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Early Residents of Forest City, Iowa

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Written in 1955 by Velma Lackore

Long before the zestful days of the Democrat Wagons, the exciting times of the barn raisings, or the romantic nights of the husking bees, the Lackore family crawled across the pathless territory from Chicago, Illinois to North Iowa, their destination being at that time known as Pucker Brush.

Previous to living in Illinois, the parents, William Lackore, of French descent and Elizabeth Church, who had come directly from England as a small girl, had been married in Jefferson County, New York on November 25, 1832. They lived and farmed for a number of years in Jefferson County and had seven of their nine children there. They were: Viola, James and a twin sister Janett, George Wilmington, Charles Hudson, Hannah, William Henry Jr. and Chester. Both Janett and Hannah died while they were in New York State.

In 1851 or 1852 they migrated to a farm near Chicago, now know as Washington Heights, Chicago. While living in Illinois, two more sons were born, namely Augustus Frisbie and Jessey Mathias. Their time of coming to Forest City was some time among 1855 and 1858. They were accompanied by Charles Church, who was a brother of Mrs. Lackore.

Their few possessions were loaded into hand-made wagon boxes which were leak proof. The loads were in some way covered. Their cargo was made up of a few clothes, tools, salt pork, flour, garden seed, and roots of asparagus and rhubarb. Although the loads were drawn by oxen teams, they also led and possibly rode some horses. Previous to their coming, they had taken great pains to construct a raft to use in crossing streams. The raft was made out of four huge planks which had been hewn out of trees with an ax.

There were some things that just could not be gotten wet, the floor in particular, so when they reached these bridgeless streams there was nothing to do but unload all of the provisions in order to be able to lift the wagon box down from the running gears. Then the wagon box could be put on the raft near the edge of the stream and reloaded. While this was being done, the oxen were persuaded to swim across the stream. One end of a chain was harnessed to the oxen and the other end was fastened to the raft. Then followed the "Gid dep, Gee ha," and "Whoas" and the raft was guided over to the other side of the stream where the wagon box was again unloaded, put back on the running gears, and once more reloaded.

While on this trip some of the children broke out with the measles and became seriously ill. Some records say, "When we walked together from Chicago." This is likely in part a figure of speech. The going was so slow that they no doubt walked at times to escape boredom as well as to lighten the load. When they finally reached Pucker Brush there were only three log cabins along the river bank.

The father and sons at once set about constructing the fourth cabin which was also located near the river at a place which has been more recently known as the Old Fair Grounds. At the time of their coming there were no Indian settlements in this vicinity, but in the fall, large bands of them would come down and camp in the Forest City area and the braves would hunt up and down the creek in the timber and the Pilot Mound District. When they returned they took with them large quantities of deer and bear.

The Indians were friendly and if an occasional curious one, wandering about at night, took a peep into a cabin window, it was not surprising that the pioneers made the most of this bit of excitement in an otherwise uneventful scene.We have been asked three questions concerning the Lackores, the first one being, "Why did they come early?"We suspect that some of the love of the wanderlust was there, but there were other reasons, too. The Illinois farm was too small for a father and six growing sons, some of them young men. Land in Illinois was selling for what, at that time, was considered a good price. The railroad was sure to go up through North Iowa so the price of land there would be higher. Why not go ahead of the railroad and buy while land was cheap?

In the days of the walking plow and the oxen team, a tract of eighty acres was a sizable farm. If they sold their Illinois farm, they could buy eight hundred acres in North Iowa. As each child came of age he could be given a farm and there would still be plenty left for the father.

The reason for picking this particular spot in North Iowa is interesting. It was because of its forests or timber. They passed up the area around Mason City, which at that time at least SHOWED signs of civilization, because Father William maintained it had too much clay and gravel. He held to the theory that there was no soil like leaf loam and, of course to any pioneer in North Iowa, wood for building and for fuel was essential. The second question is: "Why is the Lackore family the only one of the early settlers which has stayed?" There may be different reasons. One of them is that there were more of them in the first place and the law of averages would have some stay.

At a time when a few young men were trickling into the territory and putting up some kind of a shack in order to establish their claim of ownership, when a very few families of two or four were coming, the Lackore family came ten strong. Six of the seven children were boys and three of these were young men. More in the matter of births, in the first generation at least, a decided partiality was shown toward the male sex, hence it was natural that the name was perpetuated.

Probably the chief reason why they have stayed is because they did not come in the first place to speculate, build a town, or enter politics. They came to farm and farm they did. It is an established fact that those who plant take root with their plants and are ever more firmly anchored than are business or professional men.

The third question which we have been asked is "Why do we stick together?" The answer to this is, of course, a matter of opinion. Perhaps it is an inborn trait. After all they CAME together when the older children were at an age when most families separate.

