Henry County, IAGenWeb 

Combination Atlas Map


Henry County



History of Henry County, Iowa

The territory of which Henry County formed a part, belonged to what is known as "The Black Hawk Purchase."  This was a strip of country 40 to 50 miles west of the Mississippi, extending from Des Moines River to the northern border of the State.

After two unsuccessful battles by Black Hawk and his band of 700 warriors against the the volunteers on the western frontiers and Government Troops in 1832, Black Hawk ceded this Tract to the United States, to which he was to give possession in June, the following year; prior to this time, some two or three hundred squatters came on to the "Purchase" and made claims, these the Government Troops drove off, and destroyed their shanties.  In 1834 this purchase was attached to the Territory of Michigan for government purposes, and the same year the Legislative Council of Michigan, organized the "Purchase" into two Counties, Dubuque on the north, and Des Moines south of Rock Island.  On the admission of Michigan as a State in 1836, this, under the name of "Iowa District" became a part of Wisconsin Territory, of which the first Capital was Belmont, the S. W. corner of the present State of Wisconsin.  The first Legislature of the Territory, of which Henry Dodge was Governor, divided the County of Des Moines into Lee, Van Buren, Des Moins, Henry, Louisa and Muscatine, before the Government Survey was made.

During the administration of Gov. Lucas, these Counties were remodeled and the Township and County lines made to conform to the Government Survey.  In doing this Mount Pleasant, fearing the loss of the County Seat by taking in Range 8 on the west side of the County, which was about the western limit of the Black Hawk Purchase, asked to have that range of Township split in the middle, taking into the County the eastern half; this proposition passed the Legislature and was vetoed by Governor Lucas, so to preserve Mount Pleasant's centrality the County was organized four Townships long and three wide, giving it an area of 432 square miles, the least quantity admissible by our State Constitution in organizing a County.

The Court House now standing in the Public Square, believed to be the oldest one in the State, (not very creditable to so enterprising and wealthy a County,) was erected by the voluntary donations of the citizens of Mount Pleasant in 1838. This made the permanent location of the County Seat here a fixed fact.  The second session of the Legislature of the Territory was held at Burlington, (then Flint Hills,) this was the Capital of Iowa Territory from its organization in 1838, till the capital was located at Iowa City, in 1841; on changing the Seat of Government from Burlington, a proposition in the Legislature to locate it at Mount Pleasant passed the lower house and lacked but one vote in Council of becoming a law.

The County is situated in the south-eastern part of the State; its southern boundary is but 18 miles from the Missouri line, and its eastern, the same distance from the Mississippi and Illinois.  It is bounded on the north by Washington and Louisa Counties, on the east by Louisa and Des Moines, on the south by Lee and on the west by Van Buren and Jefferson.


It is 18 miles in width east and west, and 24 in length, and it contains 12 Government Township, which are organized separately into Civil Townships, under the following names, to wit:

Baltimore, Canaan, Center, Jackson, Jefferson, Marion, New London, Salem, Scott, Tippecanoe, Trenton and Wayne.


Is a stream of pure water averaging about 100 yards in width.  It enter the County a little south of the north-west corner and running in a south-easterly direction leaves it a little west of the south-east corner, and its course passes through six Townships, to wit:  Jefferson, Trenton, Tippecanoe, Center, Jackson and Baltimore.  This stream affords the most ample water power, sufficient to drive all the necessary machinery that may be demanded by the surrounding county for all time to come.  Suitable mill sites occur on it at frequent points, four of which have already been improved, and have extensive saw and grist mills in successful operation, which others are in course of erection.  The Skunk, with its tributaries, Crooked Creek crossing the north part of the County, and Big Creek coming in from the north-east, and the Big and Little Cedars entering it from the south-west, which many other smaller streams, renders Henry of the best watered counties in southern Iowa.


Upon all these streams there are large bodies of timber of an excellent quality, consisting of white, black and red oak, walnut, hickory, maple, etc.  The Government Surveys indicate the timber and prairie are nearly equally divided soil in this County.

