Allamakee co. IAGenWeb

Chapter 21

History of Lansing
Past & Present of Allamakee County, 1913

Railroad - Some Lansing Pioneers
Pearl Button Industry - Early Business Items



RAILROAD (page 450-452)

From its earliest settlement Lansing grew steadily, and enjoyed a prosperity not surpassed by any town in the West. It was known to have one of the best steamboat landings on the river, and in a few years after its first settlement became the supply point for a vast tract of country of Northeastern Iowa and Southern Minnesota, which was then being rapidly settled. Emigrants from the East and all points of Europe came by hundreds, seeking homes among the then beautiful valleys of Allamakee, and on the prairies beyond. These people came by boat and made their way west with ox-teams, or on foot, as best they could. Soon the fertile soil of this new land began to yield its harvests of golden grain. For a distance of more than one hundred miles west, and nearly as far north and south, wheat and other kinds of grain came pouring into Lansing, to be transported by boat to the markets of the world. The commerce of the place in those olden times-in the times of wheat-was enormous, Lansing being for a number of years the best wheat market on the Mississippi river.

During these years the town increased wonderfully in population. Substantial business blocks were erected, elegant residences built, and many fine fortunes were made. In 1872 a railroad reached Lansing from Dubuque, constructed along the west bank of the river. To this enterprise the citizens contributed liberally, besides voting a 5 per cent tax on its aid. The road is now controlled by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company. The completion of this road to Lansing was an important event in its history.

Prior to this time the river was the only means of communication between Lansing and the world, and the complete or partial ice embargo of each winter was not removed from the trade of Lansing until the construction of the railroad before mentioned. This road, the Chicago, Dubuque & Minnesota Railroad Company, originally the Dubuque & Minnesota Railroad Company, was incorporated December 16, 1867. The names of the incorporators were: J. K. Graves, J. M. Merrill, Plat Smith, E. H. Williams, and Joseph Herod. On the 27th of January, 1869, J. E. Ainsworth reported his reconnaissance of the proposed line, and the next year capital was invested in the enterprise. The ground was first broken, with appropriate ceremonies, at Eagle Point, at 3 o’clock, Tuesday afternoon, October 18, 1870. Two years later the cars were running into Lansing. In recognition of the work that had been accomplished, and the many beneficial results expected to follow its completion, the citizens of Lansing prepared for a grand railroad celebration.

Wednesday, May 8, 1872, was set apart for the day of the ovation. Invitations were extended to delegations from all the towns on the line of the road, and elsewhere. The railroad people provided a special excursion train which left Dubuque at 8:30 A. M. Drawn by two engines, the “Lansing” and the “J. K. Graves,” both appropriately decorated with flags and evergreens. Over one thousand excursionists were aboard, accompanied by the Germania band of Dubuque.

The train arrived in Lansing at 2:15 P. M., and was received in royal style with salutes of cannon and music by the Lansing Cornet band. A reception committee consisting of Hon. L. E. Fellows, Capt. E. B. Bascom, Jas. T. Metcalf, Gustav Kerndt and Theodore Steidle, met the party at the foot of Main street and escorted them to Concert Hall, where a magnificent banquet was spread. The great crowd was admirably handled by Chief Marshal Capt. E. B. Bascom, assisted by Maj. Samuel W. Hemenway, Capt. Jas, Ruth, and Capt. S. O. Smith. The hall was beautifully decorated, and the tables arranged on either side with the ends toward the middle line and the stage.

On the stage and in the center was the press table, arranged by Mr. C. W. Hufschmidt. The newspaper men who enjoyed its many luxuries reported that it presented a more tempting sight than editor, reporter or printer had ever seen; that it was a “fat take” in truth. Just below the footlights was the railroad table presided over by Hon. S. H. Kinne, then state senator from Allamakee county, and his accomplished wife. At the right of the stage the mayor and council of Dubuque occupied table No. 3, arranged by Mayor Nielander of Lansing. Table No. 5 was arranged by R. P. Spencer for citizens of Dubuque, and next to this was No. 7, arranged by Geo. H. Bryant for Dubuque guests also. Then came table No. 9, arranged by Theo. Nachtwey for guests from Gutenberg. Table No. 11 was for guests from Clayton, arranged by W. A. Travis; and next to this came No. 13, arranged by J. W. Thomas for guests from Waukon. The Decorah guests were seated by table No. 15, presided over by Mrs. S. H. Hazleton. Number 17, next to the door, was arranged by Mrs. Purdy for guests from Harper’s Ferry, De Soto and Dorchester. The first table on the right as you enter was No. 14, arranged by Mr. Pearson for the county officials. Next came No. 12, arranged by Capt. E. B. Bascom for general guests. Then came No. 10, where citizens of McGregor and Dubuque were seated, arranged by Mr. N. A. Nelson. Next to this was No. 8, arranged by Mr. Wenst for guests from McGregor. And then came No. 6, for the use of Dubuque officials, arranged by Mr. Shaw. At the end of the stage on this side, table No. 4, was arranged for the use of the mayor and council of Galena by Dr. J. W. Davis. Two hundred and fifty-six guests were seated at a time, and five sittings were given.

Dinner over, the meeting was called to order by his honor, Mayor Nielander, who made a brief address of welcome, responded to by Mayor Turk of Dubuque, after which Hon. L. E. Fellows delivered the reception speech.

