In May, 1850, Bernard Arnold, wife and three daughters and one son, Benjamin, who is the subject of our sketch, drove over a wild and trackless prairie and settled down near the Mormon colony almost in the center of Green Bay township. Land was rented from the Mormons and corn planted. Other settlers in the county at that time were John Sherer, who had married one of the Mormon girls and settled near them; Robert Jamison and family had arrived a month or so before and were living in Franklin township, and James Glenn. These, together with the Mormon colony, were all the residents then in the county.
Mr. Arnold was 15 years old when his father settled here. His remembrances of the Mormon colony are better perhaps than any citizen now living in the county. A colony had emigrated from Nauvoo, Ill. in the early part of 1846 and started for the far west to avoid persecution.
Six or seven families, comprising those of two Langwells and two Conyers and two or three others had stopped in the middle of Green Bay township and settled down under the slope of a hill, as if to avoid detection. A large body of Mormons had stopped at Garden Grove for the winter, but these few families had lost their way and settled on this location, which they appropriately named Lost Camp. They afterwards abandoned Lost Camp and moved over to what is known as the James Wade farm. They had been in the county four years up to the time the Arnolds arrived. They had built a cluster of cabins and numbered about 40 persons, including their numerous children.
The Mormons remained several years afterward, not moving on to Salt Lake City until about 1854. They raised livestock and became pretty well-to-do. Mr. Arnold tells of their saving the lives of a family named Winter or Wetner over in the edge of Decatur county during the severe winter of '49-50 when snow lay five or six feet deep for several weeks. They carried provisions to them on snow shoes and saved them from starvation. These Mormons had but one wife each. In December, 1849, when the elder Mr. Arnold looked over the land he had entered, he was entertained by them.
Mr. Arnold says his father was the second man to enter land in Clarke county. He rode to Mt. Pleasant to enter it but the books were soon afterward taken to Chariton.
After they built their log cabin in May, 1850, and settled down to pioneer life they saw very few other families come in that year. John Kyte and family, Ivison Ellis, William and Levi Gardner (unmarried), Alexander Collier and William Rook, who settled in Liberty township, were all who moved in that year.
At that time the county was a wilderness of rank prairie grass and timber. Bands of Fox, Sac and Pottawattamie Indians roamed over the country. The Pottawattamies were the most numerous. There were numerous deer, wolves and occasionally a stray elk would be seen. Prairie chickens became thicker as the country settled. They thrived and increased from the grain fields. The first fall Mr. Arnold and the dogs killed thirteen wolves that came to the fields.
The first school in Clarke county was taught by Miss Eliza Jane Arnold, his sister, in one of the Mormon shanties in the fall of 1850. A Methodist Episcopal church society, perhaps the first in the county, was organized at his father's house about 1853.
For some time they got their mail at Chariton where there was one store. Later a postoffice was established at Mr. Arnold's house, and it was here the Hopeville colony people came for mail. At first the residents went to Chariton to vote on state and national tickets. The first county election was held in the fall of 1851 at Vest's grove four or five miles southwest of Osceola, the present residence of Wm. Bell.
Mr. Arnold says there were just enough voters to divide the offices among themselves. J. A. Lindsley was elected county judge; Ivisson Ellis, sheriff; Perez Cowles, recorder and treasurer; Isreal Miller, Clerk of court; Wr. Arnold, Dickinson Webster and John Sherer, county commissioners; Jerry Jenks, surveyor; Robert Jamison, school commissioner; George G. Glenn, assessor.
Mr. Arnold recalls that George Howe moved a stock of goods from Red Rock, near Pella, to one of the Mormon houses in August, 1851, where he continued in business until a hewed log house was built for him by Mr. Farley on the northeast corner of the square in Osceola a few months later. This was the first structure in Osceola besides the two rail pens put up by John Sherer on the present site of the hotel, where he kept hotel for the early settlers. John Arnold built and operated the first blacksmith shop.
Goss and Cowles put up a small general store in 1852 but it was closed out by the sheriff a year later. Jacob Butcher and Co. started a general store in 1853; the company was comprised of David Brewer and John Butcher. Robert Beckett bought Brewer out in 1854 and in 1855 bought the interests of the others. When he was elected county treasurer he sold out.
The third house in Osceola was a log residence built by M. R. Lamson. A sawmill was established in the southeast part of Osceola about 1854 by Watson Phillips and Thomas Glenn. Mr. Arnold was on the scene of this mill a few moments after Lorenzo F. Fowler (grandfather of Amy Fowler and Mrs. Mary Banta) was accidentally sawed in two and instantly killed in August, 1854. Mr. Fowler had bought the lot of the Sherer hotel and was helping saw logs for building a new frame hotel. This mill enabled the early residents to put on airs somewhat in the saw of sawed board houses.
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