206 O'BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA.
When these men decided to take claims they went to the village of O'Brien, the county seat. They were very curtly told that "there was not a foot of vacant land in the county," and this in face of the fact that there was not a human being in the county, outside of the little town. However, the plats of the county, just secured from the land office in Sioux City, told a somewhat different story, but upon close examination they were surprised to find that nearly three-fourths of the county had been disposed of in railroad land grants and to colleges, etc., while five townships had been entered solidly in the sixties. It was found that in Waterman township, in which the little town was located, there remained, all told, only about five sections, out of thirty-six, open to settlement. All efforts to see the county books were fruitless and it was several months before they came to view. These men were considered and treated as intruders. The persistent demands for the county books, which Mr. Woods wished to see in the interests of the men who sent him here, made an enemy of the clerk who was placed in the office to do the work. R. B. Crego was the treasurer, but he was not the man behind this clerk and who perhaps compelled him to do as he did. The surveyor had no time to improve his claim. In the latter part of July, in response to letters, the writer had packed a box of things needed, among them a grindstone. I filled up the box with a few things which would "come handy," and also packed in a trunk, a catalog, a guitar and pillow, and some necessities. On a certain day we met Mr. Woods at a station on the Rock Island Railroad due south from O'Brien county. "We are on the way to our new home." "Impossible." was the reply, "there is nothing for you there; wait until next spring." When, a few days later, the spring wagon, with "Bell" and "Ed" to draw it, started north, there was a large box, and trunk, and a woman and boy beside the driver. Sleeping on the ground at night, with game cooked on sticks by the fire, we had a glorious trip. In the absence of Mr. Woods, the boys had put up a shed long enough to accommodate twenty-five horses. They had cut down on a side hill on the west, and it was open to the east and also on the south and north, and closed by a long haystack. The uprights were cut from the timber on the Little Sioux river. The north end was cut off from the main part by rubber blankets, sacks of grain, and boxes were the seats. The east side of this annex being open, a small cook stove stood at the very edge, with one joint of pipe and an elbow which was turned as needed to keep the smoke out. In this primitive shelter, probably hundreds of men, women and children slept during the first few years of settlement and numberless horses were sheltered in a like manner.
O'BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA. 207
day the writer spent on this claim on section 8 (adjoining the
present Sutherland), was the day of the total eclipse of the sun, August 7,
1869, and nowhere was it more perfect than here. My husband and I were
alone on that vast
prairie, and we watched the magnificent pageant with awe
and reverence. As the darkness closed about us and the air
there came a
feeling of dependence upon the Creator never felt before, and
as the blessed
sunlight returned our hearts were filled with joy and thanksgiving. This was my baptism into a new life in more senses than one.
As the darkness passed we were touched on the shoulder and, turning, found our horses had come from across the creek, and so quietly we had not heard them. They were looking to us for protection, as we had looked to a higher power.
This month of August was most remarkable in the astronomical world. We sat in the evenings, in the little annex, in the dark, and watched the planet Jupiter sweep up from behind the hills unto the heavens, magnificent beyond words, singing and talking meanwhile; then going up the hill to our sleeping apartment (a covered wagon bed set up from the ground), we would stand awhile looking up to the starlit sky so beautiful. We could then understand how those old Aryans in the Indus mountains worshipped the over-arching sky which shut them in each night. It was in this way we entered the simple life of the pioneer.
A few settlers had come in the spring of that year. On the first Sunday after our arrival the first informal reception was held, probably the first in the county. The "boys" bvythis time had met all the neighbors, and somehow it had got noised about that a new woman had arrived. They began coming in the morning, and it was late in the afternoon when the last of them drove up, the Dan Inman family. They came on horseback, and with these, teams and ox teams. Among these last were Mr. and Mrs. Sam Jordan, whose journey to this county behind those oxen was their bridal trip. I was greatly interested in them all; they were to be our neighbors and, we hoped, our friends. "Dutch Fred," or Fred Feldman, the one man who had no office, being, as he said, "De beeples," came with his faithful dog "Bony-Parte." In the intonation of his voice and expression of his face one could feel the scorn which this German exile felt for Napoleon Bonaparte Just how Mr. Nissen managed to secure refreshments for all those people has always been a mystery, with the nearest store seventy-five miles away: but he did it and all was merry and gay. He served the coffee in tin cups, without cream, and probably short cakes on tin plates, but with the same cautious manner as at home serving a large company from a full larder.
