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


ON the east line of Plymouth county we find congressional township ninety two, range forty three west. Since October 18, 1881, this territory has formed the civil township of Remsen; prior to that date it was included in Marion township. Remsen is bounded by Meadow township on the north, Cherokee county on the east, Henry township on the south and Marion township on the west.

The line of the Dubuque & Sioux City (Illinois Central) railway passes through the northwest corner of the township, with a station known as Remsen, which is located on section six, and of which further mention will be hereafter made. The chief stream of Remsen township is Whiskey slough, in the eastern part of the territory.

In 1885 the population was given at 650, of which 400 were American born. The present population, however, is much greater, perhaps nearly double the above figures.

Early Settlers. - The name of the first man who claimed land in Remsen township has been forgotten, but the oldest settler now living within the township is Henry Mullong, who bought a second hand homestead claim of S. C. Pringy, on the south half of the southeast quarter of section twenty eight. Mr. Mullong settled on the land in April, 1873, and he thinks it was originally claimed by the first settler of the township, in 1867. The next to locate was J. J. Murphy, on the southwest quarter of section ten, where he still lives. He is at present in the employ of the Illinois Central railroad company, at their water tank. Ed. Ellier came to the township in 1878, and bought land of a speculator named Baxter. This tract was on the northwest quarter of section thirty two. Until after 1880 there were no settlers in Bemsen township to speak of, and from that time on the territory was largely settled up by Germans, who have come to be wealthy farmers and stock growers.

In 1885 the total population of the township was 649, of which 310 were Germans.

The population of Remsen township are exclusively devoted to agricultural life and its kindred branch - stock growing and feeding, The land is of a very rich, superior quality, and can be relied upon for a crop each year. Many artificial groves adorn the township and lend both beauty and actual value to the domain.

Schools. - The first school was taught at the residence of R. E. McCourtland, on section thirty four, about 1880. At this date, 1890, the county school records show that this township has five sub-districts, which are provided with four good school houses. The total enrollment of scholars is ninety three.

There are no religious societies in the township, except those found at Remsen village, the only postoffice and market place of the township.

Village of Remsen. - Remsen is situated in the west half of section six, in Remsen township. It was platted August 28, 1876, by the Sioux City and Iowa Falls Town Lot & Land Company. Since then five additions have been made, the description of which will be found in the "Recorded Plats" elsewhere in this volume. It is located on a beautiful tract of rolling prairie land, and is now a thriving little mart of about 500 people. It derived its name from Dr. William Remsen Smith, of Sioux City, a large land owner. It was made a station on the original Dubuque & Sioux City railroad line, and has come to be one of the best market places and shipping points along the line. But little was accomplished in the way of business improvements until 1881, when Frank Miller put in a general store.

The same year the "Blake House" was erected by C. R. Blake. It is now known as the Monthoven House. The first to engage in the sale of agricultural implements was Rathmann & Michaels. The first hardware was sold by John H. Rathmann. The first grocery store was that of Samuel Wentz. In 1882 a furniture store was put in by Hubert Nothen.

The same year, 1882, Dr. Theodore Wrede opened up a stock of drugs. "Dr." Baker had kept a few patent medicines, etc., the year prior. A saloon was started to quench the thirst of the pioneers, in 1881, by Peter Mounen The pioneer grain company was Peavey & Co. The first to handle lumber was Townsend Bros., of Le Mars. The first blacksmith to wield his hammer beside the glowing forge was Martin Seba, in 1880-81. A wagon shop was put in operation by John Schumacher. The first bank was the Bank of Remsen, in 1887.

In the spring of 1889 the citizens of Remsen concluded, to further on the business interests of the place, that it was best to become an incorporated town. The first election of officers resulted as follows: N. Lang, mayor ; Ed. S. Lloyd, recorder; Z. Gilman, treasurer; Hamm Atkinson, M. Scheel, John Fish, Hubert Nothen, Peter Bruscher and George E. Bright, councilmen. The same officials were serving in 1890, except Councilman George E. Bright, who was succeeded by J. P. Steicher.

