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History of Clayton County, Iowa
Chapter XL

Volga Township

East Elkport

Volga Township
(page 1109-1113)

Volga Township is number 92 north, and range 4 west, with six sections added of the next township east. About three sections have been taken from the northwestern corner and added to Read. It is bounded on the north by Read and Garnavillo, on the east by Jefferson, on the south by Elk and Mallory, on the west by Cox Creek. It contains about thirty-nine sections. The Turkey River flows from the northwest corner diagonally through the township, leaving it at the southeastern corner. The Volga flows eastward through the southern past of the township and joins the Turkey a little above Elkport. The Elk flows by Elkport, emptying into the Turkey just below the village. Other small tributaries of the Turkey drain Volga Township, which contains both high and low land and timber and prairie.

     Colonel William W. Wayman, the first settler of Volga Township and Clayton County, was a native of New Hampshire, a man of liberal education and polished manners. In his habits and the expression of his face, it was easy to detect one of those freaks of human nature that occasionally appear among the descendants of the pilgrims of New England, disturbing the purity of the Saxon blood by portraying in lineament and contour that of the Narragansett or the Wampanoag. Among whitemen he was reticent, watchful and restless; in the society of the Indian he was authoritative, stern and commanding. He never performed any manual labor other than that which pertained to the indoor affairs of his house. The Indian and the half-breed regarded him as a mysterious being. They would toil and labor for him without any other reward than the pleasure of being near his person. The largest portion of his life time had been spent upon the frontier, in the society of the Indian and the hunter, and yet he could never be prevailed upon to give any information concerning the manners, customs or traditions of the Indians. Intimacy and social intercourse with him for many years upon the border only seemed to render more impenetrable the shield of mystery that he had woven around the events of his life. He was the father of a half-breed daughter, whom he educated at Prairie du Chien. Little more is known of this strange life, whose story died with him.

     Hon. Eliphalet Price gives an account of the circumstances attending his death: "In the fall of 1848, about the midnight hour of a dreary night, our dog drove an Indian to the top of a hay-rack that stood leaning against the door-yard fence. Upon going to him he handed us the following communication:

Come quick; I am dying; Ann will give you my keys. W. W. Wayman.

     "We hastened to him, but he was dead when we reached his residence. They keys unlocked, in part, the history of a strange, adventurous life, and told us that his name was William Wallace Hutcherson, a descendant of the May flower."

     Colonel Wayman, however, was hardly a settler of Volga Township. He was an Indian trader, and kept a trading post at the mouth of the Volga, on the Turkey. The first man to make a permanent settlement and commence farming was Frederick Hartage, who located in 1842 on the present site of Elkport. A Mr. Boardman came about the same time as Colonel Wayman. He is now deceased. Asaph Gifford and his son George settled on section 26, where they lived for many years. Asaph is now in New York, and George is in Littleport. Dennis Quigley came in 1846, and settled on Wolf Creek. He is now in Kansas. Michael Stence, now in Boardman Township; Bishop Fuller, now deceased; Robert Fuller, now deceased, Jacob Rounds; Hiram Walbridge, who settled on section 25, and is now in Monona County; Dan Justice, now in California; Christian Sarver, now in Elk Township, and >John Garber, now living at East Elkport, were other early settlers.

     The first persons married in Volga were Jacob Rounds and Sophia Quigley, and the ceremony was performed by Elder Gifford.

     The first death was that of Louis Hartage, a brother of Frederick Hartage. He was buried on section 26. There are six cemeteries in Volga Township.

     The first school in Volga was taught by Martin Garber in 1853, in a building owned by Frederick Hartage. The first school-house was built in Elkport in 1854, and was a frame-house, 20x30 feet. This was afterward enlarged, and in 1868 it was replaced by the stone building now standing in Elkport. There are now eight school districts, containing seven school-houses.

     Religious services were held as early as 1848, by Elders Gifford and Bixby, of the Free Will Baptist church. They preached in private houses, and it was not until a much later period that the settlers had the convenience of a church edifice to worship in, and there are none now, except in Elkport.

     The grist-mill in Elkport, on Elk Creek, was built in 1860 by Joseph Morris, millwright, for John Thompson. John Thompson sold it to Frederick Hartage, in 1862, and he sold to H. H. Stuthert, Dec. 2, 1863. Fred Schollerman became proprietor July 25, 1865. He then sold, Jan. 31, 1868, to N. Schollerman and Ernest Taake. April 12, 1869, N. Schollerman sold his share to C. Taake, who in turn disposed of the half to Ernest Taake, who was then the sole proprietor. Jan. 1, 1897, the mill was bought by A. C. Tiede & Co., who have entirely remodeled and rebuilt it since acquiring possession. It has three run of burrs, in run by the power of Elk Creek, and is one of the best mills in this section of the country. The regular custom of the mill extends fully ten miles in each direction, but flour is shipped to Dubuque and elsewhere.

