Marion County >> 1872 Index

Pioneers of Marion County
by Wm. M. Donnel.  Des Moines: Republican Steam Printing House, 1872.

Polk Township


Polk Township Histories - Page 252

Chapter XIX.

Polk - Geography and Early History - "White Breast" - Death of White Breast - Names of Early Settlers - First Schools - First Preaching - First Saw Mill - Richard R. Watts - John Babcock - Destitution - Rouseau and Coalport.

On the 4th of July, 1848, town. 76., range 19, was declared a township to be known as Polk, thus dating the beginning of its municipal history on the seventy-second anniversary of our national independence. The place of holding elections was appointed to be at the house of Warren D. Everett.* The formation of this township took the part of Red Rock in town. 76, range, 19, lying north of the Des Moines river.

The formation of this township was in opposition to a remonstrance of Josiah Bullington, and others; so, on the 3d of October, of the same year, in response to a petition of Jeremiah Shepperd and others, the whole of the township was attached to Knoxville. But it appears that the court shortly afterwards, in defining the boundaries of the township recognized the legal existence of Polk by describing it as all of town. 76, range 19, except the two southern tiers of sections, and all of town. 76, range 20. But on the 8th of January, 1850, town. 76, range 20 was struck off, thus limiting the township to four tiers of sections, which is as it now exists.

Polk is bounded on the north by Summit, on the east by Lake Prairie and Clay, on the south by Knoxville, and on the
*At the first election - the date of which we have been unable to obtain - about 40 votes were cast; Warren D. Everett and --- Lowery were chosen justices, and Andrew Hopkins, clerk. The names of the other offers are not remembered.

Polk Township Histories - Page 253

west by Union. The Des Moines and White Breast rivers run through, the first from north-west to south-east, and the latter from south-west to north-east. The township being mostly within the margins of these streams, is timbered and uneven in surface; but the bottom lands are level, and are noted for their great depth and fertility of soil. White Breast prairie, north of the river, and bordering its bank, is a beautiful strip of farming land, highly adapted to the culture of corn. And here many of the first settlers took claims, by which the place was known as the "White Breast Settlement."

The names of those who settled within the present limits of Polk at the earliest date are the Stevison family, George, James, Andrew and their father; Edward, George and Rachael Billaps; George Wilson, Mikel S. Morris, (who served as the first jus-

Polk Township Histories - Page 254

tice of the peace within the present limits of the township before its organization; Richard R. Watts, Alexander Caton, Mardica Yearns, and Andrew Stortz. These all settled on the north side of the river in 1843, except Watts, who settled near where Coalport now is. John Babcock, Warren D., Frank, and John Everett, Andrew, George and William Karr, and Robert Ethrington settled in the township at later dates from '45 to '47. But few of these still live in the county, Andrew Stevison being the only one of the first named still living near where he first settled. Robert Ethrington lives in Summit.

The first school was taught by an Englishman, whose name our informant could not remember, in a small log house built for that purpose, near the creek, at the head of White Breast prairie, in '48 or 49. John Everett next taught in the same house. This little log school house also served the purpose of a church occasionally, where Warren D. Everett, Baptist, and John Demoss, United Brethren, preached in it. The flood of '51, a never-to-be-forgotten event, as we have already seen, swept the house away; and not far from where it stood, but above high water mark, now stands a well-finished frame building large enough for any ordinary use in a country district.

W. D. Everett, Jas. Karr and Mike Morris erected the first saw mill in '50, being a temporary affair, driven by horse-power. It stood near the south bank of the river.

Polk Township Histories - Page 255

There were two villages laid out in this township, but they were never improved to any extent. The first is Rouseau, on the south bank of the river, in section 9. It was located by Wm. Kent, and surveyed by James Rouseau, April 25, 1850, and named for him. Here a pretended effort was once made to erect a dam and lock in the great visionary enterprise of improving the navigation of the Des Moines river.

Coalport is located in section 14, at the point of a large bend in the river, on the south side. It was laid out by Wm. Welch, May 11, '57,and so named on account of the vast quantity and superior quality of coal in its vicinity. No post office was ever established in either place, and they still remain mere hamlets.

The population of Polk township by the U. S. census, was:
Native - 794
Foreign - 85
Total - 879

Index of names mentioned in the Polk Township Histories section

Babcock, John - Polk Township page 254
Billaps, Edward - Polk Township page 253
Billaps, George - Polk Township page 253
Billaps, Rachael - Polk Township page 253
Bullington, Josiah - Polk Township page 252

Caton, Alexander - Polk Township page 254

Demoss, John - Polk Township page 254

Ethrington, Robert - Polk Township page 254
Everett, Frank - Polk Township page 254
Everett, John - Polk Township page 254
Everett, W. D. - Polk Township page 254
Everett, Warren D. - Polk Township page 252, 254

Hopkins, Andrew - Polk Township page 252

Karr, Andrew - Polk Township page 254
Karr, George - Polk Township page 254
Karr, Jas. - Polk Township page 254
Karr, William - Polk Township page 254
Kent, Wm. - Polk Township page 255

Lowery - Polk Township page 252

Morris, Mike - Polk Township page 254
Morris, Mikel S. - Polk Township page 253

Rouseau, James - Polk Township page 255

Shepperd, Jeremiah - Polk Township page 252
Stevison, George - Polk Township page 253
Stevison, James - Polk Township page 253
Stevison, Andrew - Polk Township page 253, 254
Stortz, Andrew - Polk Township page 254

Watts, Richard R. - Polk Township page 254
Welch, Wm. - Polk Township page 255
Wilson, George - Polk Township page 253

Yearns, Mardica- Polk Township page 254