|Cherokee County Biographies
George W PettengillGEORGE
W PETTENGILL immigrated to Cherokee County, Iowa in 1865. He
brought his family west from Waukuchon, county of Shawano, Wisconsin in
a covered wagon. The family members which came west included the
36 year old George, his wife Almire Northup, age 27 and their children
Charles Thomas, age 10, Mary, age 8, Ida, age 6 and Mercy, age 2.
One child, Myrtle, Mercy's twin, died in infancy and was buried
George was the son of Phillip and Sarah (Atwood)
Pettengill and was descended from Nathaniel Pettengill, who was a
member of the Colonial Militia who marched to the relief of Fort
William Henry in Chandler's Company, Osgood's regiment, during the
French and Indian Wars. The family was prominent in Massachusetts,
Maine and New Hampshire in Colonial and Revolutionary times.
arrival in the county, the family settled for a time in the "Bluffs",
which was a small clustering of about 5 houses on the East side of the
Little Sioux River, near the site of the old ford.
family arrived in the county there were but a few scattered settlers in
the area. Fort Cherokee, on the west bank of the Little Sioux,
was the center of activity in the county. It had recently been
abandoned by the Militia, but the buildings were still used by the
settlers. A few houses were scattered along the river where
individual pioneer families had built their homes. There were no
village or commercial establishments in the county. Supplies were
hauled by team and wagon from Sioux City, Fort Dodge, or Denison, Iowa.
1/2 of the land area of the county had been granted to the Iowa Falls
and Sioux City Railroad to encourage the building of a rail line across
Northern Iowa. The railroad held these lands off the market until
George pre-empted 80 acres of government land in Section
12 of Cherokee Township in 1865 and proceed to establish a farm.
In 18676 their last child, Frances May was born. She was
the first Pettengill born on the soil of Cherokee county.
those early days there were few settlers and most of the area was wild
prairie. Prairie fires and Indians were a constant danger. One
anecdote recounted in the family is that during this time Almire had a
run in with a roving band of Indians.
George had taken several
sacks of home grown wheat to Peterson to be ground into flour.
This required a 2 day trip by team and wagon. While he was
gone a band of Indians, led by an exceedingly fat chief, visited the
isolated homestead and stole hay for their horses. The chief
entered the house and demanded food. He seated himself in the rocking
chair by the fireplace. The chief was unmoved by the
squalls of baby Franc3es in the rocking chair, or by the entreaties of
the mother to get up, as he was smothering her baby. Since he
remained seated and the babys cries were growing weaker and weaker, in
desperation, the mother seized a pot of boiling water from the
fireplace and threw it on the chief. He leaped to his feet and
dashed outside hollering and screaming from the scalding he had
received. The mother grabbed her baby from the chair and clutched
it to her, expecting the Indians to re-enter the house at any moment
and massacre her, and the rest of the family. Instead the Indians
decamped the area and never molested the family again.
family prospered on the rich river bottom where they had settled.
In 1875 George bought an additional 120 acres adjoining the
original purchase. This was school land and was purchased from
the county. In 1876 George added an adjoining 40 acres of land
which had been college land grant land.
In the late 1860's,
Cherokee County was growing rapidly. In 1867 a store was
established in the old Fort, and in 1869 a village called Blair City
was established. In 1870 the railroad was completed through the
county and the new town of New Cherokee was founded. Blair City
vanished as it was by-passed by the railroad.
In 1871 George and
Almire decided that Charles Thomas was of an age when he would soon be
leaving home and that they could use more help on the farm
was sent by horse and buggy to New Cherokee to meet the Orphan Train
and fetch home a big strapping boy to help with the farm work.
When the orphan children were lined up on the depot platform, she
spotted an undersized, red haired, urchin wiping his runny nose
on this shirt sleeve. It is reported she said, "My heart went out
to him, so I took him home". There is no oral tradition that reports
how George reacted to the arrival of a 7 year old in the family midst.
Willie Pettengill was duly enrolled in the little rural school
down the road. He grew to adulthood with the family.
Eventually he purchased 120 acres of railroad land adjoining the
Pettengill farm and resumed his own surname. William Hunter
cleared his land and raised a large family in the county. The
undernourished little urchin with the red hair and runny nose became a
respected member of the community.
George W Pettengill passed
away 25 August 1881. His wife survived him by 16 years , passing
away from the effects of apoplexy on 4 May 1897.
the eldest child and the only son married Olivia Jane Hill on 10
October 1876. Jane, as she was known, was the daughter of Arunah
and Deborah (Secor) Hill. She accompanied her family to Cherokee
County in 1870, in a covered wagon from Charles City, Union township,
Floyd County, Iowa. Her father took land under the Homestead Act
in section 10, Afton township.
