The Illustrated Historical Atlas of Sioux County Iowa

Part III Section 2 Page 15

Click on the pictures for a larger image 
(use your Back button to return to this page)
Back to Part III Section II main page

Previous Page   Next Page



     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 antelope.
     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.



     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 poverty, 
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...

Continued on Page16


Back to the 1908 Atlas main page

Back to Part III Section II main page



Copyright 2003. These electronic pages are posted for the benefit of individuals only who are researching their family histories. These electronic pages may NOT be reproduced in any format for profit or presentation by any other organization or persons. Persons or organizations desiring to use this material, must obtain the written consent of the contributor, or the legal representative of the submitter, and contact the Sioux County Coordinator with proof of this consent.