History of Scott 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


Scott Township was organized in 1861 and was one of the first localities to be settled in Madison County. It is bounded on the north by Union, on the south by Walnut, on the east by South and on the west by Lincoln townships. The Middle River and Jones Creek are its principal streams. Middle River passes through the northern part of this domain from west to east, and Jones Creek flows through the southern part. The divide lying between Middle River and the Clanton is widely known as "Hoosier Prairie," deriving its name from the fact that many of its settlers came from Indiana. The topography of the township indicates a flat, or level prairie. However, in the breaks near the streams the surface of the township is very rough and broken. While the county was still young, there were many beautiful farms on "Hoosier Prairie" and in other portions of this township. It is an agricultural district and the entire township teems with well improved farms, buildings, good roads and all the modern improvements to be found in a high grade country. Inexhaustible quantities of the very best of limestone are found along the bluffs of Middle River, and coal abounds in various places. With the many springs and small streams that exist here and throughout the township, the community has become a very desirable one for the raising of stock and other industries.

Henry McKinzie was probably the first settler to locate in this township, coming here in the latter part of the summer of 1846. He settled on what afterwards became the McKnight farm. Mr. McKinzie removed here from his old home in Sangamon County, Illinois, which was near that section of the country made famous as having been at one time the home of Abraham Lincoln. McKinzie built a crude log cabin on his claim, which gave way to a frame house in 1848, said to have been the first frame residence built in the county. He hauled the lumber all the way from Burlington. About this time came David Bishop, William Allcock and John Wilkinson; also Ephraim Bilderback, the organizing sheriff of the county. W. S. Wilkinson until his death in 1914, was a resident of the township, while Judge A. W. Wilkinson is and has been for many years, a resident of Winterset.

Ephraim Bilderback built a small structure and set up a forge upon his farm, where was conducted the first blacksmith shop in the county.

Asa Mills settled on the north part of the township, north of Middle River, on section 5, in the summer of 1846.

Samuel Crawford, in the summer of 1847, built a cabin on the southwest quarter of section 5, which in the fall of that year was destroyed by fire. Being left without a habitation, Crawford moved in with James Thornbrugh, where he stayed all winter, but before spring he had gotten up another cabin and moved into it.

About the year 1849 or 1850, there were quite a number settled in the township, among whom were John Rogers, Marius C. Debord, John Landers, Whitley Allen, John Hinkel, Joel Graves, William Hogg, Josiah Struthers, Josiah Smith, Isaac Debusk. John S. Holmes and William Bowisby settled here soon after, also W. W. McKnight, John Rogers, George Close, Mitchell Robinson, J. S. Holmes, George Hammer, J. R. Sillinian, John Jones, A. J. Campbell, Benjamin F. Reed, Ed Herald, A. H. Adkison, James Harris, B. Lake, John Dryden, Porter Ralston, B. F. Carter, George A. Breeding, James Short, Noah King.

Abner Bell with his wife and two children arrived in Madison County from Hancock County, Ohio, on September 30, 185o, and lived in the house on the Ailcock claim until the following spring. That winter Bell taught school in the Clanton schoolhouse and in the spring of 1851 moved to section 16, and bought forty acres of school land. That spring a log schoolhouse was built, in which he taught a three months' term. This was the first school in that district. He sold out in the next spring. In the winter of 1851-2 Bell taught in the Adamson schoolhouse, that stood south of Middle River about eighty rods, above Huglin's Mill. In the spring of 1852 he moved west of Churchville, on the edge of Madison County.

Theodore Cox settled in the township along about 1854 and improved a tract of land, so that it became a magnificent farm. Hogan Queen, Annon James, Solomon Odell, Thomas Stevens, Israel Hoover, Jesse Hiatt, J. S. Lorimor and I. Oglesbee all improved farms in this township and became leading citizens of the community.

Of the later arrivals may be mentioned "Fidler" Jones, William Fenniniore, a splendid business man; George Orr, G. W. Hann, John Holmes, Orville Rollstin, Benjamin and Andrew Jones, G. M. Grout, M. W. Peach, J. S. Herman, J. E. Spurgin. These men have all given to their farms, their homes and the community, their best energies and are held in the highest esteem by neighbors and friends throughout the county.

There are four churches in the township: Providence United Brethren, Bethel Methodist Episcopal, Elm Grove Methodist Episcopal and Zion (union).

