Layton Township History by Karen Hansen




June 7, 1873, the petition of W. B. Cuppy, Thomas Ledwich, G. N. Robinson and forty other citizens of Knox Township was presented to the Board of Supervisors of Pottawattamie County, asking that honorable body to divide Knox Township into two civil townships, and, on motion, the following resolution was adopted: “Be it ordered by the Board of Supervisors of Pottawattamie County, that Township 76, Range 38, and Township 77, Range 38, be and the same is hereby organized into a civil township, to be known as the township of Layton.” The first election was ordered held in the town of Walnut, on October 14, 1873.

Layton Township was the last portion of Pottawattamie County to attract the land agent and the settler. Why this was the case seems difficult of explanation. It was perhaps because that portion of the county was farthest from market. In the settlement of the new lands of Pottawattamie County, the two most important questions considered were fertility of soil and facility of reaching market. None doubted the fertility of the soil of Layton Township, but it was a question of doubt as to whether the residents of that portion of the county would ever have the advantages of a railroad. Layton Township is well adapted to agricultural pursuits, nearly the whole of the surface being a gently rolling prairie, of which but very little is untillable, yet, when the agents for Government lands had the choice of locating claims in almost any part of Pottawattamie or adjoining counties, they ignored the natural advantages presented by Layton Township, and, in many instances, went seventy-five, and sometimes even 100 miles distant from Council Bluffs to locate a claim in what they considered a desirable locality. Could they but have foreseen the future prosperity and rapid development of the northeast corner of the county, how different would their plans have been! Could they have known that what seems to them but a few short years since they sold thousands of acres of choice land at $5 or $6 per acre, would bring a ready market for the same lands at $20 or $30 per acre, how quickly would they have taken the lands of Pottawattamie County which they then considered undesirable. The growth in population and the development of the resources of Layton Township have been more rapid than in any township in Pottawattamie County.

Important events have crowded one after another in quick succession since the organization of the township. It has been said by an eminent writer that “in the earlier days of emigration westward, the people went West and the railroads followed them, but that in later years the custom has changed, and now the railroads open the wild lands for the pioneers.” The lands of Layton Township were so late in attracting the attention of the land agent and the settler as to have almost verified this statement. It was not until after the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company had secured their land grant from the Government that the land of Layton Township found a ready sale.

Forming the northeastern corner of the county, Layton Township is bounded on the north by Shelby County, on the east by Cass County, on the south by Lincoln Township and on the west by Knox Township. As will be seen by the original petition for the organization of Layton, it also included Lincoln Township, which has since been organized, and which now leaves Layton Township in the form of an exact square, containing an area of thirty-six square miles. The surface of the township is but little broken, there being but one creek crossing it. This stream, known as Walnut Creek, has its source in Shelby County, and flows almost directly south across Layton Township. It enters the county about on the line between Sections 2 and 3, from the north, and follows near the line between these two sections until it reaches Section 10, when it bends somewhat to the north, but turns again to the south before leaving the section, which it crosses on the eastern line, near the corner. Its course from this point is across the southwest corner of Section 11, thence south through Sections 14, 23, 26, 35 and 34, crossing the south line of the latter about the southeast corner of the section, thence on its way southward through Lincoln Township.

The first settlers of the township were E. B. Hinckley and family, Oscar Lodge, Leander Lodge, Albert Lodge and Henry Orcutt, all of who, are still residents of the township of except Leander Lodge, who now resides at Neola. Mr. E. B. Hinckley was perhaps the most enterprising. He was the first to take active steps toward the settlement of the township. In this, however, he may have been actuated by pecuniary motives, as, in the sale of the lands belonging to the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company, for which he was agent, he established a business which proved a source of profit to himself, as well as to create a rapid improvement of the wild lands of Layton Township. His success financially has not diminished, and today he is the wealthiest citizen of the township. The rest of the early settlers mentioned have also been very successful, besides many others who arrived at a later date. The little cabin erected by Mr. Hinckley to be used as a land office soon became a lively place of business. The settlers came from all directions, and soon the cabins, and occasionally a nicely built frame residence, dotted the prairie at every point of view from the lonely little land office. The settlement grew very rapidly, and soon there was evidence of traveled wagon roads from place to place. Much of the travel during the first settlement was done on horseback, but soon supplies were needed to build homes, and implements required to till the soil, and these had to be transported in wagons. The roads at first were very crooked, winding around the base of hills and crossing the streams at the easiest points for fording. As the township increased in population, and the owners of property began building fences, the original lines of the roads were in a number of places changed. The first main road laid out across the township is now known as the Old Territorial road, and it ran almost due east and west near the center of the township. Nearly all the roads in the township now follow the section lines, they having been changed from time to time, on the presentation of petitions, signed by a number of the citizens, to the Board of Supervisors of the county. There are three wooden bridges spanning Walnut Creek in Layton Township, and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad has one bridge crossing the same stream.

