Winnebago County, IA
CONGRESSIONAL AND CIVIL TOWNSHIPS — ORIGIN OF THE TOWNSHIP — EXTENSION OF THE SYSTEM WESTWARD — IOWA TOWNSHIPS
Townships in the United States are of two kinds—congressional and civil. The former, as established by the official survey of the public domain, is six miles square, except in rare instances, and contains an area of thirty-six square miles. It is designated by a number and is bounded on the east and west by range lines. The civil township varies in size, the boundaries often being formed by natural features, such as creeks, rivers or mountain ranges. It is distinguished by a name instead of a number and further differs from the congressional township in that it has a local government as a minor political subdivision of the county.
The civil township doubtless had its origin in the old Teutonic “mark,” though it was transplanted to this country from England. Says Fiske: “About 871 A. D. King Alfred instituted a small territorial subdivision nearest in character to and probably containing the germ of the American township.”
The “small territorial subdivision” instituted by King Alfred was known as the “tunscipe.” It was the political unit of popular expression, which took the form of mass convention or assembly and was called the “tun moot.” The chief executive of the tunscipe was the “tun reeve,” who, with the parish priest and four lay delegates, represented the tunscipe in the county assembly or shire meeting.
In the settlement of New England, the colonies were at first governed by a general court, which also possessed legislative powers. The court was composed of the governor of the colony and a small council, usually made up of the most influential citizens. In March, 1635, the General Court of Massachusetts passed the following ordinance relating to the local government of certain districts:
“Whereas, particular towns have many things that concern only themselves, and the ordering of their own affairs and disposing of business in their own town, therefore, the freemen of every town, or a majority of them, shall have power to dispose of their own lands and woods, and all appurtenances of said towns; to grant lots, and to make such orders as may concern the well ordering of their own towns, not repugnant to the laws and orders established by the General Court.
“Said freemen, or a majority of them, shall also have power to choose their own particular officers, such as constables, petty magistrates, surveyors for the highways, and may impose fines for violation of rules established by the freemen of the town—provided that such fines shall in no single case exceed twenty shillings.”
That was the beginning of the township system in the United States, and the "tun moot" of King Alfred's time became the “town meeting” in New England. Connecticut followed Massachusetts with similar provisions regarding local self-government, and the system was gradually carried to the states of the Middle West. In the southern colonies the county was made the principal political unit for the government of local affairs. Eight counties were organized in Virginia in 1634 and this method spread to other colonies, except in South Carolina, where the units corresponding to counties are called “districts,” and in Louisiana, where they are known as “parishes.” All the country conquered by Gen. George Rogers Clark in 1778 was erected into “Illinois County” by the Legislature of Virginia.
The first provision for the establishment of civil townships northwest of the Ohio River was made by Governor St. Clair and the judges of the Northwest Territory in 1790. Even yet in New England the township is of more importance in the settlement of local questions of a political nature than is the county. The town meetings are still held regularly and through them most of the business of local government is transacted. Every proposition to expend any considerable sum of money for public purposes is first submitted to the people at the town meeting. In the South the township is little more than a name, all the local business being transacted by the county authorities. From the time the first townships were established in the Northwest Territory the two systems of township and county government have been well balanced throughout the Middle West, the schools and roads usually being under the control of the township officials, while business that affects more than one civil township is managed by the county officers. In nearly every state in the Mississippi Valley it is the custom to submit to the voters at a general or special election the question of issuing bonds for county or township purposes—a custom that originated in the old town meetings of New England.
Township government was first established in Iowa while the state was attached to Michigan Territory. The Legislature of that territory in September, 1834, created the Township of Julien, which included the entire county of Dubuque—that is, all that part of Iowa lying north of a line drawn due west from the foot of Rock Island. Winnebago County was therefore a part of Julien Township, Dubuque County. South of the line was Flint Hill Township, which embraced all of Des Moines County. When Iowa was made a part of Wisconsin by the act of April 20, 1836, the first Legislature of that territory set about amending the laws, and the act of December 6, 1836, provided that “Each county within this territory now organized, or that may be hereafter organized, shall constitute one township for the purpose of carrying into effect the provisions of the amended laws.”