208 O'BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA.
village of O'Brien, the county seat, I can see yet, as I first
saw it. There was a
"square," around which on each side was a road or
street; across each street there were one or two houses, built of cottonwood
logs. A new house built for Major Inman by Mr. Husted was the most
pretentious. This was used as a hotel, the Major, with his young wife,
living there also. On this same side was the "log court house." On the
other side was the home of R. B.
Crego, and on another that of Archibald
Murray. Not far away was the house of Mr. Parsons. And there was a
shop, as I recall, and this was the town. Just at the edge of
county line toward Peterson lived Mr. Parish. The memory of this
family is one of the sweetest of that time. It was a log cabin, but spotlessly
clean. Mrs. Parish, a beautiful, refined
lady, was fading away with consumption. The sons and daughters were interesting; one of them later was
Mrs. H. F Smith, late of Primghar. H.F. Smith, Ed Parker, George Hillen, John Pumphrey, Mike O'Neal and John Patchin were the young men
who made their homes with
Crego's, Archibald Murray's and at the hotel
kept by Hoel Gibbs. During the summer the Clark Green family and their
relatives. Mr. Wears and Pen Dick and Cal and Jacob Wagoner, came.
Clark Green opened a store in one end of Archibald Murray's house. W.
H. Baker lived not far
away. This same fall came also William S. Fuller,
Archibald McDonald, and Jim Wilson lived in a shanty in the timber.
"Grandpap" Wears, Len Dick and Ben Epperson in another and Cal and
Jake Wagoner, John Patchin and Mike O'Neal in another. This combination of "holes in the bank" was called
Larrapyville by Peter McCrea. They
logs and hauled to the Peterson saw mill and sold to Crego and others.
September of this year was rainy, and winter set in early. On the 6th day of October the ground was frozen hard and remained so until spring. Returning to Davenport in late September, we felt when we reached the old home surroundings we could never leave them again. But in a few weeks the lure of the prairie was so strong that, in spite of all protests, I returned with my husband in December. The railroad was then within six miles of Cherokee. After supper we started for home. Soon the low-lying clouds in the north grew gray and the snow began to fall so thickly as to cover the track made in a moment. The horses were given the rein to select the road, but they could not face the storm. Turning about, they trotted along and suddenly stopped. We called out and a woman opened the door and said "come right in." This was the only place between Cherokee and O'Brien and we must have perished but for them. It was the home of Mr. Steinhoff, seventy-five years old, who with his son and daughter and mother,
O'BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA. 209
ninety-five years old, made up the family. Their home was just prairie hay,
up with sticks in some way, and they must have perished that long
winter had it not been for
George Benson, who took them over to his cabin
way. Mr. Benson now lives in Sutherland.
The "boys" had put up a small cabin on the hillside, not quite ten feet square and near the shed. It was dug into the side hill on the west and north, and had one window on the east and a door in the south. There were two sleeping bunks on the side wall, a small table, box seats, a little coal stove and a chest between the bunks and the stove, which made a seat for two. During that winter letters were written to the Davenport Gazette, telling of the new northwest country. Soon letters began to pour in from Durant, Wilton Junction, West Liberty and many other places. In the Des Moines Register one day there was a notice that a bill had been presented to the Legislature to bond the indebtedness of the counties in northwest Iowa. Very soon Mr. Woods received instructions to have a reputable attorney go to O'Brien from some place and go through the county books. Of course it was not known that he had any connection with that meddler and rascal Woods? The record of that work was copied in that little cabin and the record itself sent to the parties who ordered it and paid for it.
In early March, 1870, a young man in Sioux City named Fred Beach, coming out to take a claim, left O'Brien in the morning to walk out to our place, seven miles. The ground was covered with snow. Knowing nothing of the country, he did not understand directions, and went up to Dan Inman's, who was then living on his claim up on Waterman creek. Again he failed to understand instructions and took the south creek instead, which would have brought him to us. The snow fell so thick and fast in the afternoon, with no roads, the poor boy, unused to all the hardship, tramped all day, had passed within half a mile of us and on to perhaps seven miles away, when strength gave out and he fell upon his face and so died. A little dog some friend had sent to Mr. Woods, he carried inside his overcoat, and where it died later, as his tracks were all around poor Fred in every direction. The next morning it was eighteen degrees below zero. The next day William E. Baldwin, of Sioux City, came out to go over his claim and asked about Fred. They at once began a search for him. The next morning nearly all the men in O'Brien came out and joined in the search. The air was full of snow and it was so hazy that men looked like posts. The storm increased so rapidly that they gathered into that little cabin. We had some bacon and coffee and I had baked up the last of the flour that morning. But (14)
