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


"Pierce Township was organized April 3, 1854, at the house of William Stuart, now the residence of John Lamey. I judge from the town records that the organization of a township was a very simple affair. The electors of what is now Wyoming Township assembled at the house of Mr. Stuart, according to previous notice. From what authority the notice emanated, I know not, but it was called for the purpose of organizing a township and holding one of the semi-annual elections. The meeting was called to order, and the venerable Nathan Potter, who died in the summer of the present year (1879), at eighty-six years of age, was called to the chair. He was a man of sterling integrity and genuine worth. He moved into this township from Jackson County in 1853; was formerly from Ohio. He leaves within our borders one son, James Potter, and one daughter, the wife of E. M. Franks. The electors then proceeded to the election of Judges of Election, which resulted in the choice of Thomas Green, William Stuart and George Vaughn. Thomas Green, a native of New York, moved from Indiana to Jones County, and settled in the Big Woods in 1840. He attended the first land sale held in the Territory, at Dubuque. In 1852, Mr. Green moved in this township and bought William Knight's claim for the sum of $1,340. This claim consisted of a log house and the frame of a new house, standing on the flat, north of J. B. Wherry's barn, with eighty acres of land fenced and twenty-five acres broke, and all the land that joined him. Mr. Green moved the frame of that house on to the hillside, completed it and lived in it nearly twenty years. In it he probably entertained as many persons with prodigal hospitality as any man in the township. That house is still doing service as the residence of H. H. Peck, in Madison Township. Mr. Green entered the land on which is located the town of Wyoming in 1852. He soon became the most extensive farmer in Wyoming, and brought into the township the first reaper. It was one of McCormick's best, a huge thing, painted blue. Its reel rolled around and looked like an ancient, ponderous overshot wheel. It was vastly superior to the Armstrong reaper, that had been in use so long before. It took four horses to draw that machine, but in its track was left the smooth stubble and the well-arranged gavel. Mr. Green is the only survivor of those three Judges of that first election. He recently went West. George Vaughn, the father of Philander Vaughn, died the same year, on the farm now owned by Elizabeth Aldrich. He came to this town in 1853 from Ohio. William Stuart went to California several years ago, where he died. He came to this town from Ohio in 1853. The Clerks of that election were Hezekiah Moore and L. W. Stewart. The former was at one time engaged in the mercantile business in this town and now lives in Canton. The latter is the proprietor of the Keystone Mills, and has been honored by the people in Jackson County with a seat in both branches of the State Legislature. After the election and qualification of these officers, the election was held for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, County Fund Commissioner and township officers. Nathan Potter was the first Assessor, and Seaborn Moore and W. H. Holmes, Justices of the Peace; R. Durgin, A. J. Perrin and Samuel Conally were the first Trustees; Hezekiah Moore was the Township Clerk; Sedley C. Bill and Thomas Silsbie, Constables. The number of votes polled was sixty-three. Of that number, two have gone West, twenty are in the vicinity and twenty-seven have joined that throng going to the pale realms of shade. The record of the subsequent elections tells its own story of the rapid settlement of the township. In 1855, there were 109; in 1856, there were 166; in 1859, there were 184, indicating an aggregate gain in three years of 600 people in a single township. Elections were then held twice a year. They doubtless considered them a good thing, a sort of holiday, and it seems a little strange that while they were enjoying this inherent right of an American citizen to such an extent that they did not extend that right to the females. This is the only evidence I have seen of selfishness on the part of early settlers.
"I have not been able to discover any reason why the township was called Pierce, but suppose it was from the fact that Franklin Pierce, of New Hampshire, was at that time President of the United States, and a majority of the voters were Democrats and they desired to magnify his great name, and, hence, called the township Pierce. The position the President assumed in reference to the Missouri Compromise line and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, alienated many of his former friends and exasperated his former opponents, and may have been, in part, the real reason why the name was changed in order to blot his name from the future records of the township. In the winter of 1856-57, a petition was circulated and numerously signed, to have the name of the township changed. The petition was sent to Judge Holmes, he being the Representative from this county, who introduced a bill in the Legislature to have the same changed from Pierce to Wyoming.
