Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 357, 258 & 361
submitted by Tina Chown, Sept. 24, 2007

Old Settlers of Orono.

Celebration of the semi-Centennial of its Settlement


The old settlers of the south part of Muscatine county and the north part of Louisa county met in the beautiful grove near the Lord’s ferry bridge on the west bank of Cedar river, Tuesday forenoon, Sept. 27th, 1892.

A.J. Brockway was chosen president of the day. He introduced Rev. J. C. Bede, of Columbus Junction, who led in prayer. J. D. Nash was chosen secretary. An adjournment was then taken for dinner, which was a picnic affair, partaken of by families and groupes of friends scattered under the ample shade of the trees.

The committee of arrangements had provided seats and a speaker’s stand; also, an organ to accompany the singing by a company of young people from one of the Conesville churches.

After dinner, or about 1:30 o’clock, the people were again called to the stand, when A.J. Brockway delivered an address of welcome. He said he never made a speech before in his life but as an occasion like this comes only once in fifty years, he would not refuse to say something. He paid a high tribute to the pioneers and referred to his own experiences as a youth when in a social way there was only one girl to two boys and said as he was a bashful boy he had always to take the back seat. He said when Orono was first settled there was not an ax mark on these forests or a school house in the county.

Dr. W. D. Cone was introduced to respond to the welcoming address. He said it was no insignificant event to meet to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of this part of the country. A long stride has been taken in civilization since that time. The early settlers of Iowa laid the foundation for good citizenship, as shown by the fact that the Sate rates higher to-day in education than any other State. The doctor said when he came to Orono 38 years ago, the township contained only 11 houses. Here the Doctor provoked a smile by declaring that all these houses were court houses!

Hon. E. F. Brockway then gave a history of Orono township. It was quite lengthy, with many particulars. He stated that the first permanent settler of the township was James M. Brockway (father of E. F. and A. J. Brockway and also of Mrs. J. R. Letts.) Mr. Brockway removed from Clearfield county, Pa., locating in Orono township in April, 1842, on the land now known as the Joseph Nelson farm. Mr. B. was accompanied by his wife and seven children. The speaker (E. F.) was then eight years of age. Three had been a man living in the township previously named Kidd or Kidder, but he had a bad reputation and soon left the country. The Brockways came to stay, and they did stay, though for the past 26 years the speaker has resided in Washington county. He mentioned other old settlers, among them Calvin Reyburn. He detailed at considerable length the many trials and privations of the pioneers. The first winter after his father arrived (1842-3) was one of unusual severity. Severe cold weather set in along in November. For about forty days the thermometer was below zero. The ice in the Cedar did not break up until the 9th of April. There was much sickness in those early years, especially fever and ague. His father’s house was a sort of hospital, as he was kind-hearted and helpful to his neighbors and had brought with him a large medicine case. There were no mills in the neighborhood and a good deal of grinding of grain was done with handmills. The history of the township was carried down to a comparatively late period. The name of the township was given to it by Judge Thayer, then county judge, in honor of a place in Maine from which he had emigrated. The township originally belonged to Cedar.

Miss Laura Nash sang an impressive solo and there was also a spirited declamation by Miss Belle Brockway.

Mrs. J. R. Letts then read the following poem of her own composition:


“What hath God wrought”? Lift thine eyes to behold
This goodly, fruitful land;
Then let the long years, one by one, fall from sight,
Like grains of shifting sand;
Blot out the groves, the farms, the homes,
See a wind-swept plain, where the red man roams:
See the boundless prairie, the waving grass, Over all a shimmering haze.
See the treeless, birdless, endless space, That hold the weary gaze.
See the lonely shanty, or cabin small,
That shelters and holds the pioneer’s all.

Hear the lank prairie wolf howl ‘round the door,
See the “will o’ the wisp’s” ghostly flame,
Hear the tempest scream ‘round the tiny home,
See the prairie fire’s frightful gleam;
Feel the earth shake and thrill ‘neath its coming tread,
See strong hands tremble, and cheeks pale with dread.

Oh! The long, lonely days and the weary nights.
Of sickness, and sorrow and pain;
Oh, the aching, shivering limbs and head;
Oh! The burning hands and brain;
Oh! The longing for rest in some shady nook,
For one long, cool draught from the pebbly brook!

For the cool dewy orchard and ripening fruit,
For the scent of the pines on the hill
For the sweet mayflower and winter-green red,
That grew in the woods by the mill;
For the old home faces, loved and fair,
For the house of God, and its songs and prayer!

