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


The first settler who located in this township was Franklin Wilcox, who came from Illinois, with other members of the Wilcox family, and built a house on section 32, some time (luring the year 1840. There were several of the Wilcox brothers, some of whom lived in the home of Franklin, at times; but the others being unmarried, and somewhat transitory as to habitation, Franklin is recognized as the first actual settler in Fayette county, though Robert Gamble accompanied him to this county, from Fad's Grove, in Delaware county, and located in Center township. There a postoffice was established in 1851, and known as "Gamble's Grove." with Thomas Woodle as the postmaster. This office was soon discontinued, and the name of the locality changed to Dunham's Grove, as now known. Gamble removed from the county after two years residence here.

The Wilcox house - a double log structure - was the first house erected within the boundaries of Fayette county; and after the removal of Mr. Wilcox to another location in 1843, it became a sort of asylum for many of the newcomers to that locality, (luring the time they were selecting their land and building their houses thereon. It was occupied as a temporary home by the Hensley family, by Van Dorris, P. F. Newton, James and Samuel Robertsons. It was in this house that the Van Dorn child was born - the first birth of a white child in Fayette county.

Soon after the arrival of Franklin Wilcox. with his wife and small daughter, James Beatty and William Orrear came and located a short distance south of Wilcox, their location being just over the line in Smithfield township. They built their cabin in the spring of 1842; and on the 25th of February, 1844. William Orrear and Miss Angelina Wilcox were married. the Rev. D. Lowry, of Fort Atkinson, officiating. Soon after his marriage Orrear bought Beatty's interest in the claim which they had occupied jointly, and established quite an extensive dairying business, which lie and his wife conducted successfully for a number of years. They used the product of twenty to thirty cows in making butter and cheese. which they marketed, mostly at the fort, where several hundred soldiers and officers were anxious to secure these "delicacies," as viewed from a soldier's standpoint. This couple led the vanguard in beginning the dairy business in Fayette county, an industry which has revolutionized the profits of general farming, as compared with wheat growing in early days. Beatty located a mile and a half north, on section 29, in Westfield township, and erected a house in what became the early time village of Westfield. But this was several years before that village was laid out.


Westfield township was not surveyed, hence the land was not subject to entry, until 1848. But the earliest settlers occupied their lands under what is known as "squatter's rights," which, among friends and neighbors, were almost universally respected. When the land came into market, the government price was one dollar and twenty five cents per acre, at which price a person could buy an unlimited number of acres. Many speculators who had means availed themselves of this privilege, and bought up thousands of acres of desirable land, without the remotest idea of ever making a home upon it. But after the land had been open to entry for a certain length of time without being sold, the price was reduced to seventy five cents an acre, and so remained until sold. A number of early settlers in Westfield township procured their land at this price. This land coming into market soon after the close of the Mexican war, some returning veterans were able to procure their land on land warrants, granted to them for military services. These warrants were negotiable, and some were sold by soldiers who did not wish to use them. They guaranteed full ownership of one hundred and sixty acres of the government domain.


Robert Alexander made the first land entry of record in Westfield township, this being on the 9th of July, 1849. But there were several other entries made on the same date, probably by non residents, and John W. Lane and Horace Andrus made entries during the year 1849. On the 8th of October. 1850, the board of county commissioners created, by proclamation, the election precinct of Westfield. This included, for election purposes, the townships of Smithfield, Center and Westfield, the election to be held at the house of Stephen Ludlow, and Michael Hinman, Stephen H. Ludlow and Andrew Hensley were appointed judges. The first election was held in April, 1851, and the August election which followed, the same year, was held at the home of Clark Newcomb. It seems that the development of this township commenced simultaneously, at Westfield village and Lima - the latter also called "Lightville" and "Volga City" in early days.


During the year 1849, Thomas R. Talbott, E. A. Light and H. W. Light located homes near the present site of Lima. The Lights being the most numerous family in the community, the locality came to be known. locally, as Lightville, and retained that appellation until after the village had passed through the ordeal of a county seat contest, in which it "tied" West Union, but lost the prize when all other contestants except West Union were eliminated. (See general history of county organization.) The community next chose the name of Volga City, but when apprised that Clayton county people had recently installed such a "city," the name was changed to Lima by action of the Legislature.

