History of Lee 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


Lee Township was created by the County Court on the 1st day of March, 1857, and given the name of Badger, but on the 6th day of September, 1858, the name was changed to that of Lee, in honor of Harvey Lee, an early settler of the county.

It is said that James Rothill, who located on section 31, in 1852, was the first one to take up a permanent residence in this township. Within a very short time and in the same year, James Lane arrived in the community and settled on section r, where he remained a short time and then sold his claim to Allen Majors in 1855.

Harvey Lee, after whom the township was named, came here from Indiana in 1856 and located on section 32. Lived there until 1862 and went back to Indiana. About 1864 he returned and settled on section 3, in Union Township, where he remained until his death in 1884.

The township was largely made up of the sturdy sons of old Erin, who came here early in the history of the county, took up claims, laid out farms, cultivated and improved them, became prosperous and today many of their descendants are still living in this neighborhood. In 1853 Andrew Hubbard and 'Squire Flynn settled on sections 4 and 8, respectively. In the following year George W. Roberts and James Malone settled in the township. Malone soon after sold out to Thomas Cavenor and later sold his interests to N. W. Johnson in 1864. Mr. Johnson was an old Connecticut sea captain and became one of the most extensive farmers in this locality, owning at the time mentioned a block of land consisting of one section and a half. He dealt extensively in live stock and generally bought all the surplus corn that his neighbors had to sell.

Andrew Hubbard set out the first orchard in Lee Township in 1859. Soon thereafter L. N. Smith, George W. Roberts and Thomas England also had good orchards bearing fruit. Captain Johnson, George W. Roberts and Emerson Hazen early became the most extensive farmers in the township.

One of the pioneers of the township was George Roberts, who settled here in 1854. He was a railroad engineer, which probably accounted for his highly manifested taste for machinery on his farm, of which he had the latest improved and plenty of it. He probably had in use the first manure spreader brought to the county and for years owned and operated a threshing machine. Mr. Roberts many years ago moved to Missouri and the large farm which he improved is now the property and home of Conrad Eichner.

A passing notice should be given an eccentric character from Pennsylvania named William Heaton, who in 1858 laid off and staked his land into lots, with the intention of establishing a town and building a seminary, to cost not less than $100,000. Many of the lots were contracted for at prices ranging from $50 to $300 each and in the summer of the year mentioned Heaton and quite a large gathering of people met on the ground, where speeches were made by B. F. Roberts and others, setting forth the advantages of the locality for a town and the great importance of a seminary there. Heaton executed a bond in the sum of $50,000, which is on record at the courthouse, for the faithful application of all moneys accruing under certain provisions of the town lot contractors. But for some reason his hopes were never realized and the stakes were never driven to make the Town of Heaton.

As the great body of early and later settlers of this township were of the Irish race, and their history later written by James Gillaspie, what that venerable and worthy pioneer has said of them follows.


The compiler of the history relating to the settlements in Crawford and Lee townships of the Irish people, James Gillaspie, is still living at a ripe old age at his home, about five miles out of Patterson. He is now well along in years and admits that his memory is not as reliable as in days of yore. In the preparation of his articles he makes the declaration of his want of absolute accuracy as to the years in which many of the old settlers, of whom he speaks, located in this township, and he also assumes the possibility of omitting some names that should appear in the list he has prepared. If he is correct in his surmises, no blame should rest upon him, for his work has been honestly accomplished and with the determination to make it as complete as possible. He says that Allen Major came here in 1855, from Warren County, Iowa, and for some time has been gathered to his fathers. His son, John, lives in Iowa but has left the old farm.

John McCarty and family came in 1855. He has passed away, while some of his sons still live on the old place.

David and John Welch, brothers, came as early as 1855 or 1856. David settled in Lee Township and John settled across the line in Warren County. David is dead and the family has moved away.

Timothy Horan and family came from Des Moines in or about 1860. He is dead. His son, James, and two sisters lived on the farm.

Daniel Mulvihill came some time in the '50s. He died a few years ago. His son, James, lives on the farm, and another son, Daniel, is a Catholic priest in Des Moines.

Jeremiah Dooley and family and James and Patrick Maher were early settlers, but I am not sure of the date.

James Lynch and family also came early. Mr. Lynch is still in good health and lives on the old farm. Michael and Patrick Duffy were also early settlers.

Peter Laughlin and family came to Lee from the western part of the county sometime near 1860. He has been dead a few years. His son, Thomas, is in South Township, while John still lives here.

Andrew and James Hanrahan and their families and several other Irish families moved into Lee Township in the early '6os. I now close my Lee Township narrative. In order to give a correct idea of the Irish settlement, it is necessary to name briefly several families in Warren County across the line in the townships adjoining Crawford and Lee, who came in the years previous to 1860. They are as follows:

John Spain and family; John Cahill, also his father and family; Michael Doheny and family; Edmund Ryan and family; William Ryan; John and Thomas Bell and their father's family; Bernard King; Niel McElwee, and family; Anthony McElwee, and a family named Friel; Patrick Cassiday and family; two brothers named Michael and James Kane and their families; John Mackin and family; John Welch and family; Peter Murray and family; Pat Walsh; Adam Walsh; William Shay and family; Patrick Butler and family; a Mrs. Gallaher and family, she a widow, and Michael Cash and family. All the families here mentioned, with the exception of the following named, were Catholics: Allen Major, William Kennedy, Anderson McLees and the McMichaels. (See Crawford Township.)


As may be seen, the Irish came from many places to the settlement, and the name of the settlement began to spread abroad throughout the land, one following the lead of those who had gone before. But here they were with no church and cemetery. Some were in favor of having the church and cemetery on the north side of the river; others on the south side. In the meantime, a stranger, an old man and a government surveyor, returning from further west, getting sick at the house of Patrick Walsh on the south side, died. The corpse was prepared for the grave. Mr. Walsh and some neighboring men left home to locate a burying ground, when some half dozen smart fellows slipped in, took up the corpse and started the cemetery on the north side. So where the cemetery was, the church should be near, and as the majority of the people were on the north side, the people built a good sized log church in the summer of 1856. Thomas Finan gave the forty acres of land for church purposes. The church stands on the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 36, Lee Township, and the cemetery is in the southeast part of the "forty." Very many of the first settlers lie there now, and also many of their children. At first in religious ways, the people were attended by missionary priests, going from place to place. In 1856 Reverend Father Platt became parish priest of Des Moines and he attended St. Patrick's once a month. He died and Reverend Father Brazill got an assistant and there was mass in St. Patrick's twice a month until about 1873, when a parish priest was sent to reside at St. Patrick's. The first resident priest was Reverend Father Smythe, now at Council Bluffs, who remained three years. Then came Reverend Father Rice, who was pastor of that congregation from 1870 to 1884. He died in 1884 and was succeeded by Reverend Father Moynihan, who was pastor of the church until November, 1906. Father Moynihan resigned on account of old age and infirmity and was succeeded by Reverend Father Dugan, who is pastor of St. Patrick's Church at the present writing, February, 1907.

The present frame church was built somewhere near the year 1870. I am not positive of the date but that is near to it. The log church was taken away. There were some German families who attended at first St. Patrick's Church, viz.: Kasper Weil, Conrad Weil, Anthony Weidman, Charles Snyder, Julius Reiman and some others.

After the death of Father Rice, St. Patrick parish was divided. All south of North River were stricken into the parish of Churchville and now attend there; here they have a large congregation. Another part of St. Patrick's parish is given to Cumming, which makes the congregation the smallest of the three at present.

Many settlers came to the Irish settlement since 1860. I merely give their names as far as I can and where they settled. But before I do I will name a few who came in the early '5os. Patrick Walsh, Adam Walsh and John Cutler came to the settlement in 1852. There are several families belonging to the settlement who came previous to 1860 who live in the southwest corner of Polk County. Among those are the Hoyes, Malones, Dargans and others. Those who settled in Warren County in 186 and since are R. Maguire, E. Slavin, Ellwood brothers, John Collins, James Davitt, Mr. Fagan, James Doud, Pat Doud, Pat McNerney, T. Harrigan, Pat Breslin, J. Graham, Ed McCusker, Peter McDonnell, Pat McDonnell, John Linnan, Thomas Gallagher, John Mulroy, James Banks, George Banks, Michael Cash. Mr. Cash was a very early settler, in 1855 or 1856; the Hall brothers, John and Michael; Joseph Nugent, Pat Waldron, P. Brownrigg, William Hayes, Peter Quinn, Ed McManus, James Sheehey, Pat Ward, William Gavin, the McAndrew family, John McGovern, Thomas Powers, Neil Enright, John Keeney, Matt Lillis, Thomas James, Daniel Heaffey, Robert Kelley and others. All the foregoing are or were men of families, with the exception of two or three who settled on the Warren County side of the settlement since 1860 or about that time. In this list I do not mention any of the young men who grew up or were born here. Some of those mentioned have since removed to other places. Many are dead, but there is, generally speaking, in most cases, one or two more representatives of each family.

List of those who settled in Crawford Township since 1860: Bernard Johnson, P. Gill, William Costello, John Peters, Thomas Mulroy; John Marrinan, Thomas Linnan, Thomas Swift, William Connolly, Robert Morris, William Conner, Pat Curtis, Michael Casey, Thomas Dee, Pat Doud, T. McGovern, John Kelley, John Tiernan, Pat Kilduff, the Hogan family, John Graney, P. Graney, Martin Gavin, John Dillon and Thomas Burke.

Lee Township since 1860: James Condon, Thomas Glynn, Maurice Breen, Peter Kelley, M. M. Gilleran and his father, Martin Waldron, James Brazill, Lawrence King, John Pollard, Stephen Murphy, James Kiernan, John Clarke, Michael Dargan, Richard Dargan, Michael McNamara, Michael Phillips, John White, John Roach, Thomas McKeon and Timothy O'Herron.

In order to show fully the Irish settlement I must include part of Union Township. Here we find Ed Monaghan, Patrick Nolan, Michael Donohue and Martin McNamara.

The names of those who served in the Civil war follow: There were very few young men grown to man's estate when the war of 1861-65 took place. The Irish settlers were nearly all men who had wives and families, consequently but few of them served in the army. Among those who did serve whom I know were: George Banks, John McWilliams, L. A. Smith, Patrick Doud, M. M. Gilleran, Martin Waldron, Thomas Burke, James Gillaspie, William Couch, Charles Condon and others whose names I do not remember.


It will now be seen that the Irish settlement is not a very small place. From north to south it is fully twelve miles, and about the same number of miles from east to west. Of course there are many people of different nationalities living in their midst: Americans, Germans and others, all living in harmony and brotherly love together as all men should do. They are, generally speaking, industrious and prosperous, and as to honesty, few will say that they have been cheated by an Irish man.

The early time houses have all disappeared and in their places stand modern dwellings, substantial and capacious barns and granaries. Horses, cattle and swine are here in abundance, and cheerful hospitality can be found among the Irish settlers and their descendants, and as freely given as on any part of the globe.

And now the history of the Irish settlers of this place, known all over Iowa as the Irish settlement, is at its close. Many of the original ones are in their graves; peace to their memory. Many have moved to other places, and those of native Irish birth, who yet remain, are hastening to the world beyond the grave.

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