Homer Township was organized on July 29, 1858. The record of the county court says: "Be it known that on
the petition of James D. Phillips, Eli Norton and others, the court aforesaid, this twenty ninth day of July, 1858,
constitutes and forms a new township in said county, as follows: The whole thirty six sections of the Congressional
township 87, range 9, in said county. And it is also ordered that the new township thus formed be called the name
of Homer, in accordance with the wishes of the voters thereof. Signed, Stephen J. W. Tabor, county judge."
Before this order, or from May 22, 1852, the township had been a part of Jefferson. The first settlements in the
Township of Jefferson, that is the original township, were along the creeks near where Brandon is now located.
The first election in Homer Township was held at the house of Nathan Norton in September, 1858, Twelve votes were
cast, of which eight were republican. The first officers were: L. S. Allen, Joseph L. Norton and Eli Norton, trustees;
Eli Norton and L. S. Norton, justices; L. S. Allen, county supervisor; James Norton and D. O. Sweet, constables;
Joseph L. Norton, assessor; Dyer Shealy, township clerk; John Sites and James Norton, road supervisors.
Thomas Kendrick and family made the first settlement in Homer Township in the fall of 1853, locating on the
banks of Bear Creek. For two years previons they had lived in Jefferson Township. Kendrick there constructed a
rude cabin and entered upon life, a life soon to be broken by one of the saddest tragedies ever visited upon man
Of his thirteen children ten of them died in the year 1868, within eight weeks of each other. Diphtheria and scarlet
fever were the fatal diseases. Kendrick himself became insane over this blow and he died within a year after his
ten children. Mrs. Kendrick afterward married Charles Kountz, of Independence.
Price Kendrick, a brother of the first settler in the township, settled here in 1854. With him came his two sisters,
Mrs. Holland and Mrs. Robinson. His death occurred two years after his coming to the township.
D. O. Sweet settled here in 1855, coming from New York State. He was honored with the office of constable at the
first election held in the township.
Joseph L. Norton, a Pennsylvanian, settled in Homer Township in 1855, but subsequently moved to Kansas. He married
Sarah Kessler, daughter of one of the first settlers in the county.
Joseph McGary came from Vermont and bought a farm here in 1858 and the next year built the first stone house in
the township, and which is still used as a residence on his land and there he, with his brother in law Murphy,
kept house together. His family consisting of his mother and four sisters arrived within the next two years, one
of whom was Murphy's wife.
Lyman S. Allen, a native of Ticonderoga, New York, came with his family in 1834 and settled in Homer Township.
The frame house which he built there is still standing and occupied by his son Stephen M. Allen.
Nathan Norton came to the township in 1855 from McHenry County, Illinois. The first election held in Homer Township
was held at his home.
John Bain settled in the township in July, 1858, on Bear Creek. He came from the Hoosier State.
Eli Norton came to Iowa in 1854 and first settled in Liberty Township, but came to Homer Township the next year.
Here he bought a farm and lived upon it the rest of his life.
SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES
The first church society in the township was the Methodist Episcopal. A class was formed in 1858 by Rev. John
Fawcett and he served as their first preacher. Among the early members of this church were: Eli Norton and wife;
Nathan Norton, Sr., and wife; and John D. Price and wife. They built a meeting house in 1868 about a half mile
from the present site of Rowley, but the building was blown down in the summer of 1875. The railroad company presented
them with a lot in the Town of Rowley, provided that the church would erect a building upon it, which they did.
This they did and the church still stands, although it has been remodeled a number of times since the building
of it. The class at present numbers about a hundred members.
The first Presbyterian Church to be organized in the township was in 1873, immediately after the building of the
railroad. Rev. George Carroll was the first preacher and he held services at first in the railroad depot, where
with seven members he organized the society. In 1898 a church building was put up at Rowley and there the society
is now very strong and prosperous. The congregation numbers about one hundred people.
