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


The organizing election for Jefferson township was held at the house of A. Eldridge, in August, 1854. Fourteen votes were cast, and the following named persons were elected to the township offices: A. Eldridge, James Burch and J. B. Morehouse, trustees; E. W. Clark, township clerk; Thomas Beckley and Frederick Oelwein, justices of the peace, and Lewis Burch, constable.

The name of the township was chosen at the same time, the name "Hoosier" being proposed by some, but the majority favored the more statesmanlike appellation of "Jefferson," and that prevailed.

The first settler in this township was William Bunce, who filed his claim and did some breaking during the summer of 1848. He was alone in his occupancy until late in the year 1851, when William Pitkin and a Mr. Potter settled on a part of section 35, and built a cabin at or near the location of an old Indian camp. Daniel Greeley commenced to build a saw mill in 1851, but did not finish it until the following year. His home was then in Buchanan county, where he married Almira Sayles, but moved to his mill as soon as a house was built. He died in 1855. Rev. James Burch, a Baptist clergyman, settled in the township in 1852. He was a typical pioneer, and reared a large family, who, with himself, have been prominent in the early history of the county. The settlement was increased in 1853 by the arrival of Aaron Belt, Asbury Belt, Malachi Clow, Thomas Beckley, Judson Jarrett and others. The year 1854 witnessed the organization of the township, as stated above, and the arrival of other settlers, among whom were John Burch, Walter Sparks, E. W. Clark, James Holroyd; and E. W. Wyckoff began the improvement of the land which he entered in 1851, but did not occupy as a home until 1856. He was a surveyor by occupation.


The first school house in the township was erected in the fall of 1854, the proposed patrons contributing the logs and volunteering their labor in hauling and building. It was on the order of the typical pioneer school house - roofed with "shakes," seated with slab benches which were upholstered with the jack-plane; bass wood boards fastened to the walls around three sides for desks, and these were probably planed; a capacious fire place, which supplied the only means of heating and ventilating (though there are modern devices not so good for the latter purpose). The "equipment" of apparatus comprised such school books (old or new) as the family may have treasured for a generation or two, and this "Temple of Minerva" was ready to be launched. The school curriculum of that day was limited, in the country schools, to the elements of the "three R's," with an occasional attempt at teaching United States history, grammar and geography.

But the rapid increase in population rendered other school houses a necessity, and they were added as needed, the first ones being usually of logs; but in 1867 five frame school houses were erected in the township; at an average cost of seven hundred dollars each.

The district township of Jefferson now has nine rural schools and school houses, valued at three thousand three hundred and twenty five dollars, employing nine female teachers, nine months in the year. The average compensation of teachers is thirty four dollars and thirty three cents per month. The school population of the district is two hundred and eighty nine, of whom one hundred and eighty three were enrolled in the schools, with an average daily attendance of one hundred and fourteen. Seventeen pupils between the ages of seven and fourteen were not enrolled in school during the last year (1909). The school apparatus of the district township is valued at one hundred and twenty eight dollars. There are five hundred and four volumes in the school libraries of the township. The average cost of tuition per month for each pupil was two dollars and seventy one cents.

The township of Jefferson is one of the prairie townships of the county. It is mostly level, or gently undulating, and has excellent soil for the cultivation of all kinds of farm products. The timber of the township (except artificially grown) would not exceed three sections, this extending south from the present site of Oelwein, and a small body west of that place. The farmers are generally rich and prosperous, and many beautiful homes and splendid farm buildings are to be found in Jefferson township.


Otsego was one of the promising villages of Fayette county which died a natural death when missed by the railroad in nearby territory. This village was laid out in 1856, on the northwest corner of section 34. It became quite a trading point, and so continued until a railroad depot was established at Oelwein, in sight of Otsego, but nearly two miles away. The business of the village was then gradually absorbed by its more fortunate rival, some buildings were moved to Oelwein, and finally, in 1873, Doctor Pattison, the pioneer physician of the southern part of the county, removed the postoffice to Oelwein, and soon the village was practically abandoned. The postoffice, at first named Jefferson, but soon changed to Otsego. was established soon after the village was laid out. Mr. Woods was the first merchant, and also the first postmaster. He died about 186o. Bennett & Chapman formed a mercantile partnership and conducted an extensive business, having a large patronage from the farming community in which no formidable rival towns existed within a radius of many miles. Mr. Bennett moved to Oelvein in 1873, where he was prominent in business circles.


