History Byron Township, Buchanan County, IA
From: History of Bachanan County, Iowa And its People
By Harry Church and Katharyn J. Chappell
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. Chicago 1914



The Township of Byron was organized on March 20, 1856. The court order, reading as follows, gives an idea of the details of the organization: "Comes into court James Lines and forty six others praying that the court set of township 89, range 8 north, excepting sections 13, 24 and 36; and the same is hereby formed into a separate precinct to be called Byron, and the court orders that an election be holden in said township on the first Monday in April next, at the house of William Lines, on section 15 in said township, for the election of three trustees, two justices, two constables, and one road supervisor, and one schoolhouse commissioner, for the county at large - O. H. P. Roszell, County Judge."


This election was held on the above specified date as ordered by the court. T. Stoneman and C. W. McKinney were appointed judges of the election and William Lines, clerk. The following persons were elected at this time: E. B. King, John Tullock and William Potter, trustees; L. S. Brooks and Sylvester Pierce, justices of the peace; James Becker and Martin Hearne, constables; S. L. Gaylord, county supervisor; William Lines, clerk, and John C. Ozius, assessor. There were thirty seven votes cast at this election.


The first permanent settler in Byron Township was Henry Baker. He came in the year 1844 and built the first cabin, in the southwest part of the township. He selected a site near to a natural spring and within easy distance of the timber. Baker lived on this spot for nearly two years, having as his nearest neighbor Hamilton McGonigle, who had settled south in Liberty Township, three or four miles distant. The only company Baker had during these two years of residence was his sister. However, near the time when he departed from the township he married Laura Hunter His sister married Samuel Casky and lived for many years in Quasqueton. Nothing more was heard of Baker after he left the township, but it is presumed that he went to some of the western states.

Robert Sutton settled in the township about the year 1846 and immediately purchased the claim made by Baker. With the latter's departure, Sutton was left the one inhabitant of the township. He and his family hunted and drove to mill at Quasqueton without seeing more than a dozen people on the route. Sutton stayed here until the year 1865, when the march of civilization began to reach his quarters. He was a typical frontiersman, scorning the advantages of settled communities and desiring the free openness of the prairie, without hindrance, so he packed up his belongings, and took his family to Kansas, where he kept a tavern. Many stories are told of Sutton, stories which do not speak well of his character. In the first place, he is said to have been very cruel to his family. At one time he tied his son, Benjamin, to a tree, fixed an ear of corn in his mouth, and left him there for several hours, to endure the torture and the hot sun as best he might. The names of his children were: Henry, James, Benjamin, Jessie, Clarissa, Daniel, Nancy and Perry. Sutton was a Pennsylvanian, but had stopped in Illinois prior to coming to Iowa.

Another early settler of Byron Township was an S. L. Gaylord, a native of New York State. Mr. Gaylord did not live long after his location in the township, passing away on October 20, 1856 His widow moved to Independence in 1865 and there lived until the time of her death in 1878.

Hamilton McGonigle was another settler of the early township. He first settled in the county in 1848, about one mile east of Independence. He squatted on this land, made improvements, but while he was doing this another party regularly entered the land from the Government and McGonigle was forced to. move. They moved first to a place near Quasqueton, then the largest town in the county. In 1853 he came to Byron Township and here remained until his death on April 24, 1867.

Col. Isaac G. Freeman, a native of New Jersey, came to Iowa on April 14, 1853, and settled on Pine Creek. During his residence here he was an active worker for the good of the community and for a time filled the office of justice. Nathan King came to the county in the year 1852, and first settled in Washington Township, but in 1853 he became a settler of Byron and on the farm now owned by A. Francis. He died here in October, 1866. Amos Knig came to the county in 1849, settling first in Independence, but in the early part of 1851 he moved to Byron Township,. building his cabin on the banks of Pine Creek. He remained here but two years, subsequently moving to Ohio and then to Chicago. Ezra King settled here about the same time in 1851 and stayed until 1877, then removed to Liberty Township and died there in 1880.


The first cemetery to be established in the township was in 1875 and was called the Whitney Cemetery.

Perhaps the first school to be taught in the township was in Col. I. G. Freeman's house in 1854 by Miss R C. Freeman. During the next year another school was taught in a log house belonging to D. C. Gaylord by Lucinda Pierce. In this year of 1855 a schoolhouse was constructed in the Freeman district. The next one was in the Paws district. Among the early teachers were Mary Freeman, S. G. Pierce, Philip Bartle, Lucinda Pierce and R. C. Freeman.

The first death in the township was that of Frank Freeman, a son of Col. I. G. Freeman, on October 23, 1856.

The first wedding was that of Robert Copeland and Louisa McGonigle in 1856, the ceremony being performed by S. G. Pierce.

