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Adair County Iowa


Union Township

Lying in the extreme southeastern corner of Adair county is the subdivision known as Union. It is a full congressional township, and is known as township 74 north, range 30 west. The surface is quite rolling, and is well drained by numerous streams that meander through its emerald meadows like silver ribbons. The principal of these watercourses is the Grand river in the northeast part of the township, on sections 1, 2 and 12. The west branch having its head waters in sections 9, 8 and 17 flows east and southeast through sections 9, 16, 15,14, 13 and 24, on its way to join the parent stream. Three Mile creek, rising on the township line near the west line of section 7, flows in a generally southerly course, and makes its exit from Union township and Adair county on the southeast quarter of section 32. Numerous other streams course through all parts of the township, until there is not a section in it but has living, running water upon it somewhere. The soil is a rich, black, sandy loam, extremely fertile by nature, and susceptible of a high state of cultivation. Owing, doubtless, to a large portion of these fine lands passing into the hands of non-resident speculators, settlement has been greatly retarded. In 1870 the census shows that it contained one hundred and sixty-nine inhabitants. In 1875 this had grown to two hundred and ninety, and in 1880 to four hundred and sixty-five.

The pioneer in this township was Charles Wilson, who came here in the spring of 1853, and was among the early settlers of the county. He is a native of England, the son of Robert and Sarah Wilson, born 1816. When he was but eighteen years of age he left his mother country and emigrated to the shores of America. He located at first in Rochester, New York, where he remained a year, and from there moved to Allegany county, New York, and then to Genessee county, the same state, where he remained until 1837, when he moved west to Lake county, Indiana. Here he lived until 1852, when again the “western fever” caused him to come to Iowa, and remained the winter of 1852-3, on the Des Moines river, but in the spring following, came to Adair county, and picking out his farm on section 12, pitched his tent, in which he and his family lived for four months, when he erected a log cabin, into which they moved. This primitive dwelling was subsequently replaced by a nice frame house, in which Mr. Wilson still resides. He was united in marriage on the 28th of October, 1838, to Miss Sarah Brough, a native of England, by whom he has had eight children, and of whom six are living—Thomas K., George, William, Lewis K., John, Mary, Lizzie and Harriet were the children’s names. Mr. Wilson has held several offices of honor and trust in the township, and is the happy owner of one of the best farms in the county, consisting of four hundred and thirty acres of well-improved land.

The next to locate in this township was Christian Gerkin, a native of Germany, who was born in that country in 1816. Before he left the fatherland he was united in marriage with Miss Martha Hilman. This was in 1847. In 1853 they came to America, by way of New Orleans, and from thence by boat to Burlington, and at once came to Adair county, settling on section 2, in the last of July, where he made him a farm, on which he now resides. He has a family of four children—Maggie, John, Herman and Frederick.

William Schweers settled in this township, on section 34, in 1854. He was a native of Hanover, Germany, and was born on the 5th of July, 1803. He was a son of Rheinhardt Schweers, a man of substance in his native land. He left his fatherland in 1842, and came to America, and for a while lived at Baltimore; from thence moved to Cincinnati, and then to Washington county, Iowa, where he remained one year, and after two years spent in Keokuk county, came to Adair county. He died on the 7th of September, 1882. His son, John Schweers, is one of the most prominent men in the township. John Schweers was born in Hanover, Germany, on the 15th of January, 1837, and is the son of William and Margaret Schweers. When five years of age he left his native land and came to America with his parents. His father came to Adair county in 1854, where John has since resided. He was reared and educated on a farm, and in 1858 he operated a saw-mill on Grand River, which he worked in for two years. In 1862 he enlisted in the 4th Iowa cavalry, and served for three years. In 1867 he came to his present farm on section 4, Union township, where he owns one hundred and twenty acres of well improved land, and is known as one of the best farmers in the county. On the 20th of March, 1864, he was married to Miss Sarah Peterson. Their union has been blessed by ten children—Rhinehart, Elizabeth, John A., Mattie J., Hannah D., Christian, Eva Lena, Anna S., Amy E. and Francis M.

