This is the largest and most centrally located township in the county. Concerning its organization Donnel says:
"At a called session of the Commissioners' Court, in November, 1846, it was ordered that town 75, and all
of 76, lying south of the Des Moines River, both of range 19; also towns 75 and 76, range zo, be declared a township,
to be known as Knoxville Township. This included, besides all of the present township, all of Polk on the south
side of the river, all of Union up to the line of 77, and all of the present township of Pleasant Grove included
in town 76, range 20. Elections to be held at the county seat."
By the order of January 6, 1847, Knoxville Township was reduced in size to "township 75 and all of 76 south
of the Des Moines River in range 19." Polk was organized in 1848 and Union in 1850, which reduced Knoxville
to its present dimensions. It is bounded on the north by the townships of Union and Polk; on the east by Clay;
on the south by Indiana and Washington, and on the west by Franklin and Pleasant Grove. Its area is a traction
over one hundred square miles.
The surface is undulating, timber and prairie originally being about equal in area, and the soil is well adapted
to. agriculture. The White Breast Creek flows in a northeasterly direction across the western and northern portions,
and in the southeastern part is English Creek, which follows the same general course as the White Breast. The City
of Knoxville is situated on the ridge between these two creeks, near the center of the township. Coal is abundant
along the streams. Mines are worked near the White Breast in the southwest corner of the township and along English
Creek above the Village of Flagler. Some coal has also been mined near Knoxville.
Prominent among the pioneers of this township were John M. Jones and his four sons, John, Isaac, George and William
- Elias Fuller, John Conrey, L. C. Conrey, Tyler Overton, Conrad Walters. R. S. Lowry, John R. Welch, Landon J.
Burch, William Burch, John Essex, Lysander W. Babbitt, Christopher Cox, Lawson G. Terry and Michael Livingston,
all of whom had located in the township by 1845.
John M. Jones, credited with being the first white man to locate in the county, was a native of Ohio and a wood
turner by trade. Prior to his settling in Marion County he had been an employee of the American Fur Company. He
selected his claim on the White Breast Creek in 1842 and spent the winter in a camp there. As soon as the land
was opened to settlement he brought his family to the new home in the wilderness. Soon afterward he built a lathe
and began the work of turning wooden bowls out of walnut timber. When he had a wagon load ready, his son John would
start out to peddle them among the settlers in the older settlements farther east. A load of this wooden ware would
buy a load of corn, which John would have ground into meal at Keosauqua, and by this means the family was kept
supplied with breadstuff. Mr. Jones afterward became the proprietor of the Knoxville Woolen Mills.
Landon J. Burch, accompanied by his brother William, came to the Des Moines Valley early in the year 1844, and
after looking around for awhile selected a claim on the White Breast, where he built a grist mill the next year.
This was the first mill in the township.
Conrad Walters was a member of the first board of county commissioners, elected in September, 1845. He was born
in Pennsylvania in 1794; removed in 1814 to Wilmington, Ohio, where he learned the printer's trade; worked in various
places until 1839, when he located at Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and in October, 1844, settled about six miles southeast
of Knoxville. Subsequently he became a resident of Knoxville, where his death occurred on July 28, 1870.
It is believed that Tyler Overton planted the first orchard in the township. In the latter part of May, 1843, he
ands Henry Miller came to the southern part of the township, each carrying a supply of provisions they had obtained
in the Welch settlement north of the Des Moines River. After staking out their claims they erected a bark shanty
in a little piece of timber and kept bachelor's hall while improving their claims. In the spring of 1844 Mr. Overton
went to Henry County and bought sixty apple trees, which he planted on his frontier farm. On December 19, 1844,
Mr. Overton married Miss Rebecca, daughter of Alexander May, of Indiana Township.
John Conrey settled a few miles south of the City of Knoxville in March, 1845. He was a native of Clermont County,
Ohio, where he was born, in June, 1811. Upon coming to Iowa in 1839 he first settled in Henry County, where he
followed farming until his removal to Marion County. Mr. Conrey took an active part in the affairs of the county
and was a delegate to the constitutional convention of 1846. His death occurred on December 14, 1885.
The first election in what is now Knoxville Township was held in April, 1846, while it was still known as Knoxville
precinct. Twenty five votes were cast. Richard R. Watts was elected jutice of the peace and Michael Livingston,
constable. At the election in August, 1846, only four months later, sixty four votes were cast, which will give
the reader some idea of how rapidly the population of the county was increasing.
F. Monahan taught the first school in Knoxville, in 1846, in a cabin that stood not far from the present Chicago,
Burlington & Quincy passenger station. He had twenty five pupils enrolled. Mr. Monahan, who was a native of
Ohio, came to Knoxville in the early part of 1846 and a few months later took up a. claim on the White Breast Creek.
Another pioneer teacher was John Shearer, who also came to the' township in 1846. His school was taught in a little
cabin originally built by John R. Welch for a stable. Mr. Shearer received two dollars per scholar and "boarded
round," thus enabling some of the parents to pay their children's tuition by boarding the teacher. The teacher
was a good marksman and spent his leisure time in hunting. On one of his expeditions he secured enough venison
to last the family with whom he was stopping for several weeks. Concerning his school Donnel says : "Rabbits
were numerous in the surrounding brush and so tame that some of them would frequently come into the house during
school hours, to the great amusement of the twelve young ideas that Mr. Shearer was trying to teach how to shoot.
At times, when the weather was warm and there was no excitement to keep the scholars awake, some of the younger
ones would stretch themselves on the narrow benches and go to sleep. Occasionally one would fall off, which circumstance
would keep the others awake for awhile."
The old log schoolhouse and the old time teacher have disappeared and in 1914 Knoxville Township was divided into
twenty school districts, exclusive of the City of Knoxville. Thirty eight teachers were employed, 590 pupils enrolled,
and the value of school property was $15,700. Over eight thousand dollars were paid to the teachers of the township
during the school year of 1913-14.
The township has two lines of railroad. The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy enters it from the east a little north
of the center and after passing through Knoxville turns more northwardly, leaving the township about a mile and
a half south of the northwest corner. Almost parallel to this road is a branch of the Chicago, Rock Island &
Pacific system which has its western terminus at Knoxville:
Knoxville is not only the largest township in area, but it is also the most populous and wealthiest in the county.
In 1910 the population (not including the City of Knoxville) was 2,496, and in 1913 the valuation of property outside
of the city was $3,096,492. (See Chapter VIII for the history of Knoxville City.)
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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