Charles Thomas, known as Chauk,
and Jane set up housekeeping and lived for a time on the bottoms, along
the river on the original Pettengill pre-emption. During the
grass hopper years, 1877-1880, times were hard. Chauk had to
borrow money for which he signed notes. In the history of the
county these are known as Grasshopper Notes,. To pay off these notes he
went back to Wisconsin to work the fall and winter of 1879 in the
lumber camps. Jane was left to fend for herself until he
returned. IN her later years she used to tell a story about that
experience. Both food and money were scarce. She fed herself on
home grown produce and fish she caught in the river.
while scouting the river banks for a place to fish she spotted a large
catfish in a pool in the river. She found a post and slammed the
catfish on the head, killing it. She estimated the fish weighted
over 50 lbs and as she told it, she ate fish for a long while.
other surviving children also married. Mary was wed to Benjamin
Terwillager on 14 May 1873. This family later moved to Idaho.
They had 10 children. Descendants of this branch of the
family live in California and other western states.
Ida married George Smith on 11 November 1877. He later disappeared while on a trip to Idaho and was not heard of again.
married Everett Palmer on 2 November 1881. Their first born was
Renee. Then they had a set of twins named Edward and Edna who died at
age 8 months are buried in Afton Cemetery. The Palmer's left
Cherokee County and later generations have lost track of them.
Francy, the youngest married Joseph Stoner, on 14 January 1886.
The resided on a farm near the old home place until 1909 when
they moved to Cherokee and spent their remaining years. Frances
May and Joseph Stoner celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on 14
Jan uary 1936 in Cherokee. Frances died on 26 August 1936 and was
survived by three children Arthur, Bernice and Lester.
Thomas and Oliva Jane were blessed with two sons. George William
was born on 10 September 1878 and Guy Arthur was born on 17 June 1879.
Tragedy struck the family on 21 October 1902 when Guy Arthur was
suddenly taken ill and died from an abscessed liver at the age of 23.
surviving son, George W married his cousin Ellen Smith, daughter of
Albin and Anna (Hill) Smith; daughter of Arunah Hill. They had
seven children, Guy Arthur (Artie) born 18 March 1901, Alice Pettengill
Volkert born 3 May 1902, Charles Thomas born 28 January 1905, George
Fay born 31 January 1906, Leo born 23 August 1907, Gaylen born 1910 and
an infant daughter born 12 April 1911 and died shortly afterwards.
turbulent twenties and the financial problems that they brought to the
farmers of the county brought disaster to Charles and his family.
He lost the farm. For the first time since 1865, the land
was not occupied by the Pettengills. Chauk and Jane moved to the city
roaring twenties also delivered retribution to son George. The
local Sheriff caught him delivering a fine variety of his home made
bootleg hooch. Not only did he rec eived a short term in the
County jail, but his Buick automobile was confiscated. This last
action he appealed all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court, a legal
battle which was to no avail.
His brush with the law and sojourn
in the calaboose did not diminish his community standing. he was
for many years an elected member of the rural district school board and
a township trustee.
George was able to reclaim the home farm in
the 1930's. George and Ellen lived on the home farm until 1954
when they retired to Cherokee. He remained a partner in the
farming operation until his death 1 March 1956. A life estate in
the land was given to his wife Ellen which lasted to her death 19
Sons Charles and Gaylen inherited the farming operation, though some of the land was divided among other heirs.
1947 double tragedy struck the family. Two sons died within a
week. IN late November of that year Guy Arthur was crushed beneath a
catercaterpiller9ller tractor he was loading on a truck while he was
working on the job at Schleswig, Iowa. Within a week his younger
brother Leo died of Coronary Thrombosis. Both sons left behind
Guy Arthur (Artie) married Ann Davis. They had one son, Dean Pettengill, who currently resides in California.
married Andreas Volkert. He passed away in 1929. Their daughter
Betty Jean married Dan Campbell (now deceased) and lives in Brainerd,
Charles T married late in life to Marguerite Danielson. This couple produced no off-spring.
Fay married Ora Yound. Their children were Virginia June married
to Robert Beachman; Shirley Jean who died 27 January 1929 at a very
young age; Donna married Wilfred (Bill) Schmidt; Delores who married
Robert (Bob Gunnarson; Lavonne (Bonnie) who married three times. to
Ronald Hicks, Jess Messerole, and Dennis Harwood; Donald Wayne (Bud)
who married Joan Westphal; and Sheryl Kaye who married Robert Messerole.
Of these descendants only Donna and Sheryl Kaye remain in Cherokee County.
married Violet E. Riggs. Their children were George K who married
Darleen D Cummins and Erndine Ellen who married S. Wayne Ekren.
Gaylen married Audrey Mac Donald. They had one child, Sharon Lynn who married William McCloud.
Source: Cherokee County Historical Society family history documents
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