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


THE part of Plymouth county now known as Elgin civil township was taken from territory once included in America township. It is described as congressional township ninety three, range forty five, west. Being six miles square, it contains 23,040 acres of land, than which there is no finer tract in the limits of any county in Iowa.

It was detached and organized through an act of the board of supervisors, June 8, 1870. Its boundaries are Sioux county on the north, Fredonia township on the east, America on the south, and Grant, on the west. The Floyd river meanders through several sections of the southeast corner of the territory; the West Fork of Floyd river courses its way continuously through the western portion. Willow creek also is another stream found in the south and eastern parts. These streams and their many small feeders provide the township with an ample supply of water for stock purposes, and, also, give a thorough and natural drainage system, which pre-eminently fits the soil for the bountiful crops so frequently harvested in this part of Plymouth county.

The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha railway crosses this township diagonally from northeast to southwest, while the Sioux City & Northern railroad crosses the north and west portions of the township. The villages of this township are Seney, on the former named railroad, and Struble, a station on section five, along the line of the recently constructed Sioux City & Northern railroad.

In 1885 Elgin township had a population of 600, which was made up of 400 American born and 200 foreign born, the greater per cent of whom were either German or English. The present census returns will certainly show a marked increase in population, as well as in valuation of property.

The First Settlers. - Around the first cluster of pioneer settlers who venture out in advance as vanguards to civilization, there is always connected more of interest and curiosity than about those of a subsequent coming. The first to invade the wild prairie lands of Elgin township was Jacob Rubel who came from Philadelphia, Penn., and went to Omaha, Neb., in 1867. At that time he could have purchased almost any lot in what has now come to be the great central city and railroad hub of the Missouri valley, for $300 or $400. He went north to Sioux City, then a small town, and from there he walked to where Le Mars now stands, and stopped over night with Capt. Betsworth, who lived, "monarch of all he surveyed," in a log cabin on the east bank of the river. Mr. Rubel finally claimed, as his homestead, the west half of the southwest quarter of section thirty four. This was October 3, 1867, and he at once moved to his place, and is still an. honored and well to do farmer, now possessing 240 acres of as fine land as the county, or even the state of Iowa, affords. The greater portion of his excellent farm is located in America township, but joins his homestead, which is across the line in Elgin. This first settler, a German - relates much of interest, showing the hardships and privations of a prairie frontiersman. To show that all was then wild and like a wilderness, it needs only to be stated that even two years after his coming he found many droves of elk and deer. In the winter of 1868-69 he found a drove of over 100, which had been run down, and were so wearied by their chase for life, that they could easily be approached, and Mr. Rubel was able to get within a few feet of them, and after looking them all over finally drew his old style musket and killed a fine one. He quartered it and surprised the family upon his return, with plenty of fresh meat. After having killed the animal, however, he had great difficulty in finding his way home over the trackless prairie, which was then mantled in deep snow.

The next settler to take a homestead in Elgin township was Robert Taylor, who settled on section thirty four, in the month of December, 1867, finished his claim shanty on Christmas day, but moved from the township in 1871. Cassa Boyes was next to claim a homestead upon Elgin's fertile soil. He came in 1868 and settled on the northeast quarter of section thirty six, where he is still a prosperous farmer.

Stephen Reeves settled on the southwest quarter of section thirty six, in 1868. He was one of a large number of persons who came from near Elgin, Ill., and in honor of their old home this township was named, in place of the time honored custom, in many localities, of naming after the first settler, which, in this case, would have been Rubel. Mr. Reeves is still a resident of Elgin township and one of its most highly esteemed citizens. In company with him, came his son, Samuel Reeves, who claimed the north half of the northeast quarter of section twenty six. About 1880 he removed to Nebraska. George and John Reeves, brothers of Stephen, came about the same time, from the same part of Illinois. John died early in the eighties. John Trigg, who is still a resident of the township, came in and claimed land, in 1868, on the south half of the northwest quarter of section twenty four. Henry Dougherty, who came from Illinois in 1868. settled on a homestead, taking a part of section twenty six, which he still owns. A Swede named Charlie Johnson came in 1868, to section thirty, where he still resides. He was also from Illinois. Two brothers, named Wood, emigrated with the Illinois company, in 1868-69, and settled on section twenty eight. K. O. Wood settled on the northeast quarter of the section and remained until 1885, when he removed to Sioux county, Iowa. His brother, Savilian, generally known as "Jack," went to the Black Hills at the time of the first great gold excitement, and was killed by the Indians. James Haviland and sons came from Illinois in 1868 or 1869, and homesteaded on section twenty eight. The entire family removed to Washington territory early in the eighties. The north half of the southwest quarter of section twenty six was homesteaded by Harry Hammond in 1869. He proved up after the five year limit, and then sold out. He now lives on the farm of Capt. Betsworth, his father in law, in America township.

