there was not a house towards Sheldon for six miles. The road was a trail
running on the nearest line to Sheldon. If one had gone by section lines it
would have been seven miles to the nearest house between Mr. Oolbekkink's and
Sheldon. This trail or road was laid out probably by Mr. Evert Hoeven; at least
he saw the business men in Sheldon and solicited funds to build the bridge
across the sloughs where it could not be forded, and the bridges were built by
Mr. Holverson, and no charges whatever were made for the work. Mr. Hoeven was a.
man peculiarly adapted to the development of a new country, and took upon
himself the marking of the road. This trail started at Mr. Hoeven's, on Section
G in Floyd, and ran northeast across Section 32 and on to Section 15, to where
the Schultz place now is, then about two miles straight north, and then one-half
mile straight east, through the Floyd, where the bridge now stands on Section 1,
and on to Sheldon.
The first school in Lynn Township was built a quarter
mile west of the Hollenbeck place: This school is now gone and the one in the
center of the township took its place. Frank Williams was one of the first
trustees. He was also road supervisor. Henry Hollenbeck was also one of the
EARLY DAYS IN GRANT TOWNSHIP.
BY MRS. JAMES BREWSTER.
The story of the early settlement of northwestern
Iowa will never be written so as to convey any definite idea of the privations
and hardships of the early settlers. The pioneers were too busy breaking prairie
and rearing homes to pay much attention to recording passing events, and now,
after the lapse of thirtyfive or six years, it is hard to write concisely Grant
Township's early history.
The first to settle in Grant Township were Wm.
Greattrax, Isaac Follet and Wm. Brewster, in the summer of 1870. Wm. Greattrax
camped and broke prairie on the north half of the southwest quarter of section
28 (place now owned by Mr. Van Drager). Mr. Greattrax and Mr. Follett and their
families were the only ones to stay in the township during the winter of
18701871. Wm. Brewster returned to Canada in the fall.
Those who homesteaded in Grant township during the
spring and summer of 1871 were Mr. Edminister and daughters; Mr. Delano and son
George; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Allen and family; Mr. and Mrs. Than House; Mr. and
Mrs. Jean Johnson; Mr. and Mrs. Greattrax and sons, Alvin and Henry; Urias and
Rodney Harmon and families; Mr. Edward Berry and family; Mr. and Mrs. Dibble;
Mr. and Mrs. Sam Mickley; Mr. Robert Tull; Dr. and Mrs. Beals; Mr. and Mrs.
Bashford;' Mr. and Mrs. De Long and sons, Theo and Abe, and their families; Mr.
John Brewster; Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Brewster; Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Brewster; Mr. and
Mrs. Amon Damon; Mr. and Mrs. Myron Damon; Mr. Jones, a surveyor; Mr. and Mrs.
Lynch and sons, Frank and Chester; Mr. and Mrs. C. Nugent and sons, Will, John
and Dan; Mr. and Mrs. Wolf and sons, Isaac, Peter and James, and Mr. and Mrs. J.
Most of the settlers who came before April 9 were
staying at Mr. Folletts while building shanties on their claims. Mr. Robert
Allen and family were camping on their homestead, located on the west half of
the northwest quarter of section 10, in an emigrant wagon, when on the evening
of April 9 a blizzard swept down from the northwest and lasted until the morning
of the 1st, when Mr. Allen made his way through the drifts to Mr. Folletts for
aid to move his family to Mr. Edminister's dugout on the west half of the
northeast quarter of Section 14.
These settlers broke up all the prairie they could and
planted beans and potatoes and such vegetables as would grow on the sod and
gopher mounds. The first child born in the township was a daughter of Mr. and
Mrs. Theo De Long.
Mr. Harmon, who lived on the trail between Le Mars and
Okoboji, kept a stopping place for travelers, and a sort of postoffice for the
accommodation of the settlers. The settlers in the surrounding country would
have Mr. Harmon send their mail to Le Mars with any one who chanced to be going
there, and the postmaster there would send their mail back the same way. In the
summer of 1871, Mr. Shaw started a store in the southwest corner of Osceola
County, which made it more convenient for the settlers. Mr. Fred Frank also
started a blacksmith shop at the same place. The following winter was not so
mild as the preceding one; a heavy snow fell the 11th of November which was
followed by several blizzards. During one blizzard, Mr. Hall was frozen to death
near Sibley, and his body was not found until the next spring. Wood, which had
to be hauled about twenty miles, was the only fuel these settlers could get
except coal, which could not be bought closer than Le Mars or Cherokee.
ORGANIZATION PERFECTED.-In March, 1872, Grant Township
was organized and officers elected who were as follows: Mr. Greattrax, Assessor;
Dr. Beals, Coroner; Jean Johnson, Road Master; Robert Allen, Justice of the
Peace; John Nugent, Constable; Mr. Lynch, Mr. Follett and Mr. Wm. Greattrax,
FIRST MARRIAGE.-Mr. H. S. Palmitere and Miss Sirlecta
Berray were the first couple to be married in the township; they were married
March 28, 1872, by Robert Allen.
