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Iowa Historical Record Quarterly

Published Quarterly by the State Historical Society, Iowa City, Iowa


VOL. XV. July, 1899. No. 3

[continued from April, 1899]

     Shortly after Ross came to this county, two young men, Frank and Tilford Gilmer, worked an entire winter, chopping and hauling logs to the saw-mill, only to have them all washed away when the spring thaw swelled Brush Creek to an unusual height. One of those two young men, Tilford, still lives in Fairfield This Gilmer family is another example of the many families of this county that have a history deserving of preservation. The family, like the Ross family, was from Kentucky. In one of the Indian outbreaks, that so often marked the history of Kentucky, the little outlying settlement in which the Gilmer family lived, got word to go at once to the central fort, which was several miles distant. Hastily snatching up a few of the first things that came to hand, the women put onto the horses while the men formed a rear guard to intercept the coming savages. One of these women was a young Mrs. Gilmer, who was mounted on a horse behind a man who was not able, by some reason, to take his place with the fighting men. Towards morning the fleeing company halted for a rest, and while resting were attacked by the Indians. A tomahawk just missed Mrs. Gilmer's head, as she was hastily put onto the horse again. In the panic that overtook the fleeing women and their escorts, the man that was guiding Mrs. Gilmer's horse, pushed her off so that he could make greater speed in his hurry to reach the fort. However, the rear-guard found the abandoned woman and when they arrived with her at the fort it was all that the garrison could do to keep the enraged men from hanging the poltroon at once, and he saved his life by flying to another settlement. Shortly after a son was born to Mrs. Gilmer and there was a mark on the side of his head as if he had been struck with a tomahawk. This child was James Gilmer, father of the two young men, Frank and Tilford. When James was a young man he served in the war of 1812, in Ohio, under Generals Clay and Harrison, in one of the bloodiest and most trying campaigns of that war, it being against the British under Proctor, a very able officer, and the famous Indian chief, Tecumseh. James Gilmer owned one of the largest and best farms in the county, and lies buried in a small cemetery in the woods near his home. Strange as it may seem the birth mark, which seldom inconvenienced him through life, was perhaps the cause of his death.
     Another neighbor of Ross' was John Toothaker, who had also served in the war of 1812, but in the District of Maine. Toothaker's father had owned a large farm on Long Island, but through some turn of law he lost his home and went with his family to Maine, where his daughter, Mercy, was married to a man named Howard. The loss of his home had unsettled Toothaker's mind, and he with his sons and daughters, of whom there were a number, lived with the son-in-law, Howard, when the war opened. Howard and John, a brother of his wife 17 years old, enlisted on the appearance of an English fleet off Belfast; but the look of preparation or a change of plans made the fleet turn in another direction and our soldiers were not permitted the glory of engaging the enemy. At return of peace, the army was given a "Triumph" at the town of Belfast. A vast multitude of people assembled to see the soldiers, but of all the glad hearts none was happier or prouder than the young wife, Mercy Howard, as she held up her little first-born son, Elasol, to see his father and Uncle John march by. Wm. Maxwell, of Salina, is a grandson of the little Elasol, and the widow of the tall slender stripling, John Toothaker, still lives at Hillsborough, this state.
     In the HISTORICAL RECORD of October, 1898, there is reference made on page 378 to a conscript of Napoleon's, who served, after being taken prisoner in Spain, in the English army under Wellington. This man of many adventures Frederick Schneringer, had married a widowed sister of the boy John Toothaker, and as the above article states, came to Iowa in 1839, walking from St. Louis to this county. The saw-mill enabled him to build a better house than the little cabin that had sheltered him and his wife, the good widow who had pitied his forlorn lot in the Maine woods. Schneringer was his own carpenter, and if we have been able to convey an idea of his character, it is remembered that he was one of the most opinionated men that ever lived. As much of the material for his house had to be brought from Ft. Madison, a distance of fifty miles, it will be seen there was some excuse to be offered in economizing as much as was possible. But the frame was cut so much too short that when it came to be raised it was necessary to hew out additional " plates " to be laid on the framed plates to make the rooms high enough for Nathaniel, a step-son, to stand erect in. Scheringer himself was but little more than five feet in height. At the raising of this house Albert Howard, a son of Willard Howard, who marched in the ranks in the "Triumph" of Belfast, took one of those "plates," twenty-eight feet long, on his shoulder and carried it some distance to the place wanted. Mr. Howard still lives at Glendale, and the fifty years that have elapsed since that house raising have strengthened his memory as well as increased the pleasure of recounting the great strength which was his in his youth. This house of Schneringer was burned down about 1870, a loss which is to be regretted because it was one of the first frame houses built in this county. Carl Schneringer, a grandson, was a schoolboy at Bradshaw, Nebraska, when war with Spain was declared; he enlisted, and being the only soldier from the town, was escorted to the train, that bore him away, by the school in a body, and by almost the entire town and community. He returned from the Philippines the latter part of December, broken in health; and the town, school and community honored themselves on his return, as they had speeded his departure for the war.
