History of Walnut 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


Walnut Township was formed out of a part of South in 1851 and as originally constituted included the territory of Monroe, Grand River and parts of 'Webster, Lincoln, Ohio and Scott townships. The township is bounded on the north by Scott, on the south by Clarke County and on the east and west by Ohio and Monroe townships respectively. This region is thoroughly well drained by the two branches of Clanton Creek, which unite within its limits. There is plenty of timber along the streams and an abundant supply of limestone. The surface is rough and uneven in places but the first and second bottoms of Clanton Creek furnish unsurpassed farming land. The soil is a rich dark loam and yields large crops of corn, wheat, oats, hay, potatoes and other products indigenous to this latitude. On Clanton Creek, about a mile and a half east of Peru, is a peculiarly shaped high ridge of ground known as "Hog's Back," which is somewhat similar to the "Devil's Backbone," mentioned in another chapter. It is a steep bluff about one hundred and twenty five feet high and three fourths of a mile long. Clanton Creek courses along one side of the ridge and a small stream on the other. This high formation is composed mostly of limestone rock and a peculiar reddish clay, which is often spoken of as "paint clay."

From data now at hand it is determined that the first persons to settle in Walnut Township were John Mars and Tom Carr, who it is said furnished meat to settlers who came later, from hogs running wild at that time, which was probably about the early part of 1848. These hogs, it is presumed, strayed away from the herds of Mormon emigrants passing through Union County on their way to Salt Lake.

The first permanent settlers were the Iams families. Moses Iams located in the township in 1848 and William Guthrie came the same year. Hugh and Jasper Jams came in 1849; Michael in 1852; Isaac and M. Iams settled on the prairie southwest of Brooklyn in the latter year. They knew the Guibersons in Holmes County, Ohio. William Davis, who came to be known as "Black Hawk" Davis, was a brother in law of Moses Iams.

John Guiberson settled south of the Canton in 1849 and laid out the town of Brooklyn. Isaac Bird, a native of Virginia, married Susanna Williams in the State of Ohio and in 1851 came here and entered 150 acres of land from the Government.

William Guthrie, already mentioned, left Madison County, Ohio, in 1849, and spent the winter in Mahaska County, Iowa. He located in this township in the following spring and took up a claim on section 34, where he lived many years and became one of the stanch citizens of the community.

Isaac Reager immigrated from Indiana in 1847 and while at Burlington, Iowa, married Mary Sutherland. In 1854 he moved to Madison County and located on section 5, in Walnut Township.

Samuel Walker was one of the early settlers of this township, coming in the winter of 1852-3. At the time he had for his neighbors Allen McClure, John Guiberson, William Rhyno and Joseph Burdick. Mr. Walker has been wont to relate that when he arrived in the township, the few settlers that were here held church at each others homes, and at times were gratified by the expounding of the gospel according to one Rev. Swearengen. John Guiberson was a local preacher and often held forth at the homes of his neighbors.

The Smiths, of whom there were quite a number, became residents of Walnut Township in 1854. There was J. W. Smith with his parents, John and Rebecca Smith; also O. F. Smith, T. P. Smith, J. H. Smith, N. M. Smith, W. C. Smith and a girl, M. E. Smith.

At the time of the advent of the Smith family to this community, there were then living here Allen McClure, John Guiberson, a Mr. Painter, Joseph Burdick, Doc McGuire and Job Smith and uncle, John Smith, who lived with him during the winter of 1854-55. There was also S. M. Walker. These families are all that lived east and south of the Clanton.

With Isaac Reager, when he came in 1853, were Daniel Baker, wife and two children and John Baker and wife, Margaret. They settled on the homestead now owned by the Baker estate.

Aaron Hiatt, who founded old Peru, a North Carolinian, left his Indiana farm in the spring of 1851 and settled in Oskaloosa, where he married his second wife. In October of that year, Mr. Hiatt with his bride, located on section 3 In this township. He passed away a few years ago at the age of eighty eight.

