THE BYSTANDER'S NOTES
Charles S. Rogers & L.K. Rogers, Publishers
Mount Pleasant News; Mount Pleasant, Henry Co, IA; Jan 15, 1947
Some weeks ago we looked into the early years of Canaan township and were able to relate some items of interest to the present residents of that singularly fruitful area. Today we are writing of Marion township, which reaches down from the north to within a half mile of the north city limits of Mt. Pleasant . Indeed the northern limits of the Mt. Pleasant school district run well over into Marion township.
Henry county is one of the smaller of the 99 counties of Iowa . It is made up of 12 townships each six miles square. The township lines run exactly north and south and east and west, the total area of the county being thus 432 square miles. The last federal census figures however, give the county but 427 square miles. What became of the lost five miles is not clear, but possibly the water surface of the Skunk river was deducted.
Marion township never developed a close community even of village importance. The nearest approach to a communal center was the hamlet of "Stringtown" at the confluence of Big and Brandywine creeks, in section 20. There was a store, a blacksmith shop, a brickyard and a few houses. For a few years, 1893-1897, a post office was maintained, called Traxler, housed in the store and named in honor of the Traxlers who owned an extensive farming area there. The post office, the brickyard and the store have long since gone out of business. A few of the old houses remain.
Marion township never had a railroad, but there was plenty of railroad talk and promotion in the early 1870s, when the proposed Iowa Northern Central from Mt. Pleasant north, by the way of Washington , was on the maps of that period. Just west of the former hamlet of Stringtown on the township road that runs to Highway 218 , is still to be seen conclusive evidence that the railroad was more than a dream, for to the south of the highway can be seen a high fill built up to carry the rails across Big creek.
Another important point in Marion township was known and still remembered as Hickory Grove on the west line of section 15 and on Highway 218. On a rise overlooking the valley of Little Potomac , where established in the early days a church, a school house and cemetery. Here was the real social and political center of the township. The church long ago closed its services and later the building was sold.
Consolidation later closed the doors of the famous old school house and last year it, too, was sold and taken away. But the cemetery still remains, peaceful and well populated, on the hillside. The cemetery is well kept and within its acres are buried many of the men and women of the pioneering days, and chiseled upon the many fine stones are names of families who were held in the deepest respect and confidence far and wide.
In the eastern part of Marion township, however, there is a new central social community, Pleasant Lawn, that is modern in its thinking and activities. The central influence is the Pleasant Lawn Consolidated school , grades and high school. Adjacent to the modern school building is Wesley chapel, old in years, but still active and well supported. Across the highway is the only commercial enterprise remaining in the township, the grocery store of Joseph Linch which, while limited as to quantity of merchandise, is found to be handy to the farming neighborhood.
Marion township was first settled by George Dutton in 1835, 112 years ago. He staked a claim of 160 acres on the south side of section 22. It is still referred to as the Dutton farm, and is owned by Jasper Dutton. Thus it still remains in the family. While not as level as Canaan township to the east, Marion township has a large percent of its acres in prime farming land, and the rest first class blue grass, well watered pasture.
Characteristic of Iowa and Henry county, Marion township was early supplied with good rural schools and churches. Some of the school houses and churches are gone, but many remain, serving their neighborhoods effectively. So perhaps it may be interesting to move over the township and note some of the more interesting spots, which like the links of a chain hold the past fast to the present.
The old 1870 map of Marion township, which we have before us and the earliest we know of, made 35 years after George Dutton staked out the first claim and he became the first citizen of the township. In the southeast corner of section 2 stood a school house on a 90 acre farm owned by G.C. Paramore, but now owned by George Meeker. The old school house is still standing. In the very southeast corner of section 6 stood another rural school, Prairie Mound, on land owned by G.W. Long. The farm is now owned by Wilbur Allender and the school house is still standing there.
At the very northeast corner of section 9 and on U.S. Highway 218 were early built the Prairie Gem school house and Prairie Gem church. There they stand on the old 1870 map and there to this day they still stand. The church is one of the three on the Mt. Pleasant Methodist rural circuit. The old school house also is there, but its doors are closed, and its years of service over. The boys and girls of the district now are scattered to other schools. In 1870 William Young owned the quarter section, 160 acres less the two acres owned by the school and church. The land is still in the hands of the family, now owned by DeWitt C. Young.
The old 1870 map shows a school house at the southeast corner of the southeast quarter of section 14, land owned by B.T. Reed. The 160 is now owned by Gilbert and Dorothy Lauer. We think the school house is no longer there.
At the northeast corner of section 15 formerly stood the Hickory Grove school house and church. As stated above both have disappeared, but the cemetery still is carefully attended. In 1870 one, John Coe, owned a large acreage there but today it is owned by Mr. Fred Hall of this community.
At the northeast corner of section 19 where Soloman and Linn creek unite, is a small brick school, Oak Grove, and directly east across the highway is a brick church and by the church a small rural cemetery. Services are no longer held in the church and few interments in the little burial ground. It was a Baptist church.
On the south side of section 22 and on the land where George Dutton first settled, there was in 1870 a rural school house. It has long since been abandoned and moved away. Three miles east however in section 24 stands the Pleasant Lawn Consolidated school and adjacent to the old but still new, Wesley Chapel.
On the south edge of section 29 still stands a rural school but not occupied. It stood on land owned by R.A. Templeton. Later maps indicated that the school house was moved a half mile north. It is still standing but not used for some years.
Down in the lower southeast corner of Marion township is a familiar group of pioneer neighborliness. It was known as theold Ebenezer neighborhood. Here stood the old Ebenezer church, across the highway to the west was the old Ebenezer school house and just east of the church the old Courtney blacksmith shop. A little south of the old church was established a neighborhood burial ground. Many years ago the old Ebenezer church was abandoned and most of the supporters united with Wesley a mile to the north. The old blacksmith shop, too, is gone. The old school house was used as a sheep house by the Moores , until recently when it too was taken down. The small cemetery now stands in the center of a woodsy pasture on property belonging to Angus Moore.
In section 34, where the highway crosses Big Creek, there was in the old days a brick yard which did a large business. Little is left of it. The old maps, too, show many stone quarries, for in those days self-help was the order of the day and the local quarries and brickyards made large contributions to farm and town improvements. Many of the older brick structures in Mt. Pleasant and other places in the county, were built of local brick and they have stood the test. So today Marion township and the man and women who preserved it and improved it during the full century are now behind us.
In 1832 Marion township was swept by a cyclone, sweeping from the northwest. Aside from large property losses it caused the death of a man named Scott, who lived on what is now U.S. 218, and where a township road leads off toward Trenton and just before 218 drops down to Big Creek. This was known as the Grinnell storm. Just across 218 east, Scott was buried in a small rural cemetery. The burying ground has not been used for years. Gradually the plow has cut off furrow by furrow as the years passed, the grave stones piled up to the side. Today the last vestige of the old cemetery is gone.
Up north of the old community of Stringtown and on a farm now owned by Dr. Westfall, and known as the Jim Hall farm is another small rural burying ground. No church is nearby. It is being kept in a neat condition but is slowly wasting away by the erosion of passing years.
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