Fremont County, Iowa

History, 1875

From A.T. Andreas' Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa, 1875
(transcribed by Pat O'Dell,


This county is in the southwest corner of the state, and has an area of 528 square miles, or 337,920 acres.


The following description of surface features of Fremont County is drawn chiefly from the Geology of Iowa of 1870:

The greater part of the country is drained by the Nishnabotany and its branches, the Missouri River itself draining the remainder. The last named drainage consists of ravines and small creeks which reach the great flood-plain through the bluffs that border the flood-plain throughout the whole extent. All these creeks and ravines pour their waters out upon the flood plain, and none of them reach the river except by percolation through the earth, for they sink away and become lost soon after leaving the bluffs, although water may remain running in their beds.

Among the bluffs during the whole year the great flood-plain denominated the Missouri River bottom, along the entire west side of the county, varies much in width; at its narrowest point is about three miles wide, and at the widest nearly nine miles. The bluffs which border this broad flood-plain form the most conspicuous feature of the surface. They reach a height of from 150 to nearly 300 feet from the level of the flood-plain. Although they are in most places composed almost entirely of that fine homegeneous material designated as bluff deposit, they are nearly as steep and abrupt as the rock bluffs of the Mississippi Valley. In many cases the bluffs of the Missouri River Valley are so steep that they appear almost perpendicular, but this is far from being the case, appearances of this kind always being deceptive. The steepest fronts average less than an angle of forty-five degrees, and the boldest and most precipitous proved to have an angle of only fifty degrees. Some of the ravines which open into the flood-plain through these bluffs are deep, wild gorges, but they are usually short and end abruptly, by slopes so steep that they can be climbed only with difficulty.

Proceeding inland from the border of the valley the surface quickly becomes much less broken, although the material that constitutes the ground for a great depth is the same. These more level inland surfaces are prairies which present much the same general appearance that prairie surfaces do elsewhere, the peculiarities of the deposit being more especially shown where the surface is considerably broken.

Coming to the valleys of the East and West Nishnabotany, which united near the center of the county, we find none of the bold, precipitous bluffs already described, although they have eroded their valleys out of the same deposit. On the contrary, their valley sides are of moderate height, and slope gently from the high general surface to the lowlands that border the streams. These lowlands average about a mile in width, and are formed by the same natural causes as the flood-plain of the great river, but are quite different in some respects. They slope very gently and uniformly from the valley side to the stream. The undulating slope of the valley sides to the higher surface being so gentle, the valley is broad and shallow, averaging from three to four miles in width. Thus, although the scenery is lacking in boldness, the portion of the county traversed by these streams is one of delightful and quiet beauty.

The usual narrow belt of wood land skirts the banks of these streams and those of their larger branches. That part of the county lying east of the West Nishnabotany is, with these exceptions, all prairie; but the part lying west of that river is well supplied with timber for fuel, fencing and common timber. There are some bodies of timber on the Missouri bottom adjacent to the river, but the most generally timbered region is among and adjacent to the bluffs, where the broken nature of the surface served as some protection against fire. Besides the tracts which were timbered when the county was first occupied by the whites, a dense growth of young trees of all the indigenous species have since rapidly sprung up and encroached upon the prairies in many places. The county possesses quite enough wood land for ordinary use.

That peculiar limestone deposit, known under the name of the bluff deposit, occupies almost the entire surface of the county, constituting all its soil, except that of its flood-plains, and enters largely into the composition of the latter, including the Missouri bottom. This remarkable deposit gives character to the entire surface of the county and furnishes a soil of inexhaustible fertility. None of the soil may properly be called drift soil, as the drift begins to descend under the bluff deposit, immediately west of the great water-shed, and here it is seen only at a few points, where it has been bared by the action of the streams.

Some strata of the upper coal measures are exposed near the base of the bluffs in several places, especially in the northwestern quarter of the county. They consist mostly of courses of limestone, alternating with clayey and marley shales - a ten-inch vein of impure coal. These exposures are chiefly valuable for the limestone which they contain, which makes an excellent article of quicklime. Much of it is also suitable for ordinary building purposes and for dressing into caps and sills. Very good brick is made from material found in the base of the bluff deposit where it joins the drift.

Good water power is afforded by the Nishnabotany and its two branches and Walnut Creek, which afford frequent mill sites.