Benjamin F. Brown was one of the early settlers, coming in 1851. In 1853 he started with Aaron Hiatt in the management of a sawmill near Peru. A few years later he turned his attention to farming on his place adjoining old Peru. In 1874 he removed to Redfield, Iowa, where he erected a large flouring mill which is still in operation and later went to Camas, Washington, where he ended his days.

Nathaniel Foster, of the Buckeye State, located on section 6, in 1854.

Lewis Mease settled in the township in the spring of 1857, and Marsha Cornelison in 1858. Nicholas Schoenenberger was here as early as 1855.

Other early settlers who came in the '50s were Jacob Brown, brother of Benjamin F. Brown, James Emerson, the Marshall, John Emerson, the McClures, Drakes, Burdicks, Alexander Loriinor, who built the first steam sawmill in the township; the Hiltons, Fivecoats, Flanigans, Paul Jones, Tiltons and Fowlers.

In May, 1855, William (Black Hawk) Davis, county surveyor, platted the Town of Brooklyn, on section 14, for John Guiberson, and soon thereafter Guiberson opened a general store at the place. A man by the name of Mills from Indianola also had a small store there for a while. Leo Nunn set up a blacksmith shop in the hamlet. (See article on postoffices.)

Of Methodism in Walnut Township, Isaac Reager, one of the founders of the society in this locality, prepared in 1905 the following interesting details:

"In the spring of 1855 my wife and self, with Ransom Bishop and wife, arranged to have meetings on Sundays every two weeks, at our homes turn about. Meetings were conducted most of the time by exhorters. The preacher in charge of the Winterset mission, Rev. Richard Swearengen, preached occasionally. In the latter part of August, 1856, Reverend Swearengen formally organized the society into a class. According to the records, sixteen members united with the church on that day, of which the following are the names of those now living: Mrs. Jane Gregory, of Bethel; Mrs. Fanny Baker, of Winterset; Mrs. Polina Vorse, of Ringgold County; Mrs. Rachel Reager, of Norcatur, Kansas, and myself. Those that have died are as follows: Joseph Quinn and wife, Mary Quinn, James Quinn, William Guinn, Elizabeth Bishop, Andrew Reager and wife, Joseph Reager, Hamilton Reager and Abram Compton. All these lived Christian lives, died in the faith and we have no doubt are now among the redeemed. The society was known as the Reager society, or class, with Isaac Reager as classleader. Since that time it has gone through many changes of names and location. When organized it was in the Winterset mission. That fall at the Iowa Conference two circuits were formed out of the mission - the Winterset and the Brooklyn circuit - with Joel Mason as preacher in charge.
"In 1856 a schoolhouse was built and a Sabbath school organized and the place of meeting moved there and called the Pleasant Grove class, thus relieving Sisters Bishop and Reager of the responsibility of having it in their homes, which they had done for a year without a complaint, doing all they could for the cause of God. In 1881 we purchased the Adventist Church in Peru and moved the society into it, and changed the name to Peru class. In 1885 we built a new church and the railroad soon after came along and built the Town of East Peru. In 1894 the church was moved to East Peru, where it now stands, and the name of the society was changed to East Peru. The annex of the building was added in 1898. During this time many changes have been made in the circuit. As before stated, it was organized as the Brooklyn circuit, with Joel Mason as pastor and J. B. Hardy as presiding elder. Brother Hardy is still living and is an honored superannuated minister of the Iowa Conference. In 1867 the name was changed to Ohio circuit. In the fall of 1885 it was changed to Peru. In the fall of 1894 it was changed to Truro and in 1895 to East Peru. The East Peru class now numbers 130 members.

"The names of the pastors in their regular order are as follows: Joel Mason, Thomas Dixon, J. B. Rawls, John M. Baker, M. Sheets, Charles Wolsey, William Abraham, Israel Mershon, A. A. Powers, E. A. Winning, D. B. Clarg, S. W. Milligan, R. J. Davis, J. R. Ferguson, B. F. Shetterly, J. G. Bourne, S. N. Mathena, S. W. Milligan (second time), J. D. Funk, H. J. Smith, B. F. Shetterly (second time), D. B. Clarg (second time), G. W. Patterson, W. F. Hestwood, H. C. Preston, Simpson Guire, G. W. Patterson (second time), G. L. McDougal, W. C. Smith, A. V. Nepper, J. M. O'Fling, R. R. Grantham, Paul Gardiner, Ed. Nolte, John Branson, William M. Blood, Charles C. Wilkins, W. W. Williams. This makes about thirty eight pastors we have had; there have been nineteen presiding elders since our organization, four of these while we were yet in the Iowa Conference."


The old Town of Peru (one of the lost towns) was laid out on the 18th day of April, 1855, by Simmons Rutty, surveyor, for Aaron Hiatt, and for some time was quite a busy little trading point, having a couple of general stores, a blacksmith shop and school and church close by. Nothing now remains but the schoolhouse and a few dwellings, as the hamlet was forsaken, for business purposes, when the railroad was built a mile south of it and the new town of East Peru was founded.

East Peru was laid out December 6, 1887, by R. A. Patterson, surveyor, for William H. See, owner of the land, and is located on the north half of section 11, in Walnut Township. It stands on the north bank of Clanton Creek, on the Chicago, St. Paul & Kansas City (Chicago Great Western) Railroad, and to the north is a stretch of superb farming lands, under a high state of cultivation. Peru is one of the best shipping points in the county, and has a good graded school and two churches. Close by, to which a spur of the railroad extends, is a splendid quarry, equipped with machinery and appliances of the latest devices, from which is taken vast quantities of stones for building and other purposes. The town has several general stores, hardware, furniture, drug and meat establishments, a blacksmith shop, livery stable, hotel, garage, cement and tile works, implement and harness stores, telephone exchange, restaurant, elevator, lumberyard and a very neat and comfortable depot.

East Peru was duly incorporated and now has a population of about 400. When it was laid out there were three houses on the site. It is said that James Harwood was the first one fo engage in business, having a stock of general merchandise. H. C. Wright opened a general store soon after. The school building, a frame, was erected about the year 1906. The school is graded and employs three teachers. The history of the churches is given elsewhere.

For a new town East Peru is quite advanced. In the summer of 1913, F. A. Herwehe established and built an electric light plant, which he sold to L. F. Clifton in October, 1914. This utility was a small affair, costing about $1,500, and built as an experiment. The present owner is convinced the improvement can be made permanent and profitable, and with this view in mind has made expensive additions and alterations to the machinery.

The Peru Savings Bank is a solid financial institution, which came into being when the Bank of East Peru, a private concern, was established in 1899, by William Fennimore, J. S. Emerson and William Painter. About 1900 Painter sold his interest to the remaining partners and a year later, or two or three years later, Fennimore sold to Emerson, who continued operations until December 1, 1910, when the Peru Savings Bank was organized and established under the laws of the State of Iowa, by William Deardorff, E. C. Zimmerman, F. M. Beeler, W. A. Harwood, J. L. Harwood, John Schoenenberger, Edgar Harrell, N. W. Oglesbee and R. E. Phillips. The officials are: President, W. H. Deardorff; vice president, J. L. Harwood; cashier, E. C. Zimmerman; assistant cashier, L. M. Delaplain. Capital, $10,000; undivided profits, $4,500; deposits, $82,275.

