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A Glimpse of Iowa in 1846
By John B. Newhall

Pages 20-29

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in favor of the latter, other circumstances being equal. Changes, favorable to continued health, are produced by settlements and cultivation of the country. In fine, I am prepared to give my opinion, decidedly, in favor of this country and climate. I would not, certainly be answerable for all the bad locations, the imprudence and whims of all classes of emigrants, which may operate unfavorably to health."




     In all the new States and Territories, the lands which are owned by the general government are surveyed and sold under one general system. The government price of land is 1.25 cents per acre. The system of surveys is one of great accuracy and beauty; Meridian lines are established and surveyed in a line due north, from some given point-generally from some important water course. These are intersected at right angles with a base line. On the Meridians, the "townships" are numbered north and south from the base lines, and on the base lines, "ranges" east or west of the Meridian. Township lines are then run, at a distance of six miles, parallel to the Meridian base lines. Each township contains an area of 36 square miles; each square mile is termed a section, and contains 640 acres. The sections are numbered from 1 to 36, beginning at the north-east corner of the township, as the following diagram will illustrate:






































* The 16th section in each township is appropriated for schools.


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     When surveyed, the lands are offered for sale at public auction, but cannot be disposed of at a less price than one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre. That portion not sold at public auction is subject to private entry at any time, for the above price, payable in cash, at the time of entry.

     Pre-emption rights give the improver or possessor of the privilege of purchasing at the minimum price.

     I have thus endeavored briefly to elucidate, in the preceding diagram, the system of the surveys of public lands, that no strangers unacquainted with the sections and subdivisions appears perplexing and intricate.

     The Surveyor General's office for the Territories of Iowa and Wisconsin is located in Dubuque, Iowa.

     The territory is divided into two land districts.
        George W. Jones, Surveyor General.




     Northern District, at Dubuque, Dubuque County.
Warner Lewis,
          Receiver, S. Langworthy.
     Southern District, Fairfield, Jefferson County.
          Register, Bernhart Henn.
          Receiver, V.P. Van Antwerp.






This is the most southern county in Iowa; being situated in the junction of the Des Moines and Mississippi rivers, embracing the "Half Breed" reservation of the Sacs and Foxes. Lee county is bounded north by Des Moines and Henry counties, west by Van Buren, south by the Des Moines river, which separates it from Clark county, (Missouri) east by the Mississippi, which separates it from Illinois. It is well watered by the Des Moines and its tributaries, Sugar creek, Skunk (or Checauque) and Lost creek. Population in 1844, 10,000. The principal towns are Fort Madison, Keokuk, West Point, Montrose, Franklin, &c. Fort Madison is the seat of justice, and the most important town in the county. It is beautifully situated on the Mississippi, twelve miles above the Des Moines Rapids. It contains the Territorial Penitentiary, supports a weekly


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newspaper, several churches, three good hotels, and has one of the best ferries that crosses the Upper Mississippi. (For details see Fort Madison Directory.)    

     Keokuk, although laboring under some disadvantages respecting validity of titles, is having a most rapid growth. Its situation is rough, yet highly romantic. From its eligible and commanding position, at the foot of the "Lower Rapids," and near the junction of the Des Moines and Mississippi rivers, Nature appears to have chosen it as one if not the favored depository for the treasures of one of the riches valleys of the "Far West"-the valley of the Des Moines. (See Keokuk Directory.)

     West Point is beautifully situated on the edge of a delightful prairie about the centre of county. It has been for several years the seat of justice of Lee county. The country in the vicinity is in a high state of cultivation, and the traveler would scarcely imagine that twelve years ago it was the home of the elk and the deer.

     Montrose is delightfully situated on the Mississippi nearly opposite "Nauvoo," the celebrated city of the Mormons. It occupies the site of "Camp Des Moines," formerly a frontier station of United States Dragoons.

