The History of Keokuk County, Iowa



This township corresponds in the main with the congressional township No. 74 north, range 12 west.  The north boundary is South Skunk river, which makes the northern boundary irregular, and cuts off from the congressional township about four sections, which are attached to Lancaster township.

The first settlers of the township made their claims on the day the Indians left, May 1, 1843.  The following are the names of the original settlers, with the statement, so far as we are able to arrive at them, of the facts regarding their subsequent career:  Cornelius Hurley, went to Nebraska and afterward died; John Lavemore, died a few years since at his home, on original claim; David Howard, returned to Illinois; Wm. Hutton, found dead near Skunk river; Henry Barrith, returned to Illinois; Andrew Taylor, one of the first county commissioners, now lives in Wayne county; Madison M. Harmare, died last winter at home on his original claim; Francis Brittain, gone to Missouri; also John Hooker; James M. Brown, moved to Oregon; John Hurley, died in Nebraska; Charles Moore, died on original claim in 1846; Jesse Shoemaker, now lives at Grand Island, Nebraska; Enos Darnell, died in 1846; Wm. Stinson, removed to Appanoose county; Thos. Gaskell, died in 1859; Alexander Jones, commonly known as Gen. Jones, lives on his original claim; most remarkable man in the county; was a playmate of Andrew Jackson; was instrumental in having Andrew nominated and elected President; removed from Tennessee to Indiana, where he made over a million rails; came to Keokuk county, Steady Run township, at an early day; never chewed tobacco, nor drank whisky; has teeth as white as an infant, and, although about seventy years old, is still one of the "boys"; Moses McConnell, still lives in the township; Josiah Burrows, returned to Illinois; James Raser, run off with two women, and, in all probability, is dead; Anson Richardson. lives in Lancaster township; Thomas Richardson, died in 1872; John Garrett, the blacksmith of the first settlement, gone to Missouri; R. B. Whited, started to Oregon in 1851, stopped at Council Bluffs, where he remained a couple of years; afterward went to Texas, and became a colonel in rebel army; Benjamin Hollingsworth, still lives in the township; Joel Skinner, now lives at Creston, Iowa; B. F. Weller, the first school-master of Steady Run township, and now the enterprising grain-buyer of Sigourney, still lives, and long may he live to recount the trials and triumphs of former days.  Wm. Hutton was the first justice of the peace, and Christopher M. Wood was the first constable.

The first tannery erected in the township and probably the first in the county was erected by R. B. Whited in 1845.  A. M. McNutt was the first white man buried in the township and Elder Kirkpatrick preached the first sermon. A Baptist church was organized in the spring of 1816 at the house of C. M. Wood, who lived where Daniel Hutton now lives.  The first members of this church were Anson Richardson and wife, Thos. Richardson and wife, Wm. Hutton and wife and James Hutton, who was baptized at this time, it being necessary to cut a hole in the ice in order to perform the ceremony.  Stephen Fowler and Widow Hardesty were the first couple married.  The first burying place was the Skinner graveyard, which has been suffered to revert to its original uses, and the original graves are now scarcely recognizable.  Cornelius Hurley and Benjamin Hollingsworth erected the first flouring mill, it was started with one run of burrs in the spring of 1846, and is now known as the "Old Clapboard Mill."  The mill now known as the Wheelock mill was started as a saw-mill in 1856.  It was afterward repaired and numerous improvements made, including all the modern machinery for making flour; it is now one of the best mills in the county.

R. F. Weller was the first school teacher; he started for Iowa in early times and falling sick in Illinois did not reach Keokuk county, the place for which he started, for nearly a year afterward.  When he did arrive he was without money and scarcely able to work.  He had never taught school and had not attended school much, but at the solicitation of the settlers he undertook to teach a winter school. He was to receive $1.50 per pupil for a term of three months, and two-thirds of his wages was to be paid in rails at sixty-five cents per hundred.  Although the school-house was poor, the wages scant, and the teacher had no experience and little learning, he succeeded so well that he was employed to teach the next school and got the contract of building a new school-house, which was to be a "good school-house and not cost more than $50."

The first sale of lands in Steady Run township occurred at Fairfield in 1846. Six parcels, each containing eighty acres, were bought at that time by the following parties: C. M. Wood eighty acres; Joel Skinner eighty acres; Andrew Taylor eighty acres; Zebedee Botkin eighty acres; Frank Brittain, eighty acres; Jesse Brown, eighty acres.  There was a bidder appointed by the township to bid off all lands sold, and it would have been dangerous business for any one to have bid against him.

This township was named after a stream of water which flows through that portion of country and empties into Skunk river.  The stream received its name from the fact that the country is comparatively level, and the current is never strong.  It is a very fine region of farming lands and contains some of the most prosperous farmers in the county.  In 1850 it contained a population of 467; in 1856 the population amounted to 694, and in 1875 it was 948.  The present township officers are as follows: Justices of the Peace, Samuel Dinsmore and W. F. Morgan; constables, J. S. Hawk and Perry Crocker; clerk, A. Glass; trustees, W. C. Lotsprech, N. Ogden, Benj. Parrish; assessor. G. F. Horton.

Mt. Zion Church was organized in the fall of 1854.  The original members were, J. D. Williams, Jacob Bottorff, Philip Henninger, Andrew Taylor, Benj. Hollingsworth, Joel Skinner, Benj. Parrish, Thomas M. Thompson, James McCreery and James Cowger.  A frame church-building was erected in 1854, at a cost of $400.  The church was never dedicated, as it was built by general subscription, and was open to all denominations, the Methodists seemingly having a prior claim to all others.  The present membership numbers about forty, and there is a flourishing Sunday school with about fifty pupils.

The Presbyterian church of Martinsburg was organized in 1859, by Rev. D. V. Smock.  The original members were, James D. Bryson, Adeline Bryson, Henry H. Landis, Catharine Landis, Mary Marshall, Eliza Calson, Susan Burris, Ann Ardery, Robert S. Antrobus, Robert E. Doak and Mrs. Doak. I n 1858 a frame church-building was erected at a cost of $2,500, which was dedicated the following year.  The pastors of the church thus far have been A. A. Mathews, J. C. McElroy, David Brown and George B. Smith.  The present membership is about seventy-five.


Elizabethtown was laid out in 1845.  It was located on section 15, and although at that early date it was a town of great expectation, it never prospered to such an extent as to meet the expectations of the least sanguine of its projectors. Most of the present generation of American citizens are ignorant of the excellence of said town, and it is doubtful whether or not the original lot-owners, were they to arise from the dead, could locate their former sites for a prospective remunerative business.

Martinsburg was laid out and the town plat recorded November 11, 1854.  It is located on sections 28 and 33, less than one mile from the Wapello county line. Like Ioka, it is located on a projected line of railway, and at one time bid fair to become a central shipping point for the surplus agricultural products of that region; but, alas! for the expectations of those early times! the Muscatine & Missouri Railway got no further than paper, and Martinsburg still remains a quiet country village supporting a post-office, hotel, some prosperous business houses and a flourishing lodge.  The only post-office in the township is at Martinsburg, but three others are of easy access: Walden, in Jackson, Hayesville, in Lancaster, and Slagle, in Benton.

Transcribed by Steven McBride. Thank you, Steve!


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