Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

Born in the Old Brick

The last land available for homesteading in Van Buren County, Iowa was in the northwest part of Village Township. It was here in 1853 that Jesse Ratcliff purchased 320 acres at $1.25 per acre, using a land grant issued and signed by President Franklin Pierce.

The large piece of land was located north of the present village of Douds, in the area near where a settlement called Business Corners was located.

According to a newspaper article written by descendant Roy Ratcliff of Douds which is dated November 3, 1955 Jesse was born in South Carolina on January 14, 1809. At about ten years of age, he moved with his parents Job and Tamar Davis Ratcliffe to Indiana.

Job Ratcliffe had been born in Catham County of North Carolina around 1780 and died in Wayne County, Indiana in 1829. He had married Tamar Davis, who was born August 3, 1780 and who also died in Indiana. For reasons I am not yet absolutely sure about, Job was disowned by the Cane Creek Monthly Meeting of Quakers in the Piedmont area of North Carolina on November 7, 1801 which partly explains why he would abandon his family clan and roots to remove himself to another area. He is said to have lived in Kentucky from 1811-1818 where he leased land.

In an effort to separate themselves from the clan they left behind, many members of the family began to drop the "e" from their last name, spelling it Ratcliff. Among the descendants that followed, this was a popular spelling more with the men of the family than the women. My maternal grandmother, Mary Ina Ratcliffe Fellows insisted on adding the "e" to her name as it followed earlier tradition.

In an accident, Job was killed in 1829 when a tree fell on him, driving an axe through his abdomen. Jesse, the fourth son of Job Ratcliffe married Rosanna Cozad in Fairfield, Ohio on January 27, 1831 and subsequently had 8 sons and 7 daughters. Rosanna, born January 2, 1813 in Fairfield, Ohio was from a family who had roots in Holland and Belgium. Part of their married life was spent in Noblesville, Indiana but when Jesse and his family uprooted themselves to homestead in Iowa not far from the frontier, they bade farewell to his mother and the remainder of his clan who were now scattered across Ohio and Indiana.

Several years after arriving at Business Corners, Jesse and his sons began building a large brick home on the property in 1860, but completion of the project was delayed by the Civil War where his sons all fought for the Union cause. When he died in 1879, the farm was divided and son Aaron inherited 80 acres where the "Old Brick" sat. Aaron had married Charlotte Morrison of Libertyville and resided in a log cabin southwest of Leando on the other side of the river. My grandmother Mary, youngest of their 8 children, was born in 1881 and was the only one of her siblings that was born in the "Old Brick" as it was called, rather than in a log cabin.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick