Jefferson County Online


 In December of 1888 a reporter of the Fairfield Weekly Tribune made a two day trip out of Lockridge for a visit to the farmers and communities in the area North of Lockridge and slightly into Walnut Township.  He shares that journey with you in this two part article.  He will introduce you to a number of the residents and business people of that area and tell you a little about their background.  It is a great look into the past of this county.

To help you find your ancestors we have put the surnames in all capital letters.

Transcribed by Ken Hallock, pp 5 - 13, Vol. 6,
"Jefferson County Records" by Orville and Mary Prill
Copied from the Fairfield Tribune, Thurs., Dec. 27, 1888,
Page 1, col. 5-6.

The Austria of Jefferson County with a Good Patch of
Sweden Tacked On. The Heaviest Timbered and Best
Wheat Raising Section.

At the east of the German speaking domains in Europe was, in the olden time, a strip which was called "Oestreich," east region or dominion. A slight modification of the German word by Anglicing it gives "Austria," the furthest east of the German peoples. It was a corresponding portion of Jefferson County which demanded The Tribune's attention last Thursday and Friday, though toward the north rather than the south; and it is quite German enough to suggest the comparison, though at the southern end of the strip are many Swedes.

A walk of two miles north and one west from Lockridge to Four Corners gave the pilgrim penciler a fierce appetite for breakfast, but it was soon subdued by the generous skill of Mrs. KAUFFMAN. Mr. H. M. KAUFFMAN is the storekeeper. He has a two-story building 22x48 feet, and & large general stock, and is assisted in the business by his son, A. M. A store was started here in 1869 by J. P. VORHIES, who become the first postmaster of the place in 1871. Mr. KAUFFMAN became time he bought the store, and held the position through all Republican administrations and more than a year of Cleveland's, until superseded by the present postmaster, Mr. John LEAFGREN.

Mr. LEAFGREN took charge in May, and removed the office to his shoemaking shop and dwelling a few rods west of the "four corners." He is a native of Sweden, having come to this county from Linkoping lan (or county) in 1874. As a man he has his own opinions and tends to his own business, as a postmaster he does the public's business faithfully and well.

Edgar VORHIES is the village blacksmith. He has the largest and finest shop building we have seen in the county, Fairfield not excepted. He is a young man and was raised 2 1/2 miles east, where his father was one of the earliest pioneers, having settled there about fifty years ago.

The village contains a German Lutheran church with large building and strong congregation. It is in charge of Rev. Albert PFISTER. A mile west is the Swedish Lutheran church, and a little nearer, the Swedish M. E. church. Both have good buildings and strong congregations.

A pleasant conversation with Mr. LEAFGREN was interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Charles McGUIRE, according to arrangement, to take the scribe over toward Merrimac and Germanville. A mile north the first halt was made at the home of Mr. John BOOS. The neat appearance of fences, house, barn, grain and tool house, marked it at once as one of the best class of country homes. Mr. BOOS came from Alsace direct to Jefferson County in 1855, and settled on this farm in 1860. He has been suffering for some time from something like erysipelas in one of his feet and is kept pretty close at home.

Anton ZILMAN has 130 acres a half mile farther north, on which he has lived since 1870. He is a native of the Canton of Lucern, Switzerland, and came to America in 1865. His place is in the edge of the white oak timber, which originally densely covered nearly all the country to be described in this article.

A mile and a half of road winding along a ridge through uncleared but much thinned timber brings us to ESHELMAN's mill on Turkey creek. The approach from the southeast presents a really beautiful picture - the rocky creek with its wooded bluffs, a rustic cottage above the winding road at the left, and a primitive cabin against the hill on the right, with the mill and its cluster of small buildings in the center. With a painter or a post to idealize it, it might become as justly famous as many a "dell," or "glade," or "vale" of which we hear. Mr. A. H. ESHELMAN owns the mill and a farm of 200 acres, and has lived here eighteen years. He has just added 16 feet to the east wing of the mill, covering the shingle mill and lengthening the track to the saws. The building is 20x73 feet, with a wing 20x24, all two stories high and the central part three. The capacity of the saw mill is 5,000 feet per day, and there are burrs for grinding chop. The mill has been very busy all fall and winter.

David GATES, a son-in-law of Mr. ESHELMAN occupies the cottage by the road and assists in the mill. He has been there for three years, and the home shows signs of thrift and industry.

