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The 1879 History of Jones County Iowa was transcribed by Janet A. Brandt.


Downtown Wyoming, Iowa.

Bear Creek bridge.

Railway depot.



This township is situated in the southeast part of the county, north of Oxford, the southwest township. The most of the surface is rather broken; there is a strip of prairie on the south side, and some prairie land in the northwest corner, which is level or beautifully undulating. A ridge, commonly known as the Brainard Ridge, runs through about the center of the township from west to east, along which there are fine farms and good substantial buildings. The northeast corner is principally timber-land, with an occasional slope of prairie interspersed among it.
The farms, buildings, orchards and other improvements in the township, indicate a thriving and industrious people.
The thriving town of Wyoming is situated in the southwestern portion of the township, and a portion of the town of Onslow is situated in the northeast, four miles from the city of Wyoming.
space From A. T. Andreas' Illustrated Historical Atlas of Iowa, by Alfred Theodore Andreas, Chicago, Andreas Atlas Co., 1875, page 157. Printed by Lakeside Press, Chicago.



By Dr. M. H. Calkins

(The following in reference to the early history of Wyoming and vicinity was prepared and read by Dr. M. H. Calkins, during the "Wyoming House Lecture Course," in April, A.D. 1878. The corrections necessary, owing to the changes that have taken place since that time, have been made by the Doctor, also, so that the statements are reliable and trustworthy. We are thus placed under obligation to Dr. Calkins for one of the most valuable and entertaining chapters in the history of Jones County. We regret to be obliged to somewhat abridge this portion of the early history for the want of space. Much that would be very entertaining is necessarily omitted; but we have endeavored to retain all the historical facts. The Doctor, whose biography appears elsewhere, is a strong and vigorous writer, and, at times, expresses himself with much rhetorical effect. From the fact that the important facts of history of the schools and churches are given by Dr. Calkins, no separate history of them will be given.—EDITOR.)
"The early history of any community is seldom preserved for posterity. A generation lives, acts its part, passes away, and little is known of the details of the operations by which grand results were reached. Every generation views the results of the preceding one in their totality and condemns in jobbing lots, or at wholesale lauds. Could we have access to that book where time records the acts of men, it would be an easy task to write the history of the past. But when, in antiquarian research, we are compelled to rely upon the treacherous memory of the living whose knowledge is often derived from tradition, it becomes an arduous task and is often inaccurate. In my search for items of early history, I have not found a man who has kept a record of the passing events in which he was engaged, and which so often interest posterity. Memory alone has been relied upon, and hence some of the statements I shall make may be incorrect. Memory cannot always be relied upon, particularly in reference to dates. The young look forward, and time seems long. The old glance backward and time seems short, and the date of interesting occurrences is often misplaced. This arises from the fact that no record is kept.
"Nearly four decades have passed and have been marked on eternity's dial, during which the events I am about to relate, have transpired.
"The first decade began in 1839, and could be easily summarized. It was a noble struggle of a few men for homes. The second decade, begun in 1849, was filled with stirring events and noble progress. The third was nobler still, for to the victories of peace were added the laurels of war for our nation's life, in which the citizens of this township acted a noble part. Nine-tenths of the fourth decade have flitted away the progress marking every step, and every step keeping time with improvement's rapid march. To-day I must speak of these different epochs as a single group in Time's great calendar. If I shall succeed in rescuing from the fast receding past some incidents connected with the early history of this township, my object will have been accomplished.
