Glimpse of Iowa in 1846
By John B.
History.- The first lead ore discovered in Iowa was in Dubuque
county, by the wife of Peostas, a Fox chief; subsequently, the Indians
granted a wide strip of land to Julien Dubuque, at a council, held at
Prairie Du Chien, in 1788. In 1796, the Indian title to these lands was
confirmed by Baron De Carondelet, Governor of Louisiana, in which they
were designated as the "Mines of Spain." Julien Dubuque died on the 24th
of March, 1810, aged 45 years and 6 months. A stone monument, with a
Spanish inscription, still marks the spot of his resting place, on a high
bluff, a mile or two below the city which bears his name.
This is the most northerly county within the
organized limits of the Territory. It is bounded on the east by the
Mississippi, which river separates it from Wisconsin; north by the Neutral
Grounds of the Sacs and Sioux; south by Delaware and Dubuque; west by
Fayette and the Neutral Grounds. Its principal water courses are Yellow
and Turkey rivers, Volga, Buck creek, and Bloody Run. Turkey river is
among the most beautiful and placid streams of the Territory; it affords
most excellent water power for mills and machinery, and is susceptible of
steam boat navigation to the forks. This county is well worthy the
attention of emigrants. Much choice land can yet be obtained at $1.25 per
Prairie la Porte is the seat of justice for Clayton. It is
handsomely located upon an elevated bank of the Mississippi, a few miles
above the mouth of Turkey river.
BUCHANAN, FAYETTE, AND DELAWARE COUNTIES.
These are the extreme northwestern counties of the
"Old Purchase," and but recently organized. The population at present is
sparse, although they present great inducements to the enterprising
emigrant. The timber is good, the water power is abundant; possessing
also, one of the best climates in Iowa. This region is destined, at no
distant period, to form a very important portion of the Territory. Many
eligible locations, unclaimed, can yet be purchased at $1.25 per
acre. Land Office, at Dubuque.
JONES AND CEDAR COUNTIES
These two counties occupy a very central position in
the old organized portion of the Territory. Jones county will rank among
the first in Iowa, in point of manufacturing privileges, and abundant
water power. It likewise possesses a good farming country, good timber,
and a healthy climate. The "military road," established by Congress
running from Dubuque to the Missouri line, crosses Jones county, nearly
diagonally. The falls of the Maquoketa (now the village of Cascade)
presents a combination of grand and beautiful scenery, rarely, if ever,
The village of Cascade, although immediately on the borders of
Jones county, is, in fact, in Dubuque county, on the north side of the
Maquoketa; the counties being divided by the river. The village is rapidly
improving, and already contains two hotels, an extensive flouring mill,
four dry goods stores, three blacksmith shops, two tailor shops, one wagon
maker, one saddler, post office, &c. Thee are, also, two church edifices
in the village, a Methodist Episcopal, and a neat structure has been
erected the past year by the Congregational Society of that place. Cascade
also contains a flourishing Temperance Society, embracing more than 100
members. The country around is highly picturesque, and rapidly settling by
a virtuous, intelligent population from many of the eastern States.
Cedar county is situated immediately south of Jones. It is
twenty-four miles square, and contains an area of 576 square miles. But
few counties, in their physical aspect, present more attractions than
Cedar. The face of the country is gently undulating, interspersed with
groves of white and black walnut, bur oak, hickory, linn, sugar trees, &c.
The Red Cedar runs through this county in a southeasterly course,
receiving the tributaries of Rock, Sugar, and Clear creeks.
Tipton is the seat of justice of Cedar county. It has a
delightful location near the geographical centre, and bids fair to become
a thriving and important village. Population of Cedar county in 1838, 557;
in 1840, 1,225; and in 1844, 2,217.
