Hardin County - Union Township

The Past and Present of Hardin County Iowa
ed. by William J. Moir.  Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen & Company, 1911

Transcribed by Linda Suarez

This is the subdivision of Hardin county to which belongs the distinction of having first been entered for actual settlement.  It was Greenberry Haggin, a genuine pioneer character, who preferred the outskirts of civilization rather than the more thoroughly developed sections of country in which to abide.  He loved the wild prairie, its tall grass, its nodding wild flowers, its game and its meandering streamlets and skirted timbered streams.  He entered this fair, untouched domain in 1849, with his family, and built him a rude log cabin on section 23.  He had several sons, all of whom took claims on sections 10, 14 and 23.  After a few years it became too "civilized" for this sturdy pioneer and, with members of his family, he removed to the wilds of Minnesota, since which the people of this county have lost all track of his career.  He with his kinfolk were all the white persons residing in Hardin county in 1849.

In 1850 to Union township came James Austin Dawdy, William Robeson, Samuel Smith, Sr., with his two sons, Alexander and Samuel Smith, Jr., all from Knox county, Illinois.   Jacob Miller and a Mr. Grimsley and Thomas Hauser came the same year.  William Robeson located on section 14, removed several times, but finally died on this section.   Grimsley settled on section 10, where he opened up a farm, and did blacksmithing under an old oak tree, in the spring and summer of 1851.  He later erected a good shop and it is supposed was the first blacksmith that ever tested the coal from a Hardin county coal mine.  It is related by Samuel Smith, Jr., that in the spring of 1851, he went with Mr. Grimsley down the Iowa near where the mines of Moran & Buckner were later developed, and from the bottom of the river dug out a load of soft coal which they hauled back to Grimsley's shop and it was there used in his pioneer forge.  Grimsley died in 1852 and his was probably the first death of a white man in this township.

Organization of Union Township

Alexander Smith, the county judge of Hardin county, organized this township in 1853.   The first election of township officers was held at the house of Cyrus Rowen, a half mile north of the present site of the town of Union.  Thomas Hauser was elected justice of the peace.  An election had been held in the township prior to this, the first in Hardin county, which was held at the house of Henry Abrams, for the election of county officers.

Surface and Natural Features

Union township is situated in the extreme southeastern corner of the county, bounded on the north by Eldora township, on the east by Grundy county, on the south by Marshall county, on the west by Providence township, Hardin county.  There territory is traversed by the two lines of the northwestern system of railroads and the Iowa Central.   Its towns are Whitten, Union and Gifford.  Its chief water course is the Iowa river, that flows from section 4 on the north line, down through the township, leaving the county from section 36.  Honey creek touches the extreme southwestern corner of the territory.  The Iowa river is, or at an early day was, heavily timbered.  There are numerous small streams flowing into the Iowa river within this township, affording plenty of excellent drainage and an abundance of pure water.  Honey creek derived its name from the many wild honey bees found in the timber section through which the pretty stream meanders.

Pioneers of the Township

Samuel Smith, Sr., was a native of Virginia.  After his marriage he moved to Ohio, where the family lived until after the last war with England.  He enlisted and was present at the battle of Fort Meigs.  In 1824 the family moved to Indiana and in 1837 to Knox county, Illinois, where they remained until 1849, then moved to Keokuk county, Iowa, remained until the spring of 1850, then came to Hardin county.  He died in 1854 and the good wife in 1858.

In 1851 the only settlers who came were John Q. Irvin, L. W. Price, Daniel Spurlin and family and Washington Asher.

In 1852 the township rapidly filled up with an enterprising class of citizens and prosperity was seen on every hand until the coming on of the panic of 1857 and later the great Civil war.

It may be added that during the first ten years in the history of Union township that these also effected their settlement:  L. H. Lockwood, William Lockard, James Druary, James Long and family and George Whitney.

Having given the beginning of settlement here, it will be in order to inform the reader concerning some of the men and women who came in about the date and also a later tide of immigration.

