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Grandview Cemetery, Fayette, Iowa

A historical view of the first burial and possible origins of 
Grandview Cemetery, Fayette, Iowa

The view above looks eastward across Westfield Valley from the Eagle Point road.  Klock's Island is out of view to the left.  The Volga River runs all the way along the base of the hill.  Grandview Cemetery is marked by the two pine trees visible in the upper  left one-third.  Butment's Bridge (Butman's, Abutment's, you can read a little of its name history on material in Chats with Old Timer's),  of the old Milwaukee & Davenport RR would have been off the right side of the picture. Eagle Point is yet  further to the right.  Wilcox's cabin site and the Mission Trail were about two miles to the right or south of the picture.  Robert Alexander in 1850, moved up the Volga from the Wilcox area and built a basic "mule" (type of straight, solid blade) saw mill off the left side of the picture.  The mill expanded rapidly, a bigger and bigger mill dam was built, a grist mill followed, land was bought and sold, a few craftsman and merchants moved  into the Westfield Valley to the far left of the picture beyond Holmes' Pasture ( the river bottom area on which the present park of Klock's Island is located, plus the smaller area to the north of the present Hwy91 to the Volga River).  

The Village of Westfield had started to form with the building of Alexander's Mill in 1850 and the coming of a few families and a couple of merchants by 1853.   The mill and mill dam were about in the exact middle of the above picture with the mill pond (dammed up area of the Volga) ran behind the old farm house and off the picture to the right.    As my biographical novel goes, it is now late November of 1853, and the Alexander's and two in-law's, the Robertson's have bought and sold enough land to become for the "times" and area quit wealthy and prominent.  The families would continue to sell, buy, rent land in the area from some decades to come.  They were basically land speculating and making a pioneer fortune from the sale of early land acquisitions, and out of such speculation would be born a Methodist college, starting in 1855,  to become Upper Iowa University by 1860.

The Alexander's are living at the mill area directly in the middle of the picture.  It is here in their living quarters that daughter Martha is sick with a serious infection.   There is no village of Fayette established yet, only a few settlers in log buildings over the hill in front of you and to the left.  There have been a few white deaths in the valley, but not many, for there are not many whites living here yet.  Up to this time the few burials that occur are randomly located on personal land or "favorite" places generally on hill sides and hill tops with several feet of top and subsoil, or farther down near the river bottoms where the sand and silt have created several feet of fill material over the limestone bedrock.   

Late in 1853, tragedy strikes the Alexander family.  Fourteen year old daughter Martha dies.  She probably has been sick for awhile.  The nearest doctor is more than forty miles away in Dubuque down the Mission trail which is nothing more than that, a widened trail area thorough the timber, across ravines, through wet and tall grass prairie, fording rivers and creeks where feasible.  The doctors of the times would have no modern medicines or skills against the diseases of the day; consumption (TB), Typhoid Fever, Cholera, Small Pox, Scarlet Fever, Measles, or infections like "sick bowels" (appendicitis) or open wounds.  You get sick or infected, you die. 

Typhoid fever is rather common right now, but in the coming decades many young people will be dying in the Valley of scarlet fever, consumption (TB), cholera, influenza, measles.  Typically during pioneer settlement, one out of seven infants will die and another one out of seven children will die before maturity.  The population is not sickly, just prone to infections, like any other natural population.   Life is a hard physical existence from dawn to dusk, and physical injury and wounds are eventually a certainty for many individuals, especially the working males, which many of the women will die of complications during child bearing.

It was told to my sister by our Grandfather Walter Reuben Hunt, of  a man who started the cemetery on the hill when his daughter died.  He wanted to bury her with a view of the valley.  One would think in view of the town of Fayette, but that is not the case.   Robert Alexander's daughter was buried on land claimed and purchased early in the 1850's by his son-in-law James E. Robertson.     Martha Alexander is buried with a grand view in Grandview, of her Volga River Valley, the Westfield Valley, with the mill pond and mill of her father's down the hill to the NW of her grave .  So is my tale of Grandview and its possible origins. (Barry Zbornik, 2000).

