ROSSVILLE WOMAN TELLS OF
ALLAMAKEE COUNTY HISTORY
by Vivian (Walters) Turnmeyer
I like to think of Allamakee County as the best
part of Iowa because it survived the glacial age
leaving us with a legacy of rolling hills and a
bountiful supply of native timber creating beautiful
scenery. Today this scenery is an endangered species
because greed has been busily engaged in bulldozing
the trees to put land under the plow.
The highest bluffs along the Mississippi River are
found in Allamakee County. These are popular for
tourists, but many places have not been discovered
such as the Big Foot area that Florence Albright
talked about. I read that article with great interest
as it brought back many memories.
Note of the transcriber: It is assumed that
Florence (Pufahl) Albright had written an article
that was previously printed in the Postville
Herald. Florence grew up in the Big Foot
area of Allamakee County in Paint Creek Township.
I, too, had heard the same story about the naming
of Big Foot with one added touch. When another person
saw the big footprints he said, A big foot.
As you travel east, then north of Big Foot there
are other interesting areas such as Dry Hollow,
Sixteen, Ion, Yellow River Forest, Wexford, Round
Prairie, Village Creek, and English Bench near
Dorchester. Then back to the Volney area there is
Bear Hollow, Settle Creek, Smithfield, Hickory Creek,
Cherry Valley and the old #51 highway which winds in
and around high hills past the Old Stone House.(The
Old Stone House burned to the ground many years ago,
but was a familiar site to many.)
Settlers began coming to this area where they
usually built a log cabin close to a spring. My
paternal grandparents, Jackson and Mariah Walters
came to Allamakee County around 1860 in a covered
wagon pulled by a yoke of oxen. Jackson was born in a
Dutch settlement in Pennsylvania and the family moved
to Ohio, where he later married. He purchased land
from the college land granted to the state of Iowa
around 1840 to advance education. This land is a
Century Farm which my husband Lester and I own a half
mile from Rossville.
My maternal great-grandparents came from Norway on
a sailing ship which took a month for the voyage.
They had to bring food for themselves and 4 young
children. The youngest, a boy, died the day before
they landed at Quebec, Canada, where he was buried.
They joined a wagon train going through Minnesota to
Iowa. They left the train and came to Allamakee
County. My great-grandmother's two sisters were
already living there in the area around the West
Paint Creek Church, northwest of Waterville, Iowa.
A family by the name of Ross gave land for the
settling of a village that was called Rossville. Soon
Rossville became a busy cowtown with a
pump in the middle of the crossroads through the
center of town, where the residents obtained their
daily water supply. There were 24 houses. Two
churches were filled twice each Sunday. There was a
post office, drug and tobacco store, grocery and
hardware store, a hotel, a schoolhouse, a doctor and
a dance hall where good orchestras came to play and
many people came to listen as well as dance.
There was a good band in town, a championship
baseball team and a drama club which presented 3-act
plays in various communities. There were no saloons.
The term cowtown is not used as a joke
because every week herds of cattle were driven
through Rossville by cowboys on foot or horseback, on
their way to Maud, later known as Rossville Station.
There many carloads of livestock were loaded in
freight cars. I remember my father and my uncle
herding 100 head to the station. My uncle went ahead
with a bundle of corn stalks and my father and a
helper brought up the rear looking for stragglers.
In 1913 we lost the post office with mail then
being distributed from Monona and from Waukon. That
is why some citizens say their mailing address is in
Monona while others claim Waukon for their home
address. People living on the eastside of town were
Monona and people on the westside of town were
Waukon. It has always been interesting to me when
people asked me where I was from I would say, Rossville.
Never heard of it. I would then say,
It's near Waukon. Never heard of
it. I usually would have to say, It is
twenty-seven miles from the Minnesota border and 20
miles from the Mississippi River. One day a
write-up appeared in the daily newspaper telling how
lawmen of the county chased an escaped prisoner
through the wilds of Allamakee County to the
Minnesota border. That established where Rossville
There always was an interesting rumor that a
soldier carrying a government payroll was supposed to
have arrived at the hotel, but he never did*. Also
General Sherman of the Civil War fame visited one of
his soldiers, Mr. Hancock, at the Rossville Hotel.
A bank was built and the dance hall became a
cheese factory. Dances were held in the second story
of the grocery building. A produce station replaced
the drug store and the Woodmen, Rebecca, and
Oddfellows lodges met overhead. Later years there
were two grocery stores, a barber shop, a garage, and
a locker plant.
Today (1987) Rossville has 30 homes.
~Postville Herald, September 30, 1987,
written by Vivian (Walters) Turnmeyer
~transcribed by Connie Ellis
*Note of the transcriber:Mrs. Turnmeyer is
making a reference to a very old report, legend,
or rumor regarding a lost treasure of gold coins
in a government payroll box. In 1840, Ft.
Atkinson was built in Winneshiek County at
present day Fort Atkinson, Iowa to protect the
peaceful Winnebago Indians who were being
transported by the United States military from
Illinois and Wisconsin from the more warlike Sak,
Fox, and especially the Sioux. The Sioux
continued to be a problem well into the 1860's
and as late as 1865 there was a report that
Indians were attacking a military detachment
transporting a payroll somewhere between Ft.
Crawford at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin and Ft.
Atkinson, Iowa on the Military Road. During the
fighting, the paymaster hastily buried $7,000
worth of gold coins. No one bothered to mark the
location and when the fighting was over, it was
discovered the paymaster had been killed. The
gold became a lost treasure which has yet to be
found even today in 2013! This was the second
payroll lost enroute from Ft. Crawford to Ft.
Atkinson. According to legend or rumor, this
chest of gold coins was buried along a creek in
Clayton County. Over the years many people have
believed it is buried on a farm called Gold Mine
Farm which is located east of Giard on Highway
18. Like many stories from the past, the
circumstances of the government payroll treasure
has led to various speculations. Some stories
have suggested that one of the soldiers killed
the paymaster, buried the treasure but never
returned or forgot the exact location of the
treasure. Some stories have had the treasure
being buried in other possible locations in and
around Clayton County such as Bloody Run Creek,
the Yellow River, and various other creeks that
run through Clayton County and nearby Allamakee
County. The legend lives on, and many a person
has asked permission from a landowner to take
metal detectors in the possible locations where
they hope to strike it rich by finding the buried
government payroll gold coins.
Lester (1909-1990) and Vivian (1910-1991)
Turnmeyer are buried in the I.O.O.F. cemetery,