History of Winneshiek and Allamakee Counties
General History; the Aborigines
The great Dakota or Sioux family of American Indians, whose proper domain is the vast central prairies between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, from east to west, and stretching from the Saskatchewan on the north to the Red River, of Texas, occupied the territory in which Allamakee county is included, when the white man first set foot on Iowa soil, in 1673. They are remotely allied, in language, to the Wyandotte-Iroquois family of the East.
At the time of the advent of the white man, the Winnebagos ("Puans" of the Canadians), a division of this powerful Dakota family, formed their eastern outpost, and lived on the western shore of Lake Michigan, and about the waters of Winnebago Lake and Green Bay, Wisconsin. This tribe was the parent stock of the Omahas, Iowas, Kansas, Quappas, or Arkansas, and Osages. They took up arms with the French in the Franco-English wars, and with the English in the Revolution and war of 1812.
The Sacs and Foxes, originally separate tribes, were at one time neighbors of the Winnebagos in Wisconsin, but had united their numbers in one band, and removed to and occupied a large portion of Illinois, and the eastern part of Iowa, south of the upper Iowa River. By the treaty of 1825 this river was made the dividing line between the Sioux on the north and the Sacs and Foxes (now considered one tribe) on the south. But owing to frequent collisions between these tribes, in their hunting expeditions, the favorite hunting grounds being a bone of contention, the Government, in 1830, assembled them in council and established "the neutral ground," a strip of territory forty miles in width from north to south, with the upper Iowa as its center, extending westward from the Mississippi to the upper valley of the Des Moines river. Thus nearly the whole of what is now Allamakee County was included in the neutral ground, which was considered on the very best of hunting grounds, and upon which either tribe was permitted to hunt at pleasure, without interference from the other.
At the close of the Black Hawk war, in 1832, in which the Winnebagos took no active part, but were rather friendly to the whites, a treaty was made whereby this neutral ground was to become their reservation, and in consideration of the surrender of their lands in Wisconsin they were to be allowed large annuities from the government, which also undertook to supply them with hoping to induce them thereby to abandon their wild and idle ways and become civilized.; a hope which proved fallacious. This treaty, (or another made near that time,) was proclaimed Feb. 13, 1833, and by its terms - as recently found by A.M. May in a volume of Indian treaties in the library of the Wisconsin State Historical Society - defined the boundaries of the reservation as follows: Beginning at a point on the west bank of the Mississippi west to Red Cedar Creek (the head-waters of the Cedar River), thence south forty miles, thence east to the Mississippi, thence north to place of beginning. This grant was to take effect June 1st, 1833, provided that by that time they should leave their old reservation and settle upon this. The eastern portion of this neutral ground was soon occupied, and a mission school and farm were established by the government on the north side of the Yellow River in 1834, of which we shall have more to say further along.
By another treaty proclaimed June 16, 1838, the Indians relinquished their right to occupy the eastern portions of this tract of land, except for hunting, and agreed to move, in eight months after the ratification of said treaty, to the western part of the neutral ground, which was done in 1839 or '40. This was the occasion of the abandonment of the Yellow River mission, and the establishment, in 1840, of the Fort Atkinson mission on the Turkey River in Winneshiek County.
By a treaty made Oct. 13, 1846, and proclaimed Feb. 4, 1847, the Winnebagos ceded and sold to the United States all their right, title, and interest in this neutral ground; and in June, 1848, they were removed to the upper Mississippi, north of the St. Peter's (or Minnesota) River. By a series of treaties they have since been removed no less than four times, occupying reservations in various parts of Minnesota and Dakota, and now live upon the Omaha reservation in Nebraska, where they are said to be prospering. The love for their old haunts, however, was hard to overcome, and year after year they returned in small parties to their old hunting grounds on the banks of the Mississippi. And although time and again were these scattered parties gathered together by squads of U. S. troops and taken to their reservation, there are still quite a number who continue to inhabit the islands of the river along our county border, subsisting upon fish and game.
The banks of some of our streams bear the marks of having been the home of numerous people many centuries in the past, but of what race they were is a mystery hard to solve. Especially are there in the valley of the Upper Iowa numerous mounds, but of the acts and scenes which were taking place in this beautiful valley in the age in which they were constructed we may imagine, though probably never know. That it is an interesting subject for investigation is felt by all; and the following extracts from an account of explorations made in 1875, are worthy of a place here. The article was written by Dr. W.W. Ranney, of Lansing, who was accompanied in his investigations by Judge Murdock, of Garnaville, and others of Lansing:
"The mound in which our excavations were made is situated on the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section thirty-six, township one hundred, range five, west of principal meridian (or the southeast corner of Union City township), or about one hundred feet above the Iowa River bottom. It is not in the form of the burial mounds, or tumuli, but forms a circle, the circumference of which is seven hundred feet. The ridge, or elevation, averages about twenty-five feet in width, leaving a circular enclosure 210 feet in diameter. The height of the ridge or mound is about three to four feet from the surface of the ground.