     A saw-mill has lately been started at East Elkport.

     The stave-factory of George Taft is one of the most important enterprises of the township. It is located in East Elkport and was established in 1874. Staves for butter tubs, flour barrels and nail kegs are manufactured to the value of $20,000 annually.

     Sorghum molasses is manufactured by Christian Lau, in the country.

     A creamery is operated by Calvin Gilbert & son, of Illinois. It is 18x32 feet, two stories in height, located in East Elkport.

     There are three postoffices in Volga township, Elkport, East Elkport and Communia. Elkport postoffice was established in 1852, with John Garber as Postmaster. A. C. Tiede is the present Postmaster. The postoffice at East Elkport was established in 1879. John Garber was appointed Postmaster, and still holds that position. The postoffice at Communia was established about 1857, at the German Colony in the northwestern part of the township. Joseph Venus was the first Postmaster, and George Meyer is the present Postmaster.

     The townships of Elk, Volga and Cox Creek, were originally united for election purposes. It is believed that the first election was held in 1847, at Elkport, when seventy-two votes were cast. The usual township officers of justice of the peace, constable and trustees, were chosen at that time.

     The old settlers of Volga tell many stories of early times, and of course they shared at first the common experience of all pioneer settlements, with the Indians and the rough characters always to be found at the outposts of civilization. One of these characters was one Rollins Trusty, who, about 1854, was arrested for some minor offense, and was put by the Constable, Daniel Joseph, into the care, temporarily, of Thomas Woodrow. The settlers much preferred that Trusty should leave the country, as that would save much trouble, so our present able State Senator, Martin Garber and others, undertook to get the prisoner to leave the settlement and never return. They first talked with the acting Constable, Thomas Woodrow, and had him load his pistol with powder, but not with ball. They told him of their plan, that the prisoner should break and run at a certain point of the road along which he was being conveyed, and that Woodrow was to fire at him in due official form with his pistol loaded with powder. Woodrow at first demurred, saying: "I think some of runnin' for constable next spring, and I'm afeared this mought injure my repertation, and work agin me at election!" His scruples were finally overcome, however, and the prisoner was then told by the conspirators of that part of the plan which related to his running away at a certain point in the road. Accordingly, at the proper place and time, the prisoner made for the woods with all possible speed. The acting constable bravely discharged his pistol at the fugitive, who had not been informed of this part of the programme, and was therefore urged to a still greater speed by the sound of the bullet which he afterward positively declared he heard whistling by him. He never returned to Volga Township.

     Hon. Martin Garber also tells of the first trial he ever attended in Clayton County. It was held over a stone, which can still be seen in Mr. Garber's yard. Dan Justice, one of those oddities who have been the subjects of many early incidents, had challenged another party to "burn poweder wieth him at the length of a silk handkerchief." For this he was arrested and brought before a jutice's court over the above-mentioned stone. The plea made in Justice's defense was that of insanity. Evidence was introduced to show that he had once fallen into a pile of hot ashes, and was consequently subject to fits of insanity. In support of this his bald head was shown. After counsel had closed an eloquent appeal to the clemency of the jury, Justice leaned forward eagerly, and in an audible tone whispered: "Make me out more insane yet!" It was tried in vain, however, and Justice was bound over.


(page 1113-1116)

The village of Elkport was laid out in the middle of section 35, township 92, range 4 west, by Ezra Hurd, County Surveyor. The proprietors were Frederick Hartage and his wife, Susan Hartage, and the survey was filed March 30, 1855. Additions were made in 1856 and in 1872. The village is situated on Elk Creek, near Turkey River, and a short distance below the mouth of the Volga. It is on a level bottom, surrounded by rugged hills. It was named after Elk Creek, the naming of which is explained in the cahpter entitled "Rivers and Creeks." "Elkport" signifies the mouth or gate of the Elk.

The first house on the present site of Elkport was built by Frederick Hartage in 1842.

The first store was kept by J. C. Garber, a brother of John and Martin Garber, in 1853. He is now in California.

William Borton made the first wagons, in 1852.

Frederick Hartage worked as blacksmith as early as 1842.

William Jennings was the first shoremaker, in 1854.

Frederick Hartage bult the first saw-mill in 1842. A grist-mill was afterward added. Both were run by water-power.

The manufacturing interests of Elkport and East Elkport are described under the township history avove.

The bar is represented in Elkport only by the firm of Garber & Corlett. Martin Garber and J. E. Corlett were both admitted to the bar in 1880, and they formed a partnership in November of that year. They proctice in Clayton and Delaware Counties, and in the Supreme Court of Iowa.

The first physician was Mr. McCullough, who came in 2857, but remianed only a hort time. There are at present three physicians in Elkport--Dr. Warneke, Dr. O. D. Taft and Dr. J. M. Lewis. The two latter commenced practice here in 2875.

