History of Deep Creek

This is from the 1879 history of Clinton County by L. P. Allen, pgs 612-617

Deep Creek Township is bounded on the north by Jackson County, on the west by Waterford Township, on the south by Center Township, and on the east by Elk River Township.  It comprises Congressional Township 83 North, Range 5 east.

The township is obviously named from the stream that waters it so amply, running first to the east and then making an elbow toward the north and flowing towards the Maquoketa, through a superb alluvial valley averaging a mile and half wide, bordered by rounded bluff, and forming the celebrated "Deep Creek Bottom," unsurpassed in the world for farming lands.  The creek derives its name not so much from the depth of water in its channel, though there are occasional holes of dangerous depth, as from the height of the banks as compared with the shallow eastern streams.  The township, aside from the floor-like valley, is prairie, more and more rolling as one proceeds northward toward the county line.  The timber also increases in the same direction, and the more broken ground in the northwestern part was and is quite well wooded.  At the time of the settlement, there were also thick belts of timber along the streams, as well as several groves, so that the pioneers were supplied with building and fencing stuff without having to go very far for it.

Probably the first white man to locate in Deep Creek Township was one Boone, a nephew of the famous Daniel, who took up a claim at was has since been known as Boone's Springs, near the present residence of Sylvester Hunter, where he made some slight improvements.  Before the land in the township was surveyed, John Jonas and Dennis Collins resided within the township, but did not enter claims for themselves, though they were engaged by non-residents to look after their interests.  The first permanent settlers were Matthew Flinn, James Kerwin, Thomas Watts, afterward County Surveyor, and Capt. Hubbard.  About the same time, 1836-1838, came the Simmonses, James, Hiram and Egbert, father and sons, and soon after John Mormon, William L. Potts and Isaac Ramsay and family.

The pioneers were from diverse localities, but lived together in enviable peace and tranquility.  Most of them secured the enormous claims of 600 to 1,000 acres, and even more, by the comprehensive process, as "Tom" Watts recounts, with but little of humorous exaggeration, of going up on a rising ground till a place was found that suited the prospector, who then went and staked off all the land in sight.  Very little land was obtained in Deep Creek by the original settlers, except at the Government offices.  They were not annoyed by speculators or claim jumpers (the former getting only "odds and ends") in this township.

Though the Indians gave possession of the country in 1837, for ten years thereafter, every winter, large bands, sometimes numbering fifty or twenty persons, of friendly and honest Sacs and Foxes, would return to the Deep Creek and Goose Lake region and there encamp, attracted by the abundance of game and fur, and pass the winter hunting and trapping.  Otter, mink and muskrat swarmed in the streams, and deer were so numerous, till about 1855, that it was almost impossible to take a walk for a half a mile without seeing several.  Small game was also abundant. The wives and families of the settlers were on the most cordial terms with the Indians, who paid a liberal tribute of game for occasional luxuries furnished them by the good housewives, who found them far more civil and grateful than are the white vagrants of to-day.  Frequently, when Mr. Watts was reading in his bachelor cabin, before 1842, the window would be darkened by a tawny savage's painted face, full of curiosity at seeing the pale-face so intently regarding a sheet of paper.  The pioneer would step out, perhaps  invite the red man in; and, after getting comfortably warmed and exchanging compliments, the latter would noiselessly glide away upon the hunting trail.  The last elk in the township, and possibly in the county, was killed after a chase so long and exciting as to fully task the hunter's powers, by an Indian, well known as "Jim," he having adopted the name of James Bourne, after the aboriginal custom, paying a delicate compliment to a person by assuming his name.

The first farms occupied were naturally those along the rich bottoms and adjacent slopes; the last, those in the almost hilly north of the township.  The bottom lands had another most powerful attraction in the magnificent springs that gushed out of the rocks at the base of the bluffs.  Perhaps the presence of such choice "Adam's ale" was a cause of the remarkable temperance that, for that period, prevailed among the settlers along Deep Creek.  Inebriation was very rare, and therefore quarrels and accidents were unknown and sickness very rare at that time.  Nevertheless, people enjoyed themselves.  The level sward encouraged ball-playing and pitching quoits; and raisings and similar gatherings prevented sociality from decaying.