"On opening it we discovered pieces of broken pottery made of a bluish clay and partially pulverized mussel shells; stones, showing evidence of having been used for hearths, or supports for the earthen vessels while being used for cooking food; collections of fish scales, bones of buffalo, deer, badger, bear, fish and birds, but no evidence whatever of human bones. The long, or morrow bones of all animals were found broken or split, supposed to have been done for the purpose of extracting the marrow for food, which circumstance is also noted in the Kjokkommoddings, or kitchen middings, of Denmark. One peculiarity noticed by Mr. Hemenway was that each of us digging in different locations found the ornamentation of the pottery dissimilar. For instance, all Mr. Haney found was ornamented with horizontal circular rings; all Judge found was ornamented with zigzag lines with dots in the angles. All that we found had perpendicular lines like a muskmelon, etc. This was finally accounted for by the supposition that each family had its own particular method of ornamentation, by which they recognized their property.
"These vessels were quite capacious, the diameter of one having been fourteen inches at the mouth, (or as large as a ten pound tobacco pail). About one and three-quarter inches below the mouth they abruptly widened out about six inches all around, making the largest diameter twenty-six inches.
"Taking occasion to remark to the Judge that we had found no bottoms to the vessels, set him to thinking, and the result was that he decided that the bottoms had been rounded in such a manner that they never tipped over, but let them be set down as they might they oscillated till they finally, when still, sit in an upright position. For the purpose of handling, the vessels were provided with handles on two opposite sides similar to our jug handles.
"Besides the before-mentioned articles, Col. Johnston found a thin strip of copper two inches long by three-quarters wide, and we found an ornament of the same material, triangular in form, one inch wide at the base, and one and one-half inches from base to apex, the form being the same as the face of a flat iron, the center being perforated to attach some additional ornament, and the apex also, to attach a string to fasten in the ear.
"Now the question arises, when, how and for what purpose was this mound built. Was it a burial ground, a fort or a village? At first the Judge thought the former, Mr. James Haney the second, and we took the last proposition. To say when, is impossible; the time has been long, long ago, as we have evidence by the decay of the bones and shells. Why it was built? We think it the remains of a village. That the huts or wigwams were built in a circle, and the piles of burnt stone we unearthed each represented a hearth in a hut, on which the pottery set while cooking, and around each of which a separate family warmed and fed themselves. We think with Mr. H. that each family had a separate distinct mark on their vessels by which they were known from their neighbors in the next hut or wigwam.
"We think that the bones found show no evidence of human bones, and consequently it could not be used for a burial ground. Another evidence lies in the fact that all the bones are broken to obtain the marrow. The scales and bones of fish and animals, the charcoal, ashes and burnt hearthstones all point conclusively to the fact that this was their adobe. The central enclosure was used for their games, dancing and pleasure, or perhaps in case of attack from wild beasts or their fellow men, as a place for the aged, the young and the women to flee to while the warrior met their encroachments outside the circle of dwellings. Add to this the fact forty rods south of this village we find some eighty-three burial mounds or tumuli, out of which we procured parts of human skeletons, and nothing else, with the long bones entire, and we are convinced of the fact that this was once a town filled with people, enjoying the pleasures of families and all knit together as one tribe of people."
Commenting on the above, Mr. J.G. Ratcliffe, for many years a resident of that valley, and a close observer of those mounds, wrote in 1875:
"These remains extend up the Iowa River, from near New Albin, for a distance of at least twenty miles, and consist of sites of ancient villages or forts; tumuli or burial grounds; lookout or signal stations on the tops of the bluffs; and rude hieroglyphics; these last consisting of men on horseback, buffalos, peculiar circular figures, etc., being now mostly obliterated through the agency of the weather, the friable nature of the rock (potsdam sandstone) and rude boys.
"Of the village or forts: these consist of circular (in one case only triangular) enclosures or embankments of earth and stone. They were located generally at intervals of a couple of miles apart on the benches or second bottoms of the valley, but sometimes (as was the case with one on a farm formerly owned by me) were down on the river flat. The enclosures were generally from seventy-five to one hundred yards in diameter. The embankments being now about twenty-five to thirty feet in width and two or three in height, were originally, I think, much higher, and probably built of sods, serving the purposes of a modern stockade as a means of defense against enemies, and high enough for a support for one end of their tent poles, while at the base on the inside were their kitchen hearths, whereon was cooked the spoils of the chase, the embankment warding off the inclement storms to which the climate is subject.
