Madison County, Iowa




Crawford & Lee Townships
Copied from the Winterset News, 29 Mar 1907

Editor's Note: This account of the Irish Settlement was written by James Gillaspie of Crawford Township for the Madison County Historical Society meeting of March 19, 1907. Submitted by James Gill.

Mr. Gillaspie was born in Ireland in 1830 and came to New York City in 1852 and settled in Madison County in 1856. He enlisted in Co. A, 16th Iowa in September 1864 and served until the end of the war. He was a justice of the peace, township clerk, assessor and secretary of the school board for many years. As many inquiries have been made as to how the settlement known as the "Irish Settlement" of Madison County originally started 1, to the best of my poor ability, will give the facts to the public according to my best knowledge. I will here say that I have lived in the aforesaid settlement since early in A.D.1856 and have a personal knowledge of most of what I write, other parts I have from reliable information.



     The first settler did not come here, as some suppose, by any preconcerted plan, in order to form a new settlement, nor were they lately landed from Ireland. They were men of families for the most part who, having lived for several years in other states of the union.(sic) Some were farmers before coming to Iowa and some followed other occupations of life. Iowa being then a new state, and to be had at government price many sold their possessions in other states in order to better their conditions in Iowa. And as Des Moines was about to become the capital of the state, it was but to be expected that immigration would flow to the capital. And as the lands within several miles of Des Moines were nearly all owned and held by eastern speculators, people wishing to purchase farms were compelled to scatter out from the city. So the first Irish families liking the looks of the country, settled in what is known as the Irish Settlement. 

Crawford Township Settlers

     Now this settlement consists of two townships in Warren County as well as the townships of Crawford and Lee in Madison County. But for the purposes of this letter I will confine myself to the Irish settlers who settled in Madison County prior and up to 1860. I will begin with Crawford township and give the names of those who settled north of North River, the year they came, as far as possible and also as far as I know where they came from directly to Iowa. They are as follows: Andrew Connor and family in 1854 or earlier; came from Wisconsin; is now dead; father of Stephen and John Connor of Crawford and Michael of Lee. Patrick and John McManus in 1854 from Wisconsin. Patrick is dead; family moved away. John's family moved from here. John McLaughlin and family in 1854. John came from Wisconsin and was the father of Michael McLaughlin of Lee and John of Winterset. He is dead for many years. John Ryan and family, brothers and sisters in 1855 from Wisconsin. Mr. Ryan is dead for many years; father to John and William Ryan of this place. John Fallon and family from Pennsylvania in 1855, 1 believe. John died many years ago and his family moved west. John Cunningham and family came from Wisconsin in 1855. Mr. Cunningham died a few years ago; father to Joseph and P. J. of this place. Tom, James and John Finan, brothers, came in 1855, I think from Wisconsin owned a sawmill north of North River, also farms. Sold out and moved west. Each of the Finans had families. John Connor and family in 1855 from Wisconsin I think. After a few years he sold out and moved away. John Manion and wife from Wisconsin in 1856. Sold farm and moved to Des Moines. John Roddy and family about 1856; sold out and went to Des Moines after a few years. John Moynahan and family from Wisconsin in 1855. Mr Moynahan is dead and his family moved away.

     We now come to the Irish who located in Crawford township, south of the North River: Darby Gill and family in 1855 from Canada I think. Mr. Gill is dead; some of his family have died; some live in Warren County and some in Polk. Michael Donohue and family in 1855. He is dead and his family moved away. James Gallagher and family in 1855 from Canada; he is dead. His son James F., lives in Des Moines; his son Dominick's family live on the old farm. Pat Swift in 1855; he is dead and his family gone. Frank Cassidy and family in 1855 from New York City; he is dead and two of his sons went west. Mrs M. McLaughlin of Lee is his daughter and two other daughters live in Des Moines. Patrick Smith and family came from New York City. Mr. Smith came in 1855 and bought his farm and his wife and children came n 1856. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are dead;; they were the parents of Luke A. Smith of this place and John H. Smith of Winterset.

