Early History

Even though this article is written about a Page County settler, the story is much the same for persons coming to southwest Iowa or northwest Missouri.

  Interview with Abraham Pfander, a pioneer settler: written for the Page County Historical Society by Mabel H. Kenea. (from the Clarinda Journal, Nov 9, 1916)
To see the seasons come and go in Page county for over sixty years - to live the life of the pioneer with its hardships and yet to be able to look back on the early days spent here with many happy recollections is the privilege of Abraham Pfander, familiarly known to his friends as "Abe."

In the early fifties William Loy, who lived in Dark county, O., the same county as Mr. Pfander's father, Charles Pfander, came to Page county and settled on the site of the property in Clarinda where E.B. Westcott now lives, at the corner of Sixteenth street and Lincoln avenue. This William Loy was a brother of Charles Pfander's second wife, and a nephew of the William Loy who had previously located on the stream of the East Tarkio in what is now Lincoln township. He wrote back to his brother-in-law, Charles Pfander, telling him of the new country in Iowa, and advising him to move his family here.

Charles Pfander began making arrangements to make the long journey, but was stricken with a fatal disease and died. However, his family continued with the plans for the overland trip and in the fall of 1853 started with other emigrants for Iowa. 

The Pfander family consisted of Mrs Pfander, and six children, of which the four elder, including Abe, were the children of Mr. Pfander by a former marriage. 

Abe Pfander loved his stepmother as his own mother, and at the time of the removal to Iowa he took charge of the family. He was then a youth of twenty years.

Among the Pfander children were Abe Pfander's brother, John, and his half brother, Jacob. His other brother, Charles, immigrated to Iowa the next year. These young men were the forefathers of the many families by the name of Pfander living in this vicinity now. The descendants have reached the fourth generation. The trip overland to Iowa was a happy one for the boy Abe. In speaking of it he says, "I never had a better time in all my life." Much of the time the weather was good. There was a "long string of teams," and many of the immigrants were young people. Many was the happy evening spent around the camp fire after the older folk were sleeping.

Wild game was shot along the way, and other food was bought at trading points where the caravan stopped. Before starting Mrs. Pfander had made a three bushel sack full of "rusks." They were to eat with coffee, and Mr Pfander hasn't forgotten how good they were. In Illinois a large lot of boots and shoes were delivered, the articles having been made in Ohio for the dealer to whom they were sent. In this state also, some of the young men of the party discovered a lot of "bee gum," but the owner had too many dogs for them to get even a taste of the sweets.

Upon arriving in Page county the Pfander family went to the vicinity of the stream of the East Tarkio in the western part of the county, near where William Loy had previously settled. Here young Pfander located his stepmother and family in a cabin belonging to William Loy, and built temporary shelter for their horses. He went to Maryville, Mo., for two loads of corn, and to Rock Port, Mo., for meat and flour. After procuring their provisions thus for the winter he started back to Ohio. In passing through Clarinda, which had been laid out at that time, Mr Pfander saw the three little log cabins of cottonwood poles, which were the extent of the buildings in the settlement.

In the spring of 1854 Mr Pfander married his boyhood sweetheart, Miss Elizabeth Ann Colville, the license for the marriage having been procured just as soon as the young man was twenty-one years of age. With his bride, and also in company with Mr. and Mrs. Tillman Nealeigh, and Mr. and Mrs. Levi Nealeigh, Mr. Pfander again set forth for Iowa, this time going most of the way by boat. At Cincinnati the party began the journey by water, going down the Ohio river to Cairo, from there up the Mississippi to St Louis and then up the Missouri to St Joseph. The passing through the locks along the way was an interesting procedure to Mr. Pfander. On either side of the boat the space between the walls of the locks was very small. On each side of the boat a deck hand stood with a rope to which was attached a short, very thick log, which, when the boat was in danger of scraping against the walls of the locks the log on that side of the boat was to be let down and so send the boat to the middle of the locks. One of the deck hands neglected his duty and was roundly cuffed by the boat's mate, a man very much smaller than the deck hand. Mr Pfander expected some retaliation, but none came as the boat's men were very subservient to the officers. 

When Mr Pfander started out with his bride he had two hundred dollars in gold and a little red chest. That same red chest is one of his most prized possessions today. In it on his wedding journey were the belongings of himself and wife, their bedding and practically all of their worldly goods. He is frank in saying that in those days the Nealeigh brothers were much better off than he was. They also had chests, well filled ones, with beautiful muslins and linens.

On board this boat were a great many Mormons, also western immigrants. Now Mr. Pfander was dressed as befitting a bridegroom in those days, with a high silk hat and a beautiful plush vest. His appearance was somewhat clerical, and many on the boat thought he was a minister. At a point on the journey the Mormons left the boat and their baggage was unloaded. Later it was found that the chests of the Nealeigh families had been taken with the Mormons' belongings, and then he remembered that he had heard a remark of a deck hand, which he did not understand to the effect, "Well, I left the preacher's chest, that didn't go with the others."

After a long journey, during which the Nealeigh families were taken ill on account of bad drinking water on the boat, they finally arrived at St. Joseph, where they left the boat.

Tillman Nealeigh being too ill to attend to the matter of buying teams and a wagon, sent his brother, Levi, and Abe Pfander, after providing them with money, out to do the buying, for the trip from this point had to be made overland. Five yoke of cattle were bought and a government wagon. In the matter of the cattle Mr. Pfander says there were certainly "sweetened good." Only two yoke of the cattle had ever had a yoke on their necks, though they were all supposed to have been broken.