     Ten years after the first white inhabitants came to Iowa, the population had increased to such an extent that there was a widespread desire for statehood. For this purpose an act was passed by the territorial legislature early in 1844, and approved by the governor, John Chambers, in February of that year, calling for an election of delegates to meet in October of the same year, at Iowa City, to frame a state constitution.
     Jefferson county sent five delegates to this convention; Sulifand S. Ross, Hardin Butler, James I. Murray, Robert Brown and Samuel Whitmore. A slight account of some of these colleagues of Mr. Ross' may be of interest in connection with his life.
     Hardin Butler was born in Adair County, Kentucky, was a grandson of John Butler, one of the most noted of Kentucky's Indian scouts. In company with some relatives of his, named Hardin, and James Gilmer, he of the tomahawk birthmark, and others, he came to Iowa from Illinois, in 1836, but too late to raise any corn for subsistence, and in consequence was compelled at the coming on of winter to return to his father's home in Illinois. All of these immigrants crossed the Mississippi river at Fort Madison. The man who managed the ferry was a rough, brutal bully; when Butler drove onto the ferryboat, one of his cattle ran away and while he was bringing it back, the ferryman cast off. Butler's wife was ill and was greatly alarmed at crossing the river, doubly so because her husband was not with her. Butler said nothing to the ferryman when the boat returned, but went on to his father's spent the winter, returning in the spring, with his family and stock, accompanied by two or three of his cousins. After all had been safely landed at Fort Madison, Butler recalled to the ferryman's mind the incident attending former crossing of the river, and without farther ado proceeded to administer a terrific chastisement to him, and only desisted when the ferryman cried "murder," and Butler's friends interfered in his behalf. When Butler saw how severely he had punished the man, he asked his friends why they had not interfered sooner. They replied that it was an old debt, and it was well to pay the interest with the principal.
     A man of Butler's character could not but be well known in a pioneer community, and this was perhaps his only recommendation to his fellow citizens in selecting him as a delegate to the constitutional convention. He was not a public speaker even to the extent of being a debater in the debating societies that were so common in the early history of the county. On one occasion, a political meeting at Glasgow, Butler was called on to make a speech. He arose and said, "Fellow citizens!" and feeling the strangeness of his position he repeated "Fellow citizens!" and not even then being able to add anything, he again repeated, " Fellow citizens! " when a man in the audience said, " Now you have done it!" and the speech was brought to a close.
     Butler's notoriety does not so much depend on his labors as a delegate to the constitutional convention as on his connection with the first homicide in the county, the killing of John Woodard, in June 1856. Butler lived on a farm in Cedar township, now the property of George Phillips, on which Levi Tracy lives. And on en adjoining farm, also belonging to Phillips, lived John Woodard, a brother of John Huff's wife. Woodard went to California in search of gold, and was successful in getting quite a sum, but on his return he found that gossip had made free with his wife's name in connection with Butler's. Mrs. Woodard had made her home, in the absence of her husband, with her mother, Mrs. Kiger, a widow. Ever since the days of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra the world has witnessed evils arising from the separation of husband and wife for any lengthened period. Woodard swore he would avenge his honor by killing Butler on sight, and these threats coming to Butler's ears, it was not long until he gave Woodard an opportunity to make them good. Taking his son, Elkanah with him in a wagon he drove by the little cabin in which the Woodards dwelt, to get a load of wood; just after passing the cabin the road descended a steep hill, and when nearing the bottom of the hill Butler heard a loud cry near the top of the hill, where he saw Mrs. Woodard standing with her arms extended pointing to Woodard, who was running after him with one hand behind his back. Giving his son the lines he picked up his rifle from the bottom of the wagon and steadying himself by standing astride of the board which served as a seat, he took deliberate aim, and when Woodard brought his arm in front, shot him through the heart, and it could not be told whether they fired simultaneously or whether only one discharged his weapon. Butler at once surrendered himself to the authorities and a trial acquitted him on the ground of self-defense.