Short addresses were then delivered by Gen. Wm. Vandever, Hon. Wm. B. Allison, Judge T. S. Wilson, Hon. J. O. Crosby, Hon. J. K. Graves, and others. Several letters from distinguished guests who had been prevented from attending were read. The ceremonies at the hall concluded with the presentation by the young ladies of Lansing to Engineer Brough of two beautiful cushions for his iron horse, the “Lansing.” These were presented to Mr. Brough by Miss Frankie Shaw, later Mrs. George H. Markley, with the following remarks.

“In behalf of the young ladies of Lansing I present you these cushions as a slight token of their regard for the honor conferred upon our city in naming one of the locomotives, the ‘Lansing.’ I trust, sir, that no accident may ever happen to you or to your locomotive, and that these cushions may ever remind you of the happy event of toady, and of the kindly, feeling of our citizens, and particularly of those in whose behalf I make this presentation for yourself and the noble and powerful engine now under your control.”

Thus ended a red-letter day in the history of Lansing. At this time the town was very prosperous. Real estate sold readily at high prices, and the town seem destined to enjoy a future of unexampled prosperity.

But the farming community upon which the town had to depend largely for its support had, up to this time, relied almost entirely upon raising wheat. When, soon after 1872, the wheat crops began to fail and continued to be failures year afer year, the effect began to be observed in Lansing as elsewhere. Year after year the farmers clung to the delusive hope that the next year would surely be a good year for wheat, until many of them were compelled to lose their farms and begin life again further west with nothing. But a few years later the farmers turned their attention more to stock-raising, dairying, and other crops than wheat, and soon became unusually prosperous, which conditions brought renewed prosperity to the towns as well.


Horace H. Houghton and John Haney, Sr., the original proprietors of Lansing, were men of marked ability, integrity and goodness of heart. During these times when schemes of doubtful propriety were aided and encouraged by men of the most pious professions, the founders of Lansing remained true to the dictates of the most unselfish and exalted morality. As copartners in various business enterprises each relied on the other’s honor and neither was ever for a moment dissatisfied with the result.

Horace H. Houghton was born in Springfield, Windsor county, Vermont, October 26, 1806, and died at Galena, Illinois, April 30, 1879, aged severnty-three years. He was the fourth of six children. His father died when he was six years old. From the age of twelve to eighteen he labored on a farm. He then apprenticed himself to Rufus Colton of Woodstock, Vermont, where he learned the art of printing. He worked two years as a journeyman printer after attaining his majority, the most of his time for Messrs. J. And J. Harper, who were the proprietors of the house and firm of Harper Brothers, of New York. He then became proprietor of the Vermont Statesman, published at Castleton, Vermont. While engaged in the publication of this paper he invented the method now so much in vogue, of printing one side of several papers on the same form; and while at Castleton he thus printed the outsides of papers published at Rutland, Middlebury, Vergennes and Springfield, Vermont, with gratifying success. While here he invented a power press, an essential feature of which has entered into the construction of every successful power press which has since been manufactured. This press he sold to the then state printer at Albany for $6,000, on condition that its work should prove satisfactory after three months’ trial. At the close of the time agreed upon he received notice that his money was ready for him. But this was prior to the age of Railroads and telegraphs, and before Mr. Houghton could draw on the parties to whom he had sold his press and have the draft reach them, they had assigned all their effects, including his power press, to preferred creditors. This unexpected and undeserved misfortune had the effect of driving the young printer to seek new opportunities in the West. He crossed the Alleghanies with his effects in a pack on his back. Having spent a few months in St. Louis he one day observed a steamer advertised for the “Galena Lead Mines.” Investing what money he had in corn he started with it for Galena, Illinois. Here he worked in the mines for some months, when the editor of the Northwestern Gazette and Galena Advertiser having fought a duel, and being in consequence compelled to flee for his life, Mr. Houghton purchased the office and afterwards conducted the paper for nearly forty years. Galena, was then and for many years the chief city in the Northwest in enterprise and commerce.

In politics Mr. Houghton was a whig, and so he became a republican when that party came into being. His paper had a wide circulation and probably exerted a larger influence for a period than all papers west of Chicago and north of St. Louis. At the first election fo Mr. Lincoln the four congressional districts in which Mr. Houghton’s paper circulated gave the largest republican majorities of any like territory in the Union. Judge Drummond, Governor Ramsey, Hon. E. B. Washburn and General Grant were each his debtors, and cheerfully confessed it, the latter once remarking that Mr. Houghton was the only editor he had ever known who would always tell the truth-without being paid for it. Mr. Houghton was at one time consul to Lahaina, Hawaiian Islands, for two years, and postmaster at Galena for four years.

As a typesetter, for rapidity and accuracy Mr. Houghton never found an equal. He published a daily paper for many years, and it was his practice to compose his numerous editorials at the case, as he put them in type. He was of light weight, compactly built, with large brain and a benevolent countenance. His powers of endurance were wonderful; for many years he worked six days in the week, eighteen to twenty hours out of the twenty-four. He was benevolent to a fault, always endeavoring to relieve the needy, not excepting the unworthy. He valued the upbuilding of Lansing more than he valued gold, and spent money lavishly in improvements. To spend his life for the good of others seemed to be the aim and only pleasure of his own. He died a poor man, a Christian, a martyr to his fidelity to duty.

