History of Douglas Township Madison County, IA
From: History of Madison County, Iowa
And it's people.
By: Herman A. Mueller
S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. Chicago 1915


That part of the county, of which Douglas is now a component part, early attracted settlers, and some of the first white men to set their stakes with the purpose of making Madison County their future home located here. The township was organized in 1861 and is bounded on the north by Madison, on the south by Lincoln, on the east by Union and on the west by Jackson townships. Like Union, it is divided up into very desirable proportions of timber and prairie land. North River and Cedar Creek pass through it, flowing from west to east. Numerous springs and streams also exist in various portions of it. Nature seems to have been lavish with this section of the county, as almost all over its entire surf ace is rich fertile land which has been so improved that the township now contains many of the best farms under cultivation in the county.

The first persons to settle in Douglas Township were the three Baum brothers, Irvin, Martin and Lewis, the latter two of whom were single men; also Jacob, William and Joseph Combs and their sister, Irene B. Combs. This party all came together from Andrews County, Missouri, in May, 1846, and settled in the same neighborhood, in the east part of Douglas Township, between the Cedar and North River, with the exception of Joseph Combs. The land on which Jacob Combs located later became the property of William Forbes, that of William Combs where the widow Evans later resided, and the Joseph Combs place finally found its way into the possession of the Monaghans. The Irvin Baum farm passed into the hands of the Webbs; Martin Balm's place became the McDonald farm near the Howerton Branch and the Lewis Baum farm was where Jacob Evans later resided. These people were all of the democratic persuasion and probably to that fact may be ascribed the reason for the name given the township. Joseph Combs never married and some years after leaving here removed to Marion County, where he died. Jacob Combs sold out to one Smith and went to Oregon. He later returned to Iowa and died in Marion County. William Combs removed to Saline County, Kansas, and finally met his death by being run over by a train near Spokane, Washington. Irvin Baum, after some years' residence here removed to Spokane and the other two Baums immigrated to Kansas. W. Compton, an Ohioan by birth, removed to Peoria County, Illinois, and from there immigrated to Washington County, Iowa, in 1839. After spending several years in Polk County, he removed to Madison County in 1849 and located in this township on what is known as the town quarter section of land. It is said that he was the first man to sell groceries in Madison County and he afterward bought Hart & Hinkley's mill site on Middle River where they had been running a corn cracker. He built on this fine mill site the first grist mill erected in the county. With this he also built a sawmill and installed a carding machine. For his second wife he married Sarah Knight, in 1873.

Robert Evans settled in this township in 1851, in the northern part of the township, where he lived and died, as did also his wife.

The township had not long been settled before James Musgrave arrived from Indiana. He settled on section i in this township in January, 1852, and in 186o built a barn 40 by 6o feet, with an eight foot basement, which was considered at the time to be the largest structure of its kind in the county.

E. Bennett was a settler in the county as early as 1851, coming from Marion County, Indiana. He married Mary J. Leech in 1857.

R. P. Bruce also settled here in 1851. He was a native of Kentucky but had lived seventeen years in Illinois prior to coming to Madison County. F. M. Bruce came with his parents at the same time. He enlisted in the Fourth Iowa Cavalry and served three years.

B. F. Cooper was born in Putnam County, Indiana, in 1851, and came to Madison County in 1857, with his parents. He married Miss Mary C. McCleary in 1879. She was born in Madison County.

J. S. Goshorn was a native of Pennsylvania, who came to the State of Iowa in 1852 and located in this township in 1856. He enlisted in the Fourth Iowa Infantry for the Civil war and served as second lieutenant of Company F. Within ten months he was honorably discharged and enlisted in the Forty seventh Iowa Infantry and was commissioned captain of Company E. He held the office of county superintendent of schools. His son, Arthur E., is the present postmaster and editor of the News at Winterset.

W. H. Lewis came to Iowa with his parents in 1849 from Chautauqua County, New York. He was raised on a farm, read law and was admitted to the bar in 1865, but only practiced his profession a short time. He later started a nursery in this township, to which he has given a great part of his attention. He served an unexpired term as county judge by appointment, was county commissioner several ternis and superintendent of the construction of the courthouse and other buildings of the county.

