Ward Township History

The following is from a program presented to the Clarke Co. Genealogical Society in 1999 by Joanne Barton.



Pioneers started arriving in 1851. Those known to be in what is now Ward Township very early were: George Coon, William Vest, William Bell and John Kennedy. It is noted that Jerry Jenks came to Clarke County in the fall of 1850 and entered by land warrant 900 acres of land in Ward Township for which he paid about 60 cents an acre. He was a native of Massachusetts. In the spring of 1851 he moved with his family to section 13. He was elected county surveyor in 1851 and in 1855 was elected judge of Clarke County. He also served as Ward Township assessor for one year. One of his daughters married Jefferson Daniel. The Jenks family is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Osceola.

In 1851 Joseph Kelley came to Clarke County from Ohio and entered a tract of land of 600 acres and added to it until he owned nearly 1000 acres. He married a lady from Madison County and they settled on Section 3 in Ward Township. They are buried in Cox Cemetery.

The fall of 1855 and spring of 1856 brought many more settlers: John Piper (my great grandfather), Israel Cox, Joseph Graves, Isaiah Hanks, Erastus Robinson ,and Isaac Fouch among others. John Piper and Isaiah Hanks' parents came from Virginia to Muskingum Co, Ohio. From there Mr. Hanks in 1840 and Mr. Piper in 1852 went to Edgar Co. Illinois where they married. Then they both ended up in Ward Township Clarke County. I have never heard of any connection between the two families but I thought the pattern of migration was interesting. Isaac Fouch was born in Kentucky in 1804. After marrying he moved to Indiana and in 1853 came to Henry Co. Iowa and then on to Ward Twp. Clarke Co. where he purchased a farm of 700 Acres. The Pipers had 8 children, the Hanks 7 children and the Fouchs 8 children. Considering the size of these farms and no mechanized equipment to use, there was work for every pair of hands.

I have a picture of a broom corn processing plant which was in operation on the Mullen farm four miles west of Osceola in1899. From this description, I have presumed it was in Ward Township.

According to Andreas Historical Atlas of 1875, the inhabitants of Ward Township came from many places, Ohio, New York, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Illinois. Also James Sims from Ireland, Alfred Leeson from England and Christian G. Bauer from Germany. Of course, some weren't listed but it was a varied group.

John Piper came to Ward Township in 1856 and settled on Section 15 where he accumulated 720 Acres of land. Being an early settler, he was several times chased by prairie fire. The most serious one occurred the 5th of November 1861. While gathering corn he saw smoke some distance west, the prairie being on fire. About 10 o'clock he and neighbor U. Smith went out to protect themselves and in a short time neighbor Samuel Crooks came in to assist them. After noon Mrs. Smith, thinking there was no danger, started to take them some provisions as they had gone without their dinner. By this time, seeing they couldn't accomplish anything by backfiring, they gave it up, and all started for Mr. Crooks' which was nearly a half-mile south. After traveling some distance Mr. Smith concluded he would go home, which was east one half mile, and told his wife to go to Mr. Crooks'. Before reaching Mr. Crooks' place they were cut off by this western fire. Seeing a place some twenty feet square where the sod had been taken off, Mr. Piper stopped there. He tried to persuade the others to stop too, but they went on and were burned in the fire. Mrs. Smith was found on the ground and Mrs. Crooks died that night. Mr. Piper was burned badly.

Cox Cemetery and Pierson Cemetery are the only cemeteries in the township. Pierson was a family cemetery which has been abandoned, but the stones are still standing in Section 35. Cox Cemetery was probably a part of the Israel Cox farm. The Cox tombstone was the most impressive stone in the Cox Cemetery with a large ball on top, until a few years ago when the ball disappeared during a vandal attack. While I don't know the exact date the cemetery was started, there are burials dated in the 1850's. The cemetery was also referred to as Frame Cemetery and Robinson Cemetery. Erastus Robinson moved to Section 2 in 1865. In the opposite corner of Section 2 was the Frame Church. There were nine one-room country schools in Ward Township.

The railroad was slow coming to Clarke County. Until 1868 stage lines ran daily east and west. The first stage lines established in 1855 ran tri-weekly. In 1868 the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad was built across Clarke county bisecting Ward Township. The railroad appears to have been built on a ridge dividing Ward Township. This later became the CB&Q and later Burlington Northern. These early pioneers came by oxen and wagon after leaving the Mississippi River. Today I-35 cuts through the eastern edge of Ward Township and now has three exits.

Ward Township along with Troy, Madison, and Washington Townships have the least timber in the county and were more generally open prairie when the pioneers arrived here. The southern half of the township is drained by White Breast Creek and the northern half is drained by South Squaw Creek. By the 1880's there were a dozen or more rock quarries in Ward Township. At the present Richard Sargent is shown as owner of almost 1200 acres, which is the rock quarry operated by Martin Marietta. The small quarries were incorporated into one large quarry.

Township supervisors were first recorded in 1861. Isaiah Hanks was supervisor in Ward Township from then until1866 when Samuel Crooks became supervisor for two years. Ward mostly voted Democratic but changed to Republican by 1886.

In 1860 Ward Township had a population of 289. By 1865 it was 276, but by 1870 it had jumped to 421. This would be the 5 years following the Civil War. It continued to grow reaching a high in 1880 of 647.

Early maps show the low-lying area on the South Squaw Creek, which became West Lake. Southern Iowa towns, which are not located on any important streams, have one problem in common: an everlasting quest for an adequate water supply for an increasing population. In 1886 a contract was let for a well 1,500 feet deep. After a year the contractor had gone less than a thousand feet. Near the 1500 foot level plenty of water was found but it was too expensive to pump and too hard for usage. The next attempt at water was a small pond constructed on the site of East Lake. This was used until about 1915 when a second deep well was drilled back of the City Hall. The city had the same problems they had had with the first well. Next East Lake was enlarged with a sand filter constructed at the east city limits. The filter worked only for a short time and was bypassed so that unpurified water was pumped into the mains. In 1933 construction of the new lake in Ward Township was begun. As 1934 was the year of the infamous drought they were unable to fill the new lake that year. In 1935 severe flooding occurred and despite sandbagging efforts the new dam washed out. Pipe was leased and a line was laid from the "Q" reservoir to the new purification plant until repairs could be made. Due to silting the dam has been raised at least three times. In 1958 the lake increased to 120 Acres in size, in 1959 to 160 Acres and in 1983 to its present size between 300 and 320 Acres. West Lake drains some 8000 acres. Warren McCormick was the first superintendent, a position he held until about 1944, when the family moved away for two years, and upon returning he took up the duties of superintendent again.

Today Lakeside Casino is being built at West Lake along with a hotel and restaurant, which plans to employ 720 people; more than all the residents of Ward Township in 1880. Wouldn't those early pioneers be shocked to see their township today?

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