First Settler of Stanhope
In the early fall of 1869, a prairie schooner wound its way westward over the rolling prairies of central Iowa. A young man was directing the course of the schooner while his young wife sat by his side and helped every blessed way she could, both with voice and smile.
Along towards evening they made camp. While the young man began unloading the prairie schooner, his wife was busy preparing the meal, for they had come to stay. The first settler had located in Stanhope, Iowa.
Homesteaders had to pack essentials for life on and off the trail into this confined space. Although game could be shot and roots and berries could be gathered while in transit, settlers carried the vast majority of their food in the wagon, taking up most of their storage space.
It did not take long for the rich farming soil of central Iowa to attract other settlers. Hard work, small results, neighbors few and far between are some of the facts regarding those early days in Stanhope.
Farms were very different because back then, farmers used horses for everything: now we use tractors for the farm work. Farmers raised cows, pigs, chickens, and horses. They grew turnips, potatoes, carrots, grain, wheat, and corn. Homesteaders had to produce their own food. They planted gardens and picked wild berries. Fruits and vegetables were preserved by pickling or drying. Jams and jellies were made. Food was stored in a root cellar. Fruits and vegetables were also sold to the general store in exchange for other goods. Early settlers also hunted deer, rabbits, wild ducks and prairie chickens, or caught fish.
To get water for the home and livestock, windmills were erected as a source of power.
Some of the early settlers were the Alf Kepler family and the Madison Bute family. Even these neighbors were not close, and in order for the women to just "drop in for a minute" they had to go way around the swamp spreading a mile east and west between their homes.
The first documented settlers of Iowa were European explorers from France. they arrived in 1673 and the area remained French territory until 1763. The district became part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and became an established territory on July 4, 1838. Iowa became the 29th state in the Union on December 28, 1846.
The first house in HamiltonTownship. The picture shows Bessie McFarland (Bessie Day) with her grandmother and grandfather (ages 74 and 84) and three-year old Veda Fortune Daves, the great-great grandchild. John McFarland came to Hamilton County in 1855, built a cabin in 1856, and the family lived on prairie chicken and corn bread. Trapping was the only source of income.