By E. R. Ziller

In the early summer of 1860 a little colony of brave and sturdy people left their homes in Kentucky to try their fortunes in the to them unknown State of Iowa. In this relation a Keokuk paper of date May 28, 1860, had the following to say: "A procession consisting of nine wagons, one carriage, twelve yokes of oxen and several spans of horses, passed up Main Street last Saturday morning bound for Madison County, Iowa. They came from Kentucky. They belong to one family, the head of which is Rev. John Blair, who informed us that they were obliged to leave on account of their sentiments on the slavery question." As related by Rev. John Blair, the reason given why he and his party picked upon Madison County for their future home was that a brother, Alexander Blair, had immigrated from Kentucky to Indiana in pioneer times and a few years later settled in Madison County, Iowa, on land now known as the "Mills" farm at Tileville. Those comprising the Blair party were Rev. John Blair, Rev. Richard Armstrong, Elza Blair, John Blair, Jr., James Blair, William Blair, William Turk, John Heneger, Peter Carter, James McKinney, William Carter, Alexander Eskew and Thomas Rhodes. In the fall of the same year another party arrived, consisting of George Breeding, Rev. C. Hughart, Joseph A. Breeding, B. F. Carter and others. In the following spring a third party located in the county, namely: J. M. Eskew, J. T. Blair, George H. Kinnaird, W. T. Jesse, Henry Monday and David Mosby. The numerous descendants and relatives by marriage of this splendid aggregation of settlers form a very important part of the population of Scott and South townships. "In that lonely, but beautiful, cemetery, at Blair Chapel lie the remains of many of those who composed the early Kentucky emigrants. There repose the remains of the heroic leader and his faithful colleague, Rev. Richard Armstrong. A number of others are buried at Union Chapel."

By W. S. Wilkinson

We came to this county in the spring of 1848. The report had come to where we lived that there was a good country out here: nice rolling prairies, plenty of good timber, good running springs, an abundance of stone, and the principal undergrowth was rattlesnakes, which the boys thought about correct.

The early farms were mostly made in the timber, for there were but few that had teams able to turn the prairie sod. The timber soil was more easily stirred. We worked constantly at our clearing but every nice warm day at noon during the spring we would run down to the snake den and see if there were any snakes lying in the sun around the den — and we usually found some — this was the summer of the big snake hunt. Now Sunday was as strictly observed in the fore part of that summer as I have ever seen it at any time since. It was given over exclusively to the hunting and killing of rattlesnakes. We had no preaching here then. This was just before the preacher came. But after the snake killing season they organized Sunday school and we thought it a No. 1 school. We put on our clean linen pants on Sunday morning and went to Sunday school—the small boys did not wear pants every day unless we had company — a boy is not so bashful when he is dressed up — that's the way a boy saw it.

After our corn was laid by, James Thornbrugh was employed to teach school and they built a log schoolhouse about a quarter of a mile east of the Buffalo Mills, and we had a pretty full school. There were few families in the neighborhood, but they were the kind that counted in making a school. The school was run for six weeks and was then closed on account of more pressing duties — hay making and corn cutting. Henry Evans* is the only one now living in the county that I know of besides myself that attended that school.
* Henry Evans and the writer of this article both are dead.

Five of the settlers, my father among them, went up the Coon River that fall on a bee hunt, naming small streams and localities from incidents of the trip, some of which I can now recall as Johnson's Defeat, where Felt Johnson got lost one day while out bee hunting and did not find camp until nearly morning; Wilkinson Fork, where the only bee tree my father found was stolen and cut by other hunters; McKinzie's Paradise, probably from the old gentleman's genial disposition and jolly ways; Bilderback's Success, where Eph Bilderback found about as many bee trees in one day as any other man in the crowd found on the whole trip. They found and cut over eighty bee trees and brought home a fine lot of honey, which they strained and took to St. Joe, Missouri, sold and got their supplies for the winter — a sack of salt each, a bushel or so of coffee, some sugar, some dried fruit and some other necessaries for their families, and if they had not gotten them that way I do not know how they would have gotten them.

They returned from St. Joe on the night of the 2d of December, 1848, and that night the big snow began to fall. On the morning of the 3d the snow was about four inches deep and' by evening it was about flank deep to a horse and it kept on snowing without any wind or bluster for some time. I have never seen as much snow on the ground at any other time as there was that winter and I never saw the snow piled as high in the forks of the trees as it was then. The snow lay on the ground until in April, and when we commenced to make sugar the next spring it was knee deep in the timber and by the time the snow disappeared sugar making was done. There was no frost in the ground. This was before the town (Winterset) was made. In the summer of 1848 A. D. Jones set up a store at the Narrows, as it was called (Tileville), and was the first postmaster in the county. We used to go there for the mail and to trade a little and we thought "A. D." ought to have the county seat, which was being much talked of about this time. "A D." was a great favorite among the boys, but the old men put the town right out in the prairie grass and not a shade tree in sight — an awful mean trick as the boys saw it.