Oh, the mortal pang in some father’s heart,
When some loved one faded away!
No pastor, no church, no dear old friends,
To minister comfort or pray,
When some grief-riven heart sent up the cry,
“Why bring us up here in the desert to die?”

* * * *
Was there nothing but sorrow, and sickness and pain?
No light in the somber gloom?
No joy in the heart, no hope in the soul,
No cheer in the pioneer’s home?
Yea, courage that ever remembered shall be,
And deeds that the angels smiled to see.
They shared with the stranger their scanty strore,
As if sharing multiplied bread,
The “widow’s cruse” was unfailing and sure,
And the orphan sheltered and fed,
And the sick freely nursed with a gentle hand,
Were they strong of spirit and brave of soul?

Ask the children that grew ‘round their feet;
Did their sacrifice find a recompense,
Or a just reward, as was meet?
Lift thine eyes again, see, on every hand
Their children’s children possessing the land.

Yea, an orchard had grown for each sore heart pang,
A home for each severed tie.
And for each lonely grave ‘neath the prairie sod
A church spire points on high,
And the vale, where the wild deer and Indian trod,
Resound with the songs of the children of God.

Yea, the dark days fled, and the children can tell
Of the joy o’er the first fields of grain,
Of the rosy cheeks and the bounding feet,
That followed the hours of pain;
Of the fruitful land, with its deep, rich loam,
The growing herds, and the pleasant home.

* * * *
From the scattered home grew the commonwealth
The atoms were welded in one,
And many a fight ‘twixt the wrong and the right,
The pioneer’s hand begun,
And while they simply held fast to principles true,
They “builded far better than they knew,”
The teacher who taught in some “upper room,”
Saw never the crown of light,
That decks the brow of Iowa now,
As the banner State, by right;
For ignorance veiled her face, and fled
Before the pioneer teacher’s tread.

The farmer who stood with his bread at stake,
And refused the fiery bowl
To the reaper, who claimed it as part of the wage,
Had the martyr’s strength of soul,
And his noble stand, with his all in his hand,
Is endorsed by the ballot, to-day, of the land.

The white-haired man, with his saintly face,
Who prayed o’er their confined dead,
Was the “seed of the church” we love to-day,
As Christ is its founder and head,
And his pleading prayers, as they passed neath the rod,
Was a link ‘twixt their fainting hearts and God.

They rest from their labors, the struggle is o’er;
They know naught of trouble or strife,
The longing for the pebbly brook is hushed,
By the side of the “River of Life;”
They see their work now by the light of day,
And know why their feet were led this way.

They need not this chrism of tears to-day,
They need not our paens of praise,
Their ears have grown dull to the plaudits of men,
As they list to the heavenly lays,
And He who hath led them through storm and sun,
Has welcomed them home, with a glad “well done!”

Some more music followed, when Aristarchus Cone, the oldest settler of the part of the country, was called on to speak on “Orono and Vicinity Fifty Years Ago.” Mr. Cone said in company with the late Richard Lord he traveled on foot over all this section of country in 1837. They carried as their baggage a little package tied up in a handkerchief. Their first stopping place was with a Mr. Johnson, who lived just east of the Cedar. The next day they went two miles south, where Mr. Cone said he intended to take a claim. (It is the same he has held ever since and is now his homestead, about 14 miles a little south of west from Muscatine.) That was 55 years ago. We here give further of Mr. Cone’s historical sketch in his own words:

    The first we wanted to know was if there was any body living about but Indians. We found on traveling about three families of squatters living some three miles south of where we intended to take claims. [These ….
    *** continued on page 358 ***

    Families were the storms and Edgintons.] They had come the fall before. They gave a sad tale of there hardships through the winter, there being no provisions in the country. They had to cut trees down for their cattle to browse on, not having any hay; many of them died before spring came and the Indians had a feast on their carcasses. These things did no look very encouraging to us to make a home here, but nevertheless we concluded to try it. I staked off my claim. The land had not been surveyed as yet only in townships. Mr. Lord took a claim not far from mine.

