Berrimand (Berriman) Breeden


Early Memories of the Settling of the Hinkletown Area

In the spring of 1850, a twenty-two year old man, his young wife and two daughters settled about a mile from the village site that would become Hinkletown, in northeast Liberty Township in Keokuk County.  The first year was marked by bad weather and the struggles of preparing the prairie sod for its first planting.  Follows is his account of the early times, published in the Oskaloosa Globe, 1905:

 A Pioneer of ‘49 

  By Berrimand Breeden, Oskaloosa No. 1

           I came to Iowa in 1849, from Lawrence County, Ohio, coming down the Ohio River in a flat boat.  When we arrived at the mouth of the river where it empties into the Mississippi, at Cairo, Illinois, we got on board a steamboat and went on up the Mississippi.  There was only myself, wife and two daughters in our party,  There were many people on the boat, going west.  The boat was a one wheeler and was a very fast boat.  We landed at Le Claire, Iowa, on the 22nd day of October.  As it was too late in that season to think of getting land that year, we had to stay at Le Claire that winter.  I put my time in cutting cord wood and splitting fence rails.

 The winter of ’49 was a bitterly cold winter, the thermometer standing at thirty degrees below for over thirty-five days.  The Mississippi was frozen solid, the ice being so thick that they hauled loads of lumber and coal from Port Byron on the Illinois side, The next spring I entered for land at the land office at Iowa City, secured land in the northeast part of Keokuk County.  The first place we received our mail at was the Foote Post Office(*1).  I got to my land on the 25th day of April.

          We stayed that spring and summer at my father-in-law’s, Mr. Suiter.  He had a big double cabin built and we lived in one part of it.  I only got ten acres of my land broken up that spring, being stopped by the big rains.  It began to rain on the 12th day of May and rained all summer, and did not stop raining until the 10th of August.  The rivers were all flooded out of their banks, the river bottoms and low lands being covered with water from bluff to bluff.  I saw it rain frogs that summer.  You may not believe it, but it is true.  I saw some persons who had been where it had rained sun fish over two inches in length. 

          As an example of the time we had that summer, I will tell you of one day.  It cleared off early one morning and my father-in-law told me to hurry up and get the cattle up for he thought we were going to have a nice day for plowing.  The sun was shining brightly and the birds were singing brightly in the trees when we started for the field.  We worked all morning and I noticed that the nearer noon it got the hotter it was.  It was a hot, sultry heat and it got so hot at last I could hardly stand it.  While we were eating the dinner we had brought with us, I heard it begin to thunder in the west.  I looked and there was a big rain cloud coming up.  We hurriedly unyoked the cattle and started for the house.  We went as fast as we could, but we were caught before we got to the house.  My, how it did pour.  It seemed to me it came down in sheets.

           We used to go out to break the sod and our cattle would sink down in the mud and mire, then all of the shouting and yelling you would hear until we got them out.

           It was the rainiest summer I ever saw.  There was hardly a foot of ground you could not shake when you walked on it.  People were lucky if they had a shelter over their heads.  The roads, what there were, were all impassible, and you could hardly get anywhere.  We could not get wheat that summer.  In fact, wheat was a rare thing among the early settlers.  We lived on corn meal pounded up in a mortar and baked in pans and was what the negroes down south called a hoe cake.


  In the fall when the water had gone down so we could get any place, I built my first log cabin.  I was in section three, of Liberty Township.  I built the cabin out of logs. I hauled a load of logs to Wausenville (*Wassonville) on the North English River, where there was a water mill.  I had to haul them about eleven miles.  I got the logs sawed up into planks.  These I used to build a loft in the cabin.  I had more than enough for the loft and what was left I used to put a roof on the corn crib I was building.  The cabin was fourteen feet by sixteen feet.  At one end of the cabin I built a fireplace.  It was what we called a mud and stick fireplace.  On the outside the chimney was built, the fireplace run back into the chimney.  That fall a neighbor of ours, Billy Davidson (*William Armstrong Davisson of Fairview homesteaded a site called Bunker Hill, 2 miles slightly southeast of Hinkletown,) came to me one morning as I was at work about the stable, and said:  “Mr. Breeden, a friend of mine, Bill Hull (*William Hull of Fairview), and I some months ago bought four barrels of flour and had it sent by oxen to Washington where it has been all summer, and if you take your oxen and get it we will give one barrel of flour to you for your trouble.”  I jumped at the chance, as flour was fourteen dollars a hundred then.  I knew it was a big job the way the roads were.  I yoked my two yokes of oxen up and started.  I took enough feed along so as to do several days.  It was sixty miles I had to go to get to Washington.  I had bought the oxen of a Mr. Littlepage the fall before.  We got along pretty well until we got to Smith’s Creek.  We had to ford this creek as there were no bridges at that early day.  We got across Smith’s Creek alright and went on until we came to Crooked Creek, and here one of the oxen got down in the mire and mud.  I unyoked the oxen as quick as I could and he helped himself out.  After we got the oxen out we hitched them onto the wagon tongue and pulled it out.  This was the kind of time we had.  It took us two days to get to Washington.  It was the evening when we arrived and we stayed all night at Jerridan’s Hotel.  He was a big, fat, swarthy Frenchman.  It cost us two dollars to stay at the hotel.  Early next morning we went to the warehouse where the flour was.  We loaded it and started for home.   On the way back we had to stop more than when we went on account of the heavy load.  I remember one place where we stayed all night.  The next morning I asked our host how much our bill was.  He ran his big, hairy hand through his hair and looking at me, said: “Nothing at all, stranger, for the  grub; I am mighty durned glad to see you.  You are the first I have seen in months.”  Such was the hospitality of the early pioneer.  It took us a little over four days to make the trip.  Next week I shall give you something on the buffalo question.  

Notes:  Berrimand Breeden was a farmer, a carpenter, teacher and a preacher if needed. He built many homes in the area and in the winter he made coffins. After a few years, Breeden built a new home at Hinkletown, just a few hundred feet from the main trail. He donated the land and built the Fairview Christian Church near Hinkletown/Green Valley.  The church is gone now but the cemetery is still well kept. When he retired Berrimand and Elizabeth, his second wife, moved to Oskaloosa, Iowa to live. Two daughters , Emma & Bertha lived there and worked at the Big Smith overall factory. Berrimand then worked for the Oskaloosa Globe newspaper. Then Berrimand and Elizabeth went to North Dakota to visit Maggie and he became ill and died there (some time before 1910).

  Transcribed by Hinkletown Community History Project, from original newspaper article by Berrimand Breeden

  Newspaper article supplied by Carl Breeden, 2003, – printed in the Oskaloosa Globe in 1905.

 *notations added by Hinkletown Community History Project

 *1- Foote post office officially moved around the area up to four times.  It’s first location was in low-lying area of the North English River valley (known as Green Valley) north west of Hinkletown.  This was probably in close proximity to the first low-lying cabin built by Henry Charles Chapman, which flooded in 1861, after four years of serving the Chapmans as their home place.  Gov’t records are very precise about the Foote PO’s 2nd location, describing the site by tract, section, measurements to extant landscape features, and identifying the site location as “Henkletown”.   The 3rd and 4th locations are also well described in Gov’t  postal records, in the village of Green Valley, east of Hinkletown and south of the river, and lastly north of Green Valley, on the north side of the English River.  Postal audit paperwork also included hand-drawn maps on section plat templates provided by the Postmaster General.  View the Foote Post Office history and records.

Berrimand Breeden Family History and Location Map

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