Peterville and other early settlements
The first permanent settlers in Union county were Norman and Joseph B. Nun, and families, who emigrating from Putnam County, Indiana, in
February, 1850, having spent two years in Madison county. Norman Nun was a blacksmith. They were possessed of some means, owned several yoke
of oxen, two or three wagons, and a limited outfit of household goods. The Nun family consisted of six boys and three girls, with himself, and wife.
About the time of their arrival, one James H. Stark and family came from Mahaska county, and the three families, looking about for a location,
decided to purchase claims from the Mormons at Pisgah. This being done, arrangements were at once made for permanent improvements. A
blacksmith shop was erected, a cabin of one room was put in order, and the new settlers were prepared to furnish entertainment for man or
beast, and they had not long to wait before their accommodations were stretched to their utmost capacity. The immense tide of overland California
travel set in early in the spring of 1850, and continued until August of that year. Corn, oats and provisions being in great demand, and to obtain
a supply were necessarily often hauled many miles. Shelter for a night by parties traveling on horseback, or sick and unable to sleep exposed to
the elements, was sometimes out of the question, so crowded were the rooms of the hostelry. Early and late the blacksmith's fire was burning, and
he was mending the broken wagons and setting shoes on horses for the California travelers. A golden harvest fell into the settlers' laps this
year; and it is said that the blacksmith Nun, at the end of the season, was compelled to make a strong box to safely keep the two thousand five
hundred dollars in gold which he had accumulated.
May 23, 1850, witnessed the arrival of W. M. Lock and family, who starting from Quincy, Illinois, with three teams of oxen and horses, traveled
westward, until, on reaching the Pisgah settlement, he concluded to settle, and following the footsteps of others, he bought a Mormon cabin, and
commenced living in the same. These cabins, perhaps, deserve a passing notice. They were about sixteen feet square, built of poles or small trees,
the roof being covered with rived clapboards, while outside the whole was a covering of sod to exclude the cold. The floors were made of puncheons
and the doors of rived clapboards fastened with pins, and closed by a latch with an old-fashioned latchstring, which, among pioneers, always hangs
out, inviting the stranger to enter. The roofs were low, and a tall man could not stand erect in them, yet even these homes and this kind of life had its
bright spots. In August following was born the first white child (except Mormon) in the county, to Mr. and Mrs. W. M. Lock, a son, Charles who died in
1861, at eleven years of age.
The new settlers planted crops and were blessed with a bountiful harvest. Their nearest neighbors west were at Johnson's settlement, forty-two miles
distant; north, twenty-five miles to Winterset, then a little village of two or three houses; on the east, Rising Sun was twenty-eight miles; and
McDonald's, in Missouri, the nearest settlement south, was forty-five miles away. Their supplies were, at this time, hauled two hundred miles, from
Keokuk; their nearest post office was Winterset, twenty-five miles, or Rising Sun, twenty-eight miles distant.
Considered a delicacy, the ordinary fare being "hog and hominy"often without the hog-with an abundance of game and a generous supply of wild
fruit. A bee tree occasionally supplied the sweets of the household, and in times of sickness, the roots and herbs of the country were the remedies
relied on to effect a cure.
In September, (1850) Benjamin Lamb and family, consisting of himself, wife, eleven children and three nephews-in all sixteen persons
came into the county, and located on section 26, Pleasant township, where he made a claim, and built the sides of a log cabin to hold the same.
Well pleased, but not altogether satisfied, as soon as the claim was secured, he traveled west with his family to Kanesville (now Council Bluffs) where
he arrived December 1, 1850, and stopping for a few days, to rest his teams he traveled south as far as St. Joseph, Missouri, where he remained until
about February 1, 1851, when he concluded to return to his claim in Union county, which he accordingly did, and reached there February 10th. A
heavy snow, which fell the night following their arrival, rendered the condition of the family anything but comfortable, but a roof being at once put
on the house, they moved into it. Though their cabin was neither large nor elegant, and was finished with a clapboard roof and a puncheon floor, for
years it was known far and near as a stopping place, and it was no uncommon thing for fifteen or twenty travelers to lodge with this family of sixteen
persons in a single night. Crowded for room though they might be, no one was turned away,and it is related on one occasion, when an extra large
number of guests were to be accommodated, that they commenced to lie down on the floor at the side of the room farthest from the door, and so
continued until there was only room for the last man to find a resting place by shutting the door and occupying the space so secured.