The first settlements were made in this county as early as 1840. Among the first who came prior to 1842, were James McKissick, Cornelius McKissick, Daniel McKissick, Augustus Borcher, Thomas Farmer, David M. English, Job Matthews, John E. Scott, T.L. Buckham, William Loveland, Daniel Huntsucker, and Isaac Huntsucker. They all settled in the south part of the county, at McKissick's and Pleasant Groves. The next settlement was made northwest of where the town of Sidney now stands, at what is known as Lacy's Grove. Among those who settled at an early day, though probably not so early as some mentioned above, were John Gordon, James Applegate, Dr. David Lincoln, Stephen T. Cromwell, Milton Richards, George Lacy, J.J. Singleton, Thomas Greenwood, A.M. Hitchcock, and John Leaky.

About ten miles of the southern portion of the county was once under the jurisdiction of Holt County, Missouri, until the boundary question was settled between the two States. That part of old Holt County south of the state line, adjoining Fremont, is now known as Atchion County, Misouri. The north boundary of what was known as the "Platte Purchase," and which gave to the State of Missouri some four or five of her finest northwest counties, extended about ten miles into the territory afterwards conceded to Iowa. The jurisdiction of Holt County was extended to this boundary line, and thus, at that time, included the strip of territory in question. The purchase was made of the Pottawattamie Indians, who were removed to Pottawattamie County, Iowa as is described in the history of that county, some time before any settlements were made by white men within the limits of Fremont County. This reservation, at that time, extended southward to the north line of the purchase, but soon after the settlement of the county began they relinquished all their lands in Iowa and repaired to Kansas. Major Stephen Cooper, who lived near the present Town of Bartlett, once represented Holt County in the Missouri Legislature. Mr. Hitchcock, above mentioned, kept a hotel about a mile and a half southeast of the place where Sidney was afterwards located. His building stood on the line, partly in what was then claimed as Missouri territory and partly on lands then belonging to the Pottawattamie Indians. Some men in the south part of Fremont County lived in two states and three counties without changing their residences, the State of Missouri and Iowa, and the counties of Holt, Atchison and Fremont.


Fremont County was organized in 1850-1. Thomas Greenwood was the first County Judge, A.H. Argyle, first Treasurer and Recorder, and J.S. Jones, Prosecuting Attoney. W.L. Burge acted as Prosecuting Attorney, by appointment, before Mr. Jones.

The first district court was held in 1850 by Judge M. McKay at the house of A.H. Argyle, near McKissick's Grove, where there was once a village called Austin. Milton Richards was the first Clerk of the District Court. The following persons composed the Grand Jury: C.C. Fugate, D. McKissick, Jno. Cooper, Robert Watkins, Eli Slusher, Abel Roberts, David Markwood, Beverly Blair, Jerebe Stone, Jonathan Bridges, Anthony Burns, G.A.W. Belcher, David Jones, Sr., John Leeka, Henry Holloway, John Lambert, John Beeler, and Elias Findley. The last named served as foreman. Several of the above still remain citizens of the county.

James P. Burns appears upon the records of this court as the first applicant for divorce.


An agricultural society was organized in 1868, with H.J. Heaton as President; J.A. Bodenhamer as Secretary. It held it first annual fair in the Fall of 1868.


There are some bearing orchards, and apples of an excellent quality have been produced, also cherries, and all the small fruits common in this latitude. There is no difficulty in raising grape in any quantity, and of almost any variety. The whole "Missouri Slope" is renowned for it abundance of wild grapes. They are found in great profusion in all the groves along the streams. Wild raspberries, strawberries, and plums, are also abundant. Peaches have not been successful.

In this county, as well as generally in this part of the state, great interest is taken in the cultivation of hedges. They have proven a complete success. A large number of hedges in the vicinity of Tabor, as well as in other parts of the county, are now proof against all kind of stock. They also add vastly to the beauty of the prairie portions of the county. There are a number of fine growing hedges in the vicinity of Sidney.


Tabor College is situated at the Village of Tabor on the north line of Fremont County. In 1848, some families from Oberlin, Ohio, settled on the Missouri River, about five miles above the present site of Nebraska City, with the purpose of founding a college upon the same principle as the one at Oberlin. This was at a time when no other college was planned within many hundred miles. The sentiments of the new colony made them an unpopular people. Many of them were natives of New England. They were Congregationalists, and anti-slavery men. Settling near the border of a slave state, intense prejudice arose, which culminated in the burning of their school house. High water on the Missouri which spread over its bottom lands in the Spring of 1851, led to the selection of the present location on the dividing ridge between the Missouri and Nishnabotany Rivers. It was incorporated, but the Board of Trustees did not deem it wise to open a school until 1857. Since that time about 1,300 students have received instruction, many of whom have gone out as teachers in the common schools of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas. The institution was placed legally on a college basis July 23, 1866.

