Recollections of Wheatland

by M. L. Rogers, now of Los Angeles, California.

            Fifty-seven years ago the town of Wheatland was platted and first placed on the maps of Clinton county, by the Iowa and Nebraska Land and Town Lot Company.  In 1856 Mr. John L. Bennett, a native of New York state, possessed and eighty acre tract of land at this point, and the lands now within the corporate limits of Wheatland were a portion of this tract.  Mrs. Bennett’s home was the first building erected in the now town of Wheatland.  At this time the western portion of Clinton county was but sparsely settled.  There was a small settlement at Big Rock, six miles south of Wheatland.  Six miles north was Toronto, which with its flouring mill and store of general merchandise was a place of some importance.  Between these two points were only five habitations.

            The years of 1853 to 1857 were notable for the prosperity they gave to the business industries of the country.  Money had become plentiful, and the rich prairie lands of Iowa, made them attractive to investors.  Immigration increased rapidly, and with it those prairie lands were as rapidly being converted to fields of growing grain-wheat usually being the first crop.  Railroad  construction to reach these lands attracted the attention of capitalists, and the Iowa and Nebraska Railroad Company became incorporated in 1856 for the construction of a line from Clinton to Cedar Rapids, and its work of construction began ant Clinton early in 1857.  With Col. Milo Smith as chief engineer and superintendent, the work was so vigorously rushed that its line was completed to a point west of the Mississippi river then known as Yankee Run (now Wheatland) where it was compelled to suspend work by reason of a financial panic, which in its effect on the business industry of the country, was the most severe of any known to the memory of its oldest inhabitant.  It became impossible to obtain money from any source to continue construction work.  And its effect on the Iowa and Nebraska Company was such that they were not able to finance the erection of a depot building at its then terminus, and as a substitute they used a box car for its office business.

            At this time I had just located in Wheatland, and the railroad company contracted with me to build a warehouse at their track for the handling of freight.  I well remember that the first freight I received, was a car of household effects consigned to a party in Wyoming , Jones county.  A stage line was established between Wheatland and Cedar Rapids to accommodate the traveling public.  This condition continued for some months, during which the buying and shipping of country products increased, as it made Wheatland a market of considerable importance to portions of Scott, Cedar, Jones and Jackson counties. 

Recollection of Wheatland, by M. L. Rogers, now of Los Angeles, California.


            The Fourth of July, 1859, was a notable day in the history of Wheatland to that date.  Its people, though small in numbers, had done much in the way of making the town attractive as a market for the products of the country and for obtaining family supplies.  They had given little or no attention to matters other than of a business nature, but now the anniversary of our National independence afforded opportunity for them to plan and perfect a celebration that would be as creditable to the new town as had been its success in business growth.  While this appeared a large undertaking for the new town, the project was heartily endorsed by its citizens and a committee of three, viz: Mr. Case, of the hotel, Mr. J. D. Fagan, and myself were selected to perfect plans for a grand celebration.  The first move of this committee was a trip to Clinton, where we submitted our project to Mr. Williams, the president of the Town Lot Company, at this time.  I was acting as agent for Mr. Williams in selling Wheatland property.  I stated to Mr. Williams that, with his assistance we could perfect a celebration that would give Wheatland a reputation for doing things other than in business affairs.  Mrs. Williams expressed both pleasure and surprise at our project and stated that he would support it to the extent of his ability.  To this time no move had been made by other towns in the county for a celebration, and our committee suggested immediate action in perfecting plans for Wheatland’s celebration, and requested Mr. Williams to call Gen’l Baker, then attorney for both the Town Lot Co., and railroad company, and also Charles Leonard, one of the founders of the Clinton Herald, to his office to confer with, and assist our committee in formulating plans for the celebration.  Both Baker and Leonard favored our project and heartity engaged with us in perfecting our plans.  Gen’l Baker consented to act as president of the day, and Pitkin C. Wright, a prominent attorney of DeWitt, was named to deliver the oration,.  Dr. Howill of Clinton, was selected as reader of the Declaration of Independence, whereupon Mr. Leonard was authorized to get out attractive bills announcing a Fourth of July celebration at Wheatland.  The matter of transportation next received attention.  Our committee called on Col. Smith, superintendent of the railroad, to whom our project was presented, and received his approval and grant of free transportation for the Clinton band and such supplies as would be needed from Clinton.  With these encouragements Wheatland began work preparing for its celebration.  A long bowery, with table for refreshments, also a platform for the officials of the say, was constructed on the block north from the railway track.  The attractive bills were sent to the country by every conveyance that came to town.  Mr. Herman Andresen, the live wire German, and proprietor of the large farm two miles west of town, became quite interested in the celebration project.  Having a large acquaintance with people of his nationality at Davenport, he took hand bills to that city, which resulted in securing for the celebration, quite a delegation and a band of four or more pieces, also a few kegs of the beverage ever enjoyable to the Teutonic race.

            The fourth fell on Monday, Mr. Andresen’s friends from Davenport arrived Sunday morning by a four horse conveyance, and were Mrs. Andresen’s guests during their stay.  Among them were five musicians.  Andresen and his guests were in town in the morning in time to meet the train from Clinton and its load of live humanity.  The railroad at that time had but two passenger coaches, and had to rig up box and flat cars to accommodate its man passengers.  The Clinton people made sumptuous provision in the way of refreshments, which was in charge of Charlie Leonard as commissary, and among his supplies were a few kegs bearing the brand of the DeWitt brewery.  Iowa was less dry than at the present time.

            At noontime the Clinton band began playing at the platform and soon gathered the crowd in it.  General Baker mounted the platform and announced the program for the celebration, and called for those on the program to take seats on the platform, where the Clinton and Davenport bands were already located.

            General Baker, in his introductory talk, highly complimented Wheatland, telling of its progress from its infancy, and predicting its continuous growth.  He then called for the orator, Pitkin C. Wright, whose oration was full of interest.  At the conclusion of the program, as many as could. Gathered at the table, which was loaded with an abundance of varied refreshments, and were entertained by brief talks by early settlers, who related their experiences and tribulation, all of which was interesting.  All made the declaration that the celebration was the most interesting and enjoyable of any they had experienced in Iowa.

(There is just the handwritten date of 1914 on these articles. I would assume they were published in the Wheatland Gazette.)