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Marion County >> 1872 Index
Pioneers of Marion County
by Wm. M. Donnel. Des Moines: Republican Steam Printing House, 1872.
Lake Prairie Township
Lake Prairie Township Histories - Page 139
Lake Prairie Township - Its Geography and Early History - Names of first Settlers - Wellington Nossaman - Stump Mill - Pottery - Col. Alley - Shooting Affray - The Mathewses - First Birth - Wm. Welch - Keokuk, Iowa - An Adventure.
Lake Prairie township consists of township 77, range 18, and all of townships 75 and 76, range 18, north of the Des Moines river. It is bounded on the north by Jasper county, on the east by Mahaska county, on the south by Clay township, with the Des Moines river as its boundary line, and on the west by Polk and Summit.
The principal streams that run through it are Skunk river and Thunder creek. Skunk river runs through the northeast corner of the township, entering at section six, and after persuing a meandering course, leaves it at about thirteen. This stream is very crooked, and the numerous ponds and bayous that have been caused by the changes of its channel, making reservoirs of stagnant water, has rendered the neighborhood somewhat noted for ague. Thunder creek rises in Summit, runs through the north half of Lake Prairie, and empties into Skunk on the east line of the county. There are several smaller streams not named on the map, from which we obtain much of our information about the geography of the township.
This township is well timbered along the larger streams, and the land there is more or less hilly, but beautifully undulating on the upland prairies.
No extensive coal mines have been opened.
Lake Prairie was originally what was called Lake Precinct, but in January, '46, the north half of it (township 77, range 18)
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was declared a township and called Jefferson, and the place of holding election was at the house of Richard Everwine. At the same time the south half was called Lake, with the place of election at Wilson Stanley's on Lake Prairie. (For an account of such changes as took place in its southern boundary, see history of Clay.) But by a special act of the State Legislature, during the winter of '47-8, both of these townships were constituted one township and called Lake Prairie. This name was taken from the long lake extending two miles below Amsterdam, between which and the river lies an extensive and beautiful prairie.* This lake, judging from its size and appearance, was at some remote period, the channel of the river, and extended so as to intersect with it at each end; but since, by the accumulation of ice or other drift at the upper end, the water was forced to cut a new channel, a large part of the old one has been gradually filling up by the washings of freshets and the earth that has been brought down from the uplands by rains, through successive ages, and forest tree are now growing over the abandoned channel.
Most prominent among those who first settled in this township, are Wellington and Levi Nossaman, William and John Welsh, Wilson Stanley, George Gillaspy, Green T. Clark. Thomas Tuttle, John B. and Robert Hamilton, James L. Warren, Asa and Jasper Koons, John Gillaspy, John and William George, William Cayton, Ose Mathews, (who afterwards settled in Red Rock,) William Bainbridge and Jacob C. Brown. We have been able to obtain biographical sketches of a few of
* On this prairie were once a couple of beautiful springs that were resorted to by the Indians of the village near by, and attracted the attention of the settlers by their peculiar appearance and character. They were from ten to fifteen feet wide, and one of them of unknown depth, filled with a very light sediment, through which no solid bottom could be reached by sounding with the longest poles. The water would rise and fall, and from the subterranean depths would occasionally come a sound resembling thunder. The Indians called it Thunder Spring.
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these which will now be given, together with their experiences in pioneer life.
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The first justice elected in Lake Prairie was William Bainbridge, and Wellington Nossaman was the first constable. The first election came off on Lake Prairie, at the house of Mr. Bainbridge, about half a mile above the crossing now known as Durham's ford or ferry, near the locality of an Indian village called Keokuk's town, consisting of forty or fifty huts.
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During the first year of settlement, parties of Indians were frequently seen passing and repassing along their long frequented route up and down the Des Moines valley, visiting the trading houses and returning to their villages. These villages were little better than mere camps, consisting of huts and tents built without any regularity for streets or alleys, each family putting up their portable dwelling on whatever locality best suited their taste or convenience. Hunting and fishing were the principal occupations of the inhabitants of these villages; and should game become scarce in the neighborhood of a village, the people could easily gather up their houses and load
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them, with all their baggage on ponies, and dogs and women, and move to some more plentiful locality, leaving no traces of the deserted town, except a few stakes and poles that had made the scanty frame work of their huts.