F. M. McDaniel came to Madison County from Indiana in 1852, and located here. He married Miss Sarah Sturman in 1859.

Matthew M. McGee, a native of Ireland, immigrated to the United States in 1831, first settled in Ohio, and thence in 1854 located here, becoming one of the large landowners of the community. His attention was paid largely to the raising and feeding of stock.

Edwin Peed was one of the Indianians who located in the county in 1856. He settled on section 4 on land, part of which he entered in 1853.

D. Applegate was quite an early settler in this township, coining in 1858 from Trumbull County, Ohio. He enlisted in the Thirty ninth Iowa Infantry in the Civil war and served three years. Two of his sons, Andrew and Allen, enlisted in Company I, Fourth Iowa Cavalry, and served until the close of the war. Allen was on picket duty on his fifteenth birthday.

George Bardriclc settled on section 25 in 1854 and became a large landowner. In writing of this township upon one occasion, Prof. E. R. Zeller had the followsing to say: "The natural topographical conditions here were such as to require much hard work to make a beginning. The Dabneys, Applegates, F. M. Bruce, M. M. McGee, Edwin Peed, H. W. Laizure, J. W. Cline, J. W. Thompson, McDonalds, the Allgeyers, Suigroves, Abrahams, Chases, Coxes, Eyerlys, the Rogans, Rehards, Ruths, Hayes, James Monaghan and F. M. McDaniel were there to meet the exigencies. The Clarks, Getchells, S. A. Ellis and the Abrahams subdued the forests and hazel brush, where is now the Rhyno ranch, and to the south W. H. Lewis and J. S. Goshorn made the wilderness blossom as the dahlia. Mr. Lewis' efforts have without doubt brought more tangible results than those of most any other one in the county.

"J. C. Wilson was a man of positive character and so was J. F. Buchanan, at one time a member of the board of supervisors. George Johnson and Joseph Comp have been largely useful in later times, while the Kinsman family stands out prominently in its moral influence on the community. John Norris for many years operated a valuable farm near Winterset and did much to improve the grade of cattle, and no one was more familiarly known than David Gilliland. Besides the Rhyno ranch, there is the large and beautiful stock farm improved, owned and operated for a half century by Richard Bruce, and later managed by the Orris brothers."

Jonathan Myers and Martin Ruby put up a steam sawmill in 1855 and turned out a great deal of lumber for the settlers. The mill finally reverted to Samuel Kirkland, who conducted it successfully for many years. Church organizations, Sunday schools and school houses came into existence as soon as the settlers provided for their immediate necessities. West Star Church has a large congregation.

The log house put up by Irvin Baum was 18 by 20 feet in ground dimensions, but was the largest house in the county at that time. Unfortunately, it was burned to the ground a. few days after it had been finished. His neighbors a few days afterwards, without giving any notice came to his assistance and helped him erect another good, substantial home.

Those were the days when the term neighbor had a real significance and there was no exclusiveness between settlers. Even though they might live miles apart they were neighbors and shared with each other without stint or grudgingness. Here is another instance of what real neighborliness is: In 1847 William Combs' fence was destroyed by fire while he was absent in Missouri. His neighbors gathered together on Sunday and replaced the fence by a new one, thus saving his crops from being destroyed by stock, which in those days ran at large generally.

The winter of 1855 was a very severe one and the snow lay deep upon the ground. The mercury was down below zero and froze a crust on top of the snow thick and hard, so as to make it impracticable for horses to travel. The severity of the weather continued so long that some of the settlers became short of food, whereupon Jacob Combs, William Combs, Irvin and Lewis Baum made up a party and with their teams started for Compton's Mill on Middle. River. The journey was an extremely difficult and rather dangerous one, as they were obliged to beat the snow with wooden mauls all the way to their destination. It was only by this means that the horses were enabled to travel.


While gathering material for his proposed history of Madison County, the late A. J. Hoisington prepared the following description of the first schoolhouse in Douglas Township, which was about three miles due north of Winterset:

"It would be interesting and valuable historical information for all time to come if we had complete records and descriptions of the first and early common schools in the several townships of the county. There are those yet living who can furnish much of it if they would do so, and besides there are many scraps of records lying around loose that should be gathered. Persons in the several townships and school districts should interest themselves and do this work.