"In exploring these embankments we found (in addition to the pottery, bones, fish scales, etc., mentioned as found by Judge Murdock and party) large stone mortars and pestles, for grinding corn, two or three kinds of stone axes, celts, etc.; also numerous flint and chert arrow heads, and skinning instruments. These mortars are about fourteen inches in diameter and about five inches in thickness, hollowed out like a soup plate, hand made, from a hard syenite stone, but sometimes from common sandstone. The pestles are of three kinds and the most common kind are about the size of and almost identical in shape with a large sized biscuit, being about three and a half inches in depth, can be readily clutched in the hand, and are worn off very smooth by constant abrasion; these are quite numerous. Another kind is similar to a common potato masher, except that the handle is a little larger and shorter, the whole instrument being eight or nine inches in length. Also one of a shape between these two with grooves for the fingers. This kind is very scarce. I have never known of but one being found here.
"The stone axes, celts, etc, are crude instruments when compared with ours; and yet they are crude in material more than in workmanship. There is symmetry of form and a proportion of materials to the work to be done, which invites our admiration, and suggests the question 'whether the civilized men of the present day placed in the same situation and with the same materials and tools could or would do any better'. The stone ax is much the size and shape of one of our axes with the steel worn away and blunted. Instead of an eye there is a groove cut around the head of the ax, around which the handle was withed. The Sioux Indians of the present day with their handles on in this manner with strips of green rawhide, which on drying makes a firm and elastic handle. The material with which these axes were made is a very tough kind of porphyritic granite or green stone and is not found nearer than the Lake Superior region and the Canadas.
"Mr. John Haney informed me sometime since that many years ago, when he and his brothers first started their mill, that they very successfully used one of these wedges or celts of this material for a mill pick for dressing the buhr stones. The stone celts and skinning instruments are similar to the axes except that with the same cutting edge they have the top part rounded off to grasp with the hand or sink into a club. Some of these are quite diminutive; I have some specimens that are not over two and a half inches in length, while others are as large as a blacksmith's sledge. Another specie of skinning instrument is a large flat stake; one of these found on the Iowa is about six inches in length by four and one-half in breadth, and three-fourths of an inch in thickness, and resembles very much one described in Harper's Magazine for September 1875.
"A year or two ago a band of wandering Winnebagos happened along the Iowa, fishing and begging as is their wont. The attention of one of the old men was called to an old village site and he was asked what it was. He replied an Indian garden. His knowledge of this subject was coextensive with that one of the same tribe to whom I showed a large mastodon bone, which was exhumed near New Albin in grading the railroad. On asking him to what animal it belonged he answered, "buffalo," that being the largest animal of which he had any knowledge.
"Before leaving the subject of these forts or village sites, I would say in this connection that on a trip over on the Kickapoo River in Wisconsin, last year, I found them quite numerous, and of peculiar shape. The engineer of the Narrow Gauge Railroad there surveyed and platted some of them, when to his surprise he found them take the shapes of a bear, birds and other animals, showing artistic design in their construction."
THE ADVENT OF THE WHITE MAN
The first permanent settlement within the boundaries of Allamakee County of which we have any record was at the old Government Indian Mission in Fairview Township, which was opened in 1835 with Rev. David Lowery and Col. Thomas in charge. The building was erected the previous year; and as early as 1828 a detail of men from Ft. Crawford (Prairie du Chien, which place was settled by Indian traders more than a century before) had built a sawmill on the Yellow River a short distance below this point to get out lumber for building purposes at the Fort. Indeed, it would have been strange if this region had not been well traversed by white hunters and trappers for many years previous to this time; and it is said somewhere along our river border a white man had established his home as early as 1818, but had after a time abandoned it. Of this the writer has nothing authentic, however, and the earliest individual or private settlement of which we have knowledge was by one Henry Johnson, at the mouth of Paint Creek, about the year 1837 - and this was the origin of "Johnsonport."
The third settlement was made by Mr. Joel Post and his wife, Zerniah, in 1841; they established a half way house of entertainment on the military road, between Ft. Crawford and Ft. Atkinson. Their place was in the extreme southwest corner of the county, and is now the thriving town of Postville. Mrs. Post is still living in that place, and her memory register preserves the names of many distinguished guests who have enjoyed the hospitality of her home. Among these may be mentioned Capt. N. Lyon, Lt. Alfred Pleasanton, Gen. Sumner, and other officers who afterwards became noted.
