Madison County, Iowa





The author of this paper is Cassius Clement Stiles, son of Thomas Williamson Stiles and Mary Ann Stockdale. C. C. was born in South Township, Madison County, in October 1860 and passed away May 7, 1938. He is buried in the Pine Hill Cemetery in Polk County.



by C. C. Stiles

          This subject bears a special Interest for me from the fact that I was born and raised In this settlement and from my earliest recollection until I was grown to manhood my associates were these settlers and their descendents.

         My first teacher in a school that was held in an old log schoolhouse was one of these settlers, Mattie Walkup. Afterwards I had as teachers two of her sisters, Betty and Belle and following them came Fanny Simpson as one of my teachers. Our Immediate neighbors were the Blairs, Carters, Walkups, Henegars, Garmons, Simpsons, Turks, Yates and Scrivners.

          On looking over an article written for a history of Madison County by Elias R. Zeller and on the same subject, I find the following item taken from a Keokuk paper published May 28, 1860: "A procession consisting of nine wagons, one carriage, twelve yoke of oxen and several spans of horses passed up main street last Saturday  morning bound for Madison County, Iowa. They came from Kentucky. They belong to one family, the head of which is the Rev. John Blair, who informed us that they were obliged to leave on account of their sentiments on the slavery questions."

          As related by Rev. John Blair, the reason why he and his party picked Madison County for their future home was that a brother, Alexander Blair had emigrated from Kentucky to Indiana in pioneer times and a few years later had settled in Madison County, on land now known as the Mills farm at Tilevllle. Those comprising the Blair party were Rev. John Blair, Rev. Richard Armstrong, Elza Blair, William Turk, John Blair, William Blair, John Henegar, Peter Carter, James McKinney, James Blair, William Carter, Alexander Eskew and Thomas Rhodes. In the fall of the same year another party arrived consisting of George Breeding, Rev. Campbell Hugart, Joseph Breeding, B. F. Carter and others. In the following spring a third party located in the county, namely: John M. Eskew, John T. Blair, George H. Kinnaird, William T. Jesse, Henry Monday, and David Mosby.

          Those first settlers divided, a part settling in Scott township and the remainder in South township, thus forming two settlements or in fact only one which finally extended from the Holliwell bridge on Middle river in Scott township, east to the east boundary line of the county. Those of the earlier settlers that settled in Scott Township were: the Breeding families, Benjamin F. Carter, John Blair, the Eskews, George H. Kinnaird and the William T. Jesse families. Afterwards there settled in this vicinity the Fudge, Stith, Peak and Yates families.

          Those settling in South Township consisted of Rev. John Blair and his wife “Aunt Martha,” Elza Blair, Alexander Blair, James Blair, William Blair, Jefferson Blair, Parthenia (Blair) Carter, Sallie (Blair) Turk and the families of Peter Carter, John Henegar, Richard Armstrong, James McKinney, William Turk and Campbell Hugart. Afterwards came the Walkup families, and the Simpson, Kinnaird, Scrivner, Cheek, Durham and Garmon families and others.

          Among the later arrivals were several of the Grissom family. It is told that when John (Johnnie) Grisson made the trip from Kentucky, that he came by railroad, went to sleep and failed to leave the train at Des Moines in time but awoke in time to find the train was in Stuart. Not daunted he left the train and walked the balance of the journey. Leaving Stuart in the morning he walked all the way “toting” his luggage and reached Winterset at two o’clock in the afternoon. 

         The Walkup brothers, Joe and Albert, and families together with their sister and husband, Dr. Baldock, came to the county in the spring of 1865 and located at “Queen’s Point” on “Hoosier Prairie” and in the fall of the same year their father, John A. Walkup, with four daughters, Mattie, Betty, Belle and Euphrasia arrived. He had previously purchased a farm on “Brush Ridge” on which they settled. They made the journey in wagons and using the language of Belle (Walkup) Pixler: “We only had one vexatious predicament to contend with. This happened at Vandalia,  Illinois. During the night of our encampment there the horses all got loose from their halters and disappeared and when daylight came and no horses in sight we felt like we were a long ways from home and without friends, but we were very glad when we found out that at that early time Vandalia had a good Vigilance organization and they there were soon in touch with the herd of nine horses. The horses guided by their animal instinct had struck an air line for the beautiful foot-hills of the Cumberland mountains and when the Vigilants over-took them they were running up and down the banks of the Wabash hunting for a place to cross. Late at night when the faithful Vigilants arrived with the horses there was rejoicing in the camp, and the next day found the Walkups moving on to the Land of Plenty .” Only two of the Walkup family are now living, Bell Pixler and Euphrasia Maxwell.

          Joseph Scrivner and wife with their three sons and four daughters were early settlers in South Township . Their farm adjoined my father’s farm. The George Cheek family came to South Township in about the year 1872.   The Elijah Kinnaird family came to Madison County in 1871. The family consisted of himself, his wife (Malinda Ann), three sons: Caswell E, and Oliver E. and Thomas, and seven daughters, Ann (Kinnaird) Dunham, Mary E. (Kinnaird) Young, Margaret (Kinnaird) Fenton, Helen (Kinnaird) Folwell, Fannie (Kinnaird) Tripp, Susie (Kinnaird) Garmon, and Millie (Kinnaird) Carter. There are 176 grand and great grandchildren of Elijah Kinnaird and wife living.