The Lights built a saw mill on the banks of the Volga river at this point in 1849-50. T. R. Talbott was interested in the erection of this mill, and some controversy arose as to whether it should he built at Talbott's ford, or a mile farther up the river. But Mr. Talbott forced its building at the point originally agreed upon, and also secured a bonus of fifty dollars for delay and disappointment. This was a much needed pioneer enterprise in the community, as the adjacent land was nearly all heavily timbered, and lumber was in great demand in building homes for the incoming settlers. It is understood that the Lights also put in a small stock of mercantile goods and started the first store in Lima. Ben Reeves was one of the earliest merchants there, but he and his partner, young Hyde. were soon closed out by their creditors. Stephen Ludlow was a "squatter" on some land in the vicinity of Lima. but sold his interest to Robert Alexander, and bought the mill property. This is the land upon which Reuben R. Hensley has lived for so many years. Through various changes in proprietorship, there has always been one general store in Lima, the Oelbergs having conducted the mercantile business there for a great many years. There is also a postoffice, and, since the completion of the railroad to that point, a lumber and stock business. P. H. Hastings, an early pioneer in Illyria, conducts the latter. In 1852 A. J. Hensley built a flouring mill at this place, but soon after sold it to P. H. Durfey & Son. Mr. Hensley again assumed the proprietorship of the mills in 1878, but has long since retired from active business. (The mill had been rebuilt in 1865.)

Lima has one church building, originally erected for the Congregationalists. Rev. S. D. Helms having organized a congregation of that faith in 1857. Winslow Stearns and wife. E. Hyde, wife and daughter, and Rev. S. D. Helms and wife. were the organizing members. The old church succumbed to the ravages of time, and a new church appeared in its stead. Here all denominations sustain a union Sunday school and attend other religious services as propounded from the pulpit by Methodists. United Brethren, or other advocates.

The first school house in Westfield township was built at Lima in 1850, and E. H. Light was the first teacher there. Others followed as settlements were made. until there were at one time eight sub-districts in the district township. but this number was reduced to seven with the organization of the independent district of Fayette. and so remains. These seven schools were taught. during the last year, an average of seven and four tenths months, by one male teacher and ten females, the salaries paid being forty dollars per month to the male teacher, and thirty six dollars to the females. The seven school houses are valued at three thousand five hundred dollars, and the school apparatus at one thousand dollars. The district libraries comprise six hundred and thirty five volumes. Of one hundred and eighty five pupils in the district township. one hundred and fifty four were enrolled in the schools, with an average daily attendance of ninety nine. The average cost of tuition per month for each pupil was two dollars and seventy four cents.

Westfield township is traversed four and thirty nine hundredths miles of the Volga Valley branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad, and four and eleven hundredths miles of the Davenport line of the same system They are assessed for taxation purposes at fifteen thousand three hundred and sixty five dollars. and sixteen thousand four hundred and forty dollars, respectively. The incorporation of Fayette has one and seventeen hundredths miles of the last mentioned line. The same mileage of the United States Express Company is assessed at three hundred and thirty seven dollars and forty five cents for the nine and sixty seven hundredths miles, and the Western Union Telegraph Company is assessed at eighty dollars per mile.

There are four telephone companies doing business in the town and township with a total mileage of forty three and one half miles of lines. Twelve and three fourths miles of this system are inside the corporation of Fayette. It seems strange that two small villages should he brought into existence within a mile of each other, and both survive the pioneer period, yet without development in later years, though still surviving. Albany and Lima have lived. side by side, for fifty six years, yet neither is as populous now as in early days. Each village had a good mill in "middle life," and probably these had something to do with holding the villages together. During the struggle for county seat honors, Lima was quite an important town, as compared with other towns of that day; and under the domination of the Lights, Lackeys and Hopkinses, it put up a strong fight for the distinction it sought.

The village of Albany commenced its existence as such in 1854. Albert Albertson and Edwin Smith were the founders. Mr. Albertson sold his property in the fall of 1855. and removed from the county. Richard Earle was the purchaser. and for many years he was the principal business man in that section of the county, having built the flouring mill at Albany and owned and operated it during the remainder of his life. He served several terms as a member of the county board of supervisors, under the policy of one member from each township, which succeeded the county commissioner system, and was a zealous worker for the removal of the county seat to Fayette.

Simon Aefzgar was an early and successful merchant at Albany. and J. B. Oelberg kept a merchant tailoring establishment there in early days. Like its twin sister. Lima. there has always been a blacksmith and repair shop in Albany. George Dow and R. E. Matsel were early, and later, operatives in this line.

