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O'Brien and Osceola 

Counties, Iowa 



m ir 

For O'Brien County 


For Osceola County 



Indianapolis, Indiana 



This work is respectfully dedicated to 


long since departed. May the memory of those who laid down their burdens 

by the wayside ever be fragrant as the breath of summer 

flowers, for their toils and sacrifices have made 

O'Brien and Osceola Counties a 

garden of sunshine 

and delights. 


All lite and achievement is evolution; present wisdom comes from past 
experience, and present commercial prosperity has come only from past exer- 
tion and suffering. The deeds and motives of the men that have gone before 
have been instrumental in shaping the destinies of later communities and 
states. The development of a new country was at once a task and a privi- 
lege. It required great courage, sacrifice and privation. Compare the pres- 
ent conditions of the people of O'Brien and Osceola counties, Iowa, with 
what they were a half century ago. From a trackless wilderness and virgin 
land, it has come to be a center of prosperity and civilization, with millions 
of wealth, systems of railways, grand educational institutions, splendid in- 
dustries and immense agricultural productions. Can any thinking person 
be insensible to the fascination of the study which discloses the aspirations 
and efforts of the early pioneers who so strongly laid the foundation upon 
which has been reared the magnificent prosperity of later days? To per- 
petuate the story of these people and to trace and record the social, political 
and industrial progress of the community from its first inception is the func- 
tion of the local historian. A sincere purpose to preserve facts and personal 
memoirs that are deserving of perpetuation, and which unite the present to 
the past, is the motive for the present publication. A specially valuable and 
interesting department is that one devoted to the sketches of representative 
citizens of these counties whose records deserve preservation because of their 
worth, effort and accomplishment. The publishers desire to extend their 
thanks to the gentlemen who have so faithfully labored to this end. Thanks 
are also due to the citizens of O'Brien and Osceola counties for the uniform 
kindness with which they have regarded this undertaking, and for their 
many services rendered in the gaining of necessary information. 

In placing the "Past and Present of O'Brien and Osceola Counties, 
Iowa," before the citizens, the publishers can conscientiously claim that they 
have carried out the plan as outlined in the prospectus. Every biographical 
sketch in the work has been submitted to the party interested for correction, 
and therefore any error of fact, if there be any, is solely due to the person 
for whom the sketch was prepared. Confident that our effort to please will 
fully meet the approbation of the public, we are, 






The Pioneer of O'Brien County — Creative and Administrative Periods — Nam- 
ing of County — William Smith O'Brien — In the Beginning — Court Record as 
to Organization of the County — Organization Election — First General Elec- 
tion — Bad Work in Organization and First Elections — O'Brien County to the 
Front — Hannibal House Waterman, the First Citizen — Winter Ox-Team Trips 
— Indians in O'Brien County — Indian Outrages — Courage of the Immigrants — 
First White Child — Proposal to Organize a County — The Bosler Crowd — Fort 
Dodge Crowd — Waterman's Land Jumped — First Actual Homestead Entry- 
Frederick Feldman, "Old Dutch Fred." 


A Session of the First Boodle Board — Division of the Spoils — Scalping of 
Soldiers' Bounty Money — First Things Done — First Record Entries — The 
Old County Debt — The Aftermath and the County Treasury — Road Surveys 
and Charges for Bridge Building — Curious Swamp Land Contracts — Bridge at 
Waterman Ford — Curious Expenses — Swamp Land Swindle. 


First Settlers a Desirable Class — Their Origin — Conditions and Customs of 
the Early Settlers — Prairie Land — First Crops — Hardships and Disadvantages 
of the Pioneer Farmer — Prairie Fires — Foreign Population — Population 


Constitutional Debt Limitation — Taxpayers' Association — Picnic — Two Views 
of the Debt Proposition — Its Final Disposition — Resumption of Cash Pay- 
ments — A Notable Meeting — Tax Sale of 1880 — Rebonding of the County Debt. 


Squatter Lands — Litigation Over the Overlapping Lands — Granting Act of 
Congress in Aid of Railroads — Fight Between Railroads — Milwaukee Railroad 
Land — Commencement of Real Squatter Possession — Exciting Times — Old 
Settlers Become Factor — Land Jumping — Inconsistent Statutes — Land Office 
Trials at Des Moines — Final Suit and Decree — Evictions — Homesteaders Not 
Favorable to Squatters — Sioux City Land Squatters — Odd Incidents in Evic- 
tion Cases — Squatters' Union — A Unique Banquet — List of Sioux City Land 
Squatters and Railroad Contract Men. 


Administration of County Affairs — County Auditor — County Judges— Archi- 
bald Murray — Andrew J. Edwards — The County Treasury — Contested Elec- 


tion — Second Period of Auditors and Treasurers — County Treasury on a 
Banking Basis — Charles A. Winterble and Other Auditors — County Recorder's 
Office — County Surveyors — Supervisors — County Attorneys — County Farm and 
County Home Building — Electric Light Plant — Other County Improvements 
— Large Problems. 


Old Log Court House — Court Record Pertaining Thereto — Court House of 
1870 — Supervisors' Record — Court House at Primghar in 1874 — Paine's Store 
— Present Court Couse — The Public Square — Jail History — More on the First 
Court House. 


Cyclone of June, 1882 — Cyclone of June, 1914 — Blizzards and Snow Banks — 
Blizzard of January, 1888 — Prairie Fires — Towns in Danger — Grasshoppers— 
The Plagues of 1S73-4-5 — Legislative Relief for the Stricken Settlers. 


Contest in 1872 Between O'Brien and Primghar — Sheldon vs. Primghar and 
Sanborn vs. Primghar in 1879 — The Sanborn Raid — Contest Between Prim- 
ghar and Sheldon in 1911 — Record of Supervisors — List of Petitioners — Legis- 
lative Amendment — New Hub Hotel at Primghar. 


First County-wide Reunion — Decorations — Reception of Visitors — Great Pa- 
rade — O'Brien County Relics. 


A Prairie County — Grass a Blessing to the Early Settlers — Land the Basis of 
Wealth — Rivers and Streams — Groves and Tree Planting — Products of 
O'Brien County Soil — Their Variety — Uniformity of the County — Fruits — Wild 
Prairie Flowers — Modern Farm Conveniences — Development of Public Roads 
— Farmers' Meetings — Farmers' Institutes — Stock Sales — No Minerals in the 
County — Large Ranches — D. Edward Paullin — Franklin Teabout — John H. 
Archer — Chester W. Inman — Jonathan A. Stocum — Samuel J. Jordan. 


Education One of the Earliest and Chief Thoughts of the People — Schools of 
the County — Early School Houses — Growth of Educational System — Substan- 
tial Character of Present School Buildings and their Equipment — Lecture 
Courses — Teachers' Institutes — Parochial and Church Schools — County Su- 
perintendents— : Decline of Rural Schools. 


Prehistoric Races — The Mound Builders — Tribes Which Once Occupied 
O'Brien County Soil — Government Exploration — Treaties with Indians — 
Military Forts — Mistrust of Indians — Black Hawk — Outline of Treaties — 


Recollections of Mrs. Roma Wheeler Woods — Difficulties Encountered by 
Newcomers — Notable Astronomical Events — "Dutch Fred ' — Village of O'Brien 
—Death of Fred Beach — Attempts to Secure Land — Faulty Deed Descriptions 


— Futile Attempt to Sell School Lands — The Grange Movement — Gen. N. B. 
Baker Library — Fine Spirit of the Early Pioneers — 1873 a Notable Year and 
a Hard One for the Settlers — "Library Parties'" — The Grasshopper Plague — 
The County Debt — Remarkable Pioneer Women. 


Mrs. C. V. Van Epps' Story — A Trip in a Prairie Schooner — Many Surprises — 
Earliest Habitations — Sod Houses — Carroll Township — Winter of 1872-3 — 
Early Epidemics — Dark Days — First School House — First Congregational 
Church, Sheldon — Railroad Land. 


First Banking Enterprise in O'Brien County — Primghar's Banks — John R. 
Pumphrey — Ralph Hinman — Sheldon Banks — Banks at Sanborn — Paullina 
Banks — Banks in Hartley — Moneta — Sutherland — Archer — Gaza — Calumet — 
O'Brien County's Substantial Banking System — Development of Land 
by Bankers — Banking Statistics. 


Two Courts of Record — The District Court and Circuit Court — Judicial Dis- 
tricts — District Judges — First Term of Court — Some Early Judges — Attorneys 
— First Grand Jury — Admission to Practice in Early Days — First Jury Case — 
Early Rules of Court Practice — Early Circuit Judges — A Judicial Joke — A 
Popular Clerk of Courts — Sheriffs — Clerks of Courts. 


First Lawyer in O'Brien County — Personal Mention of Some of the Early At- 
torneys — Those Who Are Now Engaged in the Practice Here. 


Much Probate Work, but Decrease in Other Litigation — Big Questions in the 
Early Days — The Overlapping Land Suit — Taxation Questions — The Teabout 
Failure — Taxpayers' Association — Tax Title Suits — Israel Lash Litigation — 
Elizabeth Streeter— Suits to Quiet Title— Referee in Bankruptcy — Estates- 
Justices' Courts. 


Value of Local Newspaper —First Paper in O'Brien County— F. M. McCormack 
— Brief Review of the Various Newspapers Which Have Existed Here and 
Which Have Contributed to the Development of the County. 


Antiquity of the Practice of Medicine — Heroes Among the Pioneef Physicians 
—Modern Progress in the Practice of the Healing Art— O'Brien County Hos- 
pitals—The O'Brien County Medical Society— List of Registered Physicians- 
Ignorance and Superstition on the Part of the Laity Superseded by Intelli- 
gence and Common Sense. 


Methodists First on the Ground— Methodist Churches in the County— A Sod 
Church— First Sermon Preached in the County— Congregational Churches— 
The Friends Society— Evangelical Churches— German Evangelical Lutheran 
Zion Churches— Norwegian Lutheran Church— Christian Reformed Qhurch— 


Evangelical Association — Christian Churches — Church of Christ, Scientist — 
Presbyterian Churches — Reformed Church in North America — German Evan- 
gelical Church of North America — Catholic Church — Other Religious Societies 
— Church Statistics — Young Men's Christian Association. 


Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, with Its Several Branches — Independent 
Order of Odd Fellows — Knights of Pythias. 


Incorporated Towns — City Government — Names of Townships and Their Gov- 
ernment — Platting of Towns and Their Additions — Floyd Township — City of 
Sheldon — National Guard — Sheldon District Fair — Franklin Township — San- 
born — Lincoln Township — Fiddle String Township — Hartley Township — Town 
of Hartley — Carroll Township — "Pathfinder of O'Brien County" — Archer — 
Summit Township — Primghar — Center Township — Omega Township — Moneta 
—Baker Township — Dale Township — Highland Township — Gaza — Grant 
Township — Caledonia Township — German town — Union Township — Paullina — 
Liberty Township — Calumet — Waterman Township — Sutherland. 


Eccentric Dr. Longshore — "Pom])" McCormack's Jokes — Wolf Scalp Joke — 
O'Brien County Solon — A Revival in the Court Room — The Judge Needed a 
Sweat — Joke on a Bank Cashier — Superiority of Archer Over Omaha — Master 
Wirt Close's Oration. 


Farmers' Mutual Insurance Association — Present Officials of O'Brien County 
— State Officials — Distinguished Citizens of the County — Official Vote, 1912 — 
Population and Other Statistics — County Expenditures — Cemeteries — The 
Herd Law — Early Relations With Cherokee County — Abstracts of Title — 
Early Incidents — The Hay Twister — O'Brien County Agricultural Society — 
County Sealer of Weights .-111(1 Measures — Lost Lumber — Highest Point in 
Iowa — Congressmen — Prehistoric Fortifications and Burial Mounds — Curious 
Incident — Prairie Chickens — other Game — John McCormack — Reminiscent In- 
terview of B. F. McCormack — Record of Old Soldiers Who Have Lived in 
O'Brien County. 


A Little Spice and Many Local Hits — Townships of O'Brien County — Charge 
of the Grasshopper Brigade — Tenting. Camping. Farming on the Old Prairie 
Ground — First Starts of Towns and Railroads — That Martyred Wagon — The 
County Seat — John Ker, Squatter — The Pioneer Is Going, Gone — An Agricul- 
tural County — Marching to Victory — Let the People Vote — "Leedle Yoh" — 
When the Squatter Squatted His Squat, etc. 




Original Prairie Land — Scarcity of Timber — Streams — Hills — Lakes — Charac- 
ter of Soil — Survey by Jefferson Davis, and His Report on Soil — Organization 
of Osceola Township — Its Name — Anxiety of Early Settlers to Get in Ahead 
of Railroads — Sibley, the First Town Site Laid Out — Official Record of 
County Organization— First Tax Levy — First Flection and County Officers- 
First County Nominating Convention — Osceola County Cursed by Grafters and 
Looters — Grand Jury Indictments — An Unjust Debt — Roster of County Offi- 
cials — Auditors — Treasurers — Recorders — Clerks of Courts — Sheriffs — Super- 
intendents of Schools — Surveyors — Coroners — County Attorneys — Supervisors 
— First Term of Court and First Grand Jury — First Court House — Finances — 
Increase in Land Values — Appraisement of Public Utilities. 


Allison Township — First Officers — First Settlers in the Various Sections of 
the Township — Baker Township — Land Speculators — Early Settlers — Henry 
Dunkelmann's Experience — East Holman Township — Its Pioneers — Fairview 
Township — Magnificent Natural Features — Names of Early Settlers — First 
Township Officers — Present Officers — Gilman Township — Early Settlers— 
Goewey Township — Those Who First Came Here — Wealth in Legitimate Farm- 
ing — Narrow Escape From Death in a Blizzard — Harrison Township — Soil of 
Inexhaustible Richness — Mennonites — .May City — Horton Township and Its 
Pioneer Settlers — Immigration of 1883-5 — Ocheyedan Township — The Home- 
steaders — Hardships of Joseph P. Tower — Viola Township — First Settlers — 
Recent Arrivals — Public Schools and Officers — West Holman Township- 
How the Various Sections were Settled — Misfortunes of J. B. Jenney — Wilson 
Township — Early Homesteaders — Schools. 


Sibley, the First Town in Osceola County — Early Business Interests — Pres- 
ent Business Concerns and Their Location — Municipal Items — Present City 
Officers — Ashton — First Called St. Gilman — Location — First Buildings and 
Business Interests — Present Enterprises — City Officials — Harris — Town Or- 
ganization — Present Business Interests — City Officials — Ocheyedan — Its Be- 
ginning — Public Utilities — Business Directory — City Officers — Cloverdale — 
Allendorf — Melvin — A Thriving Little City — Principal Business Interests. 


First Methodist Episcopal Church of Sibley — First Preaching Service in the 
County — Melvin M. E. Church — Methodist Churches at Ashton, Harris and 
Ocheyedan — St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church at Ocheyedan — Congre- 
gational Church at Sibley — German Lutheran Church, Sibley — Ocheyedan 
Congregational Church — First German Presbyterian Church, Sibley — First 
Baptist Church, Sibley — Evangelical Lutheran Church of Horton Township — 
German Lutheran Church of Viola Township — Hope German Presbyterian 
Church — Catholic Church at Ashton — St. Andrew's Catholic Church at Sibley. 



Dr. H. Neill's Interesting Review of the History of Medicine in the County — 
Many Old Soldiers Among the Early Settlers — Personal Mention of Some of 
the Early Practitioners — A Record of Many Interesting Surgical Cases and 
Other Ailments — A Young Woman's Heroism — Epidemic of Diphtheria — Auto- 
biography of Doctor Neill — Some Curious and Unusual Incidents in His Long 
Practice Here — A Human Pincushion. 


First Attorneys in Osceola County — Personal Mention of Some Early Law- 
yers — Men of High Character and Eminent Ability. 


Many Esrly Settlers Veterans of the Civil War — L. G. Ireland Post, Grand 
Army of the Republic — List of Old Soldiers in Osceola County. 


The Johnson Murder — The Shooting of George Groen — The Freezing of Baker 
end Jenkins — Death of Edward Larrahty by Freezing — The Freezing of 
Doctor Hall — Fred Knaggs — Accidental Death of C. D. Wilbern — Feter De- 
Bloom Killed by Train — Herman Fry Killed by Falling Tree — Accidental 
Death of Edward Larrahty. 


Ezlucf tional History — Schools in the Various Townships — Value of School 
Froperty — First Things of Osceola County — The Iowa Land Company, Lim., 
of London, Enghnd — The Fuel Question in Early Days — Hay Twisters — Early 
Planting of Forest Trees and the Beneficent Results — Transportation — 
Prairie Schooners — Advent of the Railroads — The Grasshopper Scourge — 
Interesting Agricultural Facts — Pioneer Letters — A Marvelous Change Since 
Pioneer Days — Early Hardships and Discomforts — Ode to Osceola. 





Abstracts of Title- 478 

Administrative Period 26 

Agricultural Society 481 

Agricultural Statistics 474 

Agriculture 177 

Altitude 482 

Ancient Free and Accepted Masons__ 346 

Archer 398 

Business Interests 399 

Churches 319 

How Named 398 

Incorporation 398 

Platting of 358 

Postmasters 399 

Schools 399 

Archer Bank 241, 247 

Archer, John H 191 

Archer Superior to Omaha 464 

Army Record of Old Soldiers 499 

Attorneys, County 121 

Attorneys of O'Brien County 262 

Auditors, County 108, 118 


Baker Library 214 

Baker Township 420 

Early Settlement 420 

Old Soldiers 500 

Organization 420 

Population 420 

Squatters 106 

Balkema, Nicholas 469 

Bank Statistics 245 

Banks and Banking 230 

Banquet of Land Attorneys 105 

Baptist Church 337 

Bar of O'Brien County 262 

Beach, Fred, Death of 209 

Black Hawk 202 

Blizzards 143 

Boodle Board 48 

Bosler, James W 32, 41 

Bounty Money Scalped 51 

Burial Mounds 484 


Caledonia Township 430 

Old Soldiers 501 

Settlement 430 

Calumet 442 

Business Interests 444 

Churches 319 

First Election 443 

Location 442 

Old Soldiers 501 

Park 443 

Platting of 358 

Postofflce 444 

Public Improvements 443- 

Calumet Bank 242, 247 

"Calumet Independent" 300 

Cannon, Charles C 469 

Carroll Township 391 

Early Settlers 391 

First School 225 

Old Soldiers 501 

Pioneers 393 

Reminiscences 222 

Squatters 106 

Catholic Church 338 

Center Township 417 

Early Settlers 417 

Location 417 

Old Soldiers 501 

Organization 417 


Chautauquas 198 

Chickens, Prairie 488 

Christian Churches 332 

Christian Reformed Church 331 

Christian Science Church 332 

Church of Christ 332 

Church Schools 199 

Church Statistics 343 

Churches 311 

Circuit Court 249 

City Government 354 

Clerk of Courts 261 

Congregational Churches 322 

Congressional Districts 483 

Congressional Land Grants 86 

Congressmen 483 

Constitutional Debt Limitation 76 

Contested Election 114 

Contests for County Seat 153 

County Attorneys 121 

County Auditors 108, 118 

County Debt 56 

County Debt Rebonded 83 

County Expenditures 474 

County Farm 123 

County Government 108 

County Home 123 

County Judge 109 

County Officials, 1913 170 

County Organization Election 31 

County Recorders 119 

County Records 119 

County Seat Contests 153 

County Superintendent Schools_-194, 199 

County Supervisors :'l: 120 

County Surveyors 120 

County Treasurers 113 

Court Held in Paine's Store 134 

Court House, Log 42, 129, 137 

Court House History 129 

Court House Public Square 135 

Court Proceedings 276 

Courts, The 249 

Creative Period 26 

Crops, First 70 

Customs of Early Settlers 68 

Cyclones 139, 142 


Dale Township 422 

Description 422 

Old Soldiers 501 

Settlement 422 

Soil 422 

Squatters 105 

Death of Fred Beach 209 

Debt, County 56 

Debt, County, Rebounded S3 

Debt Limitation 76 

Dedication of County Home 124 

District Court 249 

District Judges 249 

Doctor, the First 53 

Doctors, First 302 

Doctors, Registered 306 

' Dutch Fred" 36, 45, 446 


Early Settlers 65 

Early Settlers, Customs of 68 

Educational History 194 

Edwards, Andrew J. 111 

Election Contest 114 

Election, County Organization 31 

Election, First General 31, 42 

Election, Second General 32 

English Settlers 66 

Entry of First Homestead 45 

Estates 285 

Evangelical Association 331 

Evangelical Churches 327 

Eviction of Squatters 96 

Expenditures, County 474 

Expenses, Curious Early 62 


Farm Improvements 188 

Farm Products 181 

Farmers' Institutes 189 

Farmers Mutual Ins. Ass'n 46S 

Farms, Large 190 

Feldman, Fred 36, 45, 446 

Fiddle String Township 383 


Fires, Prairie 73, 147 

First Crops 70 

First General Election 31, 42 

First Grand Jury 252 

First Homestead Entry 45 

First Jury Case 253 

First Physicians in County 302 

First Record Entries 53 

First Sermon in County 313 

First Things 52 

First White Child 41 

Flowers, Wild 188 

Floyd Township 361 

Early Settlers 362 

How Named 361 

Location 362 

Old Soldiers 501 

Squatters 107 

Foreign Fopulation 75 

Fort Dodge Crowd 42 

Franklin Township 375 

How Named , 375 

Old Soldiers 502 

Population 376 

Settlement 375 

Squatters 106 

Fraternal Societies 346 

Freemasonry ^ 346 

French Settlers 74 

Friends, Society of 325 

Fruits 187 


Game, Wild 489 

Gaza 423 

Platting of 358 

Woodstock, Known as 424 

Gaza Bank 242, 247 

German Evan. Church of No. Am 336 

German Evan. Luth. Zion Churches- 327 

German Settlers 68 

Germantown 431 

Location 431 

Platting of 359 

Postoffice 432 

Government, County 108 

Grand Jury, First 252 

Grant Township 426 

First Settlers 427 

Milwaukee Road 429 

Grant Township — Continued. 

Natural Features ^ 427 

Old Soldiers 502 

Grasshoppers 149 

Groves 180 


Hartley : 384 

Beginning of 384 

Business Directory 389 

Churches : 317 

First Officers 385 

Incorporation 384 

.Mayors 390 

Old Soldiers 503 

Platting of 357 

Postoffice 388 

Present Officers 387 

Public Utilities 388 

School History 385 

Soldiers' Monument 388 

Hartley Banks 239, 246 

"Hartley Journal" ___. 299 

"Hartley News" __„„ 300 

"Hartley Record" 299 

Hartley Township . 384 

Old Soldiers 503 

Highland Township 423 

Old Soldiers 502 

Hay Twister 479 

High Schools 195, 197 

Hollanders 68 

Homestead Entry, First 45 

Homestead Law 65 

Hospitals 304 

Hub Hotel — - 167 

Humorous Incidents _ 455 

Hunter, A Noted i 490 


Improvements, Farm __^. 188 

Incident, Curious Indian __^ 487 

Incorporated Towns 354 

Independent Order of Odd Fellows__ 350 

Indian Incident, Curious 487 

Indian Occupancy — 200 

Indian Scare _- 455 

Indian Treaties 201 

Indians in O'Brien County 37 


Inman, Chester W. 192 

Institutes, Farmers' 189 

Institutes, Teachers' 198 

Irish Settlers 67 


Jails 136 

Jokes Reminiscent 462 

Jordan, Samuel J. 193 

Judges 249 

Judges, County 109 

Jury Case, First 253 

Justices' Courts 286 


Knights of Pythias 352 


Land Grants, Congressional 86 

Land Investors 244 

Land Jumping 43, 92 

Land Litigation 94 

Land Loans 178 

Land Office Trials 93 

Land Squatters, List of 105 

Land Values 178 

Lands, Overlapping 85 

Lands, Squatter 85 

Law Suits 276 

Lawyers of O'Brien County 262 

Lecture Courses 198 

Legal Questions 277 

Liberty Township 442 

Old Soldiers 504 

Library, First Circulating 53 

Library, Gen. N. B. Baker 214 

Library Parties 218 

Lincoln Township 382 

Old Soldiers 503 

List of O'Brien Soldiers 499 

Litigation 276 

Litigation, Land 94 

Little Sioux River 179 

Lodges 346 

Log Court House 42, 129, 137 


McCormack, B. F. 491 

McCormack, F. M. (Pomp) 290 

McCormack, John 490 


Masonic Order 346 

Medical History 302 

Medical Progress 309 

Meeting, a Notable 81 

Memorable Winters 146 

Methodist Churches 311 

Milwaukee Lands 86, 95 

Minerals, Lack of 190 

Miscellaneous 468 

Moneta 419 

Business Interests 419 

Churches 321 

Fires 420 

First Things 419 

Incorporation 419 

Platting of 357 

Moneta Bank 240, 247 

Mound Builders 200 

Mounds, Burial 484 

Murray, Archibald 110 


Naming of County 28 

Newspapers 287 

Norwegian Lutheran Church 330 

Notable Meeting 81 


O'Brien County Agricultural So- 
ciety 481 

"O'Brien County Bell" 290 

O'Brien County in the Humorous 465 

O'Brien County, Naming of 28 

O'Brien County, Organization of 29 

O'Brien County Relics 176 

O'Brien, Old 208 

"O'Brien Pioneer" 289 

O'Brien, William Smith 28 

Ocheyedan River 179 

Odd Fellows 350 


Fires, Prairie i 73, 147 

First Crops 70 

First General Election 31, 42 

First Grand Jury 252 

First Homestead Entry 45 

First Jury Case ___ r 253 

First Physicians in County 302 

First Record Entries 53 

First Sermon in County 313 

First Things 52 

First White Child 41 

Flowers, Wild 188 

Floyd Township 361 

Early Settlers 362 

How Named 361 

Location 362 

Old Soldiers 501 

Squatters 107 

Foreign Population 75 

Fort Dodge Crowd 42 

Franklin Township 375 

How Named 375 

Old Soldiers 502 

Population 376 

Settlement 375 

Squatters lm 

Fraternal Societies 346 

Freemasonry 346 

French Settlers __i. 74 

Friends, Society of 325 

Fruits 187 


Game, Wild 489 

Gaza 423 

Platting of 358 

Woodstock, Known as 424 

Gaza Bank ____242, 247 

German Evan. Church of No. Am 336 

German Evan. Luth. Zion Churches_ 327 

German Settlers , 68 

Germantown ,__, ; __ 431 

Location „, 431 

Platting of 359 

Postoffice --.-,--- .432 

Government, County. ._< „_._ 108 

Grand Jury, First ZZ 252 

Grant Township 426 

First Settlers 427 

Milwaukee Road 429 

(45/ 2 ) 

Grant Township — Continued. 

Natural Features L 427 

Old Soldiers __„___;.__ 502 

Grasshoppers L___^_i 14$ 

Groves 18© 


Hartley 384 

Beginning of '____ 384 

Business Directory '. 389 

Churches 317 

First Officers '_L 385 

Incorporation !____ * ^84 

.Mayors '_ 390 

Old Soldiers 503 

Platting of 357 

Postoffice 388 

Present Officers 1 387 

Public Utilities 388 

School History 385 

Soldiers' Monument 388 

Hartley Banks ___239, 246 

"Hartley Journal" 299 

"Hartley News" 300 

"Hartley Record" 299 

Hartley Township 384 

Old Soldiers ____'_ 503 

Highland Township _- 423 

Old Soldiers 502 

Hay Twister 479 

High Schools ___195, 197 

Hollanders 68 

Homestead Entry, First 45 

Homestead Law 1 65 

Hospitals :_;i :_. 304 

Hub Hotel >*______ -0.67 

Humorous Incidents C 455 

Hunter, A Noted __i 490 


Ml: ! 

Improvements, Farm ^. V! J88 

Incident, Curious Indian : 487 

Incorporated Towns 354 

Independent Order of Odd Fellows 350 

Indian Incident, Curious ^_ l^w 487 

Indian Occupancy ^^^ 200 

Indian Scare ^ nT „^_„ rI ,..,_ .455 

Indian Treaties 201 

Indians in O'Brien County 37 


Inman, Chester W. 192 

Institutes, Farmers' 189 

Institutes, Teachers' 198 

Irish Settlers 67 


Jails 136 

Jokes Reminiscent 462 

Jordan, Samuel J. 193 

Judges 249 

Judges, County 109 

Jury Case, First 253 

Justices' Courts 286 

Knights of Pythias 352 


Land Grants, Congressional 86 

Land Investors 244 

Land Jumping 43, 92 

Land Litigation 94 

Land Loans 178 

Land Office Trials 93 

Land Squatters, List of 105 

Land Values 178 

Lands, Overlapping 85 

Lands, Squatter 85 

Law Suits 276 

Lawyers of O'Brien County 262 

Lecture Courses 198 

Legal Questions 277 

Liberty Township 442 

Old Soldiers 504 

Library, First Circulating 53 

Library, Gen. N. B. Baker 214 

Library Parties 218 

Lincoln Township 382 

Old Soldiers 503 

List of O'Brien Soldiers 499 

Litigation 276 

Litigation, Land 94 

Little Sioux River 179 

Lodges I 346 

Log Court House 42, 129, 137 


McCormack, B. F. 491 

McCormack, F. M. (Pomp) 290 

McCormack, John 490 


Masonic Order 346 

Medical History 302 

Medical Progress 309 

Meeting, a Notable 81 

Memorable Winters 146 

Methodist Churches 311 

Milwaukee Lands 86, 95 

Minerals, Lack of 190 

Miscellaneous 468 

Moneta 419 

Business Interests 419 

Churches 321 

Fires 420 

First Things 419 

Incorporation 419 

Platting of 357 

Moneta Bank 240, 247 

Mound Builders 200 

Mounds, Burial 484 

Murray, Archibald 110 


Naming of County 28 

Newspapers 287 

Norwegian Lutheran Church 330 

Notable Meeting 81 


O'Brien County Agricultural So- 
ciety 481 

"O'Brien County Bell" 290 

O'Brien County in the Humorous — 465 

O'Brien County, Naming of 28 

O'Brien County, Organization of 29 

O'Brien County Relics 176 

O'Brien, Old 208 

"O'Brien Pioneer" 289 

O'Brien, William Smith 28 

Ocheyedan River 179 

Odd Fellows 350 


Official Vote in 1912 472 

Officials, County, 1913 470 

Old Log Court House 42, 129, 137 

Old O'Brien 208 

Old Settlers' Parade 174 

Old Settlers* Reunion 169 

Omega Township 418 

How Named 418 

Old Soldiers 503 

Population 419 

Orchards 184 

Organization of O'Brien County 29 

Origin of Pioneers 66 

Overlapping Land Suit 278 

Overlapping Lands 85 

Ox-team Trips 37 


Paine's Store Court House 134 

Parade of Old Settlers 174 

Parochial Schools 199, 329 

'Pathfinder of O'Brien County" 392 

Paulling, D. Edward 190 

Paullina 432 

Additions 435 

Churches 319, 333 

Coming of Railroad 434 

First Business Men 439 

Grain Shipments 441 

How Named 439 

Library 437 

Old Soldiers 503 

Organization of 435 

Platting of 358, 434 

Public Utilities 436 

School District 438 

Paullina Banks 238, 247 

"Paullina Star" 294 

"Paullina Times" 294 

Physician, the First 53 

Physicians, First 302 

Physicians, Registered 306 

Pioneer Women 220 

Pioneers of O'Brien County 25 

Pioneers, Origin of 66 

Poetry of a Local Flavor 506 

Platting of Towns 356, 359 

Population Statistics 75, 473 

Prairie, Advantages of 70 

Prairie Chickens 488 

Prairie Features 177 

Prairie Fires 73, 147 

Prairie Land 177 

Preacher, the First 52 

Prehistoric Fortifications 484 

Prehistoric Races 200 

Presbyterian Churches 333 

Present Court House 134 

Press, The 287 

Primghar 402 

Business Interests 415 

Charter Families 404 

Churches 316, 323, 341 

County-Seat Contest 405 

Epidemic 412 

Fires 411 

First Buildings 406 

First Election 411 

Hospital 412 

How Named 402 

Incorporation 411 

Mills 412 

Old Soldiers 503 

Platting of 356 

Present Officers 411 

Public Square 405 

Railroad Building 409 

Schools 413 

Town Plat 404 

Water Works 415 

Primghar Banks 230, 245 

"Primghar Democrat" 295 

"Primghar Republican" 295 

"Primghar Times" 294 

Products, Farm 181 

Public Improvements 127 

Public Officials 469 

Public Roads 188 

Public Square, Primghar 135 

Pumphrey's Bank 58, 230 


Quieting Title Litigation 283 


Raid, The Sanborn 156 

Railroad Contract Men 105 

Railroad Land — 86 


Railroad Land Contest 87 

Railroad Land Taxation 278 

Railroad Mileage 473 

Ranches, Large 190 

Rebonding of County Debt 83 

Record of County-seat Contest 165 

Recorders. County 119 

Records, County 119 

Records, The First 53 

Records, Old, History of 55 

Referee in Bankruptcy 284 

Reformed Church in No. Am 335 

Registered Physicians 306 

Relics of O'Brien County 176 

Religious History 311 

Religious Statistics 343 

Reminiscences 205, 222 

Reunion of Old Settlers 169 

Rivers 179 

Road, Public 188 

Rural Schools 199 

Sanborn 376 

Banks 237, 246 

Business Interests 380 

Churches 340 

First Things 377 

Library 382 

Municipal History 379 

Old Soldiers 503, 504 

Platting of 357 

Postoffice 380 

Public Utilities 379 

Railroad Interests 381 

"Sanborn Journal" 297 

"Sanborn Pioneer" 289 

Sanborn Raid 156 

"Sanborn Sun" 298 

Scandinavian Settlers 68 

Schee, George W. 196, 268 

School Buildings, Modern 197 

School Superintendent, County 194, 199 

School, the First 52 

Schools 194, 384, 399, 413 

Scotch Settlers 67 

Scrub Poet, The 506 

Second General Election 32 

Second O'Brien Court House 132 

Secret Orders 346 

Sermon, First in County 313 

Sermon, the First 52 

Settlers, Customs of 68 

Settlers, Origin of 66 

Settlers' Reunion, Old 169 

Shabbona 431 

Sheldon 365 

Banks 233, 245 

Business Interests 373 

Churches 318, 337, 340 

Congregational Church 226 

'Daily Record" 301 

"Eagle" 298 

District Fair 371 

Electric Light Plant 369 

First Events 366 

"Gazette" 298 

Improvements 368 

Library ; 369 

".Mail" 295 

Mills 372 

Municipal History 367 

National Guard 370 

"News" 291, 297 

Old Soldiers 504 

Platting of 356 

Postoffice 366 

Stock Breeders 372 

"Sun" 298 

Water Works 368 

Sheriffs 260 

Sioux City Land Squatters 99 

Snow Storms 143 

Sod Church 312 

Soil, Quality of 181 

Soldiers, Army Record of 499 

Soldiers' Bounty Money 51 

Soldiers' Monument 388 

Squatter Incidents 101 

Squatter Lands 85 

Squatters Evicted 96 

Squatters, List of 105 

Squatters' Shanties 91 

Squatters, Sioux City Land 99 

Squatters Union 104 

State Officials 470 

Statutes, Inconsistent 92 

Stocum, Jonathan 192 

Streams 179 

Streeter, Elizabeth 282 


Official Vote in 1912 472 

Officials, County, 1913 470 

Old Log Court House 42, 129, 137 

Old O'Brien 208 

Old Settlers' Parade 174 

Old Settlers' Reunion 169 

Omega Township 418 

How Named 418 

Old Soldiers 503 

Population 419 

Orchards 184 

Organization of O'Brien County 29 

Origin of Pioneers 66 

Overlapping Land Suit 278 

Overlapping Lands 85 

Ox-team Trips 37 


Paine's Store Court House 134 

Parade of Old Settlers 174 

Parochial Schools 199, 329 

"Pathfinder of O'Brien County" 392 

Paulling, D. Edward 190 

Paullina 432 

Additions 435 

Churches 319, 333 

Coming of Railroad 434 

First Business Men 439 

Grain Shipments 441 

How Named 439 

Library 437 

Old Soldiers 503 

Organization of 435 

Platting of 358, 434 

Public Utilities 436 

School District 438 

Paullina Banks 238, 247 

"Paullina Star" 294 

"Paullina Times" 294 

Physician, the First 53 

Physicians, First 302 

Physicians, Registered 306 

Pioneer Women 220 

Pioneers of O'Brien County 25 

Pioneers, Origin of 66 

Poetry of a Local Flavor 506 

Platting of Towns 356, 359 

Population Statistics 75, 473 

Prairie, Advantages of 70 

Prairie Chickens 488 

Prairie Features 177 

Prairie Fires 73, 147 

Prairie Land 177 

Preacher, the First : 52 

Prehistoric Fortifications 484 

Prehistoric Races 200 

Presbyterian Churches 333 

Present Court House 134 

Press, The 287 

Primghar ;: 402 

Business Interests i 415 

Charter Families 404 

Churches 316, 323, 341 

County-Seat Contest 405 

Epidemic 412 

Fires 411 

First Buildings 406 

First Election 411 

Hospital 412 

How Named 402 

Incorporation 411 

Mills 412 

Old Soldiers 503 

Platting of 356 

Present Officers 411 

Public Square 405 

Railroad Building 409 

Schools 413 

Town Plat : 404 

Water Works 415 

Primghar Banks _230, 245 

"Primghar Democrat" 295 

"Primghar Republican" : 295 

"Primghar Times" ' 294 

Products, Farm 181 

Public Improvements 127 

Public Officials 469 

Public Roads 188 

Public Square, Primghar 135 

Pumphrey's Bank 58, 230 


Quieting Title Litigation 283 


Raid, The Sanborn 156 

Railroad Contract Men 105 

Railroad Land 86 


Railroad Land Contest 87 

Railroad Land Taxation 278 

Railroad Mileage 473 

Ranches, Large 190 

Rebonding of County Debt 83 

Record of County-seat Contest 165 

Recorders, County 119 

Records, County 119 

Records, The First 53 

Records, Old, History of 55 

Referee in Bankruptcy 284 

Reformed Church in No. Am 335 

Registered Physicians 306 

Relics of O'Brien County 176 

Religious History 311 

Religious Statistics 343 

Reminiscences 205, 222 

Reunion of Old Settlers 169 

Rivers 179 

Road, Public 188 

Rural Schools 199 

Sanborn 376 

Banks 237, 246 

Business Interests 380 

Churches 340 

First Things _. 377 

Library 382 

Municipal History 379 

Old Soldiers 503, 504 

Platting of 357 

Postoffice 380 

Public Utilities 379 

Railroad Interests 381 

"Sanborn Journal" 297 

"Sanborn Pioneer" 289 

Sanborn Raid 156 

'Sanborn Sun" 298 

Scandinavian Settlers 68 

Schee, George W. 196, 268 

School Buildings, Modern 197 

School Superintendent, County__194, 199 

School, the First 52 

Schools 194, 384, 399, 413 

Scotch Settlers 67 

Scrub Poet, The 506 

Second General Election 32 

Second O'Brien Court House 132 

Secret Orders 346 

Sermon, First in County 313 

Sermon, the First 52 

Settlers, Customs of 68 

Settlers, Origin of 66 

Settlers' Reunion, Old 169 

Shabbona 431 

Sheldon 365 

Banks 233, 245 

Business Interests 373 

Churches 318, 337, 340 

Congregational Church 226 

"Daily Record" 301 

"Eagle" 298 

District Fair 371 

Electric Light Plant 369 

First Events 366 

"Gazette" 298 

Improvements 368 

Library 369 

"Mail" 295 

Mills 372 

Municipal History 367 

National Guard 370 

"News" 291, 297 

Old Soldiers 504 

Platting of 356 

Postoffice 366 

Stock Breeders 372 

"Sun" 298 

Water Works 368 

Sheriffs 260 

Sioux City Land Squatters 99 

Snow Storms 143 

Sod Church 312 

Soil, Quality of 181 

Soldiers, Army Record of 499 

Soldiers' Bounty Money 51 

Soldiers' Monument 388 

Squatter Incidents 101 

Squatter Lands 85 

Squatters Evicted 96 

Squatters, List of 105 

Squatters' Shanties 91 

Squatters, Sioux City Land 99 

Squatters Union 104 

State Officials 470 

Statutes, Inconsistent 92 

Stocum, Jonathan 192 

Streams 179 

Streeter, Elizabeth 282 


Summit Township 400 

Deeded Township 401 

Location 400 

Old Soldiers 505 

Organization 400 

Squatters 105 

Supervisors, County 120 

Supervisors in Contempt 77 

Surveyors, County 120 

Sutherland 448 

Banks 241, 248 

Business Directory 452 

"Courier" 300 

Fair Ground 450 

First Events 449 

Library 449 

Location 448 

Municipal History 451 

Officers 451 

Old Soldiers 503 

Pioneer Merchants 449 

Platting of 358 

Postoffice History 452 

Public Utilities 451 

Swamp Land Contracts 61 

Swamp Land Swindle 62 


Tax Sale of 1880 82 

Taxpayers' Association 76 

Taxpayers' Association Picnic 78 

Teabout, Franklin 191 

Teachers' Institutes 198 

Timber 180 

Towns 354 

Towns, Platting of 356, 359 

Township Government 355, 360 

Township, the First 52 

Township 354 

Treasurers, County 113 

Treaties with Indians 201 

Tree Planting 180 

Tribes, Indian 201 


Uniformity of the County 184 

Union Township 433 

Coming of Railroad 434 

Norwegian Settlers 442 

Old Soldiers 505 

Organization of 433 

Population 442 


Value of Land 178 

Vital Statistics 473 

Vote, Official, 1912 472 

Vote on County Seat, 1911 166 


Waterman, Anna 41 

Waterman Creek 179 

Waterman, Hannibal H. 32, 35, 41, 43 

Waterman Township 445 

First Settlement 445 

Homesteaders 446 

How Formed 445 

Old Soldiers 505 

Wild Flowers 188 

Wild Game 489 

Winterble, Charles H. 117 

Winters, Severe 146 

Wolf Scalp Joke 459 

"Woman's Standard" 300 

Women, Pioneer 220 

Woods, William H. (Huse) 392 

Woodstock 424 

Young Men's Christian Ass'n 344 




Accidental Deaths 667 

Agricultural Facts 681 

Allendorf 603 

Allison Township 544 

Early Settlers 544 

First Nari|e 544 

Organization 544 

Schools 544, 670 

Settlers, Early 544 

Section 2 544 

Section 3 544 

Section 4 544 

Section 6 544 

Section 9 545 

Section 10 545 

Section 14 545 

Section 17 545 

Section 24 545 

Section 33 545 

Altitude 536 

Ashton 597 

Business Interests 598 

Churches 609, 623 

First Buildings 597 

Location 597 

Official 598 

Officials 598 

St. Gilman 597 

Assessments 542 

Attorneys 647 

Attorneys, County 541 

Auditors, County 540 


Baker Township 545 

Early Settlers 545 

Land Speculators 545 

Schools 671 

Section 2 545 

Section 3 546 

Section 6 546 

Section 8 546 

Section 9 547 

Baker Township — Continued. 

Section 10 547 

Section 11 547 

Section 12 547 

Section 13 547 

Section 15 547 

Section 16 547 

Section 17 547 

Section 18 547 

Section 20 548 

Section 28 549 

Section 29 549 

Section 30 549 

Section 31 549 

Section 33 549 

Section 34 549 

Settlement 545 

Speculators 545 

Baptist Churches 616 

Bench and Bar 647 

Boards of Supervisors 541 


Catholic Churches 623 

Churches 606 

Cities 593 

Civil War Veterans 652 

Clerks of District Court 540 

Cloverdale 603 

Congregational Churches 612 

Convention, First Nominating 538 

Coroners 540 

County Attorneys 541 

County Auditors 540 

County Finances 541 

County Officials 540 

County Organized 536 

County Recorders 540 

County Set Off 537 

County Supt. of Schools 540 

County Surveyors 540 

County Treasurers 540 

Court, District, Clerks of 540 

Court, First Term of 541 

Court House, First 541 


Summit Township 400 

Deeded Township 401 

Location 400 

Old Soldiers 505 

Organization 400 

Squatters 105 

Supervisors, County 120 

Supervisors in Contempt 77 

Surveyors, County 120 

Sutherland 448 

Banks 241, 248 

Business Directory 452 

"Courier" 300 

Fair Ground 450 

First Events 449 

Library 449 

Location 448 

Municipal History 451 

Officers 451 

Old Soldiers 503 

Pioneer Merchants 449 

Platting of 358 

Postoffice History 452 

Public Utilities 451 

Swamp Land Contracts 61 

Swamp Land Swindle 62 


Tax Sale of 1880 82 

Taxpayers' Association 76 

Taxpayers' Association Picnic 78 

Teabout, Franklin 191 

Teachers' Institutes 198 

Timber 180 

Towns 354 

Towns, Platting of 356, 359 

Township Government 355, 360 

Township, the First 52 

Township 354 

Treasurers, County 113 

Treaties with Indians 201 

Tree Planting 180 

Tribes, Indian 201 


Uniformity of the County 184 

Union Township 433 

Coming of Railroad 434 

Norwegian Settlers 442 

Old Soldiers ., 505 

Organization of 433 

Population 442 


Value of Land 178 

Vital Statistics 473 

Vote, Official, 1912 472 

Vote on County Seat, 1911 166 


Waterman, Anna 41 

Waterman Creek 179 

Waterman, Hannibal H. 32, 35, 41, 43 

Waterman Township 445 

First Settlement 445 

Homesteaders 446 

How Formed 445 

Old Soldiers 505 

Wild Flowers 188 

Wild Game 489 

Winterble, Charles H. 117 

Winters, Severe 146 

Wolf Scalp Joke 459 

"Woman's Standard" 300 

Women, Pioneer 220 

Woods, William H. (Huse) 392 

Woodstock 424 

Young Men's Christian Ass'n 344 




Accidental Deaths 667 

Agricultural Facts 681 

Allendorf 603 

Allison Township 544 

Early Settlers 544 

First Nari|e 544 

Organization 544 

Schools 544, 670 

Settlers, Early 544 

Section 2 544 

Section 3 544 

Section 4 544 

Section 6 544 

Section 9 545 

Section 10 545 

Section 14 545 

Section 17 545 

Section 24 545 

Section 33 545 

Altitude 536 

Ashton 597 

Business Interests 598 

Churches 609, 623 

First Buildings 597 

Location 597 

Official 598 

Officials 598 

St. Gilman 597 

Assessments 542 

Attorneys 647 

Attorneys, County 541 

Auditors, County 540 


Baker Township 545 

Early Settlers 545 

Land Speculators 545 

Schools 671 

Section 2 545 

Section 3 1_ 546 

Section 6 546 

Section 8 546 

Section 9 547 

Baker Township — Continued. 

Section 10 547 

Section 11 547 

Section 12 547 

Section 13 547 

Section 15 547 

Section 16 547 

Section 17 547 

Section 18 547 

Section 20 548 

Section 28 549 

Section 29 549 

Section 30 549 

Section 31 549 

Section 33 549 

Section 34 549 

Settlement 545 

Speculators 545 

Baptist Churches 616 

Bench and Bar 647 

Boards of Supervisors 541 


Catholic Churches 623 

Churches 606 

Cities 593 

Civil War Veterans 652 

Clerks of District Court 540 

Cloverdale 603 

Congregational Churches 612 

Convention, First Nominating 538 

Coroners 540 

County Attorneys 541 

County Auditors 540 

County Finances 541 

County Officials 540 

County Organized , 536 

County Recorders 540 

County Set Off 537 

County Supt. of Schools 540 

County Surveyors 540 

County Treasurers 540 

Court, District, Clerks of 540 

Court, First Term of 541 

Court House, First 541 



Davis, Jefferson, Survey 536 

Death, First in County 672 

Deaths by Accident 667 

Deaths by Freezing 663 

Diphtheria Epidemic 633 

Diseases 631 

District Court, Clerks of 540 

Doctors, Early 629 

Drainage 535 

Dunkelmann, Henry 548 


East Holman Township 549 

Settlement 549 

Section 1 549 

Section 2 549 

Section 4 550 

Section 5 550 

Section 6 550 

Section 7 551 

Section 8 551 

Section 10 551 

Section 12 551 

Section 14 551 

Section 17 552 

Section 18 552 

Section 20 552 

Section 21 553 

Section 22 553 

Section 24 553 

Section 26 553 

Section 28 553 

Section 30 554 

Section 32 554 

Section 34 554 

Section 36 554 

Early Trials 537 

Early Transportation 677 

Educational History 670 

Election, First 538 

Evangelical Lutheran Churches — 611, 620 
Extraordinary Events 660 


Fairview Township 555 

Beautiful Vista 555 

First Officers 556 

Fairview Township — Continued. 

Officers, First „ 556 

Officers, Present ,.,_, 556 

Prairie Beauty — 555 

Schools 557, 670 

Section 8 555 

Section 20 555 

Section 22 555 

Section 28 555 

Section 30 556 

Section 32 r 556 

Section 33 556 

Settlement 555 

Farm Statistics 681 

Finances, County 541 

First Attorneys 647 

First Court House *. 541 

First Election 538 

First Grand Jury 541 

First Nominating Convention 538 

First Preaching Service 606 

First Railroad 678 

First Schools 670 

First Supervisors 540 

First Term of Court 541 

First Things 672 

Foster, William R. 565 

Fuel Question 674 


Geology 535 

German Lutheran Churches 621 

Oilman Township 557 

Hard Times 557 

Schools 671 

Section 2 557 

Section 4 557 

Section 6 558 

Section 8 558 

Section 10 558 

Section 12 558 

Section 14 559 

Section 18 559 

Section 22 560 

Section 24 560 

Section 26 , 560 

Section 28 560 

Section 30 560 

Section 32 561 


Oilman Township — Continued. 

Section 34 — 561 

Settlement 557 

Usurious Interest 557 

Goewey Township 561 

Schools 671 

Section 1 561 

Section 2 561 

Section 4 562 

Section 6 562 

Section 8 563 

Section 10 — 563 

Section 12 — 564 

Section 13 564 

Section 14 564 

Section 16 564 

Section 18 564 

Section 19 564 

Section 20 — 565 

Section 22 11 565 

Section 23 566 

Section 24 566 

Section 26 566 

Section 28 566 

Section 30 567 

Section 32 ' 567 

Section 34 _ 567 

Section 36 — 1 567 

Grafters, Influx of 539 

Grand Army of the Republic 652 

Grand Jury, First 541 

Grasshopper Scourge 678 

Groen, George, Shooting of 663 


Harris ——'- 598 

Business Interests 599 

Churches 610 

Officers, First 599 

Officers, Present 600 

Organization 599 

Harrison Township 568 

Agriculture 568 

Land Speculators l_i 568 

Mennonites 568 

Schools 671 

Settlers, Early 568 

"Speculators, Land 568 

Horton Township 569 

Churches , __ s 620 

Immigration of 1883-5 571 

Schools [ 572, 670 

Section 8 570 

Section 10 570 

Section 12 570 

Section 14 570 

Section 18 570 

Section 20 570 

Section 22 570 

Section 24 570 

Section 26 570 

Section 28 570 

Section 30 _._ 571 

Section 32 571 

Section 34 571 

Section 36 571 

Human Pincushion 643 


Increase in Land Values 542 

Iowa Land Company 673 

Ireland Post, G. A. R. 652 


Jenney, J. B. 588 

Johnson Murder 660 

Jury, First Grand 541 


Land Values _ 542 

Legal Fraternity 647 

Looting of County Treasury 539 


.Medical History ___ 628 

Melvin 604 

Churches :.____ 608 

Methodist Episcopal Churches 606 

Mileage, Railroad __ 542 

Military History 652 

Miscellaneous 670 

Murder of Peter Johnson ____' 660 



Davis, Jefferson, Survey 536 

Death, First in County 672 

Deaths by Accident 667 

Deaths by Freezing 663 

Diphtheria Epidemic 633 

Diseases 631 

District Court, Clerks of 540 

Doctors, Early 629 

Drainage 535 

Dunkelmann, Henry 548 


East Holman Township 549 

Settlement 549 

Section 1 549 

Section 2 549 

Section 4 550 

Section 5 550 

Section 6 550 

Section 7 551 

Section 8 551 

Section 10 551 

Section 12 551 

Section 14 551 

Section 17 552 

Section 18 552 

Section 20 552 

Section 21 553 

Section 22 553 

Section 24 553 

Section 26 553 

Section 28 553 

Section 30 554 

Section 32 554 

Section 34 554 

Section 36 554 

Early Trials 537 

Early Transportation 677 

Educational History 670 

Election, First 538 

Evangelical Lutheran Churches__611, 620 
Extraordinary Events 660 


Fairview Township 555 

Beautiful Vista 555 

First Officers 556 

Fairview Township — Continued. 

Officers, First — 556 

Officers, Present 556 

Prairie Beauty 555 

Schools 557, 670 

Section 8 555 

Section 20 555 

Section 22 555 

Section 28 555 

Section 30 556 

Section 32 556 

Section 33 556 

Settlement 555 

Farm Statistics 681 

Finances, County 541 

First Attorneys 647 

First Court House 541 

First Election 538 

First Grand Jury 541 

First Nominating Convention 538 

First Preaching Service 606 

First Railroad 678 

First Schools 670 

First Supervisors 540 

First Term of Court 541 

First Things 672 

Foster, William R. 565 

Fuel Question 674 


Geology 535 

German Lutheran Churches 621 

Gilman Township 557 

Hard Times 557 

Schools 671 

Section 2 557 

Section 4 557 

Section 6 558 

Section 8 558 

Section 10 558 

Section 12 558 

Section 14 559 

Section 18 559 

Section 22 560 

Section 24 560 

Section 26 560 

Section 28 560 

Section 30 560 

Section 32 561 


Gilman Township — Continued. 

Section 34 .-_-' 561 

Settlement '. 557 

Usurious Interest 557 

Goewey Township 561 

Schools 671 

Section 1 561 

Section 2 561 

Section 4 562 

Section 6 - 562 

Section 8 r 563 

Section 10 563 

Section 12 564 

Section 13 564 

Section 14 564 

Section 16 564 

Section 18 1 564 

Section 19 564 

Section 20 — 565 

Section 22 565 

Section 23 566 

Section 24 566 

Section 26 566 

Section 28 566 

Section 30 567 

Section 32 567 

Section 34 567 

Section 36 - 567 

Grafters, Influx of 539 

Grand Army of the Republic 652 

Grand Jury, First — - 541 

Grasshopper Scourge 678 

Groen, George, Shooting of 663 


Harris -— 598 

Business Interests 599 

Churches — 610 

Officers, First 599 

Officers, Present 600 

Organization 599 

Harrison Township 568 

Agriculture 568 

Land Speculators 568 

Mennonites 568 

Schools 671 

Settlers, Early 568 

Speculators, Land 568 

Horton Township 569 

Churches 620 

Immigration of 1883-5 571 

Schools 572, 670 

Section 8 570 

Section 10 570 

Section 12 570 

Section 14 570 

Section 18 570 

Section 20 570 

Section 22 570 

Section 24 570 

Section 26 570 

Section 28 570 

Section 30 571 

Section 32 571 

Section 34 571 

Section 36 571 

Human Pincushion 643 


Increase in Land Values 542 

Iowa Land Company 673 

Ireland Post, G. A. R. 652 


Jenney, J. B. 588 

Johnson Murder 660 

Jury, First Grand 541 


Land Values 542 

Legal Fraternity 647 

Looting of County Treasury 539 


.Medical History 628 

Melvin 604 

Churches 608 

Methodist Episcopal Churches 606 

Mileage, Railroad 542 

Military History 652 

Miscellaneous 670 

Murder of Peter Johnson 660 



Naming of Osceola County - 536 

Natural Features 535 

Neill, Dr. H. 636 

Nominating Convention, First 538 


Ocheyedan 601 

Beginning 601 

Business Concerns 601 

Churches 611, 615 

Improvements 601 

Location 601 

Officers ' ; " :: 

Ocheyedan Township 572 

Drainige 572 

Schools 671 

Section 2 572 

Section 3 573 

Section 4 573 

Section 6 573 

Section 8 : >7:'. 

Section 10 573 

Section 12 574 

Section 13 574 

Section 14 574 

Section 18 574 

Section 20 574 

Section 22 574 

Section 24 574 

Section 25 576 

Section 26 576 

Section 28 576 

Section 30 576 

Section 32 576 

Section 34 : >~t ; 

Soil 572 

Ode to Osceola 689 

Officials, County 540 

Old Soldiers in the County 652 

Organization Election 538 

Organization of County 536 

Osceola County, How Named 536 

Osceola County Set Off 537 


Physicians, Early 629 

Pioneer Letters 682 


Preaching Service, First 606 

Presbyterian Churches 616 


Railroad Land Taxation 542 

Railroad Mileage 542 

Railroads 678 

Record Setting off County 537 

Recorders, County 540 

Religious History 606 

Roster of County Officials 540 

Rush Lake 535 


Schools, First 670 

Schools, Superintendent of 540 

Sheriffs 540 

Shooting of George Groen 663 

Sibley 537, 593 

Business Interests 593 

Churches 606, 612, 615, 616, 617, 626 

Hospital 596 

Officers __ r 597 

Public Utilities 596 

Schools 672 

Sioux City Attorneys 650 

Soil 536 

Soldiers, Old, in the County 652 

Streams 535 

Suhm, Josef von Willemoes 682 

Superintendent of Schools 540 

Supervisors, Boards of 541 

Supervisors, First 540 

Surgical Cases 630 

Survey by Jefferson Davis 536 

Surveyors, County 540 


Taxation of Railroad Land 542 

Topography 535 

Tower, Joseph P. 574 

Town, the First 537 

Towns 593 

Trails, Early 537 

Transportation 677 

Treasurers, County 540 

Treasury, Looting of County 539 



Veterans of the Civil War 652 

Viola Township 576 

Churches 621 

Schools 580, 670 

Settlement 576 

Section 8 576 

Section 10 576 

Section 12 • 577 

Section 14 577 

Section 18 577 

Section 20 577 

Section 22 578 

Section 24 578 

Section 26 578 

Section 28 578 

Section 29 579 

Section 30 579 

Section 32 579 

Section 33 579 

Section 34 579 

Section 36 580 


West Holman Township 580 

Churches 622 

Section 1 580 

Section 2 580 

Section 4 581 

Section 5 581 

Section 6 582 

Section 7 582 

Section 8 582 

Section 9 582 

Section 10 582 

Section 11 583 

West Holman Township — Continued. 

Section 12 583 

Section 13 584 

Section 14 584 

Section 15 584 

Section 16 585 

Section 18 __* 585 

Section 19 585 

Section 20 585 

Section 22 586 

Section 23 586 

Section 24 586 

Section 26 587 

Section 28 587 

Section 29 587 

Section 30 587 

Section 31 587 

Section 32 587 

Section 34 588 

Section 36 588 

Wilson Township 589 

Schools 592, 670 

Section 8 589 

Section 10 590 

Section 12 590 

Section 14 590 

Section 18 590 

Section 20 590 

Section 22 590 

Section 24 590 

Section 26 591 

Section 28 591 

Section 30 591 

Section 32 591 

Section 34 591 

Section 36 591 



Adams, Lincoln 1194 

Adkins, John V. 837 

Agar, Albert H. 1047 

Alexander, Thomas J 1241 

Aldinger, John 732 

Aldinger, Lester T. 734 

Algyer, David 1290 

Appleton, Charles E. 1144 

Archer, John H. 1260 

Armstrong, Hon. "William S 874 

Attig, Christ 1176 

Attig, Fred 1195 

Aupperle, Dr. George A 1061 

Avery, Milo, M. D 760 


Babcock, Charles A. 1270 

Ballou, Nathaniel 1262 

Bangert, Henry L. 1200 

Bark, Tom B. - ___1159 

Beebe, William W. 1114 

Beers, Bessie J. 889 

Berne, Thomas 919 

Bidwell, Francis L. 1202 

Billingsly, James J. 743 

Bishop, John F. 901 

Blaesser, Walter A. 1000 

Blahauvietz, John 982 

Blake, George G 808 

Bloes, Nick 904 

Bobzine, John 1053 

Bock, Adolph 995 

Boies, Hon. William D 746 

Bonderman, Warner W. 1127 

Bonner, William 881 

Boor, Nicholas 946 

Bossert, John P. 1016 

Boyce, Samuel 1042 

Boyd, Richard M. 860 

Boyd, Robert W. 980 

Brackney, Herman J., M. D 869 

Bradrick, Sidney I. 1193 

Brady, Albert V. 986 

Brady, Ezra M. 986 

Brahan, William 977 

Braig, Anthony J. 1001 

Brandt* Jacob, Jr. 1185 

Briggs, Charles W. 822 

Briggs, James C. 1052 

Briggs, William 721 

Brock, Andrew J. 1243 

Brock, Walter R., M. D 867 

Broders, Ernest F. 789 

Brosh, James 1082 

Brown, William H. 773 

Brundage, John R. 1314 

Brundage, Selonious 1022 

Bunce, Wayland M. 1086 

Bunker, Ernest A. 1234 

Burlet, Willard A. 792 

Burley, Victor A. 1235 

Burns, Charles 883 

Burns, John H. 938 

Byers, David 941 

Bysom, Daniel 1096 


Cain, William 1106 

Cajacob, Platcy A. 890 

Callenius, Otto 1108 

Campbell, James S. 826 

Cannon, Charles C. 1004 

Clark, Charles S. 1116 

Clarksean, Charlie 945 

Claussen, Ernst J. 1226 

Cleaveland, Ezra D. 1219 

Clements, Isaac 784 

Closson, Richard 1237 

Coleman, George 788 

Conn, James 1252 

Cooper, John 1162 

Cooper, Rev. Leonard J 1010 


Corns, Thomas M. 937 

Cowan, John 998 

Cram, Frederick W., M. D 848 

Cronin, Dennis E. 1168 

Crum, Roy R. 1024 

Culver, Andrew 806 

Cutsinger, James 1066 


Daly, James H. 864 

Day. Harley 1240 

Dean, Herbert E. 1221 

Delan, John J. 987 

Den Beste, Joseph 1134 

Denny, Michael 959 

Derby, Frank N. 1017 

Dewey, James T. 804 

Diamond, Tobias E. 834 

Doolittle, Hezekiah G. 853 

Dougherty, Patrick J. 973 

Dornbusch, Ina 1021 

Downing, William H. 77^ 

Draper, Merriett S. 1077 

Dries, Anton 1175 

Dummett, William H. 1090 

Dunkelmann. Henry 1191 


Egdorf, William __. 1057 

Eichner, Julius F. 923 

Elliott, William B. 947 

Ely, William E., M. D. 1216 

Emery, A. J. W. 1088 

Engelke, John 1308 

Epping, Henry 1242 

Evans, Oliver <_ 935 

Ewoldt, Hugo 925 


Farnsworth, Thomas lu74 

Farquharson, Charles 1170 

Fillenwarth, Arthur T. 850 

Finch, .Mellville D. 1136 

Fiinder, Samuel C. 1071 

Fogle, John H. 957 

Foote, Charles E. 818 

Foskett, Elmer C. 1132 

Frey, Otto J. 1231 

Friedrichsen, William 1092 

Frisbee, Frank 832 

Frisbee, Fred 1140 

Fruhling, Rohlf 1209 


Gardner, John 1112 

Gaster, Ed 742 

Geister, Albert G. 1079 

Geister, Henry W. 777 

Geister, Joseph 111S 

Gere, Capt. Francis A. 770 

Gilkinson, Alexander 1198 

Gill, Joseph 780 

Glover, John F. 954 

Gole, Menno S. 1201 

Gosch. Adolph 1056 

Grant, Alexander 

Graves, William 1184 

Green. William C. 1245 

Grending, Frederick W. • 1124 

Guhl, Fred 1039 


Hain, Foster 1034 

Hakeman, George '.'72 

Hamilton, George 1232 

Hand, William C, M. D. 1018 

Hanon, John C. 841 

Harding, Orlando B. 758 

Harker, William 1253 

Harris. George W. 1248 

Harvey. .Mahlon 1148 

Hass, Henry C. 1197 

Hastings, John A. 1014 

Heatherington, Rev. M. J. 1300 

Helmer, E. L. 922 

Henderson, Humphrey 1205 

Hendrick, Harry H. 106S 

Herrick, Frank L. 733 

Hickey, Martin 975 

Hickey, Peter ___1318 

Hickok, J. W. s3'.i 

Hill. Reuben W. ___' 1311 

Hinman, Hon. John F. 800 

Hinman, Ralph T. 726 

Hinz, Fritz 812 

Hodapp, Michael 1111 

Hoeven, Andrew 952 


Hoffmann, Rev. John P. 761 

Hoke, Joseph 1295 

Horton, Frank \Y., M. D 866 

Hough, Frank S., M. D. 749 

Hughes, N. I. 1256 

Hulser, Frank W. 1154 

I • 

Ihle, Charles E. 1272 

Irvine, John H. 1104 


Jackson, W. C. 1229 

Jacobson, Jacob 1277 

Jepsen, John W. 966 

Jinkinson, William 903 

Johnson, John A. 754 

Jones, Benjamin 1210 

Jones, George L. 1030 

Jones, Martin 1303 

Jones, Robert P. 962 

Jossem, John T. 1009 


Kas, Thomas D., M. D. 769 

Kelley, Patrick 872 

Kenderdine, Di». William H 1028 

Kennedy, Frank E. 844 

Killmer, Henry J. 942 

King, Roy H. 896 

Kirchhof, Otto 989 

Knaack, G. E. 1002 

Kopp, August 1100 

Kundel, John 1186 


Lange, John 1307 

Lemke, William 912 

Lewis, C. W. 811 

Lighter, Omer L. 967 

Linsday, James B. 882 

Linquist, Sam 908 

Locke, Roscoe J. 842 

Logan, Scott 1301 

Loger, William 1161 

Longshore, Channing, M. D. 1164 


McBride, Arthur W. 997 

McCallum, A. W. 776 

McCandless, John 718 

McClellan, Elbert 1139 

McCormack, Rev. James 906 

McCracken, Edwin W. 992 

McDougall, Charles M. 1181 

McElwain, Lee 1129 

McFarland, Mrs. Addie C. 1083 

McFarland, Elmer 991 

McKenna, George 1255 

McNeill, J. H. 870 


Macomb, John, Jr. 1276 

Mann, Edward 1054 

Mann, Thomas E. 1075 

Mansmith, John C. 928 

Martin, Alexander L. 1103 

Martin, Scott 1150 

Mateer, Robert A. 1143 

Mathern, John W. 1278 

May, Harry C. 724 

Mayne, Edward A. 873 

Maytum, Dr. Burlington J 1126 

Meier, Ernst 1317 

Meltvedt, Chris 1006 

Messer, Edwin P. 1258 

Metcalf, Wilbert C. 1122 

Metz, Oliver A. 815 

Meyer, Albert H. 1130 

Meyer, C. F. 1130 

Miller, Sumner F. 1073 

Miller, William J. 730 

Montzheimer, Otto H. 722 

Moorhead, Robert J. 1029 

Morton, Alfred 830 

Mullin, Michael P. 1046 

Murphy, James B. 1035 


Nelson, George W. 828 

Neuman, John J. 976 

Noehren, W. H. 1250 

Nott, Fred 1049 

Noyes, William H. 1023 


O'Donnell, John J. 907 

O'Donnell, John F. 1043 


Olson, Ben — 930 

Olson, Ole F. 968 

Osgood, Wilbur J. 1178 

Overholser, Willis W. 795 


Patch, Frank 887 

Patch, Freeman R. 797 

Peck, J. L. E. 715 

Peisley, Patrick L. 978 

Peters, Charles F. 863 

Peters, Edo 1316 

Phelps, Spencer A. 882 

Philby, Enoch 1190 

Phinney, George F. 740 

Pingel, Adolph 1166 

Protextor, George W. 1293 

Protextor, John 984 

Putnam, Denison C. 943 

Quilleash, Thomas A. . 1171 


Ralston, Weston D. 1011 

Randall, Andrew V. S. 1267 

Raymond, Ross L. 1060 

Reader, George L. 1183 

Rector, George E. 949 

Redmond, Patrick 8.13 

Redmond, Thomas S. . 786 

Reifsteck. Charles F. __. -1037 

Reifsteck, George 1037 

Rembe, Fred 1238 

Rerick, Henry 745 

Rerick, Isaac L. 736 

Rhodes, Rev. Bert J. __ .1285 

Richards, Prof. Edward E. 836 

Richards, Homer E. 765 

Richter, Conrad 1296 

Robertson, Robert J. 1180 

Roland, Edward E. 1288 

Romey, Albert 738 

Romey, George A. 1207 

Roth, Joseph 1304 

Roth, W. M. 1274 

Royre. Clarence H. 753 

Runyan, Harmon H. 1213 

Ruther, H. Theodore 1008 

Ruwe, Louis 1032 


Sands, John A. 1174 

Saupe, Bruno 1085 

Saupe, Otto 894 

Schaap, Clarence C. 909 

Schaefer, Louis B. 1286 

Schneider, Arthur H 1218 

Schnurr, Berth 1206 

Schoelerman, William H. 1050 

Schubert, Lorenz 951 

Schuknecht, Fred 1297 

Schultz, Albert H. 1156 

Scott, Henry P. ___' 1064 

Shea, Mart 1225 

Shearer, Archibald 1093 

Shearer, Mrs. Sarah 1093 

Sheldon, Daniel M. 1033 

Sheldon, Joseph O. 933 

Shell, Levi 914 

Shinski, Joseph 802 

Shumway, David F. 1094 

Shuttleworth, W. D. 970 

Silverthorn, Isaac M. 931 

Sims, William A. 911 

Sleeper, William H. 859 

Slick & McFarland 990 

Slick, John N. 990 

Smith, Daniel A. -1109 

Smith, George W. 1263 

Smith, John J. 1153 

Smith, William M. 1281 

Snider, John 1098 

Sokol, George F. 791 

Sollitt, J. E. 1172 

Solon, Anthony W. 994 

Solon, Will A. 858 

Soop, Ira 879 

Stage, Theodore J. 845 

Stamp, Joseph B. 762 

Stearns, Mrs. Evelyn (Pease) 766 

Stearns, Dr. Pleasant S. 1040 

Steelsmith, Daniel C, M. D. 1188 

Steinbeck, John 955 

Stoelting, Alfred A. 1138 

Strampe, Fred 1313 

Strampe, Henry 12S9 

Strampe, Willifm 12S3 

Str it, John 751 


Sweeney, James F. 1305 

Swensen, Peter 892 


Tagge, Albert 921 

Taylor, E. M. 820 

Thatcher, William J. E. 757 

Thietje, John 1045 

Tierney, Frank W. 1151 

Tow, Severt L. 1280 

Townsend, James E. 728 

Trainer, Dr. M. M. 798 

Turnbull, William W. 816 


Van Epps, Cornelius V. 824 

Vogel, William C. 927 

Vos, Garrett 1310 

Voss, William T. F. K. 1062 


Wagner, William 958 

Walter, George W. 1058 

Ward, George W. 794 

Ward, John C. 1227 

Wassman, Herman 1299 

Waterhouse, George W. 1080 

Weal, John 1025 

Webster, Benjamin F. 1291 

Webster, James S. 917 

Weinke, Albert H. 983 

Whitney, David 1265 

Wiechner, Theodore 1013 

Wilkinson, Noah C. 1120 

Williams, Henry L. 781 

Wilson, Lyman F. 964 

Winkler, Frank P., M. D. S10 

Winterfield, A. C. 851 

Wolf, Henry 1158 

Wolf, Jacob H. l 898 

Wolf, John 1101 

Wollenberg, Louis 1019 

Woodman, Lewis 1026 

Woods, Paul C. 885 

Woods, Mrs. Roma W 1222 

Woods, William H. 1222 

Wright, Edgar 969 


Young, Ruben W. 1146 

Youngers, Louis 856 

Yungbluth, Michael 1070 


Zahn, Henry _^ 1065 

Zimmerman, Theodore 878 





He came, he saw, he toughed it through, 

He roamed the prairie wild, 
He plucked the wild sweet Williams rare. 

This early roving child. 

He broke the sod, he twisted hay, 

He lingered through those years; 

Grasshoppers were the reapers then, 
His children oft in tears. 

He fought with debts, chewed rosin gum; 

His wife built chicken coops, 
And from the tumble weeds she made 

Those dainty ox-tail soups. 

The homestead shanty was his home, 
For beast a grass-thatched barn, 

And yet to him 'twas "Home, Sweet Home," 
Where wife his socks did darn. 

He had no coal, he had no wood, 

For fuel he burned hay, 
And when the hay gave out he burned 

Machine notes he did pay. 

The skies cleared off and land went up, 

The sun shone on this spot; 
When the discovery was made, 

"Twas Eden's garden lot. 

The railroad engine screeched and blew, 
And yelled, "Where is that town?" 

That town sprang up while it passed through, 
And held that railroad down. 


The elm, and ash, and maple twigs, 
They grew, and grew, and grew, 

For wind breaks, groves, and park and shade, 
When wind it blew and blew. 

The modern house and barn were built, 

The auto hove in sight, 
And then the pioneer was glad 

He'd fit that scrappy fight. 

Now when, at last, at heaven's gate, 
You seek that heavenly rest, 

Of all that's good and great and grand, 
Iowa boasts the best. 

When for this best the state you roam, 
'Along Iowa's ninety and nine, 

Just keep your eyes a squintin', 'cause 
O'Brien's down the line. 

Four townships long, four townships wide, 

On smooth and level land, 
Just four and twenty miles each way, 

You'll see a sight that's grand. 


The creative becomes historic. The administrative becomes merely com- 
monplace. God created the world. Jt was historic. It was creative. It was 
distinctly pioneer. The pioneer makes history. The tilling of the soil is 
merely administrative. 

Columbus crossed the ocean and discovered America. That was historic. 
In thousands we cross the ocean as the administrative part of business and 
tourist life. The building of the Panama canal is creative. The thousands 
of ships will pass through its channel as part of the world's administrative 
progress. Whitney constructing his cotton gin and Fulton building his steam- 
boat were events, but we continue to spin cotton with a million spindles and 
run our ships in daily commonplace. 

When the Legislature of Iowa, in 1850, enacted the word "O'Brien" into 
a statute, by naming this particular twenty-four miles square "O'Brien," it 
wrote down an historic event for this county. The officials in the court house 
will continue to write the same name for the years to come into the records 
as mere administrative business. The United States issues its patent to a 
tract of land to the old homesteader. It is only done once. It is a creative 
event to that title. The mere deeds and sales and use of that land thereafter 
is but the formal administrative handing dowm of the original historic title. 


The platting of a town on the record, or the vote by the people for its incor- 
poration, is done but once. It is creative. The later living in or sale of 
parts of lots in that town belongs to the usual everyday item. The building 
of a railroad is usually done but once. The daily train traffic thereon for the 
years is but the daily ordeal of travel. The time of our birth, our birth day. 
is our creative period. The date is historic to us. The birth of a count}- is in 
its beginning. Then it was created. The later people administer upon its 
effects. The selling of our school lands by its first county auditor's certifi- 
cates, or contracts, was creative. The loaning of the proceeds ot these lands 
on school loans is administrative. The first laying out or establishment of our 
highways on the wild prairie was creative. We continue to ride in auromo- 
biles over these roads, in grim defiance and certain risk of our lives at fifty 
miles per hour as merely administrative, when in truth the administrator is 
called in. When the squatter squatted his squat, he got title by jumping first 
into possession. It was a decisive first historic act. The living on the land 
by himself and his children, though enjoyable, becomes the daily routine. 
The pioneer broke the first unsubdued prairie sod. It needed to be done but 
once. It was among the first things. It created the wild prairie into a farm. 
Later on in years it became simply spring plowing. Our public parks are laid 
out by the pioneer. We plant a tree or a grove. This is creative. We sit 
beneath its shade. That is but the administrative part of our laziness. The 
condemnation of the acre for the school site belonged to the pioneer in the 
main. It was historic in the community. Thereafter the children simply 
came to school at nine o'clock in the morning. The building of the old home- 
stead shanty and proving up marked a period, as likewise the building of the 
new modern house, but the living in same was for the every daw 

The original building of the Big Four mills at Sheldon was historic. 
The people will continue to consume the thousands of barrels of flour ( ''Prairie 
Queen" ) as administrative, "Give us this day our daily bread.'" The erection 
of the round house and shops at Sanborn was an important event both for the 
town and county. Its engines and trains are sent out in dispatch as daily oc- 
currences. The putting up of the soldiers' monument at Hartley in 1891 was 
itself historic, as likewise was it representative of a great national historic 
drama. Its people will continue to learn the daily administrative lesson of 
patriotism and reverence for that which is brave and heroic each day as the 
years go by. The first establishment of the county fair at Sutherland was 
creative and historic. Under the statute providing for it there can be but one 
association. Its annual fairs, however, will be but administrative. The en- 


dowment of the public library at Paullina by Frederick G. Frothingham and 
the construction of its electroliers and electric plant were historic events in 
the town. The reading of those library books by the light from those electric 
lights will be a part of the routine of town life. 

Other new things will occur as time moves. The pioneer will' continue 
his work in new fields. For instance, perhaps we will yet do the further 
historic acts of building during the hundred years to come what will be equal 
to the cement highway, the Roman or Appian Way, if you please, for the 
automobile across the country and O'Brien county. All else will follow suit. 

Let us continue the work of the pioneer, and make our bow, and take off 
our hat in reverence both to the past and coming pioneer. Let us honor the 
historic and creative, that we may the better enjoy the administrative. It is 
the creative and historic which keeps active the memory cells in our brains. 

"We linger still in memorie's cell. 
Engraven on our hearts." 


The Iowa state Legislature, at its session of 1850, in one law, in a sort 
of husking bee as it were, named fifty of the ninety-nine counties in one enact- 
ment. O'Brien county was christened with good Irish water from the River 
Boyne itself. At least that was the sentiment. It was the argument in the 
Legislature to have represented in these names as many different ideas and 
nationalities as possible, from the Indian names of Winneshiek. Poweshiek 
and Sac, to the patriotic names of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Clay, 
Webster and Polk, to the final awarding of three names of the sons of Erin, 
to that prince of Irish orators, Robert Emmett. to John Mitchell and then to 
our own Irishman, William Smith O'Brien, after whom the county was 

William Smith O'Brien was born in 1803 and died in 1864, and was an 
educated man as well as a man of ability. He was an Irish politician. He 
was educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge, in England. 
He entered the English Parliament in 1828. In 1835 he was returned from 
the county of Limerick and for several years strongly advocated the claims 
oT Ireland to a strictly equal justice with England, in legislative as well as in 
executive measures. Professing his inability to effect this in the United 
Legislature, and having been committed to prison for refusing to serve on 
committees by the speaker's orders, he withdrew from attendance in Parlia- 


ment in 1841, and joined that great Irish patriot, Daniel O'Connell, in the 
agitation for the repeal of the legislative union between England and Ireland. 
In the progress of that agitation our William Smith O'Brien sided with the 
partv known as "Young Ireland.'' In other words, he was one of the "Young 
Turks," or incorrigibles or unconquered. In 1848, when that excitement re- 
sulted in a call to arms, he took part in an attempted rebellion in the south of 
Ireland. He was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death. The sentence, 
however, was commuted to transportation for life. He, with other political 
offenders, was exiled to Tasmania, an obscure English colony, but years later 
was allowed to return. 

It can thus be seen that Irishman William Smith O'Brien was no small 
man, a man worthy of a cause championed by the great Daniel O'Connell and 
found fighting side by side with such men as Robert Emmett and John Mit- 
chell. The citizens of the county have no reason to be ashamed of William 
Smith O'Brien or of the name. He was considered by the editors of the 
"International Cyclopaedia" of sufficient world-wide celebrity to entitle him 
to a half column write-up in that great compendium of the world's great men 
and events. 


In the beginning, while northwestern Iowa was still nine-tenths raw 
prairie, with scarcely a tree; with angling roads, running with the ridges of 
land; with waving prairie grass from ten inches to four feet in height, and 
with all surrounding things apparently without form and void, O'Brien county 
was created or rather carved out of Woodbury. Woodbury county, or Wah- 
kaw county, as it was first called, was thus the mother hive from which 
swarmed eleven counties, Woodbury, Pda, Sac, Buena Vista, Cherokee, Ply- 
mouth, Sioux, Osceola, Lyon, Buncomb (name later changed) and O'Brien. 
Woodbury county, thus included, was first named Wahkaw county, as re- 
corded in chapter nine, section twenty-seven, proceedings of the third Gen- 
eral Assembly of Iowa, in 185 1. The following, or fourth, General Assem- 
bly (chapter eight), by an act approved January 12, 1853, which was en- 
titled "An Act Organizing Counties therein named," in its fourteenth section 
provided that those eleven districts should be known as Wahkaw county for 
the purpose of collecting taxes and holding elections and courts and ordering 
that the then organizing sheriff could call elections at Sargent's Bluffs and 
such other places as he might designate. This same fourth General Assembly 
(chapter twelve) passed another act entitled "An Act in Relation to New 
Counties,'' on the same date, January 12, 1853, providing a method whereby 


either of the eleven counties might, by a named number of citizens, petition 
the court of Woodbury county, directed to the judges of the court, asking 
that such county, naming it, might be organized and thus become a legal cor- 
poration. This law also provided for the establishment of a county seat, and 
als ) provided for the changing of the name of the mother county from 
Wahkaw to Woodbury count} - . Thus early was northwestern Iowa looking 
for a Missouri terminal for a future city, or capital, so to speak, for this 
larger territory, on first thought lighting on Sargent's Bluffs, but, for later 
reasons belonging to Woodbury county history, landed in greater permanency 
at what is now recognized as northwestern Iowa's business terminal, chief 
city and distributing point, Sioux City. 


The petition directed to the court of Woodbury county was signed by 
seven so-called voters and by sundry soldiers of the Federal army, then under 
General Sully fighting Indians in these several states. Indeed, and in fact, 
Hannibal House Waterman was the only real, bona fide, legitimate and scpiare- 
deal citizen or vo'er in this county, though six other men (record a little 
confused whether six or seven) signed this petition and voted with him at 
the election held February 6. i860, at the house of this first set'ler, Hannibal 
House Waterman, on his United States homestead on the northeast quarter 
of section 26. township 94, range 39, in Waterman township, named for him, 
as was likewise the stream Bowing through the whole eastern part of the 
count} - . We give below the full order of the court relating to the organiza- 
tion oi O'Brien count}', which recites its own history. 

"County Court, Woodbury County. 
'"January 25, i860. 

"Whereas, a petition has been presented to this court, signed by Hannibal 
H. Waterman and seven other citizens of O'Brien county, and !. C. Ft-fbei 
having made oath that the signatures to said petition are a majority of legal 
voters of said county, and 

"Whereas, the said petitioners ask that the said O'Brien county may be 
organized in accordance with the provisions of law upon that subject. 

"Now therefore, I, John P. Allison, county judge of Woodbury county, 
in the state Of Iowa, do hereby order : 

"First: That the countv of O'Brien, in the state of Iowa, be and the 


same is hereby organized from and after the twenty-fifth day of January, 
A. D. i860. 

"Second : That an election be held in O'Brien county and state afore- 
said, at the dwelling house of Hannibal Waterman, on Monday, the sixth day 
of February, A. D. i860, for the purpose of electing officers, and that I. C. 
Furber act as one of the judges of said first election. 

"Third : It is ordered, that I. C. Furber act as organizing sheriff, and 
that he post notices in three of the most public places in said O'Brien county, 
stating the time and place of holding said election at least ten days prior to 
the election aforesaid, and make return of his doings to this court. 

"John P. Allison, 

"County Judge."' 
""County Court, Woodbury County, 
"January 26, i860. 

"Now comes I. C. Furber and qualifies as judge of the election to be 
held in O'Brien county on the 6th day of February, A. D. i860, by taking the 
oath as required in section 249. chapter 25 of the Code of Iowa. 

"John P. Allison, 

"County Judge." 


"At an election held in O'Brien county, at the house of H. H. Waterman, 
February 6, i860, I. C. Furber was elected to the office of county judge, A. 
Murray, clerk of district court, and H. H. Waterman, treasurer and recorder, 
to hold their offices until the next general election, this being the first election 
after organization of the county. I. C. Furber acted as organizing sheriff at 

said election. 

"I. C. Furber, 
"County Judge." 


On the same day that Abraham Lincoln was first elected President, 
November 6, i860, O'Brien county's first full-term corps of officers were 
•elected as follows : Henry C. Tiffey, clerk of the district court; I. C. Furber, 
treasurer and recorder; A. Murray, county judge; Sam H. Morrow, sur- 
veyor, and H. H. Waterman, road supervisor. There were eighteen votes 
cast at this election. 



At the next, or second, general election the following officers were 
elected: A. Murray, sheriff; J. W. Bosler, treasurer and recorder; George 
Hoffman, coroner; John S. Jenkins, county superintendent of schools; A. 
Phillips, drainage commissioner ; H. H. Waterman, township supervisor. 


We give here the results of the first two elections, after its organizing 
election, to emphasize the fact that right here in its organization, and first 
two elections, is evidence on its face of a scheme to farm O'Brien county 
finances. ' As we have previously remarked, Hannibal House Waterman was 
the only bona fide settler and citizen. Those other gentry, I. C. Furber, John 
S. Jenkins, John H. Cofer. James W. Bosler, Moses Lewis, George Hoffman, 
H. C. Tiffey, A. Phillips and, in a degree, Archibald Murray, and who were 
among those other seven named in the petition, were but a bunch of schemers 
who came on with others from Sioux City and Fort Dodge and organized 
counties and county seats for three counties. Clay. O'Brien and Beuna Vista, 
with county seats handily arranged for, three mile- apart, at Old O'Brien, 
Peterson and Sioux, Rapids, in which well-laid scheme the set of men who 
acted as officials in O'Brien county would appear as contractors in the various 
humbug building of bridges and other schemes in the other counties and 
vice versa. H. C. Tiffey was the best business man of the bunch, so far as 
papers and their preparation were concerned. James W. Bosler was a poli- 
tician of some note from Pennsylvania and, a grafter of western innocence, 
laid out the plans and did the best head work. John H. Cofer was the 
swamp land gentleman and schemer. 

It will be observed that in the petition for organization before the court, 
these gentry took care that the name of Hannibal H. Waterman, the only 
real citizen, headed the list, and thus make a showing of good faith, and had 
him in the first instance appointed to the important offices of treasurer and 
recorder of the county, but it will be further observed that at the very first 
general election the same year, with still only nineteen votes cast, that the one 
and only one bona fide citizen and honorable man, Hannibal H. Waterman, 
was dismantled of the chief offices and handed the sop of the insignificant 
offices of township and road supervisor. 

Even at this late date it seems astounding that these same gentry were 


thus allowed to thus organize and farm in literal fact not simply one but 
three counties adjoining, in so open-handed a way. It also seems incredible 
that such a bunch of outlandish proceedings as an organization of three 
counties in one batch for such financial farming as we will presently see, 
should have passed the serious order and judgment of the court, and that, 
too, by such a man so long prominent in Sioux City banking circles as Judge 
John P. Allison, so long a partner with George Weare in the banking firm 
of Weare & Allison. We hardly wish to raise a question of his integrity, 
especially his judicial integrity, but when we also see, later on, that this bank- 
ing firm of Weare & Allison in the subsequent years purchased thousands of 
dollars of the depreciated county warrants, not only of these, but other 
counties in Iowa similarly organized, and later sued them, got them into 
judgment, thus putting them out of reach of defense, and later having the 
bonds of the county issued for them, and they usually buying them at about 
thirty cents on the dollar, and then collecting full face value with ten per 
cent, interest, we are at least entitled to raise the question of his good judg- 
ment, if we do not as to his integrity. 

We might also criticize with justice the early fathers or legislators of the 
state in leaving one lame loophole in the law above referred to providing for 
the organization of counties. Had these solons or lawmakers provided that 
no county could thus have been organized until it had at least five hundred or, 
better, one thousand voters, it would have saved O'Brien and manv other 
counties much trouble. While votes of honor are often given to our pioneer 
solons, it would seem that O'Brien county could, without blushing, enter its 
protest that the General Assembly of Iowa for 1851 were thus direlect in this 


As a literal matter of fact, these "seven others'' had simply and suddenly 
lit, as it were, for the express purpose of not simply organizing, but farm- 
ing the cash or infantile credit of this and many other counties in the West. 
These three handy county seats in nearby corners formed a grand trium- 
virate. These seven others, or twenty-one in the three counties, were about 
as vigorous a lot of rascals as went unhung. They proceeded to issue solemn 
contracts and issue county warrants and other evidences of indebtedness to 
the enormous amount of two hundred and thirty thousand dollars (and up- 
wards) on this one county alone. Verily the seven had her to wife, and the 
bride paid the bills. 




This phrase, "seven others," had a special meaning. One of these 
"seven," in a personal conversation with the writer many years ago, boasted 
that he was one of the seven. Said he : "We built a bridge, and then made 
an elaborate report. Then we drew our county warrant. Then I and we of 
that seven tore down that bridge. Then we built that same bridge — excuse 
me, another bridge — in another prairie slough, and drew another warrant, 
and so on until seven bridges were built, and each of the seven got a share. 
Why shouldn't we tear it down? Nobody ever crossed on it, no road there 
even." Then this boastful organizer of new counties, who was of a con- 
siderable literary turn of mind, laughingly and dramatically recited several 
stanzas of Byron's "Seven Prisoners of Chillon," in a fine oratorical voice, 
making special emphasis on the words of the stanza, "We are seven." Said 
he : "Byron's 'Prisoners of Chillon' suffered in chains for their religion. 
Didn't we suffer in chains like them in this then God-forsaken wilderness 
of a country, even worse than in chains." Then, in grim satire, he went 
on : "And then, with due regard to the comfort, happiness and general wel- 
fare of my dear family, I tore down that damned bridge and built for myself 
a 'home, sweet home.' This braggadocia statement was no joke. We, of 
course, can make due allowance for the magic number seven, and of his 
tendencies to the classical, but it was too literally true both in spirit and in 
fact. He then went on further: "Lumber was scarce in them days, and 
lumber for seven bridges was more than we could get hauled up into that 
neck of the woods in them days." Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he said: 
"Well, Air. Peck, you are one of these reformers, and I want you to have a 
little credit for it, but we might as well have a little fun out of it." Had he 
added that the "seven others" should have been punished as Byron's Prison- 
ers of Chillon were punished he would have hit the truer mark. 


Lest, however, this first and some other chapters may raise a false and 
bad impression of the county; lest the outside reader may jump at a hasty 
conclusion, let us pause and anticipate a statement of an historic fact of this 
year of grace 1914. Land here is worth one hundred and fifty dollars per 
acre. It is true, as will be seen in further chapters and items, that our 
people did discuss the feasibility of a defeat of this debt, and well they 
might, yet finally they decided of themselves to pay it all. That high sense 


of honor prevailed, that our people in th0 future would feel and enjoy and 
hand down to its future citizens a loftier pride and honor by paying off even 
an unjust debt, rather than to be forever subjecting themselves to be jolted 
by the odium of bankruptcy. The county did not even compromise. It 
overcame its troubles in full. In this year 1914 the county is absolutely 
free of debt. The last cent was paid off in 1908. At the outset, then, the 
reader will pardon us and at same time will feel a thrill of pride when we 
record these true historic words, "O'Brien county paid every cent of its debt." 


Hannibal House Waterman was born March 2$, 182 1, in Cattaraugus 
county. Xew York, where he was raised on a farm, and attended the district 
school until twelve years of age, when, with his parents, they moved to Erie 
county. New York, where, with them, he lived until he was twenty-one years 
of age. He attended Allegheny College, at Meadville, Pennsylvania, for a 
time. Later he went into the lumber woods of that region and remained 
seven years. This well fitted him for the rougher experiences of the West. 

Mrs. Hannah H. Waterman was the first white woman in O'Brien 
county, and was born in Cattaraugus county, New York, December 2, 1836, 
but, as a singular coincidence, Mr. and Mrs. Waterman never met until the 
autumn of 1852 in Bremer county, Iowa, where they were married in June, 
1854. One child, Emily A., now Emily A. McLaren, of Sioux City, was 
born there. They resided in Bremer county until the spring of 1856, when 
they decided to go still further west. They arrived in O'Brien county, then 
Woodbury county for taxation purposes (though he thought for some time 
that he was in Clay county), on July 11, 1856. It was too late for a crop, 
consequently but little could be done that summer other than to put up 
meager buildings. 

On May 7, 1887, one of the writers hereof (J. L. E. Peck) visited the 
home of Mr. and Mrs. Waterman, at their residence and on their pre-emption 
claim on the northeast quarter of section 26, township 94, range 39, in 
Waterman township, which bears his name, where they resided until, in 
their old age, they retired from the farm and removed to Sutherland, where 
he died on September 2, 1908. At this visit the writer obtained from their 
own lips the narrative of their lives, as well as many facts and items found 
in this history. 

They were very hospitable people. Mr. Waterman was a tall man, full 
six feet, swarthy, wore full beard, of lightish color, as likewise was his hair, 


which later on in years was mingled with gray, had bright, clear blue eyes, 
and was a hearty, pleasant old gentleman. He was an intensely religions 
man. He was an exhorter or local preacher. His religion moved with each 
movement of his body and in every hour of his life. Mrs. Hannah H. 
Waterman is a hearty, well-preserved lady and still resides at Sutherland. 
She passed through all those rugged experiences in a pioneer country. 


On the occasion of that visit the writer had his horses fed in the first 
building ever erected in the county, built in July, 1856, a log building, in 
size eighteen by twenty-two feet, which was used as the first home until their 
second and better house was built in i860, and wherein they lived for twenty- 
seven years, and which was destroyed by fire in 1887. At the time of the 
writer's visit in 1887 they were temporarily living in the third house erected 
in the count)', being built as a tenant house for "Old Dutch" Fred Feldman. 
who was his tenant. They had for years used it as a storehouse and for 
machinery. This building, so ancient, was in 1887 settled considerably into 
the ground and was situated on a little branch or spring brook of the Little 
Sioux river. Later on in this year of 1887 they built a fine, new, com- 
modious, two-story frame residence, on the same ground occupied by the 
older home destroyed by fire. This residence is one quarter of a mile south 
of the mouth of Waterman creek, or river, which bears his name, and one- 
half mile southeast of the old iron bridge, built in 187.2 and' which until 
1897 spanned the Little Sioux river. 

Mrs. Waterman pitifully referred to the loss of their home, the "old 
home," that had been theirs for twenty-seven years, and excused the meager 
household accommodations they had saved from the fire, and had not vet 
had time to replenish. The writer's remark to her that "fires did not 
always leave even millionaires in the most desirable positions in life," placed 
all in a good mood. 

The only natural timber of any consequence in the county being on the 
Waterman and Little Sioux, in the vicinity of his claim and on his claim, 
furnished sufficient material for his log house, eighteen by twenty-two feet, 
which was later used as a stable as stated. 

Mr. and Mrs. Waterman arrived in O'Brien county with two yoke of 
oxen, a wagon and household goods. As autumn was near at hand, they 
realized that winter was not far in the rear, and they were without food 
except the prospect of game, and possessed but a small amount of money. 


Mr. Waterman started his hired hand, a one-armed Dutchman, to Fort 
Dodge, with instructions to purchase five hundred weight of flour and two 
hundred weight of meal. Sad were the tidings to the ears of Mr. and Mrs. 
Waterman, as the hired man, on his return, informed them that all he could 
procure was a few hundred weight of flour. Trappers, stragglers, bands of 
Indians through the country, and occasionally an emigrant like himself, going 
somewhere west, soon made inroads on the flour. 


In December, 1856, this one-armed Dutchman was again detailed with 
the two yoke of oxen to go southwest in search of more provisions. This 
time he went as far as Shelby county, traversing what is now Cherokee, Ida 
and Crawford counties. A severe winter set in, snow first falling in great 
quantity, which continued to increase until everything was enveloped, after 
which the weather became intensely cold. The one-armed man found him- 
self powerless to return, snow-bound in a strange country, with two yoke 
of cattle looking to him and his one arm for support. He did not, because 
he could not, return until spring. While putting in the winter in Shelby 
county he kept his oxen (all four) alive by digging corn from the stalks out 
in the snow, doing this work, remember, with but one arm. After Dutchy 
had dug corn all the winter to keep the four oxen alive, the owner of the 
corn took the best pair of oxen as pay for the corn, besides getting Dutchy's 
work for nothing. Dutchy returned, as stated, toward spring, minus one 
yoke of oxen and the hair on the oxen he brought back was turned the wrong 
way, not in very good condition for opening up a new farm. 

In the "meantime a family by the name of Black was burned out down in 
Cherokee county and Mrs. Black and her child were brought up to Mrs. 
Waterman's on a hand sled, and the}' had to feed the woman, the child and 
those who brought them to their house for some days. The Black family 
literally lived in the snow banks four or five days, in their desperate effort 
to reach Mr. Waterman's house, where they were heartily welcomed and 
made as comfortable as possible. All this preyed on the small stock of pro- 
visions. Mr. Waterman's family subsisted for six weeks, during that 
winter, on beef, except a small allowance of flour Mrs. Waterman reserved 
for her babe. 


In addition to all these troubles, they must also undergo an experience 
with the Indians. The first Sunday after they arrived in the county, a band 


of five Indians visited them and were very friendly. Numerous other friendly 
dealings with the Indians followed. Sometime in February, 1857, the 
Indians seemed to be somewhat scattered and roamed down the river from 
Minnesota where they lived. Many of the bands visited Mr. Waterman 
on very friendly terms and paid for everything. They said they would not 
beg, had plenty of money, and many of them showed Mr. Waterman several 
hundred dollars in gold, saying, "We got heap money, too much money." 

It appears that when these Indians had arrived down the river at Smith- 
land in Monona county, or near there, they had coralled a number of elk in 
the bend of the river and killed the whole herd. Some of these Indians 
(Sioux) had, in the past, perpetrated stealings of corn, pigs, etc., greatly to 
the annoyance of the settlers. General Harvey had notified the Indians to 
keep off the lands belonging to the settlers. Mr. Waterman thinks there 
were about sixty armed Indians in the whole band. By some means the 
whites at Smithland and in that vicinity took possession of all their guns, 
and the Indians were allowed to camp near town. The Smithland people 
aver that they intended to set them across the river in the morning, and 
return their guns to them. But in the middle of the night a boy rode into 
the Indian camp with the story that General Harvey was coming and right on 
hand. They stampeded like so many wild devils, leaving guns, dead elk 
and everything. The next day they ascertained that General Harvey was 
nowhere near and concluded that it was a put-up job to beat them out of 
their guns and game. It was too late for the Smithland people to prove 
that they were going to return the guns. 

The father-in-law of J. L. E. Peck, George H. Wilkinson, who lived 
for many years in Primghar, was in Smithland just after this incident occur- 
red in 1857. The people of Smithland, says Mr. Wilkinson, at that time 
conceded that Smith, the founder of the town, had acted rashly, and that the 
act of the Smithland people, or those in charge, was wrong. 

Of course these Indians at once became hostile. At this crisis the 
settlers dared not return the guns. This left the Indians in the dead of 
winter without guns or provisions. They started for their home in Minne- 
sota and the farther they proceeded the more angry and hostile they became. 
At first they commenced stealing, and then to take guns from the settlers. 

On their return from Smithland, Mr. Waterman told the writer, "Seven 
big strapping Sioux bucks stopped at my house; they were so tall I had to 
look up at them." These same Indians had been to his house before, and 
very friendly, but this time they were ugly. They introduced themselves by 
rushing into the house and reciting the Smithland affair and a harangue about 


the "bad white men" down there. They stalked into the house and began 
stealing. Six of them had guns they said they had taken from settlers. 
They took combs, files, pocket compass, Mr. Waterman's only white shirt, 
scissors, and, in brief, all they could lay hands on, in value to forty or fifty 
dollars. They next proposed to take his gun. Dutchy had not yet returned 
from his trip southwest for provisions and his gun was to his mind the big 
half he had. Mr. Waterman showed resistance, when one of the bucks, Mr. 
Waterman says, "struck me in the back with a squaw hatchet. I had a long 
scuffle with one of them which was terminated by the other bucks, except 
one, leveling their guns at me and firing, but their guns fortunately were 
loaded only with power, except a young buck's gun, which he fired into the 
ceiling where the bullet lodged. I am satisfied they only intended to 
frighten me, but they got my gun just the same. After this little introduc- 
tory was over, they quieted down to quite an extent. Then they commenced 
to banter me on the proposition to sell the gun back to me. They finally 
agreed on two dollars and fifty cents and I handed over my last money. 
Then they left." 

This same band of Indians was next heard of in the vicinity of Peter- 
son, three and one-half miles up the river from Mr. Waterman's, where they 
committed other and similar outrages, leaving there for the scene of that 
terrible massacre in the vicinity of Spirit and Okoboji lakes, thence on to 
still greater outrages in Minnesota. It is quite probable, had Mr. Water- 
man's home been just a little further on, that, in their anger as they pro- 
ceeded, he would have met the Spirit Lake results. 

While a little outside the historic facts in O'Brien county, yet, as these 
Indians were at Mr. Waterman's just the second day before the massacre, 
it is proper that a brief statement of that awful affair should be given. This 
massacre commenced at the home of R. Gardner, on the southwest bank of 
West Okoboji, on the morning of March 8, 1857, but a few days after the 
unfortunate Smithland affair. Mr. Gardner and family were at breakfast. 
An Indian entered and was given a place at the table. Soon others entered 
and were given places also. They all at first pretended friendship. They 
were treated kindly and shared the hospitality of Mr. Gardner's home. After 
a little time they began to be overbearing and demanded ammunition, to- 
gether with other articles. They remained at Mr. Gardner's some hours 
and when they left they took his cattle with them. Toward evening Mr. 
Gardner ventured from home for the purpose of ascertaining the true situa- 
tion of affairs. Below we give the words of Abbie Sharp Gardner, as con- 
tained in her history of the massacre, a history of three hundred and twelve 


pages : "Father hastily returned, saying, 'Nine Indians are coming, now 
only a short distance from the house, and we are all doomed to die.' They 
entered the house and demanded more flour, and as father turned to get them 
what remained of our scanty store, they shot him through the heart, while 
other Indians instantly turned upon mother and Mrs. Luce, seized them by 
the arms and beat them over the heads with the butts of their guns, then 
dragged them out doors, and killed them in the most cruel and shocking man- 
ner." The entire family were butchered, except the author of the history, 
who was taken captive and retained for many months, the full particulars of 
which are given in her account above referred to. 

Later on, in 1895, the Legislature made an appropriation of five thou- 
sand dollars to erect a monument, which was built, commemorative of the 
massacre. It is a fine granite shaft, fifty-five feet in height, with proper 
inscriptions. The dedicatory services were held on the lake and on the 
spot in the summer of 1896, and were attended by the writer hereof. Citizens 
from all over the state were there. During the several succeeding days the 
bones of forty-six of the victims who suffered the same fate were gathered 
from up and down the lake. These dreadful massacres produced numerous 
scares in O'Brien county. At one time a mere flock of sandhill cranes caused 
the scare. At another time a herd of hogs frightened a whole neighbor- 
hood, and at another a drove of cattle. In fact, it was the fear produced 
by that real calamity, rather than the scares themselves. 


It takes courage to say good-bye. Mr. Waterman said good-bye in 
New York to come west. Thousands have done likewise. Charles Dickens 
tells us that many of us, when we fear to say good-bye, will remark to some 
friend, "I will see you again," when they know within themselves that that 
very remark is the real good-bye. In 1862, when, with six covered wagons, 
the family, with others, started from the old Eastern home, the little five- 
year-old brother of the writer had said the fond farewells to all the relatives, 
and then at last to grandmother, and the writer lay down in the bottom of 
the covered wagon, and looked back at grandmother as long as she could 
be seen, and past the turn in the road. When still several weeks on the road, 
and the day's travel seemed tedious and the horses were tired, this little 
fellow broke out, "Usses left usses grandma, but usses hasn't left usses 
selves." The grit that could say good-bye was on hand to do and dare — yes, 
on hand ready to advance to the front of the stage in a new country and do 


111s part. That quality has made this country strong. It produced grit and 
courage to meet the emergency. It has also done one other thing in every 
community in the West, not only for O'Brien county, but all over the United 
States. It has furnished to every county in the country the combined brain 
power and resourcefulness from everywhere else on earth. Thus O'Brien 
county has its Germans, Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Hollanders, Irish, Eng- 
lish, Scotch, French, and in fact, people from every state in the Union, and 
all together have added strength and made up that combined forty-horse- 
power of character that has made this a great, great country. 


We would not be true to the history of the county did we not give both 
the sunshine and shadow, its "darkest Africa" period as well as its automo- 
bile age. O'Brien county has had its share. Indeed, perhaps a county would 
not rise to its best level, like individuals, unless it had to overcome the plagues 
of Egypt, so to speak. 


On the 30th day of May, 1857, occurred the birth of the first white 
child in the county, Anna Waterman, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hannibal 
H. Waterman. She was the second white child born in the three counties 
of Clay, Buena Vista and O'Brien. Eleven children in all were born to Mr. 
and Mrs. Waterman. Anna Waterman was married to D. W. Kinyon and 
they moved to Woodbine, Iowa, where, later, after a few days' illness, she 
departed this life, leaving her husband and the three children. 

Mr. and Mrs. Waterman were members of the Methodist Episcopal 
church, he uniting at the age of seventeen. He was very emphatic in his 
religious views and quoted much Scripture, carrying the same out in his 
devotions, and he was much of an exhorter in his religion. He believed 
that all things were ordered from on high during all these years for his 

The following additional statements were written down in full and 
read to him by the writer at the time, to which he assented. 


