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1880 History
Township Organization
Lancaster, Liberty, Prairie, Richland


This township lies between the branches of Skunk river, and extends within six miles of the county line, both east and west, and is twelve miles in length. It was known as Ridge precinct. In 1846 it was organized as a township, taking the name of Lafayette. After the location of the town of Lancaster it was changed to the name of that town.

The first white settlers were: Obadiah Tharp, John W Snelson, Presley Doggett, William Trueblood, James Robinson, B F Chastain, William McGrew, James M and Jesse B Mitts, George Wilmer, J B Whisler, Amos Holloway, David Stont, J G Dement and Sam Hardesty. Mr Snelson located on the present farm of Corbin Utterback, and for some time ran a ferry across North Skunk. A cabin was erected near his dwelling in which Mr Whisler commenced selling goods, in the fall of 1844. Mr Whisler afterward sold goods in Lancaster, and at his mill, four miles west of town. In 1845 J G Crocker located near Lancaster, and in 1846 his son, the late General M M Crocker, received the appointment of military cadet at West Point.

This township is the largest and possesses the greatest variety of natural resources of any in the county. While it contains farming lands which are not excelled by any other in the State, it also has an abundance of timber and excellent water power. It has always taken the lead in point of population, and when the seat of justice was located there it substantially controlled the politics of the county, and thus was the first precinct in point of influence, a position which it has not yet entirely lost. Lancaster, with its heavy democratic majorities, is still a power in political conventions.

The population in 1850 was 349, in 1856 it was 1,110; and in 1875 it was 1,454.

The first school in the county was probably taught by Henry Horse, in a log house which formerly stood on the Doggett farm, in the winter of 1844 and ’45.

Among the first marriages was that of Mr Jordan to Maria McGrew; and the first birth appears to have been a son of Augustus M Mead. Benjamin F Chastain organized the first church in May, 1844. The first members were W Snelson and wife, Jesse Gabbert and wife, Dr Ragland, Nathan Ruth, and B F Chastain. They had no house of worship, and their meetings were held at the residence of Mr Snelson, on section three. The first sermon was preached by Tannehill, at the house of John Cox, in 1843.

Situated as it is, between the two forks of Skunk river, the best water power is easy of access, and this was utilized by the erection of mills. These mills have always been a help to the development of the resources of the entire county, and have had a good reputation in this and adjoining townships. To aid in the settlement of that portion of the county, and afford ready communication with other places, there was early a need felt for good roads. A county road, commonly known as the Ridge Road, was early projected, and ever since has been regarded as the leading highway of the county. Although several railways have been projected across the township, none so far have been successful. The Ottumwa road, after numerous failures, now promises to be built at no far distant day, and when built will contribute much toward bringing out the large store of undeveloped resources which abound in great variety. Owing to the size of the township it has an extra force of civil officers. For the present year they are as follows:

Justices of the Peace—W H Hubbard, B C Moore, S C Harris

Clerk—H B Jacobs

Assessor—S W Brunt

Constable—Josiah Utterbach, F M Wertz, E Bralliar

Owing to the fact that so much of the history of this township is intimately connected with the county-seat contests, and while the county-seat was at Lancaster, the history of that town was the history of the township, the facts will be grouped as far as possible in the following short account of the Town of Lancaster.


This is the northeastern township of the county, and is known upon the tax-books and by real estate dealers as township No. 77, range 10 west. In 1850 it had a population of 5; in 1856 there were 399, and in 1875 there were 1,080 inhabitants.

The present township officers are as follows:

Justices of the Peace—John Wilson and John Moler.

Constables—Wesley Simons and W. S. Roach.

Trustees—Thos. McCam, W. S. Roach and James Beaty.

Clerk—Thomas Kelley.

Assessor—John McMahon.

The township was organized in March, 1854, at the solicitation of William J. Watkins, and named by him in honor of the township from which he came in Henry county, Indiana. The settlers at that time were Thomas and James Butler, Isaac Truax, William Harding, R. McDowell, John J. Whitmore, James Lockridge, and others who have since died or changed their location to some other part of the country.