In the act of Congress organizing the Territory of Iowa, approved by President Van Buren on June 12, 1838, was a provision that all township officers should be elected by the people. In his message of November 12, 1838, to the first Legislature that was ever convened in Iowa, Gov. Robert Lucas said: “The subject of providing by law for the organization of townships and the election of township officers, and defining their powers and duties, I consider to be of the first importance and almost indispensable in the local organization of the Government. Without proper township regulations it will be extremely difficult, if not impracticable, to establish a regular school system. In most of the states, where a common school system has been established by law, the trustees of townships are important agents in executing the provisions of its laws.”
The Legislature to which this message was submitted did nothing toward the establishment of civil townships, but on January 10, 1840, Governor Lucas approved an act providing for township organization. Under this act the question of forming a new township was to be submitted to the voters residing within the territory it was proposed to include in said township, and if a majority expressed themselves in favor of the proposition the township should be organized. This system, with some supplementary legislation, continued in force until after the admission of the state in 1846. In the case of the counties created by the act of January 15, 1851, one of which was Winnebago, each was declared to be a single township until such time as the local authorities deemed it advisable to create others.
When the office of county judge was abolished by the act of March 2, 1860, the township system assumed greater importance in Iowa than ever before. The act became effective on July 4, 1860, and required the voters of each township in the county to elect one member of the county board of supervisors at the next general election, the supervisors so elected to take office on January 1, 1861, and to discharge all the duties formerly performed by the county judge. There were then but two civil townships in Winnebago County—Forest and Pleasant—the former embracing the southern and the latter the northern half of the county. The first board of supervisors consisted of one member from each of these townships and a supervisor at large. In 1862 the supervisors were given power to create new townships and to regulate the number of members of the board of supervisors in the county.
Soon after the county was organized in the fall of 1857, it was divided into the two civil townships of Forest and Pleasant, as above noted. On June 6, 1864, the board of supervisors, then composed of Charles D. Smith, William Lackore and B. F. Wellman, divided the county into four townships as follows:
“Center Township to consist of and comprise from section 18 to 36 inclusive of township 99, range 26, and all of township 98, ranges 25 range 23, and sections, 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 36 and that part of the east half of section 35 north of L Street and east of Fourth Street in Forest City in township 98, range 24.
“Forest Township to consist of and comprise from section 18 to 36 inclusive of township 99, range 26, and all of township 98, Ranges 25 and 26, and sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, and the west half of 35 south of L Street and west of Fourth Street in Forest City in township 98, range 34.
“Norway Township to contain or comprise from section 7 to section 30 inclusive of township 100, ranges 23, 24, 25 and 26.
“Pleasant Township to contain or comprise from section 31 to 36 inclusive of township 100, ranges 23, 24, 25 and 26 ; also sections 1 to 18 inclusive of township 99, ranges 23, 24, 25 and 26.”
On June 3, 1868, the board of supervisors created Iowa Township, which included “sections 19 to 36 inclusive of township 99, range 23, sections 1 to 18 inclusive of township 98, range 23, and sections 19 to 30 inclusive of township 99, range 24.”
No further change relating to townships was made until June 7, 1875, when the board adopted the following: “Resolved, that the township boundaries of the civil townships of Winnebago County be, and the same are hereby, so changed that there shall be but three civil townships instead of five as heretofore; and that Forest Township shall hereafter include all the congressional townships numbered 98, of ranges 23, 24, 25 and 26; Center Township shall include all the congressional townships numbered 99, of ranges 23, 24, 25, and 26; and Norway Township shall include all the congressional townships numbered 100, of ranges 23, 24, 25 and 26.”
Since the adoption of the above resolution on June 7, 1875, various changes have been made in the matter of civil townships, until now each civil township corresponds to a congressional township and is therefore six miles square, except those forming the northern tier, in each of which sections 1 to 6 inclusive lie north of the state line and are in Minnesota. The twelve townships are: Buffalo, Center, Eden, Forest, Grant, King, Lincoln, Linden, Logan, Mount Valley, Newton and Norway. Following is a brief history of each township, and for the convenience of the reader they are presented in alphabetical order, without regard to the order in which they were established.
