Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
August 6, 1931
EARLY REMEMBERANCES of ATHENS TOWNSHIP
By Arthur L. LESAN
In September of 1873 I completed a term of school in Athens township, Ringgold county, Iowa. It was in a new school house
not yet completed. It was the first term of school ever taught in that district. The house not being completed, they had
no school the next winter. After completing that term I attended school until the latter part of December.
On January 1, 1874, I learned that they had no teacher for the winter term of school at the "Chicago" school in Athens
Township, and was asked why I did not apply for it. Most of the winter terms of school had commenced in November or
December, but for some cause no teacher had been secured for that school. I decided to make application for the position. The
next day I rode over to "Chicago," hunted up the director and contracted to begin teaching the next Monday, January 5.
On January 5, as per contract, I began teaching the "Chicago" school. I boarded at the John SCOTT home about a quarter
of a mile east of the school house. Mr. SCOTT then lived on the south side of the road and a little west of where
PERRY SCOTT [John's son] now  resides.
A small neighborhood about a mile west of the school house was known as
Chicago. At the time of the taking of this name, the families living there were those of F. A. BROWN (the postmaster), John
MILLER and a family who lived across the road south and a little west of the John MILLER home. I can not recall the name of that
family. (They had moved away before I taught there.
Just how it came to be called Chicago I am not sure, but I was told that
it was because of the family referred to above, who had moved away. It was said of that family, that they were quite
aristocratic and talked a great deal about Chicago and other citites, and for that reason the little community became known
as Chicago. The school also became known as the Chicago school to most of the people living in the communities west of
there. I suppose that in the communities east and south of John SCOTT'S it was known mostly by the name of the Scott
At the time I taught there, the district included what is now known as the Kellerton school district and what is now
known as the Corn Stalk College district. There were but tw houses in what is now the Kellerton distrcit. One of them
in what is now a part of the town of Kellerton, and the other one was the John MILLER home. In that part now known as
Corn Stalk College, there were several houses. The ones that I can recall were those of the SCOTTS, BECKS, GREENS, O'MALEYS,
POWERS, SHORTS, HIGGINS and BROWNS. That was before there was any store, blacksmith shop or anything of that kind in what
was known as Chicago.
In 1875 I taught the spring and summer school there again. When I went there the spring of 1875,
things were somewhat changed and things were being done. M. R. NOBLE (usually known as Bud NOBLE) had located there and had
built a small building in the John MILLER yard and was keeping a small store.
About that time (principally through the efforts
of Mr. NOBLE) a town was surveyed on the south side of the road from the John MILLER home and after considerable agitation and
suggestions the new town was named Athens in honor of Athens township. Mr. NOBLE purchased a lot and moved his building across
the street to it. About that time or a little before, Dr. THAYER located there and John HARTNAGLE established himself in the
blacksmith business. Soon after that Drs. Mat and Mash CAMP with their sisters, Ida and Flora located there.
. Soon Dr. Marshall "Marsh" CAMP joined his brother, formerly residing in
Wayne County, Iowa. Both of the CAMP brothers were graduates of the Medical Department at the State University (present-day
Iowa State University) at Iowa City. With no other drug store within miles, the CAMP Brothers did a thriving business.
They were later joined by their sisters: Carrie CAMP; Laura, Mrs. R. EMERSON; Delia CAMP; Ida CAMP; and Flora, Mrs.
The CAMP Brothers moved their drug store to Kellerton in 1880, re-locating on the northeast corner of Block
17 which faced Decatur Street. The building was later moved further south to make room for a larger building, and was
later destroy during a fire.
Dr. Matt Americus CAMP was born on January 4, 1850, Pike County, Illinois. He came to Iowa
when he was quite young. Dr. CAMP did not marry. He was killed in an automobile accident approximately three miles northeast
of Kellerton on December 17, 1916. Interment was made at Maple Row Cemetery, Kellerton, Iowa.
Dr. Marshall & Mrs. Arabella (Hays) Camp
At the time of the commencement of this narrative  there were but few houses in the northeast corner of the
township, we find the following: On section one (1) there was no house. On section two (2), there was one house, it being
on the southwest quarter of the section, the house of a family by the name of MABERRY, or some such name. This farm
afterwards became a part of the town of Kellerton. On sections three (3), four (4), and five (5) there were no houses.
On section six (6) there were two houses, one on the northeast quarter and one on the southeast quarter. I do not
remember who lived on the northeast quarter in 1873, but before that time two or more families had lived there. One of
them was David RODGERS and the other a family by the name of PIERCE. On the southeast quarter I think "Harley" FENDER was living
in 1873, although Ira COOPER built the house a few years before that and possibly he was living there in 1873.
