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Adair County Iowa


Reminiscences of Orient Township
(The following was written September 2, 1928, by Mrs. Myrtle Hoffstatter Hosford.)

A few weeks ago, our chairman of the Old Settlers Day program asked me for some reminiscences of the early days of your community. Necessarily, I shall style what I have to say about life in Orient Township as a child saw it fifty years ago. In the spring of 1869, my father, John Hoffstatter, my mother and I, a yearling, came from Munsori Township, Henry County, Illinois to the piece of land known to you as the John Brooks farm, four miles northwest of the town of Orient. Within a few months' time (just before and after) thirteen or fourteen families came from this same neighborhood in Illinois. Among them were my grandfather, William A. Hoffstatter, the Orris Tuttles (junior and senior), Lewis Tuttles, William Strongs, Thomas Thatchers, William Armstrongs, Ben Jenkins, the Garmons, the Hastings, the Morgans (living just west of Cemetery Hill), the W. B. Martins and the Gilbert Fleetsills. My father's was the eighth house in the township, that and grandfather's, on what is now the John Eymann farm, being built together. Although the means of travel in those days was by lumber wagon or on horseback, and the people lived miles apart, they were all neighbors in the true sense of the word. One of the first driving teams I remember was a span of little white mules owned by Alfred Strong's father. Our mules were Opo and Puss by name. When driving them, on the downhill it was necessary to prod them with a sharpened stick that we might get over the top of the next incline. When father bought a buggy with a real whip in a socket, I sat in the new vehicle a while each day with said whip in my hand. Prairies surrounded us on all sides. Between us and Greenfield, there were but two houses and those were near town. I remember going out and finding a prairie chicken's nest full of eggs which we had for supper. Grandfather did not live to go into the new house. While mowing prairie grass, he was killed in a runaway. His was the first grave in the Orient Cemetery, October 5 1869.

To this day, I cannot see a stubble field fire twinkling in the distance but what cold chills run up and down my spine. The prairie fires of those early days were serious things to be reckoned with, and every set of buildings must be plowed around. Our neighbor on the south knew much of literature and law and but little about pioneering. In his estimation, it was not necessary to back-plow as had the others. Prairie fires came with the velocity of the wind, and upon a particular night everyone in the neighborhood, except the little children, fought fire away from the buildings belonging to this man. Two members of the family lay within the house, very ill of typhoid fever. Wagon beds were made ready for the sick ones, should it become necessary to move them, but happily, the buildings were spared. There was much typhoid for several years. My own mother succumbed to the disease five years, after her coming to Orient. The available doctors in those days were a Dr. Andrews, who lived upon what was afterward the Chas. Theobald place, and Dr. McDermid of Fontanelle.

Father and his brother, William, planted the trees that now form the archway over the road between the two farms. Our nearest timber was at the Nodaway on the west and at the Grand River on the east. These trees came from saplings dug up in the woods and planted over fifty years ago. Sometimes on a clear morning, a mirage would show us Creston sixteen miles away. Once a year I was allowed a trip to Creston or Cromwell. It was indeed a journey in those days. As time went on, my father built eight of the nine schoolhouses in Orient Township. Our first teacher was Ella Thatcher (Childs). For lack of much material to teach, I was allowed to start school at the age of four years. On the whole, this early day life with its simple plays and rare little friendships was a happy game for children, but we know that our fathers and mothers went through strains and hardships that we would be loathe to assume. We are glad of our hard roads, our graded schools, our ever ready fruits and vegetables, our shade trees, and our labor saving devices, but let us give all honor and thanks to the generation that was not afraid to pioneer.

Myrtle E. Hoffstatter Hosford resided with her grandmother and was teacher in one of the Orient Township schools.

Taken from "Adair County History 1976" transcribed by Carlyss Noland

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