Only one village was known to be located in the county, which was the one already mentioned in this chapter, called Keokuk's town. It was on Lake Prairie, near Durham's ford. Whether it was at any time the residence of the renowned chief is not known, for the place was abandoned soon after the whites began to settle in the neighborhood. But it is quite probable that he had some thing to do with its location, and possibly made it his head-quarters. The remains of this village were noticeable some time after it was taken away.*
Notwithstanding the generally friendly disposition manifested by the Indians toward the earlier settlers, it is apparent that they harbored a feeling of jealousy toward those who had come into the territory previous to the time stipulated in the treaty. Yet, restrained perhaps by fear of punishment, they made no demonstrations calculated to lead to an open rupture. The only instance of the kind, showing a resentment that their savage natures prompted them to gratify, had they dared do so, occurred as follows:
On or about the 7th of April, 1843, Green T. Clark, Robert Hamilton and Henry McPherson, with two or three others, all of whom had come into the neighborhood of Lake Prairie in search of a location, were encamped on the river near where the Curtis farm now is. They had been prospecting through the country, and on this occasion the company was divided,
*During the residence of the Indians at this village, the chief Appanoose was there at one time; and the wife of Dr. Ober, a settler, and a lady of much refinement, desiring to have a conversation with the "big Ingin," opened it by asking him what disease Wappalo died of. Appanoose could speak some plain English, but not being acquainted with the technical terms of polite society, he promptly answered her in a language that meant "diarrhea," but that brought a blush to the fair cheek of the lady, and indisposed her to continue the conversation.
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and the three above named persons went up the river whilst the others went in an opposite direction. Having wended their way some distance through the heavily timbered and comparatively trackless wilderness of the Des Moines bottom, in the direction of Red Rock, the approach of night warned them that it would be prudent to return to camp as speedily as possible.
But after they had begun to retrace their steps a party of Indians confronted them in the same narrow trail. Fearing some possible mischief from the savages, they changed front and commenced a retreat, though not by flight, keeping up Indian file order, thinking to avoid contact with them. But as they were descending a slight declivity, at the bottom of which was a pond of water, around which the path led, one of the Indians, who was about a hundred and fifty yards behind and a little above them, fired at them, and the bullet passed in such close proximity to their heads as to not only be very distinctly heard, but felt by the disturbance of the air, and struck in the water in front of them. Turning to see from whence the firing had come, they saw one of the savages running from the rank as though in pursuit of something, and then suddenly stop and search with apparent carefulness among the grass for the game he made believe he had killed. Evidently the villain had fired upon them for the purpose of killing or frightening them; and then, to avoid suspicion and escape the punishment he knew he deserved for the act, he performed the game farce with the cleverness of a professional actor. But our adventurers had neither the time nor disposition just then, to bring the culprit to account for his conduct. To avoid any further attentions from such cowardly assassins, required some haste and vigilence, and they soon succeeded, returning safely to camp that night.
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Lake Prairie continued - George Gillaspy - James L. Warren - Indian Worship - Short of Provisions - Tribute to the memory of Dr. Warren.
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Green T. Clark and Robert Hamilton still live in the township. The latter is at present a citizen of Pella, whilst his brother, John B., lives in Kansas, whence he emigrated in 1862.
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Lake Prairie Continued - Thomas Tuttle - The Buffingtons - A sad Accident - Jacob B. Brown - First Religious Societies - First Orchard.
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James Duese also settled near Pella, in 1845. He afterwards moved to Summit, but is now living in Minnesota.
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The Methodists and Baptists were the first religious denominations that organized societies in Lake Prairie township. The first Methodist class was formed at John B. Hamilton's, and the first Baptist church was organized at Aaron Foulk's by Rev. Moses J. Post, and the place of holding service was at Nossaman's school house, four miles south of Pella. The first persons that received the ordinance of baptism, by immersion, in this township, and in the county, were Sarah Nossaman and Emily Barker, administered by the Rev. M. J. Post. The first Baptist preacher that was licensed to preach the gospel in this township, and also the first in the county, was Rev. G. C. Curtis.
The first apple orchards planted in this township were by Green T. Clark and John B. Hamilton, in the spring of '47, in sections 36 and 25, town. 76. The trees, (about fifty in all), were brought from Illinois. Most of them are still alive, and bearers, and some of the more thrifty ones measure a foot in diameter.
Lake Prairie Township Histories - Page 156.
Lake Prairie continued - The Holland Colony - Organization in Holland - Voyage - Sojourn at St. Louis - Selecting the Location - Early Life in Pella - First Township Officers - Church Organization - First Hotel, Post Office, School, etc. - Amsterdam - Leersdam - Death of Henry P. Scholte.
