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


The township of Fremont was organized under authority of the county judge, November 4, 1856, and the organizing election was held on the 6th of April, 1857. The election was held at the home of A. Ritchie, and S. S. Leech, S. R. McClay and P. M. Corbly served as judges of the election and J. Curtis and N. W. Spears were the clerks. The officers elected at this time were: H. W. Zimmerman, justice of the peace; John Strong, S. R. McClay and J. Burch, trustees; L. C. Dudley, clerk; C. Cline and R. W. Lawrence, constables.

It is said that the name "Fremont" was chosen by N. W. Spears, in honor of the "Pathfinder of the Rockies," who aspired to be President. as well as the first leader of the Republican party.

The first school officers of the township were elected in December. 1856, P. M. Corbly being chosen president of the board, N. W. Spears, secretary and P. M. Obenchain, treasurer. N. W. Spears was the first school teacher in the township, having a class of seventeen pupils. whom he taught in his own house during the winter of 1856-7, for a consideration of ten dollars per month. During extremely stormy weather he kept his pupils all night, and, of course, boarded them. Some of his pupils lived three miles from the school, and when it is remembered that there were no fenced roads at that time, the danger to children being caught out in a snow storm were greatly multiplied. It is said that P. M. Obenchain taught an evening school during the same winter. The first school house built in the township was a log structure, constructed from material contributed and hauled to the site by patrons of the proposed school. This house was erected in the fall of 1857.

The August, 1857, election was held at the house of N. W. Spears, and twenty seven votes were polled, indicating a Democratic majority of nine. The first religious services in the township were conducted by Rev. James Burch, a Free Will Baptist, at the home of E. Shipp, in the spring of 1856. Mr. Burch was a local celebrity who had learned to read after his marriage. He was exceptionally fond of hunting and usually traveled his circuit prepared for either hunting or preaching, as circumstances justified. During the autumn of the same year Rev. Mr. Allen, a United Brethren minister from West Union, united With Rev. H. W. Zimmerman, a local minister of the Methodist faith, in holding a series of religious meetings, which resulted in much good and was the nucleus to church organizations the following spring. Churches of these denominations were erected and maintained for many years. The organizing members of the United Brethren church were P. M. Corby and wife, John Strong and wife, Richard Lawrence, Oliver Kelly and wife and John Plessey and wife. The membership of this church during its existence, included the names of many of the prominent people of the township. The first members of the Methodist Episcopal church were Rev. H. W. Zimmerman and wife, N. W. Spears and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Chichester and Mrs. Angeline Morehouse. This organization also had a prosperous career, but is now absorbed by the church at Westgate. In the spring of 1859 Rev. Peter Colgrove located in Fremont township and proved a valuable acquisition to the religious affairs, but died in August of the following year. He reared a family of educators who have left their impress upon the school history of Fayette county. Mr. Colgrove built the brick school house on section 33, in the autumn of 1859, and James F. Babcock taught the school therein during the following winter.

In the early days it was customary to name the school houses or school districts, instead of numbering them, as now. The change to the present plan was brought about because of the inconvenience of writing long names in the county records, often on limited space. The White school house was erected in 1860, by H. L. Matthews, and the first teacher therein was S. C. Beck. The Red school house was built in the year last written, by Charles Goodrich, and N. M. Mallery was the first teacher. The McSweeney school building was erected in 1867, by E. T. Older, and Anna M. Older was the first teacher in that district. The Baker school was established in 1869, and Mrs. Augusta Baker taught the first term of school.

A Union Sabbath school was organized in 1864, with John Dickman as superintendent. The Dickmans, William, John and Henry, were among the early and prominent families who found homes in Fremont township.

Mill postoffices was established in this township in 1860, and Joseph Chichester was appointed postmaster. The office was continued until the introduction of the rural free delivery system, as appears more fully in the article on postoffices.