From this time on there seem to have been no other settlements made until the Indians were removed in 1848, although portions of the county were explored in 1847. When Reuben Smith located on Yellow River, in June 1849, he reports that there were seven or eight settlers then near Mr. Post's.
In 1848 Patrick Keenan and Richard Cassiday settled in Makee Township, and William Garrison and John Haney at Lansing.
In 1849 there were many new settlements made in various parts of the county, including those of Geo. C. Shattuck at Waukon, W. C. Thompson in Lafayette, some parties along Yellow River and others to the north of the Iowa, so that in the latter part of this year the population was enumerated and reported at 277. When Mr. Shattuck located at Waukon his nearest post office was Monona, just over the line in Clayton County. The only one in this county at that time was at Postville, established in January of that year.
From an interesting sketch of the early settlement of the county, prepared by G. M. Dean and read before the Early Settlers Association, of Makee Township, in January 1880, we make the following extract, as showing very clearly the condition of things in those days:
"In 1834 the United States, through its military authorities at Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien, built on what is now section 19, township 96, range 3, called Fairview township, in this county, a mission school and farm. At this time Col. Zachary Taylor, afterwards President of the United States, commanded the post, and Jefferson Davis, since President of the so-called Southern Confederacy, was on duty there as Lieutenant. General Street was Indian agent; all the agents at that time being army officers, and the Indians being under the control of the Secretary of War. The mission was for the purpose of civilizing and christianizing the Indians, and was opened in the spring of 1835 with the Rev. David Lowry, a Presbyterian in faith, as school teacher, and Col. Thomas as farmer. But the effort to make good farmers, scholars or Christians out of these wandering tribes proved abortive, and poor Lo remained as before, a child of nature, content to dress in breech-clout and leggings, lay around the sloughs and streams, and make the squaws provide for the family.
"After their removal, the government having no more use for the Mission, put it on the market and sold it to Thomas C. Linton, who occupied it as a farm a few years and sold it to Ira Perry, and on the death of Mr. Perry in 1868 it became the property of his son, Eugene Perry, the present owner. The building is a large two-story stone house, the chimney of which was taken for a witness tree when the Government survey of public lands was made at a later day. It is still standing in a good state of preservation, and has sheltered the families of its respective owners up to this date.
"This house has become historic in many respects. It is one of the very prominent land-marks in the history of the development of Allamakee County, and we earnestly hope its owners will let it stand as long as grass grows or water runs, and thus preserve to those who may come after us at least one thing that may be considered venerable.
"In the fall and winter of 1849 there were only three dwelling houses in the valley of the Yellow River. The Old Mission, called at this time the Linton House, the house of Mr. John S. Clark, on section fourteen in Franklin township, and the house of Reuben Smith on section eleven in Post township.
"It is a very difficult matter for us, who live in Allamakee County to-day, to conceive of the condition of things in the Mississippi Valley when this old Mission was first built in 1834, and it is still more difficult for the writer to convey a clear idea of it.
"There was at that time no Allamakee County, no Clayton County, no Winneshiek County, and in fact no Territory organization, but simply a wilderness waste. In 1836, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota was taken from Michigan and made Wisconsin Territory, and Iowa soon after divided all of her territory lying west of the Mississippi River into two counties, to-wit: Dubuque County and Des Moines County, the dividing lines being at the foot of Rock Island.
"The Indian tribes roamed over this whole region, and Jefferson Barracks, a military post about eight miles below St. Louis, Missouri, was headquarters for the military operations of the Mississippi Valley. Just think of it! This valley knew no railroads; no telegraphs and a very large percent of its present inhabitants were not then born. The military post at Prairie du Chien had been established and when they wanted to utilize the resources of this wild region about them, they detailed soldiers for the work, and in 1828, being in want of lumber, they sent a part of the garrison over to Yellow River, and built a saw mill about two miles below what is now the old Mission House, the remains of which was burned down in 1839.
"In 1840, one Jesse Danley built a saw mill on the river about one mile below the Mission, but the floods came and took the dam away, and the proprietor meeting with one mishap after another, finally abandoned it, and in tome it was torn down.
"The town of Johnsonport, at the mouth of Paint Creek, was named after a soldier who served out his time at the Prairie, and was discharged and paid off in 1837. Now this man, Johnson being fond of Indian women, took several of them for wives, and spent his time between hanging around the post and living among the tribes, and finally settled near the river bank, somewhere between what is now Harpers Ferry and North McGregor. Some of our old residents still remember him and speak of him as Squaw Johnson, but he has been dead several years, and the writer has no knowledge of his descendants, if he left any.
