Jackson Township History

Note: This article is from the program presented by Joanne Barton to the Clarke County Genealogical Society in 1995.

In 1846 the Territorial Legislature of Iowa established Clarke County which was totally uninhabited except for the wild animals and some roving bands of Indians. The county was named for James Clarke, then governor of the Territory. At that time Clarke County lacked its present easternmost tier of townships but included the east half of Union County making Clarke County five townships long and three wide. The present boundaries were established in 1849. For three years Jackson township was in Lucas County. The actual boundaries of Jackson Township were established by government survey in 1847. At that time there were no indications of any roads or settlements. The first road in the township was a trail across the prairie in a general east and west direction, keeping mostly on the high ground to avoid crossing the streams which had to be forded. The road came into existence to connect the settlements in counties farther east with settlements already made in counties to the west. This road became the established Government Stage Route as early as 1848. The road entered Jackson township at a place called the Turner farm in Lucas County. It became known that the stage route was changed to avoid this place. This change in the road was for many years known as the Whiskey cut-off.

The early settlers entered their lands from the National government in the Land Office at Chariton. They paid one dollar and twenty-five cents ($1.25) per acre. These settlers did not come in colonies or large groups and their homes were widely scattered. Nor were they of any one nationality nor creed. They came from the far east, from the Ohio valley, the Carolinas, and Missouri. Most of these early settlers were strong, young people wanting to obtain cheap land that they might establish homes for their families. Some were land speculators and some came with an itchy foot and didn't stay long, moving on to other new settlements.

It has generally been accepted that John Lewis was the first settler in Jackson Township. He first came here in 1850 and in that fall entered land in Franklin Township and sections 30 and 31 of Jackson Township. He came with his wife and three children in April 1851 and planted corn that spring. They had ten children. Their name is retained today and used in Lewis Cemetery and Lewis School. Lewis school was the first school in the township and the original building stood near the present location. It was built of logs.

The Lewis family was closely followed by others: John Baldwin, and Nicholas Johnson, who died in 1852, and was the first death among the permanent white settlers in Clarke County. During the next five years, settlers poured in Jackson Township. The McDonough family came in 1855 after Mr.. McDonough had visited Iowa in 1854, and entered a section of land in Jackson Township. He held several political offices over the years and was instrumental in starting the Catholic Church in Woodburn.

Abraham Carson took 80 acres of government land in section 11 in 1855. He and his wife, the former Elizabeth Chambers were from Pennsylvania. They had nine children and the numerous Carsons in the county are descended from the family. They lived in a log cabin . Elizabeth Chambers Carson's brothers came to Jackson Township also.

The Tedrow family came to Jackson Township in 1855 and was active in land speculation and business. In the early 1900's the family moved to Nebraska.

In 1854 Benjamin Coppock and his brother Lindsay Coppock came to Clarke County and entered land, Benjamin 200 acres and Lindsay 160 acres.The town of Ottawa was founded on Benjamin's 200 acres. At the time they came there was only one house between them and Osceola. On May 2, 1855, Benjamin and Catharine Coppock deeded land to the town of Ottawa in sections 14 and 23. This town was laid out with nine blocks, the center one being a public square. Lots were 132 feet deep and most were 66 feet wide. Sixty-six foot wide streets were included. On August 18, 1855, Catharine Coppock sold land to School district Two for the Ottawa school, which was located on lot 8, in block 7, and the school was built of logs. The first known church services were held in 1854 in the Coppock home and were Methodist. There was Post Office at Ottawa from 1855 to 1867. The first merchant was Wm. Creighton. The first church building in Jackson Township was the Methodist church in Ottawa. Thomas Miller had a tavern and in 1855, he was the first school teacher. The Masonic Lodge was active in Ottawa by 1867, and then moved to Woodburn.

The 1856 census for Jackson Township shows 232 people, 122 males and 110 females. Seventy-two had come from Indiana, 28 from Pennsylvania, 28 from Ohio, 42 from other locations in Iowa, 17 from Virginia, 14 from Illinois, 2 from Ireland, 1 from England and 1 from Canada.Others states were represented in lesser amounts.

During the first twenty years after settlement, the only method of communicating with others was via the stagecoach. It first ran through the county in 1855 three times a week. Then it ran daily east and west for ten years until 1868 when the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad was built into Clarke County. In July 1867 the railroad came as far as what is now Woodburn and most of the buildings in Ottawa were moved to Woodburn to start a new town. The railroad laid out the original town in the autumn of 1867 on 40 acres. The first addition was added by H.C. Sigler. The first building was a store by Tedrow and Palmer. Smith bought out Palmer. John Morrison was the blacksmith. The first hotel was built in 1868 by Haywood. John Boden opened a harness shop in 1873. The first homes built were for Tedrow, Parmenter, Chapman and Alf Hardin families. The Methodist Episcopal church first met in the railroad station house and six months later their church was built. A Presbyterian church was organized in 1869 and built. The services were discontinued in 1883. The Catholic Church was built in 1870; it was damaged by wind and was rebuilt. The building is still standing today and is only used on special occasions. The Catholic Diocese has deeded the church to the town of Woodburn as a historical site. The Baptists built a church in Woodburn in 1882.

Ottawa was resurveyed in 1875 and shows a less grandiose town than originally planned.

The Osceola Coal Co. was incorporated 30 March 1876 and bought land in sections 26 and 27 Jackson Township. Woodburn residents involved in this venture were Joseph Tedrow, Henry Garris and Abilene Mills. A shaft was sunk four foot by six foot to a depth of 220 feet at Woodburn. At this point they came to a lake of water. Water rose to within 50 feet of the top of the shaft. They pumped a week, but could not lower the water level and the shaft and coal mine were abandoned.

As I said above, Jackson Township had 232 residents in 1856. Census records show a steady increase through 1880 when the township had 1150 residents. About 1880 a Christian church was built in the Lewis school district in section 31. As many families of the Advent faith had moved into Jackson Township, an Advent church was erected in section 30 in 1870.

At the time of the Civil War, the local sentiment was pro-Union with very few in the opposition. Many of the Jackson Township men belonged to Company D of the Iowa 15 th. Among the first volunteers were C.W. Neal, Joab Johnson, Tom and John Davenport, Jim and Tom Carson. Watt Clark and Jacob Shively were mentioned also.

The Woodburn Argus was the only attempt at journalism in Woodburn. First published 15 January 1885 and was discontinued 1 May 1886. Several doctors practiced in the Ottawa and Woodburn areas. The first school in Woodburn was built in 1880 and is the west section of the school building still standing. Actual cash money was very scarce. There was no bank in Jackson Township until 1895. Some merchants would loan money, but the rate of interest was 24% which was nearly prohibitive. John McDonough was the first Justice of the Peace. Many of the families we find in Jackson Township today had ancestors among those early pioneers.

The railroad made the first major change in the township, and caused the downfall of Ottawa. The coming of the automobile made the larger cities more accessible and started the decline of Woodburn. Today Woodburn has a volunteer fire department, an active Community Center, a tavern, a Post Office and two churches, the Methodist and the Christian. Several people still make their homes in Woodburn, but commute to others areas for employment and for their shopping needs. The next time you are driving down Highway 34 and pass Ottawa, think about those brave pioneers who came there and made homes and towns out of the prairie.

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Last Revised August 31, 2010