          The Simpson family was part of the later arrivals and consisted of the mother, “Aunt Dicy,” and her children: Robert, William, James, Fannie and Emily. The Daniel Scott family, as I remember them, consisted of “Uncle Daniel” and children: William, Milton, Jane (Scott) Stith, Amanda (Scott) Blair, Lucy (Scott) Pace, and Harriet Scott. Lucy, on their trip from Kentucky, rode all the way on horseback. I have a remembrance of many times seeing Amanda Blair with a large iron kettle on her head and bundles of clothes under her arms, walking to Middle River, a mile away, doing the washing for a large family and carrying it back home, and, in addition, keeping up her housework.

          The Kentucky settlers, taken as a whole, were of the type that make good pioneers. They were typical of the South, bringing with them many of the manners and customs of the Southland. The women were tireless workers and spent most of their spare time from their other duties in weaving and knitting. They did their weaving on looms that were home-made. They wove cloth for the most of their clothing; for the men it was jeans, for the women linsey or linsey-woolsey. In my recollection the most of the weaving they did was carpets; the material being used was rags, sewed in strips. Their dyes were the simplest kinds such as aniline, logwood, and the outer hulls covering black walnuts and butternuts. They would knit hundreds of real wool socks and mittens and take them to Fort Des Moines and sell or trade them for the goods that the family needed. They would also knit scarves which they called “comforts,” hoods, wristlets, garters, and suspenders which they called “galluses.”

          Whenever they went a visiting they would take their knitting along and sometimes, when the men folks could spare the time, they would all go together; themselves in hunting or a shooting match while the women visited and knit. Many a “Shootin match” I have attended where the prizes were turkeys.

          Their first houses were usually built of logs and covered with clapboards. They would split clapboards with a frow; these were usually Oak and were used in covering their log houses but later on John Marsh Carter ran a shingle machine down on Middle River. The shingles were made by sawing logs into blocks and the proper length and then removing the bark and steaming the block in a large vat. The blocks were then split into shingles by the machine. These shingles were not always straight but they made a very good roof.

          The men constructed most of the implements they used, especially those that were of wood, as sleds, looms, etc. A great many of them would raise a small patch of tobacco for their own use, and they surely had learned the art or raising and curing it for they produced an excellent article of “long green,” to which the writer will attest.   True to the Southern type these settlers were frugal, industrious and saving, loyal, sociable, generous, hospitable and above all, they were honest. Always close in a trade and yet, if they owed you a penny they would pay it and if you owed them a penny they wanted it.

          In the spring of the year when the sap began to rise they would tap the sugar maple trees. This was done by cutting a V-shaped notch in the tree and at the bottom of the V they would bore a hole and insert what they call a spile which they usually made of elder stalks by removing the pith, leaving them hollow. The drip from these spiles was caught in small wooden troughs which they hewed put of small logs. The sap was collected from these troughs and boiled in large iron kettles to the consistency they wished for syrup or sugar.

          Led by the Rev. John Blair and Rev. Richard Armstrong, the early settlers organized a church society of the United Brethren belief. They built a church, which was named “Blair Chapel.” It was located on the ridge between Middle River and Clanton Creek, in a quiet, secluded spot, almost surrounded by trees. Here it is they worshiped and the younger generation received their early religious training in the Church and Sunday School. Many memories rush through my mind as I think of Old Blair Chapel, the crowds that attended the services, coming on foot, on horseback and in lumber wagons; the excitement during the revivals when there would be so many in attendance that the church was full and the yard surrounding it, and the religious excitement was so great that everything gave way to it, even the schools at times would be closed. As a boy I attended this Church and the Sunday Schools, the Singing Schools, taught by “Uncle Ben” Carter, and it is here in the beautiful cemetery adjacent to the Church that my father, mother, three brothers and other relatives lie resting in their last long sleep.

          The old Church, around which so many memories are clustered, burned down, and a new Blair Chapel was built, more beautiful ‘tis true than the old, but the memories of the old did not perish with it. In the cemetery adjacent to the church practically all of the older generations and scores of the younger generations lie sleeping in their last long sleep while the new Blair Chapel stands as a monument to their early endeavors and like a sentinel keeping watch it casts its shadows over them while they lie sleeping.  


“March 31, 1979: This article was donated (to the Winterset Library) by Horace Young, St. Charles,  Iowa,  50840 . His mother, Mary Bond Young, wife of William R. Young, preserved this article from the Madisonian in November of 1936. William R. Young and Mrs. C. C. (Cash) Stiles were cousins who grew up in the Blair Chapel area.”

Transcribed by Judy Wight Branson

Edited by Kent Transier

Editor's note: There were several versions of this same paper available from various sources. The paper from which this article was transcribed left out some details found in the other versions which have been added back in.
Maintained by the County Coordinator This page was created in September 2006.
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