Layton Township has a sprinkling of many nationalities among her citizens, the Germans and Americans predominating. The former are mainly engaged in farming. They are among the best farmers of the township, and are ready supporters of the district schools.

Fine stock is not bred to any extent in the township. Mr. E. R. Hinckley has been the most progressive in this respect, he having introduced some fine Norman horses, Short Horn cattle and Cotswold sheep. These breeds of stock are rapidly taking the place of the more inferior grades among the better class of farmers.

The original town plat of the city of Walnut was surveyed and laid out by what was known as the Allen Land Company. Several additions have been made to the original plan by E. R. Hinckley and others. The first settlers in the town were Dr. Phinny, Mr. D. Holcomb, D. Hison and E. R. Hinckley.

The first store was opened by Leander Lodge, and the first Postmaster was E. R. Hinckley, and the present Postmaster is S. R. Baker.

In October, 1877, Walnut received her charter as a city, and the first election resulted in placing the city government in the hands of the following officers: Mayor, W. H. Linfor; Recorder, J. B. Johnson [Johannsen]; Marshal, Robert Gilbreath; City Councit, J. H. Henry, O. M. Bruce, Charles Lebeck, I. T. Spangler, William Hill and J. B. Johnson. The present officers of the city are: Mayor, R. L. Craig; Recorder, W. F. Moreshell; Marshal, A. S. Burns; City Council, W. F. Burke, Charles Lebeck, J. B. Johnson, F. H. Green, Jerry Longnecker and W. F. Moreshell.

The population of the city is now about one thousand, and the following shows the strength of the business represented: Four dry goods stores, five groceries, seven saloons, three drug stores, one jewelry store, one furniture store, two millinery stores, one bank, three elevators, three agricultural implement stores, two blacksmith shops, one harness shop, two carriage ships, two hotels, one barber shop, three lumber yards, two shoe ships, two lawyers and three doctors. There is one flouring mill in Walnut, known as the Walnut Mill property. This is the only mill in the township, and it was built in 1872, by Moses Shuns [Shinn] & Co. In 1880, Messrs. Eroe & Peatt purchased the property of G. W. Borley, and are the present owners and operators. This mill is 30×60 feet, and has four run of buhrs, and a manufacturing capacity of fifty barrels of flour per day. Prior to the building of this mill, the citizens of Walnut Township hauled thie grain to Hunt’s Mill, six miles south of Avoca.

Walnut has one newspaper, the Walnut News. It was established in 1878, by A. O. Cramer, who is also editor and proprietor of the Avoca Herald. The News has a circulation of 600, and is edited by Dan Cramer, who is a brother of the proprietor.

Walnut has grown and prospered in her religious and educational undertakings as in everything else. The enterprise of her citizens in this respect is of the same determined character that has built one of the most prosperous and business-like little cities in the county. They have two churches—one Presbyterian and one Catholic. The Presbyterian Church was built in 1876, and cost $2,400. The main structure is 34×50 feet, in addition to which there is a lecture room 10×12 feet. It is located on Center street. Rev. George Lodge was the first pastor of this church, and Rev. Kennedy is the present one. There are seventy-five active members of the organization, and they maintain a Sabbath school, with a regular attendance of about fifty pupils. The Catholic Church was erected at a greater cost of the two, $3,500 being requited to complete it. Its dimensions are 32×60 feet, and, at present, has 200 members. The membership in 1873, the date of the building of the church, was but twenty-five. They have no resident priest. There are members of other churches, residents of Walnut, but, as yet, have erected no building in which to worship. The first Sabbath school ever held in Layton Township was at the depot of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad in Walnut, in 1873. This was conducted under the auspices of the Campbellites.

In 1875, at a cost of $5,000, there was erected in Walnut a handsome two-story public school building. This is the largest and only school building in the township in which a graded school has been organized. The building is 78z51 feet, and twenty-eight feet high. At the opening of the school, there were twenty-five pupils in attendance, who were under the charge of Miss Kate Williams. It was opened as a district school, but in the fall of the same year it was made a graded school, and put under the management of a Principal and assistants. There are at present enrolled 230 pupils, with an average daily attendance of 120. The Superintendent of the schools is Prof. William Hubbard, who has three assistants. There are four departments. The first, or primary department, is taught by Miss C. E. Johnson; the first intermediate department, by Miss G. A. Orcutt; the second intermediate department, by Miss F. Perrigo; and the grammar department is taught by and is under the immediate charge of Prof. Hubbard. This school is conducted independent of the laws by which the district schools of the township are governed. As a graded school it has proved a success, and the benefits derived are well worthy the increased efforts of the citizens of Walnut.

The statistics for the year 1881 show the following in regard to the schools of Layton Township: Number of subdistricts, 8; number of ungraded schools, 8; average number of months taught, 9; number of teachers employed—male, 2; female, 13; total, 15; number of pupils between the ages of five and twenty-one years—males, 102; females, 19; total, 192; average cost of tuition per month for each pupil, $2.72; number of schoolhouses, 8; value of schoolhouses, $4,800; value of apparatus, $5.