When the township of Westfield was divided (in 1877), Albany was designated as the polling place for the voting precinct outside of the corporate limits of the town of Fayette. The board of supervisors (under whose jurisdiction this action was taken) appointed as judges of the first election under the new regime, J. J. Epps, Richard Earle and John Orr.

But when the Volga Valley branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad was built through Lima, in 1851, and missed the village of Albany by more than a mile, the prestige of the former as a trading point assumed the ascendency. But many tender memories of early times center about these two primitive villages, and some stirring scenes in pioneer life were there enacted.

In very early days a postoffice was established at Corn Hill. in this township, and "Corn Hill" was the home of Capt. R. R. Richardson, the organizing sheriff of Fayette county. The county poorhouse wads located in the northwest corner of Westfield township, as appears more fully in the history of that institution, as found in the chapter on the county organization.


The town of Westfield, which was located on the northwest quarter of section 29, was laid out by Robert Alexander, in 1851, and thus antedates the town of Fayette by about four years. The founder of this town began the erection of a saw mill in 1850, and the village had a rapid growth for several years. Sutton & Axtell built a store building and started the first store in this region, and in 1855 Isaac Templeton and his son Leroy commenced the construction of the Westfield flouring mill. These industries absorbed the interest of the small settlement and directed attention to Westfield village, even after the rival town of Fayette, across the Volga, had commenced to hid for public recognition. In fact Westfield seemed to hold the ascendency as a prospective town and good trading place until the building of the Fayette seminary was assured.


In 1856 the town of Fayette began a tangible and prosperous growth. Two stores were opened, those of Maxon & Griffith and Budlong & Norton, and the presence of strangers in the town, engaged in erecting the college building, stimulated the formation of a stock company to build a hotel. The outgrowth of this was the building of the well known Fayette House, though it was first called the "Stock," in recognition of the methods employed to bring it into existence. The "Volga Hotel Stock Company." of which H. Budlong was secretary, had a nominal capital of four thousand dollars. For many years past H. S. Canfield has owned and conducted this hotel as the principal one in the town.

No attempt will be made in this article to write the history of the Upper Iowa University, since that subject is ably and fully presented in a special article by Prof. J. W. Dickman, D. D., vice president of the institution; the history of the churches and public schools is presented in like manner by Rev. J. L. Paine, A. M., and the Masonic history Will be found in the general article on that subject, which is prepared by Hon. D. W. Clements, past grand master of the Masonic jurisdiction of Iowa. We feel that these three important subjects in Fayette history are in good hands, and that the facts are given with fullness and accuracy. The newspapers of the town are also written in a special article on the Press of Fayette County, by D. H. Talmadge; but one important event in the history of Fayette journalism has occurred since Mr. Talmadge's article was written. Reference is here made to the recent consolidation of the Fayette Postal Card with the Fayette Reporter, and the organization of a company to enlarge and promote the interests of the latter. C. F. Paine is the secretary and manager of this worthy enterprise, while his distinguished father, with years of experience and a half century's residence among the people whose interests the paper serves, is a valuable ally. The Reporter is ably edited and mechanically perfect. It has assumed advanceed ground in the field of country journalism, which is daily adding to its prestige and popularity


The town of Fayette, laid out in 1855, by Samuel H. Robertson, was incorporated in 1874. It is located on the northwest quarter of section 28, on comparatively level bottom land, with commanding hills overlooking the town site from almost every direction.

This is a city of homes and culture. The environments of the University have brought people to the town for the better education of their families, and few, indeed, are the citizens of the place who have not at some time attended this institution of higher learning. Many of the graduates of this time honored institution are holding honorable positions in distant states, while others have settled down to life's duties in the shadow of their Alma Mater. In early days the "Sem" rather overshadowed the public schools of the place, and crippled their efficiency by enrolling students who would have remained in the high school, had there been one of sufficient caliber; but this disparity has long since been corrected, and the public schools of Fayette have been advanced to the class of the best accredited high schools. Some excellent instructors have been employed there as principals, superintendents and subordinate teachers, many of whom have been graduates of the Upper Iowa University. With apologies to Mr. Paine, should we duplicate any portion of his article on schools, we append the following statistics and general information as to late history:

For the year closing July, 1909, there were two male teachers employed in the Fayette schools at an average salary of eighty dollars each per month; there were six female teachers employed for a period of nine months, the duration of the school year, these receiving an average salary of forty eight dollars each per month. The number of pupils of school age (five to twenty one years) is three hundred and twenty nine, of whom one hundred and seventy six were enrolled in the schools, and made a total average daily attendance, in all departments, of one hundred and seventy nine. The average cost of tuition per month for each pupil was two dollars and fifty cents. There were thirteen non resident pupils enrolled, from whom the district realized in tuition fees two hundred and thirty three dollars and seventy five cents. The independent district owns two school houses, with a total of nine rooms in use. The estimated value of the buildings is twenty two thousand, five hundred dollars. The school apparatus is valued at four hundred dollars, and there are six hundred and twenty six volumes in the school libraries.