John Haney, Sr. Was born in Lafayette county, Pennsylvania, September 15, 1798. When a lad of sixteen he became a pioneer in the forests of Ohio. From there in 1832 he removed to Illinois, and came to Iowa in 1848. He died at Lansing, April 15, 1875. He was a quiet, modest, kind-hearted man, self-taught in the severe school of experience. He possessed a remarkable memory, and being an industrious reader was thoroughly acquainted with history and the current events of his time. Much of his leisure was spent in the study of mathematics, in which science, although self-taught, he was probably without an equal in the state, all the higher branches of the study having been completely mastered by this modest student in his log cabin during the long nights of our northern winters. His self-control was perfect and permitted no personal weaknesses or small vices, such as are generally considered quite pardonable. He was in his eating, drinking and speaking strictly temperate, and his private life was free from the slightest suspicion of any impurity. Having lived a large portion of his life among the Winnebago Indians, he was known by nearly all of them, and considered by them to be one of the best men who ever lived. This is not strange, for Mr. Haney never intentionally injured any human being. So sincere was his regard for others, and so strongly did he believe in the quality of all men, that every one who chanced to be at his home was compelled to sit with him at the table, whether negro, Indian or wandering trapper. He was an abolitionist of the blackest kind, and one of the strongest of Union men during the Rebellion. He might have attained to high official position had he chosen to do so, but he preferred to do his duty as he saw it in the humble, unobserved walks of life. What would gratify him most, were he living, to have been written of him-what he desired to be when living, more than all else-and what those who knew him well knew him to be-is best expressed in the simple statement-he was an honest man.

Henry Bensch was another of Lansing’s prominent and long-time citizens. Born in Berholdsdorf, in Silesia, Germany, August 29, 1832, came to Lansing April 16, 1855. Married Miss Lena Frye the same year, who died in 1898. Mr. Bensch was a veteran carpenter; kindly and genial by nature, a lover of home, children, flowers, and out-door sports. He was a man of cultivated tastes, and of influence among his fellows. He served for years on the school board, and also on the city council, as township trustee, and member of the county board of supervisors. His death occurred February 9, 1913.

Capt. E. B. Bascom is given the honor due to a veteran soldier as well as a veteran settler of Lansing, who is one of the few remaining pioneers. Born in Newport, New Hampshire, in 1833, he came to Lansing in the spring of 1855, where he engaged as contractor and builder until the breaking out of the Rebellion, when he was the first man to enlist from Lansing, in Company K, Fifth Iowa Infantry. He was promoted second lieutenant February 1, 1862 first lieutenant May 14, 1862; and captain, January 23, 1863. Saw active service throughout the war, some of the most prominent battles being Booneville, Island No. 10, New Madrid, Corinth, and siege of Corinth, Iuka, Fort Gibson, Vicksburg, and Missionary Ridge. Returning to Lansing after the war he entered into active business, and is still active in matters pertaining to the good of the city. He also served the state many years in her National Guard, retiring with the rank of colonel.

A remarkable character was Mr. Platt LaPoint, who departed this life at South Lansing on September 29, 1889, in his one hundred and eleventh year, his birth occurring at Montreal, Canada, January 25, 1779, according to his statement. He was of French Canadian Descent, and during much of his early life he was engaged with the fur companies in the far Northwest, and it was while in their employ he first visited Iowa in about the year 1814. He recollected when the site of the city of Dubuque was but a wilderness, and was on the spot where St. Paul now stands when there was but one log cabin in sight. Mr. LaPoint served in the Blackhawk war, and previous to that had served sixteen years under the British. He twice went to California, the last time returning with John S. Mobley. He was twice married, his first wife dying without issue, and seven children were born to him by his second marriage, but three of whom survived him, one daughter then living in Kentucky, and a son and a daughter in Denver, Colorado. For eleven years previous to his death. Mr. LaPoint had made his home with Mr. Gobell, at South Lansing, from whose residence the funeral was held, interment being at Wexford cemetery. His was a long and active life, and he certainly had participated in some of the most stirring scenes in the history of this region.


Washington, D. C., February 22, 1913-
Mr. E. M. Hancock, Waukon, Iowa
My Old Friend Hancock: I have yours of the 17th requesting me to furnish you some details connected with the history of Allamakee county for the work which you have in preparation.

Forty-three years have passed since I became a resident of Lansing, and I have reached my sixty-eighth year; these conditions are not to be lost sight of, and, while I should feel great pleasure in rendering you any service within my power, I am constrained to say that my memory fails to serve me regarding the dates and other particulars having bearing upon many events not without interest, and worthy of record.

Again, after 1882 I ceased to have active participation in affairs in the county, and in 1889 removed to the East. I may, however, write with some precision regarding men and things as I knew them in the palmy days of Lansing, when I took a share in the strenuous times of that period.

The steamboat, which landed at the Lansing pier at 2 in the morning of August 23, 1870 carried me from Prairie du Chien, and I lodged at the old American House, at the foot of Main street, which, as I now recollect, was kept by Mr. Albert, but perhaps by Jac. Dreher. The first thing which struck my notice was the resemblance between Lansing and Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, through which place I passed a couple of days before, as regards the great bluffs, the river, and the valley in which located; the similarity is striking.

The first citizen fo the place, with whom I became acquainted, was J. W. Thomas, of the bank, upon whom I called the forenoon of that day, and it is one of the most pleasant recollections of my life that from that moment we were friends. I have received from him innumerable kindnesses and every business favor I ever asked. I hold his memory in profound respect.

Those were the ‘boom days’ of Lansing-rather the beginning of the boom, perhaps. It was the great wheat market north of Dubuque, and it was a daily occurrence for teams to be lined on the two streets leading to the river, hundreds deep, some from distances of fifty or more miles. Things were pretty lively; there were numerous saloons, and all did a thriving trade! Trade in merchandise was correspondingly active, and times were certainly good-a great contrast to conditions as they came to be in after years, when the territory to the west was cut off by railroads, and crops failed for some years in succession.

