Past & Present of Allamakee County, 1913
There is a charm in the story of the pioneer settlement of any locality, that holds the interest of almost every reader, especially of those whose former home it may have been, or of those whose fathers or friends participated in its settlement. The privations- largely offset by the joys of the simple life- the trials and triumphs, the failures and fortunes, of those scouts of civilization who first people the prairies and valleys of our own country, and cleared for themselves homes in its native forests, appeal most strongly to our sympathies. It is well that this interest in the experience of our fathers exists, as it is the incentive to the permanent record of their lives, in form of biography, anecdote and- in fact, history. History is and must be largely biography. History teaches from experience, and its teachings are always beneficial to a generation that will heed them, either as inspiration or warning. Charles Lever wrote that any man, no matter how insignificant the part he may have filled in life, who will faithfully record the events in which he has borne a share, even though incapable himself of deriving profit from the lessons learned, may still be of use to others- sometimes a guide, sometimes a warning. So it is, there is a demand for permanent narrative of the events occurring in the days of our fathers, before the participants have all passed away and nothing remain relative to their lives but tradition, in place of facts, from which to draw our lessons.
As is well known the earliest permanent settlement in Allamakee county was at the Indian mission on Yellow River, the building of which was begun in 1833, but was not occupied until 1834 and then by parties in the Government employ. Thomas C. Linton bought this farm of the Government about 1842, and became in 1849 the organizing sheriff of this county. Hiram Francis came to the mission in 1839, and was doubtless the earliest comer who became a permanent resident, living in that vicinity until his death near Rossville in 1890. The first white child born in the county was a son to Mr. And Mrs. Jacob Rynerson at the mission in 1841. More about the Old Mission will be found in a separate chapter under that heading.
About 1837 one Henry Johnson made a squatters claim at or near the site of Johnsonsport. And in 1840 Jesse Danley built a sawmill a short distance below the mission. [See sketch of Fairview township.]
The establishment of a tavern under Government patronage by Joel Post and wife in 1841, was the beginning of the Postville settlement.
No further settlements are recorded until the removal of the Indians, in 1848. Then came the era of the true pioneers, who struck out independently, some with means and some with very limited resources, to make homes for themselves and their growing families. Quite a number settled near Posts, some of whom are said to have made their claims in 1847, as will be seen by reference to Postville history.
The principal settlers aside from the Post neighborhood in 1848, were: Garrison, John Haney and son William, later joined by H.H. Houghton, the founders of Lansing; and Patrick Keenan and Richard Cassiday in Makee township, who removed to Jefferson township the following year. Hugh McCabe came up through here on a hunting trip with some half-breeds, to Lansing (when there was no Lansing), and stopped with Keenan, though he was quite a young man at that time and did not make his permanent home here until a year later. He worked for a time with the surveying party of J.G. McDonald, who made the government survey of Jefferson and Paint Creek townships in 1849. So far as we are able to ascertain Mr. McCabe enjoys the honorable distinction of being the only person still living here (1913) who visited this region prior to 1849.
In 1849 George C. Shattuck became the pioneer settler of the site of Waukon, with Prosser Whaley and Wm. Niblock in the near vicinity. C.D. Beeman and H.S. Cooper located in Jefferson township. James Haney and others at Lansing and vicinity; Reuben Smith in the northeast corner of Post township, where ht a few years later built a big two-story and basement stone house, on Yellow River, which is still standing though now dismantled; and Wm. C. Thompson, at Thompsons Corners. Lafayette township. Others had settled near the south line of the county, so there was sufficient timber from which to select the few necessary county officers at the first election in April 1849, listed elsewhere. Though seemingly few, because so scattered, an enumeration in the fall of that year, showed a total of 277 souls within our borders, mostly located in the southern part of the county.
In 1850 there was a considerable increase in immigration, more especially in the eastern and central parts, and along the Yellow River, where the numerous mill sites were rapidly being located for use in the near future. And from 1851 and after, the entire county was rapidly settled up. The sketches of the various townships in another chapter will show some of the early arrivals in their respective localities.
In regard to the settlement of the central portion of the county, the following is quoted from the narrative of Judge Dean, written in 1880:
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 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; 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 though they traveled across what is now the prairie on which Waukon stand, but could not positively identify their old route, for at that time the country traveled was in a state of nature and there was not a while man to be seen after leaving the settlements of Clayton county. In the morning they retraced their steps and returned to Clayton county, not finding a single foot of land which suited them. My recollection now is that the judge located this trip in 1847.
The first white settlers in Makee township were Patrick Kennan and his brother-in-law, Richard Cassiday. They lived together, and in October 1847, 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 farmers in Jefferson township, where they lived until they passed on to the better country. Mr. Keenan was the first man in the country of his nationality ever made an American citizen through the naturalization law [in 1849]. He died in March 1878, leaving a large and respectable family and a handsome property, and 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 (1880) Mrs. Murphy, living in McGregor, and she was the first white child born in Jefferson township.
The selection first made by these men on Makee ridge was subsequently owned by one Doctor Lyon, Wm. K. Martin, Joseph Burton, and is now owned by the county and used as a home for the unfortunate. Mr. Keenan built the first house here ever erected in Makee or Union Prairie townships, near a spring in the timber south of the dwelling house and barn.
In June of 1849, W.C. Thompson was up through this region prospecting, and pitched his tent near the big spring on James Reds farm (northwest of Waukon), and from there looked around to find something that suited him to stock farm, and in his wanderings found Mr. Keenan on his claim hard at work making improvements. This log house was then built but not chinked. Mr. Thompson afterward made a selection at what is now known as Thompsons Corners, in Lafayette township.
