Oldest Man in
Tom Cooney, Villisca, who was 97 June 11th, came to
from Pennsylvania in May 1857. Red Oak
and Villisca were not on the map then. His family
left Pennsylvania, came down the Ohio River to the
Mississippi River boated down the Missouri River getting
off at St. Joseph's Missouri, where their boat ran
aground on a sand bar. From St. Joseph they headed
north by horse and wagon, and settled in Montgomery
county on a farm two and a half miles northeast of
Villisca. Tom Cooney was eleven months old at the
About all there was in the county at the time were mills
--- the Silkett mill, north of where Red Oak is now,
Morton's Mill and Tenville Mill. Wheat and oats
were the chief farm crops, but much blue stem grass grew
on the rolling hills.
In 1902, Mr.
Cooney left the farm and took up the carpenter's trade.
The biggest wage he ever got was $18.00 a month.
Cooney's favorite "work" was hunting and fishing. There
were "millions" of
prairie chickens in . Wild pigeons and
wild turkeys were abundant. He molded his own bullets, which
he used in his fourteen pound rifle.
The old West Nodaway
River was Mr. Cooney's "stomping grounds". His first fishing
pole was a willow branch, the line he made from sewing
thread, and the hook was a bent pin. He has now
gone 'modern' with fishing tackle. He has hooked
wall-eyes, sun fish, shiners, bullheads and catfish in
the river. In 1947 he caught a twelve and a half pound
catfish with hook and line.
remembers when was prairie as far as
one could see. He remembers there were
Indians here when he came -- Pottawattamies -- who
camped by Morton's Mill. They were peaceful Indians and
never caused an trouble. He remembers too when the
railroad started through the county in the fall of 1869.
But the West
Nodaway River -- the river that Cooney says he'll walk
along and fish as long as there is life in him, the
river he doesn't know how many times he has fallen into
-- the river is "his".
Uncle Billy Stipe's Indian Raid of 1858
Two Indians had
stolen some horses in the Means neighborhood, and scared
Mrs. Lott pretty badly. Their trail was discovered, and
two of Mr. Stipe's brothers, besides a Mr.
Bell and three of four others, started a foot,
about three o'clock in the afternoon, and followed the
redskins to the Nishnabotna. This river was so high
that the Indians were afraid to attempt to swim it with
the untried horses, for fear they wouldn't manage well,
so they had left the horses, but swam across them selves. The Stipe's
party waited till morning then crossed the river and
soon found the Indians in a cabin. They surrounded
the cabin, and captured the Indians, stripped them and
were going to hang them, when the culprits happened
to get lose, ran like deer, and made good their escape,
back to Pottawattamie county. In a few
days a constable came down from that county with a
warrant for the arrest of all of the men of our party,
but he soon found out it wouldn't be healthy for him to
serve his warrant; he skipped back to his beat without
prisoners, and sent the warrant to the sheriff of
, where it is doubtless still lying,
when the sheriff gets time to attend to it.