History of Liberty 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


Liberty Township is a regular Congressional township six miles square. In the year 1847 the county was divided into three precincts, namely: Washington, Spring or Centre, and Liberty. The latter then comprised the south half of Middlefield, the south half of Liberty, except sections 19, 20, 21, 30, 31 and 32, all of Cono except section 6, and sections 12, 13, 24, 25 and 36 of Newton. Also, the north half of Liberty then comprised a part of Spring Precinct. Quasqueton was the voting place of the Liberty Precinct, as it had been at one time for the entire county.

On the 5th of September, 1859, Liberty Township was reduced to its present size and form.

This township has always been recognized as one of the best in the county. The township has an advantageous location, with fertile land and several small hills and valleys. At one time there were numerous sloughs in the township, but these have been largely drained, leaving the rich, black loam for the cultivation of crops. The soil, however, varies in different parts of the township. There are said to be three or more particular soils. When the first settlers came to this township about half of it was covered with a dense mass of timber The native trees are the white oak, bur oak, red oak, black oak, soft maple, sugar maple, white and red elm, linden, walnut, butternut, blackberry, poplar, aspen, cottonwood, shagbark, hitter nut, ash and Water birch.


The first white settler in this township, and in the county, was William Bennett. In February, 1842, he came to Quasqueton from Ede's Grove, Delaware County. Bennett was not a man who was liked by those who knew him, for he bore a bad reputation and was reputed to be dishonest. The first house in Quasqueton was constructed by Bennett, of logs with a bark and dirt roof. Here he lived with his wife and three little daughters. If stood on the bank of the river, some twelve rods above the mill, and near the foot of the present Walnut Street.

A few weeks after Bennett's arrival S. G. Sanford and his family came in and built their home a quarter of a mile south of Quasqueton on the later Cordell place His brother, H T. Sanford, a carpenter, lived with him. Ezra G. Allen also lived in a but nearby. On the last day of April, 1842, a band of emigrants arrived, the band including seven men, two women and three children. Their names were: R. B. Clark, Dr. E. Brewer, Frederick Kessler, J Lambert, Simmons and Daggett, Mrs. It. B. Clark, Mrs. Frederick Kessler, Mason and Seth Clark and Sarah C. Kessler. Clark and Brewer built the first house on the west side of the river. These men were native to the State of Wisconsin, particularly Exeter, Greene County. Brewer was originally from Massachusetts; and Clark of Cleveland, Ohio, or the site of Cleveland. Kessler was a Pennsylvanian and died several years after his coming here, in the mining camps of California, He built a rude house here half a mile west of Clark and Brewer's, on the later Boies farm. This band of settlers found the country green and fresh with the early spring. The following summer, however, was very dry and there was a frost every month in the year, which made it very difficult for the men to raise successful crops. Consequently they looked with discouraged eyes toward the coming winter.

The first white child born in the township and in the county was born during this summer. It is said to have been Charles B. Kessler and the date of his birth July 13, 1842. He died in the Union service during the Civil war, in April, 1864.

During the slimmer of '42 a man named Style came to Quasqueton and lived in a small log cabin a short distance from the mill. Soon after he added to his house and for a short time ran a hotel. This was the first really public house in the township.

Hugh Warren, a good for nothing, was another resident of the community and several other fellows, by name Warner, Jeffers, Wall, Day and Evans, all of them in the employ of Bennett. During this same summer Bennett constructed¬ a dam across the river, using logs and sod, and about the first of October started the building of a mill. He and his men made large claims to the land and it is said that at one time they claimed nearly all of the center portion of the county, but, as is known, they were not the class of men to stay long and soon moved away farther west.

On October 5th William Haddon came to the Brewer neighborhood and resided with Mr. Kessler. A fortnight later there came to the same neighborhood a brother of Mrs. Kessler and Nathaniel and Henry B. Hatch. Later in the fall William Johnson came, He claimed to be a Canadian patriot from the islands of the St. Lawrence. He was accompanied by a daughter whom he introduced as his daughter Kate. Johnson located in the Postle neighborhood, about midway between Independence and Quasqueton, and here he tried to found a town which would be the county seat. His true status as a man shortly became known and quite a disliking to him grew up in the neighborhood.