About the last month of 1859, one James W. Bosler, a short man of 
sandy complexion, came up into this country from Sioux City and proposed 


to organize a county. Bosler achieved a later fame with J. W. Dorsey, 
ex-United States senator, in the "Star Route" frauds and operating, with 
Dcrsey, an extensive cattle ranch in New Mexico. 

The very idea of organizing a county for one man's benefit was pre- 
posterous. When Mr. Waterman was interviewed by Bosler concerning the 
matter he replied: "I am farming and know nothing about organizing." 
Bosler assured him that he could have the choice of the county offices and 
it would be well not to make any objections. Bosler then departed. But in 
a short time Mr. Waterman ascertained that this man Bosler originally came 
from Pennsylvania, and that others were coming from Sioux City for the 
purpose of organizing. 


Early in February, i860, Bosler, with seven or eight others, arrived, 
among them I. C. Furber, Henry C. Tiffey and Archibald Murray, who said 
an election would be held February 6, i860. Two or three of the number 
left for Sioux City before the day appointed for the election arrived. The 
day arrived and the election was held in Mr. Waterman's house. The ballot 
box consisted of a hat and the total number of votes polled were seven, only 
five of which pretended to belong to either W r oodbury or O'Brien county. 
Two votes were borrowed, one from Buena Vista and one from Clay county, 
James A. Gleason from the former and a Air. Freeney from the latter. Mr. 
Waterman says both men w 7 ere from Clay county, but the record says Gleason 
was from Buena Vista. They all voted. Mr. Waterman was generously 
elected, as assured by Bosler, to the office of treasurer, recorder and superin- 
tendent of schools. These unusual doings, said Mr. W'aterman, will explain 
the indebtedness of the county. 

Soon after this election the old log court house was built directly in 
front of Mr. Waterman's house and is the "temporary office" the record 
speaks of as built by Archibald Murray for the county judge. I. C. Furber, 
Archibald Murray, L. McClelland and H. C. Tiffey boarded with Mr. Water- 
man the remainder of the winter. 


Everything went pleasantly with this Sioux City crowd until in the 
summer of i860, when John H. Cofer, Charles C. Smeltzer and one Messer- 
vey, hearing of the lucrative pasture the Sioux City fellows were enjoying. 


came up from Fort Dodge with about a dozen men. Gofer conveyed the 
idea to Air. Waterman that they were actual settlers and would immediately 
proceed to the opening up of farms, which would be the means of bringing 
many other settlers into the county. By this time, says Mr. Waterman, "I 
began to perceive that Bosler was a shrewd, far-seeing" man. whose chief 
mission evidently was to procure the dollars. Myself and family welcomed 
Cofer, or the Fort Dodge crowd, as actual newcomers and settlers. A brisk 
contest and feud at once sprung up between these Sioux City and Fort Dodge 
crowds, the latter being in the majority, and a fight was on for supremacy. 
I sided with Cofer because I thought he was here for actual settlement. My 
course enraged the Sioux City crowd against me. This contest between 
these factions was so fierce for a time that T feared an actual physical combat. 
The two factions finally compromised, as necessarily they must. One of the 
conditions of this compromise was the exaction by the Sioux City crowd that 
I must get out. and keep out. of public matters. Evidently I was not what 
they wanted. 


"A short time after this I was notified from Sioux City that my land 
was jumped by one Charles E. Hedges, and that H. C. Tiffey, Bosler and 
Furber were the instigators of the scheme. This report was soon confirmed. 
It was not long before I was waited upon by this trio of gentlemen, who took 
it upon themselves to inform me that they would let me have my land back 
and release the contest provided I would resign the county offices I held. 
What else could I do? To be sure there was plenty of land, but there were 
my improvements. I did resign December n, i860, as the records show." 
The abstract of title on Mr. Waterman's land also shows that Charles E. 
Hedges was so connected with same and that they made the lever strong 
enough to make him be good. 

"I think," says Mrs. Waterman, emphatically, "that that was a good 
sized price to get our own land back, that is the idea of it." Mr. Waterman 
added, with much emphasis and earnestness, "I have never been in half the 
danger, or suffered so much from the Indians, as from the whites." Mr. 
Waterman added that they were all rebel sympathizers and of Southern 
principles, and that H. C. Tiffey was a Virginian, a speculator and Southern 
gentleman. James Bosler, though from Pennsylvania, was a rebel, as like- 
wise was Furber, though the latter was from Massachusetts. John R. 
Pumphrey was also from Virginia, though he served in the Union army for 
a short time. At one election during the war there were only two Republican 


votes cast in the three counties. In fact, these new states during the war 
were dodging places for many rebels and copperheads. 

Mr. Waterman was exceeding" emphatic "that there were some mighty 
mean white men in this world." Mr. 'Waterman further went on to say: 
"I have never read over that earliest record, but I am satisfied from what I 
have heard that it contains entries to which I never consented, and that 
funds were drawn in my name by those fellows that I never knew of or 
realized except to my proper amount. I attended to my farm, and H. C. 
Tiffev did the office work; I knew but little about it, and was forced out in 
the same year in order to get my land back. The record says. I think, 'that 
Bosler took my place." but he did not; he sent his clerk, whose name was 
Stuart, up from Sioux City to do the work and I thought for years that 
Stuart was the official." Henry C. Tiffev died at Fort Dodge about 1871. 

Waterman says that the "eighteen-foot square court house" was in 
fact about fourteen by twenty feet in size. And, also, that that log court 
house was used on his farm for a year and six months and that one Moses 
Lewis also lived in it as a residence. Moses Lewis committed suicide some 
years ago at Fort Dodge. 

Mr. Waterman continued: "They tried to purchase forty acres of me 
for a county seat, but 1 had had all the experience with them in the land 
business I cared for." Land was finally bought of H. C. Tiffey and then 
it was that O'Brien county was born. The old log court house was then 
moved to old O'Brien and later on used as a school house and residence, and 
in 1 868- 1 869 by Bostwick and R. G. Allen as a blacksmith shop, and still 
later by W. C. Green and Lem C. Green as a stable. Meantime Waterman 
built the then new house (the one that was destroyed by fire in 1887) for the 
Cofer family. Then all but Mr. Waterman and family moved to Old 

Mrs. Hannah H. Waterman taught the first school, with three scholars 
enrolled. But before the fall term was taught in i860, the new magnate, 
Cofer, preferred that his daughter should teach, and she followed, with seven 

Right here the reader will no doubt be pleased to know that Bosler was, 
once at least, the loser, as the following will show: "While the log court 
house was being built, a work bench sat in front. Bosler arrived from Sioux 
City on horse back. Pie tied his horse to the work bench and, while Bosler 
was absent for a few minutes, some Indians sneaked up and stole the horse. 
This was the last ever seen of Bosler's four footed propeller. 

"About this same period Jacob Kirchner erected the first school house. 


a frame building, wherein John K. Pumphrey first resided after he was mar- 
ried. In those days they had what they called 'swamp land goods' (see item 
entitled Swamp Lands), and traded warrants for them. Tiffey bought some 
second-hand goods, and presented every woman in the county with a new 
dress. Mrs. Waterman was also presented with a whole box of goods from 
Tiffey. All our trading before W. C. Green opened his store was done at 
Sioux City and Fort Dodge. We would send our boarders to market for us 
in trips made by them. 

"I. C. Furber remained in the county only two years, and before he de- 
parted expressed himself as being ashamed of the manner in which he 
jumped my land. 1 always considered Furber, at heart, a good meaning 
man. J first met Rouse B. Crego (later county treasurer) at a camp meet- 
ing near Smithland. I could never understand Crego. He was part of the 
time a very bad man. and part of the time a Methodist preacher. He could 
conduct a good-sized drunk or a revival meeting with the same energy. 


"The first actual homestead entry that was maintained was by Archi- 
bald Murray. A man by the name of Zolier, a German, however, had had 
his warrant on the land first, namely on the west half of the southwest 
quarter of section 14, township 94, range 39. I showed it to him and located 
him, but he soon got discouraged, folded his tent and departed. I then 
showed it to D. W. Inman, and he decided to take it. I wanted settlers, 
but these officials at Old O'Brien didn't want any." The reader may judge 
why. Archibald Murray hastened to enter it. His object was to prevent 
Inman from settling. The evidence appeared from various sources that no 
settlers were desired by these Old O'Brien officials. The Inmans then went 
up into what is now Grant township and located, as the Grant list will show. 
These brothers, Daniel W. Inman and Chester W. Inman ( later county 
treasurer), were the first legitimate settlers in O'Brien county after Hannibal 
Waterman and Old Dutch Fred, though Henry F. Smith and Ed T. Parker 
arrived about the same time, or in 1868. Moses Lewis, H. C. Tiffey and 
Archibald Murray each did a little gentleman farming close to town, or, as 
Mrs. Waterman said, "Airs. Lewis and her boy done it." 


"I am der peoples. Der rest all be officers. Don't it?" Fred Feld- 
man, or Old Dutch Fred, entered and homesteaded the west half of the north- 


west quarter of section 34, township 94, range 39. (James H. Scott. 
however, got the United States patent.) Mr. Waterman built a tene- 
ment house, Dutch Fred plastered it and rented Waterman's farm. But 
little is known of his history. He told Mrs. Waterman he had deserted 
from the German army and was living a secluded life to escape the punish- 
ment of death. His "frau" would not follow him to so wild a country. His 
quaint expression, "I am der peoples und der rest he de officers." was used 
sarcasticallv by the newer settlers referring to the hunch of looters then in 
office, and whom each new voter desired to root out. He died in 1873 with 
the request that he be buried by the side of his friend, Archibald Murray. 
Sentimental requests in a new country are not always fulfilled. Poor Old 
Dutch Fred, who had lived a hermit life, far from wife, home and father- 
land, to escape King William's wrath, could not enforce his request. Old 
Dutch Fred, who would shake his ragged clothes, and laugh, "dese be boor 
dines mit clothes, but Old Dutch Fredt be under here und his heart beat 
shust like udder mans," lies buried in a lonely grave on his homestead claim, 
unmarked and soon, perhaps, unknown. 


Mr. Waterman had pre-empted his land. He was entitled to a home- 
stead. He made an entry on the northwest quarter of section 22, township 
95, range 40, Highland township, and got it under way, when his land was 
jumped again. A woman living" on that section heard of it and, taking her 
child in her arms, walked thirteen miles to inform him of what was going 
on. That woman was Henrietta Richardson, wife of John Richardson, 
later residents for many years of both Primghar and Sanborn. Mr. Water- 
man was too late and lost his land, but remembered with gratitude this ardu- 
ous effort of kindness on the part of Mrs. Richardson. In justice to Mrs. 
Catrina Dobricka, the patentee, it may be said it was not her doings. Again 
Mr. Waterman concluded that this is a wicked world and that the whites can 
"out-devil" the "Injuns." 


It will thus be seen from the above narrative of Mr. Waterman and 
from other items in this history that up to 1869 O'Brien county was in a 
complete state of irresponsibility. She was an orphan without a guardian, 
a ship, though sound, whose helmsmen and crew were in the hold playing 


hookey with the cargo, expecting to let her float as best she might as soon 
as they had had their fill. Their only passenger, Mr. Waterman, could but 
look on. It was as if the United States government should have organized 
the state of Iowa, with ninety-nine men, one man for each county. The 
record list of the old homesteaders shows that they nearly all came in 1870, 
1 87 1 and 1872. They began to stop such doings as soon as they could get 
control, and would have gotten control sooner had it not been for the grass- 
hopper scourge. O'Brien county has been much abused for these doings, 
but, as is seen, there were none to say nay or object. The main body of the 
debt was created the first four or five years. The looters during that period 
had the majority. It can be seen from the one item of H. C. Tiffey making- 
presents of so many dresses and goods that the bunch were nursing their 
job, and postponing the fatal day when their doings would be ended by the 
votes of an exasperated people, as was later done. 




U lias often been asked by what process those early boodlers built up 
such a debt of two hundred and thirty thousand dollars against the county. 
We shall not attempt to make an itemized list of the sundry bills allowed, 
as that would be too lengthy; indeed, we could not, as without doubt many 
warrants were issued that were later sued upon that never were made of 
record. This history must deal with facts and policies and not with mere 
details or figures. However, to illustrate their methods, we will give a list 
of the bills allowed at one session of the board of supervisors, namely, the 
session of September 2, 1861, which would be in the second year: 

Hedges & Company, stationery $ 200.00 

I. C. Furber, office rent 300.00 

J. H. Cofer, wood furnished offices 500.00 

James H. Bosler, wood furnished offices 200.00 

John H. Cofer, books furnished offices 300.00 

Henry C. Tiffey, transcribing records 300.00 

I. C. Furber, digging well for county 150.00 

Henry C. Tiffey, making out tax list 150.00 

John S. Jenkins, making map of county 200.00 

C. E. Hedges, transcribing records 300.00 

J. A. Gilbert, superintending swamp lands 500.00 

Henry C. Tiffey, office rent 300.00 

Archibald Murray, office rent 300.00 

Henry C. Tiffey, salary 500.00 

I. C. Furber, salary 500.00 

John S. Jenkins, surveying roads 700.00 

John H. Cofer, salary 50.00 

James W. Bosler, making out delinquent tax list 250.00 

Archibald Murray, building county building 2,000.00 

Henry C. Tiffey, for forty acres of land 2,000.00 

John H. Jenkins, building bridges 8,000.00 

Total $17,500.00 


Several curious facts may be observed in connection with the above 
bills. The county was then nineteen months old only, and with practically 
no revenue in actual cash. Even in this year 191 4, after fifty-one years and 
final prosperity, and with seventeen thousand people, at no session of out- 
board will there be allowed bills in such aggregate. Another curious thing 
is the fact that these bills are practically for even hundreds of dollars. Here 
are twenty-one large bills, which, in the ordinary course of business, for 
items such as digging a well, transcribing records, surveying roads, station- 
ery, etc., there would ordinarily be odd cents. Every one of them rounds 
up with even dollars and most of them with even hundreds. Another inter- 
esting item is the bill of Archibald Murray for two thousand dollars for a 
county building, which is none other than the colossal old log court house, 
and still, with a two thousand dollar allowance for a building spot, many 
charges of hundreds of dollars are allowed for office rent. When we add to 
this also the fact that the whole written record of all that the board did in 
creating the whole debt, together with all other business, was written on 
twenty-four sheets of foolscap paper, not even bound, this office rent falls a 
joke with the rest. Then observe that J. A. Gilbert is allowed seven hun- 
dred dollars for superintending swamp lands, and then the fact that in still 
another meeting of the board they allowed the blessed James W. Bosler a 
special fee of one thousand dollars for securing to the county these same 
swamp lands, and then the fact there never were but two hundred and forty 
acres of swamp land in fact in the county, and then the final act of this board 
to make a contract with this same Bosler to build a bridge which, of record, 
they valued at five hundred dollars, and for the same deeded to him fifty 
thousand acres of what the bunch concluded were or might be swamp lands, 
and which he sold all over the East for good title lands, it is plain they were 
cutting and slicing things up with both edges of the knife. We may per- 
haps also add a smile at the fell swoop in a one-line bill, with no intemiza- 
tion, of eight thousand dollars for bridges, to John S. Jenkins. The name 
of this same John S. Jenkins appears in hundreds of places in the deeding 
of these fifty thousand acres of so-called swamp lands, as they were handed 
down and divided up into parcels among the bunch, as the deed records show. 
Then also add the little item of even two hundred dollars to this same John 
S. Jenkins for making a map of the county, which was none other than the 
map made by these gentry to show purchasers the people they were deluding 
at the other end of the line also. However, itemization would have been of 
no avail, as the list on its face shows it to be a straight-out steal anvway. 


As none of the bridges were ever heard of afterward, it all seems humorous, 
when not serious. But all this is but a specimen of what scores of counties 
in those early times had to endure, only O'Brien county caught more than its 
share. They labored at more than one session with this precious swamp 
land. Even back of this board meeting on October 30. i860, is this dainty 
and humorous solemn entry by the court relating to these same swamp lands : 

"Office of County Judge, 
"October 30, i860. 

''The court has this da}' awarded a contract to Lewis McCoy for select- 
ing" the swamp lands of O'Brien county and properly returning same, which 
work is to be performed during the year 1861, for which he shall receive 
the sum of two thousand dollars, and, being satisfied that the said McCoy 
will perform said work, said amount is hereby ordered issued. 


"County Judge." 

Many other sums were allowed at different times, with this same clause 
in it, namely. "Being satisfied that said work will be done, the warrant is 
ordered issued."' It seems almost a wonder that they should have even 
gone to the trouble of such formalities. 


YYe will give one other example of a curious bunch of six bills allowed 
at a session three years later. May 11, 1864. It would seem, as near as 
may be determined, the sum of about three thousand dollars had been col- 
lected in the treasury on taxes, and it needed to be divided up. At all events 
the following bills were allowed : 


J. L. McFarland, salary county judge $ 500.00 

David Carroll, recorder 500.00 

Henry C. Tiffey. treasurer 500.00 

James W. Bosler. attorney fees 500.00 

Archibald Murray, old account against the county __ 500.00 

William Payne, old account against the county 500.00 

Total $3,000.00 

We call attention to the fact of the division on various items being not 
only even hundreds of dollars, but each bill exactly the same. Thev were 


each carrying out the Golden Rule, "to do unto others as they do to you,'' 
at least squaring up with each other. 


One other oddity in scalping was carried out at the session of the board 
January 2, 1865. Jt was during the dark period of the War of the Rebellion. 
Abraham Lincoln had issued sundry calls for volunteers and bounties for 
enlistment had been offered over the country by individuals, towns, counties 
and states. It is all but humorous to see this bunch of gentlemen, mostly 
from the South, during the war itself, refraining from fighting on their 
own side, and keeping very quiet up among the jungles of a wild prairie 
country in a treeless Xorthwest, exhibiting such patriotism by generously 
asking the board (which was themselves) to vote a bounty as a commendable 
duty to their country. The board magnanimously voted the sum of seven- 
teen thousand five hundred dollars bounty. 

Then the board proceeded to solemnly and humorously engage a local 
partv as financial agent to sell these bonds. He sold them, as per his report, 
for twenty cents on the dollar, which report is dated and filed October 17, 
1865, several months after the war was oyer, in fact; but perhaps news was 
slow in those days. We can give them the benefit of that doubt and proceed 
with the further humors of this deal. This produced, as we can figure, 
thirty-five hundred dollars. Then they divided this patriotic pot into three 
equal parts, thus : 

Archibald Murray $1,1 66.66 

William Payne 1,166.67 

I. C. Furber 1,166.67 

Total : $3,500.00 

The record recites that this bounty was paid them, they being credited 
to O'Brien county as soldiers. Mr. Schee's Army Record fails to enumerate 
them. But the more humorous thing was that these same worthies were all 
drawing all sorts of big salaries as county officials at the same time. It 
will be observed in this instance, however, they did not divide on even hun- 
dreds but exact cents, but they they were dealing with each other now. 
The "divvy" must be fair. It was all simply a series of schemes of diverting 
the several issues of warrants into the pockets of this bunch of looters. 
However, they were evidently looking out for one possibility, that in event 


thev were sued they might have some semblance of an excuse of a considera- 
tion, and a soldier's bounty had an appealing sentiment. 

Still a further humor had to be added, in that the O'Brien county board, 
at a later session, awarded the neat sum of one thousand dollars for 
very valuable services as financial agent in selling these soldier bounty bonds 
of seventeen thousand five hundred dollars at twenty cents on the dollar. 
that thev, the patriots of O'Brien county, might divide it up among them- 

As a sort of finis addendum, the board allowed C. C. Smeltzer, an attor- 
ney from Fort Dodge, the sum of three thousand dollars for services to the 
county as legal advisor during the year i860, which, be it observed, was the 
first year of the county. We may well stretch our imaginations to conceive 
what on earth they needed with three thousand dollars in legal advice, when 
all they needed was a warrant book and a bottle of ink, except that they were 
dividing things up among them about even. These items will perhaps be 
sufficient to explain the general plans of these schemers. These schemes 
took on varying phases of both the serious and humorous. 


Hannibal House Waterman was the first white man in the county. 

His wife, Hannah H. Waterman, was the first white woman. 

Their daughter, Anna Waterman, was the first white child born, May 
30, 1857. 

Old father James Bicknell preached the first sermon in 1857. 

Rev. Seymour Snyder was the first regular preacher in 1862. 

Old O'Brien was the first town. 

O'Brien was the name of the first township. 

Moses Lewis was the first postmaster. 

Mrs. Hannah Waterman taught the first school in i860. 

A daughter of John H. Cofer taught the second school. 

B. F. McCormack was the first Sunday school superintendent. 

Archibald Murray filed the first homestead entry. 

Daniel W. Inman and Chester W. Inman filed the next following home- 

John R. Pumphrey was the first banker. 

William Clark Green was the first merchant. 

Al Bostwick and R. G. Allen were the first blacksmiths. 

Rouse B. Crego ran the first hotel. 


Mrs. Roma \Y. Woods established the first circulating library. 
Judge A. H. Hubbard held the first term of court. 
Adam Towberman was foreman of the first grand jury. 
The Sioux City & St. Paul was the first railroad. 
Sheldon was the first railroad town. 
Sheldon was the first incorporated town. 
A. J. Brock was the first mayor in the county. 

The O'Brien Pioneer was the first newspaper published in the county. 
R. F. McCormack was the first editor. 
Luther E. Head was the first physician. 

The brothers, Benjamin and Charles Epperson, the first African home- 


The first records are exceedingly meager and brief. It is almost im- 
possible to determine with certainty the beginnings and endings of terms of 
officials. In many cases the first record that a certain official has been in 
office is not of his election, but of some duty performed. The rest must be 
supplied from memories. We will give first the leading record entries, in most 
cases the identical words of the record. The record of organization has 
already been given : 

October 20, i860, J. W. Bosler took the contract to build court house 
for recorder and treasurer (and the odd provision) "not to be over eighteen 
feet square." 

A temporary office was built for Archibald Murray, county judge, and 
his bill allowed for same. This was the old log court house. 

November 5, i860, the first county safe was purchased of Bosler & 
Hedges for treasurer's office. 

H. C. Tiffey built an office in November, i860, for the district clerk in 
connection with the office built by A. Murray for recorder and treasurer. 

On December 11, i860, H. H. Waterman resigned as treasurer and 

John H. Cofer was the first chairman of the board of supervisors. 

James W. Bosler followed Waterman as treasurer and recorder. 

On January 1, 1861, Amos S. Collins assessed the whole of Waterman 
township, being then all the county, and was the first assessor. 

On January 1, 1861, H. C. Tifrey's bond as clerk of the board was ap- 


On June 3, 1861. the first levy was made to build the first school house 
in the county. 

In September, i860, John S. Jenkins made a map of the county, he 
being the first surveyor. 

The records show that James W. Bosler was the first attorney in the 
county. The county was detached from Woodbury, and C. E. Hedges made 
copies of the Woodbury records, or so much thereof as pertained to O'Brien 

Archibald Murray built both the old log court house and the "not over 
eighteen foot square" court house. 

The first tax list was published by Zebeck & Frieney. 

John H. Gofer was made chairman of the board of supervisors for 
1862. and also was count}' judge for the term commencing January 1, 1862. 

On June 1, 1862, John S. Jenkins resigned as county superintendent 
and George Hoffman was appointed. 

On June 1, 1862, James R. M. Gofer was appointed treasurer and re- 

On June 1. 1862, George Hoffman was appointed sheriff in place of A. 
Murray. There is no record of how or when Murray got into the office. 

On January 1, 1863, Moses Lewis and Daniel Clark were sworn in as 
supervisors and H. G. Tiffey as district clerk. 

On March 2, 1S63. James R. M. Gofer resigned as treasurer and re- 
corder and David Carroll was appointed. 

On March 2, 1863, John H. Gofer resigned as judge and John L. Mc- 
Farland was appointed. 

In March, 1864, H. C. Tiffey was clerk of the board of supervisors. 

On June 2, 1864, David Garroll resigned as treasurer and recorder and 
John L. McFarland was appointed. 

On September 5. 1864, Moses Lewis dug a we'll for the court house. 

On September 2, 1861, the county bought the southwest quarter of the 
northwest quarter of section 36, in township 94. range 39 (Old O'Brien), 
for count}' purposes. 

On March 29, 1861, Judge A. W. Hubbard appointed Samuel Park- 
hurst, of Cherokee county, Edward Smeltzer, of Clay county, and James 
Gleason. of Buena Vista county, commissioners to locate the county seat of 
O'Brien county, and on August 28, 1861, the first two commissioners did so 
locate same on the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 36, 
township 94 north, of range 39, being Old O'Brien town, bought of H. C. 



ihe above entries, with others of lesser importance, were kept by H. C. 
Tiffey in his neat handwriting on about twenty-four pages of large foolscap 
paper, clinched together with fasteners, but unbound. 

This original document was brought up to Primghar in a box of refuse 
papers found in the office of the clerk of records. It was finally dug out by 
Warren Walker and Judge A. H. Willits, who was then clerk of courts, and 
discovered to be the original record of organization and was retained by him 
until 1880, when it was decided that the auditor's office was the proper place 
for it. Accordingly, J. L. E. Peck, then auditor of the county, fastened it 
with fasteners in the front part of Supervisors' Record No. i. Still later the 
same auditor recorded the same in full in Supervisors' Record No. 3 by 
resolution of the board of supervisors, that it might be preserved without 
question, and certified to its genuineness. 

The following are some of the additional record entries up to 1869 and 
1870, when the first real settlements were made, and the time when, in jus- 
tice, the county first deserved to be organized : 

On January 2, 1865, Moses Lewis was made chairman, A. Murray was 
sworn in as treasurer and recorder, Moses Lewis as county judge and H. C. 
Tiffey as district clerk. 

In the latter part of 1865 the record shows that John Moore was county 
judge and on January 1, 1866, he resigned that office and became district 
clerk in place of PI. C. Tiffey, who resigned that day. 

On September 2. 1867, R. B. Crego was appointed supervisor. 

In 1867 Moses Lewis was chairman and D. W. Inman and R. B. Crego 

On June 6, 1868, D. W. Inman was chairman and R. B. Crego a mem- 
ber. During this time Chauncey Chesley was sheriff; A. Murray, county 
judge; Chester W. Inman, treasurer, and John Moore, clerk of the courts. 

On November 28, 1868, the county offices were repaired for school in 
that winter. This same month John Moore resigned as district clerk and A. 
Murray was appointed in his place. 

On January 1, 1869, D. W. Inman was chairman and R. B. Crego and 
William II. Baker members. On March 13, 1869, Joseph S. Stratton was 
appointed district clerk. On September 6, 1869, the court house was or- 
dered to be moved to the center of the court house square. On September 
24, 1869, D. W. Inman resigned as chairman and William H. Baker was 
elected in his place. 


On January i, 1870, the new officers qualified: John \Y. Kelly, chair- 
man, and H. H. Waterman and Obediah Higbee, members; Samuel Hub- 
bard, sheriff; R. B. Crego, treasurer, and John R. Pumphrey, deputy treas- 
urer; Archibald Murray, as county auditor, and J. F. Schofield, as surveyor. 
It will be observed that at this date, under the then new law, the office of 
county auditor was created and some of the duties exercised bv the county 
judge passed to the district court and the office of county judge abolished. 

On January 25, 1870, John H. Schofield resigned as county superin- 
tendent and Stephen Harris was appointed. 

In 1870 a new court house was built by J. G. Parker and on July 20, 
1870, it was accepted. 

A ferry boat was ordered built March 22, 1870, to cross the Little 
Sioux, under county supervision, near H. H. Waterman's residence. 

On October 24, 1870. Samuel B. Hurlburt resigned as sheriff, and 
George McOmber was appointed. On January 1, 1871, B. F. McCormack 
was chairman and C. W. Inman and T. J. Fields, members; McAllen Green, 
recorder; Stephen Harris, clerk of courts, and John R. Pumphrey, deputy. 

On February 25, 1871, the treasurer's office was declared vacant, and 
the. sheriff ordered to take possession of the office. John R. Pumphrey was 
appointed to fill the vacancy. A suit was ordered against Rouse B. Crego, 
treasurer, in May term, 1871, and bond of Pumphrey accepted February 
27th, and the office delivered over to him on that day. On March 14, 1871, 
R. B. Crego was ordered to appear before the board to make settlement. 


We have already referred to the old county debt. Indeed the question 
loomed up in the very manner of the county's organization. The mere state- 
ment that it was organized with seven votes carried with it a sinister motive. 
Inasmuch as this matter troubled our people seriously for forty years, we 
cannot drop the subject without detailing how our people disposed of its 
various vexed questions. Let us keep in mind the fact, however, that in the 
end O'Brien county paid it out in full. They left no questions of credit on 
the county. 

But O'Brien county has not been alone in having dark spots in her 
earlier periods. She now has her prosperities, but has passed through her 
adversities. In this, our prosperous period, when we need a public building, 
we find surplus funds ample to build it without even an issue of bonds or 
special levy being necessary. As for instance, in this year of 191 3 the 


county is building a home for the poor and unfortunate, costing twenty-five 
thousand dollars, with the full amount on hand in the treasury, without even 
a levy necessary. When we see this done so easily, we, in looking backward, 
may wonder how such a debt was created. But as portions of that debt of 
two hundred and thirty thousand dollars were even handed down to as late 
as the year 1908, when the last bond was paid, and as the people passed 
through many phases of argument during all these years, we will give the 
matter notice. Our debt was often exaggerated to several times the above 
amount. But when we realize that this large debt from i860 to 1881 bore 
ten per cent., and that from 1881 to 1886 it bore seven per cent., and that 
from 1886 at five per cent, interest, and still later only four and one-half 
per cent., the county deserves no extended slams and need ask for no pity, 
for such was its vitality, even in those years, to so soon rally as to recom- 
mend itself to eastern financiers at four and one-half per cent., which proves 
the rockbottom value of the county. It was almost as good as a national 
bond. The county paid thirty thousand dollars on it in 1880 and about ten 
thousand dollars and more at times each year thereafter. 

Macaulay, the historian, claimed and proved that the public debt of 
England was a public blessing. In one sense this has been probably true in 
O'Brien county. It has caused a vigilance and watchfulness on the part .of 
public officials as to expenses and kept the need of economy prominently be- 
fore the people. We have already made note of several causes. The county 
was organized before it had self government. It was born too soon. Its 
general elections in 1861 and 1862 only had seventeen and nineteen votes. 
A set of men from abroad, who did not in fact become its permanent citizens 
and had no such intentions, did the organizing. The real citizens, so few in 
number, were busy opening up their farms and were outvoted. 


It was not merely the money debt to be paid that this Bosler-Cofer 
organization handed down to our people. It handed down its attendant 
dregs. The fact that for nineteen years, from i860 to 1879, county war- 
rants sold on the market, both inside the county as well as to the speculator, 
at twenty-five to forty cents on the dollar, caused bad results in many ways. 
Of necessity it could not be healthy that its citizenship for so long speculated 
off of itself, so to speak. Discounting its own revenues made a bad atmos- 
phere. It could not be gotten rid of at once. Its citizens could not get away 
from its conditions. These bad situations reached not only into county 


matters, but to its townships and school districts, and entered into individual 
business disasters. They all got likewise in debt and tangled and inter- 
twined in many ways. Defalcations were numerous both in county and 
townships, as well as school treasurers. 

One actual occurrence will be cited as a sample. One school treasurer 
became short one thousand one hundred and two dollars. It is one of the 
duties of that office to make an annual report to the county superintendent, 
and that official a like report of the whole county school finances to the state 
authorities. The school treasurer's report plainly showed a shortage. The 
report was referred back. The school treasurer could not make it good. 
The bondsmen did not want to make it up. They were called in. A com- 
mittee was appointed to examine same. This committee was friendly to 
the bondsmen. This committee finally hit on the scheme of making a report, 
and giving the school 'treasurer credit for the sum short by this simple 
entry, "By error, $1,102." As any one can see, that did not put up the 
money. It went through, however, but that school treasurer is still short 
that amount of money. "By error" would not make good, when there was 
no error. He had simply spent the money. A member of that committee 
in later vears was asked in presence of the writer how under the sun he 
could ever make that report. He replied that they had to make it "add up,'' 
and the bondsmen couldn't afford to pay it. This is cited to show the then 
environments. Both county, township and school affairs were chaotic, no 
real settlements, and the records indefinite and all too brief. We have 
shown that the whole record before the board of supervisors from i860 to 
1865 was, in fact, kept on twenty-four pages of foolscap paper, and yet so 
much bad work was done. 

For many of those years Clark Green's store was the only store in the 
county, and Pumphrey's the only bank. The pitiful appeals of the "grass- 
hoppered" homesteaders for credit and groceries and clothing became too 
strong. It took thousands of dollars to carry such a situation. Clark Green 
was too honest and too generous and had too much heart to withstand such 
appeals. He, in fact, dished out his groceries and merchandise right and 
left. These matters all connected themselves too closely with the public 
funds, the store, Pumphrey's bank and the county funds. Both Pumphrey's 
bank, the store and the county officials were all pressed to the limit for loans 
and favors. Clark Green and his store broke up in 1879 and he made an 
assignment for the benefit of his creditors. He and John R. Pumphrey had 
for years been in partnership. Four years later John R. Pumphrey himself, 
with his store there, went to the wall at Sanborn. The writer once heard a 


substantial farmer from Grant township get it off in the court house thus: 
"These public funds are curious things. Part of the time John Pumphrey 
has them, part of the time B. F. McCormack has them, part of the time the 
store has them, and part of the time they are in the county treasury." 

In fact, John Pumphrey's bank, the only one in the county up to 1874, 
was nothing more than a clearing house for the speculations on county war- 
rants and bonds and school warrants. There was no well defined code of 
honor between public funds and private ownership. Its citizenship became 
too much imbued with the idea that they were all entitled to a share. There 
was no bank capital. The public funds simply were moved through the 
bank. The funds were loaned to individuals and a profit made. The com- 
mon pasturage idea engrafted onto things by the Bosler-Cofer outfit did not 
scon lose its force. Indeed, the further fact existed that at no time in the 
whole of Mr. Pumphrey's banking career, from 1869 to 1881, could he ever 
have made fully good the public funds. It probably was not wholly his 
fault. The Boslers and Gofers were doing the dictation work. He followed 
suit. In fact, there was never a time when he was worth a single net dollar 
and in later years could not have paid to exceed fifty cents on the dollar had 
it all been called at any one time. Each new lot of money coming into the 
treasurv simply filled the place of that which had just been paid out. No 
wonder public officials had their troubles. The very bank itself through 
which the public funds were moving was in an utterly chaotic condition. 
When once thus reduced in credit, the county warrants to twenty-five cents 
on the dollar, even good first-class financial management would have had a 
hard struggle, as it in fact did even as late as 1879, when the county and its 

l t>s> 

board of supervisors succeeded in placing the county on a cash basis, as 
will be shown elsewhere. Thus, for example, to buy legitimately a record 
book, needed as a necessity for the county and worth but ten dollars, re- 
quired a county warrant to be issued for forty dollars. Speculation in war- 
rants became much of a business, very much so by capitalists from Des 
Moines and Sioux City and other places in the East, who saw the final good 
qualities of the county and that it ultimately would cash out, just as the 
county has in fact been doing and have now finished up since 1879. Even 
the later legitimate citizens were almost compelled to participate in the hand- 
ling and speculation on these warrants and indebtedness. While at the pres- 
ent stage of the county's prosperity this would not be justifiable, yet in these 
years it could not be escaped from. These speculators of necessity had to 
allow real citizens to hold the offices, but it took a long time to get the con- 


trol or majority. These honest citizens could not in the first years have 
retrieved the situation and those sharpers held on as long as they could. 

During the excited discussions of the years from 1875 to 1881 over 
these debt questions, much censure has been heaped upon the heads of many 
real citizens and sundry of the officers who assumed the duties of officials. 
More or less was deserved, yet the impartial critic must mitigate to quite an 
extent these censures on many of those officials. The real citizens and offi- 
cials made but a small part of the money. The big money was fleeced out in 
the first five years, during the Bosler-Cofer ascendency. Much of the big 
speculation was made by such people as Weare & Allison, of Sioux City; 
Polk & Hubbell, of Des Moines, and a Mr. Miller, of Ann Arbor, Michigan. 
The writer saw this man Miller several times when he was here in his efforts 
to clinch the bonds and judgments he held. He was a small-sized man, a de- 
termined fighter and business all over. He had laid out fortv acres right in 
the heart of Ann Arbor and would never let it be lotted up, but held it as a 
fine residence property. He made much of this money out of the sundry 
new counties in this section of country. 


It is hard to distinguish among the early angels between James W. 
Bosler, John H. Cofer, Henry C. Tiffey. Charles C. Smeltzer, I. C. Furber, 
Archibald Murray or John S. Jenkins. The latter first surveyed the roads, 
at least on paper, and had bills practically as follows for surveying : 

Road from county seat. "O'Brien to Plymouth county line" $200.00 

Road from "county seat in direction of Spirit Lake" 200.00 

Road from "county seat in direction of Spirit Lake (second division)" 200.00 

Road from "county seat in direction of Cherokee" 200.00 

Road from "county seat to Clay county" 200.00 

Then he followed this all up very industriously with five charges of 
$2,000 each for bridges on each of these roads. D. A. W. Perkins, in his 
history, gives it as four items of $2,000 each, but, on reading it closelv, it is 
in fact five, because he divided the roads in the direction of Spirit Lake 
first in bridges Numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5, at $2,000, and then a second whack of 
bridges Numbers 6, 7, 8 and 9 on road to Spirit Lake, at $2,000 ; then fol- 
lowed with bridges Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 to Cherokee, with another $2,000, 
and likewise to Plymouth, Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4, with $2,000; then Num- 
bers 6, 7, 8 and 9, $2,000, making in all five whacks, or ten thousand dollars. 


Then he modestly puts in a bill of only two hundred dollars for making the 
county map of same. This same pestiferous individual appears among the 
swamp land deals and deeds with Bosler and Cofer. They were all indeed 
Swamp Angels to O'Brien county. Even in later years Chester Inman is 
allowed six thousand dollars for one single bridge. 


As illustrating how slow the county was in recovering from even the 
spirit of the bad work of earlier years, we mention the quite elaborate con- 
tract entered into January 8, 1872, between B. F. McCormack and C. W. 
Inman, then sole members on the board and an attorney, whereby the board 
agreed to give him five thousand dollars in warrants paid in advance, and 
twenty per cent, of all collections or results from all swamp lands secured 
to the county., and to include all scrip that the county might be otherwise en- 
titled to in lieu of lands. The curious thing about it was that the five 
thousand dollars was the only result so far as is known. Another curious 
item was that the auditor, in issuing same, made it in ten five hundred dol- 
lar warrants, which smacked of the prevalent custom of the boys dividing up 
on the square with one another. And this was all done after Bosler, Cofer 
& Company were gone. Tt has been thought by some that this attorney in 
fact took that contract to Washington and collected some scrip that the 
county was entitled to where it got no real swamp lands, as it never did. 
But, at all events, it was all outlay so far as the county was concerned. 

But this was not the whole of this little chapter about this single item 
on swamp lands. On September 5th of the same year, 1872, the county, by 
its board, made another very serious contract — indeed, it is quite lengthy — 
with one T. J. Ross, president of the Iowa & Dakota Railroad, whereby 
O'Brien county should sell and transfer to said company all lands it might 
receive of swamp lands in the future, including scrip to which it might be 
entitled, one-half at once when grading was done or started and the balance 
later. It can thus be seen that it was not intended that the county should 
receive much returns from swamp lands. And this, too, as late as 1872. 


This iron bridge was another specimen of how to farm a good thing 
when it can be done. The board had expended considerable sums in a ferry 
on the Little Sioux. Later on they let a contract for a wooden bridge, at 


quite a large cost. The bridge was partly under way. with the lumber on 
the ground and the main heavy frames up, when a tremendous freshet in 
the spring swept it all away. It had been so arranged, however, that the 
full price of this structure was paid, notwithstanding the thing was not 
completed. Then the iron bridge was undertaken. It was curious that it was 
let in sections. The one big span in center, with piers, was called an im- 
proved patent tubular arch bridge, eighty-one feet long, at a cost of four 
thousand dollars, to be completed December 15, 1872. and to be able to 
sustain two thousand pounds to the lineal foot. On the same day a contract 
was let to Charles Foster, of Cherokee, to build five sections or approaches, 
each sixteen feet in length, or eighty feet of approaches, at a cost of one 
thousand dollars. Later still "additional approaches" were added, until the 
total length was one hundred and ninety-three feet. Still later, ice breakers 
and sundry items of all kinds were needed. It was often alleged in later 
years that this iron bridge cost the county in grand total up to the date it 
washed out, in 1897, the total of about fifteen thousand dollars. It was 
claimed that they kept up this iron bridge improvement to keep out of sight 
other bad work. 


It was unfortunately the law that a county could be sued in any county 
in the state in the state courts. The county was annoyed exceedingly by these 
small suits, which were apparently brought to wear out the county and at the 
same time get them into judgment and then, if the county put up a fight, 
simply withdraw and later bring suit somewhere else. The county did make 
some efforts in the direction, hut in the end was worsted. For instance, on 
November n, 1872, the county was sued down in Waterloo, Black Hawk 
county, on some old warrants numbered from 209 to 231, which can be 
seen were among the very first warrants issued, and to Henry C. Tiffey, 
John Moore and William Paine. The suit was in name of Alonzo Rollins, 
for eight thousand eight hundred and thirty dollars. Several attorneys were 
employed at different times as vexatious continuances were had. It cost the 
county auditor one hundred and fifty dollars, in warrants, to get down and 
back. As a round up, this one suit cost three items of attornev's fees, one 
for six hundred dollars, one for one thousand five hundred dollars, and a 
third for two thousand eight hundred dollars, and judgment was rendered 
and the countv beaten besides. This was not verv encouraging in defeating: 
debts. Allegations were made that attorneys for the countv and the holders 



of the warrants were in partnership in these deals, but of that no one will 
ever know. It was not until 1878 that the citizens really got up "on their ear" 
and determined to get both sides of these impudent expenses stopped. 


It was not alone on fraudulent county warrants issued for unnecessary 
bridges, that the Bosler-Cofer-Carey crowd taxed their ingenuity. They 
exploited various, fields. The swamp land graft was one of those slippery 
schemes adopted. As a matter of fact. O'Brien county had only about two 
hundred and forty acres of actual swam.]) land. It is also true that swamp 
land must first be duly -uirveyed by the United States as such, and appraised, 
and duly certified to be swamp lands before a county can claim a title. The 
swamp lands have been held for use of the counties in which located. But 
this fact did not deter the frisky and unscrupulous Bosler crowd. This same 
James W. Bosler, who gained quite a national reputation with Senator 
Dorsey in the "Star Route frauds,'' conceived the idea that he must have 
swamp lands in O'Brien county, whether certified or not. He could rely on 
the gullibility of the unwary, who would not know those facts, to gather in 
his dupes. He selected those lands that would seem to come the nearest to 
the swamp land idea, fifty thousand acres. He then entered into a verv 
elaborate contract with the board of supervisors of O'Brien county, which 
board was none other than a part of the same crowd (in other transactions 
he himself was a member of the board and Cofer the contractor) and con- 
trolled by him, in reality making a contract with himself, wherein he agreed 
to build a small bridge, and in consideration therefor the countv of O'Brien, 
in its sovereign and official capacity, with the seal of the county attached, 
should deed to him this fifty thousand acres of land. He then, to constitute 
himself a gentleman, in a gentleman's contract, deeded part of this land to 
John H. Cofer and part to Joseph Carey, and other tracts to the others of 
this sacred few, and the land was thus deeded to and fro. Then an abstract 
of title was made up, all red inked in impressive style. This would show 
these several deeds on the tracts, in eighties or quarters, as they desired to 
sell them. The title would, at least prima facie, appear to come from a re- 
sponsible source. These abstracts of title were then taken to show to the 
Eastern dupes, and sold all over the country as full-grown titled land. The 
deed, with a seal of the county thereon, gave it prestige. These duped 
people recorded their deeds. Of course, later on the United States in regular 
course issued its patents to the rightful homesteader, or rightful purchaser 


from the United States. These Bosler-Cofer-Carey deeds have continued 
to this day on all these lands to hamper real owners in trying to sell or to 
make loans thereon. However, the Eastern loan companies now generally 
understand it and pay no attention to them. Unfortunately, however, these 
bogus deeds appear on every genuine abstract of title on lands named. Not 
one of the bogus title owners ever came into court to actually claim title or 
ever took possession. The fraud was too patent as soon as it was looked up 
by parties. But this was not the whole of the graft. These same gentrv, 
Bosier, Cofer & Company, continued so long in control of the records and 
received payments for taxes, that the}' would receive the tax money from 
both the bogus title man and the honest title man and enter one on the records 
and pocket the money from the other. Such things and doings, however, 
have often placed our county in a false light and such matters have also 
been often exaggerated. 



Our people, happily, were either Americans, or belonged to those de- 
sirable classes of foreigners who readily amalgamated with and forthwith 
became Americans. Happily, indeed, that we have had no foreign popula- 
tion which has become clannish to any such extent that feuds are created or 
friction caused. The very fact that for ten years last past the district court 
of the county has only averaged two to three jury trials per term of court 
proves this. 

The government having passed the homestead law just about the time 
of the organization of the county, naturally, in its earliest years, brought a 
class of people seeking free lands. Embodied in that homestead law has 
been the idea that first possession gave right, or hrst title, which soon de- 
veloped the "squatter" as a part and portion of homesteading and induced 
people to come who were seeking land on the government domain. The old 
soldier was given sundry special privileges and rights peculiar to the idea of 
a pension or recognition of his services as applied to government lands. As 
a consequence of this, some five hundred and seventy-five old soldiers have 
settled in the county during the years. Later the word "squatter" was more 
distinctly applied to those taking possession of the overlapping or railroad 
lands, as will be seen under that head. However, the words or phrases, 
homesteader, old soldier, squatter, settler and hay twister, became to a large 
extent intermingled terms, applied somewhat promiscuously. In thus writing 
these early historic items we are unable to draw boundary lines, and in many 
cases apply them as the early settlers used them in common parlance. The 
term, "squatter," as understood in O'Brien county, does not mean or have 
the meaning of a squatter as might be applied to a party squatting down on 
seme sand bar in the Missouri river, not caring whether it ever belonged to 
the government or not or even whether he ever got title or not. The 
squatter in O'Brien county developed into a full-grown homesteader and 
won out, becoming a permanent citizen of the county, contesting for his 
rights for title and home, alongside the settler and soldier, contending that 


of right he should become the owner of the lands the railroads had failed to 
earn, and won out in the highest tribunal in the land, the supreme court of 
the United States. In these capacities we shall deal with these several 
classes of early settlers. 


O'Brien county's people came from everywhere. While this is true, it 
is probably also true that well nigh two-thirds of its people, or their parents, 
have at some time lived in some other county in Iowa. Iowa, being univer- 
sally agricultural, the idea of agriculture, even in emigration, moves on 
farming lines. Its old homesteaders were, many of them, old soldiers in the 
Civil War. The fact that soldiers were given certain privileges brought 
them here. These, as a rule, were Americans, but, though largely from 
Iowa, came at least from one or other of the states. At least they came from 
no one locality. According to George W. Schee's Book of Army Records, 
there were about five hundred and seventy-five old soldiers who have at one 
time or another lived in the county. This would represent about that many 
families, and would mean that from two thousand to twenty-five hundred 
soldiers or soldiers' children or grandchildren reside in the county, making 
due allowance for removals. Decoration Day celebrations and old soldiers' 
reunions have therefore been a distinctive feature of the public days. 

The coming of or building of the Northwestern railroad in 1881 pro- 
duced a very pronounced result — in fact, the most noticeable in the county — 
in starting out and heading for O'Brien county one definite division or na- 
tionality, the thrifty Germans. The road naturally brought them in from 
the many German sections in and around Gladbrook, Davenport, Reinbeck, 
Dubuque and other Iowa places. They represent probably about two-fifths 
of the total population of the county. While many Germans in the county 
originally came from Germany itself, and many directly to O'Brien county, 
the larger portion came from those large German communities named. Cale- 
donia township may be said to be solidly German. For a period of thirty 
years that township has not averaged more than three votes per year of 
other nationalities. While there are Germans in every township, yet they 
will be found in the largest numbers in Caledonia, Union, Liberty, Dale, 
Highland, Center, Omega and Hartley. In land sale parlance, it is often 
remarked that whenever a German or Hollander purchases a farm it adds 
five and ten dollars per acre to the value forthwith. 

A few from among the older families came direct from England. At 


the time that D. Edward Paullin platted Paullina and established and found- 
ed its name, it was thought that a large English colony would be established 
by himself and the Close brothers, who colonized several large English com- 
munities in Plymouth and Osceola counties. But those gentlemen finally ex- 
pended their energies elsewhere, and the large English colony failed to ma- 
terialize in O'Brien county. The English in the county mav be said to 
consist of single families here and there. The families of John Archer, 
Thomas Holmes, Thomas Hayes and others in and around Archer would 
come the nearest to being a definite English colony, with several others in 
the county of a few families in a community. 

Prior to 1880 the Scottish- American Land Company and the Jackson 
Land Company opened up land offices in Emmettsburg. Palo Alto county, 
in which county was planted a large Scotch colony and where these two com- 
panies held large tracts of land. These companies were organized by Will- 
iam J. Menzies, of Scotland, and Alexander Peddie, a Scotchman, and the 
manager in this section of the country. These two companies owned several 
thousand acres of land in and around Paullina, in Union and in Dale town- 
ships. This colony of Scotch people came from Roxborough and Selkirk 
counties, in the south of Scotland. William Aitkin first came in the vear 
1880. It was his son, Thomas Aitken, who. in later years, was cut and 
mangled to his death by a runaway team with a reaper. Mr. Aitken was 
followed, in 1881, by William Cowan, William Red ford, Alexander Scott. 
James M. Christy, Thomas Scott, Hector Cowan, Sr., and James Gifford 
and their families, all of whom bought large tracts of this Scottish-American 
Land Company land. These families now reach down into the third and 
fourth generations, many of them well known in the later years. However, 
as a Scotch colony, its people have so scattered and removed to the towns 
that as a colony it is all but disintegrated, but during the years 1880 to 1900 
it was one of the most formidable colonies in the county. One of their 
lumber, Miss Belle Cowan, was county superintendent for the years 1889- 
^890, and was also a teacher in the high schools of both Primghar and 

The Irish settled in largest numbers in and around Sheldon. They 
were mainly homesteaders, and the foundation families were those of Will- 
iam Gavin, Thomas Burns, Michael Burns, Timothy Donahue (at one time 
member of the lower house of the Iowa Legislature from O'Brien county), 
John Dougherty, John McGrath, Pat Kennedy, Pat Kelly, Timothy Donog- 
hue, Pat Carroll (after whom Carroll township was named), John Hart. 
John R. Deacon. Joseph Berry, Dan McKay and Pat Sullivan. The de- 


scendants of this colony of Irish have maintained their residences down 
through the generations. 

Xext to the Germans in numbers in this county, the Hollanders, in fixed 
communities, have the most definitely established themselves. The Hol- 
landers coming direct to O'Brien count}- are mainly from Sioux count}", 
where they constitute the large majority. The Hollanders in O'Brien county 
have been characterized by thrift in the purchase of more land for them- 
selves and their sons. The Sioux county Hollanders came mainly from 
Fella, Iowa, where is one of the largest of the original Holland settlements 
direct from the Zuyder Zee. The same persistence that pushed back the 
waters of the sea and made more land in Holland has resulted in success in 
the Sioux county Hollanders pushing over into O'Brien, and, by the larger 
price he is willing to pay, he, by cash argument, invites the other owner out. 
He never loses or lets go a farm once purchased. It is no doubt true that 
both the German and Hollander have a higher idea of land value than any 
other class. Their views of things are solid as the earth. Land to them 
means, as it in fact is, that, with its use, it reaches down to the center of the 
earth and the air above it. clear to the sky. So definite is the Hollander in 
his fixedness in the county, that Holland churches are to be found in Shel- 
don, Sanborn and .Hartley. The Hollanders will perhaps number a full 
tenth or more in the count}-. The same may be said of the German all over 
the county. He keeps his own land and buys out his neighbor. These people 
will be noticed under several other heads. 

The Scandinavians have many small settlements, but are more scattered 
than the Germans or Hollanders. The most noted definite colony perhaps is 
the Scandinavian Quaker settlement in South Dale and Highland, where 
they support a Quaker church and school, and hold services Wednesday as 
well as Sunday. Among the foundation families of this colony are those 
of Lorenzo Rockwell, Curtis L. Rockwell ( for many years a member of the 
board of supervisors), Loui Rockwell, Archibald Henderson, Christian 
Thompson, Roy Rockwell. D. J. Peckham, Joseph Henderson, Oman Tow. 
James Mott, O. P. Tjossem, A. R. Rockwell and Sam Norland. 


Future generations will inquire, as indeed will the present reader, not 
only how the country appeared before the hand of civilized man had marred 
its virgin beauty, but how the first comers managed to live, to procure the 
means of subsistence, how they met the varied requirements of civilization 


to which they had been accustomed, and with what resignation they dispensed 
with such as could not he had. 

If correctly told, it would he a tale of intense interest; but it would 
require a master hand to draw a picture that would show the scene in all its 
details — personal experience alone could untold the tale. When a new- 
comer arrived he first selected a location where lie could make his future 
home, and the question arises, of whom did he get permission to occupy it? 
The answer might lie given in the language usually used in defining political 
or civil rights — every one was free to do as he pleased so he did not interfere 
with his neighbor. When the government had extinguished the Indian title 
the land was subject to settlement either before or after the government had 
surveyed it. The settler had no deed or paper title to start with, but simply 
the right of possession, which he got by moving onto and occupying it; this 
gave him a right to hold it against all others till some one came with a better 
title, which better title could only be obtained by purchasing the fee of the 
government when surveyed and brought into market. The right of pos- 
session thus obtained constituted what was called a "claim.'* These were 
regarded as valid titles by the settlers, and were often sold for quite a sum. 
This was a little dangerous, however, as the federal law was that the gov- 
ernment would not recognize a sale. In fact it left the homesteader open to 
having his rights contested, as the law in reality intended and the affidavits 
he had to make said that it was bona fide and for his own express benefit. 
They did it by signing what was called a "Relinquishment" to the United 
States. This the government recognized. But we can see that when once 
filed, the first man who next filed got it. and if the purchaser was not im- 
mediately on the spot he was left out in the cold and lost his money. These 
sales would usually run from about two hundred and fifty dollars to as high 
as seven hundred dollars for good improvements. Pre-emption laws were 
also on the statute books as passed by Congress, giving to claimants who 
had conformed to certain specified improvements the exclusive right to pur- 
chase the land at the government price. Beside certain buildings and im- 
provements they were required to plant and keep in thrifty condition about 
fourteen acres of trees, which accounts for some of the larger groves on 
some of the farms. 

When the settler had selected his location or made his claim, his first 
attention was directed to procuring a shelter for his family. So anxious 
were the people for settlers that often in the first years two and even three 
families were known to actually live in and occupy a settler's cabin twelve 
by sixteen in size, more or less. But if he located far from a neighbor, for 


the first year many occupied the covered wagon in which they came to the 
country, sleeping in or under it, and cooking or eating in the open air or in 
some rude contrivance, perhaps covered with prairie grass, or a tent made of 
the bed blankets he had brought with him, if the family was too large or a 
shelter could be provided. This was usually, when finished, a dug-out or sod 
shanty. One little incident known to the writer was a settler who sent his 
boy to a neighbor two miles away before breakfast to inform him of the 
latest news that they were to have a new neighbor who had just located six 
miles away. Far-away neighbors were then near neighbors. 

The prairie region offered advantages far superior to a timbered coun- 
try; in the latter an immense amount of labor had to be done to remove the 
timber and for years afterward the stumps prevented free cultivation, while 
on the prairie the sod only had to be turned and the crop put in. Still, this 
sod had to go through the process of rotting or being subdued, which often 
took several years, especially when broken up too late in the summer. It 
was a curious fact even in O'Brien county, however, that the very earliest 
settlers huddled close in around the little fringes of timber on the Water- 
man and Little Sioux, the rougher land of the county. 

The homesteaders would combine with their oxen and often make up a 
team of several, even five and six yoke, and turn up a big, wide furrow two 
feet or more in width. The broad, black furrow thus turned up was a sight 
worth seeing. The nice adjustment of the coulter and broad share required 
a practiced hand, and the tip of the share or even the wrong filing of the 
coulter would throw the plow on the twist and require a strong man in a 
tough sod to hold the plow in place, but if nicely done the plow would run a 
long distance without support. A good blacksmith then had a good job. 
Many of these first plows were clumsy and found too large, and later it was 
found that a smaller plow and even fewer animals did better work. It was 
found that the best time to break the sod was when the grass was rapidly 
growing, and it would decay quickly and the soil be mellow and kind; but if 
broken too late in the season it would require two or three years to become 
as mellow as it would be in three months when broken at the right time. It 
was found often that shallower breaking required less teams, and would 
often mellow up sooner than the deeper breaking. But many of the settlers 
arrived late in the season and had to break whenever they could, even late 
m the fall, and do with it as best they could. 

The first sod crop was mostly corn, planted by cutting a gash into the 
inverted sod, dropping the corn and closing it by another blow alongside the 
first, or perhaps planting into the lucky mellow soil thrown up by a gopher. 


Or sometimes it was dropped in every third furrow and the next furrow 
turned on. If the corn was so dropped as to find the space between the 
furrows it would find daylight; if not, it was doubtful. This sod corn crop 
would be laughed at now as a crop, but the early settler had to make the most 
of it. At least corn so planted would make a partial crop, sometimes, when 
favorable all the season, quite a full crop. Prairie sod thus turned in June 
would be in condition to put in to oats or corn the spring following. Melons 
and vines seemed to do even better on these tough sods than later in the 
years. This subduing of this tough sod with deep roots was a problem with 
which the later farmers are not familiar. We can thus see some of the 
reasons why it was early discussed whether this would ever be a corn country 
or not. But after the first crops the soil got better and better. But while his 
crops were growing, the settler was not freed from other cares and worry. 
His few chickens and pigs had to be sheltered and housed at night as a 
protection against owls and prairie wolves. Even his cattle had to have a 
good corral, as even the calves or younger cattle were not safe against a 
hungry wolf. The problem of getting the cattle home at night was a serious 
one ; as, with such free, wide range, cattle would often roam five and ten 
miles, and nearly always had to be searched for, at least every few days, 
and every day receive attention as a regular item. As there were then no 
trees, this question of shelter was serious in view of the blasts of winter. 
The primitive shack sheds, with grass tops and illy constructed sides, did 
the protective act badly. The grimly humorous remark or question of sun- 
dry of the Easterners who would visit this county in those years, "Why 
don't you have barns and houses and other conveniences like we do in the 
East?" certainly would arouse mirth. He should have been answered, "You 
are enjoying the fruits of the labor of several generations of your ancestors, 
while we have to create all we have. We have necessarily made rude and 
cheap shelters for ourselves and our animals, have fenced our farms, dug 
our wells, have to make our roads, bridge our streams, build our school 
houses, churches, court houses and jails, and when one improvement is 
complete another want stares us in the face."' All this taxed the energies of 
the new settler to the extent of human endurance, and many fell by the w r ay, 
unable to meet the demands upon their energies. The only wonder is that so 
much has been accomplished; that so many comforts and conveniences have 
crowned our efforts; that we have reached a point for which a century of 
effort might have been allowed. Political and financial theorists have taunt- 
ingly told the farmers of Iowa that they knew nothing of finance, except 
what wiser heads have told them; that they have made nothing by farming. 


and would be poor except for the advance in the price of their farms. These 
sages should be told that the toil of those farmers has made the farms in- 
crease in prices ; made those improvements, planted orchards and fruit gar- 
dens, made roads and bridges, converted a wild country into a land of 
beauty, and made it the happy abode of intelligent men. All this had to be 
done to make these farms advance in price, and those who have done this. 
and raised and educated their families, have done well; and if the advance 
in the price of their farms has given them a competence, it is what they antic- 
ipated, and nothing but the most persevering industry and frugality would 
have accomplished it. 

Jn addition to the labor and a multitude of cares that beset the new- 
comer, he had it all to accomplish under disadvantages and in the face of 
dangers that of themselves were sufficient to discourage men not of stern 
resolve. Traveling unworked roads and crossing streams without bridges 
was often a perilous adventure. Crossing the wide prairie at night, with not 
even the stars to guide, was both uncertain and dangerous, and often the 
wayfarer traveled until exhausted and had to camp until the morning light 
should guide him on his way. In warm weather, although an unpleasant 
exposure, this was not a dangerous one; and, although the sensation of being 
lost is an irksome one and the lonely silence in the middle of the prairie, 
broken only by the howl of wolves, is more unpleasant than one inexper- 
ienced would imagine, with perhaps hunger added to the discomfort, yet 
all this would pass with the night and a brighter view and happier feelings 
would come with the dawn of the morning. But crossing the trackless 
prairie when covered with a dreary expanse of snow, with the fierce, un- 
broken wintry blast sweeping over its glistening surface, penetrating to the 
very marrow, was sometimes a fearful and dangerous experience. No con- 
dition could inspire a more perfect idea of lonely desolation, of entire dis- 
comfort, of helplessness, and of dismal forebodings, than to find one's self 
lost on the snow-covered prairie, with no object in sight in any direction 
but the cold undulating snow wreaths, and a dark and tempestuous winter 
night closing fast around his chilled and exhausted frame. His sagacious 
horse, by spasmodic efforts and continuous neighing, shows that, with his 
master, he appreciates the dangers and shares his fearful anticipations. With 
what longing the lost one reflects on the cozy fireside of his warm shanty, 
surrounded by his family, which he fears he may never see, and when the 
dark shadow of night is closed around and has shut in the landscape, and 
chance alone can bring relief, a joyous neigh and powerful spring from his 
noble horse calls his eye in the direction he has taken ; he sees over the bleak 


expanse a faint light in the distance, toward which his horse is bounding 
with accelerated speed, equally with his master cheered and exhilarated by 
the beacon light which the hand of affection has placed at the window to 
lead the lost one home. Nearly every early settler can remember such an 
experience, while some never found the home they sought, but, chilled to a 
painless slumber, they found the sleep that knows no waking. Crossing the 
uncultivated prairie on a cloudy night, or on a snowy or foggy day, was 
very liable to have an uncertain outcome. Tn a clear night the stars were a 
verv reliable guide, and, like the Eastern Magi on the desert, the settlers 
came to have a close acquaintance with the constellations. A steady wind 
was also a very reliable guide: the traveler would get his bearing, then notice 
how the wind struck his horse, right or left ear, etc., and then keep that same 
direction, regardless of any other guide, and he would generally come out 
right. But if the wind changed, of course he went with it. Without these 
guides, it would be a mere accident if a person succeeded in a still atmos- 
phere, on a cloudy night, or snowy or foggy day, in crossing a prairie of any 
extent. The yearly burning of the heavy annual growth of grass on the 
prairie, which had occurred from time immemorial, either from natural 
cause or from being set by human hands, was continued after the white 
settlers came in, and was a source of much annoyance, apprehension and, 
frequently, of severe loss. From the time the grass would burn, which was 
soon after the first frost, usually about the first of October, till the surround- 
ing prairie was all burned over, or if not all burnt, till the green grass in the 
spring had grown sufficiently to prevent the rapid progress of the fire, the 
settlers were continually on the watch, and, as they usually expressed the 
idea, "sleeping with one eye open." When the ground was covered with 
snow, or during rainy weather, the apprehension was quieted and both eyes 
could be safely closed. 

A statute law forbade setting the prairie on fire, and one doing so was 
subject to a penalty and liable to an action of trespass for the damages ac- 
cruing. But men did not like to prosecute their neighbors and convictions 
were seldom effected, though fires were often set. Fires set to the leeward 
side of an improvement, while very dangerous to improvements to the lee- 
ward, were not so to the windward, as fire progressing against the wind is 
easily extinguished. 

Imagine the feeling of the man who, alone in a strange land, after build- 
ing a verv modest homestead shanty or home ; has raised his corn, 
wheat and oats, and fodder for stock, and has his premises surrounded by 
a sea of standing grass, dry as tinder, stretching away for miles in every 


direction, over which the wild prairie wind howls a dismal requiem, and 
knowing that a spark or match applied in all that distance will send a sea of 
fire wherever the wind may waft it; and conscious of the fact that there are 
men who would embrace the first opportunity to send the fire from outside 
their own fields, regardless of whom it might consume, only so it protects 
their own. Various means was resorted to for protection. A common one 
was to plow several furrows around a strip several rods wide, outside the 
improvements, and then burn out the strip; or wait till the prairie was on 
fire and then set fire outside, reserving the strip for a late burn, that is, till 
the following summer, and in July burn both old grass and new. 

But all this took time and labor, and the crowd of business on the hands 
of a new settler, of which a novice has no conception, would prevent him 
doing what would now seem a small matter; and all such efforts were often 
futile. A prairie fire, driven by a high wind, would often leap all barriers 
and seem to put human efforts at defiance. When a fire had passed through 
the prairie, leaving the long lines of side fires, like two armies facing each 
other, the sight at night was grand; if one's premises were securely pro- 
tected, he could enjoy such a fine exhibition hugely, but if the property was 
exposed, the sublimity of the scene was lost in the apprehension of danger. 

In the year 1881 a colony of French people settled in Grant township, 
with several scattering families in other townships. A few of them came 
direct from France, but in the main they came from in and around Clifrton, 
Iroquois county, Illinois, a part of Illinois where many French settled long 
ago. The very name of that county in Illinois denotes French. Henrv C. 
Colby had settled in Hartley several years prior in the land and banking 
business, and in fact was one of the most enterprising men in the county in 
inducing people to come to O'Brien county, and was a very successful man. 
It was Mr. Colby who induced these people to come to O'Brien and estab- 
lish this colony, and sold many of them their lands. He was not a French- 
man himself, but his judgment as to the future of the county was accepted 
by them. The following families are among the number: Theodore Rich- 
ard, Anton Guyett, Eli Frankers, Frankie Frankers, Samuel DeMars, Napo- 
leon Renville, Calvin Mayhew, Louis Guyett, Edward Morrow, Fred Cota, 
Pearly Morrow. Albert Mayhew, Oliver Marcotte, Thomas Marcotte, Isaac 
DeTour and John DeTour and others. A few other families settled in Clav 
coimty, just across the line. 

The following table gives the number of people, by nations, in O'Brien 
county where both parents are foreigners : 





French Canadians 8 

Canadians J$ 

Denmark 35 

England 142 

France 4 

Germany 2,419 

Holland 452 

Ireland 256 

Norway 220 

Russia 7 

Scotland 71 

Sweden 141 

Switzerland 10 

Wales 18 

Other foreigners 229 






1875 2 >349 

1880 4,155 











„_- 8,389 





1910 17,262 




Inasmuch as this association as an organization lasted from 1877 until 
1 88 1, a full statement of its work in the county will be given. 


The Constitution of the state of Iowa, in very plain language, says that 
any debt contracted by a county in excess of five per cent, on its valuation is 
absolutely void. The people in O'Brien county by this time (1877) were in 
quite large numbers, about two thousand seven hundred, and this, in fact, 
was about the time the county should have been organized. The people when 
once awakened became very indignant. 

To the indignant and taxed voter this five per cent, limitation seemed 
clear and that the remedy must be sure. And truly it was a fit subject for 
public wrath. Many good citizens felt that there was no moral obligation to 
pay the unjust portion, and some legal decisions of high import seemed to in- 
dicate a fair prospect of defeating it. and its defeat was naturally agitated. 
The main discussion centered around section three of article eleven of the 
state Constitution, though lesser questions were incidental to it. 


A well organized Taxpayers' Association was the result. It grew rap- 
idly and at one time included a good majority of the people of the whole 
county. The debt question was practically settled January 4. 1881, yet the 
association continued its activities until about 1890. While the writer did not 
coincide with this effort to defeat the debt, he has always recognized that this 
association did a good work in the county, in assisting in and insisting that the 
bad work commenced in i860 should not continue. The writer, in 1879, was 
asked by the members of the Taxpayers' Association to run for county auditor 


on that ticket. He, disagreeing with them on that subject, it placed him on 
the other side, and he was elected in 1879 to that office on the side of payment 
of the old debt. This organization was formed for the express purpose of 
defeating this old debt in whole or in part, to agitate inquiry into the matter, 
and to enlist, not only citizens, but nonresident land owners, to contribute in 
money, on the argument that if the debt were defeated taxes would be les- 
sened. There is no doubt that the county would have been a unit on this ques- 
tion had there not been in the opinion of many still higher questions that they 
thought should control, namely: 

1. The injury to the credit of the county and its later results on the 

2. In the judgment of many, impracticable. 

3. The still more serious question that the county had had its day in 
court, or res adjudicata, with due service of notice on the proper county 
officials, and this these sharpers, many of whom were good lawyers, had 
looked after. In other words, that the United States courts do not render 
serious judgments for nothing or as a pastime. By this time, 1877, about 
two-thirds of the whole debt had been thus rendered into judgment, and 
that portion that had not been put into judgment had been intermingled with 
the judgments and put into bonds, until it was, as was thought by many, im- 
practicable to separate them. 


One humorous event happened. On one large judgment rendered a 
mandamus was issued, commanding the board of supervisors to make a levy 
of taxes to pay it. They delayed and did not act. They (in 1875) were 
cited to appear before the United States court at Des Moines to show why 
they should not be punished for contempt of court. The board, by its chair- 
man, asked by what authority their action or nonaction could be interfered 
with. Judge Love replied that "It was by the authority of the United States 
court, and that the United States court did not act trivially." In result, the 
court's writ said in plain English, to the board, to make the levy or go to 
jail, and so the court informed them. The board made the levy. Put into 
common language, the decisions of the courts held that this five per cent, 
limitation was a defense that the county could have made, but, failing to 
interpose when judgment was rendered, its day in court had been had and the 
county closed out. 


This effort to defeat the debt (or Taxpayers' Association) was the out- 
growth of a righteous indignation, and taxpayers' popular meetings were 
held all over the county. Attorneys were employed. The records were 
thoroughly searched, in which both sides of the question were discussed. 
It was discussed in school house lyceums. All citizens were bent on a full 
search to find out the situation. An injunction was issued in an equity suit 
in the district court of the county, entitled, "A. P. Powers and One Hundred 
and Ninety-nine Others, Plaintiffs vs. O'Brien County and its Officers, De- 
fendants,'' to enjoin the payment of all bonds and judgments until the ques- 
tion of the validity of the bonds and indebtedness could be investigated. 

taxpayers' association picnic. 

It is not every picnic which could be dignified to a place as an historic 
item, even county wide. This was, however, one of the most important pub- 
lic gatherings ever held in the county. The writer attended. There were 
about four hundred people there, mainly from the eastern part. The meet- 
ing was serious. Grasshoppers had eaten everything up. It was held in 
July, 1878, on Waterman creek in Grant township. Taxes were high. 
Many were refusing to pay taxes, and had done so for four years. It was 
indeed a righteous wrath. The question was discussed quite a portion of 
the day, and very earnestly. The writer was then a very young man, and 
was somewhat loth to be too positive, though he had looked it up and came 
to the conclusion, for reasons stated above, that defeat of the debt was out 
of the question, as had also decided many others who were there. The 
writer was called upon, and stated that he did not come to interfere with the 
meeting, but had come to the aforesaid conclusion, and sat down without 
discussion. Later it was insisted that he go into the question. Colonel 
Hepburn was expected to speak. He had delivered the Fourth of July 
speech there that year, and, as a sentimental question, gave a very fervid 
opinion that it should be beaten. He later on looked it up and came to the 
same conclusion that it was not practical. Many took part, each speaking at 
length, Messrs. Schee. I. L. E. Peck and Harley Day in favor of payment 
and Messrs. Huse Woods, Ralph Dodge, Thomas Steele and others in favor 
of defeating it in the courts. It is too long to enter into the discussions of 
the day. One item will suffice to show the fervidness of the meeting. As 
stated, many had not paid taxes for several years. Mr. Steele jumped up 
and said, "that the farmers of O'Brien county would camp out on their 
farms, and would not pay a cent of taxes, and that they would hang to the 


nearest wagon tongue the first county officer who would attempt to collect 
a cent of tax for the purpose." This expression came from an honest 
heart and was in essence a righteous condemnation of a great moral wrong 
that had been done. On moral lines and as applied to Bosler, Cofer & Com- 
pany it was unanswerable. But the argument on the side of payment pre- 
vailed, namely, that, whether right or wrong, the county had been in court 
and judgments rendered; that they were closed out; that it was impracticable; 
that in the future judgment of O'Brien county and its future citizens that 
they would feel a higher sense of honor in having paid even an unjust debt, 
even a fraudulent debt, which it was, than to have a prolonged fight for 
years, and that the future people would be the better satisfied. At that meet- 
ing Mr. Steele's statement was cheered to the echo. Still the day's discussion 
drew the lines sharply throughout the county. The people began to see that 
there were two sides to the question, and articles were written in the papers, 
and discussed in many ways. Mr. Steele's statement voiced public indigna- 


The leaders and prime movers in this Taxpayers' Association were A. 
P. Powers, \Y. H. Woods ("Huse"). Thomas J. Steele and hundreds of others, 
and including E. Kindig. Ralph Dodge and Joseph Rowland, members of the 
board. On the other side were Thomas Holmes, Ezra M. Brady, Jacob 
Wolf and William Oliver, members of the board, and a solid delegation of 
the then county officials, George W. Schee, then county auditor, and J. L. 
E. Peck following him in the office, T. J. Alexander, treasurer, Hubert 
Sprague, recorder, Harley Day and David Algyer, county superintendents, 
and William N. Strong and Frank N. Derby, each clerks and later treasurers. 
These men each threw their weight on the side of payment, as did many 
others in the county. But the majority sentiment of the county finally settled 
to this policy, as the only way out of the dilemma. It is a curious fact that 
this main suit brought by A. P. Powers was never tried in court, as a court 
trial. In all reality it was tried by the court of public opinion and discussion. 
The Taxpayers' Association served its purpose and a useful mission. Its 
agitation aided in bringing order out of chaos. Many meetings were held in 
various parts of the county. 

This important and far-reaching suit was brought in the district court 
of O'Brien county, as stated, by A. P. Powers and one hundred and ninety- 
nine others as plaintiffs and landowners to stop and enjoin the county treas- 
urer by injunction from paying these bonds or county debt. It was taken 


to the supreme court of the state. The question was raised that each plain- 
tiff must bring his own suit. Two hundred resident and nonresident land- 
owners had united in the suit on the belief that they could thus join. The 
supreme court decided on October 6. 1880, in effect that they could not so 
join. (See case of A. P. Powers and One Hundred and Ninety-nine Others 
vs. O'Brien County, in 54 Iowa Supreme Court Reports, page 501, for the 
decision.) This decision also held that it would not enjoin that part of the 
debt or those parts of the debt given for actual necessities. These bondhold- 
ers had mixed these parts of the debt for necessities, the good with the bad. 
until it was seen that an endless chain of litigation was to follow. This 
decision practically paralyzed further proceedings. The board had refused 
to bring the suit. The United States court had held that the board only 
could bring it in that court. Add to this the further outlook that even after 
such an injunction was fought through and even sustained, that the bond- 
holders, not yet made parties, could go into court each separated}' and test 
out these several rights and questions, and the still further fact that it was 
tying up the county business — all contributed to its final dismissal. Both 
sides agreed that the debt as such was unjust. It was simply a question 
whether to fight it was practical. The court's decisions thus far seemed to 
sustain the contention of the side 'advocating payment as the best road out 
of the bad matter. The meshes of the law seemed too intricate to practicallv 
contest out such complications. A. P. Powers, "Huse" Woods and many 
other leaders in this large movement spent much time in this earnest effort 
to defeat this unjust debt. Three months after this, on January 4, 1881, 
the county, by its board of supervisors, rebonded the whole debt, as shown 
elsewhere, and followed up with the policy of payment of the debt, and the 
last bond was paid off in 1908. The Taxpayers' Association employed the 
legal firm of Miller & Godfrey, of Des Moines, the chief members being 
Judge William E. Miller, prior chief justice of the supreme court of Iowa. 
The firm of Joy & Wright, of Sioux City, represented the other side of the 


During these years it also occurred that thousands of dollars of worthy 
county warrants were issued for necessities and supplies, and presented and 
marked "Not paid for want of funds." Up to 1876 not even a list of the 
items of debt or list of bonds or judgments had been prepared. The specula- 
tors, however, had looked to it in each set of bonds issued that a resolution 
ordering this and that bond was drawn up in legal shape and recorded in 


the supervisors' record. George W. Schee was elected in 1875 to quality 
January 1, 1876, on the conditions that these debts and judgments and bonds 
must be looked into, made of record and the public informed of the results. 
Air. Schee made the first tabulated list of the indebtedness; indeed it was an 
exhaustive search of every possible debt, bond and judgment, rendered in 
the various courts, and tabulated them in a record purchased by the board 
expressly for that purpose. Therein Mr. Schee rendered the county a very 
great service in putting matters into shape where the people were informed 
of the real condition and what the county was up against. The more the 
search, the deeper and more deplorable it was found. The debt as finally 
summed up (and his tabulation stood the test of the later years of examina- 
tion), showed a total debt of two hundred and forty thousand dollars in 
1876 and two hundred and thirty thousand dollars in 1880. All that had 
been bonded bore ten per cent. The annual interest, therefore, reached 
above twenty thousand dollars. As this was not being paid, it was simply 
adding itself to the unfortunate situation. 


It was perhaps ten days after the above taxpayers' picnic in Grant town- 
ship that a meeting, not of the mass, but of perhaps fifteen men, met in the 
hardware store of Ezra M. Brady, including, as nearly as the writer can 
from memory give them : Mr. Brady, George W. Schee, J. L. E. Peck, 
William W. Johnson, Isaac W. Daggett, Harley Day, George Hakeman, 
Hubert Sprague, C. Longshore. Thomas Holmes and perhaps others. They 
all agreed that something had to be done. It was not a called meeting, but 
the discussion brought them together. The one theme was to see what could 
be done to put the county on a cash basis where it could resume cash pay- 
ments of its outside obligations. At that meeting it seemed to be conceded 
that the policy proposed by the Taxpayers' Association was impracticable, 
and that something more substantial must be the final policy of the county. 
In addition to the twenty-three thousand dollar interest on the public debt, 
there was the regular annual running expenses, which required three dollars 
in county warrants for each dollar needed. It was insisted that the public 
finances could not stand up under such a strain, that the county must be put 
on a cash basis. The tax lists were carefully examined and the amount that 
was likely to be collected from taxes determined. Then it was urged that 
for a trial year that the expenses of the county must be kept within the sum. 


It was further decided that the board of supervisors be asked to pass a resolu- 
tion, in effect, discarding for the time being all back debts, so far as any 
present effort to pay same. This resolution was finally adopted to apply 
to the year 1879, the resolution reading that all county warrants for that year 
should have endorsed thereon in red ink the words : "Issued on the levies 
of 1879." which meant that all expenses of that year should be paid out of 
the taxes collected for that year. When once a man could get one hundred 
cents on the dollar for his warrant, it became at once worth one hundred 
cents. The plan worked immediately, and for all time thereafter. The 
total expenses on the county fund for this last year of the term of George W. 
Schee as auditor was just a little over five thousand dollars, and for 1880, 
the first year of J. L. E. Peck as auditor, about six thousand dollars. Later 
on, when the county got a surplus of funds, the older and then discarded 
warrants outstanding were paid in full, and O'Brien county established on a 
cash basis. It was hardly a case of resumption, as the count)" had never 
been on a cash basis since its organization. It was rather a case of establish- 
ment of that condition. The real credit for the originating of this plan must 
largely be given to George W. Schee, Ezra M. Brady and Thomas Holmes, 
and to its fulfillment, to the board, then composed of Thomas Holmes, Ralph 
Dodge. J. H. Wolf. Ezra M. Brady, William Oliver, Emanuel Kindig and 
Joseph Rowland, who were among the members of the board during the 
following two years. It was not simply in the policy thus adopted, but the 
principle was carried out in the details of public expenses. For instance, 
the board insisted that the auditors, George W. Schee and J. L. E. Peck, 
should serve for seven hundred dollars per annum salary, this being later on 
enlarged to eight hundred and twenty-five dollars. All other officials and 
expenses were put on a similar basis. 

TAX SALE OF l88o. 

As we have shown, the citizens quite generally for four years up to 1880 
had refused to pay their taxes, on the line of the picnic speech by Thomas J. 
Steele, candidate for county auditor. The statutory penalties had added 
largely to the amount of taxes due. At the tax sale held October 7, 1880. 
conducted by T. J. Alexander, treasurer, and J. L. E. Peck, county auditor, 
these delinquent lands were sold for these four or less years as per the facts, 
for full taxes and penalties. A tax sale purchaser under the then law. got 
a penalty at once added of twenty per cent, as an inducement to purchase, 
and then ten per cent, interest on the whole amount. This, in connection 


with the fact that the values of land had risen somewhat, and the further 
fact that the county had at this date been on a cash basis for one year, and 
the people were getting heart again, brought out a large number of bidders 
and was the largest tax sale ever held in the county. The sale, together 
with funds from a prior sale, amounted to thirty thousand dollars. In the 
regular course of funds, this sum should have been distributed to the several 
county, poor, bridge and school funds, as per levies, and in theory of law 
it could have been enforced. The board, however, took the bull by the horns, 
as it were, discarded the question of funds, and applied the whole thirty 
thousand bodily on the debt of two hundred and thirty thousand dollars. 
This, as can be seen, reduced the debt to even two hundred thousand dollars. 
AYhile in a sense it was illegal, yet as the four years were past, and even the 
schools needed only the coming current year's taxes, the people justified the 
board's action. It was one of the very few cases where a direct violation of 
law proved a crowning success. At all events, this payment and reduction of 
thirty thousand dollars of the public debt gave new heart to the people. . It 
was me first lifting of a dark cloud. 


On January 4, 1881, on the opening of the second year of the term of 
J. L. E. Peck as county auditor, a further decisive action was taken by the 
board. Ten per cent interest on this debt still loomed up as a hard fate. 
On that date a resolution was passed to rebond this remaining two hundred 
thousand dollars of the debt by an issue of new bonds to take up all out- 
standing matters and to bear seven per cent, instead of ten per cent, thus 
reducing the annual interest six thousand dollars. This also revived the 
spirits of the people. The grasshoppers had quit, which had also lifted 
further the clouds. The reduction of the annual expense on the county fund 
to five thousand dollars, and even as late as 1883 to eight thousand dollars, 
broke loose still more clouds, for the blue sky and the sun to shine through. 
The effort to defeat the debt vanished entirely, and this fact gave the county, 
as well as individual obligations and land loans, a better credit. Land began 
to be quoted as a thing of real value, though even then at onlv from five to 
eight dollars per acre, and the people began to realize the dream of a home 
in O'Brien county. It took seventeen thousand signatures for the county 
auditor to sign those bonds and the coupons of interest attached, which still 
said that the county had a yoke on its neck. The railroads were in the mean- 
time being actually built, the Milwaukee in 1878 and the Northwestern in 


1 881, and the people began to conclude that we might even yet amount to 
something. Xew settlers were added and people began to talk of the grass- 
hopper times as a past calamity. Still later on this debt was again rebonded 
and the interest this time reduced to five and still later to four and one-half 
per cent, and the people began to see the clear sky clear down to the horizon. 
But even then the people were exclaiming that if their land ever got up to 
twenty-five dollars per acre it would be the top, and they would sell at once, 
which many of them did, little dreaming that right here in O'Brien county 
was a soil unequalled anywhere on earth, and that in this year of grace 19 14 
it would actually sell for one hundred and fifty dollars per acre. The last 
thousand dollars of the debt was paid off in the year 1908. 




The long-drawn-out contest, or series of contests, over the overlapping 
lands in O'Brien county commenced with the "squatter" in 1882 and did 
not end until 19 10, and even yet, for several years, some of the fragments 
will appear in the courts. It has included several score of forcible entr)' 
and detainer suits, before justices of the peace, for possession, probably 
about eight hundred suits and litigations in the district court of the county, 
several hundred larger and test suits in the district and circuit courts of the 
United States, probably forty of same being before the circuit court, and 
half that number before the circuit court of appeals at St. Paul and St. Louis, 
and perhaps about ten before the supreme court of the United States. In 
addition to this, every tract in eighties or quarter sections has been before 
the land court of the United States land office at Des Moines, comprising 
two hundred and fifty separate hearings, with rehearings and intermediate 
items, with large numbers appealed to the general land office, and (mite a 
number of hearings had before the secretary of the interior. There have 
been several special acts of Congress directed specifically to the lands in 
O'Brien county, and the matter has engaged the attention of the Legis- 
latures of the state of Iowa in about a dozen acts and amendments. It is 
not every county that will receive a special proclamation by the President 
of the United States, but such was the case in the proclamation of President 
Grover Cleveland in 1896 in opening up these Sioux City lands to homestead 
entry. The questions involved several governors and attorney-generals of 
Iowa. Probably one hundred and fifty attorneys have been engaged on one 
side or the other in the multitude of items in litigation. Even such men as 
the celebrated Judge William Lawrence and Gen. Benjamin F. Butler have 
given it their attention. The board of supervisors of O'Brien county for 
twenty-five years have at almost every session had some tangled question 
relating to taxes, either with the railroads or with the squatters. Squatters' 


unions of litigants were continuous for twenty years, organized to keep up 
united investigation and action from their standpoint. 

It involved two divisions of lands. That known as the Chicago, Mil- 
waukee & St. Paul Railroad Company, or, as we shall for brevity call them. 
the Milwaukee lands, involved forty-one thousand six hundred and eighty- 
seven and fifty-two hundredths acres, and which were patented to that road 
by the United States on September 2j, 1886. The second division, com- 
posed of twenty-one thousand one hundred and seventy-nine and eighty-five 
hundredths acres in O'Brien county and eight hundred acres in Dickinson 
county, were originally granted to the Sioux City & St. Paul Company on 
May 12, 1864, but which they failed to earn, as we shall see herein. The 
claims of this latter road form the basis of the contentions we will recite in 
this chapter. The real questions involved were finally submitted to and 
decided by the supreme court of the United States on October 21. 1895, 
in favor of the squatters and the President's proclamation opened the same 
to homestead entry, as preferred entrymen under the act of Congress of 
May 14, 1880, which act provided that whoever took actual bona fide posses- 
sion of any vacant tract of public land, whether surveyed or unsurveyed. 
in good faith intention to make same a home, should have the first thirty 
days' right after proclamation by the President of the United States that 
same was subject to entry, to file his application and proofs of possession. 
In fact, the matter has been one of the biggest single items of public interest 
ever in the county, and forms the basis or reason for devoting a lengthy 
chapter in giving its details. 

The first half of the fight included both the Milwaukee and Sioux City 
lands. The whole trouble and litigation grew out of the crude and incon- 
sistent acts of Congress in making its grant of lands to aid railroads in their 
construction in the newer countries or sections where the traffic of railroads 
would not collect a paying revenue to run and manage a road. 


The Congress of the United States, on May 12, 1864, passed an act for 
the grant of lands to the state of Iowa, in alternate sections of land, to aid 
in the construction of railroads, namely, granting one hundred sections, or 
about sixty-four thousand acres, for each section of ten miles of a fully 
equipped railroad built. 

This grant applied to both the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad 
Company and the Sioux City & St. Paul Railroad. Each of these roads was 


first known by the name of the construction company building same, but to 
avoid confusion we will speak of them by their later names. The grant, in 
result, provided that the Milwaukee company should be built from Mc- 
Gregor, Iowa, west and form a junction with the Sioux City road in O'Brien 
county, or, as it later developed, at Sheldon, Iowa. 

These lands were to be selected in alternate sections, by the odd num- 
bers, under certain conditions within the ten-mile limits, and under certain 
other conditions within twenty miles of the respective lines of road. Thus 
it may be seen that in the very grant itself the subject of friction was laid 
and at once became a bone of contention between the two roads. This 
question arises at each point of forty miles square wherever two great roads 
cross, receiving such a grant, but as two roads can only cross once, and as 
these grants were made only to long through lines, there are but few such 
cases, and it fell to the lot of O'Brien county to be inflicted for twenty-five 
years with the litigations of such an overlap of lands, hence called "overlap- 
ping lands." 


The first legal contest occurred between the tw r o railroads to determine 
what those overlapping interests caused by this grant meant. This was 
brought on by a suit in equity brought in the United States circuit court at 
Sioux City, Iowa, in 1884 by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad 
as plaintiff against the Sioux City & St. Paul Railroad Company, and Elias 
F. Drake and Alexander H. Rice as Trustees ( later Mr. Rice resigned and 
Amherst H. Wilder was named in his place), and who were holders of said 
lands as trustees to secure two million eight hundred thousand dollars in the 
bonds of said road, to raise funds to build same. John H. Gear. Governor of 
Iowa, and J. K. Powers, Register of the State Land Office for Iowa, de- 

There were many legal questions involved relating to the relative rights 
of the lands within the ten-mile and twenty-mile limits. In brief, the court 
dealt with the matter on equity principles as in partition of lands, solving 
it out in sundry classes according to those rights, but, in result, giving to 
each road its particular sections or parts thereof in sole ownership. This 
suit was finally submitted to Judge Love, October 7. 1886, and decided as 
above. A referee or master in chancery was appointed by the court to make 
the actual partition. This he did and his report of same was confirmed and 
decree rendered December 18, 1886. This decree will be found recorded in 
the office of the countv recorder. But this decision only decided the matters 


between the roads themselves. It did not and could not decide whether or 
not the roads had in fact earned the lands under the grant. 


This allotment of lands to the Milwaukee road was in fact patented to 
that road by the state of Iowa under the patent on September 27, 1886, and 
its record found in book 23. page 436, of deed records of the county. The 
question of its title to these lands never got into the large courts seriously, 
though Dr. H. M. Hamblin in part raised the question at one time, as did 
the lands of the Sioux City Company. The question of its title and the 
issuance of its patents was solved largely in the general land office at Wash- 
ington. This company sold all this large allotment of forty-one thousand 
six hundred and eighty-seven and fifty-two hundredths acres to the Western 
Land Company, of which E. McMurtree was one of its officers and chief 
manager so far as its activities in this county were concerned. This com- 
pany had many years of contentions with the squatters in evictions, as below 
shown, and Air. McMurtree became for ten years a well known and fighting 
character in the county and its courts, and in his dealings in inducing many 
of them to purchase and in evicting by writs those who refused to purchase. 
In result, its titles were maintained. 


The real squatting on lands applied to the lands of both roads. Credit 
must be given to the discovery of the real squatter idea to Dr. Howard M. 
Hamblin, who came to O'Brien county in 1881 and purchased school lands in 
Highland township, settling in Primghar. He proceeded at once as a 
squatter on the northeast quarter of section 1, in Dale township, being now 
a part of Derby & Rowan's addition to Primghar, and erected a residence on 
what is now Main street. We say residence, but in fact it was a squatter's 
shanty, though of the better variety. Doctor Hamblin came as a real settler 
and farmed for manv years his lands in Highland township. He had been 
an office holder in Washington and there got hold of this squatter idea. 
He was a very sanguine man, set positively in his idea, which amounted 
almost to a hobby, though not quite sufficiently practical to get down to the 
real legal questions involved, which all saw later must govern. He never 
got down to the real fact that the two roads were not on the same footing, 
one, the Milwaukee road, having already, in 1878, completed its road to 


Sheldon as per the grant, while the Sioux City road had only built to Le 
Mars. Iowa, which was finally fatal to its proofs relating to the earning of 
its lands. His fight was much a mass fight against all railroads. It had been 
true that both roads had dilly-dallied in building, waiting as long as they 
dared, and building only when they had to, not in reality fulfilling the real 
intent of Congress to aid railroads in building across the then barren prairie 
to induce settlers to come in. Indeed the roads waited for the settler him- 
self. This provided the argument for prejudice against the railroad. Many 
squatters accepted this fiery argument against the railroad as the law, 
losing sight of the fact that the courts and departments, and even the supreme 
court of the United States, on cold principles of law, must and did finally 
decide. Doctor Hamblin proceeded too much in moral efforts with mem- 
bers of Congress and the Legislature for new proceedings and enactments. 
He evidently overlooked the fact that even Congress by new enactment could 
not take away a single right that either road had acquired under the grant 
by building. The roads had acquired vested rights and must have their day 
in court, and the courts only could decide the questions finally. 

Doctor Hamblin, however, was a very active and persistent man and 
kept the roads, as well as the squatters, sitting up and taking notice. He was 
sincere and dealt with the squatter candidly from his viewpoint. He pro- 
ceeded to advertise in sundry Scandinavian, Dane. German and American 
papers, that there were large tracts of homestead land subject to entry in 
O'Brien county. He talked to the writer as county auditor, through whom 
he purchased his school lands, on this squatter subject as early as 1880, and 
wanted him to go into the matter. This was discussed in the county, at first 
faintly, but did not reach a stampede or influx of squatters until February 
22, 1884. 


On that date the writer arrived home from a trip and found the whole 
public square around the court house, and every hitching post in town, lined 
with teams, buggies, wagons and saddle horses in hundreds. The motley 
crowd thus called together were much excited over these homestead lands. 
People came during the next several days and weeks from everywhere, real 
homesteaders of the bona fide class, land speculators, promoters, young men 
not even twenty-one years of age, even ladies, attorneys, bankers, business 
men and wealthy people. Many foreigners came in response to the adver- 
tisements in the papers and with small idea of what it all meant. An entry 


for homestead may be made before a clerk of courts, provided they are more 
than one hundred and fifty miles from the land office which in this case they 
were. This fact, together with getting actual possession, brought the crowd. 
The clerk could not make out papers fast enough. The writer was besieged 
for advice and to draw papers. He gave to all the same advice as did most 
other attorneys, namely, that he would draw the papers, but that the whole 
law question or questions were yet unsolved and that they must take their 
chances on results. 


The act of Congress of May 14, 1880, has already been referred to, 
giving to every person first, in possession of such government lands with 
bona fide intent, the first thirty days' right to enter it as a homestead. This 
made quick work necessary to get possession and to make a bona fide show- 
ing of a home and house and to be actually in possession. Much of it would 
have been humorous had it not been so serious. 

Thus far and for six years this excitement applied itself to the lands of 
both roads, neither Doctor Hamblin. who assumed the leadership, nor the 
squatters in their choice of location making any difference as to which lands 
they jumped or took possession of. 


These lands being the odd numbered sections, and the still older home- 
steaders of 1870-71-72 having homesteaded the even numbered sections, 
many of them for one reason and another had either broken up a few acres, 
or broke around some haystack to protect them, or broke up a strip in front 
of their premises as a protection against prairie fires, or built some cattle 
corral or shed, sheep shed, granary or secondary building across the roads 
from their homes, on some part of these railroad lands. Many of these 
people or their grown-up-sons at once saw the point of possession, and many 
families or a member at once put in a bed or a cot, stove and cupboard and 
were housekeeping within a few hours. Old stoves were at a premium. 
Improvised chimneys were built in old sheds, all to make up a bona fide 
appearance. A few even proceeded, so excited were they, to move their 
main substantial buildings, even buildings that it would materially damage 
to so remove. These new comers at once saw that they had to get quicklv 
into possession. 



As one can see, in this excitement little shacks jumped up over night 
all over these lands, and resulted, in many cases, in two and three men getting 
possession the same day, and often on getting up in the morning to find 
themselves "jumped," as it was called by some enterprising squatter who 
had during the night built or pulled on a shanty on the other end of his land. 
One load of lumber in many cases built a "home," often at a cost of about 
fifteen dollars. In the later litigation on the Sioux City lands, these first 
sudden possessions became in fact very material. 


"Jumping" brought on many contentions. Indeed, in many cases, 
where two men jumped on in the night, and on different parts of a quarter 
section of land, it became difficult to tell or prove who was first. Others 
openly jumped the other man and took his chances. The older settlers of 
1870-72 who already had shacks on these lands, claimed they had possession 
all the time for all those years. This brought on physical combats, and even 
burnings of each others' buildings and openly moving each other's shacks 
off. It happened in many instances, for even a number of years, that two 
men, fully knowing the facts, would put double crops in on top of each other, 
and often of different grains. This brought on litigations and proceedings 
to keep the peace. Farming with a revolver was often indulged in. Many 
forcible entry and detainer suits for possession before justices of the peace 
were brought to put one another off. The writer participated in many of 
them as attorney. Many odd and amusing scenes took place. 


I will give one actual incident to illustrate. One dapper little attorney 
came hurriedly from Chicago, on hearing of the excitement, dressed as if 
out of a band box. He was on the ground early and proved much of a 
scrapper. He hauled two separate loads of lumber on two separate tracts, 
on the theory that he would at least succeed on one of them. He got one 
load hauled on the southwest quarter of section 29, in Center township, where 
Bert Foskett had broke up and farmed a little strip for several years, ad- 
joining his father's farm. Bert heard of it and in the night proceeded to 
run the lumber up into the attic of the school house on the land. The Chi- 


cago attorney in the morning" was minus his lumber, or at least could not find 
it. He had Bert arrested for stealing the lumber. The writer defended 
on the ground that there was no intention to appropriate his property, simply 
to hide it temporarily, which was the true fact, hence no theft, and that 
theory at least was sustained. In the meantime during the two days occu- 
pied with this suit Bert had built a counter building of fair proportions and 
established his possession. It being Milwaukee land, he later bought it and 
got title. The little attorney who had come out from Chicago with quite a 
flourish of law. after spending about one hundred and fifty dollars, as he told 
me. went home in disgust, but with the idea that "teaching the natives" on 
western wild prairies was a new experience. 


The 1872 settlers, who had been for twelve years in the habit of cutting 
hay and grazing their stock on these odd numbered sections of land, sought 
all kinds of pretexts for claiming possession, some winning out and some 

a "home" in a big dry goods box. 

One man got so excited that he hustled out with a big dry goods box and 
actually slept in it for three nights, until he could get something substantial 
on the ground, and in his case he actually won out. 

two inconsistent statutes. 

First — I have already referred to the act of Congress of May 14. 1880, 
giving, in effect, the squatter first in possession, with bona fide intentions to 
make the land a home, the first thirty days' right to enter same when declared 
to be opened for homestead entry. This was the statute under which the 
squatters made their fight. 

.Second — On March 3, 1887. Congress passed a very extensive act re- 
lating to public lands, but among its provisions was a clause providing that 
any purchaser of land from a railroad, bona fide in good faith, whether 
earned or unearned, shall have the first thirty days' right to purchase the 
land from the government at the regular government price of two and fifty 
hundredths dollars or four hundred dollars per quarter section of land. 
This was evidently passed in the interest of the railroads. In result, it 
enabled the railroad to sell and get the full value of the land less this four 


hundred dollars per quarter section, and this, too, whether it had built the 
road or not. 

Here, however, the courts, as well as the squatters and railroads and 
contract holders from the railroads, found two diametrically inconsistent 
statutes, each giving the first right to two necessarily opposing men. In each 
case the phrase "bona fide" or good faith entered as a requirement, and this 
opened up much contending evidence of eye witnesses in the later hearings. 
The Sioux City road had in the meantime anticipated the matter by selling 
and issuing contracts for a large part of this twenty-one thousand one hun- 
dred and seventy-nine and fifty-two hundredths acres allotted, but not earned. 
Then, when it saw that a real contest was on in earnest, proceeded to sell all 
unsold balance in one drag-net contract to one Gotleib Schwartz, evidently 
to make one last clean-up. Then later, by assignments from him to various 
other parties it was sought to press before the courts this contract and these 
assignments as bona fide purchases, but this man Schwartz having been shown 
to be virtually acting for the road, the courts after long litigation held them 
frauds. Some residents of the county even helped to carry out this scheme. 


These two claimants, the squatter homesteader and the holder of one 
of these railroad land contracts, brought on a direct contest for each tract. 
This, in real result, necessitated two litigations. The hearings or trials 
before the land office or land court at Des Moines did not end the contest, 
not even when appealed to Washington. This for the reason that the land 
office is not what is known in law as a court of record, simply an adminis- 
trative department. As was decided by the courts, the parties, squatters and 
contract holders, had not had their day in court. Hence after that was all 
over, each two men on a tract, squatter and contractor, had a right to and 
did bring his further action to try anew the same questions they had already 
spent much money in hearings before the land office. All this was occupying 
the years and wearing out the squatters, who were blessed with none too 
much money. 

In the meantime Governors William Larrabee and Horace Boies and the 
Legislature of Iowa and Congress had repeated urgings from many angles 
to issue governor's deeds or patents from the state, and to enact statutes, 
which if effective, would arbitrarily end matters. With all these conflicting 
laws and facts, it took a long time for the idea to become well settled in 
the minds of the many parties in interest, that neither governors nor legis- 


latures were courts, and could not take away vested rights under grants of 
Congress, or even to determine them, whatever they were. Herein evidently 
Doctor Hamblin erred. 


The fact gradually dawned on the public and the members of the squat- 
ters' union that it would require the courts to really settle matters. About 
the year 1887, a petition of squatters and other citizens of the county (indeed 
all wanted the vexed litigations ended) was directed to Congress asking the 
enactment of a statute or resolution authorizing the secretary of the interior, 
through the attorney-general of the United States and the department of 
justice, to institute a suit in the name of the United States as plaintiff and 
against the Sioux City road, praying the court for a decree quieting the title 
against the road, and re-establishing it in the United States, and declaring 
the same, in result, open to homestead rights. Congress passed such an act 
on March 3, 1887, known as 24 Statute 556, chapter 376, which provided 
for an adjustment of land grants of unearned lands, along many lines of 
difficulty, and ordering the secretary of the interior, under the proper facts 
shown, to make demand of the road for a relinquishment of its rights, and 
on his certificate of authority to make it the duty of the attorney-general to 
bring suit. 

This suit was first brought in the circuit court of the United States in 
an action entitled. The United States, plaintiff, against The Sioux City & 
St. Paul Railroad Company, and Elias F. Drake and Amherst H. Wilder as 
trustees. This great suit was finally decided, after appeal, by the supreme 
court of the United States. This decision was handed down October 21, 
1895, and the decree in full may be found in the 43 Federal Reporter, page 
617 and forward. The decree and opinion by Justice Harlan is also recorded 
in full on the records of O'Brien county in Miscellaneous Book "B," pages 
307 to 330. It was decided in favor of the United States. The attorney- 
general's office was assisted by E. C. Hughes, attorney, of Spencer, Iowa, 
and by Joy, Hudson, Call & Joy, of Sioux City. The railroad was repre- 
sented by sundry able atlorneys. 

The subject developed the following conclusions : That the Sioux City 
road had not earned its lands. That the grants in the act of Congress of 
May 12, 1864, had provided that this road should receive one hundred sec- 
tions for each completed ten miles of well built road, and that said road 
should be built from the state line of Minnesota to Sioux City, Iowa, which 
the court finds to be eighty-three and fifty-two hundredths miles. That it. 


in fact, built in 1872 only from the state line to Le Mars, Iowa, a distance 
of fifty-six and thirteen hundredths miles. That it had built and was only 
entitled to an allotment of lands for five completed sections of ten miles 
each. That had it completed the road to Sioux City as per the grant it would 
have been entitled to the fraction over the completed sections, but that having 
only built as far as Le Mars it was not entitled to allotment for the fraction 
of the six and thirteen hundredths miles. That said road had leased the 
franchises and road bed and right to use same, and that it had so used and 
run its trains over the track and road bed of the Illinois Central Railroad 
Company from Le Mars to Sioux City. That such leasing and use of a road 
was not a "building of a road," as contemplated by the land grant of May 
12, 1864, and that it was only entitled allotments for five completed sections 
of ten miles each, for, on July 26, 1872. it had built two sections of ten miles 
each or twenty miles, on August 10, 1872, ten miles, and on February t. 
1873, it had built twenty miles more, or five completed sections. The court 
further found that it had already received patents for more land than it in 
fact had earned ; that it had received eighty-seven thousand eight hundred 
and seventy and twenty-one hundredths acres more than it had earned. It 
was therefore decreed that the Sioux City road was forever barred and 
estopped from claiming any right or title to any such lands, and that the 
trust deed securing the railroad bonds of two million eight hundred thousand 
dollars, and held by Elias F. Drake and Amherst H. Wilder as trustees, was 
cancelled so far as said lands were concerned. The decree in full of about 
twelve thousand words is an exhaustive review of all the facts and is a dis- 
cussion of the details and law questions leading up to the above conclusions. 
This decision and suit was the master stroke of the whole long-drawn-out 
fight or series of litigations. It followed that the twenty-one thousand one 
hundred and seventy-nine and eighty-five hundredths acres in O'Brien county 
and eight hundred acres in Dickinson county were open to homestead entry. 


The squatters in the first instance occupied all the Milwaukee lands, 
commencing in the main, as did the squatting on the Sioux City lands, on 
February 22, 1884, though in a measure it commenced as early as 1882 and 
continued until evictions were procured commencing January 3, 1887, under 
writs of possession issued by the district court of the state for O'Brien 
county. The first squatters' union was organized by the squatters on the 
lands of both roads, with Dr. Howard M. Hamblin as organizer. It soon 


became evident, however, that the leading questions in the two divisions of 
lands would involve two quite different set of questions. There soon also 
dawned on the minds of the people generally the fact that the Sioux City 
road had not earned its land, while the Milwaukee road had earned all the 
lands in the county allotted to it, and hence there was but little show for the 
squatters on the Milwaukee lands, but that the Sioux City lands would be 
opened to homestead. 


