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Fayette and 
Westfield  Iowa 
time-line of history


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Of Westfield and Fayette, Iowa, 1830-1849

BEFORE THE EUROPEAN INVASION, THE IOWAY NATION AND OTHER NATIVE AMERICANS LIVED IN THE COUNTY FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS.  The area which now includes Fayette County had been the settled land of  a number native cultures for several thousand years before their displacement by  the invasion of the European culture in the mid-1800's.   European culture has survived only 150 years in the area, with significant long term impact on the environmental quality.  
  In Fayette County, as with all the early European settlements, most of the major native villages were located along streams for water, navigation and wildlife resources.  The river plains and valleys flooded and therefore offered a more fertile, easier to cultivate, deeper soil for growing crops.  The habitat variety supported a more diversified and abundant source of useable plants and animals for the hunter, gather, basic agricultural societies.  
The land, water, air easily sustained the native populations because of a relatively insignificant impact on the overall environment.  The population remained relatively low (2-6 per square mile, as opposed to the 20-45 for early Europeans) due to limiting environmental factors and the level of technology.  Hunting was still with native chert (a form of high calcium flint) points and knives, with snares and deadfalls and fishing with nets and by hand.  Agriculture still consisted of working small plots, hand tilled with wooden hoes or small palm shaped chert hoes held in the hand or attached to various handles.  The native cultures were highly organized and had developed sophisticated rituals and methods of surviving, utilizing the land's resources on a renewable, long term basis. That was not planned, just the way the culture had developed within environmental guidelines.  
With the arrival of the European culture in the late 1840's there was a rapid transition to a more sophisticated level of agriculture and organized manufacturing.  The ability to work iron, the ability to dam streams and use oxen and draft horses for power, the ability to manufacture, the ability to plow massive amounts of  land and cut the trees in mass, the ability to mass migrate and mass transport, the ability to domesticate plants and animals at a prolific rate. 
  EUROPEAN TECHNOLOGY AND LIFESTYLE OVERTOOK THE COUNTY IN ABOUT TEN YEARS.  There would be a rapid impact on the land and water.  In the span of years from about 1848-1860, the natives would be displaced, the land would be surveyed, granted or purchased.  Many European style villages would spring up on the river bottoms,  near trail waypoints or on a knoll of prairie land. Farming would initially be in the hills and valleys as the true tall or wet grass prairie to the west would be very difficult to work until better steel tipped plows were developed around 1860.   Whole families would rapidly move into the area, migrating from anywhere east or from Europe,   with the promise of new land, new wealth, a new life. 
The start of a new settlement in Fayette county  was much like anywhere else, often around a saw mill or grist mill on a stream that could be damned up to supply enough height and flow of water to turn a water wheel which was connected by a serious of shafts and gears to a saw blade the would reciprocate back and forth.   Building of houses and structures could thus be more rapid and move away from log construction or hand cut boards.  The grist mills used water power to operated shafts and gears set up to turn two or more large flat stones on one another.  Grain would slowly be fed between the stones to produce flour.  
Draft horses, oxen  and steel tipped plows increased land use and grain production, and live stock production.  Mills and grain production increased the ability to sustain people, merchants and cottage manufacturing.   Merchants and craftsman opened stores around the mills, and in other cases around such attractive areas as Fort Atkinson, road waystations, or an agricultural outpost.  There were mills to saw logs, grind flour, squeeze sorghum.  
Mills meant loggers and grain farmers requiring goods  that merchants would supply by  bringing  their  products on dirt roads which usually followed native trails,  military roads or paths cut through the timber.  Or goods would be manufactured locally by blacksmiths, leather and harness workers, woodworkers and carpenters, seamstresses.  Breweries, creameries, and other local enterprises rapidly developed.  Doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professional would rapidly follow the migration, as word of mouth and advertisements would tell of opportunities in Fayette County.  A college would be started by 1855.  
The Fayette valley, like all other settlements would in a span of 15 years transform the entire county into a complete European style society.   Fayette would grow from a few pioneers in 1850 to several hundred by 1865 and to a little over 1100 by 1900.  And the entire country side would be populated by  families living  and working small farms of from 40, 80, 120, to 160 acres.   There are no steam engines or trains in the area yet.  They would come in the mid-1870's.  All movement of supplies and power for farming was from draft horses and oxen which transported goods to and from the  river ports of  Dubuque and McGregor. 
The addition of the railroad in 1874 brought about another era to the village as goods and services would be much more readily available to the surrounding parts of the state and country.  However, still most of the land by this time had been parceled and was being utilized for agriculture.  Farming in various forms was the way of the land, and along with the University remained the main attractions to the valley and area.    The European form of small, diverse agricultural operations existed from the 1850's into the late 1950's.  Fayette had become and remained a busy, active, economically stable agricultural community during this time.   
Farming techniques would remain basically the same until the early 1960's when small farming operations would start to be  absorbed throughout the state by larger farms and corporations.  Wetlands would be tiled, timber and brush removed, fences removed and the land often plowed road to road for row crop production, or completely pastured by livestock. Huge confinements would become the way animals would be raised for human consumption and huge grain farms would be the farming technique of the future.  Small self- contained farms with a diversity of live stock,  plant crops and habitat disappeared rapidly along with the businesses and people supported by small family farms.  With a trend that actually started shortly after  WWII but rapidly accelerated in the '60's people moved from the land with the partial or total decline of most small towns in the Midwest.  In the Fayette area, Albany and Lima ceased to exist; Clemont, Elgin,  Wadena, Randaila, Hawkeye Maynard, Arlington declined to today's near non-existence with Fayette in the group and not far behind.  Even Oelwein is a shell of what is was.  Sumner, Clamar, and Strawberry Point hold on.  Only West Union the County Seat has prospered.  And so is the way of all of Iowa, the pioneer, stable, connected society dependent on small farms, craftsman, and business is no more and never will be.  Like the Native American cultures that survived on Fayette lands for hundreds of years, Fayette is History :(( 


In 1830 the United States "bought" a strip of land 20 miles wide from the Sioux and another 20 miles wide from the Sac and Fox. This was called 'Neutral Ground.' Both tribes could hunt and fish in the area provided they did not interfere with each other on United States territory. The southern boundary of this Neutral Ground passed through Fayette County, going southeast across Illyria, Westfield, Center, Harlan and Fremont Townships.

1830 the Wisconsin Territory was formed, and in 1837, under the jurisdiction of that territory, Dubuque County was divided and the boundaries of Fayette County were defined. In 1836 some of the first surveying would be done in Fayette County, south of the Neutral Ground.

In 1832 the U.S. government established the  neutral strip of land about forty miles wide in northeaster Iowa with the southern border of the "neutral ground" running through present Fayette.  The Sioux were to be to the north of this strip and the Sac and Fox to the south.  And the Winnebagoes would be shortly displaced from Wisconsin to occupy the neutral ground and a fort would be built at Fort Atkinson as an outpost into the area under the guise of Indian protection.


The Winnebagoes were displaced starting in 1833 from Wisconsin to occupy the neutral grounds.

The Winnebago reserve on Neutral Ground and the first attempt at lodgment in fayette county

       In a treaty with the Winnebago Indians made in 1832, the area which would include the neutral ground was ceded to that nation in exchange for Winnebago lands on the eastern side of the Mississippi.  The Winnebago of Wisconsin would basically be displaced to the neutral ground and acted as a buffer between the other Indians groups.  By 1935 the Winnebagoes had been gotten across the Mississippi River in large enough  numbers that there was established on the Yellow River in Allamakee County, a combined farm, school and mission, which would then be removed when Fort Atkinson was built in 1840-41,  also to include a combined farm, school and mission reaching into the present Auburn township of Fayette County, above the present St. Lucas.  There the 2,900 Winnebagoes remained for eight years until they were removed again by "treaty" in 1848 to Minnesota.

    Fayette County was actuarially opened for white settlers in four separate tracts.  In 1833, the Black Hawk Purchase opened the southeastern 2/5ths.  West of that, in 1837, a small additional purchase from the Indians, and in 1842 the rest of the southwestern portion was opened along with the much larger purchase embracing at least half of  Iowa below the neutral grounds.  In 1848, the remainder of the county, more than half, to the north and northwest which was in the neutral grounds was opened up with the displacement of the Winnebagoes to Minnesota.   Officially the treaty was signed in 1846 and there had been white settlers exploring the entire county. 

The Iowa area, June 1834, came under the Michigan organization   from the Black Hawk Purchase (Call it a purchase or  a treaty, it still meant the whites from the east were simply taking the Native American lands by continued conquest) and made part of the Michigan Territory.  

September 1835, the Legislature of the Michigan territory formed two counties west of the Mississippi River, Dubuque and Des Moines.

There is some mention that Franklin Wilcox built a cabin 3 mi southeast of the Valley which would become Westfield/Fayette.  There is no actual record.  He may have been hunting and fishing in Indian Territory, spying out land to be claimed as the Indians were run off.  This was often the case with early white settlers on the move looking for new land.

In 1836, Iowa came under the Wisconsin organization as the Michigan Territory was split.

From all testimony available it appeared reasonably certain that the first work done by whites in Fayette County, aside from surveys, was an attempt to build a mill near the mouth of Otter Creek (to become Elgin), which was on the Winnebago Reserve.  Apparently Edson and Grant, from the valley of the Turkey River, below where Elkader now stands, went up to the mouth of Otter Creek in 1836 or 1837, built a shanty, commenced to build a dam, got out the timber for a mill frame and hauled it to the spot, and made excavations.  It was stated that when the work had progressed thus far, they discovered it was on the reserve and left, when the Indians burnt their shanty, set fire to the timber and destroyed the dam.  Other accounts state that when the Indians discovered that white men were trespassing on their domain, they made complaint to their agent at the old Winnebago Mission in the northern part of Clayton County and the agent notified Edson and Grant to leave forthwith.  Since Edson was a surveyor and Grant a farmer, it was reasonable to conclude that they attempted to locate the mill with full knowledge they were trespassing and hoped to conciliate the Winnebago owners but failed to accomplish that purpose and were compelled to abandon their enterprise and improvements.  Samuel Conner stated that when he came to the county in 1848, a large portion of the timber remained unburned and was used by the first settlers as fuel for their lime kilns, and that most of the evidence of the mill race had been obliterated.  This was unquestionably the first attempt of the whites to make lodgment in Fayette County.