Linn county has become proverbial for the excellence
of its soil, its salubrity of climate, abundance and admirable adaptation
of woodlands to the wants and convenience of the settler. The prairies are
remarkably fertile, and of moderate extent; the timber equally and amply
apportioned, generally of full growth, consisting principally, of red and
white oak, black and white walnut, linn, sugar maple, &c. Linn county is
famous for its extensive sugar orchards, from some of which 500 to 1000
weight have been annually made. It is well watered by the Red Cedar and
its tributaries, affording abundance of mill power, much of which is
Marion, the seat of justice, is located near the centre of the
county, about four miles east of Cedar, at the edge of a beautiful grove,
on a gentle prairie roll. It contains several stores, a commodious hotel,
post office, various mechanical establishments, and is a place of
This county was organized in 1839. It occupies a
position nearly in the geographical centre of the settled portion of the
Territory. The principal part of Johnson in embraced in the purchase of
'37. It is bounded north by Linn, east by Cedar and Muscatine, south by
Washington and Louisa and west by Iowa county, and contains an area of
about one hundred and ten square miles. As a whole, Johnson may be
estimated an excellent country of land, well watered and timbered and
abounding with excellent springs. The main branch of the Iowa flows
through this county, and with its numerous tributaries, furnishes abundant
water, power, not only for mills and machinery, but for all the purposes
of agriculture. Big Grove commences near Iowa City, and extends to the
borders of the old Indian boundary line. It has been pronounced among the
best bodies of timber in the Territory. Johnson county is abundantly
supplied with excellent building material; both lime rock and superior
clay for brick. The Iowa City (or Bird's-Eye) marble, as it is familiarly
called, is one of the most rare and unique formations ever discovered. It
is of the encrinite or coraline
formation, and may be regarded as a geological wonder. * This celebrated
quarry is situated within the limits of Iowa City. Johnson county has
derived more than ordinary notoriety from the circumstance of the seat of
government being located within its borders, at Iowa City. During the
first few years of its settlement, about the time the public buildings
were commenced, the current of emigration in this direction was immense;
hundreds of enterprising adventurers were continually wending their way to
the city. In fact, it was the Ed Dorado- the "promised land;" and probably
the results witnessed, in a few short months from the first settlement of
this county, is without a parallel in the growth of countries. Iowa
City is the seat of justice of Johnson county, and political capitol
of the Territory. (See Iowa City Directory.)
Henry county has, deservedly, the character of one of
the most healthy, fertile and productive counties of Iowa. It is situated
immediately west of Des Moines, and contains an area of about four hundred
and thirty-two square miles. The face of the country is generally high,
dry and rolling. Prairie generally predominates, although the water
courses abound with some of the best bodies of timber in the territory.
Many of the farms of Henry bear the aspect of old settled country. Much
attention has been devoted, by several enterprising individuals of this
county, to the introduction of an excellent and superior quality of fruit;
several extensive nurseries are already established, where every variety
of fruit trees may be obtained. In horticulture, Henry will probably take
the lead as the fruit county of Iowa.
It appears from the Marshal's
returns for 1840, that there were, in Henry county, 1,086 individuals
engaged in horticultural pursuits; 26 in commerce; 99 in manufactures and
trades; 18 in the learned professions; 7 primary schools; 920 horses and
mules, 2,634 neat cattle, 2,538 sheep, 12,714 swine, and $3,220 worth of
* The writer presented specimens of this singular
formation to the National Institute, Washington, and to the British
Museum, London; where they were regarded with extreme interest for their
bushels of wheat, 23,500 bushels of oats, 280 bushels of buckwheat, and
283,000 bushels of Indian corn. It may be safe to add, at the present
time, 200 per cent, at least, on the foregoing statistics. Population in
1840, 3,784; in 1844, 6,017.
Mount Pleasant is the seat of justice of Henry county, and the
most important town in the county. It may be regarded as one of the most
healthy locations upon the west side of the Mississippi. [ See Mount
Salem is also a pleasant and thriving town, situated in the
southern part of the county. It has a charming location on a beautiful
prairie of gentle undulation, and commands a wide and expansive view of
the surrounding country. Salem is interesting from the fact of its being
the nucleus of a large and respectable settlement of Friends, or Quakers.
Here, also, is the extensive fruit nursery of the Llewellyns.
There are also several smaller villages in Henry county, among which
are New London, Trenton, &c.
Is bounded north by Washington, east by Henry, south by
Van Buren, and west by Wapello; containing an area of about three hundred
and eighty square miles. In point of fertility of soil, excellence of
timber, and healthy location, Jefferson will rank among the most desirable
counties of Iowa. No better evidence can be adduced in favor of its
combined excellences, than the fact that, previous to October 21st, 1837,
more than one-half of the whole county belonged to the Sac and Fox
Indians, (consequently not subject to occupancy by the whites,) since
which time the population has increased upwards of six thousand
Jefferson is well watered by the Checauque or Skunk, and its various
tributaries, the principal of which are Big Cedar on the south, and
Walnut, Richland and Brush creeks on the north. These streams abound with
excellent timber, embracing the usual descriptions of oak, hickory,
walnut, locust, linn, &c., with a sufficiency of water power to supply the
demands of the adjacent country both for sawing and grinding.
