Des Moines County is on the Mississippi River, in the second tier from the Missouri State line. It contains a superficial area of about four hundred and seventy-five square miles.
Besides the Mississippi, which bounds it on the east, and Skunk River on the south, there are numerous streams coursing their way through the county. The largest of these is Flint Creek, which, with its tributaries, traverse the whole extent from northwest to southeast. Some of the streams afford good water power for machinery. The surface is nearly equally divided into prairie and timber land. The timber upon the uplands consists chiefly of beech and white oak, hickory, elm, linn and cherry. On the bottom lands along the streams, is found a heavy growth of black and white walnut, shellbark, hickory, burr-oak, sugar-maple, elm, ask, cottonwood, sycamore, hackberry, honey-locust and buckeye. On Flint Creek there are large bodies of excellent timber.
The county is well supplied with building material, as the bluffs along all the water courses furnish good building stone, which is easily quarried. Sand and clay, suitable for brick, are also abundant, and accessible in all parts of the county.
Along the Mississippi River, from the mouth of Flint Creek, to the north line of the county, there are alluvial bottom lands, varying in width from one to six miles. The lower end of this belt is heavily timbered, and the northern portion mostly prairie, except a narrow belt along the river. Narrow belts of bottom land extend along Skunk River and Flint Creek, which are heavily timbered. In some places these bottoms are subject to occasional inundation, but they are mostly above high water mark.
This is one of the best agricultural counties in the state. The soil on the prairies is unsurpassed in fertility, while that of much of the timber land is scarcely inferior to it. This county is especially noted for its fine orchards and vineyards. Large quantities of fruits are now shipped from this county every year to other parts of the state.
The first settlement of the county was made at Burlington and in that vicinity. In the Fall of 1832, Daniel Tothero came with his family and settled on the prairie about three miles from the Mississippi River. About the same time, Samuel White with his family erected his cabin near the river, at what is known as the upper bluff, within the limits of the present City of Burlington. This was before the extinction of the Indian title, as that did not take place until June 1, 1833, when the government acquired the territory under what was known as the "Black Hawk Purchase." There was then a government military post at Rock Island, and some dragoons came down from that place during the next winter and drove Tothero and White over the river, burning their cabins. White remained in Illinois until the first of the following June, when the Indians surrendered possession of the �Back Hawk Purchase, and on that very day was on the ground and built his second cabin. This cabin stood on what is now Front Street, between Court and High Streets, in the City of Burlington. Soon after Mr. White�s return, his brother-in-law, Mr. Doolittle, joined him, and in 1834 they laid out the original town, naming it Burlington from a town of that name in Vermont. The name was given at the request of John Gray, a Vermonter, and a friend of the proprietors. Thus White and Doolittle became the Romulus and Remus of one of the leading towns of Iowa.
During the year 1833, there was considerable settlement made in the county, and soon a mill was erected by Mr. Donnell on Flint Creek, three miles from Burlington. In 1837, Major McKell erected a sawmill in the town.
In June 1834, Congress passed an act attaching the Black Hawk Purchase to the Territory of Michigan for temporary government. In September of the same year the Legislature of Michigan divided this purchase into two counties—Des Moines and Dubuque. The boundary between them was a line running west from the lower end of Rock Island. They also organized a County Court in each county, and for Des Moines County, made the seat of justice at Burlington. The first court was held in April 1835, in a log-house. In 1838, Iowa was made a separate territory, and Burlington the Capital, and so remained until the temporary removal to Iowa City in 1841. The Territorial Legislature met for several years in the first church erected in Burlington, known as "Old Zion." In this same building the supreme judicial tribunal of the territory also held its sessions, as well as the district courts.
The city is situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River, about 250 miles above St. Louis, and 210 miles from Chicago. It occupies the valley and slopes of the hills at the mouth of a small stream known by the name of Hawkeye Creek. Some facts in the early history of the place have been given. In 1837, the town was incorporated. The town board of trustees appointed James W. Grimes, then a young lawyer, City Solicitor. When notified of his appointment, he appeared and pleaded non-age, but the trustees being satisfied with his age, he proceeded to discharge the duties of his office. This was the beginning of the official career of one who subsequently honored the state as the chief magistrate, and one of the ablest statesmen in the United States Senate.
During the last few years, Burlington has made a rapid growth. The Mississippi River here is spanned by a splendid railroad bridge, and the city has excellent railroad connections north, south, east and west. An extensive section of productive country must always remain tributary to Burlington. By the census of 1873, the city had a population of 20,156. Its estimated population now is 25,000. Burlington is naturally situated for becoming a great commercial and manufacturing city. With lines of railroad radiating in every direction, bringing to her warehouses the products of near and distant portions of the country; with the Mississippi River at the door, ready to float upon its bosom such products as seek a southern and northern market; with a wealth of timber suited to manufacturing purposes near at hand; with inexhaustible coal deposits within reach either east or west, and with the great South and West as an unfailing market for either manufactured articles or general merchandise, it does appear as if a promising future opened before the city; and taking the past as an index for the future, it is not unreasonable to expect great progress in a few years.
The city is now supplied with excellent schools, and are under the management of efficient and well qualified teachers.
The Burlington University is located here, under the control of the Baptist Church, and occupies a handsome range of buildings situated on the hill rising in the western part of the city.
The city now has some twenty churches, viz.: three Presbyterian, four Baptist, three Catholic, two Congressional, six Methodist, one Christian and one Episcopal. Burlington has several lodges of the Masonic Order and Odd Fellows, besides several other benevolent societies and associations; also public library and reading room.
The press is well represented by the Gazette (weekly), Democratic in politics, established June 2, 1857, and the Daily Gazette July 11, 1865. The Gazette Company has extensive job rooms.
The Hawkeye (weekly and daily), Republican in politics, was established in 1839. It is one of the oldest daily papers in the state. Its present editor and publisher is Frank Hatton. Mr. Hatton was formerly of the Mt Pleasant Journal. He has made the Hawkeye what its name vividly suggests—a sharp and vigilant detector of things in the political and social horizon, which he has no scruples in swooping down upon, if they are lawful editorial prey, and tearing them unmercifully with his sharp beak and claws. He has gained the reputation of being one of the sharpest and most spicy writers in the editorial fraternity of the state.
The Iowa Tribune (German) is another of the Burlington live papers.
Burlington Official List for 1875.
WM. BELL, Mayor
The other towns, villages and post offices, are Danville and Middleton, on the Burlington and Missouri Railroad. Latz, Sperry, Mediapolis, and Linton, on the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Minnesota Railroad. Northfield, Dodgeville, Pleasant Grove, Kingston, Kossuth, Huron, Amity, La Vega, Franklin, Mills, South Flint, and Patterson Station.
County Officers for 1875.
F. W. NEWMAN, Judge of District Court
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