In 1837 Dubuque County was divided into several counties, Fayette being everything to the west and north of Clayton County, in theory running to the border of Canada to the west coast, thus being the largest county ever formed in America for a brief period.

The Brush Creek and Taylorville area of SE Fayette County, Iowa was surveyed shortly after 1836 after the land taken from the native American’s by the U.S. government in the Blackhawk War and Blackhawk "Treaty." White settlers began immediately "probing" Native lands to claim as their own.  Westfield Township's southern border was surveyed in 1837during the first survey in the county. 


The  map  of the Black Hawk "Exploitation" will show the lines of neutral ground and the Black Hawk territory taken. At this time there were only four townships in Fayette County surveyed and open to settlement, Putnam, Fairfield, Smithfield and Scott, which included the area of Brush Creek (Arlington) and Taylorsville.


Trappers and traders knew the area on the east side of the Turkey River Valley in the present day Elgin area as "Sac Bottom" (now Sec. 10 and 31). This area was an immense Indian burial ground with graves so shallow that the bones of those interred could be seen protruding from the ground.

Elgin Then and Now  1848-1988
The History of Iowa, by Dorothy Schweider, ISU




The trail from Dubuque to Fort Atkinson and the Fort in the Neutral Grounds  would be constructed starting in 1840.  This trail, now called the "Old Mission Trail," would cut diagonally across Fayette County from the SE corner to the NW corner, passing through Brush Creek/Arlington across the Corn Hill area, and just south of Fayette near the Wilcox Cabin, and then swing out to the west of Westfield/Fayette by a couple of miles before going just to the east of Randalia and on north.  Remember, none of these settlements were present then.  Only Native Americans lived in the area, while a few white trappers, settlers and others were probing and exploring for possible "taking over" of resources and land.

Fayette County was actuarially opened for white settlers in four separate tracts.  In 1833, the Black Hawk Purchase opened the southeastern 2/5ths.  West of that, in 1837, a small additional purchase from the Indians, and in 1842 the rest of the southwestern portion was opened along with the much larger purchase embracing at least half of  Iowa below the neutral grounds.  In 1848, the remainder of the county, more than half, to the north and northwest which was in the neutral grounds was opened up with the displacement of the Winnebagoes to Minnesota.   Officially the treaty was signed in 1846 and there had been white settlers exploring the entire county. 

In 1840, the Government established a military post north of Fayette County, in Winnesheik, called Fort Atkinson, and three or four miles south established a Mission school for the Winnnebagoes. This naturally attracted the attention of the pioneers of that day, and in the Spring or early Summer of 1840, Franklin Wilcox, with his wife and little daughter, and his brother Nathaniel, came from Illinois to Fayette County and made a settlement. Franklin Wilcox built a cabin thirty or forty rods north of the north line of Township 92-8, on unsurveyed land, six or eight rods west of a little creek that runs northerly through the southeast quarter of Section 32. This was about 1 ˝ miles south and a little west of what would become the village of Westfield/Fayette in the Volga River Valley.

Between 1838 and 1840 (most articles state the spring of 1840)  Franklin Wilcox, wife, daughter, and brother Nathaniel came from Illinois and built a double log cabin 2 miles SW of present Fayette (when traveling south out of Fayette on hwy150 for three miles, the first gravel road which turns to the right or west, travel 1/2 mile to the location on the west side of the creek, just across the first bridge, marked by a stone marker on the north side of the road).   The Volga River was about a mile to the northwest. 

You are looking north into the exact location of the original Wilcox cabin, with in 2000 is marked by a granite bolder with a metal plaque.  The area is has not been groomed as a historical marker for decades.  

  The Wilcox place was reported to be a double cabin perhaps much like this one reconstructed at Lincoln's New Salem Village in Illinois, of about the same time period.  Two one room cabins are connected by a shared covered entry.   You can enter the New Salem Album Index page off  IowaZ Sitemap.  If you are visual and interested in life in 1840's Iowa, surf the pics, they really give a feeling of stepping back to 1850 Fayette, Albany, Lima, Talyorsville, Bursh Creek. 

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Wilcox may have actually spent some time in the area as early as 1835 hunting and trapping, and perhaps "spying out the land" before moving his family and building a cabin.  This area was just south of the Neutral Ground and therefore available for "legal" settlement. 

Wilcox's cabin sheltered other settlers as they moved into the area and erected their own cabins. Shortly a second cabin was erected just to the west. The third cabin in the county was just north of Arlington near Brush Creek. Other cabins apparently went up west of Wilcox's place.

By 1841 Nathaniel Wilcox had settled about 4 miles east of his brother.  Two unmarried young men had built a cabin on the same creek a little to the south of Franklin Wilcox.


The early settlers coming into Fayette County in the 1840's would attempt to find an attractive location to build a small, basic log cabin in a timbered area very close to a stream. Hand tools and manpower were used to build log cabins. Hand sawed boards would sometimes be used for flooring or to eventually build small structures. Roofs were often covered with oak shakes split with axes, malls and wedges. Visit for a little more information


Early pioneers generally used oxen to pull crude plows, wagons, and to haul logs out of timber. Oxen are neutered male cattle or steers bred to be big and powerful.  A Wooden yoke was used to connect a team of oxen, and they would pull from their shoulders, with a person walking to the side and controlling the team's movement  Oxen were stronger, could live on grasses and not require grains, used a wooden yoke instead of elaborate harnesses,  could work longer and harder, were easy to tend and raise, were by the standards of the day cheap, all traits that horses did not have.  Oxens were the most owned and used animal power source of early pioneer farmers.  The advantage of horses was with their athletic agility and speed, thus horses were preferred by established farmers who could afford them.

Horses also pulled from their shoulders but utilized a large leather collar and an elaborate leather harness from which they could be driven from a wagon or sled. Thus sprang the need for harness makers to settle into villages. And of course many other items and utensils had to be made of leather.

 The trail to Fort Atkinson from the settlements in Dubuque, Delaware, and Clayton counties was cut through the timber for freight wagons to pass.  It has to be assumed there was an attempt to stay on a relatively well drained grade away from sloughs and steep hills.  Probably in many cases using well established animal route.  Even many of the major Indian trails followed animal movement routes, as whether elk, buffalo or man dry, level routes were naturally followed.  The exact location of the trail is not known, but roughly stated it entered the southeastern corner of the county about two miles east and one mile south of present Arlington.  The trail ran northwesterly to a point a mile and a half south of Fayette, wound around perhaps on the south side of the Volga River, just to the east of Randalia, passing through Donnan, running just east of Hawkeye, and crossing the Little Turkey about four miles north of Hawkeye, running northeasterly to leave Fayette county near the Old Mission Mill.  Much of this trail would be used when the Clayton county commissioners sometime around late 1841, made an effort to establish the first road in the county by paying men to make a road as close as possible to where they supposed the south boundary of the Neutral Ground to be for the first settlers to come into the county.

It has been said Fort Atkinson was built to reduce the Indian strife in the area (in actuality the fort was built to get control of the area for the "invasion" of white settlers). A Mission Indian school was established a few miles south on the trail leading to the fort. Old Mission Road is the trail that led to the fort. The area started to attract the attention of early pioneers
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Fayette County was the land of the Sac and Fox Indians. After the Black Hawk War the Indian nations ceded a strip of land about 50 miles wide west of the Mississippi River in June of 1834. This land included the valley that would become the town of Fayette in Westfield Township.

Supplies to the Fort, mission and are were hauled from McGregor, Prairie du Chien and Dubuque by ox teams and wagons.

Nathaniel Wilcox had built cabin, in Sec 1, T92, R8, Smithfield Twp,  four miles to the east of his brother Franklin Wilcox.  This cabin would have been 3mi E and 2mi S of present Main Street Fayette; 2000z.    Two single men Beatty and Orrear had put up a cabin on the creek to the south of Franklin's.   About a half mile to the east of Wadena in the north bank of the Volga River valley, a banker, Culiver, who had moved to Clayton County from Michigan in 1838, built a trading post, 1841, which was also one of the first buildings in the county and probably the first commercial establishment.


By the treaty of 1842 (Remember treaties with the Indians were really war agreements.  "We will remove you somewhere or destroy you where you live and take your land anyway, z/2000) Sac and Fox Indians ceded all of their land west of the Mississippi to the United States, and the tribes were removed to Kansas in 1845 and 1846.

McGregor consisted of a river landing and one log building.

The cabin of Franklin  Wilcox, 2mi SW of Fayette, would become the first voting place set up within the present Fayette county limits, and was part of the Elk Creek precinct of Clayton County.

Andrew Hensley bought the Nathaniel Wilcox claim in section one of Smithfield township.   Unlike many of the early pioneer families who would constantly move to newer frontiers, the Hensley's stayed in the county.  On November 27, 1844 after the arrival of his wife from Wisconsin in 1843, the couple gave birth to Daniel P. Hensley, the first white child to be born in Fayette County.  Like many of the very early settlers, the Hensley's post office address from 1844 to 1849 was Dubuque, seventy miles away.  And for several years Dubuque was his trading point, where he bartered honey for merchandise.  The honey was obtained by robbing the wild bee trees, and one account is of it being obtained by the barrelful. 

About two miles to the west of Franklin Wilcox's cabin, and about three miles southwest of present Fayette, a couple of men, one with his family, came to the area and set up a trading post near a large spring.  This area would be on or near the trail to Fort Atkinson.  They apparently began selling whiskey to the Indians.  In March of 1843, after a misunderstanding with a Winnebago over a gun and whiskey trade the two white men and two Indians began drinking together.  Mrs. Tegarden saw trouble coming and left for the Orrear cabin south of the Wilcox's and about two miles away.  She left the children behind as her husband refused to allow them to to along.  The story goes that when Tegarden and Atwood had sunk into a drunken sleep the Indians killed them and the tree year old boy.  Also hacked with tomahawks were the thirteen year old boy and the eleven year old girl.  The Indians left the cabin temporarily to get  the horse and sled in order to carry away what they wanted.  The girl aroused here brother, and sustaining him by her own strength and courage started to flee for safety.  The children, wounded, and weak from loss of blood, poorly clothed, made their way over the prairie in a bitterly cold night through snow over a foot deep, to the Orrear cabin, which they reached at 5am and obtained aid.  Meanwhile the Indians returned to rob the cabin and then burn it down with the corpses.  The girl lost her toes from frostbite and carried throughout here life a tomahawk mark on her face, so the story goes.