A large majority of the inhabitants of Lake Prairie are Hollanders, and we now proceed to give what little we have been able to obtain relating to their history as a colony. We had hoped to make this narrative something better than a mere sketch, but, owing to the difficulty of enlisting the aid of those who had it in their power to furnish us with details, we have been compelled to content ourself with what we have, and request the reader to do the same.*
It has been claimed by some that the religious intolerance exercised by the Established Church of the Netherlands, toward the Reformed Church, was the principal cause that led to the emigration of so large a body of people at one time, but though this may have been one among the reasons originally assigned, it was not the principal reason. The crowded state of the population in the old country, demanded a wider field in which the middle and lower classes might better their worldly circumstances, and this may be relied upon as the main reason.
Prominent among those who took an active and leading part in the organization of this enterprise, was Henry P. Scholte.
*It is to the kindness of Mr. A. G. Betten, who furnished me with some verbal statements, and to some manuscript from the pen of the late Henry P. Scholte, loaned me by his son, that I am indebted for the leading facts contained in this chapter.
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As a leader of the colony, his life was so identified with it, that we may very conveniently blend a sketch of it in connection with this narrative.
Mr. Scholte was born in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1805, and early in life conceived the idea of entering the naval academy and becoming an officer in the navy. But, his mother being much opposed to this plan, he abandoned it. But, being of an active temperament, and averse to idleness, he learned the carpenter's trade, and made some advancement in drawing. When about 17 years of age his father died, which circumstance called his attention to the subject of religion, and his interest in this subject eventually ripened into a desire to preach the gospel. With a view to prepare himself for this occupation, he began the study of the languages, and made so much progress in this department that he was prepared to enter the seminary at Amsterdam in 1821. In 1824 he passed through the literary examination at the University of Leyden, and began the study of theology at that institution. During a power religious revival in Holland, in 1826, in which two converted Israelites took an active part, he became acquainted with numerous leading Christians of various denominations from England, France, Germany and the Netherlands, who were on a visit to Holland, and became so powerfully convinced of the narrowness of sectarianism that he abandoned it, regarding even church organizations of secondary importance. He was, therefore, quoting his own words, "prevented from clothing his faith in the straight-jacket of ecclesiastical formalism."
In 1830 a rebellion broke out in Belgium; Mr. S. enlisted as a soldier to help put it down. In 1832 he returned to Leyden, passed through the theological examination at the University, and was licensed to preach. In the same year he was examined in the synod of Holland, and in the beginning of 1833 was installed as minister of the Gospel in the National Reform Church establishment.
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Here, however, he began to experience trouble resulting from his refusal to submit to the established forms and doctrines that he found had produced a spiritual degeneracy in the church. His decided opposition to a sectarianism that amounted almost to bigotry, brought down upon him the enmity of the national clergy; and this, in 1835, resulted in a separation. Mr. S. and a few other ministers, followed by a large number of lay members, withdrew from the National Church, and became a separate and independent organization.
But they were not permitted to remain so undisturbed. Instigated by the Synod of Holland, the government commenced and for some time carried on a series of persecutions against the rebels, consisting of fines and imprisonments, basing the legality of these acts upon a law of Napoleon forbidding the assembling together of more than twenty persons for religious services.
But these persecutions, instead of putting down the rebellion, only increased the number of its adherents, till finally the government became weary of so unprofitable an undertaking, and soon after the accession of William II. to the throne persecution ceased entirely.
In his ministerial labors Mr. Scholte became acquainted with the middle and poorer classes of the country, and had ample opportunities to observe the disparity in the social conditions of the various classes, the result of pecuniary circumstances - how difficult it was for the poor, and even those of small means, to support themselves and their families, to say nothing of attaining to that social position that merit should entitle them. In the kindness of heart he began to think about contriving some plan by which relief could be rendered. But he could think of none that could be successfully carried out within the narrow and crowded limits of the Netherlands; so it occurred to him that immigration to some new country would be the only practicable means of attaining the end
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desired. In this view he associated himself with another minister of some eminence and ability, and together they made diligent efforts to inform themselves in relation to the natural, social and political conditions of various countries that might become an asylum for the poor and oppressed.
But previous to directing public attention to the subject, they wrote a letter to their Minister of Colonies, asking for vessels and a free passage to the island of Java; and for permission to make free settlement there; but as the government did not seem disposed to permit such a settlement to be made in her East Indian possessions, they turned their attention to America. Among other portions of this continent at first favorable thought of, was Texas. But after obtaining all the information that could be gathered, relating to its geography and climate, it was decided to be too warm. Missouri was also had in view, but the existence of slavery there forbade its choice as a location. Finally Iowa, then the youngest sister in the family of states, was chosen as the land of refuge.
