Stephen & Bridget Durnan Farm & Land Holdings circa 1888.jpg


†† W
e know that Stephen Durnan brought his young family to Bremer County, Iowa around 1870. We have this information from Stephenís eldest sonís obituary. The 1870 U.S. Census doesnít show Stephen Durnan, presumably because he was in the process of moving. His wife Bridget is shown living at her motherís home in Aurora, but surprisingly, the children arenít listed. Weíre almost positive that they would have been with their mother and not their father on the frontier of Iowa where Iím sure Stephen was in the process of setting up the family farm. The children would have been quite young at the time.

†††††We donít know what brought Stephen to this part of Iowa. We do know a little history of the area because of an old book that details the pioneers of Bremer County. When Stephen came to Bremer County, many of the very original pioneers still resided there and were counted as his neighbors. In the first plat map that I can find, from 1875, Stephen only owns 80 acres of land Ė 40 on either side of the road where his farm sits today. He also had a small strip of woods along the Wapsipinicon River. He did not own the 90 acres in Franklin Township at this time. By 1888, the time of his death, he had added an additional 130 acres of land. He also sold some of his wood ground along the river and purchased a wood lot closer to his home, outlined in green above. The school used to sit along the road just north of the wood lot outlined in green, and I can envision the kids getting out of school, having to go cut some wood for their mother on their way home. He also purchased 40 acres from A.S. Peck, a pioneer of the area, and bought the 90 acres of farm ground in Franklin Township. At the time, the land in Franklin Township would have sat on the corner of the road. Today, the north south road runs straight up to Buck Creek, but not so in Stephen and Bridgetís day. Then you had to make a turn to the west and go to the road that ran in front of his home, then at the next intersection, head east for a half of a mile before you could turn north again for Buck Creek. On the map above, Buck creek is the creek that runs from the town southward, about a mile and change east of the Wapsipinicon River. The northern edge of Stephenís Franklin Township property marks the line between Dayton and Franklin Townships. On the map above, youíll see a red diamond with the tag; Smoke Town. Smoke Town has an interesting history of its own. There you would have had the original post office that served the area, located at a general store owned by Louis Mohlis. His grandson was kind enough to send me a copy of one of his cards. Also located there was a blacksmith shop ran by August(us) Meier. Old buildings still stand there today, probably the same ones that our ancestors knew so well. There was also a grist mill located there along the river for a while as well, ran by†Cornelius Miller. On the 1875 atlas, youíll notice the dot for the location of the house on the west side of the road. Stephenís obituary mentioned that he was enclosing a new home at the time of his death. I assume it is the house that sits on the east side of the road today. The same barn that Stephen built and used is still standing there today as well. My wife and I drove by the place last summer and took a short video of his property.




†1939


†The Durnan farm is farm #2 on this sale bill.
This sale bill ran in many papers in eastern Iowa
Taken from the Waterloo paper in August of 1919

† †

†Stephen Durnan home as it appears today.

†† †Further Resources:

††††††† †Margaret McGuire 1870 US Census (Bridget on line 12)