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Edelstein, Joseph


Posted By: mjv (email)
Date: 10/30/2020 at 12:10:21

Joseph Edelstein, deceased, was born in Oray, Switzerland, in 1811. When a lad he learned both the blacksmith and wagon-makers trades, and left his father’s home traveling extensively, doing journeyman’s work. He came to America about 1833 and located at Cleveland, Ohio, and while there was married to Frances Schilling. The young couple concluded to try their fortune in a new country, and Joseph came to this county in the summer of 1837, and located a claim now owned by his son on section 13. He built a log cabin and returned to Ohio for his wife. They left Cleveland with a wagon and team of horses, and also brought with them a cow. When they arrived here, Mr. Edelstein found nothing but ashes to mark the place where stood his cabin. Not only that, but his hay was also burned, and in the middle of winter with no neighbors nearer than Iowa City, the outlook was hard. They dug a hole in the river bank, on the north side of English River, fronting the south. Into this they moved what few things they had, and afterward placed logs on the inside to keep it from caving in. the work of building a new cabin was at once commenced, and it was progressing fairly, with the aid of his young wife, but before it was completed they were awakened one night by the sound of rushing water, and upon getting out of bed found the water knee-deep in the “dug-out.” Mr. Edelstein awakened his wife, and together they carried out the goods and deposited them on the high bank. The old “dug-out” can yet be seen; also the first cabin built in the township in which Joseph, the eldest son, and the second white child in this township, was born, Nov. 10, 1836.

In the winter of 1837, in the “dug-out” mentioned, a son, George, was born, who was married and lived until twenty-seven years of age. While he lived he could claim the distinction of being the eldest born in the township, but the honor now falls to Joseph, who is truly a fitting representative of his father and bears his name. Several neighbors came in 1837, and settled within one or two miles of the Edelstein claim. Joseph Billman built a cabin within a few rods of our subject, and for several years lived there. They had a hard time to procure something to eat. Mr. Edelstein would start toward Burlington with the team, and whenever he could, would buy a bushel or half a bushel of corn, and after he had secured enough would have it ground, the trip for a bushel of meal often taking a week. Corn bread and wild game gave them what provision was used during the first year. Indians were plenty, and their village was only a short distance from the Edelstein home. They were the playmates of the white children for years, and Joseph S. laughingly speaks of the fun they used to have together. Some of the families had even shorter rations than our subject. They often used coffee mills to grind corn, and even hickory stumps were hollowed out, and in this the corn was poured and crushed with a large stone. Such a relic stands in the old Schnoeblen dooryard. Joseph was well liked by the Indians; he was a great smoker, and often they would congregate together, with Joseph in the center with his pipe, and he would take a puff, then hand the pipe to one of the Indians, who after taking a draw would pass it to another, until the tobacco was all gone. The friendship never dimished, and years after the Indians had gone Joseph, Jr., met a band of them, who recognized him and inquired about his father.

Joseph Edelstein was well educated in five languages. This made him one of the most useful men in his day, and he was one of the first Trustees. He entered his lands as soon as they came into market, and upon his farm lived and died. He had a horror of law, and was one of the most conscientious of men. He was also very prosperous, and when he died owned 520 acres of land all in one body. Both he and his wife were devoted Catholics, and were members of the first Church in this county, and donated to the Church at Richmond, Sts. Vincent and Stanislaus, forty acres of timber. In support of the Church Mr. Edelstein was very liberal, and upon the lands donated he planted several fruit trees, one of which is yet standing. He was the father of four sons and four daughters: George, deceased; Joseph S.; John H., deceased; Caroline, Josephine, May E.; Peter and Mary, also deceased. John married Caroline Melliger: Caroline wedded Henry Longerger; Josephine married Frank Graff, and Mary E. became the wife of Dr. Lansing Rose, who was a soldier in the army, and is now a resident of Berlin, Wis. All except Rose are well known to all old settlers.

Joseph Edelstein, Jr., was a soldier in the Indian War. Having started for Pike’s Peak in 1863, he was pressed into the service, and later volunteered and acted as escort while it lasted. At Plum Creek he was three times wounded, two balls in the leg, and an arrow in his head, but he only stopped fighting until the bullets were extracted. He tells the most horrible stories of Indian outrages, in which victims were tortured by cutting off arms at the elbows and legs at the knees, leaving them to die. Children were taken by the ankles and their brains dashed out over the wagon wheels, while those wounded were scalped and left to their fate. For ten months Joseph S. never left the country, but crossed and recrossed the plains several times. He was clad in a General’s suit and was greatly feared by the Indians, and many a savage came to a sudden end when his carbine was fired. He remained with Co. C, 14th Colored Regiment, until the war closed, although he was on detached duty.

Joseph Edelstein, Jr., was married, June 18 1863, to Miss Theresa Beach, of Washington County, who removed with her father, while Joseph S. was escort. After his return home he settled down to farm life, content to remain among the white people instead of savages, and the farm on which he lives was cleared and improved. By trade he is a wagon-maker and blacksmith, and is also a practical machinist. He owns 180 acres of the original entry, and has paid cash for it all. He is an ardent advocate of education, and was a member of the School Board for several years. He is the father of Mary F., deceased; Anna M., Joseph L., Elizabeth H., Mary J., Louisa C., Frank W., May and Rosa. They are heirs to a noble name in the history of this county, and the increased honor of being children of the oldest born settler of the same will give them a place in her history forever. When the Catholic Church was organized at Riverside, Mr. Edelstein was one of the building committee, and one of the first members. In 1852, when the great flood came, and the mills were disabled, at the farm house of Mr. John Diehl a handmill was fastened on his porch, and neighbors for miles around came to grind their corn.

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Washington County, Iowa (1887). Excerpt from Biographical Sketch of Joseph Edelstein, pages 425-426.


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