SAGA OF TAYLORSVILLE, IOWA
by Chas. L. Robbins
Hand written words of C. L. Robbins in Adams
used by Taylorsville School from 1864 to 1871
Geo. Doan School Director.
[editorial changes in brackets]
Sometime between the years of 1840 and 1865 there existed in the state
of Iowa, in Fayette Co., Fairfield Township a little inland town known as
Taylorsville. There is some question as to the origin of the name [--]some
old settlers telling me the town was named in honor of Uncle Billy Taylor
who lived near there while others said it was so named by early settlers
who came from Taylorsville, Ills. However I prefer to think of the former
as in my boyhood days I was acquainted with Uncle Billy Taylor who had
been a snare drummer in the Civil War and therefore a hero to me.
This little town of Taylorsville at its founding gave promise of being
one of Iowas leading towns as it was situated in the center of one
of the richest sections of Iowa or may I even say of the whole of the
United States as I visited the locality in 1946 one hundred years
since the land was settled and it is still producing abundance of crops
with no suggestion of being worn out while the fourth generation of owners
till its fertile acres.
So that is may be understood just what happened to make Taylorsville the
ghost town it is today you must know the exact geography of its immediate
vicinity. About 1 ½ miles west of the town is a small stream known
then as now as Brush Creek This is little stream rises about two miles
South West of the old site of Taylorsville in the prairie sloughs and runs
practically north seven miles where it empties into the Volga River about
a mile east of the town of Wadena. Where the Brush Creek stream rises the
land is swampy but quite level but about a mile north it enters timber
land and runs through deep limestone gorges impassable even to horses and
wagons at that time and even now.
Sometime just after the close of the Civil War there was talk of a
railroad going through Fayette Co. between Calmar and Cedar Rapids. This
is known as the Calmar branch of the C. Mt St Paul. Of course the people
of Taylorsville wanted and expected this road to go through their town as
it was the only town in that part of the county but owing to the gorges
due West from Taylorsville it was impossible to do this without curving
north to the town and then back south to get back to the level prairie
where railroad building was possible and practical. This the company did
not feel justified in doing so the road missed Taylorsville about 2 miles.
When it first became evident that the R.R. would miss the town of
Taylorsville it was thought to serve the town by stage and dray service
but some enterprising citizens platted 40 acres of land belonging to a Mr.
Moe into a townsite at the head of Brush Creek and called it Moetown but
the citizens in ridicule spoke of it as Brush Creek. But is spite of this
the town began to sell lots. My grandfather, O. R. Robbins bought the
first lot about 1856 or 7. Soon after the close of the war the business
places of Taylorsville began one by one to move to Brush Creek. Some built
new buildings and some moved their homes and stores there. Soon it became
evident that Taylorsville could not compete with a town only 2 miles away
on a railroad and so Taylorsville started down its road to ghosthood. The
town of Brush Creek later changed its name to Arlington.
I was born about 1 ½ miles from Taylorsville on the road that now
leads to Wadena. I remember when I was about 10 years old of going thru
Taylorsville many times and went to Sunday School there. At that time
there were still several old store buildings, blacksmith shop, town pump
in the main street corner and about 20 houses clustered about. There was
of course the school which still runs under that name. But unless someone
told you[,] you would never know that a beautiful little village had once
existed there. Just north of the townsite there was and still is the
Taylorsville Cemetery where probably 75% of the scholars listed in this
old school register [sic] rest and wait in peace near the little town they
loved so long ago.
The foregoing story is but a build up leading to why this old school
register these 80 years is now so sacred to me and I hope to those whom I
will leave it in care of. You will notice that the boys and girls were
recorded on different pages and by consulting the first two pages you will
see there were 77 scholars in the school that started Dec. 19-1864 . The
27th girl or No 27 is my wifes mother now still alive in Jan.
1947 and in good health the past 93 years of age. In the fall of
1946 it was my good fortune to visit this lady after I had come into
possession of this old book and to her I am indebted for many memories of
the children listed on these pages.
On the boys page No 22 was my father Lewis E. Robbins. This was his last
term of school and undoubtedly if the war had not ended he would have gone
just as many of the other young men of the community had done.
On the girls page of that same winter term No 29 was my mother, Julia L.
Barnes. Her name is listed as Julia L. Smith. This is due to the fact that
she was a foster daughter of Murray E. Smith. You will notice she was only
11 years old. Her mother had died and she with her other sisters and
younger brothers were adopted (not legally) by families of the community.
I find no further record of her and remember that she told me she had eye
trouble and never was able to attend school after that.
Mrs. Brooks told me that this school running from 50 to 80 pupils were
schooled in one room with only one teacher. All grades from the A.B.C.
class to and thru the 8th grade. The school house was a large one room red
building that later burned down and as the town went down in size a
smaller building was built which now stands. One of the teachers, the one
who did the fancy Spencerian writing was in 1898 my teacher in Arlington
when I graduated from High School. According to dates he was only 24 years
when he taught at Taylorsville.
