History of Lincoln 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


Lincoln Township is bounded on the north by Douglas, on the south by Monroe, on the east by Scott and on the west by Webster. Middle River crosses through its territory from west to east a little north of the center. There were large bodies of heavy timber when the settlers first came and the supply of limestone and building stone is practically inexhaustible. Coal has been found cropping out of the bluffs along the banks of Middle River. In the center portion of the vicinity of Middle River the surface of the country is quite rough and broken, but in the southern and northern portions the prairies are beautiful and just rolling enough to make the most desirable farms. Numerous small streams and springs provide an abundance of fresh water for stock and all of the township is now occupied and under improvement, showing beautiful homes, substantial farm buildings and fences, bridges and well kept roads.

Lincoln Township has a natural curiosity in the topographical feature of the locality, known as the "Devil's Backbone," a big formation of nature, about five miles west of Winterset on Middle River. This is a "high, rough rock ridge, so narrow that at the top there is only room for a wagon road. The Middle River running from east to west strikes the ridge, which is over two hundred feet above the water level and thence bears away in a circuitous route and some two or three miles further down its course bends around until it passes on the other side of the same deep, high ridge. From water to water directly through the ridge is less than one hundred feet. An early settler in that neighborhood, named John Harmon, together with his sons, tunneled the ridge through solid rock, occupying three years' time to do the work. They thus obtained a waterfall of twenty feet, making it the most desirable site for a mill in the western country. A large room has been made in the rock around the mill end of the race, making as delightful a bathing place as can be found anywhere. A. large grist mill and sawmill has lately (1868) been erected at this point by Messrs. Wilkin & Company. This 'backbone' is quite a curiosity and worth going a long distance to see."

This township was settled as early as 1847, Absalom Thornburg, C. D. Wright and Daniel Vancil coming that year and settling in the timber along Middle River. James Bertholf and Elijah Perkins arrived early in 1849. Alexander Bertholf, his sons, Alexander, Zachariah, George and James, and Joshua Gentry and Rev. John Hootan, settled in the township in 1851. It was not long thereafter when' William Harmon, a Mr. Skidmore and John Macumber contributed their presence and energies to the new settlement.

Elijah Perkins was a native of New Hampshire, immigrated to Ohio when a young man, where he taught school for several years, and came to the State of Iowa in 1848. Early in the year 1849 he located on section 14, in this township, on which he made many improvements.

John Hoot was born in Madison County, Kentucky, in 1805, removed to Indiana and from there to Madison County, Iowa, in 1849. He removed his family here in 1850. Mr. Hootan was a Baptist minister, and it is said, always took off his coat to preach. He was rather eccentric in his habits and mode of dress. Tradition has it that he used wooden pins to hold up his suspenders and while on the platform walked back and forth, continuously haranguing his audience. During one sermon, so it is said, being much interested in his subject, the clergyman stepped off the platform with a jolt, but this did not break him of the acquired habit.

David Halgarth came in 1850 and was one of the township's substantial farmers. He also was a member of Company F, Thirty ninth Iowa Infantry and served three years in the Civil war.

Isaac Jessup first lived in Indiana and in 1849 settled in Warren County, Iowa, from whence he came in 185i to this township. He was a member of the Fourth Iowa Infantry in the Civil war. When Mr. Jessup first came here he split rails for 25 cents per too, paid to cents per pound for meat, and for eighteen months carried all his grain that was used in his family for breadstuff to mill on his back.

Jacob Leinard left his home in Harrison County, Ohio, in 1852, and came to this township, where he secured zoo acres of land 2 1/2 miles southwest of Winterset. A daughter, Anna Christina, was united in marriage to Lewis Thornburg in 1855.

John Brown came to the county from Ohio in 1854 and was one of the frugal and prosperous farmers of Lincoln Township. Along about this time Caleb Clark, who first settled in South Township in 1846, and in 1849 in Douglas, removed to this township on a farm near Winterset.

In 1851 E. G. Perkins entered 240 acres of land in Lincoln Township, which he partly improved and then returned to his home in New Hampshire. Six years thereafter he came back to the township and eventually removed to Jackson Township. He served the county as treasurer and recorder when the offices were combined, and was also a member of the board of supervisors.

John Reed was a native of England and came to the county in 1855. He owned and operated a sawmill near the "Backbone."

J. A. Macomber immigrated from Ohio in 1853 and became one of the large landowners of this township.

James W. Evans was a settler as early as 1855. In 1858 he married Catherine J. Vancil. Mr. Evans died in 1874.

J. F. Brock, who held the office of sheriff four years and was the incumbent of various township offices, settled in the county in 1856. He enlisted in the Thirty ninth Infantry in 1862 and served during the war.

T. Conard was a Holmes County, Ohio, man and in 1856 forsook the Buckeye State for Iowa and settled in Madison County. He was a member of the Thirty ninth Iowa Infantry in the Civil war, serving three years.

