Madison County

CENTER TOWNSHIP

History

WINTERSET

In reviewing the early records of the county, the history of which is closely connected with that of the city, we have heretofore expressed the opinion that Mr. Jones was mistaken in one point given in his interesting letter, which has been quoted in full. Writing after the lapse of so many years, he stated his recollection to be that he wrote up the first record of the commissioner’s court before ever that body met. And when they did meet, instead of transacting any business, they simply adopted his record of business already done and adjourned. Mr. Jones is undoubtedly right about the fact, but we are persuaded that he is slightly in error in regard to the time. We have already cited the facts of the first record which go to show that it could not have been made up in this way. But there are other facts equally strong which go to show that the record of the July term, 1849, was made up in just the way Mr. Jones describes. For instance, the record gives as part of the same transaction the directions for the survey of the county-seat, and it is declared that the town shall be called Winterset. Now, it is perfectly well known that the name of Winterset was not suggested until after the survey. Other facts go to show that this record of the July term, 1849, must have been made up in the manner described by Mr. Jones. He erred only about six months in date and in saying it was the first record which was made up in this style, while these facts show it must have been some six months later than the first record. But it is the first record in which anything is said about the county-seat, and it is from this record that Winterset dates its earliest history.

We quote from the record of the Commissioners’ court for the July term, 1849, as follows:

Ordered, That the county surveyor of Madison county proceed as soon as convenient to lay off the seat of justice of said county, as follows; He shall lay off about eighty acres of the quarter located on as nearly as possible, extending it one-half mile east and west and one-quarter of a mile north and south as nearly as circumstances will admit of, making the square as nearly as can be equally surround a stake set by the commissioners of said county, as the center of the public square of said seat of justice.

Ordered, That the lots in the seat of justice shall be in length 132 feet north and south and 66 feet east and west. Alleys shall be laid out running east and west through every square of one rod in width so as to divide the blocks equally, except the alleys of the two squares one on the east and the other on the west side of said public square, which shall run north and south. The streets shall be sixty-six feet in width running at right angles north and south and east and west through the length and breadth of said town, and said surveyor shall do all other work necessary to be done about said plat as is usual in said cases.

Ordered, That William Gentry be authorized to employ some person to make 800 stakes, 3 feet in length, 2 1/2 inches square, and haul said stakes on to said town plat as may be directed by said surveyor, said stakes to be made of Burr or White Oak timber and sound, square at the top and sharp end equally, so as to drive.

Ordered, That Phillip M. Boyles, William Gentry, William Combs, David Bishop, and Enos Burger, be employed to assist said surveyor in the surveying of said lots.

Ordered, That the county-seat of Madison county be called Winterset.

 

It is perfectly clear that the record pushes matters along a great deal faster than they really occurred, but Mr. Jones’ explanation throws a flood of light over the matter. Were it not for his explanation, it would have been a matter of endless speculation how to make the ancient record harmonize with certain known facts in regard to the naming of the town. But Mr. Jones sets this all in a clear light.

We quote further from the record:

Ordered, That Alfred D. Jones be requested to write an advertisement for publication of the sale of lots in the town of Winterset, and that it be sent to the Iowa Star for publication.

Ordered, That Charles Wright be employed to carry it to Ft. Des Moines, to the office of said paper, for which he will be allowed the sum of one dollar and twenty-five cents, and that said notice shall be taken to said paper by Tuesday night next.

Ordered, That the terms of sale of said lots shall be one-fourth cash in hand, and the balance in three installments of six months each, which shall be discharged by notes of equal size, given to the board of commissioners, who will, in turn, give a certificate of purchase to the buyer, which shall be presented to said board for a deed when said land shall have been purchased from the general government, and said notes discharged by said buyer.

A few months later, at the December term, 1849, appears the following:

Ordered, That means be taken to borrow $150 for the purpose of entering the town quarter.

Ordered, That Edwin R. Guiberson be authorized and empowered to effect a loan of one hundred and fifty dollars for the purpose of entering the quarter on which Winterset is situated, and that he be authorized and empowered to execute notes or other instruments of writing necessary to obtain said sum of money, and to assign our names to such instruments.

The above was certainly not written by Mr. Jones. The names, however, seem to have been duly "assigned" to "the instruments of’ writing," the money secured, and the town quarter duly entered. Such is the early history of Winterset as told by official records.

Few persons ever hear the name of Winterset, for the first time, without a feeling of surprise and slight perplexity. It must be confessed, however, that it is a very pretty name —unique, attractive and uncommon. Almost invariably it arouses curiosity and provokes the question, how did the town get such a name.