The Catholic Church was established in Rowley in the late '90s and is still in existence, although there is no
regular pastor. A $3,000 building has been erected and the congregation is composed of about thirty five families.
The first school in the township was opened in 1856 by Mrs. Sarah C. Price in her own house in the eastern part
of the township. Her class was composed of twelve scholars. The next winter a school was conducted by John Bain,
Sr., in the west part of the township at the house of George Boone. Thirteen pupils attended this school.
The first schoolhouse was built near the present Town of Rowley. The second one was constructed on land donated
to the district by Joseph McGary and the third building was located in the Boone district. The schoolhouse known
as the Delaware School erected on the McGary land is still used for a schoolhouse and is the oldest one in the
Since these early days the schools have attained a very superior quality. Efficient district schools have been
erected and the schools of Rowley are excellent. The building in the latter town was erected in 1901 and is thorough
and well equipped with the conveniences of the modern schoolhouse. A commissioned high school is maintained in
Rowley, at present having about sixty pupils.
Among the other early teachers of the township besides those mentioned were: Mary McGary, Betsy L. Patterson, Oscar
L. Luckey and Lizzie Taylor; the latter afterwards married Doctor Griffin.
Before the advent of the railroad there was no postoffice in the township, the people getting their mail at
neighboring offices. In 1873 a postoffice was established at Rowley and J. W. Cooper was appointed the first postmaster.
The first wedding is said to have been that of Don F. Bissel and Aurelius Bishop in the fall of 1856. About the
same time Reuben Crum was married to Wealthy Allen.
The first death was that of George Boone in 1858.
Rowley is the only town in the township and had its conception with the building of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids
& Northern, now the Rock Island, railroad in the fall of 1873. The town was named in honor of D. W. C. Rowley,
who was secretary of the railroad company when the line reached the town.
The first store opened here in this year and was operated by J. W. Cooper. J. I. Prentiss in the grain, seed, cattle
and hog business, C. E. Hawley and associates in the dry goods and grocery trade, J. B. Edgell, William J. Miller,
D. C. Tuttle, keeper of the Rowley House, George H. Norton, Slater and Wilson, Oessmer, Dr. O. G. McCauley and
others were among the first business men of the new town. One saloon was there in an early day, kept by an old
German, but this pleasure has been ousted from the town many years hence.
The Town of Rowley in the past twenty years has not become a city, having yet to be incorporated, but the business
air and civic pride are well developed considering the size of the place. There are many business houses in operation
and all doing uniformly well, assisted by the convenience of the Rock Island as a shipping point. The several lodges,
including the Masons, the Odd Fellows and the Modern Woodmen create a spirit of good fellowship among the people,
also the three churches and the clubs formed among the women of the town. The town is surrounded by a rich agricultural
district and this, in large measure, accounts for the success of the place from a business standpoint.
The Rowley Bank was organized on July 1, 1902, by Mrs. Lizzie Rentz, George Rentz and C. Gunzenhauser. The first
capital stock, as at present, was $10,000. In December, 1905, George Rentz sold his stock in the bank to C. Gunzenhauser
and on July 3, 1908, Mrs. Lizzie Rentz sold to the same man. The capital stock and surplus now amount to about
twenty thousand dollars. C. Gunzenhauser is cashier and George Rentz is assistant cashier. The bank has no charter
yet. The institution owns its own building, bought at the time of organization.
THE ROWLEY FIRE
On Tuesday evening, July 10, 1894, the Village of Rowley was visited by fire. The fire broke out about 9:30
in the evening and at 11 o'clock the whole business portion on both sides of the street was destroyed. The fire
originated in the back room of Norton & Clayton's Hardware Store. The origin is a mystery, the blaze being
the first intimation of the fire.
The room where the fire started was used as an oil depot and the fire spread very quickly over the oil soaked floor
and ignited a keg of gun powder which exploded. The total loss of the fire was about twenty five thousand dollars.