by Shirley Hammer

 Submitted by Cliff Coppinger

Sitting on a high hill overlooking the Lizard Creek the little country church, known as St. Patrick’s on the Lizard, remains a proud testimony to all the early pioneer settlers from the Emerald Isle.

 In the remote wilderness on the banks 0£ the Lizard Creek-----clustered with native oak trees and inhabited by all sorts of wild life. deer, elk, buffalo, small game and fish------the first Irish settlers, many from County Clare and Cork, Ireland, decided to stake their preemptors claims in the years between 1855 to 1858.

 Hugh Collins, at the age of 21, along with his friend, James Hickey, has the reputation for being the first settler in the area. Collins and Hickey traveled by oxen team from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, crossed the Mississippi River at Burlington, Iowa, made their way through the thick prairie grass to Fort Dodge, and followed the North Lizard Creek up to the approximate location of the present church. St. Patrick's on the Lizard, in Northwest Webster County, Jackson Township.. Melding into Lizard Township, Pocahontas County, and Jackson Township, Webster County, is what was known as The Lizard Settlement. Those who arrived in 1855 to 1856 were:

 Hugh Collins, James Hickey, (single), Michael Collins, Michael Broderick (single), Charles Kelley, John Calligan, Patrick Calligan (single), Roger Collins, Walter Ford, Dennis Connors, Phillip Russell, John Russell (single) Patrick McCabe, James Donahoe, Michael Walsh, Patrick Forey, Edward Quinn. Michael Morrisey, James Condon, Michael Donavan, Thomas Ellis, In 1857 arrived the families of John Quinlan, James Gorman, Patrick McLarney, Thomas Crowell, Patrick Collins and Edward Bradfield, and in 1858 there arrived Mrs. Bridget Vahey, Thomas Quinlan, Thomas Prendergast. After 1858 there were no arrivals worthy of mention until after the Civil War.

 Most of these people were driven out of Ireland because of the poverty caused by the Irish Potato Famine, and the settlers exercised their rights to occupy land for six months and after that time pay the government $1.25 per acre and receive a clear title to the land according to The Preemption Act of 1841 enacted by Congress.

 The Lizard Settlement was founded on the expectation of railroad facilities. , But due to the Financial Panic of 1857, followed by the Civil War in 1861. All such hope of a railroad ceased, and the frontiersmen found themselves without money or help some twenty miles west of Fort Dodge, which was then nothing but a deserted soldier's barracks.

 The earliest pioneers lived by their wits and had to do all their own work in the most primitive way. They not only feared the Indians but also, the land itself proved a challenge. The prairie in summer was covered with a thick growth of heavy blue joint and wire grass, so tall that a man of ordinary height could scarcely be seen walking through it. The winters were beastly cold and severe, deep snows covered the prairies and filled the ravines, and the wild roar of the storm and the howl of the prairie wolf caused the bravest heart to fill with terror. But in a spring morning the freshness of the air, the sweet singing of birds, and cooing of prairie chickens, quacking of wild ducks caused one’s spirits to be aroused. The wild flowers clothed the banks of the stream, lent a fragrance to the air, and gave an enchantment to the whole scene. 

No wonder these hardy, adventuresome people, in the midst of a sometime hostile environment, would turn to their Mentor in heaven for guidance and consolation. Due to their Irish heritage nearly all the pioneers of the Lizard Settlement adhered to the Roman Catholic faith. The first religious services were held in the homes, Chapels in the Wilderness, by “saddle” priests. 

The first religious service recorded was held in the home of Sylvester Griffin on the NE1/2 Sec. 19, Jackson Township, August 15, 1855, by Rev. Father Amonds of Iowa City. Mass was served in the home of James T. White May, 1856, by Rev. John Vahy from Fort Dodge, and then in the Michael Collins home during the summer of 1857. Rev. Vahy was succeeded by Rev. H. D. McCullough, then Rev. J. J. Aylward, and finally by Rev. John H. Marsh who continued for four years until his death in March 1865. The Rev. Marsh visited the Lizard once a month and conducted services in the homes of Michael Donavan, Sylvester Griffin, and James Fenton, all of Jackson Township.