Buffalo Township is the most western of the middle tier and embraces congressional township 99, range 26. It was created by the board of supervisors on September 5, 1888, and the first election was ordered to be held at the Barnes schoolhouse. On the north it is bounded by Lincoln Township; on the east by King; on the south by Grant, and on the west by Kossuth County. It was a part of Center Township until the spring of 1881, when it was made a part of Newton. In January, 1886, it was made a part of King and so remained until established as a separate township in 1888.
The surface of the township is gently undulating and in some places the ground was originally swampy. This probably accounts for the fact that the settlements in this part of the county were among the last to be established. The first settlements were made in Buffalo Township while it was still a part of Newton. Within recent years two large drainage districts have been made to include the greater portion of this township, which improvement has reclaimed large tracts of land and has been the means of adding to the population. According to the state census for 1915 the population was 1,500, including the incorporated town of Buffalo Center, only two townships—Forest and Center—showing a larger number of inhabitants.
The Rock Island Railroad runs east and west, almost in the exact center of the township, and the town of Buffalo Center is located on this railroad, about a mile from the Kossuth County line. In 1916 the property of the township was valued for tax purposes at $537,156, these figures including the town of Buffalo Center.
This township was first established on June 6, 1864, though several changes were subsequently made in its boundaries and it was reduced to its present dimensions in April, 1881. It now embraces congressional township 99, range 23, and has an area of thirty-six square miles, nearly all of which is capable of being cultivated. It is bounded on the north by Norway Township; on the east by Worth County; on the south by Mount Valley Township and on the west by the Township of Newton. Lime Creek flows in a southerly direction through the northwestern part and the southeastern portion has been drained by ditching. The soil is fertile and some of the best farms in the county are in this township. The greater part of the township is prairie, though there are some groves of timber in the eastern and northeastern portions.
The first settler in Center was George Thomas, who came to the county in the spring of 1855 and made a claim about half way between the present town of Lake Mills and Rice Lake, where he lived until his death about three years later. His son, George W. Thomas, came at the same time and lived on the farm with his father until the latter's death, when he went to Colorado. In 1860 he returned to Winnebago County and the following year built a residence in Section 11 and became a permanent citizen.
John Anderson and a man named Taugue settled in the township in 1856 and the next year came the three Porter brothers and Joseph Burns. Charles D. Smith settled in the township in 1858 and purchased the claim of Joseph Burns. He served several terms as county supervisor and in 1866, in partnership with S. D. Wadsworth, built the steam flour mill and sawmill from which the town of Lake Mills derived its name. Later a shingle machine and a carding mill were added. He was the first mayor of Lake Mills when the town was incorporated in 1881 and is still living in that town.
Another settler of 1858 was John B. Aulman, a native of France, who came to America in 1843, landing at New Orleans, but soon afterward went to Philadelphia, where he lived until he settled in Winnebago County. When he first came to the county in 1858 he selected 320 acres of land in sections 8 and 9, Center Township, and then returned to Philadelphia for his family. He raised the first crop on his farm in 1860.
Between the years 1860 and 1866 quite a number of people settled in Center. Among them were Patrick Malone, John Johnson, J. J. Kleven, Elef Elefson, Charles Ruby, Thomas Thompson and E. D. Hinman. The descendants of some of these men still live in the township.
The first schoolhouse was built on section 2 late in the year 1859, and the first school was taught by E. D, Hinman in 1860. There are now six public schools in the township, not including the school in the town of Lake Mills. The first sermon was preached in 1862 by a minister named Saxby.
Two lines of railroad traverse the northern half of the township. The Chicago & Northwestern enters Winnebago County from the east, about two miles south of the northeast corner of Center Township and runs northwest through the town of Lake Mills, where it crosses the Minneapolis & St. Louis, which runs in a southwesterly direction to Forest City and north to Albert Lea, Minnesota.
According to the state census of 1915, the population of Center Township was then 2,194, including the town of Lake Mills, showing it to be the second township of the county in the number of inhabitants. The property of the township, including that of Lake Mills, was assessed for taxation in 1916 at $606,583.
Situated in the northern tier, the second east of the western boundary of the county, is Eden Township. It was originally a part of Norway, but was established as a separate township on January 9, 1886, and then included township 100, ranges 25 and 26. It was reduced to its present dimensions on November 12, 1889, when Lincoln Township was cut off, and now embraces congressional township 100, range 25. On the north it is bounded by the State of Minnesota; on the east by Logan Township; on the south by King Township, and on the west by the Township of Lincoln. It is one of the fractional townships and has an area of about thirty square miles. The surface is generally level or slightly rolling and the soil is fertile. There is no stream in the township, though much of the land has been drained by artificial methods.