The first election was held on the first Monday in April, 1854, at which time the following officers were elected: Clerk, Wm. Harding; justice of the peace, George Disor; trustee, Thomas Watkins; assessor, W. J. Watkins, who took as pay for his services a warrant, and traded the whole of it for a $2.50 pair of boots. This assessment was made in that same year, 1854, and was the first in the township. David Brown, Jeremiah Suitor and Henry Lockridge acted as judges of the election, and Wm. J. Watkins as clerk. This township has eight school districts, and the first schoolhouse was in district No. 3. The first death in the township was a child of William Carmichael. The first marriage was that of Louis May to Catharine Watkins, by George Disor, J. P.; the next was that of James Lockridge to Lucy Whitmore. The first preaching was in a school-house, and in 1854 the Dunkers organized their church, which is still in good condition. Beside this, there are two other churches, German Baptist and Catholic. The former was organized in 1855, Samuel Brower, D. Miller and S. Florey being among the first members. In 1865 a frame church-building was erected, at a cost of $2,500. Elders David Brown, Samuel Florey, Andrew Moler, B. F. Florey and Christopher Brower have been the pastors. The present membership is about 130.

St. Patrick's Church

Was organized in 1875 by Rev. J. F. Nugent. Martin Stapleton, John Kelley, Patrick Devine, Anthony Kelley, Patrick Rourke, Patrick McCam, and others, were the first members. A frame church building was erected in 1875, which cost $2,000. The land upon which the building was erected was donated by Patrick McCam. There are about twenty families belonging to this church.

Transcribed by Pat Wahl.


It corresponds with congressional township, No. 77, range 13. Although it contains some of the best farming lands in the county, it was not settled till long after the rest of the county. When the settlements did begin the country was improved rapidly, and at present there is probably not a section of land in the township which is not improved. The first settlers were: J. H. Grasser and Cyrenus Emmons. The former came from Ohio and settled in Adams township; from there lie went to Prairie and settled on section fourteen, where he now resides. Emmons came from Ohio and settled on section thirty-two. One of the first physicians was Dr. J. D. Davis, who came from Richland. Rev. D. C. Smith, a Methodist minister, preached the first sermon at the house of Harley Peck; the Friends organized the first church. L. Hollingsworth, afterward county auditor and treasurer, now residing in Sigourney, taught the first school in Coal Creek district; he received $27 per month and had twenty-six pupils. The first school-house was built in this district in 1867, at a cost of $400. It was afterward moved on to section thirty-two, and is now the residence of Aaron Pim. In the early settlement of this part of the county prairie fires were of frequent occurrence, and sometimes very destructive. When disasters of this kind occurred, the more fortunate neighbors spared no effort to relieve the wants of the sufferer.

The town of Coal Creek was laid out in April, 1866, and the plat includes parts of four sections, 29, 30, 31 and 32. There has been a post office located here for a number of years.

The B., C. R. & N. railroad passes through the south part of the township, upon which has recently been laid out a town by the name of Thornburg.

In 1850 this township was not yet settled and had no separate organization; what few persons may have resided in its present limits were attached to what was then known as Coal township. In 1856 it contained a population of 105; in 1875 in contained a population of 926. No other township except Lafayette can show such a rapid increase in population.

The present township officers are:

Justices of the Peace—N. Holderman and E. Rust.

Constable—J. P. Santee.

Trustees—Samuel Smith, C. Allison, W. H. Biglow.

Clerk—Thomas Ward.

Transcribed by Pat Wahl


This township being almost entirely situated east of the boundary line of 1837, and comprehending nearly all of what is commonly known as the "Old Strip," had more than four years the start of the rest of the county. It has been seen that although people were not entitled to settle there prior to October, 1838, Aaron Miller and his son John settled early in the spring of that year. In the spring and summer of 1839 this settlement was reinforced by the arrival of Robert Pringle, James Higginbotham, William Lewis, Mitchell Gill, John Wasson, James M. Smith and William Bristow. The latter still remains on the original homestead, where he has little else to do than enjoy the fruits of his hard labor and reflect that, as a head of a family, he is the oldest permanent settler in the present bounds of Keokuk county, and none older west of him, as all the others referred to have changed homesteads.

