Tama County, IA
USGenWeb Project

The History of North Tama was sent to me by Dennis Connell Wendell, the great-grandson of Daniel Connell.
Thank you Dennis for this great contribution!

The history was published as 31 serialized chapters in the Traer Star-Clipper between December 3, 1886 and May 27, 1887. The history grew out of an unpublished lecture Daniel gave at a reunion of old settlers in the autumn of 1875.

Some but not all, of the history was incorporated into the 1883 History of Tama County Iowa, published in 1883 by the Union Publishing Company, Springfield, Illinois.

Daniel also wrote Early History of Toledo published in two installments in the Toldedo Chronicle of September 13, 1888.

You will find newspaper clippings about Daniel Connell and the published History of North Tama at the end of this article.

Star – Clipper Supplement
Traer, Iowa, December 3, 1886
History of North Tama
By Daniel Connell

Introductory Notes – First Settlers

Solicited to write the early history of the northeast portion of Tama county, then as now better known as Northern Tama, I feel a disinclination for the task, owing in part to the intervening periods, to the dispersion of those formerly on the ground, to the deficiency of memory, to the death or removal of many who could furnish desired information to fill blanks, and also to the fact that my own familiarity with events is somewhat blunted by a six years’ absence. Were I to begin with the collection of materials it would be impossible because of the removal and death of many, and the lack of strength on my part at this time. Happily for this work and for those interested in the perpetuation of the history of the settlement this is not necessary. In the spring or early summer of 1875 the old settlers resolved to have a meeting or reunion in the autumn of that year, and I accepted the task of preparing a historical address to be read on the occasion. My heart was in the work; the material at hand. It took four months of active effort to gather the facts and put them in form, the close attention given by the old settlers and the new to its recital, the universal favorable criticism of it paid me for the work; yet my desire was to see it in a compact form in every house. Expectation of seeing it published in book or pamphlet form being abandoned, in an evil hour I loaned the manuscript to a man who thought he could write, with liberty to use as he desired. His use of it was “without form and void.” Regaining the manuscript at the lapse of a year through the mediation of an attorney I found several valuable papers were missing, so I have to rely on copies. For the benefit of the public I again loaned the manuscript to the compiliers of the “History of Tama County, Iowa” in 1883. They drew from it quite liberally but not to the extent of the local demand, and many of the omissions are of local importance. It must then be understood by the readers of these articles that I have used my lecture of 1875 as freely as necessary the same, as it had not been made public. I shall not use without credit and matter from the “History” original with authors except perhaps biograpy and then only in cases where the individual cannot be reached.

In making up the record of many towns and settlements it can all be embodied in one town. Local history generally is rounded in one town or city. The early settlers in New England found a place to answer their wants. They established the metes and bounds of the town as they desired, and their history was the history of their town, and other organizations seeking a home recognized the boundaries they found. It was different in Iowa. Congress had provided geographical townships, and it frequently happened that a settlement would be in two or more townships, the boundaries of Congressional lines, while settlers were few, being more imaginary than real. Thus it was in 1852, and for a few years subsequent, the settlers found themselves mostly in what is now Perry and Buckingham, with a few in northwest part of Clark and southwest part of Genesseo with wings running down Wolf creek into Geneseo and up into northern Crystal. After a few years, say from 1858 to 1860, the boundary of the settlement into two towns was better defined and understood by making Wolf creek the line of separation rather than the Congressional line. Like most places probably jealousy and a little acrimony arose as to where the town plat or site should be – there being town builders in those days – so each side of the creek had a town, and that was the bane of the settlement. In time one decreased and the other increased. In time a railroad came, and both the old towns passed away and a new and flourishing one arose. So it has come to pass that the history of Northern Tama is not confined to one Congressional township.

The most travelers into this region came from the East through Dubuque to Cedar Rapids, then having a population of about 300, up the Cedar to Vinton, the then outpost. From there land searchers were directed to Big creek, and by that name alone was the settlement known in Vinton and farther east.