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Some Early Fayette Area History and the Hill Entrance into Grandview  []   Sec A Burials, Years  []  Sec A Burials, Surnames  []  Sec A  Burials, Lots  []  Iowa Z Sitemap  [] Send email  [] 

Transcribed from "Portrait and Biographical Album, Fayette Co. Iowa 1891"

ROBERT ALEXANDER, deceased. Of the worthy citizens whose lives have blessed Fayette County none deserves a higher encomium than Robert Alexander and his wife Elizabeth. He was a man of splendid business capacity, and of vast possessions accumulated by legitimate means which he used in a signal way to advance the cause of education and Christian culture. He was born near Knoxville, Tenn., May 2, 1794, and in his youth removed to within a few miles of Nashville, where he served an apprenticeship to the hatter’s trade. In 1814 he went with his brother Thomas to Brooksville, Franklin County. Ind., where he divided his time between his trade and the schoolroom. It was there he married Miss Elizabeth Crist, the wedding being celebrated April 25, 1816. The lady was born December 5, 1796, at Lawrenceburg, Ind. The same year of their marriage they removed to Connersille, Ind., where he pursued his trade four years very successfully after which he went to Falls Creek, near the present city of Indianapolis. The extreme fertility of the soil suggested a change of occupation and we find him, about that time, engaging in agricultural pursuits but the climate proved to him unhealthy and caused his removal in 1825 LaFayette, Ind. The journey was made with ox-teams and on the way he purchased apple trees at Crawfordsville, that he might soon have a growing orchard. On arriving at LaFayette, Ind. he had $150. In cash and his household effects which he unloaded at the foot of a tree. He soon felled the tree, split rails and made a pen which he covered with clapboards. His prudent wife hung up bed quilts about the pen, making it like a cozy playhouse. Soon a hawed log cabin was erected and the work of developing the farm begun. At the end of ten years he sold out for $10,000 and in 1836 moved to Parish Grove on the great thoroughfare to Chicago. There he kept a tavern and extensively engaged in farming. When the Black Hawk War came on he bore his part in the struggle, as he ever did when duty called him.

In June, 1849, Mr. Alexander arrived in this county and purchased a large tract of land to which he added from time to time until he owned nine thousand acres. When it was proposed to establish a seminary in Fayette, he was one of the very first to contribute to the enterprise. His maiden donation was $5,000, to which he soon added an equal amount. The building was partly completed when it was found necessary to borrow $12,00-. Mr. Alexander, being the only man able to secure so large amount, offered to mortgage on one thousand five hundred acres of land as security, which was accepted. Hard times come on, the debt piled "mountain high," $48,000 being its total. By law only the fifteen hundred acres could be taken, but rather than have the school encumbered and he seem in any way evading his obligations, he turned over four thousand acres of his land. His dealings were ever marked by honesty and integrity. He was accommodating and benevolent, and as the early settlers came into the county he entertained them and helped them get locations without compensation. Until some sixty years of age he made no profession of religion; at that time however, he united with the Methodist Episcopal Church and lived consistently in that faith, as his wife had done from the age of fourteen years. Politically, he was an old-line Whig until the rise of the Republican party, to the principles of which he every afterwards adhered. He died November 23, 1862, and his wife survived him fifteen years, dying April 1, 1877. She was a woman of rare mold, intensely religious, intelligent, prudent and withal possessed of great good sense. Of their ten children only six lived—Mrs. Sabra Robertson, Mrs. Elizabeth Robertson, Noah, Mrs. Hannah Chamberlain, Mrs. Emeline Hulbert and Mrs. Catherine Scobey.


In the death of the honored subject of this sketch, which occurred at Fayette, Iowa, on May 22, 1904, there passed away another member of that group of distinctively representative pioneers, who were the leaders in inaugurating and building up the agricultural and commercial interests of Fayette county, Iowa. His name is familiar, not only to the residents of the immediate section of the development of which he contributed so conspicuously, but to all who have been informed in regard to the history of this particular section of the Hawkeye state. He was identified with the growth of Fayette county for over a half century and contributed to its progress and prosperity to an extent equaled by few of his contemporaries. He early had the sagacity and prescience to discern the eminence which the future had in store for this great and growing section of the commonwealth, and, acting in accordance with the dictates of faith and judgment, he reaped, in the fullness of time, the generous benefits which are the just recompense of indomitable industry, spotless integrity and progressive enterprise.