Robert Wilson was the next to make a settlement here, taking up a claim upon section 12. He was a son of Vance and Mary (Taylor) Wilson, and was born in Mercer county, Kentucky, January 9, 1804. He resided in the place of his nativity until he had attained the age and stature of manhood. He was married July 1, 1829, to Miss Catherine Salyers, a daughter of Samuel and Margaret Salyers. In 1832 he removed to the state of Indiana, where he resided until 1843 when he came to Iowa, settling in Jefferson county, where he lived seven years. In 1850 he removed to Madison county, and in the spring of 1854 to Union township, Adair county. Here he resided until September 12, 1869, when he was called on to cross the river of death. He had twelve children, most of whom are residents of this county. Their names are—Margaret P., Samuel S., Mary J., Vance I., Sarah E., Francis M., William IL., Jerry M., Nancy A., Susan H., J. R. and Robert A. Mr. Wilson was a man of strong physique and fine constitution.

Alvin Greer settled upon section 1 during the year 1854, where he lived some time. He was the father of the first child born in the township, and the first justice of the peace.

C. G. Snelling, of Union township, Adair county, was born on the banks of the Androscoggin river, in Maine. His father was a very successful farmer and stockgrower, who, very early and at great expense, introduced the Durham stock, which not only proved a very profitable investment, but it caused quite a reform in stock-raising of that section. C. G. Snelling lived with his father until seventeen years of age, attending to the usual routine of farming and attending the stock, but the winters were spent at school, where, by his studious habits he acquired an education that on examination was sufficient to teach school. At that age his health failed and his constitution seemed utterly destroyed. He expressed a desire to enter upon a course of education which the family physician strenuously opposed, saying that he would not live more than two or three years at the longest, and that study would hasten his death. To this his father replied with his characteristic firmness, “ If he has but three years to live, during that time he shall pursue that course that will contribute most to his happiness.” He was allowed to enter on a course of education, and though he studied hard and stood high among his compeers, yet there seemed a gradual improvement in his health. After six years hard study he graduated with honors, and was robust and healthy. Not having any particular profession in view he accepted the call to take charge of the schools in Hatfield, Massachusetts, finding the wages not commensurate with the amount of labor required, he resigned after one term and went to Little River, Maine, and became principal of the high school, which he held for three years. Again he resigned and went to South Thomaston in 1852, and married Eliza Coombs, daughter of Asa Coombs, who, at that time, was engaged in getting land-warrants and pensions, and was also an extensive land-owner. Mr. Snelling located here as principal of the high school, and soon after as principal of Thomaston schools. Both towns noted for ship-building and lime-burning. He was also elected superintendent of public schools, which office he filled for eleven years, and soon became identified with the educational interests of the state. During the war of the rebellion speculation became rife, and the financial officers of South Thomaston fell into a bad way. The citizens began to distrust the integrity of the town officers generally. Considerable excitement prevailed, and it became a fixed determination that at the next election all the old officers should be discarded, and men of integrity elected irrespective of party. Attention was called to Mr. Snelling as one of the selectmen, whose business it is to manage the financial affairs of the town. In vain he remonstrated, being fully aware of the bad condition of the finances, and the labor of unearthing the true state of affairs. In vain he pointed to his labors as principal of schools and superintendent of public schools. He finally consented on the following conditions: That as the former officers were republicans, and that he had been considered a leading republican, they must put on the board with him an energetic man from the democratic party, a man of unquestioned integrity. With this they complied and he was not only elected as one of the selectmen, but also assessor of taxes, whose business is not only to take an inventory of the taxable property of the town, but to assess the state, county and town taxes for that town and put it into the hands of the collector. He was also elected as overseer of the poor and town agent. On entering on the duties of his office some of the leading republicans suggested to him that it was not good policy to bring the republican party into disrepute by bringing before the public the irregularities of former officers, who were republicans. To which he replied, “The republican party will never suffer by washing its hands of fraud!” Again others evidently acting in the interests of the former officers, reminded him that to persits would incur the odium of the republican party, and he need never expect any favors. He again replied with firmness, “ I was chosen by the people to right the finances of the town and guard the interests of the citizens, and by the powers that be, I will do it if the heavens fall.” This effectually silenced all further remonstrance. After a careful research it was found that the collector was a defaulter for over $2,000, and on due notification, he being a man of means, paid it without a murmur. The treasurer was found to be a defaulter and being notified refused to pay. A suit was brought and the amount was recovered for the use of the town. At the next annual meeting a report of the true condition of the finances was presented and accepted by the people. Mr. Snelling remonstrated against reelection stating that his labors were so great as to impair his constitution. He was elected however to the same office, but the labors of teaching during the day and the business of the town consuming the hours that should have been given to sleep, made such inroads on his health that at the next annual election he was quite prostrated. Furthermore, lung complaint which so affected him in earlier life, but had been so long silent, was now developed to an alarming extent. The physicians informed him that he must forever desist from teaching and that he must retire from the seaboard as the sea breezes were injurious to those afflicted with the lung complaint. He immediately sold his property, resigned his position in school affairs, declined election to any office whatever, stating that as soon as the hot summer months were over he should go to Iowa, and if the climate agreed with him he should make it his home in the future. In August of that year, 1871, he came to Des Moines, purchased a team and commenced traveling. During the three months following he traveled about a thousand miles in Iowa and about the same distance in Nebraska, examining the soils and the advantages of settlement. Perceiving the advantages in favor of Iowa, he left Nebraska and returned to Iowa, and finding his health entirely renewed he accepted a school in Union township, Adair county, which he taught two terms, and then accepted the position of principal and superintendent in the Afton schools. He was here joined by his family from Maine, and commenced his labors in Afton. He filled this position for five years successfully, and during summer vacations he was appointed as one of the conductors and teachers in the normal institute held at Afton. Always intending to retire to a farm when he left public business, in 1874 he bought the south half of section 21, Union township, Adair county, and had it broken and improved for future settlement. After closing his labors in Afton, he retired to his farm, remained three weeks, and accepted the call to become principal of Macksburgh schools. Here he taught six years, and again retired to his farm, where he is now at this writing, having been absent from Macksburgh a little over a year. Unable to obtain a teacher satisfactory to the people, at the earnest entreaty of the school board, Mr. Snelling has consented to return and take charge of the Macksburgh schools. Mr. Snelling has had a busy life, having taught one hundred and sixteen terms of school, besides delivering in Maine over seven hundred lectures on the sciences and other subjects.

