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Harrison County Iowa Genealogy

La Grange Township
excerpts from the 1891 Harrison County History

La Grange is the center township east and west, and on the south line of the county. It is south of Jefferson Twp, West of Union Twp, north of Pottawattamie County, and east of St. John Township. Its area is thirty square miles or nineteen thousand and two hundred acres. Its surface is rolling, fertile prairie land, except in the northeast part, where Harris Grove is found, which covers several sections. The streams flowing through the township are numerous and small. The larger of these are Harris Grove Creek, Honey Creek, and Timber Creek. The population in 1885 was five hundred and thirty. The 1890 numerator fixed it at six hundred and thirty.


In 1848, when the western part of Iowa was yet comparatively little known, and generally considered a worthless plain, the Latter Day Saints, or Mormons, being in trouble in Illinois and Missouri, owing to their religious teachings, left the bounds of civilization, seeking homes in the "far west." Most of them stopped in Western Iowa and it was some of their men who commenced improvements in what is now known as La Grange Township. They denounced Brigham YOUNG as a false leader. They were a floating population, and commenced to improve for those who were soon to come after them as settlers of the county. So in compiling the early settlemtn, many names are omitted from the pioneer band -- their sojourn being so short.

During the spring of 1848, John HARRIS, one of the Mormon band, located at what was in honor of him named "Harris Grove." His location was the northeast of section 12, now owned by J D MCKINNEY (1891). HARRIS sold to Robert WIEMER and he sold to J D MCKENNEY in the fall of 1851. Among the one hundred and thirty people of the Mormon faith, who wintered and summered in and near the grove, the names of the following are recalled. The entire party consisted of thirty-three families. The names referred to are: HARRIS, WIEMER, AUSTIN, POWELL, NOYES, SUFELT, TWITCHELL, HODGES, COMFORT, MECHAM, THORNTON, and MIKESELL. These all built cabins and remained until the spring of 1852 and then went to the "promised land" of Salt Lake City, Utah. Asa EARL, who settled on the farm afterward owned by Jacob STERN, was the only one who remained, not being an adherent of Polygamy.

In the fall of 1851, Michael MCKENNEY, John MCKENNEY, and Thomas MCKENNEY (Michael's father) and family came in from Cass County, Michigan. Thomas died June 12, 1852. At the time of their coming to the county, they found as settlers, Thomas REEDER, William HOWARD, Asa EARL, and a man named ORINDER. In 1852 came Daniel JEWELL, who settled where J.S. VANDERHOOF now lives (1891). JEWELL moved to Missouri in 1856. Thomas VANDERHOOF came in from Michigan with the JEWELLs and settled in Magnolia Twp, but soon left the country.

George W. WHITE came in the fall of 1852, as did John ROGERS and family from West Virginia. They settled on the west side of Harris Grove where he died about 1880. His son, J D ROGERS came in 1854.
Michael ROGERS came in 1852.
In the spring of 1851 came William DAKAN, a Mexican soldier, who located on the Joseph CULVER farm in St John Twp. These people comprised most of the settlement up to 1853.
Other settlers who followed included:
Benjamin A DIVELBESS and Charles CARVELHO in the spring of 1853;
Jacob S VANDERHOOF in the autumn of 1854;
James ROGERS in April, 1854;
William F VORE, accompanied with his father, Pierson, in the fall of 1855;
Francis T HILL in the spring of 1857, he was in the 29th Iowa Infantry;
George S SMITH in the spring of 1858;
Jacob T STERN and family came from Pennsylvania in 1857;
David B VANDERHOOF in the fall of 1864, he died in September 1885;
William ELLIOTT in the spring of 1862;
John A ORR, deceased, came with his parents in 1861, his father was Col. William ORR;
William PETT in May, 1867, he was a mason by trade;
John VORE in November, 1854, locating at Twelve Mile Grove;
Wilson DOTY came with his parents in the autumn of 1866;
Henry R COLEMAN, born in Harrison County in 1860 to an 1852 pioneer, Erastus COLEMAN from Ohio;
J.H. FENSLER in 1870, a blacksmith by trade;
Albert MCELDERRY in 1879;
J.P. YARRINGTON in the spring of 1881;
W.C. STODGEL in 1882 on section 8;
Edward FAGAN, a native of Ireland, came in 1883 with his family. His sons, Patrick and Peter are still residents. Edward died July 17, 1890;
John G BRUNDUGE in the spring of 1868;
Arthur J GILMORE, present County Supervisor, came in 1869. His family moved out from Dubuque County in 1872;
Nephi YOCOM in 1870;
Michael SARVEY in 1871, coming from Dubque, Iowa;
Frederick F BEEBEE settled in March, 1871 with his father, who had entered land in 1856;
Peter R MULLEN in the fall of 1874, settling on section 15;
James P O'ROURKE in 1873, with his father John from Dubuque County;
John BRADSHAW in the spring of 1877,
Harry ADAMS in 1878.


