Mason City Township
By J. C. Warnock, Esq.
The history of this township, contained in the following pages, is gathered from those who lived cotemporaneous with the events recorded, and, by personal observation, have become living witnesses to the present generation of the history of the past, and from these recesses of memory the traditional history of this township may now be put upon perpetual record as the first link in the chain that shall be continued as ages and generations succeed each other. In attempting the task, we are met on the very threshold with the fact that the devastating had of time and the progress of art are remorseless and unsparing of primitive landmarks, however dear they may have been to a former generation and however sacred the memories that cluster around them. With these facts before us, we have attempted to surmount the barrier by obtaining the facts and incidents from old residents who were personal witnesses of them, and whose recitals, corroborating each other sufficiently, establish the truth of the historical events herein recorded.|
This township did not receive its present name until the county was organized under the township organization law, in 1862, but up to that time was designated as by the surveyor's record, Township 20 north, Range 5 west of the Third Principal Meridian, and included within its boundary on the south side about seven and one-half miles of Salt Creek, that is, by following the course of the stream in its curvings and windings, and about three-quarters of a mile of Sugar Creek, and on the east about four miles of Prairie Creek. Toward the north, this stream takes a southwesterly course for about one-half mile, then a winding course south for about the same distance, when it turns east and leaves the township to return one mile farther south, now taking a south-westerly course until it reaches Salt Creek. The original survey, as appears from the "field notes," was made in the fall of 1823, and in conformity with an act of Congress, Section No. 16 was set apart for school purposes, and was and is yet known as the "school section," the proceeds of which became a township school fund, from the interest of which the several districts now receive an annual income for the support of their public schools.
At the time of the original survey, there was not a resident or habitation in the territory of the township, nor for several years after. The primitive blue-stem prairie grass was a marvel of luxuriant growth to persons unfamiliar with such scenery, and to place a man on foot out in this unbroken and untrodden wilderness with no other outlook than the far-away heavens above, was to place him in a position from which it was almost as difficult to extricate himself as from mid-ocean without rudder or compass, though not so perilous. Late in the fall, when the frosts had killed the grass, the great prairie fires would occur, which would be started by hunters shooting into the tinder-like material, or with the flint, for matches were a commodity of civilization and inventive genius that had not yet reached these Western wilds. The grandeur of those prairie fires can only be fully appreciated by being seen. The flames, at times reaching high up toward the star-decked dome, and then, swooping down, gathering in their devouring grasp the grass fifty feet in advance of the main column, were to be admired and apotheosized from the rear, but to be feared and dreaded from the front as a fierce and powerful agent, dealing destruction to all that came within its reach. In the north half of the township, the surface of the land takes a gentle and regular decline toward the south, and from this to the south line, it is somewhat broken by bluffs and ravines, but only a small portion so much broken as to be untellable. Salt Creek bottom was once considered a geological mistake of nature, and counted a perpetual and irredeemable waste because of its frequent inundation by the overflowing waters of Salt Creek; but, by leveeing, the last few years have demonstrated their safe and profitable cultivation, and a few more years will find the most prolific farms in the township on these once discarded lowlands. Corn, wheat and oats are the principal agricultural products, but nearly all the cereals, as well as the various fruits indigenous to the climate, are produced in great quantities.
Coal exists in great quantities at a depth of 200 feet, in the north part of the township, and, at one point on the bluffs in Swing's Grove, there is every evidence of coal near the surface.