IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

Tales Told by the Sturdy Men and Women of Pioneer Days
Clayton County was then the Frontier

~North Iowa Times, Thursday, February 19, 1903 (The Old Settlers' Edition)
~Transcribed by S. Ferrall for Clayton co. IAGenWeb, June 2019

Plus relevent news articles as credited (at the bottom of the Tales)


Transcription notes: The majority of these tales were written by the pioneers, but some didn't respond to the call for stories by the newspaper, so short blurbs were inserted by the editor/proprietor Anton Huebsch. No author is given with them, but the others indicate the story was written by the pioneer. There were several photos published along with the stories, but they reproduced very poorly on the microfilm, so are not included here. Researchers will find more information and possibly a photo of these pioneers in various places on this website. Use the search box on the main page to find biographies, obituaries, census records and other items of interest about the first settlers of the county. Note that deceased settlers are not included .... and by 1903 there were a great many!


An Introduction
by A. Huebsch

For a considerable time past it has been in our minds to issue an edition of The North Iowa Times, devoted to the early living settlers of Clayton county. The issue that we present to our readers to-day, does not entirely satisfy our ambition in this direction, for there are many names absent, which we feel should have a representation.

We believe that there are many, among the two or three generations who have come since the advent of the early settlers, who through thoughtlessness mainly, do not appreciate the sturdy labors of the county's frontiersmen and women. We will have done much if we have assisted in bringing to a prominent place in your minds, the appreciation which is just and due.

With these few words we submit to our readers our "Old Settlers Edition," with many thanks to those who have rendered us their assistance.

--- --- --- --- ---

Tales of the Frontier
by Mrs. Ann Dickens, Who Came to the County in 1836
(Mrs. Ned Dickens)

It is with much satisfaction that I lend my efforts to the work of contributing a chaper to the story of early days in Clayton county. I came to this county in 1836. The 15th day of April we landed at the mouth of Turkey River and wended our way up that river on horse back, which was the mode of travel then, until we reached the little settlement we had in view. This was about 5 miles up the river where resided a few families constituting the settlement; they were Robt. Hatfield, James Finley, Henry Redmond, J.W. Jones and Wm. Wayman.

A view of the Turkey River and its surrounding bluffs at this time, would hardly bring to mind what it was in the days of 1836. When I arrived there, the hills were covered with immense timber and no undergrowth, owing to the Indians' custom of burning the ground every fall to help the growth of feed for deer. The woods were full of panther, bear, wild cats, wolves, foxes, deer and wild turkey; and I have often wondered how those wild turkeys lived and multiplied to such a great extent, where the woods were full of animals for whom the eggs and the turkey's young would be such a toothstone meal.

The log cabins in which the few families lived at that early day had puncheon floors, split timbers, hewed, and loose on their foundation.

The Indian's name for the Turkey River, was Sesick Anashungara.

At stated times during the year a regular trail was formed by the wild turkeys crossing the river, which, from this fact, took its name. I have seen a train of them, two to four abreast, extending from the river's bank to the forest a quarter of a mile away.

A great many of these turkeys were trapped; the trap a crude affair, but effective to the extent that one night my husband secured 24 of them. The trap was simply an area bout 10 feet square, enclosed and covered. A trench extended from the outside, and gradually descending ran under the wall, opening on the inside. Through this trench the turkeys walked, led on by corn that had been generously sprinkled there.

The land was uncultivated with the excepton of some small Indian farms, where they raised their corn and a few vegetables. Speaking of the Indians' farming reminds me of the way they used to cure their sweet corn for winter's use. They dug a large pit in the earth in which they burned wood until it was full of live coals. They then scooped out about half of these and filled the place with green corn, half of the husks on. They then covered this corn with the coals removed from the pit and over it all placed a good layer of ashes and fet the corn thus to cook.

There were no laws at the time I came to Turkey River, nothing but squatter's law or custom. Shortly afterward, in the winter of '37 or '38 Eliphalet Price was elected Justice and Dr. Griffeth, the sheriff. In the spring of 1838 the first court was held in Prairie la Porte, now Guttenberg, when two men lived in that place, Herman Greybill and Christian Wise. Court was held in the cabin of Herman Greybill, and every man in the county attended that court.

The judge, Dr. Dunn from across the river, had ordered that the proceedings and findings be held secret. Those were days when anything found by the court was a matter of excitement; and I never think of the name of Allen Carpenter, without my mind recalling his going to the door of the shanty, immediately after court was adjourned and, not heeding the order of the Judge, calling out exnitantly [sic] "Hoop, We've found a bill against old Pigeon." The bill was found for whiskey sold to the Indians, and from the warning thus given him, he escaped.

Speaking of Prairie la Porte or Guttenberg, reminds me that besides the two cabins of Greybill and Wise, there were a number of miners shanties and one log cabin hotel. In those days lead was mined quite extensively but the mineral was never found in paying quantities. There was enough of it to induce the miners to work just a little farther, and many fortunes were sunk by hopes that never materialized.

No, there was nobody in Clayton county in 1832, the year of the Blackhawk War. The year following, three or four families arrived, and in 1834, my brothers Martin, Thomas and Moses Van Sickle came among the first. Thos. Van Sickle's child, my nephew was the first white child born in the county, in the spring of 1834.

