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Township Organization
Steady Run, Van Buren, Warren, Washington

Steady Run

TThis township corresponds in the main with the congressional township No. 74 north, range 12 west.  The north boundary is South Skunk river, which makes the northern boundary irregular, and cuts off from the congressional township about four sections, which are attached to Lancaster township.

The first settlers of the township made their claims on the day the Indians left, May 1, 1843.  The following are the names of the original settlers, with the statement, so far as we are able to arrive at them, of the facts regarding their subsequent career:  Cornelius Hurley, went to Nebraska and afterward died; John Lavemore, died a few years since at his home, on original claim; David Howard, returned to Illinois; Wm. Hutton, found dead near Skunk river; Henry Barrith, returned to Illinois; Andrew Taylor, one of the first county commissioners, now lives in Wayne county; Madison M. Harmare, died last winter at home on his original claim; Francis Brittain, gone to Missouri; also John Hooker; James M. Brown, moved to Oregon; John Hurley, died in Nebraska; Charles Moore, died on original claim in 1846; Jesse Shoemaker, now lives at Grand Island, Nebraska; Enos Darnell, died in 1846; Wm. Stinson, removed to Appanoose county; Thos. Gaskell, died in 1859; Alexander Jones, commonly known as Gen. Jones, lives on his original claim; most remarkable man in the county; was a playmate of Andrew Jackson; was instrumental in having Andrew nominated and elected President; removed from Tennessee to Indiana, where he made over a million rails; came to Keokuk county, Steady Run township, at an early day; never chewed tobacco, nor drank whisky; has teeth as white as an infant, and, although about seventy years old, is still one of the "boys"; Moses McConnell, still lives in the township; Josiah Burrows, returned to Illinois; James Raser, run off with two women, and, in all probability, is dead; Anson Richardson. lives in Lancaster township; Thomas Richardson, died in 1872; John Garrett, the blacksmith of the first settlement, gone to Missouri; R. B. Whited, started to Oregon in 1851, stopped at Council Bluffs, where he remained a couple of years; afterward went to Texas, and became a colonel in rebel army; Benjamin Hollingsworth, still lives in the township; Joel Skinner, now lives at Creston, Iowa; B. F. Weller, the first school-master of Steady Run township, and now the enterprising grain-buyer of Sigourney, still lives, and long may he live to recount the trials and triumphs of former days.  Wm. Hutton was the first justice of the peace, and Christopher M. Wood was the first constable.

The first tannery erected in the township and probably the first in the county was erected by R. B. Whited in 1845.  A. M. McNutt was the first white man buried in the township and Elder Kirkpatrick preached the first sermon. A Baptist church was organized in the spring of 1816 at the house of C. M. Wood, who lived where Daniel Hutton now lives.  The first members of this church were Anson Richardson and wife, Thos. Richardson and wife, Wm. Hutton and wife and James Hutton, who was baptized at this time, it being necessary to cut a hole in the ice in order to perform the ceremony.  Stephen Fowler and Widow Hardesty were the first couple married.  The first burying place was the Skinner graveyard, which has been suffered to revert to its original uses, and the original graves are now scarcely recognizable.  Cornelius Hurley and Benjamin Hollingsworth erected the first flouring mill, it was started with one run of burrs in the spring of 1846, and is now known as the "Old Clapboard Mill."  The mill now known as the Wheelock mill was started as a saw-mill in 1856.  It was afterward repaired and numerous improvements made, including all the modern machinery for making flour; it is now one of the best mills in the county.

R. F. Weller was the first school teacher; he started for Iowa in early times and falling sick in Illinois did not reach Keokuk county, the place for which he started, for nearly a year afterward.  When he did arrive he was without money and scarcely able to work.  He had never taught school and had not attended school much, but at the solicitation of the settlers he undertook to teach a winter school. He was to receive $1.50 per pupil for a term of three months, and two-thirds of his wages was to be paid in rails at sixty-five cents per hundred.  Although the school-house was poor, the wages scant, and the teacher had no experience and little learning, he succeeded so well that he was employed to teach the next school and got the contract of building a new school-house, which was to be a "good school-house and not cost more than $50."