The river was the only outlet, during the milder season; and except for the short time when the ice was moving in the spring, its surface in winter was the highway to Prairie du Chien, to which place grain, pork, etc., was hauled by sledges, and the mail and passengers carried in like manner to and from McGregor. The advent of the first steamboat in the spring was a great event, and looked forward to with interest.

Of the grain dealers, C. W. Hufschmidt (“Charlie,” as everyone knew and called him) was probably the most active, and he was a man whom nature never intended to take a back seat in the game of life, whatever he may have undertaken. As I now call to mind the men of most prominence whom I best remember, I think it may be said that he had a wider acquaintance then and during after years than any other citizen of the county; but perhaps D. W. Adams, during the “Granger” period, had an equally wide knowledge of people, confined , however, to those in that organization, while Charlie Hufschmidt was known by men in all walks of life, who appreciated his genial and characteristic personality.

Gustav Kerndt knew perhaps more people in Allamakee and Winneshiek counties than any other man, and he was universally respected; he was a power in the financial and business affairs of the section for many years. In like manner, Henry Nielander was a strong man, of great activity, of habits so industrious that he was in that particular without an equal. Moritz and William Kerndt were then more active perhaps in the inside management of their great business, but later Moritz succeeded Gustav as its head, and became interested in the bank and other lines. He alone remains of these brothers, types of splendid business men, and retired from business some years ago, leaving to the younger men the direction of affairs in which he once was so conspicuous.

It is with feelings of sadness that I call to mind these and other men and the events of those times, because, with the exception of two or three, every man older than myself then active in the business affairs of the place has passed away. With all of them my relations were those of friendship, and I am sure that I was honored in having their like respect and confidence. It would be an incomplete history of the locality if it failed to give to them an honored place in its pages.

Of the younger men, of about my own age, there are few remaining. On is that sterling citizen, Herman Schierholz, a most successful business man. Capt. James Ruth, one of the best men, who took a prominent part in the political and business affairs of the time, with whom my relatives were most intimate, has “gone before,” peace to his memory!

“Doc” Spaulding was a character, and an original one, too! One of the most genial of men, and the standby of the younger married people, who had such delightful dancing parties under his direction. Sam H. Kinne, as a lawyer and politician, was widely known throughout the state.

Judge Fellows, through his legal and Masonic environment, enjoyed an acquaintance throughout the state that was more extended than that of perhaps any other citizen, possibly with the exception of Judge Granger. What splendid types of men! Every attribute was theirs which adorns the bench, respects the law, honors the citizen, and makes the upright judge. The one has passed away, the other survives.

Aside from the men who may be regarded as merchants, the man most prominent in the affairs of Lansing for many years, a pioneer in the county, and at the head of its manufacturing and industrial operations, Homer H. Hemenway may be reckoned. Born in Potsdam, New York, November 18, 1831, he went to Lansing in 1855, and for many years was the moving spirit in its lumber trade, a very important factor in those days. Widely known because of his extensive business interests and Masonic prominence, he was a man of great power in affairs, and of commanding influence in many directions. He long since became a citizen of Colorado, and through connection with associations of lumbermen, gained an acquaintance extending over the United States. He is a man of marked and original personalty, native wit, and keen discernment, and has been spared to reach his 82d year, honored by all who know him, and enjoying reasonably good health, at his home in Colorado Springs.

Capt. E. B. Bascom, who recently reached his eightieth year, has been the honored veteran of Allamakee county survivors of the Civil war, and carries will the years allotted him. His sufferings and remarkable experiences as a prisoner of war is a subject with he is modestly not inclined to recall, except at intervals, and he is entitled to all the honors and esteem which an appreciative, loyal community can show.

Elder Horatio W. Houghton was in religious circles, particularly of his denomination, very widely known and honored. He was a pioneer of the county,

Dr. John W. Davis, yet a resident of Lansing, went there at an early period, and is a most highly honored citizen, as was his father-in-law, the late Squire W. D. Morgan, also a pioneer.

Edward Boeckh, Henry Bensch (who passed away only last week), Wm. H. Burford, George Kemble, John Kemble, Samuel H. Hazleton, John D. Cole, and others, whom I am unable now to recall by name, were of those who became citizens at early dates , and prominent in affairs.

Rev. James Frothingham held a wide acquaintance, and was one of the older citizens; later Rev. Thos. Oliver, as the inventor of the typewriting machine bearing his name, and Rev. George Elliott, who became a most prominent and influential person in his church, were among those who occupied humbler positions in the earlier days of Lansing.

Dr. Theo. Nachtwey was an old resident, and served as county superintendent in the sixties; a democratic ticket which failed to bear the genial doctor’s name as a candidate for something might have been questioned as to its genuineness.

The advent of the railroad changed affairs and affected the business interests of the county to a far-reaching extent. The company’s representative in the original organization was D. A. Mahoney, of Dubuque, one of the keenest, brightest men of the day, and he succeeded in obtaining generous subscriptions of money and land from the Lansing people, at a meeting held for the purpose, of which I was secretary. Those were the days when A. K. Graves and Jo. Rhomberg, of Dubuque, handled the road’s interests and late managed and controlled it. Peter Kiene, Jr., the secretary, a splendid type of manhood, died only recently; the others long ago. I recall the strange circumstance connected with the sale of the road, which gave its ownership to the Milwaukee instead of Northwestern interests. Both were seeking control; the Northwestern people had a special car, which reached Lansing in the evening, and was sidetracked for the night. If the parties aboard had proceeded on their journey northward they undoubtedly would have been the owners of the road; as it was, the Milwaukee folks learned of the whereabouts of their rivals, and that very night closed the sale. Next morning the Northwestern car had to pass over a part of the line of the Milwaukee when it left Lansing.