W. P. Strater is a native of Germany, and was born on April 17, 1847. When about three years of age, he came with his parents to America, and settled in Ohio, where W. P. was reared and educated. In 1862 he enlisted in the service of Company C, 22d Iowa infantry. He was in several of the most famous battles of the war, such as Fort Gibson, Champion Hills, siege of Vicksburg, and several minor skirmishes. After serving three years, he returned to Jasper county, Iowa, where he had previously made his home, and there remained until 1866. He then went to Colorado, and from there to New Mexico, but before long again returned to Colorado. While there he was engaged in freighting goods, farming and mining. In 1880 he returned to Iowa, and bought his present location on section 10, Union township, Adair county, where there is situated a nice farm of three hundred and sixty acres of nice cultivated land. He was married in March, 1881, to Miss Johanna Von Borkum.

Among those who are identified with the interests of Union township, and who is well worthy of mention in this volume, is Thomas K. Wilson, who was born in Lake county, Indiana, October 17, 1841, being the son of Charles Wilson, whose sketch is to be found in this work. In the spring of 1853 his parents came to Iowa, and his early life was spent on a farm, receiving his education in the common schools. On September 24, 1862, he enlisted in Company I, 4th Iowa cavalry, and served two years and nine months, at the expiration of which time he was honorably discharged, and returned to his home. In the spring of 1866 he started with an ox team for Denver, Colorado, and freighted goods for two seasons, then returning to his Iowa home. In 1868 he engaged in breaking prairie in Madison county, and in 1869 came to the farm upon which he now resides; but in the spring of 1878 he started for the Black Hills with a mule team, where he remained four seasons engaged in freighting. In the spring of 1882, he again came to Adair county, and to his farm in 1884, having had it rented for a number of years. His farm, which contains three hundred and thirty acres, is in a good state of cultivation, and is one of the best in Union township.