210 O'BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA.
I did not dare to let them
go out without their dinner. Mr. Woods was the
last to come and he was all but exhausted. I would not hear to their
until Mr. Woods came in, but as soon as he came they prepared to go, although we tried to have them stay. They all started to the sleighs, but two
of them failed to reach them and came back and had to remain three
until the storm abated. The
supplies sent for had been forgotten and had
been left in O'Brien, but we had some wheat for the spring planting and we
cooked that. The
thought of Fred was uppermost in mind, and for a month
kept up the search, going each day in the direction we heard the
night before. It was a month before he was found, and then the
snow had melted so that our
neighbors, a mile away across the creek, had
go three or four miles to get over the stream. Nearly everybody in the
country were at the funeral. The people who went to O'Brien in that storm
perished had it not been for Sylvester Parish, a man with such
a keen observation and a
long experience on the prairie that in that traveler's
waste of snow he
kept the proper bearings and, with Mr. Waterman to drive
the team, they reached their homes in safety. The men who came out to us
perilous time were, as I remember, Hoel Gibbs, Russell G. Allen,
George Parker, Lionel Worth, John Patchin, Henry (Hank) Smith, Horace
Gilbert, George Younde, George Hillen (the two who remained), Uncle
George Johnson, who had just come to the country, and the names of others
I cannot recall. I think there were several more. An
inquest was held in
Liberty township, where Fred was found. A bill of expenses gives the names
of the jurors as T.J. Field, Aaron Brown and A. Caldwell, witnesses, John
Richardson, Sidney Viers and C. Fields, and the name of the coroner not
given, date April 9, 1870. For years the lights were set in the windows on
Letters were coming in rapidly relating to lands. The lands in the county were not in the market for pre-emption, homesteads or purchase until the 6th day of July, 1870. Again and again Mr. Woods told the settler that it was of no use to go until that day to Sioux City to secure the claims upon which they had filed. They went on and secured their papers, and the indignation of some of them was so great against him (of course he wanted all that land himself) that they organized to do him bodily harm. Mr. Woods, who took out papers for several parties, spoke often of what a calamity would soon come upon the county for fifty or sixty homesteaders to lose their claims or be compelled to buy off those who on the morning of the 6th of July laid money against them. In September or October of 1871 Mr. Woods learned, while he was filing papers in Sioux City, that patents
O'BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA. 211
were about to be issued for lands near us. Asking for a list of the lands, he
received it, and while making a copy of same heard suggestions made that
seriously upon the one who made them. Without waiting to conclude
his own business, Mr. Woods returned to the county, went to the home of J.
C. Doling, who came home with Mr. Woods and spent the night with us at our
home. In the
early morning they left for Sioux City and went at once to
Joy & Wright, attorneys, who told them to organize and make the fight
together, that it would take an act of Congress and a thousand dollars. Mr.
Doling at once returned home and sent word, to all those who were in the
list Mr. Woods had
given him to meet at Payne's store and they organized
County Land League," with J. C. Doling, president, and Ed.
C. Brown, secretary. There were sixty-one homesteads involved, and all
joined but one, and he was the only one to lose his homestead.
But to go back to 1870. A man appeared one day with a shovel, with a tin pail hung on it, over his shoulder. He wished to locate a claim in Baker township. Mr. Woods had other parties to locate first, so he would have to remain a few days. He wanted to do some work to help pay for the surveying. My father suggested next morning that he might fix some horse troughs. He said that "it was his Sunday" and he should not work. The next morning he was ready to work, when my father told him it "was his Sunday," so between them the work was never done. It left an item to laugh over.
In the early fall I returned to Davenport. Mr. Woods had paid Mr. Crego for brick to build a house and they were hauled up to the place, but were found to be worthless. So another log cabin wras built, this time on the homestead. While in Davenport I had disposed of everything that I thought we could do without and shipped the rest to O'Brien county, including the piano and library, each of which I believe were the first to reach the county. When I reached here later the goods were in the cabin, but there was hardly room to sit down, so some of the things helped to furnish other cabins.