Near the forks of the Walnut creek is a heavy body of timber called
the Rich Wood; the soil is excellent, with abun-
dance of rock and stone coal, and will admit of large and extensive
Locust Grove, near Big Cedar, and adjacent to the old Indian
boundary line, is beautifully situated about seven miles west of
Fairfield. It is about five miles in extent, and one mile wide,
encompassed by broad and gently rolling prairies. Here is a large
settlement of intelligent and enterprising people, possessing well
improved farms, good schools, good preaching, and all those appendages
that give charm to social and civilized life.
The Round Prairie, in the southeastern portion of the county,
is a charming strip of country. Here are farms not inferior in extent and
cultivation to the old counties on the Mississippi.
Fairfield is the seat of justice of Jefferson county. It is a
place of rapidly increasing trade, situated in the heart of one of the
richest agricultural counties of Iowa. Here is located the United States
Land Office for the southern district of Iowa. [ See Fairfield
Is bounded north by Johnson, east by Louisa, south by
Henry and Jefferson, and west by Keokuk county.
Washington county is well supplied with timber, consisting of the
usual descriptions generally found in other portions of the territory. The
county is high and rolling, climate salubrious, the soil exceedingly rich
and productive. Washington county is well watered by the Checauque and its
tributaries, likewise by English and Crooked creeks. Several mills are in
successful operation upon these streams, and others are erecting in
different sections of the county. Crooked creek and its tributaries abound
with excellent building rock. The Iowa river flows through the
northeastern corner of the county. The old "Black Hawk" boundary of 1832
crosses diagonally through Washington county, dividing it east and west
This county has had a steady and vigorous growth, and is fast
settling up with an enterprising and intelligent population.
Notwithstanding the rapid settlement, however, many eligible locations yet
remain, presenting the most inviting prospects to the industrious and
Washington is the seat of justice; located in 1839. It is
pleasantly situated, on the margin of a beautiful prairie; contains a
population of upwards of two hundred inhabitants; several stores, hotels,
schools, religious denominations, &c.
Brighton is a thriving little village, pleasantly situated,
near the Checquque (Skunk) river, and commands considerable trade.
Population of Washington county, in 1838, 238; in 1840, 1,572; and in
VAN BUREN COUNTY.
This is one amongst the most populous counties of
Iowa, and is bounded north by Jefferson, south by the boundary line of
Missouri, east by Henry and lee, and west by Davis county.
For beauty of scenery, extent of cultivation, and fertility of soil,
Van Buren county stands unrivalled; and, if we except the mineral
productions of Dubuque and Jackson county, Van Buren county combines more
variety in its logical features than any other county in the territory.
Quarries of the best building material abound in the bluffs of almost
every stream; bituminous coal of excellent quality, has been found in
great abundance; tin, copper and iron ore have also been discovered; and
it only requires the proper development of the abundant resources of Van
Buren to insure wealth and comfort to her favored population. Van Buren
county was organized in 1837-8. Population in 1840, 6,166; in 1844, 9,019.
Keosauqua is the seat of justice. It is handsomely situated on
a beautiful plateau, in the great bend of the Des Moines. It carries on an
extensive trade with the Indian country, and has been the residence of
some of the most enterprising merchants and explorers in the country. [See
Farmington is also a thriving town, with much enterprise and
business activity. It is situated on the Des Moines, below Keosauqua, in
the midst of a fine agricultural country, abounding with rock and coal.
Here are several mills, both for grinding and sawing in successful
Bonaparte (formerly Meeks' Mills,) situated on the Des Moines,
about twelve miles below Keosauqua, is an interesting village, containing
several stores, a good hotel, &c. Here, also, is situated one of the
finest and most substantial
flouring mills in the western country. It is six stories high, designed
for six run of stones, and is the property of Judge Meeks & Sons, the
original proprietor of the town. Bonaparte is rapidly improving, and
presents a good field for mechanics.
THE TURKEY RIVER COUNTRY
FORT ATKINSON, ETC.
This is one of the most desirable, healthy,
and picturesque regions of the West. It derives its name form the placid
stream that irrigates its borders. Turkey River, like all the rivers of
Iowa, flows in a south-easterly course, having its sources in the Sioux
country, north-west of the "Neutral Grounds." It pursues a diagonal course
through a portion of Clayton county, and empties into the Mississippi
directly opposite Cassville, Wisconsin territory. That portion of the
country subject to occupancy by the whites, already contains some of the
finest farms in the territory.
Fort Atksinson, a United States military post, occupies a
central situation, about midway north and south, in the "Neutral Grounds."
