The territory now comprising Franklin Township was included within the limits of Dallas Township until in 1852,
when it was attached to Pleasant Grove. In the winter of 1854-55 a petition was circulated among the citizens,
asking for the erection of a new township, and on February 28, 1855, Judge Joseph Brobst, judge of the County Court,
granted the petition, ordering the erection of a distinct township to be known as Franklin. It was so named in
honor of Benjamin Franklin, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Franklin Township includes congressional township 77, range 21, and has an area of thirty six square miles, or
23,040 acres. The greater part of the township is prairie, less broken than in other parts of the county, and as
the soil is above the average in fertility, some of the best farms in the county are in this township. Along the
White Breast Creek, which crosses the southeast corner, there is some native timber, and also along Coon Creek,
which flows across the northwest corner. The township is bounded on the north by Pleasant Grove Township; on the
east by Knoxville; on the south by Dallas, and on the west by Warren County.
The first election in the township was held at the house of John Clark on April 2, 1855, when Isaac Capelin, Samuel
B. Wilson and Warren McNeil were elected trustees; John McNeil and John Miller, justices of the peace; J. W. Hightree,
clerk; John Clark, assessor; William Sweezv and Samuel Ream, constables.
Nathan Nichols was probably the first white man to establish a home in what is now Franklin Township. In 1846,
accompanied by Mrs. Amanda Hewland, a widow and a relative of Mr. Nichols, he located a claim south of the White
Breast Creek. After a time a disagreement arose between Mr. Nichols and Mrs. Hewland's grown son, and the former
took up his abode in a little cabin a short distance from the one where they had all formerly lived together. Here
he was found dead one morning, his death being attributed to excessive draughts of buttermilk taken the evening
James Frakes, Peter Row and William Frazer settled in the township in 1848; John Clark, in 1849; Daniel F. Smith,
in 1850, and J. W. Hightree, in 1852. Twenty years later John Clark and Daniel F. Smith were the only ones still
living in the township, the others having died or moved away. Clark was born in Tennessee on January 14, 1815.
On June 26, 1849, he arrived in Knoxville, Marion County, and soon afterward traded William Frazer a land warrant
for a timber claim on White Breast Creek, where he built a cabin and took possession on the 26th of July. At that
time there were no near neighbors, and Mr. Clark secured the assistance of some friends in Knoxville in erecting
his cabin, three days being required for the "raising."
The nearest mill to Mr. Clark was Haymaker's, on Cedar Creek in Liberty Township, a distance of some twenty miles
through a country that had no roads. In 1855 he went to Beach's mill (now Summerset) in Warren County, accompanied
by Nathaniel Brown, and they had to wait for two days to get their grinding. Between Mr. Clark's home and the mill
was a broad stretch of uninhabited prairie, without a tree or other landmark to guide the traveler, though someone
had set stakes some distance apart to mark the trail. It was late in the day when they left the mill, with their
wagon drawn by two yoke of cattle. At Hammondsburg they paused long enough to feed the oxen and then resumed their
journey. Darkness overtook them on the prairie and Mr. Clark became so bewildered that he concluded to let the
team go its own way, trusting to animal instinct to find the way home. But the oxen were either bewildered or untrustworthy,
and toward midnight Mr. Clark found himself in the southwest corner of Marion County, several miles from home.
To make matters worse, the wagon here became mired in a slough. Brown wanted to camp out until daylight, but Mr.
Clark determined to proceed on his way in spite of the difficulties. After some time the wagon was rescued from
its predicament, and then, taking certain stars by which to steer his course, Mr. Clark and his companion reached
home about one o'clock in the morning. Such incidents were by no means rare in the early settlement of the country
and this one is mentioned that the reader may form some idea of the hardships with which the pioneer had to contend.
The first orchards were planted in the township in 1852 by John Clark and Jackson McClain. The first religious
services were held by a minister named Colborn. The first postoffice was established at Caloma in 1857 and Daniel
F. Smith was the first postmaster. The first political speech was made by William M. Stone, editor of the Knoxville
Journal and afterward governor of Iowa, in 1856, in favor of John C. Fremont for president.
James Frakes, previously mentioned as one of the early settlers, removed to Wapello County, and Nathan Nichols
taught a school in the cabin vacated by Frakes. This house was located in section 26, not far from the White Breast
Creek and the school was taught in 1853, the first in the township. The first house built exclusively for school
purposes was dedicated by a lecture on slavery delivered by Charles Smith, afterward a resident of Pleasantville.
In 1914 there were eight independent school districts in the township, in which ten teachers were employed.
Franklin has over six miles of railroad, the Minneapolis, Des Moines & Kansas City branch of the Rock Island
system entering the township from the north near Coon Creek and following,a southeasterly course until it crosses
the southern boundary in section 36. White Breast is the only railroad station within the township.
In 1910 the United States census gave the population of Franklin as 631, and in 1913 the assessed value of property
was $1,044,584, or an average wealth per capita of over sixteen hundred dollars.
History of Marion County, Iowa
And its People
John W. Wright, Supervising Editor
W. A. Young, Associate
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Marion County, IA
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