In the fall of this year 1870 my father, Daniel H. Wheeler, and I came down from William E. Baldwin's, three miles away in Highland township (they built the first cabin in that township). My father wore, as he had always done, a "stove pipe hat." We noticed as we neared the cabin that a new camping outfit was nearby. It seems they had arranged for Mr. Woods to go with them to survey out a claim the next day. L. B. Healy came from Cherokee; they had on white shirts and their best clothes. Just before dark a top buggy came from Cherokee way with two well-dressed gentlemen. Our son, H. C. Woods, long known among the early settlers as "Bub" Woods,
212 O'BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA.
came in from the O'Brien
way. It was a beautiful, clear, moonlight night.
and about nine o'clock. R. B.
Crego came up with a gay team with white
fly covers. He had with him a man who came at once into the house, and
H. C. went out, and he and Mr. Crego put the horses away. The curtains
put down. That night affidavits were made by at least two men
who knew all about how the
county debt had been created, because they were
part of those in the work. They would only come under the strictest secrecy,
brought by R. B. Crego.
The next morning there was no sign of the campers we had seen. A few days later we heard of them as being at Ben Hutchinson's store in Carroll township. They were greatly excited and felt that they had made a narrow escape from some great peril. They declared that there was a nest of robbers or counterfeiters down at that place where they stopped. When Mr. Hutchinson heard where it was, he said, "Oh, those were homesteaders gathering in at night." "Homesteaders, h___ , homesteaders don't wear stove pipe hats, and white shirts and ride in top buggies; why teams were driving in from every way and late at night, too." "We bein' warned against that Woods in O'Brien and we lit out of there."
The constant complaints from new settlers and from those who had invested money here and many cases where the deeds for the land which they had did not describe land in O'Brien county or any where else, and so many homesteaders who had to pay eighty to one hundred dollars to parties who had "laid money against the land." made some organization among the new settlers necessary. The first of these was the "Board of Emigration," of which the faithful Stephen Harris was secretary. After the affidavits were secured, which were seen only by a few, the conditions were laid before the attorney-general of the state; indeed he had been consulted previously. He said the remedy was simple and plain, and under his direction a petition was prepared which every voter in the county, except the officers and the ex-officers, signed, and it was sent to the attorney-general by private hand. Immediate action was promised. The people waited in almost breathless suspense. Two weeks later a county official told one of the petitioners "that the petition would never be heard of again, somebody had fixed him with three hundred and twenty acres of land." It seemed incredible, but that was all that was ever heard of it. Two years later a board of supervisors was elected, called the reform board. Here was another opportunity for the people. A resident taxpayer wrote to the Iowa Railroad Land Company that the people were determined to make another effort to wipe out the illegal debt. They replied that if the board of supervisors would stand by them
O'BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA. 213
they would pay all costs of litigation. Co-operation was promised by the
committee on defense. The
attorney for the Iowa Railroad Land Companv
had been here some time at work when a stub book of the
county which he
was examining and all of the papers were stolen, and he left in disgust and
no efforts were made for their
recovery by the supervisors.
In the post office in O'Brien in the early part of December, 1871, Mr. Woods opened a marked copy of a paper published in Denison, Iowa, and was surprised into exclamations and protestations, as he read that the school sections of O'Brien county would be put up for public sale on a certain day very near at hand. Why was this sold in the dead of winter? And "why, if for sale, were these lands not advertised in the Sioux City papers, where the land office was, and where people looked for such things?" There were a few moments of vehement talk pro and con, but no time was to be lost. A fleet team carried him to Cherokee to catch the afternoon train to Sioux City. The next morning he took breakfast with his old friend. Gen. N.B. Baker, in Des Moines, who then went with him to the home of Governor Merrill, who was just going to his breakfast as they arrived, but stopped to greet General Baker, who introduced Mr. Woods and stated the object of his coming. Mr. Woods handed him the Denison paper marked. He read it, asked a few questions, then dictated a telegram to the attorney-general to proceed at once and stop that sale of lands. Not many years ago I saw an article in a magazine written by Governor Merrill relating to this incident. There was another phase of pioneer life. Indeed that life was full of many satisfactions.
