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BY MIKE AVITT
I had a fair amount of success researching Riley Township. Most townships in Ringgold County had a railroad, a state highway, or an incorporated town, but not Riley.
Riley Township is located at the southeast corner of Ringgold County and was named after Robert H. Riley, an early settler in Athens Township. When Ringgold County was first established in 1855, there were only four townships. Today, there are seventeen.
Riley’s most well-known church was Mt. Zion, a Methodist Episcopal Church built in 1886 and dedicated in February 1887. It and the cemetery were located in the SE corner of section 16. Amazingly, the church lasted until June 1959. In February 1946, Mt. Zion got electricity for the first time along with other major improvements. In 1951, Rev. John Lippincott was preaching at Mt. Zion, Caledonia, and Mount Ayr Methodist Churches.
Modoc School was located about one-fourth mile south of Mt. Zion. A new schoolhouse was built in 1907 or 1908 to replace the building that burned in District No. 5. In 1949, after a few years of being closed, Modoc was reopened as more pupils moved into the area. At the same time, Lee School and Wolf Valley were closed. Modoc closed for good in December 1952. Mrs. Elmer Goldner was the last teacher.
I have always thought there was one community in Riley Township, but there were two. Just two miles to the west-southwest of Mt. Zion was the Lee Post Office, Lee School, and a church I learned about a few days ago.
In September 1898, John Opdyke opened a store near the Lee Post Office and he became postmaster in November 1898, succeeding A. H. Millsap. Millsap later became Constable of Riley Township. The timing is interesting because in December 1898, just up the road from the post office, a United Evangelical Church was dedicated. This was the same denomination as the church in Ringgold City, just five miles west on the Lee Trail, which today we call Ringgold County Road J 67. The same pastor handled both churches. I don’t know when the Lee Evangelical Church closed.
The Lee Post Office closed January 31, 1908, but the store would continue. B. D. Fleet of Lamoni bought the Opdyke store in July 1900. By November 1903, J. L. Arney had the store. Emanual Sandage traded for the business from W. L. Frisby in 1912 and Sandage traded the store to L. Z. Williams in 1913. Sherman McAninch and Lester Coon had possession of the store when it burned in November 1914.
There is another cemetery in Riley Township, that being Patrick Cemetery located in section 22. It is one of Ringgold County’s older cemeteries with the last known burial to be 1935. The cemetery is in a field and has had some stones repaired and other improvements made.