    The next thing was to find a place to board. Boarding houses were not very plenty those days in this country. We finally engaged boarding at a cabin about 2 miles distant from our claims with Mr. Johnson. He agreed to board us at $4.50 each per week. Our bill of fare consisted of green corn, boiled sod potatoes and pumpkins stewed. [Here Mr. Cone exhibited a specimen of the kind of corn dodger, pumpkin and potatoes then in use.] The cabin was built of split logs, not chinked or daubed, and a roof on about one-half of it; no floor except the ground. We had a few pieces of bark aid down on the ground with an old quilt on the top of the bark for a bed. We were getting initiated into frontier life. The old man kept whisky and sold to the Indians. This brought a large squad of them around every night. They wanted “a heap of whisk,” as they called it. They would trade anything they had for “whisk” and get so drunk that they could not go. One of them generally remained sober to take care of the drunk ones. They had more thought in that respect than some white folks. We did not form a very favorable opinion of Indian life. They were filthy, lousy being, not much above the brute creation. Their mode of cooking was not the most modern style. They put their game, such as ducks and geese and prairie chickens, into a pot with some water, feathers, entrails, all together, with some corn or beans, and boiled until it became soft so that they could pull it apart, No salt or pepper was necessary. They ate enough at one time to kill any white man and then fasted, if they hadn’t anything more. This was Indian life.

    Old man Johnson-I must say some more about him. Amongst other good things he had a small dog. The wolves used to come around the cabin at night. The little dog would run out between the logs after the wolves; then the wolves would run the dog back into the house; so between the dog and the Indians, there was not much sleep on our bark bed. There was a mud chimney and fire-place, but the smoke did not always go up the chimney; the draft most of the time was downward. You may imagine that there were many tearful times when the smoke got so we could not see anything. The old woman would curse “the Black Hawk purchase,” as the country was then known. You would come to the conclusion, as well as ourselves, that this was not a very nice boarding place.

    We stayed there until about the first of October. The land was run off into sections during that time. I put up a rail pen on my claim, had it noted on the Surveyor’s book and returned to the General Land office at Washington. This fully confirmed my sovereignty as a squatter on the public domain.

    One day, having a desire to cross the river to what is now Orono, we built a raft of logs and crossed over and spent the day, looking about until the evening. When we came back to the river we found the Indians had stolen our raft. It was night; there was then no one living but Indians on that side of the river; it was quite cold and frost on the ground. An old Indian invited us into his wikey up (tent) by signs to spend the night. They had a fire on the ground in the middle of their wikey-up. We staid until morning but did not sleep much, nor did we stay for breakfast. This was our first camp with the Indians and the last.

    After spending some time here and not caring to winter amongst the native we concluded to go back to Ohio. We had left our things at Peoria, Ills. This we had to do on foot. There were no stages at that time. We were in good condition for travel, after living on green corn and sod potatoes.

    In further relating his pioneer history, Mr. Cone said be came back to Iowa next spring (1838.) During the summer he put up a tent and broke prairie. In the fall he made a rail pen for a house and put a stove in it but it caught fire and burned up with many of his things. This was in November. The tent had to be put to use again till a log house could be constructed. Mr. Lord went 100 miles into Illinois for provisions. Except the wild game, about all that could be had here were green corn, sod potatoes and buckwheat. The buckwheat was ground in little hand-mills. Mr. Cone called this season (1838-9) the corn-dodger period. He passed around specimens of the corn-dodgers then used. They were made with un-sifted meal. They were good both for food and as a missile for defense, because of their hardness; they were also proof against mice and rats. The simmer of 1839 was very sickly. Mr. Cone described the primitive way in which Mr. O’Dair, the first man who died, was buried. He said everybody had to have a course of ague and fever. He then described the famous Missouri war; also, a trip made with an ox team to Nye’s mill at Pine Creek, which took 5 days, and how on his return he supplied all the neighbors with meal. The first election in that voting precinct, then comprising Orono, 76 and Lake, was help Aug. 11, 1839, and only nine votes were cast.

“Tobe” M. Brown being called on, made a humorous speech retrospective of old times. Is father settled in Cedar township in 1838. He died in 1842. Mr. Brown paid a high tribute to Richard Lord and A. Cone for their kindness to him as an orphan boy. He described one of the cabins of those days which had so many chinks in it that a dog could easily go through, and said he once saw Mr. Cone at a dance in a cabin of this kind when it was so cold that he had to have a buffalo robe round him while dancing! Mr. Cone amended the statement by saying it was a buffalo overcoat.

Mrs. J. R. Letts read a beautiful idyl illustrative of pioneer times, entitled “Search for a Shilling in Territorial Days.” It was original and would read well among the best stories in our current literature.

After a few remarks by Hubert D. Gillett, of Columbus Junction, who represented a pioneer family of Orono, the regular exercises closed, when A. Cone and Mrs. Dr. Cone (daughter of his pioneer associate, Richard Lord,) greatly amused and delighted the company by giving a specimen of pioneer dancing with the inspiring music of violins in the hands of two young men on the stand. Thus closed one of the most pleasant old settlers’ meetings ever held in this country.

The number of persons in attendance was estimated at 300. The sky was clear and the day delightfull, neither too cool nor too warm.

