Tama County, IA
USGenWeb Project



Contributed by MaryAlice Schwanke and Transcribed by Cyndi Vertrees

Tama County is the fifth county west from the Mississippi River, and in the centre of the State north and south. It is abounded on the north by Grundy and Blackhawk Counties, on the east by Benton, on the south by Poweshiek, and on the west by Marshall. It consist of the Territory lying in congressional townships eighty-two, eighty-three, eighty-four, eighty-five and eighty-six, of ranges thirteen, fourteen, fifteen and sixteen, being twenty miles wide, east and west, and thirty miles long, north and south.

The present civil townships are Geneseo, Buckingham, Lincoln, Spring Creek, Crystal, Perry, Clark, Oneida, Carroll, Howard, Carlton, Indian Village, Toledo, Otter Creek, York, Salt Creek, Richland, Columbia and Highland.

WATER COURSES - The principal streams are the Iowa River, entering the county near the northwest corner of Indian Village township, and running south of east, leaving the county a few rods north of the southeast corner; Wolf Creek quite a large steam, running entirely across the county, in a winding course, from west to east, emptying into the Cedar River, in Benton County; Sugar Creek, upon the west side of the county, running south, and emptying into the Iowa River; Deer Creek, rising in the eastern part of Spring Creek township, and running in a southerly course, emptying in the Iowa River; Salt Creek, upon the eastern side of the county, running in a southerly course, and emptying into the Iowa river; Richland Creek, rising in the southeastern part of the county, and running in an eastern direction, emptying into the Iowa River, near the southeastern corner; Otter Creek, rising near the centre of the county, and running east of south, emptying into the Iowa River. These afford water sufficient for propelling machinery, at all times of the year, in ordinary seasons, and upon each are one more “mill seats.”

Besides these principal streams, there are a great many others emptying into them, affording living water. While they do not flow with that rapidity which is usual with streams in a mountainous country, they can by no means be denominated sluggish. The water is excellent for stock, and clear at all times, except in freshets. Perhaps but few if an counties in the State are so well watered, in proportion to the large amount of good prairie lands.

There are a number of very fine springs in the county, but the greater part of the water for domestic or household purposes is obtained from wells, at a depth varying from twelve to thirty feet. The water obtained from the wells is, almost universally, of a good quality. It is a little hard, but not enough so to make it objectionable, in the least, for drinking or culinary purposes.

TOPOGRAPHY – The general surface of the county is undulating. A few of the highest bluffs line the Iowa River, near the western boundary of the county, and also near the southeastern corner. These are quite abrupt, on the sides facing the river, and rise to a height of from one to two hundred feet. There are quite a large number of low bluffs or series of low hills, in the eastern part of the county, west of Salt Creek, and in the southern part, south of the Iowa River and some in the western part. There are a few of this class of bluffs also in the northern part of the county. They are all susceptible of cultivation, and many of them are already converted into fine farms.

The principal streams are lined with beautiful, gently sloping bottom land from one-eighth of a mile to two miles in width. The greater part of these are susceptible of the very highest cultivation; a small portion of them is too wet and marshy for cultivation. The remainder of the surface may be said to be slightly undulating, sufficient to afford good drainage to almost every eighty acres in the county, and yet but little of it so steep as to wash or wear away, when visited with heavy rains.

SOIL – The soil is purely western, of almost inexhaustible fertility. Especially is this true of the prairie and bottom lands, which are evidently of alluvial formations, excepting, perhaps, the highest points of the former. Clay predominates, to quite a large extent, in the bluff lands, and the quality of the soils not quite as good as he prairie, and yet cannot, by any means, be called poor.