Well out of the creek breaks to the north is a well improved place, which one recognizes at a glance as one of the older farms, though nothing looks in the least tumbled down. It is the 116 acre farm on which John A. TRABERT settled in 1853, when he came from Winchheim Bavaria. When he bought the place but 8 acres were cleared, and the house was a cabin down on the Skunk river. He cleared most of the land and has made a fine farm. He has raised seven sons, five of whom have gone west and are doing well; John, we believe it is, has just returned.

We strike Walnut creek about a mile south of the center of the south line of Walnut township in the toe of a very large almost horseshoe bend, and crossing at a ford in sight of an ancient mill dam, almost demolished, climb the hill to a log house, the home of M. D. HILDERBRAND. There are a good many log houses in this section, simply because it is a timbered country.

They are of smoothly hewn logs, generally a story and half high, frequently double, always well pointed outside, and neatly appointed inside. They are, of course, more substantial and comfortable than cheap frame houses. Mr. HILDEBRAND owns 76 acres, on which he has lived for twenty years. He settled in the county in 1845. He was going to Lockridge that evening to meet his daughters, Ellen and Etta, who work in Ottumwa, and were coming home for the holidays.

The rest of the horseshoe, and perhaps, some besides, 234 acres in all, is owned by our generous and hospitable guide, Chas. McGUIRE. His house is not pretentious, but comfortable, and his home could not be more genuinely homelike, evidently to himself and good wife and certainly to the sojourner, if it were housed in a palace. The McGUIREs are of genuine pioneer stock. He settled in Henry County in 1839, and came to Jefferson County in 1844. In 1842 he witnessed the conference with the Indians at Agency which lasted two weeks and resulted in the purchase of the territory west of this. He settled on his present farm in November, 1847. Some Cedar trees in the front yard testify to the age of the improvements. One of the trees is more than a foot in diameter. Mrs. McGUIRE was Margaret S. Ross, daughter of one of the earliest pioneers, and the famous pioneer hospitality and friendliness seems only to have increased in her with years. Her father, S.S. ROSS, settled in Burlington in 1834. Their sons William and S. A. live on parts of the old place within 80 and 50 rods of the parent home, which is often lit by the fresh sunshine or two pairs of bright young eyes. Thomas is at Greenfield, Iowa, and Charles S. at Hartford, Kansas. The only daughter, Mrs. M.L. SCHMIDTLIEN, lives at Junction, Nevada.

This brings us well into what is believed to be the best fall wheat-growing region in Iowa. The yield often reaches 30 bushels to the acre, and it is now being marketed at Merrimac and Brighton at 90 cents to $1.00 per bushel. The white oak timber is also probably the best in the state. Large quantities of it have been used by the TURNEYS when their wagon works were at Trenton, and still larger quantities sold to the railroads, for piling. There is also an abundant supply of excellent building stone, attested by the numerous stone basements to large fine barns. Coal is hauled from Coalport, a distance of five to ten miles.

William DUTWEILER owns 78 acres half a mile east of Mr. McGUIRE's, on which he commenced life for himself nine (?) years ago. He raises hay and all kinds of grain, and stock enough to eat it. His left hand is just now disabled by erysipelas, or something of that nature.

Lewis DUTWEILER has an 60 acre place three-fourths of a mile northwest of McGUIRE's on which he was born, it being the old home place. His aged father, who was an early pioneer, lives with him.

A visit to John BALDOZIER's place brings us almost to the bank of the raging Skunk and very near the line between Lockridge and Walnut townships. Here his father settled in 1851, having come to the county as early as 1847. Mr. BALDOZIER owns 275 acres of land, and is one of the leading farmers of the section. He has his stock well graded up, in hogs having some full blooded Poland Chinas. He has on hand now 12 head of high grade draft horses.

J. P. WILLIAMS has 115 acres a half mile southwest of Merrimac, on which he began housekeeping ten years ago. He is a hard worker and will climb up somewhere near the top in his business of raising grain and stock. One of his children was quite sick with lung fever; he himself was fighting off, we hope successfully, an attack of the same disease.

In 1845 Silas DEEDS put up a water mill on the Skunk river in Jefferson County, within a few rods of the Henry county line, and a mile north of the south line of Walnut township. Twenty years later this mill burned down, and a larger and better structure was erected, and is in use now, looking as good as new. It is 40x60 feet, four stories high. Around this mill has grown up quite a village, called Merrimac and the county has built a splendid iron bridge, with three spans and stone piers, across the river. Mr. C. A. BRYAN has been part owner and practical manager of the mill, with one short intermission, for eighteen years, the past six years in partnership with Mr. C. C. RISK, of Fairfield, whose father was an earlier partner. The entire village of nine dwellings, hotel, blacksmith shop, store room, and mills, together with 324 acres of land containing and adjoining it, belong to the present owners of the mill. Mr. BRYAN believes that the 65 acres on which the mill and town stand are assessed higher than any other property in Iowa, for it is all assessed by the acre, no lots being laid off or sold. The mill has five sets of double rolls, and a single break, and is driven by Moline re-action water wheels. They make but one grade of flour, straight patent. It has a ready sale and good reputation. They also own and operate with the same power a saw mill and spinning and carding machines. These occupy a building 34x50 feet, the former below add the latter above. The firm feeds about five car loads of cattle each year, have shipped three cars since March, and have 70 head now on hand.

