Early Recollections by Milton Pioneers

In the April 1926 issue of the Mole’s Eye, the monthly paper issued by the Milton High School, there are two interviews with pioneer residents of that place, which are of general interest.

Pioneer History

Preston Cassady, one of our old pioneers, gives us an interesting sketch of pioneer life.  He says that his parents migrated from Indiana in the year 1837.  They came, as was the custom of that time in a covered wagon.  A place of settlement was found about 4 miles northeast of here.

In the spring of the year a heavy snow had fallen.  Mr. Cassady, my father, was out hunting wild bees, when he came across tracks in the snow.  He followed them until he came to a settler’s cabin.  As far as he knew there were no other white settlers there.  But he knew that the tracks were not those of the Indians.  He was much surprised to find a pioneer, who was Brushwood (Bushrod) Craven.

I was born in 1843.  We had to go to Alexandria Missouri, for all our groceries.  Flour was not known then.  We got cornmeal and ate cornbread.   I was 8 years old before we ever had any school.  When we did have one, it was built in the timber.  The floor was made of logs, split and matched together.  It was called a ‘puncheon’ floor.  We had a huge fireplace, also wooden benches near to it.  Our books at first consisted only of a reader and a speller.  Later on, arithmetic was included, which was known as the ‘Old Blue Back’.  Our school terms consisted of only three months in the winter.  Many times we would walk over drifts, which were over the picket fences.  Yes, we walked right over the fences.  About every weekend, we would go to some other school for a spelling contest.  That is later on when more schools were dotted here and there.  We all went in sleds usually drawn by oxen.

Our fuel for household uses was taken from the trees in the timber.  The trees were cut and drawn by oxen to the cabin.  There they were trimmed and split ready for use.

We had no churches for some time.  Preaching was only held about twice a year.  Then it was in the log schoolhouses.

 I can’t remember much of the Indians.  I know though that they were friendly.  They came many times to the settlers’ cabins and traded their trinkets for food.  That is only a few of the conditions of pioneer times, but it is enough to show what our conveniences were as compared to those of today.


J. M. Pickett

Interviewed by Frances Cowles

I was born in Van Buren County May 29th, 1847, in a log cabin and was the youngest child in the family.  I attended school very little and when it was in a log cabin schoolhouse with greased paper for window glass.  My first teacher was the mother of Mate Moore.  I was often punished, by having my two thumbs tied together.

The first church was held in the schoolhouse and when I would come home I would relate the sermon to my mother and grandmother.

In those days we traveled either on horseback, afoot, or with sleds when we had snow.  There were only two buggies in Van Buren County.

As often times the Indians would pass our house and one night an Indian man and woman stayed all night with us.  They seemed very sociable but of course were hindered by not being able to understand our language.

Alexandria was our main place of trade.  This was about 49 miles away.  We would butcher hogs and take them to Alexandria to sell.  We would bring home what groceries we needed, such as brown sugar, molasses and coffee.  All of this was done with a wagon and oxen.

Mt Sterling was called Dog Town and continued to be so called, until a railroad was built through that place.

In 1851 my folks went across the plains to California.  We were ship wrecked on the steamship ‘Yankee Blade’, 24 hours out from San Francisco.  In 1855 we returned to Iowa.

When I was 16 years of age I enlisted in the Civil war under the command of Gen. Sherman.  At the age of 17, I was given the privilege to vote for Abraham Lincoln.  By a special vote of the Congress, anyone carrying arms for their country was allowed to vote.  While in the army, I would lie down in the mud to sleep and on one occasion while at Lookout Mountain, we marched until 10 o’clock and then slept on rocks.  I believe this was our hardest night.  We were given to eat ‘hardtack’ a little biscuit which was hard.  It has to be soaked in water before eating;  also crackers which were two and one half inches square and one half inch thick.  We also had bacon and coffee.

I often met Confederate soldiers alone and they were very friendly unless they were prisoners.  I was in the army 23 months when peace was made.

In 1869 and ’70, I learned the stone cutter’s trade at Athens Ohio.  I helped lay the foundation for Milton’s present school building and other building around here.

In 1872 I was licensed an exhorter in the M. E. church, done by the order of the quarterly conference of Lebanon circuit, Keokuk district, Iowa conference.  Again in 1874 at a district meeting held at Dunkirk Ohio, was examined, passed and received local preacher’s license.  Returning to Iowa in the winter of 1874, I was again in the jurisdiction of the Iowa conference held at a district meeting at Milton. August 17, 1875, I was examined, passed and my local preacher’s license renewed.

In the spring of 1885 I severed my connection with the M. E. church by certificate and preacher’s license all properly signed.

In September 1885, I united with the M. P. church and entered the Iowa annual conference as a lieutenant preacher.  In 1886 I was ordained and sent forth to preach the Word of Truth.

In 1893, I was appointed pastor of the New London Church,  where I tried to be faithful in the discharge of ministerial duties.  Later I moved to Milton where I have lived ever since.

IAGenWeb Project

©2000 - Contributed by Fran Hunt solely for the use and benefit of the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project,
a part of the USGenWeb Project.