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Monona County >> 1890 Index

History of Monona County, Iowa
Chicago: National Pub. Co., 1890


Unless noted, biographies submitted by Dick Barton.

THOMAS MEANS submitted by Kathy Leach

Thomas Means, who is engaged in farming and stock-raising on Section 2, Jordan Township, was born in Mercer County, Pa., August 10, 1842. His father, Hugh Means, a native also of the same county, was born about 1807, and was a miller and shoemaker by trade. In 1842 he removed to Jackson County, near Bellevue, Iowa, where he died. He was married at the age of twenty or twenty-one to Miss Elizabeth Rotroft, a native of Baltimore, Md., who was born in 1811 and who is still living in Jackson County, Iowa.

Thomas, the seventh in a family of ten children, came with his parents in childhood to Iowa, and at Bellevue, on the banks of the mighty Mississippi, grew to manhood. On the death of his father he commenced working on a farm and continued in that line of employment until he was some twenty-three years of age, laboring for other parties. For two years, subsequently, he worked on rented land after which he emigrated to Burt County, Neb., where he took up a claim of one hundred and twenty acres of land , and made his home for seven years. Selling out, he returned to his former residence, and there and in other places, followed various avocations until the spring of 1875, when he came to Monona County and renting a farm in St. Clair Township, took up his residence there. Leaving this county in 1879, he went to Oregon and in that State and Montana Territory remained until 1882, when once more he returned to Monona County. Purchasing eighty acres of land on Section 2, he has developed it into an excellent farm, and has there made his home ever since.

Mr. Means was married in 1864, to Miss Lucinda Bicksler, a native of Jackson County, Iowa, who was born March 12, 1845, and is a daughter of Thomas J. and Mary (Jonas) Bicksler. Her mother died April 1, 1869. Mr. And Mrs. Means have had a family of four children: George M., born November 13, 1864; Solomon W., July 3, 1873; William, born March 1, 1866, died November 15, 1871; and Burt, born December 17, 1879.

As a relic of the past Mr. Means still preserves the team of mules that he drove through to the Pacific Coast and back, one of who is twenty-eight years old and the other past seventeen. Both of them will run to him on every occasion, well knowing their old master.

GEORGE R. NORTON submitted by Kathy Leach

George R. Norton, a citizen of the city of Onawa, who is engaged in farming in Franklin Township, was born in Windsor, Kennebec County, Maine, and is a son of Simon D, and Nancy (Lord) Norton. Both parents were natives of Maine, in which State they were married and where the mother is still residing. The father died in September 1872. The latter was formerly engaged in farming, but for six years previous to his death was engaged in the mercantile trade.

Our subject, the youngest in a family of seven children, remained at home, receiving a common-school education, and assisted in carrying on the farm until sixteen years of age, at which time he went to work for the Boston Machine Company’s Locomotive Works, and remained some two and a half years. In August 1870, he came to Monona County and engaged at farm labor for a time. In 1879 he purchased a farm and has carried on agricultural pursuits from that date until the present.

He was married at Onawa, March 8, 1877, to Miss Jennie F. Elliott, who was born at St. Charles, Kane County, Ill., August 20, 1856, and is a daughter of Timothy Elliott, one of the pioneers of Monona County. They are the parents of six children: Webb, born December 4, 1877; Jessie V., born February 14, 1878; Ward, born September 20, 1881; Vera, born July 3, 1886; Lois, June 20, 1888, and George R., Jr., born September 13, 1889.

Mr. Norton is a member of Monona Lodge, No 380, I.O.O.F., at Onawa.


William W. Ordway

Perhaps in Western Iowa there is no individual more widely or better known than Dr. Ordway, one of the oldest settlers of Monona County, who located here in August 1855. At that early date he entered twelve hundred and eighty acres of land in Ashton Township, and there being but limited accommodation in the county, and having no house built, went to the little village of Smithland, Woodbury County, where he passed the winter, making his home with O. B. Smith most of the time. The following spring he located in this county and has made it his residence ever since.