The institution next in importance is the store, a general stock kept in a room 20x50 feet and owned by P. & J. SALZMAN, the latter of whom is also postmaster. They have been in the business as proprietors since 1884, are young men of evident push, and are said to be doing a very large business for a country store. They modestly refrained from making any statement themselves; but from other sources of information, we judge their trade would be very satisfactory to many a more pretentious establishment.

Samuel RYAN is the blacksmith, William RUNNELS the wagon maker, and William HOLLOMS, the hotelkeeper.

Dr. Alfred GABRIELSON is the physician and surgeon, and his calls come from far and near. There is only one Democrat in the town; and we have just one criticism to make of the Republicans of the town and vicinity; that is, that not a single copy of a Jefferson County Republican paper is taken at the office (if our information, which the postmaster did not furnish, is correct.) This is all wrong. Jefferson County people should take a Jefferson County paper. The best remedy we can suggest for the wrong is for the few who did not subscribe for THE TRIBUNE to do so at once.

And here we must stop the writing till next week. THE TRIBUNE is not large enough to take in all the territory we traversed in the two days. But our notes will save for seven days.

The Fairfield Weekly Tribune,
Thurs., Jan. 3, 1889, Page 1, cols. 4-6.


More About the Northeastern Part of the County - Germanville and the Return to Lockridge.

We told something of Four Corners and Merrimac and the direct road between them last week, and have left some notes gathered from the latter place to Germanville and on and the road back to Lockridge. Merrimac was the Objective point of this trip and the touching at Four Corners and Germanville only incidental. It is intended to make each of these points the center of some future observations. From Merrimac westward the first object of interest pointed out is what used to be known as "Natches-Under-the-Hill," one of the saloons formerly located outside the village because their owners could neither buy nor lease land for that purpose inside. The building is now used as a dwelling. Liquor has to be smuggled now anyway, and that can be done as well in the town as out.

The first of a number of finely improved places at which we stopped was that of Jacob SCHAFFER, a mile distant from Merrimac. He has a very large barn and a good house, is a first-class farmer and one of the prominent men of Walnut township. He has lived here twenty years.

A little farther west Christian KIENTZ owns 160 acres, less the school lot for district No. 4. He has a basement barn 36x54, a two-story dwelling 18x37, with L 14x16, all in perfect repair and neatly painted. He has lived here 28 years, having cleared and improved most of the farm.

H. M. SCHMADAKA lives one and a half miles southeast of Germanville on the 90 acre place where his father settled in 1845. His house is a new two-story frame, and his barn a good one 30x42. There is also a grain house 17x20. The excellent custom of building grain houses separate from barns prevails in this section. Poultry houses are also common and constructed for warmth. Mr. SCHMADAKA has 57 stands of bees from which he took 1,500 pounds of honey last year.

Fred J. WILLIAMS owns 120 acres a mile west of Merrimac, on which he commenced housekeeping four years ago next March. The first three years were about the worst for farming in the history of the county, but Mr. WILLIAMS has managed to get something out of every one of them.

It will be seen that we are on the road back to Mr. McGUIRE's, where during the evening Mr. Henry SHUPPY came in on an errand and remained for a pleasant chat.  We had called at his house, a half mile northeast on the Merrimac road, but he was absent, hauling wheat to Brighton. The place is that on which Mr. SHUPPY was born, and his mother lives with him. There are 119 acres well improved. The barn is 32x40 feet, and has stone basement. Mr. SHUPPY, like most of his neighbors, diversifies his farming, and is one of the most thorough and successful farmers.  His horses, three grade Clydes and one Norman, are better than the average, which is the highest of all live stock here as throughout Jefferson County.

Friday morning a fresh start direct for Germanville brought us first to the old BURK farm, 120 acres, a quarter of a mile north of McGUIRE's, where Mr. Frank BURK lives with his mother, who is now 80 years old. We have known several men who, like him, have given up the joys of a home of their own to preserve that of a widowed mother, and they were all noblemen. The family came from Mainz, Hesse-Damstadt, Germany, and settled here in 1846 or 1847. The old lady loves to talk in her native tongue of the Fatherland and pioneer experiences here. Some of her earlier memories cluster about Bingen, "fair Bingen on the Rhine," and she speaks of the journey by canal and lake in reaching this wild, western country and the "unglick" that befel in the death of her mother, who was the first person buried in the Lutheran church-yard a mile or so distant.

