Pottawattamie County, IAGenWeb Township Home HOME

Township Histories
History of Garner 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

Garner township was settled by the Mormons at the same time that Kane, Rockford and Crescent were. What made this point particularly inviting was the abundance of timber for building their cabins and fuel, but even more was the little old Indian mill, which had been built by the government for the benefit of the Pottawattamies ten years before and was run by S. E. WICKS. He was the last government agent to run it, and when that tribe removed, the old mill was left and Mr. Wicks remained and became in full possession, making excellent flour to as late as 1860. He had married a squaw and they reared quite a large family, but they became scattered after the death of their parents.

Among the first settlers were Wm. GARNER, Adam RITTER, J. D. HAYWOOD, in 1846, followed a little later by M. B. FOLLET, J. B. DINGMAN, George and Simeon GRAYBILL, George SCOFIELD, John CHILD, J. J. JOHNSON and Wm. CHILD. These all remained after the great body moved on to Utah and became some of the most prosperous farmers in the county, but at this writing only one or two are living. The township is named in honor of the first named, who was known far and near as Uncle Billy GARNER. He became wealthy, secured a large quantity of land mostly in the Mosquito Valley, and as fast as one of his numerous family became of age or married, he would deed them land for a farm. Although of limited education, his judgement in nearly all matters was considered infallible.

This township is of irregular shape, a large piece being reserved by Kane from the southwest part, but this has been more than made up by a panhandle extending to the river along the south line of both Crescent and Hazel Dell, making the north line nine miles long, so that it is bounded on the north by Crescent and Hazel Dell, east by Hardin, south by Lewis and Kane, and west by Kane and the Missouri River. The principal streams besides the Missouri River are the Big and Little Mosquito and Indian Creeks. It is strictly agricultural, there being no manufactories at present. Mr. GARNER built a woolen factory many years ago, but it was abandoned after a trial of a few years. It is crossed by five railroads, the Rock Island and the Milwaukee passing diagonally through the center, and the Great Western cutting through the southeastern, while the Northwestern and also the Illinois Central pass through the panhandle on the extreme west. Probably half of it is timber land. Up to this writing, although a large and wealthy township, it has never had a railroad station or store. It had, however, for many years a large hall, built by the Grange, where meetings, both political and religious were held, as well as elections, balls and all kinds of social gatherings.

Long before this was built, however, the little schoolhouse had crept into the edges of the groves and were used for social neighborhood meetings. In contemplating the habits of these early settlers, their industry, frugality and honesty, one is tempted to ask whether civilization may not be carried too far. If there was no church here, neither was there a saloon, and their wants were simple; their industry provided all of the substantials and from the moment of their coming, their condition was being improved.

The second mill built in the township was located about three miles above the Wicks mill on the same stream. It was erected by Wm. GARNER in 1858, but after running a few years became unprofitable and was abandoned.

Any history of Garner Township without reference to Uncle Billy would be like the play of Hamlet with that character omitted. He was a typical North Carolinian with just enough of the southern dialect to be interesting, and of such integrity that he commanded the respect of the entire community, and when his work was done, in addition to his neighbors, a special train took friends from the city to follow his remains to the little cemetery named after him and overlooking the home he had enjoyed for half a century. He was of long lived stock, his father having passed the century mark and his mother to nearly ninety. In 1846 he was married to Miss Sarah WORKMAN, and if ever one was appropriately named, it was she. While he was in the Army, she conducted the farm, in addition to her manifold duties in the house, with almost masculine ability.

While the man seems to be the subject of most history, there are thousands of noble, patient women that have been real helpmeets and contributed more than their half to the general welfare and there is something wrong that they fail to receive credit for it. The only way seems for them to become historians and speak for themselves, as we are so vain as to claim all the credit ourselves.

The first school ever taught in Pottawattamie County is claimed to have been held in the little Mormon suburb of Kanesville called Carterville. This was in 1847. A Mr. CURTIS was the teacher, and he contracted to teach for $12 per month, but at close of school was compelled to compromise for a part. From this modest beginning, the institution had grown by 1881 when the school enrollment reached three hundred, with twelve schoolhouses.

At this writing (1907), the school board is organized as follows: F. S. CHILDS, president; B. G. DAVIS, secretary, and W. S. CLAY, treasurer, with twelve subdistricts; with compensation, first grade teachers $42.50, second grade $35.00 per month. According to the state census of 1905 there were four hundred and fifty seven persons of school age.