"The hardy pioneer, struggling with the various disadvantages incident to life on the frontier, has little time and less inclination to mark the changes connected with the growth and development of a wilderness into 'a land that buds and blossoms like the rose.' The great changes which time, with its various agencies, is producing around him, are not realized, and the interest that the future will take in reviewing the past is hardly thought of. He is busy with the present and its necessities, generally struggling with poverty, but buoyant with hope. He expects to secure a home and be surrounded in a short time with the charms of good society, educational and religious privileges, in the enjoyment of wealth and the full fruition of early hopes. He carries with him the impress of the institutions of the locality where he lived, and fosters them. They are the institutions of civilization, and often of refinement. He expects to be overtaken by the car of progress, laden with the golden fruits of society. Religious privileges and educational advantages he expects will follow, with all the charms and blessings they confer. Like Moses, in some respects, he views the promised land; unlike him, occupies it; like him, time is not given to share in its full glory. Dilapidation and decay are distanced by the outstretched arm of improvement, its polishing hand; and soon, very soon, in this new world and on these fertile prairies, beside these pure streams of limpid water; with an atmosphere laden with health-giving influences, noble farms spread out before the admiring gaze of the tourist, who, in these later years, for the first time visits these fertile valleys. He beholds lowing herds of splendid cattle feeding upon nature's broad pastures, or ruminating by the side of well-filled racks and mangers. He listens to the contented grunt of large droves of squealing porcines, fed with a prodigal liberality. He notes the symmetry of the different grades of vast numbers of noble horses; wonders at their perfection and adaptation to man's various tastes and uses. He sees vast fields of luxuriant grain, and calculates in all these departments there is enough to supply the demands of a population a hundred-fold more dense. He beholds buildings that denote homes of ease, wealth and luxury, comfort and refinement, thriving towns and prosperous cities, with all their allurements for good and subtle entanglements for evil, arise as if by magic, and these, with the choice farms, transform the prairie in all its grand magnificence and wild beauty, with its aboriginal inhabitants wilder still, the running deer, the loping elk, the beast of prey, the whistling quail, the whirring hen, emblems of the wilderness where civilization has never disturbed the wild beast in his lair, or the birds in their aerial flights have never been frightened by the sharp report of the sportsman's gun and its reverberating sound. In a single word, these emblems of primeval wilderness have been supplanted by the benign influences of a Christian civilization, transforming and reclaiming, with all their moral power. Remember that nearly all this change has been wrought within a half-century. I refer to the Great West-the valley of the Mississippi and its tributaries.
"The first permanent settlers of a new country are a hospitable people. As I said, they are in pursuit of homes and with those who come for this laudable object, actuated by this noble purpose, controlled by immutable principles of right, every arrival of upright citizens is welcomed with a warmth of friendship, the genuineness of which is never questioned. No mere formal friendship welcomes the arrival of the sturdy and industrious emigrant to the frontier home of him who is patiently waiting for civilization to drive the wild beasts and the barbarous Indians from the vicinity of his home. The elk and the deer, the wild beast and untutored savage, and the white man who has fled from violated law and outraged society will occupy the same country, but when enterprise, science, art, religion, with all the paraphernalia of reclaiming civilization approaches, the wild beasts flee, the red men scatter, and the outlaw, like the Arab, folds his tent and is gone. Domestic animals take the place of wild beasts. Thrifty husbandry supplants the chase, the schoolhouse tells of educational interests; the church, with its spire pointing to realms of everlasting light, proclaims faith in Him who died for all. The dead are buried with religious rites, while to the living is taught a lesson by the side of the open grave, of the brevity of human life. The savage was buried, too, amid barbarous whoops, expecting to go to the happy hunting- ground, where his gun would be his boon companion and the chase his everlasting pastime. Permanent homes have been established where lived the wandering tribes of America. The land that was a wilderness, 'flows with milk and honey.' The arts are cultivated, science encouraged, industry honored, worth appreciated, religion fostered. What a change! We call it CIVILIZATION. Space will not permit us to pursue this train of thought longer. I have alluded to these changes in order to show the vast difference between the present with all its beauty and attractiveness, and that condition that existed at the time of the advent of men who still live in our midst. But little more than the time allotted to a single generation has passed away, during which all these changes have been produced. We wonder at this rapid transformation. We consider that this change, this rapid march of civilization, is but a nucleus around which shall gather in the coming future, nobler deeds and more grand achievements.