In 1886 the Milwaukee road sent on an Englishman named Ephraim 
McMurtree as its representative to look after and sell these lands and deal 
with the Milwaukee squatters. He was well fitted from the road's stand- 
point, being a capable, well poised man. with good judgment, a good judge 
of law and business, and, above all. kept his temper in dealing with the 
ofttimes excited squatter. The very fact that their cause seemed waning 
seemed to cause many irritations. He proceeded to appraise the lands in 
tracts of eighties and quarters of from ten to fourteen dollars per acre, and 
put them on the market at their appraised prices, giving the squatter the first 
chance to buy. with a time limit which seemed reasonable, and giving him 
a first chance gave it an attitude of fairness. Each squatter who purchased 
and gave up, of course ended that much of the fight and gradually those buy- 
ing dropped out of the squatters' union. 


On January 3, 1887, and up to August, 1887, Mr. McMurtree filed one 
hundred and seventeen suits for eviction against the squatters and their 
families. They embraced suits in said court numbered consecutively from 
1586 to 1 70 1 and number 1878 and numbers 19 14 to 191 6. Irrespective of 
legal questions involved, evictions of families, putting them out of possession 
by the strong arm of the law, turning them out literally into the road, as in 
these cases out from under the roofs that covered their heads, involving- 
women and children, even the infirm, from the houses which from their 
standpoint was home, has in it the elements of pity and distress. 

William C. Green, or Clark Green as he was known, was the sheriff of 
O'Brien county to whom the writs were directed, and who as such made 
the actual evictions. In fact they were the most pitiful and wholesale set 
of transactions ever in the county. Probably from the standpoint of the 


road it was the only thing it could do. as the squatters would not remove 
until compelled. The courts had decided that the road was right in its 
premises. The squatters on these lands, though wrong in their judgment, 
went into it under enthusiasm. 

In the literal evictions it would well compare with the historic 
evictions of Ireland. They were all poor people, or they would not have 
been seeking homesteads. The bankers and promoters who first came on 
soon found that there was nothing in it for them. No matter who was 
wrong or right, in most cases they were poor people with large families, who 
had actually occupied and farmed more or less of the land for sundry years. 
It was a hard position in which to place a sheriff, whose votes he would 
necessarily seek at the next election. He accepted the situation as a legal 
duty and carried it out. The sheriff in fact took along with him four others, 
sworn in as deputies, and not only the families were turned out into the 
roads, but the buildings in many cases actually hauled by the sheriff off the 
land. In the case of Dr. Howard M. Hamblin, who fought his matter so 
persistently, his buildings were torn to pieces and scattered up and down the 
road, to which the writer was an eye witness. Quite a good many finally 
purchased, but many remained gritty. The county will probably never again 
witness a wholesale set of evictions. It was not a case of a poor landed 
country, but stern law, giving the railroads what the courts had decreed to 
be their rights. 

Some of these evictions, though harsh, had their amusing sides. Will- 
iam E. English ("Bill"), a squatter on the northeast quarter of section 2\, 
Center, was game. He wouldn't be put out. His family and old mother 
joined in the melee. Every time the sheriff went there, some member of the 
family went to bed sick. All hands were convinced, it was even openlv 
boasted by "Bill" himself, that it was feigned. He was much of a scrapper 
and contended, in effect, that any fight was justifiable against a railroad. 
It took the sheriff most of the summer with the four deputies before he was 

But practically none of the suits, even for eviction, ever got bevond the 
district court. It seemed by this time to be generally admitted and 
acquiesced in by all having even a superficial knowledge of the law as ap- 
plied, that the Milwaukee lands really had no serious questions in it. The 
fight, with many of them, finally simmered down to an effort to secure better 
terms in a purchase or a little delay, to see if something might turn up. 
Thev were ready to grasp at anv straw. 




One incident occurred which well illustrated the unsettled ideas of title, 
involving no less a personage than the famous Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, the 
great attorney and famous Union general during the Civil War. 

George W. Schee and J. L. E. Peck, the writer, ran the Primghar State 
Bank from 1886 to 1890. It had been definitely agreed between a bunch of 
some fifteen Milwaukee squatters that the bank would loan to each five hun- 
dred dollars to make their first payments. This number of fifteen had de- 
cided to give up. Some one of the leaders in a sort of desperation had tele- 
graphed to General Butler asking him if he could be engaged. General 
Butler was not at home. A clerk of his telegraphed him, and he in turn 
telegraphed to Primghar that he would accept a retainer. He had not even 
a statement of the facts before him. He simply would accept a retainer. 
As any one can see, this telegram meant nothing. That day a large squat- 
ters' union was held by the Milwaukee road squatters. That telegram was 
read amid intense enthusiasm. Even this number of fifteen squatters who 
had given up, on the strength of this slim straw joined the crowd in the 
enthusiasm. The crowd threw up their hats and came to the bank with the 
exulting news that General Butler had given an opinion. Many other such 
waverings took place. It ended those loans for six months or more. In- 
deed, it is almost grimly humorous that even from that time on in 1887 many 
of the Sioux City squatters spent more per acre in expense fighting for their 
lands than the Milwaukee road got for their lands, namely ten to fourteen 
dollars per acre. It all simply illustrates what grit, egged on by enthusiasm, 
and, as the squatters and many others thought, a wrong by the railroads, will 


Many, or most of, the early 1870- 1880 settlers, the writer included, in 
the first instance sided with the railroad for two reasons. First, a railroad 
title immediately made the land subject to taxation and the county needed the 
taxes. If it all went to homestead it would go from five to eight years 
before it would be proved up upon and become taxable. Secondly, the older 
1872 homesteaders had had free hay and cattle range on these odd numbered 
sections for so long that they did not welcome a cutting off of this asset. 



The writer has termed the decision of the supreme court of the United 
States of October 21, 1895, as the "master stroke" of the Sioux City land 
squatters. And so it was. However, it was but the beginning of their long 
and tedious right. The patenting to the Milwaukee road of their lands re- 
duced the number of the sq natters union to one-third of its prior numbers, 
though it seemed settled in every body's mind that in the main question the 
Sioux City land squatters would be sustained. 

The blunder of Congress in its act of March 3, 1887, lay in the giving to 
any person holding a contract from the railroad a preferred right to purchase 
same. This in result brought on an equivalent of an expensive litigation 
before the United States land court, only to find, when finished, that the con- 
tractor could again raise the question before a court of record. 

The proclamation of President Grover Cleveland and attendant notices 
were published in February, 1896, in the Sheldon Eagle at Sheldon, Iowa, 
and each holder of a railroad contract filed his contest as per the notice 

The United States land court was presided over by Hon. Edward B. 
Evans, register of the land office. In the meantime sundry divisions of 
squatters employed this and that attorney or firm of attorneys, usually 
under a written contract wherein they agreed to pay one dollar per acre when 
title was procured and fifty dollars per year as long as they were maintained 
in possession, varying in condition with the sundry attorneys. Sundry of 
these attorneys who made these conditional contracts, were Judge William 
Lawrence, of Ohio, a man of national prominence; Joy, Call, Joy & Wright, 
of Sioux City ; John W. Corey, of Spencer. Iowa ; King & Stearns, J. L. E. 
Peck and O. H. Montzheimer, of Primghar: J. F. Conrad, A. R. Lowry. 
Judge George H. Carr, of Des Moines ; Ex-Attorney-General Henry O'Con- 
ner and others ; while W. P. Jewett. of St. Paul ; W. D. Boies, O. M. Barrett 
and Milt H. Allen, of Sheldon; C. A. Babcock. of Sanborn; J. T. Conn, of 
Hartley; J. H. Swan and Judge Chase, of Sioux City, appeared for the rail- 
road contract men. This land court was in almost continual session during 
the year 1896 and a large part of 1897. Test cases were agreed upon by the 
parties and attorneys, as would most nearly include as many of the con- 
tested questions as possible. The case of Olive Manley, plaintiff (squatter) 
against Andrew Tow, was, among others, appealed to the general land office 



at Washington and finally to the courts, and perhaps was the most noted 
case tried. This court tried about one case per day. 


During this period of about a year and a halt as these trials proceeded, 
from time to time the register rendered his opinions, in the main sustaining 
the squatter as against the railroad contract. In some considerable number 
of cases, however, the contracts were upheld. But in most of such cases it 
was where the contract man was able in the early local scrimmage to retain 
actual possession, and where he was in that position that had he not held 
it under the contract, he could have homesteaded it as did the squatter. The 
contract man was also sustained in some cases, where that phrase "bona fide." 
which occurs in both statutes, was considered, and in the special case seemed 
the stronger with the contract holder, this phrase, as we have shown, occur- 
ring in both the squatter statute of May 14, 1880. and the railroad statute 
of March 3, 1887. Each of those statutes applied to all alike, of course, but 
we use the expression, squatter's and railroad's statutes as the public got to 
know him. However, in all that litigation there were scores of technical 
questions of law and fact, especially of first possession. 


Fights and scraps for possession are not always consistent. A goodly 
number of scrimmages took place between the squatters themselves, and also 
with the old settlers, in attempts to forcibly move buildings across the road, 
either to get possession or to get somebody else off, and which at times would 
bring together quite a crowd. Nobody was ever seriously injured physicallv, 
but one can see the tension of feeling aroused. 


It was Mr. Squatter. Mr. M. D. Finch. He first took possession of a 
piece of the Milwaukee land and had got his buildings erected, and lived on 
same some years and until the evictions in January. 1887. He and his 
family were among the evicted. As good luck should happen, a good quarter 
section of Sioux City land which had not yet been landed upon cornered to 
this Milwaukee quarter. Sheriff Clark Green, with his four deputies, came 
on with good official Irish eviction ceremonies, to land off and put out this 


good son of Erin, and proceeded to land Mr. Finch, family, buildings and 
all over on the other corner. A goodly crowd had assembled to witness 
Sheriff Green hold court, and perhaps take a hand, should need arise. But 
the Milwaukee road was on top and he was officially landed over onto a rich 
quarter of Sioux City land that proved out with other squatters' homesteads 
a good title and on which he still resides with his family, and the land worth 
one hundred and fifty dollars per acre. When you evict old Ireland, look 
out. She is still on hand for home rule at the next session of Parliament, 
as was squatter M. D. Finch. 


The writer, with his family, on one Christmas day, in 1889, was riding 
by one squatter's homestead land and house. I mistook the place for another 
man I wished to see. His barn was between the house and the road, some 
distance apart. As the barn was passed the thought came to look in the 
barn, as perhaps he was there. But all at once here came the squatter from 
the house, almost in a frenzy, cursing at the top of his voice, and insisting 
that I was "spying round to get a hook of possession on him and get him 
off." It was least in my mind. .A few months later he was sent to the 
insane hospital at Cherokee, and is yet there, incurable. It was not the 
special incident that drove him insane, as the evidence at the hearing de- 
veloped, but the severe tension of the three to four years of scrapping in the 
excitements for possession unbalanced him. It was a sad and true incident. 


Another incident I must mention as coming under my personal atten- 
tion in which I took a part. Many squatters came and went, got sick and 
quit, it all being experimental. They would often become intensely excited, 
especially when crowds assembled. This incident occurred on section 17, 
in Highland, in 1885. This six hundred and forty acres was all vacant, and 
covered with good prairie grass. Squatters had squatted on each quarter 
of it. William King, one of the old 1872 homesteaders, had cut and stacked 
on this section about sixty tons of hay in sundry stacks on different parts of 
the section. These new squatters feared that this haystack possession might 
be construed into a claim of possession, and they forbade Mr. King to re- 
move the hay. One day about twenty sympathizing squatters from sur- 
rounding sections assembled on this section, and lay down on the tops of 


these hay stacks, in singles, twos and threes, and then sent Mr. King a 
notice not to haul any hay. They did not need the hay, as they had no stock. 
It was purely a fear as to possession. Mr. King came to myself and George 
W. Schee for advice. Mr. King had a large family of sons and sons-in-law. 
We advised him to meet the question on the same basis of numbers. To 
watch for a day, when they seemed to be absent, and then have each son and 
son-in-law get a team and hay rack, go in a body and load and move the 
hay. This seemed so formidable that the squatters let them move the hay. 


This incident occurred on this same section iy in Highland. Mr. King 
had gone to attend the Sheldon district fair. His cattle, including a large 
number of milch cows, were ranging and grazing on this section. On the 
theory that these cattle were trespassing, and under the herd law which had 
been voted upon in O'Brien county and passed, squatters took possession 
of the whole herd and engaged the cattle corral of the neighbor, and locked 
up the cattle and several stood guard to see that he did not get his cattle out. 
Mr, Schee and I were again called in. It was a rainy season and the lot 
deep in mud. We went down. The squatters were firm in their legal opin- 
ions. This was the second day and the cows not milked and standing in the 
mud. They wanted one hundred and fifty dollars damages. A parley was 
held well into the day. Not an inch from that sum did they move. The 
owner of the lot, however had not fully sized the matter up. As a matter 
of fact, this owner was the only one who was financially good. The others 
were safe. As a last resort, we drew up an original notice and served on 
this man claiming in damages the full value of the cattle. He then woke up. 
They parleyed and began to drop in price, by tens of dollars at a time. They 
finally got down to two dollars damage. By that time we got gritty and 
held out. They were finally released with no damages allowed to the squat- 
ters. But after all they were in reality contending for supremacy of 

We have thus given a very extended account of this long-drawn-out 
squatter fight. It lasted practically thirty years, as a decisive public question. 
The lands of the Sioux City Company were in seven different townships and 
the Milwaukee lands in a larger number, all covering large legal questions 
and, including both squatters and old settlers, involved over half the citizens 
of the county. We realize that this squatter chapter may be thought too 


long and out of proportion in length for a well-proportioned county history, 
but as it has covered three-fourths of the whole period of the county's years, 
and including the whole business career of the writer, and in which the 
writer personally participated, it is fully given, the writer concluding that he 
will therefor be pardoned at times in using the pronoun I in reciting the 


This chapter on the squatters should not be closed without special men- 
tion of the very great services performed for and on behalf of the squatters 
by the firm of King & Stearns, composed of John T. Stearns, one of the very 
oldest settlers in the county, dating back to about 1875, and John H. King, 
of Huron, South Dakota, who put in practically ten years of labor in direct 
every-day consultations with the large number of one hundred and twenty- 
five on the Sioux City lands who finally won out, to say nothing of the still 
larger number on the Milwaukee lands and the scores of others who fell by 
the way for one reason and another. One could not state the matter in con- 
nection with them without mentioning the name of Robert P. Jones, who 
was constant in and out of season on all occasions. In the land court trials 
at Des Moines, covering more than one and one-half years, and at intervals, 
from day to day and week to week, he sat through with King & Stearns in 
continual advice and in keeping track of the actual facts in each special case 
that should be brought out. He was dubbed at times a part of the court; 
being constantly on hand, he had, next to Air. Stearns, a better knowledge 
of the set of facts in each case in hand than any attorney on either side of 
the question. It was his part also in the county itself to go from man to 
man, squatter to squatter, from ''shack to shack," as the expression went, 
to dig out the facts. So intense was the zeal in the matter that no item 
was considered too small to search out in its finest details. In addition to 
the "master stroke" decision in the United States supreme court, and even 
prior to that decision, the Sioux City road, on August 24, 1887, brought a 
suit for ejectment against practically all the squatters in separate suits. It 
was the case of Robert P. Jones in district court No. 1961 in O'Brien county, 
and a second case that against L. Mulligan that were made test cases. It 
was first decided in the district court against Mr. Jones, but, on appeal to 
the state supreme court, was reversed and decided in his favor. 



In a sense. Dr. Howard M. Hamblin acted as sort of leader when the 
two set of squatters were together, but the real squatters' union that finally 
organized developed mainly in aid of the Sioux City lands, and was organ- 
ized in 1886, though the first president as so organized was L. T. Gates, of 
Highland, a Milwaukee squatter. During this year of 1886 Robert P. Jones 
acted as secretary. The decisions in this year 1886 going against the Mil- 
waukee men, naturally dropped out Mr. Gates, and in 1887. and until the 
organization was no longer needed, about 1905. Mr. Jones acted as its presi- 
dent and Daniel Mullin as its secretary. We must also mention the main 
test case of Olive Manley, squatter, against Andrew Tow. contractor, which 
was agreed upon as containing or involving more questions of law and fact 
than any other in which it won out, which suit was carried on by the union 
as such to final decision. This case was perhaps more quoted than any other 
in the whole litigation. 


We must mention the round-up relating to the squatters' attorney fees. 
Probably the attorney fees of any one set of attorneys employed would 
not have seemed to them exorbitant. But during these long years of excite- 
ment and new questions continually came up. and as each successive attorney 
thought he had the legal solution, when they had rounded up they found 
that many of them had signed written agreements covering large sums to 
various attorneys, which in the aggregate made this item of the long fight 
another problem. Some of the attorneys got intermingled with others, 
which also added to this difficulty. They also got tangled, many of them, 
with the contracts and their attorneys. After all was thought over in some 
of these latter cases they found in many instances an additional claim of 
from one thousand to fifteen hundred and more dollars, which many paid 
or gave a mortgage on their squatters' homestead thus gained. In manv 
cases the squatter actually paid out more per acre than the Milwaukee 
squatters paid for the land itself in 1886. namely, from ten to fourteen dol- 
lars per acre. But in final result, they got their land. 



At the close of the above trials, the Hon. Edward B. Evans, register of 
the United States land office, gave a banquet to both the attorneys of the 
railroad or contract attorneys and squatter attorneys, at his residence at Des 
Moines. It was a pleasant evening spent with Mr. and Mrs. Evans and fam- 
ily, during which many pleasantries and amusing features of the long-drawn- 
out series of contests were discussed with much fun in a social way. There 
were present, as memory recalls, William D. Boies, Osmond M. Barrett, 
John F. Conrad, A. R. Lowrv, Judge George H. Carr, John T. Stearns, John 
H. King. J. L. E. Peck. W. P. Jewett and Mr. Squatter Robert P. Jones and 

Other attorneys not present, but in attendance at various of the trials 
and participating therein, were Judge William Lawrence, of Ohio, Joy. Call. 
Wright & Joy, Judge Chase and Col. J. H. Swan, of Sioux City. C. A. Bab- 
cock, of Sanborn, now Sheldon, J. T. Conn, of Hartley, and others. 


In view of the fact that we have given this chapter this lengthy import- 
ance and most of them still living upon their lands thus won in so long a 
legal battle, we give the list of Sioux City land squatters and railroad contract 
men. as follows : 


Margaret A. Thayer ( S. E. n). Ida Fife Rankin ( NE. 15). 

Hiram C. Thayer ( S. W. 11). Mary A. Smith ( XW. 15). 

Thor T. Xaig ( S. NE. 11). George E. Godfrey ( SW. 15). 

Charles H. Brigham ( S. XW. 11). William Christopher Fife ( SE. 15). 

Otto Larson (NE. 13). John Booge ( SW. 19). 

Edward Olson (NW. 13). Henry Koch (NW. 19). 

Robert P. Jones ( SW. 13). Mons Olson ( SW. 5). 

James T. Daniels (SE. 13). Ben Olson ( NW. 5). 


William S. Medland ( NE. NW. 3). Frank Woods (SE. NE. 15). 




Charles H. Prior (SW. SW. 13, E. SW. 35, E. SE. 35). 


Charles Gustafson (NE. 1). 

William Egdorf (NW. 1). 

John Petterson (SW. 1). 

Aleck Petterson ( SE. 1). 

Eli S. Mooney ( NE. 5). 

Henry C. Pane (SW. 5). 

Unknown (NW. 5). 

Fred Beers (N. SE. and SE. SE. 5). 

Anton Hoag (SE. NW. & W. NW. 7) 

Nicholas Jungers (Part 7). 

Sarah Weaver ( E. NE. 7). 

Enoch Philby (E. NE. 9). 

Florence E. Morfitt ( W. NE. 9). 

Elmira Knepper ( SW. 9). 

Jonas Ffadene ( SW. 9). 

Heirs O. M. Barrett (SE. 9). 

James W. Lasher (S. NE. 11). 

John Akerson (S. NW. 11). 

Plenry C. Lane ( S W. 11). 

Henry C. Lane (SE. 11). 

Daniel Behan (NE. 15). 

Charles G. Johnson (NW. 15). 

Jurgen Renken ( SW. 15). 

Theodore Goergen (E. NE. 21). 

John Ker ( SE. 15). 

George and Otto Collenins (NE. 17). 
William F. Ankrum (NW. 17). 
Alfred Anderson (SW. 17). 
Christ Kern ( SE. 17). 
John W r ood (E. NE. 19). 
Henry Runger (E. SE. 19). 
Alfred Smith ( NE. 21). 
Jnrgen Renken ( E. NW. 21). 
Heirs Jerry W. Griggs ( W. NW. 21 ) 
Charles A. Anderson (SW. 21). 
Charles Buck (SE. 21). 
Soren Anderson ( NE. 23). 
August Walquist (NW. 23). 
Martha An Marsh (SW. 23). 
Christine Dixon (SE. 23). 
Bernhard Kniese (NE. 27). 
Wallace Lasher (NW. 27). 
Charles Bartlet and Karl F. Snow 

(SW. 27). 
Christopher Nelson (SE. 27). 
Michael Hollis (N. SW. 29). 
Thomas Barry (S. NW. 29). 
Max Thorman (SE. 29). 
Elizabeth Goergen (SE. NW. 31). 


Harvey Virgil ( NE. 3). 
Heirs Elmer A. Nelson (E. NW. 3). 
Edwin McFaiiand (NW. 3). 
Melvin D. Finch (SW. 3). 
Ellen McCartney (SE. 3). 



L. S. Bassett and 

(SW. 5). 
Emily Powers (SE. 5). 
Theodore Dockendorf ( E. SE. and 

SW. NE. 7). 



Charlotte Atherton ( E. XE. 11). 
Jacob Shelser (XE. 29). 
Edward Mulligan (NW. 29). 
James Potter (SW. 29). 
William H. Sleeper ( SE. 29). 
John F. Langenhorst (E. SE. 31) 
George McKenna (W. XE. 11). 
Carrie Griffith ( E. NW. n). 
Elizabeth H. McClellan ( W. NW 
George H. Whitmore (SW. 11). 
Daniel M. Merwin (X. SE. 11). 
James Harkin ( S. SE. 11). 


William H. Bilsland ( XE. 15). 
Andrew Harkin (SW. 15). 
John Bilsland (NW. 15). 
Porter S. McNutt ( SE. 15). 
James Kelly (XW. 17). 
George Mennig (SW. 17). 
Henry O. Hurlbut (Part 19). 
Dixon A. Harkin ( XW. 23). 
Henry Boneskonsker ( SW. 23), 
John A. Harkin (XE. 23). 
William M. Smith ( SE. 23). 


Charles Daugherty ( XE. 3). 
James Cutsinger (NW. 3). 
George W. Patterson (SW. 3). 
Florence Sullivan (SE. 3). 
Myron H. Damon (SW. XE. and 

XW. SE. 7). 
Philip Ling (XE. XW. 7). 
John Beacom ( XE. 9). 
John J. McGrath (XW. 9). 
Bernard F. Treanor (SW. 9). 
Thomas Beacom (SE. 9). 
John McGrath ( XE. 17). 
Scott Logan (X. XW. 17). 
William R. Davis (S. XW. 17). 

John Weir (Part 17). 
Michael J. McGrath ( SE. 17). 
Francis A. Lamb ( E. XE. and E. 

SE. 19). 
James Burns (E. XE. and E. SE. 25' 
William Burns ( W. XE. and W. SE. 


Thomas Burns ( XW. 25). 

Timothy Donahue (SW. 25). 

Judson W. Bishop (S. 29). 

James Griffin ( SE. XE. and XE. SE. 

* 30- 

Scott M. Ladd ( 15 acres 31). 

Patrick Kelly (SE. t,^). 

( Both the squatter and railroad contract man are given above, both being 

engaged in the long contention. 

The successful ones are given only), 



The county governmental affairs are administered and managed through 
the offices of the county auditor, county treasurer, clerk of courts, county 
recorder, sheriff, coroner, county attorney, county superintendent of schools, 
county surveyor, the hoard of supervisors and sundry town, township and 
school officials. The terms of all county officials are now for two years and 
all elections take place in the even numbered years, except that the county 
superintendent will hereafter assume his duties on September 1st and all 
other officials on January ist of the odd numbered years. We will review 
each of these offices in this chapter or in the chapter on "The Courts," both 
as to their duties and the particular duties as performed in this county, and 
various policies with which they have dealt from time to time. 


Joseph B. Stamp is the present county auditor. The proceedings of the 
board of supervisors are transacted in his office and recorded by him. He 
carries out all orders of the board. It is the most important office in the 
count}'. In , fact, it handles practically every business item in which the 
countv is interested. The auditor makes the tax lists from the returns of the 
assessors and the tax levies from the various reports from the township and 
town and school boards. He deals with every official in the county, town, 
township and school board and with the state officials, and including town 
councils, mayors, justices of the peace, assessors, trustees, road supervisors, 
school directors, clerks and treasurers. The board of supervisors is judicial 
in some of its proceedings, and appeals may be taken from many of its actions 
to the district court. The auditor, with the county treasurer, holds the tax 
sales, and receives the money when redeemed. He, with the clerk and county 
recorder, draws the grand and petit juries. He enters all deeds for taxation, 
which in part becomes an abstract of title to all lands and lots in the county. 
He sells the school lands, and issues certificates to the governor calling for 
patents on same. He loans the funds or proceeds from these sales. He exe- 
cutes the countv bonds, with the chairman of the board. With the board, he 


and they act on all the financial policies of the county, the treasurer merely 
paying out on the warrants or orders of the board. He manages the pur- 
chases and sales of all school books under the uniform text book sys- 
tem. He issues licenses to peddlers and hunters and keeps the record of estray 
animals, and manages sundry items relating to the old soldiers, with its 
sundry humane connections. He deals with all matters relating to elections 
and their returns. His office has certain relations with the insane and the 
prisons, and must make reports to various state and federal authorities. In 
fact, this is an all-around office and equal to a bank in management. 
He issues all orders passed by the board. His entries are in a sense a dupli- 
cate of the treasurer and a check on that office. He issues bounties for wolf 
scalps. This office, which was created in 1870, deals with more separate 
items than any other in the county. Inasmuch as the two officers, county 
judge and county auditor, performed much the same duties, we will treat it 
under one head. 


The following have been the terms as shown by the records, first of 
county judge: I. C. Furber, from February 6, i860, to November 11, i860. 
Archibald Murray, from November 11, i860, to January 1, 1862. J. R. M. 
Cofer, from January 1, 1862. to March 1, 1863. John L. McFarland, from 
March 2, 1863, to January 2, 1865. Moses Lewis became county judge 
January 2. 1865, and the record shows him to be filling that office up to 
June 6, 1868. However, in the latter part of 1865 it shows that John Moore 
was county judge, though the records are not sufficiently definite either as to 
any election or his dates of service. Archibald Murray qualified as county 
judge June 6, 1868, and held same until January 1, 1870. when the office was 
abolished and he then became county auditor and held that position until 
January 1, 1872. Andrew J. Edwards followed from January 1, 1872, to 
January 1, 1876; George W. Schee from January 1, 1876, to January 1, 
1880; J. L. E. Peck from January 1, 1880, to January 1, 1884; T. J. Alexan- 
der from January 1, 1884, to January 1, 1888; Charles H. Winterble from 
January 1, 1888, to January 1, 1895; John T. Conn from January 1, 1895, 
to January 1, 1899; Frank C. Wheaton from January 1, 1899, to January 1, 
1903; John P. Bossert from January 1, 1903, to January 1, 1913, and Joseph 
B. Stamp from January 1, 1913, and is the present incumbent. We will 
commence with Archibald Murray, for the reason that he and Henry C. 
Tiffey did practically all the record work of the first ten years. The other 


county judges merely carried out and became a part of that early looting 
which is sufficiently noted elsewhere. 


Archibald Murray was born in Lewiston, Niagara county. New York, in 
1830, in which place he was raised, attending the district and higher schools 
of the town. He came west in 1885 and went into the land business in 
Winnebago county, Iowa, where he remained three years. About this time 
he entered into the Indian service and was for several years in the One Hun- 
dred and Ninety-sixth Iowa, and served in western Iowa and other places. 
As will be seen elsewhere, it was on a petition signed by Hannibal H. Water- 
man and seven others, and by this company of soldiers, that secured the 
county organization, though the names of the soldiers seems not to have been 
considered by the court. Mr. Murray participated in the organization, and 
his was one of the seven votes at the election of organization, and he became 
its first district clerk and surveyor. It has at times been claimed for Mr. 
Murray that he was not in the business of organizing western counties, like 
Bosler, Cofer, Tiffey and others, but after reading his many earmarks left, 
together with his name appearing in sundry other counties in like manner as 
in O'Brien, this charity can hardly be extended to him. For thirteen years 
he participated in all the public business and doings of this pretended county, 
and was acceptable to that official few who were the sole inhabitants until 
1872, and filled every office in the county except county superintendent. He 
was judge at its first election. He and Tiffey did most of the record work. 
He built the "old log court house," as likewise the "not-to-be-over-eighteen- 
feet-square court house. 7 ' On January 1. 1865, he became treasurer and 
recorder. He was count}- judge from November 1, i860, to January 1, 1862, 
and was sheriff also part of that year, and again county judge on June 6, 
1868, and in November, 1868, also became district clerk. On January 1, 
1870, he became the first county auditor. It is thus seen that he was the only 
one of the original organizers of the county (except Mr. Waterman, who 
became a member of the board in 1870) handed down to the period of sub- 
stantial settlement and who succeeded in engrafting himself into the good 
will of the homesteaders. There was a reason. He was a whole-souled, 
generous man, both individually and with the public funds, and was, in fact, 
a man whom people liked. He was a man of "de peoples," for honest old 
Dutch Fred, who declared himself to be "de peoples,"' died with the request 
that he might be buried by his side. When Dr. L. E. Head, county superin- 


tendent, was consumptive and sick, Mr. Murray promptly contributed to and 
raised a fund to send him west for his health. O'Brien county cannot excuse 
Mr. Murray's public doings as this history shows that public business was 
transacted, but all the old settlers looked upon him with over generous im- 
pulses and as everybody's friend. He must have had a better side to his life, 
else the old settlers who had gotten control in 1870 would not have elected 
him county auditor. He was a tall, light complexioned, full-bearded, con- 
sumptive man. He died in the early part of the year 1873 and was buried at 
Old O'Brien, and George Rising was his executor, though his estate com- 
prised no property and was dropped. He had married Phebe Morrow, later 
the wife of W. \Y. DeWitt, long a resident of Peterson. He was a man of 
industry beyond his strength. He was very attentive to details, but was 
simply a handy man for those looters, as these records show. He was rather 
a bookkeeper than a man with a policy. This was what was wanted. He 
evidently never inquired much about whys and wherefores. In the main he 
filled the office of county judge and auditor until 1872. His being a delicate, 
sickly man may perhaps partially account for some of his relative situations 
with those first men. They did the real business and he simply kept the 
record of what they did. He probably signed more warrants, bonds, coupons 
and orders and other vouchers in face value than any other man ever in the 
O'Brien county offices, in either the earlier or later years. However, unlike 
those other "seven,'' he was a real homesteader, but we do not get away from 
the fact that he was immediately on the ground the very clay of this organiza- 
tion. He could not have signed all those warrants and vouchers without 
direct knowledge that bad business was on deck. He probably signed three- 
fourths of the warrants and other evidences of debt that made up the colossal 
county debt left as a legacy for the later settlers to worry with. He sub- 
mitted to their manipulation and participated therein. 


Andrew J. Edwards became the second county auditor on January 1, 
1872, at Old O'Brien, and served four years. He was born at Sidney, Ohio, 
March 20, 1813. His father, William Edwards, born in 1762, lived to be 
one hundred years old. The son was married in 1843. He left nine children, 
most of them raised in the county, George, Frank, Charles, Mary, Susan, 
Anna, Arminta, William and Frederick. He enlisted in July, 1861. at Sidney, 
Ohio, as captain of Company C, Twentieth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, First 
Brigade, Second Division, Fifteenth Army Corps, and was discharged July 17. 


1863. He homesteaded in O'Brien county on section 24, in Grant, in 1867. 
He was every inch a soldier, tall, straight as an arrow, long black beard, a 
man of distinctly military bearing. Air. Edwards was auditor during four 
years in its darkest period, and individually passed through the roughest ex- 
periences of the pioneer, not merely in county affairs, but through the grass- 
hopper scourge and all else endured by the homesteader. 

His oft-repeated expression, "Dod blame it, boys,*' fully states the tumult 
of both record and actual life in which by this time the settlers were trying 
to take a hand, as otherwise herein shown, but in which during his term not 
much headway was made. That day indeed had not yet arrived. The one 
conspicuous item during his administration was the gopher scalp bounty, 
which was ordered by the board under Archibald Murray, and in the four 
years of Mr. Edwards' official term assumed proportions even unto a swindle 
and farce, comparing with those earlier bad items we have detailed. A 
bounty of five, then seven, then ten cents was offered. The real wrong lay 
in that, as it developed, it was not so much the ridding of gophers as the 
thought and fact that the people were dreadfully hard up incident to home- 
steading and baffling of grasshoppers, and everybody seemed to yield to the 
current hand-down for those years that county warrants being about the only 
money in circulation, each party wanted some share, and this placed them in 
easy access to all. The reader will judge the extent to which the homesteader 
had a partial excuse. It evidently got clear away from its legal intentions. 
Thev were brought in by the hundreds and many jibes were thrust at Captain 
Edwards in his dilemma in counting stale scalps, and ( as was the joke) hides 
cut up into scalps. The people finally, as this debt question was discussed, 
insisted on its being abolished. The interest on this debt itself during his 
term, at ten per cent, was nearly twenty-five thousand dollars per year. They 
simply despaired at the outlook and kept right on issuing county warrants. 
It all resulted, however, at the election in 1875 °f the people demanding a 
candidate for that office who would go into those matters and all matters 
relating to the troubles of the county, and to probe and ascertain its real con- 
ditions, which was accomplished in the candidacy of George \Y. Schee, his 
election, and his assumption of the office on January 1, 1876. The county 
questions solved out during his term will be found elsewhere, and also in his 
biography, as will likewise be found the continued questions in this office 
under the administration. The reader is also referred to the biography of 
J. L. E. Peck and other items hereon reciting the policies of his administration 
of the office of county auditor from 1880 to 1884. 



In a general way we have divided the county affairs into two periods. 
We have recited the early debt and its attending results. These results did 
not end in a day. First, then, the period from the organization of the county 
up to January I, 1884. at which time the people had practically solved these 
old matters and decided upon its policy of payment of the debt and had placed 
the county on a cash basis. These twenty- four years were indeed the troublous 
and vexatious years of the county. Second, the period from January 1, 1884, 
to the present time, or the prosperous period. 

The following is a list of the county treasurers during this first twenty- 
four years : Hannibal H. Waterman, from February 6, i860, to November 
11, i860; I. C. Furber, from November 11, i860, to January 1. 1862; James 
W. Bosler. from January 1, 1862, to June 1, 1862; J. R. M. Cofer, from 
June 1, 1862, to March 2, 1863; David Carroll from March 2, 1863, to June 
2, 1864; John L. McFarland, from June 2, 1864, to January 1, 1865: Archi- 
bald Murray, from January 1, 1865, to January 1, 1868; Chester W. Inman, 
from January I, 1868, to January 1, 1870; Rouse B. Crego, from January 1, 
1870, to February 2=,, 1871 ; John R. Pumphrey, from February 25. 1871, 
to January 1, 1874; J. C. Doling, from January 1, 1874, to January 1, 1876; 
Stephen Harris, from January 1, 1876, to January 1, 1878; T. J. Alexander, 
from January 1, 1878, to January 1, 1884. 

During this first period the county had the old debt, the grasshoppers, 
the first openings of farms, pioneer incidentals, and individual debts galore to 
deal with. During this time also the whole east and south half of the county 
had but one store and one bank, and that bank with no capital. They were 
inadequate to meet the needed credits. The county treasurers had their trou- 
bles. It was about the one and only place where actual money existed. The 
county treasurers were all placed like unto the predicament of Clark Green 
in his store in the dishing out of his groceries. It needed a heart of flint to 
withstand the pitiful appeals to both storekeeper and county treasurer. It all 
created a perplexing problem. 

Chester W. Inman, who was county treasurer from January 1, 1868, 
to January 1. 1870, was, after his term expired, cited before the board three 
times to make accounting by record resolution and suit was ordered. Rouse 
B. Crego, who was treasurer in 1870 and part of 1871, was addicted to drink. 
He bought four thousand dollars worth of horses, as was claimed, with the 


public funds, shipped them to Sioux City, sold them and spent a lot of the 
money, being absent several weeks. The board, by resolution, declared the 
office vacant, and appointed John R. Pumphrey to the office, he being Crego's 
deputy. On Mr. Crego's return he brought suit in the courts to recover the 
office back, but the courts sustained the ouster. Mr. Pumphrey held the office 
until January I, 1874, followed by J. C. Doling. Mr. Doling had no' troubles 
and filled the office two years. 

Stephen Harris was the deputy of Mr. Doling two vears, and then was 
himself treasurer for two years. Mr. Harris held the treasurer's office during 
the four hardest years of the grasshopper period. These conditions brought 
discontent and discouragement with the people. At the close of Mr. Harris' 
term occurred one of the most exciting political fights ever in the county, 
between Mr. Harris and T. J. Alexander. Mr. Alexander was nominated in 
the convention against Mr. Harris by only one-seventh of a vote majority, 
and was elected at the polls by only seventeen majority. 


These close figures brought on an election contest in a special court be- 
tween these two candidates. As provided by the statute, the court to hear 
and determine such contests is made up of three judges, one, the chairman of 
the board of supervisors, in this case B. F. McCormack. Each party under 
the statute selected one judge. Mr. Harris selected William E. Welch, an- 
other member of the board from Baker township, and Mr. Alexander se- 
lected J. C. Elliott, of Sheldon, the three comprising the court. Charles H. 
Allen. O. M. Barrett and D. A. W. Perkins acted as attorneys for Mr. Har- 
ris, and M. B. Davis and J. L. E. Peck for Mr. Alexander. 

The facts developed that in Carroll township they had used a cigar box 
for a ballot box, as was often done in the early day. It was proved during 
the process of voting at the election that they could see the ballots through 
the cracks. 

The attorneys for Mr. Alexander had procured the affidavits of practi- 
cally every voter in the township who had voted for him to that effect, and 
the same voters were offered as witnesses at the trial to so testify. Evidence 
relating to the cigar box being used, and that the judge had taken it home to 
dinner was introduced. 

A large crowd from all over the county was present, and the people 
were much excited. It lasted three days and its incidents and details cen- 
tered around many other items than the office itself. It was objected that the 


voters should not be allowed to divulge how they voted, and that it was in- 
tended that a vote was sacred and secret, not only with the individual but 
with the public, and that it was against public policy to allow it to be so 
divulged. The arguments on this question aroused much public sentiment. 
Two members of the court sustained these objections, the other member vot- 
ing that in his judgment the evidence should be heard. At all events this in- 
censed the crowd present, and the excitement was intense. The contest, in 
its hearing and arguments, was enlarged to include all the then public agita- 

This brought on one of the most dramatic scenes ever in the county. 
Frank Frisbee, of Sheldon, jumped out into the center of the floor in the 
court room and, in very emphatic and vigorous language, read the riot act to 
the court on all past matters and intimated strongly what the crowd might 
do. Many in the crowd on both sides were armed, and it seemed for several 
hours that physical violence would result, but fortunately it calmed down. 
The court adjourned for three days. It never, in fact, reconvened in the 
court room as a court. This item is cited as one of those stern pioneer oc- 
currences where a public question was in effect decided in the public forum. 

The evidence and trial simply "quit." William E. Welch and J. C. Elliott, 
two of the judges, met on December i, 1877, and signed the order awarding 
the office to Mr. Alexander, as shown by the election book page 118. Mr. 
McCormack did not join. In all reality. B. F. McCormack, chairman of the 
board and one of the judges, was the real individual on trial. In effect he 
was a judge trying his own case. The issue simply hovered around the 
shoulders of the two candidates. 

Stephen Harris was a highly educated man and had been county super- 
intendent of schools. He at once engaged as principal of the Primghar high 
school, which position he held for several years. He later organized and 
became cashier of the Farmers Bank of Paullina, which he conducted for 
many years and handed down to its present cashier, George W. Harris, his 
son. Stephen Harris was one of those men who in the years built up instead 
of down. 

T. J. Alexander became county treasurer January 1. 1878, with the 
highest hopes and best wishes. Regretable as it may seem, and which later 
became an admitted fact, Mr. Alexander became short in his public funds 
in the sum of about eleven thousand dollars. The amount was later made 
up and the county lost nothing. The office was not yet on a banking basis. 
Sad as it may be to record, we must add the further fact of the pathetic 
death of his wife, Mrs. Martha Alexander, who had withstood the hard pio- 


neering of O'Brien county, only to meet her fate in a gasoline explosion, 
from a stove, burning her so badly that she died the same day. On that very 
day they were to move into the later and modern home they had provided for 
old age. 


We will now notice the second period referred to, from January i. 1884, 
to the present time, and contrast situations. We have treated the auditor's 
and treasurer's offices together as, with the board of supervisors, constituting 
the county government. The people were getting themselves loose from 
many of their troubles. The investigation into the whole back matters of 
the county by George W. Schee was commenced January i, 1876. The 
policies of that office then decidedly changed. The whole county was solving" 
itself out. The reader is referred to the several sundry items and articles 
showing the gradual uplift of the county. It will be a pleasure to the reader 
to realize the gradual changed conditions in the county generally. The fol- 
lowing is a list of the county treasurers since January 1, 1884: Frank X. 
Derby, six years, from January 1, 1884, to January 1, 1890; Henry Rerick, 
six years, from January 1. 1890, to January 1, 1896; Chriss R. West, two 
years, from January 1, 1896, to January 1, 1898; Perry A. Edington, two 
years, from January 1, 1898, to January 1, 1900: Lester T. Aldinger, four 
years, from January 1, 1900, to January 1, 1904; Alex Stewart, five years, 
from January 1, 1904, to January 1. 1909; Lester T. Aldinger, four years, 
from January 1, 1909.^0 January 1, 1913; Harry C. May, present incumbent, 
from January 1, 191 3. 


Henry Rerick, who became county treasurer January 1, 1890, was the 
first treasurer to put this office and its large funds on a strictly banking basis 
in its methods of business, and which has been firmly sustained by each of 
the treasurers since. The reader can see why former treasurers were not 
able to so place it prior to this time. The county during all that first twenty- 
four years, in a greater or less degree, as the people got control, was in the 
throes and dregs following the great debt and its attendant mischiefs. Small 
partial payments on the multitude of outstanding warrants and bond coupons 
added much to the troubles of those early treasurers. Add to this the hard 
times and the grasshopper scourge referred to, and still added were the in- 
dividual debts of the people, which were harrassing and which all mingled 


themselves with public affairs. It permeated all avenues, county, town, town- 
ship and individual. But let us keep in mind all the time that O'Brien county 
kept on correcting her situations, on these several troublous lines, until it 
now reached a point where it could be said that they were no longer repeated. 
Relating to the policies of the county during the terms of J. L. E. Peck and 
George W. Schee, as connected with the board and public matters, the reader 
is referred to articles under sundry other chapters and to the biographies of 
each. Having thus been gone into fully they need not be here repeated. 


Charles H. YYinterble became deputy auditor in 1886 under T. J. Alexan- 
der. Inasmuch as Mr. Alexander was also count}- treasurer, we will make 
his items cover both offices, and which have been dwelt upon in various arti- 
cles. Mr. Alexander removed to Sutherland, to engage in the mercantile 
business, in the middle of his term, and hence Mr. Winterble became vir- 
tually county auditor at that time and was himself continued as auditor from 
January 1, 1888, until January 1, 1895. Many of the main policies related 
to the resumption on a cash basis and the old debt, and its rebonding of 1881 
and then reduction of the interest from the prior ten to seven per cent, later 
to six and five and finally to four and one-half, and many of these questions 
had been settled. But they were not all settled and could not be settled in a 
day. It was during Mr. Winterble's term that the debt was reduced to and 
a rebonding had of one hundred and seventv-five thousand dollars at six 
per cent. The present court house was built just at the time in 1886 that he 
became deputy auditor. His long term, however, may be said to have been 
among the building years that had now gotten under full headway. During 
his term the county paid off all the way from five to ten thousand dollars per 
year, and which was continued until now (1914) there is no debt of any 
description against the county. While he was deputy and under Mr. Alexan- 
der's term the county, on October 19, 1887, purchased the half section of land 
of the Milwaukee road for a county home at four dollars per acre. The 
board, with a larger levy to draw on, began to advance into the better grade 
of bridges, building of culverts, making of roads, and all public improve- 
ments. It was during these four terms of county management under Mr. 
Schee, J. L. E. Peck, T. J. Alexander and Mr. Winterble that the county 
was gradually looking up and out into a greater O'Brien county. During 
these vears and later on and now, this office has become largely administra- 


tive rather than tumultuous, though this emerging from these old matters of 
necessity was a growth. 


Its early troubles mainly ended as we have recited ; it has remained for 
the succeeding county auditors, with the boards of supervisors and other pub- 
lic officials, to pursue this administrative routine in large part. The list of 
those auditors and their terms are given above, namely, John T. Conn, Frank 
C. Wheaton, John P. Bossert and now Joseph B. Stamp. When we use this 
term administrative, it means largely the same proposition in various forms 
we have heretofore mentioned, relating to the treasurer's office, namely, that 
in the first twenty-four years practically all the county treasurers had serious 
troubles with funds, and in the later thirty years not a shortage has occurred. 
This same substantial cleaning up, this same systematic and business-like 
method has developed in all official acts in the county. Its early troubles 
have been of benefit and held up as a warning, turning attention of the people 
to a rightful and definite demand for a strict accounting on all lines of public 
affairs. It was not done in a year. Indeed, as we have seen, those tumults 
carried down sundry men of better and good intentions. This has now be- 
come so generally accepted and established that we doubt if any county in 
the state in its public affairs as well as its general public business and mer- 
chandising and trade is based on any higher moral standard than now in this 
county in all its departments. This does not mean that its present officials 
have or need no policies. But it does mean that those policies are now 
policies of growth and business and not of tumult. In all its departments, 
whether public, private, farming, merchandising, modes of living or the gen- 
eral welfare, all are up to the modern ideals of the best situations. The 
county speaks out its own uplift. The public business is now largely routine 
and administrative. It means that we have reached the period qi the regular 
and the better of everything, a period of independence on the part of the 
people of the county generally and that they have got out and away from the 
debt and judgment-fearing period. It has reached the period of high-grade 
farming, instead of simply doing what they could. It all means better roads, 
modern culverts, bridges, houses, barns, fences, school buildings, clothes, 
comfortable conditions, better grades of stock, safer and sounder business, 
the certain instead of the uncertain. 



.Miss Bessie J. Beers is the present county recorder and the only lady 
ever holding that office in the county. This office is almost strictly routine, 
in the recording" and indexing of the sundry instruments filed for record. The 
recorder does have, however, a few other duties, one, to examine the ab- 
stracts of title to town plats filed and to pass upon their sufficiency, becoming a 
sort of quasi judicial duty. The recorder, with the clerk of courts and county 
auditor, draws the grand and petit juries. The book of original entries of 
homesteads certified and made up at the United States land office at Des 
Moines is kept in this office. 

The recorder's office in O'Brien county now contains a little over three 
hundred record books, of about six hundred and forty pages each, or, in other 
words, there have been recorded since the organization of the county about 
one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand instruments of all kinds. The 
following 1 records are found in this office: 

Indexes of Land Deeds 17 Corporation Records 2 

Indexes of Mortgages 15 Physicians' Record 1 

Indexes Town Lot Deeds 7 Farm Names Record 1 

Indexes Town Lot Mortgages 6 Affidavits and Powers of Attorney 1 

Indexes Chattel Mortgages 16 School Fund Mortgage Records. _ 3 

Land Deed Records 45 Town Plat Record 1 

Land Mortgage Records 59 Miscellaneous Records 3 

Town Lot Deed Records 26 Other Records 20 

Town Lot Mortgage Records 17 

Chattel Mortgage Records 66 Total 307 

Original Entry Record 1 

The deeds that were recorded on O'Brien county lands prior to the or- 
ganization of the county in i860, were copied and certified to by John P. 
Allison, county judge of Woodbury county, to which it had belonged, on 
July 21, i860. The first deed was recorded in May, 1857, Andrew M. Hunt 
to Elijah Bent. Samuel H. Cassaday was county recorder of Woodbury in 
1857 and Charles E. Hedges for 1858-59-60. 

The following is a list of the county recorders and their terms : Hanni- 
bal H. Waterman, February 6, i860, to November 11, i860; I. C. Furber, 
November 11, i860, to January 1, 1862; James W. Bosler, January 1, 1862, 


to June I, 1862; J. R. M. Cofer, June 1, 1862, to March 2, 1863; D avid 
Carroll, March 2, 1863, to June 2, 1864; John L. McFarland, June 2. 1864, 
to January 1, 1865. 

Each of the following officials of this office served full calendar years 
thereafter: Archibald Murray, 1865-1870; McAllen Green, 1871-1872; A. J. 
Brock, 1873-1876; C. Longshore, 1877-1878; J. Hinshaw, 1879-1880; Hubert 
Sprague, 1881-1882: William H. Noyes, 1883-1886; Isaac Clements, 1887- 
1890; Frank D. Mitchell. 1891-1894; Frank L. Herrick, 1895-1898; Isaac L. 
Rerick, 1 899-1902; James S. Beers. 1903-1906; William H. Brown, 1907- 
3910; Bessie J. Beers, 191 1 . 


The county surveyor's office was much more in importance in the early 
than in the later years. This was true from the fact that the early home- 
steaders had to locate their claims, their lines and their corners. School sites 
were required to be measured off, and roads established and squared up. This 
was all practically completed in 1897, J. B. Frisbee served for about six years 
from 1898. From this time there was practically no surveyor, so little busi- 
ness was there to be done and parties elected did not qualify. The following 
is the list: Archibald Murray, 1 860-1 861 ; L. McClellan, 1862-1867; D. W. 
Inman, 1868-1869; J. F. Schofield, 1870-1871 ; A. J. Brock, 1872-1876; W, 
H. Riddell, 1877; Ed - A - Smith, 1878-1879; Chas. M. Griffith, 1 880-1 881 ; 
Jesse A.. Smith. 1882 1890; Frank E. Wade, 189 1- 1897; J. B. Frisbee, 
1 898- 1 903. 


We give below the names of the several men who have served as mem- 
bers of the several boards of supervisors, giving them in the order of their 
elections, as near as may be, and separating them in the decades. Several of 
the men below given have served at different periods, and on different boards, 
but will give below the decade they first became a member. 

1860-1870 — John H. Cofer, I. C. Furber, D. Clark, Moses Lewis, John 
L. McFarland, John Moore, Asa Tyler, Daniel W. Inman, Rouse B. Crego, 
and W. H. Baker. 

1 870-1 880 — Chester W. Inman, John W. Kelly, Hannibal H. Water- 
man, Obediah Higbe, Isaac L. Rerick, T. J. Fields, B. F. McCormack, Z. P. 
Freeman, Harley Day, John M. Royer, H. E. Hoagland. William E. Welch, 
Benjamin Jones, Charles F. Albright, Warren Walker, John F. Burroughs. 


William W. Johnson, Joseph Rowland, Ralph Dodge, Thomas Holmes, 
William Oliver, Ezra M. Brady, Jacob H. Wolf, Emanuel Kindig. 

1880-1890 — George Hakeman, John L. Kinney, Daniel M. Sheldon. 
Henry Hoerman, W. W. Reynolds, Oliver M. Shonkwiler, John W. Gaunt, 
J. E. Wheelock, George O. Wheeler, J. A. Warner and H. P. Scott. 

1890-1900 — John Bowley, Ed C. Parker, John Warnke, James K. Ale- 
Andrew, John Rhodes, Henry Appledorm, Charles Youde. John Warnke, 
Henry J. Merry and William Klein. 

1900-1910 — Joseph Shinski, D. M. Norton, Tom E. Mann, John San- 
ders, E. H. McClellan, George J. Smith, Theodore Zimmerman, C. L. Rock- 
well and Peter Swonson. 

1 9 10- 19 14 — W. C. Jackson, M. P. McNutt, Ralph Jordan and William 


Peter Swenson, chairman, M. F. McXutt, W. C. Jackson, Ralph C. Jor- 
dan and William Strampe. 


The following is a list of the county attorneys who have served since the 
creation of that office January i, 1887: James B. Dunn, 1887-1892; John 
T. Conn, 1893-1894; D. A. W. Perkins, 1895-1896; C. A. Babcock, 1897- 
1898; A. J. Walsmith, 1899-1902; Joe Morton, 1903-1906; Roscoe J. Locke, 


Reforms did not come in a day. It was hard to remove a whole board 
with elections three years apart. One member went out for re-election with 
the bold argument, "See here, I've robbed this county all I need to. Put in 
a new man and you will have to do it all over again. I can do this county a 
lot of good." And he showed them how. The change came, cog by cog. 
Boldness doth disarm in meantime, however. Bills and bills became harder 
to get passed. A new set of remarks began to be heard. Some one would 
sing out : 

"The gopher scalp days are over, 
Good by, Old Bridges, good by, 
Good by." 


or some one would snap out snarlingly : "Ralph Dodge will cut your bill 
down," or "Uncle Jaky is on the board," this time referring to Uncle Jacob H. 
Wolf, a new member. Some one else would say, "Old honest John L. Kinney, 
of Sheldon, can see through that bill with his blind eye." Or the expression 
would be used when a bill would be rejected that, "the stuff's off." Or it 
would be Deputy Clerk Lon F. Derby, who would rip out a string of pro- 
fanity reaching clear around the court house, in righteous condemnation of 
the earlier and later humbugs. Mr. Derby's honest and blunt profanity put 
backbone into more than one item. 

But O'Brien county has indeed been fortunate in its boards of super- 
visors since it once got onto its feet from the old doings. For instance, when 
Daniel M. Sheldon, of Sutherland, and William W. ( Bill) Johnson, an old 
homesteader, and Ben Jones, of Sheldon, got onto the board they were 
referred to as the "Triumvirate of Stability." It was remarked of Ezra M. 
Brady when on the board, "That when he sat down on those old bad things, 
that he sat down two hundred forty hard," which was his weight. Thomas 
Holmes was dubbed "Honest Tom" Holmes. 

B. F. McCormack still on the board, however, and not yet ready to 
give up the ghost on behalf of his "old regime," as he proudly called it. would 
sarcastically recite, with a punctuation point on each word, "Boys, behold, 
the old things have passed away, and all things have become new"; "we 
must fulfill our election pledges to the dear cattle, the people" ; "I've reformed 
and am now reforming this board." 

But finally O'Brien county got onto its feet, and was actually walking 
around with a lantern, looking for an honest man and hunting for a day of 
prosperity. The morning light was breaking. An acre of blue sky had ap- 
peared above the horizon. A star in the east had arisen. The wise men were 
taking action, and bringing gifts of frankincense and myrrh to the child 
O'Brien county. 

It would extend this item too long to review the above long list of mem- 
bers of the boards of supervisors in detail. We can only illustrate. The very 
fact of the county being in and moving out of such throes of badness, seemed 
to spur on each board and member, as it did likewise the people, to watch- 
fulness. We give a full list of the members of the several boards, and must 
content ourselves with allowing the general mass of good results to serve as 
the monument to these several new members and new boards of supervisors 
clear down to date. 



On June 25, 1913, occurred the dedication of the county home building. 
On October 19, 1887, the board of supervisors made the payment of principal 
and interest in the sum of one thousand four hundred and ninety-two dollars 
and seventy cents to secure a deed to the half section of land they had pur- 
chased at four dollars per acre, namely, the north half of section 5, township 
95, range 40, Highland township, located one and one-half miles east of 
Primghar, for a county home. It was purchased of the Chicago, Milwaukee 
& St. Paul Railroad, and was a very fortunate purchase. Today the land itself 
is worth fifty thousand dollars, not considering the new modern, fireproof, 
brick building built in 191 3. at a cost of twenty-five thousand dollars. 

When purchased the land was raw prairie. Soon afterwards a fine 
grove of ten acres was planted. Unlike the older homestead groves, consist- 
ing and limited to mainly cottonwood, maple and willow, the county thus 
later was not thus hampered, and succeeded in securing a great variety of all 
classes of hardy and ornamental trees. At the dedication this grove had 
just reached its fine shade condition in size of trees. A large open space of 
about two acres was left for a lawn, which slopes from the front of the new 
home building on a fine proportionate grade. This tract is one of the finest 
half sections in the county. 

In comparison with other articles herein relating to the actual homes 
or shacks and troubles of the decade in the seventies, it all seems like a fairy 
tale, but nevertheless true and refreshing to pen the true fact that in 1913 
O'Brien county erected a county home for God's unfortunate, and that, too, 
without a levy for the purpose. It was built from surplus funds that had 
accumulated from our new prosperities. 

It is modern in every particular. We but bespeak the pride of the 
county and we add the high-grade humanity of its people, when we say that 
it is among the finest in the state. Like all other modernisms, the methods 
of caring for the poor have developed and been studied out on practical lines. 
Before beginning its construction, the members of the board. Peter Swenson, 
chairman, Ralph C. Jordan, W. C. Jackson, William Strampe and M. F. Mc- 
Nutt, went themselves as committees and with architects to visit other 
counties lately building such structures, to study the most approved methods. 
The outer wall is of matt face, hydraulic pressure brick made at St. Paul, 
Minnesota, trimmed with Bedford stone, and is forty-eight by ninety feet 
in size, with two full stories and basement. The stairs, walls and floors are 


constructed of reinforced concrete. The rooms and departments are in pro- 
portion to the needs in the care of such unfortunates. 

The main contract for the building itself was let to Lauritzen & Wasson, 
of Waterloo. The heating plant was put in by Swanson & Betzworth, of 
Cherokee. The county at this time has thirty-four patients in the state hos- 
pital at Cherokee, which is about the average for ten years last past. It is 
the present thought of the board that of this number the milder part can be 
the better cared for in this county home, and many have been accordingly 

It seemed a curious coincidence or fact that the greatest gathering dur- 
ing the year 191 3 in the county, and at the climax in prosperity in its fifty- 
eight years of history should occur in its dedication of a county home, cost- 
ing twenty-five thousand dollars for the future unfortunate. The building- 
then was about ten feet above ground. It was a model day. It was estimated 
there were from three, to four thousand people present. In number, about 
four hundred automobiles passed the gate, besides more than as many more 
other vehicles. It was a representative gathering from all over the county, 
with old homesteaders and old soldiers in evidence, though the number is fast 
dwindling. The crowd were passing judgment on all sides that they had 
discovered the ideal spot for future picnics and gatherings in that beautiful 
ten-acre grove. 

William S. Armstrong acted as president of the day. These stately auto- 
mobiles, and in such numbers, fit for the kings, and a twenty-five-thousand- 
dollar county home, located on a tract of land itself worth fifty thousand dol- 
lars, in the dignified presence of three court judges, Scott M. Ladd, judge of 
the supreme court of Iowa for now eighteen years, and ten years as judge of 
the district court; Judge William D. Boies, of the present district court, each 
honored products and early settlers of our own O'Brien county, and also 
Judge William Hutchison, of the district court, the honored son of Sioux 
county on the west, who has presided over the district courts of the county 
for eighteen years, was indeed a dramatic scene in comparison with the shack 
shanties and other early situations of which we have written. County Auditor 
Joseph B. Stamp and Sheriff Henry W. Geister acted as marshals and kept 
the crowds and automobiles organized and moving without an injury. Judge 
Scott M. Ladd laid the corner stone, as was declared by the chairman of the 
day, judicially and legally. The three addresses were dignified and appro- 
priate, Judge Ladd dwelling in the reminiscent, Judge Boies in a comparison 
of the agricultural conditions and developments, and Judge Hutchinson on 
"The Home." Rev. Charles Richards, of Sutherland, gave the invocation. 









Rev. Andrews, of Primghar, led the large chorus, and Rev. P. E. Wells, of 
Sanborn, pronounced the benediction. A very feeling letter was read, writ- 
ten by Rev. Father James McCormack, of the Catholic church of Sheldon, 
who could not be present. It was a dignified occasion. It was not merely 
a gathering. It was a milestone, an historic event in the county. 


It is the aim of the present board of supervisors that this county home 
and farm will develop into more than a mere place, where are kept the unfor- 
tunate, yes, more than a place where mere farming is done. This higher aim is 
to make it a model experiment farm, an actual farm, a farm that will test out 
and become what all farms should be. a profitable, self-supporting institution. 
Yes, even still more, to make it a sort of experiment station on farm products 
and crops — in brief, to make it county wide, and to the extent that twenty- four 
miles wide of an agricultural country can make it, and to the full extent 
that it can be made, to the people of the county, what the Ames Agricultural 
College and farm is to the state, an educational center, for farming and 
agricultural purposes. This will work a double purpose, even to the unfor- 
tunates, both a care and home for them, pointing out to them an uplift idea, 
an idea of independence instead of dependence. Also, as stated, to make it a 
farm testing center in which the people will look for suggestions. All this is 
but making its start, but, as one of the members of the board remarked, that 
he believed that with future good management, it could also be made self 
supporting - , a farm that would pay within itself. 


Inasmuch as this farm will for all time be required to accommodate from 
thirty to fifty inmates (fifty being its capacity), together with its managers 
and help, it was foresight to have its buildings and equipments and grounds 
planned systematically by a landscape architect for practical use in the various 
functions both for the care of the unfortunates and with the further idea of 
an experimental farm and center of an agricultural education. This the 
present board, composed of Peter Swenson, chairman, and M. F. McNutt, 
Ralph C. Jordan, W. C. Jackson and William Strampe, practical farmers 
and grainmen, have done. It was important that this should be done in ad- 
vance, to the end that future expenditures would be made to solve it out. 
They therefore employed Paul Scherbe, landscape architect at Waterloo. He 


accordingly made full plans and specifications of the grounds, including main 
building, barns, groves, cattle sheds, sheep sheds, hog houses, paddocks, silos, 
horse and cattle yards, driveways, service lawn, carpenter shop, blacksmith 
shop, ice house, cribs, granaries, gardens, flower beds, ornamental trees, 
electric lighting plant, septic tank, with full sewerage plant as complete as in 
a town, water works, similar to the systematic equipments with the main 
buildings, namely of two wards on the first floor for the poor, each 
accommodating about twelve, with individual rooms for the emergency sick, 
and two like wards on the second floor for the mild insane to be brought from 
Cherokee. In the basement we find a large kitchen, laundry, heating plant 
and electric light plant, with all modern equipments in the way of sanitary 
beds, bathrooms, lavatories, toilets, elevator to carry up supplies, and all else 
needed. The floors and stairways being solid concrete cement, make this 
building practically fireproof. All these in their relative proportions and sizes 
as is believed will solve itself out practically. In solving this out thus far, 
the members of the board and architect have visited and studied similar plans 
in other counties recently solving out similar problems in the modern county 
homes and farms. 

On the line of this definite purpose from two standpoints, the board of 
supervisors have employed A. W. McGuire, to be known as the steward of 
the O'Brien count}' home and farm, and his wife, Mrs. Anna McGuire, as 
matron. Mr. and Mrs. McGuire have had three years' experience under Dr. 
M. N. Voiding, superintendent of the Cherokee State Hospital, and a still 
prior experience at the State Hospital at Independence, which speaks their 
equipment for this service. Mr. McGuire is also a practical stockman and 
farmer. His brother has for several years had the management of the county 
home and farm at Mason City, in Cerro Gordo county, where they have 
made the farm and home practically self supporting, aided by the labors of 
the several sundry inmates. It is anticipated that at least within a few years 
this farm will do likewise. 

The large public gathering of those four thousand people on June 25, 
19 1 3. at the dedication of this home building, has already enlisted the senti- 
ments of the people to this idea of the board that this county home and farm 
is the people's farm and can be made a common meeting ground for practical 
farm education along many lines, as well as a fine place for public gatherings 
similar to the dedicatorv services and discussions. 



One unusual incident relating to the improvements at the county home 
farm is worthy of mention. Peter Swenson, chairman of the board, has 
personally donated the sum of one thousand dollars for the installment of 
the electric lighting plant and equipments. This will light up not only the 
county home building itself, but also the many barns and other buildings and 
yards. This is all run by a twelve-horse-power Fairbanks & Morse engine, 
and equipped with proportionate dynamos, switch board and lighting fixtures. 
It is unusual and commendable in this, that it is the very opposite of graft. 
It is the unusual case of a public official adding to the public funds, and this 
in a sum equal to what Mr. Swenson has received for his labors for several 
years of his service. 


The advance methods of farming, the now necessary automobile, the 
public safety and other items have, throughout the county, opened up many 
new and larger problems for county officials to grapple with. The Legisla- 
ture of the state has taken hold with additional requirements. The present 
board, both in fulfillment of the law and likewise as a county need, has co- 
operated on all lines of road and bridge building, drainage and other work. 
The board is carrying this out in steel and concrete bridges and culverts, road 
grading and drainage. These steel bridges are constructed with backing and 
floors of concrete. Thus far five of these steel and concrete bridges have 
been built in Chairman Peter Swenson's district, seven in the district of 
member Ralph C. Jordan, fourteen in that of M. F. McNutt, four in that of 
William Strampe and four in that of W. C. Jackson, with one additional 
permanent bridge known as a slab bridge. Permanent concrete steel and con- 
crete culverts to the number of about eighty have been built, distributed over 
the countv, each with a twenty-foot roadway. The road grading has been 
carried out on an equal scale. The county has purchased several mammoth 
modern graders and engines, and has operated them in sundry places. The 
county has adopted a system of permanent roads, under the later statutes, 
connecting with like roads in other counties and working to the state-wide 
contemplation of roadways. We have passed into the permanent building 
age. We probably will pass through some experiments and perhaps some 
misfits, but in a general way the roads and bridges and other improvements 
will move on to the solid and substantial. It all spells the word "permanence.'' 


All this is adding" much to the numbers of records and details of the 
county workshop, the office of the county auditor, under the present man- 
agement of the board and of its present efficient auditor, J. B. Stamp. The 
details of records carrying out these plans and specifications of all this per- 
manent upbuilding are carried out in this office. 

The writer has lived through all the years of the shack, the pioneer, the 
haytwister, the grasshopper, angling roads on the prairie, prairie fires, county 
debts and private debts and early troubles, and it is with much satisfaction 
that he now lives in this building age. After recording these many early 
troubles, it certainly gives good cheer and causes the risibilities and cheerier 
feelings to bubble up through the human heart to write of these better things. 

The writer himself conducted this county auditor's office for four years, 
in the earlier court house, and has transacted hundreds of business items 
each year and each month in the present frame court house. It would have 
been much of a satisfaction to the writer could he have had the opportunity 
to have described in this history the future and final capitol and court house 
building, which, of necessity, must within a very few years be built in all its 
modern proportions. Its necessity will solve its own building. The present 
court house is but a wooden frame, though well provided with modern furni- 
ture within, and is the opposite of being fire proof. To realize that the 
thousands of records of deeds and title papers, covering every tract of land 
and every town lot and home in the county, and on which stand the homes 
and roofs that cover our heads, are thus at stake and what a burning of the 
public records would mean to every citizen in the county, causes us to pause 
and think and wish still more that we could in this history write up a de- 
scription of that final court house. But it being the people's building and the 
people's public home for their records so vital to them, they will vote for it 
in good time. 

In closing this chapter on County Government we may well lift up our 
eyes in visions and wonderment as to what fifty years will solve out in this 
wealthy county in its problems of public improvements and county govern- 
ment and management. 




The first, or old log court house, was built on the farm of Hannibal 
House Waterman, on the northeast quarter of section 26, by Archibald Mur- 
ray in the early part of i860, and after the election of February 6, i860, 
which organized the count}-. But this log court house was not the only 
county building at Old O'Brien. There were several offices or buildings used. 
For instance, to start with, the election which so organized the county was 
held in the private residence of Air. Waterman. In that sense his farm house 
was the first county building or court house. 

Archibald Murray was at once on the job in court house building. He 
built or supervised it. It all run along for months, even the building of a 
moderate, usual-sized cabin log house. The record made about it all is 

Negotiations were had with Air. Waterman to purchase forty acres of 
his land for a county seat. They finally paid Mr. Tiffey two thousand dollars 
for forty acres from him, and at a time when land at best was not worth 
five dollars an acre. This probably explains why Mr. Waterman did not sell 
his land. Air. Tiffey was one of the powers that be. Air. Waterman was 
not. Air. Waterman was trying to farm, and they were farming the county. 

This old log court house was moved down from Air. Waterman's place, 
about three-quarters of a mile to the forty acres purchased of Henry C. 
Tiffey, namely, the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 36, 
in Waterman township. Air. Tiffey made the deed June 25, 1861, but did not 
draw his warrant until September 2, 1861. 

On August 28, 1 86 1, the Hon. A. W. Hubbard, judge of the district 
court, held a term of court at Old O'Brien and appointed Lemuel Parkhurst, 
of Cherokee county, Edward Smeltzer, of Clay county, and James Gleason, 
of Buena Vista county, to select the count}' seat. They located it as stated. 
(Judge Hubbard was the father of the late Congressman Elbert H. Hubbard, 
who died a congressman in 1912.) We will give the exact wording of the 
record relating to these county buildings: 






'Office of the County Judge. 
"October 20, i860. 
"O'Brien county., by its judge, has this day entered into a contract with 
James W. Bosler to build an office at the county seat, and to be of good ma- 
terial. Size not more than eighteen feet square, and to be finished by the 
first day of May, 1862, for which he shall receive the sum of two thousand 
dollars, which amount the court now issues on order to the treasurer. 


"County Judge.'' 

"Office of the County Judge. 
"November 5. i860. 
"Ordered that Henry C. Tiffey be allowed the sum of fifteen hundred 
dollars to build an office for the district clerk, at the county seat ; said office 
to be built in connection with the office of treasurer and recorder. 


'County Judge." 

'Office of the County Judge. 
"November 30, i860. 
"'Ordered that A. Murray and I. C. Furber be allowed the sum of three 
hundred dollars for building temporary office for the county judge and dis- 
trict clerk, and that same be paid. 

"I. C. Furber, 
"County Judge." 

"September 21, 1861. 
"Archibald Murray allowed $2,000 for building county building. 
"Henry C. Tiffey allowed $2,000 for forty acres land." 

"October 17. 1865. 
"Charles C. Smeltzer allowed $3,000 for services as attorney for services 
rendered during the year i860." 

"September 21, 1861. 

"I. C. Furber, for office rent $ 300.00 

"J. H. Cofer, wood furnished offices 500.00 

"James H. Bosler, wood furnished office 200.00 

"Henry C. Tiffey, office rent 300.00 

'A. Murray, office rent 300.00 


Total office rent $1,600,00" 

Above mainly relates to the old court house or rentals. 


It is quite impossible to determine from the record what the above 
$2,000 for county building" is for, whether to finish up the log building, or 
whether to tear it down and remove it from Air. Waterman's farm or not. 

It is one curious fact that up to November 30, i860, that the bills al- 
lowed were all small and ordinary bills, being one, the largest, for $100, then 
one for $50, one for $32, and the balance below $20, out of forty bills al- 
lowed up to that time. But after that it commenced with these court build- 
ings and all else. 

The temporary office spoken of was none other than the old log court 
house. Just how much business was actually transacted in that building is 
hard to determine. A bill had been allowed Charles C. Smeltzer, an attorney 
at Fort Dodge, for $27.50 on April 7, i860, for county books, which was 
evidently the county and bridge warrant books, and which, owing to the 
distance to Fort Dodge and getting them printed, did not get around until 
along in the fall. These first forty warrants or small ones were issued on 
common blank paper, but when it come to issuing warrants in the large sums, 
which they were now read}- to commence issuing, the}' wanted a printed war- 
rant bonk, as the warrants could not well be cashed or sold to purchasers 
unless they were printed in good form. This accounts for the fact that this 
old log court house was not paid for until November 30, i860. 

In the meantime, the other offices were under way. From the above it 
will be seen that four items were paid on court houses, namely, three items of 
S300. $1,500 and $2,000, in the fall of i860, and an additional $2,000 
September 2. 1861, to A. Murray. The record recites that the two other 
buildings than the log court house were built "in connection" with each other. 
This so that when done they were one building in result. 

At all events, this old log court house was soon needed for a school 
house and a little later on was used as a residence by Moses Lewis and fam- 
ily, still later by A. L. Bostwick and R. G. Allen as a blacksmith shop, and 
still later by Clark and Lem Green as a stable. As nearly as can be deter- 
mined, this log building did service as a county building at intervals only. 
The above additional $2,000 allowed A. Murray September 2, 1861, for a 
building was probably for tearing down the log building and removing it to 
Old O'Brien, which was done; indeed, the log building could not well be 
removed as a whole bodily. The above office rents were also allowed. Just 
why they needed so much office rent in addition to the palatial log court 
house would be impossible to determine from the records, but outside facts 
indicate that during these interims of providing school house and buildings 
of these other parts of offices, that these respective gentry, Tiffey, Murray 


and Fnrber, took their few books from their offices to their homes and then 
allowed themselves $300 each for office rent for same. At all events, it all 
rounded up in O'Brien county footing the bills at both ends of the line. 


But all this did not end the building of county buildings at Old O'Brien. 
The records are meager. It cannot even be determined how much it cost. 
Archibald Murray built it, and when it was done he lived in one end of it 
with his family and had his auditor's office in the other. The record does not 
even make allowance of bills for same. The record calls it a court house. 
However, at another session the board had given Mr. Murray, as auditor, 
authority to issue warrants on all indebtedness, which accounts for the mea- 
gerness of the record. We will give the several motions made. It is evident 
that part of the discussion before the board related to trying to move it and 
repair it and get along with the old one. Under that authority given the 
stub book would be the only record. The following is the record: 

"September 6, 1869. — Motion carried that job be let to lowest bidder to 
move the court house to the center of the square and repair and plaster same 
in good condition, and to do all other work to make it comfortable." 

"November 8, 1869. — Motion carried that the resolution of moving the 
court house to the public square be rescinded." 

"November 8, 1869. — Motion carried that the court house be moved 
from the present site out of the road on a line fronting" south." 

"November 8, 1869. — Motion carried that the auditor be empowered to 
procure a lease from Rouse B. Crego to put the court house on to use as 
long as the county uses the building for public use." 

"January 18, 1870. — Bond of J. G. Parker accepted and with contract 
on office or court house approved." 

"December 20, i860. — A. Murray allowed $150 for office rent." 

"July 20, 1870. — Motion carried that the court house be accepted as 

Whatever was left of the court house was, on moving to Primghar, sold 
to A. J. Edwards for forty dollars. 

We here call attention to the contract in rentals and buildings as above 
set forth with the building in 1887 of the present wooden court house. While 
it is not an up-to-date court house, it, with everything connected, was built 
for six thousand dollars, and that the people of Primghar contributed all 


hauling from Sanborn to Primghar of material free of cost to the county. 
The county was later looking up to better conditions. It could not be built 
today, with its vaults, for the money expended. 

We have woven into these various subjects items relating to other ques- 
tions, to show conditions. The above and other items given of old matters 
are but samples of many other situations that could be given in detail, but to 
do so would extend this history to much too great length. We might also 
mention here, that Archibald Murray and Rouse B. Crego. much mentioned 
herein, were both badly addicted to intoxicating liquors, which may explain 
many things in a degree. 


The second court house of the county was built by Stewart & Healy at a 
cost of two thousand dollars. This unless you count those several buildings 
at Old O'Brien each a court house. The contract was dated February 2. 
1874, and the building was completed and finally paid for April 6, 1874, and 
shortly afterward occupied. Its size was about thirty-five feet square. It 
had four offices below, of about equal size, with a small hall eight feet wide, 
which left the officers well cramped as can be seen. A stairway on the out- 
side led to the court room, through a small ante room. 

Two large iron safes, perhaps fire proof, were purchased of the D. S. 
Covert Safe Company, Chicago, at a cost of two thousand seven hundred 
dollars and shipped to Sheldon. George J. Hill and A. P. McLaren were 
awarded a contract to haul them down to Primghar for three hundred dol- 
lars in warrants. We mention these prices as showing the handicap even 
up to this date on the cost of everything measured in warrants at thirty to 
forty cents. 

While the election to move the county seat to Primghar was held Novem- 
ber ii, 1872, it was not until April 29, 1873, that the then board, B. F.i Mc- 
Cormack and Chester W. Inman (third place vacant), passed a resolution 
that the county officers remove the records as soon as practicable. A few 
days after this, Capt. A. J. Edwards, county auditor, himself hauled the first 
load, being his auditor's records, and received ten dollars for it or equal to 
about three dollars, a natural day's work. A few weeks later John F. Holli- 
baugh hauled two more loads and in June brought the balance of the records 
and received twentv dollars in warrants for it. 



We do not enumerate Paine's store as a distinct court house, as it was 
but a rented building. Mr. Paine had run a store in it fur four years in High- 
land township. In May, 1874, it was leased to the county by John Pumphrey, 
who owned it, for five months for eight}- dollars cash. Later on in the year 
he and AW C. Green, who had bought an interest in it later, leased it to the 
county for one year for six hundred dollars paid in advance. It stood on 
the block north of the public square. Here the first court was held in 1873. 
This Paine's store building housed the officials and records until April 6, 
1874, when the new court house was ready. This Paine store court house 
was bought by Frank Teabout and moved to Sanborn in 1878 and used by 
him as a store house in connection with his merchandising there. 

Prior to this actual building in 1874 the board had for a year wrestled 
with the question with many resolutions and rescindings of same. It was 
first ordered that sealed bids be received for a building not to exceed five 
thousand dollars, but that was abandoned for the lesser building. This court 
house was used until the summer of 1886, when it was sold for a residence 
now on Slocum, Turner and Armstrong's addition, in which year the third 
court house was built. Three exciting items in the county took place in this 
court house named elsewhere, namely, the exciting contest between Sheldon 
and Primghar on the county seat in 1879, the county treasurer's contest be- 
tween Alexander and Harris in 1877. anc ^ the county seat raid in 1882. 


The present court house, third in number in the county, was built in 1887 
by Green Brothers (Lem C. Green and M. D. Green, brothers of Clark- 
Green), under contract dated July 9, 1887, for the sum of six thousand 
dollars. It was originally fifty by fifty-four in size. At the November term 
of court for 1886 the grand jury, composed of George Hakeman, David Fife, 
J. W. Coleman, W. B. Webster, Ira Waterman, G. S. Morean, Robert Cragg, 
VV. S. Castledine, George T. Wellman. J. A. Glenn. Charles I. Nelson, Fred 
Frisbee, T. J. Irutret, J. M. Vincent and W. A. Wasson, filed a very severe 
report condemning the court house as not being a safe place for the public 
records and the jail as unfit for prisoners. In fact, as the resolution of the 
board later recited, the grand juries for eight years at various sessions had 
condemned the jail, and during the vear 1887 at each session repeated this 
condemnation. On January 3. 1887, the board, then composed of W. W. 


Reynolds, chairman, J. W. Gaunt, Henry Hoerman, O. M. Shonkwiler and J. 
E. Wheelock, by resolution appropriated the sum of five thousand dollars for 
the erection of a new court house. This was the highest amount the board 
could appropriate without a vote of the people. It was scarcely sufficient. 
The lumber and material had to be hauled from Sanborn or Paulljna. Its 
actual cost was six thousand dollars, with vaults added. The people of Prim- 
ghar, however, signed a written agreement to the board to haul the material 
without cost to the county, and the bids were called for on that basis. It 
was accepted and so hauled. Bidders were invited to make sealed bids on 
January 28, 1887. The bid was for even six thousand dollars. It was fin- 
ished in December, 1887, all with suitable fire proof vaults, and at once occu- 
pied. It being not quite sufficient in size, in the year 1902 an addition, twenty 
by thirty-two feet, was added to same at a cost of one thousand four hundred 
dollars. The old court house was sold for the sum of four hundred sixty- 
nine dollars and ninety-five cents, and is now a residence in Primghar. 


William Clark Green and wife and James Roberts, by deed dated Sep- 
tember 5, 1872, deeded two acres to O'Brien county for a court house square, 
as they likewise deeded two acres for a school house square and two acres to 
the Trinity Methodist Episcopal church, where the Congregational church 
now stands. 

The grove of maple trees in same was planted in 1878 by the county, 
under contract by William D. Slack, and the trees and ground cultivated dur- 
ing the summer by Emanuel Kindig, member of the board of supervisors. 
The first part of the summer was excessively dry and the little sprigs, being 
practically planted in the sod, did not leaf out until the rains began in 

In 1 89 1 the county, town of Primghar, George W. Schee and Charles 
S. Cooper combined or contributed in hauling down about two thousand 
vards of earth, from the grading of the hill at Air. Schee's residence, and 
covered the square from six inches to eighteen inches of earth, and filling in 
the street on the west side of square from three to four feet deep. The 
south and west sides of square were then a boggy slough, which made this 
grading necessary. 

Two court houses and one jail have been built on same. It has been 
used by many public gatherings, old settlers' reunions, old soldiers' gatherings, 
Fourth of Julv celebrations, caucuses, conventions and the public generally 


in addition to county uses. A cement sidewalk, now entirely around the 
square, has been built at intervals. 

First by resolution of the board of supervisors, on petition of sundry 
citizens of Primghar, and later by deed dated September 21, 1887, O'Brien 
county deeded or rather dedicated five feet on each side of this square to the 
public to widen the street. The citizens of Primghar at the same time dedi- 
cated nine feet from off the respective blocks for the same purpose, leaving 
the streets eighty feet in width. The county has also placed a gas lamp at 
each side of the square. In the year 191 1 the county also appropriated the 
sum of one thousand two hundred dollars for sewerage connections with the 
sewerage system of Primghar constructed in that year, as likewise the inde- 
pendent school district of Primghar appropriated nine hundred dollars for its 
like connections with sewerage. The county likewise provided four wells 
on the square, one at each corner. Other smaller trees and shrubbery are 
now in process of growth on same. 


A jail perhaps is not a court house. The history of a jail, however, 
contains sufficient ''sentences" from the records of the court house to make 
a full chapter. The jail proposition at Old O'Brien was much on a par 
with the old log court house. They needed a jail there bad enough, but the 
bunch wouldn't put themselves into it. 

At Primghar there have been two jails. The first one, built in 1874, 
was more like a block house in the Indian days. It was about sixteen by 
twenty-four feet in size, and stood near the southeast corner of the court 
house square. It consisted of timbers, two by six, laid flat on each other, 
and filled through and through thickly with large spikes. It was much laughed 
at as a bastile. But nevertheless, thus filled with sharp metal spikes, the 
fellow breaking jail would even today have a better chance punching out a 
square hole through the brick walls of the present jail, as to untangle or get 
through those mass of spikes. It was later sold by the county as a residence 
and in 1907 was burned clown. 

second jail. 

In size the present jail is twenty-five by thirty-six feet and built of faced 
brick. It, with its furnishings, was built by contract dated July 9, 1890. 
The steel jail cages and steel work was built by the Paully Jail Company of 
St. Louis. The first cost of the jail was about five thousand dollars. Sundry 


additions in improved cells and patent locking apparatus have been added. 
It stands on block 8 of Primghar, next west block from the public square. 


The first court house in the county was built of logs on Air. Hannibal 
Waterman's claim, and remained there for something over a year. It was 
built by virtue of a contract with James W. Hosier, and was to be eighteen 
feet square, but was shy a few feet on each side, so that its real dimensions 
were about fourteen by twenty. Instead of being used for a court house while 
on Air. Waterman's claim, it was used by Moses Lewis as a residence, but a 
court house was not needed much, as the county officials carried the various 
departments of the county business around in their pockets. They tried to 
purchase of Air. Waterman forty acres of land for county purposes, but at 
the time he wanted the scene of their manipulations as far away as possible. 
The old log court house was moved to the forty acres purchased from Henry 
C. Tiffey, on which Old O'Brien was started. The county wanted all its 
belongings together, but when it was set up again it was soon used as a school 
house, and by A loses Lewis as a residence, and later by A. L. Bostwick and R. 
G. Allen as a blacksmith shop and still later by W. C. Green as a stable. 

We call this building a court house, because that was the name given to 
it, but after all it was a curiosity and a sacreligious travesty upon juris- 
prudence. It was erected not for use. because nobody used it for the purpose 
for which it was supposed to be intended. It was erected, in fact, in order 
that a large number of warrants could be issued in pay for it, and these war- 
rants went into the general pool of the gang. A court house implies a good 
deal. Generally, that emblem of justice, a blinded female holding in equi- 
poise the scales of justice, stands prominently elevated, and at the fore, to 
tell the people that here the wrongs of this wicked world are righted, and that 
there is given to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and that justice is dis- 
pensed with an impartial hand. But here was a pile of logs, cut from the 
banks of the Little Sioux, notched, placed together in the form and shape of 
a building, and the temple of justice was complete. About it, and on all sides 
of it, were the consultations and manipulations of men, in devising the various 
methods of theft, the means of perpetrating robbery and plunder, while 
within, if it had been a court house in fact, the emblem would be truer to the 
conditions if that blinded female was weeping and her attitude that of a 
devotee at the throne of justice, whose heart was crushed with remorse. 
Never within the walls of this illy-constructed structure was an actual court 
held, never the sound of a voice of an advocate echoed among its rafters. 


There were practically no records. None were needed. Court houses were 
not needed, for the elements of wickedness were averse to them ; the only 
county records were the warrant books, and the only business of the county 
officials was to fill up the blanks and detach them for their purposes. 

After this original log court house, there was built another in 1870. a 
frame, fourteen by sixteen, which cost several thousarrd dollars. The records, 
what few there were, were moved into it, but were moved out again, as Dan 
Inman needed a place to live and the court house was vacated to him for that 
purpose. This building was burned the next year, and soon afterward a 
similar building was erected, at a cost of several thousand more, which was 
used until the county seat was moved to Primghar. 

In this latter so-called court house also Archibald Murray lived and also 
called this residence an auditor's office It is somewhat difficult to reconcile 
these several buildings and so called court houses at Old O'Brien, either in 
number or size or quality. All this to say nothing of the sundry items for 
office rent in warrants issued to the same gentry. We will not attempt it. 
To sum it all up, the whole farce was simply to drum up some excuse, either 
by calling it office rent, or the erection of a court house, when in fact the 
offices for which rent was charged were the private residences of the officials, 
but by whatever name, or for whatsoever the purpose, it rounded up with a 
generous county warrant. 

As a side statement relating to some of these same county organizers, 
we quote the following from a Sioux county authority, relating to their doings 
over in that county. 

"Before any court house was built, and before there was any habitation 
in the county, a county government was effected under the shade of a cotton- 
wood tree by those enterprising characters in northwestern Iowa, Archibald 
Murray and Moses Lewis, assisted by lesser lights, and before the sun went 
down an appropriation of twenty-live thousand dollars had been made for 
the purpose of building a bridge across the Sioux river. Arch Murray was 
delegated to go to Chicago to negotiate the sale of warrants. He sold to the 
Lombards, Chicago bankers. While in Chicago he interested several other 
capitalists in investments in western bonds and county warrants." 

We thus see that O'Brien county was but one of many counties in north- 
western Iowa that were victims of these men. It would also appear that 
these men actually cast votes as electors in these several counties, as they did 
in O'Brien county. There seemed to be no consistencv as to place of resi- 
dence. The mere legal question of a right to vote was swallowed up in the 
swim of the greater wrongs committed by them. 



CYCLONE OF JUNE 24, 1 882. 

The cyclone of June 24, 1882, was probably the most destructive single 
storm disaster ever experienced in this county, occurring" at six o'clock in the 
morning. It was first observed at Primghar to the northwest in two eddies 
or hanging streamers of cloud, being none other than whirling, irresistible 
maelstroms of air, called a cyclone. These two whirling movements of air 
seemed to unite just north and west of town. It did its first terrific work in 
the complete destruction of the Methodist church building, scattering its 
debris in its track for more than a mile to the southeast. The residence of 
William Hastings, just across the street, met a like fate. Mr. Hastings ob- 
served its approach in time to get his wife and children into the cellar, but 
himself was hurled a distance of over one hundred feet amid the flying tim- 
hers from the church and his own demolished home. Two other houses 
-t<>od near. He aroused from a half insensible condition, where the gale 
dropped him near one of these houses, that of William J. Stewart, and 
dragged himself to a spot near the window and was pulled into the house 
through this window. It was first thought that his wounds were fatal and 
that he was dying, but by medical aid he was soon able to get around, though 
he felt the effects of his injuries the balance of his life. The family were im- 
prisoned in the cellar, where their home had stood, but were uninjured. The 
other nearby house was occupied by W. H. Durham and family and that of 
his son-in-law, Walter .Scott, and family. A long heavy timber from the 
church shot through the house endwise, striking Air. Scott on the head, leav- 
ing him senseless on the floor, as if dead, and lying upon his infant child, 
which he held in his arms. Mr. Durham was likewise struck on the head 
by the same or another timber and stunned, but was soon able to assist. 
Walter Scott was still feebly breathing. He sustained a fractured cheek 
bone and lost an eye from a flying splinter. His case was at first thought 
hopeless. For a long time his brain was supposed to be injured at the base. 


but careful nursing for a long period gradually improved his condition. He 
later removed to Lake Charles. Louisiana, but never fully rallied and died 
there from its results about 1895. Caleb G. Bundy, editor of the Primghar 
Times, resided immediately east of the church. It took half the roof and 
scattered the church debris all over the yard, tore down the chimney, part of 
the ceiling falling into the sitting room. The carriage sheds of Frank Tifrt 
and barn of George Hakeman were demolished. A portion of the roof was 
torn from the home of Mrs. Henrietta Acre, in the southeast part of town. The 
Methodist Episcopal parsonage in the north part of town was twisted out of 
shape, and sundry smaller items of damage done in various parts of the town. 
The writer passed the church not more than five minutes prior to the time the 
storm struck the building and saw the intense whirling, destructive motion. 

There seemed to be sundry unions and offshoots of this storm in various 
parts of the county. In Lnion township, on Mill creek, the barn of Alex- 
ander Davidson was demolished and his dwelling house ousted from the foun- 
dation. On the farm of \Y. P. Davis, six miles south of Primghar, his large 
barn and cattle sheds were destroyed; indeed, all but the dwelling. The 
large barn of John M. Thayer, in Dale, was destroyed and part of the house 
roof blown away. Harker & Green, in Highland, lost a barn and Riley 
Walling had his house shattered and foundation ruined. Mr. Walling and 
family escaped by quickly getting into a cave. 

These whirls and spurs seemed to be everywhere in the air, and when- 
ever the hanging cloud or strip, like a falling winding sheet, came down to 
earth there destruction was done. Up in Center township a vacant house was 
entirely blown away. Another spur in Highland carried away the house of 
Stewart King, and in the same township the house of Thomas Rollins was 
badly racked and twisted off the foundation. Mr. Rollins, on his way home 
from a neighbor's, was hurled into a hedge and badly bruised. A like offshoot 
veered to Sutherland where it did some damage. The general trend of the 
cyclone was towards the southeast. It next struck the house and barn of 
Fred Lemke, in Grant, and wiped them up as if so much chaff. The house, 
with the family in it. was actually rolled over and over, then jerked up in 
the air. and dashed on the ground into fragments. It was much commented 
on as one of the freaks of this class of storms that such destruction could 
be done and the family escape, and, as it was, one four year-old son, Robert, 
received an ugly gash in the face. A horse was badly crippled as the barn 
went flying into pieces. The Covey church, along the route of the storm, 
was badly shaken up and the gables torn off. One of the saddest accidents 
was at the home of William Haver. They saw it coming, but before they 


could reach the house the walls and roof were whirled in every direction, a 
riving timber killing Mrs. Haver instantly. In the same township James 
Hiatt's house was destroyed. Luckily the family, as a summer convenience, 
were living in a tent. They were swirled up into the air and lit some distance 
away, uninjured. The house and stable of James Janes, on section 21, was 
destroyed, together with the stables of Ed Shepard, on section 10. At the 
homes of E. J- Frush and John Dakin in each case their stables were destroyed 
and houses uninjured. Mr. Lackey lost his residence. William Seeley's 
house was carried up into the air twice and dashed down before going to 
pieces. The family were carried several rods among the ruins, injuring 
Mr. Seeley severely, at first thought fatally, though he recovered, but his 
household goods were destroyed. Fortunately the family, when they saw 
it coining, sought refuge in the stronger granary and escaped. A large grove 
seemed to sufficiently protect and save the house of Don C. Berry, but his barn 
was destroyed. The Joseph DeMars family were among the unfortunate. 
Miss Elsie DeMars, a daughter of twenty years, was so badly injured that 
she died during the week. The collar bone of Mrs. DeMars was broken and 
hei head and body lacerated. The three sons, Eugene, Samuel and Joseph. 
Jr., and Dina. the daughter, were badly injured. The house and barn of 
Thomas Jenkins were each crushed in and Mrs. Jenkins suffered a broken 
collar bone. The baby in the family was whirled away twenty rods and 
lodged in a pool of water uninjured. The barn of Richard M. Boyd, on sec- 
tion 14, was destroyed, actually driving many parts of the same into the 
ground, but losing only the roof of the house. 

This same twister storm continued down into Waterman township, com- 
pletely tearing to fragments the house of James Jenkins. Mrs. Jenkins was 
caught or wedged in between a barrel of lime and a hot stove and her eyes 
nearly burned from their sockets. The house of Oliva Marcott was swept 
away. They fortunately had a cave and escaped in that. The John DeTour 
residence was badly shattered in its upper story and a large part of the barn 
torn to pieces. At one point several feet of the building was left standing 
intact, showing the queer freaks of such twisters. Thomas Marcott, on sec- 
tion 12, lost his barn. His five-year-old boy was badly injured and died in a 
few davs. Mr. Marcott also lost a roll of greenbacks amounting to six hun- 
dred dollars, which he never found. The house of Anthon Boyer, on sec- 
tion 11, was destroyed, though he himself was visiting at the home of William 
Conrad, just north of his house, and whose house was also demolished. Mr. 
Boyer had two ribs broken. Mrs. Conrad's skull was fractured and shoulder 
injured, while a son, Lennie. had a hip broken, Mattie an arm broken and 


Lilly injured in the back, while Mrs. Conrad was otherwise lacerated. The 
house of Abram Opdvke was torn to pieces and an upper floor fell upon and 
fatally injured him. He died the following day. 


Just as this history is ready for the press, and on this June 5, 1914. at 
six o'clock P. M., occurred one of the most destructive cyclones ever in the 
county. It was first observed by our citizens in the county, when it struck 
several set of farm buildings, demolishing them and stripping several groves 
of trees of their barks completely, just south of Hospers, over in Sioux county, 
entering O'Brien county near that point. 

Its first and perhaps worst destruction in the county was by a spur of the 
cyclone rushing in furious force through Carroll township, running nearly on 
a bee line north on the section line, commencing near the farm of M. F. 
McNutt, on the southeast corner of section 16, demolishing all his extensive 
set of buildings, curiously leaving his house intact and largely destroying his 
grove. The main maelstrom of air whirling in a circle as it proceeded, being 
from one-half to three-quarters of a mile in width, and its center of activity 
being squarely on the highway, destroyed practically all, namely about fifteen 
sets of farm buildings, each in value running from six to fifteen thousand 
dollars, including also groves torn up literally by the roots as it proceeded. 
One very sad death occurred in this township, the little grandchild of John 
Bilsland. one of the earliest settlers. M. D. Finch, another of the oldest 
settlers, was himself very severely injured and his buildings and grove 
destroyed. Perhaps the worst havoc in any one spot in its path was the 
total destruction of the buildings and grove of Fred Nelson. In the destruc- 
tions of groves the trees of thirty and forty years growth were torn up by 
the roots and piled in confused heaps. Live stock lay dead right and left. 
Household goods, furniture, with the debris of buildings, were scattered 
over whole quarter sections of land, and to such an extent that the plowing 
of corn could not be proceeded with on many fields until the debris was re- 
moved and collected. Pianos were found in corn fields, and clothing and 
sacred relics of home hung in shreds and pieces on the barbs of fences and 
everywhere. Wire fences with posts were torn up and stripped loose and 
warped through the growing grain with such force and velocity as actually 
to burn in spots from the electricity and velocity of movement of wires. All 
the curious freaks were performed that are told of cyclones, all too much for 
detailed description. While a stunning blow to all the farmers in this long 


path of ruin, even yet they were perhaps better able to stand its money value 
than the ruin to immediately follow within a few short minutes to the town 
of Sanborn, and some of its many poorer people, many with but a house and 
modest home. 

Indeed the whole heavens of the north part of the count)- seemed to be 
under a fateful pulsation of electric current and the whirling streamers 
higher up in the heavens or lower down near the ground as "the wind blew 
where it listeth." 

The spur striking Sanborn was just a little higher up on the average 
than the Carroll township spur, smashing in a larger number of the tops of 
the buildings and leaving the main body partly intact but shivered up. This 
latter was true up Main street for some three blocks. It first hit the round 
house, demolishing it in part, then overturning in a mass of ruin two eleva- 
tors, thence up Main street, as stated, thence turning to the northeast, doing 
all manner of the curious and the freakish in vengeful whim of devastation, 
barelv and fortunately missing the forty-thousand-dollar school building, but 
just across the street destroying the city park and city water tank and water 
works. 'Hie telephone system of the whole east half of the city was one 
hopeless tangle of wires. 

Two very sad deaths resulted in Sanborn. Patrick Donoughue, a pros- 
perous clothing merchant, was lifted into the air full thirty feet or more, as 
stated by eye witnesses, and hurled to the ground one hundred and fifty feet 
away to his death. James Duymstra. a young man, was also killed. About 
twenty people were injured, many seriously- About one hundred buildings 
were damaged in varied degrees. The loss in dollars to the town reached a 
quarter of a million. It would be impossible to sketch in detail the thousand 
merciless havoc incidents. It proceeded north, repeating its destruction up 
as far as the D. M. Norton farm, near the Osceola county line, destroying his 
buildings. It landed the whirlpool of another streamer into Melvin, with 
considerable destruction. If it had to be such a fate, its chosen hour of the 
dav was fortunate, rather than still later in the evening or night. As a whole, 
it was a county-wide historic calamity. 


The citv of St. Paul for several years erected an ice palace. It was ele- 
gant. The light of the sun shining on a prism of either glass or ice will pro- 
duce the seven colors of the rainbow. The same sun shining on all the angles 
and architecture of a mammoth pile of ice would all but reflect the Aurora 


Borealis. But St. Paul was reminded that it was harming the state of Minne- 
sota in advertising the wrong kind of a crop. This might tend to frighten. 
But O'Brien county has been tested out for now fifty-eight years. She lias 
had a few bad features and had some wrong things done as herein recited, 
and we have recited both the bad and the good. But we will find that the 
good and the good in abundance so overtops and overtowers the bad features 
in general results, that we can safelv even state that we have blizzards and 
snow storms and occasionally an early hard frost. For instance, in one year 
a very early cold wave in September, before the corn was ripe or hard, 
actually froze the corn in the milk until it was left soft, which made the 
cattle's mouths sore to eat it. It was indeed a loss. But even in that year 
the other crops were so bountiful that it was no insurmountable calamity 
after all. It is a praise to the county that in so man)- years only one such 
year befell its people. The other great years of plenty, so many in number, 
have so filled Pharaoh's and Jacob's corn cribs that automobiles continue to 
move and be purchased by the hundreds. Hogs occasionally have an epidemic 
of cholera, but we keep right on raising hogs, Sheeney or no Sheenev. 
O'Brien county has indeed been quite free from what may be termed an over- 
whelming calamity. Likewise we may have blizzards and snow storms, but 
O'Brien county has the money to buy fur coats and the school boy in glee 
will continue to throw snow balls just the same. The early settler felt these 
blizzards more severely, for his home was but a shack; there were' no trees for 
wind break; his clothes corresponded, and besides there were no definite 
straight roads to lead the wanderer home. We must record some serious 
experiences, however. 

The writer was on the street in that awful blizzard of January, 1888, 
in Primghar. In its first dash, it was not that it was so fearfully cold, for 
the snow was damp and slushy, and the thermometer then twenty decrees 
above zero. It came down in slush, the wind blew a gale, the snow sheets 
( in fact they were more like snow bed quilts), like a young avalanche, striking 
the face, shoulders, ears and eyes, so suddenly, a surprise, followed by be- 
wilderment, that it was literally true that it was so overwhelming, dash after 
dash, that it was not only an effort but a struggle to get into one's own house 
even from his own door yard. This was just dusk. Later on in the nieht 
the colder wave struck and the thermometer went down to thirty-six degrees 
below zero, or a change of sixty-six degrees, and froze this slush to ice. The 
wayfarer became exhausted in the first struggle and five persons lost their 
lives in O'Brien county in that awful night of storm. We will give some 


experiences as examples of what were duplicated over many counties ad- 

Frank X. Derby, county treasurer, at that time lived in the south part of 
Primghar. and in an effort to get home from his office had an awful experi- 
ence, tie would have failed had it not been for two items. His wife had 
placed a light in the window. But even this would not have saved him had 
he not by accident run into the wire fence, which he held fast to and followed 
the wire, but even then as he entered his house fell exhausted on the floor 
from his riounderings with the storm. 

William H. Bilsland, a homesteader in Carroll township, had a fearful 
experience and his two sisters, Jennie, aged twenty-five, and Tillie, aged 
twenty-two, met their sad fate in death. He had made a trip to court at 
Primghar. The two sisters were at the father's home on the road. They 
undertook to go home with him in the sleigh. The blizzard struck them with 
full force, and the horses refused to go. indeed could not in such a gale and 
blinding storm. The sleigh tongue broke and the horses were detached. An 
effort was made to ride the horses, but that was unavailing. The sisters 
became exhausted. They dug as much of a hole in the snow as they could 
for a possible shelter until morning. Mr. Bilsland wrapped his own fur coat 
around the two, but, sad to record, it became their blizzard grave and the 
blinding snow their winding sheet. Air. Bilsland himself struggled and 
floundered on, throughout the whole night, lost his direction and finally in 
the morning found himself miles away from his supposed position. It was 
a testing time even with a hardy life. None but a strong man, buoyed up 
by the hope of saving his sisters, could have baffled this battle storm, he to 
only save, and barely save, his own life. 

This sad experience was only paralleled by the pitiful experience in 
Baker township, just south a few miles, during the same midnight hours. 
The wife, sister and child of Thomas Kjermoe were in the first instance safe 
in their own home, but, evidently frightened at the terrible furv of the storm, 
undertook to get to what seemed a safer place with a neighbor and relative 
living near. The only record of their awful experience during that terrible 
night that can ever be told are our conclusions from the grim evidence of 
death of the three frozen bodies, found two days after, lying cold in death 
in the snow only forty rods from their own home and place of safety thev had 
so unfortunately left. 

In Dale township also, in this same storm, Airs. Anderson and her very 
aged mother and son. ten vears old, were found in the snow drifts dead. 


They, too, had become frightened and left their home to escape, as they 
thought, to a neighbor's. The cloak of Airs. Anderson was found where 
she had tenderly wrapped it around the mother. 

George C. Godfrey, of Paullina. and his two neighbors, Isaac L. Rerick 
and L. A. Douglass, were caught in this storm going home from Primghar, 
and struggled for hours, but luckily followed a fence which led to Mr. God- 
frey's house and escaped. Sam Norland, living near Paullina, was likewise 
caught, but very fortunately stumbled on to a straw stack, dug a hole and 
remained in it unharmed until morning. E. B. Pike, of Sheldon, started with 
his team for Hull, when the storm struck him. He lost his bearings and 
wandered over the wild prairies all the night, but just at morning found a 
hay stack ancl saved himself, having a narrow escape. 

The winters of 1871 and 1872 were each severe, and the early settlers 
had some bitter experiences, though no lives were lost in the winter of 1871. 
In the winter of 1872 John Miller was caught in a blizzard near Mill creek, 
west of Primghar, with a load of flour. To save himself he threw the flour 
sacks in the road and undertook the race for life on horseback. He was all 
but exhausted when he arrived home, thankful even to save his life. 

In 1872 a young man named Fred Beach, from Iowa City, a friend of 
Houston Woods and Mrs. Roma W. Woods (one of the advisory board in this 
history), came to Old O'Brien to visit those old homesteaders, and, with no 
experience in a new country, undertook to make the trip across the bleak 
prairie in a blizzard to their home, about seven miles awav. To accommodate 
Mr. \\ T oods and other neighbors, he had also attempted to carry out their 
mail. He also had with him a pup dog sent from Iowa City to Mr. Woods. 
He evidently lost his bearings and started up the wrong creek towards, as he 
supposed, Mr. Woods' homestead, and lost his life in a blizzard snow bank 


The winter of 1880 was a memorable one, with immense snow banks, 
but fortunately the snow was dry and did not reach those death-dealing 
stages of the other winters. However, it was long spoken of as a blizzard 
winter from the mere quantity of snow. The Milwaukee railroad had not 
yet built its snow fences. It was said that the snow shovelers in many places 
had to throw it up. and then up again, even to fifteen feet high. Much snow 
blindness resulted with the snow shovelers, it lasting all winter. Indeed that 
year the writer saw heavy, hard crusted snow banks in Albright's grove ad- 
joining Primghar as late as June. 

