Pottawattamie County, IAGenWeb History Home HOME

Migration Stories

 Major Roads and Trails, 1780 - 1860

Trail Map

 Map courtesy of Cathy Joynt Labath.

Here is a collection of your own migration stories.  Do you have an interesting account of your Pottawattamie County ancestor's migration?  Please send your migration stories to the Pottawattamie County Coordinator.


Submitted by: Scott Cary
Source: A Look At the Past...
Old Stagecoach House

Omaha World-Herald (Date Unknown)

(The following article was printed in the World-Herald when Stuart Buckingham was 12 and his sister Beverly was 9. The John Buckingham family lived in an old stagecoach house and the article gives some of the history of the house.)

Mr. and Mrs. John Buckingham don't object when their two children spend hours watching television. And they don't mind when the youngsters whoop it up a bit during the westerns. But when Beverly, 9, and Stuart, 12, get unduly excited in those scenes where the stagecoach pulls up to the station
far out in the country - well that's a bit too much.

For the Buckinghams live in a former stagecoach house where a hundred years ago drivers stopped to obtain fresh horses. The barn is now gone, but the central portion of the Buckingham's home was built about 1864 as a stagecoach depot. The original house included two rooms down stairs and a large room up. Mr. Buckingham reports that practically all of the wood was native grown and the rough-hewn 2 by 4's still are in good shape.

The area was homesteaded by Mr. Buckingham's grandmother, Mrs. Dorcas Osler, in 1864 and she paid $4.50 and acre for more than eight hundred acres. Her husband died en route from Indiana but she came on with her seven sons.*

She operated the stagecoach stop many years, Mr. Buckingham reported, adding that the area grew to include a blacksmith shop, several homes and a church. The town was given the man of "Wheeler," which name now remains only in the Wheeler Grove Church.

Mrs. Harriet Buckingham, a daughter-in-law of the homesteaders, reports that the Mormon trail followed the old stagecoach route southwest from Wheeler. She added rooms on the east and west sided of the house about 1900.

*Note by Scott Cary - Her husband, Basil Dorsey Osler, actually died from heatstroke in Illinois after returning there from homesteading the land in Iowa. His wife, Dorcas, pregnant and without a husband, traveled to Iowa with her 4 sons: William, Samuel, Elwood & Gilbert and 2 daughters: Sarah and Elnora, (my GG-grandmother). 1 daughter, Martha, remained in Illinois. Her 2 oldest sons, James and John, were off fighting for the Union in the Civil War. A 7th son, Sherman, was born once they arrived in Iowa.

Copyright Scott Cary. All rights reserved except permission granted to reproduce or distribute to not-for-profit individuals or organizations.  Permission to publish this story was given by Scott Cary.


Submitted by: Mona Sarratt Knight

I've done a lot of research on my HARDING and SARRATT ancestors who settled in Pott. Co., the Hardings coming with the early migration of the Mormon pioneers and settling near Crescent, Iowa. I thought readers might find some of the descriptions of that time period, about 1845 to 1860, interesting and perhaps it mirrors the same stories of your pioneer ancestors.

Most of my ancestors sold everything in the east to come west, and many joined up with the Mormon bands in Nauvoo and Carthage when they were forced to flee the city, ill prepared for a winter and wet spring crossing Iowa. Most followed what today is called the Mormon trail, crossing the Mississippi River and settling at Sugar Creek and others pressing on to Keosaqua, Iowa camp. They took whatever they could carry in a wagon (if they had one) or walking and pulling a cart along. In the very early days, most had wagons but some had nothing but tents and blankets from which they fashioned a sleeping hut by laying the blankets over bushes. They literally walked across Iowa.

By the time they reached the western edge of Iowa, they had faced near starvation, bugs, diseases, rattle snakes, loss of loved ones, births of new babies, and back breaking work to get to Pottawattamie County and the banks of the Missouri River. They traded what little they had for flour or grain along the way from what few farmers lived in Iowa then; or they traded their work, their singing, or their cooking for other goods. By the time they arrived at the Missouri River, many had black scurvey, were undernourished or suffering from fevers, chills, unknown sores, and rheumatism. Living on the banks of the Missouri River in cold wagons or tents didn't improve their health, until the spring came and they began to build log huts or houses. Even then, sanitation wasn't the best in the area as thousands more Mormons poured into the areas on either side of the Missouri River.

One early history described two sisters who were ill with fevers and chills and "laid for weeks beside each other on the bed tick, prostrate and very sick." Black scurvey was also described as having "begun its work and cases proved fatal. It would commence with dark streaks and pains in the ends of the fingers or toes, which increased and spread till the limbs were inflamed and became almost black, causing such intense agony that death would be welcomed as a release from the suffering. It was caused by the want of vegetable food and living so long on salt meat."