"I believe that to William Garrett belongs the credit of organizing and teaching the first school north of Winterset, although the Guiberson School in Union Township conies in close to that period. Mr. Garrett arrived in Madison County in October, 1849, from Hendricks County, Indiana. He came with a small colony led by John Hooten, who settled in (now) Lincoln Township and became one of the prominent characters and active citizens of the county. Mr. Garrett at once obtained employment with George Hornbaclc and W. B. Hopkins, then two active citizens, and aided them in opening up what was afterward long known as the James Farm, the second farm east of the long time Boyles place. Garrett made about the first Government land entry in Madison Township, the same being for 160 acres in section 28. During March of that year he and Jacob Fry dug and walled a well in Winterset for William Compton, near where the soldiers' monument stands. He and Fry have made the claim that this was the first completed and walled well in Winterset. The town was surveyed the July before.

"In the fall of 1850 Garrett went back to Indiana on a visit. He returned to Madison County in December, 1851, and immediately opened a subscription school, in a vacant log cabin about three and a quarter miles due north of Winterset, on the southeast quarter of section 13, in Douglas, and near the center of the quarter. The cabin had been built by Silas Barns in 1848. In 1850 he sold the claim to W. B. Hopkins, who built a better house some forty rods farther south and offered the vacant cabin for schoolroom purposes. The cabin was 14x16 feet, had a clapboard door, stick and clay style chimney and a small glass window on the south. There were three seats made of slabs obtained at William Combs' sawmill, northwest on North River. Fuel for the big fireplace was abundant, but the cabin needed repairing. The patrons and neighbors of the school met Saturday night of the first school week and that night the cabin burhed down. The scholars lost a portion of their books. The textbooks used that one week were McGuffy's first, second and third readers, McGuffy's speller, Ray's arithmetic and some other books. The school term lasted but one week. It was to be a subscription school, for there was then no public school moneys used. The teacher did not ask any compensation for the time taught. He says the school was not a 'glorious victoree' for any one, but was the first school opened in what is now Douglas Township. Following are the names of the pupils who attended: Perry, Aaron, Noah and Emily Barns; Louisa, Charlotte, Mary E. and Rufus Clark; Barbara, Sarah Ann and Benjamin Combs; L. D. Evans, Samuel Houston Guye, Willis G., Almira and Barbara Hopkins.

"In the spring of 1852 a school district was organized and a frame schoolhouse erected on land owned by Jacob Combs. The schoolhouse was built about a half mile north and about a quarter west of the present Abram Schoolhouse. It was a box frame, sided and ceiled with lumber from William Combs' sawmill, north on North River. Probably, George Gundy was the carpenter. The room was 14x16 feet. The door was in the east end and across the west end was a single row of 8x10 window glass. Under this row of glass was a long slab table used for writing purposes. The benches to sit on were log slabs with legs made of round poles cut to proper length. There was a rough board floor.

"The directors the first year were Jacob Combs, Caleb Clark and David McCarty. Miss Mary Jane Gaff, sister of Doctor Gaff, taught the first term in the new schoolhouse during June and July, 1852. Mr. Garrett taught the next term during January and February, 1853. The directors had some trouble in getting a stove to heat the room. Nearly everybody used fireplaces those days. Stoves were not on the market hereabouts. Finally, Mr. Garrett said, the directors obtained a second hand stove that was a combination of fourth rate cooking stove, a fourth rate heater and a first class smoker. Of it he says: 'I think I have some respect and veneration for old people, old scenes and old relics, but I draw the line on that old stove let it be relegated to oblivion.'

