To see the seasons come and go in Page county
for over sixty years - to live the life of the pioneer with its hardships
and yet to be able to look back on the early days spent here with many
happy recollections is the privilege of Abraham Pfander, familiarly known
to his friends as "Abe."
In the early fifties William Loy, who lived in Dark county,
O., the same county as Mr. Pfander's father, Charles Pfander, came to Page
county and settled on the site of the property in Clarinda where E.B. Westcott
now lives, at the corner of Sixteenth street and Lincoln avenue. This William
Loy was a brother of Charles Pfander's second wife, and a nephew of the
William Loy who had previously located on the stream of the East Tarkio
in what is now Lincoln township. He wrote back to his brother-in-law, Charles
Pfander, telling him of the new country in Iowa, and advising him to move
his family here.
Charles Pfander began making arrangements to make the
long journey, but was stricken with a fatal disease and died. However,
his family continued with the plans for the overland trip and in the fall
of 1853 started with other emigrants for Iowa.
The Pfander family consisted of Mrs Pfander, and six children,
of which the four elder, including Abe, were the children of Mr. Pfander
by a former marriage.
Abe Pfander loved his stepmother as his own mother, and
at the time of the removal to Iowa he took charge of the family. He was
then a youth of twenty years.
Among the Pfander children were Abe Pfander's brother,
John, and his half brother, Jacob. His other brother, Charles, immigrated
to Iowa the next year. These young men were the forefathers of the many
families by the name of Pfander living in this vicinity now. The descendants
have reached the fourth generation. The trip overland to Iowa was a happy
one for the boy Abe. In speaking of it he says, "I never had a better time
in all my life." Much of the time the weather was good. There was a "long
string of teams," and many of the immigrants were young people. Many was
the happy evening spent around the camp fire after the older folk were
Wild game was shot along the way, and other food was bought at
trading points where the caravan stopped. Before starting Mrs. Pfander
had made a three bushel sack full of "rusks." They were to eat with
coffee, and Mr Pfander hasn't forgotten how good they were. In Illinois
a large lot of boots and shoes were delivered, the articles having been
made in Ohio for the dealer to whom they were sent. In this state also,
some of the young men of the party discovered a lot of "bee gum," but
the owner had too many dogs for them to get even a taste of the sweets.
Upon arriving in Page county the Pfander family went to
the vicinity of the stream of the East Tarkio in the western part of the
county, near where William Loy had previously settled. Here young Pfander
located his stepmother and family in a cabin belonging to William Loy,
and built temporary shelter for their horses. He went to Maryville, Mo.,
for two loads of corn, and to Rock Port, Mo., for meat and flour. After
procuring their provisions thus for the winter he started back to Ohio.
In passing through Clarinda, which had been laid out at that time, Mr Pfander
saw the three little log cabins of cottonwood poles, which were the extent
of the buildings in the settlement.
In the spring of 1854 Mr Pfander married his boyhood
sweetheart, Miss Elizabeth Ann Colville, the license for the marriage
having been procured just as soon as the young man was twenty-one years
of age. With his bride, and also in company with Mr. and Mrs. Tillman
Nealeigh, and Mr. and Mrs. Levi Nealeigh, Mr. Pfander again set forth
for Iowa, this time going most of the way by boat. At Cincinnati the
party began the journey by water, going down the Ohio river to Cairo,
from there up the Mississippi to St Louis and then up the Missouri to
St Joseph. The passing through the locks along the way was an interesting
procedure to Mr. Pfander. On either side of the boat the space between
the walls of the locks was very small. On each side of the boat a deck
hand stood with a rope to which was attached a short, very thick log,
which, when the boat was in danger of scraping against the walls of
the locks the log on that side of the boat was to be let down and so
send the boat to the middle of the locks. One of the deck hands neglected
his duty and was roundly cuffed by the boat's mate, a man very much
smaller than the deck hand. Mr Pfander expected some retaliation, but
none came as the boat's men were very subservient to the officers.
When Mr Pfander started out with his bride he had two
hundred dollars in gold and a little red chest. That same red chest
is one of his most prized possessions today. In it on his wedding journey
were the belongings of himself and wife, their bedding and practically
all of their worldly goods. He is frank in saying that in those days
the Nealeigh brothers were much better off than he was. They also had
chests, well filled ones, with beautiful muslins and linens.
On board this boat were a great many Mormons, also
western immigrants. Now Mr. Pfander was dressed as befitting a bridegroom
in those days, with a high silk hat and a beautiful plush vest. His
appearance was somewhat clerical, and many on the boat thought he was
a minister. At a point on the journey the Mormons left the boat and
their baggage was unloaded. Later it was found that the chests of the
Nealeigh families had been taken with the Mormons' belongings, and then
he remembered that he had heard a remark of a deck hand, which he did
not understand to the effect, "Well, I left the preacher's chest,
that didn't go with the others."
After a long journey, during which the Nealeigh families
were taken ill on account of bad drinking water on the boat, they finally
arrived at St. Joseph, where they left the boat.
Tillman Nealeigh being too ill to attend to the matter
of buying teams and a wagon, sent his brother, Levi, and Abe Pfander,
after providing them with money, out to do the buying, for the trip
from this point had to be made overland. Five yoke of cattle were bought
and a government wagon. In the matter of the cattle Mr. Pfander says
there were certainly "sweetened good." Only two yoke of the
cattle had ever had a yoke on their necks, though they were all supposed
to have been broken.