T. N. Hauser, a native of North Carolina, born in 1822, married in 1844 and in 1850 emigrated to Iowa, coming through with teams, camping out.  Their first cabin in Hardin county was twelve by fourteen feet, made of round poles, without windows, and for a light depended on a log cut away in the side, over which was placed a greased paper.   He paid a Mr. Haggin fifteen dollars for a claim right.  Being a poor man, at the time of his coming he engaged to split two thousand fence rails for a Mr. Smith, for fifty cents per hundred, and during the same einter split enough rails to surround his own land.  He also hewed timber from which to erect for himseld a new log house.   This pioneer palace was supplied with furniture made by him from native lumber.   The summer of 1851 was known as the "wet season" to pioneers, and provisions were extremely scarce.  For six weeks he had to live on borrowed corn, which, on account of high waters and bad roads, he had to pound into meal in a wooden mortar.  After a third of a century, in 1882, this pioneer had accumulated much property, had aided his large family of sons and daughters and held a half section of valuable land in Union township.  He was a Republican in politics and when the Old Settlers Association was organized he was selected as its first president.  His was a checkered, but highly interesting and successful career.

William Montz, another settler of 1850, was born in Frederick county, Maryland, in 1813, and was of a family of eighteen children.  He accompanied his parents to Ohio when founr years of age and gained an education in a pioneer school house.  He married in 1849 and came to Hardin county, Iowa, in 1850.  In 1882 he lived in the town of Whitten and owned a farm of over two hundred acres, valued at forty dollars per acre.

James A. Dawdy, a native of Kentucky, born in 1819, in an early day moved to Illinois and in 1848 to Keokuk county, Iowa.  The following year he moved to Hardin county, where he bought wild land and remained until his death, in May, 1864.  He was an honored member of the Christian church.  He succeeded and left a handsome competency for his family.  His wife used to relate how she had to grind buckwheat in a coffee mill, and pound corn in a stump burnt out for that purpose.

Other prominent settlers in their day were: J. Q. Irvin, of East Tennessee; L. W. Price, of Rush county, Indiana; William Lockwood, of Virginia; Daniel Spurlin, a North Carolinan; M. V. Sayers, of Ohio; J. Q. Adams, born in Ohio in 1820; John Moore, of Kentucky; Lyman H. Lockwood, native of Ohio, born in 1821; William Martin, of Kentucky, born in 1818, came to Hardin county in 1855 and located at Eldora until 1859, when he moved to Union township.

James Reed was also counted among the early pioneer band in this township.  He was a native of Pennsylvania, born in 1819, moved when a boy to Ohio, married in 1844, and came to Hardin county in 1855, locating in this township.  He entered the Union army in 1862 in the Thirty-second Iowa Infantry Regiment and saw much hard fighting and this included the last battle in the great Civil conflict, Fort Blakely.

John Benson, a native of New York state, born in 1796, was a mill builder; was married in 1830, moved to Iowa in 1844, stopping a year in Muscatine county; and the following year moved to Jackson county, Iowa, where he embarked in the manufacture of farm fanning mills.  In 1852 he went to Delaware county, this state, and there erected a saw mill, follwed that nineteen years and in 1856 (possibly 1855) came to Hardin county, where he purchased a large tract of land and built one of the first saw mills in this county.   The family did not remove to this county until after the close of the Civil war.   He was a judge in Delaware county and was school fund commissioner in 1849, before the office of school superintendent was established.

William Bates, an Englishman, was born in Herfordshire in 1834.  In 1849 he came to America, going to Morris, Grundy county, Illinois, where he became a farm laborer.   In 1853 he started to California where he followed mining and drove pack mules on the Bear river.  In October, 1855, he left California and came east by way of the Isthmus and New York, back to Morris, Illinois.  In 1858 he married and came to this county.  In 1860, when the cyclone struck this township and destroyed so much of life and property, his house was blown away and he with his family escaped by entering their cellar.