The next white settlers were Geo. C. Shattuck and Prosse Whaley, who came in August, 1849. Mr. Whaley made his claim on section 32, cut and made hay enough to keep his stock over the winter, and returned to Wisconsin for his family, bringing them here in October of the same year. He made a house for them by putting a pole from one tree to another, then setting shorter poles around it with one end on the ground, the other resting against the main pole and covering the whole up with hay. In this house they lived about six weeks, cooking at a fire outside, the cooking utensils being a long-handled frying pan, iron dinner-pot, and a tin bake-oven. The coffee mill was nailed to one of the trees.
During this six weeks Mr. Whaley built a house 16 X 18, and after moving into it the hay house was set apart for a stable. This log house was a general stopping place for newcomers until the settlement grew so that other accommodations were provided, and it has sheltered as many as thirty-two persons of a night; on such occasions it was necessary for the men to make toilet each in the morning before the women were awake, and the women to make their toilet after the men had gone out to see what the weather was likely to be for the coming day. Every old settler understands from personal recollection that a cabin is like an omnibus or street car in this, that there is always room inside for one more. This house was the second one in Makee township, on the farm now the property of August Meyer, just east of Waukon.
In the spring of 1850 Mr. Whaley cultivated the three acres of land that Mr. Keenan broke up on the poor farm before abandoning it, by putting it into corn, and raised a good crop, notwithstanding the fact that it was not fenced, and this was the pioneer corn crop of the settlement. This crop was very acceptable to the family, and Mrs. Whaley commenced to cook it soon as it was roasting ears, and after it was glazed she prepared it for cooking by grating it. If our women now-a-days had to go through this, they would agree with the Hoosier emigrant woman, that a new country was powerful hard on women and horses, and powerfully easy on men and dogs.
During the winter of 49 and 50 Mr. Whaley killed seventeen wolves, and venison enough to keep the family in meat, and being blest with new country appetites they put away full rations of it.
Mr. Whaley, or Uncle Prosser as he was generally called, died in May 1866, but lived long enough to see a flourishing settlement spring up around him with its churches, schoolhouses, and other conveniences of civilized society. Mrs. Whaley is till living in Waukon and from her personal recollections we gather many of these particulars. [Mrs. Whaley died June 10, 1883.-Ed.]
The next white settler was Mr. Geo. C. Shattuck, who came in the same time Mr. Whaley did and made a claim on sections 30 and 31, where Waukon now stands, and like Mr. Whaley he cut and made hay enough to feed his stock and went back after his family, bringing them in November of the same year. He built a hay house for his family and occupied it until himself and boys could build a log house, when they moved into it. This was built near a fine spring on what is now the field of Michael Deveny, in town, and lies between the residences of Mr. Duffy and Samuel Peck. This house stood until within a few years, and was the nucleus around which the town gathered, and like Uncle Prossers was often filled to its utmost capacity. Mr. Shattuck was born September 9, 1787, and died near Platteville, Wisconsin, April 6, 1876. At this time Prairie du Chien was the trading point for the settlement, but there was however a small grocery in what is now Monona, kept by one Olmstead, but it was very small, and one was not certain of getting supplies there.
When these two families came in, the nearest settlers were Wm. C. Thompson on the east, Tim Fuller about ten miles west, Pat Keenan on the south, Mr. Post [Postville] on the southwest, and Mr. Haney [Lansing] on the northeast. There was at Columbus, on the Mississippi, an Indian trader by the name of Stevens, but he soon followed the departing Indians.
The early settlers were generally men of limited means, and as soon as they secured some land, and made a place for themselves and families to live in, they broke up some of it and the first crop was generally buckwheat, sod corn, ruta-bagas, turnips, potatoes, and if the breaking patch was large enough some spring wheat and oats were sown; but buckwheat was the staple, and buckwheat pancakes baked on a griddle was a standard dish. In many families there was not fat enough to grease the griddle and the women soon learned that by rubbing it with a rag between every griddle full they could give if a polish that would prevent the sticking and burning of the cakes. In 1850 there was a small pair of burrs near Decorah for grinding, but no bolt attached, and our settlers from this locality with their ox-teams hauled their little grists up there; but soon after one Ellis put in a small pair of burrs, without a bolt, on Paint creek, just around the bend below where Waterville now stands, and this settlement then went there to mill, where they waited with patience the slow process of flouring the grist. The remains of this first mill in the county still stand just around the bend of the stream below the town. [1880.]
In the spring of 1850 the following families came into the settlement, and perhaps other that we have failed to note. Seth Patterson, Darwin Patterson, Archa Whaley, William Niblock, James Gillett, Horace Gillet, Christopher McNutt, James Conway, David Whaley, David Whaley, Jr., Richard Charles, and Robert S. Stevenson, of whom the following settled in what is now Makee township. Archa Whaley on section 33, on the farm now owned by Mr. Bronsmeier; Mr. Whaley now lives on Village creek, and is the proprietor of Whaleys mills.
Mr. Niblock on section 32, on which he built a log house near a spring and near the south line of the farm, which is still standing but used of late years as a slaughterhouse. In the spring of 1851 he sold this claim to Thomas A. Minard, who sold to James Maxwell, who lived and died there and it is known as the Maxwell farm to-day. [Now the Petit farm.]
David Whaley made a claim on section 20, but soon after sold to C.J. White, and he to Mr. James Hall, who owns it to-day. Mr. Whaley after selling this entered the land that is now the farm of Balser Fultz, just north of town and after selling this removed to Minnesota where he died about 1867. David Whaley, Jr. made a claim near his fathers which he sold to Almarin Randall and he to James Nichols, and it is owned by Mrs. Nichols to this day. [Now by C. R. Williams.] Randall lives in Minnesota at this time, and Mr. Whaley lives in Waukon at this date. James Conway made a claim on section 28, where he still lives. [Now owned by L. L. Meier.] Robert Stevenson became a lawyer, married Mr. Geo. C. Shattucks daughter Minerva, and subsequently removed to Wisconsin, and during the late war was among the first in that state to enlist for three years or during the war. He was a private in Company C. 2d Wisconsin Volunteers, and now fills and honors a soldiers grave on the bloody field of Antietam. During the first battle of Bull Run, while our forces were everywhere scattered, and confusion and disorderly retreat was the rule, he volunteered to relieve the color sergeant of the regimental colors and bore them safely out of the conflict, knowing that the colors in an engagement are always the rallying point for the regiment. In the severe battle at Gainesville, on the 28th of August 1862, where his regiment in eighty minutes lost over two hundred and fifty officers and men out of the 450 engaged, and when every man of the color guard had fallen, he rushed to the post of danger, seized the colors, and after the enemy were driven back bore them from the field and carried them all through the two days fierce contests of that bloody engagement. At South Mountain, September 14th, though too unwell for duty he was there to float his favorite flag in the face of the foe. At Antietam in the early morning of September 17th, as the sound of the first gun announced the opening of that memorable conflict, he left a sick bed in the hospital at the rear, and disregarding the protests of the medical officers, sought his regiment then in line of battle under __________.
B. Raymond's Recollections
In 1877 Mr. David B. Raymond, then living in Ohio, contributed a series of papers to the Waukon Standard which were so interesting that copious extracts are given here for preservation in permanent form. Mr. Raymond was one of eight children of John Raymond, who located the whole west half of section 35, in Union Prairie township in 1852. After describing their journey, and arrival at Lansing on a steamer three days and nights from Galena, he tells something of their disappointment in finding so rudimentary a town; and the narrative continues:
"Before leaving Lansing I must tell what was there in the fall of '52 in September. I cannot recall who kept the hotel then under way. A Mr. Birchard [Bircher] kept a grocery directly at the landing, just opposite where G. W. Gray's warehouse was afterwards built. I remember Birchard had a large yellow rattlesnake confined in a box; this was the first rattlesnake I ever saw, and it left no pleasant recollections of the breed. A Mr. Ballou had established a lumberyard. The Hasseys were then making some additions to their plat of the town; there was a fine strip of bench land between the creek and the bluff, extending out to where the sawmill was in course of construction. I think there was not more than six or eight dwellings completed then, but all was bustle and activity; every boat brought from two to three hundred passengers, and a few days or weeks made great changes."
"The first gambling I ever witnessed was in an unfinished saloon in Lansing; the flittering coin in stacks is now fresh in mind. * * * Gambling in the Mississippi Valley in those days was considered a legitimate business. * * * John W. Remine, John Mobley, John J. Shaw, James I. Gilbert, and the Cowles came about this time. The Grant brothers kept a hotel soon after. There was a constant noise like a bedlam from carpenters' tools, and like Jonah's gourd Lansing grew in a night."
"But hark! The same sounds are heard down the river. What means this? A rival town in existence only one mile away, and upon inquiry learned the name was Columbus. How my pulse beat upon learning the name! I had left the good old State of Ohio with its capital of that name; but this young Columbus was hardly distinguishable. Nevertheless the same racket was there, and an enterprising mane, Mr. Elias Topliff, had already the county seat in embryo at the foot of Capoli bluff, but was in danger of slipping off into the river. If he and Mr. Leonard B. Hodges had expended their energies on a favorable location their prestige would have won them much that was otherwise lost."
"But we must leave Lansing and see what is out on the 'cow-path,' which we found to be a tolerably good wagon road. A mile or more out we came to the first of Iowa's famous springs. The sparkling water came gushing out of the limestone rock at the foot of the bluff and dashed across the road as if to hurry on to mingle with the Father of Waters. I drank from this spring my first square drink on Iowa soil, and many times after stopped to drink of this sparkling water."
"A few miles out we came to an abrupt hill which we wound up with difficulty and when on the summit found we were on the famous 'Lansing Ridge,' and within the range of the eye there seemed a dozen more just like it. Away to the south was the so-called Columbus Ridge. These two rival towns had rival ridges running parallel, and rival roads on these two ridges terminating at nearly the same point on Union Prairie. Between them flowed a beautiful stream called Village creek."
"Standing on the Lansing ridge about eight miles out from the river and looking over the valley of Village creek, and to the north where the ridges and ravines with their rippling streams are lost n the view towards the Upper Iowa River, I think is as romantic as any view ever beheld by the writer; the more so as the first view was when not a living white man had a house in this region save what I call to mind in these papers. I believe I am correct when I say the Mr. Thos. [this doubtless should be John A.] Wakefield was the first who put up a dwelling on the ridge out from Lansing; at least we found him ensconsed in a good house with some improvements at our first advent there. He was a man of considerable avoirdupois and went by the title of colonel or major. He had a great desire for prominence and office, and was subject to many hard hits from competitors. As he often gloried in his valorous deeds in the war with Black Hawk, the keen cutting sarcasm of J. W. Remine and some others drove the old colonel almost to frenzy on some occasions. I believe he never succeeded to any office while a resident of the ridge, which sorely discouraged him. As he was indeed a pioneer he sold out and moved to Nebraska in the summer of '54. He was quite enterprising in improvements, and had a water ram in operation several rods below his house to force the water from a nice spring to his dwelling, which was considered a great luxury on the ridge, * * * the elevation carrying the traveler many feet above some good springs on either side. Thus my memory reverts to the many draughts of cool water from the pipe at the colonel's place and can only think of him as a true benefactor."
