Henry County, IAGenWeb


 Iowa State Gazetteer, Shippers' Guide and Business Directory.
Chicago: Bailey & Hair, 1865

Transcribed by Cathy Labath


     Was organized by an act of the Territorial Legislature, then Wisconsin, at its session, held at Belmont, Wisconsin, during the winter of 1836 and '37. The same act that organized the county, located the county seat at the then village of Mt. Pleasant.
     This county is situated in the southeastern part of the State. Its southern boundary is but 15 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.
     TOWNSHIPS - It is 18 miles in width, east and west, and 24 in length; hence it contains 12 government townships, which are organized into civil townships under the following names to-wit: Baltimore, Canaan, Centre, Jackson, Jefferson, Marion, New London, Salem, Scott, Tippecanoe, Trenton and Wayne.
     SKUNK RIVER, or Chicaque, as the Indians called it (meaning pole cat) is a stream of pure water, averaging about 100 yards in width. It enters 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, Centre, 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 country 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, while others are in course of erection.
     The Skunk, with its tributaries, Big Creek, coming in from the north-east; and the Big and Little Cedars, entering it from the south-west, with many other smaller streams, renders Henry one of the best watered counties in southern Iowa. 
     TIMBER.- Upon all these streams there are large bodies of timber, of an excellent character, consisting of white, black and red oak, walnut, hickory, maple, etc.
     The government surveys indicate the timber and prairie as nearly equally divided in the county.
     This county has no swamp lands; its prairies are high and rolling, with a soil of black loam from 8 to 15 inches in thickness, with a sufficient mixture of sand to make it pleasant in tillage. Its fertility is believed to be unsurpassed. Grains 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 agriculturist.
     FRUITS - 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 localities, hence there is scarcely a farm in the county on which there is not a flourishing healthy orchard of choice fruit. No county in the State produces better or more fruit than Henry.
     COAL of a fair quality has been found cropping out in several localities, one bank on Cedar Creek, in Salem township, has been worked extensively.
     Stone is everywhere, on all the streams, and of just the kind and quality, needed for lime and building purposes.
     BUILDING ROCK - The Keokuk limestones and Concretionary bed afford an abundant supply of good building stone, which may be procured in the bluffs of Skunk River, on Big Creek north and west of Mount Pleasant and on Cedar and Crooked Creeks and several smaller tributaries to Skunk River. The Keokuk limestone is more argillaceous here than at 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.
     The Concretionary limestone of some localities is magnesian and heavy-bedded, affording strata two feet in thickness, and well adapted to heavy masonry. This character is usually restricted to the lower portion of the bed; while the upper part is commonly a light grey or dove-colored compact limestone with a conchoidal fracture, and in layers from four to eight inches thick.
     QUICKLIME - The Concretionary limestone is the only deposit in the county from which a supply of lime can be obtained, the Keokuk limestones 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.
     IRON ORE - Nodule 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 Crawford's 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 to  three feet thick, but seems to thicken in a wedge-shaped form as it penetrates the hill.
     POTTER'S CLAY - Good potter's clay occurs at Trueblood and Hyatt's mill on Cedar creek, six miles north of Salem, and also at several 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 places where it is wanted. An abundance of water may be procured at points remote from the main water-courses, by sinking wells to the depth of from twenty to forty feet. The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad, now completed from Ottumwa, 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 portion of the State.
     The FIRST ELECTION for county officers ever held in this county, took place on the 13th day of January, 1837, at which Robert Caulk, 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 Mt. Pleasant, April 14th, 1837, the Hon. David Irvin, 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 impanneled, composed 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 Williford, sen., G.W. Lewis, Henry Snyder, 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 were colored.
     In 1860 the same authority fixes its population at 18,760.
     The Burlington and Missouri River Railroad, passes through the centre of the county, east and west.
     The Keokuk, Mt. Pleasant, and Missouri River Railroad is to pass through its centre north and south. This road will be one of vast importance when completed. A large amount of work, grading, etc., has been done on the road between Mt. Pleasant and Keokuk; but during the rebellion, but little was done upon it.
     The first white settler on the territory, now embraced in Henry county, squatted on a claim 1 1/2 miles west of Mt. Pleasant, in the spring of 1834. The claim afterwards became the Caulk farm, and is now owned by Hugh B. Swan, Esq. Camp Harlan, the rendezvous of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry, was located on this farm.
     During the year 1835, a Mr. Pullam, was found dead on the branch, near the present site of Mt. Pleasant. His rifle 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 Williford, Aaron Street, Peter Boyer, Jesse Hancock, Rev. Wm. M. Morrow, and Rev. Samuel Hutton. These ministers were of the Baptist denomination.
     The first post office was established at Mt. Pleasant, and A. Saunders, (now Gov. of Nebraska Territory,) was appointed post master. The following are the post offices of the county at this time, to-wit: Mount Pleasant, Salem, New London, Trenton, Marshall, Lowell, Rome, Winfield, Wayne, Vego, Cotton Grove, East Grove, and Oakland Mills.
     MOUNT PLEASANT - The city of Mount Pleasant, the county seat of Henry County, was incorporated by the Legislature several years since. Its government is vested in a Mayor, Board of Aldermen, Recorder and Marshal. Its charter is liberal, conferring all the powers necessary to suppress drinking and gambling establishments and to abate nuisances in general.