Before proceeding any further, we beg leave just here to correct a mistake that has become very common. In every sketch of the county, as well as in every gazeteer and book of reference, in which the matter is mentioned at all, it is stated that William Combs, David Bishop and William Gentry were the commissioners who located Winterset and gave it its name. This is an entire mistake so far as the selection of the location is concerned. Bishop, Combs and Gentry were the county commissioners at this time, but the work of locating a county-seat, was always placed by the legislature in the hands of men who lived outside the county, and who were supposed to be more thoroughly impartial and disinterested.

Accordingly it was Messrs. Thomas Babbit, S. Bond and George Gillaspy—all just and fair men, and non-residents of the county—who were charged with the duty of locating time county-seat of Madison county. This performed, the county commissioners proceeded with their part of the work, according to the orders heretofore quoted.

It seems that these locating commissioners selected for the county seat the present site of Winterset, and gave it the name of "Independence." Now, so far as giving the name was concerned, their action was subject to revision by the county commissioners, and these latter worthies did proceed to revise it right wisely and well.

Alf Jones was the first to object to the name of Independence. He protested stoutly, and argued that as there were other towns of that name in the State, its selection would certainly create a confusion in mail matter and produce other inconveniences. The commissioners all agreed with Jones, and it was decided that the name Independence would not do at all. Then came the trouble of getting a better. Several were suggested, but none of them seemed to please the commissioners. Finally some one suggested the name Summerset, and Bill Combs who was dozing on a bench, slightly mellowed by the article known as "sod corn," blundered out: "I think ye had a derned sight better call her Winterset!" Everybody laughed.

The laugh was hardly over before some declared that after all that would be a good name. Combs was the first one to object, when he saw that his joke was getting serious. He thought the name, would give people the idea that the climate was very cold, and deter them from coming. Alf Jones, who was a fine scribe, wrote the name in a large hand, and held it up for all to see. It pleased them. Thereupon the town was named Winterset, and Winterset it is to this day. A city founded on a pun.

At the next Fourth of July celebration held in Winterset, Alfred D. Jones offered this toast in honor of the way it got its name: "By the perseverance of the Gentry, the candor of a Bishop and the active scrutiny of Combs, Winterset was prevented from taking a Summerset."

Winterset is believed to be the only town of that name in the world. Winterseat, located in the state of North Carolina, is the nearest approach to it. It is one of the paradoxes of history, that while Winterset is largely indebted for its name to the influence of whisky, yet it is now, and for many years has been, greatly distinguished for sobriety and temperance, the liquor traffic being totally prohibited.

As shown by the records, Winterset was laid out, platted and surveyed on the 18th of July, 1849. Phillip M. Boyles and Enos Berger assisted Alfred Jones in making the survey. The original town site was owned by John Guiberson, and consisted of’ one hundred and seventy-five acres of ground. He deeded it to the county for, and in consideration of, one hundred and ninety-four dollars and fifty cents. The plat was laid off in lots, one hundred and thirty-two feet north and south, and sixty feet in width east and west. The public square was located in the center, and is four chains in width east and west, and four chains and a quarter in north and south; and contains one acre and seven-tenths of ground. For a long time the square remained unfenced, and in early days it was considered quite a sport to have a "prairie fire" on the square every fall.

Enos Berger built the first house in Winterset, and was himself the first settler of the town. It was located on the lot where the fine residence of Mr. J. J. Hutchings now stands. In modern times this house was moved to the rear, covered with sideboards and made to do duty as a woodshed. This house has no small amount of history. It was not only a dwelling, hut a grocery also. The first court was held within its walls, and there the county commissioners first met. But its glory has long since departed.

Berger was greatly pleased with the idea of having a county seat located at his cabin door, and so assisted in the surveying with great alacrity and cheerfulness. It is related that time surveyors needed a flag to sight by in laying off the town plat, and they asked Berger for some high-colored material that could be seen across the locality. Now, flashy goods were scarce in those early days, and Berger was at a loss to know where to find anything suitable. His enthusiasm was not to be dampened, however, and with the greatest cheerfulness he stepped aside, tore off a piece of his red flannel shirt and stuck it on the sighting pole! During time remainder of the survey, that piece of sacrificial flannel was the center of interest, and shone like the helmet of Navarre. No doubt the straight streets and square lots of Winterset, fully compensated Berger for the untimely rent in his undergarment. Not the least admirable thing in this public-spirited sacrifice was the cheerfulness with which it was rendered.