The County has no swamp lands; its prairies are high and rolling with a soil of black loam from 12 to 24 inches in thickness, with a sufficient mixture of sand to make it of easy tillage. Its fertility is believed to be unsurpassed; grain of all varieties, grasses, roots and vegetables of all kinds grow here with a luxuriance, and are produced in such a profusion as to literally astonish the agriculturalist from Eastern States.


It is confidently believed that Henry has outstripped all her sister counties in the culture of fruits.  At an early day, extensive nurseries of selected fruit trees, were started by enterprising citizens in different locatalites, hence there is scarcrly a farm in the County on which there is not a flourishing healthy orchard of choice fruit, especially on the Salem prairie.  No County in the State produces better or more fruit than Henry.


Of a fair quality has been found cropping out in several localities; one bank on Cedar Creek, in Salem Township, has been worked extensively, and being pretty free from sulphur, is extensively sought for smithing purposes.


The Keokuk limestone and concretionary bed afford an abundant supply of good building stone, which may be procured in the bluffs of the Skunk River, on Big Creek north and west of Mount Pleasant, and on Cedar and Crooked Creeks and several smaller tributaries of Skunk River.  The Keokuk Limestone is more argillaceous here than at the places further south, and some of the layers are traversed by seams of argillaceous matter which cause the rock to split where exposed to the action of the frost.  Good stone for building is also plenty in various other parts, especially along Big Creek, Bush Creek and the two Cedars.


The Concretionary Limestone is the only deposit in the County form which a supply of Lime can be obtained.  The Keokuk being too argillaceous to be used for that purpose.  As this bed is accessible on almost every stream in the County it will afford an inexhaustible supply of material for the manufacture of Lime.


Nodules of Iron Ore occur very generally in connection with the lower Coal seams, and are also common in the drift, derived probably from the same source.  At Millspaugh Mill, on Skunk River, about one mile north of Rome, a bed of Ore occurs in the Coal measures as seen in the Section at that place.  The bed at its outcrop is only two or three feet thick, but seems to thicken in a wedge-shaped form as it penetrates the hill.


Good Potter's Clay occurs at (I. T. Gibson & Co's) Mill on Cedar Creek, six miles N. W. of Salem, and also on S. E. corner of Baltimore Township, where Pottery and Tile Factories have been erected and large quantities of these goods manufactured, and at several other places in the County where outliers of Coal are found.

As an agricultural region, Henry County may be ranked among the very best in the State; having an abundant supply of timber, while the prairie lands are generally rolling and all susceptible of a high state of cultivation.  Building Stone is abundant in nearly all parts of the County, costing only the labor necessary to quarry and remove it to the place where it is wanted.  An abundant supply of water may be procured at places remote from the main water courses, by sinking wells at the depth of from twenty to forty feet.  The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad, now completed, affords facilities of transportation such as are enjoyed by but few Counties in the State.  To the emigrant seeking a home in the West, especially the practical agriculturist, Henry County offers inducements hardly excelled by any other portion of the State.


For County Officers ever held in this County, took place on the 13th day of January, 1837, at which Robert Calk, Samuel Brazelton and George J. Sharp were elected County Commissioners; Dayton C. Roberts, County Treasurer and John Riddle, Coroner; N. M. Scott, H. M. Snyder, Richard Childers, Levi Smith and William Stout were elected Constables; Sheriffs and Justices of the Peace were appointed by the Governor; William D. Brown was the first Sheriff, and Samuel Nelson, George Moffett and Abraham C. Dover were among the first Justices of the Peace.

The first District Court in the County was held in a rickety log cabin, on the west side of the Public Square, in Mount Pleasant, April 14th, 1837, the Hon. David Irwin of Wisconsin, presiding, the Hon. W. W. Chapman, acting as United States District Attorney, and Dr. Jesse D. Payne acting as Clerk.  A Grand Jury was duly empannelled, compossed of the following persons:  Claybourne Jones, Sen., Samuel Heaton, Marshall Saunders, C. W. Hughes, D. C. Roberts, Wm. M. Morrow, James McCoy, K. T. Maulding, Benjamin F Hutton, Jacob Burge, Moses Shirley, W. J. Sowell, Thomas Clarke, Wm. King, David Minter, James Willingford, Sen., G. W. Lewis, Henry Snider, Sen., Berry Jones, Little Hughes, John H. Randolph, Presley Saunders and Warren L. Jenkins - John H. Randolph acting as Foreman.

