History of Center Township Wapello County, IA
From: History of Wapello County, Iowa
By Harrison L. Waterma, Supervising Editor
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. Chicago 1914


Wapello is in the fourth row of counties in Iowa west of the Mississippi River, and in the second row north of the Missouri line. It is twenty four miles east and west and eighteen miles north and south, having twelve congressional townships and fourteen civil townships. The Des Moines River's average width is about six hundred feet. It enters the county at Eddyville, the northwest corner of the county, flows southeasterly and leaves this territory east of Eldon. Seven wagon bridges and four railroad bridges span the river within the county. The elevation of the land at Ottumwa is about six hundred and fifty feet above sea level.

The east part of Center Township is very near the center of the county. The township itself is composed of congressional township 72, range 14, except parts of sections 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 south of the river, and sections 6, 7, 18, 19, 20, 21, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and 33 in township 72, range 13, and sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in township 72, range 14. The north part of the township is prairie and fine bottom land. The south part is practically all bottom land. There is some hilly country near the river, west of the city. Underlying the land is considerable coal and limestone. The coal has been mined at Bear Creek and other places, both north and south of the river. The land is drained by Sugar Creek, Rock Branch and Bear Creek, all tributaries of the Des Moines.

There are 20,398 acres of farm land, which produce cereals of the usual varieties known to this latitude. The raising and feeding of live stock is an important industry of the farmers. Good, substantial farm buildings, fences, well kept roads, telephone lines, rural mail deiivery, and other modern conveniences obtain in this locality; also good district schools and churches.

Center Township was organized June 4, 1844 The first election was held in August, at Louisville, the name of the county seat at that time. The judges of election were John Fuller, Nason Roberts and D. F. Ballard. When the county was opened to settlement, hundreds of families found their way to this section of the county, many of whom remained. Among them may be named the following: James M. Peck, Farnum Whitcomb, Richard Fisher, J. C. Fisher, Peter Fisher, Henry Huffman, Nason Roberts, John Alexander, Reuben R. Harper, J. M. Montgomery, Philaster Lee, John Clark, James Langshore, Doctor Hackleman, Thomas H. Wells, Jerry Smith, Sr., Clark Williams, Dr. C. C. Wardell, Hugh George, William Dewey, Paul C. Jeffries, David Glass, David Hall, Rev. B. A. Spaulding, S. S. Norris, Sewell Kinney, David P. Smith, John Myers, David Armstrong, H. P. Graves, William H. Galbraith, Levi Buckwalter, Jink Vassar, George D. Hackworth, Arthur Eakins, Ammon Shaul, John Overman, John C. Evans, Thomas Reveal, John Humphrey, Sylvester Warner, Paris Caldwell, G. A. Roemer, William Harris, William Crawford, Alexander Crawford, Thomas Crawford, Nathaniel Bell.

Joseph Hayne, long since passed away, was one of the two thousand or more who crossed over an imaginary dead line into Wapello County, at the opening of the "New Purchase," May 1, 1843. One year later, at the first election held in the county, he was returned as sheriff, and succeeded himself three successive terms in the office. He also held the offices of county treasurer and clerk of the court three terms. It is claimed that a daughter of Mr. Rayne, born in 1845, was the first white child horn in Ottumwa. Her name was Dora Bayne, and she became the wife of Joseph Rogers. Her death occurred in Chicago, February 20, 1914. The body now lies in the Hayne lot in the Ottumwa Cemetery.

Paris Caldwell was a Virginian by birth. In the year 1841 he immigrated to Iowa, and when the signal was given by the Government in May, 1843, declaring the "New Purchase" open to settlement, he was one of the first to cross the Wapello County line. Mr. Caldwell made claim to and purchased a tract of Government land and made his home thereon until his death, which occurred April 5, 1899. Fifty four acres of this original purchase lies within the corporate limits of Ottumwa.

William Flint was born in Wapello County, May 9, 1843, and for many years was an engineer on the Chicago, Burlington & Ouincy Railroad. His brother, W. T. Flint, was born in the county in 1845, and was also a locomotive engineer on the "Burlington."

Thomas Bedwell was a "Buckeye" who settled in Agency Township in October, 1843, choosing a tract of land on section 24, on which his energies were expended, to the end that he in a few years owned a fine producing and highly improved farm. He moved to Ottumwa in 1868. He held various offices, was a member of the board of supervisors, sheriff, etc.

Farnum Whitcomb was born in Vermont, in 1819, and moved to Jefferson County, Iowa, in 1839, where he remained until 1843. The "New Purchase" was opened to settlement on the 1st day of May of that year, and Mr. Whitcomb was among the early ones to come into the county. In the year above mentioned, he acquired a tract of Government land in section 1, Center Township, which he cleared and, as time went on, made improvements and developed the property into one of the most valuable farms in the county. An accident terminated the life of this hardy pioneer in 1895, and one year later, his wife, Nancy (Fox) Whitcomb, followed him to the grave. Frank Whitcomb came into the homestead, where he was born in 1855, when his father's estate was settled, and where he continued to live till his death in 1914.

Daniel Traul came to Van Buren County in 1840, and to Wapello County in 1843. In 1851 he entered a tract of land in section 32 in this township, which at the time was low land along the Des Moines and fit only for grass. The soil eventually became very fertile and tillable. Thomas Traul, a son, was seven years of age when his parents arrived in the county, and for many years lived on the homestead after his father's death, which took place in 1884.

Sylvester Warner was born in the State of New York in 1817; became a blacksmith; served in the Blackhawk war from Missouri; came to Van Buren County and from there to Wapello County in 1843. He staked a claim under the Homestead Act and received his patent for the same in 1846. To a wagon he had built, and the first made in Ottumwa, Mr. Warner hitched a yoke of oxen and made a trip to Des Moines for supplies. He often went to Keokuk the same way for groceries, hardware and other things. Mr. Warner was a successful farmer, and became well known in Wapello County.

Madison Wellman was a pioneer of 1843, coming to the county and locating on a tract of land in Center Township. Some time later Mr. Wellman removed to Richland Township and located on a farm between Kirkville and Fremont, on Big Cedar Creek. The Indians were troublesome at times, especially after receiving their stipend at Agency from the Government. On such occasions they always managed to procure whisky, and when on their way home were in bad condition by the time they reached the Wellman place. It required great bravery on the part of the women in those days, especially during this absence of the men, their only resource being to get down the rifle from its pegs and threaten to shoot if the Indians did not go on their way. In 1852 Madison Wellman owned a mill in Ottumwa, where he sawed lumber, ground feed and run a carding machine and turning lathe. He sold the mill in 1852, moved back to his farm and died there at the age of thirty two.

Cyrus Armstrong was a painter and began work at his trade in Ottumwa in 1844 He was a veteran of the Civil war.

Henry Bascomb Hendershott was born in Miami County, Ohio, May 15, 1816, and in the autumn of that year his parents moved to Illinois, where his youth was spent in the prairie state. In winter he attended country schools and when nineteen matriculated in the Illinois College at Jacksonville, where he worked his way for two years. In 1837 he was a postoffice clerk at Burlington, Iowa, and also did clerical work in the county recorder's office, meanwhile reading law under the direction of Judge David Rorer and M. D. Browning. On May 6, 1839, he was appointed deputy clerk of the district court of Des Moines County, and during the two years he spent here pursued his studies in the law. Mr. Ilendershott was admitted to the bar in 1841. The following year he moved to Mount Pleasant, then to Fairfield, Agency City and finally, on May 16, 1844, to Ottumwa. In February, 1844, the young pioneer lawyer was appointed clerk of the District Court of Wapello County, and while serving in that capacity he organized the County of Wapello in pursuance of the statute made and provided for that purpose. On December 7, 1845, by appointment, lie became district attorney for the seventh district. In 1847, while serving as deputy surveyor for the states of Iowa and Wisconsin, he subdivided six townships of Government land into sections. With Joseph C. Brown, young Hendershott, as a member of a commission appointed by the Supreme Court, sat upon the vexed question of the boundary line between Iowa and Missouri, and the report of the commissioners was accepted as a final settlement of a prolonged and bitter dispute over the dividing line. In 1850 Judge Hendershott was sent to the State Legislature and served four years. He was elected judge of the District Court for the third (now second) judicial district, in 1856. In this office he served with great credit and on retiring from the bench, the bar tendered him a complimentary banquet and resolutions of admiration and approval of his services. His paper read before the Old Settlers' Association in 1874, in which he reviewed the history of Wapello County up to that time, was a masterpiece, and was given a leading place in a history of the county, published in Chicago, in 1878. Judge Ilendershott was a leadng man of Wapello County and of the state, and his death, which occurred August 10, 1900, was justly considered an irreparable loss by the entire community in which he had passed the greater part of his long and useful life.

John C. Fisher was an Indianian by birth. He early sought the prairies, coming to Iowa in 1841, and to Vapello County in 1844, first locating on section 1, in Center Township. In 1855 he sold his land and removed to the county seat, where he became one of the active business men and capitalists of the place. For about one year Mr. Fisher served acceptably as postmaster at Ottumwa.

Peter Hale and Mary, his wife, immigrated from Kentucky to Wapello County in 1844, and located on section 12, in Center Township. Their son, Shelton Hale, was an infant at the time. The latter grew apace and assisted his father in clearing and improving the farm. Eventually, Shelton became a merchant at Ottumwa, where he remained six years and then returned to the old homestead, remaining there until his death in 1901.

George W. Kitterman is the son of Elias Kitterman, who settled in Center Township in 1843. George was born here November 5, 1843. Ile served his country faithfully and well in the War of the Rebellion. About the year 1866 Mr. IKitterman married Barbara L. King, daughter of Enos and Barbara King, who came to Wapello County in 1846. Mr. King was known as a local preacher.

George D. Hackworth was among the very earliest settlers of Wapello County, the year of his advent being 1845. In the autumn of 1845 Mr. Hackworth located on a tract of land on section 35, in Center Township, and remained there until 1857, when he moved with his family to Ottumwa. Mr. Hackworth served the county as official surveyor and two years as auditor. He removed to Kansas in 1873 and there remained until his death in 1878.

G. F. A. Roemer, a native of Germany, immigrated to the United States in 1845, and in July of that year located in Ottumwa, having purchased a tract of land near the present fair grounds. On November 6, 1848, Mr. Roemer entered a tract of land on section 29, Center Township, and began farming. Industrious habits and good judgment brought him a competency and in 1894 he died at a ripe old age, having earned the respect of everybody.

A. J. Peck was born in this township in 1845, his parents being among the first people to settle in Vapello County. He remained on the farm until 1867, and then removed to Ottumwa and went into the livery business.

Charles F. Blake was one of the pioneers of Wapello County. He came to Ottumwa in 1845 and later engaged in the drug business. He was one of the original stockholders of the Iowa National Bank, and in 1873 was elected president of that financial concern.J

J. H. Myers, a pioneer nurseryman, came to Ottumwa in 1845, and became one of its leading citizens. holding various offices of trust. He served in the Civil war three years. Mrs. Myers' maiden name was Cochran, and her brother contracted to build the first mill in Ottumwa.

N. Bell was an early settler here, coming in 1845. B. F. Bell located here the same year. Both these pioneer hushandmen assisted materially in the growth and prosperity of the township.

John Overman settled here in 1845, and soon had in operation a ferry between Ottumwa and Richmond, which he managed eight years; he also farmed and became prominently identified with affairs of the community.

Madison Leonard, born in Missouri. located here in 1844, and chose farming for a livelihood.

Gen. John M. Hedrick, a native of Indiana, came to Vapello County in 1846 He passed his winters in teaching and summers on his father's (Hon. J. W. Hedrick) farm. He became a clerk in 1852. later a partner and then sole owner of a business establishment. In 1861, he largely assisted in recruiting a company of men for the Civil war. received a commission as first lieutenant of Company D. Fifteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry. A few months later he was made quartermaster of the regiment, and was then promoted to the captaincy of Company K. He distinguished himself in the war and returned to Ottumwa with the brevet of brigadier general. He was appointed postmaster of Ottumwa and held the office until 1870, and was supervisor of internal revenue for the states of Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Colorado and Dakota, 1870-76. During his incumbency as postmaster in 1866, lie became editor of the Courier and in 1869 owned a half interest in the paper. In the latter year Major Hamilton bought the other half and they together had charge of the publication until January 1, 1878. Retiring from the Courier, General Hedrick gave his time chiefly to looking after the interests of the Cedar Rapids, Sigourney and Ottumwa Railway Company, of which he was president. He was active in many enterprises of local benefits, He died October 3. 1886.

Joseph hill settled in Center Township in 1846. coming from Ohio. He first engaged in farming, later became a general merchant in Ottumwa.

J. W. Carpenter, after teaching school in Cincinnati, Ohio, sixteen years, came to Wapello County and took up farming. He settled in Ottumwa in 1858, where his time was chiefly spent in looking after his business interests as a capitalist.

Nathaniel Bell followed farming in Indiana and desiring more land at a small price, came to Iowa in 1846, and located in this township, choosing a tract of land four miles northwest of Ottumwa. Mr. Bell lived on this farm until his death in 1877. A son, Adam W. Bell, who was born in 1831, lived on the homestead until twenty three years of age and then bought a quarter section of land in this township, which he cultivated and improved. Adam Bell married Nancy E. Goodwin in 1854. She was a daughter of Rolla and Hannah Goodwin, who settled in Wapello County in 1852.

George W. Bowen was born in the State of Ohio and came to Ottumwa in 1848, and for many years thereafter was engaged in the milling business.

Richard H. Warden came to Ottumwa from Ohio in 1848 and with J. H. D. Street established that year the Ottumwa Courier. The following year he was appointed postmaster and his connection with the Courier continued until 1855. That year Mr. Warden's acclivities where turned to the mercantile and hotel business. Ile served in the Civil war with distinction and in 1870 resumed the duties of editor of the Courier. A fuller description of Mr. Warden's career is given elsewhere in this work.

William E. Jones, an Ohioan by birth. located in Center Township in 1849. Later he became one of Ottumwa dry goods merchants. Is now (1914) engaged in wholesale and retail hay, grain and feed.

Charles Lawrence located in Ottumwa in 1849, dealing in general merchandise. He first formed a partnership with D. P. Inskeep and later with J. W. Garner.

J. M. Roney, born in Kentucky, became a resident of Wapello County in 1849. locating on a farm in this township.

Prior S. Wilson located in this township in 1849 but remained a short time. He returned in 1852 and located on sections to and 15, where he followed successfully the avocation of the farmer and stock raiser.

Gerard Derks, who became an influential citizen of the township, was a Hollander, who located here in 1850.

O. P. Bizer was an early settler here, coming from Missouri in 1850 and purchasing a farm in Center Township. In 1869 he purchased and removed to a farm on sections 4 and 9. Mr. Bizer became a prosperous and influential citizen. He was a member of the board of supervisors and was on the building committee at the time the courthouse was under construction.

M. Roos established a butcher shop in this township in 1851. From 1860 to 1870, he followed farming in Green Township.

Grimes Pumroy left his old home in Ohio and located on section 33, in this township, in the year 1851. For many years he run a sawmill on Soap Creek. Mr. Pumroy was a veteran of the Civil war; moved to Ottumwa in 1890 and died there in July, 1898.

Matt Lawrence was running a farm in this township as early as 1854. George Hatch was one of Center Township's pioneer farmers, coming from Jefferson County in 1854.

William Lewis, who died in 1891, came to this township from Illinois in 1856.

John Finley located in the township in 1857. He was a farmer and also kept a general store at Richmond, becoming the first postmaster of the place.

Richard Areingdale became identified with this community in an early day and located on a large farm in 1865. Later in life Mr. Areingdale retired from the farm and removed to Ottumwa.


John R. Kerfoot came to Ottumwa from Maryland about 1845 and owned a farm north of the city. His son, J. F. Kerfoot. was born in Ottumwa in 187o. He established the Kerfoot Clothing Company.

Maj. John Stuart Wood came to Ottumwa in 1848, in company with Major Donelson, Major McMenomy and Charles Handserker, all of whom remained a short time and then left for their homes. Major Wood was back in 1851 and with others organized a party and went to California, where he remained until 1855. He then returned to Ottumwa and took up a permanent residence there. He assisted in organizing the Seventh Regiment Iowa Cavalry, for the Civil war, was in charge of Camp Hendershott, at Davenport, saw active service against the Indians in the "sixties;" was deputy sheriff in 1856; city marshal 1867-8-9; 1871-4 in the employ of the Burlington Railroad Company and from 1874 to 1876, India agent, with headquarters in the Northwest.

William A. McIntire was born in Keokuk Township, Wapello County, April 11, 1849, the son of William C. McIntire, who was a pioneer of 1843. William A. McIntire was raised on the homestead, in the fall of 1877 was elected county superintendent of schools; defeated for the position in 1881; elected again in 1883-5-7; established a 'hardware store in Ottumwa in 1888 and in 1897 was elected to the Senate by the Democrats.

James and Sarah (O'Connor) Cullen began life in Ottumwa in 1850. Mr. Cullen was a contractor and had charge of the brick and stone work of many of the early buildings in the city. He died in 1887.

Henry Wilson came to Ottumwa from Indiana in 1852. He was a farmer and plasterer for several years and later devoted his attention to real estate operations.

Stephen Barnes settled half a mile south of Ottumwa in 1852, and here his son, Stephen, was born in 1854. The elder Barnes farmed until 1885 and then removed to Kansas. Stephen Barnes, Jr., became a leading merchant of the county seat.

Joseph Wagg was said to be the first barber to open a shop in Ottumwa. He located in the place in 1852 and served on the board of aldermen.

L. E. Gray became a citizen of Ottumwa in 1852, when the town was young and growing into importance. He followed farming two years and in 1859 was elected sheriff of the county. In 1878 he had a grocery store near the Ballingall Hotel, and two years later erected a $30,000 hotel building, near an artesian well of mineral water, which he obtained by boring. Gray sold the sanitarium to E. K. Shelton in 1890, and in 1892 the property was destroyed by fire. James D. Gray, a son of L. E. Gray. was born in Ottumwa in 1860, while the elder Gray held the office of sheriff.

H. B. Sisson was among the first dentists who opened an office here, coming to the county seat from Indiana in 1853.

Samuel H. Harper was a business man in Ottumwa as early as 1853, choosing hardware as his specialty.

Rev. John Kreckel, a Prussian, was educated in Europe and the United States. He came to Ottumwa in 1853 and presided over the Ottumwa parish of the Catholic Church.

Conn Lewis, a native of Ohio, located in Ottumwa in 1854, and became well known as a liveryman and the proprietor of Lewis' Opera House.

Maj. Augustus H. Hamilton is still living in Ottumwa. He became a resident in 1854, when the city was in its infancy, and began the practice of law. Mr. Hamilton served in the Civil war and from 1869 to 1878 was associated with Gen. John M. Hedrick in publishing the Courier, after which he became sole proprietor. Major Hamilton was Ottumwa's second mayor and all during the years of his business career was among the leaders of the city's progressive men.

W. T. Harper was an arrival in Ottumwa of 1854, coming from Ohio. He became one of the prominent retail and wholesale merchants of the city. Further mention of him is made in the second volume of this work.

Will T. Major was a resident of Ottumwa as early as 1855. He engaged in mercantile pursuits until 1870, when he was tendered and accepted the position of secretary of the Johnston Ruffier Company. Later, he secured an interest in the enterprise.