Compared with Wyoming, Maquoketa and Anamosa are quite ancient towns, and a distance of forty miles intervenes. There was an actual necessity for the location of a town between the places to accommodate the mechanical, manufacturing and commercial wants of a large section of country that would soon resound with the activities of various industries. Land-sharks and speculators had often looked upon the possessions of Thomas Green with covetous eyes, as a natural place to build a town, being equidistant from the towns mentioned, while north and south there was hardly a town between Dubuque and Davenport. Before the town of Wyoming was located, building had commenced in anticipation of such an event. The main road, and, in fact, the only road in this vicinity as traveled, was from east to west, and was a continuation of the road from the top of the hill at Mr. Elwood's, east across the north end of our cemetery and north of J. B. Wherry's orchard, and connected with the road running south of R. B. Hanna's farm. In 1854, on this road near the corner of J. B. Wherry's orchard, William P. L. Russell (now in Chicago), built a small building in which he lived and kept a store. I don's suppose his stock of goods was equal to that of the late A. T. Stewart, of New York, or that of Field, Leiter & Co., of Chicago, but he did sell sixteen pounds of sugar for $1, and not very good sugar either. About one year previous to this, William H. Vaughn had built a blacksmith-shop a little north of Russell's store, on the southeast corner of Barton Loomis' farm. You will readily see that the two first buildings erected in Wyoming were not in Wyoming at all; you will also see that the first buildings were for business. This embryo town was called Marshfield, after one C. J. Marsh, who was represented to have influence with a railroad company, then in its formative stage. A post office was established, also called Marshfield, and Mr. Russell duly installed Postmaster. Thus, with Mr. Green's house for a hotel, Mr. Russell's for a store and post office, and Vaughn's blacksmith-shop, the town was a fixed fact and almost a Western city. Strange as it may seem, with all these evidences of a town, men would pass through this hatching city just emerging from its prairie shell, and not see it or hear its business peep. John Tasker, living on his farm three miles north of here, accidentally heard of a town, not far away, having sprung up almost by magic. One day he thought he would go down to Marshfield and see the town, transact a little business and become acquainted with the business men of the place, and, if possible, learn how soon his farm would be engulfed in the growing city. So ornamenting his shoulders with a plow-lay to be sharpened, and his pockets full of letters to be mailed, he started off across the prairie on foot.
"Wrapped in thought and lost in meditative mood, he passed along through the town without seeing hotel, post office, shop or store till he arrived at the residence of A. W. Pratt. Here he called, and in Scotch accents inquired the road to Marshfield. Mrs. Pratt, with a broad smile, told him he had just passed through the town. She little thought, as that smile wore away, that she had been laughing in the face of one of Wyoming's future statesmen.
The public highway being north of Mr. Green's house and building beginning there, with the subsequent laying-out of the town where it is, explains why Mr. Green's barn always seemed to be in the front yard of his old house. It was supposed then that the town would be built on the ground occupied in the year 1877 for the Fourth of July celebration. In 1854, the Iowa Central Air-Line Railroad Company was organized with S. S. Jones, of Illinois, as President. Starting from Sabula, on the Mississippi River, a line was looked up running to Maquoketa, thence to Anamosa, Marion and west to the Missouri River. Application was made to Congress for assistance, by way of a land grant, which was obtained in the spring of 1856, and Lyons made the point from which to leave the Mississippi River. Everything now seemed to be on the high-road to prosperity in the whole country that was to be tributary to the business of this contemplated road. Land advanced in price, and he who had a few forties was soon to be a millionaire, while he who had an eligible town site possessed a golden Mecca, where those who worshiped at Mammon's shrine would congregate and fill his pockets with gold in exchange for land in parsimonious parcels. A corps of engineers had been over the line proposed and permanently located it, and the valley of the Big Bear Creek was considered the route.
