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

DOVER TOWNSHIP.

The first permanent settler in this township was Lewis Kerr, who came with his family in 1848. His mother, one sister and two brothers, John and Thomas, accompanied him. They erected the first log cabin in the township, immediately after the removal of the Indians. Eliff Johnson came the same year, but John Downey broke the first land in the township and soon after sold his claim to Jacob Rosier, who, with his brothers, George N. and William M., located on sections 7, 29 and 32. Benjamin Iliff came in 1849, and built a log house on section 7. George Morrison, who lived across the line in Auburn township, claimed a portion of this section. John Turner, E. Pence, D. F. Soward and Eli Elrod came in 1849, and the little colony was soon joined by Rev. H. S. Brunson, Elisha Hartsough and Lookings Clark. In 1850 R. B. Kincaid, Lemuel Iliff, Nelson Graham and Jacob K. Rosier settled with their families, on section 7, at or near the present site of Eldorado. D. Elrod and James Iliff came during this year. Jacob Hoover settled on sectin 29, where his life was spent.

Dover township was organized by the county commissioners in October, 1850, and the organizing election ordered for the third Monday in November, following. The judges appointed to hold this election were Jacob Hoover, Benjamin Iliff and Eli Elrod, the voting place being at the house of the latter. Benjamin Iliff was elected justice of the peace, Lookings Clark, township clerk, and Alexander Musselman, constable. In the spring of 1850 Eli Elrod and J. L. Carson built a saw mill on the Turkey river at the present site of Eldorado, and in 1851 Mr. Elrod, who was then sole owner, built a flouring mill, which was the beginning of Eldorado's later prominence as a pioneer village. The town was laid out in November, 1852, by Eli Elrod, James Anderson and Thomas Woodle, with their wives, and the plat was filed for record January 6, 1853, and again filed for record on the 5th of May, 1865. Eldorado is located on the northwest quarter of section IS, which was originally owned by Eli Elrod.

With the organization of the township and the establishment of its only village, settlers began to come more rapidly, and among those who came in the early fifties we mention Thomas Kincaid, Rev. John Webb, William Edgar, James George, James Anderson, Bertel Osselson, Rev. Greenup, William H. Scott, A. J. Sherman, R. R. Nutting, David Thompson, John Barnes, B. H. and C. B. Ropes, William Kent, Ashur Simar, Vincent Anderson, William Andress, James Holmes, C. T. Saboe, Holver Paulson, Hiram B. Hoyt, William Robinson, C. B. Howe, Samuel Rich. These earliest settlers had the choice of lands, and most of them chose the Turkey river bottom lands, or the heavily timbered sections bordering on the river, and to the south of it. These sections were especially desirable, in that they possessed the double virtue of being fertile and at the same time having sufficient timber for buildings, fences, etc., which were then items of great importance. Fully three fourths of Dover township was originally timber land, some of which was of excellent quality, embracing both hard and soft wood varieties, including considerable black walnut, a little pine and an abundance of basswood, or linden. But the different species of oak, hickory, maple, ash and elm predominated. The Turkey river meanders through this township, from northwest to southeast, its course through the township being some fifteen miles long. The importance of this section of the county as a farming community is best told by stating that the present value of land in the township, listed for assessment purposes, is two hundred ten thousand three hundred and three dollars, while the value of its personal property, seventy two thousand one hundred fifty seven dollars, is only exceeded by the cities of Oelwein and West Union. No other township approaches it in the value of personal property listed for taxation.

J. N. Iliff, now of Webster City, Iowa, and son of Benjamin Iliff, who was among the earliest settlers of this township, claims that his father was the first white settler at the "forks of the Turkey;" that Lewis Kerr did not come with his family until the summer of 1850; that Eli and Dempsey Elrod came together in 1850; that the flouring mill at Eldorado was built before the sawmill, which was erected soon after, etc. These are not material points, except the matter of "first settler." It is probable that Lewis Kerr did not bring his family to the knew settlement until 1850, but well confirmed tradition places him there as a house holder in 1848; "immediately after the removal of the Indians." But the same authority says that he brought his family, and was "accompanied by his mother, one sister and two brothers."

Mr. Iliff mentions the first "callers" entertained at his parental home, and we can imagine the impression they made on the mind of a lad four years old. He says, "They were queer looking fishermen, wearing long red blankets thrown loosely over their shoulders, with buckskin moccasins and feathery head gear. They carried long flint lock rifles, a big knife and a tomahawk. They seemed highly elated and overly curious." His father was called from his work near by, and soon had the Indians smoking, jabbering and grunting with great satisfaction. Soon they began to leave without saying good bye, but it is not probable that the boy noticed this lack of courtesy! The visitors were Winnebagoes from Fort Atkinson, where they had been cared for by the government, but were now supposed to be on their new reservation in Minnesota. But there were straggling bands of Indians who frequently visited the early settlements for several years after the removal in 1848, but they were peaceable and generally harmless, except as they sometimes imbibed too much of the white man's "fire-water." Their favorite hunting grounds were in the heavy timber which skirted the Turkey river, and they were loth to leave the habitation of their fathers.

In the fall of 1850 the first Methodist minister made his appearance in the new settlement in the person of Elder John Webb. He put up at the home of Benjamin Iliff, and again the critical eye of the young son, Jasper N., "took notes." He noticed that the preacher was tall and angular, and that he had to stoop to get in at the cabin door. Elder Webb and Mr. Greenup, previously mentioned among the early settlers, conducted a two days' meeting in the unfinished flouring mill, loose boards being laid down for a floor. Both these men, with their families, became residents of Eldorado, as soon as lumber could be sawed with which to build their houses. Elder Brunson soon removed from the township.

Another authority gives Rev. John Hindman credit with holding the first religious services in the town and township, and gives the date, October 29, 1849, at the home of Benjamin Iliff. Mr. Hindman was a Methodist. These conflicts of dates, however immaterial, tend to show the treachery of the memory, and that none are infallible.

But it is generally conceded that James A. Cliff, now of West Union, was the first white child born in Dover township, that event occurring on the 13th of April, 1850. His mother, Mrs. Alvina, wife of Benjamin Cliff. died November 13th of the same year, and this was the first death in the new colony. Benjamin Iliff opened the first store in Eldorado, and was also the first postmaster in the place.

The first school in the township was opened in the summer of 1851, in a log cabin in section 31. One authority says Sarah Stafford was the teacher, and another says Arabella Nutting was entitled to the honor. Both statements emanate from early pioneer authority.

The first bridge to span the Turkey at Eldorado was built by subscription in 1855. It was succeeded by an iron structure in 1870, at the expense of the county, and this has been replaced or repaired as occasion demanded, the road which it connects being one of the early thoroughfares between West Union and Calmer, and other points north and south.

CHURCHES.

The first school house in Eldorado was erected in 1854, the school previously mentioned serving the people of the village until this time, though at some inconvenience and danger, especially when the river was high. A United Brethren church was erected in the village in 1859. Subsequently it was taken apart and moved to Auburn, and the continuing members allied themselves with the church elsewhere. A Methodist Episcopal church was organized in Eldorado during the winter of 1849-50, presumably by Rev. John Hindman, who preached the first sermon in the township, though this statement is disputed in the interest of Rev. John Webb, whom the narrator himself says, "came in the fall of this year," meaning in 1850. The Methodist church was built in 1869, but was not dedicated until January 2, 1871. The building committee was James George, Richard Dewey, James Young, George K. Eckert and Thomas Kincaid, familiar names in Dover township early history. In later years William Oberdorf, Samuel Dewey and Andrew Reed became prominently associated with this church in official capacities, and so continued until their removal from the township. Nearly all the early members of this church are dead. For fuller history of this church, and for the record of the German Lutheran church, see the special articles on these subjects. A Sunday school was organized at the house of Benjamin Iliff, by Eli Elrod and others, in 1850, and this has been a continuing institution, with seldom a break in its weekly meetings.

