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Iowa Vanderfords

Eli Vanderford (3003) arrived in Iowa the summer of 1850. In March of 1851 he purchased his first 30 acres of land in Marion County. This land was sold by the Government at $1.25 an acre. The Government surveyed the new lands and offered them for sale at public auction with the minimum price being $1.25 per acre. Any lands not sold were subject to private sale at the $1.25 price, payable in cash. The system of surveying was based on Meridian Lines running due north, based generally on some important water-course. The Meridian Lines were intersected at right angles by base lines. The largest division of land was a Range which was divided into Townships which contained 36 square miles. Each square mile was termed a section and contained 640 acres each. Eli's 30 acres were in Section 28, Township 77, Range 20.

Eli was already an established citizen when the great Iowa immigration of 1854 occurred. The editor of the Keokuk Whig described the immigration as:

'Still they come!' By railways and steamers, the flood of immigration continues pouring into the great West. The lake-shore roads are crowded to their utmost capacity; single trains of fourteen or fifteen cars, all full of men, women, and a large sprinkling of children, are almost daily arriving at Chicago. The Ohio River steamers are crowded in the same way. On Friday last, two steamers brought into St. Louis some 600 passengers; most of whom, being destined for the northwest, have already passed through this place. And 'still they come,' from Pennsylvania, from Ohio, Indiana, and other States, until, by the side of this exodus, that of the Israelites becomes an insignificant item, and the greater migrations of later times are scarcely to be mentioned.34

The editor of the Keokuk Dispatch had this to add:

No one can travel up and down the Mississippi without being astonished at the immigration constantly pouring into Iowa from all parts of the country; but especially from Indiana and Ohio.
Two gentlemen from Richmond County, Ohio, told us that from that County alone 1000 persons were coming to Iowa this fall; at every ferry on the river crowds are waiting to cross; and the land-offices all over the State are unable to meet the demands upon them by those who are eager to enter lands.35

Eli spent the remainder of his life in Marion County, Iowa. In 1853, he and 38 others petitioned for a new township, Swan, to be created. Swan Township was on the south side of the Des Moines River and had numerous small streams running through it south to north. It was heavily timbered except for a wide strip of bottom land next to the Des Moines River which was where Eli had his lands. With the construction of the Red Rock Reservoir and the changing of the course of the river all of Eli's good river bottom lands have been "lost to the river" and are now owned by the Government as park land.

There was always the risk of flooding when one lived on a major river. During a flood everyone large enough to handle a rail would help dismantle the rail fence from the river bottom land. The rails were carried to higher ground to prevent them from washing down river. In one such flood, when they labored late into the night to save what railing they could, the cold waters gave Eli rheumatism which he suffered from for the rest of his life.

In the late summer of 1862, Eli's son, Sylvester Vanderford (4004), decided to seek gold in Colorado rather than fight in the Civil War with the 40th Iowa. Considering the losses the 40th took at Vicksburg, Sylvester made a good choice. Sylvester, his wife and two small sons set out in a prairie schooner, with a chicken coop tied on behind, driving a pair of cows alongside. Each night they would milk the cows and let the chickens out for awhile. Mary Ellen Colorado Vanderford (5004) was born in the covered wagon and named for the state of Colorado.

The desire to move west had been bred into the Vanderfords and west they kept going into Kansas and Oklahoma. In 1889 John Austin Vanderford (5002) decided to take part in the Oklahoma Land Rush. John and four others paid $5 each to an Indian guide who was to take them to choice land. John's daughter, Musetta, describes the scene:

When they came to the South Canadian River, it was up and out of the bank and was dangerous with quicksand. The man that John loaned his mule to was a comparative stranger. He was afraid and wanted to return to Pauls Valley. John refused to let him take his mule and left him on the bank. He had to ride one mule and lead the other. The Indian told him to hit the water at a dead run, yelling and hitting their mounts with their hats. Although this sounds like comic opera, John did this and due to the swift current of the river came out way below the others.36

John's son, Thomas Sylvester Vanderford (6009), settled in Idaho. He started with only 40 acres and accumulated over 3000 acres. Appropriately, potatoes were his major crop and he did his own packing and shipping. He became a major grower and shipper with over two hundred employees, a machine shop, garage and storage warehouse.

Thomas Sylvester Vanderford (6009) in Buhl, Idaho

William Harrison Vanderford (5001) settled in California. There his four sons, Carl (6002), Otis (6003), Harmon (6004) and Vinson (6005) indulged their love for automobiles and motorcycles. Their mother would have to request the car a day or two in advance so that the boys could put it back together in time for her to use it. It was not long before they transferred this interest to airplanes. The brothers had gone north to the Sacramento Valley and were raising rice. They reasoned that if an airplane could dust the cotton fields it should be possible to seed the rice fields with an airplane. They bought an Eagle Rock biplane and hired the owner to fly it. The idea caught on and rice fields are still seeded by plane.

Otis got his first pilots license on March 30, 1935 and kept a plane on the ranch. His log book is filled with reasons to fly: "inspecting rice harvest, look for cattle, looking for grain bags, Red Cross rescue party, locate ducks for Fish & Game, look for lost sheep, chase blackbirds off rice, search for stolen farm equipment, etc." There was always a reason to go flying.

Otis Vanderford (6003) with his plane.


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