Eastern Iowa at this time was the frontier of course, and we lived the life of the frontiersmen. We used to take what little wheat we raised to Maquoketa to a corn mill and have it ground. This left it pretty coarse but it did for most purposes. When we wanted it for finer food we sifted it through mosquito bar.

There were very few horses, and oxen were our main-stays. Many a time have I watched my father plow with the very crudest of instruments. Bass-wood bark for lines, the bass-wood strips kept laying in a trought of water to keep them from becoming too dry and brittle, raw cowhide for tugs, braided corn husks for the collar to the "harness"; crooked sticks for the hames, with no iron. A furrow about 7 inches wide was made with our wooden plow, iron tipped.

No calves could be raised out on the open on account of the thousands of big grey wolves.

When we came we found the Indians "farming," raising corn and beans. Large, heavy peculiarly shaped hoes were used and corn was not planted in rows but here and there where a soft place could be found. The Indians knew enough to hill their corn however, before the white man's advent to the county.

The Indians here then were the Winnebagoes and they were not troublesome unless the "civilized" white man had sold them whiskey.

In the spring of 1838 I was married to my second husband, whom everybody knew as Ned Dickens. In the fall of the same year we moved from "The Settlement", to a place a little north of Colesburg. Here that fall I stayed alone, from one Sunday to the next Saturday, 7 mi. from the nearest neighbor, while Mr. Dickens was at the Turkey River Settlement that we had left that spring, gathering corn. The only human being I saw during that long week were the Indians, who would peer in at the window (or holes that served the place of windows) or walk into the cabin unannounced, for food or barter.

The next Monday, two days after my husband got home, he shot within 1/2 mile of the cabin a panther that measured 9 feet from tip to tip. We sold the hide to Judge Price for $5.00 who had it mounted, and from the tallow of the panther I made 11 doz. candles! As a joke upon some neighbors from the East, named Mallory (from whom Mallory Twp. is named) this panther was divided, dired and fed to them for venison, and they did not know the difference for the meat was beautiful.

The little incident of how this immense panther was shot in the southern part of Clayton county in 1838, may be interesting. Mr. Dickens was following upon the fresh trail of a deer when he found them joined by the tracks of a panther. These he followed for some time until he came to a place where the tracks of the panther disappeared. Following the deer trail some ways farther, he found a place where the snow was sprinkled with blood, and a portion of the deer lay covered with snow. A little ways farther on crouched the panther, resting from his feast and watching the deer's remains. The distance from where the panther's tracks ceased, to the fallen deer, was 40 feet, the distance of the animals jump.

That year Mr. Dickens shot six panthers and four bears.

In the year 1839 Mr. Wayman had among his cattle an animal of which the Indian boys stood in much fear. Whenever they saw it coming they would make a dash for the rail fence, and from that height call out, "Waymana, Waymana, wapshada, nipu!" Wapshada meaning bull, and nipu, dead, which signifies that they were afraid the bull would kill them. This cry the white children soon took up. Their crying it one night so frightened a Yankee, named McIntire, who thought the Indians were coming to massacre us, that I also became frightened, and my husband being gone, ran into the forest with my children and there hide [sic] all night.

My brother Moses Van Sickle, killed seven bear, single handed, in a cave on Cedar Creek just below what is now Garnavillo in the winter of 1840. He entered the cave, torch and gun in hand, and killed the seven, one by one, which the men outside pulled up with a rope.

In 1841 we moved to near Farmersburg, which is now National, on Sni Magill, five miles from the Mississippi.

In the winter of '47 and '48 I myself delivered at one time to McGregor's Landing, 2,000 lbs of venison to be wagoned to Ft. Atkinson.

In the winter of '56 and '57, the year of the heavy snow crust, my husband and son Will, killed 41 deer.

Yes sir, I have followed the frontier all of my early life and know well its hardships. I was born in Indiana, but moved westward with my parents in the advance of civilization.

I was within 8 miles of the great massacre during the Black Hawk war and moulded bullets for the settlers during that war.
~Mrs. Ann Dickens

Henry P. Hardin
Henry P. Hardin, son of Mrs. Dickens by her first husband, was born in about 1839.
~A. Huebsch

Transcription note: census & military records indicate he was born in 1837; was a Civil War soldier, died 1863 at Ft. Snelling, MN. I'm not sure why he was included in the stories about living settlers ... perhaps for informational purposes (s.f.)

--- ---

Early Reminiscences
by Mrs. Samuel Murdock, a settler of 1837
(Louisa Patch Murdock)

Having seen by a late number of your valuable paper that you wish to publish a Old Settler's Edition, I take pleasure in sending you some reminiscences.

I was born in the suburbs of the city of Geneva, New York, in the year 1820.

In 1837 my father emigrated, with his family, from New York to Clayton county in what was then the "District of Iowa." After crossing Lake Erie, we took the Ohio Canal to Portsmouth, and then came on a steamboat to St. Louis, where we remained one week.

We then came up the Missippi river on a steamboat, landing at Cassville, Wis. Next we took a flat-boat up the Turkey river to Hatfield's Landing in Clayton county.

