Lakin's Grove, Iowa - An early Hamilton County Settlement


1854

      The road named today as Lakin's Grove Avenue in Iowa's Hamilton County does not help any driver find the location where the town of that name used to be.   The sign does indicate, however, that the name is important in the history of Hamilton County.   Lakin's Grove was the first community settled in Hamilton County's Lyon Township.   It was common for the early settlers to locate along a river where they could find water and timber.   This village started on the banks of the Skunk River at NW Sec. 24-87-24 in 1854.   It was named for the first settler, Luther Lakin.

1864

1878 Colton's Map of the State of Iowa shows Lakin's Grove
(see enlarged portion below this image)

Although you can see the community of Lakin's Grove in this next Hamilton County portion of the Colton's Map,
the communities of Jewell Junction and Ellsworth had not been formed by 1878.

Click for wider view.

      This portion of that 1878 Colton Map shows Webster City, Lakin's Grove, Rose Grove, Skunk Grove and the east side of the Skunk River Randall Post Office, does not indicate Jewell Junction, Ellsworth, Stanhope, or the actual town of Randall.
 

A 1942 news article published in the Daily Freeman Journal told about Lakin's Grove.

     Elishia Lakin, whose father fought in the Revolutionary War, and his son, Luther, pre-empted land along the Skunk River in 1854.   The next year they moved with their families to that community.

     In 1887 Elishia Lakin took the contract to carry mail from Webster City to the county seat of Marshall County.   For this he received $500 a year.   He crossed the Boone and Skunk Rivers and had many lowland places to cross, without benefit of bridges, and only trails to follow.

   The little town of Lakin's Grove lasted about 20 years.   It consisted of a stage house with the post office in it and it flourished after the Civil War.   A former soldier operated a general store and a Swedish immigrant operated a blacksmith shop.
 


     A 1942 interview with historian Hattie Barkhuff concerning early settlers of the eastern portion of Hamilton County was published on April 23, 1942, when Webster City and the rest of Hamilton County was celebrating a double anniversary.   1942 was the 85th anniversary of when the name of the town Newcastle (platted in 1854) was changed to Webster City, and when it's newspaper (first known as the Freeman, next called the Freeman-Tribune, and now know as The Daily Freeman Journal) began.    Pages 1 and 6 of Section Two of that commemoration issue featured the contents of that the Hattie Barkhuff interview about Lakin's Grove and Callanan.   You may click to enlarge this article for easier reading, but the portion which told about this early town of Lakin's Grove is also printed out below this image.

Click to enlarge

By Miss Hattie Barkhuff of Ellsworth Township

First Settlers in Eastern Half of Hamilton County Faced Many Hardships

Lakins Moved West in 1854

Broke Sod and Planted Buckwheat as Main Source of Food for First Winter in New Region

     In 1854 Elishia Lakin, then a man of 57 years, with a son, Luther, and a son-in-law, Dr. Homer Cochran, and a relative, Oscar M. Lakin, came from DeKalb, Illinois to Hamilton County, Iowa.   For the senior Lakins this was the fifth big move.   He was born near Boston.   As a young man he went to Pennsylvania where he married Cynthia Ainslee and they were the parents of five sons and ten daughters.   During the time of bearing this large family, Mrs. Lakin made four long migrations by wagon.

Father was In Revolution

     Elisha Lakin and son, Luther, pre-empted about a section of land along the Skunk River were it runs in a southeasterly course for about a mile.

First Settlers

     In May, 1885, Luther Lakin left home to marry Emily Staples and they planned to start from there for their new Iowa home.   He planned to contact his relatives and arrive together.  Somehow he and his bride got a head start and arrived about two weeks before his rlatives.   So they were the first settlers.

     His parents, with several younger children, a brother, Brint, and his bride (Abigail Fuller) and a sister, Lucinda and her husband, Ed McCowen, were in the party.   As Lucinda had been married twice before she brought three or four Kimble and Morgan children with her.   These made up the caravan that followed in June.

      They built a log cabin on the east side of the river for the McCowens and a few weeks later Eveline was born, being the first white resident born in Lyon township.

