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Harrison County Iowa Genealogy

Pioneer Settlement of the County
(including descriptions of the Mormon influence on the area)

Extracted from the 1915 History of Harrison County, Iowa, by Hon. Charles W. Hunt, Logan;
published by B. F. Bowen & Co., Inc. Extracted from Chapter IV, and various pages.

Transcribed and submitted by Mona Sarratt Knight

To establish the fact as to who was the first settler in a given county, in any state, is not always an easy task and especially is this true in a county like Harrison, where the Mormon people made the first settlements, after they had been driven from Illinois and Missouri between 1844 and 1847. Many of such families remained in Harrison County before it was really organized and known as a county, and after a few years moved on to other locations, some going on with the Mormons to the promised land in Utah, while thousands of them remained in southwestern Iowa and became prime movers, and among the best citizens in laying solid the foundation stones of this and adjoining counties. Very likely the first deaths, births, and marriages here were among these people, but without any form of county government, they left no record of such facts in the history they made. But from all that seems good evidence, it has been established years ago, in the minds of both the Latter Day Saints and the Gentiles, that the facts surrounding Harrison county's first settlement were about as follows:

It should be stated, at the outset, that there may have been a first man to locate, and that he may have not been the first man to remain a permanent settler. This is true in most counties in Iowa. But that our people know who was the first person to become a permanent resident is beyond doubt. Such person was DANIEL BROWN, who with his family first settled this county in the autumn of 1846 and March 1847. Mr. BROWN was with the exodus of Mormon people who stopped at Florence or Winter Quarters just north of the present site of the city of Omaha, in the fall of 1846. He had trouble with President Brigham Young, the head of the Mormon Church at that date, as did thousands of others of the Mormon religious faith. He soon left that branch of the church and made hunting and exploring trips over the country, including trips over Harrison County, and finally found a suitable place in which to build a home for himself and family. The spot chosen was where the village of Calhoun was later situated. It was in January 1847 that BROWN made his second trip to this county and built a log cabin and split some rails with which to fence his land. During March 1847, his daughter, Mrs. HAMMOND, was taken ill at Florence, Nebraska, where the family still remained, and on this account he went back to that place, where the daughter died in March. In April of that spring (and early in the month it is claimed by his daughters), he brought his family to Calhoun, the spot selected for his new home. There seems no good evidence that there had up to this date ever been any settlement effected within this county, and certainly there were none that remained long enough to make improvements or really be entitled to the honor of being styled First Settlers. A few weeks later, Mr. BROWN went to Missouri, leaving the family at Calhoun. He remained down there until after harvest, then returned to the family in Harrison County. On July 10, 1847, the year of BROWN's settlement, came URIAH HAWKINS and family, who located in section 20, of what is now Cass township and there the family remained and were still on the same spot in the nineties. The head of the household died in September 1869.

The next settlement in the county was made by the following persons: the BARNEY Brothers, in the fall of 1847, located in Cass Township. They remained but a few years and sold out and removed to other parts. JOHN REYNOLDS and family came in 1848 and finally located in Boyer Township but lived in a rude pole shanty or cabin at the west side of Bigler's Grove, in Magnolia Township, one winter, residing in St. John Township from 1848 to 1852. JOHN HARRIS settled in 1848 at the beautiful grove still bearing his name. AMOS S. CHASE also came the same year and wintered in 1848-49 in Clay Township, feeding his stock in the rush beds near the Missouri River. SILAS W. CONDIT came that year also.

In 1849 the settlement was increased by the advent of ORVILLE M. ALLEN and ALONZO HUNT. These were all Mormon believers, except possibly the last named. REYNOLDS, CHASE, CONDIT and ALLEN became permanent residents of the county. The first land purchased from the United States Government was that sold to DANIEL BROWN, for one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre, at the Council Bluffs land office in December 1852. This was the eighty acre tract upon which BROWN later platted the village of Calhoun and where he attempted to have the county seat located, but failed.

By townships, it may be stated that the settlements were effected as follows: Magnolia Township was first settled by GEORGE BLACKMAN, in section 29 in 1850. Mr. BLACKMAN came to the township the year before and selected his lands. He claimed a half section of land. He was a native of Canada, born April 1828, and in 1843 his parents moved to Missouri, but owing to the feelings against the Mormons, they went to Nauvoo, Illinois, and in 1846 came to Council Bluffs. Here he remained with his parents until 1849, when he commenced working on his own account and came to Harrison County. He married in Pottawattamie County to Miss HARRIET STALEY on June 11, 1850, and the issue by such union was: Stephen, Charles, Helena, John, Juliet, George, Hattie, Harry and Laura. The entire family were of the Mormon faith, except Stephen and Harry.

