History of Portland 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 northwestern township of Plymouth county, and is bounded on the north by Sioux county, on the east by Preston township, on the south by Westfield township, and on the west by the state line of Iowa, which is the Big Sioux river, in this locality. It now comprises congressional township ninety three, range forty eight, and a small portion of range forty nine west, also the upper tier of sections in township ninety two, but originally the territory was included in Johnson and Sioux townships. It was constituted as Portland township, June 5, 1872, and as now bounded contains about six miles square; it is, however, irregular in shape, on account of the river on the west.

The principal water courses are the Indian creek, in the north part; Bear creek, in the central part; and the Big Sioux, on the western border. In 1885 the population (aside from Akron village) numbered only 230, but has since greatly increased. The only village of the township is Akron, on section thirty one.

The Early Homesteaders. - To be a citizen of Portland township and a land owner there, in 1890, is a part of a man's life of which he need never be ashamed. Here one travels over the finest lay of land and the most fertile, easily tilled soil in the world. Here one beholds a rural scene which is ever a feast to the eye. Here one meets the combined industry and intelligence of both native and foreign born citizens. Here one sees marks of thrift and true wealth - of comfort and happiness; of moral and religious sentiment, seldom adorning any one subdivision of a county.

The first man to avail himself of the opportunities found in this part of the county was Joshua B. Hughes, who homesteaded the southwest quarter of section thirty two, in 1869. He proved up his title, and was not a resident from that time on for three years, but is at the present.

In 1871 came Dennis Rearden and located on a town lot given him by Sargent & Crill, who had platted what was known as Portlandvillelater changed to Akron. Mr. Rearden remained only a year or so, and then removed to Dakota and there died.

George Reed came to the present town site of Akron in the spring of 1871, and built the first hotel of the village. It was called Reed's hotel, but now the Plymouth House. He engaged in trade for a few years, sold out and removed to Colorado.

H. D. Barr came to Akron May, 1871, from Sioux township. He is a miller by trade and operated the old Sioux Mills; also owned a mill in Dakota, but at this time is numbered among Akron's citizens.

In 1872 O. E. Hardy came from Waterloo, Iowa, and purchased Reed's hotel property. He finally moved to California.

E. W. Sargent, one of the projectors of Akron, came to the township in 1871. He is a native of Vermont, but has lived in the west many years. He was a member of the firm of Sargent & Crill, who bought land on section thirty one and platted Portlandville. Mr. Sargent states that there was but little settlement made in this township until after 1880, on account of the railroad difficulty, arising out of disputed title to lands claimed both by the government and by the railroad company, to whom a grant had been given, but the contract, it seems, had not been lived up to by the railroad company, which finally lost the land, and then it was thrown open to actual settlers, who came flocking in very rapidly.

First Happenings. - The first child born within Portland township was a son to Mr. and Mrs. George Reed, the second being Grant Barr, born in February, 1872. The first death was that of a son of Capt. A. H. Smith, who was cut down like a tender plant in the fall of 1872. The first marriage ceremony was that uniting Mr. Andrew Palm to Miss Emma Johnson, in 1873.

Elder Freeman (Baptist) held the first religious services in 1871-72. He came over from Elk Point, across the Big Sioux river.

Schools. - The first term of school was taught by Mrs. E. B. Donalson at her own residence, in 1873. A school building was erected on section thirty one, in 1873. It was the two story frame house at Akron now used for postoffice purposes. Much attention has been paid to the education of the rising young in this part of the county. The reports show that in 1889 Portland township was divided into seven sub-districts, with a good frame building in six, and a substantial brick in one of the number. The number of pupils at that date was 300. Fifty shade trees grace the school grounds, and are monuments of beauty, and also bespeak the refinement and taste of the patrons of the various schools.

Akron. - This enterprising, incorporated town on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad, is the only one within the limits of the township, and was originally platted as Portlandville, by Sargent & Crill, in 1871. It is situated on section thirty one, its plat extending to the Big Sioux river on its west. It is charmingly situated on a level plateau of land, a part of the great valley through which flows the Big Sioux, tending toward the southwest; it furnishes a water power seldom equaled in all Iowa.

