|Mr. Fellows was born in 1758 in Dorchester,
New Hampshire, the son of a Revolutionary War
soldier, Captain Samuel Fellows. At the age of
17, Nathaniel enlisted and served as a private
in Colonel Beldell’s regiment. The regiment
was given the Order of Congress to harass the
British by invading Canada and carrying out
daring raids. They had hoped to liberate all
of North America from British rule. Even
though the mission failed, Nathaniel Fellows
had shown great fighting spirit.
At the age of 24,
Nathaniel married Mercy Flanders, the
daughter of a Revolutionary War soldier.
They had four children - Nathaniel Fellows,
Jr., Elizabeth, Judith, and Mercy.
Nathaniel's wife, Mercy, died in New
Hampshire in 1836.
In the spring of 1837,
the Fellows family, consisting of Nathaniel
Sr., age 79, his son Nathaniel, Jr. age 47,
his daughter-in-law, Polly, and two
children, loaded an ox wagon with all of
their belongings and left New Hampshire to
journey westward. The family had no
destination in mind, but simply planned to
travel until they found the “right” land and
water. They traveled by wagon train across
the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and
Ohio. Late in 1837, they arrived in Portage,
Indiana, where they ran out of food and
money. The two men were cobblers by trade,
and they set up shop to make and mend shoes
for travelers. The men charged $1.50 for a
pair of high top shoes, $2.50 for a pair of
fancy boots, and $.63 for mending shoes.
They were able to build up their finances
for the continued trip westward.
In the spring of 1838,
they joined a train of 40 ox teams and
continued moving west. They crossed the
state of Illinois and crossed the
Mississippi River at what is now Muscatine,
Iowa. There, the family left the ox train
and followed a rough road with ruts and mud
holes that slowed their progress. They
finally came to the Iowa River.
Traveling along the east
bank of the Iowa River, they came to a spot
opposite Indian Lookout just south of what
is now Iowa City, Iowa. Here, Chief
Poweshiek and his Sac and Fox Indians had
their camp. The family had hoped to ford the
river, but soon realized the river was
swollen and current too swift for fording.
They needed help to cross and without a
ferry or any other white men in the area,
they turned to Chief Poweshiek and his
While Chief Poweshiek was
unlikely to harm a white man, he was adamant
that he would not allow any settler to cross
the Iowa River to the land he controlled on
the other side. There is no known account of
the meeting between Poweshiek and the
Fellows family, but it probably was tense at
first. The family parleyed with Poweshiek,
and apparently impressed him enough that he
finally granted the family permission to
cross the river, so they could push westward
into land not yet open to white settlers.
For $1.00, an Indian brave carried the
family across in his canoe, one person at a
time. It took them all day. Nathaniel drove
Buck and Bright, his oxen team, and his milk
cow across the water. The wagon was
completely dismantled and with its contents,
ferried across the water piece by piece.
They had carried the
contents of their wagon a thousand miles and
most of the belongings were important for
their survival. They had corn, wheat, oat,
vegetable seeds, and potatoes. They had the
tools to plant, harvest, and clear the land:
scythes, a grain cradle, an ax, a
grindstone, and a crude plow. Mrs. Fellows
had her spinning wheel, shears and sewing
tools, cooking implements, including her
“spider” -- a long handled skillet with legs
– and her “starter” for bread. She also had
her herb medicine for combating illnesses.
All of which were transported across the
river that day.
At the end of the day,
they camped just south of the present day
Iowa City Airport. On the morning of May 6,
1838, the Indians helped reassemble the
wagon. According to his daughter Elizabeth,
that morning Nathaniel told his wife, Polly,
he was going to “walk to the top of the
ridge” and see if there was a valley or
timber on the other side. When he came back
he told the family it was a good place to go
and so they hitched the oxen to the wagon
and traveled over the ridge. At the top of
the ridge, they had one more encounter with
Indians – a band of 50 – that scared the
family and the oxen, but did not stop them
from continuing with their journey.
At Clear Creek, now
Coralville, they took notice of the
unusually, clear, clean water in the stream
and the family was captivated by the rich
bottom land adjoining it. These factors
prompted a decision to make this their home.
Here they made camp and broke ground for
planting of corn and potatoes. They found
one other white man, Bowen Wright, living
nearby in a small hut built out of tree
bark. He was a hunter and a trapper and had
been there a short time. He helped the
family build a 10 x 12 foot cabin. Clear
Creek provide them with drinking water and
Wright kept them in venison and wild game.
Nathaniel Fellows, Sr.,
who was not yet 80 years old, became weak
from the hardships of the two successive
long journeys and died on July 12, 1838.
Bowen Wright helped Nathaniel Jr., build a
casket from a walnut tree. They had no nails
or screws, so they pinned it together with
wooden pegs. Original internment was at the
center of what is now old Highway 6 and
Fifth Street in Coralville.
For three years, the
Fellows family lived peaceably beside the
Indians, until in 1839, Chief Poweshiek
moved his people to a new village in the
west part of the county. Poweshiek granted
the Fellows family the 260-acre farm they
had staked out. Because it was a gift from
the Indian chief, it was not entered into
the Federal records, until it was surveyed
much later. The land transaction was unique
for the state of Iowa. The farm later became
known as the Evergreen Farm and was owned by
the Dennis family - Isaac Dennis having
married Elizabeth Fellows in 1843.