We remained in this vicinity for about a year. While living in this neighborhood I attended the wedding of Mrs. Ned Dickens, who lived near Price's mill. My escort was a young man by the name of Eliphalet Price.

My father had been west the year before we came and had secured a nice claim near Garnavillo, then called Jacksonville, but concluded not to settle upon it. As there were no schools in the county he decided to go to Cassville, where we remained until 1840, when we moved to Prairie du Chien, then a thriving village, where Donsman and Roulette were still trading with the Indians.

As we passed through Prairie la Porte (now Guttenberg), there were seven or eight houses, but there were none in what is now Clayton City; only underbrush and trees. There were very few steamboats on the Mississippi river at that time.

In 1842, we moved to McGregor's Landing, where there were only two houses - log cabins. We occupied one, but did not have a neighbor until Mr. Baldwin Olmstead's family settled there later. In 1844 there were a few houses in the village of Jacksonville (now Garnavillo). My friends, Mr. and Mrs. Angus McDonald who were living there, invited me to attend a Fourth of July celebration at that place. A young man by the name of Samuel Murdock, who had come there the year before, delivered the oration, and that was our first meeting.

He was the first lawyer who settled in the county. We were married September 11, 1845, and settled on a claim near Garnavillo where we lived until 1876, when we removed to Elkader. I visited friends in the vicinity of this place when there was not a house in what is now Elkader, and I have seen it grow into a little city with modern improvements.

I have lived to see the "District of Iowa" changed into Iowa Territory, in 1838, and to see it become a state in 1846. And I have not only seen many changes in the state, the county and the towns of Clayton county, but I have lived to see nearly all of my old friends, one after another, pass on into higher life. In my diary that I have kept ever since I came to this county, there are records of very many sad events, as also of a great many happy ones.
Louisa Murdock

Further, from Mrs. Murdock
Your kindness in printing an Old Settler's Number of your valuable paper should be appreciated by all of the early settlers that are left and each should gladly respond to your request for letters. As you have asked for further reminiscences from me, I take pleasure in writing you again.

Regarding Mr. Hatfield, I will say that if my recollection serves me right, his mother told me that they came about two years before we did. We lived about a mile apart, near what is now the town of Millville. At that time there was but one house there and a saw-mill which was owned by Eliphalet Price.

I was then, in 1837, seventeen years of age and Marshall was several years younger, but he was one day the means of saving my life. He and my sister Orril and I went out in a canoe, on Turkey river, to gather grapes which were on a vine clinging to a tree that had fallen from the shore over the water. When we were under the tree I stood up to reach the grapes and fell backwards into the water, my feet still in the canoe. Marshall with great presence of mind succeeded in pulling me out of the water, without tipping the little boat over, and thus rescued me from drowning.

In the winter of 1837-'38 Mr. Price invited a Miss Elizabeth Walker and myself to go to a ball in Cassville given by Mr. Ben Farbes. We went, and as it was a mild day, we enjoyed very much the sleighride on the ice of the Turkey and Mississippi rivers. The ball was a sucess, but in the night it commenced raining and by noon the next day the water was one foot deep on the ice, and it was two weeks before Mr. Price could get home, when he walked back over the ice. Miss Walker and I had to remain six weeks before it was safe for us to return. As we were strangers in the place we hardly knew what to do, but she commenced going to school and I began sewing for a very kind lady, a Mrs. J.R. Farnsworth. After two weeks our friends found an opportunity to send some clothing. We became acquainted with some very pleasant people and enjoyed ourselves so well that we were rather glad we had been forced to remain in Cassville. It was while there that Miss Walker found her future husband, Mr. Steven Tainter. They will be remembered as among the old settlers of Prairie du Chien. Miss Walker was a sister of Mrs. Landor, one of the earliest settlers of this county, also of Mrs. Billey Harper.

My father soon moved to Cassville and commenced keeping the hotel formerly kept by Ben Farbes. During the winter of 1839-'40 the river closed earlier than usual and the supplies for the season were short. Many were obliged to live on corn bread, but as we had to have some flour, my father went to the Fort at Prairie du Chien to try to get some. However, he could secure nothing but two barrels of "condemned" flour, for which he paid twenty dollars. It was slightly sour and light bread could not be made of it. When some of my girl friends wanted to have small parties they would come to my mother and beg her to spare them flour enough to make a few cookies or some cake.

Father bought, in installments, two barrels of buttermilk, for which he paid five dollars a barrel. All enjoyed our corn bread and as wild game was plentiful, we lived well in spite of the hard winter.

The next spring we moved to Prairie du Chien, going on a flatboat, and it took three days to make the trip. Father hired two men to row the boat. The first night we stayed at Mr. McMullen's on McMullen's island near Prairie la Porte, now Guttenberg. The second night we stayed at the home of a very kind Frenchman by the name of LaPoint. This was somewhere near the present town of Clayton. I remember enjoying the trip up the river very much, as the scenery was grand and wild, and I was reading a most interesting book - Scott's "Ivanhoe."

Ben Manahan, John Adams and Thomas Wilkinson, with their families, also moved from Cassville to the Prairie, so we had some of our old neighbors near us.

