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Shelby County


1889 History Index

Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties
History of Shelby County, Iowa


To fix locations correctly, names and dates concerning the first settlement of a county, is no small task for the local historian. From the most positive evidence it is now generally conceded that the honor of effecting the first actual settlement in Shelby County belongs to Abraham Galland, who located in what is now Grove Township, in the autumn of 1848, building a log cabin in which his son-in-law, William Jordan, and family lived during the winter of 1848-'49, being the first white family to spend a winter within the county. During the fore part of 1849 came William Felshaw, Solomon and Joseph Hancock, Franklin, Rudd and Joseph Roberts. Felshaw removed to Utah Territory, Joseph Roberts moved to eastern Iowa, the two Hancock brothers are both dead, and Franklin Rudd now resides in Dow City, Iowa. Abraham Galland has been dead many years, but William Jordan, the son-in-law, who lived in the first cabin home built in the county, still survives. He lives at Deloit, Crawford County, Iowa, at the advanced age of eighty-seven years.

It should here be stated that the greater portion of the first settlement of the county was from among the vast throng of families who separated themselves from the Mormons, who, under the leadership of Brigham Young, stopped for the winter on the banks of the Missouri River at a point just north of the present city of Omaha, Nebraska. The place was therefore called "Winter Quarters." The Mormons had been driven from their homes at and around the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, and were en route for Utah at the time above mentioned. Up to the time of Joseph Smith (Sr.) being killed in the jail at Carthage, Illinois, there had been no such thing as polygamy taught by that sect, but upon arriving at "Winter Quarters" it was made known by the president of the Mormon church (Brigham Young, who took Joseph Smith's place), that it would henceforth be a religious requirement, and upon this question alone many thousands separated themselves, as they would not submit to what they believed to be a great evil. Hence it came about that we have what is known as the "Re-organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." The so-called "Mormons" of Shelby County, as well as many of its adjoining counties, are in no sense believers in polygamy, and are as outspoken against its practice as any other religious denomination of people. It is for their position on this subject that they have been termed as "apostates" by the Utah Mormon church, with whom they have no affiliations.

A large number of this class, when President Young proclaimed polygamy an article of faith, sought homes along the eastern banks of the Missouri River, in Iowa and Missouri. The first settlement in Pottawattamie, Harrison, Crawford, Cass and Shelby counties was effected by this class, commonly known as Latter Day Saints. The reason for their scattering was principally on account of wishing to build up homes in the most suitable location, and of course early settlers always select the land through which running water is found in abundance, as well as because along such streams the fine natural groves are located, all of which go toward constituting excellent locations for the pioneers.

Galland's Grove, consisting of over 1,000 acres of timber land, situated in the extreme northwest part of Shelby County, presented charming features to that persecuted band, large numbers of whom entered lands long before any government survey had been made. Among the early settlers at Galland's Grove, including the Latter Day Saints, were Uriah Roundy, John McIntosh, Alexander McCord, Ralph Jenkins, William Vanausdall, John Hawley, Alfred Jackson, Milton Lynch, Benjamin Crandall, Robert Ford, Eli Clothier, Thomas Black.

One of the most noted pioneer characters in Galland's Grove, who is still living, at the advanced age of eighty-two years, is John A. McIntosh, who was born in Kentucky in 1806. He spent the first seventeen years of his life in his native State, then went to Illinois, and from the State to Tennessee, where he was married. But few men survive to relate the circumstances of voting at sixteen Presidential elections, beginning with Andrew Jackson and casting his ballot, this fall (November, 1888), the second time for Grover Cleveland.

