Fremont County, Iowa

Abandoned Towns

History of Austen

Taken from 'Thumbprints in Time', published by the Fremont County Historical Society in 1996.
Transcribed by Tom Hodge in March 2012.

Austin was an early settlement located on the banks of the Nishnabota River in Washington Township. Records indicate the town existed from about 1844 through the early 1850's. It was an important mail center and distribution area for supplies. Austin was absorbed into Hamburg.

In 'Fremont County, Iowa, Cemetery Records', also published by the Fremont County Historical Society (1983), there is a listing for "Austin Cemetery" on page 227. The cemetery is located at Pt. NE 1/4 NW1/4 or NE 1/4 SE 1/4, sec. 10, Twp. 67, Rng 42. Washington, Twp., Fremont County, Iowa. The cemetery book goes on to state: At the time of the organization of the county, the county seat was at Austin in what was known as Franklin township and was about s even and a half miles south of the town of Sidney and comprised the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of the section 10, township 67, range 42. Austin consisted of one or two houses, the main one of which was the store and residence of A. H. Argyle.

The Austin (cemetery) was listed on the WPA records in the 1930's but no names can be found on the list of burials and the exact location of the cemetery is rather vague. Some sources indicate that the bodies were moved to the Hamburg Cemetery. An Austin schoolhouse (no longer used as a school) is still in the area.

Page 28 of Thumbprints in Time has the following information:

Originally this town was located on the old Council Bluffs-St. Joseph road, where it crossed the Nishnabotna River in Washington Township. A rock ford in the river at the present site of Hamburg was usable when the water was low but year-round passage was needed so Daniel and Isaac Huntsacker established a ferry upstream in this locality in 1844.
Daniel Huntsacker established a post office on the Nishnabotna on February 10, 1846, extending the postal rout from Oregon, Missouri. The U.S. Post Office named it Austin. The first mail came in November 1846. In 1839-1840 the earliest Fremont County pioneers were settling along this road in McKissicks Grove and north in Pleasant Grove. This convenient communication route was much appreciated. The U.S. Government needed provisions for the Indians who were now pushed west onto lands nearer the Missouri (River), and the McKissick Brothers were filling these contracts. Reliable transportation across the river emphasized Austin's importance.

The settlement grew in 1845, when Archibald H. Argyle established a store. A blacksmith's shop evolved and in August 1847 a post office was established with the address Austin, Atchison County, Missouri. Argyle was post master. How did Argyle wrestle the post offce from the Hunsackers? No one knows. Perhaps ferrying and postal work did not jibe.

Historian Walter Farwell writes;

"Present evidence indicates there might have been two locations of the Austin post office. When the surveyor for Missouri on December 23, 1845 was marking the line northward between sections 10 and 11, Township 67, Range 42, he noted at 52.00 chains: Council Bluffs road lies east and west. Mr. Hunsackers house 500 links west, house and store 10 chains and enter river bottom. Ferry in section11." And the road house and store (was noted) on higher ground in the SW 1/4 NW1/4 of section 11, Twp. 67 R 42.
Argyle took over at Austin in June 1847 and applied before the Atchison County Court for both a ferry and liqour license. The 1881 Fremont County History reports that he contracted Thomas E. Tootle who had kept store along the Missouri River at 'le Cote grand Brule' to help relocate to NE 1/4 Se 1/4 of section 10. This was about three miles north of the present site of Hamburg and east of Wright's Orchard.

At the Federal Record Center, Suitland, Maryland, records show that A. H. Argyle prempted Lots Nos. 3, 4, 5, and 6, in section 11T67 R42 on July 8, 1850 at Fairfield, Iowa at the land price. Frederick Argyle said of his brother's house, "It is made of hewn logs, one story high, eighteen foot square, has a puncheon floor, two doors and door shutters, a fire place and cooking stove, a roof of clap boards fastened on with nails... His settlement was made for farming and mercantile purposes. He has 34 acres fenced and under cultivation, and has in addition a store house, stable and corn crib upon said land..."

He had great visions for his town and set about to make it the hub of Bluff Twp. He held a township office, petitioned for roads coming to and from Austin, and worked to have elections held at his store. August 20, 1849 the election which organized Fremont County was held at Austin. Mr. Argyle won the county recorder position.

In 1845 Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Cromwell opened a rooming house in Austin. One of the highlights of that experience was when a man by the name of Pappan left a trunk in their care, after he returned from the gold fields out west. The trunk was later found to be full of gold, and when the owner returned for the trunk, he presented Mrs. Cromwell $300.00. When Sidney was laid out Mr. Cromwell bought the first lot sold in the town, lot 5, block E in June 1841.

In 1851 the State of Iowa dashed Argyle's dreams, for the General Assembly appointed commissioners for the purpose of designating county seats of justice. Surveyors pinpointed the center of Fremont County on land owned by Milton Richards and the town of Sidney was born. Austin was doomed. Mr. Argyle left.

Mrs. Harry Wieder writes about Austin... "One of our old neighbors who was an old man when I was a little girl used to tell how the mail was distributed when he was postmater for Austin. Then Austin Post Office was in the home of whomever was post master. Everyone knew when the mailstage came, therefore many would gather. The post master brought in the mail bag and turned out its' contents. Everyone present helped sort, so it was quite a free for all. Not too much mail was received as there was never too much of a bag full."

Austin's post office was renamed Hamburg in February of 1860. This was later moved to Hamburg's present site. The Austin school house stood until December 1995 near Highway 275 across from the Carl Nahkunst farm.

Looking in the 1850 census, there is a family with A. H. Argyle as the head, and a younger man named 'Frederick Argyle' who lived in District 22 of Iowa. The family is number 218 and are listed on page 29 & 30 on the census. As a side note, the entire 1850 census for Fremont county comprises 30 pages.

As a small town, with only a short life-span, Austin was important in the county, and was considered the first county seat. Any photos, stories or histories associated with Austin would be most appreciated!

See this link for additional information about Austen/Austin.

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Page updated on February 20, 2018 by Karyn Techau

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