This was one of the four townships surveyed in 1837, as appears in the chapter on County Organization. The first
land entry was made by John C. Folsom, on the 4th of November, 1850. But a man named Serving entered land the same
year, sold his claim to a man named Harrows, who, like himself, soon removed from the township. The settlement
of this township was tardy, considering the time the land became available, and this tardiness was probably due
to the fact that the land is nearly all prairie, a class of soil and environment not alluring to the first settlers
of the county. And this objection will be considered a sensible one, when it is remembered that timber was a staple
commodity in early days, there being nothing then available to take its place for fuel, fencing, houses and stock
sheds, and even as a protection against the destructive winds which traversed the prairies unmolested. Invariably
the early settlers chose locations in or near the timber, even though much better land could have been found elsewhere.
J. Brun was the first actual settler, he having purchased the Harrows claim, and made a permanent home on section
24. Some of the first settlers in this township secured their land for seventy five cents an acre, there being
a special provision so providing for a limited time.
The township was named in honor of the Revolutionary hero, Gen. Israel Putnam. An order was issued by the county
judge calling the organizing election in April, 1855. Some informality in making the returns deferred the organization,
however, and another election was held the following year. The electors who voted in April, 1855, were R. Aldrich,
Sr., R. Aldrich, Jr., Mr. McNary, W. C. Hicks, J. Hallowell, J. B. Squires, J. L. Bruce and John C. Folsom. The
election held in April, 1856 (at which time the township was organized), was held at the house of Samuel Joy, and
resulted in the selection of officers as follows: J. B. Squires and Samuel Probasco, justices of the peace; Samuel
Westcott, Joseph Hallowell and W. S. Warner, trustees; Alvah Bush, township clerk; Samuel Westcott, assessor; J.
Rowley and Mr. Canfield, constables, and Patrick Bears was chosen supervisor of roads. The election officers on
this occasion were W. S. Warner, Joseph Hallowell and Alvah Bush, judges, and the two last named also officiated
as clerks. The electors attending this election and not at the preceding one were C. G. Vheeland, W. Hicks, Jay
and James Squires.
The first consideration with the pioneers, after organizing the territory in which they live, is the establishment
of schools and churches. Putnam township was no exception to this rule. The first board of directors (organized
in 1838) was composed of Solomon Joy, J. B. Squires and L. H. Abbott. Mrs. Rowley, who taught the first school
in the township, received a salary of one dollar per week!
Three sub-districts were organized by the board in 1838, and the first school house in the township was purchased
from Orrville Wood for thirty dollars. The schools of the township were well organized under the district township
system, and so continued until October 18, 1873, when eighty two petitioners asked for a dissolution of the district
township system and the establishment of rural independent districts. An election was held in December, 1873, and
a majority of votes cast were in favor of the change to the independent district system. When the school property
was divided and district boundaries established, the district township board went out of existence, since which
time three directors in each district have controlled the school interests. The last of the eleven sub-districts
was set off in 1871, and since December, 1873, each district has been self sustaining. Each district in the township
owns a school house of one room, that in No. 3 being the poorest (valued at two hundred dollars). In this district
there was no school held during the year 1909, the latest official report. The other ten districts had school from
seven to nine months of the year, the average being seven and three fourths months. Two male teachers were employed
(in districts 2 and 11), at a salary of forty dollars a month each. Female teachers were employed in the other
districts at an avenge salary of thirty five dollars and forty cents per month. There are but fourteen persons
in district No. 3 between five and twenty one years, and but five between seven and fourteen, the years of compulsory
attendance; hence it is to be presumed that provisions could be made for the attendance of these in adjoining districts
at much less expense than in their own. Two hundred eighty six is the school enumeration of the township (five
to twenty one years), of whom two hundred and twenty six were enrolled in the schools, with an average daily attendance
of one hundred and fifty. The average cost of tuition per month for each pupil was two dollars and sixty four cents.
The eleven school houses are valued at four thousand nine hundred and seventy five dollars, and the school apparatus
in them at six hundred and thirty five dollars. The school libraries of the township contain six hundred and two
For many years past Putnam township has taken high rank as a dairying and stock raising community. Creameries
were established there as early as anywhere in the county, and the product brought high prices in the Eastern markets,
for which it was mostly made. This industry continues, though with the invention and general introduction of cream
separators among the farmers, and the annual custom of putting up ice, much more home churning is done than formerly.
Grain raising has fallen off greatly, and the farmers usually feed up the products of their farms to their growing
stock. Wheat raising has ceased to be the money getting industry, though such was the case in earlier days.
The Davenport & St. Paul branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad touches the northeast corner
of this township, but there is no station within its boundaries. In fact, Putnam is purely an agricultural township,
having neither town nor village. Arlington and Strawberry Point - the latter in Clayton county - are convenient
trading places, while the city of Oelwein is within nine miles from the west line of the township.
Sabbath schools and religious services have been a feature of the religious life of the community from early pioneer
days, but the near by towns mentioned above, being but three miles distant from the northern and eastern boundaries,
furnish conveniences not found at the country church or school house.
A number of the prominent early settlers in this township have retired from active labors, and several of them
are located in Arlington. Among these we mention John Gladwin and J. R. McDonald, who were prominent in the affairs
of Putnam township for many years, particularly in educational affairs. Dr. C. G. Wheeland was also one of the
earliest settlers in Putnam, now retired.
The taxable property of this township, as listed for taxation, is valued al two hundred and eighty thousand nine
hundred and twenty dollars.