After they arrived here, there is little questions to why they clung together... for the first generation at least. If they were to survive either socially or materially, they no doubt had to stick together. Something like ten years after their coming, the population of the entire county was still less than three hundred. There were no schools, no churches, and almost no neighbors. It was a small wonder that they were dependant on each other.

When a child was born, the father acted as mid-wife. When a stubborn tooth needed to be pulled, there was a hammer and coal chisel. By driving the chisel against one side of the tooth and then the other side, the tooth was extracted. When it bled severely, they took a fine wire, heated it, and then seared over the wound, thus stopping the bleeding.Flax seed was used to take foreign particles out of the eye. In the spring every youngster had to have his blood purified by the sulfur and molasses formula. It was prepared by the father and his prescription said, "Take it eight days straight" and they did. Coughs were treated with onion syrup. There were mustard plasters for backaches, flax seed poultices were used to draw boils to a head, and for chills, catnip tea was used. The catnip had been grown in the garden and then dried. Call it know-how or call it psychology, they grew up a healthy bunch.

For the first few years they seemed to have lived largely on dairy products, corn mush or corn bread, and wild game for meat. In the summer months they had plenty of garden vegetables, but they had little way of preserving them for winter use. It seems that some things, such as cabbage, were buried in barrels and kept for a while. Some years after their arrival, they became affluent enough to butcher a beef in the winter.

In some manner they carried wheat to Waverly to have ground. There were no roads and the trail was poorly marked. It was necessary to camp along the way. Sometimes the trip took so long that by the time they got back home the horse had eaten most of the grain.

The older children had no school privileges and so were taught by their parents. The eldest son, Jim, had a letter tied to his finger each day and then was sent out to work. By the end of the day, he knew the letter, never to forget it.

Well laid plans do not always materialize. Events leading up to the Civil War stifled the progress of further settlement and, worst of all, nullified the coming of the railroad for a number of years. There was little or no market for crops or livestock and it was unprofitable to try to raise more than enough for the sustenance of themselves and their animals. Money was extremely scarce unless one was able to rate some kind of a government job. (Yes, even in those days people sought for government jobs!) Most business transactions were done by the swap method.

Lackore records claim that Father William owned the first business in Forest City, which was a sawmill. This point is disputed by others claiming the same honor, probably because the Lackore Mill was a portable one and not a permanent fixture. Later, William was one of a company who owned the mill on Mill Street. This one was at first operated by power from the Winnebago River and still later by a twenty horse power steam engine.

Tradition says that the Winnebago River was much larger in those days... at least at certain times of the year, and that the lumber in the earliest years was sawed and in some way floated down the stream until it reached a larger stream where it became a more simple matter to get it on to its destination.

Father William built one of the first frame houses in Forest City. There was plenty of lumber and man power, but there were no nails, so they traded a big steer for a keg of nails. The nails weren't like those which we have today, but they were large and rectangular in shape. As the family grew, more and more Lackore and Church homes were needed.

It is said that at one time there was no one but members of these families living in the blocks presently occupied by the Immanuel Lutheran Church, St. James Catholic Church, the hospital, the Methodist Church, and the Thorson, Thorson and Madson offices.

There follows a story which illustrates how little value land had at that time: James Lackore owned some 40 acres of land back of Oakland Cemetery. He wanted hardwood poles to make reaches and tongues for wagons, so he traded the 40 acres for the poles and then never got the poles!

A county history states that a Lemuel Lackore owned a black smith shop sometime in the late fifties, but family records do not mention Lemuel. (Note from Joanne Todd in 1994: William DID have a brother Lemuel, who later settled in a different area in Iowa according to Onalee Arnold and various other sources)

George Lackore built the first store where the Pinkney drug store now stands. He sold it about a year later.William Sr. (some question), Charles Hudson and William Jr. all served in the Civil War. William Jr. served in 15 major battles. While in the army he carried a five shot cap and ball muzzle loading revolver. This revolver is now owned by his nephew, Frank Lackore of Ames, Iowa. James also served in the Civil War.

The majority of the Lackores married into other pioneer families.

There follows a list of marriages.Viola was married to Sylvester Belcher (or Bissell). The marriage was the first one in Forest City and was performed by Judge Clark.

James was married to Sophia Siebert. She died and his second wife was a Mrs. Schwenhenberg.

George married Mary Jane Ball, daughter of one of the first ministers in the Forest City Methodist Church. In addition to being a pastor in Forest City, he was a circuit rider for many miles around. In those days, the coming of a minister furnished quite a degree of excitement and it is told that when children living out on farms sited the tall, gaunt Rev. Ball astride his old gray mare and galloping across the prairie, they would run inside, breathless with excitement, to their mothers, screaming out, "The preacher is a comin.'" George farmed and was later in the hardware business in Hayfield.