     The death of Woodard led to much speculation as to what had become of the gold which it was known he had brought with him from California. After searching in every conceivable place for it, Mrs. Woodard employed a man who lived in the neighborhood named Keltner, who had studied astrology, to endeavor by his art to discover the lost gold.
   In a life of so many vicissitudes it is hardly to be wondered at, that he should endeavor to peer into the future, and so he had made a study of judicial astrology. It was this art that Mrs. Woodard enlisted in her behalf to find the money. But whether the stars refused to give up the secret to their interrogator, or whether as many thought there was no secret to yield, the money all the while being in Mrs. Woodard's possession, it is still a subject of conjecture what became of the gold.
     The same year Butler sold his farm, and removed to Missouri, where he died at an advanced age in 1897. It is but due to his memory to add, that his last years were spent as an humble repentant in Christian preparation for eternity.
     Next to Schneringer, Francis G. Keltner perhaps had led the most adventurous life of any man who ever came to Jefferson county. Born in Hungary, of a good family, through the influence of an uncle he had received a lieutenant's commission in the Austrian army, his uncle being colonel of the regiment. While serving in Italy his duty consisted in guarding political prisoners, and the awful tyranny of Austria in Italy kept the prisons full of victims. Becoming interested in some of these persecuted people, whom he was guarding, the young lieutenant winked at the negligence of some soldiers who had procured some wine, and through its influence had not hindered the escape of the Italians. Foreseeing his own punishment, when the escape should become known, he hurried after the escaping prisoners and escaped to Switzerland before he could be overtaken; but not feeling secure even there, he hurried on to England and from thence to America. He soon found congenial occupation by entering the army, and served under Taylor in Florida against the Seminoles in a campaign in which the soldiers suffered terrible hardships. At the expiration of his five years of service, Keltner settled down to the watchmaker's trade at Baltimore and married. From Baltimore he came to this county with a large family in 1852. Mrs. William Davis of Fairfield is a daughter of Mr. Keltner's.   
     Robert Brown was a farmer of Des Moines township. He was slight of stature, and quick of movement. While Mr. Brown was not a public speaker, he was a man of superior character, held in great esteem by his fellow citizens. He represented Jefferson county in the state senate, being the third man from this county to hold that honor. He also filled the office of recorder and treasurer when those two offices were, for a number of years, consolidated.
     That he was a man of independent character may be inferred from his attitude towards President Buchanan's administration. Holding an office in the land office, he was so little in sympathy with the course pursued, in overriding the wishes of the settlers of Kansas, that he boldly supported Douglas although he well knew that such a course would bring upon him the wrath of President Buchanan's supporters.
     Samuel Whitmore was a farmer of Locust Grove township, and that he was a man of influence in the county may be gathered from the trusts committed to him, in after years. Mr. Whitmore, like all of the delegation from Jefferson county, with the exception of Mr. Ross, was not a public speaker. He came to Iowa in 1842 from Ohio, where he had amassed a considerable amount of property in contracting work on canals.
