“In the meantime, it is worthy of mention that the industry of claim-jumping has suffered a sudden slump, and that the splendid pioneers who have opened up this Garden of Eden will not be robbed of the fruits of their enterprise.”
When I came to run for county supervisor, he rehashed the matter without giving any hint that after all what I did was approved of by the people of the county in 1856 when these things took place or that he himself was in it up to the neck! But enough of that: the historical fact is that Settlers’ Clubs did work of this sort all over Iowa in those times, and right or wrong, the pioneers held to the lands they took up when the great tide of the Republic broke over the Mississippi and inundated Iowa. The history of Vandemark Township was the history of the state.
I SAVE A TREASURE, AND START A FEUD
In the month of May, 1857, I went to a party. This was a new thing for me; for parties had been something of which I had heard as of many things outside of the experience of a common fellow like me, but always had thought about as a thing only to be read of, like porte cocheres and riding to hounds, and butlers and books of poems. Stuff for story-books, and not for Vandemark Township; though when I saw the thing, it was not so very different from the dances and “sings” we used to have on the boats of the Grand Canal, as the Erie Ditch was then called when you wanted to put on a little style.
The party was at the “great Gothic house” of Governor Wade, just finished, over in Benton Township. The Governor was not even a citizen of Vandemark Township, but he had some land in it. Buck Gowdy’s great estate lapped over on one corner of the township, Governor Wade’s on the other, and Hell Slew, nicknamed Vandemark’s Folly Marsh cut it through the middle, and made it hard for us to get out a full vote on anything after we got the township organized.
The control shifted from the north side of the slew to the south side according to the weather; for you couldn’t cross Vandemark’s Folly in wet weather. Once what was called the Cow Vandemark crowd got control and kept it for years by calling the township meetings always on our own side of the slew; and then Foster Blake sneaked in a full attendance on us when we weren’t looking by piling a couple of my haystacks in the trail to drive on, and it was five years before we got it back. But in the meantime we had voted taxes on them to build some schoolhouses and roads. That was local politics in Iowa when Ring was a pup.
But Governor Wade’s party was not local politics, or so N.V. Creede tells me. He says that this was one of the moves by which the governor made Monterey County Republican. It had always been Democratic. The governor had always been a Democrat, and had named his township after Thomas H. Benton; but now he was the big gun of the new Republican Party in our neck of the woods, and he invited all the people who he thought would be good wheel-horses.