HOMESTEADERS OF 1872.-Those who homesteaded in the year
of 1872 were Mr. Morse Rice and family, Mr. W. J. Lias and family, Mr. James
Brewster, Miss Minnie Brash (now Mrs. John Morris of Boyden, Iowa,) Thomas Ewing
and family, and Miss Sadie and Annie Damon.
FIRST SCHOOL.-The first school house was built in 1872,
on the northeast corner of section 29, from lumber hauled from Sheldon. The
first teacher was Mrs. Wm. Greattrax.
There were no churches as yet; Solomon Wiard and Mr. R.
Runyon preached occasionally in some farm house. The second school house was
built in the spring of 1873, on the northwest quarter of section l 1 ; Miss
Kitty McNary was teacher. A Sunday school was also organized with Mr. Berray as
The settlers first broke sod in May or June and backset
It in the fall and sowed the grain the following spring. There was no disks then
to work up the sod and it had to be harrowed at least a dozen times to get it in
shape for seeding. Wheat was generally the first crop sown on the sod, then
other small grain. The crop, (what little there was,) of 1872, was good. Mr. .
Lew Brewster recalls that he had eleven acres of corn, eleven of wheat and eight
or ten acres of oats.
In the fall of 1871, Miss Lottie Wolfe died and was
buried in the southwest corner of section 9, which was afterward surveyed and
called the Greenwood cemetery.
The winter of 1872 and 1873 was also very cold, but the
pioneers were better prepared and did not suffer so greatly as the preceding
GRASSHOPPER TIMES.-In the spring of 1873, the crop sown
was much larger and the farmers had greater expectations, when the grasshoppers
came and ate the greater part of it. They came from the southwest in a cloud so
great as to dim the sun, but just stayed three days, then flew away north
without doing much damage. They came back again about harvest time and ate the
heads off of the oats and wheat and the silks from the corn. They generally
stayed three days, but longer, if the wind was unfavorable for their flight.
They laid their eggs where the sun shone brightly, nearly always choosing a
piece of new breaking. Sometimes the hoppers would stop the harvester by
clogging the belts and pullies until dirt was rubbed on.
The spring of 1874, the eggs that the
"hoppers" had laid the year before, hatched by the thousands and
millions; they fed on the growing crop, in places eating it bare. Some of the
pioneers dug ditches around their fields and the young hoppers would fall in and
having no wings were unable to get out. One farmer estimated that he caught
fifty bushels per day in his ditch; some had pans eight or ten feet long and two
feet wide made of sheet iron, which they filled with water and kerosene, and
dragged them over the fields. Still others would scatter straw around the fields
and burn them. It was this year that the pioneers suffered the hardest
privations, as the returns of the crop were less than the seed sown. The
following spring of 1875, the State gave a certain number of bushels of seed
grain to the farmers who were unable to buy it.
By this time a number of settlers had replaced their
sod shanties with frame dwellings; these were usually one, or one and one half
stories high, and consisted of two or three rooms. More settlers continued to
come and buy up the railroad land, as all the homesteads had been taken.
Schools had been built as the township grew, until at
the present time there are eight school buildings, one of them being a graded
During the summer and fall of 1878, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul
Railroad was built through the southern part of the township.
The winter of 1880 and 1881 was the winter of the deep
snow. The railroads were blocked and all traffic stopped for six weeks. The snow
was estimated to be about three feet on the level and some of the roads were
drifted to at least eight or ten feet of snow.
Mr. L. H. Bishop, one of the largest land owners in the
township, came here from New York State in the spring of 1881; in 1891, he was
elected State Senator and served one term.
In the early "eighties," Mr. George Sherwood
of St. Paul bought two sections of railroad land and started the Sherwood Stock
During the year 1888, the Illinois Central Railroad ran
a branch through Grant Township and located a town which they called Maurice,
the only town in the township; shortly after, its name was changed to Matlock by
Robert Allen, after his home town in England, because of the confusion with a
larger town in Sioux County of the same name.
On the 12th of January, 1888, there was a terrible
blizzard, in which Calvin Hurd, who lived four miles north of Sheldon, on his
way home from school was frozen to death.
The first church was built in Matlock in 1888 by the
Presbyterians; Rev. Wm. Dunlap was the first pastor. The church was afterward
sold to the Baptists. W. C. and T. L. Kimmel came from Lanark, Illinois, in
1884, and bought the Wm. Brewster and J. Hostetter farms. The following year,
they organized the German Baptist Church and held the church services in a
school house, but in a few years built a church.
