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TALES from the FRONT PORCH

Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project

EARLY RINGGOLD COUNTY HISTORY

by CLARA E. (HAGANS) HARVEY, 1904

The latter part of May, 1854, my father, James C. HAGANS, with his family consisting of his wife and eight children, landed in Ringgold county where they made their home. My father's family was the ninth in that part of the county. We went into camp in the grove known as SCHOOLER'S grove in the present site of Ringgold cemetery. There were three graves there then, Mrs. SCHOOLER and her child and a Mr. BARBER, the first and only white people buried in the county.

Manoah B. SCHOOLER was the first white child born in the county, as given by the old settlers. Six families, WILSONS, MILLERS, ALLENS, SCHOOLERS, BARBERS and TETHROWS, lived near the grove at that time. Then, on or near the present BEALL land, was camped Jos. COFER until he could get his cabin built on the land later owned by John FRY.

Other families were a Mr. SUMMERS near Caledonia, and a family by the name of SWIGART near there. My father settled on the land now owned by Frank HUGHES. He said he had traveled to the end of the road and made the road himself, for he and the boys had to cut the road through the timber to Grand River, make a ford across the river and extend the road to the prairie where he intended to build his cabin. He and the boys then set to work cutting logs with which to build a cabin and rive boards for a covering which he finished July 18, and was ready to move into just two months after we left our home in Illinois.

Time passed pleasantly and we did not notice the time. The next thing to be done was to open up a farm, which was done with the eleven yoke of oxen, and a plow which cut 22 inches, and not long before a few acres was prepared for seeding. The land office at that time was at Chariton and the land did not come into market until August 1, 1854. By that time, Randolph SRY had moved in and located near us, and the same month Thomas HUGHES had also located near us. Then we had neighbors and of the kind one formed a love for. Later on a family by the name of STRATTON moved in. We children were glad to see families coming as we then would have company. Mr. STRATTON was a brick mason, and became a great help in building and pointing up our cabins.

The first lumber sawed in the county was sawed in 1855 by E. L. SOLES and his son-in-law, John TAYLOR, and was sawed with a contrivance known as a whip-saw. This lumber was so nice in the building of our cabins. Mr. TAYLOR lost his cabin by fire, it being the first one to burn in the county, and was a great loss, as they lost nearly all of their property, and there were no insurance companies.

Mr. SOLES was the first carpenter and he and his son later built a number of houses in Mount Ayr. In those days, our happies times were the spelling schools and singing schools held at the house where old and young took part. Mr. SOLES was the singing teacher. A Mr. Nathaniel CURTIS, a cabinet-maker, came into our midst, and we were glad to welcome him, as we could then have chairs and tables which few of us had.

The first wood chopping, hauling, quilting, and candy party was held at our house, which was well attended and at night the young people came for 10 or 15 miles to attend the party which was enjoyed by all.

The first sermon preached in the county was in October, 1854, at Henry MILLER'S cabin by a Mr. BELL, an "Iron jacket" Baptist from Denver, Missouri, called Fairview at that time. It was 15 miles away and he made the trip on horse back.

The first frame house in Ringgold was made by Joseph COFER in Mount Ayr in 1856 and a very sad accident happened. The lumber was ricked up to dry across from the school house in which the first district school was being taught by Jane AUSTEN at $14 per month. She had dismissed school and three of the boys ran across the street and started to climb upon the top of the lumber, and it fell over, catching Johnny CRABB and cruching him to death. This was the first death in Mount Ayr. He was buried in the North Cemetery.

The first store and postoffice in Mount Ayr was kept by Barton B. DUNNING. Most of his goods were hauled by wagon from St. Joseph [MO] and Keokuk [IA]. He also brought the first Sunday school library and brought it to Mount Ayr and through his liberality we could have a Sunday school. The first superintendent being a Mr. SHOBER, who was also a preacher, and he preached the first sermon in Mount Ayr. He was a Methodist. Mrs. [Laura (STILES)] DUNNING brought the first sewing machine to the county. It was a small head to screw on the table and turned by hand and sewed one stitch at each turn. She brought it in a trunk. It was a great curiosity.

The first doctor to come to Mount Ayr was Dr. BEEABOWER, who left in a few days as Mount Ayr was too healthy a town for him. Dr. KEITH came then and stayed for ten years.

The first hotel was run by a Mr. EDWARDS. Second by Mr. ELMORE. Esuc SOLES made the first ballot boxes for the voters of the county, there being four voting precincts at that time. On our way to Ringgold county, we camped for a few days on a stream in Clark (sic, should be Clarke) county called "White Breast." Father looked around for a few days and concluded he did not want to locate there. So we set out and for the last three days of our trip we never saw a house or living thing. The only sign of any one ever crossing the beautiful prairie with its luxurious growth of grass and the beautiful wild flowers was the Mormon trail and Dragoon Trace, and they were quite plain to be seen, a deep cut wagon road, a very plain path where the drivers walked to guide their ox teams. At that time, it took six months to go overland to San Francisco and three months by steamer; now, from three to five days.

Surely we are living in an advanced age. I think my brother, S. J. HAGANS, is the only one of the early settlers that has stayed by the place where we first made our Iowa homes.

Five houses were made of logs in Mount Ayr on May 10, 1856. HAGANS' kitchen on the BASTOW lot, a log school house on the lot occupied by the Catholic church, log house of Henry CRABB'S occupied later by Ollie FERBER, log store on the lot occupied by LUCE'S Drug Store, and Judge HAGAN'S office [log courthouse] on the lot southeast of the square on corner lot No. 305- TEALE'S Garage.

Mr. B. B. DUNNING, Louisa (WRIGHT) LESAN, and Clara (HAGANS) HARVEY got dinner for the crowd, nearly every man in the county being there.

The cyclone, June 8, 1858, blew down the log courthouse during court, blew HAGANS' new log barn down on the lot where the council room stands, carried a log four miles east. Blew the roof off HAGANS' house and took everything out of the loft. Also, Bert BEALL'S frame house was blown across the street and turned around, also MOREY and DUTH were unloading their stock of tinware on Lot 268. It was blown out on the hill where the south [Rose Hill] cemetery stands and smashed every piece as flat as though it had been pounded with a hammer.

Peter LININGER had the contract for the frame courthouse. Esuc SOLES, Mr. Sam ALLISON, and Mr. DODD worked for him. Dezra SCHROY did the mason work on the foundation and plastering.

Mr. SHOBER, a German west of town, preached the first sermon and was the first Sunday school superintendent in Mount Ayr.

SOURCE: LESAN, Mrs. B. M. Early History of Ringgold County: 1844 - 1937 Pp. 12-14. Blair Pub. House. Lamoni IA. 1937.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2010


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