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Township Histories
History of Belknap Township
 Townships  Formed
  Belknap 1872
Boomer 1860
Carson 1882
Center 1860
Crescent 1857
Garner 1877
Grove 1858
Hardin 1870
Hazel Dell 1872
James 1860
Kane 1853
Keg Creek 1874
Knox 1857
Layton 1873
Lewis 1878
Lincoln 1875
Macedonia 1855
Minden 1877
Neola 1872
Norwalk 1872
Pleasant 1873
Rockford 1855
Silver Creek 1860
Valley 1879
Washington 1873
Waveland 1873
Wright 1872
York 1861

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.

The 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.

The 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 Newtown.

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 from MATLACK.

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.