It was that year when John H. Gear, governor of Iowa, issued a procla- 
mation or order to the Milwaukee and other roads to remove the snow from 


their tracks at all hazards and get coal to the needy people. The snow re- 
mained a depth of solid packed, crnsted snow of three and four feet on the 
level all winter. The farmers in the various parts of the county turned out 
in larsfe bodies to shovel and cut out the roadwavs to the towns. In a mini- 
ber of funerals the coffins were skidded by hand to the homes and burials 
had in the farm yards until spring-. During that hard winter the writer, 
as county auditor, had the winter's coal for the court house hauled all the way 
from Cherokee, the town of Primghar then having no railroad. In many 
homes that winter the families had not fully provided themselves with the 
hay fuel, and the prairie grass was covered w ith tins great bed of snow, coal 
was practically out of the question and the then small groves were not large 
enough to make wood. There were no telephones, neighbors were nearly all 
long distances apart, and even the trip to secure help was often a serious mat- 
ter. With the now better homes and barns and buildings, with straightened 
roads, and houses closer together, these experiences could hardly be duplicated 
at the present time. 


O'Brien county citizens will never again see the grand sight of a genuine 
prairie lire. It was a condition, like the prairie sod, never to be repeated. 
It took thousands of years to create that condition. The tall prairie grass in 
the fall, when deadened by the frosts, burned like tinder. Conceive this 
grass to be from eight inches to four feet high (old settlers say they have 
seen it six feet high), and then apply the principle that heat rises and creates 
its own wind even on a still day ; then add to that a high wind ; then picture 
what havoc fire can do; then add the hay stacks, bursting in air, which gave 
proof through the night that those stacks were still there : then get the con- 
ception of the fact that many prairies stretched for thirty or more unimpeded 
miles, and that a high wind would carry this seething, roaring, consuming 
fire and mass of flames often ten to fifteen feet high, with dense smoke and 
cinders Hying all over and high in the air, all piling flame after flame, and 
actually going as fast as a horse can run. The writer has thus seen lines of 
these fires, running zigzag here, and in a straight line there, then a specially 
tall twenty acres of slough grass burst forth with unusual energy and creat- 
ing its own wind, for ten miles each way, the crackling of hundreds of tons of 
this grass, sounding like the rumbling of distant thunder and lighting up the 
heavens on a dark night like the Aurora Borealis or northern lights. It 
was indeed grand, but, as can be seen, it was serious, and these fires were a 
menace tc the lone homesteader, then on a treeless prairie, living in a shack 


shanty, with no money, as likewise to the hundreds of haystacks put up for 
winter use, or put up by these haying companies on a large scale. The home- 
steader soon learned to put up much more than he needed that he might pro- 
vide against these fires, and. as there was plenty and labor the only outlay, 
he could do that easily. These people soon learned by experience to prepare 
fire breaks, by plowing strips around these stacks and around their homes, 
ten or more rods apart, and on a still day burn the strip between, but even 
then the fire would often bound over and beyond and clean out either a home 
or all the hay. They also soon learned that it was safer to leave fifty or 
more tons, or twenty stacks, scattered here and there over the prairie, with 
plowing around each stack, than to stack it all around the home and risk his 
all in one fire. At times these high winds would carry a bunch of blazing- 
prairie grass high into the air and these precautions prove unavailable. The 
burning haystacks would only scatter the danger. Single fires have thus 
been known to burn over a full fourth of the county, and thence on to other 
counties, all in one fire. The next day this whole prairie would look like one 
drapery of death in mock funeral destruction, with the black ashes or dust 
moving in the heavens in streamers of black smoke, and working destruction 
to more than one home and winter's feed for stock. It was indeed a grand 
spectacle, now never again to be seen in the count}'. 


In those early days, say 1 875-1 885. the tall prairie grass grew right in 
the public square of Primghar and in the streets of every town in the county. 
The writer remembers one little incident during those years, of sitting on the 
sidewalk of the main street of Sheldon with an old settler, with the prairie 
grass up to our knees, and of our remarking at the time that the grass was 
literally growing under our feet. The town was not yet old enough for this 
grass to have been tramped out. Fairly good sized prairie fires have thus burned 
within the limits of the towns of the county, on prairie grass. On perhaps 
half a dozen occasions the writer has seen a sudden scurry, a fire company 
organized impromptu, each citizen hurrying with a pail of water, a mop, an 
old gunny sack or a spade to pound out a streak of fire, as one of these long 
lines of fire would come sweeping towards the town, citizens hurrying to the 
blacksmith shop to break it open and draft into service the farmer's plows left 
there to be sharpened, while other citizens were hurrying to the livery to 
impress the available horses, to plow two strips around the town, and then 
to back fire the strip between to save the town, meantime the women and 


children using the dampened mops and gunny sacks and spades fighting fire to 
save the town from burning. 


The grasshoppers and the count}" debt were indeed twin scourges of the 
early day. The grasshoppers lasted for seven years, or perhaps it should be 
said from five to seven in the different localities. The}' were not merely the 
common, small, tame grasshoppers seen each year along the edges of the 
pastures. The}" were known as. and called, the "rock}" mountain locust." 
Their natural home and hatching ground was in the arid, dry sands and soil 
of the west. The}' were visitors. In ^\/.e they were often three inches in 
length. They did not belong to this region. The scientist has claimed that 
they never returned, but that each succeeding year, in this damper region 
that they degenerated in size and strength and finally disappeared. They 
were prolific, active, saucy and destructive and no remedy for their practical 
destruction was found. As one wag got it off, "You could catch one grass- 
hopper and kill him. but you had a job on your hands with the whole bunch." 
They deposited their eggs in large numbers in the dry, mellow, soft dirt of 
recent plowing. The sun was the old hen that hatched them out. It may 
seem like an extravagant, overdone story to state the fact, as the writer him- 
self did on many occasions, namely, gather up within a few feet a handful 
of from fifty to a hundred eggs, and hold them in the hands in the sun, and 
within twenty minutes they would expand and hatch out and jump off the 
hand, hop, hopper, a full frisky grasshopper, ready to light on the tender 
wheat or corn blade, in preference to the tougher prairie grass. The}' had 
a choice. They had been in the country before, but not in such countless 
numbers. When they arose in the millions in great clouds, they literally 
would dim and cloud the sun. \\ 'hen thus in the air they would usually fly 
with the wind and at a tremendous velocity. The sun shining on their silvery 
yellow wings, their rapid movements gave them the appearance of shooting 
stars. Their incisors and well-boring outfit were in proportion, in effect and 
size, only ten times increased to the blood-boring outfit of a good sized 
mosquito. These sets of tools could down a large field of wheat or corn in a 
short time, with many hands doing quick work. 

They first came in 1873. In 1877, the year the writer arrived, the people 
were undergoing the blues of Blue Monday indeed. They were still in con- 
siderable numbers in 1878 and were practically gone in 1879. The year of 
1873 was excessively dry. This resulted in enough ancestral grasshoppers 


to keep up the family for the six succeeding years. The strong, hot south- 
west and westerly winds rousing them up in a myriad cloud, in clash and 
movement of millions of wings would often sound like the roaring of a storm. 

The Sioux City Journal in one issue said. "Farmers should not get dis- 
couraged." It was hard to tell whether this was intended to be humorous, 
serious.or grim irony or satire. One wag put it: "In the (s) wheat bye and 
bye." Another wag got it off that 'The impudent little cusses would 
work hard all day, boring wells into his corn stalks, eating, sucking and 
destroying his corn, and then in the evening would light and line up on his 
fences and posts and squirt corn juice in his face." All kinds of remedies 
and suggestions were made and tried out. Some dug a ditch along the held 
to stop their progress in part. This, however, was doing it just a little. 
Each remedy fell just a little short. Others tried a long trough filled with 
kerosene to drag along the fields with a horse, and get them emmeshed with 
the liquid, but this was only the old woman with her broom sweeping back 
the waters. The Eastern people and papers said we had all the plagues of 
Egypt. This did not assist emigration. 

The grasshopper was indeed an early settler. He settled on the grain. 
He was a pioneer. He established his own right by possession. Just imagine, 
ft the reader will, a penniless homesteader, planting corn for a sod crop, and 
that his first year in the county, as he would laboriously with an ox team turn 
up five to six inches of solid unsubdued sod of vigorous prairie grass roots in 
a dry season, and depending on that first crop to winter these oxen or span 
of horses a cow or two. a few hogs and also to support himself and family 
for the winter, with the farm machine man sticking a promissory note at him 
and threatening to sue him if he did not pay up. This was humorous again, 
as old Captain Edwards, count}' auditor, said to the machine note man, "Dod 
blame it, boys, that's right : sue 'em, put 'em in judgment, I can add 'em up 
better then." 

This fact is probably true, however, with all the damage they did, that 
now in these later prosperous years of plenty, O'Brien county could feed 
all those grasshoppers and not miss it. But then they took it all. One man 
on a whole section of land, with twenty-five acres of first-year sod corn, did 
not last even a day sometimes. 

Like all other new countries, the settler bought too much machinery, 
and during all these seven years and for years afterward these promissorv 
notes became due with interest added. One machine agent came to Cherokee 
to meet one of these homesteaders, and took a photograph of one of these 
hay twisters, with his feet and legs wrapped up in gunnysacking in lieu of 


shoes, with all other clothes to match, and sent it in to the house. Chattel 
mortgages were given galore, for machine notes, for groceries, for bread. 
There is one chattel mortgage on the records of O'Brien county actually 
covering" a coffee mill with some other household articles. Xo wonder they 
were willing to catch some gophers for the bounty offered and take a county 
warrant, and even press the matter beyond the limit. 

At the September session, 1876, the board of supervisors, on petition of 
these now distracted homesteaders, by resolution declared all taxes of resi- 
dents unavailable and cancelled them from the tax lists. This petition and 
resolution also directed itself to Congress and relief committees for help and 
relief. Other counties likewise joined who were similarly afflicted. Some 
citizens, however, held back, fearing that this advertising of those troubles 
would injure later on in securing settlers. 

During the darkest year of 1874, State Senator Samuel H. Fairall, of 
Iowa City, and our own George D. Perkins, state senator from this district, 
made a tour of these northwestern counties of Iowa and on the convening of 
the Legislature in January, 1875, recommended an appropriation of a loan 
of one hundred and five thousand dollars to these northwest counties, but 
to be paid back. The Legislature reduced the amount to fifty thousand dol- 
lars, but made it an out-an-out donation, which was distributed for seed grain 
to those most needy. This was supplemented also by contributions from 
relief committees over the country. This making it a donation instead of a 
loan was the proper thing, as it took many years for those homesteaders of 
O'Brien and other counties to remedy their conditions. 

A committee of the Legislature, composed of Representatives Brown 
and Tasker, came to Sheldon in March, following and made the distribution, 
but, as can be seen, even this large sum permitted but a small amount to each 
homesteader, just sufficient to get seed in the spring, the orders being "to 
exercise the utmost caution and to supply only the most needy, as it was an 
emergency measure." Gen. N. B. Baker, of the governor's staff, was the 
general manager for the distribution of this relief. The people were very 
grateful, however, as the item of seed grain actually determined the question 
in many cases whether the homesteader either would or could stick for an- 
other year, or dig out, as the expression went. Probably, however, like the 
prairie sod, like the homesteader, like the Indian, like the pioneer, like the 
then grasshopper in the millions, these conditions only happen or occur but 
once. When done and gone they were gone forever. Therefore they were 

In these later years of prosperity and plenty, in this year 19 14, it would 


seem absurd to think that the resolution following could ever have been seri- 
ously adopted in O'Brien count}-. Those who have never experienced the 
ravages for seven years of millions and clouds of grasshoppers would hardly 
believe it. But in 1873 it was serious. It ma} - be curiously observed that 
the word grasshoppers was not used. Like the silent lips of death, it was 
not necessary. The names therein given, however, were among Sheldon's 
most reliable citizens. In this history we have refrained from inserting long- 
petitions on various subjects, but we cannot abbreviate it in this case and 
express the due distress of the people during those years and at same time 
give the proceedings and names of those responsible people taking part. The 
following was the report of the meeting and resolution : 

From the Sioux City Journal of December 6, 1873 — "Sheldon, Iowa, 
December 1, 1873. — Pursuant to a call of the citizens of Sheldon, a meeting 
was held at Sheldon, November 29, 1873, to take steps for relief to the 
needy homesteaders of O'Brien county. Meeting was called to order by J. 
A. Brown, H. D. YYiard was chosen chairman, and E. F. Parkhurst, secre- 
tary. The following resolutions were presented and adopted : 

*\\ nereas. many of the people of O'Brien county, through the unfor- 
tunate failure of crops last season, are needing such aid and assistance from 
others as is necessary to carry their families through the winter, and procure 
seed for their land in the spring ; therefore, be it 

; 'Resolved, that we appoint a committee of eight to apply to such other 
parts of the state for what is needed, and to distribute the same when re- 
ceived, among such families as require it. 

" 'Resolved, that the committee report from time to time a list of such 
goods as are received and that names of the families to whom they are dis- 
tributed and what each one received.' 

"The following persons were elected as that committee : J. A. Brown, 
H. C. Lane, Ben. Jones. Eli Biarsh, Eli F. Woods, M. G. McClellan, E. F. 
Parkhurst and E. W. Evans. 

"It was voted that a copy of the minutes of this meeting be sent to the 
Sheldon Mail, Sioux City Journal and State Journal, with a request for 

"H. D. Wiard, Chairman. 
"E. F. Parkhurst, Secretary." 



O'Brien county has had four county seat contests: The contest be- 
tween Old O'Brien and Primghar in 1872, the contest of 1879 between Prim- 
ghar and Sheldon, the Sanborn raid or contest in 1882 and the contest of 
191 1 between Primghar and Sheldon. 

There are few public agitations that will equal in strenuousness and 
earnest excitement a county seat contest. It is human nature that the citizens 
of the contesting towns will be loyal to their home towns. That quality is 
right and commendable as between the individual and his town, but it forms 
no reason of itself why a county seat should or should not be relocated. The 
immediate excitement and the otherwise contentions of individuals and towns 
are often the real subjects discussed in these contests. There are, however, 
groundwork causes and reasons, above and beyond all this, to which as 
historic matter we must look and for which we must search in these contests. 
The contests hover over the shoulders of the towns involved, but the causes 
solving them out are county wide. YVe must, therefore, set aside the indi- 
vidual and tense feelings always playing a part in such contests and look 

The law of the state as to filing petitions and remonstrances was not 
quite the same in the first two contests of 1872 and 1879 as 't was in the last 
contest of 191 1. At the periods of the first two contests the law permitted 
both sides to procure signatures to both petitions and remonstrances, clear 
up to the date of the hearing by the board of supervisors. In fact, in the 
contest of 1879 the board actually permitted signatures to petitions on both 
sides that were being procured as the board proceeded with the hearing. 

At the time of the 191 1 contest the law required the petitioner asking for 
relocation of the county seat, or remonstrating thereto, to affix his signature, 
to add thereto the date when he signed same, to give the number of the sec- 
tion, township and range of the land, or the number of the ward if in a city 
of his residence, and also required that the completed petition be filed sixty 
days prior to the hearing by the board. The remonstrators could sign up 


names during the canvass of the county by the petitioners and during this 
sixty days and up to within ten days of the hearing. During each of the con- 
tests the law required publications to be made of the coming filing of a 
petition in a newspaper. All the time it has provided that names found on 
both petition and remonstrance should only be counted on the remonstrance. 
As can be seen, in all county seat contests this invites a tense struggle in the 
procurement of signatures. 


The establishment of the county seat at Old O'Brien had had an ignoble 
cause, as we have detailed under other heads. This first contest was not 
strictly between Old O'Brien and Primghar. but between Old O'Brien and 
the then prairie grass plat of forty acres, the southeast quarter of the south- 
east quarter of section 36, township 96, range 41. It is probably the only 
instance in the history of the state where a spot of forty acres of raw bare 
prairie, with no inhabitants and not even a name (the name Primghar not yet 
having been given to it), ever contested with a prior county seat and actually- 
won out. The board ordered the vote at its June session, 1872, and the elec- 
tion occurred November 11, 1972. The vote of the people stood three hun- 
dred and seven for removal, and fifty-three against. 

We will give reasons. In all the other contesting efforts to re- 
locate, including this effort to remove it from Old O'Brien, there were ground- 
work causes solving out the destiny of the county. This first fight in 1872 
was indeed a supreme effort on the part of the old homesteaders recently then 
locating in 1870-71-72 to reform matters. The real gist of this fight lay in 
'the settled determination of these settlers that the county seat and its records, 
and that even the sentiment hovering over Old O'Brien, and its rat hole of a 
log court house, should be wrenched from the Bosler-Cofer-Tiffey crowd, 
and that the only way to do it was to root it up and move it away and settle 
the then one desired fact, that the new settlers' rights should be established 
and that they should cut loose from those pirates in the organizing of counties 
for profit. A second thought also was to locate the county seat at the exact 
center. It was also a further thought to locate it on or near the forty-third 
parallel of latitude, which was two miles below the proposed location, and 
where Congress in its land erant to the Milwaukee railroad recited it should 
be built "as near as may be. ' 



Sheldon vs. Primghar and Sanborn vs. Primghar. On June 3, 1879, 
there was tiled before the board of supervisors of the county the "petition" of 
sundry citizens, asking for the relocation of the county seat from Primghar 
to Sheldon. The hearing before the board occupied three days at its June 
session. The official record of the same is quite meager. 

The board found that five hundred and thirty-two signed the petition 
for relocation ; that fifty-seven illegal voters or non-residents signed same ; 
that eighty-nine voters who had signed the petition had also signed Prim- 
ghar's remonstrance; that, in all, four hundred and ninety-five signed the 
remonstrance ; that there were fourteen illegal signers on the remonstrance. 
Based on the above findings, the petition was rejected. The hearing lasted 
for three days amid much excitement. It was held in the court room, with 
large crowds present from all parts of the county. The street scenes were 
even more demonstrative on both sides than the open sessions at the hearing. 

During the period of circulating Sheldon's petition, the town of Sanborn 
also circulated a petition to relocate the county seat at Sanborn, and Prim- 
ghar circulated remonstrances against both towns. A general remonstrance 
was also circulated against relocating" it anywhere, but the board rejected this 
as being too indefinite. At that time the law did not require the petition to 
be filed until the day of the hearing before the board, and did not fix a definite 
date when to be tiled, and required no dating of signatures, as now. Much 
of these three days, or at least some part of the time, was occupied in sparring 
between the two contending forces, actually procuring delays, and also in the 
meantime procuring more signers to petition and remonstrance. This caused 
much excitement. 

Looking to the weightier reasons and causes, we can see in this contest 
the beginning or first growths of the second contest in 191 1 between the same 
towns. Sheldon in 1879 was already six years a railroad town. Primghar 
was still roadless. Sheldon had been growing. "Primghar, poor old maid," 
as B. F. McCormack humorously remarked, "was waiting for a proposal," 
from some one to build for it a railroad. 

But the two historic facts remained, that Sheldon was established on the 
border of the county and Primghar in the center. The decision was the 
same as it later was in 191 1. The people of the county, amid excitement, 
was solving out its destiny. 



Each of the other three contests were conducted under the statutes of 
Iowa, providing for petitions or vote. The Sanborn raid, which occurred 
November 23, 1882. was purely a physical combat for the county seat. 
Nevertheless, it had its causes. Several years ago Frank A. Vaughn, editor 
of the O'Brien County Democrat, requested the senior editor of this book 
to write an impartial account of the matter, he having participated personally 
therein. Believing it could not be set forth more impartially than it was 
there done, we give it a place in full, as being practically an official record 
of the unique event. 

"Mr. Frank A. Vaughn, 

"Editor O'Brien County Democrat: 

"You have requested me to write up a statement of what was known as 
the 'Sanborn Raid.' or the incident of Sanborn actually securing and holding 
the county seat for one day. During the past now nearly thirty years I have 
at sundry times been requested to do so, but so far have refused. It was one 
of the most intense county-wide excitements ever in the county. For many 
years this incident was so intermingled with politics and local personalities 
that I thought best not, but that it should be postponed until all that is left 
is the fact as it occurred, with all personalities left out. But time is now 
so far removed that at least it should be done now impartially, and in doing 
so to go back a little into some of the facts and causes leading" up to the same. 

"This incident occurred on the night of November 23, 1882. At that 
time Primghar had no railroad and no prospect of any within anv reasonable 

"Prior to this, in 1879, both Sheldon and Sanborn had circulated peti- 
tions to the board of supervisors, to submit the question of removal to a vote 
of the people. These two contests in their time had followed down with its 
natural discussions. 

"Primghar had then only about one hundred and seventy-five people. 
It had gone on thus from 1872 (when it was laid out) until 1882, holding 
railroad meetings and hoping against hope. In the grant of Congress to the 
Milwaukee Railroad it provided that said road should be built through 
O'Brien county on the forty-third parallel of latitude as near as may be and 
connect the Sioux City road at Sheldon. This forty-third parallel, as a 
matter of fact, lies just south of Primghar about two miles. This fact the 


men who laid out the town had in mind, as likewise the fact that it was in 
the exact center. The Milwaukee road in 1878 built itself 'as near as may 
be' to this forty-third parallel to and through Sanborn, and our ten years' 
hopes and patient waiting went down forty degrees below. One can thus 
read between the lines of the thought of the then people of Sanborn that if 
the railroad had thus gone on this forty-third parallel 'as near as may be,' 
that meant that the forty-third parallel, or Primghar, or the county seat 
could remove to Sanborn, 'as near as may be.' Indeed one joke, though it 
was seriously considered, was for Sanborn to reincorporate the whole terri- 
tory between Primghar and Sanborn as a town, and then for the board to 
simply order the court house to be moved to the other end of the town, that 
is, to Sanborn's end of it, on the theory that no vote of the people would be 
needed. This may be laughed at now, as lacking in argument, but so did the 
idea of a 'raid' without a vote lack in the same way and yet it was under- 
taken at the time seriously. I simply mention these facts as showing that 
the Sanborn raid or removal idea had some causes back of it all. While 
determined to hold the county seat, Primghar itself was in fact getting sick 
of the long wait. When, in 1878, the Milwaukee was built, the hearts of the 
Primghar people sank. Again, when, in 1881, the next or Northwestern 
road was built just, south of us, the town was sick again. During those three 
years, from 1878 to 1881, there were actually about fifty to sixty buildings, 
large and small, removed from Primghar to Sanborn, Paullina and some 
even to Sutherland. One can imagine how consoling that was to the one 
hundred and seventy-five Primghar people, waiting" for a railroad. 

"But on each contest before the board of supervisors, nothwithstanding 
the above facts, that even the people of Primghar were growing weary, the 
people said No ; the farmers then argued thus : 'That the county seat is not 
fixed for a day or a year, but for future years ;' 'that the farmers, the bulk 
of them, went to the county seat overland, and that the farmers from the 
farthest corner of the county could go there and back the same day, and 
that he would be fair with the other farmers at the other end of the county 
who could do the same thing, and thus meet him half way, and thus give him 
a square deal, and that the farmer had as good a right to the argument as 
the town man.' But Sanborn argued to herself that with Primghar itself 
thus 'sick,' if we can get it actually removed, for any reason, that the people 
will simply acquiesce. 

"Just at this time the railroads of the country were having a passenger 
rate war, until the Sioux Citv road actually offered a round trip ticket to 
Saint Paul and back for twenty-five cents. Every officer in the court house, 


except the auditor, together with man}' other citizens, took advantage of this 
and left town for this trip. There being then no railroad at Primghar, these 
officials went by the way of Sanborn to take the train, which brought up the 
subject and the idea of a raid was sprung. 

"The citizens of Sanborn were soon well organized. Under the town 
pride idea that they must all stand together, they were naturally united. Its 
best citizens, like William Harker, J. L. Greene, Harley Day, Mart Shea, 
David Palen and one hundred others, participated. One hundred men went 
down from Sanborn with teams, wagons, crow bars, heavy timbers, pulleys 
and tackle, fully equipped, and arrived in Primghar at midnight. It took 
but a half hour or less for that number of vigorous, energetic men to batter 
down the court house doors, and to cut down the window sills level with the 
floor, and to proceed to load up records, documents, tilings, papers and 
everything that was loose or could be loosened, from every office, and load 
them into and upon fort}- wagons now hitched and standing around the 
square. The county treasurer's safe was loaded on a brand new wagon in 
the court house square, which had been drafted into service from one of the 
machinery houses in Sanborn. The recorder's and clerk's safes were loaded 
on other wagons, though the recorder's safe was the only one that in fact 
got clear in Sanborn. The county auditor's safe had been built right into the 
building as a part of it, and could not be removed. 

"While these happenings were going on thus vigorously, the alarm was 
sounded through the town, by some one who was sleeping in the old wooden 
jail. Everybody was awake at once, its remaining people, men, women and 
children, running, hollering and yelling. George W r . Schee and myself were 
the onlv county officer and ex-officer present; probably twenty of her people 
went on this trip. It was perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes before these 
scared people could get organized. Mr. Schee and myself were first on the 
ground. We both agreed at once that whatever else happened we would not 
permit or bring on any physical conflict, and that we would hold our tempers. 

"In the meantime I had first walked through the court house, where the 
removers were mainly at work, and shook hands with every one of the one 
hundred men I could get to within reach. This put everybody in a laughing 
mood, which continued through it all. I then went out on the porch and 
gave a yell and called the 'house to order.' Every man stopped still and 
listened attentively, and I said : 

" 'Gentlemen : This is public property and belongs to O'Brien county. 
I call upon you as citizens in my capacity as county auditor to desist and 
assist in the protection of your property, the public records and the court 


house. I realize that you now have the majority, and we will not attempt to 
bring on any physical contest, but these records must he returned. • We will 
have five hundred men in Sanborn tomorrow morning, when we will be in 
the majority.' 

"The yell was then given by the crowd to whoop her through. Mr. Schee 
and myself then managed to get together thirteen men at the edge of tlie 
square for consultation. 1 got into my office and we hustled the county seal, 
the supervisor's record and warrant book, and a few other records into Mr. 
Schee's office across the way. These were the only records that did not 
arrive in Sanborn. In the consultation of these thirteen men this line of 
fight or baffling was arrived at and decided on. That all hands should pass 
quickly among the teams and cut and slash the harness and wring off the nuts 
off the wagon wheels or axles, and thus disarm them, but to desist as soon as 
they got onto it and not bring on a fight. The nuts were thus unscrewed 
from the wheels of the wagon on which the county treasurer's safe was 
loaded, which disabled it and prevented its removal, though the fifty-foot 
log chain was also wrapped around it, then to a post, and the ends held by 
the men for some time. Many harnesses were cut up. 

''One amusing incident occurred. The Sanborn men were loading the 
records and papers into several wagon boxes. Mr. Schee and others were 
attempting to unload them and to carry them into Mr. Schee's office. David 
Palen, in his vigorous way, yelled out. 'See here, you Primghar thieves. 
you, Schee and Peck, don't you know that you are stealing our records,' 
and everybody on both sides laughed heartily. But these sallies preserved 
the good temper on both sides of the crowd. Another sally from a Prim- 
garean was this : 'See here, you Sanborn fellows, the nuts are off your 
wagon wheels, the chain is round the treasurer's safe, now walk up and pay 
your taxes.' 

"Our thirteen men also decided on this further policy, which was car- 
ried out : To secure every livery team and saddle horse or team in town, 
and start out every man and boy to rouse up the people in the different parts 
of the county. This county seat removal began its march to Sanborn about 
half past two. When I saw that I could do no more I got a team and, with 
Mr. Frank Tifft, started for Sheldon, stopping at every farm house on the 
way, in turn starting them out each way through the county. We got to 
Sheldon just at daylight. Indeed the news spread and roused up things far 
beyond expectations. It raised much excitement in Sheldon and everybody 
got out for business readv to start for Sanborn. The then current storv in 


all the papers that I rode a mule horseback across the country was not in 
fact true, but acted on the sentiments all the same. 

"In the meantime I had telegraphed to each district judge, the district 
or state's attorney, the Sioux City Journal, and called the members of the 
board of supervisors in special session to meet me as county auditor at San- 
born at ten o'clock, where we, in fact, met and held several sessions during 
the day, and in negotiations with reference to the return of the records. In 
fact five hundred men did meet us in Sanborn by ten o'clock from all parts 
of the county, and in fact an inventory was taken by one fellow present and 
he ascertained that at least eighty shot guns and revolvers were on hand in 
the crowd, though myself and our board rather feared from that that some 
regretable thing might happen, and proceeded on calmer lines of talk with 
the Sanborn citizens, though in fact this danger idea played a part in the 
solution. The board advised all parties to keep calm. The Sanborn people 
were at first disposed to 'stand pat.' But as the day progressed, it daw'ned 
on both sides that it would not be safe to permit these five hundred excited 
men to remain in the town through the night, which would have been done. 
Besides it soon became clear to both sides that, without a vote of the people, 
such an attempted removal of the county seat would soon get into the courts 
and before grand juries and other jurisdictions and get public affairs into 
many legal troubles that could not stand. It all soon became humorous as 
well as serious. 

"About one o'clock a committee of, I think, six of Sanborn's best citi- 
zens came forward in a manly way and said to the board in substance : 'We 
see that we have made a mistake. The only way out is to correct it. We 
will at once hand over all the records to J. L. E. Peck, county auditor, and 
will pay all expenses on both sides.' This proposition was accepted and 
faithfully carried out. This expense was quite large, but was fully paid. I 
procured gunny sacks from the grain elevators and sacked up all the records 
and papers and tied them securely. This was twenty-nine years ago, and 1 
believe it to be a fact that not a record or document was ever lost by reason 
of same. Indeed, the Sanborn people were well organized and with particu- 
lar instructions to 'Get every paper and record,' which if it was to be done, 
was fortunate, as it preserved them in safety. The recorder's safe, as re- 
marked, was the only one that got to Sanborn. I hired teams to haul the 
safe and records back. 

"Banker J. L. Greene, of Sanborn, had removed his furniture from his 
large residence, which became the temporary court house for the day, and 
the books, records, papers and filings were piled promiscuously eight feet 


high in several rooms. Even before the Sanborn committee had offered to 
surrender the records the crowd had ascertained their whereabouts and had 
marched up in military drill (man}' were ex-soldiers), to and around this 
new court house, insisting on a surrender of the records. 

"In the meantime 1 had got the gunny sacks and teams on the spot, to 
gret readv for the return. The crowd all declared at once that thev would 
not handle a record, but that the Sanborn committee must load them all up. 
This, while it was tedious and took till dark, proved the safe thing, as the 
crowd would not have done it with the care as did the fewer number. Es- 
pecially was this true when we consider that every paper or document might 
be a serious loss to some one. The Sanborn committee of about five or six 
worked in literal hard work, amid the jeers of the crowd, calling for marriage 
licenses, and to pay their taxes, and to get naturalized and all that, until we 
all thought it almost overdone, and we all felt relieved when we started for 

"In our absence, the women of Primghar had chopped and sawed that 
new wagon all to pieces and had the tongue sawed off and erected on the 
square as a staff with a flag on it. The pieces of that wagon, even the axles 
and tires and small parts, were carried all over the county as relics. 

"At a lyceum in Primghar, the next year, the crowd presented me with 
a cane made from that wagon tongue, with a gold head. On receiving the 
cane I expressed the sentiment that I would not receive it in any sense of 
keeping alive any ill feelings resulting from that affair. Though myself 
lame, and always using a cane, I never used it, not even for an hour, as at 
that time I felt that it would only suggest the feelings then prevalent. Years 
later, at an old settlers' reunion in Primghar, someone conceived the idea of 
a museum for the day of hay twisters, grasshopper catchers, and other old 
settlers' relics, and, without my knowledge, some one went to my house and 
got it and put it among the other articles of novelty. When our then invited 
Sanborn guests were there, they naturally were offended. \\ nen I learned 
of it Mr. Schee and I went and removed it. That same day some one re- 
moved the cane part from the head and took the cane away. I did not see or 
hear of it again for twelve years. One day, in 1905, 1 received a letter from 
Sioux City which read : 

" 'Mr. T. L. E. Peck : The man who stole your cane is still abroad in 
the land. I can get it delivered to you for twenty-five dollars.' To which 
letter I replied : 

"'Dear Sir: Your letter received. The best place for that cane is in 



the bottom of the Missouri river. Please put it there. I never wore it or 
used it. To now pay twenty-five dollars for it would only add a seeming 
intention to keep up ill feelings. Good day.' 

"But. returning to the main question. On arrival in Primghar with the 
records, the court house was all open and much demolished, The crowd, 
returning, mainly came back this way, and many remained all night, and 
quite a number for several days. I appointed twelve men to guard the 
records, which was kept up for three days, until repairs were made and until 
the crowd all scattered out to their homes. It took myself and three helpers 
three weeks to sort out and examine each paper and record and return it to 
its place. The next day the Sanborn committee came down and appointed 
Air. Schee, George Hakeman and myself as auditing committee, to determine 
what expenses should be paid by them, which we did. 

"Much feeling prevailed over the county. Indeed, indignation meetings 
were held in several townships, and much loud talk and newspaper headlines 
and poetry and squibs were indulged in. The arrest of the main parties was 
loudly demanded. In fact, informations were signed. I sent word to the 
main eight men of the facts of the informations, and suggested that they 
come down and give bonds without any arrests, for, as I suggested to them, 
that if it is not done here it will be done in the south part of the county, and 
that under present excitements it was best that no further public gatherings 
be had. It was done. 

"But in the meantime, and within a few days, as part of the almost 
humorous features of this humorous, yet serious affair, in looking up the 
law, and consulting with the then district or state's attorney, S. M. Marsh, 
of Sioux City, while the crowd and the public was yelling that it was a 
'steal' and 'theft.' and all that, it was discovered by those of us closest in the 
matter that in law there was no theft there. That theft in law involved the 
'intention to appropriate the property of another to one's own use individ- 
ually.' That no such intention existed. Indeed that the opposite was tne 
intention. That while, as a remedy for the removal of a county seat, it was 
irregular, that so far as the crime of theft was concerned it could not be 
sustained, and would not be in the courts. The milder misdemeanor would 
perhaps obtain with a light fine, but that was swallowed up in the excitement 
and demand for that which could not be upheld. The mass people at the 
time wondered why it was thus, but as time went on it became more definite 
that, notwithstanding all the then noise and talk the state's attorney's advice 
and our own conclusions were right. Indeed as we now later look back, it 
was indeed a good thing for the county that the trials demanded by an ex- 



cited public did not get loose or started, as it would have been an expensive 
deal, full of politics and all that, in local matters, only to be discovered later, 
what we most of us concluded within a few days, though some of us were 
censured much at the time, that it was not done. 

"In truth and in fact, no more honorable men ever lived in the county 
than William Harker. J. L. Green and many others who participated in the 
affair. As Mr. Harker once said to me. that 'it was the foolishest act of my 
life, but enthusiasm carried all of us off our feet.' 

"To sum it up, it was a frolic. It was serious. It was humorous. It 
was almost tragic in its features. It is only a pioneer country that can dupli- 
cate its conditions. 

"I have written this out as per your request, after thirty years, merely 
as stating" an early incident, which, as you have suggested, some might be 
interested in. in knowing the real facts, as they developed, from causes back 
of things, as I have shown, and as they were witnessed by one who partic- 
ipated, and by one who now only recites same in the belief that, now after 
thirtv vears, it can be read even by both sides with calmness and only as 
looking back to it as an early incident of actual occurrence. 

"The then county officials were : T. J. Alexander, county treasurer ; 
I. L. E. Peck, countv auditor; W. H. Noyes. county recorder; Frank A. 
Turner, clerk of the courts ; Clark Green, sheriff, and David Algyer, super- 
intendent of schools. 

"The members of the board of supervisors were Thomas Holmes. 
Ralph Dodge. Ezra M. Brady, George Hakeman and J. L. Kinney. 

(Signed) "J. L. E. Peck." 


This contest took place in 191 1. As we have before remarked, all such 
contests have their ground work causes. The citizens of each town, by the 
natural promptings of human nature, support their own town. An ambi- 
tious town intuitively desires to secure all the betterments for itself that it 
can. The citizens of the town in possession of the county seat will always 
contest. It becomes likewise an intuitive self defense. The law provides 
for the raising of such questions. This contest was strictly on the lines of 
the statute. We inquire for the ground work causes? 

As we have observed herein on other subjects, that, owing to its early 
and very large public debt, just lately paid off, the people of O'Brien county 
have postponed the building of its final modern court house until after this 
was all paid off. This has postponed this matter longer in years than most 


other counties in the state. The county was yet housing its records in a 
frame court house. This said, in effect, that there was something incomplete 
about the county seat. It lacked its final court house. This contributed in 
inviting the question. Again, Primghar had not secured its railroad until 
fifteen rears after Sheldon, nine years after Sanborn and Hartley and six 
years after Paullina and Sutherland had each become railroad towns. Indeed, 
as a wag got it off. "Primghar was like an old maid waiting for a proposal — 
from some one proposing to build a railroad, to save its hide." A railroad is 
needed in the present day to keep a town building. Following the years 
needed in the growth of the modern ideas in hotels and brick school build- 
ings and other like structures, Primghar was postponed a like number of 
rears on all these items. It had cost Primghar, with its few people before 
the Central landed, ten thousand dollars to secure the twenty-two miles of 
right of way required of it. The town had to recuperate from this. Sheldon 
in meantime had secured three roads. It had become in reality a distributing 
point. It was the largest town in the county. But, on the other hand, as 
results demonstrated, after all, the one prominent fact could not be departed 
from, that Sheldon was located on the county line and Primghar in the 
center. We can thus see the ground work causes in the times and condi- 
tions of growth, leading up to this contest, testing out that question. It was 
the inevitable that the question should arise. 

On March 3, 191 1. the people of Sheldon commenced the circulation of 
a petition for the "relocation of the county seat at Sheldon." It was indeed 
a vigorous and genuine up-to-date county-seat contest, with the frills all on, 
as was facetiously remarked. Both sides soon realized that they were in a 
real right. 

When we realize that this contest lasted for ninety days, and that for 
the first thirty days during the period, when both sides were in the field, 
each side had from twentv to thirtr automobiles with earnest men rushing 
orer the county, each making haste to secure one-half or a majority of the 
forty-five hundred (one authority states forty-two hundred and seventv-six ) 
roters with their signatures; when we realize that Sheldon, in the first in- 
stance, secured twenty-four hundred and eighty-five signatures ; when we 
realize that with a subject so spirited, that every man, woman and child in 
the county was discussing it, and that every one of the ten newspapers in the 
county were devoting all available space in all manner of discussion and side 
discussions ; when we realize that several dozen men on each side put in the 
major part of their time from sixty to ninety days, and from earlv morning 
until late at night, and that circulars and dodgers and hand bills and leading 


articles were published broadcast and mailed systematically by both sides to 
every voter in the count}-, and that public meetings were held not simply 
weekly, but often for several nights in succession, we can see that it was a 
tense fight. Judge William D. Boies, of Sheldon, issued the main body 
argument from Sheldon's standpoint, which was published both by circulars 
and in the papers broadcast. Others joined and followed up his lines for 
Sheldon. Messrs. R. J. Locke, J. L. E. Peck and O. H. Montzheimer and 
others did the same thing from the view point of Primghar. 

Summed up in brief sentence statements, the two sides made arguments 
from the following standpoints: Sheldon argued, first, that it had three 
railroads; second, that it had become a distributive point: third, that it was 
the largest town in the county and always would be : fourth, that farmers 
and others could get to court better by rail to Sheldon; fifth, that it had the 
better and ampler hotel facilities; sixth, that it would for all time show up 
better as a county capital : seventh, that from the south part of the county 
via Alton they could get up and back the same day; eighth, that Primghar 
had no adequate hotel, and, ninth, that it had better entertainments at court 
time and better stores for trading. 

Primghar argued, first, that it was in the exact center; second, that 
trains were not always on time ; third, that the automobile destroved the rail- 
mad argument; fourth, that farmers to use the train would need a team to 
the local town first: fifth, that Sheldon was on the extreme west line of the 
county ; sixth, that a farmer from any point in county could drive in 
and back same day : seventh, that for the long years to come Primghar 
would best serve; eighth, that Primghar would build a hotel, and, ninth, that 
court expenses of witnesses and jurors and others at ten cents per mile for 
all time to come would be larger at Sheldon than at Primghar. 

As stated, there were forty-five hundred voters, or. as per one authority, 
forty-two hundred and seventy-six. In the first instance, twenty-four hun- 
dred and eighty-five voters signed the petition for relocation at Sheldon. 
Later on about nine hundred petitioners signed the remonstrance, and under 
the law were deducted. A few were struck off on account of having by some 
mistake signed twice, on both petition and remonstrance. From all of which 
one can easily see the excitements that necessarily took place. 

The following is an exact copy of the record of the hearing before the 
board of supervisors held June 8. 191 1. 

"The board of supervisors finds that, after deducting from said petition 
the names of persons who are not legal voters of this county at the time 
they signed the same and the names appearing on the remonstrance which 


also appear on the petition and certain duplicate signatures thereon, said 
petition for the relocation of the county seat at Sheldon has been signed by 
fourteen hundred and forty-seven legal voters of O'Brien county, Iowa, and 
that said remonstrance against the relocation of the county seat at Sheldon, 
Iowa, after deducting certain duplicate signatures thereon, has been signed 
by thirty-one hundred and sixty-three legal voters of O'Brien county, Iowa, 
as shown by the last census, either state or federal ; that more legal voters in 
said county have signed said remonstrance than have signed said petition 
and that no vote on the proposition of the relocation of the county seat of the 
county be ordered." 

The following is the tabulated list by towns and townships : 

Primghar. Sheldon. 

Archer $2 3 

Baker 107 49 

Caledonia 150 36 

Calumet ^3 2 

Carroll 59 84 

Center 164 10 

Dale 116 3 

Floyd 6 118 

Franklin 81 32 

Grant '__ 153 2 

Hartley City 176 161 

Hartley township 97 38 

Highland 175 1 

Liberty 170 1 

Lincoln 101 26 

Moneta 5 6 

Omega 141 19 

Paullina 191 45 

Primghar 258 

Sanborn l ^t, 1 / 66 

Summit 116 6 

Sutherland 192 10 

Sheldon 2 716 

Union 152 10 

Waterman 127 3 

Totals 3- 161 1-447 



During a part of the time of this canvass the Legislature of the state of 
Iowa was in session. Each side maintained a lobby of from five to eight men 
at the state capital, each sparring for a change in the law that would aid in in- 
creasing or decreasing the number on petition or per cent of vote required. 
Mills county had been for sundry years, and in several successive contests, in 
the throes of like fights, only much more tense than in O'Brien county. They 
were on hand with corresponding delegations and lobbies, and naturally joined 
hands with the respective sides in O'Brien county as their interests correspond- 
ed. This, also, added much to the county-wide discussion. In result, the 
Legislature passed an amendment to the law requiring that thereafter two- 
thirds of the voters according to the last census should vote for a removal be- 
fore a relocation can be ordered instead of one-half, as had been the law prior 


It has been seen that one main fight made against Primghar was that th& 
town did not have adequate hotel facilities for court occasions. It was true 
that it did not. The owner of the then main hotel, Peter Manderville. while 
he had invested about eleven thousand dollars in his hotel, and had built it of 
brick and of quite adequate size, had unfortunately built it between two other 
brick store buildings, which cut off the light and air, and had also failed to 
put in a heating plant, contenting himself with stove heat. 

This stern reality brought Primghar straight up on her feet, or down 
on her knees, as it may be argued. Forthwith, immediately, and the same 
day, subscriptions for stock for a new hotel were circulated. In a sense it 
was grimly humorous. Primghar saw that she had to convince the public, 
and that quickly, that this hotel promised was a reality. A stock company 
was formed, and some one hundred and ninety-one separate stockholders 
subscribed. Time was the essence of the contract in real earnest. An archi- 
tect was immediately on the ground. A contract was at once let to Hanson 
&- Meyer, of Fort Dodge, for the building and to the Fort Dodge Plumbing 
Company for a heating plant, the total costing about a dozen dollars less than 
twenty-five thousand. 

While Primghar was in fact delinquent in this hotel matter, and while 
Sheldon compelled its building by her county seat persuader, yet when 
Primghar did act her citizens did themselves proud and built a hotel that was 


not only adequate, but a credit to the town and people count}" wide, for 
whose benefit it was built. We make the erection of this hotel an historic 
county item, for this very reason that it was built directly as a result of a 
twenty-four-mile-wide agitation, in this problem of a county-seat contest. 

The building is of red pressed brick, in size forty by one hundred and 
ten feet, with twenty-three sleeping rooms, practically three stories high, in- 
cluding a fine basement, with steam heat, ample baths, barber shop, hot and 
cold water all completely finished in all modern appointments, dining room 
beautifully decorated, as are all other rooms, dining room accommodating as 
high as ninety guests at one sitting, with a complete equipment of furniture 
and kitchen utensils hotel size — in brief, in every way an up-to-date hotel. 

A prize was offered for the name selected from names contributed. 
The prize was awarded to Miss Demia Peck, she dubbing it "The Hub." 


A grand opening was held in the dining room of the Hub hotel, on the 
evening" of December 8, 191 1. Guests from all over the county numbering 
one hundred and fifty attended, forty guests alone coming from Sheldon. 
After the bountiful repast a program of speeches and toasts was indulged in. 
J. L. E. Peck acted as toastmaster. Speeches were made by Judge William 
D. Boies, of Sheldon, by Judge William Hutchinson, of Alton, who were fol- 
lowed by further speeches by David Algyer, Jacob H. Wolf, T. E. Diamond, 
C. P. Jordan. Sidnev Kerberg. Fred Vetsch and Air. Lindsay. 

The sentiment of loyalty to one's town and surroundings and the up- 
building of the county was the prevailing theme. It was a curious and notable 
incident that the blue and the gray in the late fiery county-seat contest so 
soon met at the festal board at its new hotel and enjoyed an excellent pro- 
gram and menu so superb. 

To sum it all up, these four county-seat contests were in reality the 
people of the whole county solving out its destiny in its growth and develop- 



Many gatherings of old settlers, in small groups and neighborhoods and 
townships, took place along through the early years. 

But probably the first full-grown, county-wide reunion on a large scale 
of old settlers took place at Primghar on August 31. 1889. The old home- 
steaders were practically all yet alive, and actually there. Hannibal House 
Waterman and Hannah H. Waterman, his wife, were the honored guests. 
The writer was present. He must pronounce it beyond question the grand- 
est public function ever held in the county, even up to this 1914. It was 
representative of the idea that brought the great crowd of eight to ten thou- 
sand people together. It was not simply from one section of the county. 
Every township and town was largely there. It occurred only eighteen 
years distant from the first large incoming of the real citizen homesteader in 
1871. While this same class of a reunion was repeated in 1894, 1899, 1904 
and 1909, none of the later reunions reached in size or detail its equal. It 
was democratic. It was pioneer. The people were in fact there. The real 
homesteader was there ; they were all there with their children. They were 
close enough in time to reach back to the real grasshopper and hay twister, 
to understand its true meaning, and yet it had struck into the high tide of the 
better prosperities. The trees in the court house park had reached a sufficient 
size to really make a shade. It was one of the greatest, as it was probably 
the last occasion when the real old settler and all of them were so univer- 
sally present. At the succeeding reunions, many were dead. The later and 
lesser in numbers compared with the increasing numbers of new settlers 
began in the later reunions at intervals of five years to swallow the old home- 
steader up in the swim, as it were. On this occasion, August 31, 1889. the 
old homesteader had reached his climax. The bright day had dawned. The 
railroad at Primghar had been built but two years, the new buildings had 
been completed, and its new people were on hand in dress parade to bid 
welcome. As this was one of the great occasions in the county that rises to 
the dignity of a county-wide historic occasion, and inasmuch as its details will 
include a weaving among those details much of the early situations, customs 


and people, we will give the full account of same as published in the O'Brien 
County Bell the following- week. 


The O'Brien County Bell, September 5, 1889: "From the abundance of 
the heart the mouth speaketh," but there is just no use in attempting to tell 
the story complete of the old settlers' reunion and harvest festival, held at 
Primghar last Saturday, for two reasons, first, the heart is too full, and the 
mouth is too small. 

The morning came in beautiful, the sun appeared in its glory, the atmos- 
phere was pure. By daylight every man, woman and child in Primghar was 
up and dressed for the occasion, ready to assist in making the day, as it was, 
one never to be forgotten by the thousands who were present. It goes with- 
out contradiction, that the assemblage of people was the largest and grandest 
that has ever occurred in the entire Northwest, outside of the thronged days 
at the Sioux City Corn Palace exhibition. 

At sunrise occurred the national salute of forty-two guns, during which 
time those of our citizens who had not completed (the night before) their 
decorations, could be seen, some on roofs, others on boxes and barrels, tack- 
ing up bunting, stars and stripes, mottoes and pictures. 


First the reader will be, as was the visitor, introduced to the decorations 
as prepared by the Primghar people, from thence invited to follow these 
lines on through in regular order as the exercises of the day were carried out. 

One-half mile from the court house, on all roads leading into the town, 
and at the depot, were suspended, eighteen feet high, large banners, "Wel- 
come," each of which was decorated with either corn, flax, wheat, oats, hay- 
twists or vegetables of some description. By this it was made manifest to all 
visitors that they were expected, and further, that the town and inside of it 
belonged to them. Every house, public building, as well as numerous stables, 
sheds and fences were found ornamented with decorations of some sort. 
Front gates and sidewalks were arched over with beautiful designs, made of 
grain of all kinds, grasses, wild Mowers, house plants and vegetables. Many 
of the arches bore appropriate mottoes. In the business part of the town, 
there seemed no way to enter except under mammoth arches at each of the 
four corners of the public square. At the northwest corner was an arch, or 


rather arches, or cross arch from corner to corner, really a double arch, 
seventy feet square at the base and forty feet high, which was decorated with 
prairie Mowers, wild thistles, corn and small grain, together with two hun- 
dred yards of bunting. At the foot of each arch was a shock of either corn 
or grain of some kind. An arch at the southwest corner was a duplicate of 
above. At the southeast corner of the square was an arch crossing the entire 
square seventy feet from corner to opposite corner, timbers from each corner 
rising to the center, pyramid shape, forty feet. The frame work was so con- 
structed as to leave a large square, twenty feet high, in which were placed 
humorous paintings by Primghar's very clever artist, M. P. Messenger. One 
was represented as follows : Numerous grasshoppers were stripping stalks 
of green corn same as sugar cane stalks are stripped, with another large 
hopper starting out on a journey, apparently captain of this band of hoppers, 
bearing in his mouth a banner, "More to conquer." At the lower right hand 
corner of the picture was a long, lean, lank hog, poorer than Job's turkev. 
On his back was perched a large hopper, and on the ribs of the hog painted 
the words, "Spare rib," "Corn all gone.'' Another of Mr. Messenger's 
paintings represented the "Old Log Court House," with six county officers 
in view, with "Old Dutch Fred" standing at a distance, smoking his long 
pipe, as he was making that well-known remark, "I am de beeples, you fellows 
am de officers." As everybody knew, Dutch Fred was the only man in the 
county who was not an officer, there being only seven residents at that time. 
Still another painting represented a large grasshopper painted in colors bear- 
ing a mower sickle and reaper reel in his mouth. "O'Brien County Combined 
Reaper and Mower, 1876." 

We next come to the imposing arch at the northeast corner of the 
square. It was indeed a surprise. George R. Slocum and George \Y. Schee 
each had a bank across from each other at this time at this northeast corner 
of the square, and they had challenged each other for the best donations and 
decorations. It was asserted at the time that this arch as a whole actually 
cost over three hundred dollars. This arch was forty feet square at the base 
and seventy feet high, two stories, with full stairway to ascend, and held 
several hundred people. The long procession passed under each of the four 
arches, but here the officers and committees reviewed the procession. This 
arch was pyramid in shape, built of heavy timbers, bolted together and self- 
supporting in the center to hold up the audience expected, the other arches 
being supported only at the corners. During the day the bands dispensed 
music from the top of this arch, and hundreds of people ascended the stairs 
to take a view of the crowds and country. High in the air, at this arch, was 


suspended "Welcomes," made of kernels of corn. The entire structure was 
completely covered with grain of every description and design, mixed in with 
hundreds of yards of bunting. George R. Slocum had constructed a map of 
O'Brien county about six feet square, made up of every possible combination 
of ears of corn and the grains of all kinds of corn imaginable. It was 
claimed that had value of time been considered, one hundred and fifty dollars 
would not have done the work. It was taken to Sioux City to the Corn 
Palace for exhibition and later to the state capitol, so many wanting to see 
it. The four arches cost about five hundred dollars. When we state that the 
town raised more than one thousand dollars, exclusive of individual expense 
for the day. we can see the scale on which it was carried out. 

The sidewalk from the front entrance to the court house was decorated 
in like elaborate style. Frank N. Derby was then county treasurer and 
Charles H. Winterble county auditor, and they vied with each other as to 
which could suggest the most original idea. This sidewalk of about eighty 
feet was one long, high arch, covered roof like; Japanese style. In size it 
was eight by twelve, and thirteen feet high. The roof was thatched with 
oats and grains, Japanese shape, all decorated very elaborately with the grains, 
ears of corn and its grains as appearance demanded. The north side, near 
the entrance, was finished with grain and corn stalks trimmed, being placed 
in -such a manner as to leave a large diamond, three feet square, in the center, 
and in which appeared steel engravings of all the Presidents of the United 
States to Grover Cleveland, inclusive. This diamond was beautifully draped 
with the Stars and Stripes. The south side was dressed with grains of all 
kinds, together with grasses in the center, to correspond with the diamond 
on the north side, its three-foot diamond being worked in kernels of corn. 
The interior of the whole long archway was finished with all kinds of grasses 
interwoven in a multitude of forms. 

The inside of the court house was similarly decorated, as likewise the 
entrances to and the inside of the offices themselves. Near to the stairway 
leading to the court room was a beautiful arch constructed with flags. Isaac 
Clements, who was then county recorder, and John W. Walters, clerk of the 
courts and whose offices were on the west side, made archway decorations 
on an equal scale. 


The trees in the park were then eleven years old, planted in 1878. There 
were then probably ten times the number of trees as now, many being thinned 
out as they grew. These trees were all decorated in all manner of forms and 


shapes. They were smaller then, the first limbs being then just about as high 
as one's shoulders, the right height for decoration. The invincible F. M. 
( Pomp) McCormack, of the Bell, made this work his special feature. He 
had enthusiastically gotten every merchant and business man in town to take 
it upon himself to decorate one tree. For instance, one tree for the "Pres*-" 
was decorated by all sorts of hangings relating to the newspapers of the 
count\ r and their editors. 

The speaker's stand, twetny feet by sixty, four feet above ground, with a 
back wall eighteen feet high, was literally covered with flags and bunting. 
In front of the stand, nicely arranged, was a rope of flowers twenty feet 
long, and very beautiful, the work of Airs. L. D. Wooster. Directly in front 
of the speaker's stand was a mammoth floral anchor, the work of Airs. Frank 
X. Derbv. At the noon hour sixteen long tables were constructed, one for 
each township and each eighty feet long, or a total of twelve hundred and 
eighty feet, the whole loaded, as was humorously remarked that day, con- 
taining enough provisions to have lasted the entire population of the county 
in i860 (seven voters ) from that time until the grasshoppers came. The old 
homesteader up to that date made all his bows and comparisons to the grass- 

At the northwest corner of the park, and clear across the corner, was 
erected a soldiers' monument, fourteen by fourteen feet at base and seventy 
feet high, which was headquarters all day for the old soldier homesteaders, 
and one hundred and forty old soldiers registered, though all did not get 
their names recorded. This monument was nicely and appropriately decor- 
ated in keeping with the other decorations of the day. Man}' of the business 
buildings were likewise elaborately decorated in various designs in corn and 
the grains. This subject can best be summed up by saying that everything 
and everybody in Primghar was decorated, and the streets were a sea of flags. 


Many arrived as early as Friday, among them being Mr. and Mrs. Han- 
nibal Waterman, the first citizens, Mr. John McCormack, the early-day 
hunter, and Uncle Don C. Berry, a very unique and early-day character. 

Even as early as eight o'clock in the morning the people began to pour 
in ; at eight-thirty it was estimated there were two thousand. The excursion 
train from Cherokee at eight-forty brought in several hundred, who were met 
at the depot by Assistant Marshal Charles F. Albright, the Hub Cornet Band 
and reception committee. By this time ever}' highway leading to Primghar 


was lined with teams as far as the eye could reach, some processions actually 
being two and three miles in length. At ten the excursion train from Sheldon 
arrived, every car packed with people, bringing their fine Sheldon Band. 
This delegation was likewise met with Primghar committees. Next came the 
Sanborn and Franklin township delegation, headed by the Sanborn band. 
With the Paullina and Union and Caledonia township delegations came the 
Caledonia Brass Band, making in all six bands, including the Sheldon Drum 
Corps and Charley West's unique drum corps, composed entirely of members 
of his family. It seemed that every citizen of the county was there. Assist- 
ant marshals went out to meet the delegations from each township as they 


"Fall in" was the order given by the marshals and old soldiers. The 
Sanborn band headed the procession. Xext came Hannibal Waterman and 
wife, the first settlers, seated in the rear of a beautifully decorated carriage. 
The front seat was occupied by John McCormack, the deer slayer, Mr. Wat- 
erman's neighbor and noted hunter of the early days. At his left sat Miss 
Jennie Scott, holding the banner: "First Settlers of O'Brien county, Mr. 
and Mrs. Ff. H. Waterman." 

This carriage was surrounded by a band of Indians in war paint, ap- 
parently intent on capturing Mr. and Mrs. Waterman, picturing out the 
scenes and frights they had contended with. ' All this can only be described 
in part. The procession was lined with all kinds of banners and mottoes, and 
included all manner of old relics, horses over twenty years in the county, 
harness made of rope and hay twists, haytwisters. twisting hay, as was act- 
ually done during the years and throwing them out to the crowd, with even 
sod shanties built on wagon floats. One banner read, "Dod blame it, boys, 
come on," being a very familiar expression of Capt. Andrew J. Edwards, an 
old homesteader, an old soldier and captain in the Civil War and ex-countv 
auditor, 1872-1876. Another read, "How far is it to Paine's store," so many 
years standing on the treeless prairie in Highland. One large banner read, 
"In this (s) Wheat Bye and Bye," and was represented by two grasshoppers 
sitting on the fence looking over into a wheat field, one playing a musical 
instrument, while the other was doing the singing. A banner from Carroll 
read "1889 Prosperity and Friendship." Another read, "1880 Turn of the 
Tide." Another, "Common Schools the Hope of Our Country." Another, 
"1876, They Took It All, Still We Stay." As this last banner moved along, 
scores of spectators who lived here in 1876 could be seen wiping awav the 


tears, for they knew too well what it meant; the days when prayers were 
offered to take from them the grasshopper plague came fresh to their mem- 
ories. The mother recalled to her mind those days of distress: that little boy 
or girl she could see again, with nothing scarcely to eat and less to wear; she 
beheld them clustering around on the boxes used for chairs endeavoring to 
keep warm by the old hay stove; she saw the labor of herself and husband 
vanish in a day before this unconquerable foe. the hopper, and in this affliction 
the parents' affection for their little ones became stronger and the child's for 
the parent, as they entwined themselves in actual embrace around papa or 
mama, even as the delicate tendrils of the ivy wound around the protecting 
and sheltering limbs of the sturdy oak. Those were indeed days of trial 
and desolation, and now, this August 31, [889, the panorama was passing by 
— yes, mother and father beheld it in all its meaning. The plague was here, 
the earth was parched, distress was inevitable, the clouds of misery were 
enveloping them with its wrapper in stern reality; courage must hold out, and 
to withstand the storm was the only hope. What gave them hope? We will 
tell you. As the dew of earl}' morning most refreshes and benefits the sum- 
mer blossoms, so the sweet, trusting confidence and sublime simplicity of 
these children keep fresh the flowers of affection, and prevent the father's 
heart from becoming like a parched and sandy desert. But victory came at 

Charles Slack, one of the oldest settlers from Grant, carried in the pro- 
cession a beautiful fruit banner, upon which were many different kinds of 
fruit, all from his farm. Nothing 'Mack" about that. The Omega town- 
ship delegation had a beautiful banner made entirely from the grasses and 
wild prairie flowers. As the procession passed sixteen guns were fired, one 
for each township. Gust Kirchner, the first settler in Clay county, was in 
the procession, and also Air. Phipps, though not the first, one of the first from 
Cherokee county. The procession was one hour and thirty minutes passing 
a given point. It was claimed that the procession was between five and six 
miles long, besides which hundreds of teams did not get into it at all. It was 
said by many here from the other counties that no parade ever held in north- 
western Iowa equaled it. At the stand two other banners found a place. 
"We came to see the father and mother of the county," and "We want to see 
the Old Folks, Pap and Mam." Prof. W. S. Wilson, for so many years head 
of the public schools at Sheldon, was chairman of the day. The address of 
welcome was deliverey by J. L. E. Peck. D. A. W. Perkins was scheduled 
to deliver the main address, but failed to arrive, sending a letter instead 
which was read. 



During the old settlers' reunion held August 31, 1889, the following 
relics were exhibited that related to O'Brien county people: 

Canes secured by Capt. Robert C. Tifft (Primghar) during his sea 

Mariner's compass, by Capt. Robert C. Tifft. 

War relics, by William Church. 

Cedar knot from cedar tree on Waterman, by Airs. Roma W. Woods. 

Chair fifty-five years old, by Airs. Hannah Waterman, used in their 

Piece of first house built in county by Hannibal H. Waterman. 

Indian mauls or war axes, by A. W. H. Stone and C. West. 

Cluster of buffalo, antelope and deer horns, by Mr. Wells, of Highland. 

Hog trough thirty-two years old, by H. H. Waterman. 

Deer horns, by William King, of Highland. 

Baby carriage used for Frank Tifft, of Primghar, when a baby. 

Pocket book made in 1660, used in family of Capt. Robert C. Tifft. 

Captain Kane's panoramic views in the Arctic, by Captain Tifft. 

Picture frame and spoon carved by N. Remington in grasshopper times. 

Spinning wheel used in family of Henry Buse seventy-five years. 

Spike and brick taken from old school house in Grant. A brick made 
for same. 

Sample of oak, walnut and cottonwood cut on Waterman creek and 
sawed at Peterson in 1870. 

Silk dress, one hundred years old handed down in family to Airs. C. F. 

Photographs of early settlers, contributed by John Walters. 

Photograph of first court house (log), contributed by Clark Green. 

Letter head used by Arichbald Alurray. 

Knife used by John AlcCormack in killing and dressing over two hun- 
dred deer in O'Brien county. 

Early maps of O'Brien county, by W. H. Gunsul. 





Iowa is a prairie state. O'Rrien count}- was distinctly prairie. The 
grand sight of a broad prairie expanse is never to be witnessed again by 
O'Brien county people. The now large groves, the fences, the long lines of 
trees along the road sides, the tilled lands, the buildings and farm yards, the 
straight and squared up roads, the builded towns, the lines of railroads and 
telegraph lines and poles, the rural telephone lines, and many other items have 
each contributed to eliminate much of the idea and appearance of the original 

Twenty-five miles of continuous waving prairie grass, from eight inches 
to four feet, and even five feet in height, solid hay so to speak, was in fact 
the grand sight as the original old settler saw it. In various places on this 
broad expanse of prairie was then often seen, with the sweep of the eye, 
five hundred to fifteen hundrd head of cattle grazing on nature's wild pasture- 
age, under one management of herdsmen. Millions of sweet williams, tiger 
lilies and other prairie flowers were like diamonds in the grass. No sweeter 
tame strawberries ever grew than the wild prairie variety. Xo boy or girl 
ever paid or dropped a cent into a slot machine for purer, healthier or better 
tasting gum than that boy gathered on the big rozin weed stalks, two varieties, 
high and low in height, growing in every slough. This grass formed and 
furnished not only free hay to the settlers, but was made into hay twists and 
served as fuel, which the poverty of the settlers could not have supplied with 
coal. For sundry years also large haying companies camped out in tents, 
and cut hundreds of acres, yea, thousands of acres, and baled and shipped it 
to Chicago and the East. Angling roads, proving that a straight line was the 
shortest distance between two points, ran everywhere. The long slough 
grass was used to stuff in between two rows of posts, with willow strips 
nailed thereon, and made into warm hay barns and sheds. Even roofs were 
thatched with it. The prairie grass seemed to make a tough, hardy sod, hard 



to subdue in the first crop, or even for several crops, but was an utter failure 
to propagate itself. It had no seed. It moved out and grew from the roots. 
When once a plat of prairie sod, whether a rod square or five hundred acres. 
was broken or plowed up it never reestablished itself. It was forever done. 
Like Lo. the poor Indian, it could not stand civilization. 

While mirages are still seen in the count}', yet not so prominent as when 
the sun shone on a large expanse of the dead brown prairie grass in the fall 
of the year, producing those false rays or lines of light, producing an object 
in the distance at a higher elevation, sort of lifted up, in a hazy light cloud, 
as it were. For instance, in the early days Sheldon and Alton have been 
distinctly seen at Primghar, and vice versa, elevated in appearance in this way. 

Another singular false appearance was often commented on when one 
viewed a whole township of wild, rolling, waving prairie grass, namely, that 
each way the eye gazed, it looked up hill. The rolling grass, with the sun 
shining and wind blowing, gave it all the appearance of a billowy, rolling sea 
of waxes. Before Omega and Hartley townships were settled, those broad 
expanses of rolling prairie grass were often referred to as "Over in the Great 

Another gruesome and awful sight, never again to be seen in the county, 
was in the fall when this same great expanse of thousands of acres of waving 
grass was ripened and dead, and the fires had burned it over, all looking much 
like the judgment day was at hand, and that the Good Father had actuallv set 
fire to the whole thing and then had run off and left his mighty works to take 
care of themselves. But the next spring the "Green grass grew all round, all 


Land is the basis of wealth. This is especially true in agricultural Iowa. 
In O'Brien county it is especially true even with an Iowa measurement. Some 
other counties in Iowa have coal and lead and other items to give variety. In 
this county it is all exclusively farming. Its variety lays in its large num- 
bers of crop and farm products. All estimates and enterprises in the county 
must hark back to the land. Everybody in the county must deal with the 
farmer or his land, and that direct. Interest on money went down as land 
went up. Prior to 1885 practically all land loans were ten per cent. From 
1886 to 1896 they were eight, then went down to seven, then six, now five 
per cent. Prior to 1880 loans on land were only made in sums of five hun- 
dred dollars on a quarter. In 1890 loans of two thousand five hundred dol- 
lars were made, in 1900 from three thousand to four thousand dollars. 


now eight thousand dollars to twelve thousand dollars, when needed. The 
writer hereof bought his first eighty acres of land in Highland township at 
two dollars and eighty cents per acre in 1879, which tract is now worth one 
hundred and fifty dollars per acre. In 1880 Herman Greve sold four thou- 
sand acres to George \Y. Schee for four dollars per acre. In 1877 Frank 
Teabout bought thirty-six hundred acres at two dollars per acre. As late as 
1885 the writer and Air. Schee together bought eight hundred acres for five 
dollars per acre, all now worth one hundred and fifty dollars per acre, though 
thev in fact sold it all two years later at about twelve dollars per acre. As 
late as 1890 the expression was made man}- times by citizens that if "land 
ever reaches twenty-live dollars per acre 1 am going to sell." As late as 1902 
it was selling from sixty dollars to seventy dollars. Its greatest bound has 
been during the past ten years, and even more true in the last five years, prac- 
ticallv doubling in the last five to six years. The expression of Jurgen 
Renken. of Sheldon, as early as 1890, calling his land the Garden of Eden, 
was then treated not as a joke, but with a smile. But it now seems well 
settled that O'Brien county land (and nine-tenths of it is all the same in 
quality) is destined to command the top of most of the best counties any- 
where in the country. Its crops, rains and results have been so uniform dur- 
ing a period of forty years that the fact is established. Actual sales verify it. 


O'Brien county has only two streams that rise to the dignity of rivers, 
The Little Sioux river runs through the very southeast corner of the county, 
meandering through about five sections of land. Its adjacent lands show up 
some hills that might be called bluff's, and provides rough pasture, being prac- 
tically the only untillable acres in the county. It flows into the Missouri. 
This river sported a ferry boat for several years about 1870, and approached 
that near to furnishing the county with a maritime port of entry. That, 
however, was only a part of the gaiety of its earliest officials. The Ocheyedan 
river cuts through section 1 only, in the very northeast corner of Hartley 
township and the county. In breadth of river bottom or valley it might be 
taken for a much larger stream, from bank to bank of outlying hill in many 
places exceeding a mile. The mere stream itself, however, is no larger than 
many parts of the Waterman. The bed of the stream was in 1909 ditched 
and straightened under the drainage laws of Iowa, both Osceola and Clay 
counties joining. The Waterman runs north and south nearly the whole 
length of the county and empties into the Little Sioux near Waterman's ford. 


It. with the township, was named for its first citizen. Hannibal H. Waterman. 
It is alternately called a creek and a river. It has some considerable bluffs 
down towards the Little Sioux. It traverses Hartley, Lincoln, Omega, Grant 
and Waterman townships. Mill creek runs through Center, Summit, Dale 
and Union townships and assumes respectable proportions before it reaches 
Cherokee, where it flows into the Little Sioux. The Floyd river flows 
through Franklin and Floyd townships in O'Brien count}-, while the Little 
Floyd river also courses through Franklin, runs close or into Floyd and across 
Carroll and joins the larger Floyd just west of Sheldon, and from this Floyd 
river the splendid water system of Sheldon is secured. The Floyd can hardly 
be dubbed a river for its size in O'Brien county, though it becomes quite a 
formidable river at Sioux City, where it empties into the Missouri. Dry run 
betrays its sometimes slackness in water supply in the bed of the stream 
itself, though the town of Primghar. in one of the few sand beds of the 
county on that stream, discovered that splendid natural filter for one of the 
best drinking water supplies of any town in the county. It flows through 
Center, Highland and Dale townships. Several lesser creeks in different 
townships flow into the streams named. 


Three things have contributed to the hundreds of fine groves and parks 
now seen in the county. To plant a tree and see it grow is a natural desire. 
This becomes both poetry and prose when the eye looks over a treeless prairie 
expanse, or the intense sun calls for a shade, or a howling northwest wind 
demands a shelter, or the cook wants some stovewood. 

However, there were two other prime causes that produced the actual 
grove in this and other counties in this part of Iowa. There was a federal 
law providing for tree claims and requiring the claimant of land in a new 
country to plant fourteen acres of trees on a quarter section, and to keep them 
growing in a thrifty condition for a given number of years. This produced 
many of our largest groves. Indeed, as practical farming developed, and land 
has advanced to now one hundred and fifty dollars per acre, a farmer cannot 
afford to devote that much high priced land to a grove. 

There has been for forty years and more a state law of Iowa, passed 
as an encouragement to tree planting, permitting a deduction of one hundred 
dollars valuation for taxation purposes for each acre of trees thus planted, 
if kept in healthy, thrifty condition for a period of ten successive vears. As 
land is now valued so high, it would not deduct enough to be an incentive. 


But when land during this tree planting period from [874 to 1886, was only 
worth about sixteen dollars per acre and the taxable value at about four dol- 
lars per acre, it can be figured that from four to live acres of trees would 
deduct half the taxes on a epiarter section of land, and this grove would be 
about the right size for other purposes. 

One great handicap was to get the trees at all, much less a variety. 
Tree agents could sell them, but the people in those times had no money to pay 
a price for a choice tree variety. The one available tree was the later-on 
almost despised Cottonwood. These little slips, from a foot to three feet 
high, grew on the sand bars along the Missouri river by the hundreds of 
thousands and could be pulled up by the hand. Adam Towberman, a home- 
steader, made many trips to Sioux City and, with light wagon, could bring- 
back fifty to a hundred thousand trees. He sold them from two to eight 
dollars per thousand. Soft maple slips were likewise procured, though more 
often maple seed by the bushel was procured and the little trees grown from 
the seed. White willow cuttings were planted also. Many little trees were 
actually planted in the tough unsubdued sod. It was then much of a public 
question and even debated in the lyceums and farmers' institutes. Others 
more fortunate procured choice varieties of young trees from the old homes 
in the East or from the nurseries, as ash, hard and silver maples, birch, chest- 
nut, walnut, elm, the evergreens and other trees. In this year 191 4 fully half 
of these cottonwood trees thus planted have been cut down, as likewise mam- 
willow groves. The long lines of cottonwood and willow trees along the 
road sides sapped too much high priced land. During those years it was the 
duty of the county auditor to establish these tree claims for taxation purposes 
on the tax list. George W. Schee and T- L. E. Peck were the auditors during 
the eight main years of this tree planting and claims for trees, namelv, during 
the years 1876 to 1884. But as a result these fine groves were secured, giving 
so comforting a relief to the appearance of the country and to the homes, as 
likewise serving the people in many public gatherings. 


In the first place, for thousands of years, it raised the luxurious prairie 
grasses. A soil that can produce such growths as were originally seen on the 
prairies of O'Brien county possesses the strength to grow any thing on earth 
corresponding to this latitude. 

O'Brien county is proud of its mud, mud that is mud, the rich black loam 
stuff, the mud that smears the clothes and hands, the mud that hogs root up, 


the mud that raises corn. While corn is king and chief, it is not a one-crop 
country, but is an all-around-crop country. 

This rich black loam soil can grow weeds spelled in capital letters, ft 
may not be creditable to a gardener or a farmer to find that garden or farm 
a weed patch. But it is creditable to a soil that it has the strength and dura- 
bility to grow weeds, weeds, and still more weeds, year after year. O'Brien 
county is even proud of its weeds, its rank weeds, its great big weeds, three 
feet, four feet, five feet, six feet, as tall as a man, as tall as the best crops, all 
but as tall as the tops of King Corn. Its people are proud of both King Corn 
and King Weed. 

"Where grows the lust} - great big weed. 
There man can safely plant his seed." 

It is not the big weed that O'Brien count}" people frown upon, but rather 
upon the man who will slovenly let them grow t<> the extent of a weed crop. 
The historic fact, however, remains that our lands raise much more corn per 
acre than twenty years ago. Indeed up to as late as 1880 it was discussed 
by our own people whether in fact it was a corn country. It is the corn fact, 
long now established, that has added its now high price and value. These 
higher prices reached have produced also intense and better farming. 

But O'Brien county has the man that scours the plow, that kills the weed, 
that saves the corn, that feeds the hog. that buys more land, that raises the 
grass, that feeds the sheep, that grows the wool, that clothes the kid, that 
feeds the horse, that pulls the plow, that plows the corn, that feeds the steer, 
that makes the meat, that sells for the cash, that buys the "House that Jack 

In other words, O'Brien count}' is strictly agricultural ; being all the 
time cow, all the time steer, all the time horse, all the time hog, all the time 
butter and eggs, sometimes of everything, plenty to eat. no famines, no 
hunger, plenty all the time and to spare. 


Did we ever grasp the full meaning and extent of that word or phrase as 
applied to O'Brien county? Do. we full}- measure it? That not only all the 
eggs are not in one basket, but that eggs are but one item in the basket, or, 
even still broader, only one of the items in the half hundred baskets. How- 
man}' sections of country or communities are dependent on practicallv one 
item as an outlook for their families? When that fails, all fails. It mav be 



cotton. It may be rice and only rice. It may be a syndicate mill. When 
the mill stops, work stops. It may be some immense factor}- plant, with a 
strike on. when, after that, the judgment. It may be a rubber plantation 
or an all-fruit community, or a single fruit specialty. So many places it is 
one or none. 

But in O'Brien county how different? A goodly number of hogs, it is 
true, may die. It is a loss. But the same disease will not ordinarily take 
off a bunch of horses or sheep at same time. One steer may die, but not 
usually a whole car load. Oats may be short, but corn is not dependable on 
the same days of growth or rain as the oat crop. 

O'Brien county happily belongs to that part of the surface of the earth 
where its people are the chefs of the earth. They feed the world, the com- 
munities comparing to these situations. In doing this, its people are well fed 
themselves. Verily its eggs are not all in the same basket. 

The following are among its egg baskets, not merely nominal egg baskets, 
but full-up baskets that bring the cash: Wheat, flax, blue grass, turnips, 
peas, vegetables, butter, cream, oats, millet, timothy, beets, tomatoes, fruits. 
milk, corn, haw alfalfa, parsnips, cucumbers. Mowers, cherries, rye, pasture, 
straw, carrots, melons, gardens, eggs, plums, barley, clover, corn cobs, onions, 
potatoes, pumpkins, cheese; Little Fillers — Horses, chickens, peacocks, cattle, 
ducks, pigeons, hogs, geese, bees, sheep, turkeys, mules, guinea fowls, farm 
labor, town avocations, trees for wood, railroad labor, rise in value of lands. 

These are all items not merely that can possibly be raised, but are found 
in the total number on practically two-thirds of our farms, as annual revenue 

The O'Brien county farmer safely sleeps on his lied of ease with the 
happy and secure thought that it seldom occurs that any considerable number 
of the above egg baskets are dependent on the same destructive storm or 
disaster, and never does it occur, or has it occurred ( save in the one and only 
(me grasshopper scourge in an early day, when the measure of crops was 
small), when either all, a half, or even a large number of same have been at 
such a risk. 

Other countries have famines as historic incidents. O'Brien county has 
for thirtv-five successive years had its regular crops in plenty as its annual 
item of history. This statement that all O'Brien county eggs are not in one 
basket becomes a truism and an established fact. These now nearly two 
score successive crops fixes this historic value. 'To have and to hold in 
permanency and tenancy in common for all its people." Filled with plenty, 
here stands the Hope Box of O'Brien county. 

184 o'briex and osceoi.a COUNTIES, IOWA. 


O'Brien county is in a cold, yet temperate latitude. The forty-third 
parallel of north latitude passes east and west through the county, two miles 
south of Primghar, or two degrees or one hundred and forty miles south of 
midway between the equator and the North pole, the best part of the temperate 
zone. We have cold winters and often heavy snow. Of course it is cold. 
It tingles the ringers and the cheek. Comfortable houses are needed, and such 
buildings are found universally on the farms. Plenty of coal is necessary. 
Cold weather is healthy. It thickens the blood. Nature accommodates itself. 
The body adapts itself. It is a dry and not a damp cold, however, during its 
colder period. Cold puts vim into people. It makes them hustle, walk faster 
and work harder, and the work brings results. It generates activity and 
energy in both man and the soil. It heaves it up and starts it moving. It 
reorganizes its parts. The soil doesn't lay dead still all winter as in the 
southern climates. Its melted snows in the spring are equal to rains. The 
snow banks and snow contain a sediment or quality even superior to rain. 
Freezing and rain and snow are the farmers' best hired hands. Our people 
say, let it freeze; simply hustle and keep from freezing.' Everybody has his 
heavy overcoat for driving, and when working it is not needed. 


In the first place, the county is uniform in its shape, a perfect square, 
twenty-four miles each way. Its sixteen townships are each uniform in size, 
six miles square. Possibly we should make the exception that the city limits 
of Sheldon have been made a township known as Sheldon township. This 
was done that it might always have two justices of the peace within its corp- 
orate limits. Its highways also are practically uniform, namely nme-tenths 
of its road mileage runs east and west and north and south, and on section 
lines. The percentage of irregular roads is very small. This uniformity is 
made possible by reason of its being uniform in so many other respects. 
It is uniform in its topography. In the main it is a level county. It is gently 
rolling, but these gentle rolls or undulations are quite similar in size through- 
out the county. Its original prairie conditions were also uniform. The 
same prairie grass covered all its surface. Its surveys and boundary lines 
between land owners are in the main uniform straight lines. It has no 
meandering boundary lines. Its very soil is equally uniform and of about 
the same quality, being all a rich, black loam. The same prairie growths and 


grass for thousands oi years could produce none other than a uniform soil. 
Its underpinnings, or subsoils, are likewise of universal sameness, a clay 
slightly mixed with sand, that allows the rains and water to go down 
and up. These subsoils, or filtered underpinnings, form a continuous strata 
and reservoir for nature's supply of the purest water, and which renders the 
crops so uniform in both quality and quantity. While this strip or that may 
at times get a larger supply of water than another, yet inasmuch as there are 
such a variety of crops maturing at different seasons of the year, it is true to 
the fact that never in lift}' years will these dry streaks for a month hit all 
the crops of the year. As a round up each year, taken separately, the crops 
are well distributed from farm to farm. As a result O'Brien county has 
never had a famine. Resulting from this sameness, it.^ drainage in regularity 
and with scarcely a damage, follows. It does not have monster ditches to 
be dug like in many other counties, with heavy assessments to be levied for a 
seven-year period, making a lien equal to a mortgage. In the whole period 
of the count}- it has only had one count}- ditch, and that cutting across one 
single section of land, in the very corner section of the county, at the north- 
east corner, in straightening out the Ocheyedan river, where it 
cuts across that one section of land. Both Osceola and Clay counties are 
burdened with many miles of this ditch. In man}- counties, even in quite 
uniform Iowa, these big ditches become very much of a burden. O'Brien 
county drainage is limited to mild tiling, small in comparison.. The land is 
all so very much alike in all its qualities and conditions that each eighty or 
quarter section is able to amply drain itself. Even each small farmer is king 
and manager of his own little farm and kingdom. In many extremely flat 
counties, even in Iowa, and more markediv in the extremely flat portions of 
northern Minnesota, the drainage of any one farm is so dependent on a co- 
operative drainage of a whole township or more that the small farmer is 
swallowed up in the swim and drowned out. and thereby ceases to be a full- 
grown director of his own affairs. Neighbors, it is true must yield to each 
other in the natural accommodations of drainage from little into big tile and 
paying the difference as will accomplish the movements of the surface waters 
and at same time keep every foot of soil in cultivation. But in O'Brien 
county this has been such a mild question that actual litigations relating to 
same in the whole period of the county could be counted on the fingers of 
one hand. This tiling becomes simply a part of ordinary farming. As a 
further result, its wells, both for the farm houses and for stock, are both uni- 
form in the fact that ample water is found on every farm and can be secured 
in the main on all parts of the farms, and at quite uniform and reasonable 


depths. Digging wells simply involves in most cases the mere value of labor 
in the digging". It is not a big problem, as in many states. The quality of 
all water in its wells follows suit with the other uniformities. Having no 
minerals or oils of any kind in the count}-, the water is free from acids or 
alkalis. It boundary lines all being straight, it follows that its Melds for this 
and that crop are or may be made in square form or at least in parallel pro- 
portions. There are but few point rows in the corn. The wire stretcher 
on the corn planter can quite generally be made the length of the full quarter 
section. Its very few little fringes of timber, limited indeed to but a few 
tracts down on the Waterman and Little Sioux, conduce to this. Very few 
farmers need to build even a culvert, much less a bridge for the mere farm 
accommodation. Two of its main railroads run almost a bee line east and 
west through the county and cut those farms in square lines. Its rain falls 
are quite uniform from year to year. There is much sameness also in that 
the whole energies of the people are devoted to agriculture. We practically 
have no factories. The nearest approach to a manufacturing idea would be 
the Big Four mills at Sheldon, employed in the manufacture of flour, but even 
that is distinctly agricultural. Its people are uniform also in this, that as a 
mass they all Americanize. Our foreigners are all of the agricultural idea, 
becoming at once a part of loyal America, and satisfied with O'Brien county 
conditions and prosperities. Its farms in size are well distributed. Its large 
farms or ranches, as we have seen, are scarce. It is not. perhaps, uniform 
as a one-crop country, but it is uniform in its variety of its farm crops and 
stock. On every farm, large or small, may be seen something of the county- 
wide results, wheat, oats, corn, barley, vegetables, hay. pasture, farm homes, 
cattle, horses, hogs, sheep, a full line of farm machinery, with each farm 
and farm family sufficient unto itself. We have no frictional foreign ele- 
ments in the county, or divisions of people that fail to assimilate or to become 
a mutual part of the common mass. Its school houses even, in the main, are 
two miles apart. Often we hear the expression that this and that road through 
the count}-, and this, too, for the whole twenty-four miles, is a school house 
road, so regularly are the}' built. Its children are also uniformly in the 
schools for the uniform school year of nine months, and therefore its people 
uniformly can read and write. Its people are uniformly of the white race. 
Two colored men only homesteaded in the count}', and one other colored man 
resided for some years in the early period at Sheldon, but they, even, are long 
since gone. At this date. 1914, and for more than ten years not a single 
colored man has resided in the county, and this, too, not because they have 
been notified to remove or have been driven out, simply the question never 


arises. The count}- positively has no race question, colored or otherwise. 
Its people all freely affiliate and intermingle on all public matters. The 
county has always been free from chronic feuds. It is the very opposite of 
Breathitt county. Kentucky. As a result its courts, during all the years, have 
been uniformly free from notable criminal trials. Its public and private life 
till no place in head lines of the daily papers. It can truly be said that ninety- 
five per cent of its people are independent and self-supporting within them- 
selves and their own efforts. This is uniformity calling for a record mark. 
Its towns, its townships and its individuals, like the county, have practically 
rid themselves of the serious debts and conditions in this history recited as 
part of its early pioneer troubles. Often do we hear the remark, that when 
you look at or inspect one tract or quarter of land in O'Brien, you have seen 
it all. It has no sand dunes, or sand beds, of miles in extent, not one single 
case, and no extensive gravel pits, to make the farms or country spotted or 
scabby either in appearance or for use. It is all the "same black stuff," in 
truth and fact, as we hear so many times stated, not by the mere land agent, 
but the sober owners of the farm-. This one uniformity has deceived some 
good O'Brien people, or their sons, in later years, in attempts to purchase 
cheaper lands in other states, where it is spotted in all those irregularities of 
sand and gravel, swamps and lakes, jagged hills and pot hole sloughs, with 
perhaps neither outlet nor inlet, as seen in many other counties. Neither do 
we find those long stretches of hard pan, stumpage, lack of wells and water, 
big ditches and other bad features in farming communities. This expression, 
"when vou see one farm vou see it all." means much to O'Brien county. 
Probably there is not one county in fifty in the whole United States where 
uniformity in so many lines, and on nearly all agricultural lines, is so promi- 
nent. In result, its whole seventeen thousand people are uniformly contented. 


While O'Brien county is not a fruit county in specialty, it has surprised 
its own people in this line. In the raising of corn, it was long discussed in 
the early years whether it would be a corn country or not. yet now we are 
in the midst of the great corn belt. Likewise with fruits, it was similarly 
discussed. It is this much of a definite success, that practically three-fourth- 
of all the farms have bearing orchards of good size, which makes the test. 
The culture of fruits has not, however, reached the stage wherein shipment 
of fruit has been seriously an item. It has no lakes, rivers or other waters 
to temper the atmosphere or weather. Our quite rigorous winters limit the 


fruits to the hardier varieties. The local towns as yet consume the entire 
output that can be spared by the farmers. However, this item as a farm 
revenue producer is no small matter. The home fruits sold in the local 
towns have a freshness that is not always secured in fruits shipped in. On 
public occasions in the county many varieties of fruits of the larger and 
smaller varieties are exhibited. The home fruits raised do this much, thev 
add decisively to the daily bread of our people within themselves, and insure 
even in this item the independence of our people. 


A lady who grew up from childhood on the prairies of Highland town- 
ship handed us the following list of wild prairie flowers. There may be many 
others: Buttercup, blue bell, crocus, flox, golden rod, indigo flower, purple 
or prairie apple, shoe string, tiger lily, white prairie flower, sweet william. 
wild rose, lady slipper, violet. In the fringes of timber along the Waterman 
and Little Sioux there are also a few timber varieties. 



The county has its full complement of rural free deliveries, telephones, 
cream stations, creameries, farmers' elevators and other organizations and 
facilities connected with farm life. There being ten towns well distributed 
in its territory where each of these modernisms may be found, it also follows 
that practically every farmer has access to each. Each town telephone ex- 
change, large or small, now has direct connections with from five to fifteen 
farm phone lines and each town has from two to four rural free deliveries. 
The farm elevators, while they do not handle all the grain or sell all the coal, 
maintain competition. 


The development of our public roads is a part of our county history. 
As time moves on this item becomes more important. The automobile and 
motorcycle and the movement of heavy machinery have each increased this 
importance. These new necessary movements prove that they should remain 
sixty-six feet wide. Yet how often do we hear it expressed that they should 
be reduced to forty feet, pointing out a few weeds at the side of the roads at 
the present time as a reason. Let the little items seen every day on any ten 


miles of roads in the county give the answer. The farmer should be safe 
with his load of grain, as likewise the automobile man and transient. 

We see automobiles everywhere, whirling on with momentum and 
speed, with Hash lights to scare a horse, and human life on board, all at the 
mercy of the momentary emergency and of the driver who should have ample 
room to meet and dodge the other moving objects as he meets them. At one 
moment it is a horse and buggy, with a lady and a baby in her arms, who has 
dropped her lines. Next it is four o'clock, with a dozen school children on 
the highway ready to banter a dare with your auto or hitch on behind a 
wagon. Then the dare-devil motorcycle thunders by at sixty miles an hour. 
Just at that point in the road is a road grader with six horses and a half 
dozen men to pass, with tools strung along the road. A little further on is 
met a big modern traction engine, drawing a threshing outfit in three parts, 
one behind the other. Then of a sudden you see coming a big hay rack with 
thirty children out for a picnic. Then you pass a funeral procession, and 
all at once appears, out of a narrow lane between a row of willows, a couple 
loads of corn, with wagon beds three box high. Then all at once here comes 
the usual caravan and tribe of gypsies, with twenty horses, tied in bunches 
of four, with no block system to keep them on or off the track. Then you 
meet a farmer driving fifty fat steers to market, a bunch of sheep, a half 
dozen loads of hogs, then a well augur outfit, then fifty chickens, some guinea 
hens, twenty rapid moving ducks, and likely a fierce dog to race with the auto 
for fifty rods. The road tiling and drainage also needs space. 

This sixty-foot road will all ultimately be graded from side to side, not 
in humps, but like Michigan avenue in Chicago, even and symmetrical, and 
the future history of road building" of the now eleven hundred and fifty miles 
of roads in O'Brien county will record the fact that it is all needed in the 
future developments of travel and drainage and safe movement. 

farmers' meetings, institutes and stock SALES. 

This being strictly an agricultural county, farmers' institutes have been 
regularly and annually held, alternating in the several towns. These have 
been supplemented by farm festivals, harvest home gatherings, watermelon 
davs, corn-judging contests, horse shows, nail-driving contests, and county, 
district and ladies' fairs. These sundry gatherings are on many occasions 
represented by specialists and instructors from our State Agricultural Col- 
lege at Ames, illustrating that this college bureau of farm information is in 
real touch with the actual occupations. The farm auction sales also occupy 


somewhere in the count}' two-thirds of the days in the fall and early winter, 
and again in the spring, and rise higher than merely auctions. The public 
does not tire of them. Such auction sales as conducted by auctioneers W. S. 
Armstrong, John Cowan, Frank Myers, Charles Hopfe, Edward O. Evans, 
P. A. Leese. J. N, Burson and J. A. Benson, become also schools of farming 
where the farmers and stockraisers meet and exchange practical ideas of 
farming, stockraising. crops, values and markets. 


The people did make two little staggers at the coal question. On Janu- 
ary 7. 1874, the board of supervisors of the county passed a resolution offer- 
ing a reward of one thousand dollars to any person who would make the dis- 
covery of a vein of coal not less than three feet in thickness and of actual 
merit. However, nothing ever came of it, and we mention it simply as an 
item to show that it was discussed. The geologist, however, has probably 
settled beyond a question that nature's great elements in the original up- 
heavals of creations of the crusts of earth in the count}', did not provide for 
the county either minerals or coal. It is not in the cloth for O'Brien count}'. 
It is strictly agricultural. With no waste land, in this fact, it has its com- 
pensations. At the June session of the board of supervisors for 1889 the 
board offered a prize or reward of twenty-five dollars per ton for one hun- 
dred tons of coal at any time mined in O'Brien count}'. 


O'Brien county has been blessed in having its lands well distributed in 
small sized farms. She has had no colonies settle as renters on lands owned 
by large syndicates or nonresident landlords, like some of the surrounding 
counties. Practically all her large farms have been managed by actual citi- 
zens. We will make note of a few large farms 


In 1880 D. Edward Paullin, after whom Paullina was named, bought 
nine sections of land in Dale and Union townships and proceeded at once to 
put on very large improvements. It was all broken up. He expended from 
fifteen to twenty thousand dollars in improvements and machinerv. Indeed 
his ranch buildings were little towns of themselves. He was an English- 


man and was a stirring man. He farmed on a very large scale, until Novem- 
ber. 1883. when he sold to Hudson Mickley. He later resided in Lemars, 
in Plymouth count}', where was a large colony of Englishmen, including the 
Close brothers, James B. and William B.. who held large landed possessions 
in both Plvmouth and Osceola counties. Air. Paullin was killed in a game 
of polo about 1903 at Lemars. Hudson Mickley farmed all those lands on a 
similar scale for the seasons of 1884-85-86. These lands were later divided 
up into ordinary sized farms and sold. 


In 1874-75-76-77 Franklin Teabout, a man of much vim and energy, 
opened up several large ranches on sections 25 and 36 in Lincoln, and sec- 
tions 3, 10, 11, 14 and 2j in Summit and another ranch in Clay county, in 
1877 he bought thirty-six hundred acres, at fifty cents per acre, with taxes on 
same to be redeemed of one dollar and fifty cents per acre, of Daniel T. 
Gilman, of Sioux City, same being part of the above lands. Mr. Teabout 
was an actual farmer and actual citizen. He erected quite extensive build- 
ings on his main ranch on section 36, in Lincoln, which, with its many renters 
and ranch hands, made up quite a colony. Mr. Teabout had had a remark- 
able and successful career in large farming in W'innesheik county, Iowa, the 
small town of Franklin, in that county, being named for him and the seat of 
his farming operations there. He and William H. Valleau were the first 
merchants and grain buyers in Sanborn and other points. He was the father 
of Mrs. George H. Valleau, of Sanborn. These lands also were long ago 
divided up and sold. 


John H. Archer has filled many large fields in the county. This item 
is but an enumeration of large - farms and farming operations in a^ group. 
In extent of acres, being about thirty-five hundred acres in actual farming, 
in and around Archer. Iowa, named for him, his is the largest tract in con- 
tinuous farming for the long series of years in the county, farmed and man- 
aged by one man. Mr. Archer has personally superintended each tract. In- 
direct oversight from crop to crop, item to item. He has carried it out from 
the basis of small tracts under various arrangements of rentings and other- 
wise, rather than as one farm. This is by no means the limit of his land 
holdings, he being the owner of sundry landed interests in other places. He 
came from England when a young man. and married the daughter of a 


farmer, E. L. Ballou. He has bought land from year to year, and held on to 
everything once purchased. The gradual, if not to say phenomenal, advance 
in land values in the count}- during his time in the county has proved the 
wisdom of his policy relating to land. 


Chester W. Inman was. after Hannibal H. Waterman, among the first 
four real farmers who.' in number of acres, arose above the quarter section 
proposition. He came in 1868. He was also one of the early actual citizens 
who became a county official, he being county treasurer and also was a mem- 
ber of the board. He opened up a large ranch of five hundred and eighty 
acres on section 26, in Grant township on the Waterman. The spot of his 
residence was one of the few really picturesque and scenic farm residences in 
this locality. O'Brien count}' was mainly a plain level of merely prairit 
sameness. The bluff here on the Waterman would even be somewhat of a 
bluff on the Missouri river. It was an ideal spot for the poetic or romantic. 
It seemed pitiful that his public turmoils and individual private property trib- 
ulations should have prevented the enjoyment of his dream, for be it said 
Mr. Inman and family were people who could have enjoyed the picturesque. 
He was a man of considerable breadth. He attempted to farm on a large 
scale through the grasshopper scourge and discouragements. He built what 
was in those times considered a mansion, costing in those cheapest of times 
some thirty-five hundred dollars, and in truth was beyond the times, and big 
farming could do none other than fail, and he lost all. This residence was a 
three-story building, with a large hall in the third story, evidently constructed 
with a special idea of large entertainments and gatherings. 


Among the large farms of a section of land in size we might also men- 
tion those of Joseph Hain and John Bowie}-, in Floyd, of Oliver M. Shonk- 
wiler and George W. Schee, in Hartley township, of Hector Cowan, in Dale, 
of Xeil McKerrall and Frederick G. Frothingham, in Union, the Rodger> 
section in Caledonia and the farm of Mathern Brothers (Frank and Antone), 
in Highland. 


Jonathan A. Stocum had for man}- years been an instructor in Bryant 
& Stratton's Commercial School in Chicago, but at intervals had purchased 


sundry O'Brien count}' lands at tax sale during the years when its affairs 
were in trouble, but in 1871 he had procured many tax titles on same and pro- 
ceeded to open up a large ranch of eight hundred acres in Lincoln township, 
and farmed the same until his death in 1891. He resided in Sanborn and 
conducted his ranch from there. He was not simply farming, but was a 
breeder of fancy stock, the inventory of his estate showing some forty fine 
bred horses and other stock in proportion. His was among the earliest 
efforts at the better grade stock proposition in the county. Further refer- 
ences will be made to Air. Stocum in the section relating to Sanborn, he hav- 
ing been the pioneer attorney there, and, with John Lawler, a high official of 
the Milwaukee road, having platted Stocum & Lawler's addition to Sanborn, 
and engaged in other of the early town of Sanborn enterprises. 


Samuel J. Jordan was among the earl}- settlers in Grant township, and 
opened up a ranch of eight hundred acres. He has been among the few of 
the large ranch owners who has continuously resided actually upon the land 
itself during all the years, and conducted in person his large farming opera- 
tions and stock raising direct from his family residence. As his sons, Ralph 
C. Jordan, now a member of the board of supervisors, and Clay P. Jordan, 
of Jordan's Bank at Sutherland, have grown up they have become a practical 
part of the broadening business of both farming and banking. The}- have 
also been among the few large farmers who have included in and incorporated 
as a part of their large farming all those modern, up-to-date and highly de- 
veloped devices in the construction of barns, buildings, water works, dairy- 
ing and machinery equipments, even in the details, on the lines as taught and 
suggested at Ames Agricultural College. Other items will appear as to this 
family under other heads. 

C 13 



The educational feature was one of the earliest, as it is likewise one ol 
the chief and present, thoughts of the people of O'Brien county. They 
adapted themselves to what they were able to do. Though they could not 
build a sixty-thousand-dollar brick school building, they insisted on the 
school nevertheless and built the shack school house, even as they themselves 
lived in the shack shanty. The}- even held school in the old log court house. 
But the primal fact remained that they kept school. In the simple town plat 
of Old O'Brien, the old county seat in i860, on the first fly leaf of record deed 
book "A," the first deed record book of the county, a block is set apart for a 
school site. Clark Green and James Roberts did the same for Primghar 
when the town was surveyed out with a four-foot lath, which was the fact. 
Indeed the school block has been among the first blocks platted in every town 
in the county. 

♦ The schools of the county are under the immediate supervision of the 
county superintendent. Prof. J. J. Billingsly is the present incumbent of 
that office. This has been the one sacred office in the county, so considered 
and so dealt with in fact, and has been kept largely out of and free of poli- 
tics. The elections to this office have resulted meritoriously. Its school 
superintendents have mainly been persons of ripe experience along the lines 
of educational work. For instance. Miss Ella Seckerson filled the office for 
ten years from January 1, 1892. to January 1, 1902. and prior to which time 
she had held a position as one of the corps of teachers in the Sheldon high 
schools for many years. Miss Nellie Jones was superintendent of schools 
for seven years, from January 1. 1902, to January 1, 1909, with a well 
equipped experience of fourteen years as teacher and a large portion of the 
time as lady principal of the same Sheldon high school. Prof. J. J. Billingsly, 
now completing his sixth year as county superintendent, had served Primghar 
six years. Sanborn six years and Paullina three years, as superintendent of 
their high schools. David Algyer, superintendent six years, was school prin- 
cipal in Sanborn. Here is one period alone of twenty-nine years wherein 


the office has been presided over and had the ripest experience of four veteran 
educators of the county. 

Educators who can and did supervise large bodies of children, dealing 
with parents and boards and school subjects, were the ideal candidates for 
the still larger powers of organization necessary to manage the machinery 
needed to educate five thousand live hundred and ninety-nine children, ac- 
cording" to the last official report from this office ; with supervisory business 
connected with twenty-two boards; with about two hundred teachers; with 
about one hundred and thirty-three rural school buildings ; with about two 
hundred school officials, including school treasurers and secretaries, the vari- 
ous functions being like companies, regiments, divisions and brigades, mov- 
ing systematically with military precision and with one common aim. We 
also note the fact that in each case of the four superintendents above named, 
as likewise the earlier superintendents mentioned below, their years of experi- 
ence were in O'Brien county schools, which gave to them the peculiar local 
knowledge of facts and conditions within the county. 

The high schools in the six main towns are now accredited schools, 
entitling the high school graduates to enter the several colleges of the state 
without further preparatory work. 

Three of the high schools of the county. Sheldon, Hartley and Suther- 
land, have met the requirements and have been appointed as normal train- 
ing schools for the rural school teachers, entitling those three high schools 
to receive an annual appropriation of about seven hundred and fifty dollars 
each, or about sufficient, or a little more, to pay a qualified instructor. These 
normal training schools are intended to fill the same place for the rural 
school teacher that the State Normal Training School at Cedar Falls furnishes 
to the aspirants for high school positions. The Primghar high school was 
also so designated in 1914. 

Among the earlier county superintendents, Harley Day was superin- 
tendent of the Primghar schools four years, Stephen Harris three years, 
Miss Bell Cowan two years and C. H. Crawford two years. Thus we see 
that in all eight of its county superintendents had had a large experience in 
O'Brien county public schools. 

We mention these four first because they are the last and recent superin- 
tendents, and have each had long terms in which to fully organize and carry 
out the policies of our present magnificent school system under its modern 
equipments. We should not, however, forget the very great service rendered 
by the early and pioneer school superintendents from 1870, when the settlers 


arrived, in the persons of Stephen Harris, D. A. W. Perkins, Jesse A. Smith, 
A. B. Chrysler, Harley Day, David Algyer, C. H. Crawford and Miss Isabella 
Cowan. These superintendents were each highly educated persons, and in 
each case had had experience in the several schools of the county. Their 
terms were shorter (except Mr. Algyer, who served six years) and were 
handicapped by the pioneer conditions, buildings and equipments. We also 
note the fact that in every case of all this large number their experience as 
teachers and educators was had in our own O'Brien county schools. 

The writer hereof saw in the earl} - days of this county school houses 
built with only a one-side slant roof. But, mark the fact, they kept school. 
The writer, in the seventies, attended sundry lyceums, school programs and 
debates in some of those primitive school buildings that would do credit to 

A. O 

some of the later contests for oratorical championships. An item elsewhere 
in this history refers to the Baker Library Association, maintained for so 
long a period, organized as it was in the very earliest day of the homesteader, 
and which is even yet maintained at Sutherland as one of the definite educa- 
tional features. Relating to libraries, we might also add that each high 
school in the count} - is equipped with a working library of reference works 
and volumes covering the usual list of subjects found in most libraries. Even 
many of the rural schools have libraries conforming to their measure, rang- 
ing from twenty to three hundred volumes in the several country school 
buildings. The office of the county superintendent, at the court house in 
Primghar, sets the example of six hundred volumes of a well selected teach- 
er's library, covering the desirable subjects. 

We have spoken elsewhere of the laudable and appreciated work during 
now sixteen years of George \Y. Schee, in his encouragement and large finan- 
cial aids in the various public schools of the county, of his prizes given in the 
way of trips to Washington, the Buffalo Exposition, to Pike's Peak and the 
West, of groups of the champion scholars in the public schools, as educa- 
tional features, and of his efforts in the education of loyalty and patriotism 
to the country, in the furnishing of a flag, the Stars and Stripes, to be dis- 
plaved on every school house in the county, as an educational aid, as well as 
a high ideal in moral uplift. 

Indeed, all information, communication, moral uplift or training on any 
goodly line, whether proceeding from the home, the church, the school, the 
press, the courts or other sources, is educational. These desirable conditions 
are everywhere to be seen, felt and enjoyed by our citizens. 

The school buildings and equipments throughout the county have grown 
in size, in value, in quality, and facilities proportionately as the county has 


increased on other lines. In these very conditions we observe an education 
within itself. This is especially notable in the construction of the twenty to 
sixty-thousand-dollar brick school buildings in the several towns. No better 
comparison of the relative conditions of, say, three periods in the school 
development of one of our towns can be made than hrst a reference to the 
small one-story frame school building, about the size of the usual rural 
school building in the country, first erected in Sheldon in 1873, immediately 
as it became a town; then the second building, still a wooden frame, but two 
stories high, with still the stove heat and other items corresponding, and 
then the final three-story brick structure, with a heating plant alone whose 
cost would have built at least three school buildings like the first named, with 
all modern features that go with it. Perhaps at this point we should make 
note of the one great calamity to Sheldon's first modern brick building, 
which was burned in the year 1904. it being indeed the only large school 
building ever burned or destroyed in the county. "We must also note how, 
like Chicago, before the embers and ashes were cold, its more than duplicate 
was planned and carried at once to completion. The school buildings and 
equipments and public developments, in which we take a pride and which 
become all but sacred, may meet with disaster and be destroyed, but the ideal 
sentiments back of them, and the determination to rehabilitate and even 
again enlarge upon them, cannot be consumed or blotted out. 

One item is noticeable in the construction of all our school buildings in 
the several towns, namely, that they are all built not for a day, but, in size 
and proportions in the different rooms and departments, for the growing 
future of the years to come. For instance, the assembly rooms in the several 
buildings, that now perhaps have from sixty to one hundred seats, are in 
fact built to hold from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty, 
with all other details and offices and accommodations to correspond. Also, 
for instance, while all the towns in the county do not at this date conduct 
classes for the girls in domestic science or the art of cooking, or a manual 
training in the trades for the boys, yet the rooms are provided for this work 
and the idea of growth held out, which will all come as a certainty in due 

The high school buildings in the count}' are now also equipped with 
gymnasiums, thus taking into account the benefits of athletics, basket and 
base ball and other games and, indeed, all those features belonging to recrea- 
tion and building up of the body. To these may be added the sundry con- 
nections of each school through its several teams for physical and mental 


contest, in their relations with the district, state and interstate leagues rep- 
resenting those fields. 