The village supports a good, live, local newspaper, edited by J. P. Kieffer, who issues twice each week - one issue printed in German, called the "Remsen Glocke," and later in the week one of the same contents, only printed in English, called the "Remsen Bell." These papers have a large circulation - some hundreds going to Europe sent by Germans to their friends. [See " Press " chapter for further concerning the " Bell "].

The following gives the various firms transacting business at Remsen in 1890:

Agricultural implements - Scott Bros., Pew Bros., Stang & Peters.
Attorneys - Ed. S. Lloyd.
Banks - Bank of Remsen, W. J. Creglow, president; Farmers' Loan & Trust Company, James F. Toy, president.
Blacksmiths - Theodore Fiddler, Adolph Hope; Jost Bros.
Coal - Z. Gilman, Townsend Bros.
Drugs - Meinert & Fish, H. J. Brink.
Furniture - H. Nothen.
General stores - N. Kass & Son, M. Beck & Sons, Matt Janse, S. Wentz.
Grain dealers - Union Mill Co., E. N. Dickey & Co., F. H. Peavey & Co., Cedar Falls Mill Co.
Hotels - Remsen House, Hotel Monthoven.
Harness shop - Charles Bushgens.
Hardware - Townsend Bros., Z. Gilman, Henry Schaafs, M. & J. Wictor.
Jeweler - P. Koehnke.
Lumber - Z. Gilman, Townsend Bros., Henry Sudtelgat.
Livery - One connected with each of the two hotels.
Millinery - Mary Wictor.
Stock - Lang Bros., A. Zink.
Physicians - H. J. Brink, George Roepke.
Newspaper - "Remsen Bell," J. P. Kieffer, editor.

The American Express Company is represented here; the Western Telephone Exchange is also connected with this town.

At the present time there are twelve open beer saloons running, despite the Iowa state law.

Since the incorporation of the town it is being rapidly supplied with good sidewalks, street crossings, etc. In 1889 they also erected a jail of sufficient size and security to hold what few law breakers might chance to infest their town.

Remsen became a postoffice point in 1879. H. W. AIline was appointed the first postmaster; he served until 1885, when he was succeeded by L. L. Page, who conducted it until April 11, 1889, when A. C. Morgan was appointed, and still serves very acceptably. It became a money order office in 1886. The first money order was issued August 20, 1886, to Rev. F. X. Shuty, in favor of Appleton & Co., Chicago, Ill. The amount was $12. The full number of money orders issued up to May 21, 1890, from this office, was 1,629; number of postal notes, 2,296.

The two church organizations at Remsen, each have a good building.

The Evangelical Lutheran society was formed in 1884 by six members, Rev. Miner, of Le Mars, officiating. The first president was John Isley; John Schumacher was first treasurer, and Martin Seba first secretary. In 1888 a frame church building was erected, at a cost of $1,600. It is twenty four by forty feet, and seats fully one hundred persons. The present membership of the society is twenty six.

The present church officials are: George Beck, president; Charlie Schumacher, vice president; Clods Sievers, treasurer; John Schumacher, secretary; John Helms, librarian. Until October, 1889, the church was supplied with a minister occasionally from other points, but at that date Henry Bender became pastor, and is still serving. A Sunday school was formed in 1889, which now averages twenty scholars. The superintendent is Rev. Bender, pastor of the church.

The Roman Catholic people of this vicinity were first attended by Father Gilchrist, formerly of Marcus, Iowa. He looked to the spiritual welfare of this people for some two or three years. The first church building was blown down by a cyclone in 1885, and the present building was erected the same year. Rev. F. Schulte took charge of the congregation in December, 1885, and finished the new edifice, which is forty by eighty feet, and seats about 300 people comfortably. In the fall of 1886 the fine parsonage was built, at a cost of $1,900. In the summer of 1888 the parochial school house was built, at an expense of about $3,600; it is thirty eight by sixty eight feet and two stories high. It contains rooms for the sisters and boarders. In the fall of 1888, the sisters of St. Francis, from Dubuque, Iowa, took charge of this school, which now has an attendance of about one hundred.

