The hand and brain
that had been selected to write a' reminiscence of Welcome--the one most
qualified for the chronicling of the events and of those whose life's work had
made a garden spot of this part of Ninety-Six--had passed away before he could
put down on paper the deeds and accomplishments of his fellow-pioneers, the
dates of their settlements, and the parts played by each individual. Certainly
no more competent man could have undertaken this work than John Van de Berg, and
none could have given greater satisfaction to those who desire it. However, a
start had been made and material gotten for part at least of this pioneer's
reminiscence of Welcome Township, and we have here the story of John Van de
Berg, supplemented by that of his children and others of this township.
Born of sturdy Dutch stock, he spent about all the
active years of his life in this township. He was the pioneer settler in Welcome
Township, and the one who displayed the most confidence in its future.
In the organization of this township in 1882 those
instrumental in it were John Van de Berg, John and Henry Auperlee, the Hunts.
Leckbands, Hulsteins and others, B. Tamlin circulating the first petition for
its organization into a separate township. A diligent search for the earliest
settlers indicates John Van de Berg, 1879, and Hunt in 1881. John Van de Berg
settled on what is now the farm of Ralph Van de Berg on the east half of Section
34. Mr. Hunt and sons, Charles Link and Will, settled on Section 36 on the farm
now owned by E. Speller. About the first to settle on the north side of the
township were B. H. Tamplin, the Auperlee boys, John and Henry, and G. Beckman,
the Leckbands, the Spencers, A. J. Bolks and others.
The first school house was built on or near Section 27.
It was afterwards moved a mile west. The directors were D. W. Auperlee, J. Van
de Berg and I. T. Beeman. B. H. Tamplin was the district treasurer, D. W.
Aupperlee, secretary. Chas. Sawyer of Hull taught either the first or second
term of school.
Welcome Township was named by John Van 'de Berg, and is
suggestive of the sentiment felt by the early settlers towards those coming to
make their homes among them. Welcome was, previous to its organization, known as
"Ninety-Six." A gentleman now of Sioux Center states as a child when
the cows on the prairie strayed over to Ninety-Six, it was with fear and
trembling that he as a boy whose duty it was to fetch the cows, would go after
them. The sound of Ninety-Six was, to his childish mind, an ominous, dreaded
name, a place where the prairie wolf, the snake and other evils, imaginary and
real, existed. Draw a contrast, if you will, with its present condition, its
pleasant homes, and the hospitality of its citizens. It is a fine
exemplification of the name of Welcome.
The first house was built by John Van de Berg; another
house was built in an early date on the Scrips land. This latter house was
between Van de Bergs and Bells Lake. Bells Lake was in Capel Township and is now
dry, but was a landmark in pioneer times, and as a crossing or ford of the West
Branch was there, it was a place known to all the pioneers.
There were two school houses built about the same time:
one, the first, was on the corner right west of where Ben Van de Berg now lives,
on Section 27 (as heretofore mentioned). This school house was afterwards moved
west to where the school now stands. The other school house was built near the
center of the township about the middle of Section 22.
The first election was held in the house on the McLain
farm November 2, 1882. This house stood about one-half mile north of Center
school house. The trustees elected were: .John Van de Berg, John Aupperlee, Jas.
Buckley. B. H. Tamplin was elected clerk. R. J. Ballard was the first justice of
the peace, but after the election Mingo Camp filled that office.
Ninety-Six was crossed by several old trails; one that
led from Orange City to Hull in a northeasterly direction on land now owned by
E. Franken, crossing the school house yard of school number six. This trail
crossed the West Branch at Bells Lake; there was a bridge there, and the marks
of this old trail can still be seen. This old bridge stood near where the
present one now stands. After leaving the school number six, it then wound in a
northerly direction across Section 14 to Hull.
There was another trail farther west that wound in a
northwesterly direction toward Rock Valley. These old trails were the highway of
commerce and communication in those days, and pioneers liked to get as near as
possible to them.
John Van de Berg moved into Welcome March, 5, 1879,
into a shanty on Section 34, and on March 16 Ralph Van de Berg was born. As far
as the writer has been able to learn, this makes him the first child born in the
township. This old shanty is still standing on Ralph Van de Berg's farm. It was
built of rough boards, with the cracks stopped with strips pasted on them to
keep out the cold and the rains and the snows. One night when the father came
home from a trip to Rock River for fuel, he came in one of the sudden blizzards
of that early date. The unhampered wind had blown so hard that the strips were
blown off the cracks and the storm was penetrating the house. The mother had
tried in vain to remedy the trouble, but in despair sat down and wrapped herself
in a big overcoat to keep warm. These trips were necessary, however, as every
pole, stick or log of firewood had to come from there, so as to have his shed
roofed, or a door post for a stable. It may be of interest to some of the
citizens now to know what was done for fences. Here is how one man fenced his
hog pasture. He dug a ditch deep enough to be hard for the hogs to cross,
throwing the dirt on the side away from the ditch, and this ditch was dug around
the place selected for his hog lot; so his hog pasture was fenced with a ditch
or dyke, just as it may be called. The first barn was made by stacking hay so as
to enclose a space as large as desired, and then poles were put across from one
stack to the other, and hay on these poles over the horses made the roof. It was
a very warm barn too. There were no windows and but one door. When it was shut
it was dark as night inside, but it afforded fine protection from the storm.
