History English Township, Iowa County, IA
From: History of Iowa County, Iowa And its People
By: James C. Dinwiddie
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. Chiago 1915



Robert and Samuel Miller are said to have been the first settlers who came into what is now English Township. They located on the Keokuk County line in the year 1844, a portion of Robert Miller's farm then being in Keokuk County. Both of these men were from the State of Kentucky. Robert died on• his farm in the fall of 1864, and Samuel went to Missouri in 1855.

William K. Miller settled about the same time and took up a claim in section 29. He moved to Millersburg in the summer of 1854 and died in the spring of 1880. Reuben Miller came from Illinois, originally from Kentucky, and in the year 1845 settled on section 8. He afterwards laid off Millersburg, which bears his name; this was on June 28, 1852. During his life he became very prominent in this locality, having constructed several mills and homes. Shortly before his death he moved into the western part of the state.

George Miller came from Illinois, but was born in the Blue Grass State. He came with his brother, Reuben, and took a claim in section 30, northwest quarter. He went to Washington Territory in 1867, and there prospered.

Martin Ballard came here from Illinois, and in 1845 located on the northwest quarter of section 30. He went to Nebraska in the late '6os and practiced law. He constructed the first steam sawmill in English Township at Millersburg, also preached, practiced law, acted as justice, was school fund commissioner, postmaster, juror, township trustee, and a man of matrimonial troubles..

Aaron Cheeney was a native of New York State, but came here in 1845 from Illinois and settled on section 20.

The first marriage in the township was that of Christopher Tinkle and Susanna Coover, by Justice A. H. Akers, in 1851 or 1852. The first physician was H. B. Lynch; he practiced as early as 1852, coming here from Ohio. He served in the army and died while on his way home from this service. The first lawyer was John Miller, who was admitted to the practice when he was only nineteen years of age. He was a candidate for the office of prosecuting attorney of the county once, and, it is said, when told he was elected he left the vicinity and was never afterwards heard of. The first gristmill was commenced in 1856 by John Akers, but a firm under the name of Sharps, Davis & Bonsell bought it and operated it for about three years, and then sold it to S. J. Sweet, who removed it in 1870 to Valley Junction, Polk County. The first sawmill was operated by horsepower. It also contained a corn burr for custom grinding. This was owned and run by Reuben Miller in 1852.

A. H. Akers moved to Dayton Township, Iowa County, in 1849, coming from Washington County, Ia., and originally from Ohio. He went to Millersburg in 1852 and followed his trade of wagonmaker, serving at different times as justice of the peace, assessor, deputy sheriff and enrolling master during the war. He was married three times. John V. Hatter came from Ohio to Washington County, Ia., and then to North English in 1863, and two years later to Millersburg. He was a farmer, but later engaged in the drug and grocery trade. J. J. Hickman came to the township in 1852 and was a farmer and stockman. J. C. Kennedy came here in the spring of 1857 and for a time was employed as a stage driver between here and Iowa City, later engaging in the mercantile business. E. B. McCracken came to Fillmore Township, this county, in the autumn of 1850; in the spring of 1856 he came to North English, engaging in the milling and mercantile businesses. He was postmaster for over eighteen years. Thomas Mullin came to English Township in 1851 and settled on section 27. He was a carpenter, farmer and stock raiser. Abraham Owen, a man of note in several lines, came to the township in 1856. He was born in Vermont. He built, or helped to build, the first frame house in Iowa City, was one of the company appointed in 184i to explore the Iowa, Cedar and Des Moines rivers down to the Indian agency, and was a California gold seeker in the historic year of 1849. Levi Penn settled in English Township in 1850 and followed farming. Jesse Scott, farmer and cattleman, came to the township in 1852; he was a Hoosier by birth. George Shaw came in 1855; C. C. Stanard came in 1856. Eli Sweet, a native of New York, settled in Millersburg with his parents in 1855, enlisted in the service of his country, returned, taught school, was postmaster at Valley Junction, Polk County, returned to this township in 187i, and then taught school and was postmaster, later engaging in farming. He now lives at North English. J. L. Williams came here in the autumn of 1850. He held the offices of county surveyor, supervisor, representative to General Assembly, on Committee of Inspection of State Penitentiaries, commissioner of agriculture, census enumerator. He filled every position on the school board, and many other township offices, and was a minister in the Disciples or Christian Church.


It has already been stated that English was one of the four original townships, and that several others have been cut off from it. Dayton was cut off in 1857, Pilot in 1862 and Lincoln, which was a part of Dayton, was set off in 186o. It is not on record who were the first officers. However, Jesse A. Scott was justice of the peace in 1853, and J. J. Hickman in 1854. J. S. Grimes was justice among the first, and Martin Ballard was township clerk. John Dennis and Ballard were justices also, while Thomas Dedmore was clerk, and Asher Biddlecum and Jonathan McNeil were constables.