 The Rev. Patrick Delaney and the Rev. Joseph Butler served the Lizard Settlement until 1870, and was succeeded by Rev. Thomas M. Lenihan, who established new preaching stations at Fonda, Pocahontas, Pomeroy, and Manson. 

In 1871 ground for a church was donated by Patrick McCabe, Hugh Collins, Michael Morrissey, and James Condon. Each donated an acre of land. on the county line road East of Sec. 24, Jackson Township, Webster County, the Lizard Church was erected, a building 32' x 72' with 14 feet studs. The total cost, including furniture was $2,600. The corner stone was laid July 6, 1871, and the following year the church was blessed by the Most Rev. John Hennesey, Bishop of Dubuque, Iowa. Services were held every other Sunday, and the congregation came from a radius of forty miles and was as strong as the one at Fort Dodge. 

In 1881 a parsonage was erected at a cost of $1,700.00, and the following year Rev. Lenihan was succeeded by Rev. Matthew Norton, who enlarged the church and built a barn costing $700.00. He served the Lizard until his death in 1887, when he was succeeded by the Rev. Matthew Darcy a residence of two years he moved to serve St. Mat thews at Clare, but continued  to serve the Lizard until 1895, when St. Patrick's became part of the Gilmore City parish and continues as a Mission of the Gilmore City parish today. 

Shortly after the original church was built the congregation bought three acres from Michae1 Morrissey for a cemetery adjoining the church. Four old soldiers are buried here: John Russell, John Thornton, and Hugh O'Neil, who served in the Civil War; and Sylvester Griffin, who served in the Mexican War. Decoration Day Services were held for the first time in 1886. 

In 1885 Michael Sullivan filed homesteader status on the last unclaimed acreage, all river bottom and he proceed to sponsor immigration of 15 Irish cousins  The last Irish came over to the Parish came just after the First World War One. three orphaned brothers: Timothy, James and Richard Coppinger from County Cork.  

From the earliest days the women had a parish society. The women's parish society are the organizers of the yearly harvest picnic originally held the third Sunday in August, but today is held the third Sunday in September. This is quite an undertaking for the ladies of the church but this endeavor provides the necessary fund raising project. Not only the women but the children and the men participate and share responsibilities on picnic day. With a crew of less than twenty families helping, it is not unusual to serve 800 people dinner. 

In the summer of 1930 a grass fire destroyed the original church, and a new church was built facing the West county line road instead of the original East Pioneer road. The cost of replacing the structure was $7,718.60. A few of the original religious artifacts were saved from the fire and are in the new church. 

During the last few months the Church has undergone a redecorating job, (fresh paint glistens on the inside and outside and new carpeting has been installed), to ready the Church for the celebration of its one hundredth anniversary in 1972. 

Due to the fact St. Patrick's on the Lizard is the oldest church in Webster County there is a strong feeling among the members today to maintain and preserve this historic landmark. 

It might be interesting to note some early comparisons between the congregations of St. Patrick's on the Lizard and the German Lutheran community, St. John's Lutheran Church, adjacent on the West of the Lizard Settlement. Naturally you will find some ethnic differences, and feeling of superiority in one community over the other. The German Lutherans sometimes looked down upon their Irish neighbor in regard to orderliness and efficiency, but in the realm of education the Irish fully took the lead. Even though the Irish pioneer endured great hardship in their efforts to educate their young, education was foremost in their minds. They provided the necessary schools, and after attendance in the secondary schools they most often sent their youngsters away from home to obtain a higher education. The great cultural difference in this stress on education was due to the Irish's feeling that this land was their home and they spoke the English language. They had left all encumbrances of their homeland behind on their journey across the sea to the New World. In contrast the German spoke his native tongue to his small children and the  church services were in German.  The children  most likely did not learn English until attending school.  The German’s first desire was to make a trip back to the old Country and the home of his ancestors and his living relatives. Thus, the cultural thrust in the two pioneer communities generally favored St. Patrick’s on the Lizard with the abundance of teachers priests and  professional persons turned out by various families with an Irish names at its head.


