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Harrison County Iowa Genealogy

Clay Township
excerpts from the 1891 Harrison County History

This civil subdivision of Harrison County was constituted from 1856 to 1860, and its present bounds are as follows: Morgan Township on the north, Taylor on the east, Cincinatti Twonship and the Missouri River (dividing Iowa from Nebraska) on the south, and the Misouri River on the west. It contains about thirty sections of land, equal to nineteen thousand and two hundred acres. Originally it was nearly covered with a heavy growth of timber, a goodly amount which still stands (1891). The only regular stream is the Soldier River, entering the township on section 13, and forming a junction with the waters of the Missouri, a short distance after leaving the limits of the township.

Horse Shoe Lake, a semi-circular body of water, is found in the central southern part of the township. The township has no railroad or village within ots borders. The population in 1885 was 557, and in 1890, the United States census placed it at 706.


Amos S. CHASE came to the mouth of the Soldier River in the fall of 1848, with the intention of becoming a permanent settler. He had a large drove of cattle, which he herded on the rush beds during the winter. But as the spring floods of the Missouri River drove him out, he concluded to locate in Little Sioux Township, which he did. His claim was taken by Seth CHASE ("Spanky" Chase) who came in a few years later, probbaly 1853.

Stephen HESTER and family came from Jones County, Iowa, (from Kentucky originally) in 1853, and settled on section 22, on Horse Shoe Lake. Chambers HESTER, son of Stephen A., is now(1891) a resident on section 15.

In 1854 came Job ROSS and his father's family, including George ROSS, settling on section 25. Job ROSS lived a retired life at Modale for some years, a highly respected citizen. He died January 12, 1892. Thomas A. DENNIS and John SHARPNACK came in the same season. These enterprising men at once commenced to build up homes for themselves. In 1856 they organized Clay Township, under Judge James HARDY's administration. Thomas A. DENNIS, in company with Stephen HESTER, built a sawmill on section 27, and did a big business, but owing to an imperfect land title, lost most of the property. DENNIS sawed larged quantities of railroad ties for the Missouri Pacific Railway. He died in 1880, a poor man. He was a native of New Jersey, and a brother-in-law of John I. BLAIR, the great railroad king.

George BURCHAM came from Magnolia Township in the autumn of 1854, and settled on section 12, of Clay Township. In war times he removed to Morgan Township, where he died in 1870. Dr. Libbius T. COON and family settled near the mouth of the Soldier River, on section 13, in 1854. He was indeed a character of the early-day type. He put up and sold an ague remedy he called "Bog-hay." Along in the 60's he sold out and went to Salt Lake. Dr. PATTON bought his place.

Dr. Libbius T. COON and family settled near the mouth of the Soldier River, on section 13, in 1854. He was indeed a character of the early-day type. He put up and sold an ague remedy he called "Bog-hay." Along in the '60s he sold out and went to Salt Lake. Dr. Patton bought his place.

Levi MOTZ, then a single man, came in 1854, and soon located on section 12. He married and remained in the township untl 1886, when he moved to Montana, where he is now well circumstanced. It is claimed for Mr. Motz that he has killed more wild turkey and deer in Harrison County than any other man. Jerry MOTZ, brother of Levi, came to the county in 1853, settling in Magnolia Township, remained until the year of 1862, removed to Taylor, and in 1865 to Clay Township; he finally located where he now lives, on section 13. He is an honored citizen and prosperous farmer.

John SHARPNACK filled a swamp land claim in Clay Township, in 1854. His son, William SHARPNACK, is a dealer in grain at Modale. Abraham RITCHISON settled on section 13, in October, 1855. He first rented land of T.A. DENNIS. He is now a well-to-do farmer.

Thomas DUHIG settled in the county in 1854, first working for Thomas DENNIS in a sawmill, after which he settled on section 13. He is still a resident.

W.H. BOURNE effected a settlement on section 24, in 1855. He is one of the highly-respected men of his township, and a prosperous farmer.

Jacob ANTABUS located on section 14, in 1855. He was a member of the Twenty- ninth Iowa Infantry, and died for his country.

Thomas WHITECOMB came from England to Pennsylvania, and from there to Clay Township, in 1856. He was an old railroad engineer. He worked about the mills here and later returned to England. While in Clay Township he built a windmill on section 14, with which he ground feed. Later on he added regular burrs and steam power.

Mike WALLACE came to section 7, in the fall of 1856, and started a wood yard, and operated a steam sawmill in time of the Rebellion. He died in 1890. It was after this man that "Sandy Point" was named, the color of his hair giving it the name.

Timothy DUHIG settled on secion 13, in 1856; he moved to California before the war of the Rebellion.

Thomas WALLACE, brother of "Mike," came in 1856, from Pennsylvania, and located on section 7. He served as a soldier in the Fourth Iowa Regiment, and died in Libby Prison. He was a single man.

Isaac TICE came in from Illinois, in 1857, and located on the east side of Clay Township, and died in the '70s.

Henry GEORGE, another soldier from Clay Township, died in the service. His widow re-married and now resides at Mondamin.

Theodore HELMEN, a soldier of the Twenty-ninth Iowa Infantry, was an early settler. He came home and was married, finally left his wife and died in the Soldiers' Home at Leavenworth, Kansas.

Horatio CAYWOOD came from Indiana to Mills County, Iowa, and in 1853 settled in Magnolia Township. He later on moved to Clay, settling in section 15. He finally moved to Arkansas, and died in 1888.