One of the oldest living settlers of English Township in the county at the present time is Eli Sweet, living at present at the Town of North English. In speaking of this section of the county, Mr. Sweet says:

"The earliest settlers in the township settled in or near as possible to the timber or groves for several reasons: first, for wood; second, for shade; third, protection from storms, and fourth, because most of them came from timbered portions of the country. Most of the early church meetings in the township were held at private houses. In Millersburg, on lot 6, I believe, still stands an old house which was owned in 1855 by William K. Miller, founder of the Millersburg settlement, and here the Methodist Episcopal people used to hold their meetings. Reverend Grubber was the preacher in charge, and he was followed by Revs. B. H. Shinn, C. S. Jennis and John Elrod. These are all I remember who served before the Civil war. After the schoolhouse was built in 1855 all church gatherings, law suits, debating societies, political meetings, elections and all other public gatherings were held there. The old schoolhouse is still standing, though on another lot; it is remodeled and is the dwelling of O E. Hatter.

"The first church in the township was the Christian, built at Millersburg in 1850. It was a frame building and seated about two hundred and fifty people. In about 1895-97, the majority of the membership having died or moved away, the church building was sold and moved into the southwest part of town, where it was made into an opera house and lodge hall. I think it was torn down and moved away again in 1905-06, and the Millersburg School District now owns the lot on which it stood.

"On the first removal of this Christian Church building the lots were sold to the Catholic Church, and a large, commodious church, well equipped, was constructed on the lot. It is a frame building and cost about five thousand dollars. The priest, Father Kissane, who served this church, lives at Armah, in south part of Dayton Township, where there is a Catholic Church and a denominational school, and served that congregation and that of North English as well.

"Some of the first farmhouses in the county and township were made of logs. The stables were made of forked poles set in the ground and covered with prairie grass. Corn cribs were built mainly of rails or poles laid up like a loghouse, leaving the cracks open for ventilation and covered, if at all, with grass. Men worked in the fields barefooted. The food was coarse, but plentiful; hog, hominy, corn bread, sorghum molasses, pumpkin, crabapple and wild plum sauce made up the pioneer bill of fare. When the gristmills came then we had wheat bread. The farmers had plenty of butter and milk the greater portion of the year. The farmers, their wives and children went to town to church or any public gathering in a lumber wagon, with a board for a seat or on chairs taken from the home. The hind axle of the wagon did not have much spring in those days.

"The land was broken up with a breaking plow, cutting a furrow from eighteen inches to two feet in width, and drawn by from four to seven yokes of cattle, one man to drive and one man to handle the plow. Men who owned a breaking team would agree to break up the land for $3 per acre. If the land was broken early a crop of corn would be raised by simply chopping in the corn with an old axe, no further tending being required. If broken later than August 15th wheat would be sown on the land as early as possible the next spring and would be harrowed in. The next year the ground was plowed up and put in corn. The brush would be gathered up when plowed, piled in heaps, and burnt after it had dried. Then the hens must be taken into account. The farmers all raised chickens. There was no market for eggs except the home market, therefore eggs were very cheap, 3 to 6 cents a dozen, according to the time of the year and the quantity on hand.

"The farmer sold his surplus hogs to a dealer, who would either drive to the nearest railroad station, Iowa City or Washington, or butcher them and haul the carcasses on sledges to the same places, or to Marengo after the railroad got there. The surplus wheat was also hauled to these points and sold.

"The usual celebrations and amusements were: Fourth of July, going to the nearest little town on Saturday to trade, swapping yarns, running horses, wrestling, filling up with booze, if so inclined, and ending up with two or three fights. Then there were the annual election meetings, when the speakers of the respective parties told how good and how true their candidates were and how mean the other fellows were.

"The young people would gather up great wagon or sled loads, according to the time of the year, and go to a dance, spelling school or party, have a royal good time and come home when they got ready. Then there were the yearly protracted meetings, also church socials. The men and some of the women rode horseback when they did not ride in the wagon or sled; the ladies rode a sidesaddle, none astride. Buggies were scarce before the war.

"Thomas Hibben entered what was called the big entry, one mile by three. Michael Roller paid $450 for forty acres about forty years ago. It was raw land. There has been a great and gradual change in the township and county. New farmers came in and opened up new land and placed it under cultivation, which necessarily meant new improvements, better machinery. The era of good times brought all these things; up to date houses, commodious barns, better furniture in the house, pianos and organs for the girls, buggies for the sons, daily paper for the family. Then came the telephone and now the automobile, and the sending of the boys and girls to the high schools in the towns, giving them an equal chance with the town children for a better education.

"Corn and oats are the principal crop; timothy and clover hay might also be called crops. The price of the crops varies according to the demand. Last fall corn sold from 60 to 65 cents to dealers. Most of the corn is fed on the farm or sold to cattle feeders. Of course, some of the renters have to sell their product to pay the rent.

"There is no coal in the township, nor are there any flowing wells. One of the original entries in the township was that of John Miller, on June 6, 1848, on section 19, township 78, range it. It is now owned by the heirs of A. C. Carson, and the farm, with common improvements, is held at $150 per acre. There is only one church in the township outside of the towns, and that is the Pleasant Grove congregation."

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