 The Fort Dodge Messenger & Chronicle, August 23, 1928

By Dr. E. D. Russell
Submitted by Kathleen Frailey Puls

(Editor's Note: The following is the text of an address Dr. Russell prepared to give at the picnic on the Lizard Sunday, August 19. An emergency call atthe time prevented him from speaking.)

By Dr. E. D. Russell

Four miles west of Clare at the edge of the old primeval forest on the
Lizard's banks is the old log church built by the pioneers full nigh three score years ago. Under the shadow of its cross lies the green sod of that blessed little cemetery that clasped them all but one to its bosom, and I know of no more hallowed ground in all Iowa. In a far off land another Celtic heart was deeply touched by the memories of "the decent church that tops the neighboring hill," Oliver Goldsmith in his immortal classic of sweet Auburn. That old church out there in the Lizard tops also the neighboring hill and as the gorgeous medieval cathedral raises its vast and wondrous dome midst a wilderness of skyscrapers of cement and concrete in some modern Babylon that dear old church raises its humble cross to the sole companionship of the rugged oaks, the faithful ivys, the solemn pines and the tender maples of the neighboring virgin sod.

Seventy Years Ago

It is now nearly seventy years ago since those stalwart Celtic emigrants walked up the Lizard banks from Fort Dodge, then the proud metropolis of the northwest with its one log cabin store. They carried on their shoulders the little bundles of their early possessions. They staked out the homesteads that beckoned to them with all the phantoms of hope. They felled the trees and hewed the logs that built the ancestral home in the forest. That was hardly finished when they began hewing the logs to build the ancient church.
One mile north of the present church the first mass was said by Father
Marsh, I believe in the log cabin in the forest owned by Mike Collins, the first treasurer of Pocahontas county, whose daughter, Miss Bridget Collins, still owns that land and she lives still in Clare. The next mass was said in the Fenton home, whose daughter, Miss Fannie, delivered the oration at the picnic out there last Sunday and she did it with all the charm and all the grace that for ages have decorated the alabaster brow of the colleens of Erin. The next mass was celebrated in the Donovan log cabin and then the west half of the present church was hewed and joined together. Weren't these a chivalrous and a Christian race - these Griffins and Donovans, and Delamores, and Cains, and McCarthys, and Shines and Hines, and Callahans,
and Callinans, and Morrisseys, and McCabes, and McDonoughs and Kirks, and Ellises, and McCarvilles, and Dempseys and McCrearys, and Russells, and Donohoes, and Lahiffs, and Collins and McIntyrs, and O'Sullivans, and Fords, and Malias, and Dalys, and O'Sheas, and O'Neils, and Hanrahans and Conways and Nolans, and Hoods, and Bradleys, and Lawlors and Fentons and Harringtons, all of whom I knew so well. These are the race that hewed the
logs that built the church that topped the neighboring hill. What a
venerable pile! Venerable did you say by its classic architecture of
Corinthean columns and vaulted domes? Not at all, venerable by its hallowed traditions and faithful as the ivy that clings to yonder oak. This constitution and fabric of that little cabin church are not scheduled in printers ink and framed on its walls with all the lifeliness of a bulletin of the board of trade; this is a living breathing continuity of two thousand years handed down by the living voice of men garbed in the liveries of their master and dispending the mysteries of heaven. In that little cabin in the timber they did for seventy years on the banks of the Lizard what John, with
scalloped shell, did of yore on the banks of the Jordan, administered the saving, cleansing rite of baptism. Within those humble for seventy golden years have been weekly intoned the very same creed that was formulated by those whit and dusky prelates assembled in Ecumenical Counsel at Nice in 325 A. D. , and daily reverberated since through all the cathedrals of Europe, Asia, Africa and America - the "Credo in unum Deum" and exactly the same in
its naked simplicity in the log cabin on the Lizard as in all its
gorgeousness of ritual whether at Notre Dame on the Seine or St. Sophia in golden Bosphorus; there is the same Athanasian creed exactly as it rolled down the ages the subject of every specious inquiry and still unchanged and unchangeable as the days of yore; the same gospel, the same Pauline epistle, the same sacrificial altar there as at the throne of the fisherman and in that little cabin in the forest the very same transmission from mouth to mouth of a living organism just as supreme and identical as any enunciated in all the glory and canonical ritual of mitered pontiff or cloistered abbot. Don't you think that little historic church out there in the timber
enshrined in the living history that will never die is a gem of the purest ray serene? Their hard lot was leavened with the dew drops of a living faith in heaven. Their lot was the will of God and never were they soured with adversity; the pessimism of the poet was not theirs.