In 1842, buffalo were killed near where Taylorsville now stands, and elks were plentiful at that time, and later, as many as forty having been seen sometimes in one drove. Mr. Paddelford, from near Volga City, says that while sitting on his horse he has counted as many as sixty deer at one time. There were also bears, panthers, lynxes and wolves in abundance; the wolves were of three kinds, black, gray and prairie wolves.

The winter  of 1842/1843 was very severe. Joseph Hewitt, near Taylorsville,  is reported to have saved many "Redskins" from starvation by caring for them when they could not hunt because of the extreme cold and snow.


TEAGARDEN MASSACRE (March 25, 1843)Location of the Teagarden Cabin. The house is on SE 1/4 of SW 1/4 of Sec. 31 of Westfield township, about one and one half miles west from Hwy 150, on the first gravel road south of the Old/New Hwy 150 intersection in 2000.  It was near a spring in the first slough emptying into the creek to the southwest of the present Wilcox Cabin maker.  On 1942  O.W. Stevension writes in "Chats with Old Timer,"  Digging not more than eighteen inches they found evidence of the old cabin site, and Marion Peterman took an old rifle barrel and several other articles uncovered, to put in the log cabin at the county Fair ground. Marion remembers that the spot was between six and eight rods northwest of the spring which would put it almost straight south of the house where Sammie Shepard now lives. I print this to preserve a record of the exploration.


Orrear in the fall of 1843 or winter of 1844 purchased Beatty's interest in the their mutual farm.  Beatty then moved north and into the Valley of what would be Westfield/Fayette and built a log cabin on the Volga.  This would have been on the river near new Hwy 150 bridge, 2000/z, or in Sec 19, T93, R8.  In 1844, Isaac Webster had a claim a short distance east of Beatty on the Volga River bottom, which would have been the flats on the east side of present Fayette.

Isaac Webster raised a crop of oats, probably the first in the county and stacked them where the UIU campus now is, before thrashing the stacks that winter by tramping them out with oxen.

The first marriage of Fayette county residents was on a license issued by Clatyon county on Feb 25, 1844, to William Orrear and Mary A Wilcox, who were living in the cabins build just south of present Fayette.  The marriage probably took place in the present Winneshiek county,  at the farm of the bride's faterh between the Old Mission and  Ft. Atkinson.  Mr. Lowry was the officiating clergyman.  Orrear is reported as having a good farm and dairy.  In 1844/45 he built a new house and kept 25-30 cows, making butter and cheese for the market at the Mission about 35 miles to the NE.  Orrear probably  ran the first dairy in Fayette County.

November 27, 1844,  Daniel P. Hensley, the first white child is born in Fayette county.

Mr. Messenger settled about 40 rods east of the Teagarden Spring, on the NW 1/4, Sec 6, Twp92, R8 .  This would be in the NW corner of Smithfield Twp., just to the south of the Mission Road, 3mi S and 2mi W of present Main Street Fayette.

Madison Brown built a rude cabin with a roof of basewood bark north of Bear Grove, but within the year sold out to Andrew Hensely and removed to the bank of the Volga, 2mi E/SE of Fayette and "commenced" to the farm.  (there is no Volga in this direction, so the description is probably in the Big Rock/Langerman's Ford area 2mi east, bz).  The men/cabins mentioned above are north of Mission Road which included all of the Eagles' Point, Westfield, Fayette, Big Rock Valley, was still in the Neutral Ground and not legally open to whites until the late 1840's.  However, scouting, squating, trading, trapping, and other activities were going on from the early 1840's.  Indian traders really did not like the settlers in the area as the Indians retreated from them.  Good traders were making very nice profits for the day.  Trading in furs and skins was still very lucrative. Lorenzo  Mulliken and Berne's were farming on the south rim of the Fayette Valley (College Hill area), but also trading with the Winnebagoes.  It was said they conspired with several braves to have Brown driven out of the Big Rock area.  Brown reported an occasional bullet whizzing by his ear and one of his oxen was wounded.  He had said several Indians killed one of this steers near the Volga, tumbled it over the bank into a canoe and floated down the stream to their camp on the Volga below the Big Rocks.  The year was 1845.  Brown apparently held on, "in spite of his jealous neighbors," and in 1846 with more settlers coming in, was molested no longer.


During the winter of 1845, Lorenzo Mulliken lived with Beatty in his cabin on the Volga on the Westfield/Fayette river bottom (just to the west of the present Hwy 150 bridge, 2000/z).  A.J. Hensely was there part of the winter helping Webster thresh his oats, which were then hauled to Ft. Atkinson and sold.  

The first wheat crop in the county was harvested by Andrew Hensely who was farming the Nathaniel Wilcox place three  miles southeast of the present Fayette valley.  Along with his two young sons the wheat was transported to a mill at Cascade, an eight day trip by oxen.  From this date until about 1880 Fayette County was a great wheat producing county and this one feature of pioneer life looms larger in real importance or in picturesquesness than the flouring mills.  Going to the mill and waiting one's turn to have the grist ground was an essential part of every family's activity.

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Lorenzo Mulliken built a stone fence to mark the south boundary of his squatter's claim at the top hill on the south rim of the Fayette/Westfield valley that would become known as College Hill. This is the same settler that was reported involved with "harassing" neighbor Brown in 1844/45.  


On December 28, 1846, Iowa became a state. In 1846, by treaty, the Winnebago Indians gave up rights to the Neutral Ground where they had resided since 1833; and by 1848 all had been moved to their reservation in Minnesota.  In shape, Iowa presents an almost perfect parallelogram; has a length, north to south, of about 300 miles, by a pretty even width of 208 miles, and embraces an area of 55,045 square miles, or 35,228,800 acres. 

M. C. Sperry Came in 1846---Writing about the early settlement of Illyria township (Wadena area)  Sperry refers to Hewitt and Culver trading post in the spring of 1846 on the Volga river one half mile east of Wadena. "In fall of same year Milton Sperry and Nathan Culver moved in and built a house on the Volga about three miles west of Wadena. The following winter they got out timber intending to erect a saw mill, but finally abandoned the undertaking."

The second marriage in Fayette County, August 5, 1846, Zophar Perkins and Valzick Teagarden.  
The third marriage in Fayette County, August 12, William Teagarden and Asenath Perkins.

Orrear who had been farming and running a dairy several miles SW of Fayette along the Mission Road, would sell to Horace Bern.  Bern's in 1847 would enter (legally register/buy) land the next year, the first entry in Fayette County.  Apparently Orrear moved to the Mission until sometime in 1848, when it was reported he removed to Missouri, his wife dying on the journey.

The area was seeing more and more movement by early pioneers.

Horace Bern's, Jan 17, 1847, entered the NW 1/4, Sec 5, Twp92, R8, which was the first entry (legal claim/buy) of land in Fayette County.  This is in the NW corner of Smithfield Twp., 3mi south, 1/1/2mi west of present Main Street Fayette.  This is about one mile west of the Wilcox cabin marker and on the sourth side of the road.  The area around Wilcox cabin was the prime location of the first settlers in the area as it was on the Mission Road, just to the south of Neutral Ground.  

Fourth marriage, August 6, 1847, George Culver and Margaret E. Castall, by Rev. Simeon Clark, pioneer preacher of Delaware.


Fifth marriage, March 27, 1848, Charles Glidden and Mary Low, by Andrew Hensely, J.P.

Beatty who still  living in his cabin on the Fayette Volga flats, apparently was a roving character disliking to remain very long in a place, which was a characteristic of the earliest pioneers that led the way for others to follow.  In 1848, he was reported going to Minnesota, where he would go on to become a member of the legislature.  Minnesota territory was starting to open up for a similar migration pattern as Fayette County had experienced.  Beatty was really of the explorer/trader/trapper type.

The three other borders of Westfield township were surveyed in 1848. The land was 3/5th tall and wet grass prairie, 2/5th hills covered with a variety of hardwoods. The glaciers had cut across Fayette County diagonally just to the southwest of present day Fayette and Arlington. Thus the prairie to the south and west, and the hills in the north and east.

The prairie was composed of tall thick grasses from 2-10 feet high. The prairie valleys were cut by tree lined small streams. The hollows and low areas were often wet and marshy thus the prairie sloughs were formed. The thick, wet tall grass prairies were foreign to settlers from the east. The prairies would be impossible to plow and difficult to traverse in covered wagons. Winters were harsh with winds and drifting snow. Early farmers and settlers had come from the wooded hills of the eastern states. They knew how to make a living by clearing small wooded tracks of land and farming small fields in the hills and adjacent valleys. The early settlers to Fayette County would take to the hills and river valleys, and slowly spread to the prairie fields. Soils developed under wet grasslands would be far richer and superior to the soils which developed in the hills under the hardwood forests.  Initially prairie areas were cleared a little at a time, by just plain hard work.  The tall, tough grasses had extremely deep tougher root systems.  The tops had to be either burned off when dry or cut with hand sickles or heavy corn chopping knives, then the roots chopped at by hand and the top few inches of soil dug and turned over, generally by hand.  It was basically a few square feet at a time.  The early plows where not strong enough to "cut" deep enough into the soil to lay a "furrow" of soil over.  However in only a few short years the harder steel plows of blacksmiths metal workers like John Deere would become available and the prairies would rapidly be lost to planting wheat, barely, oats, and row crops like corn.  Corn would eventually become the king of Iowa, with soybeans coming important after WWII.  Prairie grass hay was hand cut by the pioneers and utilized for their cattle and livestock.  Prairie grass hay is extremely nutritional.  Much more than the modern grasses used for hay.  

In November, 1848, snow fell to the depth of eighteen inches, and remained until April, 1849. It was a cold, hard winter for the settlers of Fayette as well as other sections of the state. In 1848-49, before the surveys were completed, and before the lands were in market (listed for sale), the settlers organized a Claim Society for the purpose of mutual protection against claim jumpers.

images/set50.JPG (13857 bytes)
The clear area of the map indicates the
basically unsettled area of Iowa in 1850.
Within ten short years, by 1860 Iowa would be under the
white agricultural society moving from the east.

