IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Misc. Historical Items
updated 11/02/2013

Rossville, Jefferson twp.


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 was located.

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, Rossville.


Rossville as it appears today ........

Old Rossville store
Old Rossville store

Old Rossville store
Old Rossville store

Rossville Sportsman Club
Rossville Sportsmans Club

The photos on this page were contributed by Keith Koontz from his personal collection.

Vintage Rossville photos
from Keith's collection


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