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


This sub-division of Fayette county, located in the southwest corner, dates its political existence from the first Monday in April, 1855.

The organizing election was held at the house of E. C. Abbott, April 2, 1855. The first settlers were an Irish family whose name is not remembered. This location was on section 17, where some breaking was done in 1853. William Way, now of Fayette, occupied' the cabin erected by this family. J. J. Roberts and Mr. Furtsch were the first successors to this "nameless" pioneer family. In 1854 the little colony was augmented by the arrival of Mr. Shippe, P. McCunniff, O. C. Kent, L. D. Wellman and a few others. R. J. Young, now of Oelwein, was a prominent and active early settler in Oran. where he served as township clerk, and in other official capacities, for many years. He has been identified, officially, with the Farmers' Mutual Insurance organization from its inception until the present, and is also extensively interested in other lines of insurance, rentals, banking, etc., in the city of Oelwein. Mr. Young has been one of the men who have made a success of life, though he began his career as a farmer in Oran, on a limited scale.

L. D. Wellman was another of the active and prominent residents of Oran township, as was also J. H. Ross. Mr. Wellman removed to Arlington, where he is postmaster. But it is impossible, at this late day, to record the names of all who wielded an influence in the development of this splendid township, especially as early records have not been preserved.


Oran would be classed as a "prairie township," though it was well supplied with timber, the belt being confined to about twelve sections along the Wapsipinnicon river. This stream traverses the township from north to south, and this, with its numerous tributaries, furnishes excellent drainage, as well as rendering the land well adapted to stock raising and dairying. The timber belt seems to be a continuation of Wilson's Grove which furnishes the timber supply for Fremont and Banks townships, to the north of Oran.

Until the building of the Chicago Great Western railroad, Oran township did not boast of the existence of a town within its boundaries. Oran post office was a "crossroads" village, and still retains its identity, being now a station on the Fort Dodge branch of the Chicago Great Western. This road passes through the township in nearly an east and west direction. Minkler, in Bremer county, is a small town and trading point for the northwest corner of Oran township. The Des Moines branch of the Great Western touches the southeast corner of this township, and passes out of the county at Fairbank, a prosperous town near the line between Fayette and Buchanan counties. In fact a portion of the independent school district of Fairbank lies within Fayette county, though the school house is in the town of Fairbank, which is a trading point for the people, in competition with Oelwein, a few miles farther away. Westgate, in Fremont township, is also an accessible trading point and market for the northern part of Oran. It is located on the main line, or St. Paul branch, of the Great Western.


Two country churches were organized in Oran township in early days. The first of these was a Baptist congregation, established in December, 1855 The first meeting was held at the house of Simon Schultz, and J. F. Reardon was chosen moderator and J. H. Ross, clerk. The next year the Methodist Protestants invaded the territory, and theirs was the first church building erected in the township. Charles Robinson did the carpenter work and Mr. Johnson laid the foundation and did the plastering. These religious organizations served the people for many years, or until the erection of churches in near by towns and villages provided more convenient means for worship. There are a good many Catholics in Oran, and at first they attended services at Fairbank (and some still do), but the immense and costly cathedral at Oelwein, and the parochial school privileges there, have diverted others to that point. Some have retired and located there, while many others still drive in from the farms.

P. W. Hough built a saw mill on section 28, Oran township, in 1856, and this probably supplied the first native boards in the township


The first school in Oran was held at the house of Peter McCunniff, during the winter of 1855-6. Mr. McCunniff had a considerable family of his own, and set apart a portion of his house - at that time none too large - to accommodate the children within reach of this pioneer school. But the McCunniffs have always been friends of the public school and for many years some of their names Were found on the roster of school officers in Oran township. J. J. Roberts was the teacher in the school above mentioned. During the summer of 1856 a school house was built near the McCunniff home, and Charles Bennett was the first teacher therein.

The first marriage ceremony in Oran was that which united L. D. Wellman and Caroline Roberts, Lyman Curtis, justice of the peace, officiating. This occurred October 5, 1856. The second marriage in the township was solemnized in the winter of 1857, and John Minton and Betsy Kent were the contracting parties.

The first death of a white person was that of an emigrant passing through the township in 1852. He died in his wagon and was buried at his last camping place. The second death in the township, and the first of an actual resident, was Mrs. O. C. Kent, who died in 1857.


The schools of Oran township are organized under the rural independent district system, and comprise nine schools, each having a comfortable school house and a school term of eight or more months in the year. The shortest term in the township was in district No. 9, where seven and five tenths months comprised the school year. The average duration of the nine schools for the year 1909 was eight and two tenths months (No. 7 had nine months school). One male teacher and thirteen females were employed during the year, the salaries varying from twenty eight dollars and fifty three cents, in No. 9, to thirty five dollars and thirty two cents in district No. 5. The average salary for the nine schools was twenty nine dollars and forty seven cents. The average cost of tuition, per pupil, for the township, was three dollars and five cents. The highest average cost of tuition in the township was four dollars and sixty four cents in district No. 2, and the lowest was one dollar and forty eight cents in district No. 6. The nine school houses have a value estimated by the district officers at seven thousand dollars. The school apparatus is valued at three hundred and thirty five dollars. School libraries, three hundred and fifty volumes.

The taxable valuation of Oran township, for the year 1909, was three hundred and twenty eight thousand six hundred and sixteen dollars, divided as follows: Lands, two hundred and twenty six thousand fifteen dollars; lots, two thousand three hundred and fifty dollars; personal, thirty seven thousand three hundred and forty five dollars; railroads, sixty thousand seven hundred and eighty dollars; telegraph, seven hundred and four dollars; telephone, one thousand and thirty five dollars; and express companies, three hundred and seventy eight dollars.

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