Allamakee co. IAGenWeb

A.T. Andreas
Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa 1875
Allamakee county
Soil - Climate - Products - Fruit Culture - Water Power & Mills

This county occupies the extreme northeast portion of the state. It is bounded north by Minnesota, and east by the Mississippi River. The surface of the county is rolling, hence the landscape has a pleasing variety, and the surface drainage is good. Along the river the bluffs rise almost perpendicularly from the shore to the height of about four hundred feet, thence the land gradually ascends towards the interior, till at Waukon, near the center of the county, it attains the altitude of sic hundred and fifty feet above the river level.

The only exception to this is the small slough-sections extending along the river in the upper and lower portion of the county. These reach back from one to three miles, forming a series or net-work of sloughs, the principal of which, in the upper series, is known as the Iowa Slough. Between this and the Mississippi are Marshy and Big Lakes. This upper series of slough extends from the northern boundary of the county to near Lansing. The lower-series begins with about the center line of Lafayette township, and extends along the river to Johnsonport. The principal slough in this section is known as Harper's Channel. considerable portions of the land along this channel are among the most productive in the county.


The soil of the county is considerably diversified. Perhaps about one-third is prairie hazel thickets and river bottom. It consists of a deep back loan of almost inexhaustible fertility, and is dry, porous and easily tilled. About one-sixth is burr oak openings, scarcely inferior in richness to the prairies. The white oak and hickory produce a finer quality of wheat than the prairies. The chief deficiency of this soil seems to be its lack of vegetable mound; hence it responds well to fertilizers, and, under liberal treatment, makes durable and valuable farms.


The climate of this county is particularly inviting. For the dryness and healthiness of its atmosphere is corresponds with Southern Minnesota. The elevated and rolling surface of its prairies render it remarkably free from miasma, and hence malarious diseases are as little known as in New Hampshire or Massachusetts. Indeed, the bracing air of this locality often proves a sovereign preventive, sometimes a cure, of consumption, that scourge of New England. And hence - consumption is almost unknown in this section.


The soil and climate of this county are adapted to the usual variety of products raised in a similar latitude in any part of the country. Many of them grow with a luxuriance and a yield almost unequaled. The richness of the soil seems inexhaustible, and the seasons are sufficient for crops to mature. In no section of the west is there a more rapid growth of vegetation in the spring, or more protracted and beautiful autumn seasons for maturing and taking care of the late crops. Corn grows on this soil year after year without manure, and without any perceptible diminution of quality, and as for wheat, few counties in the west can surpass it either in quality or yield. Potatoes, onion, melons, cabbage, currants, grapes, gooseberries, strawberries and raspberries - indeed, the whole catalogue of vegetables and small fruits are raised easily and in abundance from the soil of this county.

The great staples, of course, are wheat, corn and oats. The statistics for 1873 show that the number of acres improved in the county was 114,118. Of wheat there was harvested 814,531 bushels: corn 798,166 bushels; oats, 418,793 bushels; barley, 43,034 bushels. The amount of wood shorn was 23,749 pounds.


The fruit, particularly apples, can be cultivated in Northern Iowa has been pretty well demonstrated by the efforts of practical horticulturists. The first to establish a nursery in this section was Mr. D.W. Adams, as early as 1853. Mr. Adams has been successful, and is still engaged in the business. In 1865, the following statement, under the head of this county, was made in the Iowa Gazetteer:

"In regard to the fruit-growing qualities of the soil of this county, we will give the opinion of a gentleman residing at Waukon, who has spent the best years of his life in fruit-growing in a new country. He says: 'I have an orchard of 1,400 trees just coming into bearing, and a nursery of about 75,000 apple trees, in which I have acquired some very dear-bought experience, and I have come to this conclusion: In growing apples, grapes and fruits, Northern Iowa can compete with other states most successfully, for we have never in twelve years had a spring frost to injure blossoms. We get hardy apples and invite competition. The following are eminently successful and hardy: Red Astrachian, Red June, Tetofsky, Sweet June, Oldenburg, Alexander, Holden, Pippin, St. Lawrence, Bally Sweet, Jonathan, Fameuse, Winesap, English Golden Russett, Talman Sweet, Northern Spy, Rawel's Jeanette.' "

