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Peter Marsan


Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/3/2001 at 08:23:02

From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties - 1890
Peter Marsan, one of the first pioneers of Van Buren County, was born in L’Assumption, Province of Quebec Canada, October 4, 1812, of French parentage. He learned the trade of a miller and millwright and in the autumn of 1833 came to the United States, making a settlement in Troy New York, where he was employed at his chosen occupation. In that city on November 4, 1835, he wedded Miss Margaret McIntyre, daughter of Hugh and Sarah Fleming McIntyre. She was born in Liverpool England, December 5, 1814, and having lost her father in childhood came to America with her mother in 1827, and settled at Troy New York. Her father was of Scotch and her mother of English birth. The latter accompanied her daughter and her family to Iowa and died in Van Buren County February 28, 1856.
Mr. and Mrs. Marsan emigrated to Pike County Illinois, in 1836, and located in Rockport continuing there to make their home until March 1838, when they crossed the Mississippi into the Wisconsin Territory, now the State of Iowa, and located at Bentonsport, Van Buren County, where for a short time he kept a hotel.
Mr. Marsan, in the spring of 1840, bought a stock of goods and opened a small store in Farmington. A curious incident happened to the family in March 1839, which deserves mention. The Sac and Fox Indians had camped not far distant from the little white settlement and members of the tribes had been frequent visitors at the home of our subject, where they were well treated and were often fed. In March 1839, as the Indians had loaded their canoes and completed their preparations for removal down the Des Moines River to the Mississippi, Chief Keokuk and one of his seven wives, a middle aged squaw, came for some breakfast. Mrs. Marsan gave them a good meal and then told them to move on. While she was in an adjoining room they took their departure very suddenly, and on her return to the former apartment she missed her eight months old baby boy, Joshua, from his cradle. She at once sought the child in another room where she thought it might have been placed on a bed, but not finding it she began to inquire of the family about, when a little three year old boy spoke up and said “That dirty, black woman took baby.” Mrs. Marsan at once ran out after her and met a neighbor, John D. Sanford, to whom she told her trouble. He replied that he had just passed the woman who was carrying something concealed under her blanket. Calling up a large dog that belonged to the family, the Marsans and Mr. Sanford followed the squaw on a run, calling to her to stop, but instead of heeding the command she made a run for the canoes. The dog then put on her track and in a few minutes had the woman’s blanket in his teeth and her at a stand still. When Mr. Sanford came up with her and demanded the baby she refused to surrender it but ran back to the house with it and placed it in the cradle. When the mother asked why she stole the child, the squaw stepped to the fireplace and wetting a finger on her lips she touched it to the smutty wall and then made a black mark down each of the baby’s fat cheeks, signifying that she wanted to take it away to paint it. As the child grew up he was often twitted with being an Indian boy. The same youngster, when a little more than three years old, had another adventure when his life was saved by the same dog that caught the squaw who was carrying him off. It happened one day while the family was living in Big Fox, in Jackson Township, that the mother again missed the child and going in search of her boy along the river bank, found him wet and insensible, with his hair full of sand, well up on the bank, while the dog stood over him licking his face. When the mother picked him up the water ran out of his mouth and she had great difficulty in restoring him to consciousness. The child was too young to give an explanation of how he fell into the river but complained of his arm being hurt when he said, “The dog bit it.” On examination one arm of the boy showed the print of the dog’s teeth where he evidently had seized it while taking him from the river. That he had saved the child’s life cannot be doubted.
Mr. and Mrs. Marsan were the parents of seven children, six sons and one daughter, John, the eldest, married Phoebe Allen and is now a widower living in Little River California. He was a soldier of the late war; Joshua was a member of the Fifth Illinois Infantry and died in the fall of 1867 from the effects of disease contracted in the service; Margaret Ella is the wife of James Alfred Russell of Milton, also a soldier; George, one of the boys in blue, is single and now ranching in Arizona; Henry L. married Nettie Holland and is a farmer in Jackson Township, Van Buren County; Alonzo wedded Emma McLean and reside in Milton; one child died in infancy in Pike County Illinois.
Mr. Marsan remained in Bentonsport until the spring of 1840, when he removed with his family to Farmington, where he carried on a store until 1841, at which time he went to Big Fox in Jackson Township. There he built a saw and grist-mill in company with his brother, John B. Marsan, and also opened up a farm, containing the dual employment until his death, which occurred February 28, 1856. In politics, he was a Democrat and in his religious views a Methodist. He was upright and honorable in his intercourse with his fellowmen, and was an esteemed citizen.
On August 27, 1857, Mrs. Marsan became the wife of John B. Marsan, a younger brother of her deceased husband. He was born in L’Assumption, Lower Canada, on February 16, 1816, and removing to the United States, joined his brother Peter in Troy. Together they came to Iowa in an early day and they were associated in the building and operating of the mill at Big Fox and in the improvement and cultivation of the farm. Mr. Marsan met with the misfortune of losing a limb in 1844, which resulted from disease contracted while working in the water about the mill. He is a Republican in politics and a member of the Methodist Protestant Church. He and his wife have resided in Milton since 1865, covering a period of a quarter of a century and have made many friends among its best citizens.
I am not related, and am posting this biography for those who may find this person in their family history.


Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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