My sister Orril and I were most [illegible] companions, always dressing alike. In 1839 she was married to John Sprague and they remained in Cassville, so it was hard for me to leave there. In a year's time however, they followed us. But we were soon called upon to give her up entirely, for in two years she passed on into higher life. This was the first great grief that came to me. Mr. Sprague is still living and has been for many years a prominent citizen of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I was married in 1845 and two years after that my father moved his family to St. Anthony Falls, now east Minneapolis. There my sister Marion, who still resides in Minneapolis, was married to the late R.P. Russell, a man who from his early youth until his death was closely connected with the city's history. And there, also, my youngest sister, Cora, was married to Joseph Marshall, a brother of Gov. Wm. Marshall. She lived but a few years thereafter.

Only two of my father's children were born in the west. The rest were natives of New York. There were five boys and four girls in the family. All of my brothers are still living except a dear little boy who died at the age of two years, while we were living at McGregor's Landing.

At the time of the outbreak of the Indians, during our war of the rebellion, my eldest brother Edward, went up with a company to protect the settlers in Minnesota. In a skirmish with the reds, he had a narrow escape, receiving a bullet through his hat. A large number of the Indians were afterwards hung together on one scaffold at Mankato. While visiting there some years later I saw the man who paid five dollars for the privilege of cutting the rope. All of his family had been massacred.

My brother Gibson became captain of a Minnesota regiment in the Civil War, but after seeing some hard fighting, had to resign on account of a sun stroke.

My brother Edward is now seventy-nine years of age and I am nearly eighty-three. My father passed away at the age of eighty-six years and my mother lived ten months after celebrating her one hundredth birthday. Her sister Mary is still living (in western Iowa) and is in her ninety-seventh year.

During these eighty-three years many sad experiences have come to me. I have lost a brother, two sisters, my parents, my husband and four children, besides other relatives and innumerable near and dear friends, but I expect to meet them all again on the other side.
Yours Respectfully,
Louisa Murdock

First Born White Children
Dear Mr. Editor
As I see by the county papers that there is a discussion as to who was the first white child born in Clayton county, I again send you a few facts regarding the early days, but I think it will be hard to ascertain who was the first white child.

Mr. William Walker, who kept the ferry from the mouth of Turkey River over to Cassville, lived on the Iowa side of the river. He had a child born in 1837. A family by the name of Parks had one born before 1840, and there were two children in the Jones family born before that year.

My brother Lewis, now living in Denver, Col., was born March 23, 1838, near where Millville now is, in Clayton county, Iowa Territory. Julius, my youngest brother, was born in Prairie du Chien, Wis., Oct. 1, 1840.

I believe the Springer family had two children born before 1840, and the Henry Redmond family had small children, also, I think.

Dr. Griffith lived on a small farm near Millville. I do not know whether he had children born in this county or not. His daughter Nancy was married to Joseph Quigley after we moved to Cassville.

The Oliver family, who lived on Turkey River, also had children. It will be remembered that Oliver was hung in Cassville about the year 1839, for the shooting of a man that had worked for him, by the name of Jack Courtwright. Both men lived in Clayton county, but the shooting took place in Cassville.

As there were no stores in those days on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River, trading had to be done in Cassville. G.M. Price, a brother-in-law of Ben Forbes, kept the first dry goods and grocery store there. The town was composed mostly of eastern people and the society was good.

The young men of the place were Ben Manahan, Charles Wister, Ira Libby and two brothers, Cloves and Charles Lagrave.
~Louisa Murdock
Elkader, Iowa, Feb. 12, 1903
nee Louisa Patch

--- ---

Marshall L. Marsh

M.L. Marsh came to Clayton Co. in 1838 and engaged in the milling business in company with his brother, on Bloody Run. In 1855 he spent a year in the machine shops in Dubuque. In 1866 he moved on to his farm, moving to McGregor a short time ago.
~A. Huebsch

--- ---

This Vicinity from 1844
by Eugenia (Wadsworth) Davis
(Mrs. Daniel Davis)

My father's name was Soloman Wadworth and my mother's, Ursula Van Sickle. I was born in April, 1844, on the Farley farm near Giard in the big woods. Shortly after that we moved to Sni Magill and the neighbors that I remember were Lee's, Wolf's, Dicken's and Montgomery's.

When court was held in Dubuque, the presence of every man in the county was necessary at that court and the women were left alone, with no other neighbors but the Indians, the Winnebagos, to enter the cabins without warning, or to stand and peer in through the windows, had given most of the women a fear of them. I remember how my mother on these occassions used to build a fire in the old fire place, leave the cabin door open and then with us children hide in the bushes until evening, when the Indians had gone away.

In 1849 we moved down to the river's edge across from the mouth of the Wisconsin. Here father ran a horse ferry for Alexander McGregor, from the mouth of the Wisconsin River, Wisconsin Landing, to McGregor's Landing and Prairie du Chien. The travel was westward and at the time I remember, principally into Minnesota. The emigrants announced to the ferryman, if he chanced to be on the opposite side of the river, their desire to cross the river, by the blowing of a horn. I remember one year the multitudes of Swedes and Norwegians, who came westward with their teams, bound all for Minnesota, and Minnesota was the only word they could speak in English.

After a few years my father gave up the ferry and it was operated by Ole Nielson, the present county surveyor.