The beginning here was in the autumn of 1871, when E. W. Sargent put in a general store, which he shortly afterward sold to Reed & Kennedy, who in turn sold to Martin & Dorsey; afterward the same business was conducted by Robison & Dorsey. E. W. Sargent handled the first grain, both at his mill and in the way of shipping, and also built an elevator at this point in 1876. The first to sell lumber at Akron was S. Bevins. Thomas Sedgwick was the first to deal in live stock.

The pioneer and one of the present blacksmiths was M. W. Toppings. Henry L. Waterbury was the first harness maker. The first to retail meat was J. Booth. The first hardware store was conducted by William Lowe in 1877. The first to engage in the drug trade was L. H. Farmer. The earliest agricultural implement dealer was M. L. Disbrow. The first furniture was sold by August Peterson.

The business men of 1890 are:
Attorneys - Mat Agnes.
Agricultural goods - Toppings & Haskell, Mellon Bros. Bank - Bank of Akron.
Boots and shoes - Henry Waterbury.
Blacksmiths - Tinker & Gardner, M. W. Toppings.
Drugs - Mathwig & Clise.
Doctors - Drs. Clark and Ellis.
Furniture - J. H. Hampton and M. R. Tuttle.
General dealers - Palm & Johnson, W. C. Bryant, C. F. Horton, W. J. Homer & Co., J. F. Kennedy.
Grocers - A. L. McGinnis, E. W. Edgerton, J. C. Wade.
Grain - Hunting & Co., Monihan Bros., Streetor, manager for a company.
Hardware - B. Ferguson, V. G. Farnham.
Harness shop - Benjamin Jeffers.
Hotels - Kendall House, City Hotel, Plymouth.
Jeweler - B. F. Winterstein.
Livery - J. D. Brown.
Lumber - J. N. Raish, B. B. Harrington.
Meat market - Agnes & Waterbury, C. H. Pinkney.
Millinery - Ladies, Hall & Stearns.
Mills - Akron Roller Mills, O. F. Haskell, proprietor.
Newspaper - " Western Delta."
Real estate - Smith & Robertson.
Wagon makers - Peter Muir, Hans Barr.

The postoffice at this point was established about 1873 at Portlandville, but in 1882 changed to Akron, in contradistinction to Portland, in Cerro Gordo county. The first postmaster here was T. S. Martin, who was succeeded by the following in their respective order: C. E. Robinson, Amy Hampton (now Mrs. Dr. Ellis), F. T. Sheppard, Messrs. Peck, Harrington, McGinnis, and the present incumbent, C. P. Kilbourn.

Akron was made a money order station July 1, 1878. The first order was issued to David Strohbhn, for the sum of $30, payable at Traer, Iowa. The number of orders issued up to June 12, 1890, was 8,010. The number of postal notes sent was 7,249.

The roller flour mills are situated on the Big Sioux river, and were erected by Sargent & Crill, in 1871, as an old style buhr stone mill. Frank Haskell has owned the plant since 1885, at which time he changed it to a new process roller mill. It is the just pride of this part of the county, and does an excellent business. The town also supports a steam feed mill, run by Stacy & Barr.

Akron is a good business point, though not seemingly as thriving as some years ago. The banking interest was commenced at this point July 3, 1883, by A. C. Button, by the establishment of the Bank of Akron. Six months later he took for his partner J. H. Brady, and they made a strong firm for seven years, when they sold to J. L. Wetherai, and two months later he sold (in the spring of 1890) to H. J. Thode, who now has a cash capital of $10,000.

The Akron Savings Bank has just been organized. The capital is to be $10,000, backed by Sioux City men, and J. C. Button will manage the bank. It is intended to erect a two story brick the present season, the first story to be used for bank business and the second story as a Masonic hall.

Akron became an incorporated town in 1882, and the following have served as mayors to the present date: From 1882 to 1886, inclusive, J. Biddelcome; 1887 and 1888, E. H. Fryson; 1889, A. L. McGinnis; 1890, S. G. Baker. In 1881 the present elegant brick school building was reared and was made from brick burned at Sergeant's Bluff, below Sioux City. The work of construction was carried on by J. L. Hartley. It is a four room building, costing the district $11,000, and would be an ornament to any town.