For several years the college has numbered in the different departments from 176 to 246 students during the year.

The college has three buildings erected at a cost of $24,000; a chapel 66x32 feet; the other 60x40 feet, three stories, and a music hall 20x28 feet, two stories; an endowment of $50,000, and eighty-nine acres of land.

The founder of the Tabor Colony (Rev. John Todd) deeded to the college, lands valued at $3,800, and besides, about $5,000 - being one-half his property. The citizens of Tabor pledged about $31,000 more. At a meeting of the citizens of Tabor, called to consider the question of raising funds for a new buillding, and for endowment, the founder of the Colony said: " I have felt, ever since I came into the West, that I was making property for this one object, to build up an institution where the young people who should be educated, should go out into the world as Christians, and I will now give from my capital all that can be spared from my business, and carry that forward successfully, and I am willing to leave it to others to say how much that shall be. I will devote my income to the college; and, if necessary to its success, I will put in every dollar I have, and begin anew." In all, the people of Tabor and vicinity have given for buildings, endowment, and it cash, over $41,000.

A valuable geological cabinet is connected with the institution. Specimens have been collected for it in New England, and in Ceylon, and India. A good library is also established in the college. The course of study is equal to that of eastern colleges. It is intended to surround this institution with all the appliances of a first-class college.


One of the important railroads in the county is the Kansas City, St. Joseph, and Council Bluffs, following the Missouri River through the county, and passing through East Nebraska City and Hamburg. The connections from St Louis to Sioux City are as follows: The "Missouri Pacific," from St. Louis to Weston; the "Missouri Valley," from Weston to St. Joseph; the "Council Bluffs and St. Joseph," from St. Joseph to Council Bluffs, and the "Sioux City Branch of the Union Pacific," from Council Bluffs to Sioux City.

On the line of the Council Bluffs and St. Joseph Railroad there are several stations in Fremont County, at each of which the railroad company have provided good depot houses, cattle enclosures, and other conveniences for shipping. At Hamburg they have erected a brick engine or round house. The present structure is of sufficient capacity to hold five engines, and can be enlarged by attaching additional sections as they may be needed.

The other road now completed through Fremont County is the Nebraska City Branch of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad, (formerly Burlington and Missouri River) connecting with the main line at Red Oak Junction. The traveler can now step on the cars at Red Oak Junction, glide down the Valley of the Nishnabotany to Hamburg; there change cars, and pass up the Missouri Valley via Council Bluffs to Sioux City, and in the excursion feast his eyes upon some of the finest scenery to be found in the West.

Another road is also in contemplation, known as the "Iowa and Missouri State Line Railroad." If this is built, and its friends are quite confident that it will be, it is also expected to form a junction with the Council Bluffs and St. Joseph Railroad at Hamburg. So it will be seen, that Fremont County is not likely to remain without adequate railroad facilities.


John Griswold, Auditor
John B. Gray, Recorder
H. Russell Laird, Clerk of Courts
Wm. W. Morgan, Sheriff
James A. Gray, Treasurer
C.W. Gould, Supt. of Schools
Henry Bowen, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors


This is the county seat, and is located near the center of the county. The land was entered by Judge Greenwood, who caused the same to be surveyed off into town lots. It is about three miles west of the Nishnabotany River, on a high, well drained prairie, commanding a delightful view of the valley and adjacent country for many miles.

William Dewey was employed to survey the town, in 1851, and J.J. Singleton was appointed agent to sell the lots. He also sold the first goods in Sidney, in 1851. Stephen T. Cromwell bought the first lot and built the first hotel. The building stands on the west side of the public square. The first dwelling house was erected by J.H. Cowles, in August, 1852. He, together with Augustus Borcher, A.L. Holden, A.A. Bradford, L. Lingenfelter and J.C. Campbell, were among the first setttlers of the place. The first child born in the town was a daughter of J.H. Cowles, and in honor of the town, was christened Sidney. The first death which occurred was that of a young man named Lockwood, who died of consumption in 1854.


