of Jefferson County
Names mentioned in the following article are
Louis PALM (PALME), Mrs. Christina PALM; Tabby PALM; Noah ERICKSON; Russell DOVE; Leonard BELIEL; George LIBLIN; Ed LIBLIN; Eugene KELLER; Alex DROZ; William ANKROM; James SPEER; Mary Palm EMONIN; Frank EMONIN.
Seven to twelve miles southeast of Fairfield, in Cedar Township, there once was a town known as Frenchtown. It had a winery, a brick factory, and on Cedar Creek there was a saw mill known as Pitkin's Mill. This is also the place where Louden Machinery began. Frenchtown was settled by immigrants from the Belfort-Alsace-Lorraine areas of France between 1840 and 1895. The majority of settlers came to Frenchtown by the 1850s.
The occupations of these immigrants were varied in France but when they settled in Iowa they were mostly farmers or carpenters. Louis and Xavier NADY imported horses from France. Many moved into or built small log cabins and worked the land by grubbing to farm it. These shrewd and industrious settlers soon learned some English but their pronounced French accent made it difficult for some of the neighboring settlers to understand them. Thus, many of their names were misspelled and mispronounced, which is evident even today.
The early settlers were skeptical of outsiders and particularly of banks and loan institutions. Often the families would hide their money at home instead of using the banks. This skepticism led to a near tragedy on July 21, 1922. Louis PALM and his family were awakened in the night by a man claiming that his car had turned over and there was someone trapped inside near Lock's Ford. Mr. PALM offered to help but when he arrived at the accident scene, there was no car. He was attacked and tied up by the stranger and an accomplice. The two men threw Mr. PALM's limp and beaten body into weeds near the bridge thinking they had killed him. They returned to the house where they attacked, chloroformed and bound Mrs. Christina PALM and her daughter, Tabby. They began ransacking the house in search of money. Meanwhile, Mr. PALM had regained consciousness and made it to Noah ERICKSON's house where they quickly loaded a shotgun and headed for the house. They entered the house, discovered the intruders and pulled the trigger -- but the gun only made a "CLICK". It was enough to startle the attackers and they fled empty-handed. Later, it was learned that the two men were Russell DOVE and Leonard BELIEL. They had left their vehicle at Wooster, five miles north, and had walked to the scene. Russell DOVE was caught two months later and served a sentence; but BELIEL was never apprehended. It was said that the next morning there were long lines of people wanting to deposit their money at the local banks.
The French instilled a pride of their heritage in their children,
generation after generation. Many of the their descendants still
live in the area or return to Frenchtown to keep in touch with their relatives.
SCHOOLS The children attended school at Ankrom, Slabtown, Brush College, and a few attended Bradshaw School. The records of Ankrom School from 1866 to 1874 show that most of the children were French. Some of the names on the attendance roll were George and Ed LIBLIN, Louis PALM, Eugene KELLER, Alex DROZ, William ANKROM, James SPEER and Mary Palm EMONIN. Ankrom School was located just southeast of present-day Pattison Cemetery. Slabtown School was south and slightly west of Pattison Cemetery and across from the Loudendale Bridge, near Cedar Creek in section 33 of Cedar Township.
CHURCHES A Catholic priest came from Mount Pleasant to perform baptisms and masses until the settlers established St. Mary's Church in Fairfield. Cedar Chapel was a Presbyterian church organized in 1897 by Frank EMONIN. This chapel was turned into a shed by a family who lived west of the church and it was moved to their farm.
CEMETERIES Most of the early French settlers lived their entire lives in the Frenchtown area, working on their farms or in the nearby communities of Birmingham, Fairfield, and Stockport. Many are buried in the recently restored Pattison (Patterson) Cemetery, located in old Frenchtown, section 21 of Cedar Township. Other cemeteries where the French were buried are Wright Cemetery in Round Prairie Township, Evergreen Cemetery and Memorial Lawn, in Fairfield.
OTHER SETTLERS: BARTHOLOMEW, BATES, CARMICHAEL, HARMON, HISEL/HEISEL, McCLELLAN, FEE, GILBERT, LANGDON, LONG, CONLEE, McWHIRTER, PARKER, PAYNE, PATTISON, RIANICHE, and WALMER. Many of these people are buried in Pattison Cemtery.
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