One day a terrible prairie fire swept up from the south. Fire guards were nothing and the wind lifted the burning tumble weeds high in the air and scattered them everywhere. Within an hour there remained only the last cabin that was built and wagon, around which were tied the horses. We were asleep when some one called "Hello." When the door was opened W. E. Baldwin said, "I heard you were burned out today and I brought you half of my oats." On Saturday of that week several teams passed on the way to the timber, not an unusual sight. Mr. Baldwin said, "Don't say anything to Huse, but we are going to stop here." A hot supper awaited them. But Huse was utterly overcome when they unloaded those logs and timbers. The next day was Sunday and all but one came to put up a shelter for the horses (to put their horses in when they came visiting, they put it). These men were Ralph Dodge. W. E. Baldwin, Rice and John Weal, M. Wheeler, from Liberty township, Mr. Towbermann and Emanuel Kindig, who brought
214 O BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA.
two teams that day because he did not like to work Sunday. Those splendid
men, brother pioneers, God bless them.
In 1873 the Grange movement reached O'Brien county and nothing came more opportune. July 4, 1874, was celebrated in Waterman's grove. All the granges in O'Brien and Buena Vista counties were there, each with a beautiful banner. Miss Garretson made the address, Mrs. Baldwin read the Declaration, fine music was rendered, a good dinner had and everybody was happy. In Old O'Brien they had frequent dances, with Jake Wagoner to play the fiddle and keep time with his foot. Mrs. W. C. Green was a beautiful young matron, Amelia Green, and Teresa and Gertrude, sisters, with Mrs. L. G. Healy and daughters, and Mrs. D. B. (Barney) Harmon and others made up quite a social set with the young men thereabouts.
O BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA. 215
ers of the Chicago Tribune and was at this time editing some paper in Des
Moines, writing in reply to a letter, said: "The idea of your library is fine;
prove my faith in it will send you a box of books from my own library."
That box came and held
eighty bound books and six hundred magazines,
complete files of Harper's, Atlantic, Scribner's, etc. We .tied these together
with shoe thread and made covers of
paper sacks. How we all enjoyed
those magazines. That first year but thirty-nine members paid the assessments, but we subscribed for eight magazines, Littell's Living Age at the
head of the list,
Harpers, Scribner's, etc., with St. Nicholas for the children.
The rest of the
money was put into books. We had library parties, which
brought in a little money to pay expenses, and also meetings, with discussions
papers. The second year but twenty-six members were able to pay the
interest or assessment. We left out Littel's
Living Age, as too expensive.
year but three were able to pay this assessment, though small,
J. C. Doling and wife and Stephen Harris. The grasshoppers were here, but
the books went out
among the people, and were never more needed. Letters to
friends brought boxes of books from Mr. and Mrs. W. C. Brewster, George
W. Ellis and others. The last thing General Wilson did before his fatal
illness was to pack a large box of books and they were sent to us by his dear
daughter. We had to borrow that two dollars from the book fund
pay the freight. General Wilson was a man of fine literary ability and a
"gentleman of the old school." He was an uncle of President Wilson. Mrs.
Annie Price Dillon, another friend, sent books and fine pictures of her
father, Hiram Price, the man who financed the sending of the First Iowa
Regiment and of her husband. Judge John F. Dillon, of New York. Mrs.
kept up her interest in the library until her tragic death in the sinking
ship "La Borgaine" in July, 1896.
Soon after Sutherland was started (up to that time the library had been in the Woods cabin) it was moved to Sutherland and during the years had to be moved many times. The corresponding secretary went each Saturday to give out books. Grateful thanks are due to Bert Hamilton, L. J. Price, Mr. and Mrs. H. A. Sage and others for giving the room for the purpose and other kindnesses. With all its ups and downs, it has been of constant usefulness. A few years ago circumstances compelled the destruction of a good part of the circulating library; but that loss has been made good, and the library is doing fine work as a reference library. A permanent home, which sooner or later it will have, will place it in the forefront of the literary and educational activities of the town.
216 O'BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA.
This is the
story of the pioneer library of northwestern Iowa. At its
last election the
following officers were elected: Charles Youde, president;
Sydney Hitchings, vice-president; T. B. Bark, treasurer; Augusta Bark,
recording secretary, and Roma Wheeler Woods, corresponding secretary
The new settlers who came to O'Brien county in the early seventies had two good, strong, influential friends in Congress who stood faithfully by them. Had it not been so it would have been even worse than it was. They were Senators George G. Wright, of Des Moines, and James Harlan, of Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
Petitions were sent to them. Some of the results were a new commissioner of the general land office in Washington, and a new register in the land office at Sioux City, who did what he could in the interests of the settlers. But the "boys" just across the hall, and who had made a claim on this and that piece of land, were too strongly entrenched and men had either to pay the toll or give up the land, as many of them did. But with all the annoying matters continually coming up to a man who was in the business of locating people on their claims who came to Mr. Woods, the pioneer life was nevertheless full of satisfactions.