This, the largest town in northeastern Iowa, had its birth in 1872, stimulated by the building of the Burlington. Cedar Rapids & Minnesota railroad through the township. For a number of years there was nothing to distinguish Oelwein from other small villages along the line of the railroad, several of which had no existence until some time after the building of the road was assured.

But the business men of Oelwein seemed to have implicit confidence in its future even before there was a shadow of hope to stimulate such confidence. Fortunately for the town, the men who were at the bottom of things were strongly imaginative beings who were willing to back their conclusions with their money, and of such material are the men made who stimulate municipal growth and make prosperous towns. The Jamison brothers and George H. Phillips were among the first to sound the praises of Oelwein and invest their money in more than ordinary village enterprises. The Oelwein, for whom the town was named, were men of means, and though at first conservatively inclined, were not slow to recognize the future prospects of the village of two or three hundred people in the early seventies; and when once convinced, they did as much as any in stimulating its progress. Dr. Israel Pattison was a progressive, public spirited citizen, and was the first physician in the town. It was he who moved the postoffice from Otsego, without awaiting the formality of a governmental order. He established a large practice in the town and surrounding country, and was successful, both in a professional way and in the accumulation of property. Since his death, a few years ago, his two sons have succeeded to his practice.

The land upon which the city of Oelwein is located was not the first to be entered and improved in Jefferson township. Oelwein is located, principally, on section 21, and the first entry on that section was made by a land speculator from Dubuque September 1, 1852. It was his custom to enter land for actual setters who were not able to pay the necessary entrance fees, find a buyer, add a good rate of interest, and sell to the parties desiring to establish homes. In this way, four forty acre tracts (three in the southeast quarter and one in the southwest quarter) were entered for J. B. Burch, one of the early pioneers in that locality. There were several of the Burch family identified with the early settlement of Jefferson township, but none of them ever realized from the development of their early possessions into a site for a city. In fact they did not hold their lands until the town was established, but sold, mostly to Frederick Oelwein and C. N. Martin, by whose heirs much of the real estate is still held.

Some of the early men of this place were King & Kenyon, who were the first to engage in the hardware business, and also the first business men in the town. N. O. Lawton opened a stock of dry goods soon after, and M. A. Campbell occupied a part of the same building with a stock of groceries. Mr. Von Ferber and the Applegate Brothers were in mercantile business before the beginning of the year 1874, and J. C. Miller moved his building and drug stock from Otsego, and was in trade at Oelwein for several years. He is now keeping hotel at Elgin. Irvine and Bennett erected a frame structure twenty five by forty feet, which was used for the storage of agricultural implements.

All the early buildings in Oelwein were hastily constructed of wood, without the formality of consulting architects, and, as a rule, were neither handsome nor substantial. Sixteen buildings, fifteen of which were for business purposes, were erected in about as many weeks. Three or four grain warehouses were in readiness for the grain trade of 1874, one of these being erected by the members of Jefferson Grange, and operated by them for some years. The Jefferson House, the first hotel, was completed before the railroad depot, and was operated by Jesse Hough for many years. A newspaper, the Oelwein Clipper, was established in early days, but did not last until the season of prosperity and expansion struck the town. A cabin erected in 1852 by L. M. Burch, on what subsequently became the Frederick Oelwein property, has been a permanent landmark and a reminder of pioneer days.

But from the building of the main line of the Chicago Great Western railroad into Oelwein, in 1886, dates the beginning of the city's phenomenal growth. At that time it was a good town, in the sense of being progressive, a good trading point, and having all of the public institutions usually accorded to a country town of a few hundred inhabitants. But even before the road reached the town, or township, business interests began to "look up," and farseeing business men prophesied that Oelwein time had come! Additions were laid out by land owners on all sides, streets were extended and improved, and business blocks and residences arose, Phoenix-like, everywhere. The establishment of the railroad shops in the town, and their gradual expansion, and the further fact that Oelwein soon became a division terminus, stimulated the growth of the town to several times its original size, within the space of a few months. Railroad men came with their families, for the shops employ many hundred skilled workmen, besides as many laborers. Mercantile business, hotels and boarding houses, churches and schools, professional men, all increased in keeping with the increasing demand; and within a few months Oelwein had taken on city airs, and could scarcely be recognized by those best acquainted with it a few months before. Then came the building of the diverging lines of the Great Western, and business and labor boomed. (For more extended notice concerning this railroad, see the article on Public Utilities.) Brick blocks for the various lines of expanding business, houses for rental to shelter the people, or handsome homes for those whom fortune had favored by the wonderful increase in property values, the building of school houses and churches, the paving of streets and the introduction of fire protection machinery, water works and electric lights - all came within the space of a few years, and from a second rate country town Oelwein has developed into the largest town in the four northeast corner counties in the state. But its possibilities are not exhausted, nor its business pushers discouraged.