Some records says that William Jr. died of chest wounds while in the army, but other reliable records say that he returned from the Civil War and married a Harper girl whose family at that time lived where the green house now stands and which was then known as Harper Hill. This Mr. Harper was a colorful figure in early days, providing well for his family in a way no one knew how. Although he did drive the mail route between Clear Lake and Forest City, at other times he made mysterious disappearances and went to no one knew where. The author of this story claims that William Jr. died 6 months after his marriage of T.B. which had been contracted while in the Civil War.

Jessey never married. He farmed and worked on the railroad.

Chester was married to Miss Casey Heath of Clear Lake. The family lived in the west part of Forest City and Chester painted in and around the surrounding community.

Augustus married Miss Jennie Merrill who was a pioneer school teacher.

The Lackores had come primarily to farm and, after the coming of the railroad, they did farm. As each child married, he was given a piece of land, hence, much of the subsequent Lackore history lies, not in Forest City itself, but their beloved Madison Township.

As has been previously stated, Chester painted and part of his work was in Forest City.

The third son, Charles Hudson, did not farm. He was married to Emma A. Aldrich, also a pioneer They built and lived n the home where the B.J. Thompsons now live. There were seven children and the entire family were extremely active in Forest City during the more colorful period of the early days.

This C.H. Lackore and E.A. Ames started the first lumber yard of any important in Forest City in the year 1878. C.H. was W.M. of the Truth Lodge from 1876 to 1878. He was one of the trustees of the town in 1877. He was also on the first board of trustees of the Methodist Church. His son Sherman, now past ninety, lives in Forest City, as does his granddaughter Mrs. Harry Baker, and his great grandson Harvey Baker who is at present employed by the Forest City Summit.

Lackore descendants living in Forest City are: Mrs. Earnest Lackore, daughter-in-law of Chester; Truman Lackore, son of James; Hazel Lackore Paulson, Clara Lackore Faber, Forest, and Sylvan Lackore, all children of Augustus; Sherman Lackore, son of C.H. Lackore; and Norman Lackore, grandson of the pioneer, George.

There are many Lackores living in the surrounding Forest City community. the only one actively engaged in business here is Norman K. Lackore. N.K. owns and operates the Forest City Grist Mill.

The Lackores began with a saw mill, and, after close to a hundred years, there is still one in the milling business.


The following record of deaths and births is taken from the family bible of Mrs. and Mrs. William Lackore. The bible is now in the possession of Amy Lackore of Little Falls, Minnesota (May, 1955).

Mathias Church, born on May 31, 1781, Sarah Taylor, born on October 4, 1784; these two people were married on August 9, 1708

William Lackore, born on January 4, 1809 and Elizabeth Church, born on December 8, 1813; these two were married on November 25, 1832 and to them the following children were born:
  1. Viola Elizabeth Lackore, born on December 5, 1833 (eldest in the family)
  2. James Lackore, a twin, born on November 1, 1835
  3. Janett Lackore, a twin, born on November 1, 1835
  4. George Wilmington Lackore, born on March 3, 1837
  5. Charles Hudson Lackore, born on December 4, 1840
  6. Hannah Lackore, born on September 25, 1843
  7. William Henry Lackore, born on March 22, 1845
  8. Chester Lackore, born on October 7, 1847
  9. Augustus Frisbie Lackore, born on January 31, 1855
  10. Jessey Mathias Lackore, born on October 15, 1857
  • Mathias Church, died March 17, 1846, age 65 years, 10 months and 17 days
  • William Henry Lackore, Jr., died December 20, 1865, age 20 years, 8 months and 28 days
  • William Lackore, Sr., died December 18, 1886, age 77 years, 11 months and 17 days
  • Sarah Church, died February 7, 1863, age 78 years, 4 months and 3 days
  • Viola Elizabeth Bissell, died February 5, 1856, age 22 years and 2 months
  • Janett Lackore (twin), died November 17, 1835, age 17 days
  • Hannah Lackore, died May 31, 1844, age 8 months
  • Elizabeth Church Lackore, died April 17, 1897
  • Elizabeth Viola Bissell, age 6 months and 14 days


According to James Chester Lackore of Chicago, the Lackores were French Huguenots in Northern France. He says there is a possibility that they came there from England. Some language students claim that Lackore is not a French name. Conflicting statements: The record from the old family bible says the Viola Lackore died on February 5, 1856.

Her small daughter died on February 19, 1856. Winnebago County History says that the marriage of Viola to Sylvester Belcher (or Bissell) was the first one performed in Forest City. This would indicate that Viola must surely have been here in the year 1855.

However, other family records claim that Jessie Mathias Lackore was born in Illinois. Jessie was born October 15, 1857. If he were born late in the year of 1857, it is not likely that the family came until some time the next year which would be 1858. Again the records of the James Lackore family say that James came to Iowa right after his twentieth birthday. The family Bible says he was born November 1, 1855. This would mean that he came late in the fall of 1855 or early in the spring of 1856.

The obituary of Elizabeth Church Lackore, as it appears in the files of the Forest City Summit, says that she came here by ox team in 1858.

Can YOU figure out when they came?

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