IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Misc. Historical Items

History of Allamakee Co.

Created: 1847
Organized: 1849
County Seat: Waukon
Parent County: Clayton

Allamakee County was established in 1847 by act of the First General Assembly. The name is of Indian origin says Fulton in his "Red Men of Iowa"; while other authorities claim that it took its name from "Allen Makee" a famous Indian trader and trapper who established a trading post within its limits at an early day. The county was formerly a part of Fayette and occupies the extreme northeastern portion of the State and, geologically considered, is the oldest formation. The eastern boundary consists of the Mississippi River and the northern is the Minnesota line. It embraces five townships north and south and from three to four east and west, containing six hundred fifty-eight square miles. Much of the county has a rough surface of hills, ravines and narrow valleys. The bluffs along the Mississippi River are abrupt and in many places have an altitude of four hundred feet above the water, thence having a gradual ascent westward reaching a height of six hundred feet. A large portion of the county was originally covered with a growth of hazel brush and trees of many varieties. It is well watered by the Upper Iowa and Yellow rivers and numerous rapidly flowing creeks of pure water. A series of large sloughs extend along the Mississippi River in width of from one to three miles. The "Iowa Slough" extends from the northern line of the county to near Lansing.

Allamakee was in the limits of the "Neutral Ground" and was long held as a peaceful hunting land over which hostile Indians pursued the chase without collisions. It was given to the Winnebago Indians in 1833, when they were forced to surrender their Wisconsin homes. In 1846 they exchanged the "Neutral Ground" for land in Minnesota and two years later removed to their new homes. There is a tradition that as early as 1818 some white trappers and Indian traders made a settlement on the west bank of the Mississippi within the limits of Allamakee County, remaining there many years. But all traces of their cabins had disappeared before the Indian title was extinguished; but no record of their names has been preserved. As early as 1828 Colonel Zachary Taylor, who was in command at Fort Crawford (Prairie du Chien), sent a detail of soldiers across the Mississippi River to erect a saw mill near the mouth of Yellow River where a large amount of lumber was made for buildings at the fort. Lieutenant Jefferson Davis was among the officers at Fort Crawford and the future President of the Southern Confederacy was a frequent visitor to the Iowa shore. In 1835 Colonel Taylor established an Indian Mission not far from the old saw mill. This Mission was in charge of the farm, gave them instruction in growing crops and raising stock. But little success attended these efforts. The warriors considered labor degrading and after a few years the Mission was abandoned.

In 1838 Patrick Keenan and Richard Cassidy settled in Makee township and William Gamsin and John Haney at Lansing. In 1839 Henry Johnson, a discharged soldier, built a cabin near the mouth of Paint Creek where he lived several years with Indian wives. Johnsonport was named for him. A military road was opened by the Government about this time, on the west side of the Mississippi between Fort Crawford and Fort Atkinson and, in 1841, Joel Post obtained permission to keep a public house in the Government building. Here at the "Half Way House" he and his wife often entertained Captains E. V. Sumner, Nathaniel Lyon, Lieutenants Alfred Pleasanton and Jefferson Davis at that time young officers in the regular army but afterwards famous leaders in the War of the Rebellion. The village of Postville now occupies the ground where the old public house stood and takes its name from the landlord of pioneer times. In 1840 Jesse Danley built a dam across the Yellow River and erected a saw mill. In 1841 Jacob Rynerson settled in the Old Mission and, after the removal of the Winnebago Indians, the property was purchased by Thomas C. Linton who was selected sheriff in 1848 to organize the county.

The first county-seat was located a mile and a half northwest of Rossville and was named Columbus. In 1848 Archy Whaley settled east of Waukon and William C. Thompson and Professor Whaley came in 1849. The first county officers were chosen the same year: Elias Topliff, county judge; John B. Twiford, clerk; James M. Sumner, recorder and treasurer. In 1851 Father Thomas Hore, a Catholic missionary, settled at Wexford where he founded a colony of his countrymen from Ireland. He there built the first church in the county. In 1848 H. H. Houghton made a claim where Lansing stands and in 1851 he and John Hainey laid out the town of Lansing. The first houses were rude log cabins. The first court was held in Columbus in July, 1852, by Judge Thomas S. Wilson. In 1851 the first newspaper was established by W. H. Sumner at Lansing and was named the Intelligencer and later becoming the Lansing Mirror. In the fall of 1849 G. C. Shattuck made a claim where Waukon stands. The town was laid out by Mr. Shattuck in December, 1853, and forty acres deeded to the county upon condition that it be made the county-seat. The proposition was accepted and Waukon remained the county-seat until 1861 when it was removed to Lansing be a vote of the people, but in 1867, Waukon again became the county-seat and has so remained. It was not until 1872 that a railroad was built into the county, running along the Mississippi River from Dubuque to Lansing.

- source: excerpts from the "The History of Iowa", by Benjamin F. Gue. Copyright 1903
- transcribed by Sue Soden
- note: this article appeared on the original Allamakee Co. IAGenWeb site, it was "re-discovered" and reposted in 2002, just as submitted in 1998

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