Early Jasper County History
CROSS, DAVIS, HURST, LOGSDON, MOSES, PARKER, PENQUITE, VOWELL, WATT
Posted By: JCGS Volunteer
Date: 2/6/2021 at 13:22:59
Recalls Stories Of Early Jasper County History
Mrs. B. L. Logsdon Remembers Father’s Enlistment in Civil War.
Mrs. B. L. Logsdon, a native of Jasper county, was born in 1859 on a pioneer farm north of what has later become known as Colfax. She was the daughter of Burton Hurst, a settler who came into the county around 1850.
While Mrs. Logsdon, now a resident of Colfax, cannot remember the scenes and trials of those early days herself, she can recall vividly the stories what were told her by her parents and grandparents of those days.
Her first memory is that of her father joining the union soldiers at Newton in the 1860’s, preparing to go to war. She says she can see now the men marching down the street and off to war.
Entered Westwood Park
Her father Burton Hurst came to Iowa in the spring of 1849, stopping for a year at Wapello. A year later, in company with his father-in-law, Anderson Vowell, he came on to Jasper county. In the spring of 1850 they arrived here, and Mr. Vowell entered land west of Newton, the area including what is now Westwood park. There were only 12 houses in Newton then she said.
Her uncle, Bird Vowell took a place northwest of Newton as the Old Henry Philips farm. It was entered by Anderson Vowell, he doing all of the entering for the family. But Uncle bird had the distinction of bringing the first fruit trees into the county.
Mrs. Logsdon’s father picked out a place near the Greencastle neighborhood, known as the old John Cross farm. There the family traded many times. And she can recall well the Joseph Moses general store – one of the pioneer merchandisers of that time. Will Penquite, father of Maynard Penquite of Colfax, was a clerk in Mr. Moses’ store. There was a two-story schoolhouse in the town. “It was a beautiful place,” Mrs. Logsdon relates.
In the middle of 1860’s the railroad began to work through this part of the county. After being held up for several years in Kellogg by financial difficulties, it finally moved through Colfax around 1867, according to official records of the Rock Island railroad.
A shack was used for a depot. And the first building was put up by two bachelor brothers – the Parker Brothers. Between 1867 and 1870, John Berry built the first edition of the Old Mason house, an old wooden structure that was later improved and changed as years went by. The Mason House, however, became and continued for many years as the pride and joy of Colfax. It was the social center of the town.
Asked how the town of Colfax happened to be named Colfax, Ms. Logsdon replied that it was named after Schuyler Colfax, vice president under U. S. Grant.
There had been talk of making a railroad station on Joe Slaughter’s place, she said, when a party including Mr. Colfax proceeded along the railroad route looking for sites happened upon the present site of the town.
“This is the making of a pretty town,” commented the future vice president of the United States, and the town was named and started immediately.
The first mineral spring, which long since have made the town famous, was found on the League ground just west of the big hotel in a deep gulch, Mrs. Logsdon declares. It is not running now, she says, having been filled in.
The next found was that by the Big Hotel, and it is still in use. The springs were discovered when coal men were drilling for coal.
The stage ran north of Colfax in the early days, she relates, swinging back into the pioneer discussion. The Dan Davis place was a stage coach tavern. They swam their horses across the Skunk river.
The flood of 1881 is also a vivid one to this Jasper county pioneer, for she was caught in the very midst of it. It happened on a bright sunshiny day in the middle of July. The corn was just tasseling out and she and her young husband had visions of a big crop. They had a 120 acre farm.
Flood of 1881
But it had been raining for months, so that the streams were running about full. Suddenly on this morning in July, the warning went out that a flood was coming. Mrs. Logsdon, whose home was near the forks of Indiana creek and the Skunk river, didn’t want to leave home. She had 400 chickens, 79 turkeys and 150 ducks and she didn’t want to lose them. While she and her husband were herding the poultry into the house for safe keeping, so that they could leave, the flood struck, a wave of water four feet high pitching and rolling down upon them. They had to let their chickens go and run for safety. After the flood had subsided she saved two turkeys, and 80 chickens. The ducks had made out – out of sight. Some of the chickens were found down on the Metz bridge.
Then she can tell of days when the lake near Goddard was more than a myth. In fact on one occasion, she recalls a man by the name of Watt, father of the Watt Brothers who live in that neighborhood, was drowned in it. He was riding on a wagon axle, driving a yoke of oxen and started to drive across. But the lake had risen rapidly and it was deeper than he thought. He plunged in over his head, and being unable to swim he was drowned. The oxen drowned also.
One of the spots closest to the heart of Mrs. Logsdon, however, is the town of Greencastle. When it lost in its fight with Mingo over the railroad, she was sorely disappointed. “It was so much prettier than Mingo,” she commented.
She declared that plans had been made to route the railroad from Valeria, by way of Greencastle when steps were taken to bargain for the right of way, and because Greencastle wasn’t able to offer as good a bargain, it was left out.
Source: Newton (IA) Daily News; March 1, 1935, page 52
Jasper Documents maintained by Barbara Hug.
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