Smith first settled one mile east of where Richland now is, and after building the walls of his cabin he built his scaffolds, took his broad-ax and hewed the walls both inside and out. Then with said ax he hewed a true face and straight edge to the puncheons for his floor, making tight joints, all of which made some people look on him with contempt, saying that he was proud.

While a portion of what is now Keokuk county was yet part of Washington county, and before the county of Keokuk was organized, the first election was held within the present limits of the county. It was held on the 5th day of October, 1840, in the brush without a house, near a spring, about seventy-five yards from where Levi Greeson now lives. The officers elected were: J. M. Smith, justice of the peace; and Theodore Cox—now of Winterset—constable. Cox failing to qualify, John Pennington was appointed. Subsequently, R. S. Mills was elected justice of the peace and John Marchel was elected constable.

After the county was organized the first election was held in April, 1844. At this time Richland township was the principal part of the county, and the people there took advantage of this state of affairs by appropriating the lion's share of the spoils. The following were the officers elected:

County Commissioners—Jeremiah Hollingsworth, James M. Smith and Enos Darnell.
Judge of Probate—John M. Waters.
County Treasurer—Wm. H. Brown.
County Surveyor—Samuel E. McCracken.
County Assessor—Andrew Ogden.
Sheriff—George W. Hayes.
Recorder—A. P. Tannehill.
Commissioners Clerk—Edom Shugart.

These officers were all residents of what is now Richland township, except Brown and Ogden.

The first birth in this township was a son of Mr. and Mrs. William Scearcy, in December, 1840. The first death was that of Mrs. Margaret Marchel, who died in 1840.

The first time that the anniversary of American Independence was celebrated within the present limits of Keokuk county was July 4, 1841, at the house and grove of J. M. Smith, one mile east of where Richland now is. Oliver Higginbotham read the Declaration of Independence and Manning B. Mills delivered an address suited to the occasion. The young bachelors and maidens remained over night enjoying each other's society in perhaps the first grand social party in this county, and then and there were introductions and acquaintances formed which finally resulted in five weddings.


Richland township has always had a good reputation for its schools. The first school of the county was taught in a school-house about three and a half miles northeast of Richland, in a house which has already been described in our educational chapter. This township also boasts of having possessed the only successful academy of the county. It was located in the town of Richland and was attended by pupils from all parts of the county. This academy was started by Benjamin Naylor, W. B. Lawler and B. F. McCollister, in 1857. They commenced with thirty-five pupils and closed with seventy-seven. The second session opened with with seventy-one and closed with one hundred and thirty-two. It continued to prosper until it had an attendance of over two hundred. The institution finally became unpopular and the teachers discontinued it and went elsewhere. Richland township still retains the township district system, but one other township in the county adhering to that system, that being German.

Separate Baptist Church

The first preacher that ever preached in this vicinity was Jacob Spain-hour, who preached at the house of John Miller (where now stands the orchard of R. M. Tracy), in the year 1839. He baptized some persons at this, his first meeting, among whom was Mrs. Wm. Scearcy.

Soon thereafter, Alexander Blakely preached here. Both of said preachers continued to preach here occasionally for several years. But as most of the members of this church removed from seven to ten miles west, the organization at this place became dissolved and they organized in their new neighborhood and built a meeting-house about one mile north of Ioka, where they maintain their organization.

Methodist Episcopal Church

In 1840 Frederick F. Lyon, John W. Mitchell and Henry Harden all preached here, and in that year an organization was effected of seven members, at the house of James Lewman, near to where Moses Mendenhall now lives. The names of the members were Henry Harden, Catharine Harden, Jesse Ruggles, Luvina Ruggles, James Lewman, Mary Lewman and Leah Lewman.

Rev. Mr. Rathburn, of Mt. Pleasant, assisted in the organization, having been sent here by the presiding elder, Henry Summers. Elder Summers held the first quarterly meeting in Fairfield, in the fall of 1840, and in 1841 or 1842, held the first quarterly meeting that was ever held in this vicinity. Moses Shinn was the first circuit preacher. They built their first meeting-house of round logs, some three miles southwest of where Richland now is. But soon after the town was laid out they established their church in the town, and have ever since maintained their organization, and on several occasions the number of the members, including probationers, has been rather extensive. At the present time they number fifty-five members. They own a church-house and lot worth about $1,500, and a parsonage worth about $800. The average attendance at the Sunday-school is probably about fifty. They have also another organization of about thirty-six members, and a church-house worth about $1,700, called Kingsley Chapel, situated about three and three-quarter miles northwest of town. Rev. M. Swanson is at present pastor of both congregations.

