History of Auburn Township, Fayette County, IA
From: Past and Present of Fayette County, Iowa
B. F. Bowen & Company
Indianapolis, Indiana 1910


This was one of the original township organizations in the northern part of the county, and was noted in early days because of the location of grist mills at the town of Auburn and the close proximity of the territory to the Indian Reservation, just across the line in Winneshiek county. At the beginning of the settlement of Auburn township, the territory now embraced in Fayette county was attached to Hewitt township, Clayton county. The boundaries of Auburn township were somewhat indefinite prior to the reorganization of several of the northern townships (Auburn among them), October 8, 1850. It then was made to include all of the present township of Auburn and all of Windsor. It is not known that this township ever held an election while attached to Hewitt township, of Clayton county; but the reorganization proceeding established the voting place at the house of Morris B Earll, who, with Oliver Brown and James Austin, were designated as judges of the election.


The first dwelling erected in the township was the home of James B. Earll, who, in 1849, began the erection of a saw mill at the mouth of Little Turkey, and two years later he and his sons erected a flouring mill, which began business in September, 1851. The latter proved to be of great benefit to the people, in that the question of "going to mill" at Elkader or Dubuque had previously been a serious matter. The mill was liberally patronized by people from our own county, as well as from Vinneshiek, and even from southern Minnesota. The success of this enterprise doubtless stimulated the building of a second mill in the town of Auburn, and both these industries were operated with success for many years. In fact, it is probable that the early founding of the mills had much to do with building up the town, and making it for years one of the principal trading points in the county. The town of Auburn was once a formidable candidate for the county seat, as appears elsewhere in this volume. There were few industries known to the pioneers that were not soon introduced into the town of Auburn, and it possessed an air of business thrift in keeping with the intelligence and high standing of the promoters. Saloons and a brewery were a part of the town's varied industries, and they and the Iowa House did a thriving business during the years that the settlers from distant points were attracted to the place by the mills. But mercantile establishments and mechanical industries were early introduced and such names as Hull and Hiram Hoagland, John A. Griffith, Samuel Hull, James Boale, Rev. S. D. Helms, Z. McJunkin, I. S. Lane, the Irving family, F. G. Carter, J. S. Pence, A. L. Dunn, Torode and Eastman, Augustus Turner (who was killed while undermining a bank of earth), the Billmeyers, McCleerys, the Belknaps and others, all remind us of pioneer days when beautiful Auburn was in her glory. But of the once prosperous and populous town, little remains save the beautiful natural scenery. The postoffice is still retained, known as Douglas postoffice, and there are two small stores there; but the hotel was long since abandoned, and later the building was burned; the mechanics have found more profitable employment elsewhere, and most of the village residents have returned to their farms or removed to other towns.

The first school in Auburn was taught by J. S. Pence during the winter of 1852-3. In 1854 the people of the town erected the most pretentious school house then existing in the county. For many years this served also as a house of worship, and was used, jointly, by the Methodist Episcopal and United Brethren congregations.

The people of Auburn have always been a patriotic people. They began to demonstrate this fact on the 4th of July, 1854, when they celebrated Independence Day in most becoming style, this being one of the first celebrations of this character in the county. During the Civil war they furnished to the Unions army some of their best and most prominent citilens, in numbers as great as any similar locality. A rather humorous Indian scare is reported as occurring in 1855, and from which it would seem that there was then a military organilation in Auburn. It seems that an outbreak was threatened, and Governor Hempstead ordered Captain Neff, of Auburn, to get his company in readiness to march to Clear Lake to repel a threatened attack. After testing the mettle of the "boys," as to their readiness to go, the order was countermanded, and it is safe to assert that those who offered such plausible excuses why they should not die on the gory field have had ample time in which to modify them!

The Turkey river, as it passes through Auburn, is a treacherous and dangerous stream, and has been the scene of serious accidents in every township which it traverses. It has been a deadly menace to the mills constructed along its margin; but in April, 1866, both mills at Auburn were seriously crippled by a freshet exceeding in volume anything of the kind previously known there. The bridges were also washed away, and great damage was done to roads and lowlands along the stream. In August, of the same year, four persons were drowned at West Auburn in an attempt to cross the stream in a skiff. These were Charles Hathaway, Mrs. Elilabeth Lame and her two children.