The oldest person present was J. S. Riggs, of 76 township, who was 80 years of age on the 8th of last March. The next oldest was Aristarchus Cone, who is 77.

One novelty at the picnic dinner was an old-fashioned potpie, baked over an out-door fire in a Dutch oven, which was carried around in the oven so that all who chose to do so could partake of it.

The following is an alphabetical list of the persons in attendance by the heads of families:

Came to Iowa Prior to 1855

Bowlsby, Thos. and wife, 1854   Hill, Mrs. M. -----
Brockway, E F. 1842   Idle, John and wife 1844
Brockway, A. J., wife and 6 children, 1842   Jean, J. T. and wife 1838
Brown, H. P. 1838   Jarrarad, H. and wife 1836
Brown, L. and son, 1838   Latta, Mrs. John and daughter 1846
Brown, T. M., wife, 4 children, 1 grandchild 1837   Letts, Mrs. J. R. 1842
Brown, G. G., wife, 2 sons, 1 daughter 1849   L’ttrel, S. and wife 1846
Brockway, P. F., wife and daughter 1848   McKeown, M. P. 1851
Brockway, Mrs. E. F. 1851   McDaniel, Jos. A. 1850
Byrne, John 1847   McIntyre, Thos. and wife 1855
Byrne, Thomas 1847   Maysonholder, C. G. 1855
Berry, W. L. and wife, 1839   Maxwell, T. J., wife, daughter 1842
Bliven, A. L. 1838   Meeker, Warren 1843
Brockway, Mary 1848   Meeker, Thos. 1845
Black, John, wife and son 1852   Miller, R., and wife (about) 1850
Black, Eliza 1852   Messick, Geo. W., and son 1841
Cone, Aristarchus, and wife 1837   Moyer, David, wife and 7 children 1847
Cone, Dr. W. D., wife, daughter 1854   Moore, Peter, and wife 18(*)4
Cecil, H. H. 1852   Nicola, John 1812
Cecil, L. M., wife and 2 sons 1852   Phillips, W. J. and wife 1839
Eichelberger, Levi, and wife 1844   Riggs, J. S. 1854
Epperly, W. M., wife and 3 children (wife came in 1846) 1853   Sears, John 1845
Eliason, Levi 1851   Shellabarger, M. J., father came 1841
Edgingtion, F. M., wife and daughter 1842   [Mr. Shellabarger walked back to Ohio,
starting on the 1st of January, 1842.]
Eder, A. T., and wife 1853   Shellabarger, J. W. wife and 4 children 1846
Emerson, Chas. 1854   Simpson, Jacob 1837
Estle, J. S. 1851   Snyder, S. B., wife and 3 children 1853
Fultz, W. S. and son 1850   Townsley, A. G. 1843
Fulmer, John 1843   Trautman, Mrs. Philip 1855
Gillett, H. D. -----   Van Horne, M., wife and 2 daughter 1854
Griffin, H. S. 1852   Wolford, Mrs. -----


Berry, Mary   Jones, F. M.
Brookhart, Peter, wife and 4 children   Longstreth, Newton, wife and children.
Brookhart, Alex.   Maxwell, T., wife and 2 children.
Buger, Rev. J. H. and son and son’s wife and 2 children.   Manning, T. J.
Cecil, A. J.   McKeown, M. P.
Chapman, Marion, wife and 4 children   Miller, P. S., wife and child.
Davis, Geo., wife and children.   Nash, J. D., wife and 6 children
Donham, W. E., wife and 2 children.   Noland, A. C. and wife.
*** continued on page 261 ***   Norris, R. M., wife, mother and child.
Elchelbarger, Elmer and wife.   Owen, Ira, wife, son and daughter.
Emerson, G. W., wife and 4 children.   Protzman, Wm., wife and child.
Elder, J. T., wife and child.   Ramer, Henry, wife and three children.
Fanning, J. and sister.   Sanderson, Mrs. Ora and 2 children
Gay, John, wife and 5 children.   Swickard, B. F.
Grant, W. W., wife and 2 children.   Singleton, Robert
Grant, W. J., wife and 2 children.   Snyder, John, wife and son.
Griffin, W. M. and wife.   Timmersman, Fred. And sisiter.
Gedney, John.   Thomas, James
Harper, W. M. and wife.   Thomas, J. F., wife and 2 children
Heath, W. M.   Verinick, M., wife and daughter.
Hunter, Wn. S., wife and child.   Williams, Mrs. J. D., 7 children and 6 grandchildren.
Jarrard, C. F., wife and 2 children.   Wildman, John
Jones, J. W., wife and 2 children.    

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