"J. A. Bronson, from Wyoming County, N. Y., visited this section in June, 1854, and bought of Thomas Green the present town site at $14 per acre, and, with his brother, B. K. Bronson, and C. J. Marsh, laid out the town of Wyoming in the winter of 1855, intending to call it Marshfield. People abroad not knowing why it was called Marshfield, thought it must be a wet, marshy country, and the name on that account was a little obnoxious. Emigrants were pouring into the State by thousands, all intent upon locating in the best town or on the best lands. Bronson would go away from home and meet people looking for places to settle. He would, in glowing terms, represent to them the advantages of this town and the beautiful country around. It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm he would manifest in describing the beauty and fertility of his chosen spot. It was painful to see his disappointment and chagrin when they would timidly ask 'If the name of his town indicated the general condition of the country?' The disappointed look soon changed to one of indignation as he almost fiercely replied, 'No, sir.' 'The poet,' said he, 'may sing "What's in a name," if he choose, but, unless we change the name of our town, its prospects will be ruined.' Wyoming, Waverly and Westfield were suggested. Some said, 'Call the town Bronson,' and James A. quickly replied, 'I am too modest for that.' Bronson favored Wyoming. He had lived in its fertile valley, and his childhood's home was associated with its euphonious memories in the far East. It was familiar both in history and song. In history it is connected with one of the bloodiest massacres in the annals of American barbarity, while in song it is commemorated in sweetest melodies. These were the reasons why the name of the town was changed and Wyoming substituted for Marshfield. It was never recorded as Marshfield, but by common consent was to be called and known by that name. I was speaking of the Old Air-Line Railroad, but digressed a little to speak of Wyoming and its name. In the summer of 1856, work was commenced along the whole line, from a few miles west of here to the Mississippi River. To do this work there came quite an army of sturdy laborers with pick and shovel, with scraper and cart. They were ready to make the 'crooked straight and the rough places smooth,' upon which to lay the iron track for the hoofless steed, as with panting breath he should obey the commands of commerce and respond to dictates of the hurried traveler. On Pleasant Ridge there grew a mushroom town. There was a hotel, a shop and store and many shanties, too. Irishmen with wit and brogue were as thick as fiddlers are said to be in Tophet's roar. The winter was terrible, the cold exceedingly severe. Horses died from exposure and were taken to the 'dump,' the engineer computing their value by the yard. Toes, fingers and noses were frozen and strong men cried as they were hurried to the cut and dump.

"' Money became scarce, our hopes to zero dropped;
The price of land and corner lots fell;
And envy said: "That's Wyoming's knell."'

"We saw the laborers 'lay down the shovel and the hoe;' we witnessed the departure of long lines of carts and shanties piled thereon, while something seemed to say:

"' The Old Air Line is dead,
And Bronson's hopes have fled.'

"The town on Pleasant Ridge was gone, and of all that busy throng who labored there, there are left but the Lameys-Michael, Thomas and John. Of those who labored in the valley, and made yonder grass-covered roadbed, there is left but one-John Gorman, one of Hale's wealthy and enterprising farmers. S. S. Jones, of Illinois, was the President of that railroad company, and his course in connection therewith was the subject of much animadversion along the line of the contemplated road. He afterward became a spiritualist, and was shot some months ago in Chicago, by the husband of his alleged paramour. Whether his apparent duplicity was intentional, accidental, or unavoidable, I am not prepared to say. But if he was guilty of one-half of the misdemeanors alleged, he is probably sojourning where an interview would be very uncomfortable.
"I said the town of Wyoming was laid out in the winter of 1855. In February of that year, A. G. Brown brought the first load of lumber into the town. It was for J. M. Smith & Chapin, who had made arrangements to build a cabinet-shop, and for this purpose built a part of what is now the Valley House. It was raised the 15th day of April, and Ogden's old store building, on the corner opposite, was raised on the 17th day of May. When completed, it was occupied by J. A. Bronson as a store. Neal Brainard & Son built the back part of what is now the Bissell House the same year. These were the first three buildings in the town. Then Russell moved his store over. Many will recollect the building when I state that it was the one occupied by the Rev. Peter Woodard as a cooper-shop in after years, and stood between D. E. Brainard's house and Irving Green's old drug-store. During this summer, Mr. Russell built a house that looked some like a grain car, a little west of George Milner's. A man by the name of Corliss built a house on the lot now owned by C. A. Wildy. Compared with its base, its altitude was fearful. H. C. Gleason built part of the house of Mr. Shibley. The Hood mansion was built in the fall of the same year. It was built for a hotel, and was kept by John Wright. It stood on Main street, opposite John A. White's residence. A blacksmith-shop was built on the vacant lot of Mrs. Perkins. Early in the history of Wyoming, there was manifested a