Tama County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Star – Clipper Supplement
Traer, Iowa, January 28, 2887
History of North Tama
By Daniel Connell

Chapter XII

One of the first things wanted by a settler in a new country was a cabin or house. If the first man for miles, his cabin is rude even for his class – at times a mere wind brake of poles and brush, with the wagon cover for a roof to shed the rain and moderate the rays of the sun. These cabins were generally in the timber – sometimes a hole dug in the creek bank or on the face of a bluff. If there were neighbors within a few miles all would lend a hand, cutting down trees and hauling to the proposed site. Sometimes the logs were hewed on two sides to form a face that the logs would fairly meet. More common it was to lay them up as they were and plaster the spaces with mud. The sides of the building were easily made, to split out puncheons for the floors and shakes for the roof was more difficult, but at last the cabin was ready for occupancy. Circulation of pure air was free and at times vigorous. When the family retired for the night, as they lay on their couch, ample spaces were above them through with they could review their old studies of the geography of the heavens. As winter approached a better roof and floor were needed, and lumber must be had. There was a saw mill at Benton City near where Shellsburg now is. Eventually one was built at Bruner’s, north of Toledo. At that mill Connell bros. obtained what they needed for their cabin. Wolf creek has considerable fall in its course through Perry and Buckingham, and a project to utilize it to make lumber to supply the settlement was an early thought. In volume of records transcribed form Benton county we find a deed from M. L. & W. Osborn to John Connell, Wm. D. Hitchner and Jonas P. Wood dated January 28, 1853: “Commencing sixty-eight rods east of northwest corner of section 10-85-14, thence running east twenty rods, thence south thirty-four rods, thence west twenty rods, thence north thirty-four rods to place of beginning, with the right to flow back water on the northwest quarter of said section 10”. The consideration was $10. this is the original sale and purchase of the water power and site of the mill property now within the limits of Traer. The clause granting the right to flow water should have cleared the difficulties between Mr. Sloss and Mr. Hartshorn. The mill-wright was Nicholas Shanklin, who came from Ohio with the Wood family. The castings, frames, saws etc. were purchased at Muscatine. The capital cost was $500. These gentlemen sold it to Stephen Klingaman, who, in 1858, took it down and built a grist mill, doing custom work and manufactured flour which he sold in neighboring towns, as well as supplying the home demand. During the year 1857 James Wilson ran the saw mill for Mr. Klingaman. In 1863 the property came into the hands of W. W. Leekins a famous miller, whose brand of “Buckingham Mills” was known for many mile around. In 1875 he sold to George Sloss, who had become a partner the year previous. Mr. Leekins was one the best millers in the State – a very prince of good fellows.

He also wielded a ready pen, and under the cognomen of “Shady” was in the habit of correcting “Recorder,” the two making interesting reading in the Republican, of Toledo. Mr. Leekins removed to Grundy Center, and for ten years past has been on the road selling mill fixtures. The mill was enlarged by Mr. Sloss at an expense of $15,000 and done a large and prosperous business until destroyed by fire in 1884. In 1852-3 David Dean threw a dam across Twelve Mile creek, built a rude shop and made wooden bowls, an article of common use in that early day when crockery was scarce. He or one of his sons would take a load and hie away to Cedar Rapids or elsewhere to dispose of them, passing through Vinton, at that time consisting of four log cabins. In 1856 the Clark Brothers built a dam and saw mill on Wolf creek on section 25, Buckingham. This mill was in constant operation until 1863, when the dam was carried out and not re-built.

In 1856 S. B. Shiner had a cooper shop and a shingle cutter in connection. This was in the village of Buckingham. There was a good demand for barrels and shingles, and he made some money from the business. In the fall of 1856 a stock company was organized to erect a steam saw and flour mill in Buckingham. The boiler and machinery were purchased at Mount Vernon, Ohio, and shipped to Iowa City; from there by teams eighty miles.

The severe storm which began on December 1 of that year caught the men raising the stack. When raised and stayed it was left for the winter without cover. This mill was sold to H. F. Gaston, and about 1864 was sold and removed to Whisky Bottom. At one time George Scrimgeour, a man of much experience in the business was operating it. Henry Hamburg, an engineer of Toledo, put it together and started it. Railroads and scarcity of timber destroyed the business of Iowa saw mills, so Mr. Scrimgeour turned lawyer, legislator and postmaster, and Wilson went to Congress. The canny Scotchmen had to do something.

Chapter XIII

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