Riverside Township is so called from the expanse of land which lies continuous to the Nishnabotna River. A small tortuous and treacherous stream, which divides the township, its course being from north to south. The surface is gently rolling and in earlier times the landscape was beautified by many fine groves of natural timber.
The first home was made by William Brooke, who located on Section 29. James Reece was soon after a neighbor on the same section. In 1856 John and Robert Antrim became residents and five years later came Samuel Walker. Mr. Heaton was the first settler to “stake out” an original claim selecting a quarter section on Section 2. Several influential families occupying important places in the community are their immediate descendants.
The first school was taught in the home of John Smith by Miss Sira Neadim. It was of the most primitive sort. The entire circulation (sic) consisting of a study of the three R’s with government by the “birch” (wattle) method. The compensation was the munificent sum of $2.50 per week, out of which she was expected to pay her board. The pioneers, true to their home teachings, have always made the education of their children a consideration of their most serious concern, and very soon the first school building was erected, afterwards known as the Perkins district school house.
Randolph, as yet the only town, was platted in 1877. Samuel Buckner made the first mercantile venture by opening a store, which was soon followed by the Spencer Bros., as proprietors. At present three dry goods houses do a flourishing business. A. Freeman carries a fine stock of goods and is a methodical and enterprising merchant. Ralph Armstrong, with a large stock of goods , is doing a good business, and though young in experience gives evidence of marked business capacity. Addy Bros., who have been in business here for several years, have many friends and are enjoying a lucrative trade. The hardware house of Sells & Martin is one of the indispensables, as evidenced by the large number of farm implements going to the farms to lighten the labors of the husbandman. D. W. Thomas’ drug store, furnishes medicine for the sick, books and toys for the children and notions for the artistic and curious. S. T. Rhodes’ large and newly constructed elevator takes care of the cereal products of the nearby farms. The wants of the wayworn traveler are catered to by J. T. Stout, “Mine Host” of the Hotel Grand, in a manner to give general satisfaction. Drs. H. J. Piper and William Kerr are the conservators of the public health. Dr. Piper is the old-time physician, and has the friendship and confidence of many families. Dr. Kerr’s coming is of more recent years. He is a successful practitioner of deserved popularity. The Randolph High School , Prof. J. T. Coulson, principal, is without a superior in the country. The First National Bank, under the efficient management of A. W. Murphy, president; H. M. Townsend, cashier, and Garnet Gilchrist, book-keeper, does its part in keeping the financial status of the business community, on a sound basis.
H. T. Spencer’s apple orchard is one of the largest in the county. The trees were planted in 1893 and have been in bearing for eight years. That the crop this year is an abundant and profitable one is shown by the fact that the entire crop of 4,500 barrels has been sold for $8,000 and 5,000 gallons of cider were pressed from the culls. The varieties fruited are Ben Davis, Winesap and Grimes Golden, the latter being the most profitable. Spraying is done twice a year. Mr. Spencer is deserving of great credit for the energy and good judgement which inspired him to plant and care for this splendid orchard.
The geology of this township does not differ materially from other portions of southwestern Iowa. Geologists who have interrogated nature’s wonderful laboratories, tell us that Fremont County was once a part of an inland sea. That under great climatic changes, a long time tropical climate gave place to a frigid zone. There is evidence that the water of the Missouri hemmed in on their way to the ocean spread eastward and westward forming a body of water two hundred or more miles in diameter. That the earthly material held in suspension by the turbid Missouri was deposited as silt on the bottom of this lake, which in turn became the present surface of this region. The river eventually plowed its way through the bed of this ancient lake. Hence the alluvial deposit which is so wonderfully productive. The township is entirely destitute of coal, building stone, or valuable mineral deposits.
The history of Riverside Township would be incomplete without mention of at least a few of the men who aided in redeeming the wilderness and who now are representative citizens.
A.G. Fisher was born in 1816 and is now in his 93rd year. Mr. Fisher is a man of large and varied experience, having been at various times cooper, dry goods clerk, teacher and flatboatman. He, with F. C. Johnson and G. D. Lamb were the first trustees of the township, and he is now a director of Randolph National Bank. He is a man of simple habits but fixed opinions. He came to Fremont County in 1874, locating on Section 20, and choosing a fine site for a home, at the foot of the Bluff on the west side of the Nishnabotna River. His extensive land holdings have placed him in very easy financial circumstances, while enjoying a vigorous and ripe old age.
Clark Dodd came to Iowa in 1869. Of the thousands of acres of land then awaiting occupants, he made a selection from Section 34, on the banks of Honey Creek, and has ever since lived near his first location. Mr. Dodd takes great interest in the rearing of good stock, but his chief delight and recreation is in the propagation of many varieties of fruit. He has but few equals as a farmer and amateur horticulturist. He is an ardent and faithful supporter of the Presbyterian Church.
C. H. Fichter came to eastern Iowa in 1870, and later to Fremont County, possessing but a modicum of this world’s goods. He has by frugality and good judgment become the possessor of a handsome competency. He has satisfactorily filled several township offices and is a director of the Randolph National Bank. He pins his faith in the Methodist creed and by his untiring zeal he is largely instrumental in maintaining a flourishing Sabbath school in his neighborhood.
Joseph Alley, as early as 1867, came from Rock Island County, Illinois, to Fremont County. He made his first location on Section 26 and has clung to the soil with the tenacity of a New Englander. Mr. Alley is of Irish descent and the proverbial vigor of body and fixedness of purpose of that race, enabled him to overcome the difficulties and privations of early life, and to become the owner of many acres of Fremont County soil. His marked parental solicitude has caused him to locate his five children on nearby farms, and to start them on their business career with ample means.
H. C. Vanatta came to Iowa in 1866, and has been prominently identified with the pioneering and development of this county. Energetic and progressive, simplicity and directness were always the rules of his life. He, with his sons, have been very successful cattle feeders. Mr. Vanatta served for three terms with signal ability as county supervisor.