[A sketch of Colonel Wakefield's career will be found in another chapter.]
"In the summer of '53 the writer walked from Union Prairie to Lansing and back on a hot day to get medicine for a sick mother, there being no physician nearer than Lansing at that time to our knowledge, unless Dr. J. W. Flint had located in the Hersey and Pratt settlement prior to this."
"The next dwelling out from Col. Wakefield's was, I think, Mr. Judson Hersey's, where we found this true Yankee behind a counter selling goods to the passing immigrants. My first impression of this man was lasting, and I can only think of him as a genial gentleman with genuine enterprise. In subsequent years I met him and found him the same. He was the pioneer merchant of all the country west from Lansing. [This is not quite correct, as A. J. Hersey (known as Judson) purchased the stock from his brothers Lewis and Augustine, who had a year or so the start of him; and they had taken over the remnant of goods opened up by Lemuel Pratt in 1850.]"
"The first settlement formed in '52 [1850-51] by the Herseys and Pratts at the western termination of Lansing Ridge was at that time a prominent place, characterized by great enterprise, but when the commissioners drove the stake for the future county seat at Waukon, the enterprising residents of Makee followed like a flock of sheep and became pioneers in building up this beautiful village within plan view of the scenes of their first labors. Much of the early enterprise of Waukon is due to the Herseys and Pratts. But I am running ahead of my story, as I intended to note a chain of circumstances."
"As we approached the level country eighteen or twenty miles west from the river - I say level because near the river the bluffs and ravines were so unlike what I was used to in Ohio that the country at the head of the streams was to my mind level, although it was all rolling and interspersed with miniature ridges and ravines - when we reached Union Prairie after traveling through two or more miles of 'openings' from Hersey's store, what a beautiful scene was presented to view! The open prairie gently rolling like waves of the sea, all covered with grass apparently as even as a floor; the fluttering prairie chickens as they rose from the wagon path; and the bright crimson waves of the sun towards evening flittering over the waving grass; such a sight can never be seen again in the same place and under the same circumstances."
"I will name a few of the first families that preceded us to Union Prairie township and vicinity: Mr. Edward Eells had one of the finest selections in the county, and had commenced improvements on the lovely spot where he chose to erect a cabin, alongside a beautiful spring. He was a prominent man and his place was an intermediate point between Lansing and Decorah, consequently it was a stopping place for all travel on this road, and the first postoffice in this part was kept by Mr. Eells. He had a family of boys, of which I remember Andrew, Giles, Enos, Edward, and Spicer. I think there were two daughters, one of whom married a Mr. Williams, of Lansing, a tinner."
"A brother of his, Mr. Loren Eells, made a fine selection just west of Edward's. Just north of this two brothers, Welshmen, Henry and John Harris, had a splendid location and had raised some fine crops that season. "
"Following down this spring brook were others who located about the same time, and to the north there were many who came and took up land. The settlement was so rapid that the land was soon all taken in this region, far in the direction of the Upper Iowa River."
"To the south of the Eells selection were others: Mr. Wm. Abbott, and Mr. Wm. Conner, who soon sold to a Mr. Freeman, who became so homesick he soon sold out and went back to York state. South of Mr. Abbott's was John Raymond's selection, and south of that the Woodward brothers, Benjamin and Reading; the latter sold out and went to Minnesota. Just west of the Woodwards, Mr. James Logan located. He was a true Scotch farmer and prospered well. Just east of John Raymond's was a selection made by Mr. Robert Isted, a very enterprising man and a most untiring worker, who aided in every enterprise to improve the country."
"Mr. Ezra Reid had located on the southeast of this prairie, with a choice rivaling the Eells selection. He was indeed the pioneer of this section. Mr. Luther Howes, his son-in-law, located on the west of 'Uncle Ezra,' and south of R. Isted was Mr. Henry Holcomb."
"This brings us near to the beautiful prairie where Waukon is now located. The first time I beheld the gentle rolling land on which your town now stands my impression was that the Allwise Being had bestowed uncommon beauties on this spot. The pioneer cabin of Mr. George Shattuck was like a dot on this rare picture. It stood in a clump of hazel thicket with a few burr oak trees around, and near the spot where the Episcopal church stood later. Mr. Shattuck had entered considerable land here, and made a wise selection, never dreaming his location was to become the future county seat. The writer worked for Mr. Shattuck a few days in the fall of '52 and took turnips for pay. Mr. Shattuck was a staunch whig then, and the election of Winfield Scott was to him almost bread and butter. I being schooled differently thought the old mane overzealous, hence some bickerings between us; I being young and having no vote was always worsted in these talks. Mr. Shattuck was anxiously awaiting the return of a son from California with funds to free him from debt and make improvements. He was advanced in years and could not labor much, but was hale and hearty for his age."