The Government Census of 1850, gives this County 8,707 inhabitants, 12 of whom are colored.  In 1860 the same authority fixes its population at 18, 760.  The census taken by the Assessors in the spring of 1869, shows a population in the County of 20,638 divided among the Cities and Townships as follows, to wit:  Baltimore, 1,006; Canaan, 642; Center, 2.015; Jackson, 1,170; Jefferson, 1,556; Marion, 1,347; New London, 1,255; Salem, 1,429; Scott, 1,022; Tippecanoe, 1,613; Trenton, 1,434; Wayne, 1,165; Mount Pleasant, 4,183; New London, 463; Salem City, 510.

The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad, passes through the center of the County east and west.  The Iowa Northern Central and Keokuk, Mount Pleasant and Minnesota, traversing the County north and south, crossing the Burling and M. R. R. R. at Mount Pleasant, has a prospect of early completion, much of the grading being done in this also in Washington and Johnson Counties.

The first white settler on the territory now embraced in Henry County (then constituting part of the Des Moins) was one James Dawson, who in the spring of 1834, squatted on a claim one and half miles west of Mount Pleasant; the land afterwards became the Caulk Farm, and is now owned by Hugh B. Swan, Esq.  Camp Harlan, the rendezvous of the Fourth Iowa Calvary, was located on this farm.

Presley Saunders, the first settler in Mount Pleasant, moved there in February, A. D. 1835.  Other families soon moved in, and the summer of 1836 the town was platted by Presley Saunders, after a survey by Dr. J. D. Payne and record thereof made February 3d, 1837.  During the year 1835 a Mr. Pullam was found dead on the branch near the present site of Mount Pleasant; his rile lay by his side, he had taken his own life, either by accident or otherwise.  His was the first death, and the first burial in the now City Cemetery.

Mary Saunders, now Mrs. Mary McCoy, daughter of Presley Saunders was born in the year 1835, and was the first white child born in the County.  The following may be named as among the oldest settlers:  James Dawson, Presley Saunders, A. C. Dover, John Willford, Aaron Street, Peter Boyer, Jesse Hancock, Rev. Wm. M. Morrow, Rev. Samuel Hutton and J. P. A. Box.  These ministers were of the Baptist denomination.

The first Post Office was established at Mount Pleasant, and A. Saunders, (late Governor of Nebraska Territory,) was appointed Postmaster. The following are the Post Offices of the County at the present time, to wit:  Mount Pleasant, Salem, New London, Trenton, Marshall, Lowell, Rome, Winfield, Wayne, Boylestown, Cotton Grove, East Grove, Oakland Mills, Hillsboro and Winona.


The Town of Mount Pleasant was first incorporated by Act of the Iowa Territorial Legislature, approved January 25th, 1842.  The Town Charter provided for a City Government, consisting of a President, four Councilmen and a Recorder, to hold their offices for one year.  Under this, as far as we can learn, S. B. Parker, Esq., familiarly called Judge Parker, was elected the first President, and Col. Randolph and Mr. Hubbard were of the Council.  At a subsequent election Col. Randolph was called to the Presidency.  The Town, at this date was small and is was found rather tedious to keep up the dignity of the Municipal Government, thought we are assured that an infinite amount of the first talent was expended i the composition of ordinances, and finally by general consent, the thing was allowed to collapse.  The State was admitted to the Union in 1846, and after this, by Act approved February 5th, 1851, the "Town of Mt. Pleasant" was again incorporated.  This time the executive authority was vested in a a Mayor, the other officers remaining as before.  At the election thereupon held in April of that year, Col. Wm. Thompson was chosen Mayor, Messrs. Harpin Rigsgs, Titus V. Taft, John S. Green and Alvin Saunders, Councilmen, and Henry H. McMillan Recorder.  In the spring of 1857, by virtue of the Act of July 15th, 1856, it became a City with enlarged corporate powers and privileges.  At the present time it ranks as a City of the second class under the General Incorporation Act.  Its location is a little south of the geographical center of the County, on a high prairie, hence its name.  Big Creek, a clear, beautiful stream, surrounds the City in the shape of a horse shoe one and a half miles distant north, west and south.  Both timber and stone of an excellent quality are found every where on this stream, hence no city in the State could be more conveniently and advantageously situated as to these indispensible articles to growth and general prosperity.  The B. and M. R. R. R. runs through this City, and Depot being from a quarter to half a miles from the Public Square.  This Road gives direct communication with the East by way of Burlington, Chicago, &c.  The nearest river trading point is Burlington, 28 miles distant.