Wolf creek can be said to head in Badger Hill pond near the northwest corner of Spring Creek township, into which is discharged the water of the creek which has originated in Grundy county, and the waters of the little Wolf coming from Fifteen Mile grove. From the pond the creek flows southeast to Gladbrook thence east deflecting a little south, then northerly to Traer, thence northeast to Morreville where it leaves Tama county, watering in its course the townships of Spring Creek, Crystal, Petty, the southeast corner of Buckingham and entirely across Geneseo. In its course east it receives on its north bank Four Mile creek on section 7 in Perry. This creek heads in section 16 in Lincoln. Twelve Mile creek heads in sections 6 and 18 in Grant, receives Gibbon creek on section 24 in Buckingham, and enters Wolf creek on section 19 in Geneseo. On its south bank it receives a small creek in section 23 in Perry. The south side of our territory is watered by Deer Creek and several branches of Salt creek which flow south into the Iowa river. The surface of the land is high and rolling, nearly every acre being productive. It was to this favored locality that land seekers wended their way, few and isolated at first, but the volume increased until not an unoccupied acre remains unimproved. The policy of the U. S. Government about the years from just previous to the Mexican war until the adoption of the homestead law was to sell to all persons desiring land at the price of $1.25 an acre. A purchaser naming the numbers of the land desired paid the price, taking thereof a land office receipt, and eventually receiving a patent or deed. After the Mexican war the government gave to volunteers who served during that event land script, each script entitling the holder to enter and own forty acres of public land, representing $50 in money. The soldiers were entitled to one or more bills of this script as their service or rank entitled them. This script was made negotiable or running to the holder, consequently many of them were thrown on the market and had a quotable market value. The Wilkinson brothers, the first settlers of Tama county, entered their land with script they received as bounty, having been engaged in that war, and nearly the first entry made on lands in our limits was paid for by this script purchased in open market for sixty-two and one-half cents an acre.

From the most authentic data at command the first settlers in our territory were Norman Osborn, David Dean and his family which included two adult sons, Ira and Lewis, who arrived on January 1, 1852. Mr. Osborn settled on the southwest quarter of section 26 in Buckingham. He sold this to Mr. Dunkle and entered the northeast quarter of section 10 in Perry. He sold that to Ira and Giles Taylor, which is still in possession of Giles Taylor. Mr. Osborn then entered the northwest quarter of same section and sold that to Stephen Klingaman. He then left the settlement, leaving no vestige behind. Mr. Osborn was in aspirant for political honors, and was the first sheriff of Tama county, having been elected March, 1853, at the temporary organization of the county. The record of this election is in Benton county. At the first regular election in August, 1853, Mr. Osborn was not a candidate.

The Dean family settled on sections 28 and 33 in Buckingham, sold out in 1855 and removed to Wright county, one of the sons now residing in Goldfield in that county. In 1852 Mr. Dean erected a small mill on Twelve Mile creek below the Jaqua bridge, had a dam, wheel and machinery for the manufacture of wooden bowls, and sold them at Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Dubuque. This was probably the first mechanical enterprise in the county unless the saw mill at Monticello was earlier. Mr. Dunkle purchased the entry of Mr. Osborn on section 26, sold to George Kober and removed. Mr. Springmier claimed a quarter section on 26 and sold to A. Wilbur. Otto Story made a claim on section 33, sold to William Gordon and departed for the West. These last four named claimants were a fair representation of the class of men who, in the early days of a new country, kept in advance of railroads, selection desirable tracts of land, held them until men with money cameto whom they sold at an advance, then pused on to renew that plan again and again until their occupation was gone. There were others of the same class in the settlement. Really they were pioneers who were followed by desirable settlers as unerringly as a hunter his prey, and dispossessed, leaving but their name. Patrick Casey and John Connolly and his brother Michael settled on section 36. Mr. Casey removed to Kansas during the days of her political troubles in 1856, and was killed by border ruffians while defending his home. These were the settlers in Buckingham during 1852. During this year there were no settlers in Perry township until July 1. Those arriving that day were John and Joseph Connell, Jonas P. Wood and Wm. D. Hitchner. Later in the summer others members of the Connell and Wood families arrive, viz: Daniel Connell, the father of the family, and Robert and Margaret Connell, Joshua C. and Lyman E. Wood, Dr. W. A. Daniel, Nelson Usher and Volney Carpenter. Usher entered land in sections 4 and 9. He sold to Q. D. and H. A. Hartshorn and removed to Wright county were he opened a grocery store and afterward removed to Oregon. Carpenter, his son-in-law, settled on northwest Quarter of section 3. He followed Osborn. The Connells and Wood families settled on sections 3 and 4. Hitchner first settled on section 10, now the west part of Traer, then removed to section 3, where he died in 1874. These farms are all on the west side of Wolf creek, although in Perry, in subsequent local strife these men were called Buckingham men.

Chapter II

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