of Jefferson County
Abingdon / Bogus / Aaronsville
The following information was compiled by Mary Prill and later published in the Hawkeye Heritage, July, 1967.
ABINGDON. Secs. 32 & 33, Polk Township. Laid out and platted Aug., 30, 1849, by Col. Thos. McCulloch, Even Fleenor, Marquis D. Lafayette Spurlock and William Spurlock, and named by Col. McCulloch for his old home, Abingdon, Virginia. Plat, p. 19, 1909, Atlas. P.O. established Dec. 31, 1850, with Shelton Morris as first postmaster; W. W. Knox and Ben Purris were long time postmasters and the office was discontinued Dec. 31, 1924, during W. C. Cambell's incumbency. Not a vanished village, but it has declined. ("Forty years Ago in Abingdon" · Ledger Mar 28 - Apr 5, 1933.) See also Bogus."
"BOGUS". A nickname given to Abingdon in early days, and the name is probably used by the people of Abingdon more frequently than the correct name. The name originated as a result of a story about some nefarious business of counterfeiting silver money, by an Abingdonian while he lived in Illinois, before coming to Iowa. Said citizen never "made" any money in Abingdon, and lived an upright life.
AARONSVILLE. A suburb of Abingdon and joining it on the south. Laid out and platted by Aaron Wright in 1853. Plat: p.19, 1909 Atlas of Jefferson County."
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This page contains three other stories about the town. Click on the one you wish to read.
Ottumwa Courier - First story immediately below here.
"Villages and Towns of Yester-year in Jefferson County" - further down the page.
"Glimpses of Yesterday" by Dixie Richardson - still further down the page.
The following article appeared in the Ottumwa Courier, Monday, November 8, 1999, pages 1 & 3.
Copied with permission of the Ottumwa Courier
By Dana BROWN, Courier regional editor
Names mentioned in this article are as follows:
Lee Gobble; T. W. Gobble; Carl E. Gobble; Matthew Spurlock.
ABINGDON -- Lee Gobble doesn't consider himself much of a historian, but he is the curator of volumes of information about the small Jefferson County town of Abingdon.
"Accumulator is a better word," he said.
Although Gobble never actually lived in Abingdon, his ancestors played a big part in the settlement of the small rural community.
Gobble explained that in the early 1840s, between 15 and 20 families from Abingdon, Va., heard about a particularly appealing area of land out west. They hired a scout to come out on horseback to investigate, Gobble said, and this man reported back to the families that, indeed, it was fertile land.
Gobble's great-grandparents joined the waves of covered wagons to arrive in Southern Iowa to develop the pretty prairie village they named Abingdon after the Virginia home they left behind.
Oct. 9, 1884, was the day the T. W. Gobble family arrived in Abingdon. And every Oct. 9 for many years following, the family would celebrate an Abingdon homecoming in the T. W. Gobble grove located a half mile southwest of town.
The homecoming event included food and festivities such as horseshoe pitching, baseball games and even nail driving contests for the women.
Lee recalled attending, at the age of six, perhaps one of the last homecomings to be celebrated after the turn of the century. What sticks in his mind is the sight of people stirring meat in a big kettle with a pitchfork.
"I told my mother I wasn't eating any of that" Gobble said. "I didn't know where the pitchfork had been." But his mother reassured him that the pitchfork was new. And that eased his mind, he said.
The annual reunions eventually ceased several years after T. W. Gobble's death in 1913 at the age of 99. It was one of two days the entire Gobble family celebrated at the family farm every year. The other day was Thanksgiving, Gobble said.
Gobble's uncle, Carl E. Gobble, a lifetime professor at Purdue University, wrote a book in 1968 for Gobble family members only which included many memories of the Abingdon he knew growing up.
In a passage from his book, Carl Gobble describes Abingdon as a "hopeful little frontier town. Hopeful that, in the period of railroad expansion after the Civil War, some company would run its tracks through town. After the roads had been completed and had passed her by, she continued to serve only a small agricultural community and gradually shrank in importance and prosperity."
Abingdon was a stepping stone for many families, Gobble said, because the town offered little employment.
"West was the only place to go," he said.