"In 1839, Hiram Francis and family came from Prairie de Chien to the old Mission in the employ of the Government, and remained there until it ceased to be a Mission, and from him we learn that his duties were to issue daily rations to such Indians as were fed at that place, and that in November, 1840, the last of them were removed to the Turkey River, and the school closed.
"In 1841, there lived at the Mission Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Rynerson, and there was born unto them a son, and this was thought to be the first white child born in the county.
"The earliest settlers in what is now Makee and Union Prairie townships, came in overland from the south, through Clayton County, there being no town then where Lansing is now. In conversation with the late Elias Topliff, when he was a citizen among us, he related to me that while living in Clayton County he, with several others, started out to hunt land on which to make a home; that they followed an Indian trail north across the Yellow river and on to the Iowa river somewhere, where the party camped over night and caught and cooked a splendid mess of speckled trout. He thought they traveled across what is now the prairie on which Waukon stands, but could not positively identify their old route, for at that time the country traveled over was in a state of nature, and there was not a white man to be seen on the trip after leaving the settlements of Clayton County. In the morning they retraced their steps and returned to Clayton County again, not finding a single foot of land that suited them. My recollection now is that the Judge located this trip in 1847.
"The first white settlers in Makee Township were Patrick Keenan and his brother-in-law, Mr. Richard Cassiday. They lived together, and in October, 1848 settled on Makee Ridge, where they grubbed out and broke up about three acres of land, built a log cabin, and in 1849 abandoned it and made themselves farms in Jefferson township, where they lived until they passed on to "the better country." Mr. Keenan was the first man in the county, of his nationality, ever made an American citizen through the naturalization law, the court at the time being held at Columbus, on the Mississippi river. He died in March 1878, leaving a large and respectable family and a handsome property, and was buried at Cherry Mound. Mr. Cassiday died in 1879 and was buried at the same place.
"In the spring of 1849 there was born to Mr. and Mrs. Cassiday a daughter, Margaret, now Mrs. Murphy, living in McGregor, and she was the first white child born in Jefferson township.
"In 1850 there was a small pair of buhrs near Decorah for grinding, but no bolt attachment, and our settlers from this locality with their ox teams hauled their little grists up there; but soon after (summer of 1850) one Ellis put in a small pair of buhrs, without bolt, on Paint Creek, just around the bend below where Watersville now stands. The remains of this first mill in the county still stand in that place.
"In the winter of 1848 the Legislature passed an act
authorizing the organization of the county, and appointed Thomas
C. Linton, who owned the old mission property, as organizing
sheriff; and as this county then belonged to Clayton County it
required him to appear at her county seat, file his bond, take
the oath of office, and make due returns of his doings thereto.
We have been unable to find any written record of that organizing
election, and after much inquiry by correspondence and otherwise
have through the kindness of Mr. J. S. Deremo of Fairview
Township, obtained the particulars as he gathered them the past
week from Mr. Moses Van Sickle, one of the participants in that
election. It was held under the call of Mr. Linton, at his house,
in August, 1849, about fifteen votes being cast, and resulted in
the election of the following persons:
"County Commissioners-Thomas Van Sickle, Daniel G. Beck, Thos. B. Twiford.
"County Clerk-James Haney.
"School Fund Commissioner-Moses Van Sickle.
"Sheriff-Lester W. Hayes.
"Thomas Van Sickle died in Nebraska about 1878. Daniel G. Beck died in Missouri about 1866. Thos. B. Twiford moved to Minnesota and was the founder of the town of Chatfield. James Haney lives at this time in Wisconsin. Stephen Holcomb died at the Mission about 1851. Moses Van Sickle is living at this date in Fairview Township. Elias Topliff died in Waukon in 1860. Thomas C. Linton lives in Oregon.
"Lester W. Hayes was for several years before his death a county charge, living sometimes at the county farm, and sometimes in Fairview township where he had a little log hut hardly high enough to stand erect in, nor large enough to afford room for many visitors; and being about eighty years old and too infirm to labor, he was allowed from the poor fund the pittance of one dollar per week, and this with the charity of kind neighbors kept life in the old man until last Christmas night, the coldest night of the year, when the mercury ran down to thirty-three degrees below zero, he perished. The next morning some of the neighbors went to the hut and found the old man lying on his rude cot, with legs and arms frozen. The county furnished a coffin, and poor Hayes is no more.
'Rattle his bones over the stones,
For he's but a pauper whom nobody owns.'
"This election gave the County a legal and working existence. In 1849 she had two hundred and seventy-seven white inhabitants, men, women and children.