The church building at Remsen is heated by two large stoves; there are there altars, an organ, and a good sized bell. The building contains seventy pews. An enlargement of about thirty feet of this church is contemplated in another year. The valuation of this church is about $4,600. The present (1890) family membership is placed at about 150.

Early Days in Remsen (Contributed by Mrs. J. H. Winchel). - From time immemorial, or rather since the building of the Illinois Central railroad, Remsen consisted of a name and a station. The present station building, however, is not the original one, as that, according to tradition, was burned, the fire being started by means of a spark from a passing engine, which ignited the straw bed of an in moving depot agent. In this way Remsen was wiped out by fire.

History fails to record the names of the various agents at this point. But in 1879 J. S. Ellis was succeeded by H. U. Alline, both being pioneer settlers in Plymouth county, who owned farms in the vicinity. In the summer of 1879 J. Bagley, of Tipton, Iowa, built a small house, which he occupied until fall, when it was removed to a farm adjoining the town plat. The station was once more left to "hold the fort " alone.

The first business in Remsen was engaged in by J. H. Winchel, who owned a large farm one mile north, and H. W. Alline, of Remsen, under the firm name of Winchel & Alline. Scales were put in and grain bought and shipped. This was in the fall of 1880. At the same time P. Hopkins, of Le Mars, bought and shipped, from this point, cattle and hogs.

The winter of 1880-81 is known in the annals of Remsen as the " starvation winter" - it might also be termed the " freeze out winter," because, if hunger did beset the little garrison, none the less did the lack of fuel cause much trouble. Those who remember the serious inconveniences of the long snow blockades, even in a much larger town, can imagine the sufferings of those who were ten miles from a grocery store, the same distance from a meat market, and who did not live on a farm, consequently did not have the pork barrel to fall back on.

The shoveling train that occasionally reached us was our only means of communication with the outside world. When that failed us, as it frequently did, and supplies were at their lowest ebb, the hero of the h our was he who volunteered to tramp the ten miles of drifted track, and who came back somewhat the worse for wear, but covered with glory, and well laden with flour and coffee, beans, graham flour, etc. These were divided with the stranger within our gates, who was frying to make his way from Marcus to Le Mars on foot.

Never was a spring later or more welcomed than that of 1881. Before spring had fairly opened, S. L. Townsend was on the ground ready to open a lumber yard; and, as soon as it was possible to lay a foundation, a building was erected and a stock of hardware and lumber placed in shape. The next building was a hotel, and, in a few days C. B. Blake and family, of Cherokee, took possession, and furnished accommodations for the little army of carpenters.

The first store was then in process of erection, and the following week a car load of groceries arrived, and Remsen had a market at home. This store was owned by Miller & Co. of Le Mars, and operated by George Kline.

The first saloon soon followed, and was built and owned by Peter Monner.

Private residences sprang up here and there, and immigrants commenced to come in and seek shelter for their families and household goods, until they could build for themselves.

The first elevator was built and run by S. Ellingsworth, of Oyens, for the Waterloo Mill Company.

The first school was taught by Miss Mary Alline, during the summer of 1881, in one of the living rooms of the depot building. It found its next home in a room over J. Rathman's hardware store; from there it was moved to a building owned by J. K. Aline. This house also served the Protestant people of this section as a church. In it was organized the Methodist Episcopal church, under the leadership of William Edgar. The original members were four in number: F. K. Morgan and wife, and Daniel Arburthnot and wife. A successful Sabbath school was, for a long time, maintained. Its superintendent was Z. Gilman.

In 1883 the first public building, the Roman Catholic church, was erected, and the following season a much needed school building was built. Both of these structures were destroyed by the tornado which swept over this county in the spring of 1885. They have both been rebuilt.

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