But for the Gobble family, the small community was able to support a family business that sprung up in 1853. Gobble's great-grandfather started a general store in Abingdon that eventually made its way to the Fairfield square. The original store, called T. W. Gobble and Co. Store, was a department store for the pioneer community. The store offered men's suits, work shirts, boots, dry goods, bed ticking and sheeting, etc..
Eventually, his son moved the store to Fairfield and renamed the store Gobble Clothiers. Lee Gobble was the fourth generation to own and operate the department store before selling the business when he retired in 1985.
Without the railroad, without a post office and without even a paved road, Abingdon was destined to remain a small rural community with a rich pioneer past. Here's a few tidbits of Abingdon history:
Gobble donated his family's land to Jefferson County several years ago and Abingdon now offers Gobble Park.
Buried in Abingdon Cemetery are soldiers from several wars including the War of 1812, Black Hawk War, Mexican War, Civil War (including four Confederate soldiers), Spanish American War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean War.
In 1889, several Abingdonites organized a literary society to pass some of the long winter evenings; the group met each Friday night.
Abingdon once had a "suburb" called Aaronville located at the east end of town.
The town was once called Bogus because of a legend that the first settler to the area, Matthew Spurlock made counterfeit money there. The story itself turned out to be bogus.
Much more information about Abingdon and other Jefferson County
communities can be found in Fairfield Public Library's expansive genealogy
This story was originally one of a number of articles in the Fairfield Ledger which was later included into the book Villages and Towns of Yester-year in Jefferson County by William R. Baker. We hereby include it on this page with the permission of the Fairfield Ledger.
Names mentioned in this article are as follows:
Mathew Sherlock (sic - Spurlock); Paul Mowery; H. L. Sellers; John W. Scott; W. M. Campbell; Thomas McCulloch; Mr. and Mrs. Erin Fleenor; Mr. and Mrs. William Sherlock; Aaron Wright; Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Davis; Clyde Meyers; Kevin Koch; David Achens; Lee Gobble; T. W. Gobble; Bruce Gobble; Charles Heer.
Why it's called 'Bogus'
Abingdon, located in northwest Jefferson County in Polk Township, was perhaps the site of the first and only counterfeit scheme in the county.
Shortly after the new town began its growth around 1850, Mathew Sherlock (sic - Spurlock), described as Abingdon's most curious inhabitant, acquired the reputation as a counterfeiter.
According to the stories, he talked a number of men into giving him a silver dollar and promised he would make 20 duplicates for them. Early reports indicate not many ever realized their promised 20 dollars but they couldn't complain to authorities since they would be implicated.
It was believed, however, there were some bogus dollars floating around the area for a time and as a result the town was saddled with the nickname, "Bogus". It still remains.
Many older residents and even those who reside in the community now still refer to the town as Bogus.
Abingdon was also the scene of what could have been a most serious tragedy on the night of January 11, 1954, when the second floor of the Masonic Lodge building collapsed, spilling over 100 persons to the floor below.
The lodge members had gathered from neighboring communities to take part in a presentation of a 50 year Masonic certificate to Paul Mowery, Abingdon.
Witness said the ceremonies had just closed and the men left their chairs around the wall and moved to the center to congratulate the honored member when the "big drop" occurred. Five ambulances, and three fire trucks answered the emergency call on the cold night.
H. L. Sellers, 605 South Main, was the most seriously injured. He suffered a broken back, injured foot and head injuries. He was the last victim to be moved from the debris.
In addition to Sellers two other patients were admitted to the Jefferson County Hospital and five were treated at the Ottumwa Hospital.
The Masonic Lodge at Abingdon was one of the oldest in the state. It was instituted in 1854 and continued until it surrendered its charter in October, 1980, and the members were transferred to Clinton Lodge No. 104 in Fairfield.
John W. Scott was the first worshipful master of the Abingdon Lodge and the first member to take the degree work was W. M. Campbell.
A history of the town of Abingdon which appeared in the Lockridge Times in July, 1963, said the town was named after Abingdon, Va., by Thomas McCulloch who came to Iowa in 1843 and followed by his son-in-law T. W. Gobble who arrived in 1844.