The "Fire Hunters", as we called them, were a source of much interest to all of us children. They were Indians who used to fasten a light, with a triangular reflector in the prow of canoes and hunt along near the shore of the river for deer. The favorite haunts of the deer, and consequently of the "fire hunters", were called "deer licks". These were places where salt had been strewn by the men, to serve as an attraction for the deer, which soon found the spot and were then shot by the men who were in wait. The deer fed much on the "deer moss" green the year around and found much around the springs along the river bank.

A few years after '49, I don't remember exactly, my father and family moved to North McGregor, and took up a claim on the Spanish Reserve, a fraction of ground in about the present location of Wingen's store. Here my father built the first shanty in what is now North McGregor. There was nothing there but logs, willows and snakes. These latter were yellow rattlers and were in great abundance.

The back of what is now Main Street was riddled with their dens and I have seen them basking in the sun coiled into bunches as big as a wash tub.

A large Indian mound was in the valley at that time, between where are now the railroad tracks and Main Street. This mound was about 15 feet high and 200 feet long and at that early date, very early in the '50's was supporting several oak trees over six inches in thickness. This mound was leveled by the railroad company and used for grading.
~Eugenia Wadsworth, Mrs. Daniel Davis

--- ---

Realto E. Price

Atty. Realto E. Price, of Elkader, was born Aug. 1, 1840 in Jefferson twp., Clayton County. He is the oldest son of Eliphalet Price, one of the county's earliest pioneers. He has practiced law continuously at Elkader since 1863, or 40 years.
~A. Huebsch

--- ---

From the first Settler, to the County in 1833
by Marshall Hatfield

I was born in Canada on July 4, 1821, and came to Galena in 1829. I carried a musket beside my father in the Blackhawk War in 1832, when a lad eleven years of age.

One year after that war, in 1838, I came with my father across the Mississippi from Cassville to the mouth of the Turkey River and journeyed up that river about four miles, nearly opposite Millville, where we located.

My father, I coming with him, was one of three making the first settlement in what is now Clayton county, the other two men being Wm. Wayman and Wm. Grant.

The bottoms on the islands across from the Turkey River were covered with burr-oaks and so there was an abundance of acorns. As the flat-boats ferried across the Mississippi were open sided, many hogs escaped in crossing and swam to this island. It was not long before the island was covered with these hogs who grew and multiplied there and became wild. Every fall a company of men went to the island and shot their winters supply of pork. Wild hogs flourished there for many years.

I helped build the first log house in the hollow where now stands McGregor. It was owned by Alexander McGregor. The next one that was built was Blazadel's cabin in the mouth of what is now Bass addition.
~Marshall Hatfield

--- ---

Robert Quigley

Robert Quigley was born in Clayton County on Dec. 31, 1845, his parents being Joseph B. and Nancy (Griffith) Quigley, two of the county's very earliest pioneers. He has practiced law in McGregor since 1869.
~A. Huebsch

Early Memories
by Robert Quigley

The first death* in the county was a Mrs. Hagard [sic - Hagerty], who was taken to Cassville and buried, but I do not remember the exact date. The coffin in which she was laid was made by J.B. Quigley, of the dry wood of a fallen walnut tree. The tree was cut into logs, taken to the mill and sawed, and worked into the finished coffin, in one day and a night. [*Transcriber's note: the murder of Mrs. Hagerty occurred in 1868, so she was not the first death in the county.]

The 1st log cabin was put up on the Lander bottom near Millville, by J.B. Quigley, Robert Hatfield, Dan Beasley and two other men whose names I do not now recollect. They came over from Cassville in the summer of 1833, and put up the first log cabin built in the county.

Robert Hatfield moved over from Cassville and occupied the cabin and boarded the workmen who were employed in the building of the first saw mill at Millville.

Another saw mill was then erected on the little Turkey, two miles above Millville.

Then came Frank Emerson, Wm. Grant, Billy Wayman, and erected a grist mill at Millville for Frank Emerson.

The only way of obtaining ready money in those days was by selling the product of the saw-mill, hence they were the first things engaged in as a money proposition. The lumber was chiefly walnut, and was taken in a flat boat to Cassville and thence shipped to St. Louis.
~Rob't Quigley

--- ---

In Iowa in 1836
by Joseph Gardner

I am one of the '36s. In 1834 I was born in Dayton, Ohio, and in August of 1836 came with my father to Davenport, Iowa. I visited Col. Davenport, on the Rock Island side of the river a short time before he was murdered by John Long, Aaron Long, Young and Fox.

Wm. Fox suceeded in getting away, but the other three were hanged at Burlington, Iowa.

Father took a claim of 160 acres four miles below Davenport, I suppose the city now covers it. We moved to Marion, Linn Co. in 1843. One day mother counted 900 Indians passing our house on their path to receive their pay from the government.

I remember as a boy how I was frightened one day when a posse of Indians who had camped near our place, "burled" two boys (skinoways) who had died the day before, by hanging them in trees, thinking to get them as near heaven as possible.

Father moved to Blackhawk Co. and there is where I first went sparking. An old "buck" persuaded me to go with him across the river, which we had to wade on Christmas eve. But there were three nice girls on the other side, so we "stripped" and waded over, had a jolly time, then of course waded back in the night.