The best building in Sidney is the court house, which was completed in 1860, at a cost of about $40,000. To Col. E.S. Hedges, at that time county judge, belongs the honor of providing for Fremont County this noble public edifice. The style of architecture is of the Elizabethan order. The structure is two stories in height, and of commodious proportions. It is surmounted by a heavy brick tower, and roofed with tin. The court room in the second story is handsomely finished, and all the offices and apartments are tastefully painted and frescoed. There are three large and substantially built vaults, entirely fire and burglar proof. Altogether, the building is one of the finest in Western Iowa, and it an ornament to the town, as well as a credit to the county. It was mainly erected with the proceeds of the sale of swamp lands.

In November, 1863, this building met with a most unfortunate disaster. About 9 o'clock in the evening, when all seemed to be quiet, the citizens of Sidney were startled by a deep, heavy sound. On looking in the direction of the court house, they beheld volumes of flame and smoke issuing from the windows. It was soon ascertained that a heavy charge of powder had been ignited within the building. All the windows and doors were blown out, and the entire upper floor and roof lifted up, and thrown out of place. The walls were shattered in several places, and it is feared the building has sustained permanent injury, as some of the fissures seem to be increasing in size. The county has incurred heavy expense in repair of damages. A short time prior to this occurrence one of the merchants of the place had stolen from his store two and a half kegs of powder, which, it is supposed, was used for the above purpose. Who committed the deed, or the motive prompting it, have never yet been brought to light.


The religious denominations who have organizations in Sidney, are the M.E. Church, Baptist, Christian, Presbyterian, and Episcopal. All these societies have flourishing Sabbath Schools under their supervision. The Methodists and Baptists each have a fine brick building for public worship. The Christians have a commodious frame church.

The Sidney Union - This enterprising weekly newspaper was established in 1863, by L.J. Easton. It is Republican in politics. The Union is the only paper published at the county seat of Fremont County, and is the offical paper of the county. Its circulation has been during the last two years, and is at present, a little over one thousand. C.W. Murphy, editor and proprietor.


This thriving and prosperous town is situated on the west side of the Nishnabotany River, about three miles above its confluence with the Missouri, and ten miles from Sidney. It is near the southwest corner of Fremont County, where the Nishnabotany with its beautiful valley, breaks through the long line of bluffs that extend irregularly above and below. Nature has lavished upon this locality many of her grandest and most beautiful touches. Immediately west of the town, rises a bluff, or ridge, from the summit of which one may look over many miles of the surrounding country. It towers up nearly 300 feet above the plateau upon which the town is built, and from the top, breaks off so abruptly on either side, as to almost make one dizzy to look below either way. Up a narrow pathway, where only a footman can climb, one may ascend to a point commanding a view of portions of the States of Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas. From this elevation, looking to the east and south, we behold the broad Missouri with its island groves, its border forest of cottonwood, with the intervening mile of alluvial bottom prairie; and beyond all, the swelling slopes and fields of Nebraska. Down through the maize fields and the native meadows, like a silver thread, winds a brook known as Willow Creek, the water of which flow from springs reaching up along the base of the bluffs some ten miles. Appearing as a mere pathway in the grass, and stretching in a long line up parallel with the river, we may faintly see what that moving train in the distance proves to be the track of the Council Bluff & St. Joseph Railroad. But the majestic steamer still carries a portion of the trade of the upper county, for occasionally may be seen some proud craft in the distance, slowly plowing its pathway through the waters. As it moves upward on its course, we may catch glimpses of it through the cottonwood groves, and watch its curling wreaths of smoke as it "round to" to drop a portion of its burden at Sidney Landing and Nebraska City.

But we must look in another direction. Down from the northwest, meandering through a valley as fertile as any on the gobe, comes the Nishnabotany River to empty its tribute, three miles below, into the more turbid waters which have traveled on their journey more than a thousand miles from the northwest. How many hundred years ago this beautiful little river began to cut its way through these bluffs can not now be told, nor why it was. Perhaps it was, that a city in the after ages might rise here. Beyond this valley, with its green lining of trees, and looking over the bustling little city of Hamburg, to the east and north, we behold fine cultivated farms.

Twenty-eight years ago, a young German named Augustus Borcher, wandering from his native Fatherland, cast his lot here, in what was then an uncultivated wilderness, to trade with the Indians the remnant of a small stock of goods. In 1857 he conceived and consumated the project of locating a town at this spot, and not forgetting the fame of his native Hamburg on the Elbe, he gave that name to his newly founded city on the Missouri. Hamburg has now a population of 2,053.