A. F. Wood, another pioneer, was born in New York state in 1829, came to Carroll county, Illinois, in 1844, was married in 1851, and in 1856 located in Hardin county, near Berlin, and in 1859 removed to Union township.  In 1860 he went to Pike's Peak, and in 1862 enlisted as a member of Company F, Twenty-second Iowa Infantry; was made sergeant in 1863 and lieutenant in 1865.  After the close of the war he was elected sheriff of Hardin county, on the Republican ticket.  By 1882 he had accumulated property sufficient to own a half section of valuable land in Union township.

Joshua W. Lounsberry, born in Broome county, New York, in 1809, married in 1831, emigrated in 1835 to Trumbull county, Ohio, and later settled in Richland county, that state.  He followed millwright work many years and personally knew Governor Kirkwood, in Ohio, before our Iowa war governor had emigrated to Iowa.  In 1855 he built a mill for Kirkwood & Clark, at Iowa City.  He moved to Eldora in the fall of 1856.

Robert Campbell, born in Perry county, Pennsylvania, in 1827, emigrated in 1832 to Crawford county, Ohio.  He was married in 1850 and in 1855 came to Hardin county, Iowa, settling in this township, a poor man, but finally became well-to-do and prosperous.   He owned a farm of more than two hundred and fifty acres.

Last but no least in the list of pioneer characters who have made Union township to blossom like the rose, transforming a prairie wilderness into a veritable garden spot, was the late O. B. Chapin, of Union, who was born in Massachusetts in 1830; emigrated to Marshall county, in 1856, with his parents, who finally died there.  In 1859 he came to Hardin county and lived in a log house of the rudest type.  In 1876 he moved to this township and was connected with the development of the town of Union.  He was among the most influential men of this section of Iowa.  He died in the autumn of 1910, beloved by all.

Miscellaneous Items

The first postoffice in Union township was established in 1855, with Thomas N. Hauser as postmaster, the office being held in his house, the name being Union Postoffice.   Mr. Hauser held the office about five years and resigned.  After that, it was kept by different men and moved to various places within Union township, having no regular abiding place until 1869, when it was located permanently at the town of Union.

The first mill erected in Union township was for sawing of lumber from out the native forests.  It was constructed by L. F. Sanders, in 1854, and was a water-power mill.   The dam did not last long and the mill soon ceased to be of service.  The first grist mill was the one built on section 22, a mile from the present town of Union by the heirs of the Benson estate.  Prior to the construction of this mill, the early settlers were dependent on the mill in Marshall county, known as the Timber Creek mil.   That was but a small affair and caused the customers much delay in waiting to have their grists ground out while they waited at much expense for the same.  It was located on Timber creek.

Township Officers, 1911

The 1911 township officials are:  Justices of the peace, F. K. Long, J. B. Meyers; constable, N. Dillon; clerk, J. V. Williams; trustees, S. R. Collins, W. H. Rowen, C. L. Rogers; assessor, N. O. Hauser.

The first regular church building was erected by the Congregational denomination.

The first school house was built in 1854, on section 14.  It was a log building of the early-day type and was eighteen feet square.  Ezra Abbott was the first master and wielded a ferrule forcibly sometimes, it is related.  He taught from the mysteries of Webster's elementary speller, McGuffey's readers, Ray's and Pike's arightmetics.  The second teacher in this school was known as "Old Greasy Breeches" or "Montezuma," whose school was reduced to but on scholar, who was E. J. Hauser, later elected county treasurer, and who said that after he had recited his lesson the teacher would take a long sleep until he thought it time to hear him recite again!

But before any of these schools were taught, there was a select school taught by Mr. Whitehead, in the winter of 1853-54, at the house of James A. Dawdy.  From this beginning came the present fine school system of the township as enjoyed today.  In 1882 there were thirteen school housestwo miles apart each way, and each had a value estimated at eight hundred dollars.

The first religious services in Union township were held at private houses by Rev. E. C. Crippen, a Methodist minister, who figured in all the early Methodist churches of this county.

