The following is from a newspaper article found in the Iowa State Reporter: Waterloo, May 26, 1875.
The first settlement in Poyner Township was made by Amasa Nims on section 26 in 1850. In 1852 he sold his claim to Benjamin Winsett and moved out of the Township. John and Joseph Perry and George Arthur came soon after, the same year. Edmund Sawyer, Nathan and Tomas Poyner and John Van Etton came in 1853. When the Poyners came there were seven families in the Township.
John Morgan came from Dubuque in 1854 and settled near the mouth of Poyner Creek. Morgan was a soldier in the Black Hawk war, in 1832, was at the Battle of Badaxe, and present at the capture of Black Hawk. Soon after he was one of a company to take a drove of government cattle from Rock Island to St. Paul, passing through Iowa up the east bank of the Cedar River and through what is now Poyner township. He was so well pleased with the beauty and natural advantages of that section lying now in Poyner, he resolved to make it his permanent home as soon as it came in the market, and did so, and lived there until removed by death.
In 1855 I. Doud, C. Chamberlin, David Owens, William Wheeler, Albert Taylor, John Helton, John Holler, Henry Kimble, John Linderman, I. T. Corwin, Martin Zimmerman and James Poyner settled in the southern part of the township.
In the spring of 1856 Elias Shinn, Henry Rice, Wm. Waterfield, John Van Vlack, Ira Nichols and John Addison settled in the township, and all except John Van Vlack near where Raymond is located. That same year John B. Cottle erected the first house in the northern part of the township.
In 1857 Harvey T. Hume erected a house on the west line of the northern part of the township, and M. Bunbury in the east and north, and Levi Washburn erected a house which is now in the vicinity of Raymond. In 1859 Brother Butterfield built his castle in the fifth ward on the east bank of Poyner Creek, so near the stream that the freshet of 1865 wet his carpet.
About the year 1860 Philip Wirth, Benoni Butterfield, C. Tiffany, Robert K. Townsend, Wesley Reed, and William Jenkins settled in the northern end of the township, which is fifteen miles long and four and four and a half wide in the widest part.
After 1860 the township, in common with other parts of the county, was very soon filled up, and now, March 30, 1875, contains 535 males, 512 females and 204 voters. Number of males who cannot read, 8; females, 7. Deaths in 1874, 10; births, 36 — — fair show for an increase of population. Total number of inhabitants in the township, 1047, and 161 dogs — — enough to eat all the sheep in the township in three days.
In 1854 John Chamboud and John Felton came into the township and founded the city of Gilbertville on the barren and sandy banks of the Cedar River. As Rome was called the “seven-hilled” city, Gilbertville might be called the “sand-hilled” city, provided it ever assumes such proportions. The question has often been asked why a town was laid out on such a barren place. The only reason we can give is that the good land had been entered before this, and the rock bottom and fall in the river made it a suitable place for a mill, which was much needed. A mill was built on the west bank and run by steam for two or three years. Arrangements were also in progress for the building of a dam and ferry, when the accidental death of John Felton by drowning, put a stop to the work. Felton and two other men were out in a boat stretching a cable across the river for the ferry, when in some manner the boat was caught by the rope, upset and all were thrown into the water. Two of the men were rescued but Felton was unable to swim and was drowned before assistance could be given him.
Messrs. Chamboud and Felton were well calculated to carry out the plans which they had made together, the former possessing good planning talent, and the latter great executive ability. One was theoretical and the other practical, and working well together, but neither calculated to do much alone.
The city was extensively laid out in blocks, lots, streets and avenues, there being 78 blocks on the east side of the river, making 714 lots, and 120 blocks on the west side.
The plat was drawn in proportion to the ideas of the founders, representing the place as one of great beauty, and possessing many natural advantages, and just the place calculated to make one happy. The plat had a large public square in the center of the city, a beautiful lake in the center of the square, and a pleasure boat in the center of the lake, filled with people enjoying a pleasant sail. Such a plat was calculated to give one an exalted opinion of the place, and I must confess I was somewhat disappointed when I came to visit it.
My first visit to Gilbertville was on 10th of June, 1856. I drove into town with three yoke of heavy cattle to a light loaded wagon. I had crossed many sloughs without getting sloughed, but in Gilbertville I got sanded — — stuck in the deep sand. I had to put my shoulder to the wheel and call on Hercules to help and whip the cattle.
Mr. Chamboud carried his plat to Dubuque to sell lots and induce people to come and build up the place. He sold seven lots to Christopher Kelly, who sold his possessions in Dubuque and moved to the new city. On his arrival his wrath was kindled and there was some pretty loud talk. He would have been glad to get away, but he had invested his all in lots, and found his hopes and money all sunk together, and was obliged to stay. Nicholas Bowden also invested in lots. Nick was a small man, but when he came to view his Gilbertville property he gave vent to some very big oaths. John Fagan was more cautious. He wanted to see the place before he invested, and he and Joseph Mathews came from Dubuque for that purpose. They were in such a hurry (probably afraid the lots would all be all sold and they would miss the chance of locating in such a charming place) that Mr. Fagan walked and Mathews came on horseback, making the journey in a day and a half. After they saw the place they concluded not to invest.
The city grew rapidly for a few years. Chamboud, Kamman & Felton opened a store with a general assortment, well adapted to the wants of the county. Nicholas Bowden also opened a small store, but did not continue long. John Snyder had the first blacksmith shop in 1855, and the first in the township. John Eickelberg, now a resident of Waterloo, started a wagon shop soon after.
In 1857 Peter Felton started a steam sawmill on the Cedar bottom, under the bluff, on some vacant lots. In the summer of 1858, the top of the smokestack was visibly above the water of the Cedar. The next season he moved it out of the bottom and set it in the center of the public square, and where the lake was represented to be on the plat, and then had to dig a well 12 feet deep right in the lake to get water to supply the engine.
Many who owned buildings and lived in town owned land in the vicinity and worked on it; but finding this unhandy moved their buildings to their farms. In the early settlement of the place it supported a small brewery and tannery, but they soon ceased operations. A few years after two small distilleries existed for a short time. In 1856 a small Catholic church was erected and used until 1868 when a larger one was built which was destroyed by wind in 1871, and has been rebuilt again this year, and was dedicated a few Sundays ago.
Gilbertville at the present time supports two stores, three saloons, a post office, one blacksmith shop, and one wagon shop, and the main street is solid, containing 19 families and 98 inhabitants. Raymond is a small village on the Illinois Central Railroad, and near the center of the township, has one elevator, one dry goods and grocery, and one drugstore, depot, telegraph and post office, and one blacksmith shop and one hotel. The first buildings in the place were the elevator and dwelling erected by Edmund Miller in 1860. In 1865 Porter M. Chaffee built and opened the first store.
The first election held in the township was at the house of Benjamin Winset in 1854. There were not enough voters in the town to fill the offices. Nathan Poyner was elected justice of the peace — — the first in the township. The second election was held at the house of Edmund Sawyer in what is now Spring Creek Township, both townships being in one election precinct. The next year it was held at Nathan Poyner’s. In 1856 it was held at Gilbertville, and held there until 1865, when it was held at Raymond and continues to be held there. The township and Poyner Creek were named after Nathan Poyner, who was a Baptist preacher and used to hold meetings and preach under a large oak tree near his cabin.