The antecedents of the subject are traced back to English origin, the family having come to America late in the seventeenth or early in the eighteenth century. The subject's great-grandfather, Drury Robertson, was a native of Virginia but removed to North Carolina, where his death occurred. His son, William Robertson, who was born in Virginia on February 2, 1754, was a patriot soldier during the war of the Revolution and in that struggle he suffered the loss of an arm. After the war he took up the pursuit of agriculture, in which he was prospered. In religion he was a Methodist. On December 25, 1774, he married Rebecca House, and among their children was John H. Robertson, who was born January 10, 1784. He married Anna Burton in 1804 and in 1812 they moved to Bath county, Kentucky. In 1835 they located in Benton county, Indiana, where his death occurred on October 9, 1878, at the advanced age of ninety-four years. He and his wife were devoted members of the Methodist church. John H. and Anna (Burton) Robertson were the parents of James E. Robertson. the immediate subject of this sketch.

James E. Robertson was born April 19, 1821. at Sharpsburg, Bath county, Kentucky, one of a large family of children. He spent his boyhood days in the parental home and secured his elementary education in the schools of that day, which were primitive in both method and equipment. When he was fourteen years of age the family moved to Indiana where on attaining manhood's years he became a tiller of the soil. Two of the most important events of his life occurred in Indiana, namely, his marriage and his religious conversion, both having an inestimable effect on his future career. He was energetic and a good manager and he was prospered in his farming, but, believing that the West offered unlimited opportunities for the man who was willing to hustle, he, with his wife and family, and other relatives, in 1849, came to Fayette county, Iowa, arriving here on the 13th of September. Their first home here was established in a little two-room log cabin, on the west bank of Spring creek, about two miles south of where Fayette now stands. As some one has aptly said, "This was historic ground, as that house was the very earliest permanent home of civilization in Fayette county." There the winter of 1849-50 was spent, but in the following spring the family settled permanently on the homestead which they have occupied continuously since, a period embracing six decades. Mr. Robertson entered at once on the task and task it was of establishing the new home, getting the land in shape for cultivation and making his family comfortable, and as the years passed he was able to realize the fruition of his hopes. He was intelligent and progressive in his methods and gave diligent attention to every detail of his work, and the general appearance of his place gave evidence of the good taste, energetic habits and sound judgment of the owner. Here he continued to reside until his death, which occurred when he was aged eighty-three years, One month and three days.

In addition to his agricultural interests, Mr. Robertson engaged in the mercantile business in Fayette during, the early sixties and he was numbered among the leading merchants of that place. He owned considerable valuable real estate and two additions to the town of Fayette now bear his name.

In religion, Mr. Robertson was an ardent and devoted member of the Methodist Episcopal church and his life, though devoid of display or ostentation, was singularly pure and characterized by an earnestness and zeal which told of his faith better than words could have done. The family altar was ever maintained in his home and the true Christian spirit was always there in evidence. He had a prominent part in the founding of Methodism in Fayette county, his name appearing as a member of the first quarterly conference of the Otter Creek mission circuit. Mr. Robertson was a class-leader and his home was for some time the regular preaching place for that point of the circuit. During the long period of fifty-four years Mr. Robertson was retained as class-leader and the church was honored in his leadership. His position among the early Methodists was recognized, and it is a matter of record that the first Methodist sermon delivered in this county was in his home on January 9, 1850, and at this meeting, Mr. Robertson, his wife, mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law formed the first class which was organized in this valley.

When the Upper Iowa University was founded, Mr. Robertson took a deep interest in its welfare and gave several thousand dollars to the institution, besides doing much in other ways to advance its interests. He was a member of the board of trustees of the university from 1855, the time of its building, until about 1895, when, feeling the weight of years, he withdrew from the board and relinquished his labor to younger hands, though he never withdrew his interest in the institution. During a considerable part of this time Mr. Robertson served efficiently as treasurer of the board of trustees, and he also served as treasurer of the board of trustees of his church. He was a faithful attendant on the church services and gave generously of his means to its support.

On February 9, 1842, Mr. Robertson was married to Elizabeth Jane Alexander, a native of Indiana, and to them were born ten children, six of whom are now living, namely: Mrs. Evalyn Comstock, of Fayette county; Elizabeth Ann Caroline, the deceased wife of Rev. C. W. Burgess; Julia Ann, of Fayette, widow of Wilbur F. Boyce, deceased; Mrs. Florence Hulse, of Colorado; Ellert J., of Monona, Iowa; William Henry, who died at the age of fifty-eight years; Edward S., also deceased; Amos M., of Waterloo, this state; Mary J., deceased; Anna M., of Memphis, Tennessee.



My Story of the first burial in GRANDVIEW CEMETERY

Martha Alexander
14 yr. old daughter of 
Robert Alexander

1990 Fayette


....For sometime I had been pondering the origins of Grandview Cemetery in Fayette, Iowa.  Why the name?  Why the location?  Why is Section A, containing all of the first burial of the Westfield/Fayette Valley facing to the west and not toward the north, or the town of Fayette?  
....You cannot see Fayette from Section A of Grandview Cemetery.  And besides, when Martha Alexander was buried in December of 1853, Fayette did not even exist.  The village of Westfield was up and running for about four years, with Alexander's Mill, a couple of merchants and several craftsman, a dozen or so log cabins and maybe hand full of rough cut lumber frame houses and buildings, sitting on limestone slab foundations from the "pry" quarry along the "north ridge" overlooking the Volga.  The land was being cleared and stripped in small plots and fields.  In the Fayette Valley around what would be the central part of town today, there were a couple of cabins right along the Volga River near the present Water and Main Street area.   James Robertson, Robert Alexander's son-in-law, had made claim and purchased most of the land in the Valley and on the surrounding hills.  He would farm some of it, but would also sell off parcels and double/triple the initial investment within a couple of years.  Robert Alexander would initially control much of the land near his mill in the Westfield area, and do the same. Thus when Grandview started, the actual town of Fayette was nothing more than virgin timber, prairie grass, meadow, and one small field that was being stripped and cleared to plant a few acres of wheat. This would have been on the east side of today's Fayette.  
....Wheat would be the major initial planting in Fayette County, along with a few oats, barley, rye, and then some corn.  Hogs were easier to raise than major numbers of cattle, as they could be let run wild and then rounded up or literally hunted.  Hogs raised in this way became farrow or wild, and would often just be shot with black powder rifles of the time, butchered and salted or smoked for local meat.  As the amount of pork increased, it often became the first major cash crop that could be salted, placed in barrels made by the coopers and hauled by oxen and heavy wagons to bigger settlements or forts.  As cows increased, butter could be also salted and transported.  As grist mills increased along the Volga, course "flour" would be moved over to River ports at Dubuque or McGregor.  Thus the commerce of Fayette valley remained basically frontier like from 1850 to 1873/4 when the railroad tracks started to reach the area.  With the trains, from about 1875 to the day of the car and road transportation, the real economic boom years of the county occurred.

For much of the 1900's Section A has been considered to be the back of the cemetery, as the main entrance into Grandview has been from the east side or College Hill Road entrances.  Plus by the late 1860's, because of the development of Upper Iowa University,  Fayette dominated the economic growth in the Valley and Westfield as a village and business community was absorbed into the Fayette community.  Most burials by this time,  were coming form the furniture/undertaking store on the NW corner of Main and Water Streets, down main, up College Hill and into the "backside" of Grandview, thus the backside entrance becomes dominate and eventually as other sections are added in that direction to the cemetery, the east end becomes the front end of Grandview.  But in the 1850-60 time frame, the west end was the front. In fact the west side was considered the front of the cemetery to well into the 1900's.

