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


The territory which subsequently became Smithfield township was occupied in the early forties by several persons whose later history is not indentified with the township. William Orrear and James Beatty located in Smithfield in 1838, and, being unmarried men, lived together and kept "batch." It was their cabin which sheltered the Teagarden children after the murder of their father and little brother, as mentioned elsewhere in this volume. Orrear married and became a successful farmer and dairyman.

William Van Dorn settled in this township in 1843, and three years later married Miss Messenger, the first wedding in Smithfield. Andrew Hensley became a resident of the township in 1844. The next year he hauled a portion of his crop of winter wheat to Dubuque and sold it for one dollar and forty five cents per bushel. Dubuque was his trading point and postoffice until 1849. and when a store and postoffice was established at Yankee Settlement. twenty five miles away, he felt that he was almost living in town. Mr. Hensley sent some of his children to school at Yankee Settlement before there was a school established in Fayette county. (He located his land on the line between Fairfield and Smithfield in 1842.)

Chauncey Brooks, a young man of twenty one, brought his bride to Smithfield township in 1847, and in 1848 their daughter, Amanda, was born. This was the first birth in the township and a close rival for first birthday honors in the county.

Rev. John Brown held a religious meeting in the Orrear cabin in 1848 - probably the first gospel sermon preached in the township.

The first land entry made in Fayette county was made in this township on the 17th of January, 1847, as appears of record. This was the William Orrear and James Beatty claim, which was entered by Horace Bemis. It was in the extreme northern limit of the surveyed lands in the county.

Smithfield was one of the four townships in this county acquired through the Black Hawk purchase, and was surveyed by Orson Lyon in the summer of 1837. The sub-dividing lines were established by James Videtto in the same year.


While there were numerous settlers in Smithfield in the forties, gradually increasing with passing years, the formal organization of the township did not occur until 1858, as shown by the following order of the county court: "That township 92 north, range 8 vest, be and the same is hereby formed in a new township, for all purposes, as contemplated by law. Said first election is ordered to be held at the house formerly occupied by Joseph Hobson, in said township; and that Alden Mitchell is hereby appointed to discharge the duties, as required by law, necessary to organize said township; said election to take place on the first Monday of April, 1858, at nine o'clock A. M.; and that there be elected three township trustees, one clerk, two justices of the peace, one constable, and a vote to be taken, also, for school fund commissioner. Said township to be called Smithfield."

The reader is referred to the article on early history in the Miscellaneous chapter for further discussion of events in this locality. The writer of that article was a participant in the history recorded, and tells it in his own quaint and interesting style.

Though lacking the formal organization to fully legalize their proceedings, the people of Smithfield had a nominal organization, and public affairs were carried forward for some years before the county court came to their rescue. A school house was established on section No. 1 in 1852, but a school had been taught in a settler's house the previous year. The school house above mentioned was to accommodate the patrons of the "farm house" school. Iantha Hendrickson was the first teacher in the new school house.


The first school election in Smithfield township was held at the house of William McNaul, May 3, 1858. The voters participating in this election were J. A. Hogue, L. M. Stranahan, F. Ball, F. Hodges, William Bonine, Ira Potter, George Guard, James Bonine, E. B. Nichols, T. W. B. Stevenson, Harrison Gage, A. T. Liggett and Charles Hoyt. The last named was elected president. Elisha De Mott, vice president. L. M. Stranahan, secretary, and A. T. Liggett, treasurer. By this time there was a considerable settlement in the township and every neighborhood wanted a school house, or at least all wanted to be the first in the distribution of such favors. Applications were made apparently, without any consideration of results, should all be granted, and it was fortunate for the people that they had elected a conservative and far seeing board of directors. This restriction as to expenditures for school houses - which was hardly justifiable during all the years that it was kept up - finally led to the abandonment of the district township system and the adoption of the rural independent schools, as now in vogue in the township. But this change did not occur until 1876, at which time there were nine schools in the township. During the year ending July, 1909 (the latest official report), there was school taught in nine of the ten school houses in the township, an average of eight months, by female teachers, who received an average of thirty five dollars and fifty seven cents per month. District No. 10 had but two months' school, paying the teacher thirty five dollars per month. (The average daily attendance in this school was six.) There are two hundred and forty five pupils of school age in the township, of whom two hundred and two were enrolled in the schools, with a total average daily attendance of one hundred and twenty two in the township. The estimated value of the ten school houses is four thousand six hundred and seventy five dollars. (One of these is reported as worth twenty five dollars.) The school libraries contain eight hundred and nine volumes, and the school apparatus is valued at five hundred and fifteen dollars.


Religious services were held in the homes of the people or in the school houses from the coming of the first pioneers until the building of churches in 1876. There were classes of the Methodist Episcopal and United Brethren denominations organized in early days, and they maintained their identity and religious zeal throughout the discouragements which met all pioneer enterprises. In 1876 each of these societies erected a comfortable church building and were usually supplied with pastors from near by towns.

Among the early settlers of Smithfield, none were more prominent in the development of its agricultural resources than the family of James Smith. Mr. Smith came to Smithfield in the early fifties, locating on the bleak prairie with not a house or tree within the range of human vision. He entered a large tract of land, accumulating as the years passed, until he had over a thousand acres. He was one of the organizers of the township, which was named in his honor. His children, and especially his daughters, were successful teachers in their home township and elsewhere for many years.

Among other early pioneers who have been identified with this section of the county, were J. W. Hobson, William Pangburn, William Price, the Babcock family at Bear Grove (of whom one son, Q. C. Babcock, is a prominent resident of Fayette), J. E. Budd, also of Fayette, Charles Hoyt, who was county surveyor for many years, and father of the late Judge W. A. Hoyt, G. W. Baker, D. P. Dawson, D. W. Chittenden, F. Snedigar, A. Mitchell, Lyman E. Mitchell, Richard Badger, John Bills, James Conrad who, with five brothers, served in the Union army, Andrew Harkin, Joseph Hahn, Finley Smith, William Thompson, D. Underwood. It is not assumed that the foregoing is a complete list of early settlers of Smithfield, as the preparation of such a list seems impossible at this late date.

There is no town or village within the boundaries of Smithfield township, the nearest market points being Arlington, three miles east, Maynard, two miles west, and Fayette, about the same distance north, these distances being calculated from the respective township boundaries. Seaton postoffice was once located in the southern part of the township, but this has given place to the rural free delivery system, now so universally in vogue throughout the country districts.

This is distinctively a prairie township in which there is little timber except that artificially grown. It is rolling prairie land, very fertile, and in a high state of improvement. Dairying and stock raising is the principal business in which the prosperous farmers are engaged.


The resources of this township, and the value of its property for taxation purposes, are shown below:

Of the Davenport & St. Paul branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad, there are four and eighty two hundredths miles traversing the northeast corner, valued for assessment purposes at nineteen thousand two hundred dollars: the Western Union Telegraph Company has the same mileage, and is assessed on the basis of three hundred and eighty six dollars in the township; there are three telephone companies in operation. The Iowa Telephone Company has ten miles of line, valued at nine hundred and fifty dollars; the Interstate has six miles, valued at three hundred and twenty three dollars, and the Corn Belt Company operates twenty miles of line in Smithfield, valued at eight hundred and thirty seven dollars.

The total assessed valuation of Smithfield township for the year 1909 was two hundred and eighty one thousand one hundred and fifty dollars.

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