In Jefferson Township, the first to settle was JASON Z. HUNT, who left the state of New York in the spring of 1850, landing in this county that year in the month of May. He located in section 13 of Jefferson township, remained ten years and moved to section 12, where he erected the second brick house in Harrison County. He owned almost three hundred acres of excellent land. He was a brother-in-law of STEPHEN KING and died in September 1891. Mr. HUNT was born in Saratoga County, New York, February 20, 1822 and was the son of Walter and Susan (DEMING) HUNT. The grandfather, Capt. ZIBA HUNT, was born in Connecticut, January 4, 1746 and died September 10, 1820, at North Hampton, New York. His wife was Joanna BLOUNT, whom he married in early life and reared a family of thirteen children. Walter HUNT, father of Jason Ziba HUNT, was born September 24, 1782, at Stephensontown, New York, and married Susanna DEMING, December 5, 1802, and died at Edinburg, New York, March 23, 1863, his wife dying at the same place in the month of October 1872. They reared a family of ten children: Amos, Joanna, Isaac, Betsy, Sallie, George Washington, William W., Jason Ziba, Amanda M. and Alonzo R.

Had Seventy-Five Cents on Arrival. Jason Ziba HUNT and wife were the parents of six children: Camilla S., Livy M., Hattie M., Orville B., Mary E. and Hon. Charles W., now of Logan. Pioneer HUNT taught the Cass Township school in 1852, the term being completed by Judge Stephen KING. Mr. HUNT also taught two months at Kanesville, now Council Bluffs. He studied civil engineering in his young manhood, which was invaluable to him in the western country. In an interview in the nineties, he stated that in early times he had to walk to Council Bluffs three times once to purchase an axe. Upon coming to this county, he had but seventy-five cents but made use of his energies in making for himself a home in Harrison County and died a well-to-do man. In church matters, he was of the Methodist Episcopal Church, while in politics he voted the Republican ticket.

Boyer Township was first settled by Charles SMITH of section 29, either in 1849 or 1850. His aged father lived with him here. Charles died in 1869. The family was of the Mormon religious faith. The next to settle in this township was Richard MUSGRAVE and son, George. They located at Twelve Mile Grove in section 25. The father died in the eighties. The son was a well-known newspaper man of Logan and other towns of the county. Politically, the family were Democratic. The year of their settlement was 1851. The same year came John JEFFREY, who purchased a Mormon claim in section 18. He was Scotch and saw many pioneer hardships. Another well-known settler in 1851 was Lorenzo D. BUTLER, a Mormon, who came from Council Bluffs, settling at Twelve Mile Grove, locating his claim in section 12 but later buying a claim in section 15. He built one of the first mills in the county. It is now known (though not operated on account of the big dredge ditch) as the Woodbine Flouring Mill. He opened a general store in 1855. As a Mormon missionary, he went to England; he died in 1884. His widow, who named the town of Woodbine for her birthplace in England, survived until the spring of 1914 when she was almost ninety years of age and universally loved.

In 1852, Thomas THOMPSON settled in Bigler's Grove. See township history for further settlers of Boyer Township. Little Sioux Township was first settled by Silas W. CONDIT, now deceased, who came in 1848. He was among the great body of Mormons who came as far west as Council Bluffs, and there left the Mormon church on account of the teaching of President Young relative to polygamy. His settlement was the first on the Little Sioux River in Harrison County. Mr. CONDIT was by birth a New Jerseyite. By trade he was a shoemaker and worked at it in Ohio, where he united with the Mormon Church. He followed this body on to Council Bluffs, and while surveying lots at old Trader's Point, it is believed the Mormons murdered Amos, his brother, who was connected with the survey, as they believed the lines encroached on their rights. Mr. CONDIT thought the elders had something to do with allowing the murderer to escape. For this, and other reasons, he left the church and came to Harrison County. Subsequently he platted the town of Little Sioux. His nearest neighbor was Daniel BROWN. His first house was a log structure with a bark roof. He established a ferry boat over the waters of the Little Sioux.

Morgan Township had for its first settler Mr. ORINDER and family, who located in 1854, remained a short time and went on to Kansas. In 1856 a large number of people came into this township from Ohio, among them being Captain John NOYES, John HENDRICKSON, Eli COON, and David GAMET (see township history for more on this settlement). David GAMET settled near Magnolia in 1853, and in 1857 moved to section 35, Morgan Township. In 1892 he owned over eight hundred acres of choice Harrison County land, and was in mercantile business at Mondamin.

