Glimpse of Iowa in 1846
By John B.
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."
PUBLIC LANDS, SYSTEMS OF SURVEYS, LAND OFFICES, &c.
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.
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
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.
Register, Warner Lewis,
Receiver, S. Langworthy.
Southern District, Fairfield, Jefferson County.
Register, Bernhart Henn.
Receiver, V.P. Van Antwerp.
DESCRIPTION OF COUNTIES
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
newspaper, several churches, three good hotels, and has one of the best
ferries that crosses the Upper Mississippi. (For details see Fort
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
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
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
INTRODUCTION OF SHEEP INTO LEE COUNTY.
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
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
"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
DES MOINES COUNTY.
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
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
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
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
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
entertainment and is the residence of some of the earliest settlers of the
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
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-
"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!
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
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.
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
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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