In 1849 Mr. and Mrs. Erin Fleenor, Mr. and Mrs. William Sherlock and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas McCulloch donated land for the town.
The town is located along what is now known as the Brookville-Abingdon Road extending northwest from Fairfield. It was described as the old stage coach road from Fairfield to Hedrick.
The first part of the town had two streets called Main Street and Church Street with three cross streets. The second part, Aaronsville was named after Aaron Wright who deeded the land. In 1852, it became part of Abingdon.
Abingdon's growth and popularity was rapid from the first. It was soon the major trading center in the northwest portion of Jefferson County. It had three strong churches, three blacksmith shops, three saloons, three general stores, a wagon shop, broom factory, two hotels and two doctors.
Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Davis who are both natives of Abingdon and have spent most of their life in that community, remember many of the business establishments and where they were located.
Davis chuckled when he told a story about a young doctor who located at Abingdon. At frequent intervals he would dash out of his office, jump on his horse and ride at breakneck speed out of town. Davis said it was learned most of the time he had no place to go, he was trying to make an impression with the people of the community.
Mr. and Mrs. Davis operated the last grocery store in Abingdon for four years and then sold it to Clyde Meyers. The last owners of the store were Mr. and Mrs. Keith Mitchell. They closed the store in August, 1975. Sometime later the building was struck by lightning and was destroyed by fire.
Mr. and Mrs. Davis remember when Nelson's Grove located northwest of the town was the scene of Fourth of July celebrations, homecoming events and baseball games.
They are members of the Church of Christ in Abingdon, the last of the three churches that once were active in the community.
The early settlers conducted church in their homes until a small frame church was built in 1846. In 1867 a brick church was erected across the street. It remained in use until 1899 when it was razed and replaced by the present church building. It was dedicated in October the same year.
The church is still active and conducts regular services. It is served by two pastors, Kevin Koch, Fairfield, and David Achens, student at the Ottumwa Bible School. The church and a few of the older homes are all that is left which were part of Old Abingdon.
The latest of the old buildings to disappear was the weathered building that was once occupied by the Gobble Store. It was vacant and destroyed by fire in October, 1976.
The property including the building and ground on which it was located has been donated to the Jefferson County Conservation Board by Lee Gobble, Fairfield, a descendant of the Gobble family which settled in Abingdon.
The building was being razed when sparks from a trash fire ignited the half-torn down building. It was quickly devoured by the flames.
The property has been established as Gobble Park equipped with a picnic shelter house and charcoal grill. The grounds are kept mowed and during the summer it is frequently used.
The Gobble family was associated with the history of Abingdon almost from the time of its beginning. The first to arrive was T. W. Gobble who arrived in the area in October, 1844, to start a new life. He bought government land for $1.25 per acre.
Later he opened a general store, providing the early settlers with their needs including groceries, small hardware, seed and dress goods.
Before the age of the automobile Abingdon was linked with the outside world by hack service, a spring wagon with two seats. It made a round trip to Fairfield each working day of the week for a fee of 25 cents per person. It would also deliver small items.
Bruce Gobble, Lee's father, now deceased, moved to Fairfield with the family when he was a boy. His parents wanted him to have the best education available in Fairfield with its fine schools and Parsons College.
Bruce's father first worked in a bank and later became a partner in a clothing store. When he retired he turned the business over to Bruce who became associated with a partner, Charles Heer. For years it was known as Gobble and Heer Clothing store.
Gobble took over sole ownership when Heer died, and later Gobble's son, Lee took over when his father retired. The store, located on the west side of the square is the oldest store in Fairfield under a family ownership.
Abingdon, similar to many other early settlements in the county, was founded on the expectation it would be served by a railroad. The railroad never came and with the coming of modern transportation the town withered on the vine but it never died.
There are still 16 homes located along Abingdon Road, and it is still home to those who occupy those dwellings.
The following information comes from the book "Glimpses of Yesterday" by Dixie Richardson, published in 1999 and copied here with her permission. The book contains histories and personal memories of Richland, Iowa, and the surrounding area. Copies of the book are available from Dixie Richardson, 556 South Davis, Ottumwa Iowa 52501-5301 for $13.00 and this covers postage and handling as well.