The Town of Union

One of Hardin county's most enterprising towns is Union, in Union township, the date of its platting being 1868.  It was laid out by R. J. Davis, on the southwest quarter of section 21, and many additions have been laid out since, eight as early as 1881, two by O. D. Wood, one by S. R. Benson, one by a Mr. Rambo, and one by Mr. Irvin and three by R. J. Davis.  This place is pleasantly situated on the Iowa Central railway, a distance of ten miles south of Eldora, and eight miles north of Marshalltown.

A postoffice was established at this place in 1869 and the postmasters who have served to date are as follows:  Farwell Barnes, J. Q. Adams, D. W. Walker, J. H. Ingalls, 1882; E. L. Wood, Mary E. Wood, George Lepley, J. C. Haas, eight years, succeeded by O. E. Wood, present postmaster, in June, 1905.  In 1875 this was made a money order station.  The first order was drawn in favor of William Benbaw,, payable to Joseph Roundsley, Vancouver, Washington territory, the amount being twenty dollars.   The amount of postoffice business transacted in 1910 was two thousand five hundred twenty-three dollars and ninety-three cents.  There are now three rural routes running out from Union, the first being established on April 16, 1900; in 1901 two more were started.  They run a distance of about twenty-five miles each.  It was made a thrid class postoffice in 1908.

The Cemetery Association

The proper care for the resting place of the departed dead in Union bespeaks well for the populace of the town.  And to the ladies must be given the credit for first establishing a society by which these ends could be brought about.  December 24, 1875, the Ladies' Cemetery Association was formed wit the following officers:  Mrs. Farwell Barnes, president; Miss Ada Beecher, vice-president; Mrs. John Devine, secretary; Mrs. O. B. Chapin, treasurer; trustees, Mrs. Crider, Mrs. Wood and Mr. Thompson.   Articles of incorporation were filed August 15, 1876.  Four and a half acres of land were purchased at first, at seventy-five dollars per acre.  These grounds are a half mile south of the town and present a fine view to the passer-by.  The first lot was sold to O. B. Chapin at thirty dollars.  Rev. J. W. Clinto, then a Methodist minister stationed at Marshalltown, dedicated these sacred grounds November 11, 1876.   Evergreen and forest shade trees were soon added and since then fencing and proper improvement has made it a desirable resting spot for the deceased members of Union and its surrounding community.  Some fine monuments now grace the cemetery, and with the return of each Memorial day the populace assemble in loving and tender manner and smooth down the little mounds where repose the silent sleepers, among which are numbered many of the pioneers of this portion of Hardin county, who long ago dropped into a dreamless sleep and their mortal remains are acredly guarded by the living friends.

Incorporation History

Union was incorporated as a town on October 27, 1874.  The first municipal officers were: J. W. Lawrence, Mayor; J. A. Ingalls, clerk; H. L. Barnes, treasurer.   The first council was made up as follows:  J. A. Boyer, William Bates, F. Barnes, S. J. Arnett, O. D. Wood.

It became a "city" in 1902, with the following officers:  H. C. Chapin, mayor; W. H. Bates, clerk; C. E. Lawrence, treasurer.  The councilmen were C. S. Anderson, J. R. Alexander, F. M. Lockwood, M. W. McLain, A. Readout and A. L. Wood.

The following have served as mayors of the town and recent city municipality:  H. C. Chapin, 1874; F. W. Pillsbury, J. W. Lawrence, James Speers, Nathaniel Dillon, Will C. Dilley, J. G. Lounsberry, A. P. Mason, A. P. Moran, H. C. Chapin, H. S. Crider, W. Barnes (under city); H. C. Chapin, 1902; A. P. Mason, 1897 to 1900; H. C. Chapin, 1900 to 1904; C. L. Anderson, 1904; A. L. Wood, 1904; E. C. Kauffman, 1905 to 1908; N. Dillon, 1908 to 1910; D. Hauser, 1910 to present date.

The 1911 city officers are: Mayor, D. Hauser; clerk, Lyman Sheets; councilmen, H. J. Benson, A. L. Wood, J. H. Carter, C. L. Rogers, R. L. Bixby.

