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Erick Anderson's first store was located across the street from the Porter home. He later built a commercial building on the lot where Dr. Henry's residence now stands. Mr. Goddard lists James Lyons, rather than Anderson, as Ossian's first merchant. We have found no reference to Mr. Lyons in our research.
Harry, the eldest of the Porter children, told of refugees from the Spirit Lake massacre fleeing eastward on the Military Trail. Harry, who gives his age as eight at the time, mounted the family mule and joined a scouting party that was dispatched to determine if there was a war party in pursuit. He expressed disappointment that no redskins were encountered, but admitted he was uncertain of his actions had there been a confrontation. He added that he had great confidence in the speed of his mount. (Harry's recollection appears to be faulty--the massacre was in 1857.His age would have been 12.)
A. L. Goddard describes Mrs. Porter as: "A charming, energetic, little lady of fine personality." She passed away in 1862 and was buried on family land. After the municipal cemetery was established ten years later, her remains were moved to this burial ground.
Sparks, in his History of Winneshiek County, writes a rather disparaging account of John O. Porter. He calls the Porter home a 'celebrated station', where travelers could buy strong spirits to warm their inwards, although no tavern shingle was ever hung. But M. J. Garter, in his address at the dedication of Porter Park, speaks kindly of our founder: "No man ever left (his inn) hungry whether or not he had money to pay his bill. He was ever ready to draw his shooter to defend the weak."
The Porter home, although only 18' X 20' in size, became a stage stop and hotel. Weekly dances were held to the music of Jimmy Buller's violin. Jimmy's fiddling repertoire was very limited—consisting, according to cynics, of only one tune: Pop goes the Weasel. Nonetheless, spirits ran high and a good time was enjoyed by all.
The land owners of Military Township in 1852, as listed by Sparks were: John Anderson, Mary Ashby, Chauncy Brooks, G. E. Brooks, Dolvy Howard, John O. Porter, William J. Peck, Andrew Sharp, T. H. Semiss, Jacob Smith, Tolef and Lars Tosten and Charles K. Wood. Our research finds these additional settlers: John Torger, Peter Halverson, Abriel E, Brooks and Leif Aaness. Doubtless there were more. Of this group, only Caleb Brooks is listed as paying taxes over $10; his bill was $13.04.
The Brooks brothers, Chauncy, Caleb and Abriel (who may have been their father), arrived about one and a half years after Porter. Abriel purchased land south of John 0. that eventually became Brooks' additions to the village. Caleb proved to be a promoter, buying land from Abriel and platting additions to Ossian of 6 blocks, 63 lots in 1857; 30 blocks in 1864; and 10 blocks, called 'Brooks western addition', in I869. While John Ossian Porter had the honor of naming our city, it was C. E. Brooks who went to the bank. The 1870 federal census lists the value of his real estate as $145,000 and personal property at $45,000. This must have been an enormous fortune for the time and place.
Why did the pioneers migrate to Iowa? Most seem to have been seeking low cost fertile land—a home where their families could grow and prosper. The federal government encouraged settlement in the 'West', so-called by 'eastern Yankees'. In 1846, when Iowa attained statehood, the following costs of starting a farm on the frontier were quoted in New England newspapers; "Yoke of oxen—$40 to $60, milch cows—$10 to $15, sheep—$1 to $1.50, farm wagon--$75 to $80, prairie plough—$18 to $20, small plough—$6 to $8, harrow--$4, scythe, axe, pitch fork, spade and rake—$3-50, double log cabin—$50 to $70, seed corn for 10 acres, seed wheat for 5 acres, potato, turnip & garden seed—$5, poultry & young pig—$3, saddle & cart horse—$50 to $60 and 80 acres of prairie land--$100."
Why did our ancestors choose Military Township for their home? We find possible answers in Pratt Nicholson's description of this area as recorded in Bailey's history and in old letters retained by our own family. The virgin prairie was beautiful with lush growth of nutritious grass, colorful wildflowers and hardy groves of haxd-wood trees; top soil was deep and fertile; moisture abundant. The environment was favorable for growing large, almost certain, crops. Prairie chicken, grouse, deer
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this page was last updated on Thursday, 01 April 2021