The first settlements were made while the territory was still a part of Norway Township. Eden has no railroad. The most convenient railroad stations are Rake and Thompson, in Winnebago County, and Bricelyn, Minnesota. The township has six public schools and reported a population of 623 in 1915, when the state census was taken. In 1916 the property was valued for taxation at $259,843.
This is one of the oldest townships in the county. It was established soon after the county was organized and originally embraced all the southern half of the county. Several changes were made in the boundaries between 1858 and 1880, when the erection of Linden Township reduced Forest to its present extent. It now includes congressional township 98, range 21:, and is bounded as follows: On the north by Newton Township; on the east by the Township of Mount Valley; on the south by Hancock County, and on the west by Linden Township.
The surface is rolling and in some places hilly. When the first settlers came to this part of the county they found about one-third of the area of the township covered with timber, which gave rise to the name. Lime Creek enters from the north near the northeast corner and flows in a southerly direction across the entire township. In the valley of this stream and the western part the soil is fertile and produces good crops of all the grain and vegetables adapted to the climate.
A man named Gray is credited with being the first settler. He came in 1855 and built a house in section 26, about a mile north of where Forest City is now located, but in the fall of that year he sold out to John Gilchrist and Jesse Bonar and went back to Hardin County. About the time that Gilchrist and Bonar bought Gray's claim, James Wreston settled in section 25, not far from where the cemetery is now situated. He came from the eastern part of the state and in the spring of 1856 went to Chickasaw County.
A number of immigrants came into the township in 1856. A man named Decker, with his four sons-in-law, settled along Lime Creek in the northeastern part, about where the town of Leland now stands. One of the sons-in-law afterward went farther south and made a claim in section 26. Charles Strong, a New Yorker, settled near the eastern boundary, about two miles northeast of Forest City. After a residence of less than a year he sold out and went to Owen's Grove, Cerro Gordo County. Another settler of 1856 was Seneca Carrington, who came from Mason City and located in section 24. The next year he “pulled up stakes” and went to Missouri, and from there to Indiana. Abraham and William Foster selected claims in section 33 in 1856, but soon afterward went to Minnesota. John Lamm and his father, William Lamm, also came in 1856. The former located in section 23 and the latter selected land in section 14, but went back to Ohio the following year. The early settlers about Forest City are mentioned in another chapter.
Forest was the first township in the county to be provided with officers of justice. In the spring of 1857 C. W. Scott and A. T. Cole went to Fort Dodge (Winnebago being then attached to Webster County), and were appointed justice of the peace and constable respectively. The returns of the first election in the fall of 1857 have not been preserved, but it is known that Mr. Scott was continued in the office of justice of the peace and that James J. Barker was elected township clerk. In 1859 Allen T. Cole and James Collier were elected trustees; James J. Barker, clerk; C. W. Scott, and A. K. Curtis, justices of the peace; John Lamm, assessor; William Lackore, road supervisor.
The first school was taught in 1858 by Miss Sarah Beadle, in a house built by Nathan Jeffords in Forest City. Exclusive of the schools at Forest City and Leland, there are now seven school districts in the county. According to the state census of 1915, the population of Forest Township was then 3,030, and in 1916 the property, not including Forest City, was valued for tax purposes at $373,881. By including Forest City the total valuation was $700,155.
Besides being the most populous and wealthiest township in the county, Forest is also the best provided with transportation facilities. Two lines of railroad pass through Forest City—the Minneapolis & St. Louis, and the Dows & Estherville division of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific. Leland, on the Minneapolis & St. Louis, in the northeast corner, and Neils, on the Rock Island, in the northwest corner, afford accommodations for travel and shipping better than those enjoyed by the average township of the state.
Grant Township occupies the southwest corner of the county and embraces congressional township 98, range 26. On the north it is bounded by Buffalo Township; on the east by Linden; on the south by Hancock County, and on the west by the County of Kossuth. The surface is gently undulating and the only natural drainage is a small stream which rises in Buffalo Township and flows across the northwest corner of Grant into Kossuth County. This stream has been widened and deepened and now forms part of Drainage District No. 3.