     In 1852 he was elected to the state legislature, his colleagues being H. B. Mitchell, and W. J. Rogers; and so bad were the roads at that day, that to reach Iowa City, they were compelled to go by way of Richland, to avoid crossing Walnut Creek, that stream not yet having been bridged. James I. Murray, the fifth man to be noticed, of the first state constitutional convention from Jefferson county, was born in Pennsylvania, and at the time of the convention was just forty years old. When a young man he went to Virginia and learned the stone mason's trade and married. His father was a colonel in the Revolutionary war. James was one of a large family—at a time when large families were the rule. In 1837 Murray came to Iowa with his family of three daughters and two sons, in company with his brother-in-law, John C. Stuart. They built a flat boat and on it with their families, and a few household goods, bade farewell to "old Virginia," at a point in Braxton county, on Elk river, guiding their boat down that river to the Kanawha, and down that stream to the Ohio, where they sold their flat boat and took passage on a steamboat down that river and up the Mississippi, landing in the spring of 1837 at Fort Madison. Both Stuart and Murray settled five miles northeast of Fairfield, the latter buying a claim from a man named Joseph Carter, who had built a cabin of round oak logs, near a spring of sulfurous water; the cabin had been built without a nail, or iron of any description, the door was made of clapboards, fastened weather boarding fashion, on a rough frame with wooden pins; without a window, with the earth for a floor, chimney of mud and sticks, a typical cabin of the first settlers. It will be seen that it was next to impossible to sweep the floor clean of dust. During the summer of 1837 Mr. Murray built a hewn log house, which with some repairing done to it, served as a dwelling until 1898, sixty-two years. Mr. Murray entered four hundred and thirty-six acres of land for himself, when the land came into market, besides a number of tracts of land which he entered and held for neighbors, until they could obtain the money to pay for their homes. One of these men who owed the possession of his claim to Murray's helping hand, was William DeTar, now a wealthy farmer of Monroe county. Mr. Murray was all his life interested in the education of the children. He donated land and material for the first school house near what has since been Perlee, and when in a few years it was burned, he gave the logs with which another was built; besides he gave all the fuel for school purposes for ten years or more. Mr. Murray helped to build the stone work of the Deed's mill, now known as Merrimac.
     Mr. Murray was not an educated man but had a good understanding, which a common school education had made more effective than the minds of many of the so-called educated people become. He was a lover of the poet Burns, and had a good library, for those early days. Murray enjoyed the debating societies of those days, going so far as to open his house for their meetings, making seats for the people by carrying in fence rails. At one of these debates he and Frederick Lyon, a notable pioneer, combated all opponents in discussing the evils of Mormonism.
     Murray was a large man weighing 280 pounds; he was a Free Mason, and his progressive character had recommended him as a proper representative in forming a-state constitution. In 1844 there was not a mile of railway in Iowa, neither was there any public conveyance from Fairfield to Iowa City, and so the five Jefferson county members arranged to go by their own conveyance, which was a light wagon. When the wagon reached Murray's, his cabin being on the direct road from Fairfield to Iowa City, Mrs. Murray was putting out the week's washing, at the spring some distance from the house, and when the four men went into the house she said to one of the children with her, Wm. B., now of Fairfield, "they have gone in to get a drink of grog," so common was it to offer spirits to a caller at that day when it was desired to show respect.
     The convention met October 7th, and chose Shepherd Leffler of Burlington, President. There were seventy-two members and they concluded their labors on November 1, 1844. Mr. Murray's opinion of the convention was that it was very different from a debating society in a log school house. Mr. Ross told his son William when he returned home, that "lawyers were a curse to any deliberative body."
     When the wagon, with the five returning men, reached Murray's cabin, Mr. Ross bade his companions adieu and walked to his home, a distance of fifteen miles. Less than a year subsequent to the first constitutional convention, of which we have made mention, an event occurred near the home of Mr. Ross which, though at that time seemed to be of little importance, has proven to be one of the most momentous events in the history of Jefferson county—we refer to the coming of the first company of Swedes to the State of Iowa. This was the first permanent settlement of Swedes in the entire Mississippi valley. This band of immigrants numbered twenty-five in all,—men, women and children. They sailed from Gothenburg about the middle of June, and after a tedious journey of four months, by sailing vessel, railway, canal-boat, and finally by private conveyance from Burlington, (that is, each and every one, walked every foot of the way,) they reached a point a mile west of Mr. Ross' on Brush Creek, September I3, 1845.
     When this company of strangers reached the above named point they had less than fifty dollars in money all told, and the log house in which they found a temporary home was, without a roof, the property of a speculator. To prove the staunchness of their character, and touched, too, with a bit of humor, they called such a dismal shelter "Stockholm." And to this day the survivors of that company, and there are a number of survivors although fifty-five years have nearly elapsed, still call that forlorn lodging " Stockholm."