The first sale of lands in Steady Run township occurred at Fairfield in 1846. Six parcels, each containing eighty acres, were bought at that time by the following parties: C. M. Wood eighty acres; Joel Skinner eighty acres; Andrew Taylor eighty acres; Zebedee Botkin eighty acres; Frank Brittain, eighty acres; Jesse Brown, eighty acres.  There was a bidder appointed by the township to bid off all lands sold, and it would have been dangerous business for any one to have bid against him.

This township was named after a stream of water which flows through that portion of country and empties into Skunk river.  The stream received its name from the fact that the country is comparatively level, and the current is never strong.  It is a very fine region of farming lands and contains some of the most prosperous farmers in the county.  In 1850 it contained a population of 467; in 1856 the population amounted to 694, and in 1875 it was 948.  The present township officers are as follows: Justices of the Peace, Samuel Dinsmore and W. F. Morgan; constables, J. S. Hawk and Perry Crocker; clerk, A. Glass; trustees, W. C. Lotsprech, N. Ogden, Benj. Parrish; assessor. G. F. Horton.

Mt. Zion Church was organized in the fall of 1854.  The original members were, J. D. Williams, Jacob Bottorff, Philip Henninger, Andrew Taylor, Benj. Hollingsworth, Joel Skinner, Benj. Parrish, Thomas M. Thompson, James McCreery and James Cowger.  A frame church-building was erected in 1854, at a cost of $400.  The church was never dedicated, as it was built by general subscription, and was open to all denominations, the Methodists seemingly having a prior claim to all others.  The present membership numbers about forty, and there is a flourishing Sunday school with about fifty pupils.

The Presbyterian church of Martinsburg was organized in 1859, by Rev. D. V. Smock.  The original members were, James D. Bryson, Adeline Bryson, Henry H. Landis, Catharine Landis, Mary Marshall, Eliza Calson, Susan Burris, Ann Ardery, Robert S. Antrobus, Robert E. Doak and Mrs. Doak. I n 1858 a frame church-building was erected at a cost of $2,500, which was dedicated the following year.  The pastors of the church thus far have been A. A. Mathews, J. C. McElroy, David Brown and George B. Smith.  The present membership is about seventy-five.


Elizabethtown was laid out in 1845.  It was located on section 15, and although at that early date it was a town of great expectation, it never prospered to such an extent as to meet the expectations of the least sanguine of its projectors. Most of the present generation of American citizens are ignorant of the excellence of said town, and it is doubtful whether or not the original lot-owners, were they to arise from the dead, could locate their former sites for a prospective remunerative business.

Martinsburg was laid out and the town plat recorded November 11, 1854.  It is located on sections 28 and 33, less than one mile from the Wapello county line. Like Ioka, it is located on a projected line of railway, and at one time bid fair to become a central shipping point for the surplus agricultural products of that region; but, alas! for the expectations of those early times! the Muscatine & Missouri Railway got no further than paper, and Martinsburg still remains a quiet country village supporting a post-office, hotel, some prosperous business houses and a flourishing lodge.  The only post-office in the township is at Martinsburg, but three others are of easy access: Walden, in Jackson, Hayesville, in Lancaster, and Slagle, in Benton.

Transcribed by Steven McBride.

Van Buren

This  township corresponds with congressional township No. 76, range 12 west, with the exception of two sections in the southeast part of the township, which are attached to Sigoiirney township. The country is very broken, but there is an abundaace of stone and timber, and the soil is very fertile and productive. In 1851 it contained a population of 283, and in 1856 a population of 715. According to the census of 1875, there were 1,036 inhabitants, 167 dwellings, and the same number of families. In the southern part of the township there is quite an important coal interest, which promises to become, in the course of time, one of the leading industries of the connty. The mine which is being operated at present is owned by Mr. Bonnton and is operated by Mr. Durham. It was opened three jears ago, and at present fourteen hands are employed. The vein is five and one-half feet thick, and by reason of its proximity to the Sigourney market iinds a ready sale for its products.

The present officers of the township are as follows:

Justices of the Peace—J. Wheeler and E. Allen.
Constables—John Seaton.and H. F. Rogers.
Trustees—T. F. Ford, A. Kleitz and A. Swails.
Clerk—E. Wheeler.
Assessor—Samuel Woodridge.