     Thomas McGirr from New York City in 1855; remained three or four years, then went to California where it is believed he died; was unmarried. James Gillaspie came here from New York City in the spring of 1856 accompanied by his wife and other relatives; he is still living on the old farm. Charles Walls and family came in 1856; bought and sold four or five farms; lived here until 1874, then returned to New York City. He is long in his grave. John Harrington and family in 1856 from New York City. After living here about thirty-five years traded his farm for Des Moines property. He is dead.; his son Matthew Harrington is living in Des Moines. John Crawley and family came from New York City in 1856; lived on a farm for several years and died. His family sold the farm and moved to Cass County where some of them are still living. Michael Loftus and family came here from Canada in 1857. Mr Loftus died several years ago his son Mike and several of his daughters are still residents of this place. Michael McGlone and family came from Canada in 1857.; he is dead and his widow and son Martin still live on the farm. James Kirby and family came here in 1856 from Pennsylvania; Mr. and Mrs. Kirby are dead; their son John F. and daughter Maggie live on the old farm; William and James, two other sons, live near on farms of their own. Patrick Reilly and family came here in 1855 from Canada. He is dead. The farm was sold a few years ago. His son Patrick and two daughters, all married live in Des Moines and another son John, lives in Iowa east of Des Moines. Darby Carr and family came in 1855 he died; the family after several years moved to Des Moines. Thomas O'Toole and family came here in 1860 from Des Moines; sold his farm a few years ago and is now living in Omaha, Nebraska. Thomas Durigan and family came here in 1858; lived here for several years and then moved across the line to Warren County where he died. Some of the Durigan family are still living in Iowa but not on the old farm. John McDonnell and family came in 1860 from Wisconsin. Mr. McDonnell sold his farm a few years ago and moved to Nebraska where he died. His son Dennis lives in Crawford township. John Cutler, an early settler in Warren County, settled in this township (Crawford) in the early '60's with his family. William Kennedy and family came here in 1856 from Philadelphia and after living here for many years moved to California where he died. Mrs. Robert Smith of Scott township is one of his daughters. Anderson McLees and family came here in 1856 from Philadelphia. He died a few years ago in Winterset. John McLees, his son, lives in Lincoln township, Wm. McLees lives in North Dakota. Robert McMichael came in 1855 or 1856 from Pennsylvania. He died a few years later. His brother William came on the farm. 

Lee Township Settlers

     Having now given the early settlers of Crawford, I will now take up the task of giving the names of the early Irish settlers of Lee township. I will say here that I cannot be so accurate as to the dates of the years in which many of those old settlers came here, and cannot perhaps give all their names, but I will give them to the best of my knowledge, that is of those who came here up to 1860. Allen Major came here in 1855 from Warren County He. is now dead. His son John lives in Iowa but has left the old farm. John McCarty and family in 1855. He is dead. Some of his sons live on the old farm. David and John Welch, brothers, came as early as 1855 or 56. David settled in Lee township and John across the line in Warren County. David is dead and the family has moved away. Timothy Horn and family came from Des Moines in or about 1860. He is dead. His son, James, and two sisters live on the farm. Daniel Mulvahill, sometime in the '50's, not sure of the date. He died a few years aqo. His son James lives on the farm and an other son Daniel is a Catholic priest in Des Moines. Jeremiah Dooley and family, am not certain of date of coming here. James and Patrick Maber and their families, do not know date. James Lynch and family, not sure of year. Mr. Lynch still lives in good health an the old farm. Michael and Patrick Duffy and their families, not sure of year. Peter Laughlin and family came to Lee from the western part of the county sometime close to 1860. He has been dead a few years. His sons Thomas and John still live here. Andrew and James Hanrahan and their families and several other Irish families moved into Lee township in the early 1860's. I now close my Lee township narrative. 

Warren County Settlers

     In order to give a correct idea of the history of the Irish settlement it is necessary to name briefly several families in Warren County, across the line in the townships adjoining Crawford and Lee, who came in the years previous to 1860. They are as follows: John Spain and family; John Cahill and family; Michael Doheny(or Dobeny) and family; Edmund Ryan and family; William Ryan; John and Thomas Bell and their father's family, I forgot his name; Bernard King; Niel McElwee and family; Anthony McElwee and a family named Friel; two brothers named Michael and James Kane and their families; John Mackin and family; John Welch and family; Peter Murray and family; Pat Walsh; Adam Walsh; William Shay and family; Patrick Butler and family; a Mrs. Gallaher and family, she was a widow. All the families that I have mentioned in my narrative, with the exceptions of the following named were Catholics, viz; Allen Major, William Kennedy, Anderson McLees and the McMichaels

Establishment and History of the St. Patrick's Church.

     As may be seen, the Irish came from many places for settlement, and the name of the settlement began to spread abroad throughout the land, one following the lead of those who had gone before. But here they were with no church and no cemetery. Some were for having the church and cemetery on the north side of the river, others on the south side. In the meantime a stranger, an old man and a government surveyor, returning from further west, getting sick at the house of Patrick Walsh on the south side, died. The corpse was prepared for the grave. Mr. Walsh and some neighboring men left home to locate a burying ground, when some half a dozen smart fellows from the north side slipped in, took up the corpse and started the cemetery on the north side. So where the cemetery was the church should be near and as the majority of the people were on the north side the people built a good sized log church in the summer of 1856. Thomas Finan gave forty acres of land for church purposes. The church stands on the SE corenr of section 36 in Lee township and the cemetery is in the southeast part of the "forty". Very many of the first settlers lie there now and also many of their children. At first in religious ways the people were attended by missionary priests, going from place to place. In 1856 Rev. Father Platt became parish priest in Des Moines and he attended St. Patrick's once a month. He died and Rev. Father Brazill qot an assistant and there was mass at St. Patrick's twice a month until about 1873 when a parish priest was sent to reside at St. Patrick's. The first resident priest was Rev. Father Smythe, now at Council Bluffs, who remained three years. Then came Rev Father Rice who was pastor of the congregation from 1870 to 1884. He died in 1884 and was succeeded by Rev. Father Moynahan, who was pastor of that church until November 1906. Father Moynahan resigned on account of old age and infirmity and was succeeded by Rev. Father Dugan, who is pastor of St. Patrick's church at the present. The present frame church was built somewhere near the year 1870. I am not positive of the date, but that is near to it. The log church was taken away from the place altogether. There were some German families who first attended St. Patrick's, viz: Kasper Weils, Conrad Weils, Anthony Weidman, Charles Snyder, Julius Reimn and some others. After the death of Father Rice, St. Patrick Parish was divided. All south of North River were stricken into the parish of Churchvill and now attend there; here they have a large congregation. Another part of St. Patrick's parish is given to Cumming, which makes the congregation the smallest of the three at present. 