     The prairies of Lee county are elevated, dry and rolling well adapted to the grazing of stock sheep &c. Several enterprising individuals of this county have already embarked extensively into the raising of sheep. As the subject of "Wool Growing in the West" occupies the public mind to considerable extent, it may not be uninteresting to the reader to insert a brief statistical sketch concerning the




     In 1841, Wm. Brownlee, of Pennsylvania, drove to Lee county, some 800 sheep, of a fine quality, nearly full blooded Saxon sheep. In consequence of a deficiency of suitable shelter from the cold rains and sleet, the following winter, he lost nearly one half of them. Since that period he has replenished his stock by driving from Pa., and now has on his farms nearly 2,000 head of sheep, with good success in keeping them and raising lambs.. Subsequently, several large flocks have been driven into the country by various individuals. Messrs. D.W. & E. Kilbourn purchased in 1843, some 1,100-most of them of a fine quality. Since then, they

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have added to their flock some 550 sheep. In 1843-4, O.S. X. Peck, Esq., purchased 1800 sheep, which, together with a flock of some 4 or 500 belonging to a brother of the latter gentleman, residing near West Point, made upwards of 2,000. Mr. Seely, of Lee county, drove from New York state 800 fine merinoes; and, in 1844, Mr. Coit, of Norwich, Conn, drove from Ohio about 1,400. In addition to the above, numerous other flocks have, from time to time, within the last two or three years, been driven into the county; a fact which will apply to numerous other counties of the territory.

     "Regarding the success and profit of sheep," says an extensive wool grower of Lee county [I will use his own language,] "Regarding the success and profits of wool growing in this territory, there can be no doubt, nothwithstanding it has often been asserted to the contrary. Sheep grow large and uniformly do well, without the least deterioration in the quality of the staple, but rather an improvement in the texture. If they are driven far, great care should be taken or they will do poorly the first winter. We shall ship from this county, the ensuing year, 20,000 lbs. of wool.

     For fuller details upon this interesting subject, the reader is referred to the article on "Wool Growing, Tobacco, Hemp," &c.-See Contents.




     Des Moines is one of the oldest and most populous counties in the territory. It originally embraced all that portion of "Black Hawk Purchase" south of the old county line of Dubuque, and is frequently known by the familiar appellation of "Old Des Moines." It is bounded north by Louisa, east by the Mississippi, which separates it from Henderson county, Ill.; south by Lee, and west by Henry county; being about 24 miles in length, and from 15 to 22 miles in breadth, and containing an area of about 410 square miles. The Mississippi washes the entire eastern shore of Des Moines co. Flint Creek, receiving in its course the waters of various tributaries, meanders diagonally across the central portion pf the county, discharging itself into the Mississippi about a quarter of a mile above Burlington.

     No county in the territory presents a happier combination of prairie and timber to suit the wants and convenience of the husbandman. In short, from its earliest settlement, it


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has been justly esteemed one of the most desirable portions of the territory bordering upon the Mississippi. With one of the largest towns as its depository of export and import, it requires no prophetic vision to teach the farmers of Des Moines the intrinsic value of their fertile fields.

     Casey Prairie, is a rich level tract, well settled, and in a fine state of cultivation, lying along the north side of the timber on Flint Creek, and terminating in the neighborhood of Dodgeville.

     Taime Town Prairie, (which is the last resting place of "Taime," or "Taiomah," a Sac chief,) lies northeast of Casey, bordering upon the Mississippi bluffs. It is encircled with a heavy body of excellent timber, and is similar in character and cultivation to Casey Prairie.

     The Round Prairie is in the northern part of the county, and is one of the best settlements in the territory. It is moderately undulating, abounding with excellent springs, abundance of timber, and is in a high state of cultivation.

     Skunk River Bottom is a rich alluvial soil of remarkable fertility, and its proximity to Burlington give the farmers of that neighborhood as sure market for their surplus productions.

     The settlements about Danville are composed principally of New Englanders, who are rapidly covering over the prairies with fine farms and excellent neighborhoods.

     Burlington, the seat of justice at Des Moines co., and the metropolis of southern Iowa, is a place of extensive and increasing trade, supported by a densely populated country. It is the residence of the Executive and Chief Justice of the territory, and contains a population of upwards of 3,000 inhabitants.-[For minute details, see Burlington Directory.]

     Augusta is a flourishing town, situated in the southern portion of the county, on the north side of Checauque (Skunk) river. Here are several mills, both for sawing and grinding. A large stone building has been erected by L. Moffit, Esq., designed for manufacturing purposes. Augusta contains several stores, and a good hotel kept by Mr. Hepner. This village is destined to become a place of much importance, when its natural advantages are thoroughly developed.

     Dodgeville is pleasantly situated in the northern part of Casey prairie. It contains a post office, a good house of


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entertainment and is the residence of some of the earliest settlers of the county.




     This is a rich and fertile county, and is bounded north by Muscatine and Johnson, east by the Mississippi, south by Des Moines and west by Washington and Henry counties. It embraces an area of about 442 square miles. The Iowa river runs diagonally, in a southeasterly course, entirely across the country, and empties into the Mississippi opposite New Boston.