How did land ownership occur? Where did the pioneers come from? Why did they come to Fayette County? Nearly all of the pioneers were farmers or wanted to farm and were seeking cheap land. Men who had served in the Mexican war were given "land warrants" entitling them to receive free certain areas of government land which they might select. These warrants could be sold and men who wanted to come west and get cheap land often bought the warrants from the soldiers in the East and used them to pay the United States government for farms.

What are Land Patents?---The U.S. government after the Fayette county land had been surveyed into sections offered it for sale at $1.25 per acres, cash. Some lands were given by the U.S. to the State of Iowa as "school land" and these lands were sold by the state of Iowa at prices ranging close to $1.25 per acres. The U.S. or then Iowa gave purchasers of lands special deeds called "patents" for land, and it is with these government "patents" all private titles for our lands in Fayette county originated.

Men "Hunted" Land in the 1840-50's---Especially during the 1850's thousands of men tramped over Fayette county looking for land that pleased them for which they could go to the government land office at Dubuque and make "original entry" and get the certificate entitling them to a "land patent." For these "entries" they paid cash or turned over land warrants. The patents of record at West Union for most lands show whether cash was paid or land warrant turned in to the government. If a land warrant was used the patent shows the name of the soldier and the military service for which it was issued.



Northeast Iowa was a wilderness in 1849. From the Miners Express, published at Dubuque January 2, 1850, this statement as to the 1849 population of several counties according to some census that had been taken: Allamakee-277, Benton-212, Buchanan-406, Clayton, then including Fayette-2500 (Fayette County's population  in 1849 was probably would have been around 250, plus or minus 25,z), Delaware-1500, Dubuque-9185, Winneshiek-275.

From the Dubuque Miner's Express, 1849-1850---There being so little available about early Fayette history from the first Fayette papers, the Miner's Express is about the only resource.  The Miner's Express was started in Dubuque in 1847. It was the first paper published in northeastern Iowa, and perhaps first in Iowa.  Gleamed are a few items showing some topics of public interest in the summer and fall of 1849, and spring of 1850, when Robert Alexander and his son-in-laws, the Robertson's came to the Fayette Valley. This was the beginning of rapid settlement in Fayette County.
Iowa vs. California in 1849---This item, May 16, 1849, shows that the first competition for settlers bewteen Iowa and California started in 1849: "We were apprehensive that the tide of emigration setting towards the golden regions of California, would have the effect todeprive Iowa of the usual spring accessions to her population. We are glad to perceive, however, that such is not the case. The fertility of her soil, and the salubrity of her climate, are too well known to be neglected. Thousands are leaving the sickly climate of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Missouri, or the worn out soil of the eastern and southern States, to seek a home of comfort, health and happiness upon the beautiful prairies of Iowa. A very considerable addition will be made to the population of Clayton county the present spring. The same may be said of the North of Iowa generally; and we learn that a large number are locating in the Valley of the Des Moines River."
Many immigrant Wagons---How rapidly people were going west and how they were traveling appears from this item, May 30, 1849: "Up to the May 18, 1849, 2850 emigrant wagons had crossed the river at St. Joseph, and at several landings thence to Council Bluffs, 1500. There is an average of four persons and eight oxen or mules to each wagon. Whole number now on the Plains from St. Joseph and points above, 4359 wagons, 17,499 men, and 4,800 animals.
Land Warrants for Sale---this advertisement for sale of land warrants, June 6, 1849. "Important to Settlers and Emigrant": The Bounty Land Warrants issued to the soldiers and volunteers in the Mexican War, have come into general use in entering government Lands and a great saving is thus gained to the settler, as the warrants can be obtained at prices which reduce the cost of U.S. Lands to one dollar per acre. These Warrants can be used by settlers in locating lands upon which they have made improvements, or upon which they have acquired a preemption right; and can be placed on 160 acres of Land, adjoining in any legal subdivisions, such as four forty acre tracts, two eighty acre tracts, etc. The subscribers will keep a supply of warrants constantly on hand, which they will sell as low for cash as they can be purchased in the West. They will also supply warrants by the quantity to those engaged in the business at low rates. Dubuque, March 20, 1848, Robertson and Holland, Land Agents."

A village was about to be established in the Fayette/Westfield Valley
. Robert Alexander in 1848, entered a claim for land just to SE of  the present Klock's Island area, and Westfield would be platted in the summer of 1851.  Today (2000)  this is the area from the new Hwy 150 bridge to the west, and south of the Volga River, all the way to the south side of the park area.  It is all of the area over the hill and to the west of Fayette along Water Street or Hwy 93.  No original structures survive today, nor do any of the older homes.  Westfield is a lost village, like Albany and Lima to the east.

        Elizabeth Alexander in her later years, wife of Robert.  Elizabeth apparently had the idea or was the push in starting a seminary college in Fayette out of the need to educate her daughters.  The big, especially at that time, limestone block building that would become Seminary Hall was completed and opened late in 1857.  Upper Iowa University would be born.

To the north of the Fayette valley, in the present West Union area, a Rogers and LyBrand bought 60 acres from Williams Wells, went back to Wisconsin for their families and returned in September, bringing a stock of goods with which they opened up in the Wells house what could be considered the first store in Fayette county.  Meanwhile a celebration was held July 4, 1849, about a hundred yards to the south of the present court house, under some shade trees and near a spring.  This was Knob Prairie,  and Wells at the celebration got the idea to found a town here.  The hill or knob on which the court house now sits, was the prairie on the knob.  Wells, Rogers and LyBrand out lay out a town plat in Sept. of 1849, Wells naming it West Union.  The first house was moved into by Rogers on Xmas day.  A second building, a store was erected by Daniel Cook by 1850 and a hotel by Cook by 1851.  The hotel was immediately sold to a Dr. Stafford, who put in the first drug stock in the county, the first shoe shop and the first sailor shop in West Union. 

While Westfield/Fayette was developing, also were all other parts of the county which would have villages.  


The Conner and Diamond sawmill at Elgin, built in August, 1849, may have been the first mill of any kind in the county.  The county had a lot of timber, especially to the northeast, and saw mills would be the first in the area.  Saw mills often were flimsy affairs compared to the grist mills

Between 1840 and 1850 there were people who lived in Fayette county, for a while at least, whose names did not appear in the census list recently printed in the column for 1858. Most of those folks had moved away by 1850.

PETERMAN'S FIRST PIONEER LIST OF THE 1840'S--- ? Atwood, ? Baker, W.H. Bailey, James Beatty, Horace Bemis, ? Bonham, Samuel Barazelton, Benjamin Brooks, Henry Brooks, Hiram Brooks, Jessie Brooks, Nelson Brooks, (their father) Brooks, ? Chlson, Samuel Connor, George Cook, James (Jimmie) Crawford, Sam Crane, George Culver, Amos Cummings, Goodson Cummings, Lewis Delzene, Joseph Dickinson, ? Downs, Lorenzo Dutton, Robert Gamble, John Giles, Charles Glidden, ? Hadley, A.J. Hensley, Joe Hewitt, Moses Hewitt, ? Hyde, Charles Jones, Henry Jones, E.A. Light, ? Lucklow, Hyler Lyons, ? Messenger, ? Mullign, Major ? Mumford, John Nagle, Earl Newton, Royce Oatman, William Orrear, Jacob Ourey, John Paddleford, William Paddleford, Willima Palmer, Reuben Perkins, Zopher Perkins, ?2 Pettit, ? Piper, John Randall, ? Rausdell, Ben Reeves, David Ring, William Ring, J. W. Rogers, William M. Rosier, ? Ryan, ? Sackett, Moses C. Sperry and father, ? Spofford, James Stevenson, T.R. Talbot, ? Teagardner, ? Tombs, William Van Dorn, Kitten Voshell, Isaac Webster, Franklin Wilcox, Nathan Wilcox, Sanford Wilcox.  NOTE:  Many of these surnames keep showing up in county history and in the cemeteries.

Total for Earliest Familes--- The Peterman list, and the 1850 census list contain a total of about 290 names as possible heads of first familes in Fayette County. There are about 215 different family names found in the two lists.

Some ‘49ers Near Wadena---"The Indians were removed in June, 1848. In the month of April, 1849, Thomas Markley, Eden Hummell, Henry Hummell, and Nathan Hummell moved in and built a house two and one-fourth miles east of Wadena. The broke three acres of ground the same season and harvested eight bushels of corn to the acres. Mr. Markley still resides here, and takes great pleasure in relating incidents of frontier life."---M.C. Sperry.

Prices of Farm Products in 1849---On October 24, 1849, the Dubuque Miner's Express published the following: "Dubuque Market"--The weather, for the last few days has been delightlfully pleasant, and business on our streets has very much revived. On Saturday last we observed more wagons from the country than for a long time previous. The roads are in a tolerably good condition at this time, and farmers are improving the opportunity to bring their produce to market. WHEAT is in demand at from 55 to 60 cts a bu. A tolerably good supply at this time, but a ready cash market for all that is brought. CORN, Old 25 cts/bu, New 20 cts/bu. OATS, 18 to 20 cts/bu. Hay, 5.50 per ton. PORK, a small quantity coming into market, prices range from 3 to 3.50, BUTTER 12 to 15 cts per lb. HIDES, green 2 to 2 1/2, dry 5 5/8. Wood $2 to 2.50 per cord.

