Crawford county was created in 1851, and formally organized in 1855. It was named for William H. Crawford who was Secretary of the Treasury from 1817 to 1825, and candidate for President in 1824. The first settlers in the county were Franklin Prentiss and Cornelius Dunham, and their families, who with Reuben Blake took claims on East Boyer river in 1849, about six miles east of where Denison now stands. J. W. Denison came to the county in 1855, and entered a large tract of land for the Providence Western Land company. In 1856 he laid out the town of Denison, and began the erection of homes. The county seat was located there the same year soon after the town was laid out. In 1856 the population of the county was 235, in 1868, 1,640, and in 1875, 6,038. Now the county has a population of 21,028, of whom about 800 are of Swedish descent.
Swedish settlers began to arrive in Crawford county in 1867. In that year C. J. Star, C. P. Frodig and N. F. Rodine, who had been living in Swede Bend, Hamilton county, started out to look up a location for a settlement. They first looked over the Missouri bottoms, but did not like the land. On their return they stopped at Denison, and were told of the land along Otter Creek. It suited them, and they bought a considerable tract. for three dollars per acre. In September of the same year H. Hollander, P. Peterson, A. Anderson, E. Monson and E. Erickson joined the community.
In 1868 Mr. Star wrote to his old friend Andrew Norelius in Minnesota, and told him of the rich country they had found, and the settlement they had established. Mr. Norelius was impressed with the letter, and, in the middle of May, 1868, in company with H. Buller, E. Ward, and J. Nordell, he started across the country in a prairie schooner, reaching Crawford county in the latter part of June. Arriving at the destination, Mr. Norelius purchased 140 acres of land for five dollars per acre, and his family joined him there in 1870. The nearest postoffice was then located at Deloit, but in 1873 a postoffice was established in the new settlement, and Mr. Norelius became postmaster, which position he filled for 18 years. At first he carried the mail to and from Deloit once a week, for which he received $20 per year.
The settlement was first called "Swedeboy" or "Swedeburg," but the Swedish settlers did not like the name. A meeting was called to decide upon a new name, and Mr. Norelius and Mr. Lars Olson then chose the name Kiron (Kidron). Gradually a little village grew up around the postoffice, later known as "Old Kiron." The first buildings were erected by John O. Lindblom, Nels Anderson, A. Norelius, H. Buller and E. Swede. The first store was opened by Swede Brothers. it was later, in 1890, disposed of to Lester & Cole, who in 1892 sold it to Norelius & Nordell.
Among the pioneers who took active part in the development of the Kiron settlement, besides those already mentioned, was John J. Sandberg, who arrived in 1868. He was born in Deleberga, Skåne, in 1831, and died at Kiron in 1906. Mrs. Sandberg, born in Stoby parish of the same province, in 1832, is still living, though now nearing the century mark. Their son, W. J. Sandberg, is president of The Kiron State Bank. Nikolaus Lindblad from Ingatorp, Småland, where he was born in 1816, came to Kiron in 1873. For a number of years he served as janitor in the Bethel church, and was also mail carrier. He died in 1918 at the unusual age of 102 years. August Lundell, born in 1848, in Ryda, Västergötland, was another one of the early settlers who took a prominent part in the affairs of the community. When the Farmers Mutual Insurance Association of Kiron was organized in 1879, he became the head of the association. He died in Kiron in 1927. His son, P. G. Lundell, is now the active head of this organization that has a creditable record of 51 years and enjoys the patronage and confidence of the people of this section, having risks in force amounting to $8,748,815.
Andrew Norelius whose arrival in Crawford county, and initial steps
in connection with the establishment of the Kiron settlement, have already
been mentioned, was an outstanding character among the early Swedish pioneers.
