Slavens Brothers Settle Sac County

In the mid- to late 1850's, the four older Slavens boys moved to the Iowa frontier and helped break virgin prairie at Cory's Grove, two and half miles south of Sac City in Sac County. The 1856 Iowa state census finds Jesse living with his "cousins' cousin" James Wren. Wren's mother was a sister of Jesse's uncle C.M. Davis's wife. A couple houses away, Willis was a farm hand for a family named Kyle. Milton was in Sac County by 1858, according to a petition for guardianship.

While Harvey doesn't appear in the 1856 census, he must have arrived soon thereafter. Harvey Slavens was granted a patent on 80 acres of land in December 1857, and erected a log cabin on the property. According to Bowen's 1914 history of Sac County, the second session of school ever taught in Sac County was in Harvey's log cabin in the winter of 1857-8 with his wife as the teacher.

Wife? Harvey married Nancy Tiberghien, oldest daughter of Elias and Harriet (Harrison) Tiberghien, on March 28, 1854 in Montgomery County, Indiana. The Tiberghien family had lived a few miles away from the old Slavens home, across the Montgomery County line in Clark Township, which was the same general area near Ladoga where Harvey's stepmother had lived (and may have been living at the time, as she didn't remarry until 1856). According to the marriage license application and return, Harvey's full name is "James H. Slavens." Since he was James Harvey, Benjamin named a son James Harvey, and William Stuart Slavens named a son James Harvey, I've got a strong feeling that Harvey's father was also a James Harvey.

The Elias Tiberghien family moved from Indiana to Jasper County, Iowa in 1855, moving on to Sac County in May 1856. According to biographies in a Sac County history book, four families and part of another one (the Slavens boys?), 21 people in all, made the trip from Jasper County to Sac County by ox-drawn wagons, requiring 19 days to cover the 135 miles. Ten yoke of oxen and a span of mules were used for the trip by the pioneers.

Although Iowa had been a state for ten years, the settlement of Sac County was just beginning. At the time of the 1856 census, the enumerator noted that "In this being a new county and there not being much improved land in the county, we thought that it would not be of any use to take the (agricultural) statistics." Mail and supplies had to be brought in from Fort Dodge, nearly 50 miles away. Sac City in 1856 was a frame building, a log cabin, and two tents. The area around Cory's Grove was plentiful with deer, elk, and small game. The Native Americans for which the county was named still roamed the country, and "the opening up of a new country required the utmost bravery and persistence."

Nancy Tiberghien Slavens died young, according to the county history biographies, and the 1860 census finds Harvey enumerated in the Elias Tiberghien household without Nancy. Unfortunately, there was no mortality schedule for Sac County in the 1860 census to help pinpoint the date of Nancy's death, nor does she appear in county cemetery records. It's likely that she's buried in the Cory's Grove cemetery with other pioneer members of the community. The other Slavens boys may have left Sac County by 1860, but court documents show that Harvey took out a $25 note and was also a justice of the peace there that year. But storm clouds were on the horizon, and Harvey would soon be returning to Indiana to join old friends in fighting for the Union.

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