"The textbooks and studies that winter were McGuffy's series of readers and spellers, Ray's arithmetic, and writing. We flattered ourselves that we made some progress educationally. The scholars that winter were as follows: Lydia, Letitia and Newton Brinson; Aaron, Noah and Emily Barns; Rose Baum, Sarah Jane Combs, Louisa, Charlotte, Cynthia, Mary E. and Rufus Clark; Barbara, Lucinda and B. F. Combs; Sarah and Mary Etchison; E. J. and L. D. Evans; Willis G., Elmira and Barbara Hopkins; Daniel and Jonathan Myers; Leander, Asbury, Bradford and Nancy McCarty; Marshall and Ellen Spurlock; George W. and Hiram Wolverton and Cassie Bowman. Perhaps of these only Rufus Clark, Mrs Joshua Bennett and Mrs. Stephen James now live in Madison County. Daniel and Jonathan Myers and Hiram Wolverton gave up their lives to their country during the great Civil war.

"For teaching that term of school Mr. Garrett was given his board free by his good old friend, W. B. Hopkins, and $15 a month from the school fund."


The winter of 1848-9 was long after known as the "cold winter." Caleb Clark was then living on a claim in South Township. He was one of the Clanton colony of 1846. In later years he often illustrated how cold and snowy that winter was by relating the following story, which he appeared to believe really occurred: He had a small bunch of hogs that were, of course, the "hazel splitter" and "razor back" breed, then the only kind in the county. He had a few acres of corn not yet gathered when the early and deep snow fell. When the storm ceased he looked for his hogs but could not find even a trace of them nor hear of them in the neighborhood. More snow fell and the corn, deeply buried under it, remained ungathered. One day toward spring as the snow began melting he started out across the field on some errand. Suddenly he found himself over head in the snow among a bunch of hogs. At once they disappeared from sight, Floundering around a while in the snow trying to get out, he discovered the snow was tunneled along the ground in every direction. Finally getting out, he watched and waited, until some days later he discovered his hogs were in the field, all alive and fattened for market. They had somehow gotten into the corn during the first snow storm and were entirely buried. Like moles, they had made their way through the snow along the surf ace of the ground for corn, and had runways all over the field. They ate snow for drink, and of course, they were so deeply buried under, they remained warm all winter and became fat. One sow had a litter of pigs born under the snow and they were blind. He guessed the reason and pried their eyelids apart, putting blinders over their eyes so the light at first would not ruin their sight.

Another story he used to relate so often that he came to believe it himself was concerning the browsing of cattle and horses in early days. When hay was scarce in winter time and early spring, owners of stock would cut down certain trees, so that the stock might eat the buds and small twigs from the limbs. Usually, the stock became very fond of this food. At the time of this story Clark was living on a claim he had taken near the Clantons on Clanton Creek. He had missed a cow and could not find it anywhere. After several days of search, one day he went down to the creek thinking to follow the channel on the ice, because it made easier walking than through the deep snow, and hoping that somewhere down toward Middle River he might find some trace of his missing cow. Continuing on the ice a long distance he heard the lowing of a cow. Surprised, and unable to see the animal, he listened and then walked on. Soon again he heard the sound and closer, but yet could see nothing nor tell from what direction came the sound. Finally, after walking around and watching closely and occasionally hearing the lowing as from a cow, he became greatly mystified, for surely by the sound it must be close. He could plainly see along the ground through the timber a much greater distance than the sound seemed away. Every time he started to walk the sound came again with increasing tones of distress. He began to doubt his senses and grew alarmed at his loneliness in the otherwise silence of the woods, miles from any human habitation (as he would tell the story), wondering if it might be a waylaying catamount or Indian seeking to lure him on to his own destruction, or, indeed, if he had not suddenly gone crazy on the subject of his lost cow. Distractedly gazing about, he happened to glance upward among the tall trees and, at the same moment, came another distressful low. He thought he saw a cow's head way up in the tree. Going closer, there came another low. It surely was a cow's head and horns and voice. He went up close to the tree and investigated, the cow's face looking pitifully down upon him the while. He found that the cow's head was sticking out through a knot hole of a hollow tree at a high distance from the ground. The cow had wandered through the timber, seeking to browse upon some tree, but unable to find one low enough to reach the limbs, had found a big hollow slippery elm tree, and climbing up inside of it, she came to a knot hole among the branches. Getting her head out to browse on the limbs, and feeding all she wanted, she was unable to draw her head back because of her horns. There, way up in the tree, she had remained all those days, living on the buds and tender limbs of the abundant branches of the tree, but unable to get down and go home over night. She had well nigh eaten off all the twigs and bark on the big tree. Going back, Clark, as related by him, climbed the outside of the tree and cut away the knot bole until the cow could pull her head back. Then she climbed down the tree and gladly went home with her master. Ever after Clark closely guarded his cows during winter and early spring time.

