Sketches of Counties ...

Grundy County is seated in the heart of a truly magnificent county, which lies between the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and the Iowa division of the Illinois Central, bounded on the east by Cedar river and on the west by the river Iowa. Grundy county has not made much stir in the great world yet, but it contains the essentials of great wealth. The population of this county has before it a time of great prosperity, and the quiet dissemination of intelligence among their friends and families in distant and long settled country secures a steady and valuable stream of immigration. The surface of the country is generally high rolling prairie, well drained and swampless, with a soil which will repay labor and capital expended upon it to the remotest ages. The air is bracing, and the blood seems to leap rather than course through the veins under its invigorating influence. It will thus be seen that for residence and for agricultural pursuits, it would be difficult to find a spot surpassing Grundy county in the state of Iowa. The face of the country undulates gently as it retires from the field of sight, leaving an impression of hills and valleys without end, unmarked by eminences and without any considerable depressions. The Black Hawk river, in its slow course, has hollowed out the only considerable valley which varies this aspect of the country, but that depression near the eastern boundary of the county is not great enough to require a qualification of our statement as to the general characteristics of this region.

The formation of the country almost necessitates thorough natural drainage. Creeks, spring branches and rivulets meander over and through the surface of the land at little distances from each other, serving the purposes of the farmer to perfection. Sloughs and swamps have made their own channels to the rivers and other water courses, leaving the soil clear of those spots which otherwise might endanger life by the accumulation of vegetable deposit in a state of decay.

Nearly the whole of Grundy county lies in the valley of the Cedar. The water is good in this county, and the disease which in some sections of the northwest keeps men and women helpless, shivering creatures from months together in the intervals of raging fever, are happily unknown in this section.

The soil chiefly found here is a rich, black loam, such as may be found at intervals all over Iowa, capable of doing good service in periods of drought by reason of the moisture held in the interstices for such occasions, and by means of the drainage of superfluous water through its pores to the conducting substratum. The soil is just as exceptionally good when other lands are all but desolated by long continued rains and floods. Actual submergence is the only form in which injury of that kind could come fatally upon this county, and that contingency is remote. Every year the furrow falls with the same regularity, and in due course the land is adorned with golden grain, the husbandman's heart being rejoiced by the abundance with which his labors are rewarded, and his granary bending beneath its load. The soil is made more productive by reason of the presence of sand in its composition, as the heaviest shower will not give a deposit of standing water on the average soil for any time, however short. Clay is also a part of the surface soil and the farmer knows its value in giving strength to produce cereals. Corn has been known frequently to yield ninety bushels to the acre, wheat thirty bushels, oats seventy and even in some cases eighty bushels. Such figures may well cause surprise, but as Burns says:

"Facts are chiels which winna ding, And damma be disputit."

The stone resources of other counties are not prominent features here in Grundy county. The lost rocks which elsewhere are oftentimes troublesome to the agriculturist, however useful to the builder and lime burner, are unknown in this portion of Iowa. This is a prairie county emphatically there being only about three thousand six hundred acres of timber, according to the government survey returns, in all this area. Most of the farms want more wood than they carry, and it will be one of the cares of the wise agriculturist to plant groves without delay. The largest bodies of native timer are found a Fifteen Mile grove, in the southeast of the county, and Hickory grove on the banks of Black Hawk creek -- quite near the center of the county. When first found by the early settlers the wood standing was generally of large growth and valuable, but the continuous drain upon such limited resources, has reduced the main bodies now to stinted hazel and the growths known as the oak barrens. Happily the farmers as a class are remedying this defect by carrying out considerable planting operations, which will in many ways improve the aspect of Grundy county.

The water supply and drainage system her prevailing has been hastily glanced at, but it is necessary to give a few details as to the principal stream. Black Hawk creek is a slow moving stream which passes through Grundy Center, and leaves the county in the line of the southeastern township. The water course does not favor rapid and sparkling action on the part of the stream, and it considerately reserves its forces, but should dams be constructed in favorable locations, there might be found and made many valuable water powers below Grundy Center. Timber skirts this stream in all its windings, but the supply is very far from being equal to the demands of settlers. The Beaver in the northwest, and the Wolf in the southeast, are also timbered, but not heavily, and Bear creek in the southwest is almost entirely bare. Such an absence of wood detracts materially from its attractions, in the eyes of prudent men, seeking locations for profitable farming, and beyond doubt many have wandered to "fresh woods and pastures new," who might with advantage, in spite of this privation, have made their homes in Grundy county. If there has been no vast area of forest land to meet the demand for fuel, there has been the advantage of the soil, being ready for the plow immediately the farmer was ready to begin, without stumps and debris to encumber his manifold operations in subduing nature to man's use.

The delay which was very noticeable in first settlement does not make itself apparent in subsequent growth. The broad fields and prairies are being cut up into thrifty farms of convenient extent, and the Garden State is deserving its repute by the rich returns which gladden every holding.

Coal beds are mined in Hardin county, and all the facts favor the supposition that the coal measures pass under the higher formations of this county, but it is generally conceded that deep mining alone will reach the treasure. Rock suitable for building will long be at a premium here.

The first white settler seems to have built a cabin in this county in 1853, choosing for his home a spot in the township of Franklin, in the northeast. Some other settlers soon followed, but it was not until 1855, that farming operations commended on any considerable scale, with commensurate success. The county organization was effected in the following year, and the county seat located at Grundy Center.

Railroad facilities pass the borders of Grundy county on two sides, but there have been no roads constructed through the district, consequently most of the produce of the fertile lands already mentioned assists to build up flourishing towns at the shipping points most convenient in adjoining counties. There is a third line of railroad within easy distance of the county line, but Cedar Falls and Waterloo, in Black Hawk county, the town of Ackley, in Hardin, and Marshalltown, in Marshall county, must long continue to be enriched by traffic which owes its origin to the fertility and enterprise of Grundy county.

During the war, when other counties were organizing companies for service in the field, the men of Grundy county were as patriotic and self-sacrificing as their neighbors, but circumstances prevented the name of Grundy from becoming prominent. Over one hundred and thirty men were sent into the field from the hearths and homes of this new settlement, but they were enrolled in the squadrons of neighboring organizations and assisted materially to win the battle for brotherhood and freedom.

Grundy Center is on Black Hawk creek, near the center of the county, as its name implies. The town is built on high rolling prairie, with a fine farming country stretching around it in all directions beyond the range of vision. The first settler came here in 1855, and, before the end of that year, he had many neighbors close at hand. Some person with astronomical proclivities procured a change from the euphonious appellation Grundy Center to Orion; but the name of the great belt was no where in the competition, official circles did not encourage provincial capitals to go on starring expeditions, and somehow everything settled back into the old groove with the time honored description and respectable, if somewhat prosy, name of Grundy Center. There have been several papers started in this county seat, but, as a rule, they speedily satisfied everybody, and then died for want of an object. There is now a good republican paper published here, the only issue in the county. The court house is a fine structure, which cost $10,000 when erected several years since.

from An Illustrated History of The State of Iowa, Being a Complete Civil, Political and Military History of the State, From Its First Exploration Down to 1875; 1876