commendable interest in the education of the young. On the first Monday in May, 1855, the electors of School District No. 4, Pierce Township, met for the purpose of choosing officers for the ensuing year. The district then embraced a large extent of territory. The records show that A. G. Brown was elected Secretary, and A. W. Pratt, Treasurer. From this latter circumstance, I judge that a part of Madison Township was included in the school district. At that first meeting, the electors resolved to build a schoolhouse. At an adjourned meeting, it was resolved that said schoolhouse should be located between the west line of Pierce Township and Bear Creek, and near the line dividing J. A. Bronson's and Thomas Green's land, and should not cost to exceed $500. The 28th of August following, the contract for building was awarded to W. J. Brainard, he being the lowest bidder, for the sum of $580. At a subsequent meeting of the electors of the district, this action was ratified, and the schoolhouse was to be completed by the 1st of November. It was located on the corner east of W. T. Fordham's residence, and was a very plain, barn-like structure. It served a twofold purpose, viz., as an institution of learning and a house of worship. The first winter, W. H. Alden taught the young idea how to shoot. The number of scholars was fifty-nine, and they came from the Wapsi's stormy banks, the mineral prairies of the north, and from Madison City on the west, then Wyoming's formidable rival. Here they were taught the mysteries of science by the Massachusetts teacher. He has since turned his attention to agricultural pursuits, and his broad acres of well-tilled fields, commodious house and capacious barns tell us of his success in other departments than as an educator. Meetings were held in that house sometimes day and night. That winter there was a powerful revival. Stevenson was the Methodist preacher in charge, and he called to his aid Gospel men of local notoriety in other parts of the township. The interest became so great that the school was suspended for a time, so there might be held meetings during the day. The schoolhouse was the only house of worship for five or six years, and on Sunday it was kept warm from early morn till late at night, to give different persuasions time to preach the Gospel, ventilate their creeds, and dwell upon their peculiar dogmas. There were represented two branches of the Presbyterians, the Methodist, and United Brethren, with an occasional discourse from some other denomination. They seemed to mix up very harmoniously, and why should they not? They had in view one object, actuated by one hope, stimulated by one faith, they looked forward to one everlasting home. In matters of belief and church, they seemed to act upon the maxim. 'You compliment my dogma and I will compliment yours,' and all was harmonious. I recollect one sermon in particular that I heard in that old schoolhouse; the subject was 'Hades.' I give the preacher's own pronunciation, but I have heard scholars say that 'Ha-des' is correct. With classic lore he told of the Greek derivation of the word, and in graphic phrase pictured death, the grave and the invisible beyond. It made a wonderful impression upon me, which was dispelled the next day when I accidentally discovered him borrowing a load of wood from a neighboring grove without liberty. Yet I think he ought not to be censured, for the winter was cold and the brethren had neglected to furnish the necessary material to keep him and his helpless children warm. I mention this incident not as being a reproach upon the preacher, but to teach the brethren a useful moral lesson, viz., that ministers, though warmed within by grace divine, need something more material with which to warm their shins and cook their dinner. In the spring of 1864, a small addition was made to the schoolhouse, and, in the spring of 1867, it was burned to the ground and all the people said amen. During that summer, the present school building was erected at a cost of nearly $9,000, including the lots on which it stands. It is more useful than ornamental. During the summer of 1856, there was built Mrs. McClure's house, Irving Green's drug store, Haines' old store building, Newcomb Williams' house, Chester Johnson's blacksmith-shop. Where Phil Alberry lives, Thomas Taylor built Swigart's house; Roach, Miss Julia McClure's house; Cook, the lower part of Mr. Close's house, Haines' house, Lowell's blacksmith-shop, now Grindrod's, John White's house, the house that stood in front of Spitzer's new residence, and the house where Ned Luke recently lived; the two latter were built by the Rev. 'Fillibuster' Walker. Rev. Horace Holmes built on the lot where Mr. Peck resides, the old house having been moved, and is now owned by Mr. Wilkins. My old house was built, now owned by Frank Richards. The same summer William P. L. Russell and J. A. Bronson commenced building the Bronson Block, now owned by Spitzer & Bronson, and nearly completed the walls before winter. The uncertain condition of the railroad prospects and the hard times were a serious blow to Wyoming. Bronson's Block stood like an old haunted castle. People thought there must be a railroad or there would be no town, and it was several years before prosperity seemed to perch upon our banner. The financial crisis of 1857 found the people struggling under an incubus of debt incurred in time of prosperity. The stringency of the money market, the low prices of all kinds of agricultural products, put an embargo upon most contemplated improvements.



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