The schools of the county have also made much headway in meeting" the 
requirements of the sanitary laws and rules of the state board of health. At 
this date there are about fifty modern heating and ventilating systems in the 
rural school buildings and many are equipped with sanitary drinking jars 
and individual drinking cups. 

Our high schools have not only libraries of books, but are provided with 
desirable daily newspapers, county papers and magazines. There are now 
ten newspapers published in the county, which contribute much to general 
educational advantages. 

In addition to these direct school equipments, are numerous private 
libraries in the homes, as well as the daily papers found there, with other 
magazines and periodicals finding their way to the school rooms. It is prob- 
ably a safe estimate to say that close to three thousand copies of daily papers 
are taken in the homes and offices of the county. 

O'Brien county has its full share of telephones and rural free deliveries, 
all furnishing information and educational advantages not merely to the 
children, but their parents, and even to the transient within the county. 

The lecture courses and chautauquas have a good showing in this 
count}'. Indeed it is not merely a showing, but continual courses from vear 
to year and for now about fourteen to sixteen years have been held in the 
larger towns, and lesser and corresponding efforts in the smaller towns. 
Practically all the leading educators, ministers, politicians and men of note 
on all lines have been heard in one or other of the towns of the county. 

We must not omit the large force of the church as an educator. This 
feature has received its full notice in the sundry items of church history 
herein given. The local press, consisting at this date of ten papers in the 
count)-, may well be considered a part of the educational features. The press 
will be noticed in a special article. 

The several county superintendents since 1870 have held annual teach- 
ers' institutes, of from one to two weeks. This is in the nature of a normal 
training school, covering all those general questions found in the high and 
rural schools, the subjects and classes being conducted by the county super- 
intendent and special educators employed, for which a fund is appropriated 
from the revenues of the county. This institute also keeps well in hand all 
those proper organizations throughout the county connected with school af- 
fairs, including their relations with school officers, and other general ques- 
tions and bodies. 


There are also several parochial and church schools. The German 
Lutheran church at Germantown, in Caledonia township, has for about 
thirty years conducted a parochial school in connection with their large 
church. This school is methodically arranged in grades and has all the 
facilities equal to a full high school course. Indeed many of the branches 
taught, including the languages, the higher mathematics, the classics and 
other higher studies, lift it well up to the academic or even the collegiate 
standard. The township being practically all German, that language is 
given precedence. The St. John's Lutheran Evangelical church in Center 
township, as likewise the German Lutheran churches at Calumet and Hart- 
ley, hold courses of study and regular school instruction in connection with 
their churches. The Catholic church, as will be seen elsewhere, does like- 
wise for its people in its various churches in the county. The Friends 
church in Highland township does a similar work along the lines of that 

The following is a complete list of the county superintendents since 
i860, with the inclusive calendar years during which they served: Hanni- 
bal H. Waterman, i860; John J. Jenkins, 1861 ; George Hoffman, 1862; 
.Moses Lewis, 1863-1868; Chester W. Inman, 1869; Stephen Harris, 1870- 
1872; D. A. W. Perkins, 1873; Jesse A. Smith, 1874-1875; A. B. Chrysler, 
1876-1877: Harley Day, 1878-1881 ; David Algyer, 1 882-1 887; C. H. Craw- 
ford, 1888-1889; Isabella Cowan, 1890-1891 ; Ella Seckerson, 1892-1901 ; 
Xellie Jones, 1902-1908; J. J. Billing-sly, 1909, and still serving. 


The attendance in the rural schools of O'Brien county is much smaller 
than fifteen or eighteen years ago. It is no uncommon thing to find from 
six to ten pupils in a rural school. At this writing four adjacent schools in 
the center of the county have fifteen, thirteen, nine and five, respectively. 
Fifteen years ago many of these same schools had from twenty-five to thirty 
or more. It is no fault of the educational administration of the county, or 
lack of interest in education on the part of the people. It is rather the result 
of conditions. The children of the older settlers are now grown up, with 
families of their own. Eighteen years ago the heads of these now second 
generation families were still many of them in the rural schools. Hundreds 
of this second generation have during all the years gone to Minnesota, the 
Dakotas, Canada and everywhere west, seeking the cheaper lands, and leav- 
ing the older people in the county with no representatives in the schools. 
These same conditions are true over man}- parts of Iowa. 


By W. L. Clark. 

This chapter will seek to briefly show what Indian tribes once held this 
territory as their own, and as to how the white race came into possession 
of it. 

Of what is termed the pre-historic race that inhabited this section of 
the Northwest, there is but little known, the only history of this extinct 
people being the mounds and the contents of the same. These mounds are 
found in many parts of Iowa, a goodly number having in recent years been 
discovered and excavated in Cherokee county, just to the south of O'Brien 
county. Just who these "Mound Builders" were is an unsettled question 
and probably will so remain, but it is certain that they dwelt here centuries 
ago and were in all probability a distinct race from the North American 
Indian, as now understood. Those best versed in such matters claim that 
the}' were from the far-off Orient, coming here either as shipwrecked sailors, 
or possibly by true immigration from Asia, crossing at Bering Strait. This 
people were doubtless well up in arts and science for the day in which they 
existed. Copper was mined and worked in a fashion now unknown to the 
most skilled of present artisans. They made implements of war and had 
elaborate houses, practiced domestic economy and were probably the race 
just preceding the Indians, the first comers from Europe found here. (See 
also the article on like mounds in O'Brien county.) 

For more than a century after Marquette and Joliet trod the soil of 
Iowa and admired its fertile plains, not a single settlement was made or 
even attempted ; not even a trading post was established. During this time 
the Illinois Indians, once so powerful, gave up the entire possession of this 
"beautiful land," as the name "Iowa" really implies, to the Sacs and Foxes. 
In 1903, when Louisiana was purchased by the United States, these two 
tribes, with the Iowas, possessed the entire domain now within the state of 
Iowa. The Sacs and Foxes occupied almost all of the state of Illinois. The 
four most important towns of the Sacs were along the Mississippi, two on 
the east side, one near the mouth of the Upper Iowa and one at the head of 


the Des Moines rapids, near the present town of Montrose. Those of the 
Foxes were, one on the west side of the Mississippi, just above Davenport, 
one about twelve miles from the river, back of the Dubuque lead mines, and 
one on Turkey river. The principal village of the Iowas was on the Des 
Moines river, in Van Bnren county, where Iowaville now stands. Here the 
last great battle between the Sacs and Foxes and the Iowas was fought, in 
which Black Hawk, then a voting man. commanded the attacking forces. 

The Sioux had the northern portion of this state and southern Minne- 
sota. They were a fierce and warlike nation, who often disputed possession 
with their rivals in savage and bloody warfare ; but finally a boundary line 
was established between them by the government of the United States. This 
was by the treaty at Prairie du Chien, in 1825. This, however, became the 
source of an increased number of quarrels between the tribes, as each tres- 
passed, or was thought to trespass, upon the rights of the other side. In 
[830, therefore, the government created a forty-mile strip of neutral ground 
between them, which policy proved to be more successful in the interests of 

Soon after the United States acquired Louisiana, the government 
adopted measures for the exploration of the new territory, having in view 
the conciliation of the numerous tribes of Indians In" whom it was possessed 
and also the selection of proper sites for military posts and trading stations. 
This was accordingly accomplished. But before the country could be opened 
up for settlement by the whites it was necessary that the Indian titles should 
be extinguished and that people removed. When the government assumed 
control of the country by virtue of the Louisiana Purchase nearly all Iowa 
was in possession of the Sacs and Foxes, at whose head stood the rising, 
daring, intellectual Black Hawk. On Xovember 3, 1804, a treaty was con- 
cluded with these tribes by which they ceded to the United States the Illinois 
side of the Mississippi in consideration of two thousand three hundred and 
thirty-four dollars worth of goods then delivered and an annuity of one 
thousand dollars to be paid in goods at cost : but old Black Hawk always 
maintained that the chiefs who entered into that compact acted without au- 
thority and that therefore the treaty was not binding. The first fort on 
Iowa soil was built at Fort Madison. A short time before a military post 
was fixed at Warsaw, Illinois, and named Fort Edwards. These enterprises 
caused mistrust among the Indian tribes. Indeed Fort Madison was located 
in violation of the treaty of 1804. The Indians sent delegations to the 
whites at these forts to learn what they were doing and what they intended. 
On being "informed" that those structures were merely trading posts they 


were incredulous and became more and more suspicious. Black Hawk, 
therefore, led a party to the vicinity of Fort Madison and attempted its 
destruction, but a premature attack by him caused his failure. 

In 1S12, when war was declared between this country and England, 
Black Hawk and his band allied themselves with the British, partly because 
they were dazzled by their promises, but mostly, perhaps, because they had 
been deceived by the Americans. Black Hawk said plainly that the latter 
fact was the cause. A portion of the Sacs and Foxes, however, headed by 
Keokuk ("Watchful Fox'"), could not be persuaded into hostilities against 
the United States, the}- being disposed to stand by the treaty of 1804. The 
Indians were therefore divided into the "war" and "peace" parties. On 
Black Hawk's return from the British army he says he was introduced to 
Keokuk as the war chief of the braves then in that village. On inquiry as 
to how he became chief, there were given him the particulars of his having 
killed a Sioux in battle, which fact placed him among the warriors, and of 
his having headed an expedition in defense of their village at Peoria. In 
person, Keokuk was tall and of stately bearing and in speech he was a genu- 
ine, though uneducated, orator. He never mastered the English language, 
hence his biographers have never been able to do his character justice. He 
was a friend of the United States government and ever tried to persuade the 
Indians that it was useless to try to attack a nation so powerful as that of 
the United States. 

The treaty of 1804 was renewed in 1816, which Black Hawk himself 
signed; but he afterwards held that he was deceived and that the treaty 
was not even yet binding. But there was no further serious trouble with 
the Indians until the noted Black Hawk war of 1832, all of which took place 
in Wisconsin and Illinois, with the expected result, the defeat and capture 
of old Black Hawk and the final repulsion of all the hostile Indians west of 
the Mississippi river. Black Hawk died in 1838 at his home in this state, 
and was buried there, but his remains were afterward placed in a museum 
of the Historical Society, where they were accidentally destroyed by fire. 

More or less affecting the territory now included within the state of 
Iowa, fifteen treaties have been made and an outline is here given: In 
1804, when the whites agreed not to settle west of the Mississippi on Indian 
lands; in 1815, with the Sioux, ratifying peace with Great Britain and the 
United States; with the Sacs a treaty of similar nature and also ratifying 
that of 1804, the Indians agreeing not to join their brethren who under 
Black Hawk had aided the British; with the Foxes, ratifying the treaty of 
1804, the Indians agreeing to deliver up all prisoners; and with the low as a 


treaty of friendship; in 1816, with the Sacs of Rock River, ratifying the 
treaty of 1804; in 1824, with the Sacs and Foxes, the latter relinquishing 
all their lands in Missouri and that portion of the southeast corner of Iowa 
known as the "'Half-breed Tract" was set off to the half-breeds; in 1825, 
placing a boundary line between the Sacs and Foxes on the south and the 
Sioux on the north; in 1830, when the line was widened to forty miles; also 
in the same year with the several tribes, who ceded a large portion of their 
possessions in the western part of the state; in 1832, with the Winnebagoes, 
exchanging lands with them and providing a school, etc., for them ; also in 
the same year, the "Black Hawk Purchase" was made, of about six million 
acres, also along the west side of the Mississippi from the southern line of 
Iowa to the mouth of the Iowa river; in 1836, with the Sacs and Foxes, 
ceding Keokuk's Reserve to the United States; in 1837, with the same, when 
another slice of territory comprising 1,250,000 acres adjoining west of the 
foregoing tract, was obtained; also in the same year, when these Indians 
gave up all their lands allowed them under former treaties; and finally, in 
1842. when they relinquished their title to all their lands west of the Missis- 
sippi river. 

Thus it has been shown how the white men came into possession of 
that portion of Iowa in which O'Brien county is situated. The Indians were 
all gone before the first settlement was effected here, hence the pioneer here 
did not have other trouble than a little scare and some cruel depredations 
committed by the blood-thirsty Sioux when on the warpath from Smithland 
and Cherokee to the scene of the awful massacre at Spirit Lake in April, 
1857, and all of which took place in Waterman township. This is mentioned 
elsewhere in this work. 

On reading of the horror of the Spirit Lake, or rather the West 
Okoboji, massacre in 1857, the year following the coming of Hannibal 
Waterman, or of the still worse deeds that followed at Xew Ulm in Minne- 
sota, and when we recall that those same Indians were at Mr. Waterman's 
but a few days before, we may well wonder whether, had our county been 
but a few vears farther along in settlement, would not O'Brien county have 
perhaps been the scene of like tragedies. It must be remembered that these 
,ame Indians had, the fall before, in 1856, passed down from Minnesota 
past Spirit Lake, through the neighboring Clay county, through Peterson, 
with stops at Mr. Waterman's, thence on to Smithland, as likewise several 
detachments of them even down as far as Sac and other counties. It seems 
now "-enerallv conceded that on the road down they were friendly, but that 
the citizens of Smithland acted unwisely in killing the game of the Indians, 


which they had so laboriously corralled and expected to kill for their winter's 
supply, and then when this was done, and the Smithland people became 
frightened and took away their guns, the Indians passed through that terri- 
ble winter of 1856. with their savage idea of holding all white people indi- 
vidually responsible, it is scarce to lie wondered at that the innocent victims 
at Spirit Lake suffered. 

One incident occurred in Peterson which perhaps contributed, though 
probably no one was to blame. It seems that on the road down from Minne- 
sota, one of the squaws got Aery sick at Peterson. Her company left her at 
the home of old Father Bicknell. She was there a month and got well. The 
winter was dreadfully severe. Food supplies had to be hauled from Fort 
Dodge or Sac City. The question was serious. Even an addition of one 
person in a family was serious. This squaw was told she must move on 
and join her people. She started to do so across the country. This, how- 
ever, was no more than was often done by the Indian women. The snow 
that winter was unusually deep. Her bones or remains were found by the 
Indians in the spring on their road back to Minnesota. This enraged them. 
One Indian was killed in Clay county. This did not tend to preserve their 
peace. Other items happened, as Mr. Waterman states in his narrative. 
The Indians were not wholly in the wrong. Luckily for the peace of O'Brien 
county, Mr. Waterman was the only citizen and, though roughly used by 
them, escaped, lucky even that he could "buy his own gun back." Thus it is 
that the specific Indian incidents directly relating to this county are meager, 
from the one fact that there was but one citizen here. (See also the narra- 
tive of Mr. Waterman, and also the article on Prehistoric Fortifications and 
Indian Burial Mounds in the county.) The Spirit Lake massacre excited 
the people to that extent that Mr, Waterman was urged to move his family 
to Peterson as a better protection not only to his family, but also as an aid 
to the Peterson people. 





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T o 

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By Mrs. Roma Wheeler Woods. 

Having been requested to write a few pages of reminiscences of early 
days in O'Brien county. I consented to make the effort. Authorities define 
the word reminiscence : "The recalling to mind of ideas or impressions for- 
merly received or forgotten: a statement of what one recollects or remem- 
bers." Another. "A narrative of past incidents, events and characteristics 
within one's personal knowledge." 

In the settlement of a new country, as in everything else, there is the 
"beginning of things." It is of these I am to write, running over the years 
from 1869 to 1 88 1, inclusive. It will be simply a skimming over the years, 
stopping only to record the events that had a share in shaping" the life of the 
people who had come here to make their homes, with an occasional incident 
in passing. 1 regret that in tins story so much of the personal element must 
enter in. and regret also that I cannot give glimpses at least of the self sac- 
rificing, hospitable and noble-hearted people, women and men, who laid the 
foundations of our beloved county, under some such unfortunate conditions. 

In April. 1869, a party of four men. with a camping outfit, left Daven- 
port for northwestern Iowa, to look up lands owned by parties in Daven- 
port and Rock Island, Illinois, and also to select land for future purchase. 
The man in charge had been in the real estate business for years, had traveled 
over much of the state, but never, he thought, had seen anything so fine as 
O'Brien county, and soon decided to secure a claim for himself. The other 
three decided to do the same thing. Section 8, township 94, range 39, 
Waterman, was selected, each man taking a quarter section. They at once 
built a "sod shanty," in the center of the section, and broke up a few acres 
on each quarter section. As one of the parties was prominently identified 
with the happenings I have to relate I have been thus explicit. The men 
were A". Huston Woods, real estate agent and surveyor; L. A. A'orth, a 
cousin, who came for a hunt and became a citizen; Ed. A. Xissen. who was 
the excellent cook of the outfit, and who later was sheriff of the county, and 
George Bell, teamster. 


When these men decided to take claims they went to the village of 
O'Brien, the county seat. They were very curtly told that "there was not a 
foot of vacant land in the count}," and this in face of the fact that there was 
not a human being in the county, outside of the little town. However, the 
plats of the count}", just secured from the land office in Sioux City, told a 
somewhat different story, but upon close examination they were surprised 
to find that nearly three-fourths of the county had been disposed of in rail- 
road land grants and to colleges, etc., while five townships had been entered 
solidly in the sixties. It was found that in Waterman township, in which 
the little town was located, there remained, all told, only about five sections, 
out of thirty-six, open to settlement. All efforts to see the county books 
were fruitless and it was several months before they came to view. These 
men were considered and treated as intruders. The persistent demands for 
the county books, which Mr. Woods wished to see in the interests of the 
men who sent him here, made an enemy of the clerk who was placed in the 
office to do the work. R. B. Crego was the treasurer, but he was not the 
man behind this clerk and who perhaps compelled him to do as he did. The 
surveyor had no time to improve his claim. In the latter part of July, in 
response to letters, the writer had packed a box of things needed, among 
them a grindstone. I filled up the box with a few things which would "come 
handy," and also packed in a trunk, a catalog, a guitar and pillow, and some 
necessities. On a certain clay we met Mr. Woods at a station on the Rock 
Island Railroad due south from O'Brien county. "We are on the way to 
our new home.'' "Impossible." was the reply, "there is nothing for you 
there; wait until next spring." When, a few days later, the spring wagon, 
with "Bell" and "Ed" to draw it, started north, there was a large box, and 
trunk, and a woman and boy beside the driver. Sleeping on the ground at 
night, with game cooked on sticks by the fire, we had a glorious trip. In 
the absence of Air. Woods, the boys had put up a shed long enough to ac- 
commodate twenty-five horses. They had cut down on a side hill on the 
west, and it was open to the east and also on the south and north, and closed 
by a long haystack. The uprights were cut from the timber on the Little 
Sioux river. The north end was cut off from the main part by rubber 
blankets, sacks of grain, and boxes were the seats. The east side of this 
annex being open, a small cook stove stood at the very edge, with one joint 
of pipe and an elbow which was turned as needed to keep the smoke out. In 
this primitive shelter, probably hundreds of men, women and children slept 
during the first few years of settlement and numberless horses were sheltered 
in a like manner. 


The first day the writer spent on this claim on section 8 (adjoining the 
present Sutherland), was the day of the total eclipse of the sun, August 7, 
[869, and nowhere was it more perfect than here. My husband and I were 
alone on that vast prairie, and we watched the magnificent pageant with awe 
and reverence. As the darkness closed about us and the air grew chill, 
there came a feeling of dependence upon the Creator never felt before, and 
as the blessed sunlight returned our hearts were filled with joy and thanks- 
giving. This was my baptism into a new life in more senses than one. 

As the darkness passed we were touched on the shoulder and, turning, 
found our horses had come from across the creek, and so quietly we had 
not heard them. They were looking to us for protection, as we had looked 
to a higher power. 

This month of August was most remarkable in the astronomical world. 
We sat in the evenings, in the little annex, in the dark, and watched the 
planet Jupiter sweep up from behind the hills unto the heavens, magnificent 
beyond words, singing and talking meanwhile ; then going up the hill to our 
sleeping apartment (a covered wagon bed set up from the ground), we 
would stand awhile looking up to the starlit sky so beautiful. We could 
then understand how those old Aryans in the Indus mountains worshipped 
tlie over-arching sky which shut them in each night. It was in this way we 
entered the simple life of the pioneer. 

A few settlers had come in the spring of that year. On the first Sunday 
after our arrival the first informal reception was held, probably the first in 
the county. The "boys'"' bv this time had met all the neighbors, and some- 
how it had got noised about that a new woman had arrived. They began 
coming in the morning, and it was late in the afternoon when the last of 
them drove up, the Dan Inman family. The}- came on horseback, and with 
these, learns and ox teams. Among these last were Mr. and Mrs. Sam Jor- 
dan, whose journey to this county behind those oxen was their bridal trip. 
I was greatly interested in them all ; they were to be our neighbors and, we 
hoped, our friends. "Dutch Fred,'' or Fred Feldman, the one man who 
had no office, being, as he said, "De beeples,"' came with his faithful dog 
"Bonv-Parte." In the intonation of his voice and expression of his face 
one could feel the scorn which this German exile felt for Xapoleon Bona- 
parte Just how Mr. Nissen managed to secure refreshments for all those 
people has always been a mystery, with the nearest store seventy-five miles 
awav : but he did it and all was merrv and gay. He served the coffee in tin 
cups, without cream, and probably short cakes on tin plates, but with the 
same cautious manner as at home serving a large company from a full larder. 


This little village of O'Brien, the county seat, I can see vet, as I lirst 
saw it. There was a "square," around which on each side was a road or 
street; across each street there were one or two houses, built of cotton wood 
logs. A new house built for Major Inman by Mr. Husted was the most 
pretentious. This was used as a hotel, the Major, with his young wife, 
living there also. On this same side was the "log court house." On the 
other side was the home of R. B. Crego, and on another that of Archibald 
Murray. Not far away was the house of Mr. Parsons. And there was a 
small blacksmith shop, as I recall, and this was the town. Just at the edge of 
the county line toward Peterson lived Mr. Parish. The memory of this 
family is one of the sweetest of that time. It was a log cabin, but spotlessly 
clean. Mrs. Parish, a beautiful, refined lady, was fading awav with con- 
sumption. The sons and daughters were interesting; one of them later was 
Mrs. H. F Smith, late of Primghar. H. F. Smith, Ed Parker, George Hil- 
len, John Pumphrey. Mike O'Neal and John Patchin were the young men 
who made their homes with Crego's, Archibald Murray's and at the hotel 
kept by Hoel Gibbs. During the summer the Clark Green family and their 
relatives. Mr. Wears and Pen Dick and Cal and Jacob Wagoner, came. 
Clark Green opened a store in one end of Archibald Murray's house. \Y. 
H. Baker lived not far away. This same fall came also William S. Fuller, 
Archibald McDonald, and Jim Wilson lived in a shanty in the timber. 
"Grandpap" Wears, Len Dick and Ben Epperson in another and Cal and 
Jake Wagoner, John Patchin and Mike O'Neal in another. This combina- 
tion of "holes in the bank" was called Larrapyville by Peter McCrea. They 
cut logs and hauled to the Peterson saw mill and sold to Crego and others. 

September of this year was rainy, and winter set in earl}-. On the 6th 
day of October the ground was frozen hard and remained so until spring. 
Returning to Davenport in late September, we felt when we reached the 
old home surroundings we could never leave them again. But in a few 
weeks the lure of the prairie was so strong that, in spite of all protests, I 
returned with my husband in December. The railroad was then within six 
miles of Cherokee. After supper we started for home. Soon the low-lying 
clouds in the north grew gray and the snow began to fall so thickly as to 
cover the track made in a moment. The horses were given the rein to select 
the road, but they could not face the storm. Turning about, they trotted 
along and suddenly stopped. We called out and a woman opened the door 
and said "come right in." This was the only place between Cherokee and 
O'Brien and we must have perished but for them. It was the home of Mr. 
Steinhoff, seventy-five years old, who with his son and daughter and mother. 


ninety-five years old, made up the family. Their home was just prairie hay, 
fixed up with sticks in some way, and they must have perished that long 
winter had it not been for George Benson, who took them over to his cabin 
across the way. Mr. Benson now lives in Sutherland. 

The "boys" had put up a small cabin on the hillside, not quite ten feet 
square and near the shed. It was dug into the side hill on the west and 
north, and had one window on the east and a door in the south. There were 
two sleeping bunks on the side wall, a small table, box seats, a little coal stove 
and a chest between the bunks and the stove, which made a seat for two. 
During that winter letters were written to the Davenport Gazette, telling of 
the new northwest country. Soon letters began to pour in from Durant, 
Wilton Junction, West Libert}- and many other places. In the Des Moines 
Register one day there was a notice that a bill had been presented to the 
Legislature to bond the indebtedness of the counties in northwest Iowa. 
Very soon Mr. Woods received instructions to have a reputable attorney go 
to O'Brien from some place and go through the county books. Of course it 
was not known that he had any connection with that meddler and rascal 
Woods? The record of that work was copied in that little cabin and the 
record itself sent to the parties who ordered it and paid for it. 

In early March. 1870, a young man in Sioux City named Fred Beach, 
coming out to take a claim, left O'Brien in the morning to walk out to our 
place, seven miles. The ground was covered with snow. Knowing nothing 
of the country, he did not understand directions, and vent up to Dan In- 
man's, who was then living on his claim up on Waterman creek. Again he 
failed to understand instructions and took the south creek instead, which 
would have brought him to us. The snow fell so thick and fast in the after- 
noon, with no roads, the poor boy, unused to all the hardship, tramped all 
day, had passed within half a mile of us and on to perhaps seven miles away, 
when strength gave out and he fell upon his face and so died. A little dog 
some friend had sent to Air. Woods, he carried inside his overcoat, and 
where it died later, as his tracks were all around poor Fred in every direc- 
tion. The next morning it was eighteen degrees below zero. The next day 
William E. Baldwin, of Sioux City, came out to go over his claim and asked 
about Fred. They at once began a search for him. The next morning 
nearlv all the men in O'Brien came out and joined in the search. The air 
was full of snow and it was so hazy that men looked like posts. The storm 
increased so rapidly that they gathered into that little cabin. We had some 
bacon and coffee and I had baked up the last of the flour that morning. But 



I did not dare to let them go out without their dinner. Mr. Woods was the 
last to come and he was all but exhausted. I would not hear to their going 
until Mr. Woods came in, but as soon as he came they prepared to go, al- 
though we tried to have them stay. They all started to the sleighs, but two 
of them failed to reach them and came back and had to remain three days 
until the storm abated. The supplies sent for had been forgotten and had 
been left in O'Brien, but we had some wheat for the spring planting and we 
cooked that. The thought of Fred was uppermost in mind, and for a month 
Mr. Woods kept up the search, going each day in 'the direction we heard the 
wolves the night before. It was a month before he was found, and then the 
snow had melted so that our neighbors, a mile away across the creek, 'had 
to go three or four miles to get over the stream. Nearly everybody in the 
country were at the funeral. The people who went to O'Brien in that storm 
would have perished had it not been for Sylvester Parish, a man with such 
a keen observation and a long experience on the prairie that in that traveler's 
waste of snow he kept the proper bearings and, with Mr. Waterman to drive 
the team, they reached their homes in safety. The men who came out to us 
at that perilous time were, as I remember, Hoel Gibbs, Russell G. Allen, 
George Parker, Lionel Worth, John Patchin, Henry (Hank) Smith, Horace 
Gilbert, George Younde, George Hillen (the two who remained), Uncle 
George Johnson, who had just come to the country, and the names of others 
I cannot recall. I think there were several more. An inquest was held in 
Liberty township, where Fred was found. A bill of expenses gives the names 
of the jurors as T. J. Field, Aaron Brown and A. Caldwell, witnesses, John 
Richardson, Sidney Viers and C. Fields, and the name of the coroner not 
given, date April 9, 1870. For years the lights were set in the windows on 
dark nights. 

Letters were coming in rapidly relating to lands. The lands in the 
county were not in the market for pre-emption, homesteads or purchase until 
the 6th day of July, 1870. Again and again Mr. Woods told the settler that 
it was of no use to go until that da}' to Sioux City to secure the claims upon 
which they had filed. They went on and secured their papers, and the in- 
dignation of some of them was so great against him (of course he wanted 
all that land himself) that they organized to do him bodily harm. Mr. 
Woods, who took out papers for several parties, spoke often of what a 
calamity would soon come upon the county for fifty or sixty homesteaders 
to lose their claims or be compelled to buy off those who on the morning of 
the 6th of July laid money against them. In September or October of 1871 
Mr. Woods learned, while he was filing papers in Sioux City, that patents 


were about to be issued for lands near us. Asking for a list of the lands, he 
received it, and while making a copy of same heard suggestions made that 
reacted seriously upon the one who made them. Without waiting to conclude 
his own business, Mr. Woods returned to the county, went to the home of J. 
C. Doling, who came home with Mr. Woods and spent the night with us at our 
home. In the early morning they left for Sioux City and went at once to 
Joy & Wright, attorneys, who told them to organize and make the fight 
together, that it would take an act of Congress and a thousand dollars. Mr. 
Doling at once returned home and sent word, to all those who were in the 
list Mr. Woods had given him to meet at Payne's store and they organized 
the "O'Brien County Land League," with J. C. Doling, president, and Ed. 
C. Brown, secretary. There were sixty-one homesteads involved, and all 
joined but one, and he was the only one to lose his homestead. 

But to go back to 1870. A man appeared one day with a shovel, with 
a tin pail hung on it, over his shoulder. He wished to locate a claim in 
Baker township. Mr. Woods had other parties to locate first, so he would 
have to remain a few days. He wanted to do some work to help pay for the 
surveying. My father suggested next morning that he might fix some horse 
troughs. He said that "it was his Sunday" and he should not work. The 
next morning he was ready to work, when my father told him it "was his 
Sunday," so between them the work was never done. It left an item to 
laugh over. 

In the early fall I returned to Davenport. Mr. Woods had paid Mr. 
Crego for brick to build a house and they were hauled up to the place, but 
were found to be worthless. So another log cabin w r as built, this time on the 
homestead. While in Davenport I had disposed of everything that I thought 
we could do without and shipped the rest to O'Brien county, including the 
piano and library, each of which I believe were the first to reach the county. 
When I reached here later the goods were in the cabin, but there was hardly 
room to sit down, so some of the things helped to furnish other cabins. 

In the fall of this year 1870 my father, Daniel H. Wheeler, and I came 
down from William E. Baldwin's, three miles away in Highland township 
(they built the first cabin in that township). My father wore, as he had 
always done, a "stove pipe hat." We noticed as we neared the cabin that a 
new camping outfit was nearby. It seems they had arranged for Mr. Woods 
to go with them to survey out a claim the next day. L. B. Healy came from 
Cherokee ; they had on white shirts and their best clothes. Just before dark 
a top buggy came from Cherokee way with two well-dressed gentlemen. 
Our son, H. C. Woods, long known among the early settlers as "Bub" Woods, 


came in from the O'Brien way. It was a beautiful, clear, moonlight night. 
and about nine o'clock. R. B. Crego came up with a gay team with white 
fly covers. He had with him a man who came at once into the house, and 
H. C. went out, and he and Air. Crego put the horses away. The curtains 
were all put down. That night affidavits were made by at least two men 
who knew all about how the county debt had been created, because they were 
part of those in the work. They would only come under the strictest secrecy, 
and were brought by R. B. Crego. 

The next morning there was no sign of the campers we had seen. A 
few days later we heard of them as being at Ben Hutchinson's store in Car- 
roll township. They were greatly excited and felt that they had made a 
narrow escape from some great peril. They declared that there was a nest 
of robbers or counterfeiters down at that place where they stopped. When 
Air. Hutchinson heard where it was, he said, "Oh, those were homesteaders 

gathering in at night." "Homesteaders, h , homesteaders don't wear 

stove pipe hats, and white shirts and ride in top buggies ; why teams were 
driving in from every way and late at night, too." "We bein' warned against 
that Woods in O'Brien and we lit out of there."' 

. The constant complaints from new settlers and from those who had 
invested money here and man}- cases where the deeds for the land which 
they had did not describe land in O'Brien county or any where else, and so 
many homesteaders who had to pay eighty to one hundred dollars to parties 
who had "laid money against the land." made some organization among the 
new settlers necessary. The first of these was the "Board of Emigration," 
of which the faithful Stephen Harris was secretary. After the affidavits 
were secured, which were seen only by a few, the conditions were laid before 
the attorney-general of the state; indeed he had been consulted previously. 
He said the remedy was simple and plain, and under his direction a petition 
was prepared which every voter in the count)', except the officers and the 
ex-officers, signed, and it was sent to the attorney-general by private hand. 
Immediate action was promised. The people waited in almost breathless 
suspense. Two weeks later a county official told one of the petitioners "that 
the petition would never be heard of again, somebody had fixed him with 
three hundred and twenty acres of land." It seemed incredible, but that 
was all that was ever heard of it. Two years later a board of supervisors 
was elected, called the reform board. Here was another opportunity for 
the people. A resident taxpayer wrote to the Iowa Railroad Land Company 
that the people were determined to make another effort to wipe out the illegal 
debt. They replied that if the board of supervisors would stand by them 


the}' would pay all costs of litigation. Co-operation was promised by the 
committee on defense. The attorney for the Iowa Railroad Land Companv 
had been here some time at work when a stub book of the county which he 
was examining and all of the papers were stolen, and he left in disgust and 
no efforts were made for their recovery by the supervisors. 

In the postoffice in O'Brien in the earlv part of December, 1871, Air. 
Woods opened a marked copy of a paper published in Denison, Iowa, and 
was surprised into exclamations and protestations, as he read that the school 
sections of O'Brien county would be put up for public sale on a certain day 
very near at hand. Why was this sold in the dead of winter? And "why, 
if for sale, were these lands not advertised in the Sioux City papers, where 
the land office was, and where people looked for such things?" There were 
a few moments of vehement talk pro and con, but no time was to be lost. A 
Meet team carried him to Cherokee to catch the afternoon train to Sioux City. 
The next morning he took breakfast with his old friend. Gen. X. B. Baker, 
in Des Moines, who then went with him to the home of Governor Merrill, 
who was just going to his breakfast as they arrived, but stopped to greet 
General Baker, who introduced Mr. Woods and stated the object of his 
coming. Mr. Woods handed him the Denison paper marked. He read it, 
asked a few questions, then dictated a telegram to the attorney-general to 
proceed at once and stop that sale of lands. Xot many years ago I saw an 
article in a magazine written by Governor Merrill relating to this incident. 
There was another phase of pioneer life. Indeed that life was full of many 

One day a terrible prairie fire swept up from the south. Fire guards 
were nothing and the wind lifted the burning tumble weeds high in the air 
and scattered them everywhere. Within an hour there remained only the 
last cabin that was built and wagon, around which were tied the horses. We 
were asleep when some one called "Hello." When the door was opened 
W. E. Baldwin said, "I heard you were burned out today and I brought you 
half of my oats." On Saturday of that week several teams passed on the 
way to the timber, not an unusual sight. Mr. Baldwin said, "Don't say any- 
thing to Huse, but we are going to stop here." A hot supper awaited them. 
But Huse was utterly overcome when they unloaded those logs and timbers. 
The next day was Sunday and all but one came to put up a shelter for the 
horses (to put their horses in when they came visiting, they put it). These 
men were Ralph Dodge. W. E. Baldwin, Rice and John Weal, M. Wheeler, 
from Liberty township, Mr. Towbermann and Emanuel Kindig, who brought 


two teams that day because he did not like to work Sunday. Those splendid 
men, brother pioneers, God bless them. 

In 1873 the Grange movement reached O'Brien county and nothing- 
came more opportune. July 4, 1874, was celebrated in Waterman's grove. 
All the granges in O'Brien and Buena Vista counties were there, each with 
a beautiful banner. Miss Garretson made the address, Mrs. Baldwin read 
the Declaration, hue music was rendered, a good dinner had and evervbody 
was happy. In Old O'Brien they had frequent dances, with Jake Wagoner 
to play the fiddle and keep time with his foot. Mrs. \Y. C. Green was a beau- 
tiful young matron, Amelia Green, and Teresa and Gertrude, sisters, with 
Mrs. L. G. Healy and daughters, and Mrs. D. B. (Barney) Harmon and 
others made up quite a social set with the young men thereabouts. 


The twice-a-week mail had arrived from Old O'Brien, letters had been 
read, and two of us were happy with new magazines. Mr. Woods, busv in 
the newspapers, suddenly exclaimed. "We must have a public library." 
"Who would support the library? Where would it be kept, etc., etc." "Why 
the people will come fifteen or twenty miles to get reading matter." "It can 
be done and it must be clone." The boy smiled at us and we all resumed our 
reading. Ten days later Mr. Woods returned from Des Moines, where 
business matters had called him. He brought with him a constitution and 
by-laws for a library association and a huge box of books. He had gone to 
an old friend, Adjutant-General Baker, Governor Kirkwood's adjutant dur- 
ing the war, and up to the time of his death the best known man and best 
beloved man in Iowa. Together they worked out the plan to form an asso- 
ciation, limited to fifty members, the stock of same to be five hundred dollars 
and nonassessable and in shares of ten dollars each, the stock to remain in 
the hands of the subscriber, he to pay ten per cent, interest on it each year, 
one dollar a year, this to be used in the purchase of books only. The asso- 
ciation was formed and a few of the members appeared before a justice of 
the peace in Highland township and signed articles of incorporation of the 
N. B. Baker Library Association. The parties were W. H. Woods, Stephen 
Harris, J. C. Doling, Libbie Johnson, Lydia Wmeeler, W. E. Baldwin. Jennie 
Baldwin. Lydia A. Harris, Hannah Johnson and Roma W. Woods. The 
date of this was October 5, 1874, and before D. H. Wneeler, justice of the 

Gen. W. Duane Wilson, of Des Moines, who had been one of the found- 


ers of the Chicago Tribune and was at this time editing some paper in Des 
Moines, writing in reply to a letter, said: 'The idea of your library is fine; 
to prove my faith in it will send you a box of books from my own library." 
That box came and held eighty bound books and six hundred magazines, 
complete files of Harper's, Atlantic, Scribner's, etc. We .tied these together 
with shoe thread and made covers of paper sacks. How we all enjoyed 
those magazines. That first year but thirty-nine members paid the assess- 
ments, but we subscribed for eight magazines, Litt ell's Living Age at the 
head of the list. Harpers, Scribner's, etc., with St. Nicholas for the children. 
The rest of the money was put into books. We had library parties, which 
brought in a little money to pay expenses, and also meetings, with discussions 
and papers. The second year but twenty-six members were able to pay the 
interest or assessment. We left out Littelis Living Age, as too expensive. 
The third year but three were able to pay this assessment, though small, 
J. C. Doling and wife and Stephen Harris. The grasshoppers were here, but 
the books went out among the people, and were never more needed. Letters to 
friends brought boxes of books from Mr. and Mrs. W. C. Brewster, George 
W. Ellis and others. The last thing General Wilson did before his fatal 
illness was to pack a large box of books and they were sent to us by his dear 
wife and daughter. We had to borrow that two dollars from the book fund 
to pay the freight. General Wilson was a man of fine literary ability and a 
"gentleman of the old school." He was an uncle of President \\ 'ilson. Mrs. 
Annie Price Dillon, another friend, sent books and fine pictures of her 
father, Hiram Price, the man who financed the sending of the First Iowa 
Regiment and of her husband. Judge John F. Dillon, of Xew York. Mrs. 
Dillon kept up her interest in the library until her tragic death in the sinking 
of the ship "La Borgaine" in July, 1896. 

Soon after Sutherland was started (up to that time the library had been 
in the Woods cabin) it was moved to Sutherland and during the years had 
to be moved many times. The corresponding secretary went each Saturday 
to give out books. Grateful thanks are due to Bert Hamilton, L. J. Price, 
Mr. and Mrs. H. A. Sage and others for giving the room for the purpose 
and other kindnesses. With all its ups and downs, it has been of constant 
usefulness. A few years ago circumstances compelled the destruction of a 
good part of the circulating library; but that loss has been made good, and 
the library .is doing fine work as a reference library. A permanent home, 
which sooner or later it will have, will place it in the forefront of the literary 
and educational activities of the town. 


This is the story of the pioneer library of northwestern Iowa. At its 
last election the following officers were elected : Charles Youde, president ; 
Sydney Hitchings, vice-president; T. B. Bark, treasurer; Augusta Bark, 
recording secretary, and Roma Wheeler Woods, corresponding secretary 
and librarian. 

The new settlers who came to O'Brien county in the early seventies 
had two good, strong, influential friends in Congress who stood faithfully 
by them. Had it not been so it would have been even worse than it was. 
They were Senators George G. Wright, of Des Moines, and James Harlan, 
of Mount Pleasant, Iowa. 

Petitions were sent to them. Some of the results were a new commis- 
sioner of the general land office in Washington, and a new register in the 
land office at Sioux City, who did what he could in the interests of the 
settlers. But the "boys" just across the hall, and who had made a claim on 
this and that piece of land, were too strongly entrenched and men had either 
to pay the toll or give up the land, as many of them did. But with all the 
annoying matters continually coming up to a man who was in the business 
of locating people on their claims who came to Mr. Woods, tlie pioneer life 
was nevertheless full of satisfactions. 

The hue of the vast prairie, with its ever changing and mysterious 
beauty, gave a broadness to life. One saw men and women as they were, 
<md learned to have a reverence for human nature in the rough or rather 
unfinished ways of what we call civilization. There was alwavs something 
new to be learned and we reveled in the fine spirit of the people, their cour- 
age and endurance. There was always something to laugh about. A little 
incident comes to mind. One late afternoon in September, 1872, there ap- 
peared at the cabin door Mrs. Paul Casley and her mother from the extreme 
west side of the county. "Would Mr. Woods please go with them to O'Brien 
to see Esquire Sage?'' "'Certainly tomorrow." As we took the horse from 
the little wagon on the morrow, a visit to Mrs. Waterman was suggested 
for me. All went well. Mrs. Waterman, as usual, had a cup of coffee and a 
lunch ready. When the party returned from O'Brien and we were ready to 
leave, Mr. Woods suggested that he drive the horse down the hill, to which 
Mrs. Casley would not consent. They started, and we were about to start 
when a scream took us all out to the road. Mrs. Casley was in a great state 
of excitement, but where was the horse and wagon? Why, bless you, in the 
middle of the river. It seems that the old horse that had come so quietly 
behind us down the hills, fording the river and up the hill, concluded that if 
he had to go alone down that long, crooked and extremely rough hill — why, 


he wouldn't go. He made his stand, and Mrs. Casley, giving- the lines to her 
mother, jumped out to head him off, when he bolted and went down that 
awful hill and to the middle of the river before he stopped. The old lady 
fell to the bottom of the little wagon, and the seat and quilts were strung all 
along the way. Mr, Woods waded out to the wagon, and the old lady said, 
"Now did you ever see the beat of that fool horse. I never was so bounced 
in my life and I just expected he'd just go right home that way and what 
would Casley say," laughing just at the thought of it. Finally we got started 
home, the old horse coming quietly behind us. When we reached the cabin, 
there was a good fire and the teakettle was singing and Dr. and Mrs. Butler, 
(his first wife), of Cherokee, were there. Doors were never locked, and 
people were expected to make themselves comfortable even to the extent of 
getting meals. Well, the old cabin rang with laughter that night. The next 
day Airs. Casley left for home, declining company, as there was "neither hill 
nor river to cross the way." Another object of unfailing amusement was a 
jack, a quiet, trim little animal who seemed to have a horror of wetting his 
feet. The mail came to O'Brien twice a week and sometimes Jack was 
pressed into service. There was a clear, running stream, narrow but not 
deep, but Jack would stop and plant his forefeet and look at himself in the 
water, one ear forward, then both. He could not be induced to cross. No 
whip was allowed. The boy soon learned that a pan of corn on the other 
side would make him forget and hustle quickly across. 

In 1873 a line in the Dcs Moines Register said that a bill had been pre- 
sented in Congress postponing the time for completion of the St. Paul & 
McGregor Railroad. In those days there were no telephones or autos, to 
annihilate time and space, but there were fleet young horses out in the shed, 
and a fleet young bay was soon started. A mass meeting was called, a re- 
monstrance drawn up and copies were sent all over the county. It was said 
that every voter in the county signed it. I recall the fact that the two longest 
lists of names brought in were by Joe Jordan and H. C. Woods (known as 
"Bub"). The bill was withdrawn. 

The year 1873 will never be forgotten, by some of us at least, because 
of bank failures, factories closed, great armies of men out of work, and the 
great strike of railroad employees, etc. In O'Brien county, in addition, we 
had grasshoppers. Machinery had been purchased to put the broad acres 
under cultivation. Notes were coming due. Times looked dark indeed. 
Like a vessel looming up over the wild waste of water, bringing hope and 
succor to people stranded on an island, came the grange, with its banner of 


helpfulness and good cheer, and its promise of help for the farmers and 
settlers, promises which were nobly fulfilled. It seemed to take the minds 
of the people from their really serious condition and planted hope in their 
hearts. The meetings held in the school houses were helpful in many ways 
and delightful socially. There was a pleasant comradeship between the 
four granges in O'Brien count}-, and on July 4, 1874, a grange picnic was 
held in Mr. Waterman's grove of fine old trees. Clay county granges came 
with their banners, which, with our home banners and Mags, made a strange 
display in that wildwood. Mrs. Jennie E. Baldwin read the Declaration of 
Independence. Miss Julia Garretson, of southern Iowa, gave a beautiful 
address. There was singing and dancing and games, and where there was 
dancing there was "Jake" Wagoner and his fiddle, keeping time with his 
foot. Mr. Wagoner is now a resident of Sutherland, has a fine family and 
many farms, etc. 

In the fall of 1874 came the formation of the Gen. N. B. Baker Library, 
as stated, and "library parties" were all the rage. A favorable place to hold 
these parties was at the home of Major Chester W. Inman, there being a good 
dancing hall in the third story, large rooms in the second story and ample 
room. The young men from Primghar and the north part of the county used 
to come down, and attorney Charley Allen furnished the music. He was a 
fine violinist. The granges decided to have an evening at the home of the 
special agent, Adam Towberman, who had secured ten quarts of fresh oysters, 
and he invited "all of Primghar", as he said. There were about one hundred 
and twenty-five persons present and every available place that afforded a 
seat was occupied and yet there were many standing, when the host exclaimed, 
"Sit down, why don't you sit down, there's eighteen cheers in the house: just 
sit down". Eighteen chairs were more than any of the rest of us had to be 

In 1876 the promises for a fine crop were never excelled. All kinds 
of grain, corn, etc., were at their best. When the harvest of small grain 
had just begun, the grasshoppers swooped down upon us and destroyed every- 
thing. The corn stalks stood bare and the cattle turned into them were 
poisoned and died. Notes had been put into mortgages. Had the old 
Athenian custom of placing pillars at the corners of mortgaged lands been 
in vogue, the country would have looked like the cemetery it was of buried 
hopes and ambitions. The grasshoppers had deposited their eggs, and in 
the spring of 1877 they hatched out and remained with us until on many 
farms everything was destroyed. On our farm there was not a spear of 
grass left. The homesteads and pre-empted lands were becoming taxable, in- 


terest on notes and mortgages was becoming due. Then also the illegal 
debt upon the county loomed up larger than ever, as it was constantly in- 
creasing. Many of the settlers had to accept help from the state. The old 
members of the "Board of Emmigration" an organization among the home- 
steaders for mutual help, were still interested in the welfare of the people, of 
whom they were a part, and after many consultations decided to make another 
effort to defeat the illegal claims against the county. As a result they or- 
ganized the Taxpayers' Association. In another part of this history J. L. E. 
Peck has given a full and comprehensive account of the organization, of its 
work and final outcome. I may be allowed a few words as to the personnel 
of the leaders of this movement. They were earnest, loyal men, who felt that 
justice and right demanded that an effort at least should be made to relieye 
the people, of whom they were a part, of the fraudulent work under which 
they were living. 

Many eminent lawyers had given their opinion as to the illegality of the 
debt and pointed the way for relief. Everything promised well, when the 
United States circuit court decided that a suit of that kind must be brought by 
the board of supervisors. This board had been appealed to, but had refused, 
so the matter had to be dropped. 

We learned in those trying days how the motives of men could be mis- 
construed, their honesty influenced, and their names tossed about like a 
football. We learned, too, how men's enthusiasm died with a failing cause, 
and promises made considered null. But we also learned how loyal and 
faithful to a cause and to each other some men could be, and this last over- 
shadowed all the rest. The men who never faltered even to the payment of 
bills, which had been necessary to incur ( lawyers do not work without pay) : 
expenses had been kept at the minimum, but became heavy for a few men 
to shoulder. The men who met these claims like men were A. P. Powers, 
Ralph Dodge, Emanuel Kindig, Tom Steele, J. C. Doling, Stephen Harris, J. 
K. McAndrew, William E. Baldwin, W. H. Woods (Huse), IT. A. Sage, and 
Alex Peddie for the Jackson Land Company, and PI. C. Woods. There 
were many others who paid the full amount they pledged, from one to ten 
dollars. I would like to give all their names if it were possible. They did 
an honorable part. 

In the winter of 1 880-1881 the snow was so deep that horses could 
not travel. There appeared at our door one afternoon, late, a man with a 
green veil over his face, a blanket rolled up on his back, and a tall staff 
in his hand. Pie asked if we could take him and his fourteen men for the 
night? "Had thev anv blankets?" "Yes." "Well, we will do the best we 


can for you." As the door closed after the man, my helper said, "What in 
the world are you going to give them to eat? There is hardly bread for one 
supper and nearly everything is out". Hot biscuits, hot doughnuts, fried 
bacon, baked beans and coffee for both meals seemed good to them. 
In the morning the leader asked what his bill was? Mr. Woods said, "The 
madam will tell you," as he turned to me. I said, as usual, "Oh, you are 
welcome to what you have had. I hope you will bring a railroad to us." 
He insisted upon paying, and the sensation of having money in my hands 
in exchange for meals can never be forgotten. I felt as if I was no longer a 
pioneer. T believe I have had the feeling that I was a "grafter." But there 
was something gone that belonged to the years behind. We had both felt 
that what we had we would share with whoever came. I think our neigh- 
bors all did the saint thing. But the next time money was offered it was 
easier to take it. But I am left to feel that it was not often we broke over 
the good old way. The next year the Northwestern, or the Eagle Grove 
branch, ran through the farm and on the next section of land was built the 
town of Sutherland. ( It may be judged who those fourteen men were.) 

I have exceeded the limits of my space allotted and have said nothing 
about the women who did so much toward the upbuilding of the county, for, 
after all. the homes are the foundation stones of the fabric of civilization. 
There was in the heart of each home a woman who was doing her part as 
she knew, as wife, mother and home maker. I can see them now, in their 
little places of shelter, making the most of what they had, encouraging and 
sustaining husbands and sons as the}- tried to meet and overcome the diffi- 
cult problems constantly met by those who were trying to make a home in a 
new country. How happy the women were when there was an occasional 
"gathering," and they came with their children, so neat and clean. There 
were no lines of social cleavage in those days, and there never ought to be. 

There were few settlers in Waterman township, outside of O'Brien, the 
Watermans on the banks of the Little Sioux. Mrs. Waterman is still living 1 
(in 1914) and is always a welcome guest in every house in Sutherland and 
vicinity. The Watermans, when they came to O'Brien county in July, 1856, 
brought with them a little daughter, nine months old, Emily, who in later 
years married Al McClaren, of Sioux City. She was the first white child to 
come into the county to live. In May, 1857, Anna was born, the first white 
child born in the county. Soon after a son was born to Charles Stephenson, 
the first white boy born in the county. The other children born to these 
first settlers were, a son born in January, 1859; another son born in June, 
i860, but lived only a week; Orrin, born in 1861, died in 1871 ; Julia Etta, 


born in June, 1864, married H. W. Gleason and died in 1892, leaving a son; 
Alta G. Waterman, born in 1866, married J. A. Mahar, and they have several 
children: Grant Waterman, born in October, 1869, died in 1870; Floy E. 
Waterman, born in 1872, married in 1899 to F. W. Conrad, and they have 
two sons; Belle Waterman, born March 11, 1876, died in 1899; Blanch 
Waterman, twin sister of Belle, married H. W. Gleason in 1894, who has 
since died. 

The above is only an outline of the life of a very noble type of woman. 
The mother of eleven children, living so many years in the most primitive 
way, was the kind of friend to the hundreds of people who made the W'ater- 
man cabin a stopping place for a short or longer time. Mrs. Waterman is 
in good health at the beginning of this year 191 4. 

Another remarkable pioneer woman was Mrs. Adam Towberman. 
Mr. Towberman had three sons by a former wife, and Mrs. Towberman had 
five children by a former husband, who died in the Civil War. Then there 
were four children by the new family, making twelve children in the family. 
She was always a quiet, self-possessed woman and a true mother to each of 
these twelve. 

Another woman who did a great work in the early days in the county 
was Mrs. William E. Baldwin, or better known as Mrs. Jennie Baldwin. 
She was one of the first teachers after the new settlers came in. There are 
many men and women who owe much to Mrs. Baldwin for her interest in 
their education. She was a bright, witty woman, and she and her husband 
were our most frequent guests. 

Another family who were among our best friends were Mr. and Mrs. 
Julius C. Doling (the former once county treasurer), with their family of 
eight children. Mrs. Doling was a devoted wife and mother. There were 
many others, but these were those who came most often at our place. 

In Waterman township there are quite a number who still own and live 
on their original homestead claims, and some of them with many additional 
acres. Silas Steele and wife, splendid neighbors and friends, are among 
them. They and their large family are all settled and prosperous. Rice 
Weal still owns his original claim and much more, and lives in town. Mr. 
and Mrs. Michael Sweeney, in their old age, and their large family are all 
settled about them, mostly in Waterman. Mrs. Sweeney is a veritable queen 
in all the delightful gatherings in the township, a noble woman of high ideals. 
The Martins, Hills and Tripletts, three large families, are all settled in fine 
homes with autos. Waterman is a rich township, and I wish it were pos- 
sible to speak of each and every one in* it. 



By Mrs. C. V. VanEpps. 

It has been my privilege to live in Carroll township, or near it (in town 
of Sheldon), for over forty-one years, and when requested to write up the 
history and give experiences as one of the earliest settlers, I gave reluctant 
consent and felt I was not equal to the task. When I look back and think 
and see of the changed conditions that have taken place in that time, it seems 
more of a dream than a reality, and in looking back, trying to recall some 
of the events of the early settlement period, I am at a loss to think of things 
that would be of interest in this historical book, but was to tell how I came 
to the township and who were the earlv settlers and some of the events 
which transpired at that time, and as some of these events come up in my 
mind I will try to write something which I hope may prove interesting. 

When the writer came to the county, September 12, 1872, there were 
no railroads in the county and her husband met her at Marcus (which then 
consisted of just a shanty for a depot), with what you call a "prairie 
schooner" to drive across the country twenty-two miles to Carroll township 
to their claim. In all that rule there was nothing to be seen until you got to 
the Amos Sutter and Harley Day ranch — just a dug-out — and when the men 
saw the "schooner" they ran out waving their hands and hurrahing for the 
woman, as they were a sight in that part of the township then. As we drove 
on, a jack rabbit bobbed up on the prairie and stopped and looked, as much 
as to say, "Who are you, treading on my domain ?" That was all the life 
seen on that twenty-two-mile drive. The first settler of Carroll township 
was Patrick Carroll, who came from Illinois and brought his wife and eight 
children with him in the spring of 1870, not knowing when he started just 
where he was going — only to find and make a home for himself and family. 
Northwest Iowa was about the limit and nearest place where government 
land could be found at that time. So Air. Carroll headed for northwest 
Iowa and landed in Cherokee, when he began to enquire of the land — and 
he was referred to "Waterman," Mr. Carroll supposed it was a town and 
started to drive and kept watching over the prairie to see a city. After 


driving a long while and seeing no signs of a town or anything else but vast 
prairie, he arrived at Mill creek, where he met two teams and stopped to 
chat and inquire for Waterman. Imagine his surprise when he was told 
there was no town of that name, but there was a man by the name of 
Hannibal Waterman holding down a claim and had a shack built on it a 
ways back. Air. Carroll turned round his team and drove back and found 
the Waterman place and they camped there for the night and had to dig to get 
water for his teams and family to nse. The next morning they drove north- 
west and came to a shack in Baker township. These shacks were the signs 
that the claim was taken up. This proved to be Wallace Rinker's and 
Austin Sutter was there and was starting out with several teams of oxen to 
find breaking to do for settlers, and when Air. Carroll enquired for land he 
was told of section 34, where no one had located, and so he located the family 
on the south half of the southeast quarter of that section. The first thing 
was to dig to see if water could be found, as the cry then with the few settlers 
was so little water and hard to find. About the first thing was to dig in some 
slough or low piece of ground and if you found water then the settler was 
happy. Air. Carroll found water and so took off his wagon covers and used 
that for a habitation until he got a dugout or shack built, into which he 
moved his family that fall. 

When we think of those dugouts or shacks now, it is hard to realize 
how one lived. There was a hole dug down three feet or more in the 
ground and then a frame of whatever you could get made over that and some- 
times only the sod ( which was very tough) cut in squares and built up. 
There were no floors, or partitions, unless made of bed quilts. The writer 
has stood on six inches of snow in one of these dugouts and done washing 
for the sick who owned it. But I can not help but say there was more general 
happiness to be found in some of these shacks than was found in their more 
pretentious homes afterward, when so many began to feel, and showed it, 
that "I have a better home now than you have." 

But, to come back to Air. Carroll, the township was not named yet and, 
he being the first settler and proving to be an honorable man, they named it 
in his honor. This was in 1870. That fall Mr. Mennig and the Donovans 
came to the township. Air. Mennig brought his family from Davenport, 
Iowa, in the spring, but had lived in Waterman township through the sum- 
mer and had contested a claim on the southeast quarter of section 18, in 
Carroll township, and it was decided in his favor and he settled on this 
claim in the spring of 1871, and he or his boys still own it, Mr. Mennig hav- 


ing retired to a modern home in Sheldon after a long life of hard work. 
He has deeded his land of several hundred acres to his three children and 
he and wife have moved to Sheldon, with a large competency to keep them 
in their old age. In the year 1870 William Butterfield and Charles Albright 
came out from Durant, Iowa, to spy out the land, of which its vast prairies 
and wonderful sunshine had began to be noised about. Mr. Albright selected 
his land in Highland township, while Mr. Butterfield homesteaded on its 
southeast quarter of section 4, Carroll township. They then returned to 
Durant and told of the wonderful country, where milk and honey flowed and 
gold was to be found for the picking up. They were very much enthused 
over this wonderful land and tried and did imbue this same spirit in others, 
so much so that in the spring of 1871 eleven men in all came to view this 
wonderful country and most of them settled in Carroll township. The 
writer's husband, C. A". Van Epps, and M. G. McClellan being two of the 
party that drove across the state in June from Durant, Iowa, and home- 
steaded on the east half of section 10 in Carroll township, each settling on 
one hundred and sixty acres, as both w r ere soldiers and entitled to that much. 
They hired Charles Butterfield and Johnie Miller to break twelve and six 
acres respectively on each claim and then they traveled back home, and in 
September, that year, had to come again to make some improvement, so as 
to hold their claims. Arriving here, they went over into Lyon county, along 
the Rock river, and got poles to make a frame for stables and covered them 
with prairie grass, Van Epps leaving a corn plow and two stools in his and 
McClellan leaving something on the same order to show the claims had been 
settled on. Then, in the spring of 1872, all these men brought their families, 
and in that year the land in the township, or mostly all, was taken up. In 
the northern part of the township the claims were inhabited with families 
and there was quite a colony of settlers who had mostly come from or near 
the same place (Durant, Iowa). The writer came September 12, 1872, her 
husband preceding her to get something to live in. He had hauled lumber 
from Cherokee and got a home fourteen by eighteen, twelve-foot posts, built. 
but as vet no windows or doors. Rag carpet hung over the openings at 
nights to protect you from the cold air, the house being only sheeted up. 
The writer helped weather board it and what a time we did have to make a 
stair way so as not to have to climb a ladder. YYe lived seventeen years in 
that home, with few improvements, as happy as any years of our lives. The 
settlers thought nothing of driving ten or twelve miles in a day to visit or to 
help each other when work was on hand. 

The winter of 1872 and 1873 was the hardest of all for the settlers in 


Carroll township, as they were not prepared for the cold winter, no houses 
being plastered and the prairies being one vast plain of land, not a tree or bush 
to mar one's vision as far as the eye could see. The bleak cold northwest 
winds penetrated every crack or crevice of our homes and many had not even 
the clothing they ought to have had to protect their bodies.. Fuel was hard 
to get, as the Omaha & St. Paul railroad, the first in the county, had only 
gotten as far as Worthington and was blockaded so much of the time that 
they could not get coal into the county ; only a very few settlers anyway, had 
money with which to buy fuel. So prairie grass (some few had a little 
corn) was resorted to as fuel. The 9th of January. 1872, when the first 
blizzard raged over the township, nine of the settlers in the northern part of 
the township had gone to Waterman creek, near Cherokee, or to the Rock 
river near Rock Valley, to gather wood or chop down green poles to bring 
home for fuel. O what aching hearts there were at that time, for some of 
these settlers did not get home for a week, their families not knowing 
whether they were frozen to death or not, for there were no roads and 
when there was snow on the ground nothing to be seen to guide you. 

So what dark days we did see, especially when the diphtheria broke out 
among the children and the settlers' teams with the epizootic. Xo doctor 
in the county and no one hardly to look to for help, as each family had all 
thev could do to help themselves. The writer has gone fourteen miles, when 
they came after her, to help in sickness, the cold winds blowing a gale and 
the snow being two feet deep on the level, with drifts four and five feet piled 
up, and no signs of a road and the track being filled in as fast as you could 
get over it. Bedding was taken along to keep you warm and a scoop shovel 
to dig out the horses when they mired down in the snow. 

The first school house in the township was built on the soutlnvest corner 
of section 3, and the first teacher in it was Mrs. Dr. Cram, of Sheldon. 
Rev. H. D. Wiard had taught a school in the shack he lived in the winter 
before on the Will Ridell homestead on section 10. the scholars, some of 
them, coming from nine to fourteen miles and staying through the week with 
the settler. Rev. H. D. Wiard preached the first sermon in Carroll town- 
ship at the home of Dan McKay, who was located on section 6, in August. 
1872, and from the time of that first sermon the first church that was built 
in O'Brien county sprang up and is now the Congregational society of 
Sheldon, it sprang up from small beginnings, as large trees from acorns 
stow There were six members in the church, four of these in Carroll 



township. In September, 1912, that church celebrated its fortieth anni- 
versary, which we will record in this history. 

[The following reminiscent sketch of the history of the First Congrega- 
tional church, from its beginning, in Sheldon, Iowa, August 18, 1872, to 
September 29, 19 12, was prepared by Mrs. C. V. Van Epps, and read by 
Mrs. F. E. Frisbee on the fortieth anniversary of the church's organ- 
ization.- — Ed.] 

We of the Congregational church extend greetings to all the dear people 
who meet here tonight, to help us celebrate this the fortieth anniversary of 
our church. The Lord made the mountains and the hills ; He made the 
oceans and the dew drops; He made nature's garden to blossom as the rose; 
He also made the prairies of O'Brien count) - , Iowa, for its first settlers to 
live in. 

We also knew, that in order to prosper, there must be a place for these 
people to worship that God who had done so much for them. So, in the 
year 1872, when there were only a few straggling settlers on these prairies, 
there was a young minister, Rev. H. D. YYiard, who had come from Mich- 
igan, with his young bride, and, you might say, who had come to prepare the 
way for this, our beautiful church of today, since it was through his untiring 
energy and faithfulness that the first church of northwest O'Brien county. 
Iowa, was built. 

The first church service was held on the 1 8th of August, 1872, at the 
Dan McKay ranch, which is now the Louis Younger place, one mile south 
of Sheldon. The building consisted of a room fourteen by sixteen feet, 
without plaster, and with no cupola or porch. There were six Congrega- 
tional members present and, I believe, were all the church members in these 
parts at that time. These members were Rev. Wiard and wife, M. G. Mc- 
Clellan and wife, and William Butterfield and wife. The writer and hus- 
band did not belong to this church at that time, and, in fact, the writer was 
not at that first service, though her husband was. I had not yet arrived at 
my iovelv prairie home ; mv husband was ahead of me at the home and at 
this service, as the men always try to be ahead of the women, and perhaps 
for our good. 

From that time on the work of the church was in the hearts of the 
people, but there are only a very few of the dear people of today who know 
and can realize the hardships the settlers' of that time had to endure. When 
the seeds were planted and began to grow, and we began to think, now we 
will have gold to pick up, King Grasshopper would appear and always took 


first choice. But Brother Wiard stood by us, and, with prayer and words of 
encouragement, ever kept the need of a church before us. In the winter of 
1872 three prayer meetings were started and kept up weekly, the first being 
held at the M. G. McClellan home, the next at Butterfield's, the next at 
Van Epps', and so on. On May 10. 1873, there were seven other names 
added to the church roll. The church was incorporated January 29, 1874. 
with the name, the First Congregational church of Sheldon, Iowa, and from 
that time on, you might say, the word was, Go! On the 21st day of Septem- 
ber, 1874, a building committee was appointed, and on the 10th day of 
September, 1875, a contract with builders was signed. The carpenter work 
was done by Mr. Walker and the masonry by George Berry. The first 
work was done on the church September 24, 1875% and on December 20th, 
of the same year, the church was completed, lacking but the seats. The first 
seats used were simply rough boards, supported on nail kegs. In spite of 
the backache that came from sitting on these seats, it really seemed harder to 
get new seats than it was to build the church. In the building and furnishing 
o'f the church many sacrifices were made and much hard work done, every 
honest method conceivable being used to get money for this purpose. I 
recall a mush and milk social given at the Benjamin Jones home, when each 
one dipped in a spoon, at so much a dip. The first money raised to build the 
church was in the winter of 1874. It was by a social held upstairs, where 
the Hollander drug store now is. Mrs. M. G. McClellan and myself baked two 
large cakes and brought them to the social and succeeded in selling them for 
sixty dollars. This was the way it was done. A beauty contest was made 
Over the cakes, and the contest lay between a newly married woman, Mrs. 
J. A. Brown, and a voting, unmarried woman, now Mrs. Dr. Cram. The 
decision of the contest was left to the vote of the people, a stated sum being 
charged for the tickets used in voting. The (infatuated) husband, of course, 
looked after his wife's interests, and in this was supported by other married 
men. The young men undertook the care of the maiden, but from lack of 
experience or money, or both, they fell down in the undertaking, and the 
married men got the cakes. 

The Congregational Church Building Society furnished four hundred 
dollars toward building the church, providing the members and friends would 
do the rest. The lumber for the church was bought of Mr. Wycoff, who 
then had what is now Strong's lumber yard. The first marriage in the 
church was a double one, July 2, 1876, being Frank Piper and Miss Eva 
Bronson, and M. Cook and Miss E. Brush. There was no friction in those 
days between the members and the pastor of the flock and harmony was the 


rule, and the people were justly proud and much pleased with their new 
church, which had sprung from such a humble beginning". It was unpre- 
tentious, but quite comfortable, and was built on the surface of the ground, 
and heated by stoves, but in 1888, through the generosity of Air. Aborn, a 
lecture room with basement apartments, including furnace and stone founda- 
tion was added, and then we were a much pleased people. 

In the spring of 1874, after the church was regularly incorporated, with 
Rev. W'iard ordained as pastor, and before the building of the church, 
services were held in the dining room of the new Sheldon Hotel. Mrs. But- 
terfidd was organist and Mrs. A. B. Johnson, Eva Bronson (afterward Mrs. 
Frank Piper) and Charlie Kent composed the choir. The first Sabbath 
school was organized in the room over where now is Kollander's drug store. 
I do not recall who acted as superintendent but believe it was the Reverend 

I have forgotten just when the first Ladies' Aid Society was formed, but 
think it was along in the eighties. At any rnte it has always been of material 
assistance in the upbuilding of the church. 

Brother W'iard remained with us until 1875 and there came after him 
in the following order these pastors: Rev. Palmer. 1876-77; Rev. South- 
worth. 1877-83; Rev. Brintnall. 1883-88: Rev. Cole, 1888-90; Rev. Hanscom. 
[890-93; Rev. Cummings, 1893-99; ^ ev - Bray, 1899-08: Rev. Westlake. 
from September 1, 1908, up to the present hour. In the year 1900 the mem- 
bers, seeing the need of a larger church, secured subscriptions for that pur- 
pose and in May, 1901. work was begun on this our present structure. The 
Ladies' Aid Society did splendid work toward raising the money needed, 
and we now feel greatly pleased with our church home, which is free of 
debt. Our membership numbers two hundred and forty-six resident mem- 
bers, representing one hundred and forty-five families. During the present 
pastorate upwards of ninety have united with the church, over one thousand 
two hundred dollars improvements have been made in and on the building 
and paid, while a parsonage has been purchased, on which there is still some 
indebtedness. The records of this church, covering a period of six or seven 
rears, were burned in a fire which destroyed Mr. Wvman's house, where 
thev were kept by him as a church official. All we can make known con- 
cerning those years we must furnish from memory, and there are but few 
of the old workers left who have recollection of the doings of that period. 

One thing comes to rav mind, t must not fail to mention, as it shows a 
fine record for a small child. In the summer of 1875 Maggie Jones, now 


Mrs. Eggart, began playing the organ, when she was so small that she had 
to be held on the organ stool. Mrs. Butterfield taught her to play the hymn 
tunes, and for six years, until she started off to school, she never missed a 
Sunday in her playing. T must also mention that Benjamin Jones and Mr. 
Parkhurst donated the stucco for the plastering of the church, and some one 
donated an old chair for pulpit use. and after a time Mr. Jones gave the 
cane seated chair now in use in the lecture room, to take the place of the 
old chair. 

Mr. and Mrs. Jones, although not enrolled as church members, have 
been with us from the first and helped us in many ways by counsel and gifts. 
After the addition of our lecture room to the first church. Mr. and Mrs. 
J. J. Hartenbower donated our present pulpit. Among others who have had 
a share in our hardships and today have the most reason for rejoicing are the 
\\ 'inslows, Mrs. A. D. Johnson. Mrs. Frank Hollenbeck, the Bassetts. Mrs. 
Cram and Mrs. W. L. Avers. 

Many, many of our most zealous workers have gone to their reward, 
but I feel that their spirits look down upon us today and know the good thev 
have done. Other faithful ones have moved elsewhere, but are not for- 
gotten. This paper may contain some mistakes, since memory is not alwavs 
reliable, some records are not available, and those who could have aided my 
memory are in a better world. I ask your pardon if this paper has seemed 
tedious to you. and express the wish that you may find as great happiness in 
church work as I have found. 

Every other section in Carroll township was what they called railroad 
land. It had been taken as a right of way by the Omaha & St. Paul or the 
Chicago & Milwaukee railroad. These sections were not open to the settlers, 
but mam squatted on them and made quite extensive improvements. Then 
when the land came in market some of them could buy it, while others tried 
to hold on by their squatter rights. In the meantime others would buy it over 
their heads and they would have to give up and lose all their improvements. 
Carroll township land is now worth from one hundred and fifty to two 
hundred dollars per acre, and in the years of 1873-4-5 and 6. during the time 
of the grasshopper reign, I have known men to offer their land and every 
thing thev had for five hundred dollars, to get the money to get out of the 
country with. There are not many of the first settlers of Carroll township 
left, some having left the county and a few still living, but the silent grave 
vards hold the most of them. 



The first infantile banking enterprise in O'Brien county was at Old 
O'Brien in 1869, when John R. Pumphrey made arrangements with Weare 
& Allison, bankers at Sioux City, giving him the right to draw checks and 
drafts on them in their name on their correspondents. Air. Pumphrey never 
opened up a business building as a bank there. Indeed the account as kept 
there at Sioux City, of the checks, drafts, etc., was the only record. Prior 
to that the only use for a bank had been at Cherokee and Fort Dodge, but 
not by any direct drafts, as Mr. Pumphrey for the first time in the county 
was given the right to do. Mr. Pumphrey opened up his first bank in a 
small frame building on the sire of the present Hub hotel, in Primghar, in 
the latter part of 1872 or first part of 1873. 

We have stated, and shown elsewhere in this history, that Mr. Pumph- 
rey's bank, which he called the Exchange Bank, was in reality but little more 
than a clearing house in handling public funds, both county, township and 
school, and in the buying and selling of county warrants and bonds, putting 
them into judgment and speculating on the margins and profits on same. It is 
true that he also filled the small needs of a bank in the eastern and southern 
parts of the county. AW- will not dwell longer on that feature. As B. F. McCor- 
mack and Air. Pumphrey each said at sundry times to the writer, they "had 
to do and take part in the business that was going on or they would have no 
business to do." About every dollar of public funds in the county in the 
first instance passed through his bank and his very ordinary bank safe. Air. 
Pumphrey was a ready penman and kept a neat record, was himself a home- 
steader, an old soldier, but never really discovered the full definition of 
public funds. To him they were funds to be used in all classes of public 
business and were so used generally by himself and by him loaned to others 
in the county. In fact, the public funds was the only banking capital. 

prlmghar's banks. 

John R. Pumphrey and Ed. C. Brown were the first bankers in the 
county. Air. Brown in the first instance had been a clerk in Air. Pumphrey's 


bank. In real fact they had studied up the matter together and, so to speak, 
taught each other, during the same months in banking, with a view of each 
starting a bank, Mr. Pnmphrey at Primghar and Mr. Brown at Sheldon, 
which was carried out later, each in a common frame building perhaps 
twenty to thirty feet in size. Neither had ever had any banking experience 
even in a small town. 

Mr. Pnmphrey started a set of abstracts of title and commenced on a 
land list and paid taxes for nonresidents. Mr. Pumphrey's experience was 
not quite equal to the severe strain through a trying period from 1872 to 
1 88] in Primghar and the county. He and A. J. Brock, and later on \V. C. 
Green, and still later J. G. Chrysler and his store and bank and public funds 
became much intermingled. In 1881 Mr. Pnmphrey sold his bank to Schee 
& Achorn (George \Y. Schee and Clinton E. Achorn), who conducted it 
until 1883, when they sold to Slocum & Turner, composed of George R. 
Slocum and Frank A. Turner. Following this year, for six years Mr. Tur- 
ner was clerk of the courts, but later on moved to Salem, Oregon, where he 
has since engaged as an attornev at law. Mr. Slocum developed into one of 
the real far-reaching banking men of the county. Mr. Slocum, with O. H. 
Montzheimer and II. W. Smith, had much to do in developing and laying 
the later foundations for what became the First National Bank. 

Isaac W. Daggett, in 1877. started a bank in a small building, about ten 
by sixteen feet in size, in Primghar. Mr. Pnmphrey often sported the fact 
that Mr. Daggett run a two-by-four bank and kept hogs and fed them him- 
self. But the curious fact followed that Mr. Daggett made himself rich and 
Mr. Pumphrev broke up. Mr. Daggett did not participate in the debt and 
county warrant dregs, though his banking business was smaller than that of 
Mr. Pumphrev. 


Sometime about the year 1888 a young man moved to Primghar, with 
his father, from a farm in Baker township, a man who was destined to, and 
has since, become one of the main bankers in Primghar as well as in the 
county. We refer to Ralph Hinman, the son of Hon. John F. Hinman. for 
two vears a member of the Iowa State Legislature from this county. The 
son, then just past his majority, was first a clerk and then cashier in the 
Primghar State Bank with George W. Schee. Later on he. with William 
Archer, John H. Archer, John F. Hinman and George R. Whitmer (later 
to include D. H. Smith, J. L. E. Peck and L. D. Collier), organized the 


Primghar Savings Bank, with William Archer and Ralph Hinman as mana- 
gers. Still later Air. Hinman sold his stock to William Briggs. 

About 1897 Mr. Hinman and George R. Whitmer organized the Farm- 
ers Bank as a co-partnership, and conducted it for some time. Later it was 
reorganized as the Farmers National Bank, which was conducted as such 
until 1904. when its assets were sold to and incorporated in the First Na- 
tional Bank. Mr. Whitmer was a successful financier, and during these 
periods served two years in the Iowa State Legislature. 

The First National Bank was organized in 1889. and Mr. Hinman later 
became engaged with George R. Slocum and others therein. This exper- 
ience, running through all these years, developed Mr. Hinman into a ripe 
and substantial banker. Mr. Hinman has for some vears been cashier of 
that bank, and since January 1, 1913, he has been its president, with Roy 
King promoted to his place as cashier. 

Returning to the bank of Mr. Pumphrey, he sold it to Schee & Achorn 
in 1881, and they, in 1883, sold to Slocum & Turner as in part stated above. 
Schee & Achorn conducted a very extensive real estate department with this 
bank. They were also financial agents in the rebonding of the countv debt 
in connection with Reiniger & Balch, bankers of Charles City. Iowa. 


In 1886 George W. Schee, in connection with Frank Frisbee, Fred 
Frisbee, Ed.C. Brown, Dr. C. Longshore, J. E. Van Patten, C. S. McLaury, 
E. F. Parkhurst and J. L. E. Peck, and Rudolph Blankenburg, now mayor 
of Philadelphia, organized and incorporated the Primghar State Bank, with 
W. J. Lorshbough, and later on in the same vear, 1886, J. L. E. Peck as 
cashier, who continued as such until 1890. and was then followed by Fred 
Whitehouse, and still later by Ralph Hinman as cashiers, respectively, for 
the years up to 1894. 


In 1894 the Primghar State Bank and its good will was sold or rather 
reorganized into the present Primghar Savings Bank by William Archer, 
John H. Archer, John F. Hinman, George R. Whitmer and George W. Schee 
and L. D. Collier and later by William Briggs and J. L. E. Peck. The long 
experience of William Briggs as an accountant in large business, together 


with the still longer experience of his father, Stephen Briggs, president of 
the First National Bank of Clinton, Iowa, for a lifetime in business, and 
bringing to it the support of large financial properties in the background by 
each of these parties, brought to Primghar what are now, with the First 
National Bank, two solid banking institutions in the town. 

Be it remarked here that both George W. Schee and John H. Archer 
have figured largely in many of the banks of the county. 

A statement of the Primghar Savings Bank would not be complete 
without special mention of the services of its three cashiers, William Archer, 
1). H. Smith, and Lester T. Aldinger. William Archer laid substantial foun- 
dations in its organization and first years. D. H. Smith came to the bank 
with seven vears' experience in the Bank of Archer and prior to that several 
years in the bank at Marcus. The bank was equally fortunate in a successor 
in Lester T. Aldinger, who had had an experience of eight years with all the 
banks of the count} - as count}' treasurer. 

We can not close the hanking history of Primghar in a better way than 
to state the rapid advancement of its youngest banker, Roy King. On 
January I, 1913, Mr. King was by its directors elected cashier. He had 
stepped direct from his high school graduation in the Primghar public schools 
to a prominent place as .1 clerk in the First National Bank. He was at once 
recognized as a coming representative of banking throughout the county. 
Jt has been truly remarked that Mr. King was a banker and accountant 
from the beginning. 

Charles Hinz and Harold Metcalf, of the First National, and Charles 
Kopp, of the Primghar Savings Bank, are assistants in the two banks. 


Sheldon, in proportion to her size in population, her railroad facilities 
making her a distributing point and other favorable conditions, has four 
banks. It is not merely in numbers, however, that we speak. The property 
valuation is well up toward the million mark. It is a high compliment to 
the bankers of Sheldon, but the same can apply quite universally in the 
county, when we say that those bankers have practically all grown up with 
the growth of the county, and made their success and their fortunes in 
O'Brien county with the two or three exceptions in northwestern Iowa. 
There have been but little importations in banking circles into the county 
They therefore understand its needs. 



The oldest and first hank in Sheldon was what later became the Sheldon 
Bank and still later the Sheldon State Bank and established by Ed. C. Brown. 
It was first started in the small frame building of very modest size. Sheldon 
and Primghar were platted the same year, and its two first banks started 
nearly simultaneously. This bank developed into large proportions. Air. 
Brown was a man of a large conception of a real bank and banking, even 
though he did fail later. He enjoyed a large banking constituency and grew 
in figures and sizes of transactions until the year 1003, when, unfortunately, 
his bank failed. This has, happily, been the only bank failure in the county. 
It went into the hands of a receiver, R. \Y. Ady acting in that capacity. Its 
assets and proceedings were in the courts for several years. Air. Brown had 
participated in many of the public affairs of both county and town of Sheldon 
for thirty years, and was state railroad commissioner for three years. He 
had erected a fine banking building of stone. He seemed to have reached a 
climax. The remark was often made, "As good a banker as Ed. C. Brown."' 
No banker ever in the county could write a more terse, condensed business 
letter of instruction on a business transaction of any kind than he. He 
scarce ever wrote a letter longer than two-thirds of a common letter sheet, 
but it was always remarked that he expressed every necessary item and never 
used a word more. He had dealt with substantial things for thirty years. 
He had been tested and by the public judgment pronounced a success. His 
failure was a great surprise. He had been both an old soldier and an old 
homesteader. His bank in the courts paid a dividend of seventy-three per 
cent. In this article we can only mention his long career as an historic item. 
It was seriously to be regretted that a man so gifted should have met with 
such a misfortune to both himself and the public. He was indicted for em- 
bezzlement and his trial by a jury lasted one week, and he w T as acquitted. 
But we must turn to our better sides of banking again. 


We strike a better chord in the First National Bank of Sheldon. With 
due courtesy to all others in the county, we think it will be conceded as 
admittedly the first, the largest, and the nearest approach to a city and 
metropolitan bank of either of the twenty banks in this county. Both its 
deposits and its loans amount to practically three-quarters of a million dol- 
lars. Indeed it is to a merited extent a bank of deposit, and bank drafts 


drawn upon it are much in circulation. Its former president. W. M. Smith, 
did much to establish its solid foundations. By reason of an unfortunate and 
severe railroad injury he was compelled to cease active work in banking. Its 
present president, Fred E. Frisbee. and the family of Frisbee brothers, Frank 
and Fred Frisbee, John McCandless and John II. Archer and others have 
added a large strength. 

The First National Dank started at a time when there was great need 
of more banking capital to assist in developing the new country, and in 
February, 1888, began business in a modest way with the following directors: 
George \Y. Schee, president; J. E. Van Patten, vice-president; C. S. Mc- 
Laury, cashier; Frank Frisbee, John IT. Archer and W. M. Smith. The 
board were all men who had other large business interests which took their 
entire time, and it was intended the first officers should serve only until such 
a time as a suitable manager of banking experience could be found who could 
give his entire time to the business. The man they selected was W. ML 
Smith, a successful banker of several years' experience, who was cashier of a 
bank at Mil ford, Iowa. He moved to Sheldon early in 1889, and at once 
assumed the active management of the business. 

Mr. Schee, who lived at Primghar, sold his entire interest at the time, 
and C. S. McLaury was elected president; Frank Frisbee, vice-president, and 
Messrs. Van Patten, Archer and Fred Frisbee, directors. These men were 
large land owners and men who were verv successful in all their business, 
and immediately gave the bank a prestige for stability which has always 
staved by it, and the bank was known from the first as a Frisbee-Archer- 
Smith institution. 

Money was scarce and deposits small, and consequently banks were 
limited as to the business they could do. In July, 1890, the capital was 
850,000 and deposits only $37,000, when Fred E. Frisbee, a young man just 
out of the public school, accepted a position as clerk under Cashier Smith, 
and for a number of years these two men were the only persons actively en- 
gaged in the bank. 

Mr. McLaury continued as president until 1895, when he sold his in- 
terest, and Frank Frisbee was made president : J. E. Van Patten, vice-presi- 
dent ; W. M. Smith, cashier, and Fred E. Frisbee, assistant cashier; John H. 
Archer and Fred Frisbee, directors, and the bank has continued under the same 
management until this day, with some changes in officers as the older men 
shifted responsibilities onto younger shoulders. 

The only break in the ranks was in 1905. when Mr. Van Patten died. 


In 1903 AW M. Smith was elected president: J. H. Archer, vice-president: 
Fred E. Frisbee, cashier, and in 1910 Air. Smith, feeling he wanted to be re- 
lieved from active duty, retired as president, being" made chairman of the 
board, with Fred E. Frisbee. president and manager; J. H. Archer, vice- 
president ; F. W. Bloxham, cashier ; F. L. Barragar, assistant cashier ; Frank 
Frisbee and Fred Frisbee, directors. Air. Bloxham entered the bank in 1899 
as a bookkeeper, having previously been employed as deputy postmaster, and 
as a clerk in the Sheldon Bank. Air. Barragar came to the bank as book- 
keeper in 1907. 

At the present time the bank has a capital of $100,000; surplus, $50,000; 
deposits, $900,000, with resources of a million and a quarter dollars. It has 
paid semi-annual dividends from the very beginning and is one of the strong 
banks of Iowa. 


The oldest bank now in Sheldon is the Union Bank, established in 1882, 
by its president, George W. Sherwood, and William H. Sleeper and A. W. 
Sleeper. Like the place that John H. Archer fills in the First National as one 
of the large farmer stockholders and directors, so ATr. Sherwood has for a 
generation filled a similar situation in the Union Bank. This bank is a 
private or partnership bank. The partners in individual responsibility stand 
for a half million dollars. 


The Sheldon National Bank as now conducted was organized by James 
F. Toy, of Sioux City, and is among a large number of what is known as the 
'Toy Banks," associated as branch banks in northwestern Iowa. Associated 
in this bank is Hon. W. C. Kimmel, ex-state senator of this district. 


In 191 2 Sheldon was well represented by three banks, national institu- 
tions, and a private bank, but did not have a state or savings bank, and in 
January of that year local capitalists started the Sheldon Savings Bank in the 
building formerly used by the old Sheldon Bank. The new institution is a 
growing bank with $30,000 capital, and deposits of $100,000 and is backed 
bv some of the most substantial men in Sheldon. The officers are William 


Myers, president; Dr. \Y. H. Myers, vice-president; E. B. Myers, cashier; 
John Versteeg, assistant cashier; Dr. F. L. Myers, John H. Archer and Fred 
E. Frisbee, directors. 

Messrs. Frisbee and Archer are also interested in several other banks in 
the county, and Myers Brothers are among the most successful and conserva- 
tive real estate owners in Sheldon and the president, William Myers, is owner 
of a large and successful department store. All are men who give stability 
and standing to any institution of which they may be connected. 

sanborn's banks. 

Sanborn has two banking institutions, each under state incorporation. 
The first bank in Sanborn was established by Isaac W. Daggett. In 1878 
Mr. Daggett moved his small banking office from Primghar, together with 
his safe and residence building, his removal being concurrent with the build- 
ing of the Milwaukee road. That winter, with Henry C. Lane and Dr. C. 
Longshore, each of Sheldon, as partners, he opened up the hrst bank in the 
town, then as Mr. Stocum expressed it, "Lariated out in the prairie grass. '' 
Later Mr. Daggett sold out his interests to Marker & Green, composed of 
William Harker and J. L. Green, bankers and land dealers from Ida Grove, 
which was continued until Mr. Green retired. Then Mr. Harker conducted 
it as a private bank. A little later, in 1803, it was organized by William 
Harker, Ezra M. Brady. J. H. Daly and others as the First National Bank 
of Sanborn. On May 26. 1895. Mr. Harker died in the very prime of a suc- 
cessful and honored life. The First National Bank was continued until 
[899, when it liquidated by desire of its stockholders, and was re-established 
as the Sanborn Savings Bank by W. W. Johnson. Ezra M. Brady. J. A. 
Johnson and W. M. Smith, president of the First National Bank of Sheldon, 
and others, under the immediate management of J. H. Daly as president 
and J. A. Johnson as cashier. 

In the spring of 1881 Isaac W. Daggett again started a bank on the 
present site of the Sanborn State Bank, which, in 1882, he sold to the Ellis 
brothers (C. D. and A. E.) and George B. Davids and Morton Wilber, who 
organized and incorporated same as the Sanborn State Bank, with Morton 
Wilber as cashier and manager. Mr. Wilber was perhaps one of the most 
exacting and conservative bankers ever in the county. Thus Isaac W. Dag- 
gett, in a sense, was the founder of both of Sanborn's two strong banks. Its 
present management is Peter Yelie, president, and W. A. Solon, cashier. 



The Bank of Paullina was prganized and opened its doors for business 
un the first day of August, 1883, with John Baumann as its first president 
and owner of the capital stock. Owing to the failure of his health. Air. 
Baumann, on the first day of February, 1885, sold and transferred his in- 
terest in the Bank of Paullina to John Metcalf & Company, consisting of 
John Metcalf and J. D. Simpson, John Metcalf being president and J. D. 
Simpson, cashier, and owing to growing business, in 1886, John V. Adkins 
entered the bank as bookkeeper and continued under this organization about 
six years. 

On Jul}- 26, 1892, the bank was reorganized, being still known as John 
Metcalf & Company, the members of the firm being John Metcalf and John 
V. Adkins, J. D. Simpson retiring from the firm. 

In 1903 John Metcalf & Company erected the splendid bank building 
and brick block, which would lie a credit to any city in the state of Iowa, and 
where the business of the Bank of Paullina is carried on at the present time. 
In 1908 John Metcalf died, and John V. Adkins became the president, and 
W. C. Metcalf, vice-president, George Raw. cashier, and H. C. Page, assist- 
ant cashier. Under the provisions of the will of John Metcalf, the bank 
should continue business under the old firm name for a time, and it is so 
conducted at present. 

The Bank of Paullina has always enjoyed the full confidence of the 
people and has steadily grown under the sound, judicious, conservative and 
safe management of the owners and officers, until today it stands as one of 
the strongest banks in northwestern Iowa. Throughout all the vicissitudes 
of pioneer days and repeated panics, the Bank of Paullina has stood firm 
and reliable, ever ready to serve its patrons and customers, while many other 
strong banks were compelled to temporarily suspend business until the panic 
passed. Very much of the permanent growth and ever-increasing prosperity 
of the bank may be traced to the skillful, painstaking and untiring efforts of 
the president, John A'. Adkins, and the never-failing courtesy and business 
ability of its cashier. George Raw. 


The Farmers State Bank of Paullina w T as organized March 31, 1886, 
with a capital stock of twenty-five thousand dollars, approved by state offi- 
cials. George Hakeman was its first president, and Stephen Harris its first 


cashier. A certificate of incorporation was issued to it by the secretary of 
state, on June 6, [886, and the bank commenced business at once. It is 
truthfully said that the hank has been an illustration of good, careful man- 
agement, and has made a splendid growth through the years since its organi- 
zation, and the proof of this is made certain by the examination of one of its 
official reports to the auditor of state, as by law provided, showing deposits 
of the sum of $296,204.32, which clearly indicates that the people of this 
community have unbounded confidence in the bank, in its management and 
its officers. 

This growth of the financial condition of the bank has been stead}' from 
the day of the opening of its doors, and the conservative management by its 
able cashier, George W. Harris, son of the first cashier, with the counsel and 
advice of James F. Toy, its president, has made it a monument of solidity in 
the financial world, a financial institution that has been able to and prepared 
to serve its patrons, even in the most trying times of panic and financial dis- 
turbance. It is a proper and just boast of the banners State Bank that it has 
individual responsibility of over one million dollars, and in proof of this 
statement the names of James F. Toy, William Cain, Henry Hibbing, C. F. 
Myer and John Ginger, as directors, are submitted, all men of wealth, integ- 
rity and first-class business ability. The offices of the Farmers State Bank 
are in its building, corner of Main and Broadway streets, Paullina. 

One of the best evidences of solidity and permanency is the business 
courtesv existing between the farmers State Bank and the Bank of Paullina, 
and it has been one of the most pleasing features of our banks that they have 
always been willing to come forward and back any enterprise started for the 
good of the town of Paullina, each bank being willing to do more than its 
share of carrying the financial responsibility on all occasions, and the fra- 
ternal spirit of our banks has materially helped to place it in the very fore- 
front of the prosperous towns of Towa. 


In T882 Frank Patch and Mart Shea started a private bank, which was 
later changed into and called the Peoples Bank. Like Sheldon, Hartley has 
four strong banks. In 1886 the present Hartley State Bank was organized 
and incorporated by Frank Patch, Mary E. Colby, Freeman R. Patch, John 
W. Cravens and James F. Cravens. Frank Patch was one of the pioneer 
bankers in the county. He was on the ground with the prairie conditions 
and is still there in the county with his own prosperities. Frank Patch was 


one of the men who jumped up out of the prairie grass into a bank and made 
it permanent. He succeeded not only in making himself and his bank per- 
manent, but therein assisted in making Hartley permanent. Special notice 
should be made of the fact of this one lady banker. Airs. Mary E. Colby, real 
estate owner, invester and business woman. She was not such merely in 
name, but in an all-around reality, in the fact that through all the years she 
has passed judgment upon her own large, among the largest, property trans- 
actions in the county, and her's has been one of the most prominent successes 
in the count}-. 

A little later, in 1893, was established the First National Bank of Hart- 
ley, by E. T. Broders, \Y. J. Davis, H. T. Broders and J. H. Bordewick. 
This group of financiers have not only established a permanent banking in- 
stitution, but have likewise dealt in mother earth, that has made solid so 
mam- private and bank fortunes in the count}', and have also taken part in 
the upbuilding of Hartley and the county. Hartley enjoys two railroads 
and has probably the largest acreage of trading territory of either town in 
the county, especially to the northeast. Though not as large as Sheldon, this 
fact, with other energies, has made four banks possible. 

This same group of men, at least in large part, in 1903 established the 
co-operating Farmers Savings Bank, to meet some conditions in the large 
farming constituency not otherwise provided, it being conducted in the same 
building as the First National Bank. 

Hartley, like Paullina, has a very large German population, suggesting 
what was established in 1903 in the German Savings Bank. Its articles of 
incorporation were executed and organization effected October 4, 1902, by J. 
T. Conn, G. E. Knaack, George R. Whitmer, Ralph Flinman. George \Y. 
McFarland, J. H. Hass, Theodore Miller, John hick, J. H. Voss, George 
Bader, Henry Ruwe and William T. Yoss. Its president, J. T. Conn, had 
been county attorney one term and county auditor four years. G. E. Knaack 
is its cashier. 


The Moneta Savings Bank at Moneta is an affiliated bank of the First 
National Bank of Hartley. This bank was established in 1907 by local. capi- 
tal. Its first and present president is W. J. Davis : its first cashier was Albert 
Bierkamp, and its first vice-president, D. S. McNaughton. The first bank 
building was burned in the great fire of March 8, 19 10, but was immediately 
rebuilt. The present bank building is of concrete material, amply reinforced 
by steel rods. Ninety per cent, of the stock in this bank is held by persons 


residing in the vicinity of Moneta. The present capital is $10,000;; surplus 
and profits. v$3,ooo; deposits, about $90,000. The officers in 1913 are W. J. 
Davis, president; P. M. Schoelerman, vice-president; W. A. Burlett, cashier; 
C. L. Burlett, assistant cashier. 


The town of Sutherland has two banks, the Sutherland State Bank and 
the First Savings Bank. 

Sutherland has its banking foundations in original O'Brien county pro- 
ductions. William P. Davis for many years in the early day resided upon 
and personally farmed his large section farm on section 36, in Dale town- 
ship. A. J. Sieh, associated with Mr. Davis, has" had a long experience in the 
lumber business and T. B. Bark as both banker and investor, have held up 
their contributions in its management. The Sutherland State Bank was 
organized September 15, 1886, by \V. P. Davis, D. M. Sheldon and C. E. 
Achorn. Prior to that E. E. Brintnall had conducted a bank connected w-ith 
other parties. 

Two of the officials of the First Savings Bank, Ralph C. Jordan and 
Clay P. Jordan, were each raised from childhood on their father's large 
farm in Grant township, and thus learned first the farm needs in the county. 
Ralph C. Jordan is now a member of the board of supervisors and is thus 
dealing with finances in this still larger field. The elder Samuel J. Jordan 
laid the first foundations and the bank has well earned its popular name of 
"Jordan's Bank." 

It can thus be seen that the present six main managers of Sutherland's 
two banks literally "dug themselves up" out of the black O'Brien county soil. 


This is one of the strong banks in one of the lesser towns. It was 
founded by D. H. Smith in 1898 and was reorganized in 1901 by John Ff. 
Archer, William Briggs and D. Ff. Smith. Though a private bank, it is one 
of the safest in the county. The individual ownership by John H. Archer 
of about three thousand acres of high-value land laying adjoining and sur- 
rounding Archer, stands out in land security to every stockholder and de- 
positor as a bond. D. Ff. Smith was its cashier for its first seven years. We 
have already called attention to one peculiar feature that our bankers have 


grown up and make their test of success in the county. This is true not 
only relating to Mr. Archer, hut likewise as applies to W. J. Sinyard, its 
present cashier, who came to this bank from Summit township, just east of 
Archer, and had been for several years in the service of the Illinois Central 


This bank was organized October 2. 1909, by the filing and execution of 
articles of incorporation by Henry B. Lake, Norman W. Salisbury, Theodore 
Taacks. Hans Peterson, N. C. Wilkinson, R. X. Wilkinson, C. F. Reifsteck 
and Charles Schnoor, with a capital of $10,000. It now has a surplus of 
$2,500 and owns a good bank building. Its present officers are president, 
F. W. Martin : vice-president, Henry B. Lake; cashier. C. F. Reifsteck. 


This bank was established as early as 1885 by that family of bankers, 
composed of L. Reifsteck, president; George Reifsteck, cashier, and C. F. 
Reifsteck. assistant cashier, with a capital of $10,000. Later on, in 1910, 
C. F. Reifsteck. with others, organized the bank at Gaza as shown. 


The Empire Loan and Investment Company, of Sheldon, was organized 
September 12, 1885, by George W. Schee and C. S. McLaury. While this 
institution was not strictly a bank, yet it performed many of the functions 
of a bank. For many years, both as conducted by C. S. McLaury, who for 
years had the personal management, and later when it passed under the man- 
agement of John McCandless, it probably made as many real estate loans, 
not only in O'Brien county, but in many adjoining counties and in Minne- 
sota as any one Eastern loan company doing business in the county. 

The company continued as the largest farm loan company in O'Brien 
county for twenty years, in the meantime passing into the control of John 
McCandless and E. B. Starrett. After the expiration of its charter in 1905 
it still continued in the same business, but as a private company owned by 
John McCandless and his wife, Kate L. McCandless. 

Iowa laws being changed in 1913 granting extended powers and privi- 
leges to loan and trust companies, allowing them to act in more of an in- 
dividual capacity as guardians, trustees, and executors of persons and estates, 


as well as allowing them to buy and sell real estate, make farm loans, and 
write insurance, Mr. McCandless decided to reincorporate his business and 
take in some new stockholders, and some younger men to assist him in the 
management, and in January. [914, he took out a charter as the Empire 
Loan and Trust Company with paid-up capital of $50,000, and with the fol- 
lowing officers and ■ stockholders : John McCandless, president; E. B. Star- 
rett, vice-president; E. C. Starrett, secretary; C. O. Button, treasurer: Fred 
E. Frisbee, John H. Archer and Judge W. D. Boies. 

O'Brien county has indeed a substantial banking plant, if we may lie 
.allowed that expression. The whole banking system of the county may be 
said to be embodied in a solid groundwork. Indeed we can scarcely name a 
single large wind-bag, chuck hole, scheme or visionary promotion in which 
any large capital is invested within the county. The investments by its 
bankers and citizens have been largely either in loans to men owning farms 
in moderate amounts, or invested in the land itself, which can neither be 
burned up or stolen. The chances are very few for even small losses. This 
is true in an unusual degree in this count) as compared with many localities. 
These large surpluses now set apart more than amply furnish this securitv 
even to its stockholders. A large part of the bank stock of the whole countv 
would sell for from one dollar and a half to two dollars for each dollar of 
bank stock outstanding. The very fact that there are no banks and scarce any 
hank stock for sale in the county evidences this reliability and security of the 
banking system in the county. While it may be somewhat statistical in figures 
and names, we will close this chapter on banking with a complete list of its 
banking institutions showing their presidents and cashiers and other officials, 
the amount of capital stock, the amounts of surplus, deposits and loans, with 
the correspondents on which bank drafts are drawn. 

In round numbers, it will be seen that the total capital stock of banks 
issued in the county is six hundred thousand dollars, with a surplus of three 
hundred thousand dollars. In other words, the banks of the county have set 
apart a surplus or reserve fund equal to one-half the amount of its capital as 
additional strength to the several banks and likewise as a security to its 

The total deposits are about four and one-half million dollars. The out- 
standing loans or bills receivable are practically in the same amounts. We 
give this list of banks and officials below and write this chapter on banking 
as showing the substantial men who have had in the past and now handle 
the large property transactions of the county. 


In addition to these actual managers of the banks, we call attention to 
the fact that each bank of the county has a long list of farmers owning bank 
stock in these several institutions, which, when we realize the fact that each 
farmer owning a quarter section of land is worth twenty-five thousand dol- 
lars, and these farmers owning larger farms in many cases, we may appre- 
ciate the force of these statements. Land investment is solid and safe. 

This being an agricultural county, its bankers and citizens in their in- 
vestments have naturaly followed the farm and landed idea. Practically all 
the bankers and capitalists in the county have for thirty years been con- 
tinually investors in land in Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Dakotas and other 
western states and Canada. The older farmers, as they have grown in 
wealth, with families of boys and girls to be provided for, have followed the 
same trend and invested in the cheaper lands, that the children, too. might 
follow in their footsteps and grow up with those newer states. 

For instance, the single combination of George R. Slocum, O. H. Montz- 
heimer and John Metcalf and others associated with them have opened up 
sundry separate tracts of new lands in Minnesota and Wisconsin, in single 
bunches of more than forty thousand acres and other lesser tracts. Air. 
Schee, Mr. Patch and many others have handled and settled up, by induce- 
ment to settlers, tracts in the thousands of acres. They thereby not only 
made much money themselves, but in result acted as financial guides to pur- 
chasers, in many cases financing these purchasers for many years and se- 
cured homes to many who could not otherwise have secured homes. We 
doubt if a dozen counties in Iowa have contributed more largely in success- 
ful and actual development of large tracts than those who have gone out with 
their funds from O'Brien count)-. We might name other syndicates within 
the county who have financed similar enterprises, as for instance, Oliver M. 
Shonkwiler, W. P. Davis. W. J. Davis, Frank Patch, T. B. Bark, John H. 
Archer, William Archer. Ralph Hinman. J. L. E. Peck, William Briggs, 
George W. Harris. George Raw. John V. Adkins,' H. R. Dealy. J. H. Daly, 
William Harker. J. L. Green, George R. Whitmer, Frank Teabout, Elmer 
E. Hall, Allen Crossan, W. W. Artherholt, Clarence W. Ingham, W. A. 
Rosecrans, W. S. Armstrong. John McCandless, D. H. Smith, Joseph 
Shinski, L. T. Aldinger, the Myers Brothers, Frank and Fred Frisbee, Jur- 
gen Renken, C. S. McLaury, and many others too numerous to mention. 

This banking strength, being largely backed by land and landed values 
and land ideas, has given our banks a land specie and coinage value that 
places all estimates and valuations above par in dollars and cents. 

It can indeed trulv be said that O'Brien is the one county where everv 


farmer runs a bank and where every banker runs a farm. It can farther be 
truly saitl that O'Brien county brains, and O'Brien county capital, and 
O'Brien county dollars, and O'Brien county farming manual labor, has ac- 
cumulated, developed, marshaled and "Pierpont-Morganized" the large pro- 
perties of the county into cue great banking house, represented in twenty 
banking institutions, well distributed in our towns for the general farm and 
agricultural benefits 



First National Bank — Number 785: established, [889; president. H. W. 
Smith: vice-president. O. H. Montzheimer ; cashier. Ralph Hinman; assistant 
cashier. R. M. King; capital, $25,000; surplus, $26,000; deposits, $280,000; 
loans, $280,000. Correspondents. Corn Exchange National Bank, Chicag< », 
and Security National Bank, Sioux City. 

Primghar Savings Bank — Number 786: established 1894; President, 
William Briggs ; vice-president, John H. Archer; cashier, L. T. Aldinger; 
capital, $30,000; surplus. $9,000 ; deposits, $165,000; loans, $175,000. Corre- 
spondents, Corn Exchange National Bank, Chicago: First National Bank, 
Sheldon, and People's Trust and Savings Bank, Clinton. 


First National Bank — Number 307: established 1888; president, Fred 
E. Frisbee ; vice-president, John PI. Archer : cashier, F. W. Bloxam ; assistant 
cashier, F. L. Barrager ; capital, $100,000; surplus, $50,000; deposits, $750.- 
000 ; loans. $700,000. Correspondents, National Park Bank, New York ; 
Continental Commercial National Bank, Chicago, and First National Bank. 

Sheldon National Bank- — Number 307 ; president, James F. Toy ; vice- 
president, W. C. Kimmel; cashier. W. E. Clagg: assistant cashier, Delko 
Bloem; capital. $50,000; surplus, $5,000; deposits, $180,000; loans, $180,000. 
Correspondents. Fort Dearborn National Bank, Chicago; Northwestern Na- 
tional Bank, Minneapolis; Commercial National Bank, Sioux City, and Mer- 
chants' National Bank, Cedar Rapids; established, 1905. 

Sheldon Savings Bank — Number 1694: president, William Meiers; vice- 
president, F. L. Myers; cashier. E. B. Myers; assistant cashier. John Vesteeg; 


capital, $30,000; deposits, $40,000: loans, $50,0000. Correspondents, Na- 
tional City Bank, Chicago, and First National Bank, Sioux City; established, 
19 1 2. 

Union Bank — Number 306; president. G. W. Sherwood; cashier, W. H. 
Sleeper; individual responsibility, 8300,000. Correspondents, First National 
Banks, Chicago and Sioux City: established, 1882. 