T. W. Neville, one of the prominent citizens of Union township, was born in Manchester, England, May 24, 1840, his parents being Thomas and Ellen Neville. When T. W. was nine years of age his parents emigrated to Camden, Ohio, where he was reared and educated. On the first call of President Lincoln for troops he enlisted as a sergeant in Co. D, 20th Ohio infantry, and after serving his time was honorably discharged. He was in commercial life for five years, being engaged with E. G. Webster, a wholesale merchant, for three years, and with the wholesale boot and shoe house of Dreyfoos & Cohn for two years. In 1869 he came to Adair county and practiced law in Greenfield for some three years. Mr. Neville has taught school for seven years, and has held the offices of township clerk and secretary of the school board. He is the owner of a nice farm in Union township, on section 7, where he now resides.

S. L. Marsh, who lives on section 9 in Union township, is a native of Ohio, and was born on the 31st day of August, 1840, his parents being Edward and Margaret Ann (Moore) Marsh, of Plymouth county, Ohio. S. L. Marsh was the oldest of a family of eight children. When he was six months old his parents moved to Jennings county, Indiana, where he received a common school education and followed farming. He enlisted in Company H, 26th Indiana infantry in August, 1861, and served under Colonel Wheatley. He took part in a number of hard fought battles, and was taken prisoner and confined at Shreveport, Louisiana,, and at Tyler, Texas, for ten months. He marched nine hundred miles three hundred of which he was barefooted, and was exchanged July 22,1864, and was discharged at Indianapolis in September of the same year. After his discharge he returned home, and in March, 1865, went to Minnesota and resided in that state a number of years, then went to Macon county, Missouri. In November, 1873, he came- to Winterset, Iowa, remaining there some ten months, and then came to his present location, where he has a good farm of one hundred and eighty acres, and makes a specialty of stock raising. He was married July 15, 1869, to Miss Catharine Butler, a daughter of William Butler, of Minnesota. They have three children—Elmer, Nora B. and Laura. He is a member of the M. E. church, and has been a township trustee, Robert Wilson, one of the pioneer settlers of Union township, was born on January 9, 1804, in Mercer county, Kentucky, and is the son of Vance and Mary (Taylor) Wilson. Until grown to manhood he remained in his native state, but in 1832 he removed to Indiana, and there remained until 1838, when he came to Ripley county, Indiana. In 1843 he came to Jefferson county, Iowa, where he remained seven years, when he came to Madison county. In the spring of 1854 he came to Union township, Adair county, and here resided until his death, which occurred on the 12th of September, 1869. He was married in July, 1829, to Miss Catharine Salyers, by whom he had twelve children—Margaret P., Samuel S., Mary J., Vance I., Sara E., Francis M,, William H., Jerry M., Nancy A., Susan H., J. R., and Robert A.

Jerry M. Wilson, a son of Robert and Catharine Wilson, was born in Indiana, on the 16th of July, 1842. When a child he came to Iowa and settled in Union township, Adair county, his father having been one of the oldest settlers in the township. In 1862 he enlisted in Company I, 4th Iowa cavalry, and was in the siege of Vicksburg, Jackson, Mississippi; Sekna, Alabama, and several other engagements. He served three years, and being discharged, returned home, where he was married, in 1869, to Miss Laura M. Darby. By their union four children have been blessed—Charles E., Cora S., Clarence E., and Laura A. Mr. Wilson owns a farm on sections 12, 18 and 24 of one thousand three hundred and forty acres of good land, all improved, and a fine two-story residence, and one of the best barns in the township, and has over two hundred head of cattle and one hundred and sixty hogs. He is a member of the Masonic order.

FIRST ITEMS. The first birth in Union township was that of 0. H. Greer, son of Alvin Greer, born at the home of his father on section 1, in 1854. The pioneer death was that of R. A. Wilson, who departed this life in December, 1855. The first school was taught by William Kivett, in 1857, in a school-house built the same year on section 12. The first marriage in the township was that which united the destinies of George Harmon and Miss Anna Schweers, in 1856.

CEMETERY. There is a cemetery of about six acres laid out on the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 16. This was set aside in 1875 for burial purposes, and the first interment therein was that of two children of George Schweers, in 1876.

Taken from "History of Guthrie and Adair County Iowa, 1884", transcribed by Carlyss Noland

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