The tax-levy in 1899 was: Corporation tax, ten mills; streets and alleys, four mills; water works, four mills; sinking fund, one mill.

An ordinance providing for a water works system was passed in May, 1896, under which a bonded indebtedness could be had and was secured for the construction of water works, costing four thousand dollars.  A wooden tank was made which served until a few years ago, about 1908, when the works were improved by putting up a steel tank on the hill overlooking the main street, and this is filled by dynamo pumps with excellent water from deep wells.

A home stock company, in 1909, put in one of the best electric lighting plants in this section of Iowa.  It is generally used by the people of the city.

Business Interests

As a commercial center for this part of Hardin county, Union is an excellent point.   The first to engage in business was John Snively, a Pennsylvanian, who in 1869 established a general store.  He remained a few years and sold and moved to Kansas.   Then followed Boyer & Robinson.  The third merchant was E. L. Lyon, who later became a banker of note at Marshalltown.  Then came Barnes & Sons, who also had a grain warehouse, as did S. F. Benson.

The present business is represented as follows:

Banking - Union Savings, Citizens Bank.

Hotels - The Union, F. C. Townsend, proprietor.

Agricultural Implements - Watson & Company, A. P. Peterson, Geo. Pierce, Wood Carriage and Auto Company.

General Dealers - Wilson & Chapin, F. Z. Whinery, E. D. Doty.

Grocers - W. Barnes.

Restaurant - G. W. Miller, M. Hire.

Drugs - ----- Weldin, W. H. Corfe.

Stock Buyer - L. W. Fox.

Grain and Coal - H. C. Moore.

Sorghum Works - Lundy & Sons.

Hardware - George Lepley, Jr.

Harness - Reece & Rowen.

Furniture and Undertaking - O. W. Rowley.

Meat Market - Bavender & Schryver, J. R. Alexander.

Bowling Alley - J. Biggs.

Blacksmith - L. W. Johnson, A. P. Peterson.

Newspaper - The Union Star, C. E. Sentman, publisher.

Electric Light & Power Company - The Union.

Barber - F. B. Chamness.

Millinery - Mrs. H. E. Humphries.

Pool and Billiards - B. B. Bryson.

Union Produce Company - O. W. Dillon, manager.

Livery and Feed Stable - Belden & Son.

Union Lumber Company - W. A. Sentman, manager.

Farmers Mutual Co-operative Company - Elevator, etc., H. J. Benson, manager.

Dentist - R. L. Bixby.

Physicians - Drs. C. D. Bothwell, E. C. Kauffman.


Whitten, named for C. C. Whitten, its original proprietor, an official of the Northwestern railway system, was platted in the autumn of 1880, with all the station points along the Toledo branch of the Chicago & Northwestern railroad.  It is situated on section 13, township 86, range 19, of Union township.  It is situated thirty-five miles from Tama City, Tama county.  The first to engage in business here was the firm of G. Barnes & Sons, general dealers, in 1881.  William A. Reynolds & Lockwood put in a good stock of groceries in 1880.  The place has never grown to be a place of great importance, but a convenient trading place for the prosperous farming community round about.

The following is the principal business standing of Whitten:

Agricultural implements - Price & Olmstead.

Banking - Bank of Whitten, Mr. Lindeman, cashier.

Hotel - William R. Day.

General Dealers - Lyon & Hauser.

Drugs - Vinton Drug Company.

Furniture - Frank Pool.

Hardware - Frank Pool.

Physician - Dr. F. P. Butler.

Grain dealer - A. J. Mabee.

Lumber - Eldora Lumber Company.

Live Stock - Samuel Melick.

Blacksmith - E. W. Esig.

Livery - Will Day.

Groceries - George Reynolds.

Millinery - Mrs. John Spurlin.