November of that year came in with a terrific snow storm. Kessler's poor shanty proved to be little better than nothing in the face of the gale and it was decided to moved the occupants to the home of Clark and Brewer, which was the most modern of all the houses in the community. The men carried the women and children the few miles separating the houses and were thoroughly exhausted when they reached their destination, so furious was the storm. The storm continued for two days and on the third the sun rose clear. The men started back to the Kessler cabin to see how it had fared during the storm. They found the snow almost completely hiding it The inside was packed solid with it. Kessler and the others dug the snow out, broke a path to the timber and also one to the spring. This condition of affairs soon made the food question a serious one, as corn, the most needed product, was very hard to secure. H. B. Hatch finally started down the Wapsie with two yoke of oxen in search of corn. After going a score of miles he succeeded in getting some. Half way back home, however, he fell into another snow blizzard. What this meant in those days cannot be appreciated today. There were no paths; the snow drifted into unsurmountable heaps; there were no fences, absolutely nothing by which the lone traveler could distinguish directions. Creeping along gradually Hatch finally reached the settlement. Living was a hard duty for the next six weeks; the corn soon became unpalatable, and they made griddle cakes out of ground coffee, with an occasional treat of slippery elm. Clark and Kessler had seventeen deer and these were unable to get food, consequently many of them were found dead.

The rivalry between Bennett and Johnson was a topic of main interest at this time. Both had ambitions of starting a county seat town. Finally Bennett took measures to rid the County of Johnson. It was known among the Indians and whites that Bennett kept whiskey, which he was very free in giving to the Indians and men who called themselves his gang. He induced ten white men and five Indians to drink heavily one day and he formed them in a band to go to Johnson's house, taking a quantity of drink with them. They gained entrance to Johnson's home on pretense of being nearly frozen. Johnson, not knowing of their true intentions, was a good host and made them comfortable. When time came to go the Indians and Bennett's whites fell on Johnson, stripped him, tied him to a tree and gave him thirty nine lashes on the bare back, with the warning that if he did not leave the country within twenty four hours he would be treated even more severely. Johnson, with his daughter Kate, and his niece, left that night and fled down the river. They reached Clark's home twenty miles away and there Johnson's wounds were dressed. They traveled on and finally reached Marion. Two weeks later Johnson returned here, with the sheriff and a small posse of men. This force, however, was not sufficiently large to capture Bennett's gang and they escaped. Many perished on the way and others lost their feet and hands, but Bennett and a few others found safety. In January following Sheriff Taylor, with Green and Thompson, pursued Bennett up the Turkey River, where they found him living with the Indians. He attempted resistance and by mistake killed an Indian, whereupon he again fled. His accomplices were all arrested and the last heard of Bennett he was in Potose, Wisconsin, where he was running a whiskey tavern.

An old authority states that in the spring of 1843 there were the following habitations on lands: Sandford's, afterward the Cordell place, Ezra Allen's at the Spring; Clark and Brewer's; Frederick Kessler's; Spencer's; and during the spring Malcolm McBane and John Cordell came to the township. McBane, a Virginian, entered an eighty in what is now the Village of Quasqueton. He was a very public spirited man and was a member of the second board of supervisors. Cordell was a native of Liverpool, England, and came to America when he was seventeen years of age. He entered a farm immediately on his arrival in Iowa.

During the autumn of the year 1843 James Biddinger came to the township from Tuscarawas County, Ohio, and deeded eighty acres of land. In this year also came Hugh Warren, who claimed land north of Quasqueton, also David Stiles and J. A. Reynolds. In the next year came Levi Billings and James Cummings R. L. Thopson, a physician, settled in the township a short time later. Two years later Joseph Collier and Isaac and J. F. Hathaway located two miles east of Quasqueton and Samuel Caskey entered land nearby.

The first marriage in the township and said to be the first one in the county occurred in March, 1846, between Mary Ann Hathaway and Dr. E. Brewer, Joseph A. Reynolds, a justice of the peace from Delaware County, performing the ceremony. An interesting fact is disclosed by the account books of Dr. E. Brewer, a fact which proves the abundance of Indians in the locality at that time His accounts show that he did business with the Magotoke, Petakema, Apalove, Apalne, Nolloosick, Vana and others of the former tribe, and against Coeapaboe, Chuchul, Wamanoo and others of the latter tribe of Indians.

The question of food in these times, of course, was the main consideration of the early days. These settlers endured countless hardships to procure provisions to last them but a few weeks. Hunting was good most of the year, but the difficulty entailed in going after the game made it almost as hazardous as traveling miles to get corn. Often the hunters would go in search of the young animals and bring them home alive, to be fattened for the next year. Buffalo and elk served this purpose most commonly.


At the first precinct election in this township there were thirty votes cast, and at the second in 1849 there were the same number, ten democratic, fifteen republican, and five anti slavery. The first township officers were: N. G. Gage, justice of the peace; Clark Burnett, Galin Shurtliff and J. P. Miller, constables; Morris Todd, assessor; A. Waldron, clerk; and H. B. Hatch, William Logan and H. M. Stephens, trustees.


