Printed by The Record-Republican, Bonaparte, Iowa
Ruth Lawson is a third generation descendant of Henry and Jane Mark Morris, who settled and built their cabin on the land where the Morris Memorial Park was established by Ruth's father and his brother. She has lived on a farm north of Stockport since 1900. Her husband is Roxy Lawson, retired pitcher for the Detroit Tigers.
Clem Topping has lived in Union Township since birth in 1897 on a farm near Winchester. He and his wife, Emma, have lived on their farm northwest of Stockport since 1929.
Mrs. Lawson was a charter member and first secretary of the Van Buren County Historical Society, holding that office over 6 years. Mr. Topping was vice president for three years.
The Van Buren County Historical Society was organized in 1960 and meets on the third Friday evening of each month, usually with a meal served by some organization in one or another of the towns of the county. An annual activity is a tour of homes and history in one of our towns. This booklet on the History of Stockport is the fourth such and is first offered at the tour of Stockport on Oct. 18, 1970.
Officers of the society are Clay Lanman, President; Rex Ritz, Vice President; Iowa Andrews, Secretary; and Alma Lindsay, Treasurer. Directors are Ruth Minear, Jim Andrews, Earl Stinson, Clem Topping, Theo Cook, Leslie Dickson, Charlotte Dillon, Robert Satterly, Richard McCracken, Lester Lindsay and Merle Bird.
Annual memberships of $1.00 and life memberships of $10.00 are available and sincerely solicited from all interested persons.
When Mr. Barker told me that I was supposed to take part on the Old Settler's program, I, of course, immediately informed Mr. Spencer of the fact. "Well!" he says, "I don't just like the idea of classing us as old settlers." To us an old settler meant one who was seventy years or more of age. You see, we had never stopped to consider the matter. Then after thinking it all over we decided I really was an old settler, even though I hadn't reached three score and ten.
I am supposed to talk on Stockport, the youngest town in the county, but before commencing on that subject, I want to give you a little of my family history, thus showing that I am really entitled to be an old settler. I hope I don't have to read all of this for I am very much like the old colored woman, in that I don't like to hear a speaker read his speech. This woman went to church where the young minister always read his sermon. Someone asked her how the preacher was getting on. "How's he getting on?", she repeated scornfully, "Jes' like a crow in a 'tater field—two dabs an' a look up."
My grandfather, Philip R. Johnston, came from Cincinnati, Ohio to Iowa in 1850, settling on a farm just west of Utica. In 1855 they
moved to what is known now as the John Schulz farm at the west city limits of Stockport. (1970—still owned by Schulz, house is not occupied.) Mrs. Schulz is a granddaughter of Philip R. Of course it was then just a vast area of prairie land. Like many other early settlers they had no worldly possession on arriving here, but, through thrift and economy they were able to give each of their eight children a farm of 80 acres on which to establish their new homes. Yes, I can remember when there was no such place as Stockport, just a crossroads. Grandfather owned all the land on the north side of the road, the Days that on the southwest and S. V. Whitaker, on the southeast.
After something like twenty-five years, Grandfather purchased two farms, 1 1/2 miles west and ½ mile south of what is now Stockport. On one of these farms he started the children to housekeeping. My father, George W. Johnston married Elnore Walker, daughter of James Walker, a neighbor of the Johnstons. So on this farm they started their new home and here I was born in Nov. 1881. In about a year's time he had buildings erected on the 80 acres given him, which lay east of the crossroads in what is now Stockport. So there he moved his family and let the next one in line have the honeymoon home.
This was my home until 1905, when I married William H. Spencer. Ever since then, or 33 years, we have lived on a farm 2½ miles north of Stockport. You see this is where I am also an old settler by marriage. The farm on which we are living has continuously been in the hands of the Spencer family. We have the two parchment certificates as they were then called showing that Will's grandfather, Absolom Spencer, Van Buren County, Iowa territory, purchased of the United States of America, 160 acres in 1841 and 162 acres in 1846.