Special mention should be made of the work of Rev. G. Blessin, pastor of the German Lutheran church at Eldorado. Nearly thirty five years of his life have been devoted to the service of the church and its people in this county, his present pastorate extending over nearly all of this time. In addition to his pastoral duties, he has taken an active part in social and educational affairs in the village, particularly as a teacher of his self constituted parochial school, and as a teacher of music in the village and elsewhere. No man could have been more useful in the uphuilding of the moral and intellectual status of the community. We refer with a great deal of pride to his special articles in this work on "German-American Citizenship" and the "German Lutheran Church in Fayette county."

THE MILLING INDUSTRY.

Several saw mills and grist mills were erected along the banks of the Turkey in early times, some of which continued in active operation until within comparatively recent years, but most of them gave way to floods and fire. A steam saw mill was erected in 1853 by Newton, Walcott & Towner, on section 32, at a place locally known as "Bloomertown," which was continued in operation for many years. Latterly it was owned and operated by Abram Geil, who sold it to John Sphar, who now operates it when its services are demanded. But the portable saw mill has taken the place of the permanent ones, thus substituting the hauling of the mill for the old custom of hauling the logs. There is yet a large traffic in this line of work in the timbered sections of the county. Alexander Musselman built a saw mill in early days about a mile below the Eldorado bridge which still has a nominal existence. That place was known for many years as "Slabtown."

The Dover mills, owned and operated in early days by Burnham & Granger, was one of the leading industries of the township during the time when it was customary to do grinding for "toll." But this property gave way to the ravages of the raging Turkey, as did many other industries along its course. The Eldorado mills are still in operation, and have been improved to meet the requirements of the times, though the volume of business done is much less than in earlier days.

Eldorado is a flourishing village with two stores, mechanical shops and minor industries. Its natural surroundings are extremely beautiful.

This township, with its sheltering river bluffs and timber, seems to be specially adapted to fruit growing, comparing favorably in this respect with any township in the county. Some excellent orchards, and a great diversity of products, are found in this township and good prizes have been awarded Dover township fruits at both county and state fairs. Some small nurseries are also profitably conducted by men schooled in such work. Without disparagement to the work of others, we mention the farms of William A. Anderson, Henry George and Adam Johnson as being specially well equipped for the growing of prize taking fruits and grains. Others excel in the production of heavy hogs, while still others give special attention to the rearing of horses and cattle.

It is said that a "Know Nothing" lodge existed in Eldorado in very early times, the garret of Elrod's flouring mill being used as a lodge room. This was reached by means of an outside ladder. "Black-balled" candidates for initiation, who had the presumption to climb the ladder in search of that which had been denied them, were treated to a bucketful of batter made from mill sweepings, and this usually dissuaded further efforts in seeking the "mysteries of the order!"

A Good Templars lodge also had an existence in the village in early days, but this has long since ceased to exist.

EDUCATIONAL.

There are nine rural independent school districts in Dover township in which were enrolled two hundred and fifty nine of the three hundred and fifty one pupils of school age, with a total average attendance of one hundred and sixty five during the year ending July 1, 1909. One male teacher was employed in the township at a salary of forty dollars per month, and the female teachers received salaries ranging from thirty three dollars to forty dollars per month. Average duration of schools in the entire township, seven and three tenths months. Average cost of tuition per month for each pupil two dollars and thirty nine cents. Value of school houses, five thousand seven hundred and ten dollars; value of school apparatus, nine hundred and five dollars; number of volumes in school libraries, four hundred and three.

Wild game, especially deer, was plentiful in Dover township from the time the white settlers began to locate there until the winter of 1856-7. That winter was exceptionally severe, with deep snow from early winter until late in the spring. The snow was crusted to such an extent that it was difficult for the deer to get away from the hunters and their dogs, and nearly all were slaughtered - many of them wantonly, we believe. This was equally true of other localities in the county, and but few deer have been found here since the eventful winter of 1856-7.


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