"The county seat was located by the commissioners upon Mr. Shattuck's land in the spring of 1853 - or, rather, upon the land of his sons, Scott and Pitt Shattuck, who had entered claims adjoining, and the embryo town was christened Waukon [after John Waukon, A Winnebago chief], by John Haney, Jr., of Lansing, it is generally believed, as narrated in the history of Waukon, in another chapter. Mr. Raymond gives the credit to John W. Remine, also of Lansing. They may both have been present at the time. Mr. Raymond makes the assertion that the prominent men of Lansing assisted in the selection of Waukon as the county seat for the purpose of crippling their down river neighbor, Columbus, with the ulterior purpose of securing the prize for Lansing at a later date, which was temporarily accomplished in 1861. Continuing Mr. Raymond writes:
"Soon after the location of the county seat some of the more wise considered the necessity of giving it a name. Many were the names proposed, of which the writer cannot remember any except the one now so familiar, and which seemed so fitting. The name Waukon was proposed by J. W. Remine, and adopted. Thus one of Lansing's citizens gave the name to the embryo county seat. The writer had the pleasure of seeing this old chief some years prior to his death while on his way to Washington to see the 'Great Father.' He represented to be then past eighty years of age. He was tall and straight as a reed, but showed the feeblesness attending old age. His whole appearance was commanding, and his voice superb."
"About the time or immediately after the stake was set a son of Mr. Shattuck returned from the land of gold and deeded the land then held by his father, a part of which was school land. If I mistake not they deeded forty acres to the county for the new county seat, and commenced to improve and build on some lots as soon as the plat of the town was laid out. The first building put up in the new town was put up by Scott Shattuck, nearly due south from the old cabin, just across the ravine near the spring. This building served as a dwelling and hotel in one, and faced on Main Street, running east and west. [This was on the north side of the street, and is still standing, in 1913, shown in the picture on page 209.]"
"Scott Shattuck also put up a barn at the same time, which was unroofed by a storm in July following. This was the first storm witnessed in the new state by its newcomers, and was a fearful one indeed. Heavy hail fell and destroyed the crops in its track, the cornfields being utterly destroyed as if immense droves of cattle had roamed over them."
"There were a number of buildings put up in Waukon nearly simultaneously. One was for the county, a low frame a little south of the courthouse square on the east side of Allamakee street. [This little building still stands, 1913, and is shown on page 209, with an addition built on the south in 1857.] All was bustle and activity. Many came and bought lots and prepared to build before the deeds were made out. Carpenters were in demand, and a goodly number came. Among the first was one Wm. Ramsdel, who I think, built the first two or three buildings in town. His brother Joseph worked with him."
Mr. Raymond's reminiscences were interrupted here by pressure of other duties; but a few years later, after another visit here he called up further recollections, from which we quote:
"Thomas Howe expressed my thought when he first looked over Union Prairie in my company one morning in September, 1852, and in answer to my question what he thought of it, replied, 'Why, it's a rale hiven on airth.'
"I also rember the log cabin where Dr. J. W. Flint lived as the first practicing physician in the locality, and how one cold winter day I called to have a tooth extracted. The applianceswere of the old style and the doctor strong and not very cautious or tender in his manner; he drew from his pocket an old jack-knife which had been a stranger to the whetstone for months; with this he cut the gum, or rather tore it loose, down to the jaw, 'and don't you forget' that tooth had the ache taken out suddenly. I suggested to the doctor the propriety of having the tooth in as the aching ceased but he never left jobs half finished; the old can hook was wrapped with a very ancient looking handkerchief and crowded into my mouth which then felt like a hardware and dry goods store combined; one twist and that tooth left its hold and rolled on the floor and for a moment I conceived it had gone through the top of my head and left a big hole, but in a few minutes the doctor suggested that I could safely return home. I deposited a half dollar with him and left, since which time I have retained my teeth intact, but will always remember the doctor and my first rough experience with him. He was afterward a physician of good practice in Waukon and a good souled man. One Anderson, who kept a livery at the time in town, and was quite a wag, said the doctor was very liberal in administering medicine as his powders were usually as large as a good sized frog. But the good doctor has long since gone to his rest, and I must kindly remember him now as no doubt many of your citizens will, as a prominent man in business and politics in Allamakee."
North of the Oneota
In a booklet entitled "Old Times on Portland Prairie," published by H. V. Arnold in 1911, we find some interesting recollections regarding the settlement of the northern part of the county, which, though written more particularly for the edification of those residing north of the state line, contain references to Allamakee people as well; and being a truthful narrative of the settlement and building up of an agricultural community applies it to any similar locality, the experiences related are those of all our early settlers. The region known as Portland Prairie has long been noted for its beauty and fertility, and is partly located in Waterloo and Union City townships, its drainage being largely through Waterloo and Clear creeks into the Oneota river, or, as Mr. Arnold says, "the Upper Iowa of maps." To quote:
"The early settlers found the sun-shaded sides of the ravines and tops of some of the ridges between them fairly well stocked with timber, largely full-grown, with groves of smaller growths where the bluffs merge into the swells of the rolling prairie. There was but little pine anywhere, and the chestnut, so common in the eastern states, was not found here. The sides of the bluffs that received the rays of the sun in winter, were high and steep, were apt to be bare of trees. The border prairie groves contained oaks of different varieties and sizes, but largely consisted of poplar and wild cherry."
"The first comers into this section did not occupy the open prairie, but rather sought out locations about its south and eastern borders, where the land was partially timbered. Two or three considerations usually influenced them, to-wit, the shelter of timber, and nearness to water combined with good land. A log cabin once built, other conveniences might be left to be attained as soon as might be, while some privileges commonly enjoyed in the communities from which they had emigrated, were to be indefinitely postponed or left to come as they would."
"The first settlers to located in the neighborhood of Portland Prairie appear to have been Freeman Graves, Everett Brothers, George Carver, John Edger, Mrs. Jas. Robinson with her sons and daughters [all in Allamakee except Edgar], and a few others who did not remain long in the country. Freeman Graves was a native of Vermont, and came to section 34, Winnebago township, March 15, 1851. After the government survey of the state line in 1852 he found that most of the land he had selected lay on the Iowa side of it. He spent the remainder of his long life on his farm and ten children were born to the family."