Samuel Duncan was a native of the State of New York, removing with his parents to Ohio, from there to Indiana and from the Hoosier State to Iowa in 1853, when he became a citizen of Madison County. He has held various Lincoln Township offices.

The Lorimors, B. F. and A. W., were Ohioans who found Iowa a good place in which to live and raise their families, hence the year 1856 found them located in this township. The Lorimor brothers for several years were the largest sheep men in the county.

Benjamin Titcomb, a native of Maine, removed to Illinois and after a residence of ten years arrived in this county in October, 1854. He held various township offices and died in October, 1876. His son Otis enlisted in the First Iowa Battery and died from disease contracted in the army in 1864.

In a few years Lincoln Township had many substantial farmers, some of whom were before and others followed those last mentioned in this article. Among them were Joseph McKibben, Benjamin Hartsook, William Cameron, Dr. William L. Leonard, Nathan Newlon, George A. Beerbower, D. G. Martin, Samuel Gordon, Samuel Duncan, Isaac Hogle, John Huffman and C. Fink.

No attempt has been made, because of its impossibility, to describe all the brave, industrious and worthy men and women who came to Lincoln Township in its early days and opened out and improved farms and began that great movement which has made the township and the county so well known for its fine farms, splendid homes, good schools and church buildings. But many of the names worthy of mentions and not found here will be noticed on the pages of the second volume of this work.

Lincoln Township at one time prided itself upon having within its borders a woolen mill, whose products found a ready market not only locally, but abroad. This industry was known as the Madison Woolen Mills and was established in 1865 by J. T. White and N. W. Munger, the buildings being located on a spot 1 1/2 miles west of Winterset, on the Council Bluffs road. These structures were of stone, 40 by 50 feet, three stories high, with a wing 20 by 50, containing engine, boiler and dye room. In addition there was a two story ware room 20 by 40, and a half dozen dwellings for operatives, altogether making a little village. The machinery was manufactured expressly for the mills and combined all improvements up to that time. All the rooms were heated by steam pipes connected with the boiler. The establishment furnished employment to twenty five operatives and turned out annually 30,000 yards of woolen goods and large quantities of yarns, consuming about sixty thousand pounds of wool.


This church was organized about the middle of December, 1853, by Elder Irvin W. Gordon, at the log house of Joseph Brinson which stood on the southeast quarter of the southwest quarter of section 9, Lincoln Township. Those who united themselves together as a band of Christians on this occasion were: Irvin W. Gordon and wife, Sarah; Caleb Clark and wife, Ruth; William I. Gordon and wife, Sarah; Joseph Brinson and wife, Rebecca; Israel Miller and wife, Cynthia; William Bird and wife, Sarah; Nancy Jane Gordon, Martha Gordon, James Farris, Sr. Among those who preached for the congregation the first few years were Elders Washington Short, Gill, N. E. Corey, James Rhodes, J. P. Roach and Noah. Services were held the first years usually at the homes of the members and occasionally in the old log courthouse, when not used by others.

There is a church in the Ord neighborhood that is well attended.


With the coming of Irvin Walton Gordon from Versailles, Indiana, who settled near the center of Lincoln Township, October 15, 1852, appeared the first distinctively musical aggregation in Madison County, for many years known all over this portion of the state as the Gordon String Band. Its first appearance before the general public was upon the occasion of the third celebration of July Fourth held in this county-July 4, 1853-in a grove southeast of the square and close to Winterset, across the draw and next east of "Gospel Ridge." On this occasion the players and their parts were as follows: J. Newton Gordon, clarionet A; I. William Gordon, violin; Samuel A. Gordon, bass drum; Jonathan Gordon, snare drum; Jackson Porter and Reuben Hanna, violins; Dr. J. H. Gaff, clarionet. Granville Bond, from Adel, was an all around helper in different parts, especially the violin. This band played at most of the important gatherings in Madison and adjoining counties during the '50s and even later on. During the year 186o the first brass band was organized in the county at Winterset, by the Ayers Brothers, then in the drygoods business. The elder one vas E. J. and the younger one Oliver C., who later enlisted in the Thirty ninth Iowa Infantry and was killed at Allatoona. This band had twelve pieces and its members were as follows: E. J. Ayers, leader; Asbury Nosier, clerk of band; John D. Holbrook, baritone; Samuel G. Ruby, tuba; Jerry Barker, tenor; Hamilton Leisure, alto; Oliver Ayers, B flat; E. J. Ayers, E flat; "Yankee" Clark, E flat; Newton Gordon, E flat; William Holbrook, alto; Charles Williams, alto; Frank McLaughlin, E flat. This band continued doing business until E. J. Ayers removed in 1864; about then the band broke up. During all this time the Gordons were doing something with their string band at private entertainments and on public occasions.

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