In 1881 the little community that was later to become Stockport grew quite enthusiastic over the prospects of a railroad going through their territory. The State offered a 500 dollar bonus providing it reached this crossroad settlement by Jan. 1, 1882. When it was seen that the workers could not accomplish the work, the men of the neighborhood turned out to help lay the ties and rails. Amidst rejoicing of the people the little narrow gauge engine with bell ringing and whistle blowing steamed into this crossroad section at exactly 11 o'clock and 55 minutes. For years this road was known as the Chicago, Ft. Madison and Des Moines railroad. A box car served as a depot until Sunday, December 18, 1890 when the men of the neighborhood volunteered to move the depot from Longview to Stockport. In the spring of 1894 a 200 ft. switch was laid. I wonder if some of the older natives wouldn't have thought the world was coming to an end if they could have looked ahead just for a day and witnessed a Zephyr going over their tracks. It was routed through here when there was a wreck on the main line. I can remember when Mother with we three children would go on this slow moving creature to Birmingham to visit her parents, who lived near the railroad track. Instead of taking us to the depot, which was about two blocks further on, Billy Moore the conductor would see that we got off right at their door.
A band composed chiefly of the men of the town was organized in about 1881 and was known as the Chicago, Fort Madison and Des Moines Cornet Band. It was a band of which any community even today could be proud of. There was no public building available, so quite often they would hold their band practice in our kitchen. I was very young at that time so I thought that event was something of great importance.
Francis Harlan conducted a general store and was Postmaster at the little town of Wilsonville. Our railway service appealed to him so he was persuaded to move his store to our community. In the fall of 1887 the men donated work, hauling native lumber from a nearby saw mill and assisted in erecting a building on the northwest corner of the cross roads. The front part of the building served as a store and the family consisting of Mr. Harlan, his wife and two sons, Harry and Carl, occupied rooms in the rear. This house today is remodeled and serves as the residence of J. A. Silver. (1970—owned by Mr. and Mrs. Minor Lydolph.) Mr. Harlan was also our first Postmaster. In order to have a postoffice of course a name was required. The matter was discussed pro and con and then Mr. James Beswick, Sr., grand-father of C. L. Beswick, said he would give the town $25.00 if they would let him name it. The offer was readily accepted. So he called it Stockport, after his birthplace Stockport, England. There is said to be only three Stockports in the U. S. Mr. Beswick and his two brothers, each living in a different state, had the honor of naming a town after their birthplace, Stockport, England.
W. H. Brewer, father of Mrs. R. A. Workman, Sr., built the first hotel in 1889. It was very efficiently operated by them for years before their retirement. The building although 51 years old is still a very respectable looking building, and is owned by Andy White, who lets out rooms to families. (1970—owned by Wilson Swailes.)
Stockport was incorporated as a town in 1902 with H. C. Skinner as the first mayor. Floyd Johnston, a grandson of Phillip R. Johnston is the present incumbent. (1970—Ed Donald.)
Cemetery nearby Stockport is that silent city of 400 or more in which many of our older citizens have been tenderly laid. Those that helped to make a town that we their children might have a better Stockport in which to live. This is a very beautiful country cemetery, and the old part was donated by Absalom Spencer as a burying ground for the community. Hence the name Spencer Cemetery. The first person buried within these grounds was Margaret Morris, daughter of Henry and Jane Morris in October, 1840. You probably either attended or heard of the Morris Centennial celebrating the arrival of Henry and Jane Morris to this section of the State. (1838-1938.)
There are said to be 4 sides to every man. His mental, spiritual, physical and social—all four of these can be properly developed in our little town. The school will supply the mental needs; the churches will supply the spiritual needs; our 3 doctors are always ready to administer to the physical needs. Dr. Graber, our longest in service, located in Stockport. in 1891. Now the last, the social needs of man can be ably met here too. Besides the social activities of the school
and the churches we have clubs and lodges galore, good class of movies twice a week, kitten ball, baseball and basketball for those athletically inclined.
Our town of 400 people is located on a level prairie surrounded by rich agricultural land, also it is on the C. B. and Q. Railroad. It has had a steady number of business establishments. The following lines of business furnish employment for our citizens: 4 stores, bank, telephone office, furniture store and undertaking, 2 hardware stores, implement store, blacksmith shop, veterinary, 3 doctors, drug store, cafe, shoe repair shop, lumber yard, beauty salon, moving picture theatre, sale barn, 2 barber shops, ice delivery, hatchery, 2 bulk oil stations, 2 garages, 4 filling stations, and the grain business conducted by the Workman Brothers. Since January 1 they have shipped out just 70 cars of shelled corn.