I then moved to Allamakee Co. in 1856, and cast my first ballot for James Buchanan. Then in 1893 moved to Clayton Co.
~Joseph Gardner

--- ---

Here Since 1846
by Alfred Wooden

I was born in St. Louis, Mo., in 1835. Moved from there to Dubuque and Maquekota, then in 1846 to Elkader, thence in '47 to McGregor's Landing or better, Syi Magill.

During the summer of '48 I helped Alexander McGregor during the establishing of his ferry.

In the Spring of 1848 H.D. Evans came here and opened a general store in the basement of the house now occupied by Mr. Hoxsie. This house has since been brick venered. It was built by Alexander McGregor in 1847, when there was no other house in the valley save a log cabin standing some where near the present site of Kramer's store. The present site of McGregor was then nothing but a hollow into the hills, no different from others around here, except perhaps a little wider.

When I was at Elkader, Jack Thompson and a man named Sage were building a stone mill, which is yet standing, since 1845.
~A. Wooden

--- ---

Mrs. Sarah Henderson

Mrs. Sarah Henderson, with her husband, came to McGregor in 1855. At that time there were no houses between Jas. Moody's place above the park and the building being erected by Mr. chapin's father, Mr. St. Clair, the present house of Geo. McLanahan. Mrs. Chapin at this time was about three years old and the house Mr. St. C. was then building, the present one, was about the finest in town.

Neither was there a building on the road between this same house and the log cabin of John Orr on Orr's Hill.

Mr. and Mrs. Henderson kept the hotel called the Upper House, beside a hotel on which was the significant sign "Eat, Drink and be Merry, for to-morrow we go to Minnesota."
~A. Huebsch

--- ---

In the County in 1836
by Levi Springer, of Graham, Clayton Co., Iowa

I was born in Fayette Co., Penn., Aug 15, 1832, my father David Springer moved from there to Galena, Ill., then to Elk Grove, Wis., and from there to Clayton Co. and settled on Section 19, Millville Twp., in the year 1836.

I was then about four years old I was too young to go hunting then, but in those days boys were taught to hunt the same as they are taught to farm now. Game of all kinds was plenty then and I remember of a bear killing a hog near the house in broad daylight. A man named Haggard shot him with a small bore rifle but did not kill him.

I killed a panther near here that measured 8 feet and 8 inches from tip to tip. I shot him in a den but did not kill him and he came out at me. I dodged quickly to one side and as he passed, my dog jumped in and grabbed him and it being on a steep place, they two rolled down together into a hollow, which gave me a chance to reload and shoot again, this time killing him.

Deer and wild turkey were plenty and I have seen as many as ten or a dozen of the latter at one time playing on a high point not over 150 yards from our house. They used to frequent that point in the Spring of the year, but they were generally poor and we did not bother them.

There was a small slough about 100 yards from ur house. If we got out of meat we would go down there and watch on a moonlight night and kill a deer as they went to get a drink.

The Indians were very plentiful in those days and used to come to our house. We always treated them well and never had any trouble with them. There was a camp of Winnebagoes at the mouth of Peck's Branch.

This branch unites its waters with the Turkey a short distance above Millville, after flowing a distance of eight miles in a northerly direction, through high mountainous hills covered with a dense and heavy growth of timber. This stream took its name from Dudley Peck, who located upon the river bottom near its mouth in 1835. As a hunter this man had few, if any, superiors in the country.

The Menominees were camped below and then there were frequent bands of Saxes and Foxes.

The early settlers saw some pretty hard times and had their ups and downs, but after all I think they got more enjoyment out of life than people do at the present day. The stranger was always welcome to such food and accomodations as the settlers were able to provide. Settlers were few and scattering, but a stong friendship existed such as people do not see to-day.

None of the early settlers ever dreamed of the change that would take place in the country in a lifetime. They did not realize they were the pioneers of what was soon to become a gret commonwealth. Of the earliest settlers but few are left. Their trials and adventures will not be told by them any more, and will only be known as it has become a matter of history.
~Levi Springer

--- ---

In Jacksonville (Garnavillo) in 1844
by Mrs. H.C. Noble
(nee Harriet C. Douglass)

By request I add my mite to the correspondence form the Old Settlers of Clayton county. At 9:30 Sunday morning the 29th day of July, 1844, I landed from the Steamer Dubuque at Prairie la Porte (now Guttenberg). I was then a bride of a few weeks, my husband Reuben Noble having located in the county in 1843.

As soon as the plank was thrown from the steamer we were met by Eliphalet Price with a very warm and kindly greeting - Well Noble how are you? Glad to see you!", etc. We were delayed in Prairie la Porte a few days before a team could be obtained to convey us to our future home at Jacksonville (now Garnavillo). Mr. Sam'l Murdock finally succeeded in getting a fine pair of horses and a lumber wagon and we reached our home in a little better style than did John Alden and his bride.

We found one house between Prairie la Porte and Dr. Andros who live a mile south of Jacksonville, which was then the County Seat of Clayton county, and boasted of a Court House, and a hotel kept by John Banfill, where we established ourselves until our own home (then building) was finished. As I neared Jacksonville in the evening, I made up my mind form the number of lights in the several different windows of the hotel, that the town must be of some size. But upon entering the house, I found that the entire second story was as yet free from partitians and was one large room, hence the tallow dips which lighted the one room, and shone out through the different windows, conveyed the impression of many apartments.

