Religious Influence Great in Red Oak

Page 16 




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 time.


     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.


    Mr. Cooney 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.