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


THIS is the least in size of any of the twenty four civil townships of Plymouth county. It comprises seventeen full sections and several fractional parts of sections of congressional township ninety, range forty eight west. The area and irregular shape is occasioned by the boundary line on the west, between Iowa and South Dakota, being the Big Sioux river, the course of which is very meandering. At one time Hancock was a part of Perry township, but was set apart as a separate organization on April 3, 1883. It is situated on the west line of the county and state as well. Sioux township is on its north, Perry on the east and Woodbury county on the south. It contains about 13,000 acres of land. Broken Kettle creek passes through the northwestern portion of its territory, and has its confluence with the Big Sioux river on section nine. Topographically, this township is extremely rough and hilly, almost mountain like. In 1885 its population was 150, with only thirty of foreign birth.

Early Settlement. - Let the reader turn his thoughts from the present, and view, in his most vivid fancy, the territory embraced in this part of the county, as it might have been seen prior to 1854, during which year Surrell Benoist, a Frenchman who had married a squaw, by whom a family was reared, found his way up the Missouri river to this spot, and took a squatter's claim, as this was before the land had been surveyed by the government.

For years this was the only inhabitant of the township. The place he claimed is the fine bottom farm now owned by Joseph La Berge, on section thirty five, township ninety, range forty eight. It is in the most romantic and picturesque portion of the famous Big Sioux valley, at a point about seven miles northwest of Sioux City. This Frenchman looked upon the fertile valley just as it had been left by the savage Indian tribes, that had recently made it their hunting and fishing ground, but who had caught the faint but certainly increasing echo of civilization, with its steady tramp of conquest, and hence sought a still more secluded home, farther to the northwest. Upon this tract was built a log cabin, which stood on the exact spot where now a portion of Mr. La Berge's farm house stands. Although more than a third of a century ago this pioneer cabin was reared, yet some of the logs are about the premises, in a fair state of preservation, having been made use of in the first dwelling built on the place by Mr. La Berge, who came to the locality during the month of May, 1867, and became the second squatter on the same place, Benoist, the first settler, having abandoned it. It was in 1857 that a man named Verrigutt squatted on section twenty seven and remained until about 1863.

When Joseph La Berge became a settler of the township, he found John Hardin, who came from Pennsylvania, living on section twenty seven, where he had pre-empted his land, and where he remained until 1878, and then removed to Washington territory. Section fifteen had for its occupants old Mr. Conley, who was Hardin's father in law, with his three sons, John, Richard and Allen. B. B. Sutton, another settler in the north part of the township, lived on Broken Kettle creek, and was a conspicuous figure in the first organization of the county. He finally sold and moved to Kansas. Section three was settled by Ezra Carpenter, who came from Dakota about 1865. He afterward removed to Arkansas.

In 1868 Joseph Benoist (French) made a settlement on the southeast quarter of section twenty three, where he lived about five years. Section thirty six was settled on by Timothy Harrington, who took advantage of the homestead act. He now resides in Sioux City. Henry Multhoup was another early homesteader to claim land on section thirty six. He is also in Sioux City at present. Mr. Wood located on section twenty three in 1869, but only remained a short period. J. H. Cowell bought lands on section fifteen about this time. He is still a resident of the township.

W. D. Carlisle settled on section twelve in 1870. He is still there, and is a prosperous and honored citizen. Frank West, another pioneer settler of section twelve, proved up on his homestead and sold to Duncan Ross, now a prosperous farmer of Dakota.

In 1878 T. Farsee homsteaded a portion of section twelve.

In 1879 came James Daily. He came from Sioux City, and lived on what is now known as the Marks farm. He removed in 1881. He also purchased land on section twenty three.

Other early pioneers were Messrs. Lamoureaux, Easton and Denisten. From 1873 on, until after the grasshopper plague had passed away, in 1877, but few, if any, came in as settlers. The greater part of the township being extremely uneven, in some places rough and hilly enough to be called mountainous in this prairie country, other parts of the county were settled first.

Early Events. - The first election in what is now Hancock township was held in the school house on section ten, known as the "Massey school," in 1883.

The first death in the township was that of Richard Connolly, who was killed by an early settler named Benoist, a Frenchman, with whom he had a difficulty in February, 1872. On the ground of partial self defense the man was sent to state's prison for one year.

The first birth within Hancock township was that of George, a son of Donzitte Lamoureaux, born in October, 1869.

The first marriage was that of Abe Sutton, son of B. B. Sutton, who was married not later than 1867.

Schools, Etc. - The first school in this township was taught in 1868, at the private residence of Pioneer B. B. Sutton, by an old gentleman named Carrons. A school building was erected on section twenty six, in 1869, by Joseph La Berge, who says he paid $6 per 1,000 for the shingles used, and as much in proportion for all the lumber.

At present the township is divided into four sub-districts, each having comfortable buildings. The total enrollment of pupils in 1889 was fifty seven. Great care is used in and about the school grounds, and the same have been ornamented by eighty beautiful shade trees. Accident - Among the fatal accidents which have occurred in the township, may be mentioned the death of Pioneer Knapp, who was killed by lightning, during a slight hurricane, about 1875. It is related that he, in company with others, had sought shelter by a granary or barn, and that while there they saw an out building blown over, which sight provoked laughter from Mr. Knapp, and that at that instant he was stricken dead by the lightning, and that so sudden was the shock, that even for hours after death, his face wore a smile, terrible as it was for friends to behold.

Grasshoppers. - Pioneer "Jo" La Berge fixes the date of the first coming of the grasshoppers in his section of the country, as August 27 1868, at eleven o'clock, A. M., when the sun was darkened, as if by a heavy snow storm filling the atmosphere. The fine prospect for crops was entirely removed before sunset that eventful day, as all vegetation was destroyed.

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