TIMBER – Quite a large body of timber lines the banks of the Iowa River, in its entire course through the county. Considerable timber also lines the banks of the principal streams, west and northwest of Toledo is the eastern boundary of a large body of timber, of good quality, extending, with but few openings, to the western boundary of the county, containing at least ten square miles. About seven-eighths of the timber growing in the county is situated in the south half of it. There is some timber in the northern part – enough to supply the present inhabitants, and even more, but not sufficient to supply as dense a population as the soil would support. Present prospects of additional railroad facilities, when realized, by which coal and fencing material can be procured, will greatly obviate this difficulty.
The leading varieties of timber are white, black and burr oak, black walnut, hickory, cottonwood, linn and elm; oak predominating. Less plenteous, may also be found, soft and hard maple, honey locust, ash mulberry, slippery elm and butternut. The natural fruity bearing trees and shrubs are thorn apple, crab apple, choke cherry, plum, grape and hazel nut. The white oak is very enduring as fencing material.

STONE AND COAL – There is one stone quarry in the northeast part of the county and several on the western side, in Indian Village and Carlton townships, which are used both for building purposes and for burning into lime. Aside from these quarries, there is no stone in the county, except occasional boulders, the remnant of some anterior glacial period. br>Good evidences of coal are said to exist by reputed good judges, in the south half of the county.

VARIOUS ITEMS – The county is well adapted, both as to the nature of soil and climate, to raising all kinds of grain, usually grown in this latitude. Large crops of wheat and corn are the rule, occasionally, however, from some unusual cause, but a partial crop is obtained by some farmers. These are the principal and leading crops. Considerable oats, however, are grown, and some barley and rye, which also do well, but are usually considered to be less remunerative than wheat and corn. A large proportion of the corn, is fed to swine, the greater part of which are sold alive, and the remainder converted into marketable pork.
Fruit trees grown very thrifty, and do remarkable well, for a prairie country. Almost every farm contains its young orchard, and those of the early settlers who devoted a part of their attention immediately to the cultivation of fruit trees, are already made to rejoice in their enterprise, by having a supply of apples and other fruit. The peach, alone, has been and still is, by many, considered a failure. Some peaches have been raised, in different parts of the county, but, for some unknown reason, they will bear little fruit. Besides, they are frequently killed by the severe frosts of winter.
Much attention has been given, for the past two years, to raising sheep, and the flocks have more than quadrupled in that time. Large flocks are driven out, in the summer season, and herded by a shepherd. With ordinary care, they do well, and are a great source of profit to the farmer. Considerable attention is also given to raising cattle for market, and quit a large number are annually sold.
Almost every settlement is organized into a school district, under the laws of the State, and contains a school house, in which a school is taught, from six to ten months in the year. A large majority of the school houses are neat, comfortable, painted, frame buildings, which would do credit to an old settled county.
As a healthy locality, this county cannot be surpassed in the West, or even in the East, if, perhaps, we except the seacoast. The inhabitants, perhaps, may suffer somewhat more from bilious diseases than those of the Eastern States, but they are certainly much more exempt form all lung affections. Fever and ague, the dread of the West, troubled the people of this country but little, at any time, and is now almost an entire stranger.
There are ten saw mills in the county, four water and six steam power, six flouring mills – one in Perry township, on Wolf Creek, water power; one in Howard Township, on Deer Creek, water or steam power; one in Indian Village township, on the Iowa River, water power; one in Richland township, on the Iowa River, water power; one in Salt Creek township, on Salt Creek, water power; and one in York township, on Salt Creek, water power. There are three or four brick kilns in the county, and as many lime kilns.

EARLY SETTLEMENT – The first permanent settlement in this county was made by Anthony, William and Robert Wilkinson, three brothers, with their mother and three sisters, who emigrated from Coshocton County, Ohio, and arrived here in October, 1849. Anthony and William had served in the Mexican war, and with their land warrants obtained for the service, purchased land of the Government in what is now Richland township, in the southeast part of the county, and upon which they still reside. Robert purchased near them at the same time, and also resides there. About the same time Isaac Asher settled on the western boundary of the county, about two and a half miles northwest of what is now the village of Indiantown. In the summer of 1851, John Duly, Eli Dailey and Anthony Bricher settled in what is now Indian village township; also David, Jacob and Levi Appelgate north of them, in what is now Carlton township. In the fall of he same year, N. L. Osborn settled on Wolf Creek, in the present township of Perry, and David Dean, in what is now Buckingham township. In the fall of this year, Christian Bruner settled upon lands upon which he now resides on Deer Creek, in Howard township. In the spring of 1852, Col. John Connell, Jonas Wood and William Hitchner, settled in what is now Perry township. Other settlers soon followed, and during the year following the county settled up quite rapidly.

