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HISTORIES OF DES MOINES COUNTY, IA

 


Thanks to Cay Merryman

Yellow Springs Township 1834

Village of Kossuth

Pages 609 - 612

 

The first permanent settlement in this neighborhood was made by Jacob Westfall and Allen Eliot, near Yellow Springs, in the fall of 1834. Thomas and D. E. Blair made claims earlier, in the southwest part of this neighborhood but coming on to improve, found them taken by others. Looking for unoccupied land, one went west as far as Mount Pleasant, the other came to Round Prairie, and was pleased with it. Both coming across next day, they found the Carter tribe, form the “State of Macoupin,” making claims, and occupying from Thomas Hutchcroft’s place to that of A. Rankin, inclusive. The man living on the last-named place offering to sell, they bought his logs and built a cabin, to which T. Blair moved his family in May, 1835. One day earlier, B. W. Clark and his relatives, moved in, occupying from the Mediapolis Road, south to Westfall’s, and south of Westfall’s to near Sperry. Allen Eliot had a claim on the north side of Round Prairie, the west half of which was sold to Joshua Swank, in March, 1835, Eliot retaining where J. and S. Waddle now live. Swank finding the bottom better for his stock, moved there the same spring and with his brother Wesley and W. Milligan, were the first settlers there. Job Carter made the claim on which Kossuth now stands, and but a few rods from the present location his humble cabin stood.

July 3, 1836, the Territory changed its political relations, being then made a part of Wisconsin. The 4th of July dawned on a growing community. There were ten thousand people west of the river. They were opening farms and building houses; they were buying and selling; they were marrying and giving in marriage, and children were being born unto them.

Allen Eliot and Miss Cole were married the previous winter, and so were Wesley Swank and Miss Henrietta Hilleary, but they were obliged to go within the jurisdiction of Illinois for the purpose. The first marriage in the neighborhood was that of Josiah Edwards and Miss Pamela Westfall, in 1837. In Huron, the first was Nathan Westfall and Miss K. McKee. The first birth was that of Jacob Westfall, Jr., at Yellow Springs. There were as yet no schools, but the Gospel was already preached by the adventurous and earnest Methodist itinerant. Rev. Mr. Stateler had made Westfall’s a preaching-place in 1835, followed by Rev. Mr. Ruble, who died early in 1836. Father Isham Edwards, of the Newlight Church, also preached to his neighbors occasionally in the neighborhood of the Spring.

The next ten years of Territorial life worked many changes. The main interest was agriculture, and the farmers became producers instead of consumers. Previously bread and meat had been hauled from Illinois. Hogs were few, and fattened on the acorns. Horses of that day would not satisfy the horsemen of this. Cattle were largely used for all kinds of labor, especially for breaking prairie, ten or twelve oxen making a plow-team. Many cattle died in the winter and spring from the scarcity of food. A traveler, finding a man beside a dead ox, offered sympathy; the granger replied, “he didn’t mind the loss of the ox, but was bothered for a place to dry the hide, as every panel of his fence was already in use.” The coming years were years of plenty. The productiveness of the soil and freedom from weeds made farming easy. But there was no market except to new-comers, and new-comers and old settlers were alike hoarding their small means for the purchase of their homes. The land in Yellow Springs was sold in the winter of 1838. Claim organizations had been formed by the people throughout the country, and their rules were rigidly enforced.

The first Justice of Peace was William Dupont, who was appointed by Gov. Dodge in 1836. His decisions are still quoted, or rather those of his wife, for his family relations were like those of Adam, as given by the epigram - “He was the first by woman ruled, the Devil ruled the woman.”

Isham Edwards, Esq., Alexander and Philip Mascal, exercised the same office at an early day.

The Yellow Springs Presbyterian Church was organized September 12, 1840, by Rev. J. A. Carnahan with eleven members, and fourteen were added within the year. The first Elders were Thomas Blair, S. Fullenwider and John Bandy. The first preacher employed was Rev. W. C. Rankin in 1841. The Rev. S. Paine succeeded him in 1842, and the building of a church began. Rev. B. Roberts was his successor, remaining until 1847.

During the summer of 1836, the members of two or three families met occasionally on the Sabbath, for Bible-reading and instruction, but no regular Sunday School was organized till April, 1837, at which time the “Round Prairie Sunday School” began its existence with thirty or forty scholars.

T. Blair was the first Superintendent. The school was held in private houses at first, and afterward in a temporary schoolhouse until the summer of 1838, when it took possession of the schoolhouse here, and has had a home in Kossuth ever since. In 1841, a school was organized at the R.P.P. Church, and the school here took the name of “Yellow Springs Sunday school.”

A temperance society was formed in 1837, with Judge D. Rankin, President. A barrel of whisky was brouht here in 1836, by Thomas Carter, for sale, but it was bought up by the temperance people, and the seller promised to bring no more, and intoxicating liquor has never been publicly sold in the neighborhood since.

The first school was taught by Miss M. A. Blair, at the house of her father, T. Blair, in the spring of 1838. The next winter an unoccupied claim cabin was obtained, and Rev. Elihu Springer was employed. Miss Blair taught there the following summer. The same summer, Miss Becky McGinty taught the first school on the Bottom. In the summer of 1838, the first house built expressly for school purposes was erected here at Job Carter’s spring, and William E. Gilliland taught the winter school. In 1841, May 15, the Board of School Inspectors of Yellow Springs Township, sent greetings through William Rankin, Township Clerk, to certain citizens in four districts of given bounds, to notify the electors to meet on the 19th of June following, to elect a Moderator, a Director and an Assessor for each of said districts, thus inaugurating the common-school system of free schools for the children of free men.