The first settlers were Mormons -- the first of whom was John HARRIS in 1848.
The first death among the "Gentiles" was Thomas MCKENNEY, June 12, 1852. Two Mormons had died prior to that date.
The first marriage in La Grange Township was M. ROGERS to Hope REEDER.
The first birth (aside from among the Mormons) was Frank MCKENNEY, March 26, 1852.
The first land improved was that on the J.D. MCKENNEY farm.
Th first regular saw-mill was built in 1857, by James MCCOID. Large quantities of lumber were sawed, some of which went to Europe.
The first school in this township, as now bounded, was in the summer of 1853, taught by Susan COMFORT in a log cabin left by the Mormons, on the northwest of section 13. It was a subscription school.


It was early in the fifties, when schools and religious services were first instituted in La Grange Township. The first school attended, however, was kept in a rude log hovel, left by the Mormons over on section 6, of Union Township and the first teacher was James MCCURLEY, now resident at Logan. It was in the MCKENNEY neighborhood and was taught in the winter of 1851-52. The building was so seated that the soft (?) side of a puncheon was turned uppermost and rested upon five pin-legs -- two at each end and one on the center. Heat was supplied by a big fire-place as well as an occasional "warming" from the hickory whip wielded for discipline, more than for cultivating good disposition upon the part of the pupils. Writing-desks were made by bass-wood boards being fastened to the wall. It is related by Joe H. SMITH, a local historian, that "moral suasion" was not employed to the degree, that "hickory suasion" was in those early-day schools.

The first public school building was erected in 1858 and known as "Dakan School." The first to teach there was a man named STONE. At this time the township is supplied with four good school buildings and there are 180 pupils enrolled.

Early religious services -- probably the first, were held by Rev. Mr. RICE (brother of Dr. RICE, of Magnolia) a Congregational minister, who preached in 1852. The next in the field were the Methodist people, who assembled at Mr. PETERSON's house, near the present James MCKENNEY farm. Rev. Moses F. SHINN officiated. As soon as school-houses were provided, they also served as "meetin houses." A union building was erected in 1890, on section 14, which is used for a general public hall and also for funeral and church services. Methodist services are held and a class kept up at the Beebeetown school-house.


This is situated on section 26, of La Grange Township and was established in 1880. The first postmaster was Frederick F. BEEBEE, whose wife was the prime mover in getting the office established. In 1881, a country store was started at this point, by A.D. FITCH, on land donated by Mr. BEEBEE. Mr. FITCH conducted the store about six months, when James HANER built a store. About the same time Mr. BEEBEE purchased Mr. FITCH's goods and turned the store building into a dwelling. Mr. HANER ran the store a while and sold to F.A. MERRITT, who continued until the autumn of 1888 and sold to J.P. YARRINGTON.

The post-office had had about the same changes and been conducted by the same men as the various stores have, Mr. YARRINGTON being the present(1891) mechant as well as the postmaster.

James L. BEEBEE, father of Frederick above mentioned, built a blacksmith-shop here in 1881 and rented to Charles WILKINS, who was followed by a Mr. WHIPPLE, who ran the same a year or so, when it was leased to J. VAN CLEAVER. Next came James KELLER, then SHOWWALTER & PINFROCK and now Peter CROMER wields the sledge and fans the glowing forge at this place. SHOWWALTER & PINFROCK built a new shop in 1890 and are still there.

During 1884-85, Dr. John HANSON, practiced medicine at Beebeetown, but not finding sickness enough, he sought 'sicklier pastures'.

What was known as the "Harris Grove Post-office" was established in time of the Civil War. It was on section 14, and the first to serve as postmaster was Harry COBURN. It moved about the township and was finally discontinued in 1867.


A fatal accident occurred, in the month of September, 1886, to Charles ROGERS, in Harris Grove. He was riding upon a load of hay, going down hill in from of Horace MCKENNEY's house, when the wagon tongue broke, which frightened the horses and jerked him off the load headfirst, producing a concussion of the brain. He lived about two hours, unconscious to the last. Dr. COMFORT was called but to no purpose. He was twenty-eight years of age and left a wife and two children.

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