By W. H. Lewis.

Douglas Township, as it came from the hand of its Creator, before it was defaced by the work of man, was a beauty spot in the world's occidental Eden. It resembled its oriental prototype, in having a noble river near one side; it excelled it in having that river bordered by picturesque cliffs and headlands, with the beautiful prairies south of it, and fringed along its course with noble forests.

The aspects of Nature seem always to have influenced the character of its inhabitants, as Sir Walter Scott says of his homeland:

"O Caledonia! stern and wild,
Meet nurse for a poetic child!"

So we would reasonably look for poets along the course of North River.

Up toward the northwest corner, along what is now known as the Stringtown road, there resided in the early '70s a band of brethren associated together in a Methodist class. The old reaper, Death, invaded the brotherhood and took one of them. One of the mourning brethren endeavored to partially express his appreciation of the departed one and his grief over their loss in a poem. It is written in the style and measure of Bryant's Thanatopsis. It is too long for reproduction here, but a copy of its concluding paragraph will give some idea of its character and its merits. It ranks high, considered as unprofessional work.

So let us live,
That when our pilgrimage on earth is done,
And Time shall toll our summons to the skies,
To tranquil pleasures of a purer realm
We'll part in peace. 'Twill not be very long,
'Til those who still survive us shall pursue
The course we swiftly run. And soon again,
We'll meet around the throne of God in heaven
With all our loved ones who have gone before,
To share the joys of everlasting life,
And love immortal.
-C. L. Harlan.

Winterise, Iowa, June 11, 1872.

About the year 1866, an appreciative observer of the scenery along the river,
in the vicinity and above and below the Hogback, tried to express his appreciation of that scenery in a little poem, so short that I will give a full copy. It is one of those

"Jewels, that on the stretched forefinger of Time,
Sparkle forever."

Shall Burns sing the Afton, the Doon and the Ayr,
And others less famous, sing rivers less fair,
Yet thou, noble North River, still glide along
Unmentioned in story, unhonored in song?

Shall landscape so lovely as seen from thy hills,
And fountains so crystal as seek thee in rills,
And prairies and woodlands so lovely as thine
Call no sweeter muse to their service than mine?

Thy stream winds as clear, through a valley as fair,
As either the Afton, the Doon or the Ayr,
Yet thou art unhonored, while they are renowned,
Wherever a lover of song can be found.

No wonder that murmurs come up from thy tide,
And seem all Hesperian poets to chide;
Such beauty still calling, yet calling in vain
For merited praise, has right to complain.

Sweet river, thy landscape is fair to behold;
Thy vale is so verdant, thy bluffs are so bold;
Thy woodlands abounding in cool, shady bowers;
Thy hill-points ascending in high rocky towers.

From whose lofty summits, O, is it not grand,
Thus sitting with pencil and paper in hand,
To gaze on a scene so romantic and bold
As never before was my lot to behold?

Assist me, ye Muses! 0, swell your fair throats
With your sweetest, your grandest, your loftiest notes;
I feel, but I fear I can never portray
With justice, the grandeur of what I survey.

Far northward, ascending till met by the sky
Like uprising billows, the prairie lands lie,
With here and there visible over their swells,
A farm indicating where somebody dwells.

While eastward and westward, and northward ascend
The wood-covered hills, like a wall 'round the bend
Where sweetly meanders thy cool stream along,
Thou noble North River, fair theme of my song

But now, the bright sun, sinking low in the west,
No longer reflects from thy stream's silver breast;
Thy valley grows dark, and thy woods gather gloom;
So farewell, sweet stream, I must hie away home.
(By George W. Seevers, Sr.)

So in view of what I have written and what I have copied, I submit my claim that Douglas Township is, and of right ought to be, "The land of poetry."

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