Dr. Ordway is a native of Lewis County, NY and was born March 2, 1830. His father, Stephen Ordway, the son of Stephen Ordway, Sr., was born in New Hampshire about 1792, and died September 22, 1882. William W. attended the district school at Turin, in his native county, until he was about fifteen years of age. He then left home and attended an academy at Plymouth, NH and later, one at Romney, in the same state, and in the latter prepared the way for the study of medicine. His uncle, Aaron Ordway, with whom he afterward studied for the profession, and his grandfather, seeing his abilities and studious habits, furnished the means for his tuition. He resided with his uncle until he was about nineteen years of age, at which time he took up a different branch of the science under Dr. Goodrich, of Plymouth, NH, with whom he remained about six months, having in the interim devoted some attention to dentistry with a Dr. Kelly. Having grounded himself sufficiently in the medical science and in dental surgery, and accumulating a small capital by the practice of the latter, supplemented by a loan from his sister, he started for California on the breaking out of the gold excitement in that region, in company of Dr. Kelly. They took out with them about $500 worth of drugs, and practiced medicine in partnership in San Francisco, during the winter of 1849-1850, and made considerable money. In the spring they divided their stock, in Dr. Ordway removed to Klingman’s Point, in the northern part of the state, where he practiced medicine, running a store for the sale of miner’s supplies and a boarding house at the same time. He continued in these several business for about four years, at the end of which time he removed to Chips’ Flat, and engaged in the same lines for a year. While there, he invested about $1000 in a gold mine, and after operating it for a year, sold one half of his interest for $2550, and the other half shortly after for $1500. He then returned to New York for a visit and remained about six months, then went back to California and purchased his old business, and ran it about eighteen months, and in the summer of 1855 came to Iowa. It was not his intention at that time to locate here, but to settle his sister and invest his money, he having about $12,000, which he had made during his stay in California. In the spring of 1856 the sister and her husband, Barnabas Martin, came to the county and settled on one of the Doctor’s farms, where she died the following August. In the winter her husband went to Colorado. They had one child, which the Doctor took to rear, but during the winter of the deep snow, it took a severe cold and died December 4, 1856.

Having now no one to look after his interests in this locality, the Doctor was compelled to make his stay a permanent one. He entered into the practice of medicine which assumed large proportions, extending from Sergents’s Bluff to Little Sioux and Magnolia, and from Ida Grove to the Missouri River. Having a large amount of means at his disposal, he has been engaged largely in the loaning of money, and like many others engaged in that business, has made some enemies, but at the same time has won many friends. In his professional duties, he is largely spoken of as a conscientious and faithful physician, never leaving a patient while in danger, and although his favorite pills and doses of other medicines were large, they usually had the effect that he desired to produce. On the night of January 2, 1885, an attempt was made to murder the Doctor for the sake of robbery, as is detailed in the history of Kennebec Township, in which he was severely wounded, and while he was confined to his bed, was the recipient of kind attentions from many friends, which were duly appreciated for no man holds in higher estimation the value of a friend than does W. W. Ordway.

The doctor was united in marriage, March 2, 1863, with Mary E. Wood, a native of Wisconsin, born January 26, 1844, who died April 22, 1874, having had a family of six children, of which the following is a record: William W., born January 26, 1864; Ada A., born November 10, 1865, died February 22, 1866; Frances, born February 7, 1867, died September 22, 1868; Frank, born January 15, 1869; Mary L., born February 19, 1871, died August 30, 1871; and John S., born September 5, 1872.

The Doctor has had most eminent success in this county, from a financial point of view, and is rated among the wealthiest men of Western Iowa, and is the largest land-owner in Monona County, if not in the northwestern part of the State. In spite of his many business cares, he has never divorced himself from his chosen profession, and still is engaged in practice, although increasing years have confined his efforts principally to office work.