The people in and around Akron are a God fearing people, as is evinced by the numerous religious societies. Of these the Methodist Episcopal church was first formed across the Sioux in Dakota, then changed to the Richland charge, and in 1871 reorganized at (Portlandville) Akron. The first class met at the school house and private houses, but in 1879 a neat frame edifice was built. It is twenty six by forty feet, and seats about 200 people. The cost was $1,100. The lots were donated by Messrs. Sargent & Crill and the railway company - owners of the town site. The present membership is 110; average in Sabbath school, 115. The present superintendent is Rev. C. W. Clifton; the present class leader is B. B. Harrington, who is also recording steward; the stewards, proper, are B. B. Harrington, J. C. Button, J. N. Brady, Julia E. Smith and Amanda McGinnis. The following list shows the pastors in their respective order: G. W. Binks, J. C. Damon, G. M. Curl, Ira Wakefield, W. J. Gardner, W. W. Brown, D. W. Chamberlain, O. R. Newell, Samuel Snyder, I. B. Kilborn, L. C. Woodford, P. H. Eighmy and C. W. Clifton, the present pastor in charge. The parsonage was built at an expense of $1,000 in 1883.

The Christian church was formed a few years ago, but at present is not flourishing. The frame chapel which it erected is about to be transferred, by a forced sale, to the Catholic people, who organized in 1889, and are now attended from Hawarden, Iowa.

The First Baptist church of Akron was organized with eleven members on the west side of the Big Sioux river, in what is now South Dakota, on March 25, 1871, by Rev. G. W. Freeman, a general missionary. The first meetings were held in a log school house. After the mill was built at this point and a village started on the Iowa side, regular services were held here in the new school house. Repeated efforts were made to erect a meeting house, but all failed until 1878, when the present building was erected. It is a frame house, twenty four by thirty two feet; seats 100 persons, and cost, all told, $1,200. The pastors have been Rev. G. W. Freeman, Rev. J. H. Young, Rev. J. L. Cappoe, Rev. J. P. Coffman, Rev. G. W. Freeman, Rev. E. H. Hurlbut, Rev. J. P. Coffman and Rev. P. M. MacLeod. The present number in the society is seventy eight. The present officers are: William R. Kidd and John Williams, deacons; Dr. R. D. Clark and M. W. Toppings, trustees; C. F. Horton, treasurer; L. H. Farnham, clerk. John Williams, of the above officials, contributed toward the church last year (1889) $708. This church belongs to a Dakota association.

James Biddelcome Post, No. 461, G. A. R., was organized at Akron in the spring of 1889, with twenty charter members, comrades of the late Union army. The commander was Rev. Eighmy; adjutant, N. J. Schooler; Q. M., J. P. Kendall; S. V., J. F. Kennedy; J. V., H. D. Barr; officer of the clay, S. W. Hall; O. G., O. A. Stowell; chaplain, John G. Snider. The 1890 commander is M. W. Toppings; adjutant, J. F. Kennedy. The post is in a good condition, and has a valuable auxiliary in the way of the Sons of Veterans, Corporal Tanner Camp, No. 187, which was formed by sixteen members, sons of ex-soldiers, June 23, 1889. They now number twenty one. Their first officers were: Captain, R. E. Miller; first lieutenant, John Hammond; second lieutenant, Frank Putnam; first sergeant, H. Toppings; quartermaster sergeant, A. Waterbury; chaplain, C. Waterbury. They all have fine uniforms, and meet twice each month. G. V. Ellis is present captain; John Lindsay, first lieutenant; H. Toppings, second lieutenant.

The town also supports a Good Templar lodge and Masonic blue lodge.

Freedom Lodge, No. 434, of A. F. & A. M., was instituted in 1882, with thirteen charter members. The first worshipful master was Dr. R. D. Clark. The present lodge has a membership of seventy - very large for the town's size. The 1890 officers are: J. C. Ruble, worshipful master; B. A. Jeffers, treasurer; R. D. Clark, secretary; G. W. Raish, senior warden; Lewis, junior warden.

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