Looking out of the window in the morning, I searched vainly for the houses and saw nothing but our house which was then being built, and what I told Mr. Noble, I took to be a barn, but what he said was the county's court house.

Soon after going to housekeeping in the fall of '44 a postoffice was established and Reuben Noble appointed P.M., and as Mr. Noble's time was fully occupied in his law business, I had full charge, and many were the letters I handed out to the young men of Clayton county from the girls they left behind. We had considerable trouble that fall and winter in receiving our letters, which addressed to Jacksonville, I.T. (for Iowa Territory) frequently went to Jacksonville, F.T. (Florida Territory) as that town was better known. For that reason I had Mr. Noble make out a petition for me, petitioning Congress to change the name of our settlement. To everybody who came to the office I presented the petition for their signing.

One day Mr. Samuel Murdock was at our house and was humming an air, each verse of which ended in Garnavillo. The word "Garnavillo" struck my fancy and I told him to insert that word in our petition. This he immediately did, Congress granted our petition and Jacksonvile became Garnavillo.

Some idea may be formed of the frontier life of those days, when our neighbors were few and far between and I think there was only one house between Jacksonville and Poverty Point, now Monona, some 16 miles. There was a little ditty, the only verse of which I can remember, ran thus:

"Oh Poverty Point is a very fine place,
If you've got no money you can run your face

Four miles west of Poverty Point was a cabin called Sodom, a fit name, where the owner of the cabin sold whiskey to the whites and Indians. A murder was committed at this place by an Indian whose brother had been frozen to death while in a drunken stupor the night before. Two miles farther on was a similiar stopping place, on the road to Ft. Atkinson, called Gomorrah.

The Indians were with us most of the time, committing many depredations and also some murders, among the latter was Lewis Hartge in the Spring of 1846.

Mrs. Wm. Schulte is the only person now living in Garnavillo Township, who was the head of a family in 1844. Clayton county has always been my home since 1844, not leaving it for more than six months at a time, and then only visiting.
~Mrs. H.C. Noble

--- ---

McGregor in 1849
by John Bass

The first sermon ever preached in McGregor, that I recollect, was by Elisha Warner, a Methodist living at Prairie du Chien, in the year 1850. It was preached under the open sky, on the banks of Tippecanoe creek, the work bench of Tryford, a carpenter, being used as a pulpit. The hills and forests untouched by the hand of man, were the frescoed walls, the blue dome of the sky, the ceiling. I remember the occasion well, as Tryford was then working in his carpenter shop, which consisted of a work bench, upon the tread plank for the ferry boat Rob Roy.

I remember in particular one sentence of the good man, it was this "Children," he always called his congregation by that term, "I love the Bible as well as children love flap jacks and molasses, molasses that comes by steam-boat from New Orleans."

In the fall of 1850 I was married at La Porte City, to Miss Phoebe Draper, and I believe we are the only couple living together to-day who were married at that early date.

Mrs. Bass taught the first school ever held in McGregor, in a log cabin occupying the present stand of Henry Larson's shoe store. In a short time Alexander McGregor rented the cabin to Wm. Read, a wheel-right. The school was then moved to the warehouse where steam-boats landed and called to order in the second story of that building. A peculiar place it would be in these days, but locations were not then too plentiful and the slight rocking of the warehouse, which was built on the bank and then pushed into the river on rollers, or the very frequent passing or landing whistle of the steamers, got to be a familiar thing. There were five or six scholars is all. Gardner and Gregor McGregor, whom Mrs. Bass taught their A.B.C.'s; Thad and Albert Jones; and Eugenia Wadsworth, now Mrs. Dan Davis.

In the spring of 1849, Jones and I began the building of the Jones & Bass building, where Freeman's saloon now stands. This was then beyond the water's edge and we were two weeks piling rock into the water for a foundation for one building.

In the year 1852 myself and wife lived in a tri-angular frame building, on the present location of the passenger depot at about the ticket office. It was a rickety building and I remember was nearly tipped over one day while we were there, by a steam boat stopping at the warehouse. I paid $5.00 a month for one room and a pantry, and was fortunate in the rush of that early day to have a covering over my head at that price.
~John Bass

--- ---

First Views
by Mrs. Julia B. Fox
(nee Julia Beeman Plumb)

Dear Times - At your request I will give you a short sketch of my first views of McGregor when I came from Prairie du Chien to make my home in Iowa.

It was in the all of 1847 that I came in company with my sister and her husband Alvah Rogers, to make my home with them.

Mr. Rogers, at the request of Alexander McGregor, occupied in company with his family, the first frame house that had been built there, with the exception of the Government ware house which was built for the purpose of storing supplies intended for Ft. Atkinson, which were hauled 50 miles to their destination.

I came on the old horse boat which was run by Mr. McGregor, assisted by an old Scotchman named Winters, who was his right hand man. The "horse' boat was run by mules, one of whom, an old grey, was quite refractory and was quite a character in those pioneer days.

It was a very open winter and crossing on the ice with teams was most of the time unsafe.

Mr. Rogers used to walk to the Prairie to get our mail trying the ice with a stout pole as he went. He kept quite a stock of goods that winter and people came from afar to do their trading.