     If this history endeavored to give the full list of incidents and accidents of this settlement of strange people, as they were then regarded by the inhabitants about them, it would be swelled to undue proportions. Young men came miles on horseback to see this strange folk, as if they were some new race of beings, but when it became apparent that the poor people were on the verge of want, a general sympathy was felt for them, and help was extended to them, in the way of necessities, of work, and of new homes among the pioneers. Mr. Ross and his sons were not behind their neighbors in extending a helping hand. In a few months this sturdy people had begun to climb the ladder of prosperity.
     Two of the boys that came with that first company walking from Burlington,—Andrew F. Cassel and Frank O. Danielson, aged 12 and 10 years, were driving a rickety wagon, which by some means they had come into possession of, a short time after their prospects began to brighten, when as it happened, a linchpin broke and Andy sent Frank to a near by house to get a wheel-latch. The boys had learned that a latch holds to a door, and what more natural than that a wheel-latch should secure a wheel to a wagon.
     Both of those boys are living to laugh at and enjoy in memory those times of small beginnings, for there are few men in the county or state, who have more beautiful and better improved farms than those two boys, now men with hair turning gray. Among the many succeeding immigrants from Sweden since these first twenty-five, was a man named Peter Smithburg, who with his family came in 1848. No sooner did he arrive than he set about building a cabin to shelter his family, and for this purpose he went to Mr. Ross' saw mill for a load of boards, driving a team of oxen. The creek was swollen full and not knowing the locality, Smithburg got beyond his depth, and notwithstanding he was a good swimmer, was drowned. A son, who was with him but could not swim, escaped. This event cast a shadow over the community for many days. It hardly seems creditable that Brush Creek, which of late years has been so shrunken in volume, should have been a considerable stream in those days, sweeping away the entire winter labor of the two Gilmer boys at one time, carrying off Mr. Ross' saw mill in 1844, and proving so fatal a flood to poor Peter Smithburg in 1848. Mrs. Louis Mendenhall, of Fairfield, is a daughter of Mr. Smithburg's, and a son, G. A. Smithburg, has one of the most beautiful and imposing homes in Jefferson county.


     Frederick Lloyd was born in London, May 24, 1826. He was the fourth son of Frederick and Louisa Sherin Lloyd. His father was a native of County Tipperary, Ireland, and served his country as Ensign of 32nd Royal Regiment of Foot, then as Cornet (standard bearer) of 21st Royal Dragoons at Salamanca, Spain, and later as Lieutenant of 91st Royal Regiment of Foot at Jamaica, W. I. While in service at Cape Town, Africa, he married Louisa Sherin, eldest daughter of Captain Sherin of his regiment. She was a native of County Cavan, Ireland. Dr. Lloyd's parents removed to America in 1832 and settled in Dummer, Canada. His mother lived to a good old age, dying in Chicago in 1883. Not long before her death she spent a few years with her son in Iowa City.
     Previous to 1850 Dr. Lloyd went to Louisville, Kentucky, in which place he married Isabella H. Wade, August 21st, 1850, a young lady whom he had met while residing in Canada. Mrs.Lloyd was the second daughter of Rev. Charles T. Wade, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and Isabella Hamilton Wade, second daughter of Henry Hamilton, Esq., of Ballymacoll, County Meath, Ireland, and was born at Burkhampstead, Hertfordshire, England, December 16th, 1825. Her paternal grandfather was Robert Wade, Esq., of Clonabraney, County Meath, Ireland. Previous to their marriage Dr. Lloyd had read somewhat in medicine. He entered the Medical College of Louisville from which he graduated and came at once to Iowa City in 1854. Upon the breaking out of the Civil War, Dr. Lloyd, following the trend of the father's life, interested himself in securing volunteers. Upon October 22nd, 1861, he was commissioned as Assistant Surgeon of the 11th Iowa Infantry. June 29th, 1861, he was promoted to the position of Surgeon of the 16th Iowa Infantry and was honorably discharged on September 1st, 1863. He returned to his practice in Iowa City which he continued, with the exception of a few months in 1868, when he visited the scenes of his birth and of the early home of his parents in Ireland, until 1878. At this time he was employed as contract surgeon in the United States Army and served in Montana, New Mexico and Arizona till 1883, when he returned to his practice in Iowa City. The Doctor's youngest brother, Edward, was killed at Resaca, Georgia, May 15th, 1864, while leading the 119th New York Volunteers of which regiment he was Lieutenant Colonel. Soon after Dr. Lloyd's return from the army he was chosen as editor of the IOWA HISTORICAL RECORD, successor to the Annals of Iowa, which he had edited for several years previous to the suspension of its publication by the State Historical Society of Iowa. In this kind of editorial work Dr. Lloyd took special delight and for it he was admirably qualified. He took pains to secure material invaluable in character. He had a wide acquaintance with men interested in historical research and secured their hearty cooperation. The pages of the RECORD for more than fourteen years of its existence bear ample testimony to his industry and his conscientious discharge of duty. Editorial work was not new to him as he had been employed for some years upon the Iowa Capitol Reporter.