    Wapello Prairie, on the south side of the Iowa river, is unrivaled in picturesque beauty. It commences near the village of Florence, the site of the old Sac village, and crossing a small rivulet skirted with woods, it breaks forth upon the eye of the traveller in picturesque, terminating in the northwest with the town of Wapello, the county seat of Louisa.

     This county embraces a principal portion of the Keokuk Reserve, which was purchased by Government in 1836. It is a remarkable fact, that almost the whole tribe of Sacs and Foxes were congregated here until after the first, or Black Hawk, purchase of 1832; notwithstanding they had about a boundless region from which to select their villages and hunting grounds.

     Wapello the seat of justice, is handsomely located on the old site of "Wapello's " village, a Fox Chief, who resided there until the summer of 1836, as chief of his band.- There are several small villages in Louisa, among which are Toolsboro', Columbus City, Harrison, Florence, Fredonia, &c. Toolsboro' (formerly Black Hawk), is situated upon the north side of the Iowa, about three miles from the Mississippi. It has two steam mills, several stores, a number of mechanic shops, and bids fair to become a place of considerable trade. This village is also celebrated for its ancient mounds and fortifications.

     Florence derives its principal notoriety as being the residence of Black Hawk until the Indian hostilities in 1832. Here repose the bones of his ancestors, where they have rested for centuries. 'Twas here that he sounded the war-whoop, and rallied his countrymen to the last deadly conflict, in defence of the homes and the graves-

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"Where sleep their warriors; where rival chieftains lay,
And mighty tribes, swept from the face of day."

     But they were conquered, and this illustrious warrior was doomed to wander, a stranger in the land of his forefathers. His lodge was still standing at the time the country was surveyed.*


     Muscatine county occupies a central position in the Territory. Its situation upon the Mississippi, at the apex of one of its great bends, gives it a commanding position and proximity to markets over most other counties of the Territory. This county extends from north to south, about eighteen miles, and, from east to west, eighteen to thirty; forming an area of about four hundred and forty square miles. It is watered by the Cedar fork of the Iowa, and its tributaries, which runs entirely across the county. The Wapsinonock is a beautiful stream, and the region of country skirting its borders is among the most beautiful and interesting in the county. Pine river discharges its waters into the Mississippi above Bloomington. It affords eligible sites for mills and machinery. The mouth of Pine is wide and deep, and affords an excellent harbor for steam boats. A portion of the Mississippi slough is in this country, but terminates in Louisa. It is about eighty yards wide, with a gentle current, the channel of which is about four feet deep. Muscatine Island is a widely extended plain of exhaustless fertility, richly carpeted with verdure, affording excellent grazing for cattle, horses, &c.

 Bloomington is the seat of justice of Muscatine county, and one of the most important points in the Territory. It is a place of extensive trade, supports a weekly newspaper, and contains about 1800 inhabitants. It has a handsome brick court house, spacious stores, and many tasteful residences. (See Bloomington Directory.)

     *The writer lingers with peculiar interest upon this, almost, consecrated spot, having been among the first white men to set the landmarks of civilization upon the Keokuk Reserve, and being associated in the ownership of this celebrated "Indian Council House," from its transfer from the Indians. We kept it nearly two years, in a good state of preservation, and strangers from far and near came to look upon this last monument of Black Hawk. But, in an evil hour, the sacrilegious work of innovation had taken its unsparing sway, and the thoughtless denizens razed it to the ground, for the more profitable culture of the corn field!

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     This is one of the river counties, situated north of Muscatine, and occupying nearly a central position in the Territory, from north to south; there being four counties below and four above, bordering upon the Mississippi.

   In the interior of Scott, remote from the river, there is a deficiency of timber. Probably the prairies are among the largest of any of the surveyed portions of the Territory, although handsomely undulating and fertile. Nature, as if to compensate for the absence of timber in the interior, appears to have selected the region bordering upon the Mississippi, as one of her chosen spots. Ever since the earliest settlement of Iowa, this portion has been justly esteemed among the most desirable and fascinating regions of the boundless West. Being entirely free from low bottom lands, (the usual causes of disease,) it was early selected by the sagacious pioneers, among the favored spots of the upper Mississippi valley. Perhaps no other country in the world presents so happy a combination of picturesque beauties, blended with excellence of soil and salubrity of climate, as the vicinity of Rock Island. All, who have ever visited this charming region, concur in expressing their admiration of the surpassing beauties of nature's inimitable works.