Mount Pleasant contains three M. E. Churches, one Old School Presbyterian, one Congregational, one Baptist, one Colored Baptist, one Universalist, one Christian, one Episcopalian, one United Presbyterian, one German Presbyterian and one Roman Catholic.  All the foregoing have comfortable and commodious houses of worship.  Those of the Asbury M. E., O. S. Presbyterian and the new Baptist are among the finest in the State.  There is one Public Library containing several hundred volumes.

Henry R. A. Chapter, No. 8, meets Thursday on or before each full moon.  Mount Pleasant A. F. & A. M. meets Friday on or before each full moon.  Henry Lodge, I. O. O. F. No. 10, meets each Monday Evening.  Mystic Lodge, No. 55, I. O. O. F. meets each Tuesday Evening.  Iddustry Encampment, No. 18, meets first and third Thursday Evenings of each month.  Center Lodge, No. 47, I. O. G. T. meets every Saturday Evening.  The "Mount Pleasant Journal" is published every Friday and the "Henry County Press" every Wednesday, are ably conducted and well patronized papers.


The State Institution known as the "Iowa Hospital for the Insane," is located one and a quarter miles form the Public Square, a little south of east.  The State has already expended about $400,000 on this humane institution.  It has been pronounced by competent judges among the very bet institutions of the kind in the United States.  The tract of land purchased by the State for the Hospital, contains 310 acres in a square form; the site of the building is nearly central of the tract and more beautiful site could not well be found, it is built of cut limestone from the Mount Pleasant quarries.  An artisian well was sunk to the depth of 1100 feet, costing with all the apparatus $3,955; an ample supply of water rose to within 35 feet of the surface was then pumped by steam into the various pointed needed; but as the water is strongly impregnated with mineral it has been abandoned and a supply of water obtained by use of extensive cisterns, and a reservoir supplied by an adjacent stream.  At the present date there are 410 patients in the Asylum, filling it to its full capacity.  Its officers are Mark Ranney, Medical Superintendent; D. Bassett, First Assistant, Dr. Dudley, Second Assistant, and Mrs. Martha Ranny, Matron.  With these enlightened, competent and accommodating officers, the management of the Institution has justified the highest expectation of its friends.  Whoever visits Mount Pleasant should not fail to examine the Iowa Hospital for the Insane.  Visitors acquainted with institutions of this kind, say that it is kept with unusual order and neatness.  The present Trustees are Maturin L. Fisher, Clayton Co. Pres., Luke Palmer, Des Moines Co. Pres. pro tem., B. Crabb, Washington Co., Geo Acheson, Jefferson Co., M. T. Williams, Mahaska Co., A. W. McCluer and M. L. Edwards, Secretary, Henry Co.


There is no one thing connected with the City of Mount Pleasant of which her citizens are so proud as that of her educational interests, having already in consequence of her superior advantages in this respect, secured the appellation of the "Athens" of Iowa.  At the head of her Institutions of Learning, stands the Iowa Wesleyan University.  This Institution is under the control and patronage of the Iowa Conference of the M. E. Church.  It is the oldest chartered Institution of Learning in the State.  It is located one-half mile north of the Public Square and within the corporate limits of the City.  A tract of 20 acres for this College was secured at an early day, lying in a square form, ten acres of which are enclosed and ornamented, in center of which stands the College buildings.  The size of the main edifice is 100 by 55 feet, three stories high with ample recitation, lecture and chapel rooms.

