History of Reading Township

Marshall M. Elder (1849-1938) and his wife, Polly (Stough) Elder (1854-1930) and two oldest daughters, Angeline and Addie. M.M. homesteaded in Reading Township, Sioux County, Iowa in 1870 and Polly joined him after their marriage in 1872.

In the early 1930’s, Angie (Elder) Ferguson, daughter of Ireton Area pioneers Polly (Stough) and Marshall Elder, wrote a “History of Reading Township” recounting the settlement of the Ireton area and the growth of the town of Ireton.  The account was published in the Ireton Ledger in 1934-1935 and re-printed in the Ireton Booster in 1975-1977.

At the time Mrs. Ferguson wrote the account, her father was still living to assist her with information.  The result is a very personal account of the hardships faced by the pioneers and their triumphs as their farms grew and prospered and the town of Ireton was established.

We hope that you enjoy this glimpse into Ireton’s past.  Please note that, as with many historical accounts, there are errors in the manuscript.  We have made occasional notes on corrections but know that there are other errors that we have missed.  We scanned newspaper articles and pages from Mrs. Elder’s manuscript and then converted them to text.  Although we have made corrections, there are many stray marks, etc. that we have missed; hopefully they will not affect your understanding of the content.

Part 1:  General Description of Reading Township; Account of the travel of Mr. Elder & 3 friends from Central Iowa to Sioux County and conditions they encountered; Meeting other homesteaders in Sioux County and claiming homestead land; return to Sioux County in Spring 1871 after wintering in central Iowa; making homestead improvements; tree claim; neighboring townships; severe winter in 1871-1872; Mr. Elder’s marriage to Polly Stough

Part 2: Erection of schoolhouses; first death among settlers; neighboring townships; Band of “Frieslanders” (Dutch) establish a colony in Sioux County; County seat moved; First Crop; Jumping Claim; Mail routes; Oldest Settler; Reading Township Organized; Grasshoppers; Abandoned Claims; Indian Scare; Nature’s Provisions; Prairie Fires; Fellowship of Early Settlers

Part 3:  Close Brothers (investors) come to Reading Township; school districts organized; loyal neighbors

Part 4: Smallpox Epidemic; Homestead locations and changes in land ownership

Part 5:  Reading Township “recruits”; relationships between Reading and Washington Townships; Homesteaders in Washington Township and later settlers; arrival of additional settlers in Reading Township; short time homesteaders; Pioneer “standbys” (long-time residents)

Part 6: Disposal of School Section (Section 16) of Reading Township; detailed description of who homesteaded particular acreage and of changes in ownership — all in Reading Township

Part 7: Homestead returned for tree claim; Reading Township’s woman pioneer; land purchases in section 7; settlers who invested in odd-numbered sections; tragic incidents

Part 8:  Center Township Organized; first settlers in Center Township; church built in Center township; livestock pastured on open range; effect of fenced-in farms on roads; Center Township’s early recruits; Values in Reading, Washington and Center townships similar; livestock and poultry industry in Center township

Part 9:  Town of Ireton laid out; First Businessman; Post office; Shoe Repair; Residence Apartments; First Residence; First Child; First Hotel; Barber Shop and Butcher Shop; Railroad; Elevators; Lumberyard; a Carpenter & Contractor arrives

Part 10: New livery barn; dray lines; first store remodeled; drug store; harness shop; blacksmiths; a Mason arrives; Tinners; Furniture Store; Hardware Dealer; Farm Machinery & Implement Dealer; Methodist Church moved into town; other churches; town mill; physicians

Part 11: Schools in Reading Township and Ireton

Part 12: Launtz Post organized; Ireton’s water supply; machinst to manage water supply; Bank of Ireton; photographers; newspapers; Jewelers; Hotels; Carpenters; Painters & Decorators

Part 13: Barbers; Millinery Stores; General Stores; City Hall; Older residents; Women’s Activities; Nurses; Seamstresses; Musicians; Teachers; County Superintendent

Part 14: Early businessmen establish residences

Part 15: Progress of Ireton’s banks; progress of the railroad

Part 16: Interests of retired farmers; Ireton incorporated; school district reorganized; Rural Free Delivery introduced; helpers in the post office; mercantile establishements changed hands; town officials granted telephone franchise; reading townships first factory; a broom factory appeared.