Early in the year 1851, Henry Lamb, I. P. Lamb and Alexander Poe settled in the township, and in April of the same year, Samuel and William
McKutcheon and families, numbering seven persons, came to Mr. Lamb's, and made their home with him during the summer. While stopping there,
one of the McKutcheon family was taken with the smallpox and died; some of the Lamb family also contracted the disease, but by careful treatment
and good nursing recovered. It is stated by Mrs. Lamb that for six weeks in the summer of 1851, they lived entirely on hominy and venison, and for the
small children, who could not eat hominy, bread was made from meal ground in a coffee mill; all the sweetening the family had was wild honey, of
which there was a bountiful supply, and for two years the only meat in the settlement was game, principally deer and wild turkeys, which were very
plentiful, four or five deer being often brought in at night by one hunter as the result of one day's sport.
With no saw mills, stores or other accessories of civilized life at hand, the few settlers were obliged to depend almost entirely on their individual
resources, as the following incident will illustrate: Late in the summer of 1850, a young man from Andrew county, Missouri, who was visiting friends
at Winterset, contracted a malarial fever which brought him nearly to death's door. After a time he became convalescent, and much against the
wishes of his friends mounted his horse and started homeward, but on arriving at Pisgah he was again taken violently ill and died there. There
being no cabinet makers or saw mills in the settlement, what to do for a coffin was the question. Search was made among all the cabins for long roof
clapboards, but none of sufficient length could be found; a second search for puncheons was then made with no greater success, and as a last resort
William Lock, J. H. Stark and some of the Mormons went into Grand river bottoms and hewed green cottonwood boards, from which they made the
coffin, and gave the stranger a decent burial. The land in this county was first offered for sale at Fairfield, on November 9th, 1850, and the first entry
was made by Henry Peters, July 12th, 1851, who entered a portion of section 30, township 72, range 28, which had been surveyed in 1849, by John
Hooper. In section 1, chapter 9, Acts of the Third General Assembly, may be found the boundaries of a new county to be called Union," which are
identical with our present limits
In January, 1851 William Lock was appointed the first postmaster at Pisgah, but no service was rendered until the following spring, when A. E.
Holbrook, a government sub-contractor, performed the journey once a week, traveling on horseback, from Chariton to Pisgah. It was often the case
that not a single letter or paper was contained in the Pisgah sack, and the first year's salary of Postmaster Lock amounted to less than seven dollars.
About the same time, another mail route was established from Centerville to Pisgah, which also rendered weekly service, the contractor being William
This spring (1851) was also remarkable for an increased emigration to the Californian gold fields, and the almost incredible number of two thousand
six hundred teams were counted who passed by the Pisgah settlement in six weeks,all bound for the new El Dorado; large herds of young cattle and
sheep were also driven through, generally, however, bankrupting their owners by reason of the expense of feeding and losing large numbers in orasses
and sloughs.In the month of March, 1851, a fine looking gentleman rode up to the door of the Pisgah Hotel, of which William Lock was landlord, and
engaged feed for four hundred and fifty young cattle and accommodations for eleven herders who had charge of the drove, for one night. His bill
amounted to eighty-seven dollars and fifty cents gold, and during the next day's drive twenty-seven head of cattle were left to die, mired in one slough
in Adair county mine host Lock clearing five hundred dollars, gold, in four months, the larder of his cabin proving far more remunerative than the
government office which he held by appointment of President Fillmore. Among the new settlers of 1852 were John Van Horn who settled on Four
Mile creek, Henry Peters who settled at and platted the town of Petersville John Edgecomb who was afterwards appointed sheriff to organize the
county,A. C. Cooper who is still living and James A. Forgey who served the county for some years as prosecuting attorney. There was a gradual
progress in colonization which began in this locality early in the fifties until the coming of that period when the railroad, the harbinger of development
was surveyed and its line located. This was an event of supreme interest and people began to realize that the time for which they had waited so long
was near at hand. Immigration increased at once. New industries and enterprises were established. Money became more plentiful and customs and
manners of living changed. The population of the county which had made slow progress, now steadily increased.