Ah such is the fate of our lives early promise. So passing the spring time of joy we have known each wave that we danced on at morning ebbs from us and leaves us at eve on the bleak shore alone. Hope lived eternal in their breasts. They cleared the fertile sod and they looked with hope to the autumnal harvest.......................we could survey the world with all the history of its glory and its shame and then we would return to the green fields of Iowa, to find the utopia of peace and comfort, domestic bliss and fraternal happiness in the only home where the weary heart ever finds solace the hearth stone that is built beneath the cross. When life's weary burden is laid aside they await the dawning o fan endless day in the carefully guarded sod of the village cemetery.
On fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread
And glory guards with solemn rounds
The bivouac of the dead (R. I. P.)

The Globe
Thursday, March 7, 1957 pg 3

Early Settlers of Lizard Township,
With Few Exceptions, Were Natives
Of Emerald Isle; Church Built in '71

LIZARD TOWNSHIP- The early settlers of this township, with a few exceptions, were natives of the Emerald Isle, who, lie the New England pilgrims longed to enjoy more tolerant laws and more hopeful prospects. Though passing rapidly from the stage of action they leave behind them the footprints of hard labor and noble endeavor.
Nearly all of the pioneers of the Lizard settlement had been brought up in the Roman Catholic Faith and for more than twenty years their spiritual needs were supplied by the priest at Fort Dodge.
The first religious services in the Lizard settlement were held at the home of Sylvester Griffin on the NE1/4 SEc. 19, Jackson township, August 15, 1855, by Rev. Father Amonds of Iowa City.
Rev. Father John Vahey, the first priest located at Fort Dodge said Mass in the Lizard settlement at the home of James T. White on the SW1/4, Sec 35, same township, in May, 1856. He conducted the first religious services in Lizard township at the home of Michael Collins on the SE1/2 Sec. 13 during the Summer of 1857. Father Vahey continued to serve them most of 1858, when he was succeeded by the Rev. H.D. McCullough.
After a few months of service by the Rev. J.J. Aylward he was succeeded by the Rev. John Marsh who continued about four years or until the time of his death in March, 1856. His parish extended from Fort Dodge to Emmetsburg and it was his custom to stop overnight on the way at the hotel kept by David Slosson at old Rolfe. He visited the Lizard once a month and Emmetsburg once in three months. Other homes in the Lizard settlement in which he held services were those of Michael Donavan, Sylvester Griffin and James Fenton, all of whom lived in Jackson township.

Church Built in 1871

The Rev. Patrick Delaney and the Rev. Joseph Butler then served the Lizard people until 1870 when Father Thomas M. Lenihan became their successor and established new preaching stations at Fonda, Pocahontas, Pomeroy and Manson. In 1871 he secured the erection of the Lizard Catholic Church, 32x72 with 14 feet studs and costing with its furniture $2,600 on the county line road East of Sec. 24, on which the cemetery is located.
After the completion of this building for which the corner stone was laid July 6, 1871, the services were held every other Sabbath and his congregation was as strong as the one at Fort Dodge. Soon afterwards he secured the erection of churches at Emmetsburg, Dovertownship, Fonda, Pocahontas (a Bohemian parish), Pomeroy, Manson and Fort Dodge and in 1881 a parsonage costing $1,700 was built at the Lizard mission.
He was that year succeeded by Father Matthew Norton, the first resident pastor, who enlarged the church at a cost of $700.00, built a barn and other outbuildings. He served Lizard until his death in 1887, when he was succeeded by Father Mathew Darcy. After a residence of two years at the Lizard he moved to Clare but continued to serve the Lizard until 1895, when it became part of the Gilmore City parish under Father T.D. Sullivan, who in 1901 was succeeded by Father Stephen Butler.