The hue of the vast prairie, with its ever changing and mysterious beauty, gave a broadness to life. One saw men and women as they were, and learned to have a reverence for human nature in the rough or rather unfinished ways of what we call civilization. There was alwavs something new to be learned and we reveled in the fine spirit of the people, their courage and endurance. There was always something to laugh about. A little incident comes to mind. One late afternoon in September, 1872, there appeared at the cabin door Mrs. Paul Casley and her mother from the extreme west side of the county. "Would Mr. Woods please go with them to O'Brien to see Esquire Sage?" "Certainly tomorrow." As we took the horse from the little wagon on the morrow, a visit to Mrs. Waterman was suggested for me. All went well. Mrs. Waterman, as usual, had a cup of coffee and a lunch ready. When the party returned from O'Brien and we were ready to leave, Mr. Woods suggested that he drive the horse down the hill, to which Mrs. Casley would not consent. They started, and we were about to start when a scream took us all out to the road. Mrs. Casley was in a great state of excitement, but where was the horse and wagon? Why, bless you, in the middle of the river. It seems that the old horse that had come so quietly behind us down the hills, fording the river and up the hill, concluded that if he had to go alone down that long, crooked and extremely rough hill—why,
O'BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA. 217
go. He made his stand, and Mrs. Casley, giving the lines to her
mother, jumped out to head him off, when he bolted and went down that
awful hill and to the middle of the river before he
stopped. The old lady
fell to the bottom of the little
wagon, and the seat and quilts were strung all
along the way. Mr, Woods waded out to the wagon, and the old lady said,
you ever see the beat of that fool horse. I never was so bounced
in my life and I just expected he'd just go right home that way and what
Casley say," laughing just at the thought of it. Finally we got started
home, the old horse coming quietly behind us. When we reached the cabin,
there was a good fire and the teakettle was singing and Dr. and Mrs. Butler,
(his first wife), of Cherokee, were there. Doors were never locked, and
people were expected to make themselves comfortable even to the extent of
getting meals. Well, the old cabin rang with laughter that night. The next
day Mrs. Casley left for home, declining company, as there was "neither hill
nor river to cross the way." Another object of unfailing amusement was a
jack, a quiet, trim little animal who seemed to have a horror of wetting his
feet. The mail came to O'Brien twice a week and sometimes Jack was
pressed into service. There was a clear, running stream, narrow but not
deep, but Jack would stop and plant his forefeet and look at himself in the
water, one ear forward, then both. He could not be induced to cross. No
whip was allowed. The boy soon learned that a pan of corn on the other
side would make him
forget and hustle quickly across.
In 1873 a line in the Des Moines Register said that a bill had been presented in Congress postponing the time for completion of the St. Paul & McGregor Railroad. In those days there were no telephones or autos, to annihilate time and space, but there were fleet young horses out in the shed, and a fleet young bay was soon started. A mass meeting was called, a remonstrance drawn up and copies were sent all over the county. It was said that every voter in the county signed it. I recall the fact that the two longest lists of names brought in were by Joe Jordan and H. C. Woods (known as "Bub"). The bill was withdrawn.
The year 1873 will never be forgotten, by some of us at least, because of bank failures, factories closed, great armies of men out of work, and the great strike of railroad employees, etc. In O'Brien county, in addition, we had grasshoppers. Machinery had been purchased to put the broad acres under cultivation. Notes were coming due. Times looked dark indeed. Like a vessel looming up over the wild waste of water, bringing hope and succor to people stranded on an island, came the grange, with its banner of
218 O'BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA.
helpfulness and good cheer, and its promise of help for the farmers and
settlers, promises which were nobly fulfilled. It seemed to take the minds
people from their really serious condition and planted hope in their
meetings held in the school houses were helpful in many ways
delightful socially. There was a pleasant comradeship between the
granges in O'Brien county, and on July 4, 1874, a grange picnic was
held in Mr. Waterman's
grove of fine old trees. Clay county granges came
with their banners, which, with our home banners and flags, made a strange
display in that wildwood. Mrs. Jennie E. Baldwin read the Declaration of
Independence. Miss Julia Garretson, of southern Iowa, gave a beautiful
address. There was
singing and dancing and games, and where there was
dancing there was "Jake" Wagoner and his fiddle, keeping time with his
foot. Mr. Wagoner is now a resident of Sutherland, has a fine family and
many farms, etc.