In the early days churches were established with prodigal liberality, considering the means of the people, and seven church societies, a Young Men's Christian Association and a Union Sabbath school were opened to the people of varying religious views. The continuing organizations, and those of later coming, are written up in the various church histories to be found in this volume.

Lodges and fraternal and beneficial societies have been represented in the place, almost from its founding, and these have multiplied with the increase in population and the coming of representatives from other places. The lodges of the city are Hebron Lodge No. 374, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons (for history of which, see article on "Masonry in Fayette County." by Hon. D. W. Clements, past grand master of Iowa).

Columbia Lodge No. 83, Ancient Order United Workmen, has had an existence since August, 1876, when it was organized with twenty nine charter members. This is largely a beneficial institution in which the members carry life insurance. But it also has interesting ritualistic work, and the social features of the society are prized by the members.

Oelwein Lodge No. 294, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was organized October 25, 1874, by District Deputy Grand Master W. A. Chase, with seven charter members. At times during its history this lodge has been flourishing, with a strong membership and general interest. Then it would falter for a few years, and finally recuperate. Within recent years it has taken a new lease of life and is active, prominent and influential in the fraternal annals of Oelwein. Probably it has initiated as many members as any fraternal organization in the town, and assuredly the principles of "Friendship, Love and Truth," when carried out in the lodge room and in daily associations, are on a par with the underlying principles of any society in existence.

The Grand Army of the Republic is the only fraternity having a "time limit" to its duration, if we except kindred organizations of old soldiers. Griffith Post No. 134 was organized in the winter of 1881-2. A deputation of members of Abernathey Post at West Union went down to "assist at the banquet tables!" They had no trouble in getting to Oelwein, but, like all others who locate there, even temporarily, it seemed impossible to get away. The hindering cause, in this case, was an Iowa blizzard which blocked the railroad for two weeks. Finally a man with a team was hired, and between walking and breaking the road and riding in the bob sled, they covered the twenty two miles on the return in thirteen hours. The remnant of Griffith Post still holds the organization, but the ranks are thinning, and soon the final roll call will be reached.

The Modern Woodmen of America have an organization in Oelwein, having a fair membership who approve of that method of life insurance.

A lodge of the Good Templars once had an healthy existence in the town, at one time having about a hundred members.

Jefferson Grange No. 687 was another of the active organizations during the early days of Oelwein. It was organized in November, 1872, and at one time counted among its members nearly all the prominent farmers and others having agricultural interests in the town and surrounding country.

Company F, of the Fourth Regiment Iowa National Guards, was the only military organization that has had an existence in the town. It served the state for three years after the 14th of May, 1878. It was a well drilled company. Some of its former members were in service during the Spanish-American war.


The population of the city of Oelwein is conservatively estimated at eight thousand. It has four fine school houses, valued at fifty seven thousand dollars: There are twenty nine rooms in the school buildings, employing two male teachers and thirty females. The duration of the school year is nine months. The average monthly compensation of male teachers in 1909 was one hundred and twenty four dollars and sixty six cents, and of female teachers fifty two dollars and ninety three cents. The school enumeration of the district shows one thousand six hundred and seventy one persons between the ages of five and twenty one years, of whom one thousand and fifty two were enrolled in the schools, with a total average daily attendance of eight hundred and six. The average cost of tuition per month for each pupil was two dollars and twenty one cents. Twenty seven non resident students were taught in the schools, from whom the district realized in tuition fees three hundred and ninety seven dollars. The value of apparatus used in the schools is seven hundred and fifty dollars. The free students' library contains one thousand five hundred volumes.

Among the revenues of the city of Oelwein may be mentioned the following: For the year 1909, the Chicago Great Western railroad contributed in taxes paid one thousand nine hundred and twenty one dollars and eighty cents, and to the township of Jefferson, two thousand three hundred and ninety six dollars and twenty six cents. The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific railroad paid in taxes for the same period, to Oelwein, six hundred and ninety dollars and seventy seven cents, and to the township, four hundred and ninety five dollars and ninety seven cents.

Under the Iowa mulct law, which prevails in Oelwein, the liquor dealers paid in fines and assessments the sum of four thousand two hundred and three dollars and forty five cents, contributed by twenty eight persons during the year 1909. For the same period in the entire county, liquor taxes were assessed and levied to the amount of six thousand four hundred and fifty dollars.

