Home > History Home > 1877 History Home
History of Cass Co. 1877



The next inhabitants of the county, after the Indians, were the Mormons, who came through on their westward march from Nauvoo in the fall of 1846. Several thousands of them reached the Missouri river where Council Bluffs now is, in July or August of that year, and after a short parley at that point they scattered up and down both sides of the Missouri river, and went into winter quarters. A small number, probably twenty families, got as far eastward as the Nishnabotany river and Indian creek in this county, and on those streams, in the neighborhood of the present town of Lewis, and not far from the deserted Indian village called Indiantown, those twenty families built cabins, made "dug-outs" and fixed for the winter of 1846-7.

The Mormons left Nauvoo in January, 2846. Of their departure from that place, and their march across Iowa, Beadle, in his History of the Mormons, says:

"Early in Februarey, 1846, several thousand Mormons crossed the Mississippi, many of them on the ice, and started directly west, along a line near the northern boundary of Missouri. They were divided into companies of ten wagons each, under control of captains, and this semi-military order was maintained throughout. As the spring advanced, many of the able-bodied men scattered to various places in Missouri and Iowa seeking employment of every kind and the remaining men, with a great band of women and children, pursued their way. In that climate and at that season their sufferings were necessarily great. The high waters, wet prairie, damp winds, and muddy roads of Spring troubled them worse than the frosts of Winter, and sickness and death increased. "All night," says a woman who made the journey, "the wagons came trundloing into camp with half-frozen children screaming with cold, or crying for bread, and the same the next day, and the next, the whole line of march.

"The open sky and bare ground for women and children in February is a thing only to be endured when human nature is put to the rack of necessity, and many a mother hastily buried her dead child by the wayside, only regretting she could not lie down with it herself and be at peace."

The above portrays graphically the hardships endured by the first white settlers of this county in getting to the homes which they occupied for a few years. Three or four years ago the bones of a human being were exhumed on the Nodaway, in Edna township, near A. J. Stewart's mill, which had probably been buried there by the Mormons on their march above described.

The Mormon settlement in the county at Indiantown, was merely a branch of the main camp on the Missouri river. Other small settlements, were to be found in Mills and other counties contiguous to the Missouri river. The first year that they were in this county (and the same was true of all their settlements in western Iowa) they were almost destitute of all provisions. No supplies could be had for one hundred miles in any direction. A Mr. A. G. Pettengill, now a resident of Utah, and who resided at Indiantown during all the years that the Mormons were in the county, writes us from Salt Lake, in reply to an inquiry as to early days, that "we ground corn, (some we brought with us,) in mills whose burrs were made of common boulders, picked up in Union county. Deer and elk were plenty and afforded us all the meat necessary." Mr. P. also says they got some corn at St. Joseph, Missouri, where there was a ferry in operation across the Missouri. In 1847 they raised enough sod corn to feed themselves and their stock. In that year also they secured the establishment of a post office at their settlement. The post office was called "Cold Spring" although the settlement was known as Indiantown. Mr. Pettengill was the first postmaster, and from him we learn that the mail was carried to Cold Spring once-a-week from the main Mormon camp at Kanesville, (now Council Bluffs). The mail carrier also went on to Union county and supplied the Mormon settlement at "Mt. Pisgah" in that county, with mail facilities.

In 1849, the Mormon settlers at Indiantown or Cold Spring had the privilege of voting for the first time after settling there. The "Mormon vote" was worth having then, the population of the State being small, and the "leaders of the church" were treated with great consideration by men seeking political preferment. At the election mentioned, Orson Hyde, the leading Mormon at the Kanesville setlement, came out to tell the sovereigns at Cold Spring how to vote, but our informant assures us that they let Orson say all that he had to say and then voted as they pleased -- which custom prevails in Cass to this day. James Ferrin was the Bishop who took the tithings from the brethren at Cold Spring. Messrs. Warner and Brunnell were the preachers. The Mormons did not devote themselves entirely to agriculture and religion. There were two violin players in the settlement, and the folks gathered in each other's houses every night or two and held social dances. One of the Mormon preachers would dance with his parishoners, while the other would not, but it is said that that other one's lack of sin in that respect was more than made up for in another respect. The joists in the cabins being low, the tall men would take positions when they danced, that would allow their heads to extend up between the bass-wood poles that crossed over head.


From the History of Cass County, Iowa Together With Brief Mention of Old Settlers
by Lafe Young, Atlantic, Iowa:  Telegraph Steam Printing House, 1877, pp. 2-5.
Transcribed for Cass County by Cheryl Siebrass, July, 2013.

Site Terms, Conditions & Disclaimer
Home > Top