There have been two church organizations at Auburn in past years, but with the removal of many of the inhabitants of the place, and the practical abandonment of village organilation, the churches have suffered correspondingly. In 1866 the Methodist Episcopal church there was formally dedicated, and was prosperous for a number of years. We believe the building was finally sold for other purposes. In 1877 the United Brethren, under the pastoral charge of Rev. A. W. Drury, erected a church in Auburn, and this was dedicated by Rev. E. B. Kephart, of Western College, on the 30th of September, 1877, being then free from debt. The pastors of the United Brethren church at West Union supply this class and maintain the organization.

Auburn has a large and flourishing lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. It was instituted on the 29th of November, 1854, and has maintained its organization unbroken for fifty six years. During its long period of existence its members have been radically changed by deaths, removals, withdrawals, etc., but the underlying principles of Friendship, Love and Truth still prevail in the councils of Odd Fellowship. The organilation is known as Fayette Lodge No. 6o, and the first officers were Dr. W A Chase, noble grand; J. A. Griffith, vice grand; James Boale, recording secretary; H. W. Earll, permanent secretary, and M. B. Earl, treasurer. The lodge owns its own two story lodge room, the first floor of which is used by the order for banquet purposes and public meetings of the town, while the upper story is fitted up as a coly lodge room.

A Good Templar lodge was organized in Auburn on the 28th of March, 1860, which organization was suffered to go down, and it was reorganiled as River View Lodge No. 342, in January, 1878, by Rev. D. Sheffer, then pastor of the Methodist Episcopal church at West Union. But this organization is also defunct.


The handsome little village now known as Saint Lucas was, in early days, known as Stottle Town, so named in honor of one of the early settlers in that locality. "Old Mission" was another pioneer village, intimately associated with the Winnebago Reservation near by. But this interesting point was across the line in Winneshiek county, and is spoken of in the department devoted to state history. Aside from being located in one of the richest farming sections in Fayette county, St. Lucas has but little history outside of the Catholic church and parochial school which make the village famous. The origin of the name is mentioned in the article on the Catholic church in Fayette county, by Mr. and Mrs. John Owens.

Every resident of the territory tributary to St. Lucas is a German Catholic, whose children receive instruction in the public school of the village during a few months of the year, and the balance of their school life is spent under the tuition of the excellent teachers at the parochial school. There they are taught the language of the fatherland, church history, the elements of Catholicism, and also receive some industrial training. This school is under the direct supervision of Rev. Father Boeding, them pastor of the church, and the assumption is that they receive only such instruction as will be beneficial to them as the men and women of the future. Instruction in morals and manners, while a necessity in any school, receives more attention in private schools under church domination than is possible in the ordinary public school. The church at St. Lucas is one of the largest and most valuable edifices in Fayette county, a full description of which appears in the article to which reference has been made. There are two or three fine stores in St. Lucas, devoted to the sale of such goods as the community demands, including farm machinery, vehicles, dry goods, groceries and provisions. A very extensive business is carried on, and the stocks of mercantile goods would compare favorably with those in stores in much larger towns. There is one hotel, kept by "mine host" Joseph Blong, where the hungry traveler may rest and refresh himself. This little village is surrounded by a class of thrifty German farmers who came here in early days, or are native born, and whose fine homes and splendid farms are largely the result of their own industry and frugality. For a fuller discussion of "German-American Citizenship," consult the topic just mentioned, which appears elsewhere in this work.

St. Lucas was incorporated as a town on the 6th day of March, 1900, and has since made rapid progress in building and in assuming "city airs." The people being all of the same nationality, of the same religious and political faith. an air of peace and tranquility prevails which is not usually found in villages of a mixed population. The location is naturally beautiful, and the surrounding country one of the most fertile farming districts in the county, and of which advantages the frugal Germans have not been slow in showing their appreciation. While the German language is prevalent in every home, and is spoken in preference to any other, nearly all the elderly people can speak very good English, and all their children are educated in both German and English.

Auburn township was traversed in early days by one of the first public highways which connected Fayette county with the outside world. It was a main thoroughfare between Dubuque, Fort Atkinson and Minnesota points, and was early an incentive to settlement along its course. The township is mostly rolling land and was originally covered with an excellent quality of timber, much of which still remains, though the best has been sacrificed to accommodate the needs of the near by prairie farmers. The rugged hills bordering on the Turkey river add a degree of permanence to the natural beauty of the locality which the home sick wanderer longs to see, even after years of world wandering.