Originally, this township was a part of Forest. It was made a part of Linden in the spring of 1880 and remained so until in April, 1886, when it was erected into a separate civil township and named in honor of Gen. U. S. Grant, the eighteenth President of the United States. Complete returns of the first election cannot be found, but H. H. Swingen was elected assessor; Peter H. Swingen, clerk; and G. O. Hanna, constable. These men were among the early settlers and located their farms before the township was established.
Grant has neither railroad nor village within its borders. It is di vided into nine public school districts, in each of which is a good schoolhouse. In 1915 the population was 666, and the valuation of property for tax purposes in 1916 was $357,790.
When Newton Township was established in April, 1881, it included the present townships of King and Buffalo. On January 9, 1886, the board of supervisors, in response to a petition signed by numerous taxpayers, ordered that “congressional township 99, ranges 25 and 26, shall hereafter constitute a civil township to be known and designated as King Township.” As thus defined it included the present Township of Buffalo, which was cut off two years later. On the north it is bounded by Eden Township; on the east by Newton; on the south by Linden, and on the west by Buffalo.
The surface is comparatively level and in its natural state a large part of the land was swampy. Drainage districts No. 1 and No. 3 have reclaimed the greater portion of the swamp lands and some of the most productive farms in the county are now in King Township. The first settlements were made while the territory was still included in Newton Township. After the Dows & Estherville division of the Rock Island railway system was built through the township the settlement was more rapid and in 1915 the population was 1,183, King being the fourth township of the county in the number of inhabitants. Located on the railroad, a little southeast of the center of the township, is the incorporated town of Thompson, a history of which is given in another chapter.
There are eight public schools in King, exclusive of the independent school district of Thompson, and in 1916 the property was appraised for taxation at $379,665, not including the appraisement of property in the town of Thompson. In this respect the township is one of the largest taxpaying districts of the county.
The first mention of Lincoln Township in the supervisors' records is in the minutes of the meeting on November 12, 1889, when the sum of $1,800 was appropriated to defray the expenses of holding the general election in the township on the second Tuesday of the preceding month. It is therefore the youngest civil township in Winnebago County. From the time Norway was created in 1875 until January, 1886, the territory now comprising Lincoln was included in that township. Then Eden Township was established and included within its boundaries the present Township of Lincoln until 1889.
Lincoln Township embraces that part of congressional township 100, range 26, that lies in the State of Iowa and has an area of about thirty square miles. It is the northwestern township of the county; is bounded on the north by the State of Minnesota; on the east by Eden Township; on the south by the Township of Buffalo, and on the west by Kossuth County. The surface is level or gently rolling and the soil is fertile, though considerable ditching has been done to reclaim the swampy portions and render the land fit for cultivation.
The railroad now known as the Estherville & Albert Lea division of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific was built through the township in the early '90s and the station of Rake was established a little northwest of the center. Rake is now an incorporated town, the history of which is given in another chapter of this work.
Lincoln is divided into six independent school districts, each of which is provided with a good schoolhouse. In 1915 the population was 719, including the town of Rake, and in 1916 the valuation of all property for tax purposes was $339,067.
This township is one of the southern tier—the third from the east line of the county. It was cut off from Forest Township on April 7, 1880, and as at first established included the present Township of Grant. Six years later it was reduced to its present extent, and now embraces township 98 north, range 25 west, with an area of thirty-six square miles. The surface is a beautiful undulating prairie, somewhat elevated, the Boone and Iowa rivers having their sources in this township. The soil is far above the average in fertility. The township is bounded on the north by King; on the east by Forest; on the south by Hancock County, and on the west by the Township of Grant.
The first settlements were made in Linden in the spring of 1871, when George Johnson, Christian Larson, Hans Mattison and a man named Mikkelson came about the same time and entered land in the township. A little later in the same year came Christian Hanson and Martin Lund. All these early settlers were Norwegians. George Johnson plowed the first land and was the first to plant a crop. Hans Mattison taught the first school and the first sermon in the township was preached at his house by Rev. P. Lasness, a Lutheran minister. The first child born in the township was a daughter of Christian and Ellen Larson, who was born soon after the arrival of the family in 1871 and died in January, 1872. Her death was the first in the township.