After spending so much time posting the early burials in Grandview, the burials of  Section A, the mind wonders and ponders.  Interest in the pioneers and origins of the white settlement of the Fayette area  re-kindles as names are entered to the database.  Memories come back.  Memories of skating on the old mill pond, wondering about the old mill dam, fishing and swimming the Volga, climbing into the "pry quarries" above Westfield (Klock's Island), walking Robertson's Wood road (Lover's Lane), listening for trains before slipping through the "cut" on the way to "abutments" bridge fishing (we called it Buttman's Bridge, like everyone else, as no one was alive who knew  or was using the correct "name"), and visiting the cemetery with Grandmother Hunt.  

Solving the Grandview Mystery became more important, but seemed to be futile.  Then a number of tidbits of information coupled with personal experience came together of offer a plausible explanation.  Looking back it is interesting how I had such a mind set, thinking that Grandview was Fayette's cemetery.  It is now, but is was not originally.  It took quit awhile and a lot of thought, chance, and some past experiences to "luck" upon a solution, or at least a very plausible explanation. 

Facts:  Section A of Grandview Cemetery is not facing Fayette, it faces to the west.  The first entry into the cemetery was not off of College Hill from Fayette, it was off the trail heading to the southeast along the crest of the hill, not too far off the present route of Hwy 150 (in 2000)  The first burial in the cemetery is the daughter of one of the first settlers in the Westfield/Fayette valley.  The first burial is late in 1853.  

Co-incidents:  Posting historical surnames stirred my interests in the origins of Westfield again.  I re-visited the mill pond, mill run and mill dam site in Westfield to see if I could find the dam logs, mill foundation rocks and mill run after not seeing them for about forty years.  They are still there!!  Probably only known by a handful of people now.  On the same visit while discussing the perplexing problem of the origin of the cemetery with my sister, she related that Grandpa Hunt told, "The cemetery was where it is because of an early settler of Fayette wanting to bury his daughter on the hill where she (daughter)  had a view of the valley."  I responded, but  Alexander's daughter was the first burial in the cemetery, so it had to be him (Robert). That made sense, but he lived in Westfield and not the Fayette valley, so why would Robert Alexander bury his daughter, Martha,  overlooking Fayette, when his mill was located around the SE corner of today's Klock's Island.  Besides, you cannot see Fayette very well from Section A of the cemetery, even when the hills had been denuded of trees, like they were by the late 1850's, for saw timber and fuel, but probably not by late 1853.  The very next day, a winter day, while driving out the Eagle Point road past Klock's Island, I was stopping periodically to get out and take pictures back toward Westfield and Fayette.  I was looking off to the east, across the Volga River valley toward the Old Cut and there were the big pines in the cemetery, sitting up high on the hill overlooking the valley.  There was the first entrance to the cemetery, the front of Section A of Grandview, where the first burial was located, the burial of Martha Alexander, 14 year old daughter of Robert Alexander, who built the first mill dam and mill.  The mill site was right in front of me, as I looked up at the first entrance into Grandview, or as Martha "looks down" with a Grandview of the Westfield Valley, where the  Alexander family settled and lived, from their first entrance into the county in the late 1840's at the old Wilcox cabin to their 1850 mill site.

Robert Alexander came into Fayette Co. in the late 1840's, and was living with his family and the Robertson son-in-law's near the Wilcox cabin three miles southwest of present Main Street Fayette, as were several other pioneer settlers.  Today, going south from Fayette on present Hwy 150  (2000/z) you would take the first gravel road to the right or west, continue about three tenths mile, cross a bridge and just on the right see a granite bolder marking the Wilcox cabin site of 1840.  A number of settlers would "find" this  location just below the Neutral Grounds on the Mission Trail from Dubuque to Ft. Atkinson.  The area around the Wilcox cabin had good water sources form the rather large creek running out of the prairie and down to the Volga River only a half mile away.  The area was well protected with timber and a variety of habitat, being on the very edge of the hill timber and prairie country, but more importantly is was very near the first major limestone bluffs where the Volga forks came out of the wet and tall grass prairie to form a major flowage through the hills.  It was at the start of "mill" country.  The Westfield/Fayette Valley was not open for settlement, but like most of the frontier explorers, settlers, prober's,  they knew it was just a matter of time until the Indians would be removed by "treaty" and they could have their land for the taking.   Basically the cluster of white folks around Wilcox's cabin were  just waiting for land to scout out and claim, or buy up.  Everything north of the Wilcox cabin was off-limits, but they were still probing the area for sites to buy, use, claim.

People with mills were very important to survival and the development of an area.  Mill owners and/or managers often became  prosperous, as the economy grew around mills.  Many mill owners were also farmers and acquired a lot of early land cheap.  Early land was in rapid demand so the first ones into an area would double and triple their money within a only a few years.  If they held onto land from a couple of decades they may reap 20-50 times the original value..  In late 1848 and into 1849 the area north of the Wilcox site opens to whites.  Alexander and son-in-laws, the Robertson's jump right in and claim land. Alexander in the Westfield Valley, the Robertson's all around present Fayette. 

Alexander immediately starts constructing a basic saw mill (1850, at Holmes pasture or today's Klock's Island), just as the Volga (then also probably referred to as the South Fork of the Turkey River) swings around the SE corner of the bluff up river from Klock's Island.  This mill is the beginning foundation of the Village of Westfield. It is a "mule" style of saw mill, with a thick stiff saw blade basically standing alone and not in a "bow" to hold it rigid. The mill would be entirely built of timbers and wood, hand hewn from mainly large oak trees from the hillside.  Chopped down, drug into the mill area by oxen, and formed into the shapes needed by using various types of hand axes.  Even the gears would be wood, and designed to run the stiff "mule" saw blade in an up-down motion which would cut logs into rough surfaced boards about 1 1/2 inch thick.  Rough cut boards were generally needed for more rapid construction and growth in an area.  Log buildings were actually as "expensive" to build and much more difficult, plus used up the available resources very rapidly.    Alexander built his mill on a foundation of limestone slabs  pried out of the "pry" quarry on the hill side within 50-70 feet of his mill site.  Some of the foundation stones can still be found (BZ/2000) if you know what you are looking for on the bank of the Volga.  While Alexander was building his mill, Westfield as a small pioneer village was establishing,  there is a little "living" going on over the hill to the east at what would be Fayette.  Fayette was basically just small farm fields, with a couple of cabins around the Volga,  until the College Seminary building was started in 1855, then Fayette began to take off and out compete Westfield, until be the late 1860's Westfield was simply absorbed as part of Fayette, as the post office address was moved to Fayette.

Westfield was the "Place" until nearly the late 1850's.  The milling operation in Westfield grew, a bigger grist mill was put in near the original saw mill, a store or two came very soon, a cooper, and blacksmiths, etc.   Westfield was gaining settlers by 1852/53.  Robert Alexander had been "tramping" the entire Volga River area just into Indian Territory before he claimed land and build the mill.  The big valley from what we call Eagle Point to Klock's Island had probably become a very fond place for him. His "Territory."  Remember, these are tough, frontier times.  They are hunting, fishing, trapping, clearing a little land to plant very small limited food crops. These people are not only looking for their "fortune" in land, milling, a trade, but have all the frontier skills to be totally self-sufficient if necessary.  These ARE very, very skilled, physically tough people. They generally have one or two black powder, flint-lock guns, know how to trap animals with deadfalls made from vegetation, or snares from leather thongs. They have blacksmithing skills, coopers skills.  They can tan and work leather.  They can make nearly any required tool/product out of wood with only hand tools.   They know how to find edible plants, honey from bee trees, natural fruits.  They can make everything needed out of wood, leather, rocks, bones.  Throw in a few metal items transported in, they can move and make a new home/life in any area, long enough for "civilization" to catch up. The Indians in general were out of the area a few years before it was opened up.  Very few whites were around for these years form 1840-1850..  Alexander and a few others would have  had the Volga River valley from the prairie west of Eagle Point to Big Rocks, basically to themselves for 2-3 years just before it opened for land claims.   He must have "fallen" for the place, as he built his mill and fortune in land speculation, all within a few miles of Fayette and would remain the rest of his life in Fayette.

