This township is composed of 24
sections and named in honor of W.W. BELKNAP, an Iowa soldier who became
Secretary of War during administration of President Grant. What it
lacks in size it makes up in fertility. It was set off for organization
by an order of the county board of supervisors September 6, 1872, on
the petition of W. HENRY MANN, D.W. HAYS, WM. LYMAN, and 20 other
citizens of Center township, out of which the new township was carved.
As near as can be ascertained the first settler was ORIN BALKNAP, who
came from Ohio in 1854 and settled on section 10, township 75, range
40, the same track of land which he sold to JUDGE W.C. JAMES. G.A.
SLOCUM was another early settler. He was born at Pompey, Onondaga
county, New York, on the 10th day of May 1811, and became one of the
early settlers in Huron county, Ohio. Of a roving disposition, he
returned to New York, but in 1844 removed to Walworth county,
Wisconsin. In 1847 went to Marquette and from there emigrated to this
county, settling in what is now BELKNAP township coming with an ox
team. His first residence was constructed by himself and was peculiar,
being partly under ground, partly log and partly sod, but was very
comfortable, being warm in winter and cool in summer. The first white
child born was SAMUEL GEORGE SLOCUM, son of G.A. SLOCUM, November 7,
1854. The first marriage was that of SYLVADOY SLOCUM and MARILLA
BELKNAP. The first postoffice was established in 1854. GEORGE REED
appointed postmaster, and while he held that position he was killed by
a kick from a horse and was succeeded by WM. LYMAN, father of the boy
that tramped into the Bluffs when the war commenced, enlisted in
Company B, 4th Iowa (Dodge's) regiment, was promoted to adjutant of the
29th, became Major, and after the war studied law with CLINTON and
SAPP, became judge of circuit court and was elected to Congress in
1884. The first death was that of MICHAEL BEARD, August 29, 1854.
first postoffice was located about a mile east of Oakland in Mr. REED's
dwelling, and in 1863 was transferred to the residence of WM. LYMAN, a
short distance from the west side of the river. M.T. PALMER started a
store about 2 miles north of Oakland at the north end of the grove in
1860. He also practiced medicine. Although not a regularly educated
physician, he practiced for a time, until DR. TOBEY, the first regular
practitioner, arrived the first one who settled in the township being
in 1856. His first store was in a building that had been used as a
schoolhouse. The first mail to these post offices was carried by JAS.
A. SINCLAIR on horseback the route being from Macedonia to Newton.
first school taught in the township was by WM. LYMAN SR., and supported
by the voluntary contributions of the little community. J.L. FETTER was
the first school director and let the contract for the first
schoolhouse for $690. The house was finished in 1861 and when completed
payment was made, all in silver, the contractor being CYRUS TRUE of
The first house in Big Grove, now
Oakland, was built in 1856
by WM. WALKER for a store room. The first bridge across the Botna was
begun in December 1855 and finished March 1856. The abutments were
timber cribs filled with earth. G.A. SLOCUM procured the settlers to
sign a contract to furnish material or labor and in this way it was
built, G.A. SLOCUM, SAMUEL DEY, and ORIN BELKNAP, who were mechanics,
doing most of the work. (See the entry for Murder, Mayhem in the
Historical Accounts, index, for reference to the murder of Edward M.
Benton by James Vest.) In 1860 a young man named ALBERT GRIFFITH was
plowing in a field of J.L. FETTER's with a yoke of oxen when one of
them became entangled and in trying to extricate him, he was kicked to
death. He was buried in Big Grove cemetery in section 10. Other buried
there were PETER S. JOHNS, one of the soldiers drafted from James
township, WM. ELLIOTT, a soldier of the civil war who died while
undergoing the amputation of a wounded leg; an unknown emigrant of 1857
who was drowned while bathing in the Botna river; and the eldest son of
J.R. COOK, who in trying to reach the upper Botna bridge when the river
was out of its banks, missed the bridge and was drowned March 28, 1875.
Goods were sold on the present site of
Oakland before the town was laid
out. MR. SLOCUM had a store room and stock of groceries, when JACOB
COHN came from Council Bluffs to start a general store at Big Grove,
and the groceries in stock were transferred from SLOCUM to COHN. W.H.
FREEMAN put up a new building in the Grove and COHN moved to that. He
soon became bankrupt. D.B. FREEMAN took charge of the assets and he and
W.H. FREEMAN opened up in the same place on their own account. J.B.
MATLACK afterwards acquired W.H. FREEMAN's interest and again that of
D.B. FREEMAN, after which D.B. FREEMAN became sold owner by purchase
The town of Oakland was laid out by THOMAS TOSTEVIN and
SAMUEL DENTON surveyors. The first residence was erected by DR. S.
STEWART and the first store building by J.C. NORTON, J.M. ESTES and
E.H. WINELAND in the upper part of town. The plat of the lower part was
made Sept 13, 1880, on the lands of W.H. FREEMAN, DAVID FREEMAN, JOHN
BATES, AMBROSE BATES and THOMAS TOSTEVIN. The town was incorporated
under the laws of Iowa by the circuit court of Pottawattamie county on
the first of May 1882. Election having been held on the 26th of April
at which W.H. FREEMAN, was chosen mayor; S.S. RUST, J.L. CALDWELL, JOHN
MCDONALD, AUSTIN GOFF, L.F. POTTER, and CHARLES BRYANT, councilmen;
E.G. BARLEY, recorder; B.F. FREEMAN, treasurer; D.H. MORRISON,
marshall, and W.W. BEGLER city attorney.
A newspaper, The Acorn, was
started by JOHN C. MCMANNIMA and JOHN G. JULIAN, May 1, 1881. In August
following, A.M. LEWIS became editor and proprietor, and on the 1st of
March 1882, A.M. LEWIS sold to A.T. COX.
For the establishment of a
Masonic lodge the first meeting for organization was held at Big Grove
in March 1874; J.C. CHAPMAN was grand master at that date. The Big
Grove Missionary Baptist Church of Jesus Christ was organized August
11, 1861, with the following members: JACOB RUST, EDA E. RUST, SUSAN
HUFF, MARGARET J. REED, EDA MCGEE, M.T. PALMER and CAROLINE PALMER,
seven persons in all. The society was organized under counsel of REV.
E.W. HALL, and JAMES W. BROWN, clerk of the church at Lewis. On the
second Sunday in November 1861, GEORGE L. REED and ABNAS HUFF were
received as members.A preliminary meeting was held at Big Grove Sept
16, 1881, for the purpose of organizing a Congregational church
society. Articles of faith were drafted by a committee composed of
Mesrs. NORTON, SNYDER, SHEPARD and DEGRAFF. The following persons
became members by signing the same: J.C. NORTON, SUSIE NORTON, SARAH
LYMAN, H.C. SNYDER, C.R. JOHNSON, LOTTIE SHEPARD, W.L. NOKES, H.B.
HSEPARD, M.J. DEGRAFF, L.B. SHEPARD and FRANK SHEPARD. As of 1907,
township trustees were: R.H. CARSE, CLARK FICKEL and E.P. DENTON.
Township Clerk, F.A. NASH. Justices of the Peace, W.C. DAVIS and W.B.
BUTLER. Constables J.E. FORSYTHE and W.D. BALL. Assessor, M.H. PARKS.