RECOLLECTIONS OF EARLY PIONEER DAYS
By Nicholas Besser
With great pleasure I note that two more "old settlers" have taken "a seat" in the Hawkeye Journal's Chimney corner, relating- some of their highly interesting recollections of early days and I sincerely hope that they, as well as many others of the "old guard" will be heard from as often as possible.  How I wish I could shake hands once more with our mutual friend W. R. Hollingsworth.

The letter from Cap. J. T. Parker ought to convince even Mr. R. I. Garden of Tracy, Iowa, that "it is human to err".  The question: "To be or not to be" applied to the buffalos early habitation in Iowa, seems to be indisputably settled by the evidence produced by Mr. Parker.  Mr. Garden bases his theory of the buffalo's non-residence partly upon the fact, that we never heard of any buffalo bones being found in Iowa.  In 1844 I found upon a space of perhaps one half acre, what to all appearance seemed to be part of the bones of six or eight carcasses.· The thigh and knee bones well recognizable and partly imbedded in 'the sod.  When picked up they crumbled like lime.  This was in a wide slough, where, as a rule, the grass made its appearance first in spring and at the same time offering a good outlook over a scope of prairie.  This led me to enquire of my friend D. N. Henderson, who had settled in the east part of Clear Creek Township in 1838, one of the most wide-a-wake pioneers or that day and at this date a resident of this county for 67 years.  He informed me that an old Indian had told him, that, long, long ago there came a big snow storm, a very cold week in June causing the death of many buffalos, the old grass having been burned and the young shoots of grass were tender and washy.  From all my observation and knowledge gained, I have come to the conclusion that for perhaps a hundred years or more there have not been many buffalos in eastern Iowa, wherefore Mr. Garden's idea is some what excusable.  I was personally acquainted with Mr. Jacob Kensler, who used to live south of Delta, also Hon. A. C. Price and Mr. M. P. Donahey now of Washington County, all men whose credibility and integrity was never disputed.  Thirty years ago in Barton County, Kansas, I examined some buffalo bones, some of them in about the same condition and identical with these I found 60 years ago here in Iowa.

Some time ago I was requested by some through the Courier to write about the Paul Peiffer family of Clear Creek Township, mention of which I had made in my former memoirs of that township. I will here relate an appalling misfortune which befell that family in an early day.  Two of their boys, John and Mike, lads of about 5 and 7 years of age were playing one day after dusk near their cabin.  One of them, I think it was the youngest, Mike, picked up what he took to be the heavy end of a discarded ox-whip and playfully hit his brother with it; but the "ox-whip" proved to be a good sized rattlesnake, which stuck its fangs first into John's arm about three or four inches below the shoulder, and then into Mike's hand.  Mr. M. Berg, a near neighbor, mounted a horse and in a gallop started for Rev. Daniel Heidene's, a missionary, who as such possessed considerable pioneer experience and also some knowledge of medicine, practicing physicians were not as numerous in those days as now.  In the meantime Mr. Wendel Horras and Mr. Peiffer tied a bandage above the bitten part of the arm to prevent the poison from circulating toward the heart, until other help would arrive.  Unfortunately, this tight bandage was left on the arm too long.  I was present when Mrs. Peiffer took off the poultice and bandage and the little arm dropped off at the elbow joint.  The entire flesh, till within two inches of the shoulder had decayed and easily washed off, exposing the bone to the elbow.  The flesh close around the bone remained healthy, granulation soon appeared like pin heads all over, which gave hope that nature would eventually help to preserve the arm to the elbow joint.  Elder bark and witch-hazel boiled in lard, together with the child's inherited healthy constitution completed the cure.  Mr. Paul Peiffer, the father, had served 3 years in the artillery at Fort Luximburg, Germany, and was by no means a nervous "chicken-hearted" fellow, but this time he was almost distracted with grief.  Mrs. Peiffer is still living and is now in her 94th year.  Her maiden name was Magdalena Redlinger.  She is an aunt of Valentine and Peter Redlinger.  May she live to see her direct descendants reach the number of 200 which is not very far off any more.

It makes me shudder to think of the many snake bites and the more numerous narrow escapes from such in early days; to relate them all would more than fill the entire paper, but fortunately the dreaded rattlers - like the buffaloes - are getting scarce.

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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