The first hotel was built and run in 1852 by William Borton. Thomas Flaherty opened his presnet hotel in 2877.

The postoffice was established in 1852, and John Garber was the first Postmaster. A. C. Tiede is the present Postmaster. It is a money-order office. The first order issued was drawn by O. D. Taft, M. D., Oct. 6 1877,, and was payable to the Centennial Mutual Life Insurance Association, of Burlington, Ia.

The village is not incorporated. Its population in 1860 was not more than fifty. By 1870 it had reached 200, and it is now estimated at 350.

The principal business houses are as follows: A. C. Tiede & Co., general store; S. J. Soyster, general store; Laxson Bros., general store; C. Soll & Bros., general store; Conrad Roeder, wagon shop; Joseph Kircher, furniture store; Peter Dietrich, tailor; John Bals, harness-maker; Bayless, Kriebs & Co., drugs; Oehrle & Hohmann, repair shop; H. Mueller, boots and shoes.

The first school was taught by Martin Garber in 1853, in a building owned by Frederick Hartage. The stone school building now standing in Elkport was constructed in 1868. It is a graded school. The first Principal, in 1869, was Melvina Stewart. J. E. Webb and A. G. Savage successively served in that copacity, and the present Principal is George Richardson.


There are three church organizations in Elkport, the Catholic, the Lutheran and the German Methodist.

St. Immanuel Church and congregation was organized as a society at an early date by Frederick Hartage, Mr. Waterman, Mr. Ritter and others. The first services of the denomination in this neighborhood were held at the old Elkport school house, and afterward in a small building erected for the purpose. The following have officiated as pastors of the congregation: Rev. J. Hoerlein, 1867-'9; Rev. G. Oehlert, 18690'71; Rev. J. Schulenberg, 1872-'4; Rev. J. Vollmar, 1874-'7; Rev. H. W. Tiemeier, 1877-'9; Philip J. Doensief, 1879. The present house of worship was erected in 1875, at a cost of $2,000. The present officers of the church are W. Hohmann, G. Dauskardt and William Oehmann. The membership is forty-two. There is also a Sunday-school in the winter season, conducted by the pastor. The present membership is twenty-seven.

The Catholic Church of Elkport was organized by Father Michael Lynch, of Dubuque, who came to hold services only four times a year. Among the first members were: Mathew Kaffer, Peter Mehan, Michael and Timothy Callahan, Edward and Thos. Flaherty, Ernest Hoffman, Thomas Lawler, Patrick Costigan, John and Joseph Putz, James Hayes, George, Herman and Michael Burns. The first services were held at different private bouses, in turn. Among the pastors have been Father O'Bryne, Father Schult and Father Stephen Maasjost. Father Michael Goul was the first regularly stationed minister of the church. He remained six years. Then Father M. J. Quick served for four years, and Father B. W. Coyle has been the postor for the last seven years. Revivals have been successfully held in 1868 and 1874. The frame building now used as a school was bult for a church in 1858. The present house of worship was erected in 1874. It is forty by fifty-six feet, of stone, and cost $4,000. A neat and commodious parsonage is attached, which cost $2,000. There is a Sunday-school connected with the church, and it meets on alternate Sundays. About fifty families are now connected with the church.

Father B. W. Coyle was born in Canandaigua, Oneida County, N. Y., Jan. 24, 1840, and was the son of Bernard and Jane (Dunnigan) Coyle. They were natives of Ireland, who emigrated to America in 1828, and located on a small farm, where they resided up to 1852. They then moved to Wisconsin, where the family engaged in farming until the father's death, in 1870.The mother died in 1848. Our subject passed his early life on a farm, and at school, until nineteen years of age. He then attended Abbinn College, in Wisconsin, three years, then the University of Wisconsin one year, then the Seminary at Milwaukee three years. From there he went to Niagara Falls, where, after four years more of study, he graduated. He was for a short time assigned to Cascade, Ia., then he had charge for three years of a church at Dubuque, and from there he came to his present charge at Elkport.

Secret Societies.

Elkport Lodge, No. 104, A.O.U.W., was organized in March, 1877, with the following charter members: John Stahl, P.M.W.; S.J. Soyster, M.W.; George Barrett, F.F.; J. R. Casey, Overseer; W. E. Talmage, Recorder; O. R. Mann, Financier; Isaac Ots, Receiver; A. J. Jerome, I.W.; Andrew Eberhardt, O.W.; Conrad Roeder, Dr. O. D. Taft. Thier first meeting was held in Soll's Hall, after which they made an arragement by which they use the same hall as the I.O.O.F. The present membership is thirty-four. The lodge meets every Monday evening. The present officers are as follows: James Gear, P.M.W.; B. C. Sooy, M.W.; John McEvers, G.F.; C.H. Mack, Overseer; O. D. Taft, Recorder; S. J. Soyster, Financier; W. G. Evry, Charles Beddow and M. L. Beddow, Guides.