The names of the distinguished men who have been connected with the University from its inception, together with brief mention of their life careers, appear in the article devoted to the institution, and need not be duplicated here.


The development of Fayette as a market point and trade center was steady and permanent from the time the building of the University was fully assured. It has always sustained a number of good stores, two or more hotels. and numerous private boarding house, mechanical shops of all kinds, several livery stables. extensive lumbering interests, milling, etc. But this old landmark (the mill) was removed by fire within the last year, it being then the property of Mr. Marvin, an old time sawyer and lumberman a mile or two below the town. For a number of years past the product of this mill was mostly feed and buckwheat flour. It excelled in the grinding and preparation of the last named commodity.

Fayette has had its saloons and questionable resorts; but the tendency of public sentiment, even in early days, was towards morality and sobriety, and there was constant warfare between the two elements in the make up of the town. Since the adoption of the constitutional amendment in the early eighties. there has not been an open saloon in the town.

The first meeting of the city council of Fayette was held April 21, 1874. The city officers were then Chares Hoyt, mayor; C. W. Sperry, recorder; trustees, R. Gaynor, E. R. Edmonds, Adam Fussell, E. Gregory and G. F. Lyman. Many of the prominent ladies of the town presented a petition to the council, accompanied by an oral address by Miss Mills, asking that the council do not license any saloons. This had the effect of delaying consideration of the question until the next meeting, or until the meeting held on the second of June, when an ordinance licensing the sale of ale, whine and beer was passed. four members of the council voting for the measure, and three against it.

The sentiments of the people generally were expressed on this subject as closely as indicated above, one party winning one year, and the other the next. during the years in which it was considered legal to license the liquor traffic. There was a temperance organization effected in 1878, called the "Nechahite Band," which enlisted the membership and co-operation of over eight hundred persons, this representing a general temperance wave throughout the state, and doubtless had much to do with the adoption of the prohibitory amendment a few years later.


The Fayette Cemetery Association was formed in 1864, the organizing members being Dr. D. Alexander, H. W. Waterbury, William Burch, John A. Griffith, I. W. Comstock, S. H. Robertson and E. Gregory. Doctor Alexander was elected president; H. W. Waterbury, secretary; E. Gregory, treasurer, and Edward Cavanaugh, sexton. This was the nucleus to the present well kept and beautiful cemetery from whose commanding eminence the beautiful little city of Fayette appears in the valley beyond. The interments in this sacred spot in the year 1855 were: Martha Alexander, J. Buffington, Mrs. Fulmer and son, Mrs. George Walker, Mrs. Isaac Templeton, Mrs. W. A. Boughey, and Moses Davis and daughter.

When the railroad reached Fayette, in September, 1873, the town entered upon a new era of development which has been unceasing. New industries were launched, or old ones improved; new and better homes were built, and this event was followed by very extensive building and improvement at the Upper Iowa University. In time systems of water works, electric lights and fire protection were installed, and a strong and forceful municipal government instituted and perpetuated.

For several years Fayette was the terminus of the Davenport & St. Paul railroad, and this gave the city some prestige; but we think this temporary advantage was overcome by the extension of the road to give a through line of communication in all directions.


Fayette has two banking institutions, one of which has had an existence in the town for thirty eight years.

One of the sound and popular banking institutions of northern Iowa is the State Bank of Fayette. It was first organized in 1872, by D. C. Sperry, who was later joined by his brother, C. W. Sperry, the firm being known as the Sperry Brothers. This firm was succeeded by Sperry & Davis, and then by Daniel Davis, who sold the bank, in 188o, to S. B. Zeigler & Company, of West Union. On February 1, 1887, Zeigler & Company sold it to Baker, Hoyt & Company, who continued it as a private bank until April 1, 1901, when it was reorganized as the State Bank of Fayette, with a capital stock of thirty five thousand dollars. The capital is now forty thousand dollars with a surplus of sixteen thousand dollars.