"The county records of those early times as left by the commissioners, are either lost, mislaid, or were made in so transient a manner as to preclude their being handed down to posterity, and so much as we have gathered has been obtained from other official records, the personal recollection of our early settlers, and has taken much time and labor, and as the years roll on these items of early history are more difficult to obtain in consequence of the death, removal or incapacity through age or infirmity of the parties participating in them."
"From Elias Topliff I learned that the first tax list was put into his hands for collection; that the gross amount of it was about ninety dollars; that he traveled all through the eastern part of the county to collect, and that after doing his best, collecting about one half of the list and making his returns to the Commissioners, they charged up to him the uncollected portion and took it from his compensation as Treasurer."
In a carefully preserved copy of the North Iowa Journal, published at Waukon, in the summer of 1860, we find a sketch of the previous history of the county, from which we shall find occasion to make a few extracts. In regard to the County organization we find:
The county was organized by an act of the Legislature, approved January 15, 1849, and taking effect March 6th, 1849.
Thomas C. Linton was appointed organizing Sheriff; the first election being held by the order of the Sheriff on the first Wednesday of April 1849. The officers were:
County Commissioners-James M. Sumner and Joseph W. Holmes.
Sheriff-Lester W. Hayes.
Clerk Commissioners' Court-D. G. Beck.
Clerk of District Court-Stephen Holcomb.
The officers elect qualified at the house of Thomas C. Linton, April 10th, 1849.
The second election was held the first Monday of August, 1849, and the following officers were elected:
County Commissioners-James M. Sumner, Thomas A. Van Sickle and Daniel G. Beck.
Clerk of Commissioners' Court-G. A. Warner.
Sheriff-L. W. Hays.
Treasurer and Recorder and Collector-Elias Topliff.
County Surveyor-James M. Sumner.
Judge of Probate Court-Stephen Holcomb.
Inspector of Weights and Measures-G. A. Warner.
Coroner-C. P. Williams.
It will be seen that there is a discrepancy between this account and that in Judge Dean's paper, as regard the time of the first election and the lists of officers elected thereat. We are inclined to take the Journal account to be authoritative, for the reason that it was published week after week for several months in succession apparently without question, and that at a time only eleven years after the events narrated; and further, we have reason to believe that the facts there stated were gleaned at the time from a sketch of the county history, prepared by Mr. Dean while County Judge in 1859, a copy of which was deposited in the corner stone of the Waukon Court House after being read to the people there assembled to witness that ceremony. The original has been missing for many a year, as Mr. Dean tells us. On the other hand, the account as it appears in his later narrative is based largely upon the recollections of individuals, after a lapse of over thirty years, and no matter how honest their intentions are, it is quite likely they have erred by means of the incidents of two or more elections becoming intermingled in their memory.
The sketch we last quoted then continues:
"On the first Monday of August, 1851, Elias Topliff was elected County Judge, succeeding the County Commissioners; he served as Judge until August 25, 1857, when George M. Dean was elected. In 1859, J. A. Townsend was elected, and is now acting Judge.
"James M. Sumner was elected Recorder and Treasurer in 1851. Since then the following gentlemen have served the county in that capacity: T. C. Linton, J. J. Shaw, L. O. Hatch and Elias Topliff, the present officer.
"In August, 1851, Leonard B. Hodges was elected Clerk of the District Court. Lewis Hersey and C. J. White has since served. C. J. White is the present Clerk. At the same election Wm. C. Thompson was chosen Sheriff. John Laughlin succeeded him and John A. Townsend next served for two successive terms in that office. Wm. C. Thompson was again elected in 1859, and is now the acting Sheriff.
"In August, 1856, James Bryson was elected as a Representative to the Legislature.
"In 1857, G. W. Gray was chosen a member of the Legislature, J. B. Suttor, County Assessor; G. W. Gray, Drainage Commissioner; W. W. Hungerford, Surveyor; M. F. Luark, Coroner, and G. W. Camp, Prosecuting Attorney.
"In 1858, J. W. Merrill was chosen Drainage Commissioner; C. J. White, Clerk of the District Court; F. W. Nottingham, Coroner, and J. W. Flint, Superintendent of Common Schools.
"In 1859, Charles Paulk was chosen a member of the Legislature; G. L. Miller, Drainage Commissioner; John Ryan, Surveyor; J. W. Granger, Coroner, and R. C. Armstrong, Superintendent of Common Schools.
"The above list comprises the principal officers since the organization of the county. The records previous to 1856 are very incomplete, and we were unable to learn the dates of the elections of the various officers.
"The total amount of taxable property in the county was: In 1849, $1,729; in 1851, $8,299; in 1854, $700,794; in 1857, $1,827,766; in 1859, $1,967,899."