Gold was discovered in California in 1848. This was the beginning of the gold rush. It was during the gold rush that a caravan of covered wagons from Abingdon, Virginia, heading west stopped in Jefferson County. As winter was near the settlers built cabins. When spring came many left for the gold fields while others decide to stay behind.
The town of Abingdon was laid out and platted On August 30, 1849, by Ivan Fleener, Lafayette Spurlock, William Spurlock and Col. Thomas McCullough who gave land for the town. Abingdon was named for Abingdon, Virginia, the town from which many of the settlers had come from. Other early settlers in Abingdon were Abram Fleener, W. Gobble, Mr. and Mrs. William Spurlock. An addition to Abingdon known as Aaronsville was made in 1852. It was named after Aaron Wright. In March of 1858 land that belonged to Thomas McCullough, Bob Collins, and 0. C. Smith was deeded to the town. Abingdon became a major town in the northwest part of Jefferson County.
Some of the businesses at Abingdon were general stores run by T. W. Gobble, J. W. Maxon, Robert Plough and Son, Loehr and Peters, Charles McCullough's drug store and George Hufsteader's saloon. Blacksmiths at Abingdon were John Sperry and Son, Skillman Doty and Jess Collins, John Flint and Albert Yager were wagon makers. A. Wise and W.D. Kness were shoemakers. There were two hotels. One hotel was run by Dr. Henry Ream near the West End of town. George Gobble ran a hotel in the center of town. There was also a broom factory, four sawmills, a chair factory, funeral service, restaurants, meat market, and an icehouse in Abingdon.
Doctors who practiced in Abingdon were Dr. Henry Ream, Dr. J. M. Wright, Dr. Edwin Meachum, Dr. Shelton Morris and Dr. Ezra Davis.
The Abingdon post office was established December 31, 1850, and discontinued December 31, 1924.
Businesses in later years in Abingdon were Bud Campbell's barbershop, a blacksmith shop run by Frank Davis, and a general store run by Melvin Davis. This store was later owned by Clyde Myers. Mr. Myers used it as a feed warehouse.
A garage and store operated by Jim Henderson and later by Orval Bowen and Keith Mitchell. This business was closed in 1975 with Keith Mitchell being the last to run it.
Abingdon Lodge No 104 A. F. & A. M.. was started on June 3, 1857, when it received its charter from the Grand Lodge. The first meetings were held in the Gobble building until December, 1858. At that time a committee was appointed to find out the cost of having a second story added to the Baptist church to be used as a room for the lodge.
The members of the church agreed to build a 26 by 45 feet room at a cost of $670.47. This was accepted by the lodge. The lodge hall was completed July 20, 1869. The first officers of the lodge were John W. Scott worshipful master, C. W. Williams senior warden, William Sylvester Junior warden, J. G. Conger treasurer, Maylon Stewart secretary, G. W. McVey, Senior Deacon, A. J. Spurlock Junior Deacon, B. Arthian Tyler. The annual dues when the lodge was first started were $2.00. Meetings were held on Tuesday evening on or before full moon until 1921 when the Grand Master of Des Moines required meetings to be held a numerical night. For many years membership was around 60 to 75.
On January 11, 1954, around 90 masons gathered at the hall to honor Paul Mowery and present to him a fifty-year certificate, and to confer the third degree on Thomas Brown. Just as the meeting was ending the floor gave way and fell twenty feet. There were several injured but no one was killed. In Oct. 1980, the lodge surrendered its charter. Lodge members transferred to Clinton Lodge No. 104 in Fairfield.
The first school in Abingdon was a two-story building erected in the 1850s. It was known as Polk No. 5 School. The upper grades were upstairs and the lower grades downstairs. In 1936 the upper story of the building was removed. And four years later the building was destroyed by fire. A new school building was erected in 1941.
Some of the teachers at Abingdon School were Dorothy German, Mildred Myers, Eunice White, Phyllis Pumphery, Ethel Sipe and Pauline Boysel.
