By Nicholas Besser
On the 4th of July, 1890, I was sent to Sigourney after 50 lbs of salt.  On my way there I overtook Mr. and Mrs. Berg, who were horseback and on the way to Herr Blaise's from where they intended to go to a picknick and celebration.  Arriving at B's., we found the Misses Katy and Eva Blaise- the latter was married later to Mr. Phil Michel- and they and their brother were preparing to go to Charles Bakehouse's where a celebration had been arranged.  I went with them.  An arbor and a round shady place had been fixed up out of green young trees for ornament and a shelter against the burning sun.  The ladies were busy arranging dishes and eatables on a long table for the dinner.  I went on to Sigourney, bought my salt at a little 14 x 16 grocery store kept by James Bowen, the popular sale crier in later years.  At about two o'clock I got back to the picknick grounds.  The crowd was at work with shovels and picks, leveling and polishing a piece of ground to hold a dance on, waxed floors were not in vogue at that time.

Mr. Bakehouse noticing me, said something to a lady near him, who thereupon motioned for me to come to the table, where in a few minutes a splendid dinner was ready for me.  A flaxen haired, blue eyed little girl stood beside the lady- her mother.  When the latter left to attend to other duties, the little one came nearer and we soon became friends.  She said she was six years old.

Toward evening John Hartmann arrived, he was the band and orchestra combined- of that day- being an expert French harp or harmonica player,- and then the dancing commenced.

Everybody seemed happy and enjoyed himself, prospects for the future welfare were bright, eatables plenty, and taxes below zero.

People had adapted themselves to rely on their own resources for clothing, and new comers were helped; nobody had to suffer like those who came 5 or 7 years earlier.  Those that had plenty of chickens and stock freely shared with others in need, what they could spare.  "It is more pleasant to give than to take" was not an idle phrase in those days.

Only a short while after the above, a dark gloom was cast over that settlement. Mrs. Bakehouse sent her daughter, this flaxen haired little maiden, one afternoon on an errand to her aunt- Mrs. Christian Duensing.  She was accompanied by the trusty dog.  As it was getting towards evening, Mrs. Duensing hesitated to let the child go home, but she told her aunt, that Mother had told her if it got dark, just to follow the dog, he would bring her home.  She never found her home here on earth.  For three days the entire neighborhood was hunting for the lost child.  People from far and near searched in vain for a trace of the little girl.  It was said that Mr. Bakehouse had followed some white men or Indians as far as Des Moines on the presumption that the child had been abducted.  Having to cross the main Sigourney road on her way home, led the searchers astray.  A long time afterwards the mystery was solved by a 9 year old boy- August Klett- who had been hunting work-oxen and was driving them towards the Stoermer place. In a brush patch near where the branch which comes from the north-west empties into German Creek, some of the steers sniffed the air and bellowed in an excited manner.  August went to the spot to ascertain the cause, and discovered there a skull with some flaxen hair on it and some torn clothing led to the identification of the remains of the lost child.  The dog in this case proved an unreliable guide.  It is to be presumed that the child mistook the path leading to Fred Runges for her own, and when finding that she was in the wrong road, followed some cattle trail down the branch toward German Creek, over two miles east of Duensings place.  Nobody knows how far she may have wandered during that night.

My humble opinion is, that in that thicket a number of the half wild hogs of those days congregated, which made an attack upon the dog and when it got out of the way tore up the child. 

This sad occurrence and some others were hardly ever mentioned during the lifetime of those people.  It had a most depressing effect upon not only the parents, but also upon the whole community.  Years passed before we heard of another frolic in that neighborhood.

Bakehouses lived a very secluded life, when I was at their house the next time.  It was in 1855.  Goodhart sent me one Sunday to take $30.00 over to Charles Bakehouse, which the latter loaned him a few months before without interest.  A meeting was held there by some Missionary, who had come to consult the settlers in regard to establishing a Lutheran church and congregation, to ascertain the prospects of raising the necessary funds for the erection of a house of worship, and also to collect some funds for some ecclesiastical or synodal college somewhere in the east.

A vote was taken concerning the organization of a congregation and the engagement of a permanent minister.

The collection turned out very liveral as Mr. Bakehouse tendered money to those who were not prepared for such an occasion. Wm. Mohme got on his cay horse and rode home in a gallop, soon returning with more funds to help out.  A fine Brick Church was built on the hill west of German Creek on the northwest corner of the Seger farm, who donated several acres of land for the site.  It was quite a commodious building for those days.  For 50 years it stood there a monument to the religious spirit and fervency of those early pioneers.

Among those of the early settlers of the northern part of German Township not mentioned heretofore were: Joel Long, Geo. Payton, Shanafelt, John House, Mathias Blaise, Robert Mann, W. Kinney, Squire Dicky, Morre, S. Richardson, Storm, Blacks, Jerry Garrett, W. Trotter, W. H. Clary, Jessup Jackson, Leander DeLong, Claus Ehlen, John Witten, Scharnhurst, Chris. Crawford, etc. In the southern and eastern part were:- Mertens, Kohlhaas, Wm. Jugenheimer, etc., all these came here during the forties.

We lived then not as close together as today, and yet, how much closer to each others hearts.  In the course of these many years, we have moved from the hovel to the palace, but the noble spirit of those early days, which "made all human kin," it has not moved, it stayed in the hovel.

Contributed by Kim Icenhower. Thank you Kim!

Reference: Kim Icenhower: "I am the great great granddaughter of Nicholas Besser.  My Grandmother, Irma (Striegel) Haag, the daughter of Mary (Besser) Striegel had copies of these stories, which were handed down to her children.  I was told they were factual accounts of his early life in Iowa."

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