The Christian Church

It is probable that the first preacher of this church who ever preached here was John W. Snelson. The next was Uriah Long. They both preached in 1841 or 1842. H. H. Hendrix, John Rigdon, — Gill, Aaron Chatterton, and Samuel Downey were among the first preachers.

On the 19th day of November, 1848, the first church organization was formed, consisting of sixteen persons, to-wit: Wm. Hamlet, Jane Hamlet, James Rooker, M. A. Rooker, John Maulsby, Sarah Maulsby, Mary A. Maulsby, Mercy Stephenson, Wm. Tingle, Fred P. Caveness, Z. Caveness, Owen Goldsmith, Mary Goldsmith, Jane G. Smith, John Wasson and Susan Wasson. At the time of organization Owen Goldsmith and Dr. Wm. Tingle were chosen elders, and John Wasson and Wm. Hamlet were chosen deacons. There were, at various subsequent dates, added to the congregation thirty-one members; but as preachers were scarce in this country, not near equal to the demand, the congregation had no regular preaching, but they maintained their organization for several years, and until some of their number had died and over thirty had moved away, including all the officers but one. Thus they became disorganized, and so remained until March 23, 1865. Elder N. A. McConnell held a series of meetings here, and organized a congregation of thirty-one members. A. I. Hall and A. H. Smith were chosen elders, and R. M. Tracy and L. F. Smith were chosen deacons. Since that time 110 members have been added to their congregation. Their present number is fifty-five. They have not had regular preaching near all the time, but have never failed to keep up their meetings regularly on Lord's day. They own a church-house and lot worth about $1,700. Their Sunday-school averages in attendance about seventy.


In 1854, Hiram Myers, a Moravian, located here and preached and organized a congregation of seven members, consisting of himself and wife, John Davis, Sarah Davis, A. C. Romig, Lydia Sherriden and James Blickensderfer. In 1857 the preacher left here and the church became disorganized.

Wesleyan Methodists

In the year 1856 an organization was effected some two and a-half miles east of town, of about twenty-five members. The organization continued for some six or seven years before becoming dissolved. Meanwhile, Revs. — Stores, Wm. Abraham and Frank Kirkpatrick ministered to them.

United Brethren

In 1853 Rev. John McVey preached in Clear Creek township, and in this vicinity a few times. Rev. F. F. Lyon, a Methodist preacher, hearing him, thought he learned the way of the Lord more perfectly, and therefore united with the Brethren, and was forthwith licensed to preach for them. Lyon traveled in 1854-5-6, and organized congregations, one of which still exists, and is known as Fairview. It is about six miles northeast of town. Since that time another congregation was organized two miles east of town. They have — members and a church-house worth about $800. Rev. Shiflet was their pastor for a time.

Friend's Society

In 1840, Thomas Frazier, of Indiana, appointed a meeting .at the house of P. C. Woodward. Soon thereafter Abijah Bray, of Indiana, held a meeting here. An organization was formed for worship in 1841 or 1842, under the care of the Pleasant Plain Monthly Meeting. Among the first who went into this organization may be mentioned the names of James Williams, Angeline Williams (afterward an accepted minister), and of the Woodwards, there were Prior C., Susannah; Samuel, Wm. A. and Ruth. Of the Haworths, there were Beriah, Sarah, Eli, Lydia and John, Sr., Moorman, Allen, John, Jr., George and Mahlon and their wives: Of the Hadleys, there were William, Mary, Joshua, Lydia, John, Jarah, Joel, Eleanor and Riley.