The site of the present Town of Quasqueton was at one time the centering place of numerous Indian trails, due to the presence of a well known ford. The name Quasqueton means "swift running water" and was originally called Quasqueton. The transformation of the suffix is credited to S. V. Thompson.

The early settlement of this town is coincident with the early settlement of the township and in this way has been given on the preceding pages. William Bennett, the notorious, was the first man to settle here.

The site of Quasqueton, located as it is on the river, with the advantage of water travel and water power for the mills, and being well protected by valleys on every side, was a strong point in its favor in the eyes of the first corners. At the first temporary land sale held in Marion in the year 1843 the land of Quasqueton was not sold, although numerous bids were given. However, it soon came into the possession of William Hadden. Hadden kept the first store in the new village. In the year 1844 he had the frame of the mill enlarged and completed and installed a run of corn and wheat buhr stones. Two years afterward D. S. Davis became a partner and the mill was again improved. These men, the same year, constructed a sawmill, which stood just below the grist mill. These additions were of great convenience, for prior to this all the milling was done at Cascade and Rockdale, Dubuque County.

The first postofflee in Quasqueton was established in 1845 with William Richards as postmaster. At this time D. S. Davis acquired the ownership of the greater part of the land on which the village was situated, and by the next year he had the greater part of the town regularly platted and laid out.

By the time the year 1852 came around the Town of Quasqueton had not grown appreciably. There were half a dozen houses on the east side of the river and on the west side there were perhaps one or two. A bridge was constructed across the river during this year; a turning and cabinet shop was put up on the west side by S. V. Thompson, the Hastings Block was erected by D. S. Davis and the mills, now owned by J. B. Hovey, were further improved. The Lewis brothers and J. M. Benthall tore down the old mill and built a larger one just below the sawmill.

In the year 1856 there was organized in Quasqueton a. company known as the Quasqueton Mutual Protection Company, for the purpose of protecting the citizens from the horse thieves then in the vicinity and who had committed their depredations frequently. Any citizen could be a member of this association who would pay the sum of one dollar as a fee. Many of the prominent men of the community held membership in this organization and for several years they had plenty of work to do. For several years this continued and then the company was disbanded. The exact date of this is not known.

The bridge previously mentioned as being constructed in 1852 was destroyed by the high water of 1858. A second structure was put up and in 1865 it was carried away with the water, also the mills of the west side. These two bridges had been put up and paid for by private subscription. They located just below the dam. In 1867 a bridge was built by Buchanan County. The east span of this bridge was carried away by an ice floe in February, 1871. This was replaced during the next year by an iron span and in the following year the west span was torn away and replaced also.

The sawmill was torn away during the fall of 1878 and on the morning of January 1, 1881, the flour mills were consumed by flames.

The early history of the Quasqueton schools is something of a mystery. It is known, however, that a school building was constructed in 1855 and this forms the base of the present building, which bears the date of 1898. In 1867 Quasqueton was made an independent district by election. S. W. Heath was the first president of the first board of directors. In 1869 a ward schoolhouse was erected two miles east of the town.

Before the name Quasqueton was given to the town, the name Quasquetuck was used as a title. Rapid City was another name of Quasqueton in the early days, also the name Trenton.

At one time there was a postoffice at Batesville, but this was discontinued on March 31, 1902.

Phillip Bidinger, at present living in Quasqueton, is the oldest living white person born in the county.


For a town which has had as many misfortunes as old Quasqueton, this community has made good progress. Great commendation must be given to the people for their courageous battle to improve the town, a battle which at many times has been a losing one.

To begin with, in the year 1904, occurred the great fire which would have sent a weaker spirited town into oblivion. On Monday night, May 2, 1904, $15,000 worth of property was destroyed by flames. The fire originated about 10 o'clock in the agricultural implement house occupied by Daniel Arnold, on the north side of Dubuque Street, and quickly swept everything in that block as far as Main Street. As the town had no means of combating the flames, they rushed unchecked through the frame store buildings. The people, one and all, formed bucket lines to the river and continued their efforts to the blocks fronting onto the burning one, thus managing to hold the destruction to a certain district. The men to suffer loss in this configuration were: T. H. Kimball, Daniel Arnold, N. S. Dunlap, William Sherretts, J. M. Swartzell, William Spees, Editor Heath of the Quasquetonian, Harris and Walter, C. J. Dorsie, Earl Stoneman, O. D. Stapleton, H. A. Nelson, Mr. Bidinger, L. M. White, A. P. Burrhus, Jonathan Wilson and Allie Webber.

The next disaster was in 1910, when the dam over the Wapsie was crushed away by ice and water. The Plank brothers had kept the board dam in good condition and had succeeded in creating a park on the shores which was visited by people from all over the county, also used as a camping ground by numerous parties. This site was known as Riverside Park. The 1910 disaster, however, effectually destroyed the beauty of this location. Efforts have been made repeatedly to persuade someone to build the dam again, but so far have been unavailing. Plans were drawn about a year ago for a modern concrete dam, but this was never accomplished

To turn from the bad to the good, it is well to speak of the prosperous bank which does business in the city. The State Savings Bank was organized on July 28, 1902 and opened its doors for business on December 2d of that year. The following men were the organizers: H. L. Boies, E. C. Kimball; T H Kimball, president, Charles B. Hubbard, vice president, L. V. Tabor, Z. Stout, R. B. Raines, W. G. Stephenson, C. E. Boies, C. J. Walter, O. S. Rosenberger, R. M. Campbell, J. Neteott, A. H. Farwell, J. H. Willey, C. D. Jones, Jed Lake, J. F. Bidinger, cashier, W. D. Boies, F. T. Clark, J. E. Harris. The first capital stock was $20,000. The present capital has increased to $25,000, the surplus is $7,000 and the deposits amount to over one hundred thousand dollars. The present officers are: L. T. Kimball, president; H. L. Boies, vice president; H. G. Clark, cashier. The building at present occupied by the bank was bought at the time of organization for $5,000.

Perhaps one of the subjects of most interest to the people of Quasqueton and the county is the present Chicago, Anamosa and Northern Railroad, running from here to Anamosa, a distance of thirty eight miles. It may be said that this line was completed in the year of our Lord 1912, after a period of twenty eight years in the process of making. Surveys were made in 1858 for the Wapsipinieon Valley Railroad and the Wapsipinicon Valley Land Company issued scrip and tried to build the road. Two years previous, however, the Illinois Central had made surveys without doing much else in the way of getting a road completed. Surveys were then made in 1870-1-2 and a large amount of grading done for the Anamosa & Northwestern, but still Quasqueton did not procure a road for herself. In April, 1880, a. tax was voted for the Chicago, Bellevue & Northern road and also, during the latter part of the year 1880, a survey was made for the Chicago & Manitoba road. Now Quesqueton has two trains a day, running on "sun" schedule. To undertake to tell of all of the surveys which were made, the subscription lists procured, the land donated, and the promises given, would fill a volume, for there was something new every year of the many years of preparation, and now that the road has rails down and the steam engines running, the town is not sure whether it feels elevated or not. One good feature, however, the road gives direct ship. ping connection with the Northwestern, so that goods billed to Chicago reach there on good time. This is the road's biggest asset. The company in the recent past, however, have entered the receiver's hands, so that it may not be long until old Quasque-on-the-Wapsie is again gunning for a new railroad line. The land for the right of way of this road was presented to the company, besides a substantial subscription list advanced.

The newspaper history of Quasqueton is a tale of much interest and filled with examples of stubborn courage. The first number of the Quasqueton Guardian was published on December 13, 1856, by Messrs. Rich and Jordan. Two years later this paper, although assisted materially by the citizens of the town, moved to Independence, flattered with the prospects of that town gaining railroad connection with the Eastern States. During a part of the years 1877 and 1878, a. paper was published by A. B. Vines and was named The Peoples Paper. This paper failed to live long. On January 7, 1881, J. and W. S. Cauch issued the initial number of a sheet called The Weekly Telephone. This went the way of its predecessors. The present paper, The Quasquetonian, was started under the name of the Mercury by a man named Osborne. This was about the year 1890. This was sold to a Mr. Heath in 1902, and he conducted it under its present name until the fire of 1904, when he went out of business. In September of that same year Frank Vierth revived the Quasquetonian and has published it ever since as a weekly paper.

There are at present but three lodges in the city, the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, the Independence Order of Odd Fellows, and the Modern Brotherhood of America. The dispensation for the Masonic lodge was granted in 1875, but Quasqueton was then under the jurisdiction of another lodge and this original charter was made to a Cono Township order. In 1878, though, Quasqueton was given an independent lodge. The Odd Fellows lodge was organized in the town in 1854 as Prospect Lodge. The charter was subsequently changed and it is known as Franklin Lodge, No. 350. The Modern Brotherhood was organized in 1897. All of these orders have good membership.

Quasqueton was incorporated in May, 1902. The first meeting of the city council was held on the 28th of that month. The first officers were: C. B. Heath, mayor; M. I. Perry, treasurer; T. H. Kimball, A. T. Bidinger, A. D. Stoneman were councilman and the latter was also marshal. L. M. White was clerk. Following Heath as mayor, came T. H. Kimball in 1904, then A. P. Burrhus in 1909, then Kimball again in 1911. The latter resigned his office in March, 1914, and H. D. Boies was appointed to fill the vacancy, but he in turn resigned in August. J. D. Steele was asked to fill the chair, but refused, so A. P. Burrhus took up the reins and is now active.

The city came into possession of their own electric light plant on December 14, 1912, after an election on the question.


It is said that the first religious meetings held in Quasqueton were Presbyterian. No services were held, however, until the coming of a Wesleyan Methodist preacher named G. G. Cummings. Then a Methodist denominational society was formed, but soon died out. This society was again revived and at present has a church at Newtonville.

At an early day there was a Presbyterian Church formed by Rev. Joseph Whitam and called the Free Presbyterian Church. The main supporter of this society was John Merrill, who deeded them two acres of land and helped materially to build a structure in which to hold services. This is now known as Hickory Church and is located about two miles north of Quasqueton. There is a membership of about fifty.

On June 26, 1853, the Congregational Church was organized by Revs Alfred Wright and W. Reed. At first the services were held in the schoolhouse, but in 1854 a brick church was constructed. The church has been uniformly prosperous since this time and now has a membership of about seventy five. The church building has been remodeled several times and is again to be rebuilt and enlarged. The pastors from the first have been: Revs Alfred Wright, Bennett Roberts, H. N. Gates, Albert Manson, G. H. Bissel, Charles Dame, E. G. Carpenter, G. N. Dorsey, W. S. Potwin, G. M. Obers, Philo Gordon, A. J. Benton, Salter, Slyfield, Mumley, Thum, Landhoam, and Basham, the present pastor. It was during the pastorate of Salter that the church was practically rebuilt. Reverend Basham has made plans for the new church, which will make it one of the best in the township.

There is also a Congregational Church at Castleville, organized in 1891, and now has a. membership of thirty five.

The Newtonville Congregational Church was moved to Kiene on June 28, 1914, and a $1,700 church erected. Reverend Basham attends the fifty members here.

The Baptist Church was organized March 10, 1855, by the following: A. G. Firman, E. A. Miltimore, D. Leatherman, Perihelia Leatherman, J. D. Reese, H. G. Hastings, E. W. Hastings, and J. W. Gagely. William Ramsey and A. G. Hastings were the first deacons and Daniel Rowley the first pastor. The first meetings were held in the Davis Block and afterward in the second story of the schoolhouse, in the brick Congregational Church and in the Methodist Church. The Baptist Church was first occupied in January, 1868. This church has many years of prosperity, but in the last year has become inactive. Occasional meetings are held, but no attempt is made to have them regular. H. Bellman is the present pastor, living in Quasqueton. His health is very poor and he is unable to assume active charge of the work.

Perhaps the strongest society in the township today is the Methodist Episcopal. The society was organized in 1852 by William H. Brown. The territory was then embraced in a mission extending from Anamosa to Greeley's Grove, now Hazleton, Pine Creek being one of the appointments of that day. The first class was composed of William and Elizabeth Cooper and Harry Norton. They worshiped in the west wing of the schoolhouse at first. William Shippen was the next pastor. The church in Quasqueton was built in 1855, under Reverend Ashbough. Hiram Hood came next and then W. Bailey. At this time Spring Grove was discontinued and given over to the "Campbellites and other vultures." In 1862 Norton Church was instituted in Homer Township. The pastors from this time until the present are, in the order of their service: John Fawcett, George Raines, A. M. Smith, Shaper, H. C. Brown, W. S. R. Burnett, W. O. Glassner, L. S. Keagle, Jacob Hurll, N. Jones, W. B. Davis, R. Norton, G. L. Garrison, Samuel Goodsell, John Brentnall, J. B. Metcalf, G. B. Crinklan, E. B. Downs, A. B. Curran, Jesse Smith, A. B. Fickle, A. D. Foster, P. T. Heatly, T. E. Temple, Charles H. Hawn, A. C. Brackett, P. M. Phillips, William M. Densmore and George F. Kelley, the present pastor. This church and the Rowley congregation are under the same organization, having together about two hundred members. Both are in the Quasqueton circuit. The Rowley church was remodeled about a year ago.

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