An American Family History

Benton Township, Lucas County, Iowa

History of Lucas County, Iowa
By State Historical Company, Des Moines
Published by State Historical Company, 1881
  Home of the Levi Fox, John Fox, and Josiah Smith Families

Lucas County is in south central Iowa. It was founded in 1846 and the county seat is Chariton.

A sawmill was an important developmental step in a community. Before sawmills, boards could only be sawn by two men with a whipsaw. In a sawmill, the circular motion of a water wheel was changed to the back-and-forth motion of the saw blade with a pitman arm.

In the 1830s settlers began arriving in Iowa from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia. Iowa became a state in 1846.

Population in 1880, 713. This township was named in honor of the great Missouri senator. It is congressional township 71—21.

The north fork of Chariton river runs through it from northwest to southeast, leaving less than one-third of the township on the north side. Wolf creek, running from near the southwest corner, empties into Chariton river near the center of the township. These two streams thus divide it into three nearly equal parts. Some very good timber along Wolf creek furnishes logs which are manufactured into lumber by a portable sawmill near the southwest part of the township.

Most of the citizens receive their mail at Chariton, but a small number patronize Milan post office, kept by J. G. Merrill. He also owns and cultivates one of the finest farms in the county. At present he has a number of men employed in erecting one of the best stock barns in the west. Quite a number of the citizens living in the northeast part of the township receive their mail in whole or in part, at Russell.

The citizens are engaged almost exclusively in agricultural pursuits, and with the exception of the post office and sawmill before mentioned, no other business is carried on by the residents.

The main line of the C., B. & Q. railway runs for nearly four miles through the northeast corner, but no station is located within the township, and consequently neither saloon, blacksmith shop, nor dry goods store is located within her borders. There was a time when one of the most flourishing villages in the county existed in this township. It was located near the southwest corner of section twelve, and the northwest corner of section thirteen, and therefore, covered part of two sections, (a small part) and the traveler, now, as he passes from Bethel school house, on the road to Russell, if, after crossing the bridge over the branch, he pauses on the hill side, will find himself on the site of the no longer existing village, which, in its palmy days was known by the classic name of "Ragtown."

Seven school houses are in the township, and the seven teachers therein suffice to supply the thirst after knowledge evinced by the three hundred and fourteen pupils, who ought to go to school there—but some don't go. But one church building rears its spire heavenward. It belongs to the M. E. Church, and is located on the New York and Chariton road, near the residence of Daniel Ragsdale. It was built in 1873, at a cost of about $1,500. It has about forty members.

The United Brethren in Christ organized a society in 1866. Among the original members were Alexander Lockey, Ezra Ogburn, Amos Johnson, and others. Their meetings have been usually held in the Gartin school house. The membership numbers about thirty. The following named persons have, at various times, been in charge of the society: Revs. Heath, Wheeler, Stark, Davis, Swayne, Wm. Kelsey, A. D. Richards, Todd, and Gardner.

The reorganized Latter Day Saints organized a society in 1877, which now numbers about thirty persons. Their meetings are held in the Palmer school house, and their present pastor is Elder Ekin Lovell.

In the year 1879 the Adventists made their advent in this township and organized a society, among the original members of which were Fred Milthorpe and wife, James Fant and wife, S. M. Ream and wife, J. W. Smith and wife, T. A. Watson and wife, Oliver Fant, Miss Fant, Mrs. Ryan and others. The head of this organization was, and is, Elder J. F. Adair. The present membership numbers about twenty-five. They also occupy the Palmer school-house, alternately with the Latter Day Saints. It may be noticed that the last three societies named are all in the southwest part of the township, and would seem to indicate it an unusually favored portion of Zion.

Chariton is the county seat of Lucas County, Iowa and is in Lincoln Township.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was founded by John Wesley, began in 1784. It became the major component of the current United Methodist Church. At first, members were expected to seek the sacraments in the Anglican Church, but by the 1770s they had their own chapels. Circuit riders traveled by horseback to preach and establish churches. The earliest Episcopal Methodists in North America were drawn from middle-class trades and there were more women than men. Services were emotional and demonstrative.

A society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized, partly in Benton township and partly in Warren township, away back in 1864. This society, with a Sabbath-school, use as a place of meeting the Union school-house, which is now situated in Warren township (though it was formerly across the line in Benton), and a detailed account of the organization is given under the head of Warren township.

Benton township contains 23,212 acres, as shown by the tax books, nearly all of which can be cultivated, and but a small part that is suitable only for grazing. At the present time about 17,000 acres are under fence and in cultivation. All kinds of farming are carried on; corn, wheat, oats, rye, hay, etc., are produced. Some of the best cattle that ever entered the Chicago stock-yards came from the pens of Lewis Bennett, of this township. For many years no better butter came to Chariton than that which was churned in Benton township. Lately two of the citizens have concluded to make a specialty of butter, and have erected a creamery, which, however, is situated in Lincoln township, and will be there described.



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©Roberta Tuller 2023
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