    Davenport is the seat of justice of Scott county, and the most important town in the county. It is beautifully situated, on a plain upon the western shore of the Mississippi, directly opposite the town of Rock Island, Illinois. It contains a handsome brick court house; a large and spacious hotel, constructed at a cost of about $30,000; sustains a weekly newspaper, numerous mercantile establishments, and all the various mechanic arts, trades, &c. (See Davenport Directory.)

    Rockingham is also a beautifully located village, situated upon the Mississippi, about three miles below Davenport. Population of Scott county in 1838, 1252; in 1840, 2193; and in 1844, 2750.




     Is situated immediately north of Scott, bordering upon the Mississippi river. It is about forty miles in extent from

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east to west, and eighteen to twenty from north to south. The face of the country is moderately undulating, though not broken. The soil rich and fertile, and well adapted for agricultural pursuits.

     The Wapsipinicon meanders through the southwestern portion of the county, furnishing an extensive neighborhood with good timbered land. The water courses are generally small, the principal of which are Spring, Mill and Elk creeks, all emptying into the Mississippi.

     Prairie Pon de Tau is a beautiful meadow, in the northeast corner of this county, abounding with large and fairly cultivated farms. De Witt is the seat of justice for Clinton county, situated on a beautiful prairie, near the centre of the county. Camanche, New York, and Lyons, are small villages situated upon the Mississippi. Population of Clinton in 1838, 445; in 1840, 800; in 1844, 1,201.


     Is bounded north by Dubuque county, east by the Mississippi, south by Clinton, and west by Jones, and contains an area of about six hundred and twenty-eight square miles. This county is well watered by the Maquoketa and its various tributaries. There are several fine creeks which flow into the Mississippi, among which are the Tete De Morts, Mill, Spruce and Duck creeks. The principal towns are Bellevue and Charlestown, both situated on the Mississipp. Andrew is the seat of justice of Jackson county, situated near the geographical centre. Bellevue has a good landing, delightful location, and a rich country to sustain it. Jackson county may be considered second only to Dubuque in its mineral resources. Iron ore, copper, tin, zinc, gypsum, porcelain clay have been discovered in various parts of the county, particularly about the forks of the Maquoketa. Dr. Owen, in his geological report, pronounces the iron ore of this district of excellent quality and unlimited abundance. Some of the specimens from these localities are the richest and most beautiful variety of pipe ore imaginable, exhibiting a miniature resemblance to the basaltic columns of Staffa, or the Giant's Causeway.*

* The writer of these pages, in visiting Europe a couple of years since, took a specimen of the Jackson county iron ore with him (picked up on the surface of the earth, near the forks of the Maquoketa). In traveling through the iron districts of Staffordshire England, I had occasion, repeatedly, to exhibit it to the iron masters of that celebrated district. Its richness and beauty universally excited their admiration and astonishment.

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     Jackson county offers many inducements deserving the attention of the emigrant. In addition to the mineral wealth, it is an excellent agricultural region, abundantly supplied with timber, abounding with springs of pure and living water, and one of the healthiest counties in the Territory.




     Dubuque is one of the old original counties, and is, to the north, what Des Moines is to the south. All the adjacent counties having been organized from what was formerly within its limits. It is bounded north by Clayton, east by the Mississippi, which separates it from Illinois, and Wisconsin, south by Jackson and Jones, and west by Delaware; and contains an area of about six hundred and forty square miles.

     Dubuque county embraces the most noted portions of the mineral region. The lead mines worked in this county are sources of great profit, and lead is the great staple of export. Copper and zinc have also been discovered, but, as yet, neither capital or enterprise have been directed, to any extent to their successful development. The mining operations are, at present, principally confined to the raising of lead ore. Dubuque is a well timbered county. The face of the country is much more uneven than the southern counties; yet, in the aggregate, it can hardly be considered a broken county. Much of the soil, in the very heart of the mining country, is of the most productive character. Perhaps few mineral countries in the world present the peculiar features of a rich agricultural country, with such boundless treasures beneath its surface. But few sights can be presented, more pleasing to the eye of the traveller or more fraught with the wisdom of Omnipotence, than to behold, in the same valley, the husbandman gathering the rich harvest of the earth, and the miner raising the richest treasures from beneath its bosom.

    Dubuque is the seat of justice of Dubuque county; is under the municipal regulations of a city charter, and is one of the most important points in the Territory, and of the upper Mississippi. (For details see Directory of Dubuque.)

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