History of America Township, Plymouth County, IA
From: History of the Counties of Woodbury and Plymouth, Iowa
A Warner & Co., Publishers
Chicago Illinois, 1890-91


AMERICA is the central subdivision of Plymouth county. It is constituted of congressional township ninety two, range forty four west, and hence contains thirty six full sections, equivalent to 23,040 acres of land. In many respects it may well be classed as the banner township of the county. It is south of Elgin township, west of Marion, north of Stanton, and east of Washington township. In it is located the city of Le Mars, which is the seat of justice, the county seat of Plymouth county. The Illinois Central (old Dubuque & Sioux City) railroad passes from the northeast to the southwest, forming a junction with the Minneapolis & Omaha railway at Le Mars. The latter road follows a northern course into Elgin township, where it bears to the northeast.

The principal streams in America township are the Floyd river, which runs from the northeast to the southwest; Plymouth creek in the southwestern portion, and the West Fork of the Floyd river in the northwest part. Along these streams may be found some of the choicest farming lands in all northern Iowa.

Originally America was embraced in territory known as Plymouth and Lincoln townships, but the date of its distinct organization was September 2, 1867, when its entire population consisted of Americans, with the exception of three persons, hence the township's name.

In 1885 the total population, exclusive of the city of Le Mars, numbered 650, of which 416 were American.

Early Settlement - The pioneer of this part of Plymouth county was W. S. McCurdy, who was by trade a brick maker, and who worked at that business in Sioux City, but at an early day became a resident of Plymouth township, Plymouth county, near the original county seat, Melbourne. It was in the early springtime of 1866 that he homesteaded a part of section twenty of what is now designated as America township. He still resides there, an honored and successful farmer.

The next man to set his claim stakes was Capt. B. F. Betsworth, who emigrated from Kane county, Ill., and who, in the spring of 1866, after a long, muddy and tedious trip across the state to Sioux City, finally reached his claim on June 28. He "squatted" on railroad land, which he purchased of the state afterward. His location was section nine, upon which a part of the present city of Le Mars is now situated. Later on he traded the land for three times its amount in acres, with the railroad company, who platted a town site upon it.

The following fall (1866) America township was organized by eight voters - not quite enough to fill the several township offices. In company with Capt. Betsworth came his grown son, J. H. Betsworth, and his family, who settled on section seventeen. He remained six years and finally removed to California. Henry Carmichael, a son in law of Capt. Betsworth, also accompanied them and took a claim on section seventeen. Andrew Black, who came in from Minnesota, settled on a homestead on section twenty two. He was a single man at the time.

In 1867, during the month of July, came J. P. Ladd from Kane county, Ill., and took the north half of section sixteen. He is now a wealthy farmer of Woodbury county. Amos Marvin came at the same time and from the same locality. He homesteaded a portion of section ten, but now resides in Sioux City. Walter Clark, of Kane county, also settled on section ten. He is now a carpenter at Sioux City. Joseph Carrington, an Englishman, came in 1867, and settled on the southwest quarter of section eight, where he still lives. It was about 1868-69 when John Blodgett and B. O. Foster came from Maine and located in the township. In 1869 they operated a general store - the first of the new town of Le Mars.

From 1868 to the time the railroad was completed in 1870, there were no settlers, other than those mentioned. From that date on settlement has rapidly increased.

Events of Interest - The first human habitation in America township was a half dozen logs rolled together, with a sort of covering of sheets, quilts, etc., and this made a camping claim shanty for W. S. McCurdy and his family. The first real house was the log structure erected on the east bank of the Floyd river, at a point where the bridge and brick yard are now located, in the city of Le Mars. This was built and owned by Pioneer Capt. Betsworth, and was raised in 1866. It was constructed of cottonwood and willow logs, and covered with cottonwood shingles, brought from Sioux City. The first frame house was built by Messrs. Betsworth & Clark, for J. P. Ladd, and is still standing on the town plat of Le Mars.

The first child born in America township was John Betsworth, Jr., sou of John Betsworth, Sr., and a grandson of Capt. Betsworth. He was born in June, 1867. The first death was that of Mother Taylor, an English lady, who passed from earth in 1869. Capt. Betsworth went to Sioux City to procure her coffin.

The first term of school was taught in a log building on the line between sections seventeen and twenty, in 1867. It was a fall school, taught by J. H. Betsworth. The first frame school building was a two story house erected on the plat of Le Mars, and is still used for school purposes. It was built of pine and cottonwood lumber, and was considered too large by some of the citizens. B. O. Foster, an early settler, remarked that, " We will never fill that school building in the world." He was mistaken, for the city of Le Mars has already erected two spacious public school buildings, and is about to erect a third.

The first religious services in the township were held at the house of Capt. Betsworth, by a German Evangelist, in the fall of 1867. The Methodist Episcopal people were the first to organize a regular society and to erect the first church edifice. Meetings were held in the railroad depot in 1869.

Fatalities. - During a thunderstorm of unusual severity, July 25, 1884, Mrs. Michael Ferguson, in Foster's addition to Le Mars, was standing in the yard of her residence, feeding some chickens, when she was struck by lightning and instantly dropped dead. The side of her head and her breast were burned to a crisp. A near neighbor, seeing her fall, supposed she had slipped down, and at once went to help her up, when to her astonishment she found the. poor creature dead and badly mutilated by the electric shock. Her husband was engineer at the roller mills.

Another terrible death took place in Le Mars during the month of February, 1876, in a tenement house in the west end, by which the fire fiend burned to death a woman named Nora Niermeyer, and her three children, John, Henry and Frankie. The fire originated from coals of fire left in the ash pan, which had been carelessly set by the wood shed.

The first to reach the burning house was James Andrews and George Pugh. It occurred in the dead of night, when all were sleeping. The husband was roused, but, coming to the door half asleep and horrified, could not direct the men to the bed chamber until it was too late to gain admittance, and the family thus perished. The building had been used for a hotel at one time, and there were other families then living there, but they made good their escape.

To the list of fatal accidents in Le Mars may be added the sad case of Frank Benniek, a nine year old son of D. H. Bennick, who, in 1881, fell into his father's well, which was thirty five feet deep. He fell head foremost, penetrating the mire and sand in the bottom of the well, while his feet appeared just above the water's edge when discovered. He was taken from the well alive, but never regained his consciousness.

Postoffice and Schools. - The first postoffice in the township was established on section seventeen, with James Garrison as postmaster. He was succeeded by Mr. Blodgett, who was also the first postmaster at Le Mars.

Deep interest was taken by the first few homestead settlers in getting good schools started as soon as possible. At first the rude log houses served; then were reared the better frame houses. The present public school system is, indeed, a good one. In America township, exclusive of the city of Le Mars, there are five sub-districts, five good school buildings, and 140 pupils enrolled. See Chapter XXXVI, for further concerning the schools of America township.

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