Grant became a fully organized township on April 3, 1866, and is bordered on the north by Woodbury County. Its early history is closed related to that of Smithland, and O.B. (Buckskin Smith) knew the territory well, having preceded all of the first settlers to this part of the county. He owned much of the land which he later transferred to some of the earliest settlers.

The honor of being the first citizen goes to Seth Smith who located the property here in Dec. 1852, and in 1853 he brought his family. In 1855, he sold out to Cornelius VanDorn, and moved to Kennebec Township, to make his home.

Cornelius VanDorn, a native of New Jersey, alter moving to New York and Ohio, arrived in this county in 1855, was the first permanent resident, and was to become most prominently identified with the history of the county. Upon coming, he purchased fruit trees from J.B. Gard of Franklin Township and this became the first orchard in the township. There were 13 children in the family, Washington and Virgil having come with him. A daughter, Martha, married William A. Burton, one of the county’s first residents having come first to Ashton and then to Onawa.

In this same year came another family who was to be known prominently for many years; the family of Joseph D. Woodward, a native of Vermont, later moving to New York and Ohio, J.D. Woodward bought a claim of a man known as Petty, more of a hunter and trapper than a farmer, who in 1859 “headed for Pike’s Peak.” Having operated a broom factory before coming, he continued with that occupation for a number of years. Albert Lumm also came in about this same year, but moved north into Woodbury County.

In the following year, Abram Bullock, and John and Edward Howe arrived. The Howes did not stay long, moving on to Pike’s Peak. In 1860, Edward Birge came, but later left as did Wentel F. Ertel, who came in 1863 but moved north into Woodbury County.

Not until 1865, did we begin to get the next group of citizens who were to become rather permanently associated with the community. In 1865, came Gideon M. Wells, whose one daughter, Vennie, married Frederick Reese, son of a prominent settle of Belvidere. Charles Pinckney also came, both farmer and trapper. He caught 3800 muskrat one winter. In 1866, came David Greenstreet, another old family of this vicinity. In this same year came Colby M. Bryant and his brother, Captain G.H. Bryant, who was very possible the best known figure in this territory, respected by all who knew him for his integrity and brilliance. A well-known character also arrived at this time, and although he was not to remain long in the community, he became famed as a story teller, and as a “baby tender” imbedded within the minds of the citizenry a lullaby which was known by all of the old settlers.

In the year of 1866 Edwin Prichard came from Ohio. He married Abbie Rounds, and of their ten children, Jacob A. became the well-known attorney at Onawa. He was to become the father of General Vernon Prichard, now deceased, and three other sons,
George, Elbert and Leslie (deceased), all in World War I and World War II. George was a District Judge. It is from the same family that Judge Ralph Prichard descended.

L.D. Erskine came in 1866, was to become an extensive cattle raiser and established cattle yards at Ute, Mapleton, and Charter Oak. John H. East was to come on the same year. In 1867, Martin Landen came as a hunter, trapper, and preacher. After about 10 years he removed to “the lost lands” southwest of Onawa where he engaged in bee culture. In this same year came E.A. Miller, Charles Smith, who later moved to Kennebec, and Ivory Leach who was to remain as one of the old settlers. There was also Edward Erskine, Calvin J. Barber and Jesse Edgar.

In 1868, came Benjamin L. Thomas, Charles Johnson, Hiram Harding and his son, Frank, Nathaniel Edgar, John C. and Milo J. Henderson. The next year Benjamin L. Miller and Walter R. Phillips arrived. In 1870 John McGarr and Phillip O’Neal arrived, as did Captain C.L. Hewitt, who was active in church work and other civic affairs.

Samuel Alden McMaster arrived in 1872. Wm. W. McDonald in 1873, later becoming one of the “leading merchants of Rodney,” and Henry E. Bard the same year. In 1875, came Charles H. Cook, and in 1876, we find the families of William H. Otto, F.L. Smith and Henry Newton among the newcomers.

~Source: Onawa Democrat, Thursday, February 21, 1974—“Old Fashioned Township History”

~Contributed by volunteer, Larry Lundeen, for posting on this website