More Light on West Branch History

West Branch Times
July 1928


T. T. Barrington of Pasadena, California, has written the following account of early West Branch days, which will be of interest to all West Branch and its friends. The letter is interesting, especially, because the information is first hand, and should be preserved:

Pasadena, Calif., July 2, 1928

F. E. Corbin
West Branch, Iowa;

Dear Editor: -- This is Monday evening, the West Branch times received today. It almost always comes on Monday. We miss if it don't come.

Herbert Hoover seems to be the center of attraction now for all West Branchites, and West Branch seems to be the attraction for all Americanites. A California Democrat told me the other day he was going to vote for Herbert Hoover, and his wife too, so there are two Democrats for Hoover who did not know anything about West Branch, but won't vote for Al Smith.

I have been thinking about what I know about West Branch. I can remember when West Branch was born, and I can remember when Herbert Hoover was born and I can remember what his father said to me the next day after he was born. He said, "Well, another U. S. Grant is born." It looks now like it was coming true. In one of your March issues I read a report of Nicholas Larson's birthday and the remembrances of his many friends. I couldn't help noticing how near my birthday came to his and we were born in the same year, his in March and mine in May. I always remember when my birthday comes because it always comes the day before Decoration Day. I, too, had a shower of cards and letters, mostly from the states of Illinois Iowa, Kansas and New Mexico, all relatives.

Now I want to tell you how my relatives in California remembered me in person. At the suggestion of Mary Wright we all went to Laguna Beach on the Pacific Ocean, about sixty miles from Pasadena. My cousin, Ada Giddings, lives at Laguna Beach, about two blocks from the ocean, and they have a rear cottage all furnished and vacant at present, and a few of us went down the evening before Decoration Day and occupied the cottage and part of the house they live in.

Our daughter Edith, who teaches in the Washington Junior High in the Commercial Department, has an Oakland enclosed car and we took William and Anna Bonsal with us after school was out, and that accounts for us going late in the day. We ate our lunch on the way down, and we got to the Beach about sundown and soon after we got there G. L. Barnes and all his family of six came, and the next morning there were fifteen of us sat down to breakfast, and during the forenoon the other relatives came and at noon there were thirty-five of us at the picnic dinner, all bringing well filled baskets. I won't write the names of all there, but just mention the men's names and their families. They were, to begin with, G. L. Barnes, Joseph Wright, Lewis T. Hill, Jessie Vore, Jr., Wm. Bonsal, Fred Bowlus, Dwight Barnes, Edmund Lee, Levi Giddings, William Barrington, John Barrington and T. T. Barrington and the rest were women and children and grandchildren. Mary Wright said that her brother, Chas. Hathaway, was born on the 29th of May, too, so we celebrated both our birthdays, but Charley was on the Atlantic Ocean in New York and we were on the Pacific.

We took our kodak and in the afternoon we took some pictures of the group in front of the Giddings home. I will inclose one. Someone there, I think, can name each one.

I believe, now, I will write a little history. I was born in Fredericktown, Ohio, May 29, 1853. My father owned and operated a foundry and machine shop. His name was Mark Barrington. My mother's name was Bethia Townsend before she was married. When I was one year old my mother died. My father had four brothers, Thomas, Joseph, John and George. Thomas married Elizabeth Townsend after my mother's death. My uncle Thomas and my Aunt Elizabeth adopted me. My Grandfather Townsend was the father of 13 children. I won't name them all, but say that Wm. and James Townsend moved from Fredericktown, Ohio, and settled on farms on which West Branch now stands; also Hanna Townsend Kirk. Wm. Townsend on the eighty acres all east of Fourth street, and James Townsend on the next 80 acres on the east, and Timothy Kirk and Hannah Townsend Kirk on the 80 acres south of Main street and west of Downey street. The 80 acres north of Main street and west of Downey street was the Samuel Abbott 80. West of Abbott was the Joseph Steer 80, and west of Steer was the Eli Hoover, grandfather of Herbert Hoover, 160 acres. The 160 acres south of Main street and east of Downey street was vacant. The next 80 acres east was the Jesse Hoover and Rebecca Hoover place, grandparents of Herbert Hoover's father, whose name was Jesse. The next 80 east was the Talbot place; and the 80 acres north the Main street and the Talbot place was the Joel Bean place. West of the Timothy Kirk place was the brother of Timothy, whose name was Eziekiel, 80. The 160 acres south of Main street and the Eli Hoover place vacant. Now this was West Branch in 1855 -- two miles long east and west and one mile wide north and south, and these people and their families were living there at this time and that is all in the boundary I have given. The built a little school house on the northeast corner of Uncle Timothy Kirk's place and this was the "Baby West Branch."

Our folks came out in 1855, and Father Barrington was a carpenter and the next building put up was the Quaker meeting house that he built out of the lumber that he sawed out of the logs at the mill he run for Joseph Steer up in Big grove, or what is now called Newport, I believe, north-west of Oasis. The next spring our folks came down to West Branch and bought the west 40 of the Joel Bean place and built a shanty out of the lumber from the old sawmill. When we got there there were four of the Townsend families, two brothers and two sisters, and I was thinking that out of all the families that were there at this time that was born there, there is only four left -- Charles Townsend of Salem, Oregon, A. J. Abbott of Santa Fe, New Mexico, about 85 years old each, and Edgar Townsend and myself, about eight and ten years younger. Edgar Townsend lives in San Francisco and I in Pasadena. A. J. Abbott is a son-in-law of Thomas and Elizabeth Barrington. He is the oldest and I the youngest of the four left.

Since writing the above I am not sure but Will Steer and Davis Hoover might have been born in 1855. If they were not living at that time it must not have been long after.

Now on the two miles square in the four sections. Benj. Miles family was on the southeast 160 and Michael King was on the northwest 160 and a man and family by the name of Baker was on the northeast 80 and southwest 160 was vacant in 1855. The James Chambers family was on the corner at that time or a little later.

The first store that was in West Branch was in the front room in Jo Steer's house on the farm. When I was seven years old, or the year 1860, there was three more of the Townsend family came out to West Branch. One uncle and two aunts. One of those aunts is the only one of the Townsend family that is left of that large family of Townsends and she is about 86 years old and lives with her daughter in Garden City, Kansas, but is spending the summer with another daughter in Wisconsin. She has a son in Utica, New York. This aunt used to teach school in West Branch and Jo Hoover was one of the scholars and to show how smart he was I will have to tell a little story on him. Aunt Letitia asked him a question in the class and he did not want to answer it. She asked him if he could not answer it. He said "yes." She told him to answer it then and he said, "If she new it and he knew it, what was the use of telling it?"

I used to go up to Eli Hoover's to get my red topped boots fixed, and while I was sitting there in my stocking feet he sang me a little song. It went like this: "He digged a pit, he digged it deep. He digged for his brother, but for his sin he did fall in, he digged if for the other." Eli was a cobbler.

I used to go to meeting pretty regular and heard Hulda Hoover preach. She said something one day I never forgot, she said, "If we could not say anything good about anybody it was better not to say anything." I guess that is the reason I can't talk much.

T. T. Barrington.