By Mrs. C. V. VanEpps.

It has been my privilege to live in Carroll township, or near it (in town of Sheldon), for over forty-one years, and when requested to write up the history and give experiences as one of the earliest settlers, I gave reluctant consent and felt I was not equal to the task. When I look back and think and see of the changed conditions that have taken place in that time, it seems more of a dream than a reality, and in looking back, trying to recall some of the events of the early settlement period, I am at a loss to think of things that would be of interest in this historical book, but was to tell how I came to the township and who were the early settlers and some of the events which transpired at that time, and as some of these events come up in my mind I will try to write something which I hope may prove interesting.
When the writer came to the county, September 12, 1872, there were no railroads in the county and her husband met her at Marcus (which then consisted of just a shanty for a depot), with what you call a "prairie schooner" to drive across the country twenty-two miles to Carroll township to their claim. In all that rule there was nothing to be seen until you got to the Amos Sutter and Harley Day ranch—just a dug-out—and when the men saw the "schooner" they ran out waving their hands and hurrahing for the woman, as they were a sight in that part of the township then. As we drove on, a jack rabbit bobbed up on the prairie and stopped and looked, as much as to say, "Who are you, treading on my domain?" That was all the life seen on that twenty-two-mile drive. The first settler of Carroll township was Patrick Carroll, who came from Illinois and brought his wife and eight children with him in the spring of 1870, not knowing when he started just where he was going—only to find and make a home for himself and family. Northwest Iowa was about the limit and nearest place where government land could be found at that time. So Mr. Carroll headed for northwest Iowa and landed in Cherokee, when he began to enquire of the land—and he was referred to "Waterman," Mr. Carroll supposed it was a town and started to drive and kept watching over the prairie to see a city. After


driving a long while and seeing no signs of a town or anything else but vast prairie, he arrived at Mill creek, where he met two teams and stopped to chat and inquire for Waterman. Imagine his surprise when he was told there was no town of that name, but there was a man by the name of Hannibal Waterman holding down a claim and had a shack built on it a ways back. Mr. Carroll turned round his team and drove back and found the Waterman place and they camped there for the night and had to dig to get water for his teams and family to use. The next morning they drove northwest and came to a shack in Baker township. These shacks were the signs that the claim was taken up. This proved to be Wallace Rinker's and Austin Sutter was there and was starting out with several teams of oxen to find breaking to do for settlers, and when Mr. Carroll enquired for land he was told of section 34, where no one had located, and so he located the family on the south half of the southeast quarter of that section. The first thing was to dig to see if water could be found, as the cry then with the few settlers was so little water and hard to find. About the first thing was to dig in some slough or low piece of ground and if you found water then the settler was happy. Mr. Carroll found water and so took off his wagon covers and used that for a habitation until he got a dugout or shack built, into which he moved his family that fall.
When we think of those dugouts or shacks now, it is hard to realize how one lived. There was a hole dug down three feet or more in the ground and then a frame of whatever you could get made over that and sometimes only the sod (which was very tough) cut in squares and built up. There were no floors, or partitions, unless made of bed quilts. The writer has stood on six inches of snow in one of these dugouts and done washing for the sick who owned it. But I can not help but say there was more general happiness to be found in some of these shacks than was found in their more pretentious homes afterward, when so many began to feel, and showed it, that "I have a better home now than you have." But, to come back to Mr. Carroll, the township was not named yet and, he being the first settler and proving to be an honorable man, they named it in his honor. This was in 1870. That fall Mr. Mennig and the Donovans came to the township. Mr. Mennig brought his family from Davenport, Iowa, in the spring, but had lived in Waterman township through the summer and had contested a claim on the southeast quarter of section 18, in Carroll township, and it was decided in his favor and he settled on this claim in the spring of 1871, and he or his boys still own it, Mr. Mennig hav-