Thus by 1853, Robert Alexander had built a nice milling business, bought up land very cheap, sold to incoming settlers for probably 2-3 times the price.  He acquired enough funds to donate several thousand dollars (a fortune in 1855) to the construction of a college building one mile over the hill to the east (in Fayette)  and would with his son-in-law be the driving financial force of UIU.  In the beginning they were the college.  If they had not followed through there likely would have been no college in Fayette. The building project within a year or so, ran into a shortage of funds to continue.  Alexander and Robertson, donated more funds, or the Seminary Building would probably have been abandoned.  No, college, no Fayette.  The Westfield area probably would have been the settlement and only a small one. Much like Albany and Lima, now extinct. 

It is late 1853 and Robert Alexander's 14 year old daughter, Martha, dies of some contagious disease, perhaps Typhoid Fever, as it is around and several Westfield people would  die of Typhoid in the next couple of years, as recorded in the first burial book for Grandview.  Up to this time burials were on private land or out in the woods, prairie slopes overlooking some of the Westfield Valley, with no set burial grounds.   By 1853, there were probably only 4 -5 deaths in the Valley, as the population was so low.   In 1853/54 there would have been 10-15 structures  in Westfield and ten or less in Fayette, including cabins/stores/barns.  The buildings would have been a mix of  rough cut board buildings and log cabins, and all quite small.   The Westfield sawmill would have produced rough cut boards by 1851. 

Alexander's daughter Martha dies, probably in late November or early December of 1853.  It is a tragedy, he is fond of her.  He wants to bury his daughter overlooking the Valley.  He wants his daughter to have a grand view of the Valley he and his family had made their pioneer Iowa home. Alexander's experiences and his home territory was from Eagle Point to Wilcox's cabin area, and to his Mill site on the corner of what we know as Klock's Island (2000/z), then to the north around the corner and to the eas,  probably down river to the area of the Hwy 150 bridge (2000/z).  Alexander's world had no personal connection to the area less than a mile over the hill to the east except for the fact that his son-in-lay James Robertson owned land where the town of Fayette would grow up.  His world was the Westfield Valley. His daughter should be buried with a Grandview of the Westfield Valley, on land owned by brother-in-law,  James E. Robertson.

 Robert Alexander knew one of the highest views overlooking the Westfield Valley is on the eastern side of the valley, where high on the hill you could still see his mill site down below at the bend of Holmes'  Pasture to the northwest.  And likewise he could see the crest of the hill overlooking Westfield Valley.   Looking off to the southwest from the hill you can see the Wilcox cabin area, where the Alexander's originally made their home upon arrival in Fayette County.  Off far to the west/southwest, the River swings around to Eagle Point.  This is the Alexander family pioneer valley, where they hunted, fished, trapped, explored, farmed and gardened, built a mill, bought and sold land.  Not only did they make a living, but in a few short years earned and acquired a small fortune for the time and place. 

It is late in 1853, probably Thanksgiving time or a little later, as the family and friends of 14 year old Martha Alexander are still capable of digging a grave on the hill with a grand view.   A wooden casket, hand-made, out of rough cut oak from the Alexander saw mill, is prepared, perhaps by the cooper nearby, or by Robert himself, as he would have had major building skills.   Martha's body is placed in the casket and  loaded on a high wheeled freight wagon or cargo sled.  It is cold; this is northern Iowa.  There may be  snow on the ground.   A  team of oxen is led up the hill behind the mill pond and off to the southeast along the crest of the hill between Westfield valley and what would be the Fayette valley, through James Robertson's Woods, and along  the trail road leading south of the Village of Westfield that connected into the Old Mission Trail.  The oxen were followed by family (the Alexander's and Robertson's) and friends  through the snow to the grave prepared earlier, on the hill overlooking Westfield Valley.  It is a small procession, as there are very few people living in the valley in late 1853.