Nothing more now remained but to enlist the interests of a sufficient number of others to form a colony self-sustaining in its corporation. The first meeting for this purpose was held in Leersdam, July, 1846; the second at Utrecht in December of the same year. At the latter meeting an organization was effected, Henry P. Scholte being elected President, A. J. Betten, Vice President, and Isaac Overcamp, Secretary. A board or committee was also appointed, whose duties were to receive members on certain conditions; regulate the supplies of provisions; and arrange for means of transportation. This board consisted of G. H. Overcamp, G. F. Cecaque, John Reedfelt, and A. Wigny. One among the conditions on which an individual could become a member of the association, was that he must a sober, industrious, moral person. It was not strictly required that he should be religious, but that he should not be an atheist or an infidel, and should entertain a proper
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respect for the religious opinions of the majority. Roman Catholics were also entirely excluded from becoming members of the association. Another important condition was that all members who could command the means should take charge of one or more worthy persons or families who desired to go, but were too poor to pay their own way.
By the spring following (1847) the members of the association number about 1300, and between 700 and 800 were prepared to go. Four sail vessels were chartered to carry them to Baltimore, and in the early part of April three of them sailed from Rotterdam, and one from Amsterdam. It took about fifty days, more or less, to make the passage, arriving at Baltimore in the early part of June, where they were soon joined by Mr. Scholte, who, with his family, had came by steamer. During the voyage nine deaths and three births occurred.
Their conveyances from then as far as Pittsburgh, were canal boats and rail cars, and from Pittsburgh to St. Louis they came by steamers, where they arrived in July. Here they were received by E. F. Grafe, a German, who had been for some time a resident of St. Louis, and had been apprised of their coming out here. It was necessary that they should sojourn for a few weeks to make certain preparations for the remaining portion of the journey, and for final settlement. A temporary shelter was prepared for their accommodation a little without the city limits, where they remained till the latter part of August.
Now, like the children of Israel, on their approach to the promised land, they found it advisable to send forward spies to spy out the land. To this duty were appointed Henry P. Scholte, Isaac Overcamp and John Reedfeldt. They were not in any sense of the term spies, their object being to seek out a suitable location for the colony somewhere within the limits of Iowa, the State they had chosen as the land of their adop-
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tion, and that with not only the full consent, but with the best wishes of the natives.
On reaching Fairfield the committee met with Rev. M. J. Post, whose duties as a minister of the Gospel, and also as a mail carrier, had taken him through the frontier as far as Fort Des Moines, and made him acquainted with many of the settlers along the Des Moines River. Mr. Post recommended the beautiful prairie lying between the Des Moines and Skunk rivers in Marion county as a suitable location for a colony, and piloted the commissioners to the place. They were very much pleased with it, and immediately set about making such preliminary arrangements as they could make, necessary to a permanent settlement. Mr. Scholte, as treasurer and agent of the colonists, purchased the claims of such of the settlers as resided within the limits of the two townships designed to be appropriated to the use of the colony, together with such live stock and farming utensils as were deemed indispensable to farming.
On their return to St. Louis a company of mechanics were sent forward with tools and means for procuring materials to put up temporary shelters for the accommodation of the main body of the immigrants, on their arrival. One large shed was erected near what is now the western limit of the city of Pella, in which a large number of families took shelter till they could improvise such other accommodations as they could for their better comfort, individually. Many of the families took up their abode in the cabins recently occupied by those who had sold their claims and moved away; while others built themselves houses of the tough sod of the prairie, roofed with the long grass that grew abundantly in the sloughs. In order to afford as much room as possible within these necessarily small structures, a cellar-like excavation was first made in the earth, around which was built a sod wall of two or three feet in height, over which was spread the grass roof on a light frame of sticks.
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In some instances the walls were even less than two feet high and the roof reached nearly to the ground.
These curious looking huts were scattered promiscuously over and around where Pella now stands, the owners having temporarily settled down at such places as suited their own convenience, giving the town an irregularity and crudeness singular to behold in a civilized and Christian land. Mr. Scholte occupied the cabin built by Thomas Tuttle as a claim pen, that stood for several years in what is now Garden Square, (see Chapter V), till his more substantial and comparatively princely residence was completed.
In such houses as we have described, some of the Hollanders passed two winters. Though sufficiently close and deep to keep out the cold, it may be supposed that they were not entirely proof against the damp of a wet season. The grass roofs would leak, the walls would crumble, and the water would rise up through the floors and make it necessary to bail out or move. I am told that one family, on getting up in the morning, found their room half full of water.