On the last day of April, 1898, a cyclone came from the
south and turning went east, killing two people and destroying several
In July, 1903, the crops in the eastern part of the
township were destroyed by a heavy hail storm, which swept down from Watertown,
South Dakota and passed over this region into Woodbury County.
This was a beautiful country, as we saw first, a great
rolling prairie as far as the eye could see, covered with a luxuriant growth of
wild grass. There was a succession of wild flowers from early May until the
frost came in the fall. Droves of elk and deer were frequently seen: prairie
wolves and coyotes often howled by night; badger, mink, weasel and gophers were
Capel Township, like Welcome, was for a long time
known as 96; the name Capel, had a far away sound and one with few charms to the
would be settler; nearly everyone preferred the vicinity of Orange City and the
comforts of an established settlement. and the companionship of neighbors and
their helpfulness in time of stress and storms, and so Capel was late in
settling up. But lying between the two railroads, viz. along the Northwestern
and Milwaukee, it was too valuable to remain unsettled long, as a few sturdy
pioneers soon braved the isolation of the new settlement and broke the spell of
the "96 hoodoo," and to that class of pioneers belongs the credit of
one of Sioux County's best townships, for as the foundation stone is laid, so
the building will be; and as the pioneer was, so the township or county will
develop, and in the metal of her pioneer men and women Capel certainly had the
right kind of a foundation.
Probably to Pleun De Zeuw, Sr., belongs the honor of
being the first settler in the township. He settled on the west side of Capel in
1871, and his son, Pleun De Zeuw, today lives on this same farm, and is enjoying
the fruits resulting from the privations of those days.
The second man in the township was probably Wm. Moret,
who settled on Section 33 in 1878 and is still there. He, like Mr. De Zeuw, has
seen the full development of the township and its entire growth, for at the time
of his settlement there was not a house from where he lives on Section 33 to the
Sheridan township line.
SOME OF THE PIONEERS.-C. Langstraat, Wm. Van
Steenbergen, Albert Balkema, John Shafer, John B. Hyink, James Kraai, R. Vos,
Jurgen Dykstra, Jacob Nieuwendorf, H. Van de Wilt, John Reimers, G. Sharp, Joe
Horn, U. P. Creswell and Fred Steinbern. On the north part of the township the
first settlers were: Joe Horn and J. Reimers. These two settlements were
connected by a trail across the prairie, and there were no houses on the way for
a long time. Where this trail crossed the sloughs it was one of the problems of
the settler to get over it, and when he was safely across he would breathe a
sigh of relief and begin to dread the return.
The township was named by M. P. Van Oosterhout, who was
from Capel in the Netherlands. It was in Capelle in 1857 that the Dutch cut the
dykes and let the sea in, to defeat the Spaniards, and again about a century
later they flooded the French, hence the significance of the name Capel.
The Moret school-house was the first house built in
Capel. The men who were instrumental in building it were Wm. Moret, John Shafer,
Jacob Vos, John Moret, A. Van der Wilt and the Van Oorts. At this time the
settlers were very much concerned by the fear of prairie fires; sometimes one
could stand in his door and see nothing but fires in every direction. Settlers
had to be on their guard all the time to save their stacks of hay, grain, and
even their houses were in constant danger during some periods of the year. Many
the battles waged by the Sioux County pioneer with this dread foe; oft times the
contest would last several days, and the wife and children would be called upon
to aid in the efforts to save their homes.
Capel is on the divide between the east and west
branches of the Floyd. The west branch, running through the western part and
only getting one mile from its western border, makes excellent drainage. The
eastern part of the township, however, is so nearly on the divide as to be quite
level, but in the last few years has been much improved by tile draining.
STOCK FARMS.--Capel has some of the best stock to be
found in Iowa, Mr. P. Ellerbrook making a specialty of the large Poland China
swine and Hereford cattle. Mr. Joe Horn, in the north part of the township on
his Park farm, has, however, one of the most interesting features in a stock
farm on which he makes a specialty of raising wild geese, deer, squirrels, China
geese and other rare birds and animals.
Capel Township pioneers suffered With those of other
townships in the grasshopper raids. A description of these grasshopper raids and
their complete destruction of all vegetable life, however, would be a repetition
of what has been covered in these pages in other township histories, and the
same harrowing feelings as the settler and his wife saw their all going was had
here as elsewhere.
TREES.-Every shade tree, every fence, every fruit tree
of any size, represents the labor and forethought of some pioneer, for there
were none, and during the hot summer months in the little board houses the
pioneer's wife sweltered almost as in an oven; then when the winter came on
there was nothing to break the full force of the wind, but he caught it direct
and in unstinted measure direct from the frozen northland. There are trees now
in the township of the size and height of forest trees, shading the cozy home of
the well-to-do farmer who, as a pioneer, planted the twig to shade his humble