Enos COLE came from Wisconsin, in 1858, and ran a sawmill.

Benjamin F. ALEXANDER came to this county in the spring of 1869, and settled on his present farm in section 14.

Baker BUTTS and family came from Indiana in the spring of 1858. After the war he moved to Kansas, but is now again living in Clay Township.

Josiah TUFFLEY came to Clay Township in 1858, remained ten years, and removed to section 20, of Taylor Township. In 1890 he rtired, at the village of Modale.

In 1859 John DURMON settled in secton 10. He came from Illinois to Magnolia Township; he died on his farm, in the '60s.

Jacob UTZLER came to section 16, in 1858, remained until 1880, and moved to Nebraska.

During the '60s came the following: Jacob KILLEN came from Utah, in 1862, and settled on section 12, remained a few years, sold and returned to Salt Lake City.

James ALEXANDER, a soldier, serving from Ohio, came home and soon became a settler of section 16. He died in 1868.

John PARSONS, a Swede, came from California in 1860, and located where he now lives, section 10.

One of the many who became residents of Harrison County at the close of the Civil War was Samuel VITTITOE, who first located in Clay Township for two years, after which he purchased land in Taylor Township, on which he lived until the spring of 1881, when he sold and located on his present home on section 28, Clay. He was a member of Company C, of the First Regiment of Volunteer Infantry, of Kentucky, serving in the Mexican War one year.

Sylvester J. LINN, of section 12, came to the county in May, 1870, and settled in Taylor Township. He is a millwright by trade and worked for a time in that line, after which he began farming.

Peter HAUGER, a soldier of the late war, became a resident of Harrison County 1871. His has been quite an eventful life, which can better be learned by referring to his personal history in the biographical department.

Jonas O. JOHNSON, who is engaged at farming, and proprietor of two sawmills, is a resident of section 15, Clay Township, and dates his settlement from February, 1873.

Theodore PARSHALL came in during the war and located on section 25-79-45. He came from Ohio. He died during the '70s. The family still remains on the farm.

James SKELLEY came from Pennsylvania in 1862. He was a railroad engineer, but settled on a part of section 9. He has been in Taylor Township as early as 1856. He finally moved to Kansas.


The first man to locate in Clay Township was poineer Amos S CHASE, in 1848.

The first marriage in the township was that of Levi MOTZ and Elizabeth BURCHAM, in April, 1855.

The first birth in the township was that of Ruth BURCHAM, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George BURCHAM. She is now the wife of George GUNSOLLEY, of Shelby County. She was born in May, 1856.

The first death was that of a two-year old child of George BURCHAM, in January, 1855. It was buried at the Magnolia cemetery.

During the first years here there was plenty of game, turkeys, wolves, deer and elk. Chief among the wild fruits may be named wild grapes, which were gathered by the wagon load.

The principal tribes of Indians to be dealt with, friendly or otherwise, were the Omahas and Winnebagos. Nothing could be recorded against them, save that they would steal.

Clay Township was for many years divided by an imaginary line, one part was known as the timber or river district and the other the Prairie section. Much rivalry was seen and the two castes of charater did not seem to harmonize well. The element along the river was not of the highest type and refinement, yet when it came to voting their ballot counted as much as the other element in the township. This has gradually faded away and many beautiful farms and an intelligent populace may be found in all sections of the township.

Early in 1855 a hand ferry-boat, propelled by the use of oarsmen, plied the waters of the Missouri, opposite Clay Township. A mail route was established from Cumming City, Nebraska, to Magnolia and the mail was transported over the river by this ferry. A man named ELLIS operated it.

About 1886 William SAMPLES and "Jap" HESTER undertook to start a steam ferry system, from section 30, but their engine and machinery were too heavy for the boat and the enterprise was abandoned. The engine was taken for feed mill purposes.


The first milling enterprise of Clay Township was in 1855, when DENNIS and HESTER started an upright sash sawmill, on the south-east of section 22. It was burned in 1856, and in 1857 they put in a circular sawmill. The plant was sold and moved after the Civil War.

The second mill was built by "Mike" WALLACE on section 7, in 1861.

The Union Pacific Railroad Company had, at one time, four portable mills in the township, sawing ties and timbers.

Mills have been operated at various points of Clay Township by Messrs. MOTZ, CAYWOOD, FREDERICK, MORRILL, JOHNSON, POWELL, COLE and WHIPPLE. At this writing (1891) there are no mills in operation in the township.


Being along the great Missouri River, where steamboating and lumbering brought a rough class of people, it is not to be wondered at that society was not of the most refined Christianized type in this portion of the county, at an early day.

The first schoolhouse was built on the northwest quarter of section 25, and was erected about 1856. It was constructed from rough cottonwood boards, boarded up and down: Two other schoolhouses have since been built on the same site, one now in use. After the completion of the first school building, religious services were frequently held in it.

There are now three school buildings within Clay Township. The enrollment of pupils in 1890 was one hundred and thirty-three.

There are now two churches in the township; the first on section 12, built in 1884, by the Congregational denomination. The other is at "Sandy Point," a Free Methodist Church, built in 1889. The name "Sandy Point" comes from the fact that in early times a man named "Mike" WALLACE, who operated a wood yard on the river, had red hair, and hence the name. Mr. WALLACE died at Mondamin in 1890.

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