One of the wealthiest townships in Hardin county, as far back as 1880, was Providence, that good old Quaker settlement, which is situated on the Marshall county line, bounded on its east by Union, on its north by Pleasant, and on the west by Grant township. It comprises congressional township 86, range 20, west of the fifth principal meridian.
It ws organized by the county judge in 1856, being set off from Union township. The first election was held at the village of New Providence in April that year, when the following officers were elected: Justices of the peace, A. M. Mulford and James Fitzgerald; trustees, Daniel Dillon, John Bowerman and William Andrews; constables, J. Q. Hickerman; clerk, Cyrus McCracken; assessor, Edward J. Reece.
Honey creek, which is the only stream of any great importance within the township, flows from the northwest to the southeast, through the entire width of the territory. The land is of an excellent Iowa Makeup, rich and very productive of all crops common to this country.
The original settlement was made in this township in the autumn of 1851 by Levi Reece, William Dobbins, E. I. Reece and John J. Thornton, who landed here on the first day of Septemer and immediately commenced the erection of their cabins. The next settlers who came in to claim some part of this beautiful township were James L. Tulbert, William Hobson and Samuel Dillon. In the spring following came the father, Joseph Dillon, and James Fitzgerald, each erecting log houses and commencing to turn over the virgin sod. This little band of pioneers are entitled to much credit in braving the dangers and enduring the hardships of the wild country, far from markets and mills.
The first to settle in 1853 was William Reece, who had claimed his land in the fall of 1851. Then came David and Thomas Bennett, in 1854. David Bennett and a son of Thomas Bennett subsequently lost their lives by being struck by lightning while out breaking prairie. John Allen Hayworth came in 1854, as did J. A. Allgood and William Flemming.
John S. Bond, one of the early settlers of Hardin county, was born in Indiana in 1828 and emigrated to iowa in 1854, locating in Providence township.
A. M. Mulford, native of Ontario county, New York, born 1827, emigrated in 1855 to Hardin county, Iowa, locating on section 5 of Providence township. Two years later he settled on section 2. In 1856 he was elected justice of the peace and held the office for eighteen years. He served as county supervisor many terms and held other local offices.
E. Andrews, born in Virginia in 1824, moved with his parents to Ohio and to Illinois in 1836. In the fall of 1840 they moved to Jefferson county, Iowa, and in 1855 to Hardin county, locating in Providence township, where he erected a fine residence, which was destroyed by the fearful cyclone of 1860, when the results of his years of toil were swept away in less than a moment of time. He was a member of the Friends Society; was a trustee of the Iowa Reform School for Boys and Girls, now known as the Industrial School.
Other settlers were james Lund, T. D. Hinshaw, Marcus Blair, W. H. Cook, J. B. McCormick, Asher Kersey, William F. Andrews, Jonathon S. Hockett, P. C. Hadley, Jeremiah S. Hadley, Joseph Spurgin, Benjamin Mills, S. S. Mulford, George W. Mitchell, Seneca Wildman, William Wildman and Daniel H. Martin. A majority, if not all, of this number were counted among the members of the Society of Friends.
First Events of Interest
The first settlement in the township was effected in 1851.
The first birth was that of Sarah B., daughter of John J. and Julia Thornton, born in the autumn of 1851.
The first death in the township was that of William Dobbins, September 6, 1852.
The first couple married was that of the union of James Dillon and the widow of Patrick Fitzgerald.
The first church erected was that of the Society of Friends, in 1854.
The first public school taught was by James Tulbert, in a building erected that same year.
The first steam mill was built in 1854 by Reuben Bond.
The first water mill was erected by L. Lawrence; it was later sold to J. S. Hadley and then always known as Hadley's Mill. But by 1880 no trace of this mill could be found, save the old flume and fragments of the dam.
A Very Temperate People
Among the virtues to be commended among the Friends and other citizens of this township is that of letting alcoholic liquors entirely alone. When the vote came to be counted, after the heated temperance campaign of 1882 over the proposed constitutional amendment, which finally carried by thirty thousand majority in Iowa, and was killed by the wisdom (?) of the powers that be, on a technicality of the reading in the House, the neglect of an engrossing clerk and the rulings of the supreme court, it was found that out of the two hundred and fifty votes cast in Providence township, only two solitary votes were cast "For" the saloon in Iowa, a record such as has never before been recorded in any vote of this size. The election was held June 27, 1882, and the township has never had a saloon before or since within its borders.
A Mutual Insurance Company
The people of this section of the county have ever been progressive and thrifty, and believe in insurance on their property, after the safer, cheaper plan of "mutual" companies. In November, 1870, the citizens organized the Providence Township Mutual Insurance Company, by electing Cyrus Lundy, William P. Hunnicut, Caleb Baldwin, William Wildman, Willaim P. Andrews, L. G. Hunt, and C. A. Lundy, a board of directors, who completed the organization, by electing William Wildman, president; William P. Andrews, vice-president; Cyrus Lundy, secretary and treasurer. For many years the company carried hundreds of dollars worth of farm risks at not to exceed five dollars per thousand on five-year policies.