George Darvill came from Illinois in 1868 and homesteaded the northeast quarter of section twenty six, where he still resides. James Allison, who was a New Zealander by birth, had seen much of the globe, but finally concluded this the place he wanted to make a home in, and consequently claimed land on section twenty six in 1868. He remained until 1885 and then removed to California. He is a single man, living on the money he has made.

U. B. Keniston was another settler of 1868. He homesteaded the west half of the southwest quarter of section twenty four. In a few months he became homesick, and sold his claim to Mr. Reeves. He finally relocated elsewhere in the township, but is now living in Akron village. A man by the name of Elder Dacons settled, in 1868, on the above named Keniston farm. C. B. Hobart was an early settler of 1869. He came from Illinois and purchased land on section twenty four and also homesteaded some. He removed several years later to Kansas, but still retains his lands in Elgin township. John Detloff, another settler from Illinois, settled about 1869, on section seventeen. Joseph Obermaier came early in the seventies and claimed land on section seventeen, where he still resides. G. J. Balsinger came to this township from Illinois in 1870, and took land on section thirty four. He is a native of Switzerland and is among the highly honored men of Elgin township. Another settler of 1870 was F. A. Wood, who also came from Illinois, and located on section thirty three, where he still resides. George Wright came in 1870 and claimed land on section twenty eight as his homestead right. He moved away many years ago.

First Events. - The first house was built by Jacob Rubel of cottonwood lumber, which cost him $28 per 1,000 feet in Sioux City, and he remarks that it cost nearly as much more to get nails with which to hold the boards from warping off the farm. This building stands as a curious wooden monument of what homestead life was at an early day in Plymouth county.

The first child born in Elgin township was Joseph S. Rubel, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Rubel. He was born July 21, 1868, and is now living in Chicago, an enterprising young man, who is an honor to his parents and his native township.

The first death in the township was that of Mrs. Taylor, wife of William Taylor, a pioneer homesteader. She died in 1870.

The first marriage within the township was that of Mr. W. S. Clark and Miss Anna McGulpin, about 1870. It proved an unhappy marriage on account of rum, which has ruined and blasted so many an otherwise fair home.

The first school house was erected in 1871 on section twenty four. The first term of school taught was private, and kept by the seventeen year old daughter of Pioneer Stephen Reeves, Miss Elsie, now the estimable wife of George Darvill. This term was taught in 1870, with only a few children, but the teacher was good and faithful - even as she is today - a model woman, who has since that time seen many hardships.

Village of Seney. - Seney is a station on the Omaha railway line, platted December 7, 1872, on section twenty three, of Elgin township. While it is but a mere hamlet, yet it serves well its purpose, as here are general stores and grain markets sufficient for the convenience of the surrounding farmers, who find it too far to go to Le Mars, eight miles to the southwest.

The first to engage in any sort of trade at this point, were Reeves Bros., who dealt in grain and lumber, in the autumn of 1873. In 1874 I. S. Small opened up a general store, principally groceries. He sold out to George Reeves, and soon the firm was Reeves & March; nest, March Bros.; then, V. B. March; then, E. March. The store property burned while in the last named person's hands - in 1886.

A general store was also opened in 1878 by J. T. Reeves & Co., which later ran as J. T. Reeves alone. He sold in 1887 to I. E. Eldredge, who still conducts the business in a successful manner.