Some idea of the postal service rendered the first of the immigrant families in Fayette County (numbering 154 in the 1850 census) may be secured from a few sentences out of an editorial in the Dubuque "Miners' Press" for October 10, 1949. This was just a few months after the Robert Alexander family came and began to acquire land around what is now Fayette. The Andrew Hensley and a few other families had been in the eastern part of the county for several years. Speaking of recent actions taken extending a mail route to Monona, in Clayton County, the editor said: "The counties of Fayette and Winneshiek and Blackhawk, which are filling up with greater rapidity than any other portion of the whole west, are entirely destitute of Post Offices."  They Were Demanding Service---The editor continued: "More than three thousand persons have gone into these counties within the lst four months. They are demanding, and have a right to demand, those privileges and benefits, which were intended for the people in the establishment of the general Post Office System. They have left their homes and friends, to purchase and inhabit the lands of the General government, and have shut themselves out, and unless the department will do something for them must continue to be shut out from all communication with those they have left behind." About Fifty Miles to Post Office---"We are now sending papers, addressed to Vinton P.O. in Benton County, for persons living at the Forks of the Cedar in Blackhawk, forty-eight miles from the office, where they secure them. The people of Fayette and Winneshiek are still worse off….The people have petitioned, but their petitions have been disregarded. Let the Quasqueton mail route be extended west to the Forks of the Cedar, in Blackhawk county, and let the Colesburg route be extended, through Fayette to old Fort Atkinson in Winneshiek, and the benefits accruing will be greater than any act of the department for the people of Iowa." To Ead's Grove (Manchester) for Mail---Ead's Grove, now Manchester, in Delaware County, was made a post office in July, 1849. Being on the route to Dubuque his probably was for a while the most convenient post office for the earliest of the pioneers into what may now be called the Fayette community. Postal Service---On October 10, 1949, the postal service was coming as close to Fayette as Eads Grove in Delaware county. The Dubuque Miner's Express writes: "New Post Office: We are gland to learn, tha ta new post office has been established at 'Ead's Grove,' in Delaware county, in this state. This was much needed, as many in that section of the county have bee deprived of the advantages of taking a newspaper, owing to the distance from a post office. The circulation of our paper in Delaware county is rapidly increasing. Willam Eads, Esq., the post master at the above office, is spoken of as every way qualified for the station."

CORN HILL--About the oldest popular farm name in Fayette County today is that of "Corn Hill." It may not be recorded with such names in the county recorder's office, but all old settlers in the county know where the farm is and the neighbors call it "Corn Hill Farm."  Frank T. Jones tells in 1938, that his wife's uncle, A.J. Hensley, once told him how Corn Hill farm got its name. He said that in early days before they were removed in 1848 from Fayette county, the Indians had a field and raised corn there. The first settlers either took the name from the Indians, or gave the place that name on account of its use by the Indians for the growing of corn.
    Corn Hill Was Stage Coach Station--Several persons agree that Corn Hill was once a stage coach station, where horses were changed. Mrs. Cora Hubbell Kugler, in 1938,  writes from Okawville, Ill.: "On our way to Arlington (Brush Creek then) fair, about fifty years ago (1890) my father pointed out some buildings that used to be used as the stage coach barns. They were near the top of Corn Hill." The buildings are now all on the west side of the road, at the top of a very high hill, about five miles southeast of Fayette on "The Old Diagonal Road" to Arlington. This is near the northeast corner of the S 1/2 of the NE 1/4 of Sec. 1-92-8. Maude Hall Erwin owns the land now (1938) and William E. Ash has been tenant for abut eight years.
The Original Corn Hill Buildings Gone---the present house (1938) was originally built by Marcelia Toutsch, a daughter of Fielding Snedigar who owned the place for many years after 1868. Mr. Ash says that a part of the old stage route barn (which was east of the road) was moved across and used in the present barn. There are traces of three old house cellars around the yard. Ash, after he moved onto the place tore down the old house which probably included the old stage stations and inn. Mrs. Lida Stranahan describes a wedding of one of here aunts, Ellen Mitchell, to E. Burton Snedigar in an old log house that formerly stood near the road.
Mrs. Butts Remembers Old House---Clara (Mrs. Arthur) Butts says (1938) that she and Arthur were married in the old house on this farm by Z.C. Scobey, in 1888. Here father, Thomas L. Boots, was for four years tenant of Mr. Snedigar of Elkader. The old house was south of the present one, and closer to the road. In here day the old large log two-room part, running north and south, had been added to on the north, and all of this increased by an extension full length on the east. On the east or road side of this long house there was a long narrow porch. I wish we had a picture of the old house. Mrs. Butts helped me draw a floor plan of it.
Corn Hill Was a Post Office---My sister, Nellie (O.W. Stevenson, 1938) hands me an old letter addressed to L.M. Stranahan, Corn Hill, Fayette County, Iowa, written from near St. Louis, Mo., Jan. 13, 1857. Littleton Cockrell wrote his son-in-law, L.M.S., that "Negroes have hired with us this year, from 200 to 250 dollars per head, and are selling from 1000 to 1500 dollars." Sister Nellie also reports that in the record of burials in Grandview Cemetery,  she finds the following names listed as residents of "Corn Hill": Joseph Hawn, Feb. 28, 1879; Michael Hawn, Jan. 24, 1905.
Hysham & Perkins at Corn Hill---Henry Bassett, a son of Herman Bassett, who lived in Putnam township, repeats a story told him in Dakota in 1884 by Hiram Hysham, then living about twenty miles northeast of Huron. His Hysham lived in or near the Brooks neighborhood, close to Corn Hill. "Cal" Perkins lived about a mile north of Taylorville. Hysham had a yoke of steers (oxen/z) Perkins, who had no team, arranged with Hysham to take them to mill, at Clermont, with corn, at Perkins' expense on the trip. They had nothing to eat but cold Johnnycake and they camped on the trip. Reaching Corn Hill on the trip home Hysham declared he was going to get a breakfast. Perkins wanted to go on home with the steers and leave Hysham, who threatened to "smash his head" if he did. After Hysham went into the sort of hotel being kept, and began to eat, Perkins came in, refused to sit at the table and have a breakfast but pulled out more frozen Johnnycake to eat.
Earliest Owners---Bassett figures this stop of Hysham and Perkins at Corn Hill to have been about 1844.  The land may have been occupied by some "settler" then but original entry for U.S. Title was not made until 1851. On April 4, 1852, H.W. Sanford entryman, gave special warranty deed to R. Richardson, who as R.R. Richardson, on Sept. 4, 1853, conveyed to Samuel Hendrickson. On Sept. 7, 1868, Hendrickson conveyed to Fielding Snedigar. Who operated the stage stations in those early days, if not these owners of the land (except Sanford, a Dubuque capitalist, I think) I do not know.

LOG HOUSES--Everett Bogert (1938) says he was born and remembers living in a large two story log house standing where the west part of the F.O. Turner house (on NW 1/4 of NE 1/4 of Section 27) in Smithfield township now stands. This log house was built by Alden Mitchell, Everett's grandfather and I have been told by some one that, as they remember, it was the farthest out from the woods, on the prairie of any of the log houses of Smithfield township

        Under "good" times and knowledgeable construction, log cabins were sturdy and well insolated.  Settlers from the southern states moving north often built their fireplaces at the ends of the cabins, but northern migrants built in the middle as they knew the value of the extra heat.  All fires were in open fireplaces, so cabin fires were common.  Huge amounts of wood were needed to survive a winter.  It did not take long for the surrounding forests and hills to be denuded.  Given basic supplies and equipment they were comfortable living for the times.  Remembering that all water had to be carried from a stream in wooden containers or a hand dug hole in the ground several feet wide reached down to the water table and water was hauled out of this hole with a wooden bucket and braided leather or fiber rope.  Toilet facilities were just outside the cabin or  in a hole in the ground which sometimes was  behind a log "wall" to form a primitive "outhouse."  There was no refrigeration or canning.  All food was fresh, dried, smoked, salted, or stored in the ground or a root cellar.  Food variety was generally limited and food could be extremely scarce.  Hunting and gathering of native animals and plant products continued as long as they were available and not overexploited.  Clothing was generally hand made from wool, leather, flax fibers.  Pioneers were generally very self-sufficient, and had to be, as they were living on the edge or in the frontier of the time.  If they did not move on west, it would take at least several years until consistent ox wagon trains would bring supplies from the east.  And then many could not buy them, as money was rare.  Bartering, trading, making, taking care of things, and just "making do" was the way of life on the frontier.  You had better be able to make warm  leather and wool clothing, lay in wood and food,  as it is going to be getting very cold without protection, even by late September.  It will be extremely wet and cold in October, freezing over by mid November, possibly snow cover from December to April.  The winds will blow continuously, the winter temperatures will rarely be above the freezing point of water, and if you had a thermometer (an unheard of invention in the frontier) you would record 20-45 below zero spells 4-10 times a winter.   The lazy, dull pilgrims perish.  There is no welfare, there are no "programs,"  there is no one to run home too.  Do not get sick, there are only your own defenses, there is no medicine. There are many, many young deaths from infections and disease.  Only the smart, hardy and hard working survive. You are from the Fayette stock!


images/sawmill.jpg (15937 bytes)Robert Alexander began the erection of a saw-mill on the Volga River, in 1850 (remember he took up land here in mid-1849)  in the area that sits on the southeast side of what is now Klock's Island Park, on the southeast corner of the park, just as the south fork of the Turkey River (Volga) just as the river leaves  the edge of the bluff in the Westfield Valley, thus the starting of the first settlement in the valley at the site which would become the little settlement of Westfield and lasted for several years until the area around the main street of present Fayette began to grow more rapidly in the late 1850's.  A few years into the future the area of Alexander's sawmill would be on the bank of a mill race which would supply the Westfield woolen mill which would be to a short distance to the north of the dry run bridge which sits just to the east of the present (2000) Klock's Island entrance.  This dry run is actually the lower part of the old mill race where the water was constricted down and gained speed just before it ran across the wheel of the Westfield woolen mill.

Probably the first manufacturing enterprises established in this region were the sawmills. The men who brought in the machinery and equipped such mills, with steam or with water power, were our first local industrialists. They had their faith in the future of this country (Fayette area), and they had their problems of several kinds. They must have been unusual and interesting men and there surely are many things that ought to be recorded about them and their enterprises. Their establishments must have been early community centers where things happened and about which tales were told ("Chats"). 

One can recall the names of miller as Alexander, Cole, Rawson, Marvin, Grannis and Hendrickson. There probably were others connected with that early milling  industry. Some of the names were connected with the milling business more than one generation.

Mills that sawed timber into lumber were of great necessity for the development of better housing if more modern villages were to spring up. 