"July 27, 1839, there came into this township an emigrant band, composed of fourteen persons, counting men, women and children, and they came to stay. They came as pioneers, as an advance-guard of what was to follow. They looked upon this valley covered with tall and luxuriant grass, they noted the crystal waters of these pebbled streams, correctly estimated the fertility of the soil, and anchored their prairie schooner beneath the shade of this adjacent grove and became the sovereign lords of Wyoming Township. They were sheltered in that primeval bower and charmed with birds' enchanting songs. Mrs. Lilie's house now stands where was the first pitched tent that covered the first civilized man that made this valley his permanent home.
"In that band of fourteen persons there were four stalwart men, three fearless women and seven helpless children. Around them on every hand were beasts of prey-bears, wolves, panthers and wild-cats. Deer, elk and buffalo hurried from their presence. There were also birds and prairie-hens. The stealthy tread of the Indian was often heard, and his lurking presence more often suspected. The Indians were great beggars, but seldom stole anything till they were about to depart for some other quarter. When they were about to leave, and were packing up their traps, they would not institute very rigid inquiries in reference to the ownership of any article that came in their way. Things that were worthless, and those that were valuable, all shared the same fate. Thou shalt not covet, was a doctrine of which they knew but little, and cared less. Thou shalt not steal, was not a fundamental doctrine in their creed. But they practiced from the precept, "He that provideth not for his own household is worse than an"-Indian. While they were staying around, they would not even shoot a prairie-hen from your corn-crib without asking permission. They seemed to be far above stealing chickens, even if they were wild, and, in this respect, were superior to some of their white successors.
"These first fourteen settlers all came in one wagon, and were drawn by three yoke of oxen. They had a few cows, a few head of young cattle and three dogs. They came from Indiana, and, after crossing the Mississippi, followed up the Maquoketa Valley, and found a few settlers below Monmouth, in Jackson County, where there were large tracts of Government land, but they had taken Greeley's advice in advance, and were going West. Leaving the settlement below Monmouth, they came up through the timber and out on to the prairie, near where Morse and son reside. Here they fastened a log behind their wagon to make a mark by which they could retrace their steps, if they desired to do so. Then striking out boldly into the tall prairie grass, leaving all previous marks of civilized man without knowing what they might encounter, not expecting to see the face of a white man till they should return, they started out on this unknown prairie sea in pursuit of a spot which, in after life, they might call by that name always dear-home. By the aid of imagination, we can see them stand on the summit of yonder hill, beneath a scorching July sun, and look across this fertile valley to the cool shade of the grove in the rear of our town; then, with vision leaving the grove, to the right they could look up the valley of the Great Bear till the prairie was lost in the horizon of the West, where azure blue and prairie green were blended. What scene on nature's great panorama could be more lovely, what spot more inviting, where a place more beautiful? Sheltered from fierce westerly winds and northern blasts by a magnificent grove of sturdy oaks and tall hickories clothed in summer's grand drapery, where the sun's first morning ray warmed, and the shade intercepted the noontide heat; the pure crystal waters of Little Bear Creek flowing along its margin, an outlet for bubbling springs from earth's internal streams, a soil of unsurpassed richness, a landscape beautiful to look upon; the monotony of its distant view broken by hill and dell, and running stream, and forest tree; the luxuriant grass bending, waving, surging before the prairie breeze like billows of the sea, whose crests were capped with indigenous flowers of rare fragrance and beauty, its virgin soil ready to laugh a harvest whenever tickled by the plowshare and scratching harrow of the husbandman. Here were the elements of future wealth, and on the margin of this primeval forest was erected the first home in Wyoming Township. When we review the past to that time, how forcibly do we realized the language of Whittier:

"' I hear the tread of pioneers,
Of nations yet to be.
The first low wash of waves,
Where soon shall roll a human sea.'"

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