a post-office was established at Calhoun. Among the various postmasters have been: W.S. MEECH, Charles NELSON, Dick HALL, and Mrs. CRAWFORD.

In 1868 W.W. ROSE conducted a saloon called "Castle Thunder". At that date the village contained 21 dwellings, two stores, a school house and a shop. It was noted for the beauty of its location and general surroundings.

At one time Calhoun looked forward to the day when it would become the county seat, but alas, they failed! It was a lively early-day trading point, but with the rush of the locomotive down the Boyer Valley, and the upbuilding of Logan and Missouri Valley, in 1867-68, the town began to wane, and finally every branch of trade was forced to suspend, and now(1891) the site of former "Old Calhoun", as it is now called, is pointed out to the new comer and passer-by, as one of the early landmarks of the county.

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