Mt. Pleasant College Institute and Military Highways


One hundred and six years ago, or to be exact, March 11, 1843, the trustees of the Mt. Pleasant Collegiate Institute gathered "for the purpose of receiving pledges or donations of land for a site for the buildings of the Mt. Pleasant Collegiate Institute". It was at this meeting that four citizens of Mt. Pleasant gave to the college, the twenty acre campus of today, and on which all the academic buildings stand.

John Jones gave "four acres from the south end of his land in such form as to connect the National road and Main street." J.C. Hall gave "six acres from the north end of his land connecting also the National highway and Main street." Samuel Brazelton gave five acres on the east side of Main street and directly east of the ten acres donated by Jones and Hall. And of the same width on Main street, Peter Smith gave five acres west of the National highway and directly west of the ten acres donated by Messrs. Jones and Hall. It also provided a street forty feet wide on both the north and south side of the donated land.

Messrs. Jones and Hall thus gave what is now known as the Central campus; Brazelton gave the five acre tract known as the East campus and Peter Smith gave the land now known as the West campus. The military road referred to is now known as Broadway. The forty foot street north of the tract was named Broad and the similar street, on the south side was named Pearl. The Military road, was constructed by the government as a military measure, running from Dubuque south to Iowa City, thence on to Crawfordsville, through Mt. Pleasant on what is now known as Broadway and Jefferson, and one through Salem to Washington, now known as Hillsboro, thence on to Keosauqua and to the Missouri border.

As soon as the donated land legally passed to the young college its first president, Heusts, formally became president of the school, and immediately began the erection of the first of the academic group, "Pioneer," which was occupied in 1844. And Wesleyan was on its way.

In the early days of Iowa, transportation was a vital matter, and particularly for military purposes. As a result congress was flooded with petitions for federal built "Military" highways. Three were given federal support, two were completed, but the third never got beyond the engineering drafting boards. The two military roads actually completed passed through Henry county. The first to become a highway in fact was known as the Agency road. The second was the "Military" road, starting at Dubuque, and on to the Missouri line south of Keosauqua. The third proposed was from Bloomington (Muscatine) to Iowa City but never developed.

The Agency military road started from Burlington, passed through Danville, thence veered to the Skunk river and crossed that stream at Smiths Mills (Lowell) thence to Washington (Hillsboro) and on westerly to the Indian Agency on the Des Moines near Ottumwa. Agency City developed from this, and the community is now known as Agency.

Thus Henry county was crossed by two military highways. In the park at the business center of Mt. Pleasant, is a boulder and set in it is a bronze tablet descriptive of the Military highway, and at Lowell, on this side of the river, is a similar boulder and tablet fixing the point where the Agency highway passed the river. Hillsboro could logically set up a boulder with a bronze tablet marking the place where the two military road crossed each other. The only military roads in Iowa.

-- "Bystander's Notes" by Charles S. Rogers, Publisher-Editor of The Free Press [weekly newspaper published in Mt. Pleasant, IA] Tuesday, March 1, 1949 p. 2

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