What a tremendous business was that of the steamboat lines, in those times, in carrying pleasure-seekers from the south to Minnesota points! What fine steamers, loaded to capacity, were those of the Diamond Jo and the Packet Companies, rivals in trade! And the river traffic in lumber was marvelous. I have sat upon my porch, at y home fronting the river, Sunday afternoon for example, and there was scarcely a moment when the river, fronting and above and below Lansing for a short distance, was free from rafts, passing down stream, and always interesting to observe, aside from the fact of the immense interests in business which they represented.

Socially there were no finer, more generous folk than those for the old time in Lansing. My life has not been uneventful, and I have mingled with people in every part of the country, but I have yet to know of a place where the residents were more social, more hospitable, more friendly to a stranger, than those of the town nestled at the foot of Mount Hosmer. Those most dear to me who have passed away rest there, and, when my earthly pilgrimage is over, and I too am laid at rest, I wish that it may be there, among those who too are at rest.

This letter has already taken more space than was intended at the beginning, and yet the “half has not been told.” I remember the Allamakee county that was, not as it is, and the strenuous times of those twenty years of my citizenship were full of events which the historian may well regard with favor, and recount for the edification and information of those who, succeeding the active participants of that time, may well emulated the virtues of their ancestors, and follow with due care their precepts. It is an honor, at any time, to be a citizen of the noble state of Iowa, and it is an equal honor to have been a citizen of Allamakee county, and a friend of those who long ago shaped its affairs and guided the generation who today are taking the places of the honored pioneers who are at rest in its churchyards.
Very truly yours,
James T. Metcalf


J. W. Thomas was a man universally respected, a high type of the best citizenship, of most pleasing personality, genial social characteristics, and fine appearance. P.F. Sturgess, of West Union, a man of much prominence, throughout the state, was once in Lansing, and I invited him to accompany me in calling upon Mr. Thomas. Their interview over, after we had left the bank, Sturgess said, “Is that man as good a man as he is good-looking?” “Yes,” I replied. “He is one of the best men I ever knew in my life.” “Well,” he said, “He is the finest looking man I ever saw in the state of Iowa!”

John Schinzel was landlord of the best hotel, and was widely known under the title the drummers gave him, “Mit and Mitout.” He was a fat, good-natured man, and accustomed to himself waiting upon the guests, at rush times, would inquire, “Will you have your beefsteak mit or mitout?”, meaning with onions or without them, and to this odd expression was due the title which the jolly traveling men gave him.

Peter Wuest and Joseph Urmersbach ran the Metropolitan saloon, always known as “Pete and Joe’s.” Their business was very extensive, the place being always crowded. Pete raised several fine boys, who became prominent in business affairs at Sioux Falls.

R. P. Spencer, while hardware was his line, looked after auction business in addition. He was a gifted man; it inclined to pluck the feathers from the tail of the eagle at times, he was a witty talker, and whether at a political meeting, an auction, or a prayer meeting, was not at a loss to make some remarks, and good ones at that.

Michael Healy was a noted man, particularly in the famous county seat contests of prior years, in which he took an active part, being the treasurer for a time. He was a successful auctioneer, real estate man, and in other lines. He raised two splendid boys, who became very prominent in state affairs, after they had grown to manhood at Fort Dodge, where the family located. The father passed away within a year.

Clark Wier was a keen, clear-headed man of business, most liberal in any movement in which the interests of the town were involved. He brought to the place the first soda fountain.

Phillip Bockfinger was the head of a business of magnitude, and a most excellent citizen. He raised several boys, who became prominent in affairs in other localities.

Darwin L. Shaw had much to do with business affairs of the place, in lumber merchandise, grain, etc. At one time his interests in timber lands were extensive, in addition to those activities which he controlled in the town. He was a man of very positive views, which he could express without being misunderstood, as occasion required; socially his home was of most generous hospitality.

Thomas C. Medary (everybody knew him as “Tom”) was a “natural-born” newspaper man. He was essentially a local writer; he cared little for any other branch of editorial writing. He was gifted with a sense of humor that gave to his paper an individuality, and justly entitled him to be regarded as one of the very best local writers of the state. He was an original character, never at a loss to say a witty thing in a humorous, interesting way. It was an event of little importance in the county if he did not take a prominent place therein, and he “had a nose for news” such as few reporters could hope to excel, if indeed to approach. We were rivals in business, for a time, and, like other newspaper folk, occasionally indulged in printed fireworks; but no one could do otherwise than admire his genial personality and forget his faults, which were not of the heart. He reared a fine family, and his newspaper mantle has worthily fallen upon a son.

Peter Karberg established and conducted a paper, printed in German and English for a time. He had been a mail agent on the railroad north from Dubuque, and resided at Guttenberg, before removing to Lansing. He had considerable ability, and was a fine-looking man.

Mat Simon was a celebrity as a saloonist, and kept a resort which was head-quarters for a lot of folk, who enjoyed the liquid and solid refreshments he dispensed at his counter. He was a practical joker. One April First the room was crowded and among others Peter Karberg accepted Mat’s invitation to “take a sausage,” which however the latter had filled with sawdust. The angriest man in seven states could not have held a candle to Peter, but all the rest laughed at and guyed him.