When the Doctor came to this locality he brought with him a large amount of gold, the most of which he carried in his trunk. When starting from O.B. Smith’s residence, near Smithland, having something like $1200 worth of money about his person, he left a small satchel, containing some $3,000, with Mrs. Smith, who was not aware of its valuable contents and threw it under her bed. Feeling curious, on account of its great weight, she spoke about it, and a man and his wife, who were staying there, manifested the same curiosity. After Smith and his wife retired to their bed at night, the couple, who lay on the floor near by, talked about it to themselves. The next morning Mrs. Smith missed the satchel quite early, and her husband rising, followed some tracks from his door to some hollow trees near the bank of the river, and then to the stream, and plunging into the water the fish spear he had in his hand, drew out the valise, empty of its valuable contents. The man who was staying with him, who claimed he had lost his pants and $112, was placed under surveillance, and the cabin searched, while a man was send for Dr. Ordway who had gone down to Belvidere. After some search the whole amount of the money, including the $112 of the suspected party, was found in two hollow trees near the Sioux River, and on Ordway’s return was returned to him. The man was sent to Council Bluffs and lodged in jail, but through the negligence of the janitor, and the machinations of his alleged wife, escaped and was never brought to justice for his crime.

As one of the old pioneers and representative citizens of this country, a portrait of Mr. Ordway is worthy a place in this volume and it is herewith presented on another page.


While but few crimes of any magnitude have been enacted in Monona County in all the years since its first settlement, still it is to be expected there are some; and one of the most dastardly occurred within the limits of this precinct.

It was upon the night of Jan 2, 1885, about a quarter before midnight, that three men approached the house of Dr. W. W. Ordway, on Section 13, and rapping upon the door, attracted that gentleman’s attention. On being asked what they wanted one of them replied that he wanted some medicine for a child of John Potts, whom they represented to have an attack of the croup. Ever ready to attend to calls of that nature, the doctor arose and let one of them in and invited him to take a chair, while he proceeded to put on his pants. Having done so he prepared to light a lamp. He struck a match and lit the wick, but before he could get the globe on, a shot was fired through the north window, and a load of buckshot hurtled through the air, five of the missiles striking the doctor in the face. As he half fell he grasped the stove with one hand and held on to it until it was blistered. Bu almost superhuman exertions he raised up and staggered through the door, and passing through another room, hardly realizing what he was doing but blindly trying to get his gun. As he passed through the door the man who had come in the house picked up a truck containing very valuable papers, and as he passed out of the house, called for the fellow outside to “finish him,” meaning the doctor. The latter by this time had reached a hall that still separated him from his weapon, and just as he crossed it, the miscreant fired another shot, but fortunately missed his aim. The plucky doctor then made a rush for him, when the fellow again essayed to fire his piece but it missed fire, and closing with him the two had a desperate battle clear out of the house and three or four rods from the door; and had Dr. Ordway had his boots on, it is his opinion that he could have made a sad looking corpse of the rascal, as the fellow did not find so easy a man to handle as he supposed, even if he was sorely wounded. The men got away, however, but the doctor secured the man’s gun, mitten and cap, and returned to the house and had Dr. Harman, of Onawa, brought out in the morning to dress the painful would that he had received. This laid the doctor up for some ten weeks, and left a scar that will last for life. The miscreants broke open the trunk, which contained about $100,000 worth of valuable papers, which they attempted to burn but the blast was so strong that many of them were strewn around over the snow.

GEORGE R. OUTHOUSE, a representative of one of the oldest pioneer families of Monona County , and who is one of the most extensive farmers and stock-raisers of Jordan Township , resides upon section 21. Our subject was born in Clinton County , Ill. , August 28, 1831 , and is the son of John and Martha (Smith) Outhouse, a biography of whom is given elsewhere in the pages of this Album. When some five years of age he removed with his parents to Caldwell County , Mo. , but in 1839 was taken by them to Adams County , Ill. , and while there, at the age of eight years, was baptised into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and still practically and hopefully holds to the faith of that denomination, although repudiating the doctrine of polygamy and all its vices, and has been a conscientious believer in the church founded by Joseph Smith, the Prophet. About 1840, with the family, he settled at Nauvoo, Hancock County , Ill. , where he remained until September, 1847, when, owing to persecution from the surrounding people, the family left that city of refuge and went down the river on a flatboat to St. Louis , thence to Clinton County , where they made their home for about five years, George doing a large share in supporting the family on account of his father's ill health. After a short sojourn in Andrew County, Mo., the family removed to Pottawattamie County , Iowa , in the spring of 1851, where they made their home for about two years. Having been up in this region in the winter of 1853-4 prospecting, George R. Outhouse brought the family here on the 4th of April, 1864 , and settled at Preparation, where they made their home until 1855.

Our subject resided on a farm which he purchased in 1855, in Belvidere Township , to which he removed the family, until 1871, at which date he removed to Jordan Township , locating on the site of his present residence. He is the owner of five hundred and sixty acres of land, the greater portion of which is in one body, and he has over two hundred acres in cultivation, devoting the balance of his land to stock-raising.

Mr. Outhouse was married September 21, 1863 , near Mondamin, Harrison County , to Miss Nancy Phillis Shaw, a native of England , who was brought to this country when an infant, by her parents, Henry and Nancy Shaw. She died August 5, 1864 , having been the mother of one child, Joseph Alma, born June 27, 1864 . Mr. Outhouse was again married, November 24, 1867 , wedding Miss Mary M. Hunter, who was born in Caldwell County , Mo. , December 5, 1840 , and was the daughter of A. L. Hunter,, of Jordan Township . Of this union there have been born eight children: George Paul, September 4, 1868 ; John Thomas, January 1, 1869 , and died September 15, 1870 ; David Parley, born March 27, 1871 ; Oley Meano, March 28, 1873; Nancy Rhoda, March 7, 1875 ; Peter Marcus, November 30, 1877 ; William Ryan, July 12, 1879 ; and Mary Emma, February 18, 1881 . Mrs. Outhouse died March 23, 1881 , and is buried in Jordan Cemetery .

JOHN OUTHOUSE, deceased, was one of the old pioneers of Monona County , and one around whose settlement cluster many reminiscences of the early days at Preparation, was born in Bertie County , N. C., August 15, 1786 . At the age of twenty years he removed Westward with the adventurous pioneers of "the dark and bloody Ground," and settled in Trigg County , Ky. , then in the woody wilderness. There, he made his home until 1819, when, still moving upon the frontier of civilization, he removed to Clinton County , Ill. , among its earliest settlers, and there made his home until 1836. While a resident of the latter place, in 1835, under the ministry of Elder George M. Hinkle, he was converted to the faith, and joined the Church of Jesus Christ , of Latter Day Saints, a religious denomination in which he continued faithfully and zealously until his death. In company with a number of his co-religionists, in 1836, he removed to Caldwell County , Mo. , and settled upon a fine farm of one hundred and twenty acres, which he had all improved, but which, in 1838, owing to persecution and priestcraft, he was compelled to sacrifice for a trifle, and flee for his life on account of the uprising of the Missouri mobs, whose rage was excited by his religious beliefs and views on the slavery question. With about twelve thousand of the people of the church he removed to Adams County , Ill. , and in 1840 or 1841 settled at Nauvoo, the city of the church, from which he was again driven out in 1847, a short time after the assassination of Joseph Smith. Leaving the colony he returned to Clinton County , where he remained till 1851, after which, in Andrew County, Mo., he made his home until 1853, when he came to Iowa and settled in Pottawattamie County , and thence, on the 4th of April 1854 , came to this county and settled at Preparation with his son George. He died in Belvidere Township , October 15, 1864 , and his body lies buried in the township, in its cemetery.

Mr. Outhouse was married, in Trigg County , Ky. , February 5, 1818 , to Miss Martha Smith, a native of Bertie County , N. C., who was born May 11, 1800 , and she was the mother of eleven children, four of whom are living. She is making her home now with her son George, in Jordan Township . She has been blind for the last sixteen years.