     Its location is a little south of the geographical centre 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 everywhere 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. & M. R.R. runs through this city, the depot being from a quarter to a half mile of the public square.
    This road gives direct railroad communication with the East by the way of Burlington, Chicago, &c.  The nearest river trading point is at Burlington, twenty-eight miles distant.
     The village of Mount Pleasant was located by Presley Saunders, in the spring of 1836, he having made a claim, covering the ground, some time previous. Dr. J.D. Payne made the original survey of the town, and Joseph Moore built the first cabin.
     At this date the city has a population of 5,000, with 12 dry goods establishments, 17 family groceries, 3 clothing and tailor establishments, 3 tin and hardware stores, 3 drug stores, 2 saddleries, 8 boot and shoe stores, 3 butchers' shops, 1 queensware establishment, 2 livery stables, 2 furniture establishments, 2 steam flouring mills and 1 foundry.
     CHURCHES. - Two M.E. churches, 1 old school Presbyterian, 1 Congregational, 1 Baptist, (missionary), 1 colored Baptist, 1 Universalist, 1 Christian, 1 Episcopalian, 1 United Presbyterian, and 1 Roman Catholic. All the foregoing have comfortable and commodious houses of worship. Those of the Asbury M.E. and the O.S. Presbyterian are among the finest in the state. There is one public library with several hundred volumes. Henry R.A. Chapter No. 8 meets Thursday on or before each full moon. Mount Pleasant Lodge No. 8, A.F. & A.M., meets Friday before each full moon. Henry Lodge No. 10, I.O.O.F., meets each Monday evening , Mystic Lodge No. 55, I.O.O.F. meets each Tuesday evening. Industry Encampment No. 18 meets 1st and 3d Thursday evenings each month. Centre Lodge No. 47, I.O.G.T. meets every Saturday evening. The "Home Journal" is published every Saturday.
     The state institution known as the "Iowa Hospital for the Insane" is located one and a quarter miles from 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 best institutions of the kind in the United States. The tract of land purchased by the State for the hospital, contains 160 acres in square form. The site of the building is on the east side of the tract, and a more beautiful site for such an institution could not well be found. At the present date there are 260 patients in the asylum. Its officers are A.J. Patterson, Medical Superintendent, Dr. D.C. Dewy, assistant, George Josselyn, Steward, and Mrs. George Josselyn, Matron. With these enlightened, competent and accommodating officers, the management of the institution has met the highest expectations of its friends. Whoever visits Mount Pleasant should not fail to examine the Iowa Hospital for the Insane. It will repay the trouble.
     EDUCATIONAL. - 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 patronage and control 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 city 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 the centre of which stand 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 twenty acres of ground, 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 to "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 period the legal existence of the Institution as a University dates.
     This Institution is in a very prosperous condition. At present it is conducted by the venerable Charles Elliott, D.D., President, with an able and efficient corps of professors and teachers.
     Professor Howe's High School and Female Seminary, is well and favorably known throughout southern Iowa. For years past this institution has seldom numbered less than 100 students.
     Professor E.L. Belding's Mt. Pleasant Female Seminary, is understood to be mainly the interest 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 corporation of Mt. Pleasant as an independent school district has erected a brick office at a cost of $23,000. There are 800 pupils in attendance on this school at this time. It is under the care of Professor J. Allison Smith, with eleven assistant teachers and is one of the best schools of this kind in the State.
     SALEM is in the south-western part of the county, ten miles from Mt. Pleasant, and fourteen miles from Ft. Madison on the road to Fairfield. It contains three churches, Congregational, Methodist and Friends; also Salem Lodge No. 17 A.F. and A.M., Salem Lodge No. 17 A.F. and A.M., Salem Lodge No. 48 I.O.O.F. and Salem Lodge No. 211 I.O.G.T. It has four stores, two groceries, one drug store and one flour and saw mill.
     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. Potters' clay is found in considerable quantities. There is a fine educational institution here called "Salem Free School Seminary." Population 500.
     NEW LONDON is in the eastern part of the county, on the Burlington and Missouri River R.R. It has two churches, Baptist and Methodist, and one lodge each of Masons, Odd Fellows and Good Templars; also two boot and shoe stores, one dry goods store, three general stores, one grocery, and one flour mill.
     Population 400. Township 2,000.
    TRENTON is in the north-western portion of the county, on the stage route to Washington, eight miles from Mt. Pleasant. It has one Presbyterian church and two general stores. Four miles west on Skunk River is a large flouring and saw mill and woolen factory.
     The township is well supplied with timber of the best quality. Population 350, of township, 1,200.
     LOWELL is on the north side of Skunk River, 12 miles south-east of Mount Pleasant on section 28, township 70, range 5 west. It has three churches, Cumberland Presbyterian, O.S. Presbyterian and Methodist, a lodge each of Odd Fellows and Good Templars, and two general stores. Baltimore township is about two-thirds timber, and contains three flour mills and eight saw mills.
     Population of village 200, of township about 1,000.
    WINFIELD is in the north-east part of the county, fifteen miles from Mt. Pleasant. It contains two churches, Methodist and Presbyterian, and also two general stores. Population 200.
     HILLSBORO is in the south-west corner of the county. It has one church and two general stores. Population 150.
     MARSHALL is a post village, fourteen miles northeast of Mt. Pleasant, in Jefferson township which is one of the best farming towns in the State. The timber and prairie are about evenly divided. Plenty of coal, lime and sand-stone is found. Skunk Riber passes through the western part. Population of township 1,486.
    ROME is a village of Tippecanoe township and as station on the B. & M. R. R.R. west of Mt. Pleasant.
    COTTON GROVE is a town in Canaan township.

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