ORGANIZATION – During the early settlement of this county is was attached to Benton County for election and judicial purposes, and while thus attached the first election was held at the house of Reason A. Redman, near the Iowa River, on the first Monday in August, 1852, at which time the three townships of Howard, Indian Village and Buckingham were organized. Since then, however, their boundaries have been much reduced. The county was organized on the first Monday of May, 1853, at which time an election was held also for county officers, and the following officers elected: John C. Vermilya, County Judge: John Ross, Recorder and Treasurer; Miron Blodgett, Sheriff, and David D. Appelgate, County Clerk. These were the first county officers under the organization. To comply with the statute, however, the most of these officers could hold their offices only until the next general election, which took place on the first Monday in August following, being the first general election held in the county, at which there were polled seventy-two votes.

More than three-fourths of the population of the county is located in the south half; this part also contains all the villages except Buckingham. This distribution of the population is the result o the tow following causes: 1st. A better supply of timber. 2d. Through it passed, in its early settlement, the great thoroughfare along the Iowa River for emigrants.

TOLEDO, the county seat, is situated upon parts of sections 15 and 22, in township 83, range 15, west of the 5th principal meridian, on high, rolling prairie, and is sheltered on the west and northwest by a range of bluffs about a mile distant, covered with timber. Deer Creek runs between the bluff and the town. The town contains three dry goods stores, five grocery stores, two hotels, one drug store, one jewelry store, one clothing store, two photograph galleries, two tailor shops, two millinery shops, one barber shop, two carriage shops, two harness shops, three blacksmith shops, two cabinet shops, one cooper shop, one agricultural warehouse and one printing office. The Iowa Transcript is published weekly, by N. C. Wieting. There are five churches in the place, belonging, respectively, to the Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Baptists and Catholics: also a large and substantial two-story brick school house, in which a graded school is taught. There are four attorneys and five physicians.

The natural route of the Iowa Central Railroad is in the valley of Deer Creek, near the borders of the town, and will, beyond a doubt, be built there within a short time. This will give it the benefit of the St. Louis market, as well as that of Chicago. Population about 800.

IUKA is on the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad, and on the north bank of the Iowa River. It has three general stores, one drug store, one grocery and one saw mill. It is surrounded by the best of farming land, with plenty of good timber. The shipments of produce and live stock for the three months ending December 31st, 1864, were as follows: Grain, 25, 553 bushels; dressed pork, 269,145lbs; hides, 20,755 lbs.; butter, 10,220 lbs; cattle and hogs, 3,594 head; sundries, 41,337 lbs. Population of the village, 300.

WEST IRVING is in the southeastern corner of the county, sixteen miles form Toledo. It has two churches, Methodist and Christian; also one general store, one grocery and one flour and saw mill. The eastern boundary line of the county runs through the village, and nearly one-half the inhabitants reside in Benton County. The township is watered by Iowa River and Salt Creek. Population about 200.

BUCKINGHAM is in the northeastern portion of county, eighteen miles north of Toledo. It contains three churches, viz: Christian, Methodist and United Presbyterian; also one pottery, one flour mill, one saw mill and one general store. Population, 100; of township 500.

CHELSEA is in the southwestern portion of the county, on the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad. It contains two general stores and one saw mill. Population, 100.

HELENA is on the Iowa River, ten miles southeast of the county seat. It has three church organizations, two Baptist and one Methodist. A flouring mill has been erected at this point, with three run of stone, at a cost of $15,000. Population of township, 600.

CRYSTAL is situated in a township of the same name, fourteen miles north of the county seat. It has a Presbyterian Church. Population of township, 225.

BUTTERVILLE sometimes called Indian Village is in the western part of the county. Population, 150.

ORFORD is a station on the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad. Population, 75. The remaining post offices and villages are Forks, Kinisaw, Ola, Redman, Spring Creek, Tamaville, Waltham and Wolf Creek.