Charles A. Gardner was the first railroad agent, and a very good one, too. He was a fine fellow, very popular, and took a part in all the affairs of the town when help was appreciated. He has since been located in various places, and is now at Dallas, Texas.

D. D. Doe opened the Dudley House, and gave the town the best hotel in its history. Mr. Doe handled in addition a stock of groceries. He decided after a time to dispose of his interests, and I printed for him an advertisement worded about as follows: “For sale-my business interests in Lansing, consisting of, etc. Any one, a firm believer in the virtues of barley juice and vinegar bitters, will find here a congenial opening,” etc. The grim humor is evident when it is recalled that Mr. Doe was by no means a convert to the popular theory that lager beer is delectable and a necessity; and at the time it was the rule for every one to regularly shake with ague, a remedy for which was the extensively advertised nostrum he named, and held in much contempt.

Political lines were so closely drawn that a half-dozen ballots might decide a contest. One of the most famous was that between Capt. James Ruth (republican) and James Palmer (democrat) for the office of sheriff. Both were extremely popular, worthy men, and made strong efforts, in which their friends joined enthusiastically. The result was (I speak only from recollection, and my figures may be slightly inaccurate) six votes for Palmer in excess of those for Ruth. There was an informality in the returns from one of the townships, adjacent to Makee, and a special election was ordered, for that township, at which Palmer came out ahead some three or four votes.

John G. Orr (“Greg,” as he was called by everybody” was postmaster at Lansing, an extremely popular man, accommodating, kind-hearted, and a good officer. In addition, he had revenue stamps in charge, and held one or more local positions. One Saturday night, as the steamer bound south landed at the pier, I happened to be there, and Orr came somewhat hurriedly down the street, valise in hand, and casually remarked to me, as he walked aboard the boat, “I’m going down to Dubuque for a little trip.” I thought but little of the matter, as it was an ordinary occurrence for persons to make like trips, and Orr always had in hand a lot of political schemes. So far as I am aware, nobody in that town ever saw or heard of his whereabouts thereafter! He disappeared as completely as if swallowed up in the ocean. I am quite confident that his relatives (he left a wife and family behind, and other connections) were absolutely ignorant of what became of him, at least during several years after his disappearance. The mystery of the trip was very soon solved, as, when he failed to return within a day or so, an examination of his accounts led to the discovery that he was short some hundreds of dollars-it is my recollection that the total (he was a defaulter on each of his bonds) was somewhat about $1,500. An inspector soon arrived, and the deficiency had to be made good by the friends whom he had so grossly treated. It was a mystery how he had used so large a sum, but it was partially explained by the fact that when he made his too numerous visits to the saloons, he called up all the “boys” who happened to be about and, from the bulging pocketbook he always carried, forgot to differentiate between the cash belonging to Uncle Sam and his own!

The Chronicle was the other paper published in Lansing, by Dr. John I. Taylor, an old-timer, hale fellow well met with everybody, and known by most folk throughout that neck of woods as “Doc.” He was an original character, rugged, full of humor, and a past master in political finesse, somewhat unscrupulous about ways and means to gain an end politically. He did not know a “shooting stick” from an “italic quad,” and was only an indifferent writer. The office building was destroyed by fire. An edition had just been printed; the forms were on the marble slab, called the “stone,” empty barrels were handy, and bystanders scraped the platter clean by shoving everything else that came handiest. Such a mess was never seen! I bought from Taylor the entire outfit-list, business, barrels of stuff, etc., and caused the material to be patiently assorted, with considerable financial advantage. I added the work “Chronicle,” and the name was “Mirror and Chronicle” for a short time.

New Albin came into this life with the advent of the railroad. Dr. Taylor and his son started a paper there, but I do not remember its name, nor what became of it.

John Dunlevy was a boy in the Mirror office when I took charge of it. He was an excellent printer, and turned out good job work. Later he and his brother had a paper at Spring Grove, Minnesota, but removed it to Lansing, and it became the Allamakee Journal, now published, and both brothers are will qualified, practical newspaper men.

I cannot recollect when or under what circumstances Robert V. Shurley engaged in newspaper business in Lansing. He had been with the Dubuque Herald, and was a capable printer and editor. Whether S. G. Sherburne, and his son came later, or preceded Shurley, my memory fails to prompt me; nor do I remember where they went nor when they left the town.

E. A. Blum (“Gus”) came from Rossville, and was a business hustler. He was afterward a member of the board of supervisors, and is now a resident of Omaha. He was a fine fellow, universally well liked.

L. M. Elmendorf (“Dorf”) handled a thriving jewelry trade, and later went to and died in San Francisco.

It was my privilege to instruct in the art preservative several fine boys, notably one whose short legs would not permit of standing at the “case,” and who of necessity was perched upon a candle-box! I took him as a “cub” with some misgiving, on account of his youth, but it is a pleasure to now say that a better boy never smelled printers’ ink than Andrew P. Bock, now running a paper of his own, the Waukon Republican. He was the most industrious little chap; always good-natured; seldom spoke except when spoken to; willing, keen to watch for something to be done, and to do it, without being asked to do so. He soon became a first-class job printer, and a thorough all-around newspaper man, and I recall only with pleasure every recollection of this fine boy.

George H. Bryant was a dealer in shoes. Along during the old times when political affairs were strenuous, an occasion presented itself when it became necessary to find a strong man as candidate for county treasurer. He was an ardent republican, and one day we happened to discuss this matter, both unable to suggest an available candidate. Suddenly I thought “Thou art the Man,” and at once told him so, with enthusiasm, as he was certainly one of the best and most popular citizens of the county. He was rather averse to being a candidate, but finally authorized the presentation of his name at the convention, which was done, and with a result very gratifying, as his name and prestige added largely to the strength of the ticket, and carried it through in fine shape. Felt much gratified because of having a part in bringing into public life such an excellent man, who continued to serve the public for a number of years, and yet resides at Waukon.

