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


CONGRESSIONAL township ninety one, range forty four, is now known as Union civil township. It was at one time a part of Stanton township, but by an act of the board of supervisors, dated June 5, 1872, was made a separate civil township organization. It is situated south of Marion township, west of Henry, north of Elkhorn, and east of Stanton township.

The principal streams found here are Muddy Creek, the headwaters of which are in the southwestern portion of the township; Johns creek is in the central southern part; Dry branch is in the southwestern sections. These creeks all have numerous smaller tributaries, which afford ample water and drainage facilities for the entire territory.

In 1885 the state census returns gave Union township a population of 430, of which three quarters were American born. The forthcoming census of 1890 will doubtless give nearly double these figures.

Early Settlement - The first to claim land under the homestead act was John Laddusaw and his son William, who settled on section four, in the summer of 1869. Gilbert Everett took the south half of the southwest quarter of section four, which he finally sold to D. Haney and moved to Nebraska.

The same season, 1869, came an Irishman, named Hines, who homesteaded the south half of the northwest quarter of section six. Patrick Quinn homesteaded the north half of the southwest quarter of section six. Enoch Sanford claimed as a homestead, the north half of the southeast quarter of section six, and still lives there. John Henry Nobles came about the same time, and homesteaded the south half of the southwest quarter of section six. He proved up, sold, and removed to one of the southern states. Samuel Miller, another settler of 1869, took up the south half of the southeast quarter of section six. He subsequently moved away, and the place is now owned by Mr. Watson. William Ruth took the northeast quarter of section six, where he still resides.

In 1870 the next settlement was made, by D. C. Reynolds, on section four, where he claimed the homestead upon which he still lives. D. S. Rathburn came to the township January 1, 1870, and homesteaded the southwest quarter of section twenty. He removed to the same in August, 1871, proved up, and in 1881 sold to W. B. Moore. The same year, 1870, came Peter and Robert Steele, two brothers. The first named is still here. That year came also John McCartney, William McCartney, and John, James and Robert Beggs. George Gray homesteaded the south half of the southeast quarter of section thirty; he now resides at Le Mars. Asel Bigelow and William West came about this date. West settled on the south half of the southeast quarter of section eighteen. Old Mr. Seaman, now of Florida, settled on section thirty. These constitute the most of the early pioneer band who settled this township.

Early Events. - The first person to die within the borders of Union township was Mrs. Hines, whose demise occurred in 1870. The first marriage was that of Ellen Hines and James Britt, in 1872 or 1873. The Methodist Episcopal people held the first service of a religious character here, and still proclaim the gospel of peace at different school houses.

In 1872 Ellen McBride ended her life by taking poison. About 1875 a man named Markey committed suicide by shooting himself.

Schools, Etc. - Very early in the township's history the public schools were commenced and carefully fostered by the homestead settlers. In 1871 Jane Crostein (now Mrs. Robert Steele) taught a term of school at Mr. Rathburn's place, on the southwest quarter of section twenty. There was one taught the same summer, or perhaps a year earlier, at Mr. Reynolds'. There was a school building erected in 1871, known as the Walrath, or district No. 1 school. The building in No. 2, on the west half of the southeast quarter of section seventeen, was built in 1873. As shown by the county school superintendent's report, of October, 1889, Union township had, at that date, six sub-districts and six good frame buildings. The enrollment of scholars was 140. Much care is taken of the school grounds and buildings, and the forty five shade trees planted out in some of the school yards add much to the beauty of the premises.

Improvements. - As viewed today, midst its fine state of cultivation, one would scarcely believe that in two decades so wonderful a transformation could be made in a wild prairie land. Now each watercourse crossed by a highway is spanned by a good bridge; the groves of cottonwood, maple and box elder, planted by the hands of the early homesteaders, have come to be forest trees in fact, and they lend a beauty and give value to the farms as no other improvement could possibly do. To possess a farm of the rich land found in Union township, together with the improvements already made on the same, is indeed to become at once independent and happy.

Pioneer Hardships. - To give the reader some faint idea of the hardships encountered in making homes in this county, the following sad case is recorded, as being one of scores of like calamities in Plymouth county: During the month of October, 1878, a terrible prairie fire raged, and wrought sad havoc in the Tracy neighborhood of Union township. A. settler named Charles A. Davis was trying to save his little homestead property from the fierce flames, when his clothing caught fire, and every stitch of wearing apparel he had on his body was consumed except his heavy cow hide boots. He suffered untold agony until the following week, when death came to his relief. The unfortunate man was sixty seven years of age, and was an honored citizen. The same fire devastated the country for many miles around, destroying buildings, burning a large amount of stock and leaving the homesteaders in a sorry plight for the oncoming long and dreary winter.

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