In the fall of 1874 came the formation of the Gen. N. B. Baker Library, as stated, and "library parties" were all the rage. A favorable place to hold these parties was at the home of Major Chester W. Inman, there being a good dancing hall in the third story, large rooms in the second story and ample room. The young men from Primghar and the north part of the county used to come down, and attorney Charley Allen furnished the music. He was a fine violinist. The granges decided to have an evening at the home of the special agent, Adam Towberman, who had secured ten quarts of fresh oysters, and he invited "all of Primghar", as he said. There were about one hundred and twenty-five persons present and every available place that afforded a seat was occupied and yet there were many standing, when the host exclaimed, "Sit down, why don't you sit down, there's eighteen cheers in the house; just sit down". Eighteen chairs were more than any of the rest of us had to be sure.
In 1876 the promises for a fine crop were never excelled. All kinds of grain, corn, etc., were at their best. When the harvest of small grain had just begun, the grasshoppers swooped down upon us and destroyed everything. The corn stalks stood bare and the cattle turned into them were poisoned and died. Notes had been put into mortgages. Had the old Athenian custom of placing pillars at the corners of mortgaged lands been in vogue, the country would have looked like the cemetery it was of buried hopes and ambitions. The grasshoppers had deposited their eggs, and in the spring of 1877 they hatched out and remained with us until on many farms everything was destroyed. On our farm there was not a spear of grass left. The homesteads and pre-empted lands were becoming taxable, in-
O'BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA. 219
terest on notes and
mortgages was becoming due. Then also the illegal
upon the county loomed up larger than ever, as it was constantly increasing. Many of the settlers had to accept help from the state. The old
members of the "Board of
Emmigration" an organization among the homesteaders for mutual
help, were still interested in the welfare of the people, of
they were a part, and after many consultations decided to make another
effort to defeat the
illegal claims against the county. As a result they organized the Taxpayers' Association. In another part of this history J.L.E. Peck has
given a full and comprehensive account of the organization, of its
work and final outcome. I
may be allowed a few words as to the personnel
of the leaders of this movement. They were earnest, loyal men, who felt that
justice and right demanded that an effort at least should be made to relieye
people, of whom they were a part, of the fraudulent work under which
they were living.
Many eminent lawyers had given their opinion as to the illegality of the debt and pointed the way for relief. Everything promised well, when the United States circuit court decided that a suit of that kind must be brought by the board of supervisors. This board had been appealed to, but had refused, so the matter had to be dropped.
We learned in those trying days how the motives of men could be misconstrued, their honesty influenced, and their names tossed about like a football. We learned, too, how men's enthusiasm died with a failing cause, and promises made considered null. But we also learned how loyal and faithful to a cause and to each other some men could be, and this last overshadowed all the rest. The men who never faltered even to the payment of bills, which had been necessary to incur (lawyers do not work without pay): expenses had been kept at the minimum, but became heavy for a few men to shoulder. The men who met these claims like men were A. P. Powers, Ralph Dodge, Emanuel Kindig, Tom Steele, J. C. Doling, Stephen Harris, J. K. McAndrew, William E. Baldwin, W. H. Woods (Huse), H. A. Sage, and Alex Peddie for the Jackson Land Company, and H. C. Woods. There were many others who paid the full amount they pledged, from one to ten dollars. I would like to give all their names if it were possible. They did an honorable part.
In the winter of 1880-1881 the snow was so deep that horses could not travel. There appeared at our door one afternoon, late, a man with a green veil over his face, a blanket rolled up on his back, and a tall staff in his hand. Pie asked if we could take him and his fourteen men for the night? "Had thev any blankets?" "Yes." "Well, we will do the best we
220 O BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA.
you." As the door closed after the man, my helper said, "What in
the world are
you going to give them to eat? There is hardly bread for one
supper and nearly everything is out". Hot biscuits, hot doughnuts, fried
bacon, baked beans and coffee for both meals seemed good to them.