At their request, a preparative meeting for business was organized or granted by the Pleasant Plain Meeting, in 1845. Another preparative meeting was organized at Rocky Run, about three and a-half miles north-east of Richland, in 1850, embracing some of the above named persons, and some others, including John Howard, a minister. About the same time a Monthly Meeting was organized at Richland. After about ten years the Rocky Run meeting was discontinued. The members thereof merging into the Richland meeting. In November, 1864, the Richland preparative meeting was divided; there being since that date two preparative meetings, known as the Richland and Hopewell. The Richland Meeting has a meeting-house forty by sixty feet, and five acres of ground, worth about $1200, situated one and one-half miles south of town. The ground was donated by Joseph Hadley. The Hopewell meeting is situated one and one-half miles north of town, and has a house twenty-four by forty-eight feet, and one acre of ground, the whole worth probably about $800. This land was donated by Levi Greeson. They each have scripture-school on First day. The average attendance at Richland is about sixty, and at Hopewell about twenty-five persons. The whole number of members belonging to the Richland Monthly Meeting is 296.

Missionary Baptists

In 1848, Rev. R. Cheedle preached a few times and organized a church in town, which organization was afterward moved some three miles north of town. Rev. J. W. Mitchell, formerly a Methodist preacher, united with them and preached for them for several years. Rev. Wm. Elliott and James L. Cole preached here in 1851, and occasionally for three or four years thereafter. The North Walnut church was organized by William Elliott and J. M. Wood in 1852 and was in 1860 merged into the Howard Grove church about five miles southeast of Richland. The said J. M. Wood will be remembered by many citizens for his peculiar manner of enlightening mankind. On several occasions he came to town in an old buggy, and would drive around the public park singing as loud as he could, then stop his team, kneel in his buggy and pray, then stand up and preach to the crowd of boys and men that came laughing at his eccentricities and calling him crazy.

On the 30th of November, 1857, Eber Ward preached and organized a church at what was called the Wyman school-house, two and one-half miles west of town. They called it the Sharon Baptist Church. There were seven members entered into this organization. The first meeting was protracted a few days, which resulted in five accessions to the church. On the 28th of March, 1864, Elder J. T. Walker, Narcissa Walker, N. H. Tyer, Maritia Tyer and Dosia A. Harlan, entered into an organization in Richland. After organization, on the same day, Mary Bales and Martha Bales were added to the congregation. Subsequently a few others were added.

The church north of town and the Sharon church merged into the Richland church, and continued in that name until December 12, 1874, when, by action of the church, the same was changed to Fairview; and although they for years called it the Richland Baptist church, their meetings were regularly kept up at the Wyman school-house, instead of at Richland. They now have a church-house at Fairview, five miles west of town, worth probably about $1,500, and a live working congregation numbering fifty-six members.


In the year 1840, or 1841, two Mormon preachers, from Nauvoo, Illinois, came, and created a great excitement about ten miles southeast, and then came and preached at the house of Aaron Miller and stirred up the minds of a few persons. Mrs. Aaron Miller, William Miller, James Miller and wife, and perhaps others, united with them. Mrs. James Miller was a sister to William Scearcy, and her parents and brothers were much opposed to her uniting with the Mormons. Her mother cried out publicly to the people to watch their horses or the Mormons would steal them. When these persons were about to join the church, they repaired to the water for baptism, one of the preachers designing to baptize and the other to lay on hands, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. But William Scearcy and his friends appeared, and with threats forbade the baptism of Mrs. Miller. The preachers threatened to send judgments upon Scearcy & Co., and destroy both soul and body, because by this disturbance they deferred the baptism of all their converts. The next morning they slipped off and baptized all before Scearcy was aware of it. They all went to Nauvoo, and after some months some or them renounced their faith. Others went with them and are yet with them at Salt Lake.

The present township officers are:

Justices—W. W. Allen and W. G. Fedris.
Constables—J. H. Kent and W. A. Tousey.
Clerk—L. Bassett.
Assessor—W. G. Bralliar.
Trustees—H. W. Tracy, W. T. Drummond and S. Harlan.

The Town of Richland

The town of Richland was laid out by Pryor C. Woodward on the 19th day of June, 1841, and surveyed by J. B. Davis, of Washington county. Soon thereafter Benjamin Edwards laid out another town just five miles northwest of Richland, on the grounds now composing the beautiful farm of Allen Stalker. This town was laid out as a rival of Richland. In one respect it had the advantage of most towns, for it had two names: one of which was Newton and the other Western City. As it and Richland were both desiring to be recognized as the capital of the county when organized, it had another advantage, as will be subsequently shown, because the chief officer of the county designed to make of this place a great metropolis.

