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May 1, 1941 - First Settlers of Jasper County


Posted By: Jeanie Belding (email)
Date: 7/27/2019 at 13:31:27

Source: The Pella Chronicle, Thursday, May 1, 1941, pg. 27

First Settlers of Jasper County Came to Monroe on The 23rd of April in 1843

Came up the Skunk River From Jefferson County

On the 23rd day of April, 1843, seven days before white men were allowed to stake claims in what is now Jasper county, seven men including Adam Tool, William Highland, John Frost, and John Vance left their temporary homes in Jefferson County and made their way along the south side of Skunk River. The men traveled on foot carrying ten days provisions and their blankets on their backs.

Five days later we find they have parted with their three anonymous companions, and, at dusk, are preparing to camp in a small timber five miles south-west of the Skunk - the present site of Monroe.

Dawn finds them packed and turning southward toward Dick Parker's Fur Trading Post at the Red Rocks of the Des Moines.

Here they meet the steamer Iona slowly making its way up the river carrying Captain Allen and a company of his troops commissioned to establish a fort on the Raccoon Branch. This fort is now known as Fort Des Moines.

After spending the nights at Parkers they set off southeastward for the present site of Oskaloosa with high intentions of staying all night with a squatter named Mosier. These hopes were shattered when they encountered a beating rainstorm at dusk. The pioneers arrived at their destination in the wee hours of the morning very weary and downhearted so, after a short sleep, a council was called. Tool, very disheartened from the late journey, suggested they go back to the already settled Jefferson county and buy a claim. Highland, thinking this too big a risk, proposed that they return to the camp of two days previous.

It was finally agreed that Tool and Highland should go to this site and wait till the territory was definitely opened to settlement.

The evening of the 6th day Tool and Highland were engaged in the making of stakes with which to mark their claims. Dawn of the next day, Monday, May 1st, 1843, we find Tool with stakes and tomahawk in hand and Highland pacing off the claims. That day they finished a rough survey of two claims including one-half prairie and one-half timber, (each containing approximately 320 acres). Two more claims were plotted on the following days.

On the fourth day their appetites were relieved when the supply wagon arrived carrying Frost and Vance, Tool's son and son-in-law and an ample supply of food. They must now decide which claim each should receive. So Frost and Vance held that since the others had done more foot travel and had surveyed the claims they should take first choice. Highland said that Tool was older than he so Tool received first choice and picked the one furthest west. Highland chose the one furthest east and Frost and Vance drew cuts for the other two.

To abide by the law and provide for their necessities they must erect cabins within 20 days. Working together the men could build one cabin to the rafters in one day. So William Highland was soon ready to take the supply wagon back to Jefferson County and bring his family to their new home. His wife, Mrs. William Highland, was the first white woman to enter Jasper county. Tool didn't bring his family here until fall for by then he had a small crop ready for harvest.

The community grew steadily until in 1851 the people met in council and decided to have Adam Tool lay out a town under the name Tool's Point. Shortly before this in 1848 a site six miles northwest of this community had been chosen for the capitol of Iowa. The town was laid out and lots were sold under the name of Monroe City, but the town itself never developed. It is believed that from this the name of Tools Point was changed to Monroe.

The town grew steadily until in 1857 it had a population of 400 and a thriving business. This remained the approximate population until on November the 24th, 1862, the first freight came through on the Des Moines Valley Road. Between then and 1876 when the Monroe and Newton Railroad were completed, allowing merchants to trade with Chicago, the population doubled.

Now in 1941, ninety years after its founding, I am proud to be one of the 1,006 people living in Monroe, the first settlement of Jasper county. Curtis Crane in The Monroe Citizen.


Jasper Documents maintained by Barbara Hug.
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