The town was located in the summer of 1849. The commissioners met to name it some time in July. It was quite chilly for the time of year. A. D. Jones was the commissioners' clerk. They talked about the name; one proposed Independence, another Summerset, but the third thought they had better call it Winterset. That raised a big laugh and "A. D." wrote Winterset, in his splendid hand, and held it up for their inspection. The commissioners liked the name. They passed the flask, set it down, and Winterset was made the town.


The following paper was read by W. S. Wilkinson, of Scott Township, at a meeting of the Madison County Historical Society:

Early in the spring of 1847 my oldest brother, Alfred, came from Davis County, Iowa, with one horse to Fort Des Moines and rented twenty acres of ground of Mr. Lamb, about where the starch factory now stands. He planted it in corn, agreeing to give one half of it in rent.

About the first of June my father, with the rest of the family; followed, but being stopped by high water we remained in Marion County for some time, not reaching the neighborhood of the Forks, as the union of the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers was then usually called, until towards fall. We lived that fall and winter on Four Mile Creek, about six miles northeast of the Forks. During the winter reports came to us of this country up here, that it was a fine place, good soil, nice rolling prairies, plenty of good timber along the streams, and the principal undergrowth was rattlesnakes. On our arrival we found plenty of the "undergrowth."

Early in the spring of 1848 my father and brother, Thomas, came to Madison County to locate a claim and built a cabin within a few steps of a nice spring just one and a half miles north of the center of Scott Township. They covered the cabin in the usual way with clapboards and weight poles, but running Short of boards they covered a small patch with elm bark. One-half of the floor was laid with puncheon split from linn logs and smoothed with a broad ax; the other half was laid with bark placed flat on the ground. A stick and mud chimney was built with a stone wall and jambs for a fireplace.

My father and brother then returned and removed the family from Polk County as soon as the stock could live on the grass. We started about the loth of April, 1848, with our cows, sheep, hogs, chickens, a pair of geese and our household goods. We arrived at our new home just after dark on Friday, April 23, 1848. The next day we unloaded our wagon and fixed things for housekeeping, while our stock grazed on the grass. The next day being Sunday, we rested and viewed the landscape o'er. On Monday morning we went to work clearing a piece of timber land to plant in corn, our horse team not being able to turn the prairie sod. We put in, eight or ten acres of corn and later planted a good patch of potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables. Our corn when cut up made a fine lot of feed, but the grain was not well matured on account of being planted so late.

After the crops were tended the settlers began to pay some attention to schooling their children. They built a log cabin for a schoolhouse just east of the Buffalo Mills, in what is now Eli Wright's field, and hired James Thornbrugh to teach a term of school. He commenced some time in August and taught six weeks. The fall work coming on, he closed the school until winter, but the snow was so deep that winter that the children could not go, so he never finished the term. That was the first school taught in the county. The pupils attending that term as well as I can remember them were: Absalom, Daniel, Thomas, Aaron, Ann and Emeline McKinzie; Louisa, Rebecca and Joseph Thornbrugh; James and Ann Crawford; Will and Jack Hart; Henry Evans, Will Butler, Miles Casebier, Thomas, Margaret, David and W. S. Wilkinson. I think there were two or three others, but I cannot recall their names. Of the above only two are living in this county: Henry Evans and myself. Two are living in Kansas, one in Washington, two in Oregon and one in Rock Island, Illinois. A year or so later some school districts were marked off and the Roger schoolhouse, in Scott Township, was built. Mrs. Danforth, mother of Chal and William Danforth, taught the first school there.

That fall my father and some of the neighbors went on a bee hunt up the Coon River. They found and cut eighty bee trees and brought home a fine lot of honey. After straining it, they hauled it to St. Joseph, Missouri, and traded it for their winter supply of groceries. Had they not secured their provisions in that way, I do not know how they would have got them. They returned on the 2d of December, 1848, and the next morning the snow was about four inches deep. It continued to snow until it became a big snow — the deepest I ever saw. It must have been at least three feet on the level — some said it was more. The settlers could not keep the road broken through that snow, not even to the mill. They kept tracks broken from house to house, so they could go on horseback, and their milling was done in that way.

During the summer of 1848 Hart & Hinkley built a little grist mill on the site where the Buffalo Mills afterwards stood. They started some time in the fall. It was a small affair, but it answered the settlers' purpose well that winter of the deep snow. I do not know how they could have gotten along without the mill. They could grind nothing but corn — in fact, there was nothing else to grind that winter. The next season I think they had some buckwheat and possibly a very little wheat to grind. The millers got some kind of a screen to sieve their buckwheat. They called it a sarse; I do not know what it was like; probably the real name was sarcenet, a hand bolt made of sarcenet silk. Of course we did not get good flour but it was a change from corn bread.

