LYON COUNTY GENEALOGY
GEORGE MONLUX'S RECOLLECTIONS
OF EARLY DAYS IN LYON COUNTY
I came to Sioux City on my first trip to Lyon County, in the latter part of November 1870. Remaining there a few days, I took the Sioux Falls stage for Canton. The stage ran the trip once each week. We left Sioux City in a snowstorm, but it soon cleared up and fine weather followed. Crossing over the bluffs, from Sioux City into the valley of the Big Sioux River, we followed that stream up to Canton. There were only half a dozen houses and settlers in the whole valley, at that time. Calliope, then the county seat of Sioux County, had one large house, about 12 by 16 feet in size.
We arrived at Beloit and Canton on the evening of the second day out, and at Beloit found a sawmill, blacksmith shop, a grocery store and one big sod house. There were quite a number of people about, but if you counted the fleas in the sod house as inhabitants, Beloit would have been as large as populous Chicago. Canton, South Dakota had possibly a dozen houses and two stores on the riverbank.
I put up with Mr. Martin, who kept hotel there, and the next morning I hired him to take me across to the Rock at Mr. H.D. Rices. In that distance--eighteen miles-there were only three settlers. Mr. Albertson lived six miles west of the forks. When we came in sight of the timber from the hills west of the Rock, Mr. Martin turned back and I proceeded on foot, crossing the Rock on an old beaver dam. I ran into a camp of Indians in the timber and dogs attacked me savagely, but I finally got away from them and went up to the house. Learning from Mr. Rice that my brothers lived fifteen miles farther up the stream, I tried to hire him to take me up, but he had his stock to care for and as he and his wife were all alone, he could not go, but said, "That's Badgerow's mare, you can ride her." So the next morning I started up the valley for D.C. Whiteheads. At that time there were several large groves on the river and timber all the way, nearly.
At what was styled "Four mile grove"--about a mile above the present day "Omaha" Bridge--I thought I had struck another Indian camp, but upon going into the timber, discovered D.C. Whitehead, C.T. Moon, Mr. Sweeney, Mr. Towsley and John Monlux. They were getting out material for a house for Uncle Jack Smith.
D.C. Whitehead, John Monlux, C.H. Moon and Uncle Jack Smith, were located on section 32 in what is now Riverside Township; Mr. Towsley on section 31; Mr. Sweeney, A.R. and William Hamlin, on section 30. S.G. Martin, Jud Martin and Clay Martin were located farther up the river, on land owned later by Cal. Woodford. The people all lived in log cabins, with sod roofs, ground floors, carpeted with prairie hay. They seemed fairly comfortable houses to live in. Theodore Johnson, Edmonds Irwin and McGuire brothers were located on section 36, in Rock Township, the Schultz family were on section 32, in Wheeler Township, H.D. Rice, John Hartson and George M. Queen at Doon, James H. Wagner, east of Doon. As far as I remember, these were all the settlers in Lyon County east of what was called the Beloit settlement.
I remained with the settlers two or three weeks, when I went back to the eastern part of Iowa, determined to return in the spring. I went across the country to LeMars, with Frank Styles, who had just commenced operations, building the first school house ever erected in Lyon County. One of these few early schoolhouses was still in use in 1895. The Lyon County settlers got their mail, and all supplies, were hauled from Sioux City or LeMars.
The year 1871 was an eventful one in this county. The eastern part has been well named, by Jergen Ranken, "The Garden of Eden." This finest tract of land in all of Iowa had never been used, except for hunting grounds by the trappers and Indians-but all was changed during that season. The Sioux City & St. Paul Railroad was surveyed in the spring and summer was graded to LeMars. It was ironed as far as Worthington, Minnesota, on Lake Okobena, late in the fall. Inside of the "ten mile limit," from this road, every even numbered section was held subject to homestead, or pre-emption entry. The odd sections belonged to the railroad, by virtue of land grants. The even numbered sections were held by the government at $2.50 per acre, but any person who had served as a soldier in the Civil War could enter 160 acres as a homestead.
The western line of the "ten mile limit" entered Lyon County, and included sections 24 and 36 in Elgin Township, sections 2, 10, 22 and 28 in Grant, and ran nearly southwest through Dale Township. These sections can be noted to this day by the large groves of trees, although nearly all the settlers are gone.
In May 1871 I drove through from Silver Lake to Rock Rapids. At Silver Lake-now Lake Park-Mr. Knox came out several miles to show me the stake of a road, which Mr. Whitehead had surveyed from the Sioux River to that place. We followed the line of stakes, ours being the first team through, on the new road, and May 23 and 24, 1871 we drove on the township line to Mr. Whitehead's place on section 2, in Grant Township. In all that distance we did not see a single furrow broken, or a settler. At that time Captain Huff was the only settler in all of Osceola County. But that season settlers came in by the hundreds and during the summer about every quarter section in Lyon and Osceola Counties was claimed. Sod houses arose in all directions as if by magic.
The nearest point at which lumber or shingles could be procured was LeMars, about sixty miles distant, and not a stream or slough was yet bridged. So the pioneers built their houses and barns of sod. They went over to the Big Rock and cut posts and rafters, put on slough grass and shingled the buildings with sod. This made a good roof, except when it rained, but it did not rain much in 1871. It was a very dry year-the year of the great Chicago fire. The Little Rock River ran dry in June and the Big Rock in September, and so remained until the following spring.
This year Jesse Monk settled on section 36, Liberal Township, W.B. May and colony, E.N. Ripley, C.H. King, R.A. Bell, James Roberts, H. Alspaugh and Jerry Argo, in Grant Township. Many others who had claims returned to their old homes for the winter. Some sod corn and potatoes were raised and the grass in the sloughs and bottoms was immense-higher than a tall man's head.
In 1872 Anson Tolman, C.A. Fisher, Charles Bowen, Henry Bowen, Thomas P. May, Ruben Hatch, Will Green and J.O. Sweet returned to the county and located in Grant and Elgin Townships.
GEORGE MONLUX. Rock Rapids, Iowa, September 20, 1894.