Section A faces the Westfield Valley, Alexander's Valley from Eagle Point to Holmes' Pasture (Klock's Island).  A grand view of Alexander's territory where his daughter would have also tramped around with him in the late 1840's as a 7-10 year old.  In late 1853, he took her up the Westfield Trail (old Lover's Lane) and buried her in Grandview, with a grand view of his/her Valley, Westfield, not Fayette.  

The Westfield Mill Pond was created by a dam across the Volga River, just even with the old collapsed building in bottom picture.  Like many mill dams, this one grew and grew until in later years it was 40-50 yards across, about 30 feet wide and 8-10 feet tall.   It was a large structure for the area and times.  Some of the old timbers are still present if you look closely.  Timbers would be laid and the spaces between filled with large rocks.  The mill would originally have been a wooden structure sitting on the north side or far side of the Volga, at the end of the dam.  In the pic below the mill would have been across the river from the two large trees just to the left of the collapse building.  This site is the first "industry in the Westfield/Fayette valley and one of the first enterprises on the Volga River in Fayette County.  It is 1850 and very few whites are here.  The one's present are attempting to claim land, build a cabin and farm.  Within the 1850-1855 time frame there will be a mill attempt about every 2-4 miles on the Volga.  As the Volga runs out onto the prairies, just to the west of Fayette/Westfield, the amount of "fall" of the river diminishes enough that milling operations tend to be very short term.  Most of the successful mills are in 'hill country" on the Volga and Turkey River systems.


You are looking at a buggy coming down Westfield Trail or Lover's Lane in 1910, from the southeast or in the direction from Grandview Cemetery.  You can just see the sides of the old wooden bridge over the Railroad Cut.  Landmarks at this time, 1910,  are Robertson's Woods on your left, and on the right and down over the hill/bluff are the upper reaches of the mill pond.  A little bit of this area still exists, but very little.  Today, there is a very narrow strip of shrubby small trees on the left and then the "new" Hwy 150 by-pass of Fayette.  The wooden bridge being replaced by a steel/concrete bridge.  The area to the right is open area with housing.  It is over this Westfield Trail along the crest of the hill, that Martha Alexander was transported by oxen for burial in late 1853, to what would become the main cemetery of the Westfield/Fayette Valley, Grandview.  In 1910 this road was still dirt; no gravel or hard surface.  Even during the mid 1900's the road was not a major gravel road, mainly just dirt and sand. In pioneer days it was a typical trail road; mud in rainy weather, dust in dry weather, snowy/icy ruts in winter.  

On the left are the shrubs and prairie grasses that have reclaimed what was Westfield Trail in 1853, the road being abandoned in the 1970's.  Martha Alexander's friends and family would have directed the oxen pulling her casket off the trail near the far tree in the above pic, or the tree on the left in the pic below.  Below you are looking onto the crest of the hill and into the front of the 1853 burial ground for Martha.  She would be buried about in the them middle of this pic.  If the brush and shrubs were not present in the above view, one would look out over Westfield Valley, not the valley that would become Fayette or the village of Westfield, but Robert Alexander's valley where he has made his home.  Martha was buried with a grand view of the Valley, where from the mill and valley floor the Alexander's could look up and see the grave site.  Martha was in Grandview.  In the next year, 1854, there would be two more burials, in 1855, eleven.  Section A of Grandview was plotted by this time, but it was not until about 1864 that a cemetery association was formed.  


Martha Alexander, age 14, born 1839, died in late 1853, was buried by the Robert Alexander family in what would be Lot 57, of Grandview Cemetery, Fayette, Iowa

Section A, Lot 57, is owned by Robert Alexander and is near the very front of Grandview Cemetery, overlooking Westfield Valley.  Martha Alexander is buried here.  


Site page links: 
[] Fayette History Index []  pre1800-1830  []   1830-1849  []  1850-1859 [] 1860-69 [] 1870-1879 [] 1880-1889  [] 1890-1900  []    [] Grandview Story [] 
Some Early Fayette Area History and the Hill Entrance into Grandview  []   Sec A Burials, Years  []  Sec A Burials, Surnames  []  Sec A  Burials, Lots  []  Iowa Z Sitemap  [] Send email  []




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Barry Zbornik
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