Sanborn Savings Bank — Number 563: established as such. 1898; estab- 
lished as private bank by Harker & Green. 1878: president, J. H. Daly; vice- 
president. Fred E. Frisbee ; assistant cashier, J. A. Johnson; capital. 825,000: 
surplus. 8 1 6,000; deposits. $257,000; loans. $221,000. Correspondents. 
Continental National Bank, Chicago; First National Banks, Boone and Shel- 

Sanborn State Bank — Number 502; established, [883; president, Peter 
Velie; vice-president, A. J. Shea: cashier, W. A. Solon; capital, $25,000: 
assistant cashier, G. M. Solon; surplus. $2,000; deposits, $175,000; loans, 
$155,000. Correspondents, Corn Exchange National Bank, Chicago, and 
First National Bank, Council Bluffs. 


First National Bank — No. 93; established 1893; president E. F. Broders ; 
vice-president. W. J. Davis; cashier, H. T. Broders; assistant cashier, J. H. 
Bordew ick : capital, $50,000; surplus, $25,000: deposits, $275,000; loans. 
S290.000. Correspondents, Continental Commercial National Bank, Chicago; 
Des Moines National Bank, Des Moines; Cedar Rapids National Bank, Cedar 
Rapids, and First National Bank, Sheldon. 

Farmers Savings Bank — No. 598: established 1903: president, Henry 
Schmoll; vice-president. H. C. Voss : cashier, H. T. Broders; capital, $10,000; 
surplus, $5,000; deposits, $95,000; loans, $85,000. Correspondents, Durant 
Savings Bank, Durant ; First National Bank, Hartley. 

German Savings Bank — No. 597; established 1902; president, j. T. 
Conn; vice-president, Wm. T. Voss: cashier, G. E. Knaack; assistant cashier. 
Wm. Greenwaldt ; capital, $20,000; surplus. $12,000; deposits, $250,000; 
loans, $240,000. Correspondents. Continental Commercial National Bank, 
Chicago ; Iowa National Bank, Des Moines : Merchants National Bank, 
Cedar Rapids. 


Hartley State Bank — No. 505: established [882; president, Frank 
Patch: vice-president. D. A. Patch; cashier, F. R. Patch; capital, $50,000; 
surplus, $15,000; deposits, $290,000; loans. $300,000. Correspondents, 
National Bank of the Republic, Chicago; German Savings, Davenport. 


Moneta Savings Bank — No. 1477; established 1907; president, \V. J. 
Davis; vice-president, P. F. Schoelerman; cashier. W. A. Burlet ; assistant 
cashier, C. L. Burlet: capital, $10,000; surplus, 82,000; deposits, $65,000; 
loans, $60,000. Correspondents, Continental Commercial National Bank, 
Chicago; First National Bank, Hartley. 


Bank of Archer — No. 2230: established 1895; president, John H. 
Archer; vice-president, William Briggs; cashier, W. J. Sinyard; individual 
responsibility, $500,000. Correspondents. Corn Exchange National Bank, 
Chicago: First National Bank. Sheldon. 


Farmers Savings Bank — No. 1399; established 1910: president, F. \Y. 
Martin; vice-president. H. B. Lake; cashier, C. F. Reifsteck; assistant cashier, 
R. W. Webster; capital, $10,000: surplus. 85.000: deposits, $51,000; loans.. 
$50,000. Correspondent. National Bank of the Republic, Chicago. 

Calumet. y 

Bank of Calumet — No. 1231 : established 1885; president, L. Reifsteck; 
cashier, George Reifsteck; assistant cashier. C. F. Reifsteck; capital, $10,000. 
Correspondent. National Bank of the Republic, Chicago. 


Bank of Paullina — No. 745; established 1883; president, J. Y. Adkins ; 
vice-president, W. C. Met calf : cashier. George Raw; assistant cashier, H. C. 
Lage ; capital, $50,000 ; surplus, $100,000 ; deposits, $390,000 ; loans, $427,000. 
Correspondents, First National Bank, Chicago; Security National Bank, 
Sioux City ; Merchants National Bank, Cedar Rapids. 


Farmers State Bank — Xo. 746; established 1886; president, J. F. Toy; 
vice-president, William Cain ; cashier, George W. Harris : assistant cashier, 
A. H. Myer; capital, $25,000; surplus, $13,000; deposits, $236,000; loans, 
$215,000. Correspondents, First National Banks, Chicago and Sioux City; 
Cedar Rapids National Bank, Cedar Rapids. • 


First Savings Bank — No. 829; established 1883; president, S. J. Jordan; 
vice-president, Ralph C. Jordan ; cashier. C. P. Jordan ; assistant cashier, E. 
C. Briggs; capital, $25,000; surplus, $7,200; deposits, $160,000; loans, 
$158,000. Correspondents, Hanover National Bank, New York; Con- 
tinental Commercial National Bank, Chicago; Security National Bank, Sioux 

Sutherland State Bank — No. 830: established 1886; president, W. P. 
Davis; vice-president, A. J. Sieh ; cashier, T. B. Bark; assistant cashier, H. 
N. McMaster; capital, $40,000; surplus, $3,000; deposits, $245,000; loans, 
$240,000. Correspondents, Continental Commercial National Bank, Chicago; 
First National Bank, Sioux City : Iowa National Bank, Des Moines. 



There have been two courts of record in Iowa. The district court, 
having general jurisdiction of civil and criminal matters, existed prior to the 
organization of the county. In 1868 the circuit court, having exclusive juris- 
diction in probate matters and concurrent jurisdiction with the district court 
in civil matters, was established. The circuit court was abolished in 1886. 

The district court had exclusive jurisdiction in criminal cases. Since 
1886 the district court has had exclusive jurisdiction of all court matters, 
including civil, criminal and probate cases. 

At the organization of the county it belonged to the fourth judicial dis- 
trict, which was then composed of twenty-two counties in northwestern Iowa. 
Later it was contracted to include Lyon, Osecola, Sioux, O'Brien, Cherokee, 
Plymouth, Woodbury, Monona and Harrson counties. In 1886 Harrison 
county was set off into the Council Bluffs district. The remaining counties 
composed the district until March, 1913, when the six northern counties were 
set off to constitute a new district — the twenty-first — leaving Monona and 
Woodbury composing the fourth judicial district. Judges Boies and Hut- 
chinson are sole judges of the new twenty-first district. 

Following is the schedule of district judges who have held office since 
organization of the county: Asahel W. Hubbard, Woodbury county, 1860- 
62; Isaac Pendleton, Woodbury county. 1863-66; Henry Ford, Harrison 
county, 1867-74: Charles H. Lewis, Cherokee county, 1875-1890; Scott M. 
Ladd. O'Brien county, 1887-96; George W. Wakefield, Woodbury county, 
T887-1905; Frank R. Gay nor, Plymouth county, 1891-13; Anthony Van 
Wagenen, Lyon county, 1892-94: John F. Oliver, Monona county, 1895; 
William Hutchinson, Sioux county, 1897; J- L. Kennedy, Woodbury county, 
1905-06; David Mould, Woodbury county, 1906; William D. Boies, O'Brien 
county, 1913. 

Asahel W. Hubbard held the first term of court in this county, and on 
March 2^. 1861, issued an order fixing the first term to be held June 3, 1861, 
"to continue in session two days if the business required it." No record of 
any such term being made in the court minutes, it is safe to say that business 


did not require it and the term was not held. April 24, 1862, a similar order 
issued fixing the term to begin June 9. 1862, and continue for the same length 
of time. This term was held according to the order and was of course held 
at the first county seat. Old O'Brien. The court officials were H. C. Tiffey, 
clerk, and G. Hoffman, sheriff. Henry Gollickson, Knude Stennerson and 
Christian Johnson, formerly citizens of Norway, presented themselves for 
naturalization and upon taking the oath of allegiance and fidelity to their 
adopted country, were granted certificates recognizing them as full-fledged 
American citizens and entitled to vote as such. In those days citizens were 
sorely needed and courts, being less strictly limited by law and watched by 
federal inspetcors, were very lenient in granting letters. A comparatively 
slight examination was required as to their qualifications. 

On the afternoon of June 10, 1862. the second day of the term, judg- 
ment was entered by default against defendant in the suit of Kellogg and 
Kirby versus Adolph Wehrmann, for the sum of four hundred and forty- 
nine dollars. Greeley Gale & Company secured a decree against F. 
Wehrmann et al.. setting aside a deed that had been executed by Adolph 
and Augusta Wehrmann in favor of F. Wehrmann, conveying two thousand 
one hundred and sixty acres of land in what is now known as Omega, Lin- 
coln and Summit townships, and establishing the lien of a certain judgment 
against the lands. The records were then read, approved, and signed by the 
trial judge and court adjourned. 

Judge Hubbard served as a member of Congress from this district after 
the end of his judicial career, his congressional experience extending from 
1863 to [869, inclusive. He was a prominent and distinguished pioneer citi- 
zen of and identified with the beginnings of Sioux City. He built the first 
hotel and organized the first railroad company in that vicinity. His son. 
Elbert H. Hubbard, who finally succeeded him in Congress? was well and 
favorably known to the later generation in this district. 

Following this term there seems to have been a hiatus in judicial practice 
in the limits of the county. Settlers were few and far between; business, on 
account of war, was more or less depressed even in well populated centers, 
and not a line of record appears during a period of over seven years, except 
the occasional filing of a transcript of judgment from other counties to this 

Isaac Pendleton, a judge in this district, never held a term of court 
here, so far as the record shows. He was born in 1833, located in Sioux 
City in 1858 and resided there till his death, July 17, 1896. He was elected 


to office in 1802 as a Republican, but afterwards became a Democrat. 
Brilliant in his literary attainments and learned in his profession, eloquent 
and possessing a wide knowledge of the common affairs of life, he was an 
able and powerful advocate of any cause he espoused, and was for many 
years the leading advocate in northwestern Iowa. He may better be said to 
be the founder and father of the Republican party in northwestern Iowa than 
any other man. He was a member of the ninth General Assembly, a presi- 
dential elector in the second Grant campaign and held many other places of 
trust and honor. He was a noble man. of brilliant mind, of great power, and 
of the kindliest sympathies; noble in ambition and aspiration and noble in his 
dealings with his fellow man. 

Henry Ford, who had removed from Keosauqua, iowa, to Magnolia, 
Harrison count}, in Maw [860, served one term as district attorney and 
three terms as district judge. [867-1874. Judge Ford's first term in the 
countv was held in November, 1870. The commencement of the term had 
been assigned for the second day of the month, but. on account of delay in 
arrival of the judge, it was not actually held until the 26th. The first fore- 
closure of a mortgage noted in the county court records was entered Novem- 
ber 26, 1870, when Webb Vincent, a Fort Dodge baker, secured judgment 
against R. B. Crego and wife, foreclosing a mortgage amounting to four 
hundred and fifty-nine dollars and costs against the northeast quarter of 
section 36 in Waterman township. August 25, 1871, James and John Shoup 
secured judgment against C. W. Inman and R. B. Crego and wife, foreclosing 
a mortgage against lots 10, n, 20 and 21 in town of O'Brien and also the 
north half of the northwest quarter of section 36, Waterman township. At 
the same term John L. Xicodemus secured a similar decree against Crego's 
interest in two hundred acres on the same section for an indebtedness aggre- 
gating one thousand dollars. On this same date Webb Vincent secured the 
first judgment ever entered against the county in the local court. It was for 
the sum of two thousand five hundred and three dollars. A. X. Bostford, of 
Fort Dodge, was attorney for the plaintiff and Eugene Cowles. of Cherokee, 
appeared for the county. This case was contested. The judgment was after- 
ward satisfied in full. 

Among the early attorneys mentioned in the court records are Wilson 
& Drv. I. M. Pemberton, Orson Rice and George F. Has well. In June, 1872, 
the Iowa Falls & Sioux City Railroad Company brought an action against 
the countv treasurer and secured an injunction restraining enforcement of 
taxes prior to the year 1872 against lands in this county, which at that time 


consisted of many thousands of acres. The railroad company took the posi- 
tion that although they were beneficiaries under a land grant made by Con- 
gress to the state of Iowa, that they had not received a conveyance of the 
land from the state until July 3, 1871, and the lands could not be properly 
taxed prior to the year 1872. Hon. X. M. Hubbard, of Cedar Rapids, who 
had served as district judge in 1865-66 and later was prominently identified 
with the legal and political life of the state, was one of the attorneys for 
plaintiff in this action and, illustrative of the drudgery and labor connected 
with the practice of law in that time, one has but to read the manifold pages 
of an extremely long" petition all prepared by Judge Hubbard in his own 
handwriting. Compared with the modern attorney, dictating his pleading to 
a stenographer, we can see that there certainly has been considerable ad- 
vancement in the details of legal practice. Isaac Cook, another ex-judge of 
the district court, was also associated with Judge Hubbard in this suit. Later 
G. S. Robinson, of Storm Lake, and Joy & Wright appeared for plaintiff. 
The count}- was represented by Eugene Cowles, Barrett & Allen and D. A. W. 
Perkins. The litigation finally terminated in favor of the railroad company, 
it being held exempt from taxation of its lands prior to 1872. 

The first mention of a grand jury in the county is December 1, 1871. 
when Judge Ford presided and C. H. Lewis, who afterwards became district 
judge, was acting as district attorney. As such he was the prosecutor for 
the state in all criminal actions. The district attorney found a defect in the 
method that had been employed to select a grand jury and on his motion the 
venire was set aside and a new panel of grand jurors drawn from a new 
venire. The fifteen so drawn were Adam Towberman, L. C. Washburn, 
Horace Gilbert, P. A. Hurlburt, W. A. Acer, John Wood, Robert E. W r ood. 
Ed. Parker, Gus Baker, S. G. Sutter, Plarley Day, William Welch, John 
Brock, Miles Allen and Henry Smith. This grand jury found no business 
for their consideration and were discharged. 

April 12, 1872, Perkins Brothers Company secured judgment against 
the county for the sum of two hundred dollars, but this was, of course, soon 
afterwards paid. 

The June, 1872, term of district court was conducted with the following- 
officers : Henry Ford, judge; C. H. Lewis, district attorney; Stephen Har- 
ris, clerk; A. H. Willits, deputy clerk, and Ed. A. Nissen, sheriff. 

The first fine imposed in the district court in a criminal case was upon a 
plea of guilty. Henry Shnltz confessed to an unlawful sale of intoxicating 
liquor and was fined twenty dollars, a portion of the costs being taxed against 
the county. 


In 1874 attorneys were admitted to practice in the courts of the state 
upon their application made to the district court. A committee of the bar 
was appointed to examine the applicant and if he was found qualified or 
otherwise proved himself a good fellow he was generally found proficient 
and recommended for admission. This method was found very easy to the 
aspiring sprig of the law, and the applicant today, when he considers the 
three years study under guidance of competent instructors and an exhaustive 
examination before the supreme court, now required, reads with longing eyes 
of the good old days of easy admission. As an illustration of the laxity 
shown, we find the following proceedings in the matter of application of 
Warren Walker for admission to the bar, filed in district court, this county, 
in April, 1874. The court appointed Charley Allen, Eugene Cowles and G. 
S. Robinson as a committee. The latter was a practicing attorney at Storm 
Lake, and afterwards judge of the supreme court and member of the state 
board of control. The report is as follows : 

"The committee heretofore appointed to examine and report upon the 
qualification of Warren Walker to practice law as an attorney and counselor 
in the courts of said state ask to submit the following as their report : The 
committee find applicant to be a person of good moral character and that 
applicant has some knowledge of the statutory laws and practice of said state, 
acquired by reading works upon pleading and practice and by actual practice 
in justices' courts. That applicant has never read any elementary work or 
commentary upon the spirit and principles of common law. That applicant 
declares his intention, to procure and read such works as soon as possible. 

"In view of the good moral character of applicant, the practical knowl- 
edge of the statutory law already acquired by him, and his avowed purpose 
of pursuing an extensive course of reading of standard works upon the ele- 
ments and principles of law, the committee recommends that the applicant 
be licensed to practice as an attorney and counselor in the courts of the state 
of Iowa. 

"17th day of April. A. D. 1874. 

"By order of the Committee, 

"Charley Allen, Chairman.'' 

The first jury case tried was in April, 1874, in Ransom Bartle vs. Will- 
iam Lvle. D. A. W. Perkins was attorney for plaintiff and John Connell for 
defendant. The jury found for plaintiff and assessed the amount to be re- 
covered at sixty-nine dollars and costs. 


The circuit court extending, as has been said, in this state from 1868 
to 1886, was presided over in this county by but four judges, Addison Oliver, 
John R. Zuver, Daniel D. McCallum and George W. Wakefield. 

Addison Oliver, born in 1833. was an early settler of Monona county 
and has often been honored with the confidence of the people in election to 
office. In 1863 he served in the state Legislature as representative, and in 
1865 served in the state Senate. He held office as circuit judge from 1868 
to 1873, inclusive, at which later date he was elected to Congress and served 
in that capacity for four years from this congressional district. He was a man 
of strong individuality, honest, industiotis, talented and of strong will power. 
He was public spirited, giving to his home town of Onawa a public library 
and manual training school. His life work is studded with many instances 
of bis benevolences and kindnesses. He was a good fighter, strong in his 
likes and dislikes and ever ready to defend his opinions and his just rights. 
Judge Oliver was in charge of court in the first circuit only of this district, 
which included Woodbury, Plymouth, Ida. Cherokee. O'Brien, Monona, 
Harrison and. Shelby counties. 

The first term in this count}' began November 2j, 1869. But one case 
was disposed of at that term, an entry of default in the suit of Loren Inman 
vs. Chester \Y. Inman. Judge Oliver believed in expediting business of trial 
work and at the second term he held in the county he promulgated the fol- 
lowing rules of practice: 

"First. The defendant shall demur or answer, or do both as to the 
original petition before the morning of the second day of the term and as 
to an amended petition by the convening of court at its next session after 
the same is filed. 

"Second. The plaintiff shall demur or reply or do both as to the orig- 
inal answer by noon of the second day of the term and to an amended or 
supplemental answer, or answer after notice, or demurrer, by the convening 
of court at its next session after the same is filed. 

"Third. The defendant shall demur as to the reply by the convening 
of court at its next session after the same is filed." 

A proceeding in the probate court of Clinton county, Iowa, transcripted 
to this county at this time, shows that H. F. Parker, J. R. Pumphrey and R. 
B. Crego were appointed to fix the value of one hundred and twenty acres of 
land on north half of section 31, in what is now Summit township, in the 
matter of estate of Jacob Whistler, deceased. They valued the land at one 
thousand one hundred and twenty dollars. Publication of the notice of sale 
was made in the Sioux City Journal and the land was sold to the attorney for 
the estate for three hundred dollars. 


The first contested legal action in the circuit court is shown to have been 
that of Tallmage E. Brown vs. Rouse B. Crego, as treasurer of the count}'. 
The files in the action are missing from the clerk's office, but it is indicated 
that the action was an attempt to mandamus the county officials. A demurrer 
to the petition was sustained, the court finding that he had no jurisdiction. 
Same entry was made in case of Eugene Childs against same defendant. 

February 10, 1871, Judge Addison Oliver gives a side light on the 
sparsely settled condition of the count} when he orders: 

"It appearing that there is no practicing physician or lawyer in the 
county of O'Brien it is ordered that Dr. Butler and C. H. Lewis, Esq., of 
L herokee county, Iowa, be and the}- are hereby appointed as commissioners 
of insanity protempore." 

One wonders at the need of such a commission at that time when the 
population was so small, but the need must have been, great, for the court 
entered another order July 4, 1871. appointing L. E. Head and B. F. Mc- 
Cormack as members of the insane commission in place of the Cherokee 
count}' residents. 

Judge Addison Oliver resigned his office in 1874, when he was elected 
to Congress and J. R. Zuver was appointed to succeed him. He was after- 
ward elected to the office, but did not hold court regularly on account of de- 
clining health. Under the arrangement two terms of circuit court and two 
terms of district court were held each year, the different courts alternating. 

Judge Zuver's earl}- opportunities for education were limited, and not 
well calculated to fit him for the bar. His life struggles commenced as a 
deck hand on a tug boat on the Ohio river and he finally became captain of 
the boat. Coming to Iowa in the sixties, he settled in Harrison county and 
was admitted to the bar in 1868. He was rather austere and a man of many 
peculiarities. Of strong convictions, he would not swerve from what he 
thought was the right. He possessed a good legal mind, but was better 
adapted for the service at the bar than on the bench. Frequently hasty and 
captious and zealous in the insistence of his views, he often gave offense by 
the earnestness with which he expressed his opinions. At one time he se- 
cured the disbarment of an attorney who had offended him, but the supreme 
court reversed the action. The case is reported in 45 Iowa Supreme Court 
Reports, page 155. A Sioux City lawyer who came under the ban of his dis- 
pleasure was confined in jail as punishment for a contempt of court, until he 
was released by Judge Lewis on a writ of habeas corpus. Becoming physi- 
cally disabled through a fall that resulted in an injury to his head, he was 


unable to hold court, but continued in office for practically the last three 
years of his term without holding court. In 1890 he removed from Sioux 
City to Boulder, Colorado, where he died November 7, 1896. 

Daniel D. McCallum, elected circuit judge in 1884, ended his service 
when the court was abolished by the Legislature, in January, 1886. Judge 
McCallum lived at Sibley, in Osceola county, was a man of pleasing person- 
ality and well liked by the bar. At the conclusion of his term he thought 
that, having been elected by the people to fill the office for a full term, the 
Legislature could not sooner end the term by abolishing his court. The mat- 
ter was tested in court, but resulted adversely to Judge McCallum and other 
circuit judges who had been legislated out of office. Judge McCallum died 
of cancer of the face in 1895. 

George W. Wakefield, serving as circuit judge 1 885-1886, did not hold 
court in this county during those years and will be spoken of later. 

Charles H. Lewis was born in Erie county. New York, in 1839, and 
died September 26, 1904. He served with distinction in an Iowa regiment 
in the Civil War and engaged in the practice of law at Cherokee in an early 
day. From 1871 to 1875 ne aD b r served as district attorney of this judicial 
district. In the fall of 1874 he was elected district judge and held the office 
until January 1. 1887. Craig L. Wright once wrote of him: "Personally 
he was the most lovable man to those whom he knew well. His character 
was one of the purest and mere contact with him left a marked impress. I 
have always had the highest regard for him as a lawyer and a judge. Be- 
fore the bar he was stronger in consultation than as an advocate and was one 
of the most learned men who ever practiced in this state." 

George W. Wakefield, born in 1839, died in Sioux City March 10, 1905. 
He served in an Illinois regiment in the Civil War, was wounded at Jackson, 
Mississippi, and entered the practice of law at an early day in Sioux City. 
After his two years' service as circuit judge, he began his term as district 
judge January 1, 1887, which service continued until his death. In early life 
he became owner of some real estate in this county, which he held till shortly 
before his death. He was kindlv by nature, methodical in his habits and well 
versed in the law. He had a high order of ability in logical analysis and 
marked impartiality in his judicial methods and decisions. Besides bis in- 
terest in law, he was foremost in a number of scholarly and public activ- 
ities that indicated his breadth of mind and wide range of interests and 
studies. He was a forceful personality, not because of any aggressive dis- 
position, but rather because of his modest and genial temperament, combined 


with distinguished ability that compelled general dependence on his judgment 
and confidence in his sincerity. 

Judge Ladd has been referred to in the chapter on the Bar. He was a 
good politician because he conducted his office with industry, ability, integ- 
rity and honest}'. His service on the bench did not repress his sense of 
humor, however, and frequently we hear stories from the older members 
of the bar as to his wit. At one time he had taken an equity case under ad- 
visement and when some time had elapsed with no decision, litigants and at- 
torneys became anxious. As a smooth way of suggesting to the court that 
it was time to decide the case, the attorneys, after conference with each 
other, prepared and bled a motion asking that the court issue an order to 
require the judge to render his decision. The clerk was delegated to hand 
the motion to the judge and he slipped it upon his desk and promptly with- 
drew. Judge Ladd read it to the end. but soon afterwards placed on file his 
reply as follows : 

"Come now the judge before whom this cause was tried and submitted 
and begs to sumbit the following: 

"He admits that decision in said cause has not been rendered, but as 
reason therefor states: That there have been employed as attorneys in said 
cause members of the bar who have so artfully twisted and concealed the 
facts and law that decision of said case on its merits is impossible. Where- 
fore this judge prays that he may go hence in peace." 

The attorneys accepted the joke and were soon afterwards respectively 
pleased and disappointed to hear from the judge with his decision. 

Anthony Van Wagenen. appointed by Governor Boies in 1892 to fill 
vacancy created by addition of another judge in this district, had been in, 
the practice at Rock Rapids in Lyon county. He made a good judge, but 
was ill during a portion of his term, that precluded his holding all terms of 
court regularly. He afterwards entered the practice at Sioux City and has 
been prominent in Democratic councils and politics. He is a fluent speaker 
and talented in debate. 

Frank R. Gaynor, elected to the district bench as a Democrat in 1891, 
later became a Republican, largely turning upon the money question, — gold 
versus silver, — that was an issue between the parties. Judge Gaynor resided 
at LeMars and was a highly qualified lawyer, a thorough gentleman, kindly 
considerate of all. He brought to his office a grace and dignity that charmed 
the bar. litigants and court officials. His record in the appeals of cases to 
the supreme court has been exceptionally good and he has long been con- 



sidered one of the strong judges of the state. In 1912 he was elected to the 
supreme bench and began his office there with the year 19 13. 

John F. Oliver, elected first in the fall of 1894, has continuously served 
as district judge to the present time, although his work has not brought him 
into this county since we were set out of the fourth district in March, 1913. 
He is a son of Addison Oliver, the pioneer circuit judge of this district, and 
partakes of the strong qualities of his father. He is highly qualified as a 
lawyer, well read and with a mind well fitted to study and digest the law 
and come to the right conclusion. Absolutely honest in his decisions, his 
natural sense of right and wrong has sometimes caused him to assist the 
litigant whose case may not be quite properly presented, in getting the entire 
evidence before the court and jury and thus he has at times antagonized 
some of the attorneys. His continued service on the bench shows the high 
opinion of him held by the voters and he has proven an acceptable judge. 

William Hutchinson, of Sioux county, elected to the bench in 1896, is 
one of the most popular judges. Of good legal training, a keen knowledge 
of human nature, a polished and convincing speaker, he has shown marked 
ability in rightly deciding the equities of matters presented to him for de- 
cision. Prior to his elevation to the bench he had long served as a success- 
ful practitioner, including service as county attorney of Sioux county. He 
possesses a clean Christian character and is verily beloved by even the litigant 
whom he smiteth. 

J. L. Kennedy, appointed to the judgeship to fill vacancy in 1905, served 
till the end of his term, but was not a candidate for election. He was an 
exceptionally good lawyer and successful in his practice and found the sac- 
rifice in income too great to longer continue in office. 

David Mould, successor to Judge Wakefield, resides in Sioux City. He 
is of the same quiet temperament as Judge Wakefield, a good lawyer and a 
righteous judge. 

Judge Boies, the youngest judge in point of service, has been discussed 
in another chapter. His friends are pleased to note that he is giving uni- 
versal satisfaction as a judge, bringing to the office not only the ability but 
the industry that results in quick trials, quick decisions and no business de- 

Within the limits of this chapter it will be possible to give but frag- 
mentary statements in regard to a few of court officials. 

Ed. Nissen was sheriff from 1872 to 1877, inclusive. He was a drink- 
ing man and an indifferent officer. In his final campaign for office in 1877 he 


canvassed the county and urged upon the voters, who had been sorely pressed 
by creditors during their days of poverty that followed the grasshoppers and 
crop failures, that he would be drunk most of the time and they could not 
expect him to hurt them much in the way of serving process. Mart Shea, 
opposing him, announced that while he would serve all papers handed him 
he would serve nothing unless fees were paid in advance, and would not, as 
Nissen had done, extend credit to persons desiring the papers served. The 
people believed in Shea and elected him and, sure enough, when he de- 
manded fees in advance, litigation fell off and many creditors refused to sue 
when they had to pay in advance. Shea held office for four years and was 
followed by \Y. C. Green, or, as he was familiarly known, "Clark" Green. 
The latter had been a settler from the early day, closely identified with the 
business life of the county, a merchant, and owner of half the town plat of 
Primghar. Green held the office eight years and was an exceptionally good 
and capable officer. During his term of office there was commenced that 
sea of litigation over the railroad lands in the county that not only kept the 
sheriff busy, but helped his finances as well. In one day the Western Land 
Company, purchaser of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway lands, 
filed one hundred and fifteen suits in ejectment and the sheriff and his depu- 
ties handled, the notices in all these cases. At another time over fifty similar 
cases were filed in one day. Green was a Democrat and his popularity was 
shown in his repeated election in a county that normally was strongly Re- 

W. H. Xoyes, who followed Clark Green as sheriff, had previously held 
office as county recorder and made a good official. He was of a kind-hearted 
and liberal disposition, careless in acquiring money, but ever ready to do 
another a kindness, even at the sacrifice of his own pocketbook. In his office 
as sheriff he was always ready to do his duty, but at the same time strove 
to make the service as pleasant as possible to the defendant. He was fol- 
lowed by S. A. Carter, O. F. Morgan, George Coleman, Theodore Price, 
J. G. Geister and H. W. Geister, who have all ably filled- the office. 

One of the popular clerks of courts in the history of the county was 
Frank A. Turner. An expert penman, a first class office man, with a genial 
smile, obliging temperament and a desire to work, he was the favorite among 
attorneys. He possessed a thorough legal knowledge and was able to assist 
many an attorney in a perplexing question of practice. His kind-heartedness 
was proverbial and while he did not leave the office with much of this 
world's goods to his credit, he left it with the high regard and affection of 


every court official. Indicative of this was the beautiful diamond watch 
charm presented to him by the members of the bar at the last term of court 
which he attended. The method of presentation was novel. Turner had 
been served with a subpoena in regular form requiring his attendance before 
court as a witness and with* nit knowing just what case it was, but thinking- 
it was one of the many matters wherein he was frequently called to testify, 
he was made to take the oath of a witness and then required to testify as to 
his length of service of clerk and asked to give his opinion as to his quality 
of service rendered to the public. This line of questioning was followed by 
a neat presentation speech 1)}' \V. I). Boies, in which the questions un- 
answered by Turner were explained to him and it was with tears in his eyes 
thai lie accepted the emblem of love and appreciation, and attempted to ex- 
press his thanks. 

YV. S. Armstrong, clerk for [893 to 1896, inclusive, made a good record 
in his office, ile was well qualified for the position and possessed in con- 
nection with his ability an affability and delightful personality that made him 
many friends. S. A. Martin, E. R. Wood, H. C. May and W. J. E. Thatcher 
have all made good clerks. Mr. Thatcher, from his legal knowledge, has al- 
ways had a high sense of his duty and has especially been diligent in keeping 
up the work of his office, regularly checking - bonds in probate matters and 
requiring filing" of reports and schedules that have been omitted by representa- 
tives of estates and persons under disability. His administration has greatlv 
expedited the settlement of estates and completion of court business. 


The following is a list of the sheriffs of O'Brien count)', with their terms 
of office in calendar years unless otherwise stated: L. McClellan, from 
February 6, 1S60, to January 1, 1861 ; Archibald Murray, 1861 ; George 
Hoffman, i862-i8(>5 ; Charles M, Stevenson, 1866-1867; Chancy Chesley. 
1868; S. B. Hurlburt, 1869-1870; George A. McOmber, 1871 ; Ed. A. Xissen. 
1872-1877; .Mart Shea, 1878-1881; W. C. Green, 1S82-18S9; W. H. Noyes, 
1890-1893; S. A. Carter. 1894-1897; George Coleman, 1898-1901 ; Oscar F. 
Morgan from January 1, 1902, to January 20, 1902 (died January 20, 1902). 
After Mr. Morgan's death Dr. F. E. Brown, coroner, acted as ex-officio 
sheriff for ten days pending the appointment of George Coleman, who acted 
under appointment for the balance of the term; Theodore Price. 1903-1967; 
Joseph G. Geister, 1907-1910; Henry W. Geister, 1911-1914. 



Relating to the office of clerk of courts, it is difficult from the records 
up to January i, 1871, at all times to determine either who was elected, who 
qualified or who in fact was clerk. At the first election, February 6, i860, 
it is definite that Archibald Murray was elected and that Henry C. Tiffey was 
elected for the term beginning January 1, 1863, and served until January 1, 
1X66, though in one place it would appear that John Moore acted as such at 
a time in 1865, though that might be explained in that he might have acted 
as deputy. John Moore was, however, elected for the term beginning January 
1, 1867, and he later resigned and Archibald Murray was appointed in his 
place, though both the resignation and appointment are undated, though prob- 
ably in 1868. At the regular election held November 9, 1868, Hannibal H. 
Waterman was declared elected, but evidently did not qualify, as the record 
again shows another appointment of John Moore March 13, 1869. It also 
appears that John Stratton acted in 1868, but by what process he got there 
the record does not disclose. However there was but little work for a clerk 
oi courts to do, other than to draw the salary, until the settlers arrived in 
1870. The first real clerk of the courts was Stephen Harris, who was elected 
and assumed the office January 1, 1871. 

The following is a list of clerks of courts since said date, each assuming 
his duties on January 1st of the year named: Stephen Harris, 1871-72; A. 
H. Willitts, 1873-1878; Frank N. Derby, 1879-80; W. N. Strong, 1881-82; 
Frank A. Turner, 1883-88; John W. Walter, 1889-92: William S. Arm- 
strong, 1893-96: Scott A. Martin. 1897-1900; Ed. R. Wood assumed the 
office January 1, 1901. His health failing and later resulting in his death, 
John F. Boyer was, in May, 1903. appointed clerk to fill the vacancy, first 
caused by his sickness and inability to act and later death. Mr. Boyer served 
until November election for 1904, when William H. Downing was elected 
for the vacancy and served six weeks; Harry C. May, 1 905-1908; W. J. E. 
Thatcher. 1909-19 14. 



Popular comment is ever ready to portray the result of a lawsuit as 
enriching the lawyer. Even a lawyer has been known to speak of his suc- 
cessful cases and the rich fees he earns. But while he is continuously reap- 
ing, the lawyer never seems to accumulate wealth. I think it was Webster 
who said that the lawyer's life was that of one w r ho worked hard, lived well 
and died poor. D. A. W. Perkins once wrote : "Life is a battle, with each 
to wage his own individual warfare, and when one takes upon himself the 
burden, and advertises to light the battles of other people, along with his own, 
he enters upon an arena of some grief, and much responsibility and without 
sufficient compensation." Some of the lawyers of the county have grown 
rich, but not one can trace his entire wealth to the legitimate practice of law 
An investment in land has helped many, and others have won riches in othei 
lines. The glamour and excitement of striving to win, the hope of victory, 
and satisfaction of pleasing a client and proving correctness of opinion, have 
spurred many an attorney and kept him in the practice just for pure love of 
the game, when he has perhaps realized that his talents would be better re- 
warded in another line of action. The vocation of a lawver is an official 
position, not a business. An officer of the court, he is charged with specific 
duties and responsibilities. More than any other licensed professional man, 
the lawyer must not only have a license to practice, but he must qualify as an 
officer of the government, swearing to faithfully perform the duties of his 
high office, maintain the respect due the courts, to encourage and maintain 
only just actions, use only such means as are consistent with truth, and never 
reject for any consideration personal to himself the cause of the defenseless 
and oppressed. 

No one, considering the records of the country lawyer, as written in 
the pages of O'Brien county history, can receive any encouragement to believe 
that the lawyer's life leads to financial gain. Most of the lawyers were poor 
in the wealth of the realm, but the industrious and honest receive the just 


rewards of a good name and the kindly esteem of their neighbors. If there 
have been any lawyers in the county who have not lived the righteous life, 
who have strayed from the path of duty and not lived up to the high ideals 
of the legal profession, may charity permit us to leave the ugly record out of 
these pages. 

It is with some trepidation that the associate editor of this work has 
consented to write the history of the lawyers — many of them his contem- 
poraries — and risk the charge of unfair criticism. Those that are dead and 
gi ne have left their record and we shall try to truthfully portray their work 
as viewed from the present day. Those that are yet among us have a future 
before them; they may brighten or blacken the present prospect. We shall 
try to restrict our discussion of merits and demerits more to the past genera- 
tion than the present, but dc justice to all. The lawyers have all left their 
impress on the history of the count)', some for good, and some for ill. Fre- 
quently leaders in their community, the nature of the practice necessarily 
connects them closely with many of the industries and public and private 
business of the community. . 

The earliest record of a lawyer in the county is the appearance of J. W. 
Bosler in i860. As he was not exactly in the practice of his profession in 
this county and had no office, and solicited no business here, further refer- 
ence may well lie left to him in another portion of the work, where he receives 
proper classification. 

B. F. McCormack, who came in 1871. was the first settler of the county 
to practice the legal profession here. The law, however, is said to be "a 
jealous mistress" and Brother McCormack's varied experiences in business 
lines somewhat unfitted him for successful legal practice. We hear of him 
as an editor, hardware dealer, member of board of supervisors and engaged 
in other activities. 

D. A. W. Perkins was born in 1840, admitted to the bar in 1865, settled 
in Sheldon with the coming of the railroad in 1872. He was a unique char- 
acter, highly talented and educated, but never gave proof of that industry and 
energy that put others to the front. In 1873 he was elected superintendent 
of the schools of the county. In 1874 he was editing a newspaper in Sheldon. 
For a number of years he successfully, as an adjunct to his profession and in 
connection with his law practice, conducted a series of lectures through vari- 
ous towns in northwestern Iowa and southwestern Minnesota. A man of 
fine literary tastes, liberal culture and pleasant social ways, he was an eloquent 
speaker and gave good satisfaction to his audiences. His lectures were a 


rare literary treat to the early settlers. In September, 1879. we find him 
editing a newspaper at Sibley, but later he abandoned that and returned to 
practice of law. Tn the nineties, returning to Sheldon from a few vears' 
absence in South Dakota, he entered politics, and in 1805 and 1896 he held 
the office of county attorney, elected thereto by the people. In 1897 he 
bequeathed to posterity a monumental work, giving the benefit of his intimate 
knowledge of the history of the county to the public in a volume replete 
with historical sketches and records of the life of the county and its in- 
habitants. Xever industrious in the practice of his profession, yet he tried. 
his cases in an artful, masterful way. persuasive in his arguments to the jury, 
and generally successful in his suits. He never possessed the ability nor 
inclination to stir up business or "go after it," and was content to well try 
the cases that came to his office. He possessed a quaint humor and the mem- 
bers of the bar enjoy telling of many examples of his quick wit. In 1879 
a client at Sibley wrote him and enclosed him a promissory note for collec- 
tion, suggesting that if he could find the debtor, he wished the attornev 
would "stir him up a little." To this Perkins replied : 

"I can find him. I was an eye witness to his burial in our cemetery 
in the spring of 187a. It would be better, perhaps, not to stir him. If you 
insist upon it. however, I would prefer that vou do it yourself. 


"D. A. W. Perkins." 

Mr. Perkins is now county judge at Highmore. South Dakota. 

Dewitt C. Hayes arrived at Primghar with the location of the new 
county seat in 1872. He brought into the county the first good law library. 
His habits were such that his business was somewhat neglected and he soon 
drifted away. 

Warren Walker, a settler in the county in 187 t . located on a homestead 
in Baker township, was admitted to the bar in 1874 and during that year 
served his first term as county supervisor, which office held until the end of 
1876. He had thrice enlisted in the War of the Rebellion, and served from 
1861 to 1865 inclusive in Illinois regiments. He bears a fine record for 
bravery in his army service, and was actively engaged in many battles, being 
seven times wounded. With the starting of the new town of Sanborn. 
Walker moved there and at one time operated offices at Sanborn. Sheldon 
and Primghar. having them connected with telephone, and conducting a 


general land, abstract and law business and later publishing a newspaper. 
In 1895 ne removed to Des Moines, where he died. Walker was an inde- 
fatigable worker, of great personal bravery., and an intense fighter in his 
business and legal enterprises. 

Orsmond M. Barrett, at one time the leading lawyer of Sheldon, was 
born in 1837, served in the Civil War as a Union soldier, and settled in the 
practice of his profession at Sheldon in 1875. He was at various times 
associated with Charley Allen, Alfred Morton, C. H. Bullis and S. A. Call- 
vert, his name always heading the firm. He was a representative in the 
nineteenth General Assembly, and senator in the twentieth, twenty-first, 
twenty-second and twenty-third General Assemblies of Iowa. In his later 
years he removed to California, residing at National City, where he died 
March 1, 1899. 

John T. Stearns, born in 1841, was admitted to practice in Franklin 
county, Iowa, and came to Primghar in 1875. where he was interested in 
real estate ventures in connection with his legal practice. For man)' year- 
he resided at Chamberlain. South Dakota, where he was actively engaged in 
law and land business until 1895, when he returned to O'Brien county and 
actively engaged in the practice of law. He made a specialty of land title 
litigation and was for manv vears associated with other attornevs in the 
conduct of litigation in behalf of settlers on the litigated railroad lands of 
the county. This litigation was generally successful, as most of his client- 
had secured and remained in pos>es>ion of the land>, but the contest was long 
and arduous and J. T. Stearns' ability led in no small degree to the success 
of that series of legal battle^. He died March 14, 1907, without an enemy 
in the county. 

Charles Allen, familiarly known as "Charley." was born in 1835. ad- 
mitted to practice in 1868. and came to the county in 1875 and associated 
himself at Sheldon with O. M. Barrett in the practice of law. the firm being- 
known as Barrett & Allen. In 1879 we find him at Primghar temporarily 
engaged in the drug business, but he soon returned to his profession and was 
a successful practitioner in the county until 1881. Later he was a practicing 
attornev at Lander. Wyoming, where he died in 191 1. He was a good 
lawver, absolutely honest in money matters, and a man of varied talents, 
being at one time leader of the band. 

J. L. E. Peck engaged in the practice of law at Primghar in 1877 and. 
with but a short interruption, during the time his daughters were receiving 


their college education, he has been continuously in the practice of his pro- 
fession at the same town. He was auditor of the county from 1880 to 1883 
inclusive, giving his ability to the adjustment and settlement of the involved 
and important financial question that was before the supervisors in the 
troublous times of refunding the county debt in 1881. Mr. Peck is an in- 
dustrious lawyer, joyously revelling in the drudgery of digging and digest- 
ing, and preparing his lawsuits, and there are no details too small to receive 
his earnest attention. Pie has been successful in his business life, has always 
maintained a fine home at Primghar, building and rebuilding with the grow- 
ing town, taking an active part in the progress of his little city, freely giving 
of his time, talents and money to every public enterprise and from his in- 
dustry, always an important factor in every movement that tends to the 
betterment of the town. He served as referee in bankruptcy for this count}-. 
1898 to 1903 inclusive. 

I. W. Daggett, an early resident of Primghar, engaged in the banking 
business there as early as 1875, was later a practicing attorney. During the 
eighties he was engaged in the mercantile business at Sanborn and later re- 
moved to Sioux City. 

Plarley Day, a homesteader in the county in [871, county supervisor in 
1873-4, served as county superintendent of schools from 1878 to 1881 in- 
clusive. He was admitted to the bar during the first year of his office. as 
superintendent. Beginning his professional life at Primghar. he was later a 
resident of Sanborn, where he was a member of the firm of Stocum & Day. 
He was a soldier in the Union army in the War of the Rebellion. He died 
at Minot, North Dakota. February 7. 1903. 

J. F. Glover, erstwhile editor at Sheldon in 1874 and 1875, was admitted 
to the bar in 1878, but immediately removed to Sibley, where he now resides. 

George L. McKay, a justice of the peace in Sheldon in 1878, was then 
admitted to practice and removed to Sioux county. 

Cal Bradstreet came to Sanborn with the organization of the town in 
1878 and successfully practiced law there a dozen or more years, finally re- 
moving to Sioux City, where he is still engaged in the practice. 

John Connell, of Sioux county, was an early practitioner who tried many 
cases in Sheldon and in this county. 

S. C. Nash, a graduate of the law department of the State University 
of Iowa, a good lawyer, was in the practice at Sheldon in 1878. His 
brother, F. H. Nash, was also admitted to the bar in 1879 and practiced at 


In 1879 there came to Sheldon one of the kindest, courtliest members of 
the profession who has ever graced the court room of the county. Alfred 
Morton had served in the One Hundred and Ninety-third New York In- 
fantry, with rank as major, and later received commission of brevet lieu- 
tenant-colonel. Early in the reconstruction period after the war, General 
Grant appointed him a circuit judge in Virginia. He lived at Richmond and 
held this office two years. For a short time he was a member of the firm of 
Barrett & Morton, but later practiced alone. For many years he represented 
the Illinois Central Railroad Company a^ its attorney and actively attended 
to the legal business of the Cherokee & Dakota Railroad Company when that 
road was built into the county in 1887. He died April 19, 1896, while in 
active practice of his profession. A man of natural politeness, with a touch 
of Southern chivalry in his nature, he was beloved by all. In all the intensity 
of a legal contest he was one member who always remained considerate of 
the rights of the opponent and was pleasant, respectful and just in the treat- 
ment of his competitor. 

Alilt H. Allen, son of Charley Allen, was admitted to the practice in 
1879. First settling at Pattersonville, now Hull, in Sioux county, for a 
short time, he was at Primghar, then Sanborn and later Sheldon. A man 
of unusual talents, fluent of speech, a bright legal mind, and largely a self- 
made man, Milt Allen was one of the best trial lawyers ever practicing in 
the county. He removed from the county several years ago and engaged in 
the practice of his profession in Chicago. 

Peter R. Bailey had served in the Civil War as a Union soldier. He 
came to Sheldon in 1880 and was engaged for some time as a temperance 
lecturer, addressing audiences generally over northwestern Iowa. In the 
same year he was admitted to the bar, practicing at Sheldon until 1890, when 
he sold his practice and removed to Huntsville, Alabama. Bailey was a man 
of strong Northern sentiments, freely speaking them wherever he was, and 
he did not readily assimilate with his new surroundings and met with many 
and varied difficulties in adjusting his views to the community in which he 
had located. After a turbulent experience he finally returned to the county, 
engaging in the practice at Primghar. While here he wrote and published 
an interesting volume entitled "Old Shady.'* The book dealt with the ex- 
periences of a Northern man. or, as he put it. a "Yankee," who dwelt in a 
country that was not fully "reconstructed." Mr. Bailey had a fine ability 
as a speaker, and generally won verdicts from a jury. Of strong likes and 
dislikes, he frequently became involved in serious disagreements with some 


of those with whom he came in contact, but he had more friends than enemies 
and the latter were generally willing to give much credit to their opponent. 
He died in March, 1907. at his home, in Primghar, where he had been 
engaged in the practice. 

George W. Schee, another old soldier, was admitted to the bar in 1880. 
He had served as auditor of rhe county, was a soldier with a war record to 
be proud of, and has for many years exercised a leading part in the business 
life, politics and prosperity of the county. He served as a member of the 
state Legislature in the twentieth, twenty-first, twenty-third and thirty- 
fourth General Assemblies of Iowa. His ability as a tactician and his 
thorough understanding of parliamentary law gave him a prominent position 
in the House, and had he returned to the twenty-second General Assemblv 
there is little doubt but that he would have been elected speaker of the House. 
As a lawyer, he was not attracted to the profession, having a distaste for the 
details and minutia of the legal conduct of a cast 1 , but as a general, to plan 
out a campaign of legal action, he had ability of a high order. 

James B. Dunn, who had been admitted to the bar in Adair county. 
Iowa, settled in Primghar in 1880. but soon removed to Sutherland when 
that town was organized. Elected to the office of county attorney in 1886. 
he again removed to Primghar, remaining tliere till January 1, 1893, when 
his term of office expired. Practicing at Sheldon for awhile, he later re- 
moved to Bedford, Taylor county, Iowa, serving as county attorney of that 
county from 1903 to 1907. He now resides at Callaway, Nebraska, but is 
not actively engaged in practice. 

George F. Colcord, an early settler, formerly in the drug business at 
Sheldon, was admitted to the bar in 1881 and removed soon afterward to 
Sutherland, where he remained in the practice of law until his death, in 
1902. He also served as postmaster in Sutherland. He had an honorable 
record for service in the Civil War. He was strongly Democratic in his 
politics and achieved considerable success in the practice of his profession. 

J. A. Stocum, Avho from the earliest times in the history of the county 
had been largely interested in real estate here, was for many years an in- 
structor in the commercial college of Bryant & Stratton in Chicago. In 
1 88 1 he removed to Sanborn and was engaged in the practice there till his 
death, in 1891. 

Charles H. Bullis, brother-in-law of O. ^\1. Barrett, formed a partner- 
ship with the latter in Sheldon in 1881. Bullis was a graduate of Yale. 


heading his class in mathematics, and for seven years he held a chair of 
mathematics in Columbia College in New York City. For a period he was 
employed as clerk in the treasury department at Washington. He was a 
close student, a hard worker, of brilliant attainments and an excellent lawyer. 
He died suddenly in 1885. 

Charles McKenzie, a talented lawyer, was in the eighties for a short 
time engaged in the practice in Sheldon. Later he practiced in Des Moines, 
where he died several years ago. 

Frank M. Shonkwiler. arriving here in 1882. practiced his profession 
two or three years at Primghar and Sanborn. He was dramatic and talented, 
but had very little business ability. 

Charles E. Foote. admitted to the bar in Winneshiek county, practiced 
law at Sanborn for two or three years in the early eighties. Prior to that 
time he had been principal of the schools at Sanborn. Jn 1883. wisely con- 
cluding it better to get into a business that had some money in it. he forsook 
the law and entered the railroad service. He has continued in the employ 
of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway to this day, having held posi- 
tion as passenger train conductor for many years. 

William D. Boies, admitted to the bar in 1880, settled in Sanborn soon 
afterward, forming a partnership with Cal Bradstreet. In 1890 he removed 
to Sheldon, where, for a time, he was associated with G. W. Roth. In 
191 2 he was appointed by Governor Carroll to the vacancy in the district 
judgeship of the fourth judicial district caused by election of Judge Gaynor 
to the supreme bench. Judge Boies is now filling office under that appoint- 
ment. He is a nephew of ex-Governor Horace Boies, and by industry. 
>tudiousness, honesty and ability, born of hard work, he has risen to the 
top of his profession. For many years while he was in the practice he was 
recognized as the leader of the bar in northwestern Iowa and his services 
were required at practically every term of court in the four northwestern 
counties. Observers of his earlier life presaged his success when they found 
him. dav after day, drilling along in the hot stuffy office, reading and re- 
reading the Iowa reports and every law book he could get hold of. in the 
limited library at his disposal while in Sanborn. 

Scott M. Ladd engaged in the practice of his profession in Sheldon in 
1883. Always a good lawyer, he never acquired the habit of attracting or at 
least of getting business, and his practice was of the limited sort. He nat- 
urallv, however, possessed the fine legal mind and qualification which was 


improved by close attention to his work, jealously guarding himself against 
the pitfalls that have tripped so man}' young attorneys who turned aside to 
earn money outside of the profession. In 1886 he was elected district 
judge and ably filled that office until the end of 1896. In the fall of that 
year he was elected judge of the supreme court and has since filled that 
office with honor to himself and satisfaction to the voters. Three times 
has he filled the office of chief justice and three times elected as supreme 
judge, rounding out over a quarter of a century of honored service. And 
this renewed expression of the confidence of the people expressed at the 
polls, of his ability as a judge and character as a man is a higher testimonial 
of his worth than could otherwise be here expressed. 

In 1882 O. D. Hamstreet commenced the practice of law in Paullina 
and, as history records it. spent three hundred dollars in building him a law 
office. After two years he sold his office and practice to H. H. Crow and 
entered the newspaper field. Mr. Crow had entered the practice at Suther- 
land in 1883. He was a graduate of the State University of Iowa and one 
of the most studious and conscientious lawyers who ever practiced in the 
count}-. Naturally slow and plodding in his methods, he was sure of what 
he did do, and when he entered court for trial of a case you might well 
rest assured that he had a well worked out theory of the case, a thoroughly 
digested brief of the law and facts, and that there was not a point in his 
case that had not received careful attention. He gave his case an intensity 
of mental attention that in the end undermined his health. At various 
times he had assistants in his office, who helped in the handling of the 

business. Among these we may mention Hilliard, H. E. Dean, 

A. M. Hunter and L. D. Hobson. These were all lawyers of some ability 
and were here for but short periods each, although Mr. Hobson was later 
in the practice alone here for some years. 

W. J. Lorshbough, admitted to the practice in 1886, remained in 
Primghar for but a short time, when he went to Hartley and engaged in 
the banking business and is now in the latter business at Fargo, North 

H. H. McLaury, who was a student in the law office of Barrett & 
Bullis at Sheldon in the early eighties, returned to Sheldon in 1889 and 
practiced law there for a short time. Later he practiced at Sioux City. 

L. J. Birdseye was in the practice at Sheldon in 1889, forming a part- 
nership with Judge Morton for a short time. He is now engaged in his 
profession at Spokane, Washington. 


H. C. Vail and Ralph Hobart entered practice at Primghar about 
[889, but soon moved west. Hobart went to Dell Rapids, South Dakota, 
where he was later elected county judge. Vail is engaged in practice, and 
has earned considerable reputation as a lawyer, at Albion, Nebraska. 

P. H. Hackett and W. E. Brady were lawyers at Sanborn in 1889, 
the latter also practicing at Sheldon for a time. 

J. A. Wilcox removed to Sanborn from Milford, Iowa, in 1889, enter- 
ing into partnership with Milt H. Allen. Later he practiced alone, when 
Allen went to Sheldon. In 191 1 he removed to Redmond, Oregon, where 
he has a prosperous practice. 

J. W. Walter began his legal career at Hartley in 1886, and had the 
honor in 1888 of defeating Frank A. Turner for clerk of courts, and held 
the office four years. He did not afterwards actively engage in the prac- 
tice of law, giving his attention to private business at Hartley. Later he 
was in banking business at Groton, North Dakota, and is now living in Los 
Angeles, California. 

T. F. Ward came to Primghar with the railroad in 1887. He was a 
bright lawyer, of pleasant, social disposition, rather inclined to wear good 
clothes, and made money in his chosen profession. He took an active part 
in politics, was a leading Democrat, and prominent in the business life of 
the community. Later he was in banking business at LeMars and is now 
holding the office of county judge at Geddes, South Dakota. 

O. H. AJontzheimer arrived in Primghar in the spring of 1888 and 
has been in the practice of his profession there since. He is employed as 
local attornev by each of the five railroad companies transacting business in 
the county and enjoys a lucrative practice. 

F. A. Ainsworth, a brilliant young lawyer, won many friends at Shel- 
don in 1890. He was there but a short time, when he was taken ill and died. 

C. A. Babcock. who had been in the practice at Humboldt, Iowa, 
settled at Sanborn in 1891, and has been continuously in the practice since. 
In 1896 he was elected county attorney. He held the office two years, but 
refused to accept again unless the salary was raised. In 191 3 he removed 
to Sheldon. Babcock is a keen student, lover of a good story, scorns to 
earn money outside his profession and enjoys a good practice. 

W. W. Artherholt and Clarence Ingham, graduates of the law depart- 
ment of the State University, succeeded T. F. Ward in the practice at 
Primghar in 1892. Later they entered into partnership with Mr. Peck, the- 


firm becoming Peck. Artherholt & Ingham. Ingham later removed to 
Bridgeport, Washington, and is now in business in Los Angeles, residing 
at Pomona. California. Air. Artherholt is postmaster at Primghar, has ex- 
tensive farming interests and is still in partnership with Mr. Peck. 

J. T. Conn entered the office of Warren Walker, having charge of the 
Primghar business in 1889. In 1892 to 1894, inclusive, he held the office 
of county auditor and that was followed by two years as county attorney. 
Following that he re-engaged in the practice of law at Hartley. 

S. A. Calvert, who was circuit judge in the fifth judicial district, 
living at Adel. in Dallas count)-, and holding office from 1878 until he was 
legislated out of office in 1886, soon afterwards removed to Sheldon. Prior 
to his location in the county he held a term of court here in exchange with 
one of the judges of the district. His years of service on the bench had 
somewhat unfitted him for the active contest for business and while he had 
a nice practice at Sheldon he gave it up in 1891 and removed to North 
Yakima, Washington. 

Joe Morton, son of Judge .Alfred Morton, entered practice with his 
father in 1894. He was county attorney in 1903-05. Naturally of a lively 
social disposition and pleasant ways, the study of law did not prove at- 
tractive to him and he soon entered politics, securing appointment as post- 
master at Sheldon. Later he resigned that to take a position at Sioux City 
as secretary of the Interstate Fair, which office he now holds. 

G. W. Roth, a graduate of Ann Arbor, formed a partnership at Shel- 
don with W. D. Boies in 1891. He was not active in trial work, giving his 
attention to office business and care of his private real estate interests. He 
removed to Worthington, Minnesota. 

David Algyer, a settler in the county in 1872, who served as superin- 
tendent of schools from 1882 to 1888, inclusive, was born April 5, 1849. 
He served in the Union army in the Civil War, and in 1905 proved his 
ability as a student by perfecting a legal education and was admitted to the 
bar, at the age of forty-seven years. About the same time he mastered the 
German language and removed to Paullina, where he has since practiced 
law. He has a fine practice and is one lawyer who has made considerable 
money strictly in the practice of his profession. From 1890 to 1895 he held 
the office of county coroner. 

Edwin T. Langley, who valiantly served his country in an Iowa regi- 
ment during the Civil War. came to Sanborn from Huron, South Dakota, 


in 1895. He had attained some fame as a speaker and was capable of mak- 
ing a polished and pleasing address as a lecturer. He was in partnership 
for a time with his son and also with A. J. Walsmith, but later removed 
to Santa Ana, California. 

A. J. Walsmith, a graduate of the State University, entered practice at 
Sanborn in 1895 and later removed to Sheldon. He was county attorney 
from 1899 to 1902 inclusive. He is now residing at Oskaloosa, Iowa, and 
has abandoned the law business. 

Charles F. McCormack, at one time in the practice at Peterson and at 
Sutherland in 1897, gave up his profession and tills the soil in Waterman 

G. A. Gibson came to Sheldon in 1896. He had been admitted to the 
bar two years previous thereto. He is still in the practice at Sheldon. 

G. T. Wellman, previously employed in a governmental position at 
Washington, D. C, removed to Sheldon in 1895. He is a close student 
and one of the best-read lawyers in the county, having what few lawyers 
possess — a thorough knowledge of the common law practice. He takes the 
business that comes to his office and gives his clients the benefit of an expert 
knowledge of the principles of the law. He served as referee in bankruptcy 
1903 to 1912. 

W. P. Briggs came to Hartley from Sioux City in 1892, having been 
admitted to practice in 1888. He was a good lawyer, a thorough office 
man and had the best office system of keeping track of his work of any 
lawyer in the county. He was generally successful and removed to Idaho 
in 1912 on account of failing health. 

Earl W. Brown, a Sheldon boy, raised in the county, was admitted to 
practice and a partner of Milt Allen in 1894. Eventually he entered the 
banking business. 

Louis Vogt, admitted to practice in 1895, remained at Sanborn for a 
short time and later removed to George, in Lyon county, Iowa, and there 
entered the practice of his profession. 

John McCandless came to Sheldon in 1892. He was admitted to prac- 
tice in 1880, but has not given active attention to his profession in this 
county. He has been connected with a loan and trust company and other 
duties have hindered him in the pursuit of law. He really has too much 
money to be classed as a lawyer ; is a competent business man, pleasant and 


honorable in his dealings and has won for himself a high esteem and opinion 
among the people of the county. 

I. N. Mclntire, who arrived in Sheldon in 1890, formed a partnership 
with J. B. Dunn, but conducted his business alone when Mr. Dunn removed 
from the count)-. He has a fine personality, a pleasant way and few. if 
any, enemies. He has travelled a little from the strict pathway of the law. 
engaged in real estate enterprises, but still possesses a nice practice. 

F. B. Robinson came to Sheldon in 1889, succeeding P. R. Bailev. 
He later removed to Sioux City, where he made money in the practice of 
his profession, and later moved west. He was a graduate of the law de- 
partment of the State University. 

W. H. Weber, admitted to practice in 1900. remained at Sheldon for 
about ten years. He was justice of the peace and had a moderate practice, 
but did not try many contested cases. 

J<»hn T. Cullen, at one time partner of Milt Allen in the Sheldon office, 
arrived in the county in 1895. 

W. H. Downing, mayor of Primghar, has been in the practice since 
his graduation from the State University in 1902. 

F. M. Sayles practiced his profession in Primghar for nine years, 
arriving here in 1903. He had previously resided at Akron, Iowa. He 
is now in the practice at Faith, South Dakota. 

Roscoe J. Locke was admitted to the bar in 1902, having previously 
resided in the county, engaged in the business of "teaching the young idea 
how to shoot." He was first located at Sutherland and was appointed 
county attorney when Joe Morton resigned early in 1906. He has been 
repeatedly elected since and still holds the office. He is an honest, conscien- 
tious lawver, a hard student and his habits of industry mark him as one 
who will attain prominence in his profession. 

J. B. Johannsen, Jr., who practiced in the county in 1905. was here for 
but a short time, fie resided at Hartley. 

C. C. Covle. in 1909. and A. M. Kent, in 19 10, were other lawyers 
practicing for a short time at Hartley. 

Sidney C. Kerberg. admitted to the bar in 1909, established himself 
in the practice of law at Sanborn, where he had grown to manhood. In 
1913 he removed to Audubon, Iowa, where he is now engaged in practice. 

James B. Linsday and Spencer A. Phelps, of the firm of Linsday & 
Phelps, of .Sheldon, have been in the county since 191 2, succeeding to the 


business of VV. P. Briggs. They are bright young men, possessed of good 
legal minds, and are bound to succeed. Air. Linsday is city attorney and 
Mr. Phelps referee in bankruptcy, having in charge the bankruptcy business 
of some six northwestern Iowa counties. 

T. E. Diamond, who has practiced at Sheldon since 1905, is a good 
lawyer, a hard fighter and has a lucrative practice. He is prominent in the 
councils of the Democratic party. 

\Y. J. E. Thatcher, who was admitted to the bar in 19 13, is at present 
clerk of court, but expects to enter practice at end of his present term. 



The experience of O'Brien county in the amount or aggregate quantity 
of litigation, and of the changes that have resulted as the county has grown 
older in years, has been much the same as many other rural and farming- 
counties in Iowa. Its probate work has increased as the years have moved 
on. All other litigations have decreased. There are many reasons for this. 
The county was first settled by young and middle aged men. mainly by men 
under forty years of age. It followed, therefore, that the death rate per 
thousand people has increased each year thus far. This necessarily increases 
the probate work and all that class of court proceedings relating to wills, 
executors, trustees, administrators and guardians, and actions for the parti- 
tion and sale of real estate and divisions of property among heirs and children. 
This large class of court proceedings very seldom calls for a jury and belongs 
to that division of litigation passed upon by the court, upon short hearings 
in large part. The rapid advance in price of land from ten to one hundred 
and fifty and more dollars per acre, within the short space of thirty years, 
on the other hand in settlements of estates and partitions has had the tend- 
ency to leave the families satisfied with court results, and has usually brought 
about adjustments with but a nominal number of contests. Indeed so far 
in the county this advance from year to year has been so rapid that, no mat- 
ter what the questions involved, the heirs as a rule have received more than 
he or she expected, and satisfactory adjustment has been the rule rather than 
the exception. This, however, means only in the general tendency. Also, 
while the values have gone up, the rates of interest have gone down, and 
as a consequence the amounts in which loans could be placed on a forty, 
eighty or quarter section of land have increased in this thirty years from 
three dollars per acre until now, if needed, loans can actually be made from 
sixty dollars per acre to even seventy-five per acre. In these partitions of 
property among the second generation or now third, and occasionally fourth, 
generations from the original homesteader, these lands and loans that can be 
made enable these children and heirs to buy each other out in shares and 
handle matters in that way. The tendencies of all these situations have been 


to smooth out frictions and to end what might otherwise be litigations. The 
great prosperities of these later years have paid off hundreds of these mort- 
gages and lessened the number of foreclosures of mortgages. It seemed a 
curious fact that the court records show far more foreclosures in the earlier 
days, when only five hundred dollars could be borrowed and when the poorer 
settler was paying ten per cent, interest, than now when he could, if he 
wished, borrow ten thousand at five per cent. 

Another prominent item has tended to the later lessening of litigation. 
During the period from 1873 to l &>$ the numbers of sales of land for taxes 
were, as compared to the last ten years, as twenty to one. Tax sales in the 
county are now a rarity. Tax deeds then were as ten to one now. No 
matter how careful the tax purchaser, his tax deed was under the ban of a 
natural prejudice. The courts were called upon to establish his rights. 
Those tax title questions have now been practically all solved out. Those 
litigations are past, though it took a goodly number of years and manv litiga- 
tions to do it. Land is now worth too much to allow it to go to sale, much 
less to a deed. Even the refuse or back town lots in the smallest towns are 
too valuable to lose out in a tax deed. 

Another big question in the earlier days which contributed to the extent 
of litigation were the contests between the early homesteaders and squatters 
and railroads and between each other. This was especiallv notable in the 
long years of litigation over the overlapping lands. This subject has been 
exhaustively gone into in the chapter on Homesteads, Free Lands and Squat- 
ters, and we need not here repeat its details. When men are contesting' for 
possession of land, it arouses far more frictions and determinations to fight 
than when simply partitioning out lands of large value, where cash is readv 
for the heir. When excited men are contending for the nine points of law 
or present possession and actually putting in their crops on top of each other 
it caused many litigations. Farming with threatening revolvers or writs 
of ejection increased the number of suits. 

The period in the early day when even' tract practically had to have a 
loan on it to carry the land and other debts, called on the technical Eastern 
loan company to investigate the title to each tract. Much of the early busi- 
ness was necessarily done loosely, land being cheap, and owners did not look 
after the loopholes. These Eastern loans and the looking into the titles to 
warrant making them, kept straightening out those titles, together with the 
suits necessary to make the records right. All this kept decreasing the num- 
ber of questions, calling for trouble, between neighbors, purchasers or loan 
companies. That class of litigation is now largely out of the way. 


The collection of the man}- hundreds of private debts contracted in the 
early days increased the litigations and numbers of suits. The payment of 
most of those old matters has made the people independent and more con- 
tented. Besides the very fact that people have more to do with, and handle 
themselves and their properties, and that they plan in larger figures, make 
them better satisfied and contented. Contentment and a happy frame of 
mind ends much litigation. 


It is a little difficult to draw a line between the leading and the lesser 
litigations. It sometimes occurs that some lesser decisions are more im- 
portant than the greater. 

Perhaps the one great suit decided in the supreme court of the United 
States on October 21, 1895, relating to the twenty-two thousand acres of 
overlapping lands claimed by the railroads, and involving one hundred and 
twenty-five families, was the most important single litigated matter brought 
into one court ever affecting our people. True, however, that that was in 
the federal courts. The fact that some six to eight hundred suits in our own 
court house in Primghar all hovered around this nucleus of litigation, made 
it in effect an O'Brien county litigation. See the chapter on homesteads and 
free lands for a full statement. 

The second largest litigation ever in the county was the series of suits 
in our own courts, during the same period, testing out those large mass of 
legal questions of the taxation of those same railroad lands, and when taxa- 
tion commenced. These questions were somewhat akin to the land questions 
themselves. The county commenced the assessment and levy of taxes on 
those lands as early as 1873, on the theory that the railroads under the 
grant by Congress should commence to pay taxes when they should have 
earned them, or at least when they did earn them. The county did this to 
save whatever rights might later be found to exist. We make these tax suits 
a separate series from the lands, as in this series of suits the county of 
O'Brien, as a financial institution, was a part}' and became interested in the 
collection of its revenues that it should have had in years gone bv. To 
further complicate matters, several boards during the years had entered into 
sundry contracts with the railroads attempting to fix dates when taxation 
commenced. In this series of suits questions were raised that even the 
boards of supervisors had no right to make contracts that would lessen the 
people's rights to collect its revenues, and that the determining point when 


taxation commenced depended on the deeper questions of congressional land 
grants and other questions by the courts, and the questions when title com- 
menced, so that taxation could he had, were all gone into. In the meantime 
also the county, by its treasurers, had in some of the years sold some of these 
lands for these disputed taxes and sundry tax deeds had been issued on same. 
But even this series of tax suits largely lingered around the one great parent 
suit in the supreme court of the United States of 1895 referred to, and the 
attendant federal litigation. In the main, and as a final result, the home- 
steader and squatter paid his back taxes after he secured patent and during 
the subsequent years, and those who secured title by virtue of being holders 
of the railroad contracts were held to pay taxes for many years further back, 
as they stood in the shoes of the railroads. The payment and collection of 
these large amounts of back taxes in such large sums in these later years 
between 1900 and 1910 replenished the treasuries in the sundry funds and 
much aided the county in solving out some of these serious financial straits 
caused by the old debt. This suit or series of suits involved approximately 
(Hie hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars, which as collected was dis- 
tributed among the various funds, state, county, town and school. 


One of the earliest of the largest litigations, involving many separate 
suits, was the failure in 1892 and 1893, of Frank Teabout, of Sanborn, or 
rather, perhaps, of Teabout & Valleau. Air. Teabout, up to that time, had 
been one of the largest of the big farmers. His farming operations were 
generally referred to as "Teabout's ranches.'' In fact, he had been a large 
farmer in both YVinnesheik and O'Brien counties, handling thousands of 
acres with great success. He was a man of brains. His personal movement 
of bodv was like the tread of royalty. Bv an unfortunate plunge for him, in 
1878, in his older age, he had taken into partnership William H. Yalleau, 
who had even prior to that been a plunger and had broken up on a large scale 
in Decorah, YVinnesheik county, and a full-grown and all-around speculator 
on the board of trade, with no capital. Stores and grain elevators were soon 
started in several towns. Mr. Valleau was a rapid-firing gun. It was but a 
short time until Mr. Teabout's large accumulations of a long lifetime were 
involved in a mesh of complicated business, including even a twenty-thousand- 
dollar mortgage executed to Field, Lindley & Company, a speculating firm 
on the board of trade in Chicago, and covering all his farm properties. When 
the crash came, divers judgments were rendered against the firm and litiga- 


tions involving the various features of the break lasted for years, involving, 
it was claimed, from one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand dollars. 
Many forms of litigation followed, all resulting in a series amounting to one 
of the large litigations of O'Brien county. 


This suit was on the record of the court for many years, commencing in 
1870. As this suit and its connections was fully gone into in the chapter of 
the Taxpayers' Associations and other subjects, we need not repeat. It was 
brought by the Taxpayers' Association to enjoin the payment of the county 
debt of two hundred and thirty thousand dollars. It was a curious oddity of 
this suit that while we must rank it as one of the great litigations of the 
county it never was itself tried in the court. It went to the supreme court 
on a side question, but was dropped. The injunction was in force two years. 


Amherst H. Wilder was one of the trustees of the Sioux City & St. Paul 
Railroad and resided in St. Paul. He was in his individual capacity wealthy 
and as such individual and as trustee, and in his estate and that of his wife, 
connected with some very extensive records in our courts. 


This was one of the very long series of tax title suits brought in the 
count}' involving thousands of acres of land in this as well as Clay county, 
and many parts of Nebraska, but ended with practically no actual trials in 
this county. John Irwin spent his life in Nebraska City. For some reason, 
as the facts developed, it seemed that during his long life his one great 
hobby was to fight, not simply tax titles, but taxes, fighting whether or no 
and to resist them in every shape. He refused to pay taxes, he refused to 
redeem them from taxes when sold, and let them go to tax deeds and then 
fought the tax deeds. This hobby became almost a mania. He held the 
patent or first fee titles. Notices were served on him for these tax deeds and 
still he paid no attention. Later on he died. Then his heirs opened up the 
question that these eccentric hobbies of his were not only hobbies, but that 
they constituted insanity, and that a tax deed could not be procured against 
an insane man. These long-drawn-out sundry litigations being in so many 


different courts and covering- so many years, though mainly tried in other 
jurisdictions, met with all sorts of results. They were on the court records 
of O'Brien count}' for more than ten years. This large number of suits held 
on our records for so many years were largely notorious as mere levers or 
clouds on titles to collect something, notorious in the negative and practicallv 
were never tried. 


As stated in the article on Banks and Banking, the liquidation of Ed. C. 
Brown's bank, known as the Sheldon State Bank, was the only bank in forty 
years that ever broke up and landed its troubles in the courts in this countv. 
In its details, it involved also a series of litigations and court proceedings. 
Mr. Brown was himself indicted for embezzlement, the trial lasting a week, 
in which, however, he was acquitted. A receiver was appointed for the bank, 
in the person of R. AY. Adv. The bank had had everybody's confidence. 
The whole break-up covered, or rather included, propertv questions relating 
to about one hundred and eighty thousand dollars, branching out in all its 
details of banking on both sides of the ledger. Its deposits included sundry 
large sums from the county and school treasuries, and funds from other 
banks and various trust funds. These items involved many legal problems as 
to whether preferences should be given to certain trust deposits or other pe- 
culiarities connected with their deposit in the bank, and many of the ques- 
tions were carried clear to the supreme court of the state. The right to such 
preferences were not sustained, except as to one small claim collected by the 
bank the day it closed its doors, the details of the suit being too extensive to 
go into in this article. On the whole, as a record bunch of litigations it all 
ranks as one of the leading litigations of the count}'. The bank paid divi- 
dends of about seventy-three per cent. 


This set of court proceedings covered a large acreage in this county, and 
was one of the largest in volume and number of pages of record from other 
state courts in the United States, ever in the county. It was not, however, 
large litigation in the sense of serious questions submitted to the courts for 
decision, but in the patient and plodding details needed to complete same, and 
was all collected and closed in one of the largest, in acreage involved, of the 
large partition suits of land in the county. Mr. Lash had died, leaving an 


unusually large and complex set of family connections, scattered everywhere, 
to such an extent as to become overwhelming. It was an action for partition 
and sale of lands. The heirs and children and brothers and sisters and grand- 
children, in one hundred and twenty-two sets of families or divisions of 
people or groups to be dealt with, involving wills, and administrators, execu- 
tors, guardians, minors and insane, scattered in a dozen states and in all 
manners of courts. To make things doubly sure, in addition to the immense 
court records, the parties finally sent a special agent to see all the parties and 
got quit claim deeds in each of these large list of families. It was a complete 
piece of work, however, and stood the test of scores of title examiners during 
the past twenty-five years. 


This bunch of litigations, or rather lack of litigations, was one of the 
oddities of court proceedings. In 1897 Elizabeth Streeter leased a half sec- 
tion of land in Omega township, with a proviso in the lease giving her an 
option to buy it at any time during the lease at a given price. Thus it can 
lie seen she had absolutely nothing invested. She soon skillfully had it cir- 
culated broadcast, both by word of mouth and in the papers, that a very 
wealthy German lady was opening up an expensive set of farming operations. 
As if by magic, it soon piled up a sort of mountain-high credit. She had the 
appearance of the most sublime rustic innocence, that captured bankers, busi- 
ness men and everybody. She understood, in fact, all branches of business 
methods. She captured the very elect. She attended all the stock sales and 
bought extensively. She signed notes and papers in plenty. She bought fine 
teams of horses, and cattle and even down to ducks and chickens, grain, farm 
machinery, built buildings, fences, all on an elaborate scale. Of course the 
bubble broke. All sorts of suits and attachments followed. Still she held her 
nerve. She was arrested, indicted and landed in jail. She would walk 
directly away from the sheriff and out and away from the court, with utter 
disregard to court proceedings. Her trial was never even finished. She 
feigned sickness and escaped entirely, but was soon heard of in the same busi- 
ness in other places. In the meantime, she walked away from this county 
with her accumulations, amounting to thousands. Her apparent innocence 
outgeneraled the best business men in several counties. 

One of the large litigations in the county in the early days was over the 
establishment of the independent school district of Sheldon. The city of 
Sheldon, being exactly on the county line between O'Brien and Sioux, it can 


be seen that were the town to be confined in its landed territory for taxation 
purposes to that reasonable limit, only that the district could extend eastward 
in O'Brien count}', it could not secure enough funds to build and equip an 
adequate school for such a prospective town. Happily the law of Iowa pro- 
vided for just such a contingency, as common sense would say it should. 
The law seemed perfectly plain. But this did not appear to be plain to the 
Sioux county officials or people. They contested the right very energetically 
through all the courts, but the town of Sheldon finally won out and has ever 
since enjoyed sufficient territory on both sides of the line. 

The county has had no feuds, no unconquerable plaintiffs or defendants, 
or at least very few, no clannish citizenship, or trouble causing uprisings that 
have lasted through the generations. The homestead and squatter litigations 
were the longest and most numerous, but even these litigations were normal 
and natural and grew out of real questions. The people of the county may 
be said to be satisfied with the local administrative justice, its courts and its 
litigation. Mineteen-twentieths of its people are engaged in some actual 
independent occupation, each individual acting for himself. The county has 
no bodies of people dependent on one factory or separate concern. The 
countv never had a strike or its equivalent, for the reason that it never had 
any of the conditions for a strike. All this has kept its litigation healthy and 


The many early tax deeds, the bogus swamp land deeds, and title clouds 
by possession and otherwise, have been the cause of many quieting title suits. 
For instance, Herman Greve, who purchased many thousands of acres at the 
large tax sale of 1874 and other years, procured tax deeds to about four 
thousand two hundred acres by tax deed in 1879, bringing thirty-five separate 
suits to quiet title in one term of court. 

The county, as organized and managed by the board of supervisors, has 
been very fortunate in not having other than normal litigations, none over- 
whelmingly serious. Its criminal trials, in results and in costs, have been 
natural and reasonable in amount. It has never had a criminal suit where the 
costs have reached the sum of fifteen hundred dollars, exclusive of attorney 
fees. Its investigations, for instance, by coroners and justices of the peace, 
looking in the direction of murder and manslaughter, scarce reach a half 
dozen in the forty years, and the actual trials not that number. The county 
has never yet had in its criminal litigation what might be called a "swamper," 
either in amount of costs or excessive length of time taken by the court. 


The claims for damages against the county thus far have been minor in im- 
portance, and it has never had a judgment rendered against it as yet reaching 
above a few hundred dollars. Indeed, in both damage and criminal suits its 
expenses have been nominal, as compared with the fate of some other coun- 

The people of the count)- have had considerable litigation in the federal 
courts, over the overlapping lands, as we have recited in that chapter. The 
fact that one or other of the parties in suits have been nonresidents of the 
state has transferred many cases from the district court at Primsrhar to the 
United States court at Sioux City. This has been especiallv true in many 
cases against the railroads, the roads showing that they were nonresidents, 
by reason of having been incorporated in another state, and that the amount 
involved entitled it to go there. 


The United States court at Sioux City, since 1898, has appointed and 
maintained a referee in bankruptcy residing in this county. He hears all 
petitions in bankruptcy, and takes all evidence, and passes upon all contested 
questions except that of discharge in bankruptcy, which must be done by the 
court at Sioux City. It becomes quite a court within itself. 

The following persons have been appointed and filled this office of 
referee in bankruptcy, and who have presided over that court: J. L. E. 
Peck, from August, 1898, to September. 1903; George T. Wellman, from 
July, 1903. to July, 191 1 ; Spencer A. Phelps, from 191 1 to the present time. 

During Mr. Peck's period of about five years there were brought and 
tried ninety-one bankruptcy proceedings. A corresponding number have 
been filed and heard during the period of the other referees. 

The records of the referee's court are all finally deposited with and be- 
come a part of the proceedings in the United States district court at Sioux 
City or Dubuque. The referee handles these bankruptcies very much as an 
estate is handled in a probate court, and makes all orders relating to same. 
Trustees, however, are appointed by the referee, who conserve the properties 
and distribute the funds under orders by the referee, all matters of which 
may be reviewed on appeal to the court itself at Sioux City. Some large 
properties, reaching as high as forty thousand dollars and upwards, have 
been handled. One plunger of a merchant, or rather perhaps a transient 
merchant, at Sutherland in 1899 was refused a discharge in bankruptcy until 


he should pay into the court the sum of fifteen thousand dollars he was 
adjudged to be holding back from the creditors, which item was appealed to 
the United States court at Sioux City and the ruling of the referee sustained. 
Other items of like import and size, and of various phases on the lines of 
bankruptcy, have been before the court. 

Referring again to general litigation in the county, the jury trials have 
run from three to five per term of court, or perhaps a dozen per year, occa- 
sionally fifteen to twenty, or about seven to eight hundred jury trials in the 
grand total of forty years. 

So far in the history of the county during the forty years, and up to 
January i, 1914, the suits and numbers of proceedings brought have num- 
bered as follows: In the old circuit court, abolished in 1886. there were 
brought one thousand four hundred and fourteen cases, and transcripts to 
that court amounted to thirty-nine. In the district court to January 1, 1914, 
and which court has existed for the whole period of the county, there have 
been seven thousand nine hundred and sixty suits and proceedings, and one 
thousand nine hundred and eighty-six transcripts. In the probate branch of 
the district court during the whole period of the county there have been, up 
to January 1, 1914, one thousand one hundred and thirty-four estates, guard- 
ianships and kindred proceedings. In grand total of all proceedings there 
have been twelve thousand five hundred and thirty-three up to January 1. 

Thus it can be seen that fully three-fourths of all actual material court 
work in the county is done by the judges. Of all that large number of suits 
and causes of action in the county only about seven to eight hundred have 
been tried by a jury. No single case in open court in the county has ever 
exceeded about nine days in actual trial. It may be truly said, therefore, 
that the county has never been seriously cursed with any Harry K. Thaw, 
Jarndice vs. Jarndice, or McNamara trials, as in other places. 


Of the large estates and guardianships the following are among the 
larger of the county: Jonathan A. Stocum. William Harker, Elizabeth Har- 
ker, John Metcalf, Henry C. Lane. E. Y. Royce, Thomas Nott, E. M. Brady, 
James McKeoen and others. 

To sum up briefly, the litigation in the county has mainly consisted of 
normal law suits naturallv arising, with conclusons reached. We have not 


attempted details and perhaps have not recited all or even the most important 
litigations. Among all these thousands of proceedings, as can be seen, it 
would-be difficult to give a brief review in the space allotted in this article; it 
would need a book to enter into even a considerable number. We have, how- 
ever, given enough to show the general outline of the litigation in O'Brien 

The justices' courts of the county are much the same as found in other 
counties in the state. This, however, is the people's court, with jurisdiction 
up to one hundred dollars, and by consent of parties up to three hundred 
dollars. It comes in touch in each neighborhood with the citizens in the 
several townships. As will be seen from figures above given, there have been 
in all two thousand and twenty-five transcripts filed in the district court. A 
large number, perhaps a full half, have been transcripts or appeals from the 
justices' courts of the county, the remaining transcripts being transcripts of 
judgments and proceedings from the courts of record in other counties. The 
above numbers, however, would only be a small part of the actual trials and 
judgments rendered in those courts, a large majority of whose trials and 
hearings become final. 



In the educational chapter we named and gave the ten newspapers in 
our several towns a place among the educational features of the county. 
We sometimes smile at the country newspaper as if a sort of a little upstart, 
an amateur attempt to be a paper, and joke about its patent insides, as a 
product of a Sears, Roebuck & Company machine set of brains. But we 
will not retract our first measure. They have played a part in all the main 
historic incidents herein recorded. They are like matches and salt cellars, 
found in every home. They are a necessity. 

How often, when absent from home, do we wait the mail with a long- 
ing" thought of home and of neighborhood incidents going on. When the 
paper arrives it becomes a combination news-letter, of all the doings of 
the whole town and count}', with a hundred items the folks at home have 
failed to tell. These county newspapers become gladsome and joyous, to 
the ears and to the eyes. Like the Stars and Stripes, they float, the}' stir 
up your loyalty to wife, children, home, town and county. 

Perhaps they state that Mary has arrived home from Grinnell or 
Drake University and your vanity is tickled. ''Little Johnnie spoke a piece 
in the school program." Your family letter had not thought it of sufficient 
importance or had not thought of it at all, but such an item is not thought 
too small by the patient news-gathering editor or the typesetter. A local 
man starts up as a candidate. You read it and ache to get home to help 
him or lick him out. Your wife is elected president of the Priscilla or 
Ladies Aid Society, or a daughter appears in the League and your mind 
thinks ''some pumpkins." Your daughter is married and the time-honored 
list of silver pickle dishes and spoons is published. Your own getting on 
the train to make the present trip is noted, and you feel two inches taller. 
Your baby wins a prize in the baby show, and you jump three jumps twenty 
feet to show it to somebody. When thus away from home, you even find 
yourself reading the advertisements, the executor's notices and bridge 
lettings. You read perhaps that your own town bank has two hundred 
and eighty thousand dollars on deposits according to their advertisement: 

288 o'brien and osceola coi;nties, IOWA. 

that your neighbor sold three carloads of steers, or that the machine dealer 
sold twenty manure spreaders that season. You read the markets, even 
if you are not in business on those lines. They link you up, these county 
papers do, to "Home Sweet Home," and perhaps your throat begins to 
choke. The local doings, even if you are at home, are there condensed, in 
a way you never would have had time to run around and find out yourself, 
and saves you being called a gossip, hunting around for news. Careful 
notation of the "haps" and pointers and "squiblets," small per item, but 
you read them quickly. When mother is dead the obituarv is carefully 
written up, and the tear drops fall as you read the notice over and over, in 
the years to come. All the hallowed items, including" all the joyous senti- 
ments, revolve around mother, home and heaven, with love floating as a 
banner; that word, the purest and holiest word in the English language, all 
bubbling up through the human heart and soul Godward. 

The daily Chicago papers could not supply the place. Some pungent 
editor sticks you righteously between the ribs and you get wrathy when it 
hits you and roll all over with laughter when it hits the other fellow. When 
done, the paper is laid down, and then picked up again to read them over, 
and then still over again; you have secured a fund of information and 
knowledge of home and family and town and county and business, of dol- 
lars in value, as likewise showing up the joys and wits of local interest, and 
you must at last conclude rightly that the ten papers in O'Brien county are 
in fact real sources of information and education. 

It is believed by many that the press is an educator which is only sur- 
passed by the public school and if it is true that truth and its dissemination 
is better than falsehood — if refined and elevating thought is better than 
groveling and bestial longings — then the country newspaper has a mission, 
and it is not without its responsibilities. 

Again, the country editor occupies another peculiar place. In the 
affections of the people he is a public benefactor. He is generally poor 
because the spirit within him compels him to do the unremunerative work of 
the community. His talents are not always those of the financier. A part 
of the talent of the financier is to do the thing that pays — pays' money. If 
there be needful things to do which have no profit, let others do them. All 
honor to the man whose life has been an industrious and helpful one and 
who has done the gratuities of the world and who comes down to the grave 
with an empty purse. Such a life dignifies privation and poverty above the 
dignity of kings, and is the growing sentiment of the world. 


The first newspaper circulated in this county was established in Old 
O'Brien in 1871 by John R. Pumphrey. B. F. McCormack, that ubiquitous 
and eccentrically talented individual who for nearly forty years was more or 
less connected with the business life of the county, was its first editor. It 
was denominated the O'Brien Pioneer, printed in Cherokee county by Rob- 
ert Buchanan and thus continued until the spring of 1872, when Col. L. B. 
Raymond, then publishing" a paper at Cherokee, as part of a general plan 
for profitable establishment of newspapers in counties newly organized, to 
get the valuable county printing, opened a printing office at Old O'Brien 
and on May 24, 1872, he published the first paper printed in the county, con- 
tinuing the former publication as the O'Brien Pioneer. Without inter- 
ruption that paper has continued, published by varying printers and editors, 
awhile at Primghar and later at Sanborn. It is now known as the Sanborn 
Pioneer. In November, 1872, A. H. Willits purchased the paper and con- 
tinued the publication at Primghar the following spring, when the county 
seat was removed to the center of the county in compliance with the election 
of 1872. In 1873 Major C. \Y. Inman purchased a half interest, but he 
was soon displaced by J. R. Pumphrey, the banker of the county seat, who 
sold to A. G. Willits in April, 1875. The latter was a son of A. H. Willits. 
The latter was thus identified with the paper for some seven years. And 
during most of that time, by virtue of his office as clerk of the courts, he 
was able to throw much of the patronage in way of legal notices to his paper. 
In January. 1879. he retired from the clerk's office and nominally from the 
paper, but still loaned some of his energy to editorial work. July 1, 1879, 
Warren Walker, an attorney of Primghar, purchased an interest and he 
and A. G. Willits continued its publication until 1880, when the plant was 
moved from Primghar to Sanborn. In 1881 the name was changed to 
Sanborn Pioneer, A. G. Willits being then sole owner. A. H. Willits was 
a forceful character in the conduct of his paper, vigorous in his style and 
ready to defend his rights, his town and his paper. During his life of 
action in the county and while publishing the paper, there cropped out the 
first of that rivalry that has to a greater or less degree existed between 
Primghar and Sheldon. This jealously and strife frequently took the form 
of personal attacks on the characters of the editors in the respective papers, 
and if half of the charges made in the pages of the Pioneer and Mail dur- 
ing those vears are true, both Willits and Piper should have been occupants 
of a state criminal institution. But as time flies swiftly by, it softens the 
asperities of life, and, reading the story from a distance, forgetting the highly 



charged atmosphere and aroma of passion and antagonism, we can see much 
good in both of these men. Their troubles first arose over the conflict as to 
the final location of the McGregor railroad, afterwards the Chicago, Mil- 
waukee & St. Paul. It was attempting to change its direction and, passing 
through Primghar, strike the Sioux City & St. Paul Railroad at a point 
between Alton and Hospers, thus giving it better selection of lands under 
its land grant. Primghar encouraged this, as it would bring the track to the 
county seat and for the same reasons Sheldon wanted it to run farther north, 
as it in fact later did. A county seat fight or two and other contentions 
caused periodical renewal of the "warfare." 

J. H. Wolf, a veteran of the Civil War, who had arrived in the county 
in the fall of 1872. to "spy out the land," moved his family to Franklin town- 
ship in the spring of 1873. He had always taken a keen interest in county 
affairs, was a frequent contributor to the columns of the county papers and 
served as supervisor from 1879 to 1881. In December, 1883, he purchased 
the Sanborn Pioneer from A. G. Willits and began a newspaper career that 
has continued to the present time, leaving him the Nestor of the newspaper 
fraternity of the county. As an editor J. H. Wolf has always stood for 
righteousness and honesty. Frequently his positions have been subject to 
criticism by some of his patrons, as happens to every newspaper man, but 
none have ever doubted his sincerity and honesty of purpose. While con- 
ducting the O'Brien County Bell at Primghar, he had occasion to attack 
what he considered the extravagances of the board of supervisors, criticis- 
ing especially their expenditures for county bridges. The attack brought 
many new subscribers, made him some friends, but antagonized the members 
of the board and the paper suffered great financial loss in county printing. 
With the passing of the board that had been attacked, the Bell regained its 
patronage and its campaign eventually won it friends who have increased 
and multiplied many fold. 

In succession, the Pioneer passed for a few months under lease to S. 
L. Sage, who was an experienced newspaper man and who had been engaged 
in newspaper work for fifty years, mostly in Iowa. Next Will F. Wolf, 
now publisher of the Hawarden Chronicle, had charge of the paper until it 
was sold to H. E. Wolf, another son of the veteran newspaper man. Later 
George J. Clark, W. S. Johnson, C. E. Foley and Richard Closson owned 
and conducted the paper, the latter being present editor and proprietor. 

After a short experience as publisher of the Cherokee Free Press, F. 
M. McCormack, familiarly known as "Pomp" McCormack, came to the 
county in 1878, establishing his home in Sheldon. He was an actor of no 


mean ability and employed in various home talent dramatic companies dur- 
ing his many years residence in the county, beginning his first labors in 
Sheldon in such an enterprise. He was an original, unique character in 
the pioneer days. First employed as a printer at Sheldon, assisting his 
brother, B. F. McCormack, in the establishment of the Sheldon News in 
1879, he continued employment on Sheldon newspapers until 1885, when 
he began the publication of the O'Brien County Bell. The first issues were 
printed at Sheldon although the paper was published at Primghar. Later 
the plant was transferred to the county seat, which at that time had no 
newspaper. Primghar was then in a gloomy and depressed condition, 
through the removal of many of its citizens to Sanborn and other adjoining 
towns. Pomp had an old-fashioned Washington hand press. The Bell 
office was in a small building, twelve by eighteen feet in size, the same that 
is now used as a shoe shop near the southeast corner of the court house 
square. There was scarcely room to move around, set type and make up 
his paper. It was the home of the Bell for two years. The editor was 
dubbed the "crank that rings the Bel!." It was prior to the building of a 
railroad into Primghar and a very unpromising field for newspaper enter- 
prise. A few years previously there had been an exodus of people and 
buildings from Primghar to Sanborn, the new town on the Milwaukee 
Railroad eight miles north. Man}' buildings were vacant and even resi- 
dents thought the town had gone "flunk." For several years the building 
deals had consisted of the tearing down and moving of structures to San- 
born. It had been an age of demolition instead of construction. The Bell 
was thus started and indeed established as a permanent paper under these 
most discouraging circumstances. Be it said that no town in the county, or 
the county itself, ever had in an editor more of a booster — each day inside 
the town, each week in his paper. Pomp could make a boost out of an 
apparent failure or a joke. He understood the pioneer and early times, 
and, though often magnifying trifles, he did much in putting heart into the 
hard situations by his newspaper boosting and humor. For instance, in 
1887 Herbert E. Thayer built what is now the pool hall at the southeast 
corner of the square for an abstract of title and land office. In fact it had 
been the first building venture since the "exodus." Each week Pomp had a 
write up, of how Primghar' was building up again, one week writing it up 
as the "building at the southeast corner of the square," the next week as 
the "building on Main street" and so on from week to week during its 
building until a casual reader would conclude that the town was rushing in 
its construction work. 


The engraved head, suggestive of a birdseye view of the county, with 
the name O'Brien County Bell in large letters across its top border, so 
familiar to the readers of the Bell, illustrates Pomp's original booster clever- 
ness. The whiskered man in the lower right hand corner is a very good 
picture of old Adam Towberman, who was one of the oldest settlers, 
among the homestead crowd of the early seventies and who built the 
bridges (not the early fraudulent ones) for fifteen years of the genuine 
early bridge building of the county. A familiar figure in the county, he 
brought in nearly if not quite all the early trees first planted and which 
comprise what are now the groves. It was "Old Towb" that Pomp was 
putting in that head plate. Each town of the county is intended to be shown 
in the picture, with the enterprising telephone lines bringing in the news 
to the paper. It was in June, 1886, that Pomp brought to the senior editor 
of this history his sketch of the proposed heading. His idea was that that 
bell there ringing and suspended over "Primghar, the Capitol of O'Brien 
County, Iowa," sounded forth Primghar and the county with a boost and 
placed them "on the map." This heading would "dress the stage" of the 
county, as he put it. The O'Brien County Bell has now for twenty-eight 
years handed down an eccentric and indeed a practical heading with an idea 
of its enterprise for all time to that paper. At one time Pomp got his old 
Washington hand press out of his office, set it up on a wagon, attached be- 
hind several large farm machines, including a threshing separator, hitched 
four horses to the outfit, got all the cow bells and tin pans and noisy articles 
in town and with the frisky boys all ringing them went round and round the 
court house square, with one big bell over the press on the wagon. The 
"Crank of the Pell" was ringing the bell. 

McCormack had many streaks of eccentricity and triviality which 
neutralized his fine boosting qualities and left him anything but a financial 
success. He could entertain a crowd of twenty sidewalk listeners and keep 
them roaring with laughter, but with the final remark, "what was it all about 
anyway?" Nevertheless he established firmly one of the substantial news- 
papers of the county now for so many years under the management of 
Jacob H. Wolf, assisted by his two sons, Bert and Fred. Pomp was an 
inveterate practical joker, wit and humorist. On one occasion he ran in 
the canvass for county recorder, but was defeated. Called on for a speech, 
he nobly rose to the occasion and made one of the wittiest ever heard in the 
county. It could not be pictured in print. It was distinctly "Pomp" in its 
originality and good humor, given at a time when bitterness of defeat might 


have soured the ordinary speaker. His career as an actor was always mani- 
fest in his every action; he never was caught off his guard and always 
studied the effect of his speech and action. For many years he joined the 
business of auctioneer with his newspaper activities. 

It has been said of "Pomp" that he "runs a paper in just that way and 
manner which commends itself to the editor." He was certainly original, 
if not erratic in his methods. He delighted in extravagant statement and 
the unusual method of presenting his news. Never a financial success, he 
worked hard for- the best interests of his community and continually made 
sacrifices therefor. While his methods did not always bring the result in- 
tended, no one ever doubted his loyalty to his home town. After disposing 
of his paper in 1894 to Wolf & Gravenor, he established a paper in Prim- 
ghar in competition, but the project received but little support and quickly 
perished. Later he was for a short time in the newspaper business at Hart- 
ley, publishing the Hartley Journal. Later he conducted a paper at Clare- 
mont, Minnesota, and afterwards removed to Wyoming, where he now 

Lnder the management of Wolf & Gravenor, the Bell assumed a 
standing in the community it never before had. Its new proprietors were 
experienced business men, Air. Wolf having been a printer in his earlv life 
in. Pennsylvania and later conducting the newspaper at Sanborn and having 
been well known in the county through his newspaper work and political 
activities. Mr. Gravenor was not long actively connected with the business, 
his interests being represented by his son, and he soon disposed of his share 
to H. E. Wolf, a son of J. H. J. H. Wolf & Son continued the publication 
of the Bell and the Sanborn Pioneer for some two years, when the Pioneer 
was sold to George J. Clark and H. E. Wolf withdrew from the control 
of the Bell and his father, in a sole ownership, assisted by his sons Fred B. 
and Bert Wolf, has continued the publication. 

For nearly thirty years, the Bell has been an active factor in politics 
and a leading paper in the county. Located at the county seat, it has had 
a prestige and chance to secure the news that especially interests the tax- 
payer of the county and it has always been keen to secure that news and 
disseminate to its readers the actual condition and conduct of the administra- 
tion of county business as well as chronicle the news of the community. 
Its criticisms of public officials and wrong doers has caused it to form some 
enemies and temporarily, at least, to suffer some financial loss, but it long 
ago earned the reputation for honesty and fearless publication of the news 
that has earned it hosts of friends. 


In December, 1879, the O'Brien Pi oncer, at Primghar, met its first 
close competition. Cleveland J. Reynolds arrived and established the Prim- 
ghar Tribune, a seven-column folio. The paper was loudly heralded as an 
advocate for the correction of evils in the conduct of county business, an- 
nounced reform with a big "R" and began an expose of the crookedness and 
rascality of the early county officials. In its first issues it began publishing 
an abstract of the proceedings of the county supervisors, exposing the 
iniquitous contracts and devious methods that had been used in filching" 
money from the county treasury. In April, 1880, the paper was turned 
over to Caleb -G. Bundy, a versatile writer and experienced newspaper man, 
who ably conducted the paper until 1882. The policy of the paper was 
soon shown to be vigorously in favor of objection to the county indebted- 
ness that had been saddled on the actual settlers by the grafting bogus settlers 
who had organized the county. We believe that this is the only paper in 
the county outside of the Sheldon Eagle that openly advocated the defeat of 
the debt. In 1881 the county refunded its indebtedness and Bundy 's policy 
was defeated and the paper passed out of existence. Bundy, however, im- 
mediately commenced the publication and printing of a newspaper en- 
titled the Primghar Times. This was not properly supported, however, 
and on September 28, 1882, the paper was moved to PauJlina, giving the 
town its first paper, under the title of Paullina Times. For a time Bundy 
& Thomas published it and Oscar D. Hamstreet, a lawyer and graduate of 
the State University, who had grown tired of illy paid practice of law. 
secured control of the paper in September, 1883. He continued its publica- 
tion for about ten years, being succeeded by Frank M. Bethel and later by 
the present owner, A. W. McBride. Mr. Hamstreet conducted a good 
paper and was a thorough newspaper man. Mr. Bethel, who succeeded 
him, was a practical printer, a forceful writer, honest and blunt in his 
opinions and not always possessed of that tact in expression of opinion that 
might bring greater revenue to the paper. In August, 1909, he removed 
to Oregon, where he is engaged in newspaper work. Mr. McBride, the 
present owner and editor, is fearless in the discharge of his duty, rather 
pert and plain in the expression of his opinions, making some enemies by 
so doing. He has a fine literary style, witty in his comments and has good 
talent. Under his management the Times stands for everything clean and 
uplifting and for good morals, good citizenship. The experiment of start- 
ing an opposition paper in Paullina was tried by R. Jeff Tavlor in 19 12. 
His paper, the Paullina Star, proved a failure and was soon abandoned. 

In 1893 M. H. Galer, an unsuccessful exponent of religious preaching. 


proved his incompetence in another line by attempting to publish a paper 
known as the Primghar Republican. It was quickly sold to E. R. Little, 
the compositor employed by Galer, and the new publisher gave up the effort 
before the end of the year. 

The Democrat, established in Primghar by H. B. Waite in 1896, has 
been able to maintain a varied existence. Waite had formerly been a school 
teacher, had considerable ability as a writer, but very little business judg- 
ment, and had a propensity for extravagant statement. His business life in 
Primghar was strewn with frequent personal encounters, bitterness and 
bickerings and he finally moved to Seattle, where he now resides. During 
his conduct of the Democrat he engaged in a newspaper contest with the 
Sheldon Mail, in which he filed a larger list of subscribers than the Mail. 
The contest was before the county supervisors and was held to determine 
the right to publish official board proceedings and receive pay for the county 
printing. The Mail was unable to prove the Democrat list fraudulent and 
the Democrat won the contest, at a great expense to both parties. Later 
J. A. Graham, F. A. Vaughan and Ira Borland were successively connected 
with the paper. Mr. Borland, the present editor and publisher, is a good 
mechanic, was a resident of the county some twenty years ago and has re- 
turned to show his ability. He is publishing a good clean paper, typo- 
graphically well printed and with a good strong editorial policy and keen 
eye for news. He will no doubt do much to make the Democrat a paper 
with a strong subscription list and of influence in the community. 

The Mail was established in Sheldon by Col. L. B. Raymond, of 
Cherokee, in January, 1873, s ' x months after the establishment of the village 
at that place and at a time, when, as its editor later stated, "Sheldon's in- 
habitants might be enumerated by counting your fingers."' This was Colonel 
Raymond's second newspaper venture in the county, his previous experience 
having been in connection with the Pioneer at Old O'Brien. The paper at 
Sheldon was soon sold to D. A. YV. Perkins, the pioneer attorney of the 
county, who later took in a partner. In September, 1874, it was sold to 
Frank T. Piper and in three months he sold to J. F. Glover. Glover had 
changed the name of the publication in January, 1875, to that of Sheldon 
Republic. In March it was published by Glover and a partner by name 
of W. B. Reed and so continued till August, 1875, when F. T, Piper re- 
gained ownership, restored the paper to its original name and continued the 
publication as the Sheldon Mail until his death in 1902. 

Frank T. Piper was a thoroughly practical newspaper man, well versed 


in the technical art of printing, a good mechanic, an excellent business man 
and financier, a vigorous editorial writer and energetic news gatherer. In 
the county there have been more polished writers, deeper thinkers, men with 
more loveable dispositions, and many who in various single details excelled 
Frank Piper in their newspaper work, but during the entire history of the 
count}" there have been none who can show such a long period of continued 
newspaper success and so great financial returns for their efforts as this 
man. Active in politics, influential in the councils of his chosen political 
party — the Republican — he was a man to be reckoned with in every political 
contest and feared and loved as the life of the aspirant for political honors 
measured up to the Mail's standard of honest}'. He was certainly in his 
element as a newspaper man and made the Mail a success in every way 
from the start. He wielded a wide influence in politics and made money. 
His reputation as a newspaper man was state wide, the Mail ranking with 
the best weekly newspapers in the state. Mr. Piper's aggressive combative- 
ness made him a good many enemies, but these, with his many friends, will 
think rather of his ability and merits. He was prominent in county politics 
■ — his support being sought after and his opposition feared. He held many 
offices, among them mayor of Sheldon and postmaster at the same place. 
He was at one time candidate for state senator and his county loyally sup- 
ported him, but he failed to secure the nomination. He was many times 
a delegate to legislative, senatorial, congressional and state conventions of 
the Republican party. His ability to attract business to his paper was 
phenomenal. While his paper was published he never lacked advertising 
patronage. His methods of securing business were sure and effectual. 
His columns were always well patronized and his subscription lists grew. 
Never while he published the Mail did any paper in the county exceed 
it in its list of subscribers. At all times he had the best equipped printing 
office in the county. Prior to 1878 advertised lists of lands in this countv 
•to be sold for taxes had been set up in Des Moines or Sioux City, printed 
as a supplement and included in the regular editions of the paper. Clouds 
of doubt as to validity of these tax sales had been cast by such methods, 
as it was uncertain whether it was a legitimate publication under the pro- 
visions of the law, but the entire matter, seven columns in length, was set 
up in the Mail office and printed in the regular edition of the Mail for that 
year. By 1880 he had a one-thousand-two-hundred-dollar power printing 
press and that was considered a marvel of mechanics in those days. In 
1 88 7, during the continued hard winter, when for weeks at a time the rail- 


roads were blockaded and when the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul did not 
run a train into Sheldon for nearly three months, the paper suffered for 
"print" paper to get out its edition. Telegrams sent to Sioux City brought 
replv from Perkins Brothers : "Haven't a bundle of print in the house. 
God help us." St. Paul telegraphed that no express company would accept 
shipments for the snow bound district and in March, 1881, the paper was 
compelled to issue to its subscribers two editions of limited size, printed 
on brown paper. In January, 1898, to relieve himself of some of the 
burden of printing office work. Mr. Piper took into the business C. P. Miller 
and Win S. Avers, who had been associated with him in the mechanical 
department of the paper, and the business was incorporated under the name 
of Piper, Miller & Ayers. Later, after the death of Mr. Piper, the business 
was continued by his son, R. P>. Piper, with whom was associated J. E. 
Wyckoff and conducted under the corporate name of Mail Printing Com- 
pany. Enlargements of the mechanical department and addition of ex- 
pensive equipment did not prove a profitable investment and the business 
was finally disposed of to C. M. Stearns. Later it was transferred to C. O. 
Button and W. A. Eddington, the former having active charge of the con- 
duct of the paper. By special campaigns he greatly increased the sub- 
scription list and sold the paper in 1913 to Paul C. Woods, who is its pres- 
ent publisher. 