In addition to the above general store, there is a grocery and hardware combined, operated by E. March, which was opened in September, 1889.

The present blacksmith of the place is S. A. Aukerman, who also does wagon repairing.

The grain business, in 1890, is in the hands of F. H. Peavy & Co. and A. W. Gilbert. The live stock interests are represented by I. E. Eldredge, who buys and ships large numbers of hogs and cattle.

A postoffice was first established at Seney in 1873, with S. J. Howe as postmaster. In 1874 he was succeeded by I. S. Small; then followed George Reeves, and next, Mr. March. From him the commission fell upon J. T. Reeves, and in 1887, after eight years, it passed from him to his successor in trade, I. E. Eldredge, who took the office June 1, 1887. It became a money order office July 1, 1884. The first order was issued to J. T. Reeves, for the amount of $1, payable to W. N. Davidson, Luverne, Minn. The business is increasing. The last serial number of money order, granted June 4, 1890, was 646, while there have been issued 941 "postal notes."

The Methodist Episcopal church of Seney had its commencement by the formation of a class in 1870, which numbered about thirty souls, all faithful, self sacrificing men and women, with Stephen Reeves as their leader. They assembled at Mr. Reeves' house, where many precious meetings were held for worship. Upon the completion of the school house on section twenty four, in 1871, they met there until the school house was built at Seney, in 1876. Here they met until they erected a church edifice at a cost of $1,600, in 1880. It is a frame building, twenty eight by forty feet, will seat 175 people, and is provided with a 760 pound bell. The work was done by Mr. Marsters, and the lots, two in number, were donated by the railroad company. A parsonage, which cost $450, was built prior to the church edifice. The present membership of the church is forty five. A good Sabbath school, which averages fifty five pupils, is a great aid to the church proper. W. C. Lancaster is the superintendent. The following have served as pastors at this point: Rev. J. T. Walker, Rev. H. D. Brown, Rev. Thornberg, Rev. Bachelor, Rev. (" Prof.") Binks, Rev. Edgar, Rev. Pendel, Rev. Edgar, Rev. Parfitt, Rev. Rigby, Rev. Allnutt, Rev. Benedict, Rev. Delano and the present pastor, Rev. King.

The society wish to have it made a matter of record in history that they have not always been favored with the most spiritual or talented clergymen, and in consequence of this, as much as any one thing, the society today is not in a prosperous condition. One of the earliest pastors, it is related, was actually so lazy that he used to sit in his chair, with his coat off, in the warm summer days of the early seventies, and preach to his people, instead of mustering enough ambition to stand for thirty minutes, while the congregation suffered what he had to give them. One old pioneer tells us that this preacher missed his calling, because he was too lazy to hear the call, while another says he had understood the Scriptures to mean "laziness (instead of cleanliness) is next to Godliness." The officers of this society in 1890 (present year), are; Pastor, Rev. King; stewards F. A. Wood, Walter Darvill, John Lancaster, Thomas Smith, Nat Freeman, Henry Darvill; recording steward, John Lancaster.

Struble Station. - This is one of the last villages platted in the county, and dates from the fall of 1889. When the Sioux City & Northern railroad was built, this became a station on section five. It was also made a postoffice about March 1, 1890, with O. D. Laird as postmaster. The only business found here now is a general stock, kept by Eldredge & Laird, who embarked in merchandising and grain shipping in February, 1890; a hardware and implement store, by Ritter Bros.; live stock shippers, Isaac Speer and Peacock & Sons. A blacksmith shop completes the list to June, 1890.

Return to [ Iowa History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ] [ Iowa Biographies ]

Iowa Counties at this web site Audubon County - Buchanan County - Dickinson County - Fayette County - Hancock County - Iowa County - Madison County - Marion County - Plymouth County - Sac County - Wapello County - Winnebago County - Woodbury County

Also see the local histories for [ CT ] [ IA ] [ IL ] [ IN ] [ KS ] [ ME ] [ MO ] [ MI ] [ NE ] [ NJ ] [ NY ] [ PA ] [ OH ] [ PA ] [ WI ]

All pages copyright 2003-2013. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy