Fremont County, Iowa

Migration Into Southwest Iowa
by Evelyn Birkby

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of 27 October 2008

Learning about the way people migrated, into southwest Iowa, is interesting for our heritage is varied and exciting.

Last week, the View covered the prehistoric stages of this land, and the earliest settlement, the French village, started in the early 1830s by the mountain men, fur trappers and their Native American wives. The Plains Indians were the Native Americans who came and went with the seasons but not until the treaty of Illinois in 1833 did this area have any permanent native residents. That was the year Chief Waubonsie of the Pottawatomie tribe settled with 300 of his people near Tabor. Sub Chief Sha-tee settled his group of 150 in Lacy Grove about five miles north of Sidney, and later lived in and around where Waubonsie State Park is now located. Members of the tribe were moved to reservations in Kansas and Nebraska so white folks could legally take up residence on their land in Iowa.

In 1834, a German, Joe Brenard, ran a ferry at Hamburg Landing. Later, Augustus Borchers, an immigrant from Germany, opened a store at the foot of the bluffs at what is now the west end of Hamburg. His store served settlers, Native Americans, and wagon trains filled with immigrants who passed through in large numbers.

In 1836, Major Stephen Cooper, sent by the government as an agriculture agent to work with the Pawnee Indians, settled at Big Springs just south of Knox. Soon stage coach lines were running near Cooper’s home as passengers and freight were carried between St. Joseph and Kanesville along the Bluff Road.

In 1840, the McKissick brothers settled in an area east of present-day Hamburg which became known as McKissicks Grove. For a time, the land was in Missouri, then, in 1848 surveyors moved the Missouri line south and McKissicks Grove became part of Iowa.

Religion played a part in early southwest Iowa. In the 1830s, Catholic priests were serving the people of the French Village east of Hamburg. By the 1840s, Methodist circuit riders were galloping through, stopping in homes and organizing class meetings. A little later they were exhorting at Lacy Grove camp meetings.

As mentioned last week, Civil Bend--Percival--was settled in the early 1840s by Congregationalist from Ohio who were strong abolitionist. In 1842 they moved to Tabor due to unhealthy climate in the lowlands of the Missouri River.

Blacks came into the county via the underground railroad from Nebraska through Percival and up to Tabor. When M. U. Payne arrived in Hamburg in 1859, he brought with him as free people his African American workers,

In 1846 the Mormon’s, who by this time had arrived in Kanesville--present day Council Bluffs--raised a battalion of some 550 young men who, along with their support group of several families riding in covered wagons and driving cattle to help feed the men, came marching down the Bluff Road. A number of the cattle got away and ran up into the bluffs where the women found them in a lovely valley. Several decided to stay and let the battalion go on. This event started what became the town of Thurman.

Manti was settled in 1851-2 by Adelpheus Cutler and his followers when he was excommunicated by the Mormons. The little settlement thrived until the railroad came through several miles north. Manti residents (literally) moved their homes and businesses in 1870 nearer the railroad to become the city of Shenandoah.

What an exciting time in our history this was.

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Page updated on November 1, 2020 by Karyn Techau