Another of her sons, Geo. H. BURK, lives 80 rods north on a 50 acre farm, where he commenced for himself five years ago. He built the house and has improved the farm generally. As yet most of his efforts are devoted to grain raising.

Henry WOLF owns a 40 acre farm a half mile farther north, where he has lived 18 years. He came from Schaff-house, Switzerland, in 1889. He is a hard worker and thrifty, getting a great deal out of a little land.  There is a fair orchard on the place, and that is as much as can be said for any orchard in the county or, we suppose, the state.

The German Lutheran church is pleasantly situated on high ground about a mile south of Germanville. It is called the "Hofnungs Gamein." The building is large for a country church and looks new, although erected 27 years ago. A few rods south of it is the parsonage, a large dwelling whose white paint looks fresh and clean, and with neat and orderly surroundings. The south wing is a school room and here the pastor, Rev. A. PFISTER, was examining a class of 11 boys and girls for confirmation. He teaches a regular day school, in which there are 15 pupils. There are 40 pupils in the Sunday School, which, however, does not meet during the winter. Mr. PFISTER is a native of Zuerich, Switzerland, and was educated at Basil. He landed in this country Nov. 19, 1862, and has been pastor of the Hofnungs Gamein for sixteen years. He is a strict adherent to the doctrines of his church and serves his congregation faithfully. He speaks little English, having always had charge of a German congregation.

A little off the road just west of the church John LOOS owns 120 acres, where he has lived for four years. He came from Rockinbach, Bavaria. He raises all kinds of grain, and has his farm well stocked. The place shows a good worker.

The church and parsonage lots and burying-ground are taken from the 80 of Solomon SMITH's land on which he lives, and his dwelling is some quarter of a mile east and north. He owns other land, amounting in all to 178 acres, has lived here forty years, and is one of the foremost farmers of the section.

Joseph KURTZ, who lives a half mile south of Germanville, is a still heavier land owner, having 173 acres in his home place, and 80 acres further east. His improvements belong to the very first class - large two-story house, large barn with stone basement, grain and tool houses, numerous cattle sheds, windmill, etc. He is feeding 9 head of steers now.

The romantic way of putting it would be that Germanville occupies the arena of a natural amphitheater. In plain United States, it is down in a hollow; not, however, in a slough, and certainly not in the slough of despond just now. We found its worker in wood, Charles SCHNEIDER, in his shop with his holz-schneidergechirr about him.

A couple of fine draft stallions looking from the slatted doorways of an adjoining barn attracted our attention, and enquiry elicited the information that they belong to Mr. Thomas THOMPSON. The horses are the Percheron Beaulieu 4550 (2892) and the Clyds Young Isleman 2202 (4126). Mr. THOMPSON was busy with soldering iron, putting up tin spouting at his house.  He was also dispatching a man to his portable saw mill, a mile north of town, for parts to be repaired. The mill had been partly burned down two weeks before. Mr. THOMPSON is a dealer in farm implements and has been postmaster for six years.

Alexander GEYE is the harness maker, was busy, and, we were assured by one of his customers, is a first-class workman.

F. P. THOMPSON, a younger brother of Thomas, is proprietor of the one store. He carries a stock of about $4,000 worth of general merchandise, all of which cannot be put into the sales room, part being stored in a ware room. He started in partnership with his brother in 1884, and bought him out two years later. This and the general appearance of the place indicate a prosperous business. Mr. THOMPSON has the appearance of a business man.

George HARTMAN was laid up at his home across the street by a cut on his wrist, made with an axe when he was cutting loose the roots of stumps being pulled by a machine. He has 120 acres adjoining the town which his sons assist in farming.

Peter DIERS, who is well known as one of the heaviest land owners and most successful farmers of the county, lives just east of the village on higher ground, his large house and barn showing to advantage. He owns between 500 and 600 acres, which he and his sons, Peter, Bernard, George, Albert, and Frank, farm. They are now feeding 20 steers. Mr. DIERS came to America from Prussia in 1845, and settled on his present place in 1855. He had previously made a trip to California and made some money in mining. He now owns considerable property in Burlington, we believe.

On the return we met Mr. Cornelius FRY, the blacksmith of Germanville. We were, of course, obliged to leave the territory to the north and west of the village for another trip.