Welcome was a deeded township, so no homesteaders were
there. Mr. Van de Berg had previously homesteaded the Tennis Dyk farm at
Newkirk, and so he bought his Welcome Township farm at the price of $2.00 per
acre. He purchased three hundred and eighty acres at that price. He afterwards
gave one away to his brother for one year's labor. This very eighty acres is
today worth $100.00 an acre, and is now owned by Mr. Rensink.
In 1880 and 1881 was the stormy winter with the deep
snows, and as the snow came very early in the fall no one could get into the
fields to husk their corn. The various expedients used to get the crop harvested
illustrate what a pioneer will do under adverse circumstances. One man had a
carload of steers to feed, and the corn was unhusked in the field, and snow so
deep that one could not get, to it with a wagon. The manner of getting that corn
for the steers was to bolt some barrel staves onto wooden shoes and with a snow
shoe thus formed, and pulling a handsled with a basket on it to pick the basket
full of corn and draw it out to where a team could be driven, and then go back
for another load, until the wagon had sufficient to haul home. The wagon could
not be gotten in the cornfields, but had to he left on the wind-swept prairie,
where the snow was blown off enough so that it was passable. A spade was carried
along, and when the top of a stalk of corn was found they would dig down until
the ear could be husked. Some of the corn was not picked until the next July.
Mr. Gerrit Van de Berg recalls the husking of his field by himself and sister
the July following.
Those were hard days, too, in another way. In 1881 or
1882 an epidemic of diphtheria broke out, which added to the suffering of the
pioneers. Cleveringas lost one of their children, Frankens lost two, Kuhls
three, Vanbeeks one. Hulsteins had settled on land where G. Dodysloder lives in
the incorporate limits of Sioux Center. Cleveringas, whose interests have been
identified with Welcome for a long time, settled first in West Branch among the
first. Fred Johnson now lives where their old home was. They moved to Welcome
about 1.881. Gysbert Van Beek also was a pioneer among the first, and later
moved to Welcome from West Branch, one-half mile north of the big church. His
son, C. Van Beek, has long been a Welcome citizen. The same may be said of Evert
Frankens, father of one of Sioux County's pioneers.
AN INCIDENT IN THRESHING.--Mr. McLean, whose name was
mentioned before, was a thresher, and on October 16, 1880, was threshing for a
neighbor. It was a nice day and all had on their summer clothes, when the
"big snow storm" came, and the nice day was transformed into one with
icy blasts of winter. The storm grew rapidly worse, and so much so that they had
to quit threshing and all go home. That job of threshing was not finished until
the summer of 1881.
In the winter of 1880 and 1881 all the fuel to be had
was hay. In the evening one man would be twisting hay all the time, or until he
could have a great pile of hay twisted up into little knots somewhat like
tobacco. This would be fed into the stove as needed, but they would not last
long, and it pretty nearly kept one man busy all the time to prepare fuel. But
as it was impossible to get to the Rock River for fuel in those days it was the
best that could be had.
Mr. H. Van de Berg, who lived with John, recalls a
hunting trip during the winter of 1880 and 1881. He was sent to a neighbor by
John for some article; he was accompanied by a dog--not a good one, but still a
dog. There was a herd of antelope grazing on the prairie; the snow was very
deep. lie saw the herd of antelope, and saw the dog pull down and kill one. He
went to get it and started to drag it home, but he finally gave up that job and
started after another one and caught it by hand. The snow had so hard a crust on
it that it would hold up a man, dog or wolf, but the hoofs of the antelope cut
through. After catching the antelope, then came the time of his life, for he had
no knife -nothing to kill it with-and the antelope struggled for its life. After
a long and hard fight, a man was seen in the distance, who came in answer to his
signal, and whose knife, although just a little one, was sufficient to kill the
The first breaking done in Welcome was done in 1878,
the summer previous to John Van de Berg's coming, and was done by his brother
Henry, who lived there and broke about one hundred and fifty acres. His only
companion was a dog, a cow, six chickens and his horses which he used in
breaking. Tie had a well on this land and the water was drawn by a leather
strap. The prairie was infested with wolves, who would eat the leather strap off
almost every night, until Mr. Van de Berg finally in desperation took it in his
shanty every night.
BY PATRICK MURRY AND CONRAD MOELLER.