Among the first settlers in the town of Richland were Eleazer Bales, C. E. Woodward, John Noyes, John Raines, R. L. Mark, James Williams and Jonas Hoover. Hoover built the first house; Williams was the first postmaster; Raines was the first blacksmith, and although slow and tedious, was a good workman. Many have seen a good sewing needle of his make, about the right size to carry No. 8 thread. Mark, and another man by the name of L. J. Smith, each had their shops in which they sold whisky and groceries, and especially the whisky. In 1844 the first store was set up by Beriah Haworth. The first hotel was by Dr. W. H. Tingle, in 1845. In 1848 Williams and McCracken built a steam saw mill.

I. O. O. F. Lodge

Kossuth Lodge No. 32, was organized in Richland, March 19th, 1851. The charter members were S. Harned, N. G.; N. L. Witcher, V. G.; O. P. Sherraden, Sec.; J. D. Israel, T.; and S. A. Evans. Wm. L. Orr, of Fairfield, was the acting D. D. G. M. At their first meeting there were four initiates, to-wit: H. Bagley, H. R. McPherson, J. W. Whitacre and W. H. Folmsbee. Their members increased rapidly and there have been initiated here since the organization of the lodge two hundred and forty-one members. From this lodge have sprung the Lancaster, Sigourney, Talleyrand, Ioka and Brighton lodges, and two lodges in Nebraska. The Richland lodge has for the last twenty-five years maintained the honor of the institution with friendship, love and truth. This lodge now numbers 97 members and owns real estate worth about $2,700. Their present officers are L. A. Funk, N. G.; R. M. Tracy, V. G.; M. L. Bristow, Sec.; L. Bralliar, T.; S. A. Evans, financial secretary. None of the charter members are now members here but Evans, and as far as is known, none but Evans and Harned now belong to the order.

Richland Encampment No. 50

This lodge was organized January 18th, 1871. The charter members were John Davis, John Stockman, S. A. Evans, James Davis, J. M. Davis, G. W. Stevens, John Carmichael, J. D. Haworth, A. C. Charlton, W. G. Fearis, W. T. Drummond, Daniel Davis and Thomas Thompson. They number about fifty members.

Richlan Lodge No. 38, A. F. & A. M.

This lodge was organized in June, 1852, and chartered June 8th, 1853. The charter members were J. D. Gray, W. M.; S. Harned, S. W.; W. H. Efner, J. W.; F. A. Dorr, N. L. Witcher, Wm. Grimsley, Thos. and D. N. Henderson. From this lodge have sprung the Pythagoras Lodge, of Lancaster, the Talleyrand Lodge, of Talleyrand, Justice Lodge, of Ioka and Martinsburg Lodge, of Martinsburg. Richland Lodge now numbers fifty-one members, and owns property worth about $1,200.

Temperance Organizations

Richland has had its various temperance organizations, among which may be mentioned the Sons of Temperance and the Good Templars; besides others such as the old Washington, etc. But as the general sentiment is so radically favorable to temperance, and the town ordinance requires the payment of so much money in order to get a permit to sell intoxicating liquors, the several temperance societies have for some time past acted as though they thought it not necessary to maintain their organization.

Popuulation and Business

Richland has a population of about five hundred, and is well represented by all professions and every kind of business. It has long been considered a fine trading point, and is surrounded by as fine a farming community as can be found in the State. Its merchants have a reputation of being reliable; its mechanics are the best in the county, some of them having achieved distinction as inventors, and the professional men are deservedly popular, on account of their learning and skill. All that Richland needs to become one of the best inland towns in the country is a railroad. Many attempts have been made to secure a railroad and the people have showed a disposition to be taxed heavily for this purpose; but, as yet, all these attempts have failed. The time, however, is not far distant when some line will be extended into this, the most productive part of the county, and then let other railroad towns look out for a troublesome rival.

Transcribed by Pat Wahl.