An early description of the area by Colonel Thomas Kane described his arrival in the area in the summer: "On the east side of the river were crowded with covered carts and wagons; and each one of the Council Bluff hills opposite was crowned with its own great camp, gay with bright white canvas, and alive with the busy stir of thousands of swarming occupants. Herd boys were dozing upon the slopes and smoke streamed up from more than a thousand cooking fires. Countless roads and by-paths checkered all manner of geometric figures on the hillsides. From a single point, I counted four thousand head of cattle in view at one time."

My ancestors eventually left the main body of the Church and settled in the hills just about a mile north of Crescent, Iowa. Benjamin Harding (son of Payne Harding) was an Elder in the RLDS church there and owned a farm of about 120 acres. Much to our surprise, many years after Benjamin's arrival and several generations later, about 1967 my parents bought an 80-acre farm in the hills north of Crescent. When the title and abstract were reviewed, much to my Dad's amazement, our 80 acres turned out to have belonged to his great-grandfather Benjamin Harding! Growing up on this farm, I remember Bob Kirkwood, our neighbor, telling us about his own ancestor's log home, which still existed on the corner by his house and which Bob used then as a tool shed. It was only 8 feet by 12 feet, with two windows, and Bob said his ancestors had raised many children there. He later tore it down. He also told the story that his ancestors took their first load of corn to Omaha for sale and it took them 4 days to travel by wagon, around all the sloughs and muddy bogs, from Crescent to the Missouri River. An early Kirkwood biography says that Mr. Kirkwood had to often unload the corn, carry it in bags across the muddy areas, drive the wagon around or across, then re-load! North of Crescent, across the creek and up the hillside, on the Williams farm was a very early Mormon cemetery, and an area where a small RLDS church had once stood which my Great-Great-Grandfather Harding had served in as Elder. Benjamin Harding and his family are buried at the Crescent Cemetery, Crescent, Iowa.

I grew up with many of the later generations of the early pioneers of that area, including McIntosh, Hatcher, Collins, Terry, Oamek, Kirkwood, Williams, Moran, McMullen, Pratt, Price, and many others. Even though I've lived away for almost 16 years, I still miss it.

Signed, Mona Sarratt Knight

Copyright Mona Knight. All rights reserved except permission granted to reproduce or distribute to not-for-profit individuals or organizations.  Permission to publish this story was given by the writer, Mona Sarratt Knight.


Source: Unkown
Submitted by: Scott Cary, Buda, Texas

Basil Dorsey Osler, the second son of John K. Osler, married Dorcas Tabitha Norton (b. 1/9/1824 - d. 8/10/1907). Dorcas was born in North Carolina. Dorcas' parents were James Norton (b. 1789 - d. 3/28/1868 in Lincoln, Logan County, IL) and Frances Usher (b.1798 in North Carolina - d. 8/28/1891 in Lincoln, Logan County, IL). The Nortons' moved from North Carolina to Wayne and Randolph Counties in Indiana when Dorcas was a little girl. Basil is buried in Lincoln, Logan County, Illinois.

Basil and Dorcas lived first in Winchester, Randolph County, Indiana. They then moved to Illinois, near Lincoln, in Logan County where ten of the eleven children were born. Basil went to Iowa and homesteaded a farm in Wheelers Grove (Section 16, Grove Township) Pottawattamie County. He returned to Illinois for his family but died of heat stroke.

Basil is buried by his daughter, Indiana, who died at the age of six in Logan County, Illinois. Dorcas sold their Illinois farm and put the money in an old churn. In 1864, pregnant and without a husband, Dorcas took her six children in a covered wagon to Iowa. The money she had put in the butter churn was saved during a robbery attempt enroute to Iowa. Sherman Osler was born after their arrival in Iowa. Martha Osler, her oldest daughter, married Peter Hitchell and remained in Illinois. Her oldest sons, John ("Jack") and James were serving in the Civil War at the time.

Dorcas operated the farm Basil had homesteaded, and a general store on the land. The old stage barn on the Mormon Trail was located near her store. She was a member of the Wheelers Grove Christian Church which still stands on the edge of her original homesteaded farm.

The first two schools in the area were held in homes on the Mormon Trail, one in the residence of Silas Wheeler for whom Wheelers Grove is named. The first school erected on the Trail was in Section 20, three miles from Dorcas' home. It was built of logs with a punction floor and seats.

Grove Township was at one time included in the territory of Macedonia Township, but in September 1858, it was organized as a township, and thus an election precinct. The business district was located at Eminence, later called Wheeler. Alex Osler was Justice of Peace.

Dorcas lived to see 64 grandchildren, 65 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grand-children. Dorcas Tabitha NORTON OSLER was a true PIONEER!!

Copyright Scott Cary. All rights reserved except permission granted to reproduce or distribute to not-for-profit individuals or organizations.  Permission to publish this story was given by Scott Cary.