In the morning the leader asked what his bill was? Mr. Woods said, "The
madam will tell
you," as he turned to me. I said, as usual, "Oh, you are
welcome to what
you have had. I hope you will bring a railroad to us."
upon paying, and the sensation of having money in my hands
in exchange for meals can never be forgotten. I felt as if I was no longer a
pioneer. I believe I have had the feeling that I was a "grafter." But there
was something gone that belonged to the years behind. We had both felt
that what we had we would share with whoever came. I think our
neighbors all did the same
thing. But the next time money was offered it was
easier to take it. But I am left to feel that it was not often we broke over
the good old way. The next year the Northwestern, or the Eagle Grove
branch, ran through the farm and on the next section of land was built the
town of Sutherland. (It
may be judged who those fourteen men were.)
I have exceeded the limits of my space allotted and have said nothing about the women who did so much toward the upbuilding of the county, for, after all, the homes are the foundation stones of the fabric of civilization. There was in the heart of each home a woman who was doing her part as she knew, as wife, mother and home maker. I can see them now, in their little places of shelter, making the most of what they had, encouraging and sustaining husbands and sons as they tried to meet and overcome the difficult problems constantly met by those who were trying to make a home in a new country. How happy the women were when there was an occasional "gathering," and they came with their children, so neat and clean. There were no lines of social cleavage in those days, and there never ought to be.
There were few settlers in Waterman township, outside of O'Brien, the Watermans on the banks of the Little Sioux. Mrs. Waterman is still living (in 1914) and is always a welcome guest in every house in Sutherland and vicinity. The Watermans, when they came to O'Brien county in July, 1856, brought with them a little daughter, nine months old, Emily, who in later years married Al McClaren, of Sioux City. She was the first white child to come into the county to live. In May, 1857, Anna was born, the first white child born in the county. Soon after a son was born to Charles Stephenson, the first white boy born in the county. The other children born to these first settlers were, a son born in January, 1859; another son born in June, i860, but lived only a week; Orrin, born in 1861, died in 1871; Julia Etta,
O'BRIEN AND OSCEOLA COUNTIES, IOWA. 221
June, 1864, married H. W. Gleason and died in 1892, leaving a son;
Alta G. Waterman, born in 1866, married J. A. Mahar, and they have several
children; Grant Waterman, born in October, 1869, died in 1870; Floy E.
Waterman, born in 1872, married in 1899 to F. W. Conrad, and they have
sons; Belle Waterman, born March 11, 1876, died in 1899; Blanch
Waterman, twin sister of Belle, married H. W. Gleason in 1894, who has
The above is only an outline of the life of a very noble type of woman. The mother of eleven children, living so many years in the most primitive way, was the kind of friend to the hundreds of people who made the Waterman cabin a stopping place for a short or longer time. Mrs. Waterman is in good health at the beginning of this year 1914.
Another remarkable pioneer woman was Mrs. Adam Towberman. Mr. Towberman had three sons by a former wife, and Mrs. Towberman had five children by a former husband, who died in the Civil War. Then there were four children by the new family, making twelve children in the family. She was always a quiet, self-possessed woman and a true mother to each of these twelve.
Another woman who did a great work in the early days in the county was Mrs. William E. Baldwin, or better known as Mrs. Jennie Baldwin. She was one of the first teachers after the new settlers came in. There are many men and women who owe much to Mrs. Baldwin for her interest in their education. She was a bright, witty woman, and she and her husband were our most frequent guests.
Another family who were among our best friends were Mr. and Mrs. Julius C. Doling (the former once county treasurer), with their family of eight children. Mrs. Doling was a devoted wife and mother. There were many others, but these were those who came most often at our place.
In Waterman township there are quite a number who still own and live on their original homestead claims, and some of them with many additional acres. Silas Steele and wife, splendid neighbors and friends, are among them. They and their large family are all settled and prosperous. Rice Weal still owns his original claim and much more, and lives in town. Mr. and Mrs. Michael Sweeney, in their old age, and their large family are all settled about them, mostly in Waterman. Mrs. Sweeney is a veritable queen in all the delightful gatherings in the township, a noble woman of high ideals. The Martins, Hills and Tripletts, three large families, are all settled in fine homes with autos. Waterman is a rich township, and I wish it were possible to speak of each and every one in it.