The first child was born to William L. Potts, in September, 1839.  The first funeral was that of Charles C. Smith, held soon after.  The first wedding was in 1844, when Thomas Watts was married to Emmeline, daughter of Robert Hunter, at the house of the bride's father; William Hunter, Justice, performing the ceremony, there being no clergyman within thirty or forty miles.  It must have been an auspicious wedding-day; for though the then blooming prairie bride has entered into her heavenly rest, the husband and father still survives, stalwart and vigorous, with his descendants multiplying about him.

The first post office was at Boone's Springs, in Section 5, Township 85 north, Range 5 east, established in 1850, with Philo Hunter as Postmaster.  His successor was John Evans, who dispensed the weekly mail, by the Bellevue and De Witt horseback route, till, in 1872, the office was removed and changed to Goose Lake, where John Dickey has ever since served as Postmaster.

The first stated religious services in the township were held at Hunter's Log Schoolhouse, in the north part, in 1844, by both Methodists and Congregationalists.  Rev. O. Emerson and other missionaries officiated.  In 1854, congregations met in the log schoolhouse near B. T. Cook's.  The names of those energetic workers, Larkins and Blackford, are found among those who dispensed spiritual food in the decade ending with 1850.

In 1862, a Methodist Church, costing $3,000, was built by a general contribution.  Rev. Daniel Conrad is the present local clergyman in the Congregational Church of Deep Creek, and Waterford, assisted in building a Union Church at Preston, in Jackson County, in 1876. 

Among the early teachers in the old log schoolhouses above mentioned were Philo Hunter, Miss Marietta Rhodes and Mrs. Rodman.  The schools were quiet and orderly, insubordination being less common than in these days.  The inconveniences of the buildings were patiently endured.  Teachers boarded around and were sustained in their legitimate functions by the school patrons.  Deep Creek was one of the first townships to renew its schoolhouses at an average cost of about $91.

The panic of 1857 was weathered very comfortably by the farmers of this township, as few of them then had any interest to carry.  Since that date, the financial history of the township has substantially been that of the rest of the county.  In common with the others of the two northern tiers of townships, substantial benefit was derived from the building of the recent railways.  The Midland crosses the north part of Goose Lake on a solid embankment, just north of the old stage-route from Lyons to Maquoketa, which has, by the expenditure of much toil and money, been converted from a quagmire, in which coaches stuck and through which perspiring, muddy and profane travelers wallowed, into a firm and dry highway.

The winter of 1842-43 was memorable for its intense windless cold during January, February and March, so that on the first Monday of April, a load of 1,000 bricks was hauled across Deep Creek on the ice.

In 1849-50, was the deepest snow remembered by old settlers, twenty inches being measured on a level.

The greatest annoyances were prairie fires and wolves.  The latter have, indeed, not lessened in numbers or in boldness, owing to the increase of lurking-places in ditches and groves.  Formerly, when swine were allowed to run at large outside of the fenced and broken fields, a large tribute of young porkers was secured by wolves.  Now the sheep are the victims, and farmers have generally been compelled to give up their flocks.  Prairie fires, till as late as 1855, were an almost annual visitation either in rainless winters or in the fall, when the grass had been killed by frost.  As they swept over the broad valley and climbed the bluffs, the sight was often inexpressibly grand.  Sometimes they advanced at  a speed of not less than twelve miles per hour, thought the usual rate was only two to four miles.  The settlers usually preserved their fences and property by building counter-fires, which burned against the wind, so as to leave an open space, over which the advancing billow of fire could not leap.  It is a mistake to suppose that these fires ceased when the Indians left the country.  Owing either to carelessness of hunters or to design, they were just as frequent as long as there was a grassy jungle as dry as tinder for the flames to feed upon.  Old settlers tell of the curious way in which it was used to advance by wedges, so to speak.  Many fences were burned and ditches were, therefore, at first often used for dividing lines.  Next came the board fence, destined to place to wire.  Little did the emigrants ever expect to get their fencing material from Pittsburgh or Cleveland.  Many acres have been added to the arable area of farms by sloughs drying up, owing to cultivation and the wash from plowed land filling them up.  Where were once oozy bogs now wave fields of corn.  Much land has also been reclaimed by ditching.