ing retired to a modern home in Sheldon after a long life of hard work. He has deeded his land of several hundred acres to his three children and he and wife have moved to Sheldon, with a large competency to keep them in their old age. In the year 1870 William Butterfield and Charles Albright came out from Durant, Iowa, to spy out the land, of which its vast prairies and wonderful sunshine had began to be noised about. Mr. Albright selected his land in Highland township, while Mr. Butterfield homesteaded on its southeast quarter of section 4, Carroll township. They then returned to Durant and told of the wonderful country, where milk and honey flowed and gold was to be found for the picking up. They were very much enthused over this wonderful land and tried and did imbue this same spirit in others, so much so that in the spring of 1871 eleven men in all came to view this wonderful country and most of them settled in Carroll township. The writer's husband, C.V. Van Epps, and M. G. McClellan being two of the party that drove across the state in June from Durant, Iowa, and homesteaded on the east half of section 10 in Carroll township, each settling on one hundred and sixty acres, as both wrere soldiers and entitled to that much. They hired Charles Butterfield and Johnie Miller to break twelve and six acres respectively on each claim and then they traveled back home, and in September, that year, had to come again to make some improvement, so as to hold their claims. Arriving here, they went over into Lyon county, along the Rock river, and got poles to make a frame for stables and covered them with prairie grass, Van Epps leaving a corn plow and two stools in his and McClellan leaving something on the same order to show the claims had been settled on. Then, in the spring of 1872, all these men brought their families, and in that year the land in the township, or mostly all, was taken up. In the northern part of the township the claims were inhabited with families and there was quite a colony of settlers who had mostly come from or near the same place (Durant, Iowa). The writer came September 12, 1872, her husband preceding her to get something to live in. He had hauled lumber from Cherokee and got a home fourteen by eighteen, twelve-foot posts, built, but as Yet no windows or doors. Rag carpet hung over the openings at nights to protect you from the cold air, the house being only sheeted up. The writer helped weather board it and what a time we did have to make a stair way so as not to have to climb a ladder. we lived seventeen years in that home, with few improvements, as happy as any years of our lives. The settlers thought nothing of driving ten or twelve miles in a day to visit or to help each other when work was on hand.
The winter of 1872 and 1873 was the hardest of all for the settlers in


Carroll township, as they were not prepared for the cold winter, no houses being plastered and the prairies being one vast plain of land, not a tree or bush to mar one's vision as far as the eye could see. The bleak cold northwest winds penetrated every crack or crevice of our homes and many had not even the clothing they ought to have had to protect their bodies. Fuel was hard to get, as the Omaha & St. Paul railroad, the first in the county, had only gotten as far as Worthington and was blockaded so much of the time that they could not get coal into the county; only a very few settlers anyway, had money with which to buy fuel. So prairie grass (some few had a little corn) was resorted to as fuel. The 9th of January, 1872, when the first blizzard raged over the township, nine of the settlers in the northern part of the township had gone to Waterman creek, near Cherokee, or to the Rock river near Rock Valley, to gather wood or chop down green poles to bring home for fuel. O what aching hearts there were at that time, for some of these settlers did not get home for a week, their families not knowing whether they were frozen to death or not, for there were no roads and when there was snow on the ground nothing to be seen to guide you.
So what dark days we did see, especially when the diphtheria broke out among the children and the settlers' teams with the epizootic. no doctor in the county and no one hardly to look to for help, as each family had all they could do to help themselves. The writer has gone fourteen miles, when they came after her, to help in sickness, the cold winds blowing a gale and the snow being two feet deep on the level, with drifts four and five feet piled up, and no signs of a road and the track being filled in as fast as you could get over it. Bedding was taken along to keep you warm and a scoop shovel to dig out the horses when they mired down in the snow.
The first school house in the township was built on the southwest corner of section 3, and the first teacher in it was Mrs. Dr. Cram, of Sheldon. Rev. H. D. Wiard had taught a school in the shack he lived in the winter before on the Will Ridell homestead on section 10, the scholars, some of them, coming from nine to fourteen miles and staying through the week with the settler. Rev. H. D. Wiard preached the first sermon in Carroll township at the home of Dan McKay, who was located on section 6, in August. 1872, and from the time of that first sermon the first church that was built in O'Brien county sprang up and is now the Congregational society of Sheldon, it sprang up from small beginnings, as large trees from acorns grow There were six members in the church, four of these in Carroll (15)