Rev. John M. McElroy was a native of Ohio, a graduate of Jefferson (Pennsylvania) College and a theological student at Princeton. Being licensed to preach in 1855. he at once came to Ottumwa and took charge of the Presbyterian Church here. then recently organized. The same year he was ordained by the Des Moines Presbytery in the Congregational Church, which stood at the corner of Second and Court streets. This pioneer clergyman kept up his labors for the local congregation until 1869.

Aaron Carr moved to Ottumwa in 1856 and became one of its early merchants.

Jacob W. Dixon was a pioneer lawyer of the Wapello County bar, settling in Ottumwa in 1856. He became prominent in his profession and held several offices of trust, among which was that of member of the state Legislature.

One of the early business men of Ottumwa was William Daggett, who appeared here in the year 1856, coming from Onondaga, New York. He engaged in the hardware business and later took into partnership one of his clerks, J. W. Edgerly. who became a large factor in the commercial activities of the place. Upon the retirement of Edgerly from the firm, W. T. Harper became the junior member of the firm of Daggett & Harper. In 1875 the latter concern sold out its stock of hardware and transferred its energies to the linseed oil business. For some time Mr. Daggett was associated with I. N. Mast in operating the Ottumwa Starch Vorks, an industry discontinued upon the destruction of the factory. In many ways this pioneer was a valuable asset of Ottumwa. He was connected with all enterprise of note and advantage to his home town. He was vice president of the Ottumwa Railway, Electric Light and Steam Company, president of the Equitable Loan Association, vice president of the Iowa National Bank, and a director of the Ottumwa Opera House Company. His death occurred February 26, 1900.

James T. Hackwork, whose extended sketch appears in the second volume of this work. came to Wapello County with his parents in 1845 and took up his residence in Ottumwa in 1857.

The name of Robert Porter is well known in Ottumwa's business circles. Mr. Porter was early in the field, coming to the city in 1857 from Virginia, albeit he was a Pennsylvanian by birth. He began his career here by working at his trade in various harness shops and in 1859 started a retail harness shop for himself. For a while and until it burned down, Mr. Porter had an establishment on the corner of Main and Market streets, where the Ottumwa National Bank now stands. He built in t868 one of the first brick business buildings in the city, at 104 East Main Street, where the firm of Cope & Porter was engaged in business until 1872. Cope retiring from the firm, the partnership of Porter Brothers & Hackwork was formed, for the manufacture of harness, particularly high grade buggy collars, of which Mr. Porter was the patentee.

Daniel Eaton, born in Templeton, Mass., in 1831, came West from Jamestown, New York, to Wapello County in June, 1857, with his wife and daughter, and located in Ottumwa. He began the manufacture of lumber in a small way, but adding to his plant eventually established a large business, erected several business houses and became an important factor in the growth and progress of the town.

R. L. Antrobus was one of the men who early engaged in the grocery business here, coming from Indiana in 1857.

J. W. Garner became a citizen of Ottumwa in 1857 and for eight years clerked for T. Devin & Sons. Later he formed a business partnership with Charles Lawrence.

Jacob H. Webber was a brick layer, who began his residence in Ottumwa in 1859, where he soon took over contracts and put up many of the early substantial brick buildings of the town. He removed to Eddyville in 187o. Mr. Webber died in 1892.

John G. Baker was one of the early hotel men of Ottumwa and a pioneer of the county. He conducted the Ottumwa House, which was a popular resort, especially during the Civil war, when Baker expended time and money for the benefit of the soldiers.

Many of the men whose names have been mentioned engaged in business at the county seat; others went on to farms and later retired to Ottumwa, where they engaged in business or other pursuits. Most of these pioneers, however, opened farms, cultivated the land, improved the farms by the erection of substantial buildings and remained upon them for the rest of their days, in the meantime raising large families, representatives of whom, in many instances, still remain either in the township or in other parts of the county. The history of Center Township is so closely related with that of the county seat as to hardly make it necessary to take tip any further space in giving details.

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