Jefferson County Online
Fairfield (Center) Township

The Fairfield Ledger, June 22, 1904
Page 2 columns 1-2
Transcribed by Deborah Brownfield-Stanley & Thelma Drey


The following very interesting paper was read by W. G. ROSS before the Jefferson County Historical Association, and is published by request of the association. It contains much of historical interest:

It would be a matter of gratification to see one of our townships as it was in 1840 or thereabouts, before it had been molded and tamed by the civilizing touch of man. The number of people in our county now who preserve such a picture in their minds is not very large, and probably in some townships there is no one who can recall that remote past in detail. We cannot but wish that the kodak fiend had been abroad in the land so that some of his souvenirs would furnish valuable additions to our museum.

The HON. H. B. MITCHELL, who came here in 1840 and whose memory of those early times is remarkably full and exact, has furnished me with a considerable amount of data as to Fairfield township, which is undoubtedly worth preserving.

In 1840 Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16 and 30 in Fairfield township were entirely without occupants. In fact, the land was not yet surveyed, and all the people here were squatters. The government survey of the township was made in June, 1841, and the first public sale of lands in the township was held February 7th, 1843.

Early settlers had built cabins here and there over the prairie or behind a clump of trees, and occupied them as a general thing till they could get some kind of claim that would be recognized by law, or more frequently only by the custom among the frontiersmen, and then sell out and move on.

In Section 6 lived a man by the name of BLANKENSHIP, and all other details of him have vanished. In Section 7 were two families of HALES, who afterwards went to Mahaska County. None of these names appear in the original entries in these sections except JOHN HALE, who entered eighty acres in Section 7, which he sold in 1844 to CHRISTIAN CANADAY. FRANK MEEK had settled on the land in Section 9, which was entered by him or by his brother-in-law, NEWTON LAMB. This place has been known for many years as the DOUGLAS farm, and MR. MEEK had been attracted there by the grove which still stands north of the old house. This grove was then small in dimensions and of comparatively young trees. Clumps of trees were not common over the prairies, and the undergrowth which was plentiful thirty years ago was rare in 1840 by reason of the frequency of prairie fires. It was hard to cut a hand spike or a whip stock away from the growth that lined the larger creeks, and white oaks fit in size and length for tongues for ox carts were hard to find.

ANTHONY MILLER had settled on Section 18, on what we know as the HORN place, and from there he removed to Lee County, Iowa. SAMUEL THRASH was already located in Section 17, and the old ZIEGLER place in Section 15 was occupied by a TROY family, the elder brother of whom, GEO. W. TROY, had stopped at Troy Point on the old GALLIGHER place in Cedar Township, and given his name to the creek, Troy branch.

DAVID CALDWELL lived in Section 19, and he removed to Abingdon. 'SQUIRE NOTSON also held part of this section. His son, H. B. NOTSON, had held the town quarter, southwest quarter of Section 23, when the commissioners located the county seat on it, and they probably bought him out, although of course he had no claim that the government would recognize. CLAYBORN PARKER and JOHN YOUNG, the latter of whom all of us know, occupied Section 20, and a man named PAYTON was in Section 21. In Section 22 were JAMES ALLEN, JAMES RICHARDSON, father-in-law of JOHN YOUNG, ISAAC BAKER, who held what we know as the JAMES WILKINS place, and WM. YOUNG. JAMES ALLEN made spinning wheels, and MRS. SAMUEL THRASH, who lives in the southwest part of Fairfield, still had in her possession one such machine of his manufacture. DR. MOBERLY, who then lived on the present courthouse block, JOHN SHIELDS, who was elected sheriff in 1844, and HORACE GAYLORD, all had claims in Section 23, WILLIAM HALL, ELI YOUNG, and THOS. HOLLINGSHEAD laid claim to Section 29. WILLIAM HALL ultimately returned to Tennessee, and I have no data as to the other two men. MRS. HOLLINGSHEAD was something of an artist and would play the fiddle lefthanded to accomodate the dancers at sociable gatherings. DANIEL CHAPIN and MR. MITCHELL himself were in Section 28, WILLIAM HITCHCOCK in Section 27, and CHARLES DAVID in Section 26. DAVID, however, did not enter any land in Section 25, which is now the west part of the city and the GAGE and DUBOIS land. The north half of Section 25, being the north part of the city, was claimed by L. W. SANDERS, J. A. PITZER and MR. OLNEY, the father of Judge OLNEY. As the records here show, the northwest quarter of this section was entered April 25th, by JOHN A. PITZER and SAMUEL SHUFFLETON. PITZER was an early day clerk of the District Court and SHUFFLETON a member of the bar. When SHUFFLETON became a member of the bar I do not know. He was here in 1840 and he died about October, 1846.

Three men, HAYES, BLAIR and BROSS, were in Section 31, and JOSEPH CLINKINBEARD, father of the JOSEPH CLINKINBEARD we all well know, had located in Section 32, and near to Cedar Creek, and the old settlers tell us of a rising of the waters which is called Clink's ford. MOSE McCLARY and a man by the name of GORDY were in Section 33, CHARLES HITCHCOCK and STEPHEN COOPER in Section 34, G. HITCHCOCK in Section 36 and J. W. CULBERTSON in Section 37 (Ed. note - only 36 sections in a township).

This seems to be a roster of the entire settlement in Fairfield township, outside of the town quarter, in 1840. Sixty-four years work very great changes. So far as I am able to figure out, in not a single instance do the descendants of any of these men now own the land on which their ancestors settled. The law granting the right to transfer land easily and finally by plain deed was a great advance on feudal customs, and the American people wisely avail themselves of this right. A study of this list also gives one some notion of the mobility of our people. Many of these people remained here but a short time. Most of them did not enter land in the county, had no money to do it with, MR. MITCHELL suggests. Practically, land at $1.25 an acre was not easy to pay for. Some of them returned east and south; more of them went on west when the Indians were taken away in 1842-4, and some traveled on even to California. SAMUEL THRASH, JOHN YOUNG, H. B. MITCHELL, JOSEPH CLINKINBEARD, J. W. CULBERTSON, JOHN A. PITZER and SAMUEL SHUFFLETON lived here some or many years. Excepting MR. MITCHELL all of these men are dead, and I think all those who are dead died in this county except PITZER, who died in Madison County. All these men raised families here except PITZER and SHUFFLETON, and both of these men had families when here, but, excepting two daughters of MR. MITCHELL, MRS. L. L. WILKINS and MRS. CHAS. CORBITT, and their children, no child or descendant of any of these men lives in the township outside of the city.

The subject of education was one which the settlers brought with them, and where three or four families were gathered together in their midst must be a school house. There are now ten school houses in Fairfield township. No. 1 used to be on the south line of Section 36, on DAVID MCKEE'S land, but is now on the land of L. L. WILKINS. The first house was built in 1848. The Stever school house is No. 2, and it was also built in 1848. No. 3 known as Plum Grove, was founded about the same time. The school house, which was used for a generation down till within a few years ago, was built in 1853 or 1854, and the old school house at Elm Grove, No. 4, was built in the same year. There were schools before there were school houses, for a report made by PETER G. SNOOK in 1847 and director of No. 6, Hardscrabble, shows that there were forty-eight days of school taught in the district that school year, that there were in the district forty-seven persons of school age, and that JOHN SNOOK was paid $13 per month for teaching the school; but the first school house in No. 5 was erected as near as I have been able to determine, in 1852. The first school house in No. 6, just north of the college, was built by SAM SLOAN as director some time in the early '50's. No. 7, the Roth school house down by the old MILLS place, was built about 1854. No. 8, on the JIM WILKINS place, was built after the completion of the railroad through the county, probably about 1860, because the railroad shut the children of northern location away from the Stever school house. No. 9 was built in 1865 or '66 and No. 10 some time still later.

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