Jacob McKissick was the first merchant in Hamburg, and built the first business house in 1858.

E.W. Allen, in 1868, erected at this place one of the finest flouring mills in the West. The building is 48 by 52 feet, and four stories high. The foundation is built of brick, and the balance frame. It has a 48 horse engine, with three setts of burrs - all the machinery being new and of the latest and best patterns. It stands at the southwest part of the town on the site of a mill burned for Mr. Allen a year or two before. He is deserving of credit for his enterprise.

The first large brick business block was erected by M. Hellman & Co., and C.S. Rider & Co. in 1868. The fine building of Sipple & Co., containing the Masonic Hall, was erected shortly after.


Hamburg was orginally laid out in 1857. Since then various additions have been made to the city and are respectively called Nuckoll's Addition, H.W. Phelps' Addition, Roadroad Addition, and East Hamburg. The town was incorporated April 1, 1867. It now covers 560 acres of land, situated in sections 21, 22, 27 and 28, in township 67, north of range 42 west.

The first railroad, the Council Bluffs and St. Joseph, was completed and opened to Hamburg December 30, 1867. It is now merged in the Kansas City, St. Joseph and Council Bluffs Railroad, one of the most important north and south roads in the country. The Nebraska City Branch of the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad was completed to Hamburg in 1870, and here makes a junction with the former road.

Since the construction of the railroads the town has had a sure, steady and prosperous growth. It is the natural depot for the productions of one of the finest agricultural regions on the continent, the surrounding county being exceedingly fertile, and abounding in timber of the most useful kinds. The town is admirably situated, being at the junction of the rich valley of the Nishnabotany with that of the Missouri. There is not in Iowa a more beautiful or convenient town site.

Main street, the principal business street, is a mile and three-fourths in length, perfectly straight, and one hundred feet wide. The whole town is regularly laid out, with street and alleys running at right angle. Situated at the junction of two important railroads, it has superior advantages as a shipping point. The price of wood per cord is $3.50, and coal is readily and cheaply obtained from the Iowa, Missouri and Kansas mines, over the competing line of railroad.


The principal branches of business of Hamburg may be summed up as follows: Two steam flouring mills, two steam elevators, two machine shops and foundries, two wagon shops, five blacksmith shops, one pottery, large brewery and malt house, two dealers in agricultural implements, two hardware stores, three furniture stores, one chair factory, two clothing stores, three drug stores, two book stores, two banks, one notion store, four dry good stores, six grocery stores, three hotels, two boot and shoe stores, eight restaurant, one marble shop, two harness shops, two livery and sale stable, one Democratic and one Republican newspaper, two jewelry stores, three bakeries, three meat markets, nine lawyer, five doctors, three real estate dealers, four brick yards, two barbers, four millinery establishments, four carpenters and contractors, one art gallery, one dentist, one pork and packing house, two insurance agents, three sewing machine agencies, and offices of the Western Union Telegraph Company, and of the United States and American Express Companies.


The graded system has been adopted in the public schools of the city, the divisions being into five departments, under one principal or superinendent, and managed by a board of education. The schools are well conducted and in a prosperous condition.

Arrangements are being made for the establishment also of a private or parochial school, under the management of the Sisters of the Catholic Church.


Hamburg has six churches, viz: Presbyterian, two Methodist Episcopal, Catholic, Baptist, and Christian. All have brick houses of worship, except the latter, which owns a good wooden building.


The newspapers published at Hamburg are as follows:
The Hamburg Democrat, published by W.A. Fulmer.
The Fremont Times, established by Eaton Brothers in 1866; now edited and published by W.W. Copeland.
The Pastoral Visitor, edited by George W. Robey.


The first mayor of the city was R.K. Crandall. The officers for 1875 are the following: Mayor, W.A. Stow; Recorder, J.M Stauffer; Treasurer, W.N. Smith; Attorney, J.W. Dalbey; Marshal, J.L. Small.

City Council - W.W. Smith, J.M. Alexander, S.M. Hewitt, William Kelly, and Samuel Jacobs.

The other towns, villages and post offices in the county are Bartlett, Deer Creek, Eastport, Farragut, High Creek, McPaul, Percival, Plum Hollow, Riverton, Tabor, and Vaughan.

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