The first election record obtainable is that of October 3, 1881, when Christian Larson, I. J. Kessey and Stener Stenerson were elected trustees; Hans Mattison, Clerk; Robert Olson, justice of the peace; J, M. Anderson, constable; and A. A. Peterson, assessor.
There are nine public school districts in Linden Township, and in 1915 the population was 599. In 1916 the assessed valuation of the property was $349,564. There is no railroad in the township, the nearest stations being Thompson, Forest City, and Crystal Lake, in Hancock County.
When Logan Township was cut off from Norway on April 5, 1881, by order of the board of supervisors of Winnebago County, it included the present townships of Eden and Lincoln. It was reduced to its present dimensions on January 9, 1886, and now includes only that part of congressional township 100, range 24, lying within the State of Iowa. Its area is about thirty square miles. On the north it is bounded by the State of Minnesota; on the east by Norway Township; on the south by Newton Township, and on the west by the Township of Eden.
The settlement of this township was retarded because of the fact that a large proportion of the land became the property of landsharks and speculators in early days, and they held the land at such prices as to be almost prohibitive to settlers of moderate means. The first actual settler was Ole P. Jordal, who settled near the present town of Scarville in 1867. The next year Christian Ingebretson settled near Jordal and in 1869 Ole Oleson located on the southeast quarter of section 24. In 1870 A. K. Winge, Ole J. Synve and a man named Larson joined the colony, which was further augmented in 1871 by the arrival of Stephen Knudson and his father, with their families. Other early settlers were H. P. Moe, Erick Gullickson, Ole Drogsvold and E. D. Skinner.
At the first township election Stephen Knudson, A. K. Winge and Stephen Floe were chosen trustees; T. J. Falken, clerk; E. D. Skinner and J. T. Seeley, justices of the peace; Harry Larson and Stephen Severson, constables; Nels Nelson, assessor. J. T. Seeley and Stephen Severson failed to qualify for their respective offices and the township and [sic] but one justice and one constable until the fall of 1883.
The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad crosses the northeast corner of the township and the station of Scarville is partly in Logan and partly in Norway Township. Three miles west of Scarville was once a postoffice called Vinje, but with the introduction of free rural delivery it was discontinued.
In 1915 the population of Logan was 676, and in 1916 the property valuation was $273,941. There are six public schools, exclusive of the schools in the Scarville independent district.
In the spring of 1879 the board of supervisors ordered that congressional township 98 north, range 23 west, be erected into a new civil township to be known as “Mount Valley,” that name having been suggested by Peter Hanson, who was one of the early settlers. The name was no doubt selected because of the character of the surface, which is generally uneven and in some places rough and hilly. Two small creeks—Bear and Beaver—flow through the township, affording good natural drainage and water for stock. The former rises near the central part and takes a southwesterly course, crossing the western boundary near the southwest corner. Beaver Creek enters in section 1, makes a bend to the west, and leaves the county about a mile and a half north of the southeast corner. About two-thirds of the area was originally covered with timber, but about all of this that was suitable for lumber has been cut off and only small trees remain. The township is bounded on the north by Center Township; on the east by Worth County; on the south by Hancock County, and on the west by Forest Township.
The first settler was William Gilbert, who located on the northwest quarter of section 31 in the spring of 1855. He built a log cabin and developed a farm, but about 1863 sold out and went to Dakota. Very few located in the township until after the close of the Civil war. Charles Belt, Edward Dubeau, William Higginbotham and a few others came in 1865. Belt remained but a short time, Dubeau went to Kansas about 1872, but Mr. Higginbotham remained and was for years actively identified with Winnebago County affairs. He was a native of West Virginia, having been born near Wheeling, May 6, 1836. In 1843 his parents removed to Licking County, Ohio and two years later to Clark County, Illinois. During the Civil war he served as a private in Company F, Seventy-ninth Illinois Infantry, and took part in the Atlanta campaign of 1864 and the subsequent military operations in Tennessee until wounded at the battle of Franklin. Soon after receiving his honorable discharge he came to Mount Valley Township. He was one of the first trustees when the township was organized and was at one time a member of the board of supervisors.
