Thursday, January 07, 2016

Where in the world was Freeland?

Since I'm headed back up the Mormon Trail from Union Township into Chariton, this seems like as good a morning as any to stop at Freeland, not quite as old as Argo Post Office and not as long-lived, but for 11 years, 1854-1865, its neighbor to the east.

"Freeland" sometimes is mistaken for "Freedom" mispelled, but the latter village and post office were located some five miles southeast although also in Warren Township.

To get to the approximate site of Freeland today, travel three miles east on the Mormon Trail from its intersection with Highway 65, just north of Goshen Cemetery and Church, to the first crossroads. May Baptist Church, torn down after its congregation faded, once stood in the northwest corner of this intersection; May School --- now beautifully conserved at Hunter Tree Farm just northwest of Chariton --- in the northeast corner.

Turn north here and drive a mile and a half, passing the ISU McNay Research Farm, the result of a bequest by Harry and Winnie McNay of the old Isaac McNay farm and their William Lee Perkins-designed brick home to Iowa State University.

Then turn east and after about half a mile, just before the road curves slightly north before straightening out again, watch for a sign on the south identifying what now is called the Gay-Plymate Pioneer Cemetery. The cemetery is some distance back in the fields south of the sign, but there are no tombstones there --- only neatly clipped grass and unmarked graves; no one knows how many.

This is the burial place, however, of Plymate family patriarch James Talmadge Plymate; Freeland was very much a Plymate family enterprise; and the family cabins --- and post office --- were very near this kink in the road.

James Talmadge and Mary (McCoy) Plymate brought their family to Warren Township and settled here along the trail during 1851 after living in Cabell County, (West) Virginia; Des Moines, Henry and Washington counties, Iowa; and then Warren County, Illinois. He was by trade a carpenter.

In addition to their children, the family settlement in Warren Township grew to included his brothers and sisters-in-law, Benoni and Polly (Wilcox) Plymate and Charles and Luranda (Sutton) Plymate, who arrived ca. 1855 with their families. This gets a little confusing at times because James T. Plymate had both a brother and a son named Benoni.

James T. Plymate was appointed Freeland's first postmaster on Oct. 30, 1854, but died during April of 1857 --- the first death in northern Warren Township and the first burial in the Plymate graveyard, located on family land.

After his death, his son, James Edwin Plymate --- always known as Edwin --- was named postmaster on April 7, 1857, and served until July 11, 1860, when Benoni Y. Plymate, his brother, was appointed to the position. Benoni passed the post on to another brother, Nathaniel W. Plymate, on Oct. 7, 1861.

William Young, the only non-Plymate to hold the post, became postmaster on Feb. 6, 1862, but served only until March 24, 1862, when Benoni Y Plymate was reappointed. Little more than a month later, on May 1, 1862, Nathaniel was reappointed.

Some of this rapid-fire transfer of position probably resulted from the Civil War. Benoni Y. Plymate enlisted as a private in Co. C, 18th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, on July 12, 1862, and was promoted to 3rd sergeant when mustered a month later. Benoni did not return --- he was killed in combat at Poison Springs, Arkansas, on April 18, 1864.

Nathaniel Plymate enlisted as a private in Co. K, 46th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, on May 17, 1864, shortly after passing the position of postmaster on to his uncle, Charles Plymate on May 12, 1864.

Nathaniel's service was short, however --- he was honorably discharged on Sept. 23, 1864; returned to Lucas County; and reassumed the position of postmaster on June 8, 1865. And then, on Nov. 11, 1865, the post office at Freeland was discontinued and those served by it were thereafter served by the Chariton post office.


The Plymate family scattered in the years after the Civil War.

Benoni and Polly Plymate had by 1865 settled permanently about four miles south of Freeland, in the vicinity of what now is called Murray Cemetery, just east of Derby. Benoni died here on Dec. 28, 1865, and was buried in Murray Cemetery. His widow, Polly, died on April 7, 1868, at the nearby home of Alexander and Nancy McMains and was buried by his side. Their children had by the time of Polly's death moved west into Nebraska.

Charles and Luranda Plymate and their family also moved west to Nebraska soon after the Civil War.

Mary (McCoy) Plymate, widow of James Talmadge Plymate, died on Jan. 5, 1871, at the home of their son, James Edwin. By this time, the Goshen Cemetery had been established and so she was buried there rather than by her husband's side in the old Plymate burying ground.

James Edwin Plymate continued to farm at Freeland until his death on July 9, 1889. He was buried at Goshen Cemetery, near his mother. Edwin's widow, Mary Jane (Richie) Plymate, married Thomas Bantock, of Lucas, during 1893, then after his death made her home with her son, Peter F. Plymate, at Russell. She died there on Jan. 24, 1909, and was buried by Edwin's side at Goshen Cemetery, although her grave is unmarked.

Nathaniel W. Plymate also farmed for a time in the Freeland area, but eventually moved west to Nebraska, too, and then on to Oklahoma, where he died.

By 1900, there were neither Plymates nor enduring memories of a post office called Freeland in Warren Township. The Plymate settlement at Freeland had been a preaching station on an early Methodist circuit, but the earliest Methodist church in the area was established at Freedom and family members joined there.

In addition, the Freeland Farmers Club flourished for a few years during the late 1860s and early 1870s in the neighborhood. This was a social and self-help organization that focused on sharing news of agricultural innovations and organizing fairs and expositions. This organization, perhaps Lucas County's first, later joined with others to form the Lucas County Farmers Club, organizer of the first county fairs and builders of the the first fairgrounds at Chariton.

But nothing of Freeland itself remains.

1 comment:

Mary Mart said...

My Grandmother, Claire Fulton and siblings attended May school and church. I have school and church bulletins with their names. They lived on the land with James Fulton's name, her Grandfather, on the platt map.