Early Days in Cedar City

Written by Alfred Cressey

In regard to early days in Mower county, my wife and I drove from Burlington, Racine county, Wis., with a team of horses, to find ahome in the territory of Minnesota.   We arrived at David Chandler's farm, October 13, 1856.   In the spring of that year I was married to Hannah Phelps, the daughter of Jeremiah and Margarette [Margaret] Phelps, who moved to Mower county from Burlington, Wis., with the following families: Thomas Bormella [Bonnallie], George and William Phelps, Diadamy and Mary Phelps, and John Watkins and family, composed of eight sons and daughters.   John Phelps had preceded them and was on the ground with E. Merry and family, David and John Chandler, John Osborne and family, Caleb Stock and a Mr. Smith.   The last two named with John Phelps composed a mill company.

Next came Welcome Osborne and his family, also Joshua Welch and Abijah Pinkham with their families.   These with a Mr. McKee and Means comprised the neighborhood settlement in the winter of 1856-57.   In the spring came Welcome Chandler and Andrew Gemmel and their families.   Before my wife and I arrived, Caleb Stock and Mary Watkins had spent their honeymoon.   After their marriage John Phelps went back to Racine county Wisconsin, and there married a Miss Lyon, which made another very valuable addition to our young but growing society.   Then Timothy Gosley [Goslee] won the affections of Ann Watkins.   These three were the first on the list of marriages of Cedar City.

Cedar City mill was pushed to completion and began grinding in due time.   But alas, the June freshet took the pioneer mill down with its rapid current and our young city grew no more and like many western towns ceased to live.

Several houses were erected by these families.   The first covering for houses was indeed novel, hay, bark, rails and sod.   Abraham Dickerson and father built the first good frame house and barn in the community.   A schoolhouse was built on land owned by Caleb Stock.   The logs and other timber were donated by the settlers, and it was built in the spring of 1857.   Diadamy Phelps was the first teacher; she afterwards married John B.   Niles, who owned Tefts [Tifft's] mill property.   Stephen and David Chandler, Solomon Custer, and John and Evan Watkins also married early school teachers of Cedar City.

The earliest birth, I think, was a son born to Mr. and Mrs. John Osborne.   The second, a daughter to Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Cressey, and perhaps a third to Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Stock.

Perhaps it may be of interest to record the style of preparing breadstuff in those early times--no mills, no railroads, and pretty nearly no food at times.   Personally I went to Austin three times, with money in my pocket, to buy flour, and finally succeeded in getting eleven pounds of flour of old Mr. Brown of the Log Store.   When corn was nearing maturity the settlers took tin pans and punched holes through the bottom, and upon these circular graters managed to get enough corn grated to furnish bread for a time till they could do better.   Welcome Chandler hollowed out a log, put it in the ground, attached a sweep similar to a well sweep and by means of a pounder, working like a druggist’s mortar, succeeded in pounding out corn which good Sister Chandler made into first-rate “Johnny Cake”.   Others resorted to their coffee mills and ground corn in them.

The settlement saw close times financially, as the days one by one rolled away.   Money was hard to obtain, and the money loaners often charged as high as three or four per cent a month for loans on the very best of security.

Among the first of the good men to preach the gospel were Revs. Beach and Loomis.   The traveling preachers of that time were Revs. Mapes and J.L. Dyer, of the Methodist denomination.   Rev. Dyer held a “protracted meeting” in the log school house which his own hands helped make.   He had a voice which could be readily heard a half mile away.   Most of the neighborhoods were converted and a grand reformation followed.   I did not like him, he was too rough; a sample of his talk, by way of introduction to me was: “You are going hell, ain’t you?”   However, I attended his meetings afterwards, and now honor him for his work's sake.

In those early times we were building and found it best to use oxen and carts for drawing logs, etc.   One night I took my young wife and babe on one of these rude carts and went to a meeting.   On going home we had to cross the creek, and my wife with her babe in her arms slipped off the cart, but she held on to the babe with one hand and to the cart with the other, the oxen drawing her and the infant to the shore.

I can testify to the good, honest work of Brother John L. Dyer, the pioneer preacher.   God honored him by his brethren of a frontier conference sending him as a delegate to the general conference.   I joined afterwards under another preacher in charge.

Such are a few notes in the early days.   Jeremiah and M. Phelps had four sons in the Civil War.   Mr. Watkins, two, Essler two, and Chandler one.   So I think Cedar City and her people have done something for God and our country worthy a place in the history of Mower County.

Source: The History of Mower County 1911

Transcribed by Kathy Pike