LeMars Semi-Weekly Sentinel
June 26, 1891
PIONEER DAYS IN PLYMOUTH COUNTY
AN HISTORIC ACCOUNT OF THE EARLY SETTLEMENT, ORGANIZATION AND SUBSEQUENT
DEVELOPMENT OF THE COUNTY BY TOWNSHIPS
Interesting Reminiscences, Adventures, Amusing Incidents, and the Hardships
Connected with the County’s History from 1856 to 1891, Including the
“Homestead” and “Grasshopper” Days.
By W. L. Clark
Organization-Early Settlement, French Squatters-Early Events
Elections-Birth-Death-Schools-Fatal Accidents-Grasshopper Scourge of 1868 as
Seen by Pioneer Joseph LeBerge
In size this is the least of any of the twenty four civil townships of
Plymouth county. It comprises seventeen full sections and several fractional
parts of sections of Congressional township ninety range forty eight west
[three lines not readable.]
At one time Hancock was a part of Perry township, but was set apart as a
separate organization on April 3, 1883. Sioux township is on its north,
Perry on the east and Woodbury county on the south. It contains about 13,090
acres of land. Broken Kettle creek passes the northwestern portion of its
territory, and has its confluence with the Big Sioux river on section nine.
In 1885 its population was 150 with only thirty of foreign birth. The 1890
census gives the population at 184.
Let the reader turn his thoughts and view in his most vivid fancy, the
territory embraced in this part of the county as it might have been seen
prior to 1854, during which year Surrell Benoist, a Frenchman who had
marriage a Sioux Squaw and by whom he had reared a family, found his way up
the Missouri river to this spot and took a squatter’s claim, as this was
before the land had been surveyed by the government.
For years this was the only inhabitant of the township. The place he claimed
is the fine bottom farm owned by Joseph LaBerge, on section thirty-five,
township ninety, range forty-eight. It is in the most romantic and
picturesque portion of the famous Big Sioux valley, at a point about seven
miles northwest of Sioux City. This Frenchman looked upon the fertile valley
just as it has been left by the savage Indian tribes, that had recently made
it their hunting and fishing ground, but who had caught the faint but
certainly increasing echo of civilization, with its steady tramp of
conquest, and hence sought a still more secluded home father to the
northwest. Upon this tract was built a log cabin, which stood on the exact
spot where now a portion of Mr. LaBerge’s farm house now stands. Although
more than a third of a century ago this pioneer cabin was reared, yet some
of the logs are about the premises, in a fair state of preservation, having
been made use of in the first dwelling built on the place by Mr. LaBerge,
who came to the locality during the month of May, 1867, and became the
second squatter on the same place, Benoist, the first settler, having
It was in 1857 that a man named Verrigutt squatted on section twenty-seven
and remained until about 1863.
When Joseph LeBerge became a settler of the township, he found John Hardin,
who came from Pennsylvania living on section twenty-seven, where he had
pre-empted his land, and where he remained until 1877, and then removed to
Section fifteen had for its occupants old Mr. Conley, who was Hardin’s
father-in-law, with his three sons, John, Richard, and Allen.
B.B. Sutton another settler in the north part of the township, lived on
Broken Kettle creek, and was a conspicuous figure in the first organization
of the county. He finally sold and moved to Kansas.
Section three was settled by Ezra Carpenter, who came from Dakota about
1865. He afterwards removed to Arkansas.
In 1868 Joseph Benoist (French) made a settlement on the southeast quarter
of section twenty-three, where he lived about five years.
Section thirty-six was settled on by Timothy Harrington, who took advantage
of the homestead act. He now resides in Sioux City.
Henry Multhoup was another early homesteader to claim land on section
thirty-six. He is also in Sioux City at present.
Mr. Wood located on section twenty-three in 1869, but only remained a short
J.H. Cowell bought lands on section fifteen about this time. He is still a
resident of the township.
W.D. Carlisle settled on section twelve in 1870. He is still there, and is a
prosperous and honored citizen.
Frank West, another pioneer settler of section twelve, proved up on his
homestead and sold to Duncan Ross, now a prosperous farmer of Dakota.
In 1878, T. Fursee homesteaded a portion of section twelve.
In 1879, came James Daily. He came from Sioux City, and lived on what is now
known as the Marks farm. He removed in 1881. He also purchased land on
Other early pioneers were Messrs. Lamoureaus, Easton and Denisten. From
1873 on, until after the grasshopper plague had passed away, in 1877, but
few, if any, came in as settlers. The greater part of the township being
extremely uneven, in some places rough and hilly enough to be called
mountainous in this prairie country, other parts of the county were settled
The first school in this township was taught in 1868, at the private
residence of Pioneer B.B. Sutton, but an old gentleman named Carrons. A
school building was erected on section twenty-six, in 1869, by Joseph
LeBerge, who says he paid $6 per 1000 for the shingles used and as much in
proportion for all the lumber.
The first birth within Hancock township was that of George, a son of
Donzitte Lamoureaux, born in October, 1869.
The first marriage was that of Abe Sutton, son of B.B. Sutton, who was
married not later than 1867.
The first death in the township was that of Richard Connolly, who was killed
by an early settler named Benoist, a Frenchman with whom he had a difficulty
in February, 1872. One the ground of partial self-defense, the man was sent
to state’s prison for one year.
The first election in what is now Hancock township was held in the school
house on section ten, known as the “Massey school,” in 1883.
Among the fatal accidents which have occurred in the township, may be
mentioned the death of Pioneer Knapp, who was killed by lightning, during a
slight hurricane, about 1875. It is related that he, in company with others,
had sought shelter by a granary or barn, and that while there they saw an
out building blow over, which sight provoked laughter from Mr. Knapp, and
that at that instant he was stricken dead by the lightning and so sudden was
the shock, that even for hours after death, his face wore a smile, terrible
as it was for friends to behold.
The date of the first appearance of the grasshoppers in this section of the
country was August 27th, 1868, at eleven o’clock a.m., when the sun was
darkened as if by a heavy snow storm filling the atmosphere. The fine
prospect for crops was entirely removed before sunset, that eventful day, as
all vegetation was destroyed.