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


FREDONIA is the second civil subdivision from the eastern line of the county, and lies on the county's north line. It comprises congresgional township ninety three, range forty four west, thus containing thirty six even sections. Sioux county bounds it on the north, Meadow township on the east, Marion on the south and Elgin on the west. Its territory formerly belonged with that of Elgin township, but, by an act of the board of county supervisors, June 5, 1871, it was made a separate civil township. It is a most excellent agricultural section, and has come to be well improved throughout. Among its citizens may be found many of the well to do people of the county. The soil is famous for its great productiveness, and all the grains, grasses and fruits common to this latitude are grown in abundance, with seldom a failure of a crop.

The water courses of Fredonia are Willow creek, which flows from the northeast to the southwest part of the township, while the Floyd river is found in the northwest corner. Both of these streams have several lesser tributaries, which afford good drainage as well as water. In 1885 the state census gave Fredonia a population of 562 people, 336 being American born, while the greater part of the remainder were German and English. The forthcoming census (1890) will doubtless show that the township contains several hundred more people, as five years have wrought many changes, and it is reasonable to conjecture that this goodly section of Plymouth county has received her share of increase by immigration.

Early Settlement - To give the reader of local history an intelligent understanding of the section to be written about, much labor and painstaking research must be had, in first establishing the fact as to who it was that first claimed the location as his home - who was the first actual settler. In this township the honor, for such it is, belongs to a man named Elder Dawns, who entered a homestead on a part of section six, in the autumn of 1868. He removed to Elgin township about 1875, and now lives in Cherokee county. Prior to his coming, a claim had been taken by a man named Romans, who selected lands in the summer of 1868.

The second settler in Fredonia township, as now constituted, was William Jackson, who came from Oconomowoc, Wis., in the fall of 1868, and took up land on section eighteen. He built a house and improved his land, and is still an honored pioneer of the county, now living at the village of Seney.

Next came two cousins, Web and Watt Freeman, who came from De Kalb county, Ill.; they landed here March 4, 1869, the day of Gen. U. S. Grant's first inaugural, which historic fact impressed the date of their coming indelibly upon their minds. They entered homesteads on section eight, which they still retain. Web was a single man at that time, and in the fall of 1882 he was elected county recorder, and served acceptably for four years. He then returned to his farm, remained until January, 1890, when he engaged in the drug business at Le Mars.

Other early homesteaders in Fredonia were Wallace Winslow, now a resident of Le Mars, who claimed a part of section eight, as did George Darville. William and C. K. Sweetzer settled on section four; they later sold and moved to Oregon. Mrs. N. W. Knowlton homesteaded on section four. She remained there until her death, in 1884 or 1885. E. D. Gould settled on section eighteen.

Milton and Morgan Coolbaugh, two brothers, settled on section twenty, where they still reside. R. M. Varnum came from Canada in the fall of 1869, and selected lands on section four, where he now resides, an honored and thrifty farmer. Henry Heide came from Illinois, in 1870, and claimed a portion of section four, which he still lives upon. Other early corners will be mentioned in the biographical department of this work, as well as much concerning those already mentioned.

Great has been the change since the first few homesteaders squatted upon the broad trackless prairies of Fredonia, in 1869, and the present time. Then there was no sort of improvement or mark of civilized life between this township and the settlement near Mankato, Minn. These first few settlers were compelled to draw their supplies from Sioux City. The roads were in a bad condition, few bridges were in the county, and the whole aspect was anything but cheery to the pioneer's heart, which, however, bravely endured all, and many have succeeded in "pulling through," and are now in comfortable circumstances, and surrounded by railroads, schools and churches.

The people of today know but little of the days of hard winters and high water marks in this county. It is a law of nature and philosophy that the older and more improved a country becomes, the greater the rainfall, but the streams we term rivers and creeks become correspondingly diminished, as the upturned soil absorbs the moisture instead of serving to convey it to the larger streams, and, eventually, to the ocean.

It is the opinion of Mr. Freeman, one of the first homesteaders of Fredonia, that the highest water mark along the streams of this portion of Plymouth county, since its settlement at any rate, was in the spring of 1870. Many places the water was several miles wide. On one occasion Mr. Freeman attached his wagon cover to his tight jointed wagon box, and sailed several miles across the bottom lands along the Floyd river.

The most noted winter for deep and long continued snow storms was that of 1880-81, which was nearly as bad as the famous winter of 1856, which settlers in Cherokee and Ida counties tell so much of. The pioneers of Fredonia speak of valleys and ravines fifty feet in depth being filled to the level, and then crusted so as to enable teams to pass over them, while all the tall native trees were beneath them, The following spring every bridge across the Floyd river, except the big iron bridge at Sioux City, was swept away, at great loss to the county.

First Events. - The first man to claim land in Fredonia township was Mr. Romans, who came in 1868. The first actual settler was Elder Dacons, who came in the fall of 1868 and built the first house, the lumber for which was brought from Sioux City.

In all probability the first person born in this township was George Varnum, son of Mr. and Mrs. R. M. Varnum. The first death was that of Herbie Sweetzer, in 1872. The first three marriages were those of William Elsworth, James Haviland and Charles Sweetzer. The first voting done by citizens from this township (when it was yet included in America), was at the special election in February, 1870. It was held at the log school house, known as the Redmon school house, located two miles south of Le Mars.

The first term of school was taught in a granary building belonging to Watt Freeman, on section eight. It was in 1870. In 1872 the frame school buildings in districts Nos. 1 and 2 were erected.

The first religious services in the township were also held in the granary of Mr. Freeman in the spring of 1870. It was conducted by the Methodist people. After the school houses were erected services were held in them. There are no church buildings in the township.

Among the accidents which proved fatal in this township may be mentioned that which befell a young German, who was instantly killed by lightning while in a cellar, to which he had gone for refuge from a terrible thunderstorm, some time in the seventies. About the same time Frank Bass had two sons - young men - killed in a barn during a cyclone.

Schools. - At this date, 1890, the schools of Fredonia township are in a flourishing condition. There are now seven sub-districts, each having a good frame school building. The total enrollment of pupils, according to the county superintendent's last annual report, was 204. The best of teachers, mostly female, are engaged to teach after improved and advanced methods.

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