Build Bark Shanty

     Mrs. McCowen died when Eveline was only a few years old.   When grown, Evelin married a Mr. Brower, of Webster City.   They had two children and then parted.   She later married a Mr. Welsh, lived around Webster City and Jewell for several years, and is buried in the Webster City cemetery, it is believed.

      The Lakins broke up some sod and planted buckwheat which was their main sourse of food the first winter.    In the fall a bark shanty to cook in was built for Luther and his wife, but they had to sleep in their covered wagon.   A log house was built for the parents and part of it is still standing where Fred Nelson now lives.   Brint Lakin settled about two miles south of the rest.

     Some of this group slept in hay covered shacks the first winter.

     Brint Lakins had the first baby boy, La Fayette born in January, 1856.   He died when eight years old.   Luther Lakins' son, Noah, was the third child, born a little later.

Had Large Families

     Brint Lakin had 14 children, four died in infancy and two later.   Luther Lakins had 16, one dying in infancy, but 15 lived to be married.   In the first 30 years, 30 Lakins were born and now only one boy, Fred, and one girl Mona (Mrs. William Loder) live in Lyon township.   The Lakin name will soon be extinct, as there are only a few grandchildren by that name.

     In 1857 Elishia Lakin, then about 60 years old, took the contract to carry mail from Webster City to Mariette, county seat of Marshall County, stopping at Lakin's Grove, Illinois Grove, New Providence, and Bangor.   This is probably when the Lakin's Grove post office was established.   The place for travelers to eat and sleep was at the Lakin home.   For this service, Elisha Lakin received $500 per year.   He crossed the Boone and Skunk Rivers and had many lowland places without bridges, and only trails to follow.   This continued for five years.

     The little settlement soon built a shoolhouse where they also held church, supplied by a circuit minister.   Later there was a Sunday school.   The first building burned down and the second was built in the first ten years.

A Suicide

     Mother Lakin had had a hard life and was rearing an orphaned grandson, Eddie Pinter.   She was operating a stage house and her husband was gone most of the time carrying mail.   One winter evening in 1859 when everyone was at church she was doing some baking.   She gave Eddie something to eat and sent him to bed.   When the family returned she was dead from poison.   She was nearly 56 years old.

     A few years later, Mr. Lakin married a Mrs. Dalbey, mother of Frank Dalbey, of Webster City.   They built and operated a new and larger stage house for several years.   Mr. Lakin lived to be 82.   Mrs. Dalbey Lakin died at the home of her son, Frank, and her gravestone bears only the wold "mother" and the dates.   The name Dalbey is so low that it cannot be seen when the grass is up, and it was thought to have been a different person.

     The second generation, Lute and Brint, with their large families, made history in various ways for 60 years.   Lute bought stock and fed cattle.   He had the first wind mill and had a long watering tank that extended into the road so the public could refresh themselves and their horses.   He also built a bowery for dances and promoted picnics for years.

Start Cemetery

     The start of the now Ellsworth cemetery was immigrants camping there.   A young man died from a lung hemorrhage.   The other was a new born baby.   The party moved on leaving the graves unmarked.   In 1915 when friends were digging the grave for James Buckels, a casket containing adult bones was found.   They moved over and dug up the bones of an infant.   The family then chose a lot in the new part.   It is possible that these were the unknown immigrants now on the lot when the Buckels girls.

     Family history by word and dates on gravestones conflict as to just who was the first local person buried there, but it is one of two - Mrs. Elisha Lakin, who took her life, or her oldest daughter, Lucinda, the mother of the first baby.   Her gravestone bears the name of her first husband, Kendall - 1857 and 1859.

     Elizabeth Lakin married Ole Anderson.    She had one son, Emory E. and died soon after in 1860.   Her grave is marked with a flat slab on the ground and four corner posts with a chain making a fence.   This marker was brought overland from Chicago.

      For a number of years there were four little graves on a hill on the west side of the river, about a mile south.   The first was a small son of Robert Knox, who lived several miles south and west.   The grave could have been made there on account of high water and no bridge over the river.   Later a child of Charles Knox Edna, nine months old, daughter of Ward Edwards, became tangled in bedding and smothered.   In 1886 Gertie Edwards, five months, smothered while sleeping between her parents.   The little white marker could be seen from the road a half mile east.   In about 1895 they were moved to the cemetery.

Lakin's Grove

     The little town of Lakin's Grove lived about 20 years.   It consisted of a stage house with the post office in it.   After the Civil War it flourished.   A general store was built and run by a soldier, S. G. Johnson.   A blacksmith shop was operated by a Swedish immigrant, Peter Ryberg.   A few homes were built.

     The schoolhouse had been built early.   The first one burned, as did Dr. Cochran's home.   At the northwest end of the town the road forked.   One went west to the Boone river and Webster City, the other went north, crossed the river and headed northeast to Rose Grove and on to Iowa Falls.   At the southeast end one road went south crossing a swampy place where a 90 foot corduroy bridge was built.   One went east, crossed the river and on to New Providence and on top of a high hill Luther Lakin built his permanent home where they spent the remainder of their days - 63 years.   Mrs. Lakin died Nove. 1918 and Luther a few years before.

     There are still several people living here that as children can remember Lakin's Grove.   Especially do they speak of Mrs. Ryberg as always giving anyone dinner if her husband was doing work for them.

     The holes where the cellars were can still be seen.   I have a dish that was bought at the Johnson store and a book printed in 1830 that was loaned to the children who attended Sunday school.   Lakin's Grove died in 1877-78.   A new schoolhouse was built in the early '80's where the main part of town had been.
 

Click to enlarge
From the Jewell Record published July 21, 1886:

     Our public school will close Friday with a basket picnic at Lakin's Grove.   The school at the Grove also closes that day and will join in the picnic.   All are invited to attend and have a good time.
 

Lakin's Grove
This text is adapted from "The Centennial History of Ellsworth"


     Lakin's Grove settlement was built along the early Indian trails and early immigrant trails in the southeast part of Hamilton County.  It was never platted, but grew for about 20 years (1856-1878) until Callanan was developed and came to about three miles southwest of where Ellsworth is now.

     Lakin's Grove was the first settlement in Southeast Hamilton County.  In 1854, Elisha Lakin; Luther, his son; a son-in-law, Dr Homer Cochran; and a relative, Oscar Lakin came from Illinois, DeKalb County, and entered claims on some land and preempted more making a large strip along the Skunk River.  Then they returned home and planned to start out again in the spring of 1855.

     Luther, who had recently married Emlie Staples and lived some distance from the Lakins, had made plans to start from the Staples home and would meet the rest at a given point.  For some reasons, their timing was not just right and Luther Lakin and his bride arrived about two weeks before the others did in June.  This made Luther Lakin the first settler.  The caravan consisted of the parents, Mr. and Mrs. Elisha Lakin and some younger children; their son Brint and his wife (whom he had just recently married), and a son-in-law, Ed McCowen and his wife, Lucida.  Lucida had the first been married to William Kandell and had two children, Gus and Helen, and also two children, Frank and Ann Morgan by a second marriage.  The third marriage was to Ed McCowen, who came with the Lakins.  They had brought with them some of the older children.

This group of relatives hurriedly built a log cabin and Eveline McCown was born.  She was the first baby in these parts.  Later, McCown had another child and both mother and son died.

Mr. Lakin contracted to carry the mail from Webster City to Mariette, the county seat of Marshall County for $500 per year.  He was then a man of about 60 years of age.  It was necessary for him to cross the Boone River at the beginning of his route, and then to cross the Skunk River.

     The first school was started about 1856.  This building burned to the ground and a new one was built where the first one had been.  Church services were soon held by a minister from Webster City and followed by Sunday school.  These services were held in the school house.  The school house was also a social center, especially after the Civil War, when farmers came in large numbers and young soldiers came west.

     It is believed that Dr. and Mrs. Cochran did not come until after her people did.  After his house burned down, he moved to Lehigh.  This left the community without a physician for years, and then Dr. Black came, sometime after the spring of 1869.  Several people, at that time, had typhoid fever.  Dr. Black later moved to the new town of Callanan.

The Civil War had four soldiers that called Lakin's Grove home.  They were Charles Lakin, Gus Kendell (son and grandson of Elisha Lakin), John Cooper, and Chilson Sanford.

     Luther Lakin first built a bark shanty in which they cooked and lived.  They used their covered wagon for a bedroom until they built a log cabin on the hill east of the river.  Here all of their sixteen children were born and it served as their home until the present house was built when Emily was a baby.  Luther Lakin raised a lot of stock, especially cattle.  He would herd several hundred head of cattle on this prairies.

One outstanding thing that people remembered was the well and the first windmill.  A tank was built with one half of it in the road for the traveling public to use.  For this he was given a tax reduction.

Mr. Staples evidently had more money as he bought a farm and built a frame house, the finest in the community for years.  The land came to the section line on the north; but there never was a road through there, as the road only on quarter of a mile south had been established.  This left the Staples farm so that they had to go through other people's timber and ford the river to get out.

John Bonner, the first owner of Rose Grove, bought land of Elisha Lakin.  The house was located on the fork of the road.

A baseball park was created by a young soldier, who had learned the game from boys raised in the east.  The clearing used by the Indians during the fall while gathering rushes and hunting made an ideal baseball diamond.

The William Barkhuff family, like John Cooper, came from Janesville, Wisconisn in 1864.

     Near the Dan Rinker home located about one half mile east of the road going south of the Grove, and near the river where it turned south again, was located a small graveyard on the sunny hillside.  There was no bridge and possibly high water was unable to get to the graveyard that the Lakins had started several years beore.

Lakin's Grove was never platted, and most of the business places were located on the north side of the road, which was all timber.

From the Jewell Record published March 16, 1911:

   Nellie Ostrem closed a very successful term of school at Lakin's Grove last Friday.   She has been engaged to teach the spring term, which opens in two weeks.
 

Jewell Record May 3, 1906

Obituary

   Luther Lakin, one of the pioneer settlers of Hamilton County, died at this home in Lakin's Grove Saturday morning, April 28, 1906, at five o'clock, after an illness of some length.   In his death this vicinity loses one of the few sturdy pioneers who came while the state was yet young, and laid the foundation for the present proud place of this Iowa land.

   Luther Lakin was born in Pike County, Pennsylvania March 7, 1830, being 76 years of age at the time of his death.   He early removed to Illinois, where in November of 1855 he was united in marriage to Miss Emily S. Staples, the fiftieth anniversary of their happy wedded life having been celebrated last fall.   Sixteen children blessed this union, all but three surviving.   One child died in infancy, and two others, Alpheus, and Mrs. Alma Sullivan preceded their father to the great beyond.

   In the year 1856, Luther Lakin brought his bride to Iowa to try the fortunes of her rich but untamed prairrie lands.   He settled in a beautiful spot that since has become known as Lakin's Grove, and here in the old homestead has been his home for a full half century.   During his residence here he has won the deserved confidence and esteem of an extensive circle of friends and associates.   He has held many offices of honor and trust and has been proved a true man of sterling worth.

   The funeral services were held Monday, conducted by Rev. Call, a Baptist minister of Webster City.   A large crowd of friends and acquaintances were present to show for the last time the respect and esteem in which they held this rugged and faithful pioneer.
 
 
 

 

Daily Freeman Journal December 4, 1918

AGED PIONEER PASSED AWAY

Mrs. Luther Lakin, Aged 83, Dies on Old Home Place
at "Lakin's Grove"

ON FARM 60 YEARS

Settled With Husband in County on Home Farm
in 1858

   Mrs. Luther Lakin, for sixty years a resident on the "Lakin's Grove" farm, near Ellsworth, died this morning at 1:30 o'clock at the ripe old age of 83 years.   The funeral will be held from the home Friday afternoon at 1:30 o'clock, conducted by Rev. Norstad of the Lutheran Church at Jewell.

   Mrs. Lakin was one of the oldest living pioneers in Hamilton County.   She and her husband came to the county in 1857, and settled upon the old home farm where each lived until claimed by death.   Mr. Lakin died twelve years ago.   Mrs. Lakin reached her 83 birthday January 1, 1918.   To this pioneer couple were born sixteen children, thirteen of whom survive.   The Lakin family has been prominent in southeastern Hamilton County for many years.   They have seen that part of the coutry grow from a wild, uninhabited prairie to a section of the best built up farming community in Iowa.   In the passing of Mother Lakin, one of the county's best known women has gone and she will be much missed in the community that had been her home for so many years and in the upbuilding of which she had taken a prominent part.

    She died at her home in Lakin's Grove on Wednesday, December 4th, at 1:30 o'clock A.M., following an illness of about four years during which time she has been an invalid.   Four years ago she suffered a stroke of Paralysis, from which she never recovered, and lately had been growing gradually weaker, until death finally relieved her of all earthly pain.

This article was published in the Ellsworth News on June 7, 1933:

MRS. NOAH LAKIN DIES AT BRITT

DEATH FOLLOWS THAT OF HER HUSBAND BY LESS THAN TWO MONTHS

     Mrs. Hoah Lakin passed away at the home of her daughter, Mrs. H. L. McNary in Britt, on Thursday, June 1, at the age of 74 years and 10 days.

     Mrs. Lakin had been an invalid for several years, suffering from chronic heart trouble, and at the time of the death of her husband on April 7, had a stroke from which she never completely rallied.

     The funeral was held on Saturdat at Union church in Ellsworth, with Rev. Arthur B. Gedye, the pastor, conducting the service.   Music for the service was given by a quartet - Mrs. K. H. Weaver, Dorothy Farris, John E. Olson and William Pitzer, who, by request, sang the same songs they had sung at the funeral of Mr. Lakin.   Mrs. Weaver also sang the same solo she had given at that time.   Mrs. Arvene Marshman was the accompanist.

     Interment was made in Homewood cemetery, with the following acting as pallbearers:  H. J. Caruth, H. B. Pitzer, Ole Voga, Peter Rushia, R. L. Ryberg and O. J. Peterson.

Of Yankee Parentage

     Lillian Maud Smith was born at Sun Prairie, Wis., May 22 1859, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Justus Smith.   The latter were Vermont Yankees, who lived for a few years in Wisconsin, and came to Iowa in 1865.   They owned the farm where Dr. C. W. Anderson now lives, two miles west of Ellsworth.

     She was married to Noah Lakin on June 18, 1876, at the home of her parents.   To this union two children were born, Leslie, who died at the age of 9, and Mrs. McNary.

     Mr. and Mrs. Lakin lived most of their life in Ellsworth.   The first six years of their married life was spent near Jewell, and during the last three they have been with their daughter at Britt, most of the time, but always returning to their home here when possible.

     Mrs. Lakin was a kindly woman, loved by all who knew her.   She suffered much during the later years of her life, but was always anxious to give her neighbors as little trouble as possible.   While her death has not been unexpected, the last eight weeks, her passing leaves a deep sorrow in the hearts of her relatives and friends.

A Pioneer Couple

     The death of Mr. and Mrs. Lakin has taken from this community one of the truly pioneer couples.   Mr. Lakin was the first white child born in Lyon township.   His parents had come to Iowa from Illinois in 1855, shortly after their marriage, and had previously lied in Pennsylvania.   Mrs. Lakin was but 6 years old when she came to Iowa with her parents, and their childhood days were spent in practically the same community.

     Many are the stories Mr. Lakin has told his friends of the early days in Hamilton county, the long distances which he traveled with his father, to Webster City to the mill, to the Boone river for coal, to the end of the railroad in Nevada for supplies.   His stories of his courtship, when he journeyed on foot to the home of his sweetheart, brought many a smile to his listeners' faces, and often a hearty laugh as Mrs. Lakin gently added a word of corroboration or correction, and these tales were often followed by stories of the early days when Mr. Lakin worked for the Northwestern railway.

     The funeral party on Saturday included about 30 friends from Britt, who were entertained in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Lakin.   Mr. and Mrs. Snyder Everett of Clear Lake and Mr. and Mrs. Albert Smith of Webster City, cousins of Mrs. Lakin, were also here for the funeral.