"James Robinson was a native of Ireland, and died in 1841. In 1851 Mrs. Robinson and family located on what is still known as the Robinson place on the southern border of Portland Prairie and on the Iowa side of the line. Her four sons were William, Henry, George and John. William only was old enough to make entry of a claim. The Fourth of July was observed by raising a log cabin. Another early settler was John Coil who located south of the Robinson place."
"George Carver settled some distance to the south of where Eitzen now is, in 1852. He was a native of New York. The sons of Col. Josiah Everett, as he was called, also settled on the Iowa side of the line. The sons were Josiah, Andrew, Franklin, Benela, and Seth. Two daughters, named Orra and Lucy. The family were from New Portland, Maine. Possibly the Everetts gave to Portland Prairie the name that has come down from settlement days. The settlers had to get their mail at Lansing, or bring it out for several families. An old Indian trail from the Iowa to the Root river followed the watershed of the prairie in its course northwesterly, and the first road followed essentially the course already marked by the old trail."
"John Edger and three other Irishmen located in section 32, Wilmington, in 1852, but Edger soon moved his location to the southeast corner of section 36, where he built a log cabin, and the others soon sold out and left. It was from Rhode Island and a neighboring portion of Massachusetts that quite a contingent of the early settlers of Portland Prairie came, and those from Rhode Island being more numerous than those from any other single state, the prairie was referred to by some of the 'Rhode Island Settlement.' The first from Rhode Island came in the spring of 1854. These were James M, and Duty [or Darius] S. Paine, Charles F. Albee, and Jeremiah Shumway. They bought out John Edger and occupied his log cabin until they could establish themselves on places of their own. Edger moved down on the Mississippi river bottom somewhere to the south of the state line. This party came by boat to Lansing without any very definite idea where in southeastern Minnesota they would locate. Learning of a prairie tract some twenty miles northwest of Lansing as yet scarcely occupied by settlers, some of the part went out to view the land there and reported that there would be no need of looking for any other location. J. Shumway remained on the Edger claim, having land on both sides of the state line. For the present C. F. Albee lived in the Edger cabin with the Shumway family and worked at building the few frame houses that were put up that year, the lumber being teamed from Lansing. It is said that at one time the cabin sheltered sixteen inmates. Mrs. Albee in her old age wrote out her vivid recollections of those times, of which the following is a part:"
"'Our goods had not come; we had only what we brought in our trunks. The roof of the cabin was thatched with shakes, and leaked. Now it rained so much it made the Iowa river raise so it could not be crossed, and Lansing was our trading point. The boys had got two cows and these had calves, so we had milk, with some little string beans, and potatoes as large as marbles, with a little flour for our first meals. Monday night Mary was so sick she was unconscious; then Charles really seemed to have the cholera and was very sick. Up north about a mile, Duty and wife and James and wife and my father had their log cabin, and were just as hard up for food. They were trying to fix a better roof. Well, news came that a neighbor's wife had died with cholera on her way home from Lansing and what could be done? One of the neighbors asked if Jerry could not make a coffin if he brought some boards. He said he would try, and so went to work. Charles would raise up on his elbow and tell Jerry how and what to do. My two brothers and Jerry with Mr. J. Coil went along to bury her. They had not been gone long before a regular tornado swept in upon us. The floor boards of the cabin were not nailed down and began to fly up, and the shakes flew from the roof. I expected the logs would tumble next, and no one but myself able to do anything. So I got my babies' wraps on and Charles got Mary and her baby to the door ready to go. I never can forget how Charles looked, so much like a dead man with my white bedspread over him. I looked up on the hill and what a sight! My poor old father trying to keep up with the ox team in which the women and babies were loaded. The roof of their house was gone, trunks blown open and clothing scattered to the winds. This was Thursday, and I had not been in Minnesota a week.'"
"The men soon came back, and Jack Coil came riding up saying the cattle were in our cornfield, the fence having mostly blown down. Then they all took hold and fixed up the fence. The next Tuesday we heard that the Iowa river could be crossed, and they got Jack's team and brought flour and eatables from Lansing. We did not suffer for food any further. The crops were soon ripe, and we had both wheat and corn."
"'The Iowa river was not bridged on the Lansing road at that time, but could easily be crossed by teams when the water was low, at a ford. At this period the cultivation of wheat, corn, oats, and garden stuff had become quite general on such acreage as had been brought under plow, but there was as yet little in the way of agricultural machinery. No great amount of wheat could be raised, since it was sown by hand, dragged in by oxen, but with cradles, and pounded out with flails. The financial panic of 1857 was severely felt. For nearly a year there was little or no money in circulation, and it became hard to get such things as people have to buy at stores.'"
Coming down to about 1865 there were better conditions existing, described by Mr. Arnold as follows: "The people were fairly well provided with agricultural machines and common farm implements. There was a great deal of exchanging of work, particularly in harvest and threshing time. Some who had a limited acreage in wheat hired their cutting done by a neighbor, offsetting the bill as much as possible by an exchange of work. As late as the spring of 1865, some of the people were still sowing grain by hand, though the broadcast seeder was coming into use. Spring wheat was then the principal crop; next in acreage came corn, and then oats. Harvest time was the busiest season, which began in the latter part of July. Some men from a distance came in at this time, but largely the crews were made out by exchanging with neighbors, their grown boys or their hired men. The same usage applied to threshing crews. Various self-raking reapers were in use. * * * the self-binder was unknown, although conceivable."