I think the first Sunday school in the county was organized in the summer of 1848, at the house of Levi Bishop, in Scott Township. Sam Fleener was superintendent and Mrs. Bishop teacher. They did not confine their instruction to the scriptures alone, but taught the little folks their letters, spelling and reading. The books used were the spelling book and Testament.

The first bridge in this county was built in the fall and winter of 1854-5, across Middle River, where the Indianola and Winterset road crossed that stream in Scott Township, now known as the Holliwell Bridge. Madison County paid John McCartney $500 for building it. The bridge was a forty foot span with a framed approach at each end. It was a frame bridge with double bents at each end of the spans twenty-two feet high. The timbers of this bridge were hewn sixteen inches square. The stringers of the main span were forty four feet long to lap at the ends on the bents. The framed approaches at each end were twenty feet long. The bridge was finished early in the spring of 1855.

By W. S. Wilkinson

When the first settlers came to this county, the nearest mill to them was the old Parmalee Mill, near the mouth of Middle River, about fourteen miles southeast of Des Moines, and when that mill was closed for repairs, or for any cause, as was sometimes the case, they had to go farther on, often as far as Oskaloosa, some eighty or ninety miles, and sometimes to Missouri, near St. Joe. So in the spring of 1848, Hart and Hinkley commenced the erection of a little grist mill on the site where the Buffalo Mills afterwards stood—the first mill built in the county.

They put up a building of logs and covered it with clapboards, on the east bank of the river, with the fore-bay under the west end of the building. I don't know how they built a fore-bay without any sawed lumber. They must have built it of hewed timbers, for there was no lumber made in the county at that time.

The mill dam was what was called a brush, or log dam. They cut small trees and trimmed the limbs off the body, leaving the brush on the top. These trees were then laid side by side across the bed of the stream for a foundation for the dam. Then the log part was built across twelve or fifteen feet above the butt ends of these trees, so that they would form an apron to prevent the water from undermining the dam. The old brush dams were substantial when the brush got set in the mud, if the banks were made secure, but they were leaky old things and let too much water pass through.

Hart and Hinkley worked pretty steady at the. mill that summer, and the settlers turned out to help in any way they could, and after their crops were laid by, they had more time to give the needed assistance.

I do not remember what time they started the mill; I think it was not much before the first of October and perhaps a little later than that date. They commenced to grind some corn before they had their millhouse entirely inclosed, and one night when the roof was about half on, the men were in the mill busy grinding a grist of corn for some hungry settler, when there came up a little windstorm and blew off what roof they had over their works and sent the clapboards and weight poles flying around so lively that it gave the mill men such a scare that the boys had the laugh on them for weeks afterwards. But the settlers came to their aid the next morning and before forty eight hours they had their mill roof secure against any ordinary storm.

Andy Hart was a large, strong man, I should judge about thirty-five years old, able to do any amount of hard work, but I think he was no mechanic.

Mr. Hinkley was a man well up in years, as old a man perhaps as there was in the county at that time, but he was a fine workman. He made the water wheel, shaft and cog wheels that run the mill, and had to take every piece out of the tree, for there was no sawmill, not even a whipsaw in the county at that time that I know of.

When we think of the conditions that prevailed at that time, I cannot help but think that these men did the very best thing that could have been done at that time for the settlers of this county.

That was the winter of the deep snow. I have never seen as much snow on the ground at any other time as there was that winter, and it lay on till April. The settlers could not keep the road broken to the mill. They kept a track broken where they could keep in the timber, so they could go on horseback, and the milling was mostly done that way during that winter.

I heard of men taking grain to mill that winter on a handsled over the crusted snow where they had to cross the prairie for some distance. If they had- not had the little mill, I do not know what they would have done that winter.

Hart and Hinkley run the mill about a year and sold it to Casebier and Simmons, who afterwards took in James Thornbrugh as partner. I think this deal was made in the fall of 1849. The new firm commenced immediately the erection of a sawmill on the west side of the river and commenced to saw lumber, but the high water in June, 1851, washed the sawmill out and they then put it on the east side of the river joining on to the south side of the grist mill. They also remodeled the grist mill and put in bolts and commenced grinding wheat. By this time the mill was doing considerable business. The town of Winterset was starting and there was a lively demand for all the lumber and breadstuffs the mill could furnish.