The Lutheran Church

Was organized in 1868. John Nouke, A. Kretman, F. Just, Andrew Licky, Gr.Neirman, John Kietreman, and others, were the original members. A frame bniiding was erected in 1868, at a cost of $1 ,100. The church was dedicated in November, 1868, by Rev. Mr. Sherman. The present membership is thirty-four.

Kendrick M. E. Church

Was organized in 1863, Mr. Hilan, Mr. and Mrs. Mead, Mr, and Mrs. Danner and Miss Sarah Danner being the first members. A frame church building was erected in 1875, at a cost of $2,200, which was dedicated in October of that year by Rev. Mr. Mark. The present membership numbers about seventy-five.

The only town of which the township ever boasted was Keenersburg, located on section four. Keenersburg is no more, and, like the cities of the plain, its location even would be ditiicult to trace out. Yan Buren townaliip is likewise without any mail facilities except those which are furnished by adjoining townships.


This township corresponds in the main with congressional township No 75 north 13 west. South Skunk, which forms the southern boundary, cuts off about five sections, which for municipal purposes are attached to Benton. North Skunk runs diagonally across the township, thus dividing it into two water-sheds. The natural drainage is excellent; the supply of timber, stone, coal and water is abundant. So diversified are the natural resources of this region that it has always been considered one of the favorite spots of Keokuk county. Originally it was a part of what is now Washington township, and together with it formed what for a long time was known as Cedar Creek Precinct. The first settlement was made on the 3rd  of May, 1843, by A J McNabb and T J Hicklin—the former on section 2, and the latter on section 3. McNabb plowed the first furrow in the township and planted potatoes. Four days after, Maxon Randall took a claim and settled near the same place; he plowed the second piece of ground which was broken in that part of the county. McNabb and Randall were very successful in their farming operations, and by sticking to their first claims, by industry and economy, have become among the wealthiest citizens of the county. McNabb still resides on his original claim; Randall remained on his claim till a short time since, when he disposed of his extensive domain and removed to Sigourney, where he now resides. T J Hicklin also was still found on his original claim after a lapse of thirty-three years. John Hasty and several others settled in Warren township in the spring of 1843. In 1844 Jacob Kinsler began to build the first saw and grist-mill, on North Skunk, west of range 12. The township was surveyed in 1845, and in 1846 the land was offered for sale. At that time most of the land was claimed, and the entire amount of money in the township was about one thousand dollars. At the first sale of lands were ten pierces of eighty acres each sold.

The first couple married were Robert Munn and Susan Pence. The license was procured at Washington, Keokuk county at that time being a part of Washington, and John Ellis, justice of the peace, pronounced the ceremony. This marriage was soon followed by three or four more in quick succession. Mr Thomas J Hicklin was chosen to be the father of the first child born in the township. Squire Ellis, who for many years after the organization of the county was the law giver if Cedar Creek precinct, had his seat of justice at Springfield, now in Washington township; and after Warren township became a municipality separate from Washington, Squire Keith became the Lycurgus of these regions. Already, in 1845, the pioneers of Warren had a school-house; and Rev Mr Tannehill, who expounded the gospel on Sundays, here wielded the birch and expounded Murray during the week. Mr Tannehill organized a Baptist church in 1844, Squire Keith and family being among the first members.

A Frenchman, who lived in the McNabb neighborhood in early days, while out hunting discovered coal, which afterward proved to be the outcroppings of extensive deposits, which are how being mined by Mr Dunn, of Delta. As the report goes, the Frenchman after discovering the coal, went after a shovel, and returning, covered up all signs of the coal, hoping to be able in a few years to purchase the claim. But before he accumulated enough money to buy the claim, he was prostrated on his death bed, and just before dying revealed the facts of his discovery to a friend. However, his description was not definite enough, and the concealed treasure could not be found. The land where the coal was concealed was the northwest quarter of section thirteen, and northeast quarter of section fourteen. This and finally became to property of Maxon Randall, and was regarded by him as a very good sheep pasture, and from appearances probably contained some good building stone. Wishing to quarry some stone to be used in the foundation of a barn, he accompanied some others to the identical place where the opening to the coal mine now is, and probably the same place where the opening of the coal mine now is, and probably where the Frenchman had used his shovel a quarter of a century before. After digging for some time and finding no stone, Mr Randall went elsewhere for his building stone, and a few years afterward sold the land to J A Dunn. It may be remarked here that Mr Randall, while prospecting for stone, came so near the coal that had he gone one foot further he would have come upon it. Mr Dunn became owner of the ground in 1872, and in 1875 discovered the coal. The vein is from four to six feet deep; the mine is very extensively operated, and with the excellent railroad communication, since the extensive of the Knoxville branch of the C, R I & P railroad, promises to be the leading industrial feature of the county. The banks are located about one mile south of Delta, and the coal is at present conveyed to the latter place in wagons, no side-track having as yet been constructed to the mine.

