"The First of a Good Many Things

in Town and County"

Source: Iowa State Reporter, Waterloo, June 7, 1883

The FIRST SETTLERS IN THE COUNTY were William STURGIS and E. D. ADAMS who, with their families, settled on the present site of Cedar Falls in the fall of 1845. They had both been residents of Iowa City, but Sturgis was drawn hither by the water power, which he afterward owned and improved. ADAMS settled on the prairie and opened a farm about one mile south of Cedar Falls. He removed to Missouri a number of years ago. STURGIS moved to Michigan.

THE FIRST SETTLERS IN WATERLOO were CHARLES MULLAN and family, who came from Illinois, and reached this point on the 24th of June, 1846. Mr. Mullan entered the farm now owned by the estate, and erected a log house near the present family residence that year. He was the first postmaster in Waterloo, one of the first justices, and the first county surveyor in Blackhawk county. He was identified with nearly all the early enterprises of the town, and died in August, 1874, age 63 years.

THE FIRST CHILD BORN IN THE COUNTY was a daughter to Mr. and Mrs. WM. STURGIS, on the 1st of October, 1846. She married and lives in Sturgis, Mich., a town named after a grandfather. Three days after her birth, a son was born to Mr. and Mrs. E. D. ADAMS, and he has the honor of being the first boy born in the county. He was named HENRY F., and became a resident of Missouri.

THE FIRST DEATH in the county was MARY VIRDEN, 2 years old, a daughter of WM. VIRDEN, then living between Waterloo and Cedar Falls. Her clothes caught fire and she was badly burned, from the effects of which she died. This was in 1848.

THE FIRST POST OFFICE in the county was at Cedar Falls, established in the year 1848. Up to 1850 Waterloo had been kknown as "Prairie Rapids" and "Prairie Rapids Crossing." In that year a petition was circulated asking the establishment of the post office here, and naming CHARLES MULLAN as postmaster. There were seven names to the petition, and we suppose it included abut all the inhabitants of a petitioning age. The question of a name had been talked over by the settlers without any agreement, and when MR. MULLAN took his petition to Cedar Falls to have it endorsed by the postmaster there, he looked through the list of post offices to find a name for the office here. He found Waterloo, was pleased with it, and finding no other office of that name in the state, christened the town then and there, and in due time the papers came on for a post office at Waterloo, Blackhawk county, Iowa. Mr. Mullan had the office at the family residence, then a log house near the present location, and the first year was only troubled with mail once in two weeks. After that the service was increased to weekly.

THE FIRST CHILD BORN IN WATERLOO was WILLIAM MULLAN, son of Mr. and Mrs. CHARLES MULLAN, which event occurred on the 2d day of May, 1849.

THE FIRST WEDDING in the county was at the residence of J. R. PRATT at Cedar City, on the 27th of February, 1851. The parties were JAMES VIRDEN and Miss CHARLOTTE PRATT. The license was procured at Independence, and SQUIRE HANNA performed the ceremony. Mr. VIRDEN is still a resident of the county.

THE FIRST DOCTOR in Waterloo was DR. McKINLEY, who located here in 1853. He possessed considerable skill in his profession, and is also remembered as being an excellent performer on the violin. He removed to Texas in 1854 or ‘55.

THE FIRST TAX LEVY in Blackhawk county was made Aug. 28, 1853, a total of 84 mills, divided as follows: county 6, state 1¼, school 1½. The valuation of property at that time was returned at $91,608.58, and the taxes amounted to $873. Not a very large sum, but probably enough to pay the first year’s expenses.

THE FIRST STORE IN WATERLOO was one opened by NELSON FANCHER in 1853, in a log building on the west side of Third street, above the river. He afterward solt out to G. W. HANNA, who moved to a log building near where the square brick house is, back of MILL SQUARE.

ON THE EAST SIDE, GEO. PRATT and JAS. VIRDEN had a stock of goods in a small frame building near Cedar Mill, in the fall of 1853. In 1854 SAMUEL ALDRICH opened a grocery on Sycamore street, between Fifth and Sixth, which was known as "Uncle Sam’s Grocery." WHITNEY and MARTIN had a store the same year on the corner of Fourth and Sycamore streets, and in 1854 S.P. BRAINARD opened a general stock near where GARBRANT’s Blacksmit shop is. JAMES EVANS, in the same year, had a store on Water Street, where EICKELBERG’S Wagon shop now stands.

THE FIRST MARRIAGE LICENSE issued after the organization of the county was to HENRY CLARK, of Spring Creek Township, authorizing his marriage with Miss SARAN WINSET. The license was issued Sept. 27, 1853, and the expectant bridgegroom had considerable trouble in procuring the document. He came up to Waterloo, forded the river and found the clerk, JOHN BROOKS, who informed him that JUDGE PRATT lived at Cedar City, but that he was away from home, and it was doubtful whether they could get the necessary papers. At the solicitation of CLARK, BROOKS accompanied him to Cedar City, where they found the judge was away frm home and his papers locked up in a trunk. The clerk was equal to the emergency, however, and with a knife unscrewed the lock and soon had the papers made out and delivered to MR. CLARK.

THE FIRST WEDDING IN WATERLOO was on the 11th day of July, 1854. The parties were ISAAC VIRDEN and Miss. ELIZA MAY, daughter of SAMUEL L. MAY, who then lived on the west side, on the on the bank of the river near the ferry landing. Judge J. H. PRATT officiated. Mr. VIRDEN died in the army during the war, and Mrs. VIRDEN died at Clarksville, where she was visiting, on the 1st of January, 1888. [Isacc Virden son of William and Martha Williamson Virden].

A CENSUS TAKEN in 1854 gave Blackhawk county a population of 2,488, divided into 1,385 males and 1,103 females. The number of voters was 802. By the CENSUS OF 1880 we find that the number of inhabitants had increased to 23,913,and the voters to ______.

In 1854 HENRY SHERMAN erected a log building on the site of the present Central House, and opened a hotel, adding to the structure from time to time as his business increased. He was a genial, pleasant fellow and kept a fair house, and all the old settlers have plenty of stories to tell about SHERMAN and his hotel.

The first hotel on the EAST SIDE was erected in 1854, by SAMUEL L. MAY. It stood on the corner now occupied by BURNHAM’S BLOCK. Mr. MAY was landlord until his death, in the fall of 1855. The house was then closed for a time, and afterwards opened by JOB ENGLE, who after a short time let his son, JOHN C., have it, and he in time was succeeded by ASA SHINN as landlord.

THE FIRST DAM across the Cedar river at Waterloo was built by JAMES EGGERS. He received permission from the county court June 2, 1854, and commenced operations the same year. His dam was a short distance above the present one, and was constructed of logs and brush. In three weeks after he had received his permit he had a dam, which raised the water two feet.


The CEDAR runs diagonally through the center of the county from northwest to southeast, a beautiful river about two hundred yards wide and an average depth of two feet. Its waters are clear, and, in this county, flow mostly over a rocky, gravelly bed, having an average fall of two feet six inches.

The WAPSIPINICON flows through the township of Lester.

CRANE CREEK flows through Bennington and Lester, and loses itself in the Wapsipinicon.

BLACKHAEK CREEK drains the southwest, pouring its water into the CEDAR just above Waterloo.

MILLER’S CREEK, BEAVER CREEK, MUD CREEK, PRAIRIE CREEK, and other small streams empty into the CEDAR from the west, and ELLSWORTH, ELK RUN, POYNER, INDIAN and SPRING Creeks from the east.