Although our area had been organized into townships before 1870, Manti was the only village or town that existed in eastern Fremont County as of 1869. A handful of settlers owned scattered parcels of land in these townships, on which they raised corn, wheat, oats, cows, pigs, horses and mules. Between 1865 and 1868, several farmers settled between Manti and the future town of Farragut. Our two counties were so sparsely settled that Native Americans freely traveled through the Farragut area as late as 1872. Between 1870 and 1880, however, enormous changes took place.
The first and most important of these changes was the construction of two railroad lines. The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company (B & M) was the first to enter our area when it opened its line between Red Oak and Hamburg on August 1, 1870. The second was the CB&StL (Council Bluffs & St. Louis commonly known as the Wabash), which ran its Council Bluffs to St. Louis route through the newly planned town of Imogene in the fall of 1879.
The second major change was the emergence of new towns. Railroads often planned towns every seven miles or so along their tracks. Two of these towns were Farragut and Imogene, both in eastern Fremont County. The first residents of these planned towns were the railroad workers, and railroad “town companies” gave the towns names and drew up the first plats. In the case of Farragut, the B&M named the town Lawrence in the spring of 1870 ran the first train through in August 1870, and platted the town that railroad workers christened Lowland in September 1870. In 1872 townspeople changed the name to Farragut in honor of Adm. David Glasgow Farragut, a Civil War naval hero. As the new railroad towns sprang up in 1870, however, many Manti residents moved to the new Page County town of Fair Oaks (now called Shenandoah) or to the new Fremont County town now called Farragut.
Between 1870 and 1880, several small villages also formed well away from the railroad lines in eastern Fremont County High Creek (1871), Vaughn (1873). Walkerville (1874) and Farmer’s City (1876). High Creek and Vaughn grew up around mills where farmers took their grain to be ground. Walkerville was an important trade center for farmers in western Page County. Before 1879 Farmer’s City was the only settlement in Monroe Township, and it developed around a schoolhouse and church.
The emergence and growth of our area would not have occurred without the large population increase that took place here between 1870 and 1880. The new railroad lines made it easier for people seeking a new home to travel, and hundreds flowed into Fremont County’s eastern townships. Some new residents became businessmen, while others were farmers and stock raisers who bought inexpensive land from the railroads. In 1876 it was estimated that ten thousand acres of prairie land had been broken up, fenced and planted that year in Locust Grove Township alone.
Four significant agricultural changes took place here in 1870s as well. First, barbed wire replaced the Osage Apple hedges that earlier settlers used for fences. Second, production increased as farms grew in number. Thirdly, the railroads enabled farmers to ship more products out. Finally, the emergence of the area’s nursery business already could be seen in G.W. Perkins’ hedge plant farm and A.N. Rich’s nursery and fruit farm, both in Fisher Township.