The first land entry of record in Fremont township was made by Thomas Rand, January 16, 1853. He located parts of sections 31 and 32. During the winter of 1848-9 the settlers throughout the county organized a "Claim Society" for the purpose of mutual protection against claim jumpers. They took this precaution before the surveys were completed, and before the lands were generally on the market.

During the Civil war Fremont township organized a Soldiers' Aid Society, to co-operate with the county central committee both in the enlistment of volunteers and in caring for the families of those who responded to their country's call. Rev. H. W. Zimmerman was appointed a member of the county central committee, and Mrs. N. W. Spears was president of the Fremont Township Soldiers' Aid Society, the other officers being Mrs. L. C. Dudley, secretary, and Mrs. E. T. Older, treasurer. The society was ever vigilant in collecting and forwarding needed supplies to the front and in disbursing their bounties among the needy families of absent soldiers.

Fremont township is one of the best agricultural townships in the county. The land is mostly rolling Prairie, with considerable timber in the central and southwestern portions of the township, along the Wapsipinicon river and its tributaries. The "Wapsie" is a stream of considerable volume, which, with its principal tributary, the Little Wapsie, the latter flowing southwesterly across the township until it forms a junction with the principal stream on section 19, affords an excellent drainage system. The Wapsipinicon river traverses the township in nearly a southern direction, passing out of the township into Oran, on section 32. Besides these principal water courses, there are numerous creeks and spring branches which render the land well adapted to stock raising, as well as general farming.

For many years Fremont township was considered a kind of educational center among the rural schools. Perhaps no township in the county has turned out more college graduates than Fremont, or more persons who have attained prominence in educational circles. The schools are organized under the district township system, there being nine sub-districts in the township having school during the period covered by the latest official report (1909). The average duration of schools was seven and four tenths months. Sixteen female teachers were employed during the year at an average compensation of thirty four dollars and ninety cents per month. There are two hundred and ninety two persons in the township district between the ages of five and twenty one years, of whom one hundred and ninety five were enrolled in the schools, with a total average daily attendance of one hundred and twelve. The average cost of tuition per month for each pupil was three dollars and seven cents. Value of school houses, three thousand three hundred fifty dollars. Value of school apparatus, three hundred and thirty dollars. Number of volumes in the school district libraries four hundred thirty three.


Until within comparatively recent years. Fremont was exclusively a rural township, having no town or village within its borders of greater importance than a country postoffice. The trading points were Maynard, four miles east of the east line of the township, Oelwein scarcely three miles southeast of the corner of the township, and Sumner, a few miles farther, in Bremer county. But the building of the St. Paul branch of the Chicago Great Western railroad. which traverses the township from southeast to northwest, stimulated the establishment of a station, midway between Oelyein and Sumner. This station is known as Westgate, and even before the completion of the railroad it began to show signs of activity and progress. Men of means and business acumen foresaw the possibilities of the place, and within a few years Westgate became a thriving town of considerable importance. It was laid out by Cass and Jamison, and was prosperous as a young town from the start. There are all of the industries usually found in small towns, with several mercantile establishments, a hotel, three churches, Methodist Episcopal. Catholic and Lutheran, a bank, good school, and various mechanical shops, besides being the home of a number of retired farmers from the adjacent country. For a history of the churches, the reader is referred to the general articles which treat of the denominations represented in the town.

There are several social and fraternal organizations represented in the place. An Odd Fellows lodge was once organized there and prospered for a time, but it has been merged with the lodge at Maynard. Westgate was incorporated May 9, 1896, its school district being co-extensive with the corporation limits. The school house of two rooms is valued at one thousand dollars. There are sixty eight persons of school age in the district, of whom sixty three were enrolled in the schools during the last year, the average daily attendance being forty nine. One male teacher was employed at a salary of sixty dollars per month and one female whose salary was forty seven dollars and fifty cents. The average cost of tuition per month for each pupil was two dollars and nineteen cents. Nine months school was taught in this district during the year ending June 30, 1909, the latest official report.

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