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‘The Correctionville story was prepared by Phyllis Brauninger and Marvel Walker’
Correctionville is one of the oldest towns in Woodbury County; thus it has a rich and interesting history. If all could be recounted it would fill volumes.
Let us gaze into the pages of time and see what has transpired since the beginning of the 1850s. history tells us of the first permanent settlers being lured to this valley after seeing this paradise – the endless elevations of rolling prairie, grass high as a horse’s back, the wooded hillsides with the river rolling along on its endless journey, and inhabited only by the mighty Sioux, conqueror of the land, but living in peace with nature. Phillip Sturges states, ‘For the Red Man was Mother Nature’s firstborn, and he was as dear to her heart as she was to his’.
Civilization meant death tot eh red Rover’s happy, carefree way of life. For a while they harassed the never-ending flow of early settlers, (which we will tell more about later), but in two short decades, 1850-1870, the Indian scare was just a memory to citizens who were building a new home in Correctionville. Sad it is that we could not live in harmony together; when the one succeeded, the other lost - for civilization took away the Indian’s home, took away his independence, took away his freedom, and gave him heartaches in return – liquor, confinement, and discouragement.
Who were the first brave men who dared to come into the Red Man’s land and conquer it for themselves? We do not know if the famous explorers (Pike, Lewis, or Clark) ever trod the soils of Correctionville; we do know that in 1853 E and J Allen, Shook, and Pendall were enticed to this vicinity. Phillip Sturges, writing in his column ‘Wings of Time’, tells their story: ‘We do not know where these men came from or where they lived later, but they settled here and lived peacefully with their families, for a couple of years, each staking out a fine claim. Just when things were going well for the little settlement, Shook, who was a rascal, took it into his head to appropriate Pendall’s claim – and with thousands of acres for his asking. Mr Pendall naturally objected. Shook killed him and skipped the country. He was brought to justice later – tried for murder in 1856, but got acquitted in some way, and thumbing his nose at embryo Correctionville disappeared. Erastus and Zack Allen entered the cabin, found Pendall dead and suspicion Shook right away. (Today there is a young man’s grave in Good Hope Cemetery with Pendall’s name on the tombstone which is believed to be this first settler.) the same year Allen’s house and belongings were entirely destroyed by fire, thus did greed and misfortune, destroy the first settlement. Two little log cabins marked a futile milestone, and the wilderness reclaimed her own.’
Rumors ran wild in the next few months as to where the Illinois Central Railroad would push through this area. Elated at the prospects of riches, eastern speculators sent out surveyors to lay out towns. Correctionville was surveyed in September 25, 1855, and named after the surveyor’s Correctionville Line. Due to the curvature of the earth, a correction line must be established every sixty miles. This correction line runs from Illinois and through Iowa. It was marked every half mile with durable wooden stakes protected by dirt mounds several feet high. When five men, George W Chamberlain, Hiram Nelson, Francis Chapell, Charles Rustin, and Horce [Horace] C Bacon, surveyed the town of Correctionville it turned out to be located on the correction line and caused a job in the main street; that is why Correctionville was named after the line.
This is their story as recorded in ‘Wings of Time’; Richard Gendreau, Cor. Hall, Abe and Silas ‘Lycenius’ Bacon, Harvey Phillips, Moses Pierson, and Gilbert Willett rode through northwest Iowa in search of a suitable home. They headquartered with a party of French and American settlers along the Floyd River in Sioux City for one winter. However they remembered the paradise (formerly mentioned) thirty miles east form Sioux City and in the spring of 1857 they returned to the little valley and took claims.
August Richard Gendreau has been rightfully called the ‘Father of Correctionville’. Born in Quebec, Canada, of French descent, he came to Iowa in early manhood; he fell in love with the Little Sioux Valley and bought his quarter section outright for $1.25 an acre. His land extended from a corner now occupied by the Corner Hardware east to the Jack Chattick home and south to form a quarter section. He laid out the west portion of his land into town lots, donating some of them to worthy enterprises (first schoolhouse, hotel, Baptist Church, and Catholic Church were all built on land donated by him), and he sold other lots. The first white child born in Correctionville was his daughter, Jeannette Gendreau Ross, born 1858. Mrs Mike Cobeen, his second daughter, may have been the second child born in Correctionville; his other two daughters after marriage were Mrs Hattie Workman, and Mrs Barto.
Abe Bacon settled along the creek south of town, the creek being named after him today; Silas Bacon settled on the other side of the river near the present Lee Smith home. Harvey Phillips homesteaded on the ridge road; Moses Pierson on what is now called Pierson Creek. Cor. Hall who built the first bridge across the Little Sioux River for $600 in 1860, homesteaded near Anthon.
The first settlers were ‘fighters’, enduring endless hardships of bitter cold winters, travel long and slow, no bridges at first to cross creeks and rivers, and the unfriendly Indians who were ever present. However, the Indians were less hostile to these Little Sioux Valley settlers than to most others, and this was due to Mr Gendreau’s personal friendship with a ‘squaw Man’, Boyer. Their friendship had blossomed when the settlers spent the winter in Sioux City; Boyer, who had influence with the Indians, commanded them to, ‘Leave my friend to the East alone’.
Even then, Mr Gendreau often locked his horses in the back room of his cabin. Once two warriors of terrifying appearance approached the house where Mrs Gendreau and his children were alone. She slipped her daughter out the window to run to the fields for her father while the Indians amused themselves by eating her food. His appearance quieted the Indians and they left peacefully.
If you know of any corrections or missing information please contact me.
Woodbury County Coordinator
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