History York 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


In 1840-41 the first settlements were made in sections 34 and 35 by Henry Starry, Michael Duffey and John Convey. These men were natives of Ireland. Convey's son, Michael, born May 1, 1844, is said to have been the first white child born in the county.

The southern portion of York was settled first and belonged to what was known as Old Man's Creek Settlement. Charles Gillin was another settler of the south of York. He came from Pennsylvania soon after Ricord, the first settler in the county. He lived here many years and died about 1876. John J. Hanson came from Ohio in 1845 and settled on section 19. Thomas Hanson, son of Thomas Hanson, of Troy Township, was another settler in section 19. Orson Harrington, Horace Seymour, Thomas Collingwood, Ira Mason, George House, Henry Cook, Orrin Castle were other settlers.


The first land lying in what is now York Township, bought from the Government, was the south fractional half of the southwest quarter of section 31, township 79, range 9, by Elisha H. Ricord, entered January 27, 1846.

The next was entered by Lambert Lamberts on February 27, 1846; the third piece was entered and bought by Henry Starry on December 16, 1846; the fifth piece was bought by Clark Jones on March 27, 1848; the fourth forty was by Michael Duffey on January 7, 1848.


Joseph Duffey, now living in York Township at an advanced age, retains vivid memories of the early days, when his father, Michael, came to this country. He said:

"John Convey and Mike Duffey came to this county during the building of the old statehouse at Iowa City in 1839-40. Soon after coming they bought out a claim from a man named Baxter, who was an Indian scout, giving him two cows and a yoke of oxen for the land. Both men had their wives with them. Others who came in the early days were: John Furlong, Edward Spratt, the Hensons - John, Tom and Steve - Ed Rickard, John Burns, William Welch, Henry Starry, Charles Jones, A. Harrington, Fordyce, Rutherfords, Hiltons, and the Waldos. The first thing they did was to raise wheat from the native sod, and then corn. Blue grass was thick. We used a single shovel plow at first and then the diamond plow. Deer, wolves, prairie chickens, wild turkey and quail were plentiful, as well as Indians. I have seen 1,800 Indians -Black Hawks- encamped on the hills and in the valleys. Ko-ko-hitch was their chief. There were no horses used in those days, only oxen. Shaking ague was the prevailing ailment of the day. It came regularly every second day after its infection and was a very serious matter. The only remedy which ever cured ague was this one - 25 cents worth of cognac brandy, which was a gallon; $1 worth of quinine; one quarter of a pound of cayenne pepper; put all in a jug and let stand for two days; then take a teaspoonful before every 'shake,' that is, when you felt the 'shake' coming. It was mighty pesky stuff to take, but it did the business."


York Township was officially organized on October 8, 1860, by order of Judge Wallace and the first election was held at the East Ridge schoolhouse on November 6th of the same year. It is not certain who were the first officers, only that T. E. House was clerk.

York Center postoffice was established in 1870, located on section 9, and Thomas Wallace was postmaster. This office is now a thing of the past; the rural mail delivery taking its place.

On section 7 was laid out what was known as the "Old Burying Ground." The East York Cemetery was laid out and platted by Orson Harrington on March 16, 1865. A Baptist Cemetery was laid out in the church yard in 1871.

By J. P. Gallagher

York Township occupies the east central portion of Iowa County; it is bounded on the east by Johnson County, on the south by Greene Township, on the west by Troy and on the north by Iowa Township. Its official description is No. 79 north range 9, west of the fifth principal meridian.

Its physical characteristics are generally level or slightly rolling in its northern half, this breaking into a hilly section further south, and the extreme southern tier of sections is traversed by the wide and fertile bottom of Old Man's Creek. Its water courses are numerous. Old Man's Creek runs through its southern portion; Convey Creek rises near the north line of the township and, following a diagonal course to the southeast, empties into Old Man's Creek in the southeast corner of the township. A branch of Convey Creek rises in the west central part of the township and connects with the main stream at a point one mile southeast of York Center schoolhouse.

York has some of the finest farms and farm lands that Iowa County affords. The northern and eastern sections were originally open prairies and it is in these sections that the choicest farms are found. The soil here is rich and deep, and it is underlaid by a porous clay subsoil. York was well supplied with timber. Along Old Man's Creek was a heavy mass of oak, elm, hickory, birch and basswood. Southern Convey Creek was similarly timbered and scattered through the central portion of the township were several fine groves. The most northern and by far the best known of these is Hickory Grove, so called from the predominant growth of hickory. Further south were two splendid groves on the Gallagher farm and still farther south and east was the island tract of splendid timber known for a generation as Sullivan's Grove. The adjacent prairies to the south and west were covered with scrub oak and hickory and the work of clearing off these sections was no small task. The old pioneer spent many a season "grubbing" and it was not an uncommon sight to see women and children gathering these grubs into wagons and hauling them home for fuel. They were piled in long ricks and their gnarled and knotted growths tested many an ax before they were reduced to "stove size."