Stockport's first school—a subscription school of 5 pupils was organized in 1889 with Mrs. C. O. Swan, the lumberman's wife as teacher. The names of the five pupils were Harry and Carl Harlan, Emma Brewer Workman, Bessie Johnston Newman and myself. We sat around a rectangular table to do our studying. We hear an awfully lot these days about germs and, as Ripley says, "Believe it or not", we are all living, even if we did mop our slates continually with the same slate rag for the entire term.
A one-room school building was erected in 1895 with Sherman Morris as teacher. Soon another room was added and in 1911 the present school building was erected. We have an accredited school with a very efficient corps of teachers. Mr. Pickard, our suprintendent, first taught the 8th grade, then was promoted to the superintendency. He has been serving the school for 19 years.
Churches. The founders of Stockport were anxious concerning the building of Christian character in this community so have left a goodly heritage. Any one that is spiritually minded may attend any one of our three churches. The Christian Church, which was the first in Stockport was built in 1893; the Friends in 1895, and the Methodist in 1897. Forty five years ago I attended the Christian Church and I remember how I used to admire the singing of a Miss Jessie White of Hillsboro, who often came to help with the singing on special occasions. Now today I happen to be a Methodist and she is the wife of our pastor, the Rev. C. W. Cochran.
I think my 10 minutes must be about up, but before closing, I will say I have tried to touch on both the past and the present of our little town. As for the future, no one knows that, but I sincerely hope that a prosperous future is in store for Stockport, the `Youngest Town in Van Buren County'.
"I remember this place when it was nothing but big weeds, hog wallows and hedge fences!" So relates Floyd Johnston, whose father Dick owned the northeast corner of the intersection and whose father Phil owned the northwest corner before there was a Stockport.
Phil Johnston started it all when he told Francis Harlan that he would fill in the hog wallows and put up a building if he would run a store. Harlan had run a store in Wilsonville, and the new store at the crossroads thrived. It was located where Stan Johnson's Texaco station is now.
"I remember it just like it was yesterday," Floyd continues, "how I'd swipe a couple of eggs from mama's hen house and take them down to Harlan's store to trade for candy."
"Where did you get the candy?" Mother would ask. "Mr. Harlan gave it to me."
One day Floyd's dad said to Mr. Harlan, "You been giving the boy candy?"
"Oh, no! He brings eggs to trade for it!" And that put a stop to that.
The second building and business at the crossroads was a black-smith shop on the southwest corner. William Parnitske was a Dutchman who had been in business at Utica. Stockport had begun to draw from the surrounding villages.
The next two businesses were dependent on the railroad. Miles Shellman was the third man and was a hog buyer. The fourth man was Charlie Swan who opened a lumber yard.
The railroad had established a station at McVeigh and Longview and Shelman shipped hogs out of McVeigh for awhile but the people who owned the land in these villages would not sell lots so both failed to develop and the depot was moved from Longview to Stockport.
Floyd remembers going down to watch the men building the railroad switch. He and some other boys were sitting on a pile of ties when one of the men told them to get out of the way or he would tan their britches. His dad told him that he could count on another tanning when he got home. "That's the way they raised kids in those days," Floyd adds.
Phil Johnston, with the land on the north side of the road, had black hogs. Jim Beswick, whose land was on the south side, had white hogs. They helped each other butcher and one day Jim came over and said, "Phil, can you use a hog?"
Phil, with 9 kids to feed, said, "Yeh, I could use a hog."
They each got out their rifles and each picked out one of their own hogs. By signal they both shot at the same time. Phil got his but Jim missed and all the hogs in both bunches took off northeast. They didn't get them all rounded up for two weeks.
Floyd adds that Grandad bought this 160 for $800 about 1870.
One day Girard Workman, father of Fred Workman, who now lives in Keosauqua, came by in his wagon. He stopped to talk to Phil Johnston and said he had some good pasture and a chance to buy some sheep for $300. He wondered if Phil could loan him the money. Phil pulled out a roll of bills and counted out the needed amount. Girard offered to sign a note but Johnston said, "Don't want your note. If your word isn't any good, your note wouldn't be either."
Later when the sheep were sold and Girard came around to settle up he asked the amount of the interest. Phil said, "No interest, just give me $300 and we'll call it square."
Hedge fences were common then and snow drifted into the roads between the fences. Such were the conditions Jan. 28, 1887 when Floyd was about to be born and a neighbor was sent to Utica to summon a doctor. The doctor started out with a horse and sleigh but on the way the sleigh upset, so the doctor unhitched and rode the horse. The way Floyd tells it, when the doctor finally arrived, mama told him to get up and go open the door.
Floyd fondly recalls how Stockport grew; how there wasn't a tree in sight and at the big 4th of July celebration people carried parasols for protection from the sun. People would come and camp out during the celebration. "Talk about horse races! We really had 'em then!" he adds. As the town grew the train was its link with the rest of the world. There were two passenger trains and two freights every day. Floyd's daughter, Mildred, took piano lessons in Ottumwa, leaving Stockport on the train at 10:00 and Ottumwa at 3:00 for the return trip. While in the city she had her lesson and extra time to shop or visit.
Early day mud roads were improved with gravel but later Stockport citizens longed for a paved road. Mr. Johnston and Sherman McCord went to the Iowa State Highway Commission with a fervent appeal. Floyd says, "I did the talking and Sherm held me up."
"When I finished, the chairman of the highway commission said, `What Mr. Johnston says is true. I surveyed a quarter section for tile southwest of Stockport and there wasn't a half inch of fall in the whole farm'."
Floyd Johnston has seen Stockport develop from the beginning, every building built, every tree grow. He was the first mayor, serving 4 months and later served 3 terms as mayor, 5 as city clerk. He was secretary of the school board from 1916 to 1959 except for 5 years
when he was president of the bank at Runnells. He was justice of the peace for 32 years. He sold real estate and insurance and "liked every year of it."
He was the first chairman of the Van Buren County Selective Service Board, serving 3 years.
Floyd and his wife Lola live in the house which was built for Dr. Livingston Morris and his wife, Dr. Zenella (Nell) Nelson Morris, who practiced medicine in Utica and Stockport for 50 years.
The house was built in 1902-1903, the year Lola and her brother, Carl Barnes, came to live with Uncle Doc and Aunt Nell after the death of their mother, who was a twin sister of Zenella.
Builder of the house was Elisha (Lish) Harlan and helpers, who included Ott (Arthur) Morris, Ott Morris and brother John were the founders of the Morris Memorial Park.
Floyd and Lola will soon celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary. Their home is a veritable greenhouse of African violets. Lola recently gave away the piano which she had bought before their marriage, that younger fingers might learn to play it. Floyd laughs at how it cost him $50 to marry her—the amount she still owed on the piano.
Floyd admits that when he retired in 1960 he felt lost for awhile but adds by now he is gettin' to kind of like it."
A post office (1872-1901) in the southern part of section 9 in Cedar Township. Eugene Wilson was the first postmaster and after him the post office was at 2 or 3 different locations in the area. There was generally a store in connection with the post office. Other postmasters were Albert Howard and Isaiah Harlan.
A former railroad station located in Section 14 Union Township, 2½ miles NW of Stockport. The Longview depot was moved to Stockport in December 1890, where it is still in use.
A former station and post office 1882-1901 near the SW corner of section 21, Cedar Township and about 3 miles SE of Stockport. McVeigh had a general store and a lumber yard at one time.
A post office (1847-1848) in or near Section 34 in Union Township.
Was laid out August 25, 1855 by Roswell Dibble and Horace Dibble. At one time they had a doctor and two stores. The post office was discontinued about 1902.
A post office (1854-64) in or near the NE part of Section 15, Harrisburg Township.
A hamlet of brief existence and thought to be located near the center of Harrisburg Township. It had a post office from 1841 until 1844 and again from 1844 until 1849. A township hall and Baptist Church remain here.
John Whetsel laid out Utica in 1857. There had been a post office in the Utica area since 1849 and it was operated until 1903. Pratt Bros. operated a store from about 1902 until about 1930. There were two churches: the Baptist and the Methodist, which is still standing. The Iowa State Gazetteer of 1865 shows Utica to have a population of 75. W. H. Teal was the last postmaster. At least two doctors practiced in Utica.
Preparations were made to build a Methodist Episcopal church in Stockport in 1896. On Dec. 9 of that year A. H. Morris and Harriet Ebert Morris deeded the present church lot to the trustees who were A. N. Morris, President, B B. Hughes, Gus McCoy, Harvey Knowles and 0. Bradford. Articles of incorporation were adopted. The following spring the hauling of rock for the foundation was begun and the church was completed in the fall of 1897. The chief carpenters were William Love and Harvey Knowles.
The dedication of the new church was delayed until Jan. 16, 1898 because the seats for the building did not arrive. The name of the Epworth Methodist Episcopal Church was given to the organization. Dr. C. L. Stafford, then president of Iowa Wesleyan College, preached the dedicatory sermon. Rev. Paul McBeth was the pastor of the church at the time of dedication.
The charter members numbered forty or more. Nearly half of the members of the old Morris church transferred their membership to the new church in Stockport.
This church was on the Hillsboro circuit until 1909, then associated with churches at Utica, Winchester, Miller's Chapel, Glasgow, East Union and Hillsboro in 1930. Since 1944 the Stockport and Birmingham churches have been under one charge and served by one pastor.
The parsonage was built in 1908. The Morris church was sold in 1909. 0. E. Hatfield was the first pastor to occupy the new parsonage.
A Ladies Aid was organized on a night in January of 1898. It is now known as the Women's Society of Christian Service.
An addition has been built on the north side of the church for Sunday School classes and there is a spacious room in the basement and a well-equipped kitchen.
Episcopal was dropped from the name some years ago and with a nationwide merger of Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren churches in 1969, it is now the United Methodist Church.
In about 1892 the first worship services were held in a hoop factory across from the Brewer Hotel.
Then in 1894 Tarpley Early Taylor took the lead with 31 other members in erecting a church. The building committee was Thomas Beswick, Isaiah Harlan and Elisha T. Harlan. Others were Francis Harlan, Theodore Rowley, Vinnie Rowley, F. M. Lucas, C. L. Beswick, Nettie Huffman and Jessie Huffman, William Brewer and Lola Beswick.
The spacious audience room, 30x40 ft., seated 200 people and a lecture room on the south used as an auditorium seated 75 more. The aisles were carpeted and the seats were opera chairs (no better for comfort). The present pews were placed after a fire in 1912.
The first minister was Rev. Daniel Ferfrow, followed by Rev. Putman and Rev. Swedeburg.
Just a few years ago, class rooms were added on the west. The basement has facilities for a kitchen and dining room.
The parsonage stands to the north of the church and is occupied by Rev. C. W. Werft, who has served as minister for the last several years. This home is probably as old as the town of Stockport.
The stained glass, leaded windows on the east are in memory of Tarpley Early Taylor and placed there by the immediate Taylor families.
The Friends Church was built in 1895 on a lot north of the present school house. Members were the Silas Gregorys, T. Doans, Lark Watsons, Roy Graceys, Willie Tompkins, the Fleigs and many others.
Emma Brewer Workman played the organ for Sunday School and church services. She started in at the age of 13.
Manta and Emma Ott Russell were very active in the church affairs. In 1914, Hazel Fickel and John Schulz were married by the pastor, Rev. Boles. He was succeeded by Rev. Comfort.
About 1909, the upper grades of the Stockport School were held in the church, Professor Bingman was the principal.
A few years ago the church was sold and torn down.
The elevator started operating in Stockport under the management of Yost and Morley, shortly after the year 1900. They were followed by Yost and Workman and then Workman Bros. In 1934 the elevator burned down but was immediately replaced with a new one. After Workman Bros. came Roy Crawford and after that the business was named "Prairie Grain Co." After Crawford's death the business
was bought by Boyd Kisling, Blake Phelps and Raymond Keller. Mr. Keller is manager of the firm.
Under his management the business has acquired a mill and feed business, a complete fertilizer setup, a complete herbicide and insecticide service, seed sales and cleaning facility, a huge grain storage space, a fleet of trucks to pick up at the farm and make deliveries, and a grain drying system with a capacity of 1800 bu. per hour. Aside from these additions, the amount of grain bought has increased enormously.
At peak employment, Prairie Grain employs about 16 people. During peak years the elevator has shipped as high as 992 cars of grain and 1578 semi-trailer loads. Their grain storage capacity is about 630,000 bushels. A new grinding and mixing service is being installed at the feed mill. It will have overhead gravity feed bins with a holding capacity of 100 ton of finished feed per day and as a further service, they will deliver it to your farm and put it where you want it. This company comes close to being a one-stop for all farm services.
The corn that is shipped by freight car goes to various destinations: St. Louis; Kansas City; Atchison, Kansas; Keokuk, Iowa, and of course for export. The corn and beans shipped by truck generally are hauled to barge loading points and goes down the Mississippi for export overseas.
On July 1, 1887, N. A. Brown and his brother started carrying mail for a Star Route from Wilsonville through McVeigh, Utica, Pierceville to Bentonsport. If the carrier did not get through with his mail, no matter what the weather and roads, his wages for that day were docked. If he made no attempt to get through, three days' wages would be taken away from him
About 1917-1918 Mr. Silver was selling tubs of butter, cases of eggs and crates of chickens to retail dealers in the surrounding communities of Fort Madison, Donnellson, Mt. Pleasant, Fairfield.
In 1917 he contacted buyers in New York City, Chicago and Philadelphia to find out if they were interested in buying live chickens. They were so he started shipping one to two carloads a week to one of the above points. Each car was accompanied by Mr. Silver or one of his sons, Ezra and Lawrence, or by George Bartholow, Edward Knowles and others.
The chickens were brought into Stockport by Model T's and two large Republic trucks from within a radius of 50 miles.
Roxy Lawson states: "One time there were not enough chickens to fill a car. Mr. Silver contacted a produce dealer at Woolson, Iowa, and he sent Dale Workman and Roxy to pick them up. They arrived back just as the train was ready to pull out. Crates of chickens were thrown on the cars; the fellow going along that time had to get the chickens in their cages and throw out the crates along the right of way.
This operation ceased in 1926.
About 1932, Cora and Lawrence Silver started custom hatching in their home across the street from the Methodist Church. This home was in the Lucas estate and had been bought by Roy V. Davidson, funeral director, and sold to Cora and Lawrence.
Their first step was a "Younker 400" egg incubator, then a second "Queen 400" egg and a third "Klondike 400" egg. Baby chicks were sold locally. Later they bought from John Brown, a building on main street, now the Ponderosa, and here is the point where they started in earnest in custom hatching with a "Buckeye 2800" egg capacity.
Expansion was still on the way and they bought a large building east of the old Brewer Hotel from John Schulz. Formerly, Harry Pulsipher occupied it for a sales barn, and William White as a garage.
The egg capacity was increased to four large incubators. There was other equipment to take care of the baby chicks. Eggs were picked up by Model A and Model T cars within fifty miles of Stockport. The chicks were sold locally and to other retail outlets.
On the payroll was 32 employees, all local people. Egg graders, mechanics, etc.
Cora and Lawrence closed the business in 1954 with an auction of their equipment. They retired to their farm northwest of Stockport where they lived several years before moving to Stockport where Mrs. Silver still resides.
Mention must be made of the fact that the Silver Hatchery was operating during the darkest days of the Great Depression and jobs were so hard to come by. Many local people would have been without work had it not been for the hatchery.
In the fall of 1937, John H. Morris, his wife and daughter, Ruth, spent the day at Crapo Park, Burlington, Iowa. The main attraction for John was the log cabin. He studied it from all angles and said, "We can build a log cabin on the site where my grandfather settled." (John owned the timberland).
He talked it over with his brother, Arthur. A trip was made to New Salem, Illinois, site of the cabins in memory of Abraham Lincoln. Enthusiasm began to build up, so the first log cabin was built on the original site, because in digging for the fireplace, the exact spot of the original fireplace built in 1838 was located.
Logs were donated by living descendants, shingles rived, etc. By the way, names of Morris' were burned or printed on these shingles and they can be observed today.
John and Arthur started construction in February, 1938. Relatives, friends and neighbors helped, but the two brothers were the mainstay.
The cabin was finished by August, in time for the regular Morris reunion (first Sunday in August) and a Centennial celebration on Saturday. A pageant, depicting the various stages of pioneer life, was presented. Winfield Morris, grandson of Henry and Jane Mark Morris, trained two oxen to draw the lynch-pin wagon in our parade. He spent hours at this.
For this Centennial people brought in many of their antiques to put on exhibition. Some of them left their display and from then on people wanted to donate antiques and thus, that is the reason for the many buildings.
Henry and Jane Mark Morris, with their eight children, three daughters and five sons, came from Harlan County, Kentucky in 1838 and settled in Cedar Township, Van Buren County, Iowa. They traveled in a covered lynch-pin wagon (which is on display), but Jane Mark rode horseback and carried her youngest son, Henry Thompson, with her. She said, "He never grew any until I dropped him in the creek on the way out here."
Henry Thompson Morris was my grandfather and his sons, my uncles were Charles, Frank, Elmer, Arthur, Sherman, Pitkin and William. My father was John. There were no daughters.
All types of pioneer farm machinery are on display — wooden threshing machine with tumbling rods powered by four teams of horses. This machine threshed oats on exhibit in 1942. There is the two-man corn planter, tongueless cultivator, buck brush grubber, treadmill and many other pieces of pioneer equipment. There is a 150-year-old rope bed brought from Indiana by the Anna Watson family; a trundle bed, belonging to Henry and Jane Mark Morris; steel-yards, which were the property of Samuel Veatch, brought from Connersville, Indiana; two large copper kettles with apple stirrers, one belonging to Edgar R. Harlan and the other to Ben McClellan, an old settler. There are over a thousand items on display in eight buildings.
The large stones, as well as the smaller ones, were dug out and picked up on Summer Creek, east of the park. These were hauled by wagon and team to the site. The largest stone, with plaque, was presented to the Morris Park by Ede Luella Veatch Morris, the wife of John H. Morris. The plaque reads "John H. and Arthur Morris, Founders of this Memorial Park. 1938."
In 1968, the park was deeded to the Van Buren County Conservation Board. Ruth V. Morris Lawson, sole heir to John H. Morris; the heirs of Arthur Morris, Edgar H. Morris (deceased), Spencer Quincy Morris, Henry Thompson Morris, and Mary Jo Morris Lanam, are deeply grateful and thankful to Harold Johnson, chairman, and the other members of the Van Buren County Conservation Board, and to Jo. S. Stong and the Van Buren Foundation for their keen interest in
preserving the Morris Memorial Park. Through their efforts a long-range program is planned.
A home was built in 1969. The present custodians, Mr. and Mrs. Russell Rippey, are very nice, courteous and certainly efficient, and they reside in the home today.
Arthur Morris was a skilled carpenter who is remembered as having built his own coffin, using walnut wood cut from trees on his farm. It was assembled with wooden pegs, not a nail in it. It was stored in his shop until the time when it was needed and he delighted entertaining visitors, especially children, by getting inside to show how well it fit. He told them that he laid down on a board and had his wife mark around him to determine the size. Arrangement was made with the undertaker to add the lining at the time of his death.
Stockport's tile factory came into being shortly after 1900 and discontinued the operation about 1920. It had a peak working force of 15 men. Following are the names of different operators: Caleb Wheatley, Roll Harlan, Mike Collins, a Mr. Drisinger, A. J. Boyd and a Mr. Nieswanger.
Their product was mostly drainage tile, some common building brick and a large hollow brick that was used for building. This factory furnished tile for the tiling of thousands of acres around Stockport, also a large amount was shipped by rail to more distant customers. The Stockport Public School was built in 1911 and made of Stockport brick. A large number of hog houses were made of the larger hollow brick.
In 1876, Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Snider lost four children within a space of 39 days. Their graves are in Spencer Cemetery.
The Jake Silvers home near Stockport, a stop on the Oct. 18 Van Buren County Historical Society tour, was once a stop for stage coaches. Legend has it, the house was also a stop on the underground railroad, used for hiding runaway slaves from the South.
The following is taken from an article written by Raymond Parrish after interviewing J. C. (Jake) Silver, who in turn had obtained the most of his information from the Seth Fordyces, his maternal grandparents. Col. R. F. Silver (retired) is a son of J. C. Silver and is the fifth owner and a direct descendant of Jarius Fordyce, who purchased the land from the government in 1838. Mr. and Mrs. John Hoffer live on the farm and are longtime operators.
When the Fordyces purchased this farm, they had not planned to operate a tavern, but, as their home was midway between Keokuk and Ottumwa, it was only natural that the stages which left those points early in the morning should stop there. It being impossible to refuse hospitality to the stage passengers and emigrants, the pioneer farm house was gradually transformed into a widely known tavern for that day. A relay station was established with a spacious stable with a full time attendant. At the sound of a horn signalling the approach of the coach, he immediately hitched six horses to draw it and held them in readiness for a quick change when the stage
arrived. Sufficient time was given the passengers for a little rest and refreshment before speeding on.
In the winter of 1839 a band of about 40 Indians were encamped on a bluff overlooking a small creek running through the Fordyce land. During the winter one of the Indian girls died and was buried on this bluff with all the Indian traditions. The group was a remnant of the Fox and Sac tribes and they left the following summer, moving on westward to new lands provided for them.
