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History of The First Swedish Pioneers

By: C. J. Johnson, 1915


Six Thousand Six Hundred Acres of Land Sold to One Man in Sac County.

It is not often that a land sale embraces as large a tract as changed hands in the year 1871 in Sac county. Mr. H. C. Wheeler, of Waukegan, Ill., came into this part of Iowa with the intention of purchasing a large tract of land, but as the Swedish settlement at this time had extended quite a distance over the northern line of Crawford county, Mr. Wheeler was obliged to go away north before he could find a large tract of land, a considerable amount having been reserved in the southern part of Ida and Sac counties for the Swedish colony. William Familton, of Denison, who was the agent for the Iowa Railroad company, located at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was a guide sent with Mr. Wheeler to view the land. Mr. Wheeler selected nine and a quarter sections for himself, paying three dollars and fifty cents per acre for the land. The transaction was considered a remarkable one at that time in view of the fact that the tract was so large, probably the largest which had been sold to any one man in this county. The land was twenty-five miles from the nearest railroad town, but lay as near as any piece of land of that size which was available.

Mr. Wheeler did not commence the improvement of the land until the year 1874, when he commenced to haul lumber from Vail and Denison, using a double team for each wagon, the trip to town consuming about two days' time, and at times in the winter when a severe storm set in, the time was longer and the men were compelled to stop their journey and remain over night at some hospitable home in the Swedish settlement, continuing their trip when the storm had subsided.

After a few of the buildings had been erected the work of breaking up the land was commenced. The erection of many fine buildings, including farm houses for all of the hands who worked the land, outbuildings for the live stock, a fine barn near the town of Odebolt for the keeping of thoroughbred horses, a costly residence and other improvements followed. The owner of the land, Mr. Wheeler, made many friends during his residence in the community and was well liked by all with whom he came in contact. But finally, after a few years, the big ranch was sold out and the personal property of the owner disposed of, a Mr. Adams, who came from Chicago, being the purchaser, and still retaining possession of the ranch at this time. Many additions of modern times have been added to the splendid equipment of the great farm until today it is well known over the country and interested parties come from a great distance to view the excellent land and live stock.

At the time of the purchase of this large tract of land the price was very cheap, but as the sales of land increased the price advanced, until two years later it had risen from three to six dollars per acre.

During the early days severs snow storms were experienced, one of the most serious having been in the month of March, 1872, when it snowed and drifted for three days and nights, the wind being so strong that it was with difficulty that a man might stand up and attend to his outdoor work and it was impossible to see across the road. Notwithstanding the precautions taken, many perished in the dreadful storm. When a farmer dared go out to attend to his livestock in many instances a rope was tied around his waist, the other end being fastened securely to the house, without which means of safety he would have been lost. Those who lived in houses in which the doors were made to swing out were unable to get out of doors without help, the snow having piled up until it was over the door, while a few attempted to force an opening by cutting holes in the roof through which they could crawl. The storm was general and extended over nearly all of the states in the union, in some localities the snow and wind being much more severe than in others and the suffering terrible. Since that time we have had storms, perhaps as severe while they lasted, but of shorter duration.

At times men who had gone into the timber to cut wood were overtaken by these severe snow storms and lost their way on the prairies in seeking shelter, the only means of reaching home being to follow the ox teams, who inevitably were able to reach safety. Pioneer life was not as pleasant as some may think it was.

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