The first time they were unyoked it was thought they would never get them yoked again. Mr. Pfander, not having furnished the capital for the teams and wagon was suppposed to do the driving to even things up. He says he was absolutely green at the business of cattle driving, and all this time was wearing his silk hat and plush vest. When they were near Maryville the leaders of the steers swung around a hollow stump in such a manner that one of the steers of the wagon team was drawn over the stump and his hind legs were caught in it.

Mr Pfander didn't dare urge the cattle on for fear of breaking the animal's legs, so he went to a cabin a little way off where some women were wool picking and asked for the loan of an ax. The women were vastly amused by the situation and his appearance, but they loaned the ax, and he, wearing his silk hat and plush vest, split and chopped the stump until the steer was free, when the party again started on the journey.

Mr. Pfander had a long lash on a pole with which to reach the lead cattle from his seat on the wagon. Not being very expert with the whip, it sometimes happened that in throwing the lash backward it would entwine around his own silk hat and carry the hat forward so it would fall among the cattle much to their disgust, and the memories of the "bahs" when this happened remains with Mr. Pfander yet. Some of the time Mrs. Pfander prefered to walk along the way, and sometimes rode on the hounds of the wagon.

Finally the trip to Iowa was finished and Mr. Pfander and his bride settled southwest of Clarinda, where he entered eighty acres of government land at $1.25 an acre - the southwest quarter of the northeast quarter, and the northwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 35, township 69, range 37, - forty acres prairie and forty timber.

He bought a yoke of steers for fifty dollars. Mr Pfander built his log house with his own hands, taking infinite pains in splitting, fitting and planing the logs to make a nice smooth floor. He had the blacksmith make him a frow to split clapboards from the block, for his doors and roof. There was not a nail in the house. Mr. Pfander can tell in detail just how he made that house, even to the method of making the beds which were built into the wall on one side, and were the old fashioned "roped beds." After living on this farm for about four years Mr. Pfander sold it and bought 160 acres northwest of Clarinda, the northeast quarter of section 13, township 69, range 37. It is interesting to note that this land did not change hands until March 2, 1908, when Mr. Pfander sold it to W.C. Brown.

The north half of the land upon which the buildings are is now owned by Otto H. Steeve, the south half by Frank Otte.

Deer were plentiful in the old days. Mr. Pfander shot one which he particularly remembers about. His wife called to him one day that there were two deers in his hog lot. He borrowed a gun - his own being loaned at the time - and found upon investigation that the animals were magnificent ones - a male and a female. He shot the buck, but did not kill him, but knew from the amount of blood the animal was leaving in his trail in the snow that he must be mortally wounded, so followed him. There was a crust on the snow at this time through which Mr. Pfander broke at every step, and when he came to the place where the wounded animal had fallen, near the site of the old Humeston and Shenandoah depot in this city, a distance of several miles from Mr. Pfander's home, his boots were cut through. The family enjoyed venison for some time after that.

The subject of this sketch has always been a man of his word, to how great an extent is shown by the following incident. In the old days the first fences were poor. They had been hastily constructed out of poor timber, and were only temporary affairs. Job Loy, a brother of Mr. Pfander's step-mother, and Charles Pfander, Abe's brother had been careless in the matter of letting their cattle stray too far and get into his corn. He had worked hard for his crop, and knew that he could not afford to have it destroyed that way, so he warned his brother and Mr. Loy that the first stray animal he found on his premises he would shoot. He split a bullet in five or six pieces, rammed it in his gun with some powder, and put the gun in a convenient place.

One morning he discovered a stray steer eating fodder by his barn. True to his word he got his gun and fired. The animal fell. His wife hearing the report came to the door to find out the trouble. Mr. Pfander said, "I have shot old Tom (his brother's steer). I didn't think it would kill him, but it did." When his brother came he told him what he had done. Mr. Pfander paid his brother for the killing of his animal, but he was never troubled after that with stray cattle on his premises.

When the rush to Pike's Peak came in the late fifties, a raid was made by the gold seekers on any of the smoke houses in this country which lay in their path. Mr. Pfander was resolved to shoot at the first intruder who opened his smokehouse door, the door having a peculiar squeak which he thought would awaken him.

One night he heard the squeak, took his gun from its nitch in the cabin wall, and went out doors with the hammer cocked and his gun in position to shoot. The intruder didn't appear, so he pushed in the smokehouse door. The joke was on Mr. Pfander, for it was only the dog, who in some manner had managed to get in the house. The dog was a family animal brought from Ohio and very much prized so he escaped with his life. The way the dog whizzed out of the smokehouse, and around Mr. Pfander who was scantily attired, makes him laugh yet.

The Indians who passed through the country in those days were not so much to be feared as the white raiders mentioned.

The old life of the pioneer was one of hard work and privations. Much of the success of the later years that has come to Mr. Pfander, he attributes to the fact that his wife was saving and that they bore side by side the hardships that came to the pioneer.Much of the time they lived on corn bread and fat meat. Mr. Pfander and his brother-in-law, Levi Nealeigh, bought a handmill to grind corn, and the settlers for miles around would come to use the mill.

In the very early days much of the wheat was not good becasue of smut, and while the pioneers used it in their families, yet when "company came" corn was grated to make bread, the Pfander family having a home made grater for the purpose made out of a piece of tin with nail holes punched in it.

Mr. Pfander makes his home in this city with his son, County Recorder J. V. Pfander, and family. His wife died in the fall of 1905. He thoroughly enjoys talking about the old days and tells many interesting incidents not recorded here of the happy times as well as the more serious ones in the life of the Page county pioneer.