Washington township, situated in the northern tier of townships of Clarke county, contains some of the richest and most productive farms in the county.
Much credit belongs to the pioneers and early settlers, whose wisdom and good judgment aided them in selecting this tract of fertile soil for their homes.
We, in the midst of luxury today cannot conceive the trials and hardships endured by our forefathers in building their homes and laying the foundations for the beauty and wealth of our country today.
In the years 1850-52 and 53, a number of ambitious, sturdy and brave sons from Ohio entered these lands from the government at the low price of $1.25 per acre. Among them were: Wm.Evans (father of Mitchell and Lewis Evans of Murray), Wm. Jenkins, John A. Jones, Columbus Majors, Wm.Henthorn, Wm. Kelley John Fields, Garner Hunt, James Fourche, John and Ervin Smith, Joseph Deitrick, Jacob and Christopher Bullein.
A few years later James Benjamin, Griffin Cooper, John Sparks, Andrew Stephenson, Wm. and Ephriam DeLong, Jason Patterson, Green Dodd, Henry Neff, Mike Deitrick and others came to seek homes in this township and though living several miles apart they were as near neighbors ever ready and willing to help in time of need.
Schools were rare and a long distance apart. The school houses were built by subscription and there were not more than three or four in the township. One near Washington Center was taught by David Chaney, Nancy Smith, Sallie Ream, and Lizzie Kelley.
The first school house near Prairie Grove was burned down and was rebuilt north of old location. Mr. Sanduskey, Mary Bartlett, and Jennie Bonar were early teachers there.
The one in the southwest part of the township was known as the Stephenson school house.
Church was held at the private houses. Mr. Geo. Paul conducted the first meetings at Prairie Grove.
The Washington M.E. Sunday school was organized by Mrs. Pearl Sigler in 1877, and held in the school house. In about two years the M.E. church was organized after a successful revival conducted by Rev. W.H. Shipman.
When the war broke out in '61, those enlisting from Washington township were: W.W. Williams, Marion Collier, Wesley Day, Wm. Bennum, Jr., Charles Garrett, John Divine and John Jones, Jr. These being single men it did not interfere seriously with the work at home, although these were exciting days.
Two men, John Connor and Andrew DeLong, supposed to be Southern sympathizers, were shot, while in bed, and killed. Shot was fired through the window.
The war increased the hardships of the early settlers, and there was but little produce to spare.
The price of land prior to the war was from $4.00 to $5.00 per acre, but after its close it increased rapidly. One of the choice quarter sections was purchased at $5.25 per acre and in seven years time sold with meager improvements for $31 per acre.
In about 1865 some prospecting for gold was carried on but was not found in paying quantities.
Also the coal prospecting met a similar fate.
The first lands settled were principally along the streams or near the timber where they had access to fuel and building materials while those that ventured out on the prairies were exposed to bleak winds and many inconveniences, but it proved the better investment.
One of the land marks existing today is Smith's mill at Prairie Grove, which with a blacksmith shop owned by Green Dodd and a post office made up the village.
The mail reached this village by stage coach, which made a weekly trip from Osceola to Winterset.
The log house built by Wm. Jenkins with its great brick fireplace, and for many years a landmark, has just recently been torn down.
The land entered by Wm. Kelley in 1852 and now owned by his sons, is perhaps the only land in the township which still bears the original name.
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Last Revised August 31, 2010