The Sanborn Journal was conducted by Warren Walker and R. F. 
Hiler from 1886 to 1889. Mr. Walker, referred to in the chapter on the 
legal profession, was a hard worker and gave some attention to the edi- 
torial conduct of the paper, but the mechanical work was under the super- 
vision of Mr. Hiler. The paper showed considerable enterprise and at one 
time published an elaborate sketch of the business interest of and exploited 
the advantages of O'Brien county, fully illustrating the edition with cuts of 
the court house, pictures of the county officials, etc. 

B. F. McCormack. the versatile founder of the Sanborn Sun and 
original editor of the O'Brien Pioneer, who had been an active participant 
in the conduct of county business for many years during its early struggle 
for existence and shared with the early pioneers in the sorrows and joys and 
profits and losses of that early experience, made his second newspaper ven- 
ture in Sheldon in 1879. He had been immediately prior to that date con- 
ducting a hardware store in Sheldon and the new paper, denominated the 
News, was first published in the second story of the building occupied by 
his hardware store. His brother, F. M. McCormack, and Gus Satterlee, a 


former employe of the Sheldon Mail, assisted in the conduct of the paper, 
which was sold soon afterward to J. F. Ford, an experienced newspaper 
man who came from Spencer, Iowa. Later Lon F. Chapin secured an 
interest and he and Ford continued the conduct of the paper until 1885. 
Ford was a good newspaper man and Chapin a perfect gentleman, a polished 
writer and successful publisher. Later he was connected with a newspaper 
at Sibley, at Rock Rapids, and Pasadena, California, finally retiring and 
engaging in the raising of oranges in the Golden state. 

The Sheldon Eagle, established by Creglow & Reynolds in 1889, has 
had several owners. B. H. Perkins was connected with the paper from 
1891 to 1894 and again in 1896. George L. Nelson was in charge in 1894. 
Later the Eagle was owned by J. H. Oates. Col. M. B. Darnell, probably 
the most talented, educated and finished writer ever living in the county, was 
a frequent contributor and editorial writer. Colonel Darnell was later con- 
nected with the Sheldon Sun. He was a surviving soldier of the Civil War, 
had rendered valiant service in the LJnion army and was a resident of the 
county since 1883. His editorial writings raised the newspaper to its high- 
est level of literary worth in the history of the county and when he dropped 
the editorial pen the county lost one of its best writers. He was a man of 
broad knowledge, high ideals and a command of language and literary style 
that attracted attention to his paper among the newspapers of the state. 

The Sheldon Gazette was established by W. H. Xoyes in 1895. Xoyes 
had formerly been in the employ of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul 
Railway Company at Sheldon, and left there to hold the office of recorder 
of the county at Primghar residing there for ten years. After leaving the 
recorder's office he conducted a store at Primghar and was later elected 
sheriff", holding that office four years. The Sheldon Gazette venture did 
not long endure and Noyes took the plant to Pine county, Minnesota, where 
he conducted a newspaper, was elected a member of the state Legislature, 
and later established a paper at Birchwood, Wisconsin. He is now in the 
newspaper business at Winter. Wisconsin, his son "Tommy" being his busi- 
ness partner. 

The Sanborn Sun, the third paper established in the county by B. F. 
AlcCormack, first saw the light of day at Sanborn. As usual with the Mc- 
Cormack papers, it was erratic, caustic and sensational. McCormack had 
his own way of entertaining his readers each week and was not dependent 
upon news items to furnish entertainment. The paper was finally moved to 
Sheldon, its subscription price raised from ten cents a year to fifty cents per 


annum and later to standard newspaper price. The paper met with varying 
success under the management of H. A. Carson, J. H. Oates, H. K. Fortuin, 
passing through a receivership conducted by A. J. Walsmith, the Sheldon 
attorney, and was sold May i, 1907, to Hamilton & Bartz. It had been 
published part of the time as a daily and Hamilton & Bartz conducted it 
so tor about six months, when it was returned to a weekly edition and has 
proven a great financial success, taking a leading position among the papers 
of the county. Bert Hamilton, the senior partner, is an experienced news- 
paper man, having been engaged in newspaper work in this county and at 
Northwood, Iowa, for thirty years. Under his wise policy and careful 
management the paper has been established where its power as representing 
the broadest and best policy of a Republican newspaper is fully established. 
Mr. Bartz, who was associated with Mr. Hamilton for some six years, 
retired in 19 13 and the paper is now owned by Hamilton & Son. 

John Whiting for a time conducted a newspaper at Sheldon, which was 
later transformed into a farm journal, but, proving a financial failure, it 
soon succumbed to the inevitable. 

An old newspaper plant owned at one time by Ira Brasheers and used 
for the conduct of a paper at Sanborn, was purchased at mortgage sale and 
later used for publication of the Cycle, by "Quad Line" Kernan. Kernan 
was formerly of the Okalona, Mississippi, Southern States, the famous 
mouthpiece of the Southern Confederacy. The Cycle contained a noisy 
political department and achieved a reputation for dissension and strife, 
but had an ephemeral existence. Kernan is said to have recently died in 
Kansas in a county poor house. He was brilliant in his talents, but mis- 
directed their application. 

The first newspaper at Hartley, the Record, began publication in June, 
1884, with T. E. Cole as editor. He was a good printer and a bright editor. 
After about a year the paper was leased to Allen Crossan, who had pre- 
viously been employed as teacher in the public schools there. He con- 
ducted the paper for a year, purchased it and continued it for three years 
more and re-sold it to Mr. Cole. Will Dunn later secured a half interest 
in it and in 1891 C. H. Crawford, who had closed a two-year service as 
county superintendent of schools, took charge of the paper. In 1894 he 
sold to Claude Charles. The latter changed its name to the Hartley Journal. 
Later the paper was sold to F. M. McCormack, then leased to Ray Gleason, 
formerly of the Sutherland Republican, then sold to Irving A. Dove, who 
conducted it till 19 10 when it was sold to its present owner, Eugene B. Peck. 


A second paper in Hartley, the News, established by G. R. Gregg in 
1895, lasted just ninety days and perished. The printing material used in 
its publication was purchased in July, 1896, by Allen Crossan, who sold it 
to George F. Robb. 

C. A. Charles returned to Hartley in 19 12 and began publication of the 

Harvey Hand, the first newspaper publisher in Sutherland, commenced 
publication of the Courier in 1882. quickly sold to C. H. Brintnall in Novem- 
ber, [H82. Brintnall conducted the paper till the spring of 1884, when he 
sold to Bert Hamilton, who had been living at Sutherland for some time 
previously and connected with the paper. Hamilton was an expert printer 
and newspaper man and wielded a large influence in county politics, proving 
a forceful writer and active Republican. For many years he has been 
actively connected with the Republican county organization. In Septem- 
ber, 1893. he sold the paper to \V. H. Bloom. The latter was a fine writer, 
a gentleman and profound thinker, but a poor business man. His health 
failed and he died in 1904. His wife continued the conduct of the paper 
with marked ability until the end of 1905, when the plant was sold to A. G. 
Warren. Warren conducted it for three years and it was successively sold 
to Mort F Xicol, G. Ft. Vos, Joe A. Moore and finally, in March, 1910, to 
Sam S. Sherman. The latter was a man who immediately made his impress 
on the political complexion of the county. Stubborn and persistent and 
positive in his opinions, he brooked no deviation from his expressed deter- 
minations and many are the newspaper controversies stirred up by him. A 
bright writer, and finally a true blue "Bull Mooser" in his political affiliations, 
he retired in November, 19 13. leaving a fame that will not soon die. 

J. X. Slick, for thirty years a merchant in Sutherland, and his son-in- 
law, McFarland, succeeded to the paper and are now publishing a clean 
sheet, all home print and full of local news. 

The Reznew, and later the Republican, were other Sutherland papers 
of ephemeral exstence. Ray Gleason, Fred Pratt and G. E. Hirleman were 
connected with these publications. 

In 1906 D. H. Murphy established the Calumet Clipper, which was of 
short life. The Independent, established by Lloyd Harris in 1912, was sold 
to M. M. Magner in 191 3 and is now conducted by M. B. Royer. 

The Woman's Standard, published in the interest of the political rights 
of women, was conducted by Roma W. Woods at Sutherland during the 
years 1897 and 1898. Mrs. Woods has been a frequent contributor to the 


county papers, active in the organization of woman's clubs and assisting" in 
the conduct thereof. She is highly educated, talented, a ready writer and 
attractive in her newspaper style. Under her conduct the Standard attracted 
considerable attention and was a strong force in establishing recognition of 
the cause it espoused. The paper was the official organ of the Iowa 
Woman's Suffrage Association. 

On this March 10, 1914, just as this history is ready to go to press. 
the first number of a daily newspaper named the Daily Sheldon Record is 
issued and published by the Sheldon Printing and Publishing Company and 
conducted by Bruce A. Truman as editor. It is Democratic in politics. It 
is an eight-page seven-column paper, all in ample proportions. This is not, 
however, the first attempt at a daily paper in the county. B. F. McCormack 
issued the Sheldon Sun for a short time as a daily. While it had eight 
pages, it was but a small folder of three columns per page. Air. McCormack 
himself humorously referred to it as his "Daily Postage Stamp." 


B.v W. R. Brock. M. D. 

The history of any community whose civilization rises distinctly above 
barbarism is not complete unless there is contained within its pages a short 
historical chapter written upon medicine and surgery. 

The first physicians who came to O'Brien county to live came in the 
year 1873. They came into the hardships of pioneer life with two objects 
in view. The first was to acquire land by homesteading, and the second 
was co care for the sick while they were acquiring title to their lands. 

The physicians who practiced medicine in the early seventies were not 
the first physicians on record, for the art of treating the sick as a distinct 
business has been followed for about twenty-three hundred years. But 
nowhere does the world record greater hardships upon the practitioner of 
medicine than those recorded of O'Brien county's early physicians. In 
1873 there was not a post nor tree and only occasionally a faint trail to act 
as a guide to the physician as he made distant visits to the sick in storms 
of rain and snow by day and by night. Dr. C. Longshore, who now resides 
in Sheldon, hale and heart)", and who was one of the first two physicians in 
O'Brien county, had, many times, to get out of his buggy at night and get 
down on his hands and knees to see if he could feel with his hands some 
faint trail of a wagon or buggy wheel that he might make a better guess as 
to where he was or which way he was going. \\ hen there was sickness in 
some far distant shack it required a brave heart to storm the weather or the 
darkness to go after the doctor and it required an equally brave heart upon 
the part of the doctor to make the professional visit. One of the greatest 
heroisms recorded in pioneer days was that of Dr. Edwin Hornibrook when, 
in the blockade of 1880, he made a visit to a patient in Sanborn from 
Cherokee and returned, a distance of nearly seventy miles, which he made 
afoot upon snow shoes, traveling over snow 7 banks twice deeper than his 
own length. If those explorers who waged hazardous expeditions in quest 
for the North and South poles could have selected their parties from such 
men as the early pioneer doctors of northwestern Iowa they certainly would, 
not have lacked heroism for any possible undertaking. Those doctors were 


brave and true. They fought bravely main- battles and lost frequently to 
the enemy. In those dark days of O'Brien county, when diphtheria invaded 
so many homes and left the father and mother without a child out of large 
families, the pioneer physician stood by, doing all that could be done in 
those days, but absolutely helpless to cure the disease or stay its contagion. 
Every physician had "a treatment" and every treatment was ineffectual until 
science gave in 1894 another of its choice gems to the world in the form of 
antitoxin for diphtheria. Ask any pioneer doctor what days were the dark- 
est to him as he looks backward upon those early times, and he will forget 
about his own hardship, about the blizzards and the rain storms and the nights 
of darkness, of wandering about the prairies unable to find the patient's 
house or his own way home ; he will forget about all this and answer that 
his darkest days were those in which whole families were wiped out with 
diphtheria while he stood by unable to stay the hand of death. But there is 
a brighter side to the history of O'Brien county's pioneer physicians. If 
the mountains and the sea have their glories, their pre-eminence and their 
fascinations, so did the early prairie of O'Brien county. Prairie is a French 
word and means meadow. The word sounds harmoniously poetic and is 
filled with euphonious splendor. About all the physician was required to do 
to own one-fourth section or a section of this beautiful prairie was to look 
at it, admire it and say, "this is mine." Then he owned a "solemn mile of 
prairie, a four square block of God's out-of-doors with the height of the sky 
above it, and the depth of the world beneath it, and the radiancy of dawns and 
sunsets shed over it, and the dim dawn of dusks enfolding it like a blessed 
compassion — a mile east, a mile west, a mile north, a mile south — and all 
the time to be tramping on your own grass and breathing air brewed on your 
ground and lifting head into your own sky and gazing at your own firmament ; 
bless me, this is plutocracy!" These prairies were ladened with abundance 
of wild game, which the enterprising doctor could supply his table with dur- 
ing the most of the year. In early spring the black-breasted wild pigeons in 
millions were here. The prairie plover and long billed snipe ; ducks and 
geese in spring and fall almost darkened the sky. But the classic game was 
the prairie chicken. In mid-summer and early fall the prairie of O'Brien 
county contained carloads of prairie chicken. There was much in the land 
of the prairie to brighten the life of the pioneer physician of O'Brien county. 
But let us hasten on. for the prairie and the pioneer physician have disap- 
peared ; and while the prairie has been transfigured beyond recognition into 
domestic gardens and fields, so also has the practice of medicine in the same 


period of time undergone a sublime transition. If the doctor of forty years 
ago could awaken today to the technical advancement of medicine and surgery 
he would feel much as a Rip Van Winkle victimized by the slumbering of a 
thousand years. The science and art of obstetrics have kept pace in progress 
with the other branches of medicine. No longer do we look with mysterious 
ignorance upon a parturient patient distressed with high fever and abdominal 
tenderness and bloating that was thought to be due to "taking cold" or some- 
thing "mysteriously wrong within.'' But we know now that this is an infec- 
tion from without, that has been introduced within by the patient, her attend- 
ants or her physician. And if there is a man in O'Brien county today prac- 
ticing medicine who does not know enough to prepare his hands clean enough 
to use ill an appendix operation, he is a disgrace to the medical profession 
and to the age in which he is living and ought to be compelled to retire from 
the practice of obstetrics. Cleanliness, especially in obstetrics, is next to 
godliness and the physician who lacks in this regard is an enemy to progress 
and human happiness. The skilful handling of instrumental cases oi par- 
turition together with modern management of profuse hemorrhage have 
robbed parturition of nearly all of its former horrors. The management of 
the patient during the ten days following is also a marked improvement 
worthy as a part of the evolution of the times. Surgery, since 1873, has 
made a marvelous advancement and to those who are wide awake to its 
possibilities, it seems much in advance of other branches of medicine. Vet 
internal medicine is forging rapidly to the front. The methods of general 
management of the sick, the attention given to the selection of proper diet, 
and efficient nourishment and assisting nature in the process of eliminating 
the toxines of the body which are always present in the diseased system, 
together with other hygienics are important phases of treating the sick that 
make the physicians of today superior to those who have labored in the past. 
Microscopical examinations of the tissues and bodily excretions and secre- 
tions and more improved chemical analysis of the same agents, the great 
value of the X-ray and modern instruments of precision were not known by 
the earlier physicians of O'Brien county. Neither had they learned of the 
value of antitoxic serums that are used with great success today in the treat- 
ment of many of the infectious diseases. 

The idea of hospitals for the treatment of the sick has been growing in 
O'Brien count}-, but not so rapidly as it should grow. Four enterprising and 
ambitious physicians of O'Brien county have ventured each with a hospital. 
Hence there are rive hospitals in O'Brien county at the present time. One 


in Calumet, two in Sheldon and two in Hartley. However, they are small 
institutions, not of general or public significance, but merely of individual 
and personal moment. It is a reflection upon civil government, local, county, 
state and national, that any physician should feel compelled to construct or 
prepare a building for hospital purposes, for this is a burden of large pro- 
portions that should be shouldered by the proper agency, and that agency 
is the general public. It would be pitiably dramatic to see an educator con- 
structing a school building in which to educate the young, a minister of the 
gospel to build his own church in which to deliver his own sermons, or the 
attorney erecting a court house in which to try his own jury cases. And 
yet this is about the procedure that has been undertaken by the physician. 
But if the private hospital is excusable or defensible just to that extent will 
it point the public to its duty in housing and attending the sick and defenseless 
and those in need of charitable protection. O'Brien county at the present time 
is the garden spot of the world and is fairly teeming with wealth and pros- 
perity and there is no good reason why O'Brien county should not erect and 
equip a suitable hospital in Sheldon, one in Sanborn, one in Hartlev, one in 
Primghar, one in Sutherland and one in Paullina, where all the sick and help- 
less of the county could lie housed and attended under the most favorable con- 
ditions and where every physician would have equal opportunities in attending 
the sick and not being either vexed mentally or financially by the management 
of a hospital or deprived of she advantages that a public hospital affords. A 
great many operations in the past and main- operations at present are done in 
the patient's home. Some of these operations are decidedly major and of a 
serious nature and in fact the}' were beyond surgical skill and knowledge of a 
quarter century ago, and vet the results of these operations at home are equally 
as good as those obtained in many of the hospitals of the country. 

During 1914 the following physicians and surgeons at Sheldon united in 
establishing a second hospital at Sheldon and have already procured a suit- 
able hospital building, which was opened for service September 1, 1914: 
Dr. W. R. Brock, Dr. W. H. Myers. Dr. Frank Myers, Dr. Roy Myers and 
Dr. H. J. Brackney. They have placed the same under the management of 
the Seventh-Day Adventists or Battle Creek system of hospital service. The 
new hospital at Primghar donated by George Ward has likewise been taken 
over by the same management. O'Brien county now has five hospitals, 
namely : Dr. Cram's hospital at Sheldon ; Dr. Hand's hospital at Hartlev ; 
Dr. C. L. Seiver's hospital at Calumet and the two hospitals alreadv named. 


The first successful attempt to organize a medical association in O'Brien 
county was in the year 1903 at Primghar. This society is known as The 
O'Brien County Medical Society. This society, because of the conditions upon 
which it was formed, became a component part of the Iowa State Medical 
Association and the American Medical Association. Without becoming first 
a member of the county society a physician cannot become a member of either 
the Iowa State Medical Association or the American Medical Association. 
The charter members of the O'Brien County Medical Society numbered twelve 
and one half of these are practicing now in the count}-. The charter members 
of this society are as follows: Dr. A. L, Bushby. Dr. F. E. Brown, Dr. \Y. 
R. Brock, Dr. F. W. Cram, Dr. E. Dudley. Dr. Little. Dr. B. S. Louthan, Dr. 
\Y. H. Meyers. Dr. C. B. Rentz. Dr. H. C. Rogers. Dr. H. Scott and Dr. 
Stewart. This society meets three or four times a year and has developed into 
a very good organization and is very active in its society work. 

Those who have registered at the county seat to practice medicine in 
O'Brien county are as follows: 

Avery. Milo, graduate Rush Medical, registered in 1887. 

Avery, Hamld. College of Physicians and Surgeons, Chicago, registered 
J 9 1 o. 

Brackney, H. 1., Iowa University, registered 1905. 

Beebe. A. J., school not given, registered 1889. 

Bonham, John, school not given, registered 1886. 

Brewer, L. S., school not given, registered 1896. 

Brock, \Y. R., Iowa College of Physicians and Surgeons, registered 1895. 

Briggs, F. J., school not given, registered 1880. 

Burstien, Louis L., Iowa College of Physicians and Surgeons, registered 

Barnhizer, J. G., college not given, registered 1898. 

Bushby, A. L., college not given, registered 1899. 

Conway, John W., Iowa College of Physicians and Surgeons, 1886. 

Cushman, R. A., Dartmouth College, registered 1888. 

Childs. Mary E., college not given, registered 1891. 

Canter. S. J., college not given, registered 1892. 

Cram, F. W., Rush Medical, registered 1888. 

Crider. J. J., college not given, registered 1897. 

Coleman, F. J., Sioux City College of Medicine, registered 19 10 

Collet, C. C, college not given, registered 1902. 

Dudley, E., college not given, registered 1886. 


Dougherty, Win., college not given, registered [887. 
Daily Milton, Hammond University, registered 1896. 
Elliott. Thos. B., college not given, registered 1894. 
Engle, Carl, school not given, registered 1889. 
Eddy. A. H., college not given, registered 1897. 
English, Belle, school not given, registered 1890. 
Eger, Christian, college not given, registered [901. 
Ehlers, F. S.. Northwestern University, registered 1005. 
Esser, W'm., school not given, registered [891. 
Egent, Philip M., school not given, registered 0S87. 
Field, L. S., school not given, registered 1901. 
Fletcher, D. A., school not given, registered 1902. 
Gannon, W. T., school not given, registered 1890. 
Gleystein, R. J., Rush Medical, registered 1907. 
Gilliland. C. E., LJniversity of Kansas, 1913. 
Horton, W. H.. school not given, registered 1893. 
Harrison, Geo. E., school not given, registered 1891. 
Horton, F. \\\. Iowa LJniversity, registered 189.1 . 
Harrison. J. C. school not given, registered 1891. 
Hume, J. H., school not given, registered 1887. 
Hamilton. W. A., school not given, registered 1899. 
Eland, W. C college not given, registered 190ft. 
Hollenbeck. Frank R.. Rush Medical, registered 1899. 
Hollenheck, F. D.. Rush Medical, registered 1906. 
Howard, W. A.. Xorthwestern University, registered 1908. 
Hopkins, A. G., school not given, registered 1894. 
Knepper, John, school not given, registered 1907- 
Kuffman, Frank E,, school not given, registered 1897. 
Knox, Thos. C, Iowa University, registered 1908. 
Kass, Thos. D., Wisconsin University, registered 1909. 
Keily, M. D., non-graduate, registered 1900. 
Louthan, B. S., University of Iowa, registered 1886. 
Longshore, C, school not given, registered 1880. 
Louthan, J. M., University of Iowa, registered 1886. 
Lanning. H. J., school not given, registered 1880. 
Leary, J. S., University of Michigan, registered 1887. 
Longshore. Anna Mary, college not given, registered 1891. 
Long, J. M., school not given, registered 1887. 


Lewis, W. H., school not given, registered 1887. 
Landis. H. F., school not given, registered 1907. 
Little, W. G., Rush Medical, registered 1902. 
Myers, C. H., school not given, registered 1887. 
McCormick, Chas., college not given, registered 1888. 
McDonald, John, school not given, registered 1890. 
Mueller, C. P., school not given, registered 1892. 
.Masters, school not given, registered 1892. 
Murphy, T. W., University of Iowa, registered 1903. 
Miller. G. E., College of Physicians and Surgeons, registered 1905. 
Myers, W. H., Rush Medical, registered 1889. 

Myers, Frank L., Physicians and Surgeons, Chicago, registered 1888. 
Nichols, Frank L.. school not given, registered 1901. 
Oldag, Geo. C, University of Iowa, registered 1912. 
Paul, C. S., school not given, registered 1886. 
Parker, E. \\\. school not given, registered 1886. 
Perley, Geo. P., school not given, registered 1893. 
I'age, C. V., University of Iowa, registered 1904. 
Phelps, C. E., University of Iowa, registered 1910. 
Peck, X. L. F., school not given, registered 1883. 
Roepke G. S., school not given, registered 1898. 

Rogers, H. C, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Chicago, registered 

Relihan, II. G.. Northwestern Medical, registered 191 1. 
Richardson, E. E., University of Iowa, registered 1898. 
Rentz, C. B., Rush Medical, registered 1901. 
Searles, F. L., school not given, registered 1887. 
Smith, Chas., school not given, registered 1887. 
Stewart, D. T., Rush Medical, registered 1887. 
Seeley W. A., school not given, registered 1890. 
Smith, E. E., school not given, registered 1892. 
Sigworth, D. L., school not given, registered 1893. 
Scott, H., University of Edinburgh, registered 1894. 
Star, O. ¥., University of Iowa, registered 1897. 
Struble, Andrew, school not given, registered 1897. 
Sheafer, E. W., school not given, registered 1883. 
Strong, E. J., school not given, registered 1881. 
Smith, X. S., school not given, registered 1893. 


Steele, J. F., school not given, registered 1898. 

Schwabland, \Y. T., school not given, registered 1904. 

Sievers. C. L., Sioux City Medical College, registered 1904. 

Shellensenherger, E. S., Chicago College of Medicine, registered 1907. 

Stewart, C. E., Sioux City College of Medicine, registered 1908. 

Sherlock, J. H., Indiana Medical College, registered 1910. 

Simon, John, Chicago College of Physicians and Surgeons, registered 

I Q 1 1 . 

Sherbon, J. B., Iowa University, registered 191 2. 
Stoner, A. P., school not given, registered 1S91. 
Trover, U. U., school not given, registered 1894. 
Twining, E. T., Chicago Medical, registered 1896. 
Viers, S. M., school not given, registered 1886. 
VanDun, E. K., school not given, registered 1897. 
Warren, C. T., school not given, registered 1887. 
Woodcock, W. P., school not given, registered 1887. 
Werick, H. A., school not given, registered 1889. 
Wilcox, C, school not given, registered 1889. 
Womeldorf, J. M.. school not given, registered 1897. 
Wheeler, Fred, school not given, registered 1901. 
Wight. W. G., University of Iowa, registered 1901. 
West, C. C, school not given, registered 1880. 

I cannot close this chapter without congratulating the laity upon its 
intellectual improvement relative to things medical. Fads and fancies, ignor- 
ance and superstition are rapidly being replaced by a decent sort of com- 
mon sense and this adds aid and pleasure to the work of honest and intelligent 
physicians. Harder and harder will it become for charlatans, quacks and 
half educated doctors to thrive parasitically upon the ignorance of the people, 
for this too "shall pass away." It was not many years ago that physicians 
were graduated in two or three years and this short course resulted in one 
physician to every five hundred and twenty population in United States. 
Through a demand by the physicians, which extended throughout the entire 
country, for a longer and a higher plan of training and education for the 
physician, the matriculation in medical colleges has been suddenly and greatly 
reduced. Xot only this, but a great man}- medical colleges have been unable 
to meet this great demand and have merged with other medical institutions 
or gone completely out of business. Dartmouth, the fourth oldest medical 
school in America, could not meet the demands and no longer teaches medi- 


cine and surgery. It is calculated that in 1827 there will be only one physi- 
cian to every two thousand two hundred population, where now there is one 
physician to every rive hundred and twenty people in the country. This 
scarcity of physicians will be due to medical colleges discontinuing their work 
and a marked decrease in medical matriculates, and to many of the medical 
students becoming weary of the long college grind and giving up their med- 
ical studies and turning their attention to other work. In these circumstances 
there will be without doubt a hardship worked upon both the physicians and 
the public in the future. Hence this age is crying out for young men to enter 
the medical profession. Young men of noble character and moral worth; 
men with large mental capacity, strong, brave and true. This class of young 
men are the ones who are to solve the mighty problems and carry the great 
responsibility of medicine and surgery in the future. Their work, problems, 
and responsibilities will be much mightier than ours, the same as ours of 
todav are much greater than those of the past. But let us fear not that these 
young men will meet the future problems of medicine and surgery, bravely 
and effectually. And now upon the graves of those physicians who have 
practiced medicine in O'Brien county and have joined the "great beyond," 
let us drop a tear and place a flower. To those physicians who in O'Brien 
county are now "carrying the cross" and "going about doing good," let us 
extend our gratitude and crown them with our benediction 



With all the hardships endured by the pioneers of O'Brien county, as a 
rule they did not forget the duty they owed to God and church life. Of 
course, it is not to be supposed that all the old pioneers were of any one 
Christian faith, hut large numbers of those first settlers were members of 
the various religious denominations, and upon coining to the wilds of this 
count}- they did not leave their religion behind them, but early sought out 
such churches as were found in their midst or assisted in organizing new ones. 
The Methodist Episcopal church was immediately on the ground, as in most 
new countries the first to organize, and were zealous in establishing churches 
in this faith in various parts of the county. The other churches effected 
organization as rapidly as a sufficient number of any one faith could get 
together. It was peculiarly appropriate to the pioneer idea that the first 
church building was built of prairie sod. The several churches in the county 
will be reviewed in their several localities. 


It perhaps can be truly said that Methodism is established permanently 
in by far a large majority of the cities, towns and hamlets in the whole 
United States. This church now has its home in every township in this 
county, as it also now has its modern church building in practically every 
town. "The world is my parish," is the text of Methodism. One great 
strength of this church lies in the fact that it is evangelistic. Another main 
strength of this great church lies in its itinerant system. This, in effect, 
means that every church has a pastor and every pastor has a church. The 
church conferences are so decisive in the management of its details that the 
church thus sees to it that these two results are carried out. "A million 
for missions" was Bishop C. C. McCabe's onward movement slogan, and it 
was later fully adopted by the whole church itself, which gave much more 
than a million per year. "Wheresoever two or three are gathered together 
in mv name, there am I in the midst of them." has been literally engrafted 



in the spiritual relations of its every church and charge. This church has 
searched out the lowly among the by-ways and hedges, and made itself felt 
in the hearts of men, on the mission fields of Africa and Australia, in the 
palace of Fifth avenue, engaged the attention of those public men in all walks 
of life that move the nation, its best spiritual uplifts, and adapted itself even 
in the homestead shanties of northwest Iowa and kindred situations. John 
\\ eslev founded pioneer Methodism in pioneer America by coming to 
America himself. The circuit rider and minister on the smaller charges 
have adapted themselves with equal religious heroism with the city and metro- 
politan minister. It may be truly said of Methodism: 

"It waited not for dome or spire. 
It moved the heart by living fire." 

O'Brien county, in its Methodism, has passed through this very circuit- 
rider period, of the old Peter Cartwright order, as likewise through its 
building period and the genuine enjoyment of its present modern church 
edifices now found in each town. The first sermon in the county was preached 
by ;• Methodist pioneer local minister. Its first inhabitant, Hannibal H. 
Waterman, and wife were Methodists, and he an old-fashioned Methodist 

Inasmuch as these first Methodist activities commenced in O'Brien 
count}- prior to its organization as such, even as early as 1858, and moved up 
through and held services in homestead shacks and shanties and first school 
houses through the county, with several of those early ministers, like Rev. 
C. W. Cliffton, who, as he recorded in his diary, said, "I traveled three 
thousand miles and preached one hundred sermons." in 1870 in northwestern 
Iowa, traveling with single buggy, on horseback, with old-fashioned saddle- 
bags, these sermons being preached in numerous homes and school houses, 
rounding up as a stationed minister in Primghar in 1878, we must do these 
old-time conditions credit for not only keeping up the living fires of Method- 
ism, but in holding up true religion among members of other faiths, and 
there were pioneers of all churches here. 


As already referred to, the first church in the count}' was built of the 
native prairie tough sod. on section 33, in Center township, in the spring of 
1 87 1. The homesteaders turned out in a body with their breaking plows 
and turned up a lot of good tough, thick sod and by united efforts soon had 


a sod building of good size, quite in comparison with the homes of those 
constructing it, and almost without cost, save for a few windows. 

A Fourth of July celebration was held in this church in 1871 attended 
by nearly all the first settlers from seven to ten miles around, it being a 
basket picnic. Daniel Bysom is the only homesteader still residing in the 
township on his homestead, who aided in building this church. Oliver 
Evans, another old homesteader in this township, was present at this celebra- 
tion. He had just been back to New York and got married and was there 
with his bride, wearing their wedding clothes. That evening thev all re- 
paired to Capt. Robert C. Tifft's homestead shanty and wound up the cele- 
bration with a jolly pioneer party. This sod church was built in a manner 
like the old fashioned "raising bee" in a timbered country, substituting the 
sod for the logs. It was, however, truly a church edifice. Lunch baskets 
were brought by these pioneers, but the cannon and firecracker were absent. 
It was indeed a "sane Fourth," now so much written about. The church 
and state and pioneer were all represented in real simplicity. Rev. C. \Y. 
Cliffton, of the Methodist Episcopal church, preached in this sod church dur- 
ing that year, the first sermons with simply the rafters on and the window- 
sash without glass. At this celebration this was the situation, and many old 
settlers there on that day say it was literally true that Rev. Cliffton had nearly 
as many holes in his clothes and his shoes as there were in the windows and 
roof of that sod church.. It is needless to say that the hearers did not attend 
with either top buggies, or automobiles, or in broadcloth. 


Father James Bicknell preached the first sermon in O'Brien county at 
Old O'Brien, probably in 1858. He is a Methodist Episcopal local preacher 
and still living. He resided for many years with his son, J. J. Bicknell, near 
Peterson in Clay county, and was well known in the early years in that sec- 
tion of the count}'. He was himself a pioneer of the genuine quality, and 
fully understood the pioneer life in Iowa. 


Wherever in the history of the United States the pioneer has built his 
first hut or shanty, there a Methodist preacher has been on hand ready to 
preach in private house, hut, school house or sod church, anywhere. We 
have already given an account of the first sod church, the first settler, and 


first sermon, each Methodist. This church, covering the whole pioneer 
period, will, of necessity, have somewhat the larger space in this chapter. 
though other churches did a full part as time moved on. 

In 1858 a mission was formed known as the Little Sioux mission, ex- 
tending from Spirit Lake to Cherokee, with Rev. O. S.' Wright as pastor and 
Rev. George Clifford as presiding elder. The appointments were Pilot Rock 
and Cherokee, in Cherokee county. Long Grove ( being Peterson, where the 
Waterman family first attended), Okoboji and Spirit Lake and other places 
from time to time. During this year Rev. Wright received forty dollars from 
the missionary fund and twenty-seven dollars from the brethren on the 

At that time, i860, there was not even a school house on the entire 
charge, and services were necessarily held in private houses. Hannibal 
Waterman attended his services. In 1859-60-61-62 Cherokee and Peterson 
were left without a supply, but in 1863 were included in the Smithland mis- 
sion. Rev. Seymour Snyder, during 1863-64. was the regular minister who 
preached in Old O'Brien. His work extended from up in Minnesota to 
Peterson. He stated that he preached in two states and seven counties. He 
carried his Bible, rifle and hymn book as companions and was ready to ex- 
pound the gospel from each. In 1865 White school house, Beuna Yista, Old 
O'Brien. Cherokee and Pilot Rock were each supplied by Rev. R. S. Hawks. 
In 1867 Rev. W. W. Mallorv filled the Peterson circuit, which included Old 
O'Brien, with Rev. W. McCain as presiding elder and Hannibal Waterman as 
recording steward. William R. Pitt and Rouse B. Crego were licensed to 
preach at the third quarterly meeting of that year and Mr. Waterman at the 
fourth. In 1868 and 1869 Rev. Thomas Whitelv had pastoral charge of the 
Peterson circuit, with Rev. J. W. Lade 1 as presiding elder. 

In 1869-70. Rev. C. W. Cliffton was the pastor and lived with his 
family in a loft. A quarterly meeting was held at Old O'Brien October 2, 
1869. He then held a protracted meeting. An old record says that there 
was a "general awakening, but few conversions " A parsonage was under- 
taken at ( )ld O'Brien, but failed. During this year Rouse B. Crego was 
compelled to withdraw on account of drunkenness. It was in the record for 
this year, 1870, that Rev. Cliffton makes this entry: "I traveled three thou- 
sand miles and preached one hundred sermons." This year Old O'Brien 
was included in the Fort Dodge district. During the conference year of 
1870-71 Old O'Brien was included in the Sioux City district, Des Moines 
conference, with Rev. Bennett Mitchell as presiding elder. During this year 


Rev. Cliffton organized a church and class in each of four school houses, 
namely: Ward's school house, nine members; Rowland's, six members; 
Hiisted's six members, and Bascom's, fourteen. 

It is difficult to gather from the records the exact times of each pastor, 
but during years of 1872-73-74 Rev. Cliffton and Rev. Lothian preached, 
and probably Lothian was the regular pastor, and still known as the Peterson 
circuit. At all events, Rev. Lothian makes this general entry in his church 
record, "that much good work was done in O'Brien. Quite a number of 
Methodist people settled near center of county and in 1873 the county seat 
was moved from O'Brien to a new town called Primghar in the geographical 
center of the county." This difference of dates of the moving of the county 
seat probably arises from the fact that the records did not all arrive at once, 
and this entry was rounded up as the result of a year's work. 

During the conference year of 1874-75 Rev. J. E. Cohenour was pastor 
and took in fifteen members in Center township. A parsonage was begun 
and paid for except a mortgage for one hundred and forty dollars. The 
parson recites this truism in the record: "It was a good thing to have the 
parsonage, but a bad thing to have a debt." 

Rev. Charles W. Wile} was sent on for the conference year 1875-76 
and forty dollars was paid on the parsonage debt and title to the church lots 
secured. William Clark Green and James Roberts, who laid out Primghar. 
donated lots for church purposes. For the conference year i^yf)-/j Rev. 
James S. Zeigler filled the charge. He found the people in the midst of the 
grasshopper scourge and much cast down, twelve being received on probation 
and as many dismissed, being compelled to leave on account of the grass- 

Rev. C. W. Cliffton was appointed by the conference for the year 1877- 
78. In 1878 the Milwaukee railroad was built, and the then new town of 
Sanborn was united with Primghar in one charge with Rev. W. H. Drake 
as pastor. The first preaching place at Sanborn was at the residence of 
Hiram Algyer, who had just removed to Sanborn from Primghar. The next 
spring the waiting room of the depot at Sanborn was tendered and occupied 
as a place for church service. The first members at Sanborn were Ira 
Brashears, a supernumerary, Jacob Wolf and wife. Patience Daniels, Mary 
Xeece and Nancy Bunkheart. In early summer of 1879 the service was 
changed to the then new school house, which later on was William Harker's 
residence. Rev. W. H. Drake, who had acquired quite a reputation as a 
church builder, that year erected two church buildings, one at Sanborn and 


one at Primghar. Besides being a preacher, he was a good mechanic, and 
himself made a full hand at all classes of work, carrying mortar, carpenter 
and doing all-around work and preached on Sunday. He was followed by 
Rev. Beebe for the conference year 1 880-81. This brings the Methodist 
church up from Old O'Brien to Primghar. through the several school houses 
with its connection with Sanborn in 1878 and then separation. The further 
church history of each town will be found under its own head. 


Inasmuch as a goodly number of the first residents of Primghar in 1872 
had moved up with the county seat from Old O'Brien, and as many of the 
first ministers in the county located there preached in the several school houses 
between the two places, we will treat it as one continuous county-seat Meth- 
odist church. Inasmuch also as for the first fifteen years this was practically 
the only church in the count)', will form the reason for giving it larger space 
than some of the other churches in the county. 

All the south part of the county was for twenty years, 1858-1878, a part 
of a very extensive circuit and included in what was called the Little Sioux 
Mission, and was served by the following ministers: Rev. O. S. Wright. 
1865-66-67; Rev. Seymour Snyder, 1863-64; Rev. R. S. Hawk, 1865-66-67; 
Rev. \Y. VV. Mallory, [867; Rev. Thomas Whitely, 1869; Rev. C. \Y. Cliff- 
ton, 1870-71: Rev. John YV. Lothian, 1872; Rev. C. W. Wiley, 1873; Rev. 
J. E. Cohenour. 1874-75: Rev. J. \\". Wiley, 1875-76; Rev. James S. Zeigler, 
1877; Rev. C. W. Clinton, 1878. 

Primghar was platted and laid out as a town and became the county 
seat in 1872. and became a charge in 1878. with Rev. W. H. Drake as pastor. 

It was during the two years' pastorate of Rev. W. H. Drake that the 
first church building was built at a cost of one thousand dollars not including 
the value of the personal labor of Rev. Drake himself. Rev. Drake was an 
all-around carpenter, mason, and indeed any and all other work needed and 
he in fact put in much of that year. Presiding Elder ("Parson") Lozier 
dedicated the church in October, 1879. 

Rev. A. J. Beebe was pastor for one year from conference to confer- 
ence, 1880-81, followed by Rev. S. C. Bascom for two years, 1881-83. 

On June 24, 1882, a destructive cyclone passed through the town and 
completely demolished this first church building and scattered its debris for a 
mile and more. The church people then went back into the school house, 
as they had done prior to 1879. 


Rev. Hugh Play followed for the years 1883-85. Rev. Mr. Searles, a 
voung student, supplied from the conference in 1885 until April, 1886, when 
he resigned on account of ill health. Rev. A. King filled out that year and 
was reappointed for the year [886-87. It was during his pastorate that the 
second church building was erected at cost of one thousand four hundred 
dollars. This building was sold in 1900 to the Catholic church, which they 
removed to the south part of town and has been since occupied by them. 

After the above date from dates of conferences usually held in October 
and until 1903. the following pastors served the church: Rev. J. W. Lent, 
1887-89; Rev. A. A. Marcy, 1889-91; Rev. R. K. Calloway, 1891794; Rev. 
H. L. Shoemaker, [894-95; Rev. E. G. Keith. 1895-97; Rev. C. M. Phoenix, 

The present church was built under the pastorate of Rev. Phoenix. Rev. 
Dr. Ives, of Xew York, dedicated it September 10, 1900, at a cost of the 
building of seven thousand four hundred and thirty-seven dollars. 

The following pastors then served: Rev. W. O. Tompkins. 1903-07; 
Rev. F. F. Case. 1907-10; Rev. Charles S. Burnett, 1910-12; Rev. Thomas 
Andrew. 191 J, and is the present pastor. 

Its list of presiding elders (now district superintendents) have been 
Rev. George Clifford, Rev. W. McCain, Rev. J. W. Ladd, Rev. Bennett 
Mitchell, Rev. Glass, Rev. Chaplain Jesse Cole, Rev. J. B. Trimble, Rev. 
Hugh Hav, Rev. T. L. Gilleas and Rev. A. D. McBurney. 

Its Sunday school superintendents have been Daniel Bysom, J. H. Wolf, 
Joseph Metcalf. William Archer. A. F. Hatch. Walter Bonath and Herman 

Its church officiary for 1914 is as follows: Bishop, Frank M. Bristol; 
district superintendent. Rev. A. D. McBurney; pa-tor. Rev. Thomas Andrew; 
Sunday school superintendent, Herman Bonath : organist, Ruth Little ; 
chorister, Ralph Langley ; treasurer, J. L. E. Peck; secretary, J. H. Wolf. 


The Alethodist Episcopal church at Hartley was organized by Rev. 
Frank E. Drake in June, 1880, with Mr. and Mrs. Allen Crossan and Mr. 
and Airs. D. M. Gano as members of the first class. A church building was 
erected in 1882, costing one thousand five hundred dollars; it stood on the 
site of the present church, and served its purpose until 1899, when the new 
red-pressed brick edifice, trimmed in stone, was dedicated on December 17th 
of that year. Its cost was about fourteen thousand dollars. The total value 


placed on this today is eighteen thousand dollars. The first parsonage was 
on the lot south of the Evangelical church. In 1888 the present building was 
erected at a cost of three thousand dollars. In November, 191 3, the mem- 
bership of this church was one hundred and eighty-five. The pastors who 
have served this church are as follows: Revs. E. E. Drake, 1880; S. A. R. 
Groom, 1880-82: E. L. Stephens. 1882-84: A. A. Shessler, 1884-86; R. J. 
Davenport, 1886-87: I. M. Lothian. 1887-88: W. VV. Brown, 1889; C. B. 
Winters. 1889-91; Levi Jan is, [891-93; W. W. McGuire, 1893-94; F. \Y. 
Ginn, 1894-98; D. A. McBurney, 1898-1901; O. S. Bryan, 1901-03; L, H. 
Woodworth, 1903-04: William Whitfield, 1904-05; W. M. Ayers, 1905-06; 
Ira Aldrich, 1906-07; C. E. Boyden, 1907-08; J. F. Hunter, 1908-09; G. R. 
Gilbert, 1909-13; H. C. Nessen came in the fall of 1913 and is still pastor. 

Of all the early officials of this church, there were only two living in 
19 1 3, and one of these was J. S. Webster. 


At Sheldon the Methodist Episcopal church was organized in the pioneer 
days of the town. The story goes that the first sermon preached in the town 
by a Methodist minisier was by Rev. Ira Brashears in 1872, in the depot of 
the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha railroad. The first class was 
formed in 1873 by Rev. J. Starke}-, who became the first pastor of the church. 
Meetings were held in the school house on Fourth avenue, later in a hall over 
the drug store on Alain street. In 1881 the first church building was erecteel 
where the present church now stands. Among the early pastors were Revs. 
Starkey, Regby, Hough, Hastings, Bryan, Edgar. When the first building 
was to be dedicated it was understood that Chaplain McCabe (later the great. 
widely known bishop) was to be on hand to dedicate, but he failed to get the 
letter and Pastor Edgar, of Sheldon, w r ent off to Hull to preach, and while 
gone McCabe arrived on a freight train Saturday night and raised the town 
and delivered his popular lecture on "Libby Prison," and at the close broached 
the church question and on the spot raised a subscription of one thousand 
fixe hundred dollars on the debt. So when the pastor came home he found 
McCabe had come and gone to another point where he had a church to dedi- 
cate. This was during the summer of 1880. In 1889 ground was broken 
and on August 22, 1899, the corner stone was laid, and on March 25, 1900. 
the present building was dedicated by B. I. Ives, Rev. H. G. Campbell being 
the local pastor at the time. Later pastors were Revs. Burdick, Cook, Lace, 
Suckow, Middlekoff, Carr, Brown. Kennedy, Artman, Cocrane, McKee, 


Campbell, Bassett, VVasser and the present pastor. Rev. J. J. Bushnell, D. D. 

The present value of the church property is thirty thousand dollars 
Total membership is three hundred sixty-six ; Epworth enrollment, one hun- 
dred : average in Sunday school, two hundred fifty. 

The presiding" elders and district superintendents have been : Revs. 
Bennett Mitchell. L. S. Hartsough, James Williams. John H. Lozier. Gleason, 
Jesse Cole. Trimble, Hastings. Yetter. Hay, Gilleas and the present incum- 
bent. Rev. D. A. McBurney. 


The Methodist church at Calumet was organized soon after the town 

started and in i8gi a neat frame building was erected. What is now known 

as the Calumet charge consists of two churches, one in town and one in the 
country, with a total membership of eighty-three. 


The Methodist Episcopal church at Archer was organized in 1896, ana 
was made up in part of members from those who had belonged to the Baker 
class, known as the Philby church, then attached to Paullina, and in part 
of members from the Epworth or what was known as the Toothacre church 
in Carroll, and in part by the citizens of Archer. A commodious church 
was built at a co^t of four thousand five hundred dollars, and a parsonage, at 
a cost of one thousand five hundred dollars, as shown by the conference re- 
ports The pastors thus far have been: Revs. C. E. Van Horn. J. X. Lis- 
comb. A. L. Tainter, Rev. Farnham, F. W. Wilson, A. D. Hastings, W. H. 
Flint. F. G. Cox, S. L. Eddy, A. W. Hunter. E. F. Lovett. R. L. Mitchell 
and Thomas Hill. It has a present membership of fifty-eight. The Baker 
or Philby church referred to is situated six miles to the south and west of 
Archer. The first church building at this point was blown down by a cyclone 
a number of years ago. This Baker church is served by the pastor at Archer 
by alternating sen ices morning and afternoon and evening. 


At Paullina the history of the Methodist Episcopal church has been 
written up as follows by David Algyer : 

( Xote — It is to be deeply regretted that the book containing the early 


records of the church has been lost, and the following" is supplied from 
memory by \Y. W. Delmage, one of the organizers of the church.) 

The Methodist Episcopal church of Paullina was organized at a meet- 
ing of members of the church who had come from various organizations of 
the Methodist Episcopal church at the home of Mrs. Mary S. Marvin, in 
October, 1883, about ten members being present, and the Rev. J. Fancher. 
pastor of the Methodist Episcopal church at Primghar, officiating, and among 
the first membership were the following named people: Mr. and Mrs. W. 
\Y. Delmage, Mr. and Mrs. B. C. Howard, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Bazelv. 
Mr. and Mrs. I. L. Rerick and Mrs. Mary S. Marvin. 

Most of that little group have gone over to the Beyond, but the solemn 
impressions gained that day from the renewed vows of the little band always 
remained to life's latest day with those who are gone, and with those remain- 
ing with us yet. 

The church was for a time under the pastorate of Rev. J. Fancher, 
after which Rev. R. Day filled the pulpit, and he was succeeded by Rev. 
Levi Jarvis, then came Rev. W. N. Dunham, followed by Rev. Fred Ginn. 
and he by Rev. Thomas Carson, then by Rev. L. S. Troutman, Rev. G. P. 
Hathaway, Rev. J. McCaffrey, Rev. George Kidder, Rev. J. Skaggs, Rev. 
L. H. McKay, Rev. J. R. Magee, Rev. R. L. Stuart, Rev. E. M. Glasgow. 
Rev. G. Smith and by the present pastor, Rev. B. F. Thomas. 

In the year 1889 the present church edifice was erected and, being im- 
proved from time to time, is now a commodious house of worship, that 
would be a credit to any community. 

The first board of trustees of the church was made up of the following 
named members: W. W. Delmage, B. C. Howard, Benjamin Bazelv, I. L. 
Rerick and Mrs. Mary S. Marvin. The value of the church property, in- 
cluding parsonage is twelve thousand dollars. The membership of the 
church at this writing is one hundred and twenty-five. The present board 
of stewards are as follows : \Y. W. Delmage, J. R. Gulp, H. G. Gulp. 
George W. Smith, George Raw, R. W. Young, \Y. J. Ullman, John Ginger, 
M. L. Peterson and Mrs. R. W. Young, and the present board of trustees 
are H. G. Gulp. George Raw, W. J. Ullman, Jacob Ginger, R. W. Young, 
George W. Smith, J. R. Gulp and George \Y. Iiarris. 

The ladies of the Methodist Episcopal church, by and through their or- 
ganization known as the Helping Hand Society, has been a great aid to the 
church and a great factor for good in the community, always looking after 
the comfort of the sick and helping the destitute, lending sympathy to the 


discouraged and, in ways that women only know, rendering assistance where 
it is most needed. 

At Sanborn the Methodist church has a membership of ninety-five; its 
church property valuation is eleven thousand five hundred dollars; number 
of Sunday school scholars, one hundred and thirty. 

At Sutherland the church has a membership of one hundred and fifty- 
six ; value of church property, thirteen thousand five hundred dollars ; num- 
ber attendance in Sunday school, one hundred and seventy-six. 

There are several points in this county where churches exist of this 
denomination not given above, as facts have not been furnished. 

An early-day Methodist Episcopal church was built and organized in 
Waterman township. It is known %s the Highland-Waterman Methodist 
Episcopal church and was incorporated November 9. 1889. It was incor- 
porated by J. Cole, president ; A. E. Randall, secretary, and William Gilbert, 
J. H. Bruner, M. S. Draper, David Patrick and Aaron Bradstreet, trustees. 

The name of this church illustrates the early pioneer conditions. The 
two townships, though only cornering to each other and nearly twenty miles 
to or from extreme corners, were then all one neighborhood. In those days 
a five-mile neighbor was a very near neighbor. Thus were the early settlers 
welded together by church, family and neighborly ties. Though the day of 
the old circuit rider is past, these country churches rally in memory much 
that is sacred. 


The Methodist Episcopal church of Moneta was incorporated January 
16, 1903, by Charles H. Colby, E. H. Howard, P. C. Keith, E. E. Dodge 
and W. H. Pheteplace as trustees and officials. 

In the very early day there was erected a very neat Methodist Episcopal 
church on the northwest corner of section 12, in Carroll township, and 
known as the (Charles W.) Toothacre church. It has been supplied at times 
from Sheldon and at times the Archer, Baker or Philby and this T'oothacre 
church have been served by the same pastor. 

There are several items that in later years tend to militate against the 
country churches. First, they are not often strong enough to fully support 
a pastor themselves. Second, the automobile now takes the churchgoer into 
town in half an hour. A third condition also exists in O'Brien county. 
We had twelve towns and scarcely a farmer but lives within seven or, at 
most, ten miles from any town. 


The Highland Methodist Episcopal church, built on the southwest cor- 
ner of section 28, Waterman township, was built in the year 1893. R ev - 
Charles Artman preached here some in 1886. In the autumn of 1886 Rev. 
J. M. Woolery came and preached and organized a church called the Broad 
Street appointment on the Peterson charge. Meetings were held in the 
school house until the church was built. The church was dedicated in the 
autumn of 1893 by Rev. A. S. Cochran, Rev. G. W. Barnes being pastor in 
charge. They were transferred to the Sutherland charge in the vear 1889. 
then to the Calumet charge, in the year 1909. 

By Rev. B. ^J. Rhodes. 

As to the exact date of the beginning of Congregationalism in the 
county, history is silent. The first organized body had its birth in Grant 
township on the 9th day of October, 1871, when a few earnest souls who 
had been worshiping under the leadership of Rev. J. H. Covey concluded 
that the time was ripe for the formation of a church. Acting on this con- 
viction, a council of ministers and lay delegates from Congregational 
churches in the "Sioux country," was called for the purpose of considering 
the advisability, and, if found expedient, to effect such organization. After 
due investigation and prayerful deliberation a vote supporting the affirmative 
was taken, and the First Congregational church of O'Brien county was or- 
ganized on the above date. 

This was the heroic stage in the religious life of the people of the 
county. Poverty, privation and hardship of one sort and another greatly 
retarded the progress of organized Christianity. These worthy pioneers, 
being poor in purse and limited in means, were unable to erect a house of 
worship at once, and for five years or thereabouts the school house of the 
district was the sanctuary. The year 1876 witnessed the erection of the first 
Congregational church building in the county, later incorporated as the 
First Congregational church of Grant township. Circumstances and ele- 
ments seemed to conspire against this child of the prairie, and seek its over- 
throw. First was the scourge of grasshoppers which decimated and de- 
pleted the population until only one. member remained, Mother Slack, and 
she alone, and single-handed, perpetuated the organization. The 'hoppers 
broke up the church and a cyclone struck the building, still she would not 
give up. At length the pest subsided and people returned to the neighbor- 
hood and thought it well to organize another church, and for this purpose 
another council was called. Mother Slack objected to the new organization, 


for, said she, "There is a church here now.'* "Well, where is the church?" 
"I am it," she replied. "Well, would it not be better to disband and form 
anew?" "I'll never disband," she said, and so she stood up and took a 
dozen members into the old church, and preserved its "historic continuity," 
and the earlier date is recognized in our minutes. This was one of the five 
churches which united to form the Sioux association, one of the largest in 
the state today, only one other having as many churches within its bounds. 
Two words, sacrifice and helpfulness, characterized this church from the 
beginning. Sacrifice in service and helpfulness where opportunitv afforded. 
Indeed the organic identity of this church was lost to the world through 
service to others, the principal beneficiary being the Congregational church 
of Primghar, a child of this mother church, for the making of which the 
Grant church furnished a splendid quota of men and women, several of 
whom are still active in Christian service and constitute a substantial part of 
the membership of the latter named body. Lost in name, it still lives in in- 
fluence and spirit, and Congregationalists all over the county honor the name 
and bless the memory of the Grant Congregational church. 

Other Congregational churches were organized at Sheldon, Primghar 
and Gaza, each in the order recorded. And thus, from this modest begin- 
ning, we have the Congregationalism of today as it obtains in O'Brien 
county. A brief historical sketch of. each organization and its work fol- 
lows this article. 


Twenty-six years ago this month (March, 1914) the First Congrega- 
tional church of Primghar was organized with fifteen charter members. 
Previous to this the spiritual life of the town was centered in the Methodist 
church, the sole representative of organized Christianity in the town. On 
March 8, 1888, eight Congregationalists gathered at the home of Rice 
Reader, "a man sent from God;" a man chosen of God to do a foundation 
work in the interest of organized Christianity in this place. The monument 
to the consecration, the devotion, the untiring zeal of this brother is builded 
in the hearts of his colleagues and contemporaries. At this meeting a reso- 
lution was made, and vows taken which eighteen days later were realized, 
when the formal organization of the First Congregational church of Prim- 
ghar was perfected. The following July witnessed the organization of the 
first Congregational Sunday school, of which Rice Reader w r as elected super- 
intendent, which office he filled for eleven consecutive years. This church, 


as others of the state, was a child of the nursing mother, the Iowa Congre- 
gational Home Missionary Society. One thousand four hundred and ninety- 
rive dollars of home missionary aid was received during the first seven years 
of its history. The investment, however, proved a wise and remunerative 
one. for at the end of that seven-year period, in the year 1895. month of 
December, the good people of this church said, "It is enough. No longer 
will we ask aid from the Home Missionary Society." Then and there the 
church became self supporting and has remained such to the present date. 
More than this. The church has not only been self supporting, but also a 
helper of others in times of need, very much more than that having been con- 
tributed for benevolent work in various parts of the earth. 

The first church building was erected in the fall of 1899, formal dedica- 
tion being held on July 27, 1890. Five years later the building was enlarged, 
two thousand four hundred dollars being expended in addition to the orig- 
inal investment. The continued smile and favor of God rested upon this 
people, and growing interest increased numbers until the building again be- 
came inadequate, and in the year 1910 approximately six thousand dollars 
was expended on a church building, and the present beautiful, adequate, 
well equipped church was provided. In the spring of 1894 a parsonage was 
erected, representing an investment of approximately one thousand dollars, 
which enterprise was due largely to the active efforts of Rev. J. C. Stoddard, 
the pastor of the church at that time. Thus the original property investment 
of two hundred and seventv-five dollars for lots now occupied by church 
buildings has increased to sixteen thousand seven hundred dollars, present 
property valuation. 

"And what shall we say more?" Space forbids even brief mention of 
many worthy names and splendid achievements. Only summaries can be 
made. The fifteen souls constituting the charter members have increased 
to one hundred and forty-four, the present membership of the church. Ap- 
proximately four hundred have been admitted to the membership during the 
years, about two hundred and fifty on confession of their faith. 

But these bare financial and statistical statements are no indication of 
the work done during the years of this society's existence. The church has 
been a power for good in every direction. Its financial affairs have added 
to the business life of the community. Far more important is the influence 
it has cast around the children and young people and the citizens in general. 
Interested in all good things, this church has stood for the best. As a moral, 
an educational, an inspirational center, this church has been a power. We 


face the future with confidence, believing that we have only begun to realize 
what God intends to do with us, and through us, if we are faithful to Him 
Afore appropriate words for closing this sketch could scarcely be found 
than Paul's addressed to the Christians at Philippi : "Forgetting the things 
which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I 
press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ, 


The society of Friends, founded in the seventeenth century, has many 
yearly meetings scattered over the country, which may be called the parent 

The conservative branch conducts one of these yearly meetings in this 
state, known as Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends, of which the meeting 
known as Paullina Monthly Meeting of Friends is a subordinate branch. 
This was set up, or organized, the 26th of twelfth month, 1885, and the 
meetings were then held in a private house. 

Jn 1886 a meeting house was erected on a two-acre lot on the south- 
west quarter of section 31, Highland township, at a cost of about one thousand 
dollars, size of house thirty feet scptare. In 191 1 the present house was 
erected. being thirtv-four by forty-six feet, and cost about one thousand 
seven hundred dollars, including a concrete basement. 

Meetings for worship are regularly held on the first and fourth days 
of each week, at ten A. M. in summer and eleven A. M. in winter, except the 
fourth day preceding the second seventh day in each month, when the 
monthly meeting is held on the seventh day. 

All are considered to be on a common level, and have no prearranged 
services; the meeting is held, even if only a few attend. The assembly never 
waits for any special person, as the meeting is simply held for divine wor- 
ship, which is believed to consist in communion of individuals with their 
Maker, and not just to hear or to speak, though there is liberty for any to 
express what is on their mind, if they feel it their duty to do so. 

Meeting's for business are held each month, and this meeting orders and 
controls all church affairs. A clerk is appointed each year, who minutes and 
records the proceedings of each meeting in a book. There are women's 
meetings for business, as well as men's, held in separate session, each meet- 
ing appointing its own clerk. 

Xo business is done by vote, but is considered with the thought of all 


being united. If any one feels a serious objection, the matter is postponed 
until all feel free it should pass, or at least, no objection be made. 

Trustees are about the only officials who are appointed for an un- 
limited time. The first ones were Archibald Crosbie, Ole P. Tjossem and 
Hubert Rockwell. Others have been appointed as became necessary on 
account of death or removal. The present trustees are Oman K. Tow, 
Archibald Henderson and Lewis L. Rockwell. 

The appointment of overseers is considered each year, to have general 
oversight of the good order and unity among the members. Committees are 
appointed for other purposes as needed. 

A meeting for ministers and elders is held once in three months and 
consists of well concerned Friends appointed by the monthly meeting. 

In the winter of 1887-8 a school was started and held in the meeting 
house, with a length of term of three and one-half months, afterwards 
lengthened to four months. In 1899 a school house was built at a cost of 
about five hundred dollars ; size of building, twenty by twenty-eight feet. 
About this time a spring term of two months was added to the length of 
the school year, and later a fall term was added, which made it eight months. 

In 1909 the school house was moved a short distance, and twelve feet 
added to its length. This, with a basement and furnace, cost about seven 
hundred dollars. The number of students having increased, two teachers 
were engaged. In 1912 the school house was again enlarged to double its 
size, which made it forty feet square, with primary and advanced rooms, 
class room and hall, costing one thousand five hundred dollars. Three teach- 
ers were then employed. The number of pupils at the present time is about 
forty, and the maximum, in 1 912-3, was fifty-three. 

The course of instruction is made according to the state manual, up to 
the end of the eighth grade, except music, which is not taught. There is 
also two years of high school work. No special religious instruction is re- 
quired, except that a portion of Scripture is read in the morning, and the 
pupils are required to commit to memory a few verses of Scriptures once a 
week and to attend the meeting on the fourth days, our object being to have 
a special care over the children, in order to eliminate, as much as possible, 
evil habits and cultivate good ones. 

A committee is appointed each year to have an oversight and care in the 
management of the school, hire teachers, etc. This and other like schools in 
the yearly meeting, are under the supervision of a superintendent, who is 
employed by the yearly meeting. 


There is a library in connection with and for the use of the school. 
Also a library in the meeting house, owned by the monthly meeting, con- 
taining religious books, which will be loaned free to any one who wishes to 
read them, and a collection of Friends' tracts for free distribution. 


This denomination, in its various branches, is quite strong in O'Brien 
count v. St. John's Evangelical church at Sanborn was formed in 1886 by 
the following members : William Marquardt, M. David, Christopher Guse, 
Carl Nemistz, John Grabow, John Steuck, August Marquardt. The present 
voting membership is thirty-four families. The pastors have been as fol- 
lows : Revs. A. Coppett, P. Thusius, C. Dacumber, C. F. W. Brandt and F. 
Albrecht since January, 1907. 

In 1895 a frame church was erected at a cost of two thousand five hun- 
dred dollars. They also have a good parsonage and a full block of ground. 
The parochial school attached to this church society has a membership of 
pupils at present of sixteen. The school house was erected in 1910 and is a 
frame structure. This denomination has in O'Brien county churches at 
Hartley, Paullina, Germantown and Sanborn. 


Jn the year 1889 the now sainted Rev. E. Zuerrer, then pastor of the 
congregation at Germantown, called the few Lutheran families living in and 
close to Paullina together and with them conducted the first Lutheran service 
in Paullina. In spite of the many duties in his pastorate of his own con- 
gregation he, nevertheless, preached regularly to the few families, assisted 
for a time by a student of theology, E. Gesterling, who had charge of the 
congregation at Mill Creek. 

From August, 1891, until September, 1893, Rev. H. Schwenk, then 
pastor of Mill Creek congregation, served these families with preaching of 
the divine gospel. In the summer of 1892 a congregation was organized with 
five voting members. Rev. H. Schwenk having been called away, the con- 
gregation then was in charge of his successor. Rev. C. D. Nuoffer. 

With untiring energy, he conducted Lutheran services in the public 
school building for ten years. 

The congregation enjoyed a slow but steady growth and the members 
at the expiration of the ten years felt themselves able, with the support of 


the mission board, to call a pastor of their own. And thus, on September 
11, 1904, the Rev. August F. Bernthal was installed as the first resident 
Lutheran pastor in Paullina. Under his faithful service the congregation 
continued in substantial growth, and after mature deliberation decided to 
build and own a house of worship. 

On October 28, 1906, the present church edifice was dedicated to the 
service of the Lord. In 1908 Rev. Bernthal accepted a call to the congrega- 
tion at Edwardsville, Illinois. After a vacancy of about nine months, during 
which time the congregation was in charge of Rev. Oscar H. Horn, the 
present pastor. Rev. A. H. Semmon, then pastor of the Lutheran congrega- 
tion at Alton, Illinois, accepted the call and was installed into the office of 
pastor on May 9, 1909. 

In the fall of 1909 the congregation purchased the excellent property 
just south of the church for a parsonage. The congregation at the present 
time has fifty voting members and three hundred souls. The value of church 
property is now twelve thousand dollars. 

At Hartley the German Evangelical Lutheran church was formed in 
1899 by Rev. C. Bondigkeit, of Peterson, Iowa. In the spring of 1900 the 
society bought the old Methodist Episcopal church and moved the same to a 
lot in the northeast part of town. In May. that year, the congregation ap- 
pointed Rev. Karl Dexheimer as pastor, and by the year's end some forty or 
fifty families counted themselves as members of this congregation. The 
following vear they erected a fine frame parsonage and purchased a hand- 
some organ. Changes were made in the church building in 1903, when it 
was completely overhauled. Following Rev. Dexheimer came Rev. \Yilliam 
Vehe, who. after two years and nine months, was succeeded by Rev. Schiemi- 
chen, and he, in August. 1907, was followed by Rev. J. Fischer, who is still 
doing a great work among his people. 

St. Paul's Evangelical congregation, at Hartley, was organized Septem- 
ber 26, 1909. Prior to this time Rev. Albrecht, of Sanborn, cared for the 
people of this religious faith who resided near Hartley. August 29, 1909, 
Rev. Schrien was installed pastor by Rev. Albrecht. The young society 
struggled on and soon saw the need of a house of worship, and finally, on 
July 24, 1 910, the corner stone was laid to start the superstructure of a new 
church, which was dedicated in December, that vear. This is a small, but 
well-planned building, having good basement, light and ventilation. 

Evangelical Lutheran St. John's church, which now enjoys a member- 
ship of about ninety, at the quiet little hamlet of Germantown. in Caledonia 


township, was organized in 1883, by the faithful few who banded together 
and built a church on ten acres of land donated by Henry Richter, for church 
and cemetery purposes. Here the}- erected a building costing about seven 
thousand dollars. The first church was erected, however, on section 14, and 
with it a parsonage. Tt was in 1888 that the present good church building 
was erected on section 15, while the cemetery is located on section 14. The 
three acres upon which the church stands was bought by the church mem- 
ber^ The church building is thirty-six by seventy-two feet, one story in 
height, having twenty-two- foot posts. A year after the church was built 
the congregation was provided with a good sounding organ. The first min- 
ister in this congregation was Rev. E. Zeurrer, who served for eleven vears, 
from 1879 to [892. Then came Rev. J. Horn, who died after a forceful 
sermon, only about a half hour elapsing" after he left the pulpit till he was 
cold in death. Heart failure was the attributed cause of his death. Xext 
came his son. Rev. Oscar Horn, who remained a long number of years, and 
was succeeded by Rev. Henrv Grefe. who served a year and ten months, 
w T hen he met a horrible and accidental death by the burning of an over- 
turned automobile in which he was riding with others from near Meriden, 
where he had been instructing a choir of his denomination. The auto ran 
off the side of a twelve- foot bridge, and while he and a boy were pinned be- 
neath the machine, at eleven o'clock at night, he begged the bystanders to 
extricate the youth before trying to help him out. In trying to do this a 
lantern was caught in a nearby tree and thrown over and into the upturned 
automobile. The gasoline escaping from the machine was by the lantern 
ignited, causing a great explosion, in which the faithful minister was burned 
to death. He left a family of six children, his wife having died a few- 
months prior to this terrible accident, September 6, 1912. The driver was 
so badly injured that he died the next day. His name was August Pauling, 
aged thirty-eight vears, and he left a wife and four children. 

Following Rev. Grefe came Rev. F. W. Potratz, of Willow City. Xorth 
Dakota; he came November 17, 1912, and is still serving. 


The church above described has in connection one of the best schools 
in the county. It is the parochial school where both German and English are 
taught by highly competent instructors. The building in which this school 
is kept was erected about 1901. after having occupied the original smaller 
building until the number of pupils increased until it became too crowded. 


This last building is forty-eight by ninety-six feet, one story high. The 
seating capacity is one hundred and fifty pupils. At first stoves were had 
for heating both school and church, but now it has furnace heat. This 
school teaches the common and higher branches. The first instructor here 
was Prof. Wilde Clement Kampe; then came Prof. H. G. Nuoffer, who If ft 
in 191 1 and was succeeded by Prof. W. A. Leiner (lower class) and Rev. 
R. B. Knuth (higher class). 

At Germantown there is a fine brass band of nineteen pieces, organized 
in 1889 by Professor Kampe. All this church and school life in the town- 
ship shows that the Germans of this county — especially in the little "king- 
dom of Caledonia"- —set a good example for others to follow, in many par- 


The Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran church of Paullina was organized 
on July 22, 1888, in the school building in Paullina. 

The Rev. N. G. Peterson, then pastor at Jewel Junction, Iowa, came 
here and took charge of the work, and for some time the meetings were held 
in the school house, and later in the Presbyterian church. 

In 1893 the Lutheran church bought the Presbyterian church building, 
the Presbyterians deciding to build a new house of worship, and they are 
using their first purchased church building at this time. 

At first the Norwegian Lutheran church here was independent of any of 
the organizations of the Norwegian church in this country. In 1902. during 
the pastorate of Rev. Helmers, they joined the United church. Of the first 
members who signed the roll there are just four now living in this locality, 
to-wit : Olus Idso, Peter Idso, Martin Larson and Iver Goodmanson. The 
church has had nine different pastors, as follows : X. G. Peterson, now of 
Des Moines : Rev. Harrisville, of Chicago ; Rev. Kasa, no longer in the 
work ; Rev. Erwik, present residence unknown : Rev. John Mattson, of 
Mauston, Wisconsin; Rev. H. O. Helmers, now of Norway; Rev. H. Noss, 
now at Mankato, Minnesota: Rev. L. E. Kleppe. of Sioux Rapids, Iowa, and 
Rev. Theodore Kleppe. the present pastor. Of these, but two had their resi- 
dence here, the Rev. Helmers and Rev. Theodore Kleppe. The difficulty of 
getting ministers to serve this charge has been one of the great drawbacks 
to the advancement of the church here. At times they have been for months 
without services. On September 1, 19 12, Rev. Kleppe came and since then 
the work of the church has advanced rapidly. The outlook for the future is 


fine, the pastor rinding a fine field for his labors and a liberal response from 
his people. 

The church now has forty voting" members and about one hundred fifty 
members in good standing. In the twenty-five years of its existence one 
hundred and thirty-eight persons have been baptized and sixty-four have 
been confirmed. The church has property valued at not less than five thou- 
sand dollars, and is managed by a board of trustees, consisting of F. Stange- 
land, Goodman Goodmanson and K. Fjeld, and the following named mem- 
bers are the deacons of the church at the present time : E. Fkor, Thor Naig 
and Peter Naig. 


This church at Sanborn was organized in the autumn of 191 1 and the 
building was erected so that it was dedicated February 11, 1912. It is a 
frame structure costing three thousand dollars, with an addition built in 
191 3. The original members of this society were \Y. \V. Brouwer, G. D. 
Young, O. Vander Werf, P. Mars, C. Geolder. K. Tap, B. Mellema, B. Hof- 
man, J. Hofman, W. Groneveld. The pastor since November 17, 19 12, has 
been Rev. F. Stuart. The total membership of this congregation is now 
sixty-two families. The value of church, parsonage and grounds in the fall 
of 1913 was placed at six thousand seven hundred dollars. In O'Brien 
county this denomination has churches at Sanborn and Sheldon. 

The church at Sheldon was organized in 1905 by the classis of Orange 
City, Iowa. There were about fifteen members. The first building was 
erected in 1906 and an addition made in 191 2, making it now thirty-two by 
fifty feet in size. The present total membership is about eighty families, or 
four hundred souls. The pastors have been Rev. F. Stuart, from 1906 to 
19 1 2, and the present pastor, Rev. Peter J. M. Voortman, who was installed 
May 4, 191 3. The present valuation placed on the property of this church is 
eight thousand dollars. There is also a church of this denomination at San- 
born, as above noted, and these are the only two of the kind in O'Brien 


The Evangelical Association at Hartley was organized April 10, 1889, 
when the work was effected by the following original charter membership : 
F. Klampes, Caroline Klampes, George Klampes, Silas Klampes. Albert 
Klampes, Ida Klampes, Clara Klampes, John Klampes, Sophia Klampes, 
William Klampes, Albert Reinke, Minnie Reinke, F. Durre, Hillens Durre. 


Jacob Widman, Mrs. Widman, Anna Widman, William Widman, W. Filk, 
W. Filk, Sr., Rose Filk. 

The present membership of this society is twenty-eight, although in 
1901 it had reached ninety-eight. The present building was erected in 1890. 
at a cost of two thousand three hundred dollars. The first parsonage, still 
standing, cost one thousand five hundred dollars. The church property is 
now valued at four thousand five hundred dollars. The various pastors 
have been: Revs. M. Trumbauer, G. Borghardt, John J. DeWahl, William 
Grobe, G. Youngblood, J. W. Wienands, L. Reep. Henry Raecker. E. C. 
Graenner, John D. Schaibie. Peter Schott, Charles S. Lang, William F. 
Mather, these having served from 1889 to T914. 


The First Church of Christ of Primghar was organized and incorpor- 
ated November 9, 1899, by William Wicks, Emma J. Wicks, William King, 
Theodore King, J. P. Knox, Jessie Frasier and many others. The church 
building was erected in 1896 and cost thirty-one hundred dollars. 

The First Church of Christ of Sutherland of the same denomination 
was incorporated May 15, 1897, by Charles Peaker, J. N. Slick, F. W. Hul- 
ser, James Parker and others. 

The First Church of Christ at Archer was incorporated October 15, 
1898, by P. S. Tanner, D. FT. Smith, James Morfitt and others. 

This denomination also organized at Sheldon at a very early day and 
built a church, but at present and for some time it has been without a pastor. 


The First Church of Christ (Christian Science) was incorporated in 
Sheldon May 9, 1895, and Mrs. Isadore Starrett was chosen as first reader 
and F. E. W T ade as second reader. Services and readings are held at its 
audience rooms in the second story of the Union Bank building. 

The First Church of Christ (Christian Science) at Sanborn was incor- 
porated April 2, 1898. by William Woodman, Frank Brainard, Peter Yelie 
and August Schoel as trustees. 

The First Church of Christ (Christian Science) was organized in 
Primghar in 1913 by the election of Mrs. D. R. Carmichael as first reader, 
and Mrs. J. S. Nye, Jr., as second reader. Services and readings are held in 
the second story of the Yeoman's lodge building. 


By David Algyer. 

The First Presbyterian church at Paullina was organized in the fall of 

1881, as follows: 

Rev. J. M. McComb, at that time located at Sanborn, Iowa, under the 
auspices of the board of home missions of the Presbyterian church, laid the 
foundation of what is now our Presbyterian church, by holding occasional 
Sabbath services in the Carman school house in Dale township. 

On January 10, 1882, at the home of Alexander Scott, in Dale town- 
ship, Mr. McComb organized a church of twenty-four members, namely: 
Alexander Scott, Helen Scott, John Sibbald Scott, William F. Scott, James 
M. Christie, Helen Clark, Rachel Clark, Thomas Milligan, Thomas Scott, 
Mary C. Scott, Thomas A. Scott, Fred L. Murrie, Walter Cowan, Mrs. Wal- 
ter Cowan, Mrs. J. Douglas, Jane J. Cowan, Agnes M. McXaughton, Will- 
iam Redford, Helen Redford, Jessie Redford, Andrew Redford, Jane Red- 
ford, Robert Aitken, William Aitken, Mary G. Aitken, Bella M. Aitken, 
Thomas H. Aitken, William S. Clark. 

Of these Alexander Scott and the late William Aitken were elected 
elders, and Thomas Scott and the late William Redford formed the first 
board of trustees. 

In May, 1882, Mr. McComb, being appointed to the place of foreign 
missionary to India, the church was placed under the care of Rev. Mr. 
Evans, who, though he remained only three weeks, made a deep impression 
on the people by his genial disposition and earnestness of his teaching, which 
remained with the people long after he was gone. Meanwhile, Paullina had 
grown into a good healthy town and it was considered advisable to make it 
the center of the Presbyterian church. 

Accordingly, Mr. Evans preached the first sermon ever delivered in the 
town, to a little company of some eight people, on the third Sunday of May. 

1882, in the parlor of the Northwestern hotel on Main street. 

For financial reasons, Mr. Evans was removed to another field and the 
Presbyterian church of Paullina was placed with that of Marcus, Iowa, 
under Rev. W. E. Caldwell. Soon the congregation had so increased that a 
larger room was needed for its accommodation. This need was kindly met 
by Mrs. C. C. Smith, who offered for the purpose the use of her home, now 
occupied by the A. P. Jacobs hardware store. Here, for the first time in 
Paullina, the communion season and service was observed, and services were 


continued until the place of meeting was changed to the building in which 
was held Paullina'' s first school. 

The first church building of the Presbyterian church was completed in 
September, 1883, ar *d was dedicated by Rev. Gramby, of Sioux City, with- 
out pulpit or pew, or furnishings of any description; the people ranged them- 
selves as best they could on benches and a motley collection of chairs bor- 
rowed for the occasion, and, in spite of all drawbacks, it was with grateful, 
happy hearts, those present listened to the beautiful words with which the 
little edifice was set apart to its sacred use as a house of worship. 

In 1886 Mr. Caldwell was regularly called and installed as pastor. In 
1889 Mr. Caldwell resigned and as a brother minister said of him: "For 
all time, this church will remain a monument of Mr. Caldwell's work among 
you." Rev. Allen, of Sioux City, filled the pulpit with great acceptance 
until Rev. J. A. McAlmon was called and installed in October, 1889, and 
during his pastorate the parsonage was built. In the summer of 1891, Rev. 
McAlmon resigned, and Rev. Andrew Herron was called to succeed him and 
was installed September 1, 1891. In 1893 the first church building was 
sold to the Norwegian Lutheran church of Paullina, and the present church 
building was erected and dedicated in 1895, remodeled and made very con- 
venient for Sunday school purposes, etc., in the year 1913. The value of 
the property of the Presbyterian church of Paullina at this time is not less 
than fifteen thousand dollars. Rev. Andrew Herron was succeeded by Dr. 
O. S. Thompson, who resigned in 19 10 and was succeeded by the Rev. W. S. 
Harries, the present pastor. The temporal affairs of the church are governed 
by the following board of trustees : Charles Ihle, William F. Scott, W. J. 
McCauley, F. A". D. Bogert and Nelson Loucks. The spiritual concerns of 
the church are conducted by the following board of elders : Alexander Scott. 
John Cowan, Sr., J. S. McComb, John V. Adkins and Louis Wollenberg and 
the church has at present a membership of one hundred ninety-six. 


The First Presbyterian church at Sanborn was organized in 1881 by 
Rev. William S. Peterson and the following persons : Mrs. E. R. Dunbar, 
Mrs. Mary L. Thomas, Mrs. Mary L. Barnett, Mrs. J. M. Martin. A. H. 
Everhard, J. L. Greene. Mrs. Eva V. D. Greene, Mrs. Angie Vallean. The 
present membership is about eighty. The value of the church property, 
church, parsonage, barn, etc., is about six thousand dollars. 


The First Presbyterian church at Hartley was partly organized Febru- 
ary 1. 1889, when friends of this denomination made efforts to establish the 
church here. The Rev. Andrew Herron, of Sanborn, had the matter in 
charge, he having been requested to address the people of Hartlev on this 
subject. The services were held in the Methodist Episcopal church building, 
February 8, 1889. at three P. M. — hence this was really the first service 
of the denomination in the town of Hartley. Rev. Herron preached each 
other Sunday until April, that year, when a petition was sent to the presbv- 
tery at Fort Dodge, asking to effect an organization at Hartley. At the 
meeting of the presbytery at Grand Junction. April 23d. that year, the peti- 
tion was found to be in good form and a committee appointed to organize 
the Hartley church. This committee consisted of Rev. T. S. Bailey, of 
Cedar Rapids, Rev. Andrew Herron and Elders T. S. Talmage and T. 
Crossan of the Sanborn Presbyterian church. Services were then held 
in Gross Hall, May 19, 1889, at three o'clock in the afternoon, at which time 
the First Presbyterian church of Hartley was really organized. The charter 
members were George Clyde. Mrs. Mary Clyde. James Wilson, Mrs. Agnes 
Wilson. J. W. Wardrup. Mrs. E. A. Wardrup, H. FP Brown. P C. Gregg, 
Mrs. Rebekah Silverthorn : the first elders were James Wilson. John W. 
Wardrup; first set of trustees, J. M. Wilson, J. W. Wardrup. George Clyde. 
W. J. Lorshbough. Allen Crossan. The present membership of the Hartlev 
church is thirty-nine. The present pastor is Rev. Frank Schweder. 


This denomination (which is verv much like the Christian Reformed) 
was organized in Sheldon, April 23, 1895, D . v tne classis of Iowa, by the fol- 
lowing ministers: Revs. P. Lepeltak, P. Bouma, J. M. Fumkes, and elders 
W. Van Rooyen and C. Wierks. The charter members were : Mrs. Wie- 
kamp. R. Kooiker. J. Wynia. Mr. and Mrs. H. Xiewendorp, Mrs. Hey- 
menses, Mr. and Mrs. D. Femkuil. Mrs. H. Pronk, G. Vander Yelde, Mr. 
and Mrs. Stroetman, Mr. and Mrs. B. Wilkins, Mr. and Mrs. K. Vroom. W. 
Stryland. D. Van Dasselaar. The ministers have been in the following 
order: Revs. H. Dykhuizen, 1898-1901 : A. Van Arendonk, 1901-1904: 
William Stegman, 1904-1906: A. Rozendal. 1907-1909: H. Vandewald, 
1910 to present time. 

The first church and parsonage were erected at No. 805 Eleventh street, 
in 1898. costing two thousand eight hundred dollars. The second church was 


built with parsonage, at No. 953 East Seventh street in 191 1, at a cost of 
fifteen thousand dollars. The present membership is one hundred families; 
members in full communion, one hundred and fifty; Sunday school attend- 
ance, one hundred and sixty. The consistory members in the autumn of 
1913 were: Elders, A. Haze, H. Xienwendorp, D. Creulen, E. DenHerder; 
deacons, L. Rozeboom, H. Mastbergen. B. YYilkins, J. Den Hartog". 

At Archer this denomination is represented by a society formed about 
1900 and in 19TO a church edifice was erected. The membership is now 
thirty families, with a membership of twenty-four in full communion. The 
pastors here have been : James Yander Heide, Rev. Yanhunelen, who came 
in July, 191 1, and is doing an excellent work among the German and Holland 
people of the community. 

This denomination also is represented at Sheldon, where Rev. Vander 
Naald is pastor. 

At Sanborn is what is styled the Christian Reformed church, who also 
have a society at Sheldon. 


At the town of Calumet this denomination is represented by a society 
having a present membership of twenty-eight. It was organized in 1S91, 
during which year a neat, good-sized church building was erected, at a cost 
of about two thousand four hundred dollars. Its pastors have been Revs. 
A. Jannesen, E. Rail. Rev. Conrad, Rev. Schligel ( who died while pastor 
at Calumet), J. J. Jaeck, H. Rixmann, the present pastor, who came in 191 1. 
The church has a good parsonage and parochial school in connection with 
the church property. The school dates back to about the time the church 
was formed. A substantial school building was added to the church build- 
ing in 1 9 10. The parsonage was built in 1909, taking the place of the old 
one. The membership is composed of persons both in and out of town. 


The First Reformed church of Sheldon was incorporated March 7, 
1898, by W. Van Stryland. A. Haze, A. K. de Jong, H. Nienwendrop, \V. 
Stroeman, H. Buysman and S. Schryvers as officials and have erected a very 
fine church. 

The Trinity Evangelical church of Hartley was incorporated January 


22, 1900, by John Isley, Christopher B. Olhaussen, John H. Bordewick, 
Fred Gierke and Jacob Warner, trustees. 

The Evangelical Lutheran St. Paul's congregation at Sheldon was in- 
corporated July 6, 1904. by William Schmidt, Peter Kruse and O. Heitritter, 

The First Reformed church of Archer was incorporated June 29, 19 10. 
by Gerrit Maouw, H. Vollink, John Hoffmeier and J. Zorgdrager. 

The Christian Reform church of Sheldon was incorporated February 
29, 1912, by Jan Snip, Dick Van Dassear and Henry Bait as elders and R. 
Hoekstra, D. La Flenr, George de Vries and A. Shellhaas, deacons. 

The Evangelical Lutheran St. Emanuel's congregation was organized 
in Center township in 1881 and built a fine, commodious church and school 
building, by Henry D. Year, Michael Steuck and many others. They have 
maintained a German school much of the time in connection with this church. 

The German Evangelical Saint John's church of Primghar was organ- 
ized and incorporated in 1003 by Dick Horstman, Johan Wittrock, William 
Klink and Simon Brandt as trustees ; Simon Brandt, treasurer ; and C. F. 
Greve. secretary. Thev erected a verv neat commodious church building. 

The Episcopal church had at one time a large following" in Sheldon 
and erected a church building, in which to worship, but for some years have 
not supported a rector and now have no regular services. 


At Archer a church of this denomination was formed about 1900 and at 
about that date a frame church edifice was erected, at a cost of seven hun- 
dred dollars. This society is not in a flourishing condition at this writing. 

This church was among the first formed in early Sheldon. They have 
a good building, but at present the society is not strong and they have no 
pastor to lead them. 

At Sutherland this denomination, organized many years ago, have a good 
building, but are now without a pastor and do not maintain regular services. 


The Baptist society at Sheldon was organized in the eighties ; they 
possess a neat church building, but have no regular pastor, and do not have 
regular services. 



By Rev. James McCormack. 

In the beginning we deem it advisable to apologize to both the com- 
pilers of the history of O'Brien county, as well as to the reading public, for 
assuming so onerous a task as the writing of a history of the Catholic church 
in O'Brien county. In the performance of the task assigned, we wish to 
state that we have been guided to a great extent by information derived 
from the various sources to which we had recourse in narrating facts. lis- 
torv is the record written by men, for men, of what men have done in tmcs 
which it is beyond the power of the living witness to reach. So much for 
what history is. Now for the annals connected with the Catholic church in 
O'Brien count}-. 

The parish records, as well as the testimony of the older members of 
St. Patrick's parish, agree in stating that Rt. Rev. Monseigneur Lennihan, 
who was pastor of old St. Mary's church, Sioux City, Iowa, had charge at 
an early day over the few scattered Catholic families in six or seven counties 
in northern Iowa, was the first priest who came to minister to the spiritual 
wants of the Catholics in Sheldon and surroundings. Monseigneur Lenni- 
han offered the holy sacrifice of the mass for the first time in Sheldon parish, 
in the home of Michael Burns, who then lived in Floyd township, in the year 
1873 or 1S74. Air. Burns came to Floyd township, O'Brien county, Iowa, 
in the year 1872, and was numbered among the first settlers. He was a good 
neighbor, and aided many in those days of trial and much privations. The 
congregation who greeted Monseigneur Lennihan on his first pastoral visit 
at the home of Mr. Burns consisted of twenty members. Joseph Shinski, 
who at that time lived in Sheldon, accompanied Father Lennihan on that 
memorable morning. No doubt the hearts of all present were gladdened 
by the presence of the priest, and brought forth, as it did to the apostles of 
old, the exultation of joy. "Lord, it is good for us to be here." After mass, 
the priest addressed his little flock, congratulated them on the many sacrifices 
made for church and country, exhorted them to persevere to the end, and 
finally made arrangements for his coming visits to attend them. The follow- 
ing are the names of those who attended the first mass said in O'Brien county : 
Joseph Shinski; Pat Kennedy, wife and family, and his father and mother; 
Tim Donohue, known as ''Little Tim," wife and family; Pat Carroll, wife 
and family ; John Hart and family, and Michael Burns and family. There 


were others whose names we failed to learn. This then may he said to be the 
nucleus in the formation of St. Patrick's parish, of Sheldon, Iowa. 

Father Lennihan attended the Catholics of Sheldon during the years 
i S73 to 1876. He was one of our pioneer priests — a man of refined tastes, 
a fine orator, and a man who endeared himself to all classes. He was 
familiarly known to his people by the name of Father Bart. 

Monseignenr Lennihan's second visit to the Catholics in and around 
Sheldon was in the fall of 1874. This time services were conducted in what 
was then known as the Husted hall. This hall was located where Mr. 
Hollander's drug store now stands. Father Lennihan, on other visits to 
Sheldon, said mass in the home of Joseph Shinski Father Lennihan had 
in those days, as assistant, Rt. Rev. Father Garland, now of Independence, 
Iowa. He said mass in Air. Shinski's home also. Mr. and Airs. Shinski 
still live in Sheldon and are hale and hearty. They are highly respected by 
the citizens of Sheldon. Air. Shinski has been a painstaking and successful 
business man. He and his devoted wife now take life easy, enjoying the 
fruits from long years of industry and success. .Afterwards Father Lenni- 
han and his assistant, Very Rev. J. J. Smith, pastor of the Catholic church, 
Emmettsburg. Iowa, at various times, attended the Catholics of Sheldon dur- 
ing the years 1887 and t888. Father Smith was a man of great perseverance 
and wonderful endurance. He was a lover of fine horses and kept the finest 
horses in Palo Alto county. He took a prominent part in assisting to build 
up the church in those early days. He was pastor of the Emmettsburg church 
for oxer thirty years. He died a few years ago. Dominick O'Donnell, 
Peter Guenthier. Tom Downs, Pat Murray and brother. James Parden, John 
Dougherty and family, James Griffin and Patrick Kelly were also among 
the number of the early settlers who formed a part of the first congregation 
of the Sheldon parish. Hon. Timothy Donohue came to O'Brien county 
from the state of Michigan in 1878. Patrick Sullivan and family came to 
O'Brien county from the state of Minnesota in 1878, and James Beacom and 
family came from Jones county, Iowa, to O'Brien county in 1878. These 
families may also be said to form a part of the first congregation of Sheldon 

Each succeeding year brought in additional newcomers, who settled 
down on the prairie, and from the rapid increase the necessity of forming a 
parish forced itself upon the Catholics of Sheldon, and Rev. Patrick Lvnch 
was officially appointed the first resident pastor of Sheldon parish by Rt. 
Rev. John Hennessy, then bishop of the state of Iowa. The appointment 


was made in the fall of 1879. Father Lynch held services on his coming to 
Sheldon, in the city hall, which was then located where the former home of 
Dr. W. H. Myers now stands. The hall was afterwards moved and located 
on the property now occupied by what is known as the McKeever block. 
After a short time the Sioux City & St. Paul Railroad Company deeded a 
quarter block of land for church purposes. The deed was made out to Joseph 
Shinski, Dominick O'Donnell and Peter Guenthier, as trustees for the newly 
organized parish, and in the spring of 1880 they commenced the erection of 
the first Catholic church in Sheldon. The dimensions of the church was 
thirty-seven feet in width, and sixty feet in length. The erection of this 
building was accomplished at an outlay of two thousand five hundred dollars, 
which, with necessary furnishings, brought the total expenditure for this 
purpose up to three thousand five hundred dollars. Rev. John A. O'Reilly, 
now of Rock Valley, succeeded Father Lynch, April 1, 1881, and remained 
as pastor until October 1, 1884, when Rev. Timothy Sullivan, now of Cedar 
Rapids, was appointed pastor of the Sheldon parish. Father Sullivan held 
the position of pastor of the Sheldon parish until November 13, 1889, when 
he was succeeded by Rev. James McCormack, who was appointed in 1890. 
He was succeeded by Very Rev. P. F. Farrelly, who acted as pastor until 
November 4, 1902. At that time Father Farrelly was succeeded by Very 
Rev. T. Tracv. who continued as pastor until December 1, 1905. when Rev. 
J. P. Barron was appointed pastor of Sheldon parish. Father Barron was 
succeeded by Father McCormack, the present pastor of the Sheldon congre- 
gation, he being appointed thereto in May, 1910, and for the second time sent 
back to fill such position. In the spring of 191 1 Father McCormack. assisted 
by his faithful people, commenced the erection of their new church. The 
church was completed in 191 2, and stands today, and for all time, a lasting 
monument to the priest and devoted Catholics of Sheldon. The total cost 
of the church was fort}- thousand dollars. 


Very Rev. J. J. Smith, pastor of the Catholic church of Emmettsburg, 
Iowa, it is stated upon reliable authority, was the first priest to say mass in 
the Sanborn parish. Soon after Father Smith's coming to Sanborn, Father 
Lynch was stationed at Sheldon, in 1879, as pastor, with Sanborn, Primghar, 
Ashton, Sibley, Rock Valley, Rock Rapids, Hull and Hospers as outside 
stations, attended from Sheldon. Rev. J. A. O'Reilly succeeded Father 
Lynch at Sheldon in 1881. In November, 1882, Father O'Reilly started a 


subscription list to build a church in Sanborn. The committee in charge was 
Mart Shea, M. Collins, Cornelius McCann and Dennis Crowley. In 1882 
the framework of the church was completed. In 1884 Father Sullivan suc- 
ceeded Father O'Reilly at Sheldon. Father Sullivan paid off the debt on the 
church at Sanborn and improved the property. In 1889 Father McCormack 
had charge of Sheldon and outside missions and attended Sanborn. In 
November, 1893. the Sanborn parish secured its first resident pastor, Father 
Corbett. He was a delicate man and remained there only a short time. 
Father McNamara was appointed to Sanborn parish in December, 1895. 
The next pastor appointed to Sanborn was Rev. J. P. Martin. He erected 
the first parochial residence in that parish. Father McCormack succeeded 
Father Martin at Sanborn, August 18, 1898. He paid off some of the debt 
on the place and improved the church at a cost of three thousand three hun- 
dred eighty-two dollars and ninety-six cents. The present pastor at San- 
born is Rev. L. Cooper, a whole-souled and genial character, beloved by his 
people. Thomas Burns, deceased, was the first Catholic family to settle in 
Franklin township. He settled there June 8, 1874. Mrs. Farrell and family, 
Mrs. McKeever, T. Ryan and family, Charles Hart, Hugh Fahey and John 
Kelly were among the first parishoners. 


The first regular attendance received by the Catholics of Primghar was 
from Rev. Timothy Sullivan, who went to Primghar in the fall of 1887. He- 
said mass in the court house. Father McCormack, who took his place at 
Sheldon, attended Primghar during the years 1890 to 1893, saying mass in 
the court room, and in the office of the sheriff of the county, at the latter's 
kind invitation. Both Father Sullivan and Father McCormack attended 
Hartley also in those days. Father McCormack was accustomed to say mass 
in the room over Gross & Herbst store ; also in a hall on the south side of 
the street. This was during the years 1890 to 1893. 

in K)00 the Catholics of Primghar bought their present church from 
the Methodist people, for four hundred and seventy-five dollars, moved it to 
the lots owned by them, and at that time built a foundation under it, plastered 
it, and put in new furniture, at a total expenditure of one thousand two hun- 
dred dollars. There were but twelve families in the first congregation of 
Primghar at that time, which included among others the following members : 
John Manning and sister, John Cassidy and Frank Cassidy, and families, 
Mrs. McFarland and family, Joe Halbach and Con. Harrington. 


Sutherland was first attended from Sheldon by Father Sullivan, during 
the years 1885 to 1888. The little church was not built in Sutherland until 
the summer of 1888. The church was erected at a cost of one thousand 
five hundred dollars, and the lot on which it stands was purchased for three 
hundred and fifty dollars. It was during Father Sullivan's administration 
that this church was erected. It was destroyed by a cyclone, June 24, 1S91. 
Father McCormack came in 1890. He said mass two or three times in the 
church before it was destroyed. He said mass also in Mr. O'Brien's home, 
and in the opera house. After Father McCormack, Rev. P. A. R. Tierney 
came from Spencer to attend Sutherland. Then Father McCauly and Father 
Logue, respectively, took charge. In 1903, Father Joseph Murtagh took 
charge of the Sutherland parish. He bought the first parochial residence 
owned by the parish, from Mr. Woodbury, for two thousand dollars. He 
did excellent work in this field, and was succeeded by Father Bradlev in 
March. 1905, who, in turn, was succeeded by Father LeCair in February. 
1907. Father LeCair remained at Sutherland until May 4, 19 13. when the 
present pastor. Father Schemmel, was appointed to the mission of Suther- 
land and outside stations. Since his appointment he has made improvements 
on the church by putting a large basement hall under the same, and putting 
in a furnace capable of heating the entire building. These were needed im- 
provements, and Father Schemmel and his good people are to be congratu- 
lated on what they have accomplished. 

Among the settlers who belong to the Sutherland parish we mention 
Michael Sweeney and Dennis O'Brien. Mr. Sweeney came to O'Brien 
county in 1873. The only Catholic family at Sutherland at the time Mr. 
Sweeney came was that of Thomas Merrick. John and Michael O'Donnell. 
Frank and Martin Klema, William and Frank Mathern, Joseph Lynch, 
George New, the Kopp Brothers (John Kopp and August 'Kopp), and Mr. 
Betz came later on. 

Rev. Timothy Sullivan, who was pastor at Sheldon from 1884 to 1889, 
was the first priest to hold services in Paullina in 1885 or 1886. At that 
time there were but few Catholics in Paullina. After Father Sullivan's day, 
Rev. Father Murtagh. who was pastor at Sutherland in 1903, attended the 
church at Paullina and said mass in the home of Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Braig. 
It is said that the congregation consisted of nine members. After Father 
Murtagh came Father Bradley. He was succeeded by Father LeCair. and 
he was followed by the present pastor of Sutherland, Father Schnel. who 
finds the little congregation growing at Paullina so much so that the congre- 



gation is looking for larger quarters to hold service in. It is to be hoped in 
the near future the faithful and persevering Catholics of Paullina will build 
a church to the honor and glory of God and their own spiritual and temporal 


Let us now close our historical narrative by saying that nowhere under 
the blue sky of heaven today has the Catholic church a grander field than 
right here in O'Brien county. We are living here today in the midst of the 
broadest and fairest minded men to be found anywhere in the country. If 
the Catholics of O'Brien county do not push forward the interests of their 
church to the best of their ability, in these days of golden opportunities, let 
them attribute no blame to any of their neighbors, but. on the contrary, blame 
themselves. Work now while the sun of God's glory shines bright to illumine 
vour pathway through life, so that at the setting thereof we may be recom- 
pensed for work well done. Differ as we may in matters of faith, we stand 
united upon the common ground of charity and benevolence. In the words 
of Cardinal Gibbons, "We cannot, like our Divine Master, give sight to the 
blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and strength to the paralyzed 
limb, but we can work miracles of grace and mercy by relieving the distress 
of our suffering brethren." "Religion,"' says the Apostle, "pure and unde- 
hled before God. is this : to visit the fatherless and the widow in their tribula- 
tion, and to keep one's self unspotted from the world." Or shall we exclaim 
with the pagan Cicero of old. and say : "Homines ad Deos nunquam proprius 
accedunt quam salutem hominibus dando." — there is no way by which men 
can approach nearer to the gods than by contributing to the welfare of their 
fellow creatures. 


The state census reports for Iowa in 1905 give the following on the 
churches of O'Brien county : 

No. Value 
Churches. Membership. of Property. 

Baptist (Regular) 1 100 $ 6,500 

Catholic 4 1.175 114,000 

Christian I 100 3,000 

Christian Science 2 49 

Congregational 3 320 9.850 

Friends (Conservative) __ 1 86 1,200 

German Baptist Brethren. 1 35 1.300 

Lutheran 5 906 23,600 


Xo. Value 

Churches. Membership. of Property 

[Methodist Episcopal 10 972 66,700 

Presbyterian 4 304 17,200 

Total 32 4.047 $243-35° 


The Young Men's Christian Association work as carried on in O'Brien 
county had its start in the year 1873 when, in Dupage township. Will county. 
Illinois, the work was started entirely by volunteer leadership and lasted 
four years, long enough to prove that such work could be done and done 
satisfactorily and for the wellbeing of the boys. "Uncle Robert" Weidensal 
saw what could be the future of this plan and gave much study and time 
to it and saw it experimented with in different sections of the United States. 
He urged the international conventions to make provisions for it and finally, 
after the work had been tried in fourteen different communities, it was 
recognized by the international convention and a special secretary was placed 
on the international staff to look after this work. It was at this time, 1903, 
that the work was started in Greene county, Iowa, with Fred M. Hansen, just 
out of Ames, as the county secretary. Mr. Hansen had charge of the work 
in that county for nearly three years and was requested to take charge of 
the state work and, as state county work secretary, has seen five more counties 
organized in this state in the following order. Buena A r ista, Calhoun, Sac. 
Pocahontas and O'Brien. 

After several requests for this type of work had been received at the 
state office from prominent men in this county, Mr. Hansen and his assistant, 
Donald G. Cathcart, came to O'Brien county on September 12, 1913, and 
began to investigate the county and. if enough people w r ere found interested, 
to help with the organization. So much encouragement was received from 
the progressive, influential citizens that, after the people had been informed 
of what might be expected of the work, a count}' convention was called to 
meet at Primghar on October 8th and delegations were present from every 
town anxious to have the work started with two employed secretaries. After 
talks by Fred M. Hansen, Donald G. Cathcart, State Secretary W. M. Par- 
sons, Attorney E. B. Wilson, of Jefferson, Rev. Harries, of Paullina, 
Professor Graeber, of Sutherland, J. S. Webster of Hartley, it was decided 
to organize the county with the following as the first county committee : 


John McCandless, F. E. Frisbee and W. E. Clagg, of Sheldon; D. M. Norton, 
of Sanborn : J. S. Webster and J. C. Joslin, of Hartley : O. H. Montzheimer 
and W. S. Armstrong, of Primghar; C. P. Jordan and Charles Youde, of 
Sutherland, and George Raw. George W. Smith and C. C. Cannon, of Paul- 
lina. It was also voted to employ two secretaries and raise a budget of three 
thousand rive hundred dollars to earn- on this work. 

At the first meeting of the county committee, which was on the evening 
of the convention, O. H. Montzheimer was elected chairman; C. C. Cannon, 
vice-chairman ; George Raw, clerk, and C. P. Jordan, treasurer. 

A large part of the budget was raised within the following month and 
on November n, 1 9 t 3 . the county committee met and chose Donald G. 
Cathcart, who had helped organize the county, as the county secretary and 
Chester C. Welch as assistant county secretary. The regular county work 
was started immediately following this meeting and at the present time 
(April 1, 1914) seventeen groups are in active operation. These groups 
average about fifteen members each and meet once a week for Bible study, 
work and play. Besides this an Ames gospel team was at Sutherland for a 
week during the holidays and eight boys were converted; thirteen boys at- 
tended the Inter-County Older Boys' Conference and four were converted, a 
three-day Ames short course was held at Sutherland and reached one hun- 
dred and twenty-five farmers, and one at Primghar that reached two hun- 
dred and twenty-five farmers : five lectures concerning hog cholera were heard 
by over one thousand hog raisers and other cooperative events were held or 
supplemented in the different communities. 

The ultimate aim of the county committee is to have a group within 
easy walking distance of every boy in the count)" and have programs for these 
groups that appeal to the class of boys that compose the group. Also to 
co-operate with all movements for the best interest of the people of O'Brien 
county as a whole and each community in particular, and, by cooperating 
with the Iowa State College of Agriculture and the United States Depart- 
ment of Agriculture, make O'Brien county the best county of the best state 
in the Union, and this can be done bv making better bovs. "Give the bovs a 
chance." — Abraham Lincoln. 




In all well developed countries, where religion and the higher order of 
civilized life obtains, are found lodges of this most ancient and honorable or- 
der. There are numerous lodges within O'Brien county, including the follow- 
ing, of which only a brief outline history can be given in this connection : 

Rising Star Lodge No. 496, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, re- 
ceived dispensation from the grand master under date of April 18, 1888, 
to organize a lodge at Sanborn and on April 24, 1888, it held its first meet- 
ing, officers being as follows: J. B. Dunn, worshipful master; W. S. Arm- 
strong, senior warden; F. A. Turner, junior warden; J. S. Nye, treasurer; 
E. L. Ballon, secretary ; C. H. Winterble, senior deacon ; Thomas T. Mc- 
Mann, junior deacon; H. E. Thayer and George J. North, stewards; George 
M. Shuck, tyler; D. Algyer, chaplain. 