History. - This Institution was originally chartered by the Territorial Legislature of Iowa by the name of "Mt. Pleasant Collegiate institute."  In 1849 it was tendered with a beautiful plat of 20 acres of land and a two-story brick building, thirty by sixty feet, to the Iowa Annual Conference of the M. E. Church; it was received and adopted in 1850 as their "Conference University" and for its support and maintenance as such, they pledged their "paternal patronage."  The Legislature of the State at its session of 1854-5, amended its charter in accordance with a petition of the Iowa Annual Conference, changing its name "Iowa Wesleyan University" and clearly defining its powers as a University.  The Charter was accepted according to one of its expressed conditions, by the unanimous vote of the Iowa Conference, in September 1855, from which time the legal existence of the Institution, as a University dates.  This Institution is in a very prosperous condition.  Since the recent resignation of Dr. Holmes, Senator Harlan has been elected Presidnet of the University.


Professor Howe's High School and Female Seminary is well and favorably known throughout southern Iowa.  For years this Institution has seldom numbered less than 100 students.


Prof. E. L. Belding's Mt. Pleasant Female Seminary, is understood to be mainly in the interests of the Old School Presbyterian Church.  It is in the Corporation, one mile east of the Public Square, on the main road to Burlington, and at the northern terminus of the Asylum Avenue.  Rev. Mr. Belding has procured a very commodious building for this Institution and has a good school which is growing in interest daily.  The Seminary has 70 students with ample accommodations for more.


The City of Mt. Pleasant, as an independent district has erected two brick edifices, one costing $23,000 and the other near $10,000.  The school in the former is divided into five departments at the head of which is Prof. B. L. Cozier, in the latter building, into four, at the head of which is Miss R. A. Van Tress.  The departments number from the lowest grade upward.  In No. 5, the highest English branches, mathematics and languages are taught.  The Mt. Pleasant Public Schools have the reputation of being among the finest in the West.


Is situated in the south-western part of the County, ten miles from Mt. Pleasant, and twenty four miles from Ft. Madison on the road to Fairfield.  It contains three Churches, Congregational, Methodist and Friend.  It is also the seat of Whittier College; also Salem Lodge, No. 17, A. F. & A. M.; Salem Lodge, No. 48, I. O. O. F.; Salem Lodge, No. 211, I. O. G. T.  The Township is well watered and has an abundance of the best timber and bituminous coal.  It is well adapted to raising fruits of all kinds.  Potter's Clay is found in considerable quantities.


Is situated in the eastern part of County on the Burlington and Missouri River R. R.  It has four Churches, Baptist, Methodist, Protestant Methodist and Christian; also one Academy and one Lodge each of Masons, Odd Fellows and Good Templars.


Is in the north-western portion of the County on the stage road to Washington, eight miles from Mt. Pleasant.  It has two Presbyterian Churches; and four miles west on Skunk River is a large flouring mill, and saw mill and woolen factory.  The Township is well supplied with timber of the best quality.


Is on the north side of Skunk River, twelve miles south-east of Mt. Pleasant, on section 28, Township 70, range 5 west.  It has three Churches, Cumberland Presbyterion, O. S. Presbyterian and Methodist.  A Lodge each of Odd Fellows and Good Templars.  Baltimore Township is about two-thirds timber and contains two flouring mills and five saw mills.


Is in the north-east part of the County, fifteen miles from Mt. Pleasant.  It contains three Churches, Methodist and Presbyterian.


Is in the south-west corner of the County and contains two Churches.


Is a post village, fourteen miles north-west of Mount Pleasant, in Jefferson Township, which is one of the best farming towns in the State.  The timber and the prairie are about evenly divided.  Plenty of coal, lime and sandstone is found.  Skunk River passes through the western part.


Is a village of Tippecanoe Township and a Station on the Burlington and Missouri River R. R. west of Mt. Pleasant.


Is a Post Office in Canaan Township.


Source:  Combination Atlas Map of Henry County, Iowa; Publisher, Thompson & Everts, 1870 http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/cdm/ref/collection/atlases/id/9695 

Transcribed & formatted by Conni McDaniel Hall, July 2014 **Note - there were a lot of spelling mistakes that I did not correct.

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