In 1844, the charter for Jefferson Academy was obtained, and through the efforts of Rev. S. Paine, S. Fullenwider, T. Blair and others, the brick building, now the front of the Kossuth House was completed, and Rev. B. Roberts began, in the fall of 1845, his labors as Principal, with his daughter, Miss Louise, as Assistant.

The close of the year 1846, December 28, found Iowa one of the States of the Union. In the first State Legislature were Dr. S. Fullenwider in the Senate, and D. E. Blair in the House. The political change of relation had little effect on local communities, or the life of the people. For the next ten years, the religious, material, educational and social interests of the county made steady advancement.

The Methodists had raised and covered a log church at Yellow Springs, but loss of members at that point made a change desirable. In 1846, it was taken down and rebuilt as Wesley Chapel, two miles east of its first location, and occupied for ten years as a preaching place by Rev. D. Crawford, 1846; J. Jamison, 1847; J. B. Hardy and J. T. Coleman, 1848; Thomas Kirkpatrick and N. King, 1849; Joseph McDowell and Joseph Cameron, 1850; H. N. Wilber and D. Dickenson, 1851; E. Lathrop, 1852; M. See and N. Wells, 1853; T. G. Thompson, 1854; J. Haynes, 1855. Through the efforts largely of Rev. J. Haynes a commodious and tasteful church was built at Northfield, 1855.

In 1854, the Presbyterian Church was built at Kossuth, and Rev. B. Wall began his ministry there in 1855. The members seceding in 1846, united with the Yellow Springs Church. Rev. M. Whittlesey succeeded Mr. Roberts as preacher to that Church, followed by Mr. Eastman, for six months each. Rev. W. A. B. McCuistion began his ministry in 1849. Dying in 1851, Rev. G. W. Spaulding held the place for nearly a year. From 1852 to 1854, Rev. J. M. Philips labored here. After him, Prof. Ottinger filled the pulpit for a short time. Rev. E. J. Gillet was called to the pulpit in 1855, and supplied it for five years. In 1855, the ultra Abolitionists again bolted, and in 1856built a church on the North Hill, in Kossuth. In 1850 and 1851, a general religious interest pervaded the entire community, and all the churches shared in ingathering of new members.

Meanwhile, education was not neglected. Schools were established and well sustained everywhere. Rev. B. Roberts continued to teach at Jefferson Academy, assisted, in 1846, by Prof. M. L. Comstock and Miss M. A. Blair. In 1846, Prof. Comstock was Principal. For two or three years after this, it weakened badly, but began to improve in 1852, under the management of Rev. J. M. Philips. In 1853, J. W. McDill was a teacher, and also Prof. N. R. Leonard. Prof. Ottinger, in 1854, was its last Principal. The next summer a new house was built, and it put on the new style of “Yellow Springs Collegiate Institute,” and Dr. Gillet was called to the Presidency, with N. R. Leonard, Professor of Mathematics, and E. Pierce, of Language.

The college prospered under the guidance and instruction of Dr. Gillet, Prof. Leonard, Pierce, Comstock and others, until 1861. From that time it declined, in spite of the efforts to sustain it by Prof. Pierce, S. R. Allen, J. W. Peet and others, till its final dissolution under W. D. Moore, 1869.

July 5, 1873, Articles of Incorporation of “Kossuth Academy” were signed and a school was started a few months later, with Miss V. L. Scott as Principal, and November 7, 1874, the college-building was purchased by the stockholders of the new institution. Under its present popular management, it presents a show of much good work done by both teachers and students.

Yellow Springs had failed to become a center of either business or population, and in the fall of 1849, Messrs. W. H. Cartwright and J. J. Crowder, owning a stock of goods there, moved them to the basement of the Academy. In 1850, the postoffice was established and named “Kossuth,” J. J. Crowder, Postmaster. S. S. McBride started a store later. Afterward, R. J. Harper was his partner. Still later, it was run by Heizer & Yost. Dr. Fullenwider was for some time a partner in the firm of W. H. Cartwright & Co., but retired and built the Kossuth House in 1856. In 1855, Oliver & Yost built and put in operation the Kossuth Mills, and sold, the year following, to Sweeney & Harper. The Kossuth Mills, after passing through the hands of Sweeny & Harper, Harper & Cox, Heizer & Cox, became the property of Heizer, Hutchcroft & Co., and under their management became one of the best paying institutions in the country, and the firm of Hutchcroft & Co., keep up their good name.

A tile factory a mile south of Kossuth, has added to the business, and greatly benefited the country. Messenger & McClurkin were its founders, in 1871. Messenger and Pierce are the present proprietors. So great has been the call for their products that the aid of a steam engine and much new machinery has been required and provided the present year. W. H. Cartwright continued his successful mercantile career here till the close of 1869. J. L. Yost, S. B. Heizer, James Waddle, S. Pollock, J. J. Crowder, J. W. Chapman, B. F. Vanleaven, James Vannice, John Bridges, M. Crane, R. R. and F. Wycoff, R. S. Hedges, J. N. Covert, M. L. Heizer, Joab Harper, T. Rhodes and others have sold goods here at various times with various results.

The Free Church employed Rev. S. I. Kain in 1856, his pastorate lasting two years. Rev. D. Gilmore was their preacher in 1860. Rev. W. G. Kephart succeeded him, and preached till 1865, when Pastor and people were absorbed by the Yellow Springs Presbyterian Church, to which Mr. Kephart ministered until 1869. In 1870, April 13, the union of the Yellow Springs Church and that of Round Prairie was consummated and Rev. Alexander Scott became Pastor of the “First Presbyterian Church of Kossuth.”

Kossuth has now two general stores, one steam flouring-mill, one furniture store, one nursery, three physicians, two blacksmith-shops, one shoemaker, one millinery establishment and one steam tile-mill. The present Postmaster of Kossuth is John Bridges.