In 1840 he removed to Lee County, Iowa, where he remained until 1849. He was among the Mormons who separated themselves from the church on account of the evil practice of polygamy. He spent many years in the South, preaching the Mormon doctrines, traveling on foot, from place to place. He first came to Shelby County in 1849, when but a few families had settled on Mill Creek within Galland's Grove. He located where he is now living. Being a man possessed of sterling qualities, generous and true to all his fellow beings, he made many friends, even among the Indian tribes, which at that time possessed all Western Iowa. His pioneer cabin was erected in a narrow valley, between two great ridges, and was indeed a secluded and out-of-the-way location. His first neighbors were the wild animals and the Indian tribes, including the Pottawatomies and Omahas, who called him "The Mormon Chief," and would never do an act to displease him, on account of his bravery and kindness to them. He relates that in all those early years, living with warlike tribes on every hand, that he does not know of the Indians ever taking any of his property, except one pretty rooster, which was taken by an Indian boy, who was severely chastised by his father. One of the Indian chiefs was overtaken by a band of warriers from another tribe and wounded, so they supposed he would shortly die; however, he made out to crawl on his hands and knees to the cabin door of "Uncle McIntosh," to whom he gave advice as to his burial. He wanted to be placed in a white man's coffin and buried on McIntosh's land, all of which was sacredly carried out. A daughter of the hardy old pioneer died and was buried near the grave of the Indian chief, who had such implicit confidence in her father, who was a great peace-maker between the Indians themselves, as well as between the Indians themselves, as well as between the white race and the Indians. Mr. McIntosh relates many a thrilling incident of frontier life. When he first settled in Shelby County all was new; everything had to be made from the state in which wild nature had fashioned it. Kanesville (Council Bluffs) was the nearest point at which any family supplies could be obtained, such as flour, groceries, meat and clothing. The streams were much larger in their average flow of water than now, and none of them were spanned by any sort of bridge. Every few weeks some one or more of the settlers at the "Grove" would go to Kanesville, becoming a sort of "common carrier" for the whole settlement, some sending for a jug of syrup, some for a jug of whisky! and others for the real necessities of life -- meat, flour and groceries; and they were lastly cautioned to "be sure and see if we have any mail there!"

During Mr. McIntosh's ministry among the Latter Day Saints, he organized ten or a dozen branch societies. Not until old age had made such inroads on his strength and health that he was unable to get about, did he give up his work preaching the gospel, according to his conviction.

Among the earlier settlers of the eastern portion of the county and within what was known as Round Township, was Jefferson Tague, the first white man to locate in Round Township; he settled at what was called Watson's Grove. Then came William Hack and his two sons, John B. Hoffman, W. Ingham, Mansel Wicks, L. D. Sunderland, Messrs. Heath, Hutchinson, Stanton, William McGinnes, Dwight Tirrell, Lon Sweat, Henry Adams, Leonard Bowman, Colonel Dalton, W. W. Lyons, James McConnell, Henry Snider, Samuel Blake, Cyrus Luen, Nelson Ward, Messrs. Roland, Rubendall, Phiefer, Leonker, Miller, Lloyd Jinkins, Adam Cuppy, Dr. Johnston, and a blind man named Barlan.

Those who settled in eastern Shelby County had farther to go to market and mill than those at Galland's Grove, and for a number of years saw great hardships, and only survived by having a good degree of pluck and energy. During the hard winter of 1856-'57 the snow was very deep, filling the ravines and valleys to a level and obstructing travel everywhere in the State. At this time Shelby County saw great suffering. The wife of Nelson Ward, the first settler at Kibbey's Grove, ground buckwheat in a common coffee-mill, to the amount of sixteen bushels, from December on until the snows had melted sufficient to allow her husband to go to mill. On the 18th of March, 1857, the snow measured four feet on the level. A pioneer named Goerge Merrill started from the Grove bearing his named George Merrill started from the Grove bearing his name, to go across to Galland's Grove, some twenty miles, but owing to a blinding storm he sought refuge within a deserted log-cabin bilt by Isaac Cuppy. For four days he attempted to make his way across to the Grove, but each time failing he returned to the lonely cabin to spend the night; he had no food udring these long days and nights.

Another incident, connected with that never to be forgotten winter of "fifty-six and seven," will suffice to illustrate what our pioneers had to endure, that the wilderness might finally blossom like the rose! Levi Yeoman came from Council Bluffs late in the autumn of 1853 and purchased the claims and cabin of Mr. Cuppy, moving his family to the same. He then returned to his former home and engaged at chopping wood, by which to earn a little ready money to buy the actual renessities of life. He had told his family that he would be home at a given time, but did not come, and as the weather was blustry and getting quite severe, it then being early in December, the wife and mother became alarmed. A son less than eleven years old, named Allen J., seeming to take the whole situation in, started, unbeknown to his mother, in search of a lost father, as he supposed. The distance between their place and where his father was working was about thirty-two miles; the brave son traverswed this long, lonesome route alone, facing the cold wind and snow, in an almost miraculous manner; he arrived within three miles of the objective point, when night overtook him. He became confused and lost for the time, and believing all would end well with one who sought only to do his duty, he crawled into a hollow log and there remained until morning, when he resumed his journey and fortunately met his father, loaded down with provisions purchased for the family. This young lad, Allen J., grew to be a man, enlisted into the army and served as Captain of an Indiana company during the Rebellion. His mother, who died in the fall of 1854, was a sister of L. D. Sunderland.

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Transcribed by Cheryl Siebrass August, 2015 from "Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties", Chicago: W. S. Dunbar & Co., 1889, pg. 232-235.

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