In 1850, the population of Warren township was 287; in 1856 it was 394; and in 1875 it was 707. At that time there were 144 dwellings and 148 families.

The following are the present officers of the township:

Justices of the Peace—Reuben Kinder and Abel Hawkins

Constables—Hiram Alsop and J H Keister

Clerk—E C Hewitt

Trustees—A J McNabb, Horace Brainard and Abner Utterback

Assessor—J B Jacobs


This corresponds with congressional township No. 76, range 13. It originally included a lars;e portion of what is now Warren township, and was called Coal township. At the. January meeting of the county commissioners, 1846, the following order was adopted:

"Ordered, that the boundaries of Goal township be as follows: township 76, range 13 ; and also as much of township 75 as lies north of North Skunk river, shall be included in said township, and that the clerk record the same in a book kept for that purpose."

In 1847 the name was changed to Washington, and the boundaries defined as at present. In 1850 the township contained 215 inhabitants; in 1856, 680; and in 1875, 1,246. Absolom Waddle, one of, the first settlers, is 103 years old, and still resides in the neighborhood where he first settled. j[o,hn Garrett and wife were also early settlers; he is 92 years old and she is 3.2.: They have been married 67 years, and have over one hundred depcendauts. One of the first settlements was in the vicinity of Springfield, which is among the oldest towns in the county. It is located on sections ^^.a^d ?3,,and was laid out in 1845. It has always had a good country jtrade, and for many years has enjoyed postal privileges. Although this township compares very favorably with others in fertility of soil and other natural resources, it is chiefly noted for the coal interests. The centre of the iBoal fields is the town of What Cheer, known as Petersburg until recently, when the name was changed by authority of court. It is sitiiated on section 10, and was laid out in October, 1865.

The steam flouring mill, owned and operated by Daniel Dodge, is one of the most, important features of the place. Mr. Dodge was recently elected as a member of the board of supervisors, and is a man of capital, ^Inck and enterprise. A store of general merchandise is managed by Harland & Davis. The post-oflice is located in their building. J. H, Leathers is also a dealer in general merchandise. The What Cheer House and The Summit House are the leading hotels. There are nine principal coal banks, where are employed, in the aggregate, some three hundred hands. The principal persons engaged in the mining business are, William Clubb, Gillette & France and Rhodes & Bedford. The Railroad Mining Company Own the largest mine, which covers a half section of land. This last mine has not yet oeen operated to any considerable extent, but when tlie track is laid to What Cheer, which will be in a short time, the mine will be worked to its fullest capacity. The vein is six feet thick, and lies about seventy-five feet beneath the snrface. The principal part of the coal mined in this county has been taken from the mines in the vicinity of What Cheer, and, although the mines have been situated at a distance of seven miles from the nearest railroad station, there were about 20,000 tons mined in the past year. When there is direct railroa-l communication with the mines, this will prove to be one of the most important mining regions in the State.

A remarkable snicide occurred in this place in 1877. David McCune owned and operated a grist-mill, and, on the Slst of June was found dead, suspended by the neck from a rope, in his mill. For a few days prior to the snicide it was noticed that McCnne acted strangely, among other things giving away flour to all who wanted it. The mill was running till late in the night of the 31st, when the suicide occured, and has stood idle ever since.

The present township officers are as follows:

Justices of the Peace—William Humes, and J. K. Pratt.
Constables—George Downing and T. C Kitenhouse.
Clerk—J. C. Headlee.
Trustees—^Thomas Thornloe. David Baxter and George Elliott.
Assessor—H. M. Harlan.