     During the later years of his life his inclination lay in the direction of literary work. Several short stories have appeared from his pen in the local papers. They have been bright narratives of events which had come under his personal observation. One prepared for The Youth's Companion was accepted as a prize story. His style was simple and chaste. The language employed was always pure.
     At the time of his death he held a position upon the Board of Examining Surgeons for the Pension Department.
     His death was the result of close confinement on account of an accident which befell him more than a year previous. It was the first death to occur in his immediate family for over forty-nine years.
     His widow continues her residence in Iowa City. Four daughters and two sons survive. Isabella H., now Mrs. L. A. Clearman, of Iowa City; Louise F., Principal of Fourth Ward Public School of Iowa City; Edward S., practicing attorney at Lemars, Iowa; Adelaide C., Librarian of State Historical Society and Assistant Librarian of the City Library, Iowa City; Francis W., a practicing physician at Lehigh, Iowa; and Edith A., stenographer in office of Baker & Ball, Iowa City.
     As a physician Dr. Lloyd was most highly esteemed by those who employed him. To his patients he was more than a physician. He was not satisfied with a visit and a prescription but watched closely the effect of his medicines. His practice could not be extensive under his views of duty, but it was successful and to his watchfulness is due, in the estimation of many, the lives of some who suffered serious illness. With his signal ability in a particular line of disease he was too modest by nature to press his claims for practice. He appeared disinclined in his later years to extend his practice.
     He was timid in presenting himself to persons of distinction in military service with whom he had acted during his term as surgeon in the army. He felt a fear that he might be considered intrusive. But no man enjoyed more keenly the opportunity of conference when presented. A few tributes to the memory of Dr. Lloyd are selected from many that have come to the family.
     His brethren of the Masonic fraternity express their appreciation of the man as follows: During his long residence in this city he was one of our leading physicians and his professional skill and kindly administrations in the home of the sick and afflicted, will be long and gratefully remembered. He was a brilliant and entertaining writer and had he so desired, might easily have won worldwide fame in the domain of letters. In his personal relations he was always the kind, modest, gentle, and generous friend; in the sacred precincts of home he was greatly loved and esteemed; and in the Masonic order he was a true and worthy exponent of the tenets of the mystic brotherhood.
     Dr. Lloyd was a man to be trusted in whatever work of a public nature was assigned him. His acceptance of the trust was a guaranty of its faithful performance.
     Says one: "If any man had occasion in a selfish way to feel aggrieved at the Doctor's course as a pension examiner such was my case, for twice did he oppose an increase in my pension which at the time I felt was my due. But the ground of his opposition seemed to him so tenable that no other course would sustain his sense of justice. So strongly was I impressed with his conscientious performance of official duty, though it came in conflict with his personal desire to please a friend, that I took pleasure in recommending him for re appointment under the present administration. I was sure that though he might make some mistakes, as I felt he had done in my case, he would never use his office for personal benefit."
     Says another: "Dr. Lloyd's candor, courage, and intelligence make his death a serious loss to Iowa history."
     And still another: " After securing a large list of petitioners for the appointment of another to the office of pension examiner, I found that his reputation for probity outweighed the endorsement which hundreds of signatures of prominent men had given another candidate."


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