The first time they were unyoked it was thought they
would never get them yoked again. Mr. Pfander, not having furnished
the capital for the teams and wagon was suppposed to do the driving
to even things up. He says he was absolutely green at the business of
cattle driving, and all this time was wearing his silk hat and plush
vest. When they were near Maryville the leaders of the steers swung
around a hollow stump in such a manner that one of the steers of the
wagon team was drawn over the stump and his hind legs were caught in
Mr Pfander didn't dare urge the cattle on for fear
of breaking the animal's legs, so he went to a cabin a little way off
where some women were wool picking and asked for the loan of an ax.
The women were vastly amused by the situation and his appearance, but
they loaned the ax, and he, wearing his silk hat and plush vest, split
and chopped the stump until the steer was free, when the party again
started on the journey.
Mr. Pfander had a long lash on a pole with which to
reach the lead cattle from his seat on the wagon. Not being very expert
with the whip, it sometimes happened that in throwing the lash backward
it would entwine around his own silk hat and carry the hat forward so
it would fall among the cattle much to their disgust, and the memories
of the "bahs" when this happened remains with Mr. Pfander
yet. Some of the time Mrs. Pfander prefered to walk along the way, and
sometimes rode on the hounds of the wagon.
Finally the trip to Iowa was finished and Mr. Pfander
and his bride settled southwest of Clarinda, where he entered eighty
acres of government land at $1.25 an acre - the southwest quarter of
the northeast quarter, and the northwest quarter of the southeast quarter
of section 35, township 69, range 37, - forty acres prairie and forty
He bought a yoke of steers for fifty dollars. Mr Pfander
built his log house with his own hands, taking infinite pains in splitting,
fitting and planing the logs to make a nice smooth floor. He had the
blacksmith make him a frow to split clapboards from the block, for his
doors and roof. There was not a nail in the house. Mr. Pfander can tell
in detail just how he made that house, even to the method of making
the beds which were built into the wall on one side, and were the old
fashioned "roped beds." After living on this farm for about
four years Mr. Pfander sold it and bought 160 acres northwest of Clarinda,
the northeast quarter of section 13, township 69, range 37. It is interesting
to note that this land did not change hands until March 2, 1908, when
Mr. Pfander sold it to W.C. Brown.
The north half of the land upon which the buildings
are is now owned by Otto H. Steeve, the south half by Frank Otte.
Deer were plentiful in the old days. Mr. Pfander shot
one which he particularly remembers about. His wife called to him one
day that there were two deers in his hog lot. He borrowed a gun - his
own being loaned at the time - and found upon investigation that the
animals were magnificent ones - a male and a female. He shot the buck,
but did not kill him, but knew from the amount of blood the animal was
leaving in his trail in the snow that he must be mortally wounded, so
followed him. There was a crust on the snow at this time through which
Mr. Pfander broke at every step, and when he came to the place where
the wounded animal had fallen, near the site of the old Humeston and
Shenandoah depot in this city, a distance of several miles from Mr.
Pfander's home, his boots were cut through. The family enjoyed venison
for some time after that.
The subject of this sketch has always been a man of
his word, to how great an extent is shown by the following incident.
In the old days the first fences were poor. They had been hastily constructed
out of poor timber, and were only temporary affairs. Job Loy, a brother
of Mr. Pfander's step-mother, and Charles Pfander, Abe's brother had
been careless in the matter of letting their cattle stray too far and
get into his corn. He had worked hard for his crop, and knew that he
could not afford to have it destroyed that way, so he warned his brother
and Mr. Loy that the first stray animal he found on his premises he
would shoot. He split a bullet in five or six pieces, rammed it in his
gun with some powder, and put the gun in a convenient place.
One morning he discovered a stray steer eating fodder
by his barn. True to his word he got his gun and fired. The animal fell.
His wife hearing the report came to the door to find out the trouble.
Mr. Pfander said, "I have shot old Tom (his brother's steer). I
didn't think it would kill him, but it did." When his brother came
he told him what he had done. Mr. Pfander paid his brother for the killing
of his animal, but he was never troubled after that with stray cattle
on his premises.
When the rush to Pike's Peak came in the late fifties,
a raid was made by the gold seekers on any of the smoke houses in this
country which lay in their path. Mr. Pfander was resolved to shoot at
the first intruder who opened his smokehouse door, the door having a
peculiar squeak which he thought would awaken him.
One night he heard the squeak, took his gun from its
nitch in the cabin wall, and went out doors with the hammer cocked and
his gun in position to shoot. The intruder didn't appear, so he pushed
in the smokehouse door. The joke was on Mr. Pfander, for it was only
the dog, who in some manner had managed to get in the house. The dog
was a family animal brought from Ohio and very much prized so he escaped
with his life. The way the dog whizzed out of the smokehouse, and around
Mr. Pfander who was scantily attired, makes him laugh yet.
The Indians who passed through the country in those
days were not so much to be feared as the white raiders mentioned.
The old life of the pioneer was one of hard work and
privations. Much of the success of the later years that has come to
Mr. Pfander, he attributes to the fact that his wife was saving and
that they bore side by side the hardships that came to the pioneer.Much
of the time they lived on corn bread and fat meat. Mr. Pfander and his
brother-in-law, Levi Nealeigh, bought a handmill to grind corn, and
the settlers for miles around would come to use the mill.
In the very early days much of the wheat was not good
becasue of smut, and while the pioneers used it in their families, yet
when "company came" corn was grated to make bread, the Pfander
family having a home made grater for the purpose made out of a piece
of tin with nail holes punched in it.
Mr. Pfander makes his home in this city with his son,
County Recorder J. V. Pfander, and family. His wife died in the fall
of 1905. He thoroughly enjoys talking about the old days and tells many
interesting incidents not recorded here of the happy times as well as
the more serious ones in the life of the Page county pioneer.