The technology of settlement was already quite developed because of the decades of western expansion coming from the east coast. Within a just several years, millwrights were coming into Fayette County to set up mills along the major streams that could be dammed up to produce a mill pond to drive a large mill wheel. The first mills were usually used to produce mill-sawed lumber for construction. The first saw mill in the Fayette valley would be built by Robert Alexander in the southern part of present Klock's Island in 1850. The old mill race is the depression that runs under the little bridge on Hwy 93, just east of the Volga River bridge. Around this saw mill the little town of Westfield would develop for several years and thrive and compete with the area around the present north main street of Fayette. The persons running saw mills were called sawyers (thus a last name). Shortly after saw mills were build, grist mills followed to grind feed for cattle and to mill course flour or "meal" for household use. Often, since flour was so fine and needed more time to grind, cattle feed was ground during the day, and flour at night.  Many mills had both say and grist capabilities and would saw lumber during the day, and grins grist at night.  

Elijah Gregory  was once interested in the Westfield flouring mill business, his daughter was Mrs. E.C. Fussell of Fayette

MILLS---The Turkey river was claimed to have more water power in proportion to its mileage than any other stream in Iowa, and almost all of the early mills were run by water wheels.  But the Volga, the Little Turkey and the Crane also worked at turning mill wheels.  The bottom line for settlement was the growing and milling of grains, around which almost all other activities and commerce sprang from.  These mills would be three and four stories high, huge structures for the time and place.  Many of the locations, now lost to memory and overgrown.   They would be busy  manufacturing establishments, often with long lines of farmers' wagons loaded with grain, waiting their turns to get their grists ground. 


    Two three-story  mills at East Auburn and West Auburn drew business from as far away as Minnesota.  The first flouring mill at Clermont was built in 1849 or 1850, Earl's mill at Auburn in 1851, Elrod's mill at Eldorado in 1851, at Lima in 1852, at Fayette in 1855, at Wadena in 1858, on Crane creek at Alpha in 1869, and a three-story flour mill at Albany in 1865.  Gurdy's flouring mill two miles southeast of West Union on Otter creek, the mill at Backbone, were built sometime in the early 1850's. 

    Mill dams were created in main rivers or as off-shoots from the river.  The damns were generally made from logs and large rocks hauled by Oxen and chains or drag sleds.  Damns often washed out in high water and during ice-outs.  The amount of physical labor to build mills and damns, plus maintain them was extensive.  In the pic above you are looking down into a rock and debris filled damn 6-8 feet wide and 6-8 feet high.

The milling industry would basically be done by 1880.  From 1878-1880, for three seasons in succession the wheat crop was ruined by a combination of chinch bugs and a fungal blight dues to heat following damp weather.  At this time the growing of wheat in Fayette county was basically abandoned.  Shipped in wheat kept some of the mill wheels turning at a reduced rate.  But the big commercial mills build in areas like Minneapolis rapidly put the little country mills off the map.   They were abandoned and fell into rapid disrepair, with much of the machinery often being stripped for other uses.  By the mid 1870's the railroads had also moved into the major settlements of the county meaning that agricultural products could be cheaply and rapidly shipped out of the county to other markets and manufactured products shipped back into the county.


Mills lead to the development of pioneer villages like Westfield/Fayette and others on the south fork of the Turkey River (Volga)---
Basic water powered sawmills were generally the first attempt at settlement, at rough cut boards were in demand for early building construction.  Log cabins and building were common but actually often as expensive and more difficult to build correctly, plus framed, board structures could be much bigger.  As the pioneer farmers rapidly  came to the Fayette area grist or flour mills were often the nucleus of pioneer villages and towns on newly "opened" land.  A beginning sawmill was important but a grist mill generally meant a permanent settlement for at least several years, or until competition from another mill or some social/transportation issue gave one area a competitive advantage.  

In the Volga River Valley of Fayette County, in the coming decade of 1850-1860, there would be a milling attempt about every mile or two, and never more then four miles until the water supply became questionable between Fayette and today's Maynard.  Many of these milling attempts would lead to the towns of Volga, Wadena, Lima, Albany, Fayette, Westfield.  I have to speculate in the very early years the Volga River was referred to as, "We explored the south fork of the Turkey River," as Clayton County was inhabited 10-20 years before Fayette County, by white settlers, and they had named the tributary of the Mississippi running through Clayton County, the Turkey River.  Off-shoots of this river were called forks, thus the Volga probably was the south fork of the Turkey River, until someone explored and settled on this fork and started to refer to it as the Volga, perhaps from the European reference.  A general store, blacksmith and cooper shop followed as the population increased.  Very basic commodities were transported in by men called teamsters driving large wheeled carts or wagons which could "roll" over the rough terrain, and pulled by 3 to 7 yoke (teams) of oxen, hooked together by 10-12 foot hand made chains.  

Blacksmithing skills were needed for a number of milling pieces, and even hand made "spikes" to hold the logs utilized in the mill dam together.  Coopers were needed to manufacture floor barrels and other containers.  Pails, tubs, basins were all made of wood.  Metal was very scarce so even the hoops around the early barrels and containers were made of wooden hoops, thus farmers with lumber on their land found a ready, local market for hoop poles and good oak.  .  In later decades paper sacks would be used later and then cloth sacks for packing flour.  As the village grew a "subscription" school would be added (parents paid the schoolmaster for each child).  Church services would be held in private cabins and homes until in coming decades the societies economy and  building plans grew.  Often early millers were the children of millers and moved with the frontier as the masses of settlers were farmers and would have an immediate need for wood and floor.  The wood was rough cut boards which would in the first years or decades would be used just as they came out of the sawmill.  Generally in Westfield/Fayette during 1850-1900plus, limestone "slabs" would have been removed from the top of hill north of Westfield (today's Klock's Island, 2000/z) or a couple of other quarry places around the Valley.  The slabs would have placed on  rough hand hewn log transport sleds pulled by a yoke or two of oxen to the building site.  Sometimes the building would be constructed on just a couple of layers of limestone slaps as the foundation, but generally a basement was dug out by hand using shovels made with blacksmithing skills.  The limestone slabs would then be carefully selected and stacked from the floor of the basement to form limestone basement walls, which would then become the foundation for the walls.  

Foundation logs or posts may have been utilized at times, but often the frame of the building was just started directly on the limestone base and build up from that point.  Limestone slabs have been used for a basement floor or the flour often left dirt.  Many times the walls also remained dirt, but there would be a serious chance of wall cave-in so it would be learned fast, to take the extra effort to "lay" a good set of foundation walls. Remember there is no cement at this time, so the wall slabs just sit upon one another, so it is very important to select and place the slabs carefully.   Many of the small older homes left in Fayette after well over a hundred years still sit on such foundations.  All of the original buildings of the first four decades of settlement are now gone.  If one looks carefully, foundation slab stones can still be found in the various visible and "not so visible" cleared or bulldozed places.  The entrances to the early cellars were always from the outside and they were very necessary for food storage as there was of course no refrigeration and ice-houses were far in the future for the early settlers.  Once the frame of the structure was complete, the rough cut boards from the early sawmill would either be pinned to the frame using hand shaped wooded dowels or hand forged nails (metal was generally very scarce).   

Alexander's sawmill build in 1850, and located at today's Klock's Island just as the enters the would have been supplying rough cut boards very early, so most of the 1850 buildings in Westfield were not log cabins.   Early on the walls would have had the cracks caulked with mud/grass mixtures, but soon, an inner lattice like wall of thin lath would be put in place and when the lime kiln began producing lime, a mixture of lime and sand would be used to "plaster" the walls producing a smoother inner wall, plus offering more protection against cold air from the outside.  Remember everything is handmade locally with just basic carpenter tools as draw and other knives, hand drills, chisels, etc.  Heating was still with open hearth fireplaces, with iron stoves coming in a decade or so.  Not only is there no cement, but there is no paint, so all the board buildings rapidly gain a gray weathered look (There still is one small barn just south of Hwy 93, and east of Klock's Island, although is is not original, does has the weathered look of the early buildings in Westfield. z/2000).  When the lime kiln stared up, white wash, a very thin mixture of lime and water, would have been "wiped" over the boards, as there are no paint brushes, to produce a whitish appearance.  Inside of buildings were also whitewashed (I remember my grandfather Walter Rueben Hunt, still using whitewash inside his barn, even in the 1960's, probably for two reasons.  He grew up when paint was not available or expensive, and he was copying what his father had done, plus whitewash offers a certain about of aseptic value).  

Erastus Light built a sawmill, 1850,  at Lightville (to be Lima).

Before 1850,  mail had to be picked up at Elkader, McGregor or Dubuque.  The first post office in the county was West Union in January 29,1850. The second was at Auburn on May 28. 

While Fayette County was still organically a part of Clayton County the first elections were held for a sheriff and county commissioners. 

On January 9, 1850, the first sermon preached by a Methodist Episcopal minister in the vicinity of Fayette was at the Old Wilcox cabin then occupied by James E. Robertson.


James and Elizabeth Alexander Robertson (pics in their later years as residence of  Fayette) would go on to buy up much of the land around Fayette and therefore become a powerful factor in the towns development.  Elizabeth was a sister of Robert Alexander, "out in Westfield, building a saw-mill."  Robert Alexander and his brother-in-laws, Samuel and John Robertson would turn out to be major figures in the history of Fayette.

The first recorded deed in the county was on July 24, 1850, on a town lot in West Union.  The early platted villages in Fayette county were: West Union-June 1850, Westfield-July 1851, Auburn-1851, Volga City (Lima)-Oct 1851, Taylorville-Feb 1852, West Auburn-Sept 1853, Centerville (adjoining Taylorville)-May 1854, Albany-July 1854, Elgin-Feb 1855, Fayette-June1855.

A 1850 Census Report---Between September 26 and October 9, 1850, Eliphalet Price, living in Clayton county, made a census enumeration for Fayette County, which had that year been set off from Clayton County. He probably traveled on horseback to reach the one hundred fifty four families or houses which he found and listed for this entire county in 1850. The Census of 1850 is Stimulating to the Imagination---As one studies the old fashioned handwriting of Mr. Price, and scans the names of the several hundred men, women and children he listed, it is easy to let the imagination go and try to take in fancy that trip with the enumerator over the unbroken hills and prairies and through the original forests of Fayette County---the prairies with their tall waving native grass and flowers, and the forests with only an occasional log cabin sheltering some pioneer family.

