This is the second and final installment of a paper regarding Union Township history read by James L. Washburn during an old settler reunion in Derby during early September, 1910. The first installment was published in The Chariton Herald-Patriot on Sept. 15, 1910; the second installment, on Sept. 22, 1910. Small portions of both have been included in earlier posts on Argo and the Fancy Hill Inn. In some instances, I've clarified in italics statements made by Mr. Washburn. The township land owner map used as an illustration dates from 1895.
Mr. (Matthew) Irvin's docket is couched in similar strains throughout and written in a bold clear hand that reminds one of the hand writing of John Hancock, so noticeable always on the Declaration of Independence. Another such hand writing was clearly noticeable in the signature of our late neighbor, John Throckmorton. I wish to further relate in this connection that Esq. Irvin and his wife came to us from Ohio in 1850, where she was born. they came to Lucas county in 1852. He was a native of Ireland. From my knowledge of his descendants and of that wonderful stock of people he was no doubt of Scotch Irish descent.
Mr. Irvin had also the distinction of being the first postmaster in Union township, his commission dated 1856 (actually, 1853). He continued as postmaster until the administration of Abraham Lincoln, the office being in his residence and known to the world as Argo. Then it was held in turn by Simeon Chapman, James Leach (Leech), A.J. Hood and Mr. Glenn. The three just named lived near to Mr. Irvin, but Mr. Glenn lived and held the post office where the late Smith Boggs' home was and where his widow still resides, one mile southwest of Last Chance.
It was here (at Argo) many of the recruits joined the 34th Iowa Infantry, which did such gallant service under our county president, the Hon. Warren S. Dungan as their noble Colonel. In 1862 or 1863 Wm. McKenny (William McDonald McHenry) established a general store at Last Chance and the post office was turned over to him, where it remained until about 1882 or 1883. (Argo Post Office was discontinued during 1875, supplanted by the Last Chance Post Office, established in 1865. McHenry was Last Chance postmaster.)
The early mail was carried for a time by A.J. Ervin or any of the neighbors who might chance to be in Chariton. Papers would be tied in a bundle, the letters tucked into an inner pocket until Argo was reached. The Government was finally persuaded to furnish a carrier and John Mulky, of Oskaloosa, received the appointment. Mr. Mulky also carried passengers back and forth on his journeys. Thus we have a record of our first transportation line.
The construction of the South branch railroad through our township and on the laying out of Derby in 1872, a post office was established at Derby with B.T. Chapman as postmaster, a position he held for many years.
The first hotel accommodations within our border was Fancy Hill Inn, which also had the distinction of being the first frame building among us. It was built, owned and operated by Jas. Leach (Leech), and it is now the home of Jas. Jones, on the Mormon Trace. The building of Derby sounded the death knell to the hotel business as well as post office in other parts of our township, and Derby has since and will continue to be the center of commerce and trade of Union township.
The first school taught in our township was a private one, held by Jacob Holmes, the eldest son of the first white man who settled here and was in a building where Goshen District No. 1 now stands. We find another school, called the Fuller, located just east of Amos Sayers' old home, and Mr. Holmes seems to have been one of its teachers, as was also Mary Ann McReynolds. But the school house which seems best remembered by the old time people was called the Byerly school house. This was so called on account of being on the southeast corner of Jacob Byerly's farm, now and for many years known as the late Alonzo Williams home. There are but few of the early settlers who can't tell you something of its early history and environments. It was probably constructed about 1853. In addition to being used by or as a public school house, it was until 1857 used as a meeting house for the Presbyterians, Methodists, Church of Christ and probably others. Those who studied and worshiped there can be traced toward every quarter of the globe.
Among the teachers at that point we are told were a Mr. Grimes, Mr. Stansberry, John Prugh, Elizabeth Hannah, Alice Humphreys, Solomon Delk and Margaret Mabry Boggs. The two last named are still living. Among the early ministers who proclaimed the Word of God were Rev. John C. White. But the one most frequently and tenderly spoken of was "Old Uncle Markey Roberts." Doubtless great good was done by this noble hearted old soul. He is spoken of by those who knew him in the most revered manner. The school at this point was discontinued when the Pollard school house was erected, it being nearer the center of population of the district. The building was sold to the widow of Geo. Brown and moved to her farm one half mile south and one half mile west, where in time it burned down. The organization of our district, township and independent schools should be treated later.
Of the early churches it is a pleasure to chronicle the fact that the two earliest organizations still not only exist, but are in fairly good shape, with good membership and pleasant places to worship in today, after an experience of half a century.
The membership of the Church of Christ (Last Chance Christian Church) previously spoken of as being held at Byerly school house, united in 1867 with a like congregation of Round Top school house, two miles west on Mormon Trace road, in Clarke county, and together built the old original Last Chance church in 1857, which gave way a few years ago to a more modern structure. This combined membership numbered 66, with Martin Hood as its Elder. It prospered until on Nov. 18, 1869, it had a membership of 92 souls, a most remarkable congregation. Of the early members we still have some of them even to this day, notably Mrs. W.E. Wyatt, Mrs. Martha Erb, Martha Troutman, M.E. Hitt, A.J. Irvin and wife, Margaret Boggs, John Barger (his wife).
The other church society I wish to include in this article is the Goshen Baptist church. Its adherents formed their organization on the 15th day of February, 1854, in a log school house, which stood where the Goshen school house now stands. Here they worshiped until 1861, when on the completion of their new church, which stood where the Goshen cemetery now is, they removed there to this house which was blown to pieces by a cyclone on July 3, 1876.
The following year the congregation under the leadership of the late Hezekiah Pollard, Capt. Stephen B. Low, and our venerable Patriarch Alfred Conner, erected the present structure where it stands. Old father Winters was called as pastor by the first congregation and served one year. The membership at the date of its organization were Thos. Wade, Rachael Wade, Geo. Courtney, E.J. Courtney, Asa Pollard, H. Pollard, Rachael Robinson and Martha Westfall. At the end of one year Rev. Witners was succeeded by the venerable Father Barnett, who occupied the pulpit for several years. Historians of the Baptist church in Iowa have given this venerable man much space in their works and great praise for the manifold good he accomplished here and elsewhere. While he lived he was a permanent fixture, so to speak here among us. Children grew to manhood and womanhood, men and women became old and gray and were laid to rest, but Father Barnett was supposed to come and go forever. The poet truthfully said, "We shall never miss the water till the well runs dry," and thus it was with Father Barnett. The true greatness of his big loyal heart and truly sympathetic soul were not fully realized until Father Time bade him rest from his labors and receive his reward. This church has recently undergone repairs, being repainted and provided with modern pews. It has a wide awake, living congregation and is a power for good in the community.
G.A.R. Volunteers during Civil War, 1861-5, Union Township:
Stephen B. Low, Capt. 34th; Wm McKnight, 4 Corporal 34th; Joseph Davis 5 Corporal 34th; John W. Wilmore, 8 Corporal 34th; Lyman M. Chapman, wagoner; Edmund Ayers, Noah Brotherton, Francis M. Fudge, Wm. M. Fisher, Wm. Fisher, David Fudge, David Fodge, Chas A. Hunt, Gilmore James Leech, David D. Laper, Marvin C. Mitchell, James Moore, Jonathan, Harvey and Solomon Mundell, Abraham Sayers, Andrew Summers, Elijah Summers, Cyrenus L. Weston, John F. Woods, Joseph Davis, Amos S. Glenn, Martin Elisha Hitt, James Hanson, George Harpool, Phillip Jarvis, Ami Lewis, Benjamin Lewis, I.H. McPhetridge, Isaiah Robison, Benjamin Robison, Wm. Spridgeon, Harvey J. Slutts, Jacob Sanders, James W. Tullis, Thos F. Enslow, privates.
Other 1861-65 volunteers living in Union Township: Geo. H. Bell, Elias M. Blizard, Co. H, 8th Iowa Infantry; Geo. H. Sutton, Wm. Sutton, Leroy, Ia.
When Col. W.S. Dungan made his very eloquent and earnest appeal to preserve the early history of Union township, in his speech at Derby the second day of the old Settlers reunion, one of his hearers said that it brought to her mind the following true story, which, while it does not deal with politics or matters of state, nor yet belong to the realm of romance, yet it shows that young people of Union township in the early sixties were as capable of serving questions of great import as the present generation.
Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Fudge went visiting. As they expected to remain away over night, the young people of the family invited in the few boys and girls of the neighborhood to an evening dance. Everything went merry till one of the girls, who must have been something of an athlete, before these days of athletic womanhood, jumped upon a barrel full of sorghum molasses. The top gave way and she sank. She arose with the combined and strenuous efforts of all the beaux present, by far the sweetest girl in the room. While this may seem comedy to the young people of today, it had in it all the elements of tragedy to the members of the little party, because sweets were scarce and very high in price and this barrel of sorghum was supposed to be the main sweet for the family for the year.
After various plans had been considered it was finally determined that the whole matter must be kept a secret. Not until long after that barrel of sorghum had been consumed did Mr. and Mrs. Fudge understand why there had been such a falling off in the desire for sweet foods among the younger members of the family.