Pete had spent a better part of the day and much of the evening at a local bar. When he got in his car to start home, he was astounded at what he found. He dialed 911, and with a tone of fury combined with indignation, he yelled, “My car has been vandalized. They stole the dashboard, the steering wheel, the brake pedal, even the accelerator !!!”
However, before a unit could be dispatched to the crime scene, the phone rang a second time at the police department and Pete was on the line. “Never mind about that vandalism report,” he said, “I got in the back seat by mistake.”
While doing some reading I came across a quote from author Michael Crichton that struck me. “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” As a County we are at a significant time in our history. A time of tremendous growth and change, I believe it is important to know our ‘tree”.
The year was 1849 and things were changing fast across the country. NY Herald reported that gold was discovered in California, officially starting the California Gold Rush. The safety pin was patented by Walter Hunt (NYC); the problem, he sold rights for $400. It was the first performance of Edwin Booth, the most famous American Shakespearean actor of the time (whose brother, John Wilkes Booth, assassinated President Abraham Lincoln).
And the first settlement of Tama County was recorded in the spring of 1849. The honor of the first settlement belongs to Isaac Asher, a farmer from Shelby Indiana. He settled about one half mile west of the present site of Butlerville (near present day Montour) in Indian Village Township. Asher settled first in Marshall County, on May 18, but the beauty of Indian Township attracted his attention, and in the spring of 1849, he permanently settled in Tama County with his wife and eight children, and was the first white settler in the County. He broke the first sod and planted the first crop of corn.
Tradition has it that Tama County was named after Tama, the wife of Poweshiek, one of the Chiefs of the Sac and Fox Tribe, who resided here. The name was meant to bestow the name of “beauty” upon the County, and the effort has not been lost. Nowhere within the limits of the State could it be surpassed for beautiful scenery, groves, prairies, meandering streams and carpets of flowers (take some time and look around you).
The next family that settled in Tama County, were those of Anthony, William and Robert Wilkinson, who came from Coshocton County, Ohio, and permanently located in what is now Salt Creek Township (near present day Chelsea) , on the 12th day of October, 1849. They were accompanied by their mother and three sisters. Anthony and William had been soldiers in the Mexican war and had just received their land warrants, and in due time located the same. Their brother Robert purchased land near them in the same township. The Ashers and Wilkinsons were the only settlers in 1849.
So what did we learn about the foundation of Tama County? What did we learn from the planters of our “tree”? For me, I learned that Tama County wasn’t built on get rich quick gold grab of California. It was built by two families, two families that worked hard and cleared and farmed the land with a labor of love. It was that labor that bonds families together and demonstrates the true value and importance of family. That is who we are, for that is where we came. That is our tree.