Heads, or other Representative of Families Found Listed in Fayette County, Iowa, Census of 1850---The census taker started in the southeast corner of the county and worked back and forth toward the north. Thus the number by each name indicate the approximate location in the county from south to north, with the lower numbers being in the south part of the county. Likewise, consecutively or close numbers were from the same "neighborhood." When a number is in parenthesis another person has been listed as apparent head of the house. Where one family name applies to two or more persons only the name of the apparent husband, or of the oldest of the named group is given.

Heads of Familes, Fayette County, Iowa, 1850---Robert Alexander 31 (Note, he was operating on a sawmill on the southern  portion of Westfield in the Fayette valley, therefore numbers close to him are in the Fayette area,z) , Noah Alexander 34, William Anderson 9, Horace Andrus (?) 48, Wilcox Aquilla (?) 64, Peter Alsern (38), James Austin 147, Solon W. Barnes 6, (Note, Solon Barnes is farming just north of Taylorsville, so anyone near the 6 number is in the area of Brush Creek/Arlington or Centerville/Taylorsville, z)Henry H. Baker 15, William Bartlett 141, Charles Bell (96), Margaret Berk 61, Solomon Bishop 63, Joseph Bradshaw 11, Harvey S. Bronson 124, Chansey Brooks 5, David Brooks 5, John Brooks 25, Mattison Brown 52, Oliver Brown 126, Martin Burdick 151, Harrison Butler 32, Absolom Butler 128, Caleb D. Carlton 117, James Carrol 84, Washington L. Case, 107, William P. Cavenaugh 62, Lukins Clark (?) (129), Chester Clestern (?) 105, Margaret Connor (76), John Conner85, Matthew Connor 90, Samuel Connor (90), Joseph Crawford 129, Thomas Crooks (49), Thomas Crooks 49, Franklin Crosley 20, James Davis 154, Joseph Deford 78, Lewis Deloynie 152, Benjamine Dimond 87, Thomas Douglas (38), John Downey (114), David H. Downs 142, Morris Earl 137, Hiram Earl (137) (Note: the Earls were millers and with these high numbers were probably located on the Turker River above the Elgin area, Earl's would run the big Albany Mill in the 1860's, z)  , James Earl 138, John Eddy 137, Rudolphus Eddy 144, Charles Ellis (129), Dempsey Elrod 64, Ely Elrod 129, Sarah Elrod (129), Isaac Enders 143, Knud Everson 82, Ambier Everson (92), William Fetch 67, Daniel I. Finney 9, Isaac Fitch 60, Thomas Follett 51, Elipholet Follett 112, Simon Follett (112), Edwin Follett (117), Rebecca Forbes (87), Simeon B. Forbes 88, Joseph Forbes 89, Joseph Foster 140, Robert Freeman 19, William Frasier 76, John Frasier 82, William Fussell 28, David E. Fussell 30, Oliver P. Gallaher 55, Ephrom Gardner (151), James Garrison (55), Helen Gear (47), David German 8, William Gibblin 53, Levi Gifford (136), Calvin Gitchell 150, Stephen Greenup 125, Nathaniel Hall (119), John Hannah (38), Elisha Hartsoff 132, Samuel Hatton 56, John Hendershott 108, Michal Henmon 42, Andrew Hensley 45, Abraham Holing 149, Jacob Hoover 131, Henry Hopkins 40, Lysander Hopkins (137), Elizabeth Hopkins (137), Lyman Hord 127, Oley Houson 94, Bent Houson (94), Sarah Huff (114), James Hughson 148, Sarah Hunt (15), Charles Hyler 95, Lemuel Iliff 118, Benjamine Iliff 122, Hiram Jackson 103, James Jennings 29, John Johnson (106), Henry Johnson 106, Jason Johnson 111, Elf Johnson (111), Anson Kellogue (3), John Kellogue (31), Thomas Kerr 119, John Kerr (119), Hannah Kirkpatrick 129, Chaunsey Leveritt 110, Jacob Librand 68, Crotus A. Light 46, Harry W. Light 43, Remembrance Lippencott 72, Hugh Lockard 7, Gabriel Long 102, Monroe Lott (87), Robert K. Lounsburg (13), David Lowe 18, Stephen H. Ludlow 47, William Lumsden 50, Alexander Lumsden (50), Clark Lukins (129), Joseph Lyon 104, Ermina Lyon (104), Dorcus McCameram (80), Daniel McDuffy 145, Joseph McGee 36, Thomas McKinley (26), William McKinney (13), George McKinney 14, Joseph McLaughlin 57, Andrew Martin 116, John Matthew 117, John Matthews 108, America Mattews (99), Avril Miller 23, George Miller (43), Wilson Miller 66, Eugene Moine 22, John P. Moine (22), Evleine Morkley (2), William Morris 49, George Morrison 123, Russell Moron (147), Alexander Mussleman 120, George W. Neff 33, Palmer Newton 21, William E. Newton (21), Jerod Nutting 100, Eren Oleyson (93), Jacob Orey 74, Mary Ottercreek (87), Betsey Ottercreek (90), Sirenius Packard 99, Francis Palmer 97, Albert Palmer (97), Asa G. Park 4, Woodman Perkins (1), Calvin Perkins 12, John Philips 105, Ebenezer Piper (137), Alonzo Randel 54, Stephen Reeve (88), Samuel Rice 73, Richard Richardson 26, Phroney A. Rickell 71, Jacob W. Rogers 65, Jacob Rosier 133, George Rosier (133), William Root 77, Ely Root 79, Emily Root 81, George Rowley 106, Nickolas Russell 58, Charles Sawyer 113, Allen Sawyer 114, James L. Sawyer 115, Thomas Scott 41, Sylvester Seward 3, Conwright Sheeley (31), Chansey S. Smith (23), Thomas J. Smith 39, Henry F. Smith 71, George Smith 83, David Smith 136, Charles Smith 139, Asa South 129, George Stansbury 75, James B. Stephenson 86, Samuel Stevens 98, Susan Stobough (57), Philip Stobough 59, Thomas B. Sturgis 38, David Tailor 1, Silas Tailor 10, Willima Thompson (69), Anthony Thompson 96, John Turner 130, Francis Vosial 16, Peter Vosial 17, Marrion Warner (117), Edwin C. Watters (or Wotters) 153, Levy W. Watrous 44, Lucy Welch (4), William Wells  68, Matthew Wells 69, Sarah Wells 69, David Wells 70 (Note, Wells is in the Knob Prairie/West Union area, z), Joshua Wells 80, George L. Whitley 24, Arson Wickham 146, Aquilla Wilcox (64), James Wilson 137, Thomas Wilson (146), Joseph Woddel 39, Thomas Woodel 37, Benjamine Woods 27, Jimerin Woodson 13.

Farming around Fayette in the late 1840's/early 1850's---The history of the Fayette community as a permanent settlement, like that of most local histories, begins not with a town but with farmers and farming, (and the merchants/tradesman that follow and support the farming endeavor). What kind of farming is generally left to the imagination. In the old 1850 census report Mr. Price listed eight Fayette county farmers and statistics relating to their land, machinery, live stock, crops, etc.

What Eight Farmers Owned and Produced---These eight farmers owned property as follows: 1569 (average of 196 acres each) acres of land, of which 585 (average of 73 acres each,) acres were improved (improved land was land that had been cleared of timber and brush, was either capable of being plowed or utilized for grass pasturing), and all valued at $9080 (1135each,). Farm implements and machinery valued at $864 (108 each,). Live stock valued at $2205 (275 each,), consisting of 18 horses ( about two each), no asses or mules, 19 milch cows (about two each), 25 working oxen (three each), 32 cattle (4 each), 60 sheep (12 each), and 190 swine (14 each, pigs were allowed to run in the open lots and timber and easy to raise as wild hogs).
Total Production---These eight farmers in total, during 1849, produced crops estimated as: wheat-485 bu, rye-0 bu, Indian corn-5000 bu, oats-484bu, tobacco-300bu, wool-198lb, peas and beans-8bu, potatoes-222bu, buckwheat-115bu, butter-1510lb, hay-183tons, grass seed-2bu, maple sugar-1950lbs, molasses-39gal, beeswax and honey-1238, home manufactures valued at $48, slaughtered animals-$241.