Civil War Veterans

Many of the founders of this church now lie buried in the Catholic cemetery near it on Sec. 24, among whom may be named Charles Kelley, Mr and Mrs. Hugh Collins, Mr and Mrs. Dennis Mulholland, Mr. and Mrs. Michael O'Connors, Mrs. John Calligan, Mrs. M.T. Collins, Philip Russell, James Condon, Patrick Forey and Michael Walsh.
Four soldiers are buried here, John Russell, John Thornton and Hugh O'Neil, who served in the Civil war, and Sylvester Griffin, who served in the Mexican war. Decoration Day services were held here for the first time in 1886.
The names of the original members of the parish: Charles Kelley, Mr and Mrs Hugh Collins, Mr and Mrs Dennis Mulholland, Mr and Mrs Michael O'Connor, Mrs. John Calligan, Mrs. M.T. Collins, Philip Russell, James Condon, Patrick Forey, Michael Walsh, Patrick McCabe, Michael Morrissey.
Ground for St. Patrick's Church "On the Lizard" was donated by Patrick McCabe, Hugh Collins, Michael Morrissey and James Condon. Each one gave an acre of land. Later on the congregation bought three acres from Michael Morrissey for a cemetery. Mr. McCabe and Mr. Collins were in Pocahontas county. Mr. Morrissey and Mr. Condon were in Webster county, Mrs. James Condon was a grand aunt of Father Parle, and her maiden name was Williams.

Fire Destroyed First Church

The original St. Patrick's Church was destroyed by fire on March 29, 1930. The present church was erected by the Steele and Hilgers Construction company of Sioux City under the direction of Father J.T. Finnegan in the summer of 1930. It cost $7,718.
St. Matthew's parish at Clare was a mission of St. Patrick's "On the Lizard" until 1895 when the latter became a mission of St. John's parish, Gilmore City.
The first resident pastor of the Lizard parish was Father Matthew Norton, followed by Father Mathew Daily  then beginning with Father Timothy Sullivan the pastors have been the same who attended St. John's parish in Gilmore City.

Several Highlights

Relative to the history of the Lizard mission it is highlighted by the fact that the first white child born in Pocahontas county, Rose Ann Donahoe, daughter of James Donahoe and Ann (Nancy) Garrahan, was baptized in a log cabin in 1857. Also, the first white boy born in the county and Lizard township was Charles J. Kelley and Rhoda Gall. He was baptized in 1858 in the James Fenton log cabin.
John Byrne and Mary Agnes O'Doud from St. Patrick's on the Lizard had the honor of being the first couple to be ....

The Pioneer History of Pocahontas County, Robert E. Flickinger.
Fonda: G. Sanborn, 1904.

Lizard township was established Feb. 19, 1859, by an order of Luther L.
Pease, county judge of Webster county, and it then included the four
townships in the southeast part of the county. June 4, 1861, its boundary
was changed so as to include the four townships in the south row of the
county and the south half of Grant and Dover. Subsequently Lake and Lincoln
townships were again attached and it was not left in its present form until
Lake was detached, June 5, 1877.
     All the territory included in it formed one road district until Oct. 1,
1866, when it was divided into two, in 1868 into three, and in 1869 into
four road districts. In 1874 the township, as now constituted, was divided
into nine road districts of four sections each,and soon afterward the same
territory was organized into eight independent school districts as at