township. In September, 1912, that church celebrated its fortieth anniversary, which we will record in this history.
[The following reminiscent sketch of the history of the First Congregational church, from its beginning, in Sheldon, Iowa, August 18, 1872, to September 29, 1912, was prepared by Mrs. C. V. Van Epps, and read by Mrs. F. E. Frisbee on the fortieth anniversary of the church's organization.-—Ed.] We of the Congregational church extend greetings to all the dear people who meet here tonight, to help us celebrate this the fortieth anniversary of our church. The Lord made the mountains and the hills; He made the oceans and the dew drops; He made nature's garden to blossom as the rose; He also made the prairies of O'Brien county, Iowa, for its first settlers to live in.
We also knew, that in order to prosper, there must be a place for these people to worship that God who had done so much for them. So, in the year 1872, when there were only a few straggling settlers on these prairies, there was a young minister, Rev. H. D. Wiard, who had come from Michigan, with his young bride, and, you might say, who had come to prepare the way for this, our beautiful church of today, since it was through his untiring energy and faithfulness that the first church of northwest O'Brien county, Iowa, was built.
The first church service was held on the 18th of August, 1872, at the Dan McKay ranch, which is now the Louis Younger place, one mile south of Sheldon. The building consisted of a room fourteen by sixteen feet, without plaster, and with no cupola or porch. There were six Congregational members present and, I believe, were all the church members in these parts at that time. These members were Rev. Wiard and wife, M. G. McClellan and wife, and William Butterfield and wife. The writer and husband did not belong to this church at that time, and, in fact, the writer was not at that first service, though her husband was. I had not yet arrived at my lovely prairie home; mv husband was ahead of me at the home and at this service, as the men always try to be ahead of the women, and perhaps for our good.
From that time on the work of the church was in the hearts of the people, but there are only a very few of the dear people of today who know and can realize the hardships the settlers' of that time had to endure. When the seeds were planted and began to grow, and we began to think, now we will have gold to pick up, King Grasshopper would appear and always took


first choice. But Brother Wiard stood by us, and, with prayer and words of encouragement, ever kept the need of a church before us. In the winter of 1872 three prayer meetings were started and kept up weekly, the first being held at the M. G. McClellan home, the next at Butterfield's, the next at Van Epps', and so on. On May 10, 1873, there were seven other names added to the church roll. The church was incorporated January 29, 1874, with the name, the First Congregational church of Sheldon, Iowa, and from that time on, you might say, the word was, Go! On the 21st day of September, 1874, a building committee was appointed, and on the 10th day of September, 1875, a contract with builders was signed. The carpenter work was done by Mr. Walker and the masonry by George Berry. The first work was done on the church September 24, 1875, and on December 20th, of the same year, the church was completed, lacking but the seats. The first seats used were simply rough boards, supported on nail kegs. In spite of the backache that came from sitting on these seats, it really seemed harder to get new seats than it was to build the church. In the building and furnishing of the church many sacrifices were made and much hard work done, every honest method conceivable being used to get money for this purpose. I recall a mush and milk social given at the Benjamin Jones home, when each one dipped in a spoon, at so much a dip. The first money raised to build the church was in the winter of 1874. It was by a social held upstairs, where the Hollander drug store now is. Mrs. M. G. McClellan and myself baked two large cakes and brought them to the social and succeeded in selling them for sixty dollars. This was the way it was done. A beauty contest was made over the cakes, and the contest lay between a newly married woman, Mrs. J. A. Brown, and a voting, unmarried woman, now Mrs. Dr. Cram. The decision of the contest was left to the vote of the people, a stated sum being charged for the tickets used in voting. The (infatuated) husband, of course, looked after his wife's interests, and in this was supported by other married men. The young men undertook the care of the maiden, but from lack of experience or money, or both, they fell down in the undertaking, and the married men got the cakes.
The Congregational Church Building Society furnished four hundred dollars toward building the church, providing the members and friends would do the rest. The lumber for the church was bought of Mr. Wycoff, who then had what is now Strong's lumber yard. The first marriage in the church was a double one, July 2, 1876, being Frank Piper and Miss Eva Bronson, and M. Cook and Miss E. Brush. There was no friction in those days between the members and the pastor of the flock and harmony was the


rule, and the people were justly proud and much pleased with their new church, which had sprung from such a humble beginning. It was unpretentious, but quite comfortable, and was built on the surface of the ground, and heated by stoves, but in 1888, through the generosity of Mr. Aborn, a lecture room with basement apartments, including furnace and stone foundation was added, and then we were a much pleased people.
In the spring of 1874, after the church was regularly incorporated, with Rev. Wiard ordained as pastor, and before the building of the church, services were held in the dining room of the new Sheldon Hotel. Mrs. Butterfidd was organist and Mrs. A. B. Johnson, Eva Bronson (afterward Mrs. Frank Piper) and Charlie Kent composed the choir. The first Sabbath school was organized in the room over where now is Kollander's drug store. I do not recall who acted as superintendent but believe it was the Reverend Wiard.
I have forgotten just when the first Ladies' Aid Society was formed, but think it was along in the eighties. At any rnte it has always been of material assistance in the upbuilding of the church.
Brother Wiard remained with us until 1875 and there came after him in the following order these pastors: Rev. Palmer. 1876-77; Rev. Southworth. 1877-83; Rev. Brintnall, 1883-88: Rev. Cole, 1888-90; Rev. Hanscom, 1890-93; Rev. Cummings, 1893-99; Rev. Bray, 1899-08: Rev. Westlake, from September 1, 1908, up to the present hour. In the year 1900 the members, seeing the need of a larger church, secured subscriptions for that purpose and in May, 1901, work was begun on this our present structure. The Ladies' Aid Society did splendid work toward raising the money needed, and we now feel greatly pleased with our church home, which is free of debt. Our membership numbers two hundred and forty-six resident members, representing one hundred and forty-five families. During the present pastorate upwards of ninety have united with the church, over one thousand two hundred dollars improvements have been made in and on the building and paid, while a parsonage has been purchased, on which there is still some indebtedness. The records of this church, covering a period of six or seven years, were burned in a fire which destroyed Mr. Wyman's house, where they were kept by him as a church official. All we can make known concerning those years we must furnish from memory, and there are but few of the old workers left who have recollection of the doings of that period.
One thing comes to my mind, I must not fail to mention, as it shows a fine record for a small child. In the summer of 1875 Maggie Jones, now


Mrs. Eggart, began playing the organ, when she was so small that she had to be held on the organ stool. Mrs. Butterfield taught her to play the hymn tunes, and for six years, until she started off to school, she never missed a Sunday in her playing. I must also mention that Benjamin Jones and Mr. Parkhurst donated the stucco for the plastering of the church, and some one donated an old chair for pulpit use, and after a time Mr. Jones gave the cane seated chair now in use in the lecture room, to take the place of the old chair.
Mr. and Mrs. Jones, although not enrolled as church members, have been with us from the first and helped us in many ways by counsel and gifts. After the addition of our lecture room to the first church, Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Hartenbower donated our present pulpit. Among others who have had a share in our hardships and today have the most reason for rejoicing are the Winslows, Mrs. A. D. Johnson. Mrs. Frank Hollenbeck, the Bassetts. Mrs. Cram and Mrs. W. L. Avers.
Many, many of our most zealous workers have gone to their reward, but I feel that their spirits look down upon us today and know the good they have done. Other faithful ones have moved elsewhere, but are not forgotten. This paper may contain some mistakes, since memory is not always reliable, some records are not available, and those who could have aided my memory are in a better world. I ask your pardon if this paper has seemed tedious to you, and express the wish that you may find as great happiness in church work as I have found.
Every other section in Carroll township was what they called railroad land. It had been taken as a right of way by the Omaha & St. Paul or the Chicago & Milwaukee railroad. These sections were not open to the settlers, but many squatted on them and made quite extensive improvements. Then when the land came in market some of them could buy it, while others tried to hold on by their squatter rights. In the meantime others would buy it over their heads and they would have to give up and lose all their improvements. Carroll township land is now worth from one hundred and fifty to two hundred dollars per acre, and in the years of 1873-4-5 and 6, during the time of the grasshopper reign, I have known men to offer their land and every thing they had for five hundred dollars, to get the money to get out of the country with. There are not many of the first settlers of Carroll township left, some having left the county and a few still living, but the silent grave yards hold the most of them.

O'Brien County Iowa Genealogy - The IAGenWeb Project