"There was no threshing in the field direct from the shock. The harvest over the grain was stacked, generally about the stable yards for use of the straw. On the larger farms some stacking was done in the fields and sooner or later the straw burned. The steam thresher, although beginning to be used, was never seen here during the wheat-raising period. Various horsepower machines were in use, run by four or five span of horses walking around in a circle and attached to the arms of a low machine composed largely of iron gearing, placed back about three rods from the threshing machine, the two being connected by a shaft in loose-jointed sections so it could be slanted from a low level where the horses stepped over its covering, gradually upward to the shaft of the cylinder of the thresher."
"In comparison with the present times it might almost be said that there was no barns. But as the stock required shelter, makeshifts for barns were constructed that served the purpose for those years. They were called 'straw barns'. Crotches placed eight to ten feet apart were set in three rows, the center row being the highest. Large poles were run in the tops of the crotches and smaller poles and fence rails were set learning against the crotch poles and end rafters all around the outside. Poles or fence rails were used for rafters, and all this formed the framework of the structure. In threshing time a large amount of straw was run upon and banked around it, and what was left would be stacked in the yard against some part of the stable for the cattle to work on. Sometimes the stable had a fence of posts and poles built around it within three feet and straw was tramped into the spaces between, making a straw wall for the sides and ends. The entrance might be provided with a door made of boards. The tops of these straw barns or sheds were rounded up like the top of a rick of hay, so as to shed the rain. In such sheds, horses, cattle, and poultry were warmly wintered. A few had log stables, but they were covered at first as were the others."
"It may be wondered at now that in a section where wheat was the principal crop, how so many had to tide along without granaries. Of course various makeshifts had to be resorted to. One method was to build bins of fence rails, line them with straw, and fill them up with wheat as threshed. Another method was to build bins of scantling and pine boards, blocked up a foot or more above the ground, but in either case roofed over with a rounded packing of straw. Those were time when people had to get along without many things of which they often stood in need."
"The cleaning up of wheat for market or for seeing was attended with some inconvenience. A wagon body had to be lifted off the wheels and placed on the ground near a bin. The fanning mill was placed inside of it, and the wheat run from the bin as needed into a pail or half-bushel measure. At intervals, as cleaned and collected in the wagon body, it was shoveled into cotton wove sacks, which at that time cost a dollar apiece. Each sack held a little over two bushels, and eighteen of them made a fair load. The cleaning job over, the body had to be placed back on the wheels, the sacks loaded into it, and it was now ready for the trip to Lansing, which took the most of two days to go and return with horse teams. A part of the crop was marketed in the fall, but many trips being required much of it remained stored in the bins until after corn-planting time of the next year. There was no marketing of corn, oats, or potatoes, these being all used at home."
"The first few years after the cessation of the raising of spring wheat was a transition stage which gradually opened up more prosperous conditions than the older times had ever produced. First came creameries in this section of the country, followed by an increase in the number of hogs and cattle raised, with attention to good breeds of the same, and a more careful looking after the land. Then came the big red barns, drilled wells and windmills on farms that did not before have them. Many more substantial houses were built, and others more or less remodeled. In the middle nineties the telephone came into the community, and later the rural mail delivery with the possibility of the city daily paper. At last children began growing up in the community to whom the hardships and privations which their grandparents had experienced were only family traditions. The old times ended with the wheat raising days."
And now, in addition to the telephone and the daily mail, the modern house with bath, steam heat, electric light and power, and to cap the climax the automobile, belong to the country as much as to the town, and the farmer is the most independent being in existence. It paid for him - or his fathers - to suffer privations. Truly the past half-century was a marvelous period!
In the Annals of Iowa, January 1897, Ira Cook tells some of his experiences as a government surveyor, in which he says:
"Early in 1852 the United states commenced the location of the boundary line between Iowa and Minnesota. As soon as the commission was well under way, I was sent up there to close up and sub-divide Township 100. I think my district included five ranges in Allamakee and Winneshiek counties. My work was partly in that portion of those counties which a writer in a recent number of the 'Midland Monthly' calls the Switzerland of Iowa.' Here among swiftly running streams, deep canyons, mountainous hills, and rock precipices, I worked for two months, and really here I had the most pleasant and enjoyable time of all my different trips. I found that the brooks and the creeks were pretty well stocked with speckled trout. I had not seen one since a boy of ten years, and I could not resist the temptation to go after them, and go I did. For one whole week a cousin and myself whipped the streams, large and small * * * enough to say we were satisfied."
"One incident that happened on this survey I must relate as a curiosity. The most of the land that was available had been taken up by squatters, and so there were a good many settlers in my district. This township 100 consists of five full sections north and south, but the sixth section was only about two or three chains wide, say eight to twelve rods. One day in running up my range lines I struck a man's farm which was partly in Iowa and partly in Minnesota. When I was through running my lines, his cultivated land was situated in two States, four townships, and six sections!"
"My work completed, we came down to Lansing, expecting soon to get a steamboat for Dubuque. We were informed, however, there would not be a boat down for five days, so I decided to build a boat of my own. I bought two Indian canoes about twelve feet long, some two-by-fours and enough lumber to deck my craft. We lashed the canoes firmly side by side, decked them over, loaded our traps, and we seven men stepped on board. When we were all on board we had not more than four inches between the surface of the water and the top of the canoes, but the craft was as steady as a seventy-four gun ship, and we made the trip to Davenport in safety."