The most tragic story occurring during those days was that of a man and his wife and nine children headed west. The parents became ill and, after reaching the tavern, asked to be taken in. Mr. Fordyce and his wife's brother took care of them even though they had the dreaded cholera. Their efforts to save them were to no avail and they were buried near the grave of Jarius Fordyce. The nine children were cared for with the help of neighbors until the man's brother in Pennsylvania had been notified and came after them.
In addition to the constant stream of emigrants, the Mormons also traveled this road. Mr. Silver's grandfather has told him that she could look out from the house and see a continual line of them. They drove teams of mules and oxen, some even pushing crude carts. At night she said that the hills to the west of their home would be dotted with hundreds of camp fires built by the emigrating Mormons.
Seth Fordyce helped organize the Bethany Christian Church in his home in 1854. Regular services were not held every Sunday. Traveling ministers were secured whenever possible, generally in numbers. Many times the preaching would last nearly all day with one preacher following another. The Fordyces always entertained them and in addition would invite the congregation to the inn following Sunday services.
Winchester was the town about which the community centered. Nothing remains today of the town that grew to the size of Stockport and which now takes its place. After the advent of the railroad and the end of the stage coach route, one of the drivers returned to live near the road on which he daily drove his coach. He had requested that at his death he be buried as near the old stage road as possible. Consequently, his body was buried in the very center of the old road at a point where it passed through the Winchester Cemetery.
There is a cemetery located on the farm and it is known as the Fordyce Cemetery.
James Beswick, Sr., one of the early settlers of Van Buren County, is of English birth and a son of James and Elizabeth Gaylord Beswick, who were also natives of England. Accompanied by their family they moved to Washington County, Ohio, where he followed the occupation of farming. To them were born 6 children; 3 of whom are now (1890) living; George W. and Mrs. Elizabeth Beach, residents of Ohio, and James, Sr., subject of this sketch.
James Beswick, Sr. was born in Stockport, England, April 13, 1806, and at the age of 12 accompanied his parents to Ohio. On Dec. 10, 1826, he was married to Miss Augusta Markham Thorniley. Her parents had emigrated from London, England. For 24 years they farmed in Ohio but in 1850 they set out for Iowa, where they located in Union Township, Van Buren County. After living on this farm for 19 years, Mr. and Mrs. Beswick moved to Winchester, where they expect to spend their last days. Twelve children had been born to them, 6 of whom are now (1890) living. Their names are as follows: George W., Memphis, Mo., James, Jr., Mrs. Fanny Plummer, Mrs. August Whitaker, Mrs. Minerva Thorniley and Thomas T., all of Van Buren County.
In 1882 the narrow gauge railroad originating at Ft. Madison had been extended as far as Birmingham, then Collett and finally Ottumwa. Depots were established at McVeigh and Longview, and had been built by popular subscription. In a few years, the railroad, needing more money began agitating for a station on the Cedar-Union Township line, and agreed to put a depot there upon condition that the people of the vicinity buy a 5-acre tract of land have it divided into lots and give the railroad each alternate lot. For this purpose, anybody at all friendly to the proposition was solicited for money. James Beswick, Sr., when asked to subscribe replied, "I'll give $25.00 on condition, I be permitted to name the town. His offer was accepted and he named it after his native Stockport, England. On Sunday, Dec. 28, 1890, the Longview depot was moved into Stockport on two flat cars and is still in use there.
The following incident occurred in 1850, when Mr. Beswick was moving a wagon load of goods from Keokuk to his new home. As he was moving along with his load, he caught up with a woman and small boy wearily trudging along the wagon trail. He asked them where they were going, but she had forgotten the name of the town, but that it was about 50 miles northwest of Keokuk. Being a stranger to those parts himself, he named some towns, he had heard of, but this only confused them more. The only solution seemed to be, to give them a lift and after a few hours travel, they met a wagon that had come to meet them. The woman's name was Teal and the little boy was George Teal who lived and died near Utica, Iowa.
There are 3 descendants of James Beswick, Sr., who own and operate farms in Union Township. They are: Miss Marguerite Beswick, who lives on the original farm, which has now been in the family for 119 years; also Harold and Gerald Beswick, twin brothers, who with their respective families live on Union Township farms.
Another member of the Beswick family had the honor of naming the town of Stockport in Morgan County, Ohio.
Prepared for the Van Buren County Historical Society.
1960 Census, Stockport, Iowa, 346 — Stockport, Ohio, 404
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