For a time it seemed that Lansing was doomed to destruction, as the work of an incendiary. First, the building at and adjoining the corner of Main and Third streets were burned, followed by several deliberate attempts to fire other buildings. There was a period when it seemed unsafe to retire at night, for fear one’s home might be fired, and citizens patrolled the streets. The person guilty of these crimes was not discovered. Later, the entire block on Main, between Second and Third streets, the best block in the town, was destroyed, causing great financial loss and distress for those who owned or occupied the property. The fire occurred on Saturday. I was traveling in the South, and on Sunday reached by destination (Mobile) at noon. Shortly before that hour I bought a New Orleans newspaper, glanced over it casually, and placed it aside to be read later. It was 2 o’clock, when seated upon the hotel balcony, dozing in my chair, my eye suddenly caught a telegram in the paper, from La Crosse, to the effect that the town of Lansing had been practically destroyed, and giving quite a lengthy list of the names of property owners, all more or less incorrect, but sufficiently accurate for me to recognize them. While the Mirror plant was listed, I felt more anxiety about my family, not knowing what extent the damage might have been, nor what other parts of the town might have suffered. I wired for assurances in this direction, but could not receive a reply until I reached New Orleans, next afternoon, nor could I possibly reach Lansing until the following Friday. I found the material of the Mirror office, with exception of a small quantity hurriedly removed from the building, in the cellar of the bank below, the presses being merely masses of twisted iron, and everything at all combustible destroyed. My loss was complete, over and above the nominal insurance carried.

The first sensational event which transpired after my taking editorial charge of the Mirror was a murder, which took place on an island, immediately opposite Lansing, where a houseboat was moored, occupied by disreputable characters, one of whom was killed by a young fellow named Rose. It furnished material for some columns, but I do not call to mind particulars, nor the punishment for the crime.

The county seat relocation contest were strenuous times, not so full of peril and sensation as the famous removal of records, but confined to a battle at the ballot box. There was a surprising increase in the number of voters in the townships adjacent to Waukon, and likewise in the returns from Lansing! It was a good-natured battle royal, however, and not without some very humorous situations. Charlie —(I cannot recall his name), a well-known drummer of Dubuque, walked up to the voting place, after dark, his face partially concealed by a muffler, and offered a ballot. “What is your name?” inquired the judge of election, a well-known citizen. “Terrence Muldoon, sir,” answered the party at the window, and in his ballot was passed and accepted! It was of course an improper thing, but carried out rather as a lark than otherwise, and had no material bearing upon the result, else it might have been serious. A drove of railroad men, working on the construction of the line, cast solid ballots; we republicans had to grin and bear it, as all were “for Lansing,” but at the same time solidly democratic.

John B. Thorp came also from “York State,” as was the case with so many Lansing folk, and was in business with Geo. Bryant. Some men are born gentlemen; John Thorp was one. Unassuming in manner, rather reticent in speech, he had a great big heart. At the weekly dances, which became a feature in our social affairs for years, he seemed to always have in mind those ladies who apparently were less in demand as partners, and singled them out for special courtesy and politeness. He would thus spend an entire evening, considerate to others, and having in that way enjoyment of a character he appreciated best.

It will not be thought that I am invidious if I particularly mention one family by name, when I might speak of all other families in the place as hospitable. But this grace was especially conspicuous in the home of S. H. Hazleton. I think his wife and himself entertained more persons than any other family, as it was seldom the case they were without visitors, and they reckoned upon having as their guests every one who came back to the place, after removing elsewhere, as well as their great circle of friends at Waukon and elsewhere. I am sure that they will be remembered as princes of hospitality, as they also were regarded as among the most excellent people.

These notes have been unconsciously extended beyond the limit they doubtless should have had. It has seemed impossible to undertake mention of those I know best in these old times without including those I have names. As I wrote of one, memory would suddenly bring to mind another.

“Lulled in the countless chambers of the brain.
Our thoughts are linked by many a hidden chain.
Awake but one, and lo! what myriads rise!
Each stamps its image as the other flies."

If I were to attempt to write of all the many events I deem to have been interesting; of all the individuals who helped to make the history in Allamakee county, as I remember them, the patience of the reader might become exhausted, and yet the half be not told.

I wish these random thoughts might have been clothed in more suitable words, "What I have writ I have writ -- would it were worthier." J.T.M.

Ever active in industrial enterprise, and prominent for many years among the lumber manufacturing towns along the river, when the sawmill upon which so many of her people depended for a livelihood was doomed by the failure of the supply from the logging camps, Lansing was fortunate to find at her door a new field for the employment of labor.

In May, 1899, the first pearl button factior in Lansing was started by Mr. J.M. Turner, and this industry has since grown until it embraces three plants, employing many hands, largely young women, and having an invested capital of thousands of dollars.

In 1898 the first clam shells for the manufacture of pearl buttons were gathered near Lansing in a primitive fashion, by hand, or by means of iron rakes. From this beginning the demand has grown to thousands of tons, and the crude methods of gathering the mussels have been supplanted by improved devices. In summer the river for miles north and south of Lansing is dotted with the small flat-boats of the clam fishers; and in winter the mussels are fished through holes cut in the ice.