And another annoyance connected with these earthy habitations was the prevalence of snakes. Attracted by the heat, or by the smell of food, they would creep into the walls and roofs, and sometimes fall inside. Not unfrequently one of these sneaking, hateful representatives of Satan, regardless of consequences, would drop himself down the sod chimney into the fireplace, and (as happened in a few instances) into the soup that was being cooked to make the most, if not the only article of food for the meal. Snakes are not numerous in Holland, and were, of course, not much admired, even as an article of food, by the newly imported natives of that country; and it is, therefore, not surprising if such an addition to the ingredients of the soup aroused a feeling of disgust not calculated to sharpen the appetite.
We may here relate an anecdote connected with sod house
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life in the colony, which, though not a snake story, will be found of equally startling interest. One night some cattle happened to be grazing in the neighborhood of one of these houses, and it also happened that, as the grazing was not abundant, one of the oxen went prospecting about for something better. Seeing the house he evidently mistook it for a small haystack, and "went for it." Finding the coarse, dry grass not so very good, he got upon it with his fore feet in search of better feed, when the weak structure gave way beneath his weight, and let him plunge headlong into the regions below. The family were asleep till the crash came and awakened them to a bewildered consciousness of some awful calamity befalling them, and their exclamations of fright added terror to the already terrified beast, and he made his exit by the door with all practicable speed, probably resolving, ox fashion, for ever more to keep clear of such haystacks. Fortunately no one was hurt, and no serious damage was done, except to the house.
Soon after the settlement of the colony it was found necessary to organize some kind of government for judicial purposes, in accordance with the State and general government. But few of the Hollanders could speak or understand English, and it was therefore indispensable that at least a majority of the township officers should be chosen from among them. So to enable them to do so, the General Assembly was appealed to, who passed a special act organizing the township of Lake Prairie, and enabling the colonists to elect their own officers, so soon as they should take the oath of allegiance, indicating their intention of becoming citizens of the United States. Immediately following this, L. W. Babbitt, clerk of the District Court, administered the required oath, and on the day specified for an election, the following officers were chosen: Robert Hamilton, A. J. Betton, and P. Weller, Trustees; G. T. Clark and H. P. Scholte, Justices; James Muntingh,
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Clerk; and Levi Nossaman, one of the Constables, the other not being remembered. The assessing was done by W. Nossaman, then acting as deputy Sheriff.
Pella was originally surveyed by Stanford Doud in 1848 from the 8th to the 15th of May inclusive, on the north half of section 10, and on the south half of the south half of section 3, township 76, range 19. It was re-surveyed in 1849, by ---Clemons, when the plat was greatly enlarged to accommodate an addition of several hundred that arrived that summer and autumn. The name of Pella was suggested by Mr. Scholte, from the signification of the term in the Hebrew, a city of refuge, and was the name of a small town in Palestine.
The Church, though retaining the confession of faith of the Reformed Church of Holland, was organized as the Christian Church of Pella, and admitted persons of all other orthodox denominations to communion with them. It is still, however, known as the Reformed Church, and has a numerous membership.
The first house of entertainment in Pella was kept by Mrs. Post, widow of M. J. Post, who had died April 2d, 1848. The first postoffice was the one that was originally established on Lake Prairie, and moved to Pella in 1848, and Henry P. Scholte installed as P. M. The first persons who sold goods in Pella were Walters & Smink, in a small building about a mile west of where the center of the town now is. As long as this was the only mercantile house there was no competition in trade, and the proprietors were often complained of - perhaps justly - for selling goods at too high figures. When spoken to on the subject, Mr. Walters would reply, "Go to my neighbor." Soon after this E. F. Grafe opened an establishment near where Keahle's drug store now is; and then Mr. Walters was not so ready to recommend his "neighbor" to aggrieved customers.
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Amsterdam, situated on the Des Moines river, on and near the upper end of Lake Prairie, was laid out by Stanford Doud, by order of H. P. Scholte, from May 15th to the 30th, on section 20, township 76, range 18. The place improved but little, and has no postoffice. Brick and lime are manufactured in its vicinity.
Leersdam was laid out by Kline,Vandemyer & Co., in 1860, on section 23. It exists only in name. H. W. Dyer, surveyor.
After having witnessed the growth and prosperity of the colony, the successful termination of an enterprise that had been dear to the leader from the time it was conceived, the great object of his life seemed to have been fulfilled. After a short illness that seemed to be the culmination of a chronic indisposition, Mr. Scholte departed this life on the 25th of August, 1868.
Population by the U. S. Census of 1870:
Native - 3066
Foreign - 1892
Total - 4958
Our Family Homes--Then and Now
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