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Abandoned Towns and Village 
Big Mound
Cedar Township

The following was written and presented by Anna Heaten [b: 1887- d: 1983; daughter of Aaron Heaton] at a Women’s Society of Christian Services (W.S.C.S) meeting in the mid to late 1960’s held at the Big Mound United Methodist Church. ~

~ Big Mound was located in Cedar Twp, Lee Co, Iowa close to the Van Buren Co, Harrisburg Twp, line at the common corners of Section 19, 20, 29 and 30—cross roads at 110th Ave. and 140th St. — with a Post Office from 1852 -1903.

When asked to give some old time History of Big Mound I thought, “What could I tell that could be of interest to people of Big Mound today?” So this may or may not be interesting to anyone.

I do not know who the first settlers were or when they came, but in looking over some old deeds, I found the name of John WALKER in 1847— Herod MOORE 1848— Joseph HOLMAN 1849— Robert ROGERS 1852— S.B. WASHBURN 1855— Jonathan PEASE 1862— Jonathan COFFINDOFFER 1866— George R.S. PEASE 1882— and there was Lewis KENNEDY, Cyrus KENNEDY, L.W. (Lege) HOUSE, John, Hugh, and William LOGAN and a Mrs. MOODIE among earlier names; I know this is not a complete list.

My Grandfather Eli H. HEATON and family came to Iowa from Indiana in 1852 lived one year near Mt. Pleasant, coming to Big Mound in 1853 and lived on the same farm until his death in 1899. My father, Aaron H. HEATON was born in 1855, so the Heaton’s have been around here a long time.

I am sorry I never wrote down any of the happenings that took place in the old days when Dad used to talk about them. At one time there were at least 9 houses, a store, a blacksmith shop, a shoe shop, a post office, and a building called the Hall all here at the corner.

The “Hall” was a two story building, a doctor’s office and a store on the ground floor, with the Hall room upstairs, this was used for political rallies and public meetings also as a school room for awhile. Mr. BRIGAMIER was the last one to keep the store in this building as it and the house that was there--where my house is now--burned some time around 1880.

When Dad was a boy, corn was dropped by hand, grain cut with a sickle, hay was stacked in little haycocks to dry the built into big stacks, corn was shocked and shucked out in the winter time. Many used oxen instead of horses; Dad had kept the yoke he used with his team of oxen--one of the grandsons has it now.

They drove their hogs to market at Keokuk, later to Bonaparte. Lumber for their buildings was hauled out from Ft. Madison. When building a barn, the men would all gather and have a barn raising.

Of course women’s work was different too, they made their own candles, made soap with lye made from wood ashes, made yeasts from hops, washed on the board, knit socks and mittens, many had spinning wheels and made the yarn, and for good times had quilting bees, if too far to walk, they hitched a ride in a lumber wagon or rode horse back.

For a good time the kids went swimming and fishing as about all the creeks had fish. I think every boy had a gun and a dog, so they could go hunting wild game such as prairie chicken, quail, duck, geese and wild turkey was plentiful.

Now where did we get the name Big Mound? I’ve heard Dad tell this many times. When the forefathers decided they wanted a Post office they met at the Hall to decide the name. Some of the families had come from a place back in Indiana or Ohio by the name of Promise City, and wanted that name, the rest agreed so that was the name sent to Washington, D.C. But word came back that Iowa already had a Post Office by that name and to choose another one.

Another meeting was called and someone said why not call it Big Mound after the mound? So that was the name sent in and it was approved at Washington D.C.

Maybe all of you don’t know where the “mound” is. It is about ¼ mile northwest of the cross roads partly on the Taylor farm and partly on my farm. Since it has been under cultivation for over 100 years it is not as high as it used to be, but plain to see if one looks at it. I do not know what year it was given the name Big Mound but again in some old deeds I found where in 1857 Lot 8 Block 7 in the anticipated town of “Main City” was transferred, and in 1859 the sale of lots being a portion of Big Mound is recorded so it would appear the name was changed around that time.

A stage coach went through Big Mound sometime between the years 1857 and 1859 going from Keokuk to Ottumwa. The road from Keokuk ran across country coming into Big Mound from the SE; it would take off going NW over the Mound to *Georgetown(?)—a small town located where Bob Zane and Virgil Swift live, --(est. vicinity @ NE corner of Harrisburg Twp, Van Buren Co.)—- the trail went on to the NW (toward Stockport **). By the way, at one time there was a distillery at Georgetown*.

Dad said it was always quite an event when the coach came through and everyone tried to be there to see it. They always came in with the horses on the run and with a big flourish, but one day they turned the corner too short and the coach upset. One woman was carried into one of the houses and a Doctor was called, but a broken arm was the extent of her injury. I have the impression the coach came once a week and brought mail with it. Later mail was brought out from Bonaparte and after the railroad came to Mt. Hamill, mail was brought out from there. At one time they thought a railroad was coming through Big Mound, but the route located further east of town.

The School Districts in Morning Star and Washington became so crowded they were divided and Big Mound School District was formed. This school building was located ¼ mile east of the corner on the south side of the road, later when the district was closed it was returned back to the Washington School District.