Early Invasion of Cass Township. Cass Township was first invaded by a settler in the person of Uriah HAWKINS, who landed in this township with his wife and five children, July 10, 1847, the second settler in Harrison County, Daniel BROWN being the first. He claimed land in section 20 and remained there until his death in September 1869. Of this the second actual settler in the County it should be recorded that he was born in New York state, September 27, 1800. He accompanied his aged father to Jackson County, Iowa, in 1846 and there the father died. Uriah HAWKINS had come to Iowa in 1835 while it was yet a territory. When he came to Harrison County in 1847, he took a Squatter's claim of a quarter section, but later paid the government price of $1.25 per acre and had his land patented to him. He had but little property upon coming here. This included two yoke of oxen, four cows which he yoked up as oxen, a yearling heifer, a wagon and a scanty amount of household goods. He finally succeeded and died in good financial circumstances. He lived a faithful member of the Latter Day Saints Church for thirty-eight years. His only son, Edward HAWKINS, was born in Jackson County, this state, in 1841 and accompanied his father to Harrison County.

The first pioneer to locate in Clay township was Amos S. CHASE, who came in the fall of 1848 to the mouth of the Soldier River. He had a large drove of cattle which he herded on the rush beds during the winter. But as the spring floods of the Missouri drove him out, he concluded to locate in Little Sioux Township, which he did. His claim was taken by Seth CHASE, known as Spanky, who came in about 1853. The next to settle in this township were Job ROSS, T. A. DENNIS, John SHARPNACK, and George BURCHAM. Dr. Libbius T. COON was also a very early settler. He compounded and sold what he styled Bog-Hay for ague. In the sixties, he sold his place to Doctor PATTON and moved to Utah.

In Union Township, no white man had disturbed the solitary wilds of this portion of Harrison County previous to 1849, when Thomas DOBSON and Hiley HOUGH came in. HOUGH located at the point of the grove where Unionburg later existed. The next settler to these two was Samuel WOOD, familiarly known as Uncle Sammy, who arrived in 1850 in the month of November and selected lands in section 23, where he ever afterward resided and finally died. He was a Latter Day Saint and came to the county with only five dollars, but with the passage of years, he owned a good amount of valuable land in the township. This grand old character used to relate many exciting and hard-to-bear tasks, in his first ten years in this county. It required twenty-five cents to get a letter out of the post office from all points out of Iowa and fifteen cents within the state. Due 25 cents invariably appeared upon the face of all letters received. And even the fifteen cents was not always easily obtainable. Mr. Wood related that he gathered sod corn growing over in Missouri for one-tenth of the crop, in order to procure seed corn to plant his first crop in this township. Eight acres were planted from such seed and in the harvest time he rejoiced exceedingly at gathering fifty bushels of fine corn.

Of Mr. WOOD let it be said that he was born in 1816 in Ohio, and at the age of manhood went to clerking in a general store in Kingstown, Missouri. In 1846 he came to Kanesville (Council Bluffs), with two yoke of cattle, or rather a yoke of oxen and one of cows, which in those days were frequently pressed into the service of teaming. He had taken up the trade of a wagon repairer and conducted a shop at Council Bluffs or near that point. In 1848 his house and most all of his furniture was burned. He erected a log house and remained there till 1850 as above noted. The first school in Union Township, this county, was in a log cabin owned by Mr. WOOD. He saw a train of cars the first time at Marshalltown, Iowa, and was frightened at the shrill whistle. He purchased the first cook-stove and kerosene lamp he ever saw. In 1838 he was at the massacre at HAHN's Mills, where the Mormons were massacred and seventeen were thrown into an old well and covered up, he narrowly escaping with his life. Really, the occasion of his coming west was all the disturbance at Nauvoo, Illinois. The name Uncle Sammy WOOD will ever have a place in Harrison County annals.

In Allen Township the first to settle was David IMLAY, who settled on section 34 in 1856. His son-in-law, Samuel SPINKS, settled at the same time on the same section. IMLAY died during the Civil War and SPINKS survived until 1885. There was not much settlement in this township until about 1870 or later. See township history of this township for more on the list of pioneers. Lincoln Township was first settled by Henry HUSHAW, who later settled at Woodbine. He came to the township in the autumn of 1855, locating on section 36. Later in life Mr. HUSHAW went totally blind some years before his death. Members of the family still reside in various parts of this county and elsewhere in Iowa. Raglan Township was first settled by Orvil M. ALLEN, who came in from Pottawattamie County, Iowa, taking a claim in 1849 and returned to the county named and there remained until the following spring. This claim was located near the village of Magnolia on Allen Creek (named for him). He remained until 1851, then went to Salt Lake.