Other Settlers Who Came Before 1860

     Many settlers came to the Irish settlement since 1860. I merely give their names as far as I can, and where they settled. But before giving the names of those who came since 1860 I will name a few who came in the early 50's. Patrick Walsh, Adam Walsh and John Cutler came to the settlement in 1852. There are several families belonging to the settlement who came previous to 1860 who live in the southwest corner of Polk County. Among those are the Hoyes, Malones and others. 1860 and since who settled in Warren County. R. Maguire, E. Slavin, Ellwood Bros., John Collins, Jas. Davitt, Mr. Fagan, James Doud, Pat Doud, Pat McNerney, T. Harrigan, Pat Breslin, J. Graham, Ed McCusker, Peter MCDonnell, John Linnan, Thos. Gallagher, John Mulroy, James Banks, Michael Cash, Mr. Cash was a very early settler, 1855 or '56. John and Michael Hall, Joseph Nugent, Pat Waldron, P. Brownrigg, Wm. Hayes, Peter Quinn, Ed. McManus, Felix McManus, Pat McManus, James Sheehey, Pat Ward, Wm. Gavin, the McAndrew family were early settlers. I do not know the year. John McGovern, Thomas Powers, Neil Enright, John Keeney, Matt Lillis, Thos. James, Daniel Heaffey, Robert Kelley and others. All the foregoing list are men, or were men, of families, with the exception of two or three who settled on the Warren County side of the settlement since 1860 or about that time. In this list I do not mention any of the young men who grew up or were born here. Some of those mentioned removed since to other places. Many are dead, but there is, Generally speaking, in most cases, one, two or more representatives of each family.

Settlers Who Came After 1860

    List of those who settled in Crawford Township since 1860. Bernard Johnson, P. Gill, William Costello, John Peteers, Thomas Molroy, John Marrinan, Thomas Linnan, Thomas Swift, Wm. Connally, Robert Morris, Wm. Connor, Pat Curtis, Michael Casey, Thos. Dee, Pat Doud, T. McGovern, John Kelley, John Tiernan, Pat Kilduff, the Hogan family, John Graney, P. Graney, Martin Gavin, John Dillon and Thomas Burke. Lee Township since 1860. James Condon, Thomas Glynn, Maurice Breen, Peter Kelley, M. M. Billeran and his father, Martin Waldron, James Brazill, Lawrence King, John Pollard, Stephen Murphy, James Kiernan, John Clarke, Michael Dargan, Richard Dargan, Michael McNamara, Michael Phillips, John White, John Roack, Thos. McKeon and Tom O'Herron. In order to show fully the Irish settlement I must include part of Union Township. Here we find Ed Monaghan, Patrick Nolan, Michael Donahue, and Martin McNamara.

Names of Those Who Served in the Civil War

     There were very few young men grown to man's estate when the war of 1861-65 took place. The Irish settlers were nearly all men who had wives and families, consequently but few of them served in the army. Amongst those whom I know did serve were as follows: George Banks, John McWilliams, L. A. Smith, Patrick Doud, M. M. Gilleran, Martin Waldron, Thomas Burke, James Gillaspie, William Couch, Charles Condon and others whose names I do not remember. 

Growth of the Settlement

It will now be seen that the Irish settlement is not a very small place. From north to south it is fully twelve miles and about the same number of miles from east to west. Of course there are many people of different nationalities living in their midst, American, Germans and others, all living in harmony and brotherly love together as all; men should do. They are, generally speaking, industrious and prosperous, and as to honesty, few will say that they have been cheated by an Irish man. The early-time houses have all disappeared and in their places stand modern dwellings, substantial and capacious barns and granaries. Horses, cattle and swine are here in abundance, and cheerful hospitality can be found among the Irish settlers and their descendents, and as freely given as on any part of the globe. And now the history of the Irish settlers of this place known all over Iowa as the Irish Settlement,, is at its close. Many of the original ones are now in their graves; peace to their memory. Many have moved to other places and those of native Irish birth, who yet remain, are hastening to the world beyond the grave.


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