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History of Clayton County, Iowa
Chapter XLI

Wagner Township

St. Olaf

Wagner Township
(page 1129-1132)

This is township 94 north, range 5 west, and contains thirty six full sections. It is south of Monona, west of Farmersburg, north of Boardman, and east of Marion. It is drained by numerous streams, of which the largest is Turkey River, flowing through the southwestern part. Near where it leaves the township are situated the well-known Big Springs. These beautiful springs run from under an almost perpendicular bluff, and are situated about thirty rods from the river, and are the same distance apart. The next stream of water to the north is Dry Run, which enters the township in section 19, and runs in a southerly direction for about two miles, when it is lost in a sink-hole about a mile from Turkey River. The hole in which it sinks is large enough for a man to descend in very easily. Milo P. Clark descended eighty feet into this hole and failed to reach the bottom. In the southern and eastern part of the township there are many of such sink-holes, which are very deep. The deepest soundings fail to reach the bottom. Robert's Creek flows in a winding course diagonally through the township, from northwest to southeast. It was named after Mr. Roberts, the first white man who lived on its banks. He settled in Marion Township. This creek enters Wagner in section 7, and leaves the town in section 25. It is a beautiful stream, and in the western part of the township there are several good water-powers. In the eastern portion of the township the greater part, and at some seasons of the year all the water in this creek, is lost in the sink-holes. It takes the name of Pony Creek after entering Pony Hollow. There is excellent timber in Wagner, and about one-third of the land is prairie.

Wagner was named after one of the first settlers, John Wagner, Sr. He was truly a pioneer. Born in Pennsylvania, he emigrated to Ohio while yet a young man. He lived there until the country began to settle up, and then in 1845 he again emigrated to Illinois. Not liking it there, in 1846 he came to Iowa and settled in this township.

The township was organized in 1852, and the first election was held the following year. At that time the population was less than a dozen families, the principal citizens being - John Wagner, Joseph Stiner, John Hopas, Sr., Philip Walter and William Patterson.

Allen E. Wanzer, now deceased, was probably the first settler in Wagner Township. He located on the banks of Turkey River and built a cabin, where he traded with the Indians for a number of years. Another early settler and Indian trader was a Mr. Williams, who also had a cabin on Turkey River. Other early settlers were Mr. Ebersoll, who settled on Turkey River; John Wagner (deceased), who came in 1846 and settled on what is now the Patterson farm (died in 1864). Mr. Hoppas, Mr. Stiner and others came soon after, and from that time immigration was rapid.

The first death occurred in 1849, and was that of a woman, name unknown, who was passing through with an emigrant train, at the house of J. Hoppas. At about the same time a Mr. Stewart died, who was buried in the Patterson graveyard.

The first birth was that of Rosalia Patterson, a daughter of William Patterson.

The first marriage was that of Isaac Havens and Sarah Wagner, daughter of John Wagner, Nov. 15, 1846. The ceremony was performed by H. H. Singer, Esp. Mr. and Mrs. Havens now live in Elkader.

The first Justice of the Peace in Wagner was a Mr. Jackson, who afterward removed to the southern part of the State.

The first school in Wagner was taught in a log school-house by Laura Williamson, who lived in Pony Hollow. About the same time (1850) a school was opened in a log hut on section 29, and was taught by Sara J. Patterson, now Mrs. Alexander Atwood. About a year previous a log school-house had been partially erected on section 20, but it was taken down and moved away.

The first land entered was the farm on section 33, now owned by Ezra Patterson.

The Norwegians, of whom a great number live in Wagner Township have several schools where children are taught in the Norwegian language. They have one school-house near the Lutheran church, and in other portions of the township schools are conducted in private houses.

Wagner does not boast of many manufactories, as its people are almost entirely agricultural. There is one good mill however. Walter's Mill, run by water-power, was built on Robert's Creek on section 17, in 1871, by P. Walter. It is thirty feet wide, forty feet long and three stories high. It has two run of stone, and is supplied with the necessary machinery for making flour, meal, etc. It has the custom of the country for many miles around. It costs $10,000, including machinery, dam, etc. The creek always furnishes a sufficient head of water to run the mill.

The first election was held April 4, 1853, in the Haskins school-house. The officers then chosen were: David Reddick, Philip Walter and Lucius Haskins, Trustees; Milo P. Clark and Joshua Jackson, Justices of the Peace; Joshua Jackson, Assessor; Milo P. Clark, Town Clerk; John Harhhaus and Coleman Garvin, Constables; Henry Geil, John Patterson and Jacob Ashely, Road Supervisors.

The present township officers are : D.T. Walton, Wesley Patterson and John Larson, Trustees; Ed. Reynolds and William Monlux, Justices of the Peace; John Johnson, Assessor; William Monlux, Clerk; Henry Holverson and Henry Ronquist, Constables. Elections are held in Havens' school-house.

Wagner has seven school districts, with a good school-house in each, one, in district three, being of stone, and the others frame structures. The average value is $500. The building at St. Olaf cost $1,000. There is an independent district, composed of three sections from the northeastern corner of Wagner and three from Farmersburg Township, which contains two school-houses.


There are three churches in Wagner Township - the Norwegian Lutheran, the United Brethren, and the German Methodist.

The Norwegian Lutheran Church was organized in 1854, with 100 members. Their first house of worship was built in 1857. This was a small frame building, and was used until 1874, when the present building was erected. It is 36 X 60 feet, and cost $5,570. The present membership is 421. The first pastor was Rev. Mr. Korn; the present one is Rev. Ole Waldeland.

The United Brethren Church was built on section 17 in 1881. It is 40 X 46 feet, and cost $1,800. The first pastor was John Baskerville, who was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Smith, the present incumbent. Services are held every two weeks. Sunday-school meets every Sunday, with an average attendance of about thirty-five.

Wagner postoffice was established about 1859, at the residence of E.B. Bailey, on section 4. Mr. Bailey was the first Postmaster, and held the office several years. It has been held since successively by Patrick Sullivan, P.B. Eno, W.P. Eno, Simon Early, William Monlux, Henry Walters, then W.P. Eno again. Mr. Eno is the present Postmaster, and his residence is on section 6.


St. Olaf
(page 1132)

This little village was surveyed in February, 1874, by Ezra Hurd for Thomas Thompson, proprietor, and is situated on section 25, township 94 north, range 5 west. It is on the line of the Iowa Eastern Railroad, and about eight miles northeast of Elkader.

It has two general stores, a postoffice, harness shop, blacksmith shop, elevator and creamery. There is a good frame school-house, costing $1,000, in which an English school is conducted for seven months in the year, and a Norwegian school is in session for two months.

St. Olaf elevator was started in August, 1875. It shipped the first year about 90,000 bushels of wheat. Owing to repeated failures in the wheat crop, but little is raised by the farmers, and the elevator shipped only 1,400 bushels in the eight months ending March 31. In the six months ending at the same time 10,000 bushels of corn have been forwarded. Large quantities of butter, eggs and other produce are shipped here.

The postoffice of St. Olaf was established in the fall of 1874, and H.H.Strum was the first Postmaster. He served somewhat less than a year, and was succeeded by E. Embertson, who still keeps the office, in connection with his general merchandise store.


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


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