     Nearly all the pioneers and many of the later settlers of Lizard
township were natives of Ireland, and their first rivalry was with the
citizens of Des Moines township over the location of the first public
buildings and county seat. It has been a source of profound pleasure to
record their "footprints in the sands of time" a story of voluntary and
heroic struggle in the face of untold privations, hardships and dangers.
Some facts that have been mentioned have so deeply impressed the author, by
way of comparison and contrast, that he has deemed it not unwise to refer to
them again, and he indulges the hope that every reader will recognize and
appreciate the broad and generous spirit that prompts the following
     The people of this country have not been accustomed to look to Ireland
for the best types of model and successful farmers, and during their first
years the pioneers of Lizard township were not rated very high for their
proficiency in farming by the dwellers in the other parts of the county.
Many changes have been wrought during the last forty years, and the
foregoing historic review of that township discovers the fact, that if the
farmers, representing other lands across the ocean, have done well, many of
those that came from Ireland have also done well. Several of them
accumulated as many acres, and others improved their homes with as fine
buildings as the leading representatives of other distant countries, who
reside in the township or county. During recent years some of the Germans,
their nearest and most formidable rivals, and some of the Swedes also, may
have surpassed them a little in raising fine stock, but in one respect
worthy of special commendation,- they have excelled, namely, in the
education of their sons and daughters. This is all the more remarkable
because the entire township still remains a rural district, a circumstance
that compelled them to send their youth away from home in order to secure
the facilities of a thorough and complete education, even in the common
     As early as 1881 the fact was noted in the press of this county, that
Lizard township had had, for several years, a surplus of good teachers. This
has been true of this township every year since. Then, the list of six young
men furnished by this township, two to each of the three learned
professions- the ministry, medicine and law- is at this date and to the best
of our knowledge, without a parallel in the county. There is not another
township in the county that can claim so large a representation of young
people in these three professions.
     On considering this matter a little more closely, it will be found that
every one of these young men, in the list from Lizard township, represents a
family whose parental heads came from the Emerald Isle. Here is a fact that
is significant as it is remarkable. That their most formidable rivals in
farming and stock raising have been represented in the teaching force of the
township by only a small proportion, and have as yet no representative in
the circle of the professional men raised in it, affords matter for
profitable investigation and possibly of instruction.
     Results are the effects of casuse. The contrast to which attention has
been called is due to definite causes that may and ought to be perceived. We
are not ready to believe that this contrast is due to a less interest in the
education of their children and youth on the part of other nationalities
represented in the township, for they have made liberal provision for the
special instruction of their children and youth and expended money freely
for the erection of special buildings.
     If, however, a comparison be made of the courses of instruction, a
slight contrast will be perceived. While the Irish, in the education of
their youth, have been content to have them master the English language, the
children and youth of their rivals, in the special schools provided for
them, have been required to spend a great part of their time learning a
"mother tongue" for use when they may visit the "Father Land."
     While many from other nationalities beyond the sea, in coming to
          This land of the free
          And home of the brave,
retain a lingering hope of a future return and discover a tendency to
reproduce, as long as possible, the customs with which they are familiar in
the Fatherland, the Son of Erin, when he leaves the "Auld Counthry" he
usually does so "for good," and before he reaches the middle of the Atlantic
has fully decided to "grow up with the country" in the land of his adoption.
It is easy to see that these two ideas of life and education are quite
different and the difference may be sufficient to produce very different
results in the education and development of children and youth. The Irish
people in Lizard township are to be congratulated for their manifest
interest in, and the success that has attended their efforts to educate
their children.

     The first settlements in this county were made in this township in 1855
and in 1856. The first settlers were James Hickey (single), Michael Collins,
Michael Broderic (single), Charles Kelley, John Calligan, Patrick Calligan
(single), Roger Collins, Walter Ford, Dennis Connors, Philip Russell, John
Russell (single), Patrick McCabe, James Donahoe, Michael Walsh and their
     A few others consisting of Hugh Collins, Patrick Forey, Edward Quinn,
Michael Morrisey, James Condon, Michael Donavan and Thomas Ellis had located
near them in Jackson township and Caspar H. Brockshink in Lake township.
These were the families that composed the Lizard settlement at the end of
1856, and most of their first houses were buildt of logs from the natural
timber along the north branch of Lizard Creek.