Judge W. A. Hoyt was president of the reorganized bank; J. A. Claxton, vice president, and C. R. Carpenter, cashier. In 1903 Judge Hoyt died, and Mr. Claxton became president and Q. C. Babcock became vice president. Following are the directors: Messrs. Claxton, Babcock, Dr. M. Y. Baker, John Graff G. B. Finch, George A. Davis, Frank Oelberg and A. R. Oelberg. both of Lima, Iowa, and C. R. Carpenter.

This bank has elegant and substantial quarters in one of the best business locations in Fayette, and the institution is so conservatively managed and its patrons treated with such courtesy and consideration that its prestige has continued to increase with the years.

The First National Bank of Fayette, which was incorporated in 191o, numbers on its list of stockholders some of the strongest financiers of Fayette county. It began business in its own splendid building, especially constructed for the purpose. on December 1, 1909. This institution already has heavy deposits from the business men of the town and surrounding country, amounting on October 1. 1910, to fifty thousand dollars, with a capital stock of twenty five thousand dollars. These are the days when nearly every farmer in Fayette county has a bank account. large or small, and when the accommodations of these monetary institutions are appreciated to a greater degree than ever before. Let us hope that the old time habit of concealing valuables in beds or stockings for safety. (?) has been superseded by the establishment of safe and reliable banking institutions in every market town. The First National Bank of Fayette is fully equipped with all necessary appliances for the protection of its patrons, not oily in the care of their cash and jewelry. but in the protection and preservation of valuable papers, as well. A general banking business is here transacted; also buying and selling of foreign and domestic exchange. The official directory of this institution is as follows: President. W. N. Clothier: vice president, M. J. Hartman; cashier, F. E. Finch: directors. W. A. Clothier, Alf Hanson, Theo Miehe, F. E. Sanders, G. S. Hartman. W. B. Stevenson. M. H. Fussell, M. J. Hartman and V. E. Dye.


There are several fraternal organizations in the city of Fayette besides the two prominent Masonic bodies, as represented in the general history of Freemasonry in the county.

Warner Post, Grand Army of the Republic, was established by the soldier population in the early eighties, and mustered a working membership. For a number of years the meetings were attended with great interest, and every ex-soldier within a radius of several miles of the town was mustered into full relations. The post was never strong, numerically, there being but comparatively few soldiers within its jurisdiction, but great activity prevailed among those who were instrumental in bringing it into existence; and these, combined with the efforts of the Woman's Relief Corps, aroused a sentiment favorable to the old soldier and his interests. which survives the existence of the organization. Many of he members have answered the last roll call - some in distant lands - and most of the survivors are burdened with the weight of years and the infirmities resulting from early life exposures and hardships. We believe a nominal organization is kept up, but soon the "time limit" will annul even that poor satisfaction.

A lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows has existed in the town since the early eighties and has enrolled in its membership many of the prominent men of the town and community. Some of the charter members of this organization received the preliminary work at the Randalia lodge, which preceded it in existence by a few months.

There are various fraternal and literary organizations connected with the Upper Iowa University which have had an existence almost from the founding of the institution. There are separate organizations for ladies and gentlemen, though their deliberations may be attended by both sexes, under certain conditions. No doubt these societies have had much to do in developing the literary and oratorical ability which has long distinguished the students of the Upper Iowa University. Some of its graduates have achieved great prominence in the lecture field, in the pulpit and as barristers.


Fayette was the official home of the Farmers Mutual Insurance organization at its inception, and some of the prominent citizens of the place have continued as members of the official board from the organization to the present. It was also the official headquarters of the long since defunct Home Insurance Company, which came into existence in 1864, but was reorganized in 1869 under the name of the Fayette Home Insurance Company. Many prominent men of that day were concerned in its reorganization, among whom were Professor Brush, Rev. H. S. Brunson, Rev. John Webb, Elmer Allen, Hiram Sweet and others.

Back of the first organization, and permeating the new, were some visionary conditions not understood by the inexperienced men who were concerned in the reorganization, and these led to interminable trouble. Finally, the Chicago fire of 1871 drove the concern into liquidation and final bankruptcy, but the Fayette end of the company paid all of its legal obligations. Their assets were represented by dearly bought experience.

Several fraternal insurance societies have had an existence in Fayette, some of which have been continuing institutions from which much benefit has accrued. One of these is the Ancient Order of United Workmen, Fayette Lodge No. 80 being instituted in 1876. Of the original membership of sixteen, but few are now living, though they represented the prominent business and professional men of that day.

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