The early history of Winterset is so blended with the early history of the county, that it is difficult to separate them. Much of the early history of the town has been given in connection with the early times of’ the county generally, but a few more items of’ interest may be added. The town having been formally named amid laid out was formally started in its career. We have already noticed the preparations for the sale of’ town lots and the prices they brought at the first sale. Edwin R. Guiberson was the lot agent, and among the earliest records to be found we have noticed the bill of sale of a town lot in 1849. It is as follows:

TERMS OF SALE OF TOWN LOTS

Aug. 22, 1849. I, Edwin R. Guiberson, lot agent for the commissioners of Madison County, Iowa, do hereby certify that Enos Berger has this day purchased of me lot No. 6, in block 17, in the town of Winterset, in said county, for $30, and paid $7.50 thereon, and agrees to pay the balance in three equal payments falling due in six, twelve and eighteen months from this day, and accordingly executed and delivered to me his promissory notes for the same of even date herewith payable to the commissioners of said county. The further terms of this sale is that if the said Enos Berger, or his assigns, shall punctually pay all of said notes as they severally fall due, then the said commissioners shall make and execute to said Enos Berger or assigns, a good and sufficient deed for said lot. But if said notes are not all paid on or before the day on which the last note becomes due, then all former payments are to be forfeited to the county and said lot to be again subject to sale.

Given under my hand the day and year first above written,

E. R. Guiberson, Town Lot Agent

SALE OF LOTS

 

DATE

PURCHASER

LOT

BLOCK

PRICE

22 Aug 1849 William Combs 5 19 $10.25
22 Aug 1849 J. S. Wallace 1 19 $12.00

22 Aug 1849

Alfred D. Jones

4

17

$20.00

22 Aug 1849

Abraham Shoemaker

3

24

$27.00

22 Aug 1849

Samuel Guye

5

24

$12.00

22 Aug 1849

E. H. Baker

5

11

$22.00

22 Aug 1849

John M. Evans

7

11

$20.00

22 Aug 1849

William Shoemaker

7

19

$16.00

22 Aug 1849

George W. McClellan

3

19

$9.25

22 Aug 1849

Enos Berger

8

20

$11.00

22 Aug 1849

William Shoemaker

3

24

$27.00

22 Aug 1849

Joel Clanton

7

22

$11.50

23 Aug 1849

Alfred D. Jones

3

18

$15.00

23 Aug 1849

Alfred D. Jones

5

18

$20.00

23 Aug 1849

Alfred D. Jones

1

24

$28.00

23 Aug 1849

Alfred D. Jones

5

4

$5.00

23 Aug 1849

Alfred D. Jones

1

4

$3.00

24 Aug 1849

S. G. Winchester

1

26

$18.00

24 Aug 1849

Alfred D. Jones

5

3

$5.00

29 Aug 1849

Mary Danforth

3

33

$5.00

30 Aug 1849

William Compton

8

17

$25.00

30 Aug 1849

John M. Evans

1

11

$10.00

It is to be noticed that lots increased in value in Winterset from the very outset, although at first the increase was very slight. There was no speculative period, nor were fancy prices asked or given, but the price of lots in the town shows a steady, healthful growth and increase. In sketching the county history we have given the first values placed upon town lots in the county seat. Purchases made from six months to a year later will show the increase in value and afford an interesting point of comparison. The following table shows purchases made during time first six months of 1850:

 

DATE

PURCHASER

LOT

BLOCK

PRICE

11 Feb 1850

William Compton

7

17

$30.00

11 Feb 1850

A. F. Ault

1

27

$42.00

04 Mar 1850

John A. Pitzer

1

10

$10.00

05 May 1850

Martin B. Ruby

8

25

$30.00

11 May 1850

T. K. Evans

6

13

$10.00

30 May 1850

T. K. Evans

5

13

$10.00

30 May 1850

George Hornback

7

18

$52.00

30 May 1850

George Hornback

4

26

$25.25

30 May 1850

Alfred D. Jones

1 & 2

29

$13.25

30 May 1850

Samuel Casbier

3

25

$30.75

30 May 1850

Charles Wright

2

26

$18.00

01 Jun 1850

Martin B. Ruby

5

25

$15.00

01 Jun 1850

John D. Guiberson

1 & 2

28

$6.00

05 Jun 1850

Edwin R. Guiberson

5 & 6

28

$6.00

06 Jun 1850

Martin B. Ruby

11 & 18

Out lots

$20.00

11 Jun 1850

Samuel Miller

7

27

$8.00

02 Jul 1850

Isaac G. Houk

21

Out lots

$5.00

02 Jul 1850

Daniel Campbell

6 & 8

24

$45.00

21 Jul 1850

John Garrett

7 & 8

12

$30.00

21 Jul 1850

C. F. Fisher

7 & 8

13

$16.00

21 Jul 1850

Charles Wright

5

30

$5.00

Map

This map is believed to be ca1875. Place cursor over map and click on the links to enlarge specific areas of the map.

 

 

Center Township - 1875

Maintained by the County Coordinator

This page was created on July 23, 2004.
This page was last updated Thursday, 13-Apr-2017 17:03:46 EDT .