On the way back to Lockridge in the afternoon no new territory was encountered for several miles. Mr. Henry MILLER, who lives a mile northwest of Four Corners, was met by the way, held up and made to deliver the information that he owns a 75 acre farm, and has lived on it 25 years, but has most of it rented out.

We also met at his gate Frederick WILLIAM of Saxony.  Since coming to America in 1867 he is called simply F. W. K(Unreadable)BURG. He has a farm of 20 acres on which he has spent 21 years of bachelor life, and yet his laugh was the heartiest heard during the two days.  But yet there is, back of the solitary life of this "jolly Dutchman" on his obscure patch of American soil, a sadly romantic episode. He has an almost complete German university education, given him in preparation for the ministry. But a sudden and severe sickness unfitted him for further brain work, and he and his friends were forced to bury fond hopes. The same trouble (or is it the education?) has prevented his "conquering the wilderness" of either nature or woman's heart, and so he is alone on twenty acres. It needs only upon the wall of his simple home the picture of some Saxon Gretchen to complete the romance. The silver edge to the cloud upon this life is a sunny temper. May it never be darkened.

Mr. Oscar LILLYBLADE is a native of Linskoepeng, Sweden. Four years ago he commenced improving a farm of 34 acres two miles north of Four Corners. He has made good progress and now has a comfortable home. With the thrift and industry so characteristic of his race, he is sure of a good degree of success.

Perhaps, all things considered, the finest improved place visited was that of Lucas ZIHLMANN, two miles northeast of Four Corners. We are sorry Mr. ZIHLMANN was not at home to show us around the place, which is splendidly improved, with two story square dwelling, large barn, sheds, hog house, etc. They have lived here 21 years, we learned, and own 240 acres. Mr. ZIHLMANN is a native of Switzerland, and manufactures cheese by the Swiss process. When we called he had gone to Lockridge to meet a relative, Mrs. C. J. GILLEY, who had come from Hubble, Nebr., for a Christmas visit.

We came back as near to Four Corners as Mr. Veit BOGNER's place, which is three-fourths of a mile east.  He came from Bavaria in 1869, and settled here in 1870.  His son Conrad is with him and shares in the tending and management of the 100-acre farm. The buildings are good and in good repair, and crops this year were very satisfactory.

No more stops were made until Lockridge was reached, and there we parted with our Mr. McGUIRE, who replied to thanks for his kindness that he was glad to give two days to the cause of Democracy and the advantage of his neighborhood; and we have no doubt of the genuineness of the sentiment, for his Democracy is of the genuine sort and so is his devotion to the interest of his neighborhood.

Lockridge we shall save for a visit of its own, but will give an item gleaned during a two hours' wait for the train, which was spent very pleasantly at the home of Mr. George SCHMIDTLEIN. He has a nice place at the north limit of the village, where he has lived since his retirement from active work on the farm, four years ago. Mr. SCHMIDTLEIN is now 76 years old. He came to Ohio from Bavaria in 1837, and to this county in 1841. He bought 160 acres about a mile northeast of Lockridge, which he afterward increased to 176 acres.  When his first taxes became due, like nearly all of his neighbors, he had no money, but, unlike most of them, he had two axes. A neighbor on his way to Fairfield to pay taxes proposed to pay Mr. SCHMIDLEIN's also for one of the axes. The proposition was accepted. Now it would take the value of a hundred axes to square his taxes.

Mr. SCHMIDTLEIN spent four months of the past summer visiting his six sons, all of whom live in the far west. He went by way of Denver and Salt Lake City and returned through New Mexico and Texas. George and Henry have ranches at Smokey Valley, 24 miles south of Austin, Nevada, and are doing well. Henry owns 100 head of horses, and George, 60 head of cattle. Fredrick lives at Woodville, Jackson County, Oregon, and owns a grain and fruit farm. While his father was there he sent 500 boxes of peaches to market, and pears, prunes, and the like were equally abundant. Mr. SCHMIDTLEIN also visited a sister, Mr. John CABETTIE, at Springfield, in southern California. He did not see his son John, who is in San Diego County, California. Frank and Charlie are at Tip Top, Arizona. They own a silver mine in partnership with another man. The ore is very rich, $900 to $1000 to the ton, but the expenses of conveying it several hundred miles on pack mules and two or three railroads to a smelter is enormous. Still the boys are making money.

Mr. SCHMIDTLEIN enjoyed his trip very much, and had better health while in the west and south. He speaks in the highest terms of hospitality of the people. He saw nothing of the wildness and wooliness of the west as it is often pictured.

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