Hazel Lodge, No. 573, A. F. & A. M., was organized June 6, 1901, with R. A. Greene, worshipful master; J. F. Deardorff, senior warden; A. C. Creger, junior warden. Maple Leaf Lodge, No. 577, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was organized in October, 1903, by Henry Smith, P. S. Todhunter, W. P. Benge, G. W. Finley, J. J. Spurgin, who were also the first officials. Modern Woodmen, Walnut Camp, No. 2691, was established on the 19th of January, 1895, with fifteen members, and the Woodmen of the World, East Peru Camp, No. 380, was organized January 6, 1911, with eleven members, An auxiliary lodge, the Woodmen Circle, Walnut Grove, No. 111, was organized July 7, 1911, by Emma L. Foster, Hattie M. Lilley, Cora Inez Dowler, Augusta L. Thomsen, Ilea Hiatt, Martha Ergenbright, Anna Gillian, Velma M. White, Anna White, Lena Garst, Josie Johnson and John W. Carver.

By Fred Beeler, in 1908

Of the old settlers, a few of them are still living in Walnut Township in the enjoyment of well earned fortunes they founded in the early times, but the greater part of them have passed away, and others, in the nature of things, will not long survive. Several are in the South and West, where they are all playing the part of pioneers. But wherever they may be, and whatever fate may betide them, it is but truth to say that they were excellent men and women as a class, and have left deep and enduring impression on Walnut Township and Madison County. They built better than they knew; they were men and women of energy and activity, invariably poor, but brave hearted, and few long remained poor, doubtless owing to the fact they lived within their means, however limited, and the result was prosperity and contentment. With always a cordial welcome to their fireside and table for the stranger, yet for several years these pioneers lived under great privations and discouragement. In years gone it was noticeable with what affection the pioneers spoke of their log cabins, and it may be doubted whether palaces ever sheltered happier hearts than those lonely cabins. They were made of logs, notched together at the corners, ribbed with poles and covered with clapboards. A puncheon floor was then laid down, a hole cut in the end of the structure and a stick chimney run up. A clapboard door was built and a window was made by cutting a hole in the side or end, about sixteen or eighteen inches square and finished without glass. Logs were then chinked with mud made of top soil.

The first white settlers in Walnut Township were John Mars and Tom Carr, who, it is said, furnished to settlers who came later on, meat from hogs running wild here at the time. It was claimed the hogs got away from the Mormon emigrants passing through Union County on their way to Salt Lake and strayed to this locality. Among the next, and we might say permanent settlers, were Aaron and Jesse Hiatt, Ben and Jacob Brown, who built the first water mill across Clanton; James Emerson, the Marshalls, Rhynos, John Guiberson, McClures, Drakes, Burdicks, the five brothers, Elijah, Job, Thomas, John and William Smith, and their venerable parents.

Grandfather and Grandmother Walker, as they were familiarly called, with their three sons, S. M., William and J. V. Walker, Ben Roberts, Alex Lorimor, who built the first steam sawmill in the township; the Hiltons, Fivecoats, Flanigans, McGuires, Paul Jones, Levi Mease, Tiltons, Fowlers, Isaac Reager, Dan Baker, were also among the early settlers.

The first county bridge in Walnut Township, across Clanton, was built in 1863 or 1864, near where Austin Reed now lives. There had been a number of so called bridges of logs constructed across this stream. They were covered with poles and had puncheon floors. When the freshets came they were certain to be washed away. But at that time the streams were much narrower than now and we had no difficulty in securing trees along the banks to reach across them. And that calls to mind the majestic trees which at that time graced each side or bank of our water courses, black and white walnut, three kinds of elms, hard and soft maple, hackberry, hickory, ash and the stately white and yellow cottonwood; linn, commonly called basswood, and also the buckeyes, which caused the early settler any amount of grief, both in early spring and fall, as the cattle while browsing in the fall would eat the buckeyes and founder on them, and not infrequently the result would prove fatal.


Barney is a hamlet and station on the Great Western Railroad. It was laid out in May, 1887, by R. A. Patterson, county surveyor, for Alexander Macumber, and is located on section 31. The place has a store, shops and a church - the Christian. Close by is a school. It has a postoffice, with one rural route. (See chapter on postoffices.)

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