We have visited the nursery of C. & C. Barnard, of Waukon, and gathered the following facts which may be of interest to fruit growers: Mr. Barnard established a nursery here in 1866. His father was a nurseryman in England. Mr. Barnard was bred to the business. He followed the nursery business in West Virginia and Ohio before coming to this state. Mr. Barnard has always contended that in any country where there is abundance of natural fruit there is no difficulty in raising plenty of cultivated fruit, provided the kinds adapted to the soil and climate can be obtained. Hence Mr. Barnard has been many years trying experiments on trees adapted to the soil and climate of this section of Iowa. In respect to the plum, he found by experiment twenty years ago, that the native variety of Iowa transplanted to Ohio did not succeed. He also brought some of the best varieties of that state to this section and found that they proved equally a failure. This convinced him that there must be adaptation between the plant and the soil and climate in which it is expected to flourish; that other conditions besides the severity of winter are destructive to trees, for instance, extreme dryness of soil, the want of deep plowing and keeping the soil cultivated and mulched when necessary about the trees to preserve the scanty moisture in dry seasons.

He has in his nursery now over 300,000 apple trees, standing in the open prairie, from one to seven years old; 60,000 three-year-old trees, which were only yearlings through the severe winter of 1872-3; and they are all beautiful and thrifty trees. The way in which these trees were managed in the setting was as follows: The ground was first plowed very deep. The grafts were long scions (not less than six inches) on short roots planted so deep that only the top bud appeared above the ground. None but hardy scions were grafted, the roots not being considered hardy. The object of planting so deep was to preserve the roots from winter-killing. The first season the scions stood on the roots into which they had been engrafted, planted deep in the ground; the next year they threw out roots of their own, on which they have successfully stood ever since. This process Mr. Barnard has found eminently successful. His young trees - 60,000 in number - have stood all the drouth and severity of the winters which have supervened since their planting, and are now beautiful and thrifty trees, although standing without protection of the highest point of the prairie.

Mr. Barnard is also opposed to free pruning in this locality, as experience has demonstrated that many trees are struck with "black heart" and die from this cause. The spring growth and flow of sap being much more rapid here than in other localities where the seasons are longer, spring pruning is especially to be deprecated. It has been found a good method to scrape off the buds from the trunks of young trees when they first start with the hand, as it ensures smooth and healthy trunk with sufficient branches at the top.

These facts show that adaptation of fruit trees to the soil and climate is the great desideratum to be sought in a new country, and that the experiments of intelligent and practical horticulturists will finally solve the problem of successful fruit raising in Northern Iowa. Of course, different methods must be adopted in different localities and experience alone can determine what shall be ultimately the most successful.


The principal streams and water courses in Allamakee County are the Upper Iowa and Yellow Rivers, and the Hickory, Williams, Paint Village, Coon, Silver, Bear and Waterloo Creeks. They all run in narrow valleys hemmed in by abrupt bluffs, and are rapid in their course. The smaller streams, emanating from springs, are very pure and clear, and afford considerable quantities of speckled trout. Such being the character of the streams, water power is very abundant throughout the county, and much of it has been improved in the erection of mills and manufacturing establishments of various kinds.

On the Upper Iowa there are two establishments within the limits of the county, viz: the mills of O.F. & M.C. Ferris and B.T. McMillen. On the Yellow River there are at least a dozen, including saw mills, viz: Merians's mill, Myron mill, P.M. Gibson's mill, W. Werhans' mill, B.D. Clark's mill, Alexander Dawson's mill, J. Heifer's mill, Smithfield mills, Volney mills, Buckland mills and Ion mills. Some of these are among the best mills in the state. On Paint Creek there are the Waterville mills and Caspar Deal's saw mill. On Village Creek, the woolen factory and the mills of Whaley, Otis and Dohler; Hirt's mill on French Creek, and Mause's mill on Silver Creek. On Waterloo Creek there is the Dorchester mill and Swartzhoff's mill, and on Bear Creek, N.J. Quandahl's mill. W. Staudinger has a mill on Suttle Creek. There is a flouring mill at Harper's Ferry, a stream saw mill at Columbus, a very extensive steam flouring mill and also steam saw mill at South Lansing; a steam saw mill at Lansing proper, and on Coon Creek, west of Lansing, Haney's and Kappler's Flouring mills.

-source: Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa, 1875; published by the Andreas Atlas Co., Lakeside Building, Chicago, Illinois; pg. 431 (reprint ed.)
-transcribed by Nancy Shattuck

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