Churches of Abingdon
Abingdon Church of Christ
In 1844 a small group of early settlers went by ox cart to the home of Jimmy Leisure. It was the Leisure home through the effort of Robert Long that the Church of Christ was organized and the first service held. For the first two years meetings were held in homes of church members. Ministers were members of the congregation.
Some of the charter members were Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Spurlock, Mr. and Mrs. Billy Spurlock, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ream, Sally Cline, Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Leisure, Mr. and Mrs. John Downey, and Archibald Downey.
In 1866 Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ream donated two lots in the Fleener addition for a church building. In 1867 a brick building was erected on the site. This building was used for 32 years. Every winter a meeting was held which lasted from six to eight weeks. People came from all over the area to attend the meeting. There was no specific starting time for the services. They began whenever the church was full. The sermons at these services lasted from one and a half to two hours.
In 1898 rock was hauled from Rock Creek for the foundation of the new church building during the winter. The next spring the brick structure was torn down and the new building erected at a cost of $1800.00. The building was dedicated on October 29, 1899. Sunday school and worship services are held every Sunday morning. Attendance is around 20. Students of Midwestern School of Evangelism conduct worship services at the church.
In 1868-69 a Baptist church was built by James Harlan and Henry Leisure. Rev. R. M. Tracy who was pastor at that time was the spirit behind getting churches built at Abingdon, Brookville, and Competine. Because of a small membership, Captain M. W. Forrest, a member of the church and also a member of the Masonic lodge, presented the suggestion that the church and lodge could share a building. Both the church and the lodge agreed. The church was on the first floor and the lodge on the second floor.
Church membership at one time was around 50 or more. It eventually closed.
Abingdon Methodist Episcopal Church
The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in the home of John Sperry and Col. Fleenor around 1844. Rev. Ruckor and Rev. Reed were the first ministers. The Methodist church organized in Abingdon in 1850. Its first minister was Rev. Johnston. The church building was a brick structure in 1855. William Pile was minister at that time. In the 1850s a camp meeting was held west of Cross Lanes. Henry Clay Dean preached at the Camp meeting. Other ministers at Abingdon were John Hayden and John Orr. The members later merged with the Packwood Methodist Church. The church building was sold for $100.00 and torn down.
Events in Abingdon
Abingdon hosted a homecoming every year that drew large crowds. The early homecoming celebrations were held on the Gobble land and later on the Ray Nelson farm. Abingdon held its last celebration in 1936. Besides the homecoming celebrations there were rallies during W.W. I and election rallies, numerous fundraisers in the I.O.O.F. hall.
Abingdon had a home literary talent meeting at the Masonic Lodge. There were spelling bees, singing and plays and other activities at the meetings. Movies were shown for the first time in Abingdon around 1911 on the Kieser property. Later movies were shown behind the Masonic Lodge.
In 1976 the Gobble store building burned down in Abingdon. Lee Gobble, a descendant of T. W. Gobble, donated the property to the conservation board for a park, which is called Gobble Park.
People in Abingdon
During the civil war The Abingdon Home Guards were organized. The company was sworn in on March 13, 1863. The Home Guards were used to settle disputes close by.
The Ku Klux Klan came twice to Abingdon. The first time was around 1922 or '23. The Klan came to a revival that was being held. They entered and all sat together in the same pew and left silently at the end of the service. The Klan came to Abingdon again in 1923 when a tent show was going on behind the Masonic Lodge building. Again as before they came in and sat through the show leaving after the show ended never speaking a word.
In the early years of Abingdon's growth Matthew Spurlock moved to town coming from Illinois. He had counterfeited money while living in Illinois. There was no actual proof that he had done any counterfeiting in Abingdon. A story had been told that he had talked some men into giving him a silver dollar and promised to make duplicates. The men never received their duplicates but many thought there was counterfeit money around and began calling the town Bogus. Matthew Spurlock was considered a mysterious person by many residents. He at times was a preacher and also allowed his home to be used a resort by area sportsmen. He lived in a log cabin and owned an acre of ground. He requested before he died that he and his wife be buried on their property and that an apple tree be planted on their graves and a brick wall 5 feet tall erected around the graves. His wishes were carried out.
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