Left Civilization For Far West. La Grange Township had for its first permanent settler John HARRIS, one of the Mormon band, and from him was named Harris Grove, how so well known. His location was section 12 and later passed into the hands of J. D. McKINNEY. In Western Iowa in 1848, the country was but little known and usually considered worthless. The Latter Day Saints, then being in difficulty in Illinois and Missouri, left the bounds of civilization seeking homes in the Far West. Under the leadership of various persons, they became scattered and confused, both in religion and destination. Most of this sect stopped in western Iowa and it was this band which had been driven from other states that made the first settlements in La Grange Township. They denounced Brigham YOUNG (leader of the Mormon Church) as a false leader and styled him the Man-Devil. Many who first halted in this township sojourned but a short time, hence their names cannot be given, but Mr. HARRIS became the first actual permanent settler. At Harris Grove, there were about one hundred and thirty persons stopped for a time, some longer than others. From out this colony only the names of the following can now be recalled by old settlers: HARRIS, WEIMER, AUSTIN, POWELL, NOYES, SUFELT, TWITCHELL, HODGES, COMFORT, MECHAM, THORNTON, and MILESELL. These all built cabins and remained until the spring of 1852 and then went on to the promised land in far away Utah.

St. John Township was first settled by John REYNOLDS and family, William SMITH Sr., Adam STEVENS, George LAWRENCE and the MONGRUM families, all making settlement in Tennessee Hollow. Dr. Robert McGAVREN settled here in 1850; that is, he settled just over the line in Pottawattamie County but was always associated in the affairs of Harrison County. He moved to the little hamlet of St. John in October 1858 and practiced medicine until the starting of Missouri Valley, when he removed to that town, and there spent the remainder of his days. He improved the farm later owned by William DAKAN. Doctor McGAVREN had varied and trying experienced in this county in the fifties. He was not of the Mormon faith and was only called upon as a physician and surgeon when necessity really demanded his services. He saw the winter coming on, and without means bethought himself and packed his medicine chest and hied away to Gentry County, Missouri, where he hung out his shingle and soon had a fine practice. After a few weeks, he had an opportunity of selling out his practice for two hundred and twelve dollars, and took advantage of it and returned to his family in St. John. He was absent six weeks. He was engaged in December 1850 to teach the school in Tennessee Hollow. It was held in what was styled the Mormon Tabernacle, and he received his pay in all sorts of commodities, one patron paying in rails, another in a churn and tub, while others brought him beef and in one case he took two bushels of turnips seldom ever seeing any cash. After mingling with the Mormons as teacher and neighbor for some time, he won himself into their good graces and had an excellent medical practice from 1852 up to 1870. The good doctor was a staunch Democrat; a bright Free Mason, and his family were an ornament to society and an honor to their father and mother. He was financially very successful and died leaving a handsome estate.

Harrison Township had for its first settlers James WELCH, Henry OLMSTEAD, and Ethel P. BROWN, who came in the latter part of 1856 and forepart of 1857. WELCH came from Indiana, locating in the northwest quarter of section 33, where he commenced improving, but in the spring of 1857 he moved to Crawford County, selling out to G. C. ROBERTS. BROWN settled in section 13; served in the Union Army in Civil War days in Company C, 29th Iowa Infantry. He sold and moved to Shelby County, Iowa.

Douglas Township was first settled by a Mormon named PIERCE, who arrived either in 1851 or 1852. He sold a quarter section claim to Thomas BINNELL, and he to Matthew HALL in 1853. It was in section 30 and at Twelve Mile Grove. HALL improved the land and remained there until his removal to Woodbine in 1881. Thomas WILD came in 1851; William G. MEFFORD settled in section 29 in 1853, and many more, an account of whom is given in the history of this township.

Washington Township had for its original settler Hugh WALKER, who arrived in this township in 1849, settling in the beautiful grove that now bears his name. In 1853 came Isaac M. ATKINS. He rented land near the Little Sioux until 1854. He finally located in section 17 of this township.

In Taylor Township, Robert HALL effected the pioneer settlement in 1853, locating in section 1. The following year came J. C. WILLIS and S. J. OAKS. So plenty were deer that Willis related that he counted forty-five at one time, and wild turkeys by the untold thousands. See township account for further information regarding the early settlement of Taylor Township.

We love best the man who dates to do 
The moral hero stalward thro and thro,
Who treads the untried path, evades the rut;
Who braves the virgin forest, builds a hut,
Removes the tares encumbering the soil,
And founds empires based on thought and toil.

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