We have said that when the Indian Mission was established on Yellow River, it was placed in charge of Father Lowrey, a man exceedingly well adapted to the duties pertaining thereto. He was well known many years after in this part of the country and greatly admired.
David Lowrey, D.D., was born in Logan County, Kentucky, January 20, 1796. His parents were worthy members of the Presbyterian Church, but, like many other good people, were entrusted with little of this world's treasury. The widowed mother died when he was only a little over two years old, leaving him a penniless and friendless orphan. He was bound out to a family that, in course of time became very reckless and intemperate; but at a Cumberland Presbyterian camp meeting, held near his residence, he solemnly consecrated his heart and his life to God. This event happened when he was eighteen years of age. Shortly after his conversion he became a candidate for the ministry, under the care of Logan Presbytery, and his proficiency and usefulness were so great that he was soon licensed and ordained to the work of the ministry. On the 16th of December, 1830, he began the publication in Princeton, Kentucky, of the "Religious and Literary Intelligencer." It was a weekly journal, ably edited, and was the first paper published under the auspices of that church. To him, therefore, belongs the honor of being the father of Cumberland Presbyterian journalism. Some years afterward he was editor of the "Cumberland Presbyterian", then published in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to his editorial duties he had the pastorate of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Nashville, which was then in its infancy; and for his year's labor he received, as compensation, the astonishing sum of one wagon load of corn in the shuck!
In the year, 1832, under the administration of his friend, President Jackson, he received the appointment of teacher to the Winnebago Indians. He arrived at Prairie du Chien with his family in the month of November, of the above year. Shortly after his arrival he organized a "Military Church," and here was spread the first communion table in the Northwest.
Early in the spring of 1833, a council of Winnebago chiefs was called for the purpose of deliberating in reference to Mr. Lowrey's work. He made a brief statement of his object and plans, and then called for expressions from the various chiefs who were present. After brief speeches from others, Waukon rose up, and thus delivered his sentiments: "The Winnebagoes are asleep, and it will be wrong to awake them; they are red men and all the white man's soap and water cannot make them white." The result of the council, however, was favorable, and Mr. Lowrey entered on his work.
In 1840 the Yellow River mission was abandoned and the property sold by the government to Thos. C. Linton. At this time the Fort Atkinson mission was established and the Indians who had heretofore received their annuities at Yellow River were thenceforth paid off at this post until they were removed to Minnesota in 1848. Besides the attempt to teach the red men how to till the soil successfully, their children were taught to read and write (or some of them were who would learn), and the girls were also instructed in sewing, cutting garments, etc. Rev. Lowrey was transferred to this Fort Atkinson charge (as was also farmer Thomas), and remained with the Winnebagos the greater part of the time, until about 1861 or 1862, when the tribe was moved west of the Missouri River. At the close of the late civil war he removed from St. Cloud, Minnesota, where he was then living, to Clayton County, Iowa, near the scene of his early labors with the Indians. Some years prior to his death he removed to Pierce City, Mo., where he died in January 1877, leaving an aged wife. He had two sons, both of whom he outlived.
As before stated, the Old Mission became the property of T. C. Linton about 1840; but we find it was transferred to the school lands from the government, and then contracted from the school fund by Mr. Linton in 1854. He sold it to Ira Perry in 1855. John Linton, a native of Kentucky, came to the mission in 1837 and remained some time. He died at Garnavillo in 1878.
Before the territory of Iowa was organized, the Legislature of Wisconsin passed an act, in December 1837, establishing Clayton County, which was then attached to Dubuque County for judicial purposes. In the following spring the Governor of Wisconsin territory appointed the first sheriff of Clayton County, and the first term of court was held, and the first election. For judicial and election purposes this region of country, as well as all of what is now the state of Minnesota, was at that time attached to Clayton.
In 1838-June 3d-all of Iowa and most of Minnesota was formed into the Territory of Iowa. And on December 28, 1846, Iowa was admitted as the 29th State of the United States.
During the first session of the General Assembly of Iowa in the winter of 1846-47, an act was passed defining the boundaries of several counties, among them Allamakee, which placed it within its present limits. Previous to this time the northern boundary of Clayton County was identical with the southern line of the neutral ground of 1830-a line that began on the bank of the Mississippi twenty miles below the mouth of the Iowa, and extended in a west-southwest direction something over twenty miles; thence southerly about nine miles to the Turkey River; thence westerly again. On Newhall's map of Iowa, published in 1841, and apparently gotten up with the utmost care, this line is distinctly laid down as the northern boundary of Clayton and Fayette counties.