In 1865, in Section 16, transpired the only capital crime chronicled in the annals of Deep Creek since its settlement, but a murder so melodramatic and fiendish in its motive and circumstances, as to savor of the climes where volcanic passions invoke the dagger to settle rivalries.  One J. M. Mattoon, a man of ugly and licentious disposition, had, in his household, a comely handmaid named Hannah, whose position was, by the neighbors, pretty accurately supposed to be similar to that of Hagar, in Abraham's household.  However, she appeared not to be all exclusive in her affections, but to divide them with tolerable impartiality between Mattoon, whose wife bore the infliction with singular equanimity, and a rather aged but ardent admirer named Ray.  Miss Hannah's course of polyandry ran smoothly enough, till Ray's son, Oliver, a gallant soldier in Company K, of the Twenty-sixth Regiment, arrived home.  He, too, became enamored of the voluptuous domestic, and she very naturally preferred the frank, martial young man to either the senior Ray or the morose Mattoon.  The old man Ray, upon being notified by Oliver, of the latters liking for the girl, gracefully withdrew, but into Mattoon entered the green-eyed devil of jealousy.  Upon Oliver's calling upon the girl at the house, he was ordered out of the house by Mattoon, and went to the adjacent house of W. D. Weir, whither the lassie followed him.  Presently Mattoon made his appearance and picked a quarrel with young Ray, finally calling him a liar, for which he was promptly knocked down by the veteran.  Mattoon then went into the pantry, obtained a large, sharp butcher-knife, and, concealing it in his sleeve, walked into the door-yard, and soon returning renewed the quarrel, and plunged the knife twice into Ray's body, who fell, bathed in blood, to the floor, and, after lingering some days died, killed in a trivial broil, after having gone through the war without a wound.  Owing to the culpable apathy of the neighborhood, Mattoon was neither lynched nor arrested, but made his escape to the Far West, and was never heard of again, though one of the settlers, Mr. Bronson, of Goose Lake, found traces of him.  The buxom cause of war married and went West.  The only fatal accidents, aside from the drowning of a child recorded elsewhere, were the suffocation of Messrs. Kruse and Wilson, while digging a well in Section 15, and the death of Samuel Cooper, by driving off an embankment near Bryant.  Henry Boock committed suicide in Bryant.

A post office was established at Bryant, a station on the Midland in the southeastern part of the township, in 1870, the railroad being completed to that point in December of that year.  The first Postmaster was C. Hass, succeeded by Otto Behrns, E. Reiff, and the present official, E. N. Nagel.  In 1877, a great need of that section of the county was met by the building of the Bryant Steam-Mills by a stock company, 100 share at $50, being subscribed in the neighborhood. The officers are James Sewell, President; N. E. Ingwersen, Secretary; O. H. Buck, Treasurer; P. H. Dunn and Hans Bruch, Directors.  The first business men were E. N. Nagel, E. Reiff and C. Anderson.  An independent school district was organized, and a school building costing $2,400 erected in 1874.  Among the older settlers and large farmers in this part of the county are the Ingwersens, Patrick Laughlen, P. H. Petersen and Josiah Davis.  Many of the farms run from 600 to 700 acres in size, and compare in cultivation with any in the United States.

Previous to 1854, the settlers around Goose Lake had been greatly annoyed by losing horses and cattle, owing to a regular line of horse-thieves from St. Paul to Missouri and Kansas, where the border-ruffian element then made it a snug harbor for all kinds of desperadoes.  In that year was organized a Home Protection Society, of which Capt. C. B. Hubbard was President.  Sixteen active citizens were chosen as riders, and thereafter the mere existence of the organization rendered property in live stock secure.  About this time, James Spurrell lost a valuable steer, which the thief took to Lyons.  The culprit was tracked in the snow and captured, but succeeded in making his temporary escape during biting cold weather, on horseback, without boots, hat or coat, and was horribly frozen.

With some attempt at keeping this a bit short, I did edit a few things here and there.  
For the complete text, please consult the book.