Now I will try to tell you about Big Mound as I first remember it. I was born in an old house that stood where my granary is now—NW of the cross road— and when I was almost 5 years old we moved into the house I now live in. At that time, on the Northeast corner, Grandfather and Grandmother HEATON and son Allen lived in the homestead there. On the Southwest corner Levi READER and family lived there. They had a small store and a blacksmith shop. Mrs. Reader was Jane DEROSEAR before marriage they had 3 daughters and 2 sons all older than I.

Just south of the Reader House and under the pine trees that still stand was a house and Mr. and Mrs. Nick BEDDIE lived there. They were the last ones to live in that house. On the Southwest corner, Mr. and Mrs. SIVIL lived; he was postmaster and a shoemaker. He made shoes to order or mended them and would fix broken harnesses too. His shop was in a brick building just west of their house; just a little west of the Sivil’s was the Christian church built around 1870 and the ground to build it on was given by George KENNEDY.

One mile west on the Southside of the road Mr. and Mrs. John WARE lived and ½ mile west on the north side of the road Lewis TAYLOR’S family lived; one-half mile north John Heaton’s lived there; and just a little east of the school house on the north side of the road was the Herod MOORE home.

A Methodist church congregation had been organized and after meeting in the school house for several years, a church building was erected across the road from the school house and Mrs. Margaret MOORE donated the building site. As you may know, the Big Mound United Methodist Church was built in 1896.**

Around 1893 or 1894, the READERS sold out to Mr. Washington CRAWFORD and moved to West Point, after remodeling the house Mr. and Mrs. Crawford and daughter Ollie moved in. In the spring of 1897 Mr. George WEIMER leased some ground just west of the Christian church from Mr. WARE, and built a store building with a living Apartment above the store room, and opened a General Store. He enjoyed a good trade for 6 or 7 years then on account of his wife’s health he closed the store and moved to Ft. Madison, later a Mr. and Mrs. COLLINS ran a store there for a short time, but with the closing of the post office and the coming of the automobile, business wasn’t enough to keep it going. The building later burned while Mr. Marshall GLENU and family lived there.

When I started to school our mail was brought out from Mr. Hamill by a Mr. McKee, he drove a horse hitched to a two wheeled cart. Later Mr. Ira Ross was the carrier and when the Post Office was closed in the fall of 1903 we were put on a rural route from Mt. Hamill and Theodore Holland was our carrier. After several years we were changed over to Hillsboro rural route and our fist carrier was Jake Syphers, among other carriers we had were Guilford Sanderson, Orr Early, Alva Clark, L.G. Hays, several others I don’t recall now. Our present carrier is Glenn Swartout.

Sometimes we grumble about our mail service but I think they do pretty good. Just to prove it I’ll tell you about a letter I got about two years ago. One day when I brought in my mail, I found a letter addressed to the Big Mound Chamber of Commerce Big Mound Lee County Iowa. Since I was the only one left in Big Mound—I thought that must be me. So I opened it.

It was from a lady in King City, California saying she used to know Ross Heaton years ago and he got his mail at Big Mound, and she would like to get in touch with him or some of his relatives. Now since it had been 61 years since we had a Post Office in Big Mound I thought the Postal Department did a good job getting the letter through. Ross was a cousin of mine.

Among the families I remember getting mail at Big Mound were Kennedy, Dawson, Beard, Pease, DeRosear, Wiley. Ware, Lightfoot, Crawford, Garver, Tulley, Smith McGouan, Miller, Bennett, Taylor, Moore, Newsome, Hemmings, Ross, Steveson, Pfeifer, Hixson, Poulters, Bell, Dinsmore, Logan, Dick, Coleman, Bordon, Hitch, Heatons, and of course I do remember all of them.

Time has made many changes and no doubt will make many more.

~ Anna Heaton

(* Anna’s notes states Georgetown but perhaps she meant Gainsborough which was located in or near the NE part of section 15 of Harrisburg Twp, Van Buren County, which is in the vicinity of the 1960’s Zane and Swift family Homesteads.)

(** The Ottumwa to Keokuk stagecoach route stopped at the FORDYCE Inn, a Stagecoach Stable and Relay Station located outside of Stockport, where a fresh team of horses were exchanged as well as rest and refreshment at the Inn for the travelers.

In 2006 this Fordyce Homestead still stands proudly among the trees at the top of the roof is the lookout perch—where the sound of the watchman’s horn—alerted all people at the Inn of the approaching coach, particularly the Stable attendant who rushed to hitch the new team of horses.)

(***Update notation: The Big Mound United Methodist Church closed with a final celebration of 90 years at a ceremony held in 1986. It was one of the last buildings standing in the abandon town of Big Mound, there is a mounted memorial marker along the roadside of 140th Street— about ¼ mile East of the 110th Ave and 140th Street cross road intersection on the North side of the road — commemorating the building site.)

Note  I am NOT related to Ms. Heaton and am posting this Big Mound Historical Memoir presentation for those who may find any of the former residents in their family history. Her presentation was popular and many in attendance received a manually cut and pasted copy from an unidentified newspaper that evidentially published her notes, this copy was found among other loose family papers relating to Big Mound United Methodist Church.

Original writing by Anna Heaton
Posted By Lee County Volunteer

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