Town of New Providence
This town was platted in 1855, by E. Andrews, Dr. Eli Jessup and Daniel Dillon, and was filed for record February 8, 1856. It is described in the county plat book as being situated "on the south half of the southwest quarter of section 3, and the north half of the northwest quarter of section 10, township 86, range 20." It stands on very high ground.
Merchandise was first sold at this point in 1856 by Calvin McCracken, who continued a short time and was followed by Beach & Ketch. Robert King was also an early dealer in town, continuing until his death in 1864. Other merchants were Joseph White, Wildman, Owen & Company, Wildman Brothers and C. B. Haworth, who removed the stock to Union.
A hardware store was established in the fall of 1863 by J. B. Mulford, who continued until 1865, when the firm became S. S. Mulford & Brother. The firm later was Mulford & Andrews, and in 1869 was again under the sole head of S. S. Mulford.
The town always lacked the redeeming feature of a western turn, namely, railroad facilities. It has, however, always been a good country town trading point, the business being carried on by the best of honest men and the people have been well served. With the building of the Northwestern railway line through the south part of the county, and the establishment of a station point at Lawn Hill, the town has not held its own, at least never increased much in size and business houses.
The business firms in the autumn of 1910 consisted of these: Bank, hotel, livery, blacksmiths, wagon shop, telephone exchange, three physicians, two general stores, barber shop, garage, hardware, restaurant, meat market, harness shop.
New Providence was struck by the cyclone in 1860, and somewhat crippled, as was the surrounding farming community, but worst of all, came the great fire that occurred on the night of December 30, 1910, whe, through a fire started in a butcher shop, it is supposed, the most of the business houses were totally destroyed, leaving only the bank and postoffice untouched. The loss was estimated at seventy thousand dollars. The following buildings, with their stocks of goods, were lost: New Providence Hardware Company, Struther Brothers, W. S. andrew, two building, meat market and restaurant, owned by Loler, Will L. Thornton's harness shop. The Mutual Telephone Company lost heavily.
When the railroad went through and Lawn Hill was established, many of the business houses of New Providence established themselves at the new railroad town, only a mile or so to the north, but after about ten years local difficulty arose between the dealers who were mostly of the Friends Society and woud not affiliate with those who held to more liberal moral and business methods, hence they all moved back to new Providence and re-located. In 1905 the town had a population of two hundred and forty. It is one of Hardin county's oldest places, and its Friends Academy is well known throughout the entire West.
Had it not been for the fact that many owning property there have always opposed the construction of a water works system, on account of taxes, the hamlet might have been saved the great losses it has from time to time sustained. The Friends church was destroyed a few years since, causing an expenditure on the part of the church more than seven thousand dollars. Then came the recent sweeping fire. There were few who have ever wanted protection from fire ravages, and agitated the matter at different times, and when the old creamery property was sold a year or so ago was their golden opportunity to purchase at less than a thousand dollars a plant including engine, which could have been converted into a water works system and saved the loss in these fires, but here, as in many places, delay was added to delay until all was lost.
Several of the business houses burned out are rebuilding and others are seeking other locations. The town is situated finely and within the heart of a magnificent farming section.
After the great fire of December, 1910, the business of New Providence was in the hands of the following persons and firms:
General dealers - E. L. Rash.
Hardware - The New Providence Hardware Company.
Auto garage - W. L. Thornton.
Bank - New Providence State Bank.
Hotel - Globe, by A. C. Kersey.
Livery - A. C. Kersey.
Barber - M. Reese.
Blacksmith - A. C. Smallwood, George Campbell.
Wagon shop - Alberry Bros.
Physicians - Dr. S. Mabee, Dr. Feltss.
Academy - Society of Friends.
New Providence was incorporated as a town in February, 1893, and the following have served as its mayors: F. L. Lewis, E. J. Wood, C. W. Veach, F. P. Rodgers, H. Cartright, F. P. Rodgers, O. Bunker, C. C. Miller. The municipal officers in January, 1911, were: Mayor, C. C. Miller; recorder, W. H. Alberry; treasurer, A. C. Smallwood; assessor, E. V. Moore; councilmen, N. S. Martin, Z. Reese, J. F. Batton, O. Bunker and S. D. Moon.
The records were all lost in the great fire in December, 1910, except the books of the treasurer.
Several years ago a fine stock company creamery was established here and for a time flourished well, but later went down from mismanagement, and the property was sold at about six hundred dollars, far less than its value.
This office was established about 1860. The records are incomplete, but it is known that there are three rural routes extending out from the town and that they were established in September, 1897. There have never been robberies or fires to molest this postoffice. Three mails arrive daily. It is thought the first postmaster was either Stephen or Millard Mulford. The amount of money order business in December, 1910, was on orders issued, $1,252; paid on orders, $191.98. The present postmaster is W. T. Kersey.
Township Officers, 1911
Justices of the peace, O. E. Bunker and A. C. Smallwood; constables, B. C. Lybarger and J. H. Shelton; clerk, H. W. Andrews; trustees, L. V. Carter, S. D. Moon and B. F. morris; assessor, E. F. Morris.