The greatest shell territory is from ten miles north of Lansing to the mouth of the Wisconsin river, thirty miles or more to the south. This includes the largest series of shell beds between St. Paul and St. Louis. However, the mussels are fast becoming depleted all along the river, and investigations are in progress to ascertain a possible remedy therefor. Ten years ago the two factories at Lansing used from twelve to fourteen hundred tons annually.

At first Captain Turner put in a twelve-saw plant for cutting the rough buttons, or "blanks" as they were called. Three years later he was running thirty-six saws, employing, all told, forty-two men. The factory is in operation the year round.

The Capoli Button Works was established by Nielander & Company, and is one of the most complete plants of its kind along the river, being fully equipped for the industry of buttonmaking through its various stages to the finished product, ready for our clothing. The factory is located in the south part of Lansing, and has everything for the health and comfort of its employees, and the most modern machinery to do the work. In 1902 this factory employed seventy-five people, summer and winter. A multigraph machine has lately been added to the office appointments at a cost of $500.

An important by-product of the clamming industry is the poultry food made from the crushed clam-shells after the buttons have been sawed out. The Captain Turner factory for this purpose now has an output of about twelve tons per day.

A source of great profit to some fortunate individuals is the finding of an occasional “pearl of great price” which well repays the clammer for many months of discomforts and exposure in this calling.
A third concern engaged in this industry is the New Jersey Button Works, employing a cutting force of about fifty men. Wm. Ritchie, the manager, is now figuring on a large addition to their plant.
Certain kinds of clam shells are now bringing $%0 per ton here. Many people can remember when they were a drug on the market at $6.00.

The pioneer manufacturer of Lansing was Elisha Hale, who came in 1851 and put up a frame factory on the river bank nearly opposite the Turner residence. In 1856 H. H. Hemenway entered into partnership with Mr. Hale, purchased his interest in ‘58, and continued the manufacture of farming implements with Abner Wood, until 1868, when they sold to S. W. And A. G. Hemenway. Of recent years the buildings have been occupied by L. O. Rud’s wagon factory, now sold to other parties.

Lansing steam saw and planing mill was the great institution that helped build up the town. It was run by Shaw, Johnstone, Wood & Co.; and by D. L. & S. V. Shaw; in 1868 by Hemenway, Wood & Co., later Hemenway, Barclay & Co. It was one of the largest on the river, running a force of 230 men and turning out 140,000 feet of lumber per day. Later the firm became the Lansing Lumber Company, John Robson going into the firm in 1884. The mill shut down in 1893.

In 1854 Nielander, Schierholz & Co. Established the “Dutch Store,” which grew into the mercantile house of Nielander & Company of recent years, a fuller account of which is given elsewhere.

In the fall of 1856 was the beginning of another noted firm which has endured until this time under the same name, that of G. Kerndt & Bros. In ‘59 they built a warehouse on the levee and entered the grain trade. In ‘61 built the three-story brick store which they doubled in size five years later. In ‘68 they built a brick elevator. Those were great days for wheat; with fourteen warehouses farmers had to wait to unload. The Kerndts’ biographies appear elsewhere. Of the three original partners Gustav died in 1873, William in 1898, and Moritz is still hale and strong.

The first lumber brought to Lansing was from Galena, and used in the log cabin built by John Haney, Sr., in the fall of 1848. The first brought in for sale was by G. W. Carver in 1851, and the first he sold was for a house on the present county farm, fourteen miles out.

M. Travis ran the sash factory and planing mill. It was burned down in 1872, and rebuilt with John Plein in partnership. It ceased to be remunerative and was finally abandoned, and the old building torn down about the year 1900.

Bockfinger & Boeckemeier in 1860 established a plant for manufacture of wagons, etc., and did an extensive business. The old buildings are still occupied in a similar line of trade, by Spinner Bros.

In the sixties Chas. Helbeck operated the Lansing Iron Works, and were succeeded by Boeckh, Luger & Co., who manufactured the Eureka Turbine Water Wheel. Rieth & Boeckh built a large brick foundry in 1868.

Wm. Manger came about 1860 and operated a steam factory for the manufacture of furniture. “ Manger’s Mill” on the bank of the river above town became a landmark. It was torn down about 1900.

Julius Kerndt and Jacob Haas were early brewers. In 1869 Mr. Haas removed the old building and erected a large brick brewery building at a cost of $14,000. Together with malt house, ice house powerhouse, and underground vaults, with a residence, required an outlay of over $35,000. When the prohibition law was enforced in 1886 it became idle, and so remained until 1903 when it was sold for $1,000.

In a recent issue of the Lansing Mirror appears a facsimile of an old bill of lading made out in the handwriting of Gen. U. S. Grant, then in the leather house of his father, J. R. Grant, at Galena, Illinois, and copied from an article in the Chicago Inter Ocean. The bill of lading is dated May 8, 1860, and the shipment was by the “good steamboat called War Eagle” to J. W. Page, a harness dealer whose shop in Lansing was located next door to Nachtwey’s drug store, and also near the corner of Main and Third streets. The Page home was a little east of the Methodist church, adjoining the Hays property. The family removed from Lansing and Mr. Page has been dead many years. It is an interesting souvenir.

In 1867, the first enumeration in which it appears separate from the township, Lansing city had a population of 1,538. In 1875 it had reached 2,280. But like most Iowa towns it has since decreased, being but 1,542 by the 1910 census, which is an increase, however, over that of 1900.


-source: Past & Present of Allamakee County; Ellery M. Hancock, 1913, pg. 450-468
-note: page 457 has photos and page 458 is blank
-transcribed by Diana Diedrich

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