We only remained there one winter, leaving for Garnavillo in April, Mr. H. D. Evans, coming there that Spring and putting in a stock of goods and remaining there all his life.

I often walked up what is now Main Street and sat on a log to rest. It was the only recreation I had and helped to pass away the time which hung heavy on my hands.
~Mrs. Julia B. Fox, Globe, Arizona

--- ---

A Settler of 1838
by James M. Walker

I came to Clayton Co. in October 1838 when I was ten years of age, and stopped in the little settlement, 4 miles south of Millville.

Then there were three voting places in the county, at Prairie la Porte (Guttenberg), Millville and Poverty Point (Monona). Our cabin was about half way between Dubuque and Poverty Point, just over into Clayton Co.

Millville was quite a settlement. There were Joe Quigley, carpenter and millwright, Dan Beasley, laborer and hunter; Isaac Preston, cooper, Robert Campbell, blacksmith, shop a little north in a cooley; Henry Redmond and Geo. Jones, farmers. Across the river was Capt. Parks a petty lawyer, and above him Capt. Wm. Grant, farmer.

Across the river from Millville, was Warren Cooley, farmer; one half mile north Col. Henry Sanders; down the river Richard Holzbecker, since Sheriff of Clayton Co. West, on the little Turkey was Ambrose Kennedy, then farmer, but afterwards sheriff for a number of years. Next above was John Griffeth, the mail carrier between Dubuque and our little settlement of Millville; David Springer, a farmer who was afterwards Justice of the Peace who married me to my first wife. Ned Dickens and four Van Sickle boys lived here also, and I suppose a few others who I do not remember. At that time there was no settlement between Millville and Garnavillo.

One mile north of North McGregor was a stone ferry house, built by the government in about 1828. From this ferry house, a military road ran to Ft. Atkinson in later years, and over this road was wheeled provisions to the Fort. The road was sparsely settled, the only inhabitants being at the settlement of Poverty Point and at the present side of Postville where stood the log cabin of a man named Post. I made several trips over this road during 1845.

James Tapper of Monona claims to be the first to break sod on prairie land, I do not remember in that year. Long before this however, the land had been tilled on the Turkey River bottoms.

In 1853 when I was receiving $40 per month, provisions were at the following prices: butter .08cts per lb, eggs .05cts per dozen, potatoes 14cts per bushel, flour $1.50 per cwt, pork in the hog 2 1/2cts per lb, wheat was 40 to 50 cents per bushel.
~Jas M. Walker

--- ---

Guy Kinsley

Mr. Guy Kinsley was born on the 12th of February 1825, in Vermont. In the year of 1853 he moved to Clayton Co., Giard twp., and settled on a farm half way between McGregor's Landing and Monona. This farm is still the Kinsley place and has been owned by him for a continuous 50 years.
~A. Huebsch

--- ---

Peter Walter

Mr. Peter Walter, came with his brother John to McGregor in 1856. They were painters but skilled in handling furniture. The building now occupied by Mr. Walter has been his place of business and his home ever since 1856, without a change of location during those 47 years.
~A. Huebsch


Source: Decorah Republican, Feb. 19, 1903 Page 2 Col 4
Contributed by Bill Walters

Clayton County's Oldest Settler

The McGregor Times has settled the oldest settler controversy as follows:
Three years before the advent to the county of any white settler that is now living, came Marshall Hatfield with his father Robert Hatfield, to the mouth of the Turkey River. This was in the spring of 1833, the year after the Black-Hawk War, and renders the venerable veteran of three wars, now at the age of 82 years, the first pioneer now living.

Source: Decorah Republican, Feb. 26, 1903 Page 6 Col 3
Contributed by Bill Walters

Pioneering in Clayton County

The McGregor Times Inst week did a very creditable piece of historical work. It contained ten columns of sketches, portraits, etc, of the very pioneers of Clayton county. Most of the work consisted of signed articles of a reminiscent character. The first one is by Mrs. Ann Dickens, who landed at the mouth of the Turkey river April 15th, 1830, and found a home five miles up the river in the interior. ‘Mrs. Samuel Murdock contributes two letters, and Mrs. Judge Noble one. The former (Mrs. N.) came to Iowa in 1837, and first found a home at “ Hatfield’s Landing,” afterwards McGregor’s Ferry. There is also a note from, and a portrait of Marshal Hatfield, who came to Iowa in 1833 with his father, the latter being one of the three actual pioneers. The son says he helped build the first log house put up in the hollow where now stands McGregor. Mrs. Noble came to the county as a bride in 1843.

In her letter Mrs. Dickens gives this incident to show how Turkey river got its name.

The woods were full of panther, bear, wild eats, wolves, foxes, deer and wild turkey: and I have often wondered how those wild turkeys lived and multiplied to such a great extent, where the woods were full of animals for whom the eggs and the turkey’s young would be such a toothsome meal.
The Indian’s name for the Turkey river was Sesick, Anashuugara.

At stated times during the year a regular trail was formed by the wild turkeys crossing the river, which, from this fact, took its name I have seen a train of them, two to four abreast, extending from the river’s bank to the forest a quarter of a mile away.


Return to the Odds & Ends Index

Return to Clayton County Index