Many of the couples of this school married just as their children did in
my generation and now in 1946 the grandchildren or the 4th generation are
The following pupils named Richards went to Taylorsville School[;] all
sisters & brothers of Frances L. (Richards) Brooks, my wife Clara
(Brooks) Robbins aunt & uncles: Herbert, Walter, William,
Everette [sic], Clara after whom Clara (Brooks) Robbins was named.
One of my fathers sisters, Lucena Robbins name appears on
the pages as well as James W. Crawford, who was later known as Willie
Crawford the son of my aunt Abigail (Robbins) Crawford. Willie Crawford
died when a little boy and is buried in the Arlington Cemetery S. W. of
The one listed as Frank Robbins was afterwards known as Lett Robbins. I
also have two half cousins recorded, Solon & Loren Barnes, sons of my
mothers half brother Jim Barnes.
My mothers sister Phoebe Barnes married one of the scholars, Geo.
L. Rawson who as far as I know is one of the two pupils still living in
I have heard my father & mother speak of all these scholars and many
of them were known to me as I grew up in that vicinity.
It must be remembered that the village of Taylorsville itself was only a
small trading post with a population probably not exceeding 300 people but
the school of which we write and of which this is a record from 1864 to
1871 was composed mostly of scholars from the surrounding farms over a
distance of three miles in every direction. In fact it was the only school
for many years anywhere in that part of the country.
I wish now to explain how this old record came into my possession. In
Iowa living about 6 miles from old Taylorsville I have three cousins who
buy old furniture and other antiques. In some old boxes left of the Geo
Doan estate was found this register. I was in Iowa at the home of these
cousins and they kindly let me have this book because I saw my fathers
name in it. Geo Doan was school director many years. His belongings had
been kept intact by his daughter Carrie Doan and at her death some things
were purchased by the Crawford Bros, Ross, Jim & Bill.
Whoever shall come into possession of this record please do not destroy
it. It would be dear to any one whose parents or grandparents names
are found herein. Write to the Arlington News, Arlington, Iowa and ask for
someone whose ancestors lived in Taylorsville.
With all respect and love for these who tho they moved to Brush Creek
came back to rest quietly at Taylorsville.
C. L. Robbins
Further notes written by C. L. R.:
FAYETTE COUNTY, IOWA
Chas. Robbins has drawn in the front section of the register a grid with
20 townships named in their respective squares. He notes that each
township is 6 x 6 miles square with Fairfield indicated with an asterisk.
He adds, The county is a perfect triangle 24 miles wide east
and west [&] 30 miles long north and south. This school was in
Fairfield Township at a little town of Taylorsville. At the beginning of
the school year 1864 & 65 there were as this register shows 31 boys [&]
46 girls [a total of] 77 scholars.
My father Lewis E. Robbins No 22 page 1 and mother Julia Barnes
Smith No. 29 page 3 were in school together that fall & winter term.
This school building later burned and as the town of Brush Creek,
now Arlington, had come into existence on the railroad and had a school, a
much smaller house was built.
My wife Clara Brooks taught her first term of school
there, in 1894.
On a later page he adds (Nov. 1967) --
I came in possession of this record as a gift from my cousin James
(Jimmie) Crawford. I visited him and his brothers & sisters in 1946.
They had come into possession of this school Record in some old
trunks they had bought at the sale of the Doan family after the last death
[of] their family.
I am now living in Sunnyside, Washington. The date is Nov. 1967
many of these scholars, as they were then called, were known to me in my
Among the names are both of my parents, Lewis E. Robbins and my
mother Julia L. Barnes. My mother was the foster daughter of a man named
Smith, (Murray) I think. So her name is listed as Julia L. Smith.
My wife, Clara, formerly Brooks has her mother, Frances L.
Richards and her sister Clara Richards[;] brothers, Walter, William,
Herbert and Everet mentioned in the record.
As these names are now 102 years old they are faded and I have
taken it upon myself to rewrite the ones whom I remember. I am now
89 years old so you who now read this will please forgive possible errors.
I probably know or did know the most names in this book
of any one living.
Charles L. Robbins
Around 1970, knowing my interest in genealogy, my grandfather gave me
this register with my promise to pass it on to interested parties. I am
planning to send it to the Fayette County Genealogy Society hoping that
someone there will record its contents for sharing with others, perhaps
through the Internet. And that these persons will see to it that it is
restored and deposited in some appropriate places such as a museum. I am
presently integrating and adding to many genealogies that I have acquired
of such families of Arlington as Barnes, Brooks, Richards, and Robbins and
will have this material available perhaps within a year or so (ca 2000). I
have several other similar writings of C. L. Robbins of early Arlington
days and people and will pass these on as well. In my possession are many
old Arlington area obituaries and even the original ordination certificate
of O. R. Robbins first minister of the UB church of Arlington
he was Chas. Robbins grandfather. I also have many old photographs
of Arlington people (mostly relatives) that I will scan and make available
one of these days. These include a portrait and bio. of Solon Washington
Barnes and a photograph and bio. of Alzina Wetmore Robbins. I am connected
to Charles Robbins through his son W. Wayne Robbins (my father). I am a
retired high school science teacher in Bellevue, Washington. Charles L.
Robbins died Jan. 27, 1978 and Clara P. Brooks died July 8, 1974
both in Sunnyside, Washington.
Dale D. Robbins