There are six and eighteen hundredths miles of line of the Western Union Telegraph Company in Jefferson township, valued for assessment purposes at eighty dollars per mile. The United States Express Company has the same mileage in the town and township, valued at thirty five dollars per mile. The Wells-Fargo Company has thirteen and four tenths miles of line, assessed at thirty five dollars per mile.

Fifty two miles of telephone, of which the Corn Belt Telephone Company hags twenty eight miles, traverse the town and country and keep the people in touch with the markets, the neighborhood gossip and the doctors in emergencies. The four companies operating these lines are assessed an average of fifty four dollars per mile.

The taxable valuation of the incorporated city of Oelwein is six hundred and seventy five thousand two hundred and twenty dollars, and of Jefferson township, three hundred and sixty four thousand four hundred and thirty three dollars. The rate of general taxation for 1909 was eighteen and seven tenths mills on the dollar, in addition to which there were some corporation taxes provided for in the cities and incorporated towns.


The banking interests at Oelwein were first represented by the private banking house of Hoagland & Jamison in 1875, at a time when the community had no bank nearer than Fayette, West Union or Independence. In 1887, they built for banking purposes the brick block in which the bank is still continued. The original firm carried on banking until 1881, when Hoagland retired and the business was conducted by S. B. Zeigler, Joseph Hobson, E. B. Shaw and John Jamison, the first three taking over the interest held by Mr. Hoagland. In 1887 G. W. Jamison purchased the interest held by Zeigler, Shaw and Hobson, since which date it has been the sole property of Jamison Brothers - John and G. W. Jamison. A general banking business is here transacted and during the various financial flurries of the country, this bank has always been able to pay out dollar for dollar on all demands made upon it. The Jamisons are conservative, prudent business men, who stand high in the county for their ability and financial integrity.


The second bank established at Oelwein was also a private concern, founded by H. C. Sturgis & Company (father and son), in 1888, and this was operated a few years and Went out of business.


This bank was organized in the month of July, 1895, and the first officers were. A. J. Anders, president; Henry O'Neil, cashier, and W. R. Martin. Mr. O'Neil died, after which Mr. Martin became the cashier. A fine brick bank block was erected on Frederick street, in which the bank is still operated, and in a most successful manner, as is shown by its statements.

The capital stock of this bank is fifty thousand dollars, while the deposits, the first of the year 1910 were three hundred and thirty three thousand dollars, and surplus and undivided profits were eighteen thousand five hundred dollars. The growth of the Aetna and its present standing among the solid financial institutions of northeastern Iowa is but an evidence of the ability of the founders and present men in control.


The First National Bank of Oelwein was organized in the month of October, 1899, as a savings bank, with a capital of fifty thousand dollars, by T. L. Hansen, as its president; E. C. Belt, vice president; A. Hansen, cashier. After continuing as a savings bank successfully until April 17, 1901, it was chartered on that date as the First National Bank of Oelwein, with a capital of fifty thousand dollars. This bank has always been successful and stands high among the banks of Fayette county. Its present (1910) officers are as follows: T. L. Hansen, president; A. C. Wilson, vice president; A. Hansen, cashier; C. B. Chambers, assistant cashier. The board of directors are, T. L. Hansen, A. Hansen, B. S. Glenn, J. B. IFeltus, A. L. Hunter, A. M. Odell, A. C. Wilson, G. W. Teague and H. D. Wood.

The home of this bank is on West Charles street, its own large, modern brick building, which is equipped with excellent bank fixtures, safes, vaults and furniture.

The deposits of this bank, January 1, 1910, were three hundred thousand dollars, with a surplus and undivided profits of twenty thousand dollars. Four per cent is paid to depositors.


This institution was organized January 4, 1908, with a capital of thirty thousand dollars. It now has deposits amounting to two hundred and eight thousand fifty dollars. Its officers are as follows: E. C. Belt, president; W. E. Robinson, vice president; J. W. Kint, cashier; W. G. Wairath. assistant cashier. The board of directors are: C. R. Brown (died in the spring of 1910), S. J. Fox, R. J. Young, G. A. Starr, J. J. Golvin, Robert Connor, George Schneider, W. E. Robinson, and E. C. Belt.

According to the state auditor's call for November, 1909, the resources of this bank were as follows: Real estate, $10,00; loans, $174,134.51; furniture and fixtures $2,910; cash and due from banks, $38,196.18; overdrafts, $296.83, a total of $225,537.52. The liabilities of the bank are: Capital stock, $30,000; undivided profits, $3,465.67; deposits, $192,071.85. This bank also owns its own building, which was erected for the purpose in 1907. It is located on East Charles street.

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