Peter Hanson, who suggested the name for the township, came in 1866. He was born in Norway in 1834 and came to America when nineteen years of age, locating in Wisconsin and farming there until he came to Winnebago County. Other settlers of 1866 were: Nels Olson, Harres Olson, Halvor Paulson and Nels Brones. During the next three years a number of Norwegians settled in Mount Valley, among them being Gunder H, Onstadt, Hans Johnson, Ole Bottleson, Lewis Jacobson, T. K. Rusley, Hans Rwgmyr and the Rulson family.
The first white child born in the township was John, son of William and Rachel Higginbotham, the date of his birth having been November 29, 1865. The first death was that of Mrs. Harres Olson in 1866, and the first marriage was that of Harres Olson and Anna Gurgunson in 1867. The first school was taught in 1866 by Amelia Steadman, in the house of Isaac Mercer. The first schoolhouse was built in the same year. The first township officers were as follows: William Higginbotham, Ole Bottleson and Thomas L. Fellen, trustees; S. K. Revland and B. K. Solverson, justices of the peace; Gunder H. Onstadt, constable. Mr. Onstadt was also the first postmaster in the township, having been appointed to that position when the postoffice of Mount Valley was established in 1877. The office has since been discontinued.
Mount Valley has no railroad, Forest City being the most convenient station. In 1915 the population was 969, and in 1916 the property was valued for tax purposes at $339,988. There are nine public school districts in the township.
Prior to April, 1881, Newton formed a part of Center Township. Then 0. T. Seevers presented a petition to the board of supervisors asking that a new township be established. The board granted the petition and ordered that congressional township 99, ranges 24, 25 and 26, should thereafter be known as Newton Township. As at first created, the township included the present townships of King and Buffalo. It was reduced to its present size by the establishment of King Township in January, 1886, and now embraces congressional township 99, range 24. It is bounded on the north by Logan Township; on the east by Center; on the south by Forest, and on the west by King. The township is mostly prairie and the surface is rolling, in some places being what might be termed hilly, but nearly all the land is capable of being cultivated. Lime Creek flows in a southerly direction across the southeast corner, and a small stream called Pike Run, which rises in King Township, flows in a southeasterly direction through the central part. The latter has been made a part of Drainage District No. 1.
The township is said to have derived its name from Newton H. Bailey, a son of John and Nancy Bailey, early residents of the township. At the time the township was created the board of supervisors ordered the first election to be held at the Burnap school house, and appointed H. 0. Sunderland, N. B. Thompson and J. J. Sharp judges; Andrew Seevers and Newton H. Bailey, clerks. The election was held in October, 1881, and resulted in the election of the following officers: Newton H. Bailey, J. J. Sharp and H. 0. Sunderland, trustees; N. B. Thompson, clerk; Michael Ragan and Andrew Seevers, justices of the peace; Gilbert Olson, assessor; C. 0. Rose and Ole Johnson, constables; John Bailey, Iver Qualle and John Christianson, road supervisors.
The first settler was a man named Benson, who located in a small grove in section 36, in the early part of 1855. The place afterward became known as “'Benson's Grove,” and a postoffice by that name was established there in July, 1864, with J, B. Hill as postmaster. Mr. Benson lived in the county only about eight months, when he sold his claim to Jeptha Adams, who sold out and went to Minnesota in the spring of 1857.
During the summer of 1856 James Collier, James Redmile, Philip A. Pulver, Allen T. Cole and a man named Lee all settled in the township. Collier and Lee both tried to claim the same tract of land in section 36 until a prairie fire burned Lee's cabin and he went away, leaving his adversary in possession. In 1857 he sold the land to James Turner and located in Center Township.
James Redmile was a single man when he came to the county and boarded with Jeptha Adams. In August, 1856, the young man and Jane Adams, daughter of his host, went to Mason City, where they were married. That was the first wedding between residents of the township.
The first white child born in the township was a daughter of Rev. John B. Hill, who was born in the summer of 1859 and died before she was a year old. The first deaths were those of three men who were frozen to death in a blizzard in December, 1856. They were not residents, but were passing through when they encountered the storm which cost them their lives. Two of the men were named Porter and Snyder, but the name of the third man has been forgotten.