Elk Lodge, No. 345, I.O.O.F., was organized April 22, 1876, by Philip Fishel. The following were the charter members, with the respective offices to which they were first elected: G. W. Woodal, N.G.; James Fleming, W.G.; Christian Oehrle, Treasurer; Ernest Taake, Secretary; J. W. Mulvany. For three months the meetings were first held in a private house, then Soll's Hall was used for two years. They now use A. C. Tiede & Co.'s Hall. The present membership of the lodge is about forty. The present officers are: Christian Oehrle, N.G.; George Kriebs, W.G.; Charley Solls, Treasurer; James Corlett, Secretary. The lodge meets every Saturday night.

East Elkport
(page 1116)

The village of East Elkport was surveyed in 1873 for John Garber, proprietor. The Turkey Valley branch of the C., M. & St. P. passes through this place, and adds much to the business of this thriving little village. This railroad was built in 1872, since which time Walter E. Talmadge has been station agent.

The postoffice at East Elkport was established in 1879. John Garber is Postmaster.

There are two hotels in this place, kept by Peter Flaherty and C. H. Anderson.

The stave-factory of George Taft has already been spoken of.

The population of the village is estimated at 150.

The store of J. Garber & Son is a large and commodious one, enjoying a good trade from the surrounding country. C. Schnepf keeps a hardware store, and A. C. Jasper manufactures boots and shoes.


(page 1116-1118)

The well-known German colony in the northwestern part of Volga Township was estabished in 1847 by nine Germans and one Frenchman, who organized at St. Louis, and uniting their fortunes under the presidency of Joseph Venus, came north by steamer to Dubuque, bringing with them tools and other necessariers incident to pioneer life. At Dubuque they purchased provisions and completed their outfit. Taking a wgaon and three yoke of oxen, they proceeded overland in search of a home, which they found on the south half of section 8, Volga Township.

The ten founders of this colony were: Joseph Venus, blacksmith, now dead; Jacob Ponsar, still living in the neighborhood, the last of the ten; Frederick Meister, who went back to St. Louis after two months, and is now in the banking business in that city; Henry Babe, a carpenter, now dead; Frederick Lochsen, brewer, now dead; Carl Reger, cooper, now in Galena, Ill.; Carl Hoen, balcksmith, now dead; John Hofstedter, druggist, now dead; Frederick Koenig, dentist, now dead, and Issac Nagel, tailor, of French descent, now dead.

They camped the first night just in the rear of the spot where Venus' house was afterward built. They immediately set to work to build a house 20x30. The house was of logs, and what lumber was used was furnished by Frederick Hartage, of Elkport, and hauled by Andy Hartman. This was taken down many years after, and another house built of the same logs, which is still standing and in use.

A blacksmith shop was built the same year, and two log-houses 14x20. Then the frame house now standing was built. A brickyard and lime-kiln were started, and then a brick house was built. In time, therefore, quite a cluster of buildings sprung up, and the "colony" became a substantial and prosperous enterprise. The company bought and paid for 1,400 acres of land, at $1.25 an acre, and a quantity of live stock.

Nov. 3, 1847, John Enders came, accompanied by Mrs. Eliza Ponsar and her grandmother. These were the first women in the settlement.

The first birth was that of Herman Ponsar, in 1858.

The colony was regularly organized, with a president and a secretary. Joseph Venus was elected president every year during the continuance of the organization. They colony was always peaceful, however, and there was never any necessity for discipline or punishment. The plan of the colony was very simple; any one who wished to join, after being elected contributed his means, whatever the amount, to the general fund, and whenever he wished to withdraw he drew out his money again. While these settlers suffered all the privations incident to the opening up of a new country, they nevertheless enjoyed the life, and they look back to those times with pleasure. The Indians were numerous, but they were always friendly. The Germans being all artisans or skilled laborers, worked at their respective trades part of the time, and all turned to work the farm. None had been practical farmers, and were sometimes comical, sometimes more serious.

In 1858 the colony organization was dissolved, the land and property sold at auction, and each family looked out for itself. The postoffice established at an early day is still called Communia, and the place is still designated "the colony." Fred Weise was the first Postmaster, and George Meyer, who also keeps a store and saloon, holds the position at present. The Motor Mill is but a mile off, and is patronized by the settlers.


This chapter concludes with biographical sketches.


-transcribed by Roxanne Barth
-source: History of Clayton County, Iowa, 1882, Chicago: Inter-State Publishing Co., 1882. Reproduced by the sponsorship of the Monona Historical Society, Monona, Iowa, reproduction Evansville, Indiana: Unigraphics, Inc., 1975; page 1109-1118

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