Sheridan Township is
one of the prairie townships of Sioux County, being Township 97, Range 44, and
being in the celebrated prairies of Iowa; its climate and soil therefore have
made it an ideal home for the settler, and later ideal farms for the great
home-making class of Americans. It was most fortunate in its pioneers as the
class of people who settled there, for, whether of American born or of those who
came from foreign lands, they were all of the class who stood ready to help each
other in times of trial, and to rejoice together in times of joy, .and thus made
life not entirely an existence, but lent to it some of the joys and some of the
companionship that endeared the memory of each to the other, and today in
recalling those days of pioneering is to recall days of pleasant memories and of
hopes partly realized, at least in the comforts the survivors today are
experiencing. No belated traveler ever was turned away from one of these pioneer
doors, even though it enclosed only a single room; no traveler or homeseeker
ever went hungry while a bite of bread or a potato was to be found in the
pioneer's cabin; no matter what straits the settler was in as regards food, he
was always willing and glad to share his humble crust with the passerby, and
when one of the number was reduced by sickness or any other cause to anything
approaching necessity he had as many friends and helpers as there were settlers.
No modern drawing-room function was enjoyed one
fraction as much as the visits of a pioneer to his neighbor, sometimes several
miles away, and the ox team pulled as merry a party as the top buggy, carriage
or automobile does today. They were the people
Whose virtues take root in
careful economy and seasoning toil,
and each was solicitious of the
other's welfare, and on each occasion of the border trials they would anxiously
assure themselves of the neighbor's welfare. When the blizzard was over the
pioneer would climb to the highest point and scan the prairies to see if there
was need of aid anywhere. When came the breaking of roads to far distant
neighbors or to the nearest store, or for mail, which was prized by the pioneer
as of almost golden value. When a neighbor was sick each good woman of their
acquaintance was there with her remedies of herbs, roots or barks. Tea was often
made of red-root, coffee was made from barley, or the kind called crust coffee,
made from the crusts of bread, dried and pulverized.
GRASSHOPPERS.--Mr. Patrick Murry and Mr. Conrad Moeller
recall some events of the grasshopper years, when the settlers were used pretty
hard for several seasons. Three or four years in succession the hoppers took
about everything the settlers had. When they came it was in swarms of
millions-yes, multiplied millions; they came from the north and always went
south. They would rise soon and, go on if the wind was favorable; if not, they
would stay until it was favorable, and in the prolonged stay they would consume
everything a grasshopper could eat, and some of the young people of today will
be surprised to know what a grasshopper can eat. They would cut the straw just
under the wheat head and let it fall to the ground; in oats they would select
about the same place for their operation, and in either case the grain was lost.
Corn would be stripped clean of blades, leaving the bare stalk standing. A
cottonwood tree was safe, but cabbage, onions, etc., would be eaten entirely up.
They would go down into the ground after the onions and get them root and
branch. Sometimes they would light on the side of a barn and eat into the wood.
A fork left out in the fields would have the handle eaten so as to render it
useless. It didn't make much difference whether it was wood, grass or leaves,
they ate it all. A young lady who was driving a binder had her bonnet eaten full
of holes by the insects while she wore it. They always would light in a
grain-field and attack it first, preferring grain to grass; sometimes they would
pass a grain-field, but generally come back and finish it. When they would be in
flight I have seen the air so full that it looked as if it were clouds moving
across the sky. The first comers laid a great many eggs, so that the second and
third years they hatched on the prairies; and Oh, how hungry they were! Those
hoppers would eat every green thing there was, and as they hatched just while
the grain was growing they cleaned it out completely. They had a way of shedding
their first skin or shell, then when about half grown shed a second skin or
shell. Sometimes the settler thought the hoppers were dying when he saw these
shells, but they were livelier than ever. Those that came first we called
"raiders," and in that way we distinguished them from the natural-born
hoppers. A good many of the pioneers were soldiers who homesteaded 160 acres; a
homesteader who was not a soldier only being allowed 80 acres as his claim.
About the first house in the township was that built by Augustus Edes on the
northeast quarter of Section 10. Probably the oldest settler now living in the
township is Mr. Patrick Murry, who lives on the southeast quarter of Section 4.
He recalls that in locating his claim, himself in company with a man named
Price, Price's son and a man named Burris from Canada, located in the fall of
1870. Mr. Hyde, a surveyor from Sioux City, located them. Mr. Price, however,
while in the neighborhood located in Lyon County, and Mr. Murry on his present
home. At that time the grass in the sloughs was higher than a horse's back. The
grass was very luxuriant everywhere, and very hard on shoe leather; a new pair
of shoes was worn out in three or four days on land-seeking trips. While looking
for a home Mr. Murry had tramped around until he was tired out and could go no
farther, and so stopped on his present home and located; went to Sioux City, got
his papers, then back to Wisconsin for the lady, bought a team and came to
Sheridan Township. The first house was of one thickness of boards, with sod
piled up outside. The roof was of common boards on one side of the house and
shingles on the other; size about 12 x 14, a sod cellar outside for the milk,
and the home was complete. This is a fair sample of the settler's first home,
and this house became the stopping...