The vicinity of the old Wicks mill has for more than half a century played a conspicuous part in the early history of Pottawattamie County. It was here where the immigrants obtained their first flour and corn meal, and later, for many years, it was the place where the Latter Day Saints held their yearly meetings, some coming for nearly one hundred miles. A beautiful grove furnished an ideal camping ground, the Mosquito Creek, like the Jordan, became famous for the number baptized in its waters, and alongside of the road coming from under a bluff was an excellent spring capable of supplying any number of worshippers. Nearby was a little schoolhouse where young KINSMAN taught, and from where he used to write interesting letters to the Nonpareil. Little did we think at that time of the noble part he was soon to play and the fame he was soon to achieve by his heroic death near Vicksburg. All honor to General Dodge and the others that assisted in recovering his remains and having a suitable monument erected to his memory.

Later on this spot, witnessed one scene in a tragedy enacted in June 1865. At this time a highwayman made his appearance in this neighborhood. His first victim was Mr. Jesse SMITH. He was on his way to his home in Crescent when he met the robber about two miles north of the city and was taken down a ravine on the east side of the road, relieved of his money and held prisoner until towards night, and the teams had ceased to pass along the road, when he told him to take the road, turning neither to the right or left, which he proceeded to do, but returned to town the next day and gave the police his description. The next victim was a Mr. KAYWOOD, whom he met on the Canning Hill in the east part of the city. This was just at dark, and after taking his money, permitted him to go on. There were but three or four police at that time and probably fifty men turned out and helped to scour the brush around the city, but without success, and the very next day a Mr. PERKS, while bringing in a load of wood, was halted on the hill in the southern part of the city and made to deliver. It will be remembered that the old Wicks Mill had been replaced by a new one, built by George PARKS and S. S. BAYLISS, and was known as Parks' Mill, and was operated by him, he going out mornings and returning evenings on horseback. The evening after the third robbery, on coming in as he came within fifteen or twenty rods of the spring by the roadside, a man rose from drinking and started on ahead. Mr. PARKS was in the habit of carrying money for buying grain, and as a consequence always went armed, and seeing this man, the conviction flashed upon him that this was the robber, and that he was making for a little thicket ahead, there to await him, and instantly resolved to take the initiative, and quietly riding up ordered him to throw up his hands and keep them there on pain of instant death for refusal. He then ordered him to walk by the side of his horse's right shoulder, keeping his hands over his head, until opposite the first house, being that of Mr. BOGLE, whom he called to come out and disarm his prisoner. The weapons were two splendid revolvers, duly loaded and ready for use. Just then a team came along with several men and the man was brought into town where a committee was waiting to receive him.

There being no jail at that time, he was taken to a room in the Hagg block, now known as the blue front, and the following day he was fully identified by his victims. The green goggles he wore when on duty were found in his pockets. Sheriff VOORHIS requested someone to file information, but all refused, and the sheriff was calculating to get an order to commit him to the nearest jail, but the next morning, he was found dead hanging to a willow tree in the yard where John HAMMER kept his building material. It appeared that he was from Kansas, and on hearing of his fate, someone of his friends wrote to our mayor asking for particulars and saying he was not considered a bad man at home, and that he had been a soldier in the Union army. He was buried beside the other victims of vigilante on the ridge above the Soldiers' Cemetery. But, to return to Garner Township.

Another tragedy was enacted later wherein a young man named Charles GRAINWELL was killed by Thomas DAVIS. It occurred at a threshing. The young man was pitching the sheaves to DAVIS, who was feeding, and the sheaves coming too fast, Davis became angry, and after some words, Davis stabbed Grainwell with the big knife for cutting bands with fatal result. Davis was tried, convicted and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary, but after serving two years and a half was pardoned and left the country.

Still later, a Chautauqua assembly was established here and conducted for two or three seasons, but was not a success financially and was discontinued.

The present township officers are as follows: Trustees, F. S. CHILDS, Fred JANSON, and G. W. SHIPLEY; Clerk, H. E. TIARKS; justices of the peace, Ed ROZENBERG and J.C. BEGLEY. No constable seems to be needed, as none qualified after the last election.