For many years what is now York Township formed a portion of Greene Township. In 186o Judge W. H. Wallace ratified a petition setting aside York as a regular township. Under this decree the first election was held at the East Ridge schoolhouse on the 6th day of November, 1860. J. E. House was clerk of this election.


The first settler in what is now York Township was a man named Baxter. He was an Indian trader and his claim and home were in the southeast corner of the township. It is not of record from whence he came or how long he resided here. This much is known; he was here in 1843 when Michael Duffy, John Convey and Ben Starry drove in from Iowa City. These were the first real settlers of York Township. Duffy and Convey were natives of Ireland and had journeyed westward by easy stagers until they halted at the Baxter claim. They found the old trader willing to sell and they were willing to buy. For two cows and one yoke of oxen they purchased the Baxter claim and here the two families set about making their home in a land that was then the very rim of civilization. Starry located a short distance southwest from Duffy and Convey and thus was effected the original settlement in York.

Charles Gillin came the following year, in 1844. He located in the southwest corner of the township and soon became the largest land Owner as well as the most prosperous of the early settlers. At one time his holding embraced 800 acres and his cattle, hogs and sheep were counted on every hill. The Gitlin home was famed for miles around and many a newcomer enjoyed the old Irishman's hospitality.

John Bums, the father in law of Michael Duffy, came in 1844 and the Burns home was made in the Duffy neighborhood. Mrs. Bums resided here until the early '80s, when she died at the age of ninety three. She was a remarkable woman and her fund of Irish history and Celtic folklore enlivened many a pioneer gathering. She was well acquainted with Robert Emmett, the martyr to the cause of Erin's freedom, and about the stirring scenes of the rebellion of 1798 she could tell many a tale.

Charles Jones was another of the early settlers in York. He and John Furlong moved in from what is now Greene Township. To the latter place they came in the early '40s, being among the first in Iowa County.

For several years the old or first settlers were alone; the location was so remote, the struggle was so intense that not many cared to risk the venture. The old pioneers held on, in fact they could not let go, they were unable to move backwards and a forward move would only add to their difficulties. They simply waited for the less venturesome to come and share their lot, and the wait was a long one.

Then came the "hard times" of the early '50s; public work was suspended; the eastern cities were full of idle men; money was so scarce as to become practically unknown. Then the West sent out her call of welcome: "Come on out here; here is land and fuel and here you may found your homes." This call was at once answered. From 1854 to 1860 the land of York received many newcomers. Henry Hilton came in about 1853-54 and located in Hickory Grove. George House and family came about this time and located upon what is now the G. P. Gallagher farm. The Purdy family came in 1854; Horace Seymour and family and Orrin Castle and family came the same year; Edward Blasier and Ira Waldo came in 1855; C. W. Thompson came in 1857 and Orson Harrington in 1859. These were all from New York State and it was through them that the township received the name of York. These last named settlers chose the open prairie. They were the first to locate back from the timber line of Old Man's Creek and this section at once became the best farming section of the township.

John Gallagher was also among the early ones of the second invasion. He and his wife and two children came to Iowa City in 1856. He worked on the railroad west as far as the famous Brush Run Cut west of Homestead and in August, 1859, he moved to a 40 acre tract in section 9, York Township. The home was continued here for many years and it was from this home that nine children went forth into the world. Of these children G. P. Gallagher alone remains in the old township, his home being on the old House farm, above mentioned, less than a mile from the old Gallagher homestead. His twin brother resides in Williamsburg and is the writer of this sketch.

J. J. Reynolds moved in about 1860-61 and William Rutherford came about the same time. The Pughs, two Welshmen, Evan and Edward, were also early comers and were among the first of their countrymen to locate on what was afterwards known for many years as Welsh Prairie.

Then the Hopwood families were here at an early date and their homes were in the north part of the township. These located here in the early '60s.


There are three cemeteries in York Township. The oldest is the Daniels Cemetery. The first interment here was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ira Waldo about 1855. The Harrington Cemetery was set apart in 1863. The first interment here was Marion Harrington. The third cemetery is the one where the Baptist Church stood for many years.

Return to [ Iowa County ] [ IA History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ]

All pages copyright 2009. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy