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


WHAT is termed Plymouth civil township comprises all of congressional township ninety one, range forty six. It was constituted in August, 1858, when the county was organized. Plymouth then covered the entire domain of the county, but in 1860 Lincoln was created, which divided the territory, leaving Plymouth to be described as follows: Township ninety, ranges forty three, forty four, forty five and forty six; township ninety one, ranges forty three, forty four, forty five and forty six; township ninety three, ranges forty three and forty four. As now constituted Plymouth is situated south of Washington, west of Stanton, north of Hungerford and east of Liberty townships.

It is one of the most highly cultivated and most desirable portions of the county. It is well supplied with numerous small streams, including the Floyd river, in the central part, and the West fork of that stream, which enters the territory on section two. The population of the township in 1885, was 400, but is now several hundred greater. The combined lines of the Illinois Central and Minneapolis & Omaha railways traverse the territory from northeast to southwest, with a station on section eleven called Merrill. The Sioux City & Northern railway runs through the township parallel with the above line, or nearly so.

The oldest plat now found on the Plymouth county "Village plat book" is Melbourne, which was laid off by C. C. Orr, April 12, 1860. It was situated on section thirty four of what is now Plymouth township. This was the county seat until about 1870, when Le Mars sprang into existence and was made the seat of justice.

Early Settlement - The early settlement of this township is virtually the early settlement of Plymouth county as well, for it will be remembered that the first pioneers located along the beautiful valleys of the Big Sioux and Floyd rivers, in 1856-57. In July, 1856, the Schneider family came from Ogle county, Ill. Jacob Schneider preempted land on section thirty four and Philip Schneider on thirty three; Jacob still resides on the same land, while his brother Philip owns his farm, but recently removed to Sioux City. At the same time (1856) came their brothers, John and Henry Schneider. John preempted land in Hungerford township, where he still resides. The same county in Illinois furnished several more of the pioneer band of Plymouth township, Peter Schindel settling on section thirty three and Peter Emmett on section twenty seven. Christian Schmidt came at the same time and took land on section twenty seven also. He was a resident of the place until his death, in 1888. E. Held came the same year, together with his several sons. They pre-empted land, remained several years, but later sold and removed to Nebraska. The old gentleman died and the family are again in Plymouth county.

Another pioneer of considerable note was Benjamin Stafford, who settled on section thirty four. He platted a town site there, known as Melbourne. He was a sort of new country roamer and soon went on farther west, some time during the Civil war. Louis Winters came in during 1862, and took land on section twenty eight. He became insane a few years since, and is now in the hospital for the insane at Independence. John Winters, upon his return from the war, came to Plymouth township and made a settlement. He removed to Nebraska in 1887, but still retains his land here.

But few settlers came to the township from early in the Civil war period until the railroad era - 1869-70. All marketing, milling and postal business had to be transacted at Sioux City up to that time. The settlers were few, and their wants were supplied largely by what the rich soil would produce for them.

The grasshopper years, as the settlers who lived here from 1874 to 1879 term them, were indeed plague years, and caused times that verily tried men's souls. Many had to borrow money, and pay an excessive interest on the same, for the purpose of procuring seed grain, and then, the day before harvest was to begin, see the broad and beautiful acres totally destroyed by these pests; not alone for one year but for four and five years in succession did this misfortune befall the settlers of this county.

First Events. - The first birth was that of a son of Mr. and Mrs. Philip Schneider, named Jacob. He was born in the fall of 1857, and is still living in his native township.

The earliest death was that of a boy baby of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Schindel, who passed from earth in the autumn of 1857.

The first marriage in Plymouth township was that of Morgan Stafford to Catharine Schmidt, in 1858.

Schools and Churches. - The first term of school was taught at Melbourne before the court house was erected at that point.

The first church edifice in the county was reared in Plymouth township by the Evangelical people, at the close of the Rebellion. It was a frame building, standing on the southwest quarter of section thirty four; and it served the society until 1874, when it had become too small for the rapidly increasing church membership. It was sold to Mr. Wilcox, and a better, larger church erected on the same site. The new edifice cost $2,100. Its size is thirty by fifty five feet. As evinced by the many churches and schools in this portion of Plymouth county, one can easily infer that the first settlers were a God fearing and intelligent class of people. At a very early day they commenced to lay well the foundation for the present school and church privileges - second to none in the county.

School matters have ever been properly conducted, and hence eminently successful, and today one finds an intelligent class of people as the result. The township has now five sub-districts, each containing a good sized frame school house. The average enrollment' in 1889 was 131 pupils.

The Evangelical church was organized in 1858, by sixteen members of German nationality, as follows: Philip Schneider and wife, John Schneider and wife, Peter Schindel and wife, Christian Schmidt and wife, Mary Launbach, Henry and Jacob Schneider, Philip Schmidt, Miss Catharine Schmidt, Christiana Schmidt, Peter Emmett, Daniel Schneider and Mrs. Elizabeth Schneider. The first meetings were held at the house of Philip Schneider in July, 1858, and next at the school house on section thirty four. At one time the church had a membership of 140 members, but on account of removals, death, etc., at the present time has not more than 100. A parsonage was built near the church, in 1885, at a cost of about $600.

The following have served as pastors of this church, which was the first to herald the gospel in Plymouth county, the date of its organization being identical with the organization of the county itself: Rev. J. F. Schreiber (missionary), one year; Rev. Henry Kleinsolgei, two years; Rev. Fred Benner, two years; Rev. Buncy, two years; Rev. Sanders, two years; Rev. Zimmerman, one year, at the end of which season he died; Rev. Joseph Brennen, two years; Rev. Oren Buzzard, two years; Rev. Henry gleinsolgei, two years; Rev. Pflaum, three years; Rev. George Youngblood, three years; Rev. F. Loehie, three years; Rev. Pippert, three years; Rev. J. J. Miller, two years; Rev. G. Koehn, two years; Rev. S. L. Stabler, two years; Rev. Adam Goetchel, the present pastor.

Floyd Valley Odd Fellows' Lodge. - This is the oldest civic society in Plymouth county, and was formed during the month of October, 1870, by six members. Its number among the lodges of Iowa is 208. The first noble grand was Philip Schneider, the first vice grand was John Radermaher, and the first secretary was Leonard Koenig. The lodge met for some time at the farm house of Mr. Koenig, but after a few years built them a good hall on section thirty four, which they still use for lodge purposes. This hall was built in 1882 at a cost of $700. The present officers are: Albert Speis, N. G.; John Koenig, V. G.; Anton Hicky, treasurer; and Leonard Koenig, secretary. The order is in a growing and harmonious condition.

Village of Merrill. - At present Merrill is the only regularly platted town site in Plymouth township. It was originally platted February 27, 1872, by the Railroad & Town Lot Company. In the spring of 1888, William Frost, a pioneer homesteader and now a grain dealer at this point, bought land to the west of the old plat, and made an addition of about fifty acres. The first house erected at Merrill was by C. K. Smith and was used as a residence, and for a general store, as well. Mr. Smith being disappointed over the county seat not finally being located at Merrill, left the town and is now a prosperous grocer of Sioux City, Iowa.

Mr. Frost relates that in those early days, when he was a homesteader, and, in common with nearly all others, owed Mr. Smith for provisions, they were compelled to draw wheat in to him, and store it in a building until they got a car load, and then all hands go over and carry it to the car in wash tubs. It was a novel grain elevator, but Mr. Frost says it was never patented and only used one season, after which time the grasshoppers carried all the grain, free of charge!

The first dealer at Merrill was C. K. Smith, who commenced operating in a small way in 1870. He was "lord of all he surveyed," being merchant, railroad agent, express agent and postmaster.

The pioneer blacksmith to wield his sledge here was "Nick" Billings. The first to handle grain was J. H. Morf, who built an elevator. There was no lumber yard at Merrill until 1888, when Arthur S. Welch started in that line.

A postoffice was established in 1871. The postmasters have been as follows: C. K. Smith, J. H. Morf, A. Looney, Mrs. Beeman (kept at her hotel), Mrs. Dodson, the same lady, but who married Mr. Dodson; D. K. Tooker succeeded her and Fred Aldrich received the appointment in the spring of 1889 and still holds the office.

A bank was started in 1888, as a branch of the Le Mars National Bank. W. J. Lawrence is the cashier.

The present population of Merrill, by actual count taken in March, 1890, was 160. In 1890 its business interests comprise the following:

Agricultural implements - Veal & Vague.
Barber - William Weinheimer.
Blacksmiths - Harker & Sutter, Belan Bros.
Bank - Farmers' & Merchants'.
Drugs - Dr. Henry Nigg.
General dealers - Aldrich & Haylock, McCauley & Co., D. K. Tooker, J. L. Jenkins.
Grain dealers - Frost & Fullbrook.
Hardware - Aldrich & Haylock.
Harness shop - Joseph Elschamp.
Lumber - Knorr & Schaeffer.
Livery - John Anderson.
Millinery - Mrs. John C. Smith.
Meat market - T. J. Moore.
Physicians - Drs. Nigg and Jenkins.
Stock - Frost & Fullbrook.

The railroads of Merrill are now the Illinois Central, Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha and the Sioux City & Northern. It has come to be a good grain and stock shipping point.

When the railroad was being first built through Merrill, it was believed the county seat would be near there, and a district school house was erected, which served until 1889, when a better one was provided. It is a two room building, thirty two by forty four feet, costing $1,450.

At present there are three religious societies represented by organizations, the Methodist Episcopal, Free Methodists and Roman Catholic. The two mentioned last are now each erecting good buildings, while the Methodist Episcopal built a neat chapel in 1882, which is twenty six by fifty two feet and cost about $1,300. It is situated on the corner of Calhoun and Second streets.

The Methodist Episcopal church of Merrill was organized by Rev. Hiram T. Snyder in September, 1878. He was the first pastor appointed on the Merrill circuit. The members of the first class were: John Eastman, Mary Eastman, Maggy Eastman, Mr. and Mrs. Yerger, Henry Calhoun, Mrs. Calhoun, Mrs. Volney Tooker. The first class leader was Henry Calhoun, first Sunday school superintendent, John Patterson. Their building was badly damaged by the fearful wind storm of June, 1885. It was rebuilt and opened in September, 1889, by Pastor G. L. Griggs. Seven hundred dollars were raised at the time by Rev. Wilmot Whitfield. In 1889 a neat parsonage was built, which is twenty four by twenty four feet, costing $600.

The present membership of the church is eighteen. The Sabbath school is superintended by Rev. Griggs. The Merrill charge takes in an appointment in Lincoln township and one at the village of James, at which point a building was dedicated by Rev. G. L. Griggs, December 15, 1889. The edifice cost $1,600.

Casualties. - Among the sad occurrences that have transpired in Plymouth township, may be mentioned the death of a young man, one or two miles west of Merrill, who in trying to extinguish the flames with which a prairie fire had enveloped his house, perished before help reached him. His name is now forgotten, but early settlers will recall the great fire in which many thousand dollars' worth of farm property was destroyed. This man was a bachelor, twenty six years old, and a highly respected gentleman, who was working bard to secure a home for himself, and was soon to have been married.

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