This township is organized for school purposes under the district township system, which embraces one sub director for each school district, who, when properly organized, transact most of the business of the district township. With the exception of voting school house taxes, we believe the power of the boards of directors is absolute, within the limitations of the state school law. This authority is vested in the township electors; but if they neglect or decline to act in the matter of providing a school house fund, the board of directors may then act; but ordinarily the directors are satisfied with the action of the electors in such matters and seldom interfere with their authority. Twelve of the twenty townships are organiled under this system, the remaining eight townships being organized for school purposes under a system known as rural independent districts. This system was abolished some years ago, but districts then organiled were not disturbed by the change of law relating to such organilations. Under either the district township system or the rural independent organilation, the boards of directors are organiled by electing from their own number a president, and from the district at large a secretary and treasurer. These are the executive officers of the board and are endowed with considerable official authority. In the independent districts three directors are elected - one each year, for a term of three years. They determine the duration of the school, the wages to he paid teachers and the secretary and treasurer of the board, etc., without regard to these conditions in adjoining districts in the same township. But in sub districts under the district township organilation, the duration of the school year and the teachers' wages are fixed on a uniform scale, and are not changed except in exceptional cases. Many objections were entered against the rural independent organilation, some of which were well taken; and this led to the change in the law in reference to their organization, and, perhaps, had something to do in eliminating existing evils in the districts that were not disturbed by the change in the law. But it would seem that the people residing in the independent districts were fully satisfied with that system of school organilation, in that the law prohibiting further organizations of that kind also provided means whereby such districts could return to the district township system, and none of them, in this county, at least, have ever taken advantage of this provision of law. We speak of this matter thus fully at this time, and shall hereafter mention the school organilation in other townships as "sub districts" or "rural independent districts," without further explanation.

Auburn township has seven sub districts, besides the independent districts of Auburn and St. Lucas. The latter are organiled under the provisions of law authoriling the formaton of independent districts in towns and villages having the required population (two hundred now, but formerly three hundred were the minimum population required for such organilation). There are fifteen independent town districts in Fayette county, all of which, except Fairbanks, are located wholly within the county. A few sections in Oran township contribute to the support of the Fairbanks school, which is located just across the line in Buchanan county. Of course the children residing upon the land so contributing have access to the Fairbanks schools.

For the year 1909, the latest official report, the seven rural districts in Auburn township employed eight female teachers, at an average compensation of thirty six dollars and ninety two cents per month. The average duration of school was five and one half months, with a total average daily attendance of fifty five. The total enrollment was eighty one, from a school population of ninety three males and ninety two females, between the ages of five and twenty one years. The average cost of tuition per month for each pupil was three dollars and ninety seven cents. The financial condition of the district townships at the present time is first class, there being on hand, of all funds, about two thousand dollars in the district treasury. There are two hundred and fifty volumes in the school libraries of the township.


As intimated at the beginning of this article, the village of Auburn opened her first school during the winter of 1852-3, and a year later had the most valuable school building then to be found in Fayette county. For many years the little town took a special interest in maintaining its high standing in educational affairs, and had an excellent school of two departments, employing the best talent to be secured. But for a number of years past the school has been reduced to one department, and its curriculum is only on a par with country schools in adjoining territory. During the year ending with July 1, 1909, there were seven and one half months of school in the district, taught by three female teachers, at an average monthly salary of thirty seven dollars. The number of persons of school age (five to twenty one years) now in the district are: Males, twenty four, and females, seventeen. Of these an average daily attendance of twenty two was attained for the school year, at an average cost of tuition per month for each pupil, of two dollars and eighty five cents.


By a combination of circumstances this village was enabled to sustain a school of ten months' duration during the past year. The total enrollment was forty three, with an average daily attendance of thirty. The school was taught by one female teacher at an average compensation of forty four dollars per month. Since the assessment value of the property in the proposed new independent district is greater than that of any other sub district in the township, it is a fair presumption to assume that the board of directors of the district township of Auburn. willingly paid for the excess of time taught and the increase of salary in the St. Lucas district. Having no official report on this subject, we are obliged to dispose of the subject in the manner here stated.


The Turkey valley in Auburn township, with its adjacent commanding bluffs, is picturesquely beautiful, and a source of admiration with all who visit the locality. Falling Springs, situated near the line between this township and Windsor, is one of the natural features of adornment to which the ingenuity of man has added with a view to making it a resort for those seeking rest and recreation during the summer time. The place has been fitted up by the owner, Martin Fell, with electric lights, proper seating, etc., until it is even more attractive by night than by day. See personal sketch of Mr. Felz for fuller description.

McCreary's Cave, a short distance east of Falling Springs, is another of nature's curious adornments, and which draws its share of sightseers who desire to witness this unadorned and undisturbed freak of nature.

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