As the changes of less than half a century are contemplated, one can scarcely realize or comprehend that the wonderful results of Time's marvel-working hand are the achievements of a period so brief as to be within the remembrance - almost - of the present generation:
Let us turn back, as it were, the leaves of Time's great book to but little more than a quarter of a century ago, and the stranger would have gazed upon a landscape of wondrous beauty; selected by the Sioux and Dakotahs as their camping ground, with that singular appreciation of the beautiful which nature has made an instinct in the savage. These vast and rolling prairies were as green then as now; the prairie flowers bloomed as thickly, and diffused their fragrance as bountifully. We are in the haunt of the red man, with scarcely a trace of civilization, while the freedom of bird and beast reigns supreme. But, to-day, what a contrast! Then, all was as nature had formed it, with its variegated hues of vegetation; in winter, a dreary, snow-mantled desert - in summer, a perfect paradise of flowers. Now, all traces of the primitive are obliterated; in place of the tall prairie grass and tangled underbrush, one beholds the rich, waving fields of golden grain. In place of the dusky warrior's rude cabins are the substantial, and often elegant dwellings of the thrifty farmers, and the "iron horse", swifter than the nimble deer, treads the pathway so recently the trail of the red man. Then, a sickle of fire annually cut away the wild herbage, and drove to its death the stag; now, it is the home of the cereals, and nourishes on its broad bosom thousands of tons of the staple products of the great Hawkeye State. Then the storm drove the wolf and stag to their hiding place; now, the blast drives the heard of the husbandman to comfortable shelter. The transformation is complete.
In this volume it will be the aim of the historian to record the progress of Tama County, from its earliest settlement to the present time; to show the changes that from time to time have been made, and how they were brought about, and to record the life work of individuals who have been instrumental in effecting the change. It will thus be seen to embrace events which many will think insignificant. " Great events find ready record," says a well known writer, "but minor doings are often neglected until they become so obscured by the dust of time as to be forever clouded. Yet from such humble origin may spring the mightiest results. The history of men's lives is often incomplete through the negligence of those whose duty it was to record the dates of births, or deaths, or happenings, which have proved epochs in the world's progress. History is commonly regarded but the doings of rulers, who have the world for their theatre of operations, and the fate of empires for their subject. Such grave performances are of necessity remembered; but, they are no more in themselves worthy of preservation, than are the simplier deeds of heroism which pioneers so modestly participated in; yet, when the careful student seeks for the moving forces which made thrones tremble, he is too often rewarded by meagerly. The people are seldom recorded in history. In rare exceptions may be found a clearer ray of light on humbler undertakings, but they serve only to show the other failures stronger by contrast. The Pilgrim Fathers who survived the shock of the first rude winter are recorded in the sparse annals of New England, and their descendants revert with pride to those heroic ancestors; but the fifty pilgrims who died during that bleak season are never spoken of by name, though they are none the less worthy of undying reverence. Again, had some one more thoughtful than the rest among John Winthrop's band, which, two and a half centuries ago set deep the seeds of civilization on the rough shores of Massachusetts, how invaluable would that book now be to those who might prepare a great work on Boston's history." This is, indeed, true, and realizing the fact, this work has been compiled. Thousands of facts are herein recorded, and individual sketches of hundreds of citizens, living and dead, are here placed in an enduring form. These men and women are, or have been actors in the drama of the settlement and development of Tama county. By inserting these sketches, in addition to other matter, is preserved not only the recital of historic fact, but a sub-current of individual deeds runs through all, giving a realism to the narrative which could be imparted in no other way.