Among the early settlers of this county were some very strong men who liked at times to show off their physical powers. And when Casebier & Company remodeled the grist mill, they took out the mill shaft that Hart and Hinkley had put in and it lay around in the nillyard for a number of years, serving as an object upon which these men could test their strength. I think Ab. McKinzie was the champion, but he had several very able competitors. I do not think it would have caused very much jealousy among the early settlers of this county if the statement had been made at that time that I make now, that Ab. McKinzie was probably the strongest man, physically, that ever lived in the county.

James Thornbrugh, one of the partners in the mill, died in December, 1851, and early in the next year, I think it was, William Compton bought the mill property. He took possession and commenced immediately a vigorous prosecution of his affairs, which he kept up as long as he managed the business. He had been in business in Winterset ever since the town started and had worked up a profitable trade, a good share of which he held after moving to the mill.

On taking charge of the business here, he built a residence just east of the mill, in the side of the bluff where the cedar trees he planted still stand. He dug a basement about sixteen by thirty two feet, and made the walls of the lower story of stone and put a frame building over it of the same size. The house was divided into four rooms, two above and two below. There was a large stone chimney and fireplace at each end of the house — stoves were not so plentiful then as they are now—and a double porch on the west, the full length of the building and seven feet deep, and when neatly balustered and painted, made quite an imposing appearance at that early day. Viewed from the mill and highway, and when enlarged, as it afterwards was, and in its time flanked on the east and north by a splendid apple orchard and vineyard, it made a very desirable home for Mr. and Mrs. Compton and the large family they there reared.

They entered the upper part from the level of the ground on the east, and the lower part from the level on the west. The two upper rooms were used for living and sleeping rooms, and the lower south room was the kitchen. Many a nice batch of corn dodger has been baked in the skillet at that fireplace. The north lower room was used at first for a storeroom. Mr. Compton put in a mixed stock of goods — some groceries and dry goods, and some wet goods, too.

The increasing population from immigration soon so increased the demand for material that Mr. Compton, in order to meet that demand, as far as possible, run his mills day and night, whenever he had the water to do so. And in order to increase his water supply, he improved his mill dam and raised it considerably higher, against the protest of some landowners up the river, who brought suit for damages, but Mr. Compton was always the successful party in the suit.

After Compton took possession of the property, he kept a competent mechanic employed most of the time. His first mechanic was Steven Divilbliss, who I think stayed about one year. He was said to be a master workman. Then Charles Rice came for about that length of time I think. Then came Judge Smalley who remained as long perhaps as Compton needed a steady workman. Some of the regular hands in the mill were Sam Crawford, miller, who worked for several years, and Mr. Wright, laborer, who stayed as long as he was able to do anything.

J. B. Lamb was a regular standby for many years. He commenced about 1855 and remained as long as Compton owned the mill. Then there is Philip Moore, now approaching seventy five years, who commenced work in the mill when a boy and stayed with it as long as a wheel turned, and although his home is now beyond the "Big Muddy," he may occasionally be seen on the old stamping ground. In 1856, Mr. Compton installed steam power and used both steam and water power when necessary.

From this time on the capacity, as well as the popularity, of the Buffalo Mills was on the increase. The flour went into several counties of Southern Iowa, and teams were run regularly, hauling flour from this mill into that territory until the railroads were built through that section. Mr. Compton continued in the business until some time in the '70s, when his health began to fail. He sold to Vermillion and Kleatsch, and retired from active business.

The new firm kept the mill well up to its former reputation, until it was destroyed by a cyclone in the summer of 1880. After the destruction of the old mill, it was rebuilt on a more modern plan and lost, in a measure, the pioneer character of its former days.

It seems proper this paper should close here. Judge Lewis, one of the proprietors of the new mill, is still with us and is much more vigorous in body and mind, and more capable of furnishing at some future time, a supplementary paper on the rebuilding and final downfall of that dear old landmark.

With a few words on the surroundings of the old mill, I must close. During the early prosperity of the Buffalo Mills, there were other branches of business carried on in the same vicinity for many years. A store was kept by some one about all the time until after the war, and at times a blacksmith shop and wood repair shop, and at one time, a brickyard was run for several years. About the time of the Civil war, the old water power sawmill was taken out and that building was turned into a wool carding machine. All these different branches of business employed a number of men in addition to those in the mills, and in the timber, furnishing logs to the saw and wood to run the engines.

These men were mostly settled around near the mill and formed a settlement of perhaps thirty families, a majority of whom owned their house and grounds, large or small. The settlement was important in itself and assumed the character of an unorganized village, going by the name of Buffalo.

In the district there were at least seventy-five or one hundred children of school age—the largest school in the township, and perhaps the largest country school in the county — but since the mill has gone down, it has shrunk to about an average of the district schools.

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