The first postmaster in the township was L. J. Dunlap in 1858.

The first white child born here was Thomas Sutton in 1852.

The first religious meetings were held in the southwest part of the township in the Bethel district.

The Illinois Central Railroad was constructed through the township in 1859. The usual experiences were endured by the people when this road was put through, experiences both pleasant and unpleasant.


The only town in Byron Township is Winthrop, located in the extreme southeast corner of the township. This town was first platted and laid out as a village in 1857 by A. P. Foster. The name of Winthrop was suggested by E. S. Norris, a friend of the man who platted the town, but the significance of the name is not known. The first purchase of land here was by Foster himself. He bought 240 acres, a part of which is now included in the town. The postoffice was established here in 1856.

The first two years of the existence of this town were not productive of much growth. The town merely existed on paper. However, the construction of the. Illinois Central Railroad through the site in 1859 started the growth of the town. A Mr. Dutton opened up the first store and the first hotel was kept by Henry Corriek.


On Tuesday morning, January 1, 1878, the Town of Winthrop was visited by fire which destroyed about eight thousand dollars worth of property. The fire was discovered in the rear of a building occupied by Mrs. Phonecia as a dry goods store and dwelling. So fast was the progress of the fire that the occupants barely had time to escape. The fire spread to the east and to the west, and when it was finally stopped, the only buildings left standing in the block were those on the extreme corners. However, the town was quickly rebuilt.

From this time on Winthrop has been an important town in that section of the county. At the present time, there is a population of about sir hundred and fifty people and the advent of new business and increasing importance as a trade center promise a substantial growth in the next few years. The people of the town held an election on April 19, 1886, and voted that the village be incorporated as a town. The first mayor chosen was N. Barney and the first trustees were J. Palmetier, S. Braden, A. Downing, A. Uhl, W. B. Halleck and F. C. Norman. The mayors who have served since N. Barney have been W. C. Boynton, C. D. Van Horn, A. C. Householder, J. Palmetier, A. Downing, 0. J. Metcalf, N. Barney, F. C. Norman, George Spangler, M. L. Shine, A. W. Norman, E. G. Sehacherer, and A. W. Norman. This list is in the order of service. The present officers of the city are A. W. Norman, mayor; L. N. Norman, clerk; H. M. Lutz, treasurer.


One of the best proofs of the prosperity of Winthrop is the excellent condition of the town banks there. The Peoples State Bank is an institution organized on August 1, 1901, and opened for business five days later, with a capital stock of $25,000. The first officers of this bank were: Thomas Thompson, president; James McKay, vice president; and L. N. Norman, cashier. These officers are still active. The deposits at the present time amount to $150,000 and there is a surplus of $15,000. The bank bought the present building at the time of opening, but plans are under way now for the construction of a new edifice in the next year.

The Winthrop State Bank was first organized as a private bank in 1884 by L. S. Clark, George Spangler, W. B. Halleck, J. Palmentier, Walter Thompson and Samuel Braden. The capital stock at this date was $5,000. A small brick building was constructed at the same time, the building being 16 by 24 feet in size. J. Palmentier was chosen as the first president; George Spangler, vice president, and L. S. Clark, cashier. In the month of March, 1892, the private bank was reorganized as a state bank, with same officers, excepting the position of cashier, which was taken by E. Brintuall. The present officers are: W. B. Halleck, president; A. J. Dunlap, vice president; and E. Brentnall, cashier. The capital stock is $25,000; deposits, $175,000; and surplus, $10,000. A new building was constructed in 1900 at a cost of $2,000, being a one story brick.

The present Winthrop News was first established as the Winthrop Review by Frank Vierth, now publisher of the Quasquetonian, about 1895. Succeeding Vierth came Dunlap, Bird, Scofield, Ainsworth, Heath and J. N. Gray, the latter at present in charge of the paper. Heath, in 1904, changed the name of the paper to the Winthrop News. The publication is issued weekly, has a good circulation, and is known as one of the most staple of the papers in the county outside of Independence.


Shiloh Lodge No. 247, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, was organized in Winthrop on June 2, 1869, with sixteen charter members. In 1883 the lodge disbanded and until December, 1895, the town was without a Masonic lodge. On the above date Byron Lodge No. 546 was organized with twenty members. This lodge has prospered ever since and now has a strong membership of fifty six. The lodge, rents a hall, but has plans for the erection of a. new building which will be one of the features of the town.

Winthrop Lodge No. 550, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was organized in the year 1901. The lodge now has a membership of 125 men. There is also a lodge of the Modern Woodmen of America, and the M. B. A. in Winthrop at the present time.

All of the lodges in the town have the women's auxiliary lodges in connection.


In 1902 the Illinois Central Railroad decided to establish a station between Independence and Winthrop, in Byron Township. There is an elevator, a store, and a few homes here now. The name of the station was in honor of the daughter of Third Vice President M. Gillas, of Memphis, Tennessee.


The Congregational Society was organized on May 22, 1865, with a member. ship of twenty two. The place of organization was the old Brown schoolhouse, and services were held there for quite a long time. A regular house of worship was built in Winthrop in 1869, costing about three thousand dollars. Other authorities give the date of organization as March 11, 1865, and the first place of meeting as the Brooks schoolhouse, five miles northwest of Winthrop. The charter members of the society were: G. S. Dawes, Adelia Dawes, Prosper Brintnall, Amy Brintnall, E. P. Brintnall, Wealthy Brintnall, Sarah Hamilton, Ann L. Meffert, Polly Pierce, James L. Cross, Mary A. Cross, I. H. Morgan, Clarissa Morgan, Robert Morris, Rebecca Morris, A. E. Stewart, Elizina Stewart, Pridgeon Hardy, Eliza Hardy, Frank Dawes and Cynthia Dawes. The first clerk was J. H. Morgan, the first deacon was G. S. Dawes and the first treasurer was E. P. Brintuall. The first supply was A. Manson and the first pastor was Rev. William Spell. In 1913 and 1914 the old church was very extensively remodeled. This work was under the charge of the present pastor, Clyde S. Holland, and he was assisted materially by the members of the congregation. On November 2, 1913, the last service of tribute was held in the old church building and then it was vacated to make way for the new structure. There are at present 180 members of this society in Winthrop and the church is very active in the religious work of the township and county. Castleyille Church, in the same township, is also supplied by Reverend Holland. They have fourteen members and a small frame church building.

A Catholic church was organized in Winthrop in 1876, with a first membership of eight families. Five hundred dollars was paid for a house in which to hold the meetings. Patrick Clabby was the first visiting priest. The frame church building now used by the society was erected in 1888, and several years ago there was a comfortable parsonage built. After Father Clabby came Father Mulligan, then Father Trum The present pastor is Fr. John McCormick. Fifty families compose the membership of the church.

The Methodist Episcopal Society in Winthrop had its beginning in the old Silver Creek Church and is an outgrowth of this society primarily. The Silver Creek Church was established in 1852 as a part of the Manchester Circuit, composed of Masoriville, Silver Creek, Sand Creek and Portable. The church was originated in John McKay 's house, and in 1854, Reverend Brown, a missionary, preached to the people. About the fall of 1857 Silver Creek was made a preaching point on the Quasqueton Circuit and Reverend Hood supplied. Then came Reverends Bailey, Shapper, Fosseet, Raines, Smith, Stoneman and Van Wick. Silver Creek was made a part of the Winthrop Church in 1866 and continued for several years and then disbanded altogether. In 1886 the church at Winthrop was again started and continues at the present time. The present membership is about one hundred and Rev. C. 0. Fort is the pastor.

The Presbyterian Church was first organized in Quasqueton on March 26, 1853, by Rev. J. H. Whitman. There were seven members of the original society. It was first organized as a free Presbyterian church and was withdrawn from the general church on a dispute over the question of slavery. On April 26, 1867, it was taken back into the regular church and made a part of the Dubuque Presbytery with twenty members. On October 4, 1875, a union was effected between the Quasqueton Church and the Byron Center Church and from these two a third church was formed, and was known as the Pine Creek Church. A house of worship was immediately constructed by this new church, located on Pine Creek, two miles west of Winthrop. This church is still in existence and is one of the most prosperous of the country churches of the county. The membership at present is about one hundred people.

On April 7, 1853, a Church of God was organized in Liberty Township with five members. The meeting was held at the home of Hamilton McGonigle. For some time after this the services were held in private homes and in schoolhouses and the first preacher to attend to the society was Rev. D. Gill. In 1855 the society built a house of worship in the southwestern part of Byron Township, which they designated as the Bethel Church. The present church has a membership of 150 people and the church property is valued at about fifteen hundred dollars. There is no regular pastor at the present time, but the church is supplied from several sources.

The first Baptist meeting was held in the township by Rev. John Fullerton of Independence in the month of June, year 1860. He preached the first time from the steps of the old Illinois Central Depot and later preached in a private residence. In 1867 a society was formed for the purpose of organizing a society. In the next year this house was constructed and dedicated on December 28, 1868. The whole cost of the house at that time was about five thousand dollars. On January 26, 1869, the Quasqueton Baptists came and formed the Winthrop Baptist Church and Rev. John Fullerton was their first preacher. This church has been out of existence for about fifteen years, due to the decrease in members and lack of support.

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