He was born in Hassela parish, Hälsingland, July 1, 1830, and emigrated
to America in 1850, in company with his younger brother, Eric, who later
became president of the Augustana Lutheran Synod. They left Hudiksvall,
Sweden, July 21, 1850, and reached New York October 31, the same year,
after an eventful journey of over three months. By boat and stage lines
they reached Illinois where Andrew spent some time, working for a while
as a carpenter in Moline. After his marriage he went to Burlington, Ia.,
where he attended college for a year. He then took up his residence in
Jefferson county, Ia., and for 17 years was active as minister in the Baptist
Church with which he had become affiliated since his arrival in America.
In 1864 lie responded to the call, and enlisted in Company D, Third Minnesota
Regiment, and continued in the service to the end of the War. He then located
in Minnesota, where he engaged in preaching until he moved to Crawford
county, Iowa, in 1868. In 1855 he was married to Miss Christina Peterson,
and had nine children. Mr. Norelius took a leading part in the development
of the Kiron settlement, and served for a while as preacher in the Baptist
congregation that was organized in 1868 by the first Swedish pioneers.
Later he withdrew from all church fellowship, but remained an honored member
of the community. The last part of his life he spent with his daughter
in Galva, Ia., where he died in 1927.
When the Wall Lake & Mondamin branch of the Northwestern railroad was built, a station was located in the neighborhood of Kiron, which led to the establishment of New Kiron. The town site was purchased in 1899 by N. B. Swanson, and lots were sold in August of that year. G. A. Norelius, a son of Andrew Norelius, was appointed agent for the company. Then followed the exodus from Old Kiron to New Kiron. The first business house in the new town was the store that was moved by Norelius & Nordell from Old Kiron in 1899. The new town was incorporated in 1900. It now has a population of 259, nearly all of whom are of Swedish descent. The business men of the town are almost all of Swedish extraction. The leading mercantile establishment in Kiron is still owned by Mr. G. A. Norelius.
Two Swedish churches are located at Kiron, namely a Baptist and a Lutheran. Several Baptists were among the Swedes who made their homes on Otter Creek in 1867 and 1868, and these began early to gather together for religious services, conducted at first by Mr. H. Hallander. A church was organized August 16, 1868, under the leadership of C. P. Frodig, Mr. C. J. Star acting as secretary. Seventeen members were enrolled on the day of organization. Meetings were held in private homes until 1869 when the Star school house was built, in which the services were thenceforth conducted until a church was erected in 1876. At that time the congregation had 161 members, but strifes and other difficulties later reduced the number. When a railroad was built, in 1899, and New Kiron started, the church was moved to town. The present membership is about 150. The Evangelical Free Church was established in 1880, and its present church building was erected in 1914. The membership is now about 50. Lately it has been served by the same minister as the Free Church at Arthur. The Lutheran Church was organized in 1875 by Rev. J. Telleen with a charter membership of 25. One of its leading members, and deacon for many years, was August P. Lindblad, who was born in Marbäck, Småland, in 1840, arrived in Kiron in 1874, and died there in 1904. The church is located in the country, two miles east and one mile north of Kiron, and has now a membership of 130.
Denison, the county seat of Crawford county, is a thriving town with a population of 3,900. It is located about 60 miles northeast of Council Bluffs, on the main lines of the Northwestern and the Illinois Central railroads. As stated above, the town was laid out in 1856 by J. W. Denison and was named in his honor. The Northwestern road reached this point in 1867. The town of Denison has a number of attractive buildings, and presents a live and progressive appearance. About thirty Swedish families reside in town, and a dozen of its business men and professional men are of that nationality. Among them are a clothing merchant, a tailor, two shoe dealers, a dentist, an automobile dealer, an attorney, a blacksmith, etc. Being both the county seat and the largest town in Crawford county, Denison is the trading center of a large territory, including the Kiron settlement and also many Swedish farmers scattered over the county.
During a few years a Swedish Baptist Church existed in Denison. It is said to have been organized February 12, 1871. The membership was never large, meetings being held in private homes, and as several of the members moved away, the number was gradually reduced, until, in 1890, only five remained. The congregation was then dissolved, the few remaining members joining the American Baptist Church.