The eight 1849 Fayette County Farmers showing in Mr. Price's 1850 Census---They were the farming ancestors that "led all the rest."
Jerod Tailor (or Taylor) Farm (three miles northeast of Arlington,z)---On March 31, 1849, Taylor entered (claimed) 120 acres of land in Fairfield township, 40 being in Section 14, 40 in Section 15, and 40 in Section 23,92-7 (This land is exactly two mile north and one mile east of present Arlington, or one mile north of the Talyorsville Cemetery, z). Seventy if his acres were listed as improved land (capable of cultivation or pasturing,z), machinery-$100, 1 horse, 2 milch cows, 2 working oxen, 5 other cattle, 6 sheep, 22 swine, total value of livestock-$219. Produced: 60bu wheat, 200bu oats, 25lbs wool, 1bu peas and beans, 15bu potatoes, 100lbs butter, 30 tons hay, 2 bu grass seed, 1200lbs maple sugar, 30gals molasses, 50lbs beeswax and honey, slaughtered animals-$15. Tailor's name was not on the 1855 Fayette County tax record (apparently he had moved on, which was often the case with pioneer families, settle for a few years and move west hoping for better conditions,z).
Chaunsey Brooks Farm (three miles south of Fayette,z)---60 acres of improved land, farm machinery-$50, 3 horses, 3 milch cows, 5 other cattle, 8 sheep, 25 swine, livestock value of $266. Produced: 80bu wheat, 200bu corn, 50 bu oats, 100lbs butter, 15ton hay, 50lbs maple sugar, 60lbs beeswax and honey, $50 in slaughtered animals. On May 24, Chauncey Brooks entered 160 acres of land in Section 12-92-8, now Smithfield township (This farm would have been 2 1/2 miles south of Grandview Cemetery at Fayette or 1 1/2 miles north of the Maynard corner, along the west side of present Hwy. 150 on the creek that is visible from the highway,z). That neighborhood is still called (in 1940) by old timers, The Brooks neighborhood.
Solon Barnes Farm (five miles southeast of Fayette in the Korn Hill area)---35 acres of improved land, $5 machinery, 1 milch cow, two working oxen-$40. Produced: 300bu corn, 30bu oats, 200lbs tobacco, 50lbs butter, 4 tons hay, 310lbs beeswax and honey, $10 animals slaughtered. Barnes was not found among entrymen prior to 1850. In 1855 tax record indicated assessed on 80 acres in Sec. 1-97-7, now Fairfield township (This farm was five miles southeast of Fayette on the actual Korn Hill area, or five miles northwest of Arlington. Korn Hill itself about 3 1/2 miles east of Fayette and one mile south off the present blacktop road called Korn Hill Road,z).
John Brooks Farm (Korn Hill area)---40 acres improved land, $75 farm machinery, 2 horses, 3 milch cows, 4 working oxen, 9 other cattle, 3 sheep, 10 swine, total value of $345. Farm products: 80bu wheat, 200bu corn, 30bu potatoes, 300lbs, butter, 20tons hay, 100lbs maple sugar, 3gals molasses, $30 slaughtered animals. John Brooks on My 24, 1848, entered 160 acres in Section 7-92-7, which is nor Fairfield township. This was in the same area of Korn Hill that Solon Barnes hand entered.
William Fetch Farm---40 acres improved land, $100 farm machinery, 1 horse, 3 milch cows, 4 working oxen, 8 other cattle, 5 swine, total value $246. Farm products: 10bu peas and beans, 150bu potatoes, 100lbs butter, 30tons hay, 300lbs maple sugar, 1gal molasses, animals slaughtered $21. Fetch was not found among the entrymen records prior to 1850, and his name was not on the 1855 tax records. The location of his farm is thus unknown, z.|
George L. Whitley Farm (three plus miles south  of Fayette on Hwy 150)---100 acres of improved land, $50 in farm machinery, 5 horses, 2 milch cows, 2 other cattle, 13 sheep, 12 swine, total value $649. Farm products: 75bu wheat, 3000bu corn, 190bu oats, 47lbs wool, 60lbs butter, 7tons hay, home made manufactures $30, slaughtered animals $30. No record was found of any entry by Whitely of government land prior to 1859. This was probably "Lemon"(George Lehman) Whitely who in the 1855 tax book was assessed on 240 acres in Section 26-93-8, now Westfield township. I wonder if some of the Whitely (or Whitley) descendants still plow corn where their ancestor raised that bumper crop of 3000 bushels. This George L. would be great-great-grandfather to Harold Whitely's children, I think.|
William Wells Farm (the northern part of present West Union)---200acres of improved land, machinery $400, 4 horses, 4 milch cows, 13 working oxen, 3 other cattle, 30 sheep, 25 swine, total value $697. Farm products: 200bu corn, 70lbs wool, 14bu potatoes, 60bu buckwheat, 500lbs, butter, 70tons hay, 300lbs maple sugar, 5gal molasses, 818lbs beeswax and hone, slaughtered animals $35. William Wells on December 5, 1849, entered 160 acres of land in Section 17-94-8, now Union township. William Wells started the town of West Union.|Remembrance Lippencott Farm (on the northeastern outskirts of present West Union)---40 acres improved land, $75 farm machinery, 2 horses, 1 cow, 10 swine, value $177. Farm products: 40bu wheat, 700bu corn, 15bu oats, 100lbs tobacco, 56lbs wool, 3bu peas and beans, 13bu potatoes, 55bu buckwheat, 300lbs butter, 7 tons hay, value of home manufactures $18, animals slaughtered $50. I do not find any original entry of land by Lippencott prior to 1850. In 1855 he was taxed on 280 acres in Sections 9, 10, 15 of township 94-8, now Union Township, are the three section around the northeastern outskirts of present West Union).


Why Were Only Eight Farmers Listed in the 1850 Census of Price?--- Why Barns, Fetch, Whitely, and Lippencott appear on this list of farm operators and do not appear yet to have entered any government land; and why data is given for none of the other 146 households found in the summer of 1850 by Mr. Price., in which homes all but a few of the men were listed as farmers, is something some to wonder about.. 
Comments About the Eight Farmers---For the eight farmers for whom the 1850 census gave property and products data these facts appear: Tailor let in oats, maple sugar, molasses and diversity in stock and products. Cash value his farm $1000. C. Brooks though high in cattle did not lead in any one respect. Value farm $1000. Solon Barnes let in wheat and tobacco. Value farm $180. J. Brooks let in cattle (except working oxen). Value farm $800. Fetch let in potatoes. Value farm $300. Whitely let in horses. Value farm $2500. Wells led in total live stock, wool, hay, beeswax and honey. Value farm $3000. Lippencott probably made the best showing of diversified farming for improved acres. Value of farm $1300. Most of the residents enumerated in 1850 probably  had come too late to raise a crop in 1849, (and that is why they did not show on the farm census). Some of the older residents were probably "settlers" on government land which they expected to acquire but for which they had not yet secured a legal title. 

Keep in mind there were 154 families shown on Prices 1850 census of Fayette County. Fayette County is 6 townships wide and 6 townships "tall." Each township is 6x6 miles or 36 square miles per township. Total square miles in Fayette County therefore is 36x36 or 1296 square miles, which when divided by the 154 families mean there was only one family for every 8.5 square miles. Not all of these families were farming, as one of the first tradesman to follow farmers into a pioneer area are millwrights who would set up sawmills on the Turkey and Volga Rivers. Plus traders and merchants were always pushing into the frontier. Assuming about 100 of the families were setting up farming claims and perhaps attempting to plow or pasture 60 acres each, which would probably be generous at this early date, only one growing season after the land was officially opened to farmers, only 6000 acres of the 83000 acres in Fayette County were being farmed. Within ten years almost every inch of the county would start to be exploited in some fashion by the rush for land and a living on the frontier.


Thus a typical farm in 1850 Fayette County consisted of ---About 200 acres of land, which when rounded off is a square of land about 950yds by 950 yards. About a third of the land was cleared and plowed with a one furrow (blade) plow walked behind and pulled behind two or three oxen (steers) as they were easier to control and could work longer than horses. Oxen would do much of the heavy work as they are stronger than horses and do not require supplemental grain in their diet like horses. However draft horse being more agile and faster working would be a trade up when possible. Not all of the improved land was plowed and planted (by hand) because pasture and hay would be needed for the livestock. It took a lot of hay and grain to over-winter livestock in the long northern winters. Planting, harvesting and preparing grain crops was very labor intensive so small field of only a few acres (5-10 were often interspersed around the farm on the better hill or bottom land soils. Wet slough land was too hard to work; upland hilltops often were very nutrient poor soils. The best field were often on the river and creek edge lands. A ten acre field would be about 200 by 200 yards, a five acre field about 150 by 150 yards. A 100 by 100-yard field would be a little over 2 acres, while a football field 100 by 50 yards would be is just over one acre. There were many of these small fields, and if fenced often with split logs or "split rails" until barbed wire, which was expensive was brought in by teamsters (haulers by wagon) from either the Dubuque are by way of the Mission Road, or from the McGregor area over the Timber Road. Each farm had a couple of horses, used to pull a wagon, thresher, and reaper if the equipment was owned. Much of the early harvesting would have been by hand methods. Hand picking corn and throwing it into a wagon. Hand shocking corn, oats, barley, and wheat for later hand thrashing. Horses would pull wagons and carriages and sometime be ridden. Often the horses where large draft strains like the Belgium's. Each farm would have 1-3 milk cows and a few head of cattle raised for meat or to sell. You could not keep a many cattle or other livestock around for long as food harvesting to over-winter would be prohibitive. Farms also relied on a small flock of 10-20 chickens, and sometimes other small domestic animals. Many pioneers would also rely heavily on local game, generally procured by flintlock guns of the day. Farming was still done mainly with iron and wood hand tools. Draft animals could pull a small one-blade plow and a harvesting wagon, but most of the work was still done my hand, by manpower. All buildings were put up from native logs cut, shaped and secured by hand. Log houses, small barns, woodsheds, chicken coups, smoke houses, etc. Everything was hauled on the farmer's own wagon to start the very first pioneer farms. There were no teamsters or business, or mills yet. Support tradesman would follow several years after the first pioneer farm families. One man generally could not make it alone because of the human power needed to survive the amount of farm work to be done. A small flock of sheep, perhaps 6-12 was often kept to supply wool, and of course mutton. But a source of warm clothing was needed. And for pioneers that generally meant wool yarn spun and knitted or woven. Some animal skins could and would be used but wool was better and more reliable. Swine were quite easy to care for and generally allowed to run fallow or wild in the timber and to fend for themselves until "rounded" up, or just hunted and shot. Farmers could handle 10-20 or more head of pigs quite easily. They were "home" butchered in the fall when it was cold. The stomach made into bacon and legs made into hams. The remainder of the meat could also be soaked in a brine solution and smoked in a slow burning hickory fire or smokehouse and would keep well into the summer months. If large amounts of salt were available the meat might me made into salt pork by rubbing salt into the tissue and packing it in salt to preserve the pork. Thus pork became one of the easiest and first meat products capable of transport to villages to the east and sold or exchanged for the few basic necessities the pioneers needed. Other farm commodities would need to be produced in excess for transport by wagon to market in McGregor or Dubuque 2-5 days away, if Fayette County farming was to be successful. This was farming in the wilderness where the major markets were themselves frontier towns of a few hundred to a thousand new people themselves on the frontier.

In the early days of the Fayette area wheat, barley, oats were staple crops, but it did not take long for corn to become the king.

1850 Industrial Census for Fayette County listed 13 tradesman; 5 millers sawing lumber, 4 millers working grist or floor mills, a cooper, wheelwright, carpenter, and brickmaker.  As stated earlier farmers led the settling of an area, but millers had to follow immediately, with a few craftsman as listed plus blacksmiths, harness makers.  Less essential craftsman would not be far behind, thus the pioneer industry which supported the local  farming operations develeoped and continued for decades until big agribusiness eclipsed the lifestyle.  

Moving on to the decade of the 1850's

Living History Farms near Des Monies, Iowa

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