On section seven (7) there were two houses. A. P. TROBE lived on the northeast quarter and Joe SITTERS (as near as I
can remember his name) on the southwest quarter. Mr. SITTERS had homesteaded the 40 acres on which he lived, but he did not stay
on it long enough to prove up on it. It changed hands several times before anyone remained on it long eough to prove up and
get a deed for it. Finally, however, Ely WEHRLE got possession of it and stayed with it until he obtained a deed for it,
and he continued to live there the remainder of his life. The farm, if I mistake not, still remains in the WEHRLE family.
On section eight (8) there was but one house. A Mr. HADLEY lived on the northwest quarter.
On section nine (9)
there was but one house. Tommy BURNS lived on the northwest quarter. That was his home the remainder of his life.
One section ten (10) there was no house.
On section eleven (11) there was one house. John MILLER lived on the southeast
quarter, where he continued to live the remainder of his life.
On section twelve (12) there was no house.
That made eight dwelling houses on the twelve sections in the north third of Athens township. In addition to them, there
was one school house, the one mentioned in the beginning of this narrative, built in 1878, but not completed until 1874, and
located on the northwest quarter of section eight (8).
From 1873 on, new houses were being built and farms opened up and
instead of roads following ridges and winding across the prairies and crossing the small streams at the
most accessible place, they were gradually thrown on regular laid out roads, usually on section lines.
In the summer
of 1879 the railroad was built and the town of Athens was doomed. All the business and I think all the buildings were
moved to the new town of Kellerton.
A short time before the railroad came the school district was divided, the north half to
soon become the Kellerton school district and the south half to be henceforth known as Corn Stalk College. A new school
house was built about a half mile east of the present site of Kellerton. The old school house in the south district was moved
about half a mile west and a mile south, where it still stands unless replaced by a new one.
I taught again in that
school house in its new location, the winter of 1879 and 80.
Now what about the old post office of Cross?
The beginning of Cross post office dates way back. In fact as far back as my recollections go there was a Cross post
office in Athens township. During the earlier days It was in the MERRITT neighborhood and I think "Grandpa" MERRITT,
grandfather of Ira MERRITT of Mount Ayr, and Charley and Andy MERRITT of Athens township, was the postmaster. It was
also a station on the regular stage line through Ringgold county when that line was operated. In the late sixties or
early seventies the post office was moved to the F. A. BROWN home one mile south of where Kellerton is now located, and
F. A. BROWN was appointed postmaster. As I first remember it was in this new location, mail was delivered to the office once
a week. A little later on though, a mail route was established from Decatur City to Mount Ayr, by way of Elk and Cross
post offices. It made three round trips a week. C. S. PALMER (now of Mount Ayr) was the carrier. Mr. PALMER was living at
Cross, and to make it more convenient for him it was arranged to make the starting place at Cross. He would go one day from
Cross to Decatur City and return. The next day he would go to Mount Ayr and return.
In 1879 the post office was moved to
Kellerton and the name changed to Kellerton. F. A. BROWN continued as postmaster.
Susan T. (KNOWLES) & Frederick Avery "Fred" BROWN
In the spring of 1880 I moved from
Poe township to Athens township, and in 1881, I assessed Athens township, including the town of Kellerton. It was the
first time the real estate of Kellerton as a town had ever been assessed.
In 1878, I think there were but four
school houses in the south two-thirds of the township. I can not give their exact location but one was in the
MERRITT neighborhood and was known as the Merritt school house. One south of the Merrit, known as the Laird school house.
One east of the Laird, known as the Peter MERRIT or Podunk school house, and one east of the Merrit was the Chicago or
Scott school house.
There may be some things in this narrative that are not exactly correct, but after from fifty to fifty-eight
years they are as I remember them. Most of the things though I know are true and I think all of them are, but I am
willing to be "showed." I invite criticism. I will be glad to hear from anyone who desires to write me about it.
A. L. LESAN
Mason City, Iowa
January 8, 1931
Known Teachers at John Scott or Chicago School
| Albert BEARD|| John DRAKE|
| Laura (CAMP) EMERSON|| Lizzie FAULKNER|
| Ed FRENCH|| Flora GUILD|
| Estella HATCH|| Arthur L. LESAN|
| George M. LESAN|| Claud PALMER|
| Fay (MOFFAT) TILBURY|
| Lucinda SCOTT|
| Harriet TIPTON|| |
Submission by Mike Avitt, May of 2010
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2010