In a little book published in Boston in 1856, Nathan H. Parker gives an entertaining description of a trip through this part of Iowa, in which he says:
"The tourist who would visit northern Iowa should take on of the regular packets at Galena and Dunlieth, and register himself for Lansing, one hundred miles northwest. If there is a more comfortable way of traveling than aboard the floating palaces of the Upper Mississippi, or a more grand and picturesque portion of country to be seen than is beheld on this route, I have thus far failed to find it, and persons who have traveled extensively on both continents represent the scenery in this section of country as superior to even that of the far famed Rhine."
"After a very pleasant trip with my namesake, Capt. J. W. Parker, of the Golden Era, I landed at Lansing. The first sight of interest that greeted my eyes was a party of three or four hundred hardy Norwegians, with their goods and chattels piled up on the wharf, awaiting conveyance to the country. As near as I could understand them, a large colony had purchased a tract of land a few miles west, and they were on their way to their new home. They were in good health and excellent spirits, and had not lost one of their number since leaving Norway. From the fact that these immigrants came over in a steamship, as well as from the appearance of a small, well-guarded iron chest in their possession, it may be inferred they are a well-to-do and industrious class, who will be a great accession to this portion of the State."
"Lansing is the most important town in the State, above Dubuque on the river. It is rapidly increasing and will eventually become and city of note, as it is the natural landing for a large section of very fertile country which is being rapidly filled by actual settlers. At the Lansing House you will take a stage for the interior. Yes, there you will find the real old-fashioned stage-coach, and perhaps recognize ere you return, some of the old coaches which have been driven west by the locomotive, and in which you have already traveled in the eastern or middle states."
"What an 'institution' the stagecoach is, to a newly settled country, and what a convenience is the accommodating drive! Our load embraced fifteen passengers, a large rear boot full of baggage and luggage, while the front boot contained mailbags, mealbags, dogs, jugs, and what not. The road from Lansing to Decorah, for several miles after leaving the river, winds through a beautiful valley, and when at length you reach the table-land the scenery is, we might say enchanting. To the north, beyond the valley of the Upper Iowa river, can be seen the graceful hills and green fields of Minnesota, while far away to the south the landscape is checkered with prairies and groves; and on every side the smoke from the humble dwelling of the settler, marking the spots where the wanderers from almost every state, and every country in Europe, are making new homes. In a drive through a beautiful, though rough country we reached Waukon, the county seat, a place of perhaps 300 inhabitants, in the midst of a good farming country."
"Less than ten years have elapsed since this section was in full possession of the Winnebago Indians. How changed the scene! No longer shall these groves and plains be the red man's hunting-ground; no longer the deep ravines serve as lurking-places for the wily foe, nor the bluff-side as a battle-field between contending tribes. One these peaceful waters, no longer,
"With tawny limb,
And belt and beads in sunlight glistening,
Does the savage urge his skiff, like a wild bird on the wing.
Look now abroad - another race had filled
These populous borders - wide and wood recedes,
And towns shoot up, and fertile reams are tilled;
The land is full of harvest and green weeks;
Streams numberless, that many a fountain feed,
Shine disembowered, and give to sun and breeze
Their virgin waters; the full region leads
New colonies forth, that toward the western seas
Spread, like a rapid flame among the autumnal trees."
Carlyle D. Beeman was born in Vermont, March 27, 1827, and came to Iowa in his twenty-third years, arriving in Jefferson township, September 12, 1849, one of the three or four earliest, where he bought the farm upon which he lived for twenty-five years, and which he owned for over fifty years until he sold it to his son, C. M. Beeman, in 1901. October 16, 1853, he married Miss Sarah Martindale, who died in 1893, and he later married Mrs. Jennie Falby. His was a pioneer record, and a record of close application to his calling which was rewarded with larger material success. In 1874, Mr. Beeman entered into commercial business in Waukon, which he made a success also, and in 1879 erected a brick block in West Waukon, and continued the business there until succeeded by his four sons in 1897. Mr. Beeman was closely identified with the business interests of the town, and took a prominent part in the prosecution of the railroad project to completion, as well as all charitable work and the good government of the city. He was also a leader in the Grange movement, state and national. Mr. Beeman died May 1, 1903, leaving four sons and one daughter, all prominent in business and social circles.
J. B. Mattoon, M.D., pioneer physician, was a native of Massachusetts, born in Hampshire county, November 14, 1814. His grandfather, Gen. Ebenezer Mattoon, left college to go into the Revolutionary war, and after the war was for a time law partner of Thomas Paine. His father, Noah D. Mattoon, was a classmate of Daniel Webster, and graduated from Dartmouth in 1801. At nineteen our subject went to Ohio, and graduated at twenty-six from Willoughby University, afterward the Cleveland Medical College. He then practiced twelve years in Crawford county, Pennsylvania. In 1852 he concluded to seek his fortune in the far west, and went to California. After two years he returned and settled at Freeport, Winneshiek county, Iowa, then a lively village with the promose of becoming the county seat. Here he followed his profession for another twelve years with the exception of a year or two in California again and in 1866 came to Waukon, which he made his permanent home. During the following twenty-seven years of active practice in Waukon and vicinity Dr. Mattoon endeared himself to the people, by his plain and honest life, being indeed on of "the old school," and ideal family physician, counselor and friend.Dr. Mattoon was married in 1842 to Miss. D. E. Heath, and reared two sons and two daughters. In 1882 they celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary, and Mrs. Mattoon died the following year. A few years later the doctor began spending his winters in Florida, and made his home there from 1892 to 1897, when he returned to Waukon, where he died April 22, 1900.
~transcribed by Lisa Henry and Debra Richardson
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