Between 1865 and 1870 quite a number of people located in Newton. Among them were John Millington, John and Newton Bailey, and Henry Bushnell. Millington went to Hancock County after a residence of about eighteen months and later removed to the southern part of the state. The Baileys settled in section 7, in what was long known as “Coon's Grove.” They came from Cook County, Illinois. John Bailey was a bricklayer and shoemaker by trade. After the railroads were built he shipped the first cattle from Winnebago to Chicago.
The Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad crosses the southeast corner of Newton and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific crosses the southwest corner, but there is no station within the township borders. Leland, on the former road, and Thompson, on the latter, are the most convenient railroad towns. In 1915 the population was 725, and in 1916 the assessed valuation of property was $363,692. There are eight public schools in the township.
This township was first established on June 6, 1864. Its boundaries were changed on June 7, 1875, and then included all of the northern tier of townships. When Logan Township was created in April 1881, Norway was reduced to its present extent—congressional township 100, range 23. On the north it is bounded by the State of Minnesota; on the east by Worth County; on the south by Center Township, and on the west by the Township of Logan. Its area is about thirty square miles and it occupies the extreme northeast corner of the county. The name was derived from the nationality of the early settlers, most of whom came from Norway.
The surface is rolling prairie and the soil is exceedingly fertile. There was originally some timber along Lime Creek, but most of it has disappeared, the ax of the woodman and the sawmill having done their deadly work and converted most of the trees into fuel or lumber.
The first settler was William Tennis, who located in section 21, near the center of the township, in 1856. He was born in Allen County, Indiana, September 30, 1832. He came to Winnebago County in 1855, when he located a claim on Bear Creek, a short distance east of where Forest City is now situated. This claim he sold to Robert Clark in 1856 and moved up to what is now Norway Township. His cabin, which was the first house built in the township, was 18 by 24 feet and the one room served as kitchen, dining room, parlor and bed room. He obtained a title to his land in May, 1857, after which he spent about two years in his native state of Indiana. In 1859 he went to the “Pike's Peak Country,” as Colorado was then called, and there became interested in some gold mines. During the next fifteen years he divided his time between his farm in Winnebago and his Colorado mines. His parents came with him to Iowa in 1856 and both lived to a ripe old age at their son's home in Norway Township.
Other settlers of 1856 were: Colburn Larson, Hans Knudson, Lewis Nelson, Archibald Murray, Jasper Fricker, Heinrich Larson and a man named Harvey. Joseph Tennis came in 1857 and between that time and 1860 several families settled in the township. Among them were Christian Anderson, John Iverson, Halvor Peterson, and another family of Larsons.
H. S. Botsford came in 1863 and took an active part in the organization of the township when it was first established in 1864. The board ordered the first election to be held at the schoolhouse—there was then only one schoolhouse in the township—and appointed Mr. Botsford to post notices of the election. The election was held in October, 1864. Samuel Tennis, Halvor Peterson and John Iverson were elected trustees; H. S. Botsford, clerk; Samuel Tennis, justice of the peace.
The first ground was broken by William Tennis in 1856. The first child born in the township was Annie, daughter of Colburn Larson, in the spring of 1857. The first death was that of Mrs. C. L. Nelson, March 14, 1857. The first school was taught in the winter of 1859-60 by Mrs. Nellie Hinman, in a house that had been erected for the purpose the fall before in section 15. There are now five public school districts in the township, exclusive of the Scarville independent district and a small section in the southeastern part that is attached to the independent district of Lake Mills.
Norway has two lines of railroad. The Minneapolis & St. Louis runs along the eastern border. The little village of Norman, in the extreme northeast corner of the county, is a station on this road. The Chicago & Northwestern crosses the southern boundary in section 34 and runs in a southwesterly direction to section 19," where the village of Scarville is situated, part of it being in Norway and part in Logan Township. The stations of Norway and Scarville, and that of Lake Mills, which is just across the southern border, afford excellent shipping facilities to all parts of the township.
In 1915 the population, according to the state census, was 680 exclusive of the incorporated town of Scarville. The assessed valuation of property in 1916 was $394,030.
A History of Winnebago County and Hancock County, Iowa. Vol. 2. Chicago: Pioneer Publishing Company, 1917. 107-23. Print.
Transcribed by Paul Nagy