The charter members included the above and James Shaw, G. W. Alex- 
ander. James D. Wilson, Thomas Rollins, E. C. Foskett and W. H. Brown. 
Masters since the organization have been as follows : J. B. Dunn, W. S. 
Armstrong, C. H. Slocum, David Algyer. J. S. Nye, S. A. Carter. J. E. Stott, 
E. J. English, R. Hinman, Alexander Stewart, \Y. W. Artherholt, D. H. 
Smith, H. A. Mitchell, J. P. Knox, O. H. Montzheimer. The present member- 
ship is eighty-seven and the present officers are: O. H. Montzheimer, master; 
D. B. Shearer, senior warden; E. E. Richards, junior warden; R. Hinman, 
treasurer; J. S. Nye, secretary; David McCreath, senior deacon; J. H. Knox, 
junior deacon; W. A. Rosecrans and Alex McCreath, stewards; J. S. Nye, 
Jr., tyler. 

Samara Chapter No. 105, Royal Arch Masons, was instituted at San- 
born August 23, 1883, special dispensation having issued by the grand high 
priest of Iowa under date of August 7, 1883. The first officers were: George 
H. Olmsted, high priest; T. J. Alexander, king; Cal Bradstreet, scribe; H. D. 
Chapin, captain of host; Harley Day, principal sojourner: George B. Davids. 


royal arch captain: E. M. Brady, master of third veil; George W. Schee, 
master of second veil; George McCullow, master of hrst veil. 

On August 2, 1900, by order of Grand High Priest N. B. Hyatt, issued 
in pursuance of vote of the chapter previously held, the chapter was removed 
to Primghar, where it has since been located, being the onlv chapter of Royal 
Arch Masons in the county. 1 nose who have held the office of high priest 
are George H. Olmsted, Cal Bradstreet, William Harker, J. H. Wolf, Harley 
Day, O. H. Montzheimer, Alexander Stewart and Roy King. The present 
membership is eighty-three. The present officers are : Roy King, high priest ; 
Arch Shearer, king; William Ortman, scribe; R. Hinman, treasurer; J. S. 
Nye, secretary; Alex. Stewart, captain of host; H. B. Bossert, principal 
sojourner; I). Shearer, royal arch captain; Jess Byers, master third veil; 
Alex McCreath, master second veil; Ed. Fritche. master first veil; J. B. 
See, sentinel. 

Primghar Chapter No. 241, Order of the Eastern Star, was instituted 
June 22, 1898, with the following first officers: Miss Ella Seckerson, 
worthy matron; Ralph Hinman, worthy patron; Mrs. Fannie Stott, associate 
matron; J. S. Nye. secretary; J. E. Stott, treasurer; Miss Merte Rogers, 
conductor; Miss Glo Stearns, associate conductor; Mrs. Eva Stearns, Adah; 
Mrs. Carrie Armstrong, Ruth: Mrs. Jennie Montzheimer, Esther; Mrs. 
Emma Williams. Martha: Mrs. May Rosecrans, Electa; H. L. Williams, 
warder ; W. A. Rosecrans, sentinel. 

The present officers are : Mrs. May Rosecrans, worthy matron ; Roy 
King, worthy patron; Miss Edith Brown, associate matron; R. E. Langley, 
secretary; Jennie Montzheimer, treasurer; Mrs. Nellie Olander, conductor; 
Mrs. Ethel Wolf, associate conductor; Mrs. Minnie Metcalf, chaplain; Miss 
Ethel Shearer, Adah ; Mrs. Flarriet Hinman, Ruth ; Mrs. Marie Bossert, 
Esther; Mrs. Edith King, Martha; Mrs. Vida Peck, Electa; Mrs. Jessie 
Hinz, warder; Alex. Stewart, sentinel; Miss Dorothy Stamp, marshal; Mrs. 
Hilma Thatcher, organist. Number of members at present time, one hun- 
dred and twenty-two. 

According to the statement of David Algyer. of Paullina, in his history 
of the town, the history of Fulton Lodge No. 499, is as follows : 

On the 1 6th day of June, 1888, by authority of the grand lodge of Iowa, 
a dispensation was granted to J. D. Laudi, John V. Adkins, W. H. Barber, 
George Haase, Stephen Harris, George Hakeman, A. Hanson, W. W. John- 
son, C. R. Waterman. W. N. Dunham., Jacob Fisch, J. C. Doling, A. C. 
Dunn, W. H. Wilkerson, and George P. Buell to organize a Masonic lodge 
in Paullina, to be known as Fulton Lodge No. 499, Ancient FYee and Ac- 


cepted Masons. These brethren, having been faithful to their trust and 
efficient in their workmanship, were on the 4th day of June. 1889. granted a 
charter. The first officers of Fulton Lodge were: J. D. Laudi, worshipful 
master: John V. Adkins, senior warden; W. H. Barber, junior warden; 
George Hakeman, treasurer ; George P. Buell, secretary ; Stephen Harris, 
senior deacon; A. C. Dunn, junior deacon; George Veeder, senior steward; 
A. Hanson, junior steward; C. R. Waterman, tyler. The lodge has grown 
and prospered and has a membership of seventy-four Master Masons and 
the following named have served as worshipful masters since its organiza- 
tion: J. D. Laudi. J. V. Adkins. S. Harris. George P. Buell, George Veeder, 
Edward Bachman, Henry Scott, David Algyer. and F. V. D. Bogert. 

On the 23rd day of October, 1901, a charter from the grand chapter 
of the Order of the Eastern Star of Iowa was granted to the following- 
named ladies of Paullina : Mrs. Marie S. Algyer, Mrs. A. W. Adkins, Mrs. 
Z. Dudley. Mrs. Ruth Fitton, Miss Helen Algyer, Mrs. Minnie Henderson, 
Mrs. Kate Hendry, Mrs. Byrdette Harris, Miss Nettie Metcalf, Mrs. Harriet 

E. Moffit, Mrs. Annie L. Pratt, Mrs Laura Veeder. Mrs. M. J. Williamson, 
Mrs. L. A. Wollenberg. Mrs. A. Watts and Mrs. Ella Warner, to organize 
Sweet Brier Chapter Xo. 299 at Paullina. The first officers of the chapter 
were: Mrs. Marie S. Algyer, worthy matron: J. V. Adkins. worthy patron: 
Mrs. Annie L. Pratt, associate matron. The chapter is in a flourishing 
condition with the following officers: Mrs. Byrdette Harris, worthy matron: 

F. V. D. Bogert, worthy patron; Mrs. Gertrude Bogert, associate matron: 
Mrs. B. J. May torn, conductress ; Mrs. Helen Raak, assistant conductress ; 
Mrs. J. V. Adkins. treasurer, and Miss Lena Moorhead, secretary. 

Beacon Lodge Xo. 495, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Hartley, 
was instituted March 10. 1888. with the following charter members: John 
I. Story, D. T. Stewart, E. B. Messer. F. L. Searls, Frank Patch, John W. 
Lothian, R. G. Allen. M. L. Gilbert, Peter Sitler. Frank L. McOmber, A. J. 
Brock, T. M. Corns, W. S. Fuller, C. H. Westfall, R. Hodgson, Sr. 

The first list of officers were: John I. Story, worshipful master; D. T. 
Stewart, senior warden; E. B. Messer, junior warden; F. L. McOmbes, 
senior deacon; A. J. Brock, junior deacon; R. G. Allen, senior steward; 
C. H. Westfall. junior steward; Frank Patch, secretary; W. S. Fuller., 
treasurer; Peter Sitler, 'tyler ; W. G. Lothian, chaplain. The lodge now has 
a membership of ninety-seven. The second floor of the Stewart building, 
on the west side of Main street, has been occupied by this lodge since 1901. 
The elective officers in November, 1913, were: H. T. Broders, worshipful 


master; H. J. Grotewohl, senior warden; C. C. Planck, junior warden; R. O. 
Rumann. secretary; Frank Patch, treasurer; F. A. Conn, senior deacon; 
Charles Boyce, junior deacon: A. Teakle. senior steward; C. H. Westfall, 
junior steward; John Haynes, tyler; G. R. Gilbert, chaplain. 

Abiff Lodge Xo. 347, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Sutherland, 
was instituted June 7, 1876, by the subjoined persons: D. H. Wheeler, 
J. C. Doling, A. H. Willett, C. W. Inman, E. C. Brown. G. W. Schee, Harley 
Day, Elmer C. Faskett, William H. Brown, S. J. Jordan, William Pursell, 
Moses Dimon, John T. Stearns, James Wykoff, A. B. Husted. R. C. Jordan 
is present worshipful master; Leigh Drake, senior warden; H. H. Hendrick, 
junior warden; F. L. Xichols, secretary; H. N. McMaster, treasurer. The 
present membership is about seventy-four. The lodge owns their own hall, 
valued at fifteen thousand dollars. Every member is paid up to date and 
every past master's picture hangs upon the walls of the lodge room. It will 
be observed that this lodge is in a flourishing condition and must stand for 
the good things to be enjoyed by the great fraternity. 

At Sanborn, Onyx Lodge Xo. 419, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, 
was instituted in 1909. Its officers are: W. H. Wheaton, worshipful 
master; C. H. Barber, senior warden; A. V. Brady, junior warden; H. H. 
Britton, secretan . The present membership is one hundred. The lodge 
leases its hall. The past masters have been : D. Barker, C. S. Cornell, 
F. W. Horton, J. A. Johnson, G. W. McFarland, H. Yanderlip, T. Zimmer- 

Mistletoe Lodge Xo. 376. at Sheldon, was instituted June 20, 1876, by 
the following persons: H. B. Wyman, E. M. Winslow. J. C. Elliott, J. A. 
Brown, S. W. Harrington, J. D. Bunce, E. A. Ward, Robert Sturgeon, J. A. 
Wagner. A. E. Frear, O. A. Borden. W. J. Dunham. W. J. Newell, W. X T . 
Strong. The present officers are: F. E. Frisbee, worshipful master; C. L. 
Dixon, senior warden; F. J. Brown, junior warden; E. A. James, senior 
deacon; F. W. Miller, junior deacon; Benjamin, Jones, treasurer; Scott 
Martin, secretary; C. B. Brownslow, tyler. The lodge now has a member- 
ship of one hundred and twenty-two. The past masters of this lodge have 
been : H. B. Wyman, J. C. Elliott. W. X. Strong. Ed C. Brown, F. Howard, 
W. D. Boies, O. P. Mabee. D. E. Dean. P. W. Hall, James Cowie, H. J. 
Cram. A. J. Walsmith, H. E. Palmer, J. R. Elliott, H. J. Brackney, F. E. 
Frisbee. The blue lodge is all of Masonry that is represented at Sheldon. 



Odd Fellowship has long had a stronghold in O'Brien county. The 
fraternity now has prosperous lodges in various parts of the county, includ- 
ing the following who have kindly furnished the facts for the author : 

At Hartley there is what is known as Hartley Lodge No. 507, which 
was instituted October 23, 1890. Among the first members were: F. N. 
Drake, L. C. Green, Frank Kelley. J. F. Wheelock and C. E. West. The 
1913 elective officers are William Franke, noble grand; H. C. Gunnerman. 
vice-grand; C. Boyce, secretary ; J. F. Eichner, financial secretary; D. C. 
Maass, treasurer. In 1900 the lodge erected a fine hall, costing three thou- 
sand dollars. Three degrees of the order are represented in Hartley, and 
the total membership is ninetv. 

There is also a lodge of this fraternity at Sanborn, known as No. 434, 
and also an encampment. The bodies here are in a prosperous condition and 
are a power for good in the surrounding community, as the rule is to properly 
exemplify the teachings of the order. There is a lodge at Sheldon. 

Paullina Lodge No. 483, of Odd Fellows, was instituted on the Qth day 
of February. 1885, and the following officers elected at that time: \Y. F. 
Clark, noble grand; \Y. R. Johnson, vice-grand ; George Hakeman, secre- 
tary; W. \Y. Johnson, treasurer; T. Lasson, inside guard; I. L. Rerick, 
warden; C. S. Paul, right supporter noble grand; \Y. W. Johnson, right sup- 
porter vice grand: C. A. Collett, left -upporter vice grand. The lodge was 
organized by E. R. Wood, district deputy grand master, with eight charter 
members, being W. l\. Johnson, Theodore Larson. W. F. Clark. C. S. Paul, 
C. A. Collett, I. L. Rerick. ( ieorge Hakeman and W. W. Johnson. 

The members who have served as noble grand of the lodge are : W. F. 
Clark. W. R. Johnson, O. D. Hamstreet. (ieorge P. Buell, J. P. Bossert. T. 
W. Bunker, I. L. Rerick, A. Thompson, J. D. Smith, L. N. B. LaRue, James 
Manley, W. J. McCauley, A. P. Jacobs, George Carfieid, George Veeder, 
A. W. Proctor, George Hodgdon, William Steen, C. Meltvedt, W. T. Winn. 
S. R. Hovland. F. M. Bethel. M. L. Peterson, J. L. Delmage, A. W. Barney. 
Charles Ihle. J. R. Graver, W. M. Sutter. M. Zimmerman. W. A. Hamilton. 
Charles Delmage, H. M. Sutter. A. Meltveldt, Elmer Bryson, J. E. Thomp- 
son, Albert Ihle, Theo. Moll, H.'G. Culp, John Tjossem, Carl Krull, Oscar 
Wallquist and George Miller. The lodge has enjoyed a good, wholesome 

Wild Rose Lodge No. 294, Daughters of Rebekah, at Paullina, has the 


subjoined history in brief: It was October j[, 1904, when a large number 
of wives and daughters of members of the Odd Fellows fraternity at this 
point organized a lodge. It now has a membership of one hundred and 

Sutherland Lodge No. 41?, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was 
organized October 20, 1887. with James Parks as noble grand; H. A. Peck. 
vice grand; C. H. Brintnall, secretary; B. Thompson, treasurer. Other 
charter members were James Park. F. L. Bidwell, I. D. Modesitt, Thomas 
Short. Thomas Bethel. The lodge now enjoys a total membership of eighty- 
two. They erected a substantial hall in 1911, twenty-five by one hundred 
feet, at a cost of nine thousand dollars. Three degrees of the order are here 
represented. The officers (elective) in the fall of 191 3 were as follows: 
Fedder Fedderson,. noble grand: W. M. Andrews, vice grand; F. W. Hulser. 
secretary; George Braungard. financial secretary: R. \Y. Boyd, treasurer. 

Primghar Lodge Xo. 506, at Primghar. was organized October 23, 
[890, with the following membership: F. M. McCormack, W. H. Noyes, 
J. R. Borland, II. O. Smith. Hans Johnson, Frank A. Turner and E. H. 
Cook. The first noble grand was H. O. Smith, and the vice grand was R. P. 
Jones. The present ( fall of 1913) officers are: Alexander McCreth, noble 
grand; Thomas Irvin. vice grand; R. P. Jones, secretary; W. H. Brown, 
financial secretary; J. B. Sanders, treasurer. The lodge now has a member- 
ship of eighty-four. The lodge was organized in the court house and the 
first night there were twenty-one new members initiated into the fraternity. 
For a time lodge was held over the creamery and later was removed to the 
■>tore room of the Noyes building, which later was destroyed by fire. Then 
the lodge, feeling the need of permanent epiarters, in connection with Jacob 
Wolf of the Bell newspaper office, erected the present fine brick building on 
the corner of Alain and Cross streets, facing the south. In this building, 
which was erected in 1895, the order has a fine lodge room and all the furni- 
ture needed to carry on the work of the subordinate lodge. The part owned 
by the Odd Fellows — the second story — cost between five and six thousand 
dollars. The Yeomen and Woodmen lodges have from time to time leased 
from the Odd Fellows. A Rebekah lodge was organized a few years after 
the original organization of the Odd Fellows lodge and still supports the 
order in excellent shape. Among the men who have served as noble grands 
may be recalled the following : H. O. Smith. R. P. Jones, M. S. Aletcalf , 
J. B. Sanders, Richard Gray, George Kruse (deceased), A. V. Conway (de- 
ceased), Henry Johnson (deceased), W. H. Christopher, Thomas Byers. 


Thomas Kamena, Frank Edington, John Irvin, W. H. Brown, W. X. Hul- 
bert, John A. King, John F. Doyle, Charlie R. Asquith. James Beers, Bert 
Bertelson and George D. Smith. 


The Knights of Pythias lodge at Sheldon has been written up by one of 
its worthy leading members in the following style — rather unique : 

"If we shall depart from the stale usage of identifying ourself by a 
number, as though we were an 'item' of stock in trade or some such thing, 
and insist that our name is our identity in the community in which we live, 
and elsewhere, and accordingly introduce the reader to Malta, Knights of 
Pythias, the reader will understand Malta has some reasons satisfactory to 
itself for doing so. 

"Our reasons are historical, and probably too abstruse to interest the 
uninitiated. Let it be said, Malta stands quite alone among the many subor- 
dinates — not in the least subordinate, but paramount and excellent in the 
precepts of a ritualism at once sublime, far-reaching and appealing to every 
better instinct of man, and making itself especiallv attractive to decent men. 

"There is a reason for Malta, among the many, and the foregoing, 
conscientiously practiced, is the reason. It is the reason why Malta will 
celebrate her quarter century anniversary August 7, 1914. with a member- 
ship considerably in excess of one hundred. 

"In that quarter of a century, Malta has witnessed the decay of every 
castle hall in this county, but one, more recently organized, and the single 
one in which Malta had no part. 

"Malta has seen the wreckage of Hartley, Sanborn, Primghar. Suther- 
land, Rock Rapids. LeMars, Sioux Centre, Hull, and some few more distant 
places, washed with the ebb and flow of what once promised to be pleasant 
seas. But the men at the wheel and in the chart house failed in the critical 
time when channels varied from the marked course, and hidden reefs were 

"Of the twenty-two men who accepted charter for Malta, August 7, 
1889, PP. XXV', eight are active members today. 

"Earl}- in their experience it was observed one cannot have mental re- 
servations in taking solemn obligations, — extraordinary obligations as bind- 
ing as any oath known to man. — and then fail therein, with any greater 
degree of esteem by one's neighbors than any other form of perjury. 

"Moved by such meditations, these men carefully nurtured the future 


of Malta by the admission of those, in the main, who could and would 
easily accept the standard set for them. 

"With sincerity of purpose, it was also observed that efficiency in ritual- 
ism is of first importance in dignity and spirit of the organization. 

"The same spirit controlled the Uniform Rank company, which dis- 
banded after having taken three consecutive first prizes, with statewide com- 
petition, for excellency in the manual of arms and full company movements, 
as prescribed by the judges. The greatest performance was the complete 
manual of arm and company movements on a baseball diamond in seventeen 
minutes, with no error charged to the work. 

"Such a thing as a pre-arranged set of officers, or 'slate,' has never been 
and would not be tolerated, if attempted. 

"Harmony is another word for friendship, in knighthood, at least, and 
among the Maltese men friendship is not endangered by any individual's 

"Alalta declines, emphatically, to indulge in any of the noisy and clap- 
trap methods, sometimes prescribed ; neither does Malta tolerate dissipation 
in any form ; but of fun and frolic of the wholesome kind, there is plenty. 
Every meeting night after business, a smoker, or musical by the quartet, are 
among the usual features. 

"Those who were officers twenty-five years ago, those who are officers 
today, and those who will be after the first of each year cannot possibly 
interest the reader." 

Purity Lodge No. [96, at Calumet, was organized in Januarv, 1908,. 
and now has a membership of fifty-two. The first officers were: F. Xott, 
chancellor commander: George Reifsteck, vice chancellor; Gene Grant, prel- 
ate; Thomas Rehder, keeper of records and seal; Fred Smith, master of 
exchequer; E. Mann, master of finance. The order leases a hall over the 
business house of Mr. Fleer, on the south side of Main street. The 1913 
elective officers were : Webb Clark, chancellor commander ; Honnis Weise, 
vice chancellor; Gene Grant, prelate: Guy Bidwell, master at arms: J. Red- 
mann. master of work; Ollie Sohm, keeper of records and seal; George 
Reifsteck, master of exchequer. The past chancellors have been C. S. Siev- 
ers, George Reifsteck. E. W. Miller, J. H. Doling, F. Xott. 

Empire Lodge No. 202, Knights of Pythias, at Sutherland, was char- 
tered October 3, 1888: has a membership of seventy-six, and leases a hall. 
The present officers are : C. J. Phillips, chancellor commander ; George 
Butler, vice chancellor; F. L. Nichols, secretarv; Ed. Briggs, treasurer. 



O'Brien county is now divided into seventeen sub-divisions, or civil 
townships. The following is an historical account of these townships, in- 
cluding the various towns situated within their borders. In most instances 
the schools and churches of the townships are found within separate general 
chapters of this work, hence have not been repeated in these township his- 

The incorporated towns of O'Biien county are Sheldon, Sanborn. 
Hartley, Moneta, Archer, Primghar, Calumet, Paullina and Sutherland. Its 
unincorporated towns are Gaza, Plessis and Germantown. Its elevator sta- 
tions are Ritter, Evander, Max and Waterman Siding". 


The incorporated town is under the immediate city or town government 
composed of a mayor, city or town council, city clerk or recorder, city at- 
torney or solicitor, marshal, street commissioner, and other city officials and 
committees. The school governmental affairs are noted in the Educational 
chapter. Sundry town, township and school items will be considered under 
other various heads and articles. 


The townships of the county are Hartley, Lincoln, Franklin, Floyd, 
Sheldon, Omega, Center, Summit, Carroll, Grant, Highland, Dale, Baker, 
Waterman, Liberty, Union and Caledonia. 

The townships of the county as numbered north from the mouth of the 
Arkansas river, according to the system of land surveys in Iowa, are num- 
bered 94, 95, 96 and 97, and the ranges, which are numbered from the east 
line of Jones county in Iowa, are numbered 39, 40, 41 and 42. 



Each township in O'Brien county is six miles square except Sheldon 
township, the seventeenth, which is made to conform to the city limits and 
was formed that the town might always have within the town two justices 
of the peace. Sheldon township also breaks into Floyd and Carroll to that 
extent. Summit township also includes all those parts of Center, Highland 
and Dale within the city limits of Primghar. Each township has two jus- 
tices of the peace who have a jurisdiction up to one hundred dollars, and 
up to three hundred dollars by consent of the parties. This court can also 
impose fines to extent of one hundred dollars and commit or sentence to the 
jail of the county to the extent of thirty days. This court has sundry other 
duties. The justice may perform the marriage ceremony. A township has 
three trustees and a clerk, who deals with township matters, including" road 
work and certain drainage matters, boundary-line items, court of fence 
viewers, deal with trespasses of domestic animals, making township levies 
and other duties. The road supervisor is the executive officer in many of 
these duties. These trustees and the clerk manage and act as judges of 
election. The assessor makes the assessments of property and other returns. 
The township officials in the main make their reports to the county auditor. 
A township can neither sue nor be sued, this being a protection to the 
people as against the frequent fluctuations in membership of this body of 
men. As a rule the school districts are laid off with reference to township 
lines, though meandering streams and other conditions at times prevents 
this. It is not a necessitv. The independent district of Primghar has terri- 
tory in the four townships of Summit. Center, Highland and Dale. Suther- 
land school territory includes parts of Waterman, Liberty and Grant. The 
independent district of Hartley includes parts of Hartley, Omega. Lincoln 
and Center. The independent district of Sheldon has territory in Floyd, 
Sheltlon and Carroll townships in O'Brien county and quite a large territory 
also in Sioux county. This question of school independent districts holding 
territory in more than one county gave rise to considerable litigation in its 
early organization, owing to the fact that the people of Sioux county re- 
sisted same, but Sheldon's proximity to the county line made it necessary 
and the courts sustained Sheldon's reasonable necessities. 



The following is a list of the plattings of the several towns and addi- 
tions thereto, with the names of persons platting same and dates thereof. It 
will not mean the dates of the first beginnings of the towns, as in some cases 
the actual plattings occurred after the towns were in fact started. This 
list will mean the record plattings. and will illustrate the dates and periods 
of the general growths and demands of the several towns for enlargements, 
as the towns have grown. 


Original town, January 3, 1873. by the Sioux City & St. Paul Railroad. 

First Addition, July 16, 1875. by the railroad. 

Second Addition, September 26. 1879. by the railroad. 

Third Addition, October 25. 1883, by the railroad. 

Fourth Addition, September 1 1. 1883, by Frank H. Nash and Scott M. 

Fifth Addition. July 23. 1888, by O. M. Barrett and William H. Sleeper. 

Sixth Addition, May 29, 1893, by Henry C Lane. 

Seventh Addition. April 2^, 1894, by Henry C. Lane. 

Eighth Addition, March 2^. 1904, by James Griffin. 

Bishop's Addition, May 4, 1892, by J. W. Bishop. 

Dean's Addition, August 11, 1896, by Stephen S. Dean. 

Xormal College Addition. May 29, 1893, by Henry C. Lane. 

Drake's Outlots or Addition, November 15, 1894, by executors of Elias 
F. Drake. 

Sunny Side Addition, July 17. 1895, Dy Angeline Donovan. 


Original town, November 8. 1872, by W. C. Green and James Roberts. 

Brock & Stearns' Addition, May 24. 1876, by A. J. Brock and John T. 

Schee & Stearns' Addition, November 3, 1887, by Geo. W. Schee and 
John T. Stearns. 

Shuck's Addition. May 3, 1887, by E. \Y. Shuck. 

Shuck's Second Addition, December 30, 1887, by E. AY. Shuck. 

Peck & Shuck's Addition, August 17. 1887, by J. L. E. Peck and E. W. 


Derby & Rowan's Addition, September i. 1887, and January 28. 1888. 
by F. X. Derby and James Rowan. 

Slocnm, Turner & Armstrong's Addition, September 5, 1887, by George 
R. Slocnm, Frank A. Turner and William S. Armstrong. 


Original town, December 18, 1878, by Jonathan A. Stocum and John 

Teabout's Addition. May 9, 1885, by J. L. Green and Frank Teabout. 

Alexander's Addition, February 13. 1883, by T. J. Alexander. 

Highland Park Addition, May 26, 1802, by M. M. Burns, G. H. Klein, 
E. J. Hatch and R. P. Edson. 

Phelps' Addition. April 3, 1893, n . v D - R - Phelps. 


Original town, January 15, 1881, by J. S. Finster and Horace E. Hoag- 

Mickey's Addition, August 8, 1889, by W. A. Mickey. 

Crossan's First Addition, October 22, 1886, bv Allen Crossan. 

Crossan's Second Addition, September 22, 1887, by Allen Crossan. 

Crossan's Third Addition, June 30, 1888, by Allen Crossan. 

Wood ward's Addition. December 17, 1887, by R. A. Woodward. 

Brown's Addition, July 15. 1890, by W. L. and Isaac Brown. 

Patch's Addition, September 7. 1895, ^. v Frank Patch, F. A. Ahrens 
and J. H. Capecius. 

Crossan's Park Addition, April 16. 1896, by Frank Patch. 

Nelson's Addition, June 30. 1888, by Bertha Nelson. 

Young's Addition, April 14, 1896. by M. J. Young. 

Young's Pleasant Hill Addition, October 23, 1896, by M. J. Young. 

Patton's Addition, March, 19 14, by J. W. Patton. 

Town or station of Max, April 21, 1900, bv J. K. McAndrew. 

Town of Moneta, May 17, 1901, by Charles H. Colby. 


Plessis or Cyreno. 

This town was first platted as Cyreno, by Gustav Wells, April 3, 1900, 
but owing to the fact that there was another town by that name in the state 
it was later changed. 


Town of Archer. February 10, 1888, by William Van Epps and Charles 
E. McKinney. 


Town of Paullina. December 31, 1881, by Western Town Lot Company. 
Harker & Greene's Addition, August 22, 1885, by William Harker and 
J. L. Greene. 

Out Lots K. to S., June 6, 1899, by Western Town Lot Company. 
Blocks 25 to 31. August 22, 1904. 


Original town, March 6, 1882, by Western Town Lot Company. 
Freimark's Addition, May 6, 1882, by Julius Freimark. 
Lutzell's Addition, May 13, 1882, by Nicholas Lutzell. 
Bonath's Addition, July 6, 1882; by August Bonath. 
Peck's Addition, April 13, 1883, by Horace Peck. 

Town of Calumet. 

Original town, November 12, 1887, by Western Town Lot Company. 
W. B. Morse Addition, June 3, 1893, by W. B. Morse, Mary E. Stewart 
and George W. Louthan. 

First Addition, January 20, 1900. by Western Town Lot Company. 
W. M. Bunce First Addition, May 18, 1895, by W. M. Bunce. 
W. M. Bunce Second Addition, March 27, 1895, by W. M. Bunce. 
W. M. Bunce Third Addition, December 3, 1906, by W. M. Bunce. 

Woodstock or Gaza. 

This town was first platted and named Woodstock and later changed to 
Gaza by reason of there being another town in the state by that name. 



Germantown, June 10, 1901, by Fred Kluender, George Eggert and 
Edward Beerman. 


The following are the descriptions by section, township and range of 
the sundry town plats of O'Brien county from the earliest to the present 
date : 

The first village platting was that which surveyor J. H. Davenport exe- 
cuted for what was known as "O'Brien," situated in the northwest quarter 
of the southwest quarter of section 36, township 94. range 39, consisting of 
a forty-acre tract. It was dated August 23, 1861 (page 1 of book "A," Deed 
Records). The original description, as made of the town plat by County 
Surveyor Davenport, is written on a sheet of legal cap, which was pasted 
later to the first page of the county's deed record book, and it is a curiosity 
for several reasons. Among these may be mentioned the fact that the sur- 
veyor thoughtlessly stated in the record that the principal streets were to be 
fifty-four feet and thirteen inches in width, meaning of course fifty-five feet 
and one inch wide. The survey was made in August, 1861 — the opening 
year of the great Civil War, and, strange to relate, the streets were named 
in many instances after men who became prominent in putting" down the 
Rebellion, for example there was Lincoln street. Hooker street, Sherman 
street and Grant street. 

The land on which O'Brien was platted was in what is known as Water- 
man civil township. It was sold to the county, or rather to John H. Irwin, 
Robert A. Oueen and Samuel L. Berrv, for five hundred dollars, bv William 
M. Snow and wife, April 12, 1859. 

This was the original town platting of O'Brien county, but was long 
since used for farming purposes, as the town site never developed into a real 
live town. However, it was the first county seat. 

Primghar was platted November 8, 1872, on section 36, township 96, 
range 41. The names of the proprietors, as shown by record, were W. C. 
Green and wife and James Roberts. 

Sheldon was platted January 3, 1873. on section 31, township 97, range 
42, by the Sioux City & St. Paul Railroad Company. 

Sanborn was platted January 8, 1879, on the west half of the northeast 


quarter and the east half of the northwest quarter of section 35, township 
97, range 41, by J. A. Stocum and wife. 

Hartley was platted April iS, 1881, on section 32, township 97, range 
39, by E. N. Finster, J. S. Finster, Horace E. Hoogland and wife. 

Paullina was platted January 20, 1882, on section 9, township 94, range 

41, by the Western Town Lot Company. 

Sutherland was platted March 21, 1882, on section 7, township 94, range 
39, by the Western Town Lot Company. 

Calumet was platted November 16, 1887, on section 22, township 94. 
range 40. by the Cherokee and Western Town Lot Company. 

Gaza was platted as "Woodstock," April 18, 1888, on section 28, town- 
ship 95, range 40, by the Cherokee & Western Town Lot Company. 

Archer was platted August 2j, 1888. on section 24, township 96, range 

42, by William Van Epps and wife, Charles E. Kinney and wife. 

Max was platted July n, 1899, on the northwest quarter of section 32, 
township 97, range 40, by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Com- 
pany. This platting is within Lincoln township. 

Germantown was platted June 10, 1901, on sections 22 and 23 of town- 
ship 94, range 42, by Edward D. Beerman. 

Moneta was platted May 10, 1901, on sections 13 and 24, township 96, 
range 39. 

Cyreno (later and now called Plessis) was platted August 15, 1901, on 
section 10, township 97, range 40, by Gustav and Lena Wills. 

Ritter was platted as a station point on the Chicago, Minneapolis & St. 
Paul railroad, on section 5, of Floyd township. It is a new town and 
naturally has but little business importance at this date. 

Plessis, a new town site, platted on the southeast of section 10, Lincoln 
township, is a station point on the Rock Island system, northwest from 

The vicinity of Erie postoffice on section 33, township 94, range ^o, 
was platted as "South O'Brien," by John H. Roe and Frank E. and Emma E. 
Whitmore, April 15, 1872, on the northeast quarter of section ^7,, township 
94, range 40. It never amounted to anything and was finally vacated by 
O. H. Montzheimer and wife (owners) in full of the original plat. It was 
legally vacated on April 30, 1892. 


The city and town governments in O'Brien county are managed and 
conducted bv a mavor, a city council of five members, a treasurer, clerk or 


recorder, assessor, marshal, fire marshal, city physician, city solicitor and 
such other officials and committees as situations demand. The town council 
is in effect the legislative or law-making power in the passage of ordinances 
which become the laws of the town. This council becomes and organizes as 
the local board of health. It manages the revenues and finances of the town. 
The mayor is the executive officer, and as a court, in addition to enforcing 
the ordinances, has largely the jurisdiction of a justice of the peace, both in 
criminal and civil matters. The town may own or manage all needed public 
utilities. Thev are the city fathers. 


The townships are managed by a board of three trustees, a clerk. 
assessor and road supervisors. Each township has two and may under cer- 
tain conditions have four justices of the peace. This is in reality the people's 
court. It comes nearer in touch with the people than any other court. The 
justices may render judgments for one hundred dollars and by consent of 
parties up to three hundred dollars. A justice's jury consists of six jurors. 
Constables, two in each township, execute and serve the writs and notices 
of the court. The justice may perform the marriage ceremony, deals with 
estravs, may act as coroner in his absence, and' perform sundry lesser duties. 
The trustees expend the township funds and oversee all road questions and 
act as fence viewers and determine questions arising by trespass of stock, 
make the township levies, and act as a township health board and other 
duties. The assessor makes the propertv assessments for the township. The 
road supervisors manage the road work. It is one peculiar feature of a 
township that it can neither sue nor be sued in the courts of Iowa. This 
becomes a protection to a township. It is so done for the reason that town- 
ships at best are indefinite in the perpetuation of their records. Indeed, this 
is true to such an extent that main- townships do not at all times maintain 
a full set of officials and vacancies and resignations and removals are numer- 


On April 1, 1872, what is now Floyd township was set apart from 
Libert v and what is now Franklin was detached from Center and the two 
called Flovd, and the first election was held at the house of John D. Butler, 
on the northwest quarter section 22. in the township. Floyd township 
was named after Sargent Floyd, who, in 1803, made the long voyage of dis- 


covery along' with and as part of the Lewis and Clark expedition up the Mis- 
souri river to the Pacific coast. On the return trip this young soldier died 
of a fever on board a Missouri river transport and was buried in a lonely 
bluff near the river. Later his remains were removed to, and a fine monu- 
ment erected to his memory on, a sightly bluff just to the south of the city. 
The Floyd river was also named in his honor. 

This is the extreme northwestern subdivision of O'Brien county. The 
Floyd river courses its way through the township from the northeast to the 
southwest. The Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul & Omaha railroad line ex- 
tends through the western portion of the territory, with station points at 
Sheldon and Ritter, while the Illinois Central (Sioux Falls and Cherokee 
division) clips the southwestern corner at Sheldon. The Milwaukee railroad 
runs through the entire southern tier of sections. 

This township had a population of five hundred and seventy-five in 
1910. It has some of the finest land and best improvements to be seen in 
all northwestern Iowa. Sheldon, the largest town in the county, is noted 
for being full of the spirit of genuine modern enterprise and industry. It 
made a hard fight in years gone by for the county seat, but was foiled by the 
decision of the masses, who believed that the center of the county was the 
proper place for the seat of justice. 


During 1871 the following persons came to Floyd township for the pur- 
pose of making permanent settlement. Commencing with John Hart, who 
settled on the southeast quarter of section 14. where he resided continually 
until 1896, then removed to Missouri. 

J. W. Davis settled here in 1871, on the southeast quarter of section 22. 
but in a few years left for other parts, later settling in Missouri, where he 
died in 191 1. He was a blacksmith and had a shop on his claim. Daniel 
Gress lived in this township a number of years and fought grasshoppers on 
the northeast quarter of section 2, while his son. William, located on the 
southeast quarter of the same section. The elder Gress finally retired in 
Sanborn. Charles Whitsell of section 18. C. H. Lingenfelter located on 
the southeast quarter of section 6, later removed to Wisconsin. Calvin 
Hook, noted music teacher, on the southwest of section 36, later moved to 
Hull, Iowa. David Chrisman settled in the township in 1871, on the north- 
west quarter of section 2 and later years lived in Sanborn. Others who 
added to the settlement in 1871 were John D. Butler and son, John H., who 


selected their claims. The former located on the northeast quarter of section 
22 and the latter on the northwest quarter of the same section. They wintered 
near Cherokee and returned in the spring of 1872, and both built a sod shack. 
The first election in Floyd township was held in J. \Y. Davis's sod claim shack 
in the fall of that year. 

C. W. Copping settled on the southwest quarter of section 14. while his 
brother. E. J., located on the southwest quarter of section 24, both coming- 
in 1872. The grasshoppers made it so uncomfortable for these settlers that 
they finally left the county. 

Other settlers of about the date of 1871-72 were Timothy Donaghue 
of section 36 (Mr. Donaghue in later years was a member of the State Legis- 
lature of Iowa) ; E. R. Gregg, in the spring of 1872 on the southeast quarter 
of section 24. Both he and Eliza W. Gregg moved away during the days of 
grasshoppers; P. C. and A. W. Hicks settled on section 4 in 1872; the same 
year came C. W. Beach to the southeast quarter of section 36. Then fol- 
lowed Lyman Kellogg on section 6; H. H. Hawley on the southwest quarter 
of section 22: he was a local preacher and left the county many years since. 
Robert J. Cliff came in 1872, as did also J. M. Van Kirk. When Van Kirk 
took his claim several persons wanted the same land — four in all. They 
reached Sioux City on the same train and there was nothing left by which 
the claim could be decided, save a foot race, and this they all vigorously 
entered into, but Van Kirk was the fleetest and entered the land office first, 
yelling at the top of his voice, "I want to file on the east half of the northeast 
quarter of 32 in 97, 42," and mingled with the last of his words was a 
chorus of the same from the rest of them. He was given the land. 

Isaac M. White settled on the southeast quarter of section 32 in 1872 
and William Whitsell, the same year, claimed land in section 36. John M. 
Wood settled on section 28 in 1872, but later removed to Sheldon. John F. 
Walters claimed the southwest quarter of section 28, where he died a few 
years later. Edward Wells took the southwest quarter of section 4 and re- 
mained many years. In 1872 L. S. Stone claimed the northwest quarter of 
section 18. He at once planted out a very large, nice grove, which grew 
rapidly and was known far and near as Stone's Grove. 

We come now to speak more especially of the first settler, who was 
Thomas Robinson, who came to the township in the month of May, 1870, 
and laid claim to the east half of the southwest quarter of section 30, on 
which he broke three acres that summer, and put up a shack in which to live. 
He wintered elsewhere the following season and returned in 1871, and cross- 
plowed the three acres. He brought his family in 1871 and he there resided 


until his death in 1882. He was a man of deep thought, a good writer and 
withal a very conscientious man. He had seven children, all well known in 
this county in later years. 

Three of Warren Potter's sons came in the fall of 1870. These were 
Lyman. William and John Potter. They drove through from Wisconsin, 
landing in Cherokee, where thev were advised bv relatives to look over 
O'Brien county, so, with Mr. Sprague to pilot them, they finally landed in 
Floyd township. Lyman selected land in section 8, and John H. took the 
south half of the section. William was not yet old enough to file. They 
went to the land office at Sioux City and made their filings and the next spring 
returned, built shacks and became actual settlers. The father, Warren Pot- 
ter, came in the early spring of 1871, settling on the south half of the south- 
east quarter of section 8, and Eugene, another son, on the north half of the 
same quarter. The Potter boys raised some corn on the land broken the 
year before. 

\. B. Hicks came to the township in 1870, settling on the southeast of 
section 18. He started the first grove in Floyd township. After several 
years he removed to the Pacific coast, where a few years later he died. Ben 
Jensen settled the northwest of section 32 in 1870. built a typical sod house 
and remained there until 1876. then pushed on further west. Swan Peterson 
came with Jensen and claimed the northwest of section 32, and he also moved 
west in 1876. He was a man possessing an inventive turn of mind and was 
working on a perpetual motion machine which he hoped, of course, to make 
a fortune out of. He failed, as have all others who have tried the im- 
possible. The curious contraption of a machine, with its many wheels and 
pulleys, was left behind when he moved. 

A goodly number of German settlers came to this township in 1870-71. 
John Meyers was among this class. He located on section 18. He was 
overtaken by the grasshopper plague in 1873 and, being discouraged and tired 
of life, finally ended all by taking his own life. He stood before a mirror 
and, placing a revolver to his head, committed the fatal deed. 

J. A. Brown was another pioneer here; he came in 1871, claiming the 
northeast quarter of section 8. Later he was the well-known landlord of 
the Sheldon House. He died in Sheldon, respected by all. 

Others of about that date — all certainly early in the seventies — were A. 
Bloom, Seymour Shrylock (northwest quarter of section 8), Carey, William 
Lyle. Isaac Clements (southwest quarter of 6), James Glenn and others 
whose names appear of record in the land office, also L. Hacket and B. F. 


Luce. Isaac Clements later on in years was county recorder four years and 
for man}- years since has been and now is a merchant in Primghar. 


Sheldon, the largest town in O'Brien county, had its commencement 
when the Milwaukee and Omaha lines, as now understood, reached the point 
where now stands the city, July 3, 1872, the surveyors having laid out the 
town the summer before. It was on this day that the construction train 
for the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha road reached Sheldon, soon 
passing on to the southwest towards its objective point, Sioux City. The 
town was really laid out by the land company of the Sioux City & St. Paul 
Railroad Company, and was named from Israel Sheldon, one of the stock- 
holders of the company, living in Xew York City. Soon after the first train 
car loads of lumber were hurried to the spot. A big Fourth of July celebra- 
tion had been planned for weeks, and settlers from all over Sioux and O'Brien 
counties were present to greet the first of railroads in the county. The day 
was cold and disagreeable, and men had to wear heavy coats and some had 
on overcoats. Each brought well-filled baskets of "dinner" and tables were 
constructed from planks borrowed from the construction crews. It was a 
great lay-out and all seemed happy and had their best, appetites with them! 
No "funny business" such as fire-crackers and fire-works was to be seen, 
but music swelled the breeze. An organ had been secured and this was placed 
under a cover made by poles and horse blankets. The Declaration of Inde- 
pendence was read by C. S. Stewart, and an oration delivered by ex-Governor 
Miller of Minnesota. Thomas Robinson also delivered a telling speech. 
This was certainly the first celebration of any kind held in Sheldon. In 
these days of more radical opinions concerning temperance, it may sound 
strange, "perfectly awful," to have it stated that the first building in the town 
was the saloon erected by Highly, of Storm Lake. It stood on the west side 
of block No. 8 and was burned in 1895. The second building was by H. C. 
Lane for a lumber office. His yard was opened about July 10, 1872. S. S. 
Bradley followed with a second yard in a few days. The third to handle 
lumber was James WycorY. The general store of W. A. Fife was completed 
later in July. Getting plenty of lumber, it was necessary to have a hardware 
store and this was soon supplied by B. E. Bushnell. The next building was 
the law office of D. A. W. Perkins, soon followed by the warehouse of Benj. 
Tones (he was later for six years a member of the board of supervisors and 
is still residing in Sheldon, honored and respected by all within the county 


for his many manly traits of character). His residence was soon erected. 
During the autumn of 1872 there were numerous buildings erected, including 
those built by the Sheldon Mail and H. C. Lane. George Colcord occupied 
the last named for his drug store ; the same fall lawyer Perkins sold his 
building to A. J. Donavon, who started a shoe store and carried gentlemen's 
furnishings. He it was who advertised himself as a "Live Yankee from 
Boston." The first coal dealer was Benj. Jones. The first issue of the 
Sheldon Mail was pulled from the press January 1, 1873, and this paper has 
withstood the storms of the elements and political strife during all these 
forty years. 

The first "Christmas tree" was planted Christmas eve, 1872, and it con- 
sisted of a four-inch-square pine stick with auger holes bored into its four 
sides, into which were inserted pins of wood and from these hung the various 
Christmas gifts, not costly, but showed the good will of Christmas-tide. 
The evening closed with a dance, the music of which was chiefly furnished 
by Linn Cook. 

Of the churches and civic societies, other chapters will treat those in 
which the city of Sheldon is interested especially. 

The first child born in Sheldon was Inez Wycoff. born July 11, 1873. 

The first school teacher was Columbia Robinson. 

The first sermon preached in the town was by Elder Brasheers. in 
August, 1872. in the depot. 

The first postmaster was A. J. Brock, appointed in July, 1872, who re- 
signed and was followed in January, 1873. by D. A. YV. Perkins. 

The first marriage in town was that of Tom De Long and Samantha 
Jones, the ceremonies being performed by H. C. Lane, and many an amusing 
incident took place at that pioneer wedding, mention of which may be made 
elsewhere in this volume. The date was January. 1873, in the first year's 
history of Sheldon. 


Sheldon was provided with a postoffice in the summer of 1872, with A. 
T. Brock as its first postmaster. Since that date the following have served 
as postmasters: Andrew J. Brock, May 24, 1872; D. A. W. Perkins, Janu- 
ary 9, 1873; D. R. Barmore, May 25, 1874; E. C. Brown. February 17. 1882: 
J. J. Hartenbower, May 27, 1885: R. E. Kearney, November 19, 1888; F. T. 
Piper, March 21, 1889: Robert E. Kearney. June 13, 1893; W. W. Reynolds, 
September 17, 1897; James C. Stewart, January 21. 1902; Joe Morton, Janu- 


arv 30. 1906; A. W. Sleeper. December 14, 1908: Warren A. Edington, 
July 31, 19 1 3. 

The office is now a second class office, with four free delivery routes 
extending to the outlying country. The business of the Sheldon office, ex- 
clusive of money order business, for the year ending June 30, 191 3. was 
twelve thousand dollars. The office became a free city delivery office in 
February, 1905. The present office force consists of the following per- 
sons: Postmaster, Warren A. Edington ; clerks, C. V. Miller. John A. 
Dougherty, Frank A. Hura, Harry T. Barrett; sub-clerk. Clara Smith; city 
carriers, John Mondabaugh, Christian Smith ; rural carriers, John J. Dono- 
hue, Alvin S. Ruby, Fred C. Bandler, F. R. Smead. The amount of deposit 
in the postal savings department in November, 1913, was one hundred and 
twenty-five dollars. 


In March, 1875, application was made for incorporating Sheldon. The 
commission appointed by the court was as follows : D. R. Barmore, A. W. 
Husted. J. C. Elliott, J. A. Brown and Benj. Jones. The election was held 
April 19, 1875, but the incorporation was defeated. In March. 1876, another 
move was made along the same lines, and other commissioners were dis- 
appointed. The election was held March 25, 1876, and resulted in forty- 
nine votes being cast for incorporation and eleven against the measure. 
May 1, 1876, the first town officers were elected. It was a hotly contested 
election and much bitterness engendered. The two candidates for the office 
of mayor were H. B. Wyman and J. C. Elliott. Wyman received forty-six 
votes and this was a majority of seven over Elliott. L. F. Bennet was 
elected recorder over Husted: and the councilmen were J. M. Stevenson. J. 
Wycoff, Scott Harrington. George Boutelle and Charles Allen. 

The subjoined gives a list of the regular mayors who have served 
Sheldon to the present date, 1913: 1876, H. B. Wyman; 1877, H. B. 
Wyman; 1878. H. B. Wyman; 1879, H. B. Wyman: 1880. J. J. Harten- 
bower; 1881, James Wycoff; 1882, H. B. Wyman: 1883, H. B. Wyman; 
1884, J. J. Hartenbower; 1885, W. S. Lamb; 1886, L. S. Bassett ; 1887, C. 
L. Guerney; 1888, Joseph Shinski : 1889, J. Shinski ; 1890, John Bowley; 
1891, John Bowley; 1892, John Bowley; 1893, C. Stinson. 

In 1893 the town of Sheldon (incorporated) was changed to that of a citv 
of the second class. The city was divided into three wards and the follow- 
ing were duly elected officers of the enlarged incorporation government: 


Mayor, E. Y. Royce; treasurer, W. L. Ayers; solicitor, D. A. W. Perkins; 
assessor, W. E. Higley ; councilmen — first ward, W. C. Kemper and L. J. 
Button ; second ward, H. J. Cram and H. C. Lane ; third ward, William 
Wing and A. E. Boyd; clerk, P. W. Hall; street commissioner, J. W. Hicks; 
marshal, George Hudson. 

The following" completes the list of Sheldon's mayors: 1895, E. Y. 
Royce; 1896, P. W. Hall; 1897, P. W. Hall: 1898, F. T. Piper; 1900, A. J. 
Cram; 1904, A. \Y. Sleeper; 1906, R. B. Piper; 1908, Henry Shipley; 1910, 
P. W. Hall, resigned and A. J. Schaap elected to fill vacancy; 1912, Fred 

The present city officials are: Fred Frisbee. mayor; Scott Martin, 
clerk ; F. E. Frisbee, treasurer ; George Hudson, marshal : James B. Linsday, 
attorney ; W. E. Farnsworth, street commissioner ; J. W. Rodgers, superin- 
tendent of water works ; FT. J. Brackney, health officer. The council is as 
follows : George Bloxham, George Holmes, Charles Peters, H. A. Strong. 
J. D. Wilson. 


Xi) regular system of water works was installed in Sheldon until April 
29, 1894, when the city was bonded for about eighteen thousand dollars and 
three excellent wells provided in the nearby creek bottoms, from which a 
splendid supply of water is obtained. It is pumped to the city, where there is 
a high water tank and tower, centrally located, which gives a pressure of 
fifty pounds per square inch. There are now fifty-five street hydrants or 
fire plugs, five miles of water mains and other improvements that go with a 
complete city water works system. 

In 19 1 3 there are four miles of sewer mains, the first of which was laid 
in 1905. The city now has ten blocks of paved streets, all laid in 1913. No 
northern Iowa city has a more beautiful park than Sheldon. It occupies 
four blocks, with play grounds attached, and is all finely improved, being 
covered with a fine growth of artificial trees, including fair-sized elms and 
soft maples, best adapted to this climate. Then there are cement walks, rustic 
seats, a number of picnic tables, flower beds artistically arranged, and the 
whole illuminated at night by electric lights. All in all, it is a reminder of 
the saying that "A thing of beauty is a joy forever.'' 

During the year 1913 the city of Sheldon expended $33,455 for paving. 
$5,185 for sewer extension and $1,800 for its system of electroliers. 

The city has during the present autumn — 1913 — provided its chief busi- 



ness streets with more than thirty modern electroliers (electric street lights), 
each being a cluster of live lights, which add much to the utility and appear- 
ance of the business center of the enterprising town. 


The electric light plant is a private concern owned by an old citizen, M. 
F. Logan. It is located at the Big Four flouring mill and affords ample light, 
heat and power for the present city's demands. The first electric light of 
Sheldon was put in in a small way by A. E. Knight. Later this was super- 
seded by the plant owned and operated by the Diamond Light and Power 
Company, which virtually failed and was followed by the present system, 
which gives general satisfaction. This plant was at first run by O. E. Logan, 
who, in September, 191 1, transferred it to the present owner. 

The public school building at Sheldon consists of a handsome brick 
structure, erected in 1903, at a cost of sixty thousand dollars. 

The population of Sheldon, according to the United States census reports 
in 19 10, was two thousand nine hundred and forty-one, but is now somewhat 


As another index of the thrift and intelligence of the people of this city, 
may be cited the handsome, substantial library building erected in 1908-9, at 
a cost of ten thousand dollars, as the gift of Andrew Carnegie, through whose 
liberality there have been erected hundreds, if not thousands, of public libra- 
ries. The foundation for the present Sheldon library was away back in 1894, 
when the women took hold of the enterprise. It was the work and wisdom 
of the members of the Ladies Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle 
(aided largely by the untiring zeal of Airs. W. H. Sleeper) and composed of 
Madames C. Artman, J. D. Bunce. H. W. Conant, H. C. Hollenback, M. 
Long, J. W. Merrill, W. W. Reynolds, W. I. Simpson, William H. Sleeper, 
and Misses Edith N. Bowne and Mary S. Heath. Rooms were opened 
March 15, 1894, over Smith's hardware store and this was destroyed on 
March 17, 1894. The ladies held various public entertainments, and as a 
result had saved up fifty-six dollars and twenty cents, which was all lost in 
the fire, but was made good to them by the citizens of the place, who raised 
the amount by private subscription. There was soon formed a Public Library 
Association, with the following officers: Addie M. Sleeper, president; Alary 



S. Heath, vice-president; Airs. Florence S. Conant, treasurer, and Mrs. Lida 
Simpson, secretary. This was incorporated April 20, 1894, when the council 
of Sheldon appointed an advisory board of trustees. In the autumn of 1894 
the library was placed in the Shipley & Company dry goods building and 
they then had two hundred books. A fee of fifty cents a year was charged 
for books taken from this circulating library. In 1895 this library was given 
to the city and trustees appointed. In the spring of 1897 a tax was voted to 
maintain the library and the books were moved to the Harris music store and 
Mrs. Mark Harris was appointed librarian. In October, 1902, the library 
was removed to the McColm shoe store building, with Mrs. McColm as 
librarian, who was followed by Airs. B. F. McCormack. After Air. Carnegie 
donated the ten thousand dollars for a library building to Sheldon in 1908, 
the library had really been in existence as a city library only four years. In 
the autumn of 191 3 there were four thousand five hundred volumes on the 
shelves of this library. The library board consisted of S. S. Bailey, presi- 
dent; Mrs. \Y. L. Avers, vice-president: W. H. Barragar, secretary; Dr. \V. 
H. a 1 vers. Henry Shipley. Superintendent Thomas, Mrs. John McCandless. 
Mrs. Fred E. Frisbee and Miss Xellie Jones. Since May. 1913, Miss Mar- 
garet McCandless has served as the efficient librarian. This institution is 
growing in strength and importance. 


After the close of the Spanish-American War what was Company E of 
the Forty-sixth Iowa Regiment of Guards was mustered out and abandoned 
so far as its former home was concerned, for it had existed up to that time 
at the town of Hull, but was soon changed and mustered in at Sheldon, where 
more general interest was taken in militarv affairs. It was organized at 
Sheldon June 16, 1902. with J. B. Frisbee as its captain. He held the posi- 
tion for about four years, when W. H. Bailey was appointed and served till 
1909, when he was appointed major of the regiment, and elected lieutenant- 
colonel in October, 191 2. when Dr. H. J. Brackney became captain of the 
Sheldon company. After a year he was followed by C. C. McKellip. The 
present officers of the company are: Captain. H. G. Geiger; first lieutenant, 
Spencer M. Phelps; second lieutenant, Arthur Pierce. A stock company was 
formed in 1905 and a massive brick armory was provided for this military 
companv. It is situated on Ninth street and is sixty by eighty-six feet, with 
a fine basement used for reading rooms, shower baths, lockers, storehouses, 
officers 1 ' rooms, boiler room and a shooting gallerv. This hall cost twelve 


thousand dollars and is always used for guard purposes when needed, but is 
also used for all special occasions, such as conventions, public gather- 
ings, speeches, dances and lectures. At this date the number enrolled in this 
military company is fifty-eight, with three officers. The company is fully 
equipped and has its ten-day annual encampment and seven-days encampment 
for the officers' school of instruction. 


One of the progressive enterprises that has given Sheldon much popu- 
larity in years gone by, as well as at present, is its district fair, embracing 
originally several counties. This association was organized in 1880, as a 
fair association, and so continued until 1888, when it held its last fair under 
the original plan. Then, in 1900, the Sheldon District Fair was organized, 
with F. L. YYirick as its secretary. His successors have been James Mitchell, 
E. L. (''Steve") Richards. James Mitchell, J. L. McLaury. To Morton, Ed 
Williams, George Gardner. The officers of this organization are at present 
( 1913) : Fred J. Nelson, president: George Gardner, secretary; F. E. Fris- 
bee, treasurer; directors, A. W. Sleeper, F. J. Nelson, C. E. Tangney, C. H. 
Runger. F. E. Frisbee, William Meiers, Chet Lynch. Charles Myers, Charles 

In 1900 the society purchased twenty-seven acres of land near town, on 
the west, but just over in Sioux county, for which one hundred dollars per 
acre were paid. It would now easily sell at four hundred dollars per acre. 
It was bought of James Merrill. The price paid was thought to be high at 
the time. Six thousand dollars worth of improvements were put onto these 
grounds. These included the half-mile track, floral hall, cattle and horse 
sheds and barns suitable for training horses for racing, trotting and pacing. 
Here Jason Henry trains from twelve to fifteen fast horses continually. 
Among the speed records produced here may be recalled that of "Adrain R," 
2:o7-;4- owned by J. Muilenberg. of Orange City. Iowa; "Castlewood," 
2:09j4> owned by C. H. Runger, of Sheldon; "The Pickett.'-' with a mark 
of 2:13*4. owned by C. H. Runger, of Sheldon; "Miss Cuppy.'' with the 
mark of 2:i7 T 4. as a pacer; "Montauk," the pacer, with a mark of 2:1314 ; 
and "Moretell." pacer, marked at 2 : 13 }4- 

These annual fairs and races bring people in from far and near and 
give the horsemen of the great Northwest a chance to speed their nimble- 
footed animals to the best advantage. Thousands attend annually. 



In this connection the prominent breeders should not be left out. In 
swine there is Peter Ellerbroek (estate), breeders of the large type of Poland 
China hogs ; J. A. Benson is another breeder of note ; in red hogs there is 
A. J. DeYoung and L. L. DeYoung; also Henry Brothers and C. H. Runger, 
breeders of fancy Poland China hogs. 


From the earliest date Sheldon has been famous for her large flouring 
mill plants, of which there are but few in Iowa doing a better or larger annual 
business in the production of first-class family flour. This industry started 
in the midst of the growing wheat fields of northwestern Iowa in the seven- 
ties, when the first mill was built by the Iselin brothers, John and Harry. 
These men came to this town with considerable money and were enterprising 
and free-hearted. They built the original "Prairie Queen" flouring mills and 
also several residences on the south side of the tracks. They came in a time 
that did not prove a financial success to them. John died in the nineties and 
Harry was at last accounts living in Xew York, from which place they had 
come. The mill above referred t<> passed into the hands of others and met 
with reverses until finally it was purchased by its present owner, Scott Logan, 
who came to O'Brien county in 1880 from Xew Jersey and settled on a farm 
in Floyd township. For a time he operated a wind grist mill. He grazed 
cattle for four years on the open free prairie lands, after which settlers came 
in too numerous and this was abandoned. In 1882, through lack of good 
management, the Iselin brothers failed and the property was bought in by 
the Sleepers, who, with \Y. B. Bowne, operated the mills a few years, lost 
money, and in 1885 they sold to G. Y. Bonus, now of the great Leeds (Sioux 
City) milling plant, who converted the mill into a roller process. In 1886 he 
sold tine-half interest to Scott Logan, -and about five years later Mr. Logan 
bought out Bonus. Since 1890 Mr. Logan has been sole owner and pro- 
prietor, and he has practically rebuilt the mill twice, adding improved ma- 
chinery each ttime. The last improvements were put in about 1907, and the 
capacity is four hundred barrels a day in the "Prairie Queen" mill and his 
other mill, the "Big Four,'" has a capacity of three hundred barrels daily. 
The last named was built in 1890 and operated two years and its builders 
failed, and it was taken over by the Xew York stockholders, who operated it 
four years, when, being involved, it was turned over to the Sheldon Bank. 


This concern failed in 1904, when its holdings went under the hammer and 
Scott Logan bought it at receiver's sale and remodeled it in 1905, at an ex- 
pense of thirty thousand dollars, making its capacity three hundred instead 
of one hundred barrels daily. These mills have been operated by the Scott 
Logan Milling Company since 1907, with a capital of one hundred and fifty 
thousand dollars, and has now a total daily output of seven hundred barrels 
of flour, and a wheat storage capacity of one hundred thousand bushels. 
Agencies are kept for the sale of this flour at Dubuque and Springfield. Hence 
it will be observed that the beginning of the Sheldon milling industry was 
when the Iselin brothers, in 1874, built their little buhr stone mill six miles 
to the north of Sheldon. In 1879-80 they projected the Sheldon mills which 
have come down to Mr. Logan, the present owner. 

These mills have come to be the largest in this section of country and 
they are well and favorably known for their product, which has sale in many 
quarters of the country. Here hundreds of thousands of bushels of wheat 
have been converted into family flour with the coming and going of the 
years. The three great northwest Iowa mills are the Sheldon, LeMars and 


In the autumn of 19 13 the various enterprises and business factors in 
Sheldon were carried on as follows : 

Attorneys — I. X. Mclntire, George Wellman, Phelps & Lindsay, George 
Gibson, Charles Babcock, T. Diamond. 

Auto garages — Frank & Griffin, Sheldon Auto Garage, the E. Tripp gar- 

Banks — First National, Sheldon National, Sheldon Savings Bank, Union 
(private institution). 

Bakeries — "The City.*' by D. J. Haagsman, Hunt's Bakery. 

Bottling works — The Sheldon. 

Barber shops — R. P. Scott, James Kestner, M. Lewis. 

Contractors — Jack Wilson, L. N. Wilsey, H. M. Bosnia and Geiger. 

Cigar store — Charles Woodruff. 

Clothing — Hospers & Schaap, William Flindt & Company. 

Cement workers — Runger & Wilson, Archie Hint. 

Creamery— "The Sheldon/' by D. A. Miller. 

Confectionery — Henry Hosper. Swortorh Brothers, E. C. Van Epps. 

Dye works — The Swanson works. 

Drugs — Avers Brothers, W. C. Iverson. W. J. Hollander. 


Dray lines — Myers, Bean & Company, John Rider, George Hill, Frank 
Elias, C. E. Brown. 

Dentists — Drs. A. W. Beach, Brown & McKay. 

Department stores — Starrett Brothers, William Myers & Company, 
Sheldon Mercantile Company, Ellenbroek Brothers. 

Elevators (grain) — Farmers' Co-operative Company, J. Button & Com- 
pany, Sheldon Trade Company, Eogan Milling Company, F. M. Slagel & 

Furniture — S. O. Beanblossom, Nash & Wood. 

Feed barn and sheds — John Montgomery. 

Grocers — Sheldon Grocery Company. 

Hardware — E. P. Messer & Son, Daniel O'Kane and Mr. Lubbers. 

Harness stores — E. L. Richards, W. H. Beacom. 

Hotels — The Arlington, the Howard, the Royce, the Sheldon. 

Hospitals — The Dr. Cram Hospital. 

Implements — George A. Miller, \Y. H. Beacom, Dermott & Duisterman. 

Jewelers — E. A. James, Hal Xervobig. 

Lumber — Sheldon Trade Company, H. A. Strong, Pynchon & Ling, 
Slagel Lumber Company. 

Livery — Myers, Bean Company. 

Laundries — C. E. Miller and a Chinese laundry. 

Meat markets — Runger and Wilson markets. 

Music house — Wilsey & Son. 

Millinery — Starrett Brothers. Sheldon Mercantile Company, Miss Kate 
Donovan, Mrs. A. Smith. 

Mills (flouring) — "Prairie Queen" and the "Big Four." 

Mills ( wood-working) — The Sheldon Fixture Company. 

Marble works — Elliott & Hagy. 

Moving pictures — D. H. Harvey and Fred Brenneman. 

Newspapers — The Sun and the Mail. 

Opera house — W. H. Sleeper. 

Photographs — Pratt & Son. Mrs. L. Fredericks. 

Physicians — Drs. F. W. Cram, W. R. Brock, W. H. Myers, F. L. Myers, 
H. G. Brackney. C. V. Page, Roy Moreshell, Miss Deneen. 

Plumbers (aside from hardwares) — James Leveret and Charles Pren- 

Produce houses — Swift & Company, Clarence McKillep. 

Restaurants — Charles Myers, Gleason & Wood. Will Fritts, Oliver 


Stock buyers — Runger & Wilson. 

Second-hand stores— Holly Vanderbeck. 

Shoe stores — Kleins and Harley A. Cobb. 

Tailors — John Klasbeck, J. A. Larson. 

Veterinary surgeons — L. U. Shipley, Dr. Ridell, T. E. Andrews. 

Sheldon is on the great "North Iowa Pike," the automobile route from 
Sioux Falls, North Dakota, to McGregor, Iowa. This was laid out in 1911, 
and when thoroughly improved will be oik of the greatest thoroughfares 
for northern tourists in all this country. Sheldon is the hub from which 
routes of this highway branch off to LeMars, Cherokee, Mankato, Sioux 
Falls and Mitchell ; also to Mason City on the east. 


On January 8. 1878, on petition of J. H. Wolf and nine others, what is 
now Franklin township was detached from Floyd and called Franklin, and 
the first election held at the house of William Gavin. This township was 
named for Benjamin Franklin. 

No better introduction to this chapter can be had than to quote the words 
of pioneer J. H. Wolf, of the Primghar Bell, who wrote of this township 
several years ago as follows : 

"Franklin township, now one of the most prosperous and populous, 
second to Floyd only, in fact, was one of the last to be organized as a separate 
township, being attached to Floyd. 

"William H. Dummit, of section 8, with his family, being the first resi- 
dents, locating as a homesteader on the northwest of section 8, in either 1871 
or 1872. The family had some sad experiences, like most other frontier 
people. During the blizzard of January, 1873, a child died and was three 
days in the house after death, the storm being too bad to venture out to 
inform the neighbors. Mr. Dummit, by strict attention to business, industry 
and economy, has raised his family well, and now ( 1897) owns three hun- 
dred and twenty acres, paid for, and all well improved and well stocked. 
Such men always make farming pay. 

"J. H. Wolf and family were the second to locate in the township, set- 
tling on section 14, in April, 1873. Their nearest neighbors were more than 
four miles away. The first winter they lived on the farm they were snowed 
in for eleven weeks, from January 8th to March 28th, not seeing anyone, the 
snow being too deep to travel. Mr. Wolf threshed their first crop, several 
hundred bushels, with the flail, his wife turning the fanning mill to clean it up. 


"Rev. Ira Brashears, the same spring, that of 1873, had some breaking- 
done, built a shanty, and lived a short time on the land now occupied by E. 
T. Parker, adjoining Sanborn. Afterward several hundred acres were broken 
up, or for, a man named Buck, on section 31. About the same time some 
land was being broken up on section 12, but not farmed, the land being 
broken up on the wrong section. B. F. McCormack can tell the particulars. 

"Isaac Daniels broke land on section 14 in 1874, and built a house and 
moved his family thereto soon after. 

'Thomas Burns and family located on section 31, we think in 1874 or 
1875. and John Xeese and Charles Sechman located on sections 28 and 29 
in 1876. In 1878 there were voters enough, ten, to organize the township, 
which was done. J. H. Wolf and Isaac Daniels were appointed to locate the 
roads. The first election was held in the fall of 1878, at the house on section 
30 then occupied by Mr. Gavin, twenty-one votes being cast, six or eight of 
them by men working on the railroad, legal voters.'' 

From that day on settlement was made more rapidly and hence cannot 
here be traced in detail. The present population is about five hundred. 


The only town in Franklin township is Sanborn, started in 1878 and 
early in 1879. It made a rapid growth for twenty years and more. It was 
platted January 8. 1879, on the west half of the northeast quarter and the 
east half of the northwest quarter of section 35, township 97. range 40. by 
J. A. Stocum and wife. This city is six years younger than Sheldon and five 
years younger than Primghar was when it became the county seat. Sanborn 
was another child of the railroad system now styled the "Milwaukee." Its 
predecessor, the McGregor & Missouri Railway Company, had undertaken 
to build across the state from McGregor to intersect with the Sioux City & 
St. Paul road in the vicinity of Sheldon. After reaching Algona, seventy- 
five miles east of Sanborn, either from lack of good management or money, 
they stopped, unable to go further, until 1877, when the road passed into the 
hands of the Milwaukee Company, which at once started up its rapid building 
and further western extension. The first construction train reached Sanborn 
November 1, 1878. The site was owned by Messrs. Lawler and Stocum, who 
laid out the town. Thev platted into town lots about sixty acres. It was 
first designed to name the new town Edenville, but better judgment pre- 
vailed (possiblv) and the town was named, not after the Garden of Eden, 

5: '{i 
i. ~ 

ED - 






but after the then superintendent of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Rail- 
road Company, George W. Sanborn. 

Building number one here was hauled from Primghar by L. C. Green, 
its owner, and used as a dwelling house, although about the same date E. R. 
Wood, for Teabout & Valleau, had a building there. Primghar saw the 
building of a new rival town only seven miles to the north, and became 
alarmed at the scenes there being enacted. It was a railroad town — Primghar 
was yet without one. Mr. Green was the first to become alarmed and really 
enthused over the business prospects at Sanborn, and was the first to remove 
hither. He landed with his building December 12, 1878. He and L. C. 
Green were the first to occupy any building in the town of Sanborn. The 
next to move to Sanborn was that enterprising carpenter and builder, Hiram 
Algyer, who well understood that Sanborn would be a first-class place in 
which to ply his trade. His dwelling was the third building in the place. 
By a terrible railroad accident while as a carpenter remodeling a car he had 
both lower limbs severed, losing his life. L. D. Thomas moved a building 
to the town site and used it as a carpenter shop. When Miss Cora Thomas 
married Mr. Willits, they settled down to housekeeping in this same building. 
This was in January, 1878, during which month there were several other 
buildings built or removed to Sanborn. Mr. Barns, who had kept a hotel at 
Primghar, moved his building over to Sanborn, where he continued in the 
hotel business. 

The first store was opened by S. VV. Clark, whose stock, for a time, was 
kept at the depot, until his building could be removed from Primghar and 
made ready for his stock of merchandise. 

It was in November. 1878, that a freight box-car was set out at San- 
born siding to be used as a depot until a better one could be provided. The 
first agent in charge was L. E. Whitman. W. Dunbar and he both resided 
in the depot together, for a time. Dunbar was the road master for this 
division of the Milwaukee road. 

It was indeed a novel sight to behold one town, and the county seat at 
that, being transported to the site of another seven miles distant. The 
prairie was literally dotted with buildings going from Primghar to Sanborn, 
the new and rival town of Primghar. But, be it said, all this fuss was use- 
less, for as the years have rolled by it is seen that both places have a useful 
field and there is plenty of room for both towns, even if Sanborn did not 
get the county seat. 

E. M. Bradv, one of the earlv settlers, established himself in the hard- 


ware business at Sanborn before others had pre-empted the field. He served 
as a worthy member of the county board of supervisors for a number of 
years ; was also a member of the Iowa Legislature from this district. 

The first banking institution in Sanborn was started in January, 1879, 
by I. W. Daggett, who had for a time operated at Primghar. The first mail 
service between the two rival towns was established in February, 1879. L. 
C. Green having been appointed mail carrier, the mail was always on time, 
rain or shine, sleet or snow. Samuel Hibbs opened the first meat shop in 
Sanborn. He also moved his building from Primghar. The depot was used 
for a meeting house by those inclined toward religion and the better things 
of life. 

The first warehouse in Sanborn was that of Teabout & Valleau. in 
February, 1879. Between Clark's store and the depot, a telephone (not elec- 
tric but vibratory) was placed in operation, the first in this county. Now 
there are hundreds of miles of modern improved telephones, and everyone 
can whisper their thoughts around the county at will ! 

The first celebration of Fourth of July at Sanborn occurred in 1879, 
when the procession marched to an improvised bowery. Allen Crossan read 
the Declaration of Independence and J. L. E. Peck, of Primghar, delivered 
the oration. 

The first child born in Sanborn was in August, 1879, when a daughter 
was born to Mr. and Mrs. Hazeldine. The family soon removed from the 
town. The year 1879 was truly a busy one in the new town, the hotels and 
all stopping places being full and running over. The first issue of the San- 
born Pioneer was run off November 7. 1879. The earliest drug store was 
that opened by Dr. Charles Smith. David Algyer taught the first school in 
the place in the winter of 1879-80; he also taught music with much success. 
The town of Sanborn was fortunate in being the end of a division on the 
great Milwaukee system of railroads. These divisions are about one hundred 
miles apart. It follows, therefore, that only one town in twenty or more in 
the state can be so selected. In result Sanborn has become the home and resi- 
dence center of a large number of expert railroad men and their families, 
engineers, conductors, train dispatchers, railway mail agents and their scores 
of railroad assistants. 

It was in 1879 that Sanborn and Sheldon were both pulling hard for the 
county seat. In six months the town doubled its population. The Methodist 
church was built and the round-house of the railroad was opened for work. 
The first death chronicled in the young place was the youngest child of W. 


VV. Barnes, named Minnie. In 1880 the "House of Lords," a saloon, was 
opened by Harry Sherman; 1880 saw a population of five hundred souls 
and business went forward at a rapid rate. In September, 1880, J. L. Green 
and William Harker opened a hanking house. Mr. Harker died in 1895 and 
his widow still continued to conduct the bank and was its president, the only 
lady who held such position within the borders of the county. 


In 1880 Sanborn saw the necessity of becoming an incorporated town. 
Upon a petition presented to the district court. Mart Shea, L. C. Green, S. W. 
Clark, A. G. Will its and Cal Broadstreet were appointed commissioners to 
call an election for voting upon the matter of incorporation, for and against 
the proposition. That election was held March 13, 1880, resulting in forty 
votes for and twenty-four against. The First town officers were elected April 
3, the same year, and were as follows: Mayor, E. M. Brady; recorder, 
Charles H. Perry; councilmen. Mart Shea, S. W. Clark, L. C. Green, H. 
Algyer, \\\ F. Jones, Cal Broadstreet ; marshal and street commissioner, T. 
D. White; treasurer, Frank Patch. 

The mayors have been in the order here named: 1880, E. M. Brady; 
1881, A. J. Devine; 1882, Harley Day; 1883, F. Teabout; 1884, D. R. 
Phelps; 1885, A. McXaughton; 1886, W. D. Boies; 1887, W. H. Noyes; 
1888, N. L. F. Peck; 1889. J. E. Drake; 1890, J. E. Drake; 1891, D. R. 
Phelps; 1892, W. C. Green:' 1893, W. J. Francis; 1894, W. J. Francis; 1895, 
W. J. Francis; 1896, G. O. Wheeler; 1897, W. J. Francis; J. A. Wilcox, 
1900-04; B. M. Flint, 1904-10; J. H. Cannon, 1910-12; J. B. Stamp, 1912. 
resigned to become county auditor; J. H. McNeill, 1912-14. 

The 1913 town officers are: J. H. McNeill, mayor; Will A. Solon, 
clerk; J. A. Johnson, treasurer: Fred Benham, marshal; J. H. Daley, E. A. 
Main, B. M. Flint. W. B. Cantrall, Samuel Omer, councilmen. 

Sanborn has a good town hall and a public park covering a block and a 
half, planted out in 1890 to trees that now make a beautiful shade and wind 
break. Within this park stands the high water tower, which may be seen 
for a dozen or more miles around the town. Walks and rustic seats adorn 
and make useful this park, all of which bespeaks the intelligence and refine- 
ment of the place. The G. R. Healey private electric light plant affords the 
town ample illumination. This was installed in the nineties under a new 
franchise, the old company having gone out of business at that date. 


The town of Sanborn has ample water supply through its modern water 
work system, secured in 1896-97, by bonding for six thousand dollars. A 
deep well of large size was put down in Highland Park addition in 1912. 
when the old well had become inefficient for the demand. The old works 
were situated in Greene's addition. The present system affords fine water in 
abundance. There are about thirty-five fire plugs. A volunteer fire company 
looks well to the matter of providing safety to the town. Sanborn has a 
school house of eight main rooms and three class rooms, costing sixteen 
thousand dollars. 

The Sanborn postoffice is of the third class; has three rural free deliver- 
ies and one star route extending out to outlying districts. During the admin- 
istration of Postmaster Boyd the safe was twice blown up by men, 
who were never captured. The loss was light and fell on the postmaster. 
The postmasters here have been: Ira Brashears, to 1884; D. R. Phelps, 
1884 to 1888: Chauncey Owens, 1888-92: J. F. Kerburg, 1892-96: R. M. 
Boyd. 1896 to August 15, 1913 (seventeen years) ; E. L. Helmer, from Aug- 
ust 15, 191 3, to present date. 

Churches, lodges, schools, etc., are mentioned under separate chapters. 


In years to come the following will be read with no little interest : 

Auto garages — Alexander Amelung. M. \Y. Cuppet. C. Hoffa. 

Attorney — T. Fillenwarth. 

Banks (state and savings) — See Banking chapter. 

Barber shops — J. J. Lowrey. G. S. Travaille. George Casely. 

Bakery — J E. Wilson. 

Blacksmith shop — George Smith. 

Clothing, exclusive — Kelley & Donohue. 

Cement block works — Anderson Lumber Companv. 

Cream station — Hanford*s Produce Company and another corporation. 

Drugs — J. W. McKinley. E. C. Sprague & Companv. 

Dray lines — Heman Gibbs. L. E. Foote. David Pippenger. D. Bernier, 
Thomas Farnsworth. 

Dentist — F. YV. Farnsworth. 

Elevator (grain)— The "Hunting" and "\Yestern," Farmers' Co-opera- 

Furniture — H. I. Hennebach. 


General merchandise — E. A. Mayne, Ellenbrock & Bomgaar, Otto Kas. 

Groceries (exclusive) — Henry Addy, B. F. Pitts, Quillash Brothers. 

Hotels — "The Phoenix," the old Clark House; also the Omer House. 

Harness shop — J. W. Hill, E. A. Crandall. 

Hardware — A. Hoeven, Haber & Wright, E. A. Crandall. 

Implements — B. F. Flint, Dick DeGrafT. 

Jewelers — F. D. Gibbs. 

Lumber dealers — Anderson Company, Farmers' Co-operative Company 
and Consumers' Independent Lumber Company. 

Laundry — A Chinaman. 

Meat market — B. \Y. Cantrall. 

Millinery — Rose Steuch, D. Tennesen. 

Newspapers — The Sanborn Pioneer. 

Opera house — A company of citizens. 

Photographs — J. D. Long. 

Panitorium — James Clark. 

Pool halls — Garrett Jepma, Thomas Maroney. 

Physicians — Drs. F. M. Horton, Ed. Rutterer, W. M. Kuyper. 

Restaurants — Omer Hotel luncheon. 

Stock dealers — F. L. Inman, O. D. Eaton. 

Telephone — W. H. Barker system. 

Tailors — Pirie & Anderson. 

Veterinary surgeon — J. F. Wall. 

Wagon repair shop — L. Leaver. 

In 1884 Sanborn made improvements footing to the amount of twenty- 
five thousand five. hundred dollars. Perhaps the best interest at Sanborn is 
the railroad division. Here in Sanborn the freight and passenger trains are 
made up ; here the crews exchange places, one going out and the other coming 
in for a la}- over. Here the round house and repair shops have always been 
located, and by reason of this much money has been annually paid out by 
the company. As a general rule railroad men are lavish and liberal in what 
they spend. Tens of thousands of passengers have stopped in transit at 
Sanborn and taken one or more meals. Here they have spent other money- 
Some of these have been induced to locate in the place and become citizens 
and good business men. There have been numerous passenger conductors 
who have made this their home for a period of more than a quarter of a 
century. Their runs have been made to the east and to the west. Among 
such capable men may be recalled E. Hoxsie, M. M. Burns and Charles E. 


Foote. The faces of these popular conductors have been seen by an almost 
countless number of persons, during their many years' run over the Mil- 
waukee system running in and out of Sanborn. 


This library was organized in April, 1901, by the Twentieth Century 
Clubs of Sanborn. The ladies of this club secured donations of books and 
services as librarians. The first regular librarian elected was Miss Mavme 
Johnson. The building, most of the money of which was donated by Andrew 
Carnegie, was erected at a cost of four thousand eight hundred dollars, and 
it was dedicated May 22, 1912. It is located on Main street. The present 
number of volumes is about two thousand five hundred. The trustees are at 
present: Mrs. M. M. Burns, president; Miss Zaidee McCullow, vice-presi- 
dent: Mrs. J. A. Johnson, secretary: J. H. Daly, treasurer; Henry Kissler. 
Dr. F. W. Horton. Mrs. F. C. Sprague, Mrs. Earl Mayne. The various 
librarians have been Miss Z. McCullow, Miss Hannah Johnson, Miss Helen 
Foote, Mi^s Marguerite Kings, Miss Irene McNeill. 


This township was formerly included in old Waterman township, but 
as the county grew in population it was necessary to sub-divide and hence we 
have what is now Lincoln township. 

This township is situated in the north part of the county, between 
Hartley and Franklin townships. The old Burlington, Cedar Rapids & 
Northern railway (now the Rock Island route) runs diagonally through its 
northeastern portion, with a small hamlet for a station point, located on sec- 
tion 10, called Plessis. which is the only trading point in the township. The 
land here is not unlike the majority of that in northern O'Brien county, well 
adapted to general farming purposes ; is rich and increasing in value annually. 
Plenty of farms would sell today for one hundred and eighty-five dollars per 
acre, but few are to be had for sale. The owners do not conceive of a place 
where, if they continue in agricultural pursuits, they could duplicate the 
values, hence refuse to sell in most cases. The contrast with those early 
years, when homesteaders were discouraged and would have sold at a mere 
trifle, is indeed great. The main line of the great Milwaukee railroad system 
runs through the entire lower tier of sections, with the towns of Sanborn 


and Hartley on either side of the township a few miles, thus giving good 

The earliest settlers in Lincoln township were I. M. Silverthorn and 
family, who came in from Hardin count}-, Iowa, in 1870, locating on section 
30. This family came two years before any other family appeared on the 
green glad solitude of the prairie township. Thev went through the grass- 
hopper period and one season Mr. Silverthorn had one hundred acres cf land 
in wheat and harvested not a single bushel — the little winged pests had de- 
stroyed his entire crop, not even leaving him enough for his seed and bread. 
Subsequently he became a citizen of Hartley. 

In j 88 1 this township had a population of twenty-three souls; in 1885 
its population had increased to fifty-three, and its present population is about 
four hundred and eighty-five. 

On section 36, in this township, Frank Teabout, as early as 1874, con- 
ducted a large ranch. In fact, it was his headquarters, from which he man- 
aged several large farms or ranches. Mr. Teabout was a brainy man and 
a practical business man and farmer, and a man of pronounced personality 
and a self-made man. He passed through the whole grasshopper scourge of 
1874-79 in these large farming operations, and even with these setbacks 
made money and accumulated more land and became worth one hundred and 
fiftv thousand dollars or thereabouts. He being thus forehanded even among 
impoverished conditions, enabled him to overcome that which blasted the 
hopes of many of the old homesteaders. 

It was in this township where Major Chester W. Inman, once county 
treasurer, was killed in an altercation over a boundary line. It was over his 
death that the one and only murder trial ever in the county was had resulting 
in conviction. 


As stated elsewhere, it was a point jealously guarded and contended for 
in those early politics and before the board of supervisors, that each old 
homestead township, like Carroll, should have an unsettled, or, as they were 
then called, a deeded township, like Lincoln, which it could hold and levy 
taxes for school and road purposes, and then expend it all in the old town- 
ship. Thus Hartley claimed Omega, Highland claimed Dale, and Floyd 
claimed Franklin. Now thus far they were contiguous territory in each case. 
Poor Carroll township stood out alone. It could not attach either Summit or 
Baker, because those townships considered themselves of enough importance 


to resent being owned by anybody, having enough settlers to preserve their 
own identity. But Lincoln had no settlers. Carroll could look across the 
prairie space of six miles and covet the uninhabited Lincoln, but how could 
she become contiguous? How could she leap across that six mile chasm? 
This scheme was evolved. The board of supervisors was induced to set off 
a row of forties like a fiddle string on the north side and clear across Summit, 
and then it called the whole thing Fiddle String and all Carroll, and Carroll 
township collected taxes for many years from the whole. The early settlers 
of Lincoln began to arrive and soon resented the idea of being called "one 
end of a fiddle string," and organized as Lincoln at the first opportunity, by 
snapping this fiddle string and telling Summit and Carroll to play their own 
tunes. This farce was much of a joke, even at the time, but it served a 
political reality, and in fact met the legal requirements of a township. 


On October 14, 1878, a petition was filed to set off what is now Hartley 
township from Center. It was rejected at that session, but on June 2, 1879. 
it was again brought up and successfully set off and named Hartley, and the 
first election held at the house of J. M. Silverthorn. 


The town of Llartley had its beginning with the coming of the Milwau- 
kee railroad in 1878. and was named after one of the surveyors and engineers 
who had participated for the road in its building. The first platted part of 
the town was made by W. A. Mickey, the father-in-law of Jacob H. Wolf, 
of the Bell, in the platting of Mickey's addition on August 8, 1879. It was 
one case where the addition was platted prior to the main town. Indeed, it 
is part of the main portion of the town today. In fact, buildings were started 
before the plattings of record. The census of 1910 gives the population of 
Hartley at one thousand one hundred and six. 

The town was not incorporated until about ten years later. On April 2, 
1888, James S. Webster, still a resident and prominent business man of the 
town, headed a petition with forty others directed to the district court, asking 
that all of section 32 in Hartley township be incorporated. On May 23, 1888. 
in a regular proceeding in open court before Hon. Scott M. Ladd, presiding 
judge, a hearing was had, and thereupon the court appointed James S. 
Webster, William S. Fuller, S. H. McMaster, E. B. Messer and R. G. Allen 


as the five court commissioners under the law to call an election to vote on 
the proposition whether it should be incorporated or not. This election was 
held July 2, 1888, three of the commissioners acting as judges of the election. 
There were eighty-seven votes cast, and the vote stood seventy-nine for in- 
corporation and eight against. At the first election for officers the following 
corps of officials were elected : 

Mayor, E. B. Messer; recorder. W. H. Eaton; councilmen. Samuel 
Smith. L. C. Green, I. X. Drake. S. H. McMasters, L. Mosher and \Y. J. 
Lorshbough ; marshal. J. M. Herron ; treasurer, W. S. Fuller. 

The town of Hartley has enjoyed and still enjoys an extent of trading 
territory not held by any other town in the county. The next east and west 
railroad to the north is very close to twenty miles away. The towns of 
Ocheyedan, Harris, Lake Park, Spirit Lake and Milford, the next nearest 
towns to the north and northeast, range from eighteen to thirty miles away. 
This has given Hartley an exceptionally large trading chance, and its business 
men have followed up this opportunity. 

The mere statement of the fact that Hartley has three banks, with a 
savings bank as part of one of those institutions, and the only town outside 
of Sheldon having more than two banks and more than one railroad, simply 
evidences the result of this large trade territory. 

Hartley is one among those towns whose business district is compact, 
its banks, stores, depots, elevators, lumber and other yards, hotels, etc., being 
all located on adjoining blocks. 

Hartley, like other towns, in its school history has passed through first 
the primitive period, finally arriving at the up-to-date period in the highest 
sense. The very first school in the town was not held in a school building, 
but in the upper story of Finster & Fuller's store building, and was taught 
by O. M. Shonkwiler, who later on became a hustler in many lines, including 
actual farming on a large scale, and as a public man in various ways, includ- 
ing membership on the board of supervisors. 

Hartley, however, was among the very early towns in the county to 
have a modern brick, up-to-date school structure. One unique feature of the 
Hartley school building is the fact that it has in the third story a magnificent 
auditorium, which is used by its citizens, not only in public school functions, 
but for general public audiences. Like all towns, it got along first with its 
one-story frame school building, then later with its two-story building, which 
in its time was built on large proportions and which later became frame resi- 
dences near town. 



Hartley, like all the prairie towns, started under primitive conditions 
and then grew. For instance, in 1878, when the railroad was built, in the 
hustle to get things moving the road first used a box car as a depot, presided 
over by George Titus as the first railroad magnate or depot agent. Finster 
& Fuller, composed of those old settlers, J. S. Finster and William S. Fuller, 
ran the first store. Soon there after Pumphrey & Chrysler, made up of John R. 
Pumphrey and J. G. Chrysler, among the first merchants in Primghar, started 
the second store for Hartley. N. Plawson followed with a grocery and 
saloon, and Frank Matott and W. J. Guenther a saloon and billiard hall. 

J. K. P. McAndrew opened up and was landlord of the first hotel, 
known as the Commercial House. It might be appropriate here to say that 
Mr. McAndrew was the godfather and responsible for the city of Max, just 
west of Hartley, where for years he ran an elevator. It was McAndrews, 
or Macks or Max. Later on Mr. McAndrew was for some years an efficient 
member of the board of supervisors. Indeed the town of Hartley and vicin- 
ity has furnished to the county sundry of its officials : O. M. Shonkwiler, 
John Sanders, H. J. Merry and now Peter Swenson, on the board of super- 
visors, John T. Conn, county attorney and county auditor, John W. Walters, 
clerk of the courts, and ex-Sheriff George Coleman, now a resident and tele- 
phone manager. 

One odd incident occurred in the very first years, when the town was 
small and pioneers were few, bringing together both the preacher and saloon 
on an occasion which was neither a raid nor a camp meeting. In those earliest 
times the preacher did not always fare sumptuously, and was not always in- 
quired about. He was needy and appealed to a farmer. At Frank Matott's 
saloon the question arose and a good sized fund was raised and provided 
for, with Frank as treasurer of this aid society, under which management the 
preacher was provided with forty-five dollars per month. 

Williams Brothers, of Primghar, built one of the early brick store build- 
ings of size and conducted a store for some time. David Gano combined a 
meat market and hardware store. H. J. Guenther shipped in a stock of boots 
and shoes all the way from New York and Milo Silverthorn started a livery, 
so the first people of the town could go either afoot or on horseback. 

One of its quite early public buildings was its very ample hotel of south- 
ern seashore appearance and comfort, with its unusually large porches on two 
full sides. Indeed, this hotel was built in such large proportions that it has 
well served as the permanent, up-to-date hotel of the city and well known as 
the Park Hotel. 


It was a passing joke at the time in Hartley's first barber shop that its 
customers shaved themselves in turn. However, Claud Charles soon relieved 
this situation by installing" a common bench for a barber's chair, which Claud 
straddled, with the victim lying on his back, as he proceeded with the surgi- 
cal operation, with his outfit consisting of a cake of Russian soap, a razor and 
the leg of a boot for a strap and hone. 

Brick buildings followed these earl)' conditions, as we now witness on 
its streets. On sundry improvements and situations see the chapters on 
Banks and Banking, the Press and the Churches and other incidental items 
mentioned in various parts of this history. 

The township of Hartley was wholly what was known as a deeded 
township, with not a homestead claim in it. Its settlement was sparse and 
scarcely started until 1879 and 1880. It had no pioneers in the sense of the 
homesteaders in other townships. O. M. Shonkwiler was one of its very 
early real farmers residing on the land itself. Among other of the very 
early ones in the township were Frank Patch, E. T. Broders, I. N. Drake, 
C. H. Colby. Henry Krebs, Mary E. Colby, George W. Walter, Peter Swen- 
son, C. B. Olhausen, Paul Kahler, J. C. Mansmith, George W. Schee, Stephen 
R. Harris, J. D. Edmundson, William Steinbeck, I. M. Silverthorn, A. H. 
Bierkamp and others, who either resided on or owned or opened up the early 
farm lands. 

Its present (1013) officials are: Mayor, George Coleman: clerk, H. T. 
Broders ; treasurer. Freeman Patch ; assessor, George Rector ; councilmen, 
Ed. Burns, T. H. Burns, O. E. Horst, Julius Eichner and Earl Miller. 

Since writing the above, this March, 19 14, a new city administration 
was selected : E. G. Burns, mayor, and W. A. Simms, William Lemke, Peter 
Nelson, E. Krutzfeldt and H. J. Grotewohl, councilmen. 


Hartley established a system of water works in 1895 a ^ a cos ^ °* ^ ve 
thousand five hundred dollars. It obtains its water supply from a large well 
two hundred feet deep, the water being first pumped to a tower tank one 
hundred and twenty-five feet in height. Like most other towns. Hartley has 
had some trying experiences, in her case with quicksand. In 19 14 the town 
put down a second well. Its pumps are operated by an electric motor. 



The fire department is made up of a volunteer company and has done 
efficient work in several fires. It is provided with chemical engine, hooks 
and ladders, hose and other equipments. 


Hartley is specially proud of its excellent and up-to-date lighting system. 
This system was installed in 1.908 and the first lights turned on February 10, 
1909, all at a total cost of thirty-five thousand dollars. The meter system is 
in use here. The machinery producing the electric current consists of a one- 
hundred-and-ten-volt direct-current dynamo, one eighty-horse-power gas pro- 
ducing engine and one "50-60" Alamo oil producing engine, one thirty and 
one fifty kilowatt generator, with a one hundred and thirty-two cell storage 
batterv. The streets are brightly illuminated, and the whole system is a suc- 


The following is a list of the postmasters of Hartley : O. M. Shonk- 
wiler, 1878; J. S. Finster, 1879-85; R. A. Woodward, 1885-88; Frank Potts, 
1888-90; Leonard Miller, 1890-93; S. A. Smith, 1893-98; J. E. Wheelock, 

The board of education of the independent district of Hartley is as fol- 
lows: J. E. Wheelock, president; L. Cody, J. S. Messer, J. C. Joslin and 
William Lemke; clerk, G. E. Knack; treasurer, W. J. Davis. 


The great pride, not only of O'Brien county, but of Hartley especially, 
is in its soldiers' monument, erected by Mr. and Mrs. George W. Schee in 
1891. It was unveiled June 4, 1891, in dedication-day exercises, and an ex- 
tended program and reunion and memorial eulogized by Judge William 
Hutchinson, Doctor Hutchins and Thomas F. Ward, then an attorney of 
Primghar. It was truly made a county-wide occasion. For instance, Capt. 
Charles F. Albright led two hundred citizens from Primghar in a body. Like- 
sized companies came in procession from many townships and families came 
from everv direction. The Milwaukee train alone brought five hundred from 



Sheldon and Sanborn. A fine military band from Hull led the procession-. 
Old soldiers, Sons of Veterans, and Women's Relief Corps, with banners, 
badges and flags, called forth both enthusiasm and patriotism. The monu- 
ment itself, during the program, was surrounded by old soldiers, with guards 
pacing to and fro, guarding the emblems and symbols of the army and navy. 
Each procession and train was met by committees and bands and escorted 
to the place assigned. The monument is white bronze, standing twenty- 
eight feet above ground in height. The figure or statue of a full-sized soldier, 
six feet four inches, stands at the top. Its weight, exclusive of foundation, 
is three thousand pounds, and cost two thousand six hundred dollars. It is 
seventy feet around the base, which required four car loads of stone, lime and 
cement to built it. The monument is ornamented on the several sides with 
medalions as follows: Bust of Grant. Lincoln and Logan. The names of 
all the members of the Hartley Grand Army of the Republic Post, giving 
the names of companies and regiments, are beautifully inscribed. Also the 
words "Presented to G. A. R. Post and Town of Hartley by Mr. and Mrs. 
( reorge W. Schee," are inscribed. During the program, in addition to 
speeches named, Commander James S. Webster delivered the Proclamation 
of Peace as an impressive part of the services. The Sheldon Male Quartette 
rendered vocal music. Altogether it was one of the great occasions in 
O'Brien county. 


The following is a complete roster of the business interests of the town : 
Attorney — John T. Conn. 

Agricultural Implements — Burns Brothers. E. B. Messer & Son. 
Auto Garages — Messer & Johnson, Palmrpiist Auto Company. 
Banks — Hartley State Bank, First National Bank, Farmers Savings 
Bank and German Savings Bank. 
Bakery — Frank Yilunick. 

Barber Shops — Smith Brothers, Ray Jones and David Orres 
Blacksmiths — A. Hopper & Son, Peter Lefferenson, Joseph Green. 
Clothing — O. F. Olson, Eichner Brothers. 
Cement Blocks — P. C. Ecklers & Son, George Rector. 
Creamery — Hartley Creamery Company. 
Drugs — T. L. McGuire, Coordes Drug & Jewelry Company. 
Dentists — S. F. Conn, Dr. Baker. 
Dray Lines — Clifford Dray Line, John Adolph, Will Erbes, R. E. Miller. 


Furniture — Berne & Broders, Lemke Brothers. 

Feed Store- — C. H. Bets, Farmers Elevator Company. 

Grocers (exclusive) — Albert Tagge. 

General Dealers — J. C. Keiffer & Company, Lemke Brothers, Herbert & 



Hospitals — Dr. Callman's, Dr. Hand. 

Hotels — Park Hotel, The George Hotel. 

Hardware — O. E. Horst, H. L. Failing. 

Harness Shops — L. C. Cody, August Feldhahn. 

Jewelry — Knap & Jones, Coordes Drug & Jewelry Company. 

Lumber — The Floete Lumber Company, The Superior Lumber Com- 
pany, Hartley Lumber Company. 

Livery — Jap Burson. Hartley Livery Company, Swanson Brothers. 

Meat Market— Ewaldt & Melvin. 

Millinery — Frankie Kline. 

Newspapers — Hartley Journal, Hartley Sentinel, Crimson & Gold. 

Physicians — Dr. F. J. Coleman, Dr. C. E. Phelps, Dr. J. B. Sherbon, 
Dr. C. W. Hand, Dr. J. W. Conaway. 

Photographers — F. J. Janson. 

Rent Wants — YY. R. Wagner, Clarence Hens, J. H. Ray. 

Stockdealers — Burns Brothers, Peter Nelson, James Campbell. 

Shoe Store — W. C. Yogel. 

Veterinary Surgeon— Charles Johnson. 

Wagon Shop — Charles Guenther, Hopper & Son. 

Editors — Eugene Peck, of the Journal; Claud A. Charles, of the Sentinel; 
Clarence Peck, of Crimson and Gold, a school magazine published each school 

Lodges — Masonic, Yeoman. Woodmen of the World. 

Churches — Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian, three German churches, 
Christian Science, Roman Catholic and Seventh-day Adventist. 

The churches, lodges, newspapers, banks, etc., will also be noted in the 
special chapters on those subjects. 


The mayors of the town have been as follows: E. B. Messer, 1888-89; 
Frank Kelley, 1890-91; L. Miller, 1892-94; W. B. Waldo. 1894; L. Miller, 
1895; W. B. Waldo, 1896; E. Kelley. 1897-99; R. A. Woodward, 1899-04;* 
O. K. McElhinney, 1904-05; F. R. Lock, 1905-12; George Coleman, 1912-14. 



On April i, 1872, the present townships of Carroll and Summit were set 
off from Liberty and called Carroll, the first election to be held in Ben Hutchin- 
son's store, on the southwest quarter of section 24. This store was conducted 
by Ben Hutchinson on the prairie during the earliest homesteading years prior 
to the coming of the railroad to Sheldon. This township was named in honor 
of Patrick Carroll, who homesteaded the south half of the southeast quarter 
of section 34 in the township, and who raised a large family. 

This township is situated on the western line of the county, second from 
the northern line. The Sioux Falls branch of the Illinois Central railroad 
runs through the township from northwest to southeast. Its only station 
point is the thriving village of Archer, on section 24, about midway between 
Sheldon and Primghar. The Little Floyd river takes its rise in Franklin 
township and enters Carroll on section 1 and leaves it from section 7. The 
incorporation lines of Sheldon take in a portion of this township. 

Travel where one may, it is difficult to find a more attractive agricultural 
district that can be seen in this portion of the county. The farms are all well 
improved, land is steadily increasing, is now Hearing the two-hundred-dollar 
mark, and men of judgment declare the limit is not nearly reached yet. With 
good soil, good water, good markets, good schools, etc., it is no wonder that 
land commands such high figures. Where in all of Iowa's broad domain of 
excellent land could a farmer better his condition if he is fortunate enough 
to own one of these farms in Carroll township? 

In 1881 the township had a population of only three hundred and twenty- 
nine ; in 1885, it had reached three hundred and ninety-six and the United 
States census books for 19 10 gave it as having six hundred and twelve popula- 
tion. But the change in condition and values has been greater than the in- 
crease in population. 


W. E. Welch came from Jefferson county, Xew York, in March, 1871, 
and at Fort Dodge chanced to meet Archibald Murray, who induced him to 
accompany him to O'Brien county, and there he remained with Murray as a 
stopping place for the next two years. Murray secured the south half of 
section 28 for Welch. He built upon this land in 1872, lived there for a 
time, then traded for land in Baker township where he continued to reside 
until 1885, then settled in Sheldon. Welch was at one time a member of the 


board of county supervisors, and a thrifty citizen of this county. He was 
acting sheriff under Sheriff Nissen. 

Pennsylvania sent forth one of her sons to become a pioneer in this 
township ; this was in the person of James Roberts, who first located in Powe- 
shiek count}" and later came to Cherokee. He found there Air. Woods of 
this county, who located him on section 28, Carroll township. Forbes Will- 
iamson had the claim covered up, as it was then called, but Roberts paid him 
twenty-eight dollars to get rid of him. He went back and wintered in Powe- 
shiek county in the winter of 1871-72. and in the winter following he was in 
Pennsylvania. In 1S75 he broke out a hundred and twenty acres of his 
quarter section, and farmed the same, partly himself and partly rented to 
another. This was the first grasshopper year and he only saved a portion 
of his crop, which at first was very promising. Ten acres of his land had 
oats on it and not a bushel was harvested therefrom. Threshing machine 
men that year in Carroll township charged twenty-five dollars per day for 
threshing, without regard to the amount of grain yield. When he returned 
in the spring of 1874, at the Day school house he saw forty odd settlers 
gathered in a crowd, as he supposed one of the settlers had died, from the 
dejected look upon the faces of the men there assembled, but soon learned 
that they were there to receive their apportionment of a relief fund that had 
been raised and sent into the count}" to tide the settlers over another year. 
Mr. Roberts finally came through all right and owned a half section of land 
in 1897 and a residence in the town of Sheldon. 


William Huston Woods, better known as "Huse" Woods, referred to 
below as having located sundry homesteaders, and referred to in other places 
in this history as a surveyor, filled much of a needed niche with the old settler 
in thus getting located. Air. Woods was the husband of Mrs. Roma W. 
Woods, who writes one chapter of this history in reminiscences of the early 
dav. This explanation would not have been necessary twenty-five years ago, 
as then everybody knew him, but we now have seventeen thousand people. 
He himself homesteaded on the section adjoining the present town of Suther- 
land. In coming to the county many settlers first landed at Mr. W r oods' 
claim to secure his services. Those in Carroll township, many of them, com- 
ing from down near Dubuque. Durant and other places, would make their 
first trip across the county thus piloted by him. These pilgrimages tramped 
down the prairie grass and did the first ''road work" on the long angling road 


from Mr. Woods' place, via Primghar, through Carroll to Sheldon. It was 
quite indispensable to this settler, who was staking his little much and all to 
make a home, even though a shack, to know that he was on the right eighty 
acres of land. Much of this county being within the railroad limits under 
the £>rant of Congress, most of them only got eighty acres. A difference 
of eight}- rods in a survey might mean the whole tiling to him. They were 
dealing with Uncle Sam. an exacting individual. Mr. Woods was a highly 
educated man. a hue mathematician and an accurate surveyor. He had been 
a college chum of Col. William P. Hepburn, member of Congress from the 
eighth [owa district. The old United States surveys were even then more 
than twenty years old, and the tall prairie grass shut out from view many 
of the government corners. The}' had to be "found." The prairie grass 
all looked alike. This sameness to so large an expanse made this item quite 
a problem. Tt is probably correct to say that Mr. Woods thus located a full 
half of the six hundred homesteaders, as likewise many settlers on the deeded 
townships. He understood the "pits and mounds." put on the treeless prairies 
by Uncle Sam's surveyors. His actual mileage in foot travel in the decade 
1870-1880 would run into the many thousands in these surveys. He was a 
man much in politics, but never sought an office. Pie probably spent more 
actual time than any other half dozen men during the same years as leader 
in the organization of the Taxpayers' Association in earnest effort to defeat 
what all agreed was an unjust debt. One quite primitive, yet practical, 
method used by the early pioneers, and even by these surveyors in their trial 
efforts to find corners and lines was to tie a handkerchief to the spoke of the 
buggy or wagon, and count its revolutions as one drove along, first measuring 
the tire, to make the computation. Many land agents did this for years 
later on. The writer has thus counted these revolutions of wheels in the 
many thousands in single days to determine some corner. In these tedious 
surveys to find corners, the actual government corner was the main feature, 
and in these locations of early homesteaders Mr. Woods may be said to have 
been literally and in fact the "Pathfinder of O'Brien County." 

Pioneer W. H. Woods also located W. C. Butterfield in 1870 on section 
4 of Carroll township. He returned in 1871, proved up and brought his 
family on to become permanent settlers. He hauled lumber from Cherokee 
and erected a small, but comfortable, house in the fall of 1871. He had 
formerly been a merchant in Durant, Cedar county. Iowa. Later, he embarked 
in business in Sheldon. He was also a shoemaker and in 1873 "cobbled" 
many a pair of boots and shoes for homesteaders for which he was never 
paid a cent, and really never asked pay. 


Charles F. Butterfield, son of the Vermont Yankee Butterfield, located 
in Carroll township in 1871 on section 4. He broke up land the first season, 
wintered at Durant, Iowa, and returned the following spring. He made the 
first track through the wild prairie grass between w r here Primghar now stands 
and his place, and this trail was long used as a well traveled wagon road. 
Subsequently, he located in the shoe trade at Sheldon. His brother also 
claimed land here, remained a while, moved to Montana and died many years 
since. Another younger son