1857. In 1857 there arrived the families of John Quinlan, James Gorman,
Patrick McLarney, Thomas Crowell, Patrick Collins and Edward Bradfield.

1858. In 1858 there arrived Mrs. Bridget Vahey, Thomas Quinlan, Thomas
Prendergast and a few others.

     After 1858 there were no arrivals worthy of mention until the close of
the civil war.
     This "Lizard Settlement" was the first one west of the Des Moines river
in the vicinity of Fort Dodge, and all in it were pre-emptors. That some of
them were deprived of their first locations is not a surprise, when it is
remembered that the act of Congress granting the alternate sections to the
Dubuque & Sioux City RR Co. was not approved until May 15, 1856, and the
lands were not certified to that company until Dec. 23, 1858. The homestead
law went into effect July 4, 1862.

     This is but a brief description of the region that awaited development
when these first settlers "drove their stakes and fastened their cords" in
Pocahontas county. It was an arena that presented both possibilities and
impossibilities- an opportunity for successful achievement and also of
failure; a basis for hope, the bright star in the firmament of the future
that lures the brave, and also for dismay. The land in its primeval state,
blooming as a paradise of pleasure, seemed as if it would satisfy the
fancied imagination of the most querulous homeseeker, but as an unsubdued
wilderness, it was destined to test the tenacity of the stoutest hearted of
her adopted sons. It devolved upon them to change the wilderness from savage
to civilized life, and to transform the haunts of the deer and buffalo into
luxuriant pastures for sheep, hogs, horses and cattle.
     The story of the log cabin which was usually nestled within or located
on the sunny side of a grove of timber is not one of princely castles, or of
halls hung with tapestry and gold. When the logs of oak, ash and hickory
were ready a day was appointed for a hauling and building bee. These raising
bees attracted all the neighbors in the vicinity and often developed a large
amount of amusement, especially after the rafters were laid. Each builder
made his own shingles, riving them out of a straight grained oak or ash log.
The flooring and finish lumber was made from logs drawn to Hinton's saw mill
near Fort Dodge. After the walls were plastered with lime and sand, although
yellow clay and water were sometimes used as a substitute. The log cabin was
warm and substantial, but nearly all of them have long since given place to
larger and more elegant residences. Michael Donavan was the first in the
settlement to replace the log cabin with a good frame house.
     The early settlers of this township, with a few exceptions, were
natives of the Emerald Isle, who, like the New England pilgrims, longed to
enjoy more tolerant laws and more hopeful prospects. Wafted on the wings of
destiny they came to America in the vigor of their youth and rested not
until they located on "the Lizard." They were good representatives of a
hardy, robust race that had been inured to hardship and possessed great
power of endurance. Though passing rapidly form the stage of action they
leave behind them the footprints of hard labor and noble endeavor.

     The first five children born in Lizard township were the first ones
born in Pocahontas county. They were; (1) Rose Ann Donahoe, now Mrs. Patrick
Crilly, born Feb. 23, 1857; (2) Maggie Calligan, born Aug. 11, 1857; (3)
Annie Collins, born March 10, 1858; (4) Mary Walsh, born April 10, 1858; (5)
Charles J. Kelley, born May 6, 1858. He was the first boy born in the
     The first death was that of Patrick Calligan in August, 1856.
     The first fields were enclosed in 1867 by Michael Collins, Charles
Kelley, John Calligan and Michael Broderick. The first quarter sections were
enclosed by Michael Walsh and Hugh Collins in 1870.
     Philip Russell was regarded as the finest scholar and best penman.
     Michael Collins, who acquired two sections of land and considerable
money besides, was considered the wealthiest man.
     Charles Kelley, a careful and thrifty farmer, ranked second in wealth.
The elections and meetings of the township officers were held in his home
from March 15, 1859 until the end of 1864.
     Michael Walsh accumulated considerable wealth by honest labor and good
     John Calligan accumulated as much from raising stock on free pasturage
as from the proceeds of his farm.
     Edward Calligan, 6 feet 2 inches in height and weighing 240 pounds, was
the largest man raised on the Lizard.
     Patrick Forey was regarded as "Lizard's most famous politician."

     One of the terrors that harrassed the early western pioneer was the
constant fear of a savage incursion by the Indians. These pioneers on the
Lizard served their time as "sentinels" on the commonwealth or "pickets on
duty," guarding the frontier of civilization. They endangered their lives in
preparing the way for succeeding generations. The pioneer, armed with the
plowshare and the implements of peace, led the van of progress and
civilization on these western wilds with personal peril, as certainly as the
soldier who offers his life for the perpetuation of the government, and is
armed with the weapons of war.
     On one occasion when Wm. Walsh was in Fort Dodge there came to him the
word that a band of Indians had camped on his farm after his departure, and
had taken some of his shoats. The next morning, accompanied by the sheriff
of Webster county and a lot of armed men from Fort Dodge on wagons, he
started home expecting to have a pitched battle with the Indians. When they
had traveled about ten miles the Indians were seen coming over a little hill
a short distance before them, all mounted on ponies. Ordering a halt, the
sheriff and Mr. Walsh advanced to them and meeting the old chief he showed
them his passport written on a large sheet of paper. As a result of the
parley the Indians were allowed to continue their journey and the armed
wagon train soon afterward returned to Fort Dodge.
     This was the Johnnie Green tribe of the Pottawattamies and they had
indeed stopped at the home of Wm. Walsh, very much to the annoyance of his
wife. The squaws looking through the open window of the log cabin and seeing
a little baby began to shout, "Pap-oose! pap-oose!" thereby awakening fears
that they were going to take it with them. Happily a couple of neighboring
women arrived and repeating the words, "White men coming! white men coming!"
the Indians were induced to leave the premises.
     On another occasion two braves that had been trapping around Lizard
Lake came to the home of John Calligan at a time when he and his wife were
in the field, and Ellen Broderic (Mrs. Philip Russell) and Mrs. Dennis
Connors were in the cabin. Edward, the oldest of the children, was sent to
the field for Mr. Calligan and when he arrived they signified by various
gestures that they wanted something to eat. Corn bread and meat was very
freely served them on chairs outside the cabin.
     Then they went to the home of Henry Brockshink where they frightened
the women folks, shot the dog, and stole a blanket and several other
articles. When Brockshink returned and learned what the Indians had done, he
hastened to Fort Dodge and, returning with a posse of armed horsemen, he
surprised the settlers considerably but found no other traces of the
     Just after harvest in 1858 a traveler spread the word that a band of
Sioux warriors, armed with guns and wearing red shawls, had been engaging in
a "wild grass dance" and were approaching from the west. This was soon after
the Spirit Lake massacre and the news so alarmed the settlers that they were
afraid to sleep in their cabins and sought resting places at night under
shocks of grain. When the word reached Fort Dodge another party of mounted
citizens set out to meet the menacing foe. Hastening through the Lizard
settlement they found no trace of any Indians, and an investigation
disclosed the fact that the spectral foe was merely a flock of sandhill
cranes that had been seen at a distance enjoying a "wild grass dance" the
frolicksome flapping of their wings creating the impression that they were
waving red colored shawls.
     A number of Indian families continued their trapping excursions for
several successive autumns, locating their camp in the most sheltered and
comfortable places along the north Lizard, which in those days abounded with
small fur bearing animals such as muskrats, mink and beaver. The early
settlers frequently visited their camp, having an eager curiousity to see
the quaint appearance and habits of life of this strange, nomadic race that
occupied this land long before the children of the pale face had ever heard
of the New World. On these occasions the reflection often forced itself,
that at the springs along the streams the swarthy maiden filled the family
water pail with sparkling water, on these prairies the ruddy Indian youth
chased the deer and buffalo, and beneath the smoky rafters of the wigwam the
old chief talked at night about the brave deeds of his tribe and the Great


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© 2001 Cathy Joynt Labath