And this brings us to the question of the Painted Rock, on Section 3, in Fairview Township. On the face of a bold cliff, facing the river, and some half way up the bluff, was at some time painted the figure of an animal and the word Tiger, with some names and other symbols. Judge Murdock said the painting was there in 1843, and looked ancient at that time; and, as far as we have been able to ascertain, the question of when or why it was put there, or by whom, has ever been a matter of speculation without a satisfactory answer. From various facts it is very evident that this was the point at which the southern boundary line of the neutral ground of 1830 touched the river, one of the proofs of which is as follows: At the session of the County Commissioners of Clayton County, held April 4th, 1844, the boundaries of various election precincts were defined, and one precinct was established as follows: Yellow River precinct (No. 4), commencing at the Painted Rock on the Mississippi River; thence down said river to the corner of township ninety-five, range three, west of the fifth principal meridian; thence down said river two miles, thence due west on section line west side of township ninety-five, range four, west; thence north to the neutral line; thence following said line to the place of commencing, at Painted Rock. This fact being established, what more reasonable to suppose than that the authorities at Prairie du Chien should cause this prominent cliff-this natural bulletin-board as it were-to be so plainly marked as to designate the boundary line in a manner not to be mistaken by the natives; and what more natural than that the subordinates who performed the duty should decorate the rock with representations of wild animals and strange figures, the more readily to attract the attention of the Sioux hunting expeditions as they descended the river in their canoes and warn them that they had reached the limit of the hunting grounds permitted to them. Neither is it strange that they should take the opportunity of placing their own names where they might become famous, though they have long since become illegible. The only wonder is that some enterprising patent nostrum vendor was not on the spot to make his words immortal.
In the election precinct above described, the house of Thomas C. Linton, on Yellow River, was designated as the place for holding the elections. So that undoubtedly the first election in the present boundaries of this county was held at that place long before the organizing election of 1849. From this it will be seen, too, that the Old Mission was not established within the boundary line of the Winnebago reservation, but a couple of miles to the south of that boundary, and in Dubuque County-after 1837 in Clayton County.
In the second General Assembly an act was passed organizing the county of Allamakee, and approved by Gov. Ansel Briggs-the first state governor-Jan. 15, 1849. Under this act the first election was held-as heretofore stated. Commissioners were also appointed to locate the county seat of said county. And they performed their duty by selecting a location in Jefferson Township, about a mile and a half northwest of the present village of Rossville, on the road from there to Waukon, near the Pettit place. It has ever since been known as The Old Stake.
In April, 1851, the people of Allamakee County voted upon the following three points for the county seat, viz: Vailsville, on Paint Rock Prairie (now Harper's Ferry), Smith's Place, sec. 12, in Posttownship, and Columbus, at the mouth of Village Creek in Lansing township. As neither point received a majority another vote was taken on the first Monday in May following, between Columbus and Smith's Mill, resulting in a small majority-14 it is said-for Columbus. We have no means of ascertaining the number of votes cast; neither do we know how many polling places there were in the county at that time; but if we are not mistaken Reuben Smith's place (one of the contesting points) was one of these. He stated in the fall of 1877 that a county seat election in Î51 was held in a log cabin of his, and that voters came there from a distance of many miles, of whom he remembered Shattuck and Bush from what is now Makee, among others.
Since that time no less than nine more county seat elections have been held, which will be spoken of more at length in their appropriate chapter.
To return to some of the earlier incidents of the county's
settlement and history: About 1840 or 1841 a trading post was
established near what is now Monona, just off the reservation, by
one Jones, who sought to replenish his treasury by supplying the
Indians with fire water. Another individual by name of Thorn
instituted a like concern near by, and by a happy application of
the eternal fitness of things these institutions were called
Sodom and Gomorrah in the vernacular of those days. One of the
results of their establishment was probably the first murder in
our county, the particulars of which we find in the Decorah
Republican, in 1875, substantially as follows: A party of Indians
were living on a tributary of the Yellow River (thought to be
Hickory Creek) four or five miles from Monona. An old Indian
visited Jones den at Sodom, and as many a pale face has done
since then traded all his worldly effects for whiskey, even to
the blanket from his shoulders. On his way to his lodge he died
from exposure and cold. The next morning his son found his body
naked and frozen in the snow. Thirsting for revenge, he visited
the whiskey den at Gomorrah and shot the first white man he saw,
it happening to be an inoffensive man named Riley. The young
Indian was captured by a detachment of troops under Judge D. S.
Wilson of Dubuque, then a Lieutenant at Ft. Atkinson, but before
the time for his trial he escaped and was never recaptured.
Return to index of
Go to Allamakee Co. index page