Municipal History

Whitten was incorporated as a town in 1882, and the following have served as its mayors: J. B. Meyers, 1882 to 1884; Samuel Lupton, 1884; W. E. Mighell, 1885-86; J. J. Jones, 1887-89; S. Lupton, 1889; J. B. Meyers, 1890-91; Samuel Lupton, 1892-93; C. P. Sutton, 1894; F. P. Butler, 1895-96; M. W. McLain, 1896-97; H. C. Willett, 1897-1902; William Knox, 1902-1905; C. A. Williett, 1906; E. C. Stanley, 1907-08; A. J. Mabie, 1908-09; Samuel Melick, 1910, present mayor.

The present officers are: Mayor, Samuel Melick; clerk, M. L. Barnes; marshal, L. W. Thompson, who also serves as street commissioner.

A postoffice was established at Whitten in 1880.  The following have served as postmasters:  Dr. Whitacre was first postmaster, but resigned as soon as his commission came.  The next was W. A. Reynolds, serving six years and was succeeeded by J. B. Meyers, who held the ofice about four years; the next was John Treverthen, four years; J. H. Lyon, four years; Elias Long, three years; Mary Long, ten years.  Two mails are received from the east daily and one from the west, each way sends mail daily, making a total of six mails each twenty-four hours.  This is still a fourth class office.  Its money order business for the month of November, 1910, was $523.02; fees $5.52.  There is one rural route extending out from Whitten, established in September, 1901.

Robbers gained entrance to this postoffice by breaking or cutting the glass panel out of the front door.  The contents of a small safe, unlocked, were strewn over the floor and one drawer containing papers was missing.  Two cash drawers were smashed, because they only contained a few pennies.  Some stamps were left in the stamp box, by the delivery window and these were taken.  The total loss was but slight, as the postmaster never left but a little change in the office.  This happened sometime during the night of December 1, 1904.

The Town of Gifford

Gifford was laid out in 1875, by C. T. Gifford and filed for record in September of that year.  It is situated "on the part of the southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of section 5, township 86, range 19, lying south and west of the track of the Iowa Central railroad."

In 1880 it became the junction of the Iowa Central and Chicago & Northwestern railways, and is twenty-one miles northwest of Marshalltown.  It is handsomely located on the Iowa river, on high rolling land.  It had come to be a town of some importance in 1883, when it contained numerous stores and shops and a large pottery concern, owned and operated by W. & G. H. Tolman; had two hotels and various up-to-date business places.  The pottery plant made nine thousand gallons of ware monthly.

Gifford of today consists of: The general merchandise store of C. T. Gifford; a grocery and restaurant, with rooming accommodations, by R. A. Fuller; billiards and groceries, R. A. Fuller; a cement block factory by R. A. Fuller & Company, who manufacture all kinds of cement blocks, posts, building blocks for residences, barns, ice houses, hog houses, hen houses, etc.  This was established in 1907 and will this season add pressed cement brick.  Other interests are the grocery and notions of Mrs. E. E. Crider; the coal business of Fuller & Comapny, who also have a grain elevator; hotel by Erick Erickson; two large sand-pits, the Gifford Sand-pit Comapny's and Fuller, Carder & Troy; blacksmithing by WIlliam E. Cross; the stone quarry of C. T. Gifford; the livery of C. T. Gifford; boarding house by Mrs. John Lepley.

A postoffice was established at Gifford soon after the platting was made.  The town and postoffice takes its name from C. T. Gifford, its founder and who is still living there.  He served as postmaster at different times in the town's history.  The first postmaster was J. W. Bishop.  The office was discontinued in 1906 and re-established in 1908; Mrs. E. E. Carder is the present postmistress.  From December, 1909, to December 25, 1910, the office receipts amounted to $8,133.  Two mails are received from the south, one from the west and one from the east, daily.   The following have been postmasters at Gifford:  J. W. Bishop, C. T. Gifford, M. V. Allen, C. T. Gifford, Mr. Statton, C. T. Gifford, William Wilson, C. T. Gifford, Nettie Benson, George W. Kanan, L. Collins, C. T. Gifford, Mrs. E. E. Crider.

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