This region is, at present, occupied by the Winnebago Indians. The
situation of the Fort is highly romantic and picturesque-
possessing ample accommodations for quartering a full regiment of troops,
and stabling for several hundred horses. In journeying from Prairie Du
Chien to this post, you travel a little north of west, over one of the
best natural roads in the country. To the tourist of leisure, who desires
to spend a few weeks respite from the fatigues and restraints of city
life, I know of no place that holds out more attractive inducements, or
greater variety of rural sports than the Turkey River Country. The
tributary streams, uniting with Turkey River north of the Fort, abound
with the most delicious mountain trout. Perennial springs, of the purest
water, gush from every ledge. Prairie hens, (grouse), wild turkeys,
rabbits, deer, &c., abound. Wild honey can be obtained in profusion in the
hollow trees of the forest. Should the traveler desire the more exciting
sports of the buffalo chase, or the elk hunt, the buffalo country may be
reached in two days' travel north-west of the Fort. Measures are now in
progress, by the United States Government for the acquisition of this
valuable country. Should a treaty be effected, (of which there is scarcely
a doubt,) it will throw open to settlement one of the finest domains that
has ever been offered to the American people.
WINNEBAGOES- The Winnebagoes temporarily occupy the country
known as the "Neutral Grounds." This tribe was formerly one of the most
numerous and warlike of the many tribes of North America. Like the rest of
their race, they are now reduced to a mere handful- probably not more than
3000 souls. Like the Sacs and Foxes, wares, to a great extent, have
lessened their numbers; but the greatest scourge that ever found its way
among this unfortunate race, is "whisky." It is a disgrace to the American
name, that the benevolent and humane designs of government have been so
long counteracted and thwarted by a horde of unprincipled and mercenary
whisky sellers, who, under the guise of friendship, have triumphed in the
downfall of this noble race. Many of the chiefs and principal warriors are
fully sensible of the melancholy fate to which they have been reduced by
the introduction of the "Fire Water," * by their civilized white
The Winnebago Sub-Agency Station is situated about four miles
below the Fort, and occupies a delightful situation. In the immediate
vicinity is the celebrated
Winnebago School.- This excellent institution is at present
under the management of the Rev. Mr. Lowery, who was its founder. The zeal
evinced in behalf of these untutored children, and the efforts made in
imparting instruction, have been attended with the happiest results.
Showing conclusively that the "children of the forest" are equally as
susceptible of acquiring an education, as the more favored ones of the
Anglo-Saxon race. From 60 to 120 scholars are in daily attendance. Their
aptness in acquiring a knowledge of geography, and the various branches of
learning, is truly astonishing. All the usual branches of education
commonly taught in our schools and seminaries are taught here.
Connected with the school is the department of Domestic Economy,
at present under the superintendence of Mrs. A. Lockwood, late of
Bloomington. This lady will be favorably remembered, by many of the
citizens of Iowa, as the former attentive hostess of the "Burlington
House," Burlington, Iowa. All the females of the establishment devote a
portion of each day in acquiring a knowledge of needle work of all
* Or, "Water that burns"- Indian name for whisky.
descriptions. This branch of the institution, under its present worthy
matroness, furnishes all the clothing necessary for the school children.
Some 20 to 30 girls spend a considerable portion of each day in this
highly useful and excellent department.
It is an interesting spectacle to behold, in the midst of the forest,
far beyond the confines of civilization, an assemblage of one hundred
children of Nature, eschewing the wild excitement of savage life, throwing
aside bow and quiver, and bowing to the shrine of learning.
Through the kindness of a friend, who has recently visited the
"School," I have been favored with a few fugitive scraps of original
composition-the production of two little Indian girls, from twelve to
thirteen years of age. Although trivial effusions, every one will be
struck with the artlessness and simplicity of description which marks the
child of Nature.
I like to see another Spring come; I love to see
all the beautiful flowers growing. I like to take a walk in the woods, and
hear the birds singing upon the trees. In a little while all the Indians
will come back, and fix their wigwams with new bark. I like to go and live
in a new bark wigwam. When all the children come back from hunting, they
are glad to come in school again. A great many school children have died.
When any one dies, they paint their face, then put every thing new on;
then dress them very fine, and bury them. Then they take goods, and put it
on the grave; and if it is a woman, the women gather them together and
play games; if it is a boy, the boys gather themselves, and play ball; and
if it is a girl, the girls gather themselves together and play. The
Indians have a great many things to do. They say white people when they
die go to one place, and the Indians go to another place. At a medicine
feast they have an otter skin; or some other skin, which their medicine is
in, and call them medicine bags; they shoot themselves down, and say those
that join the feast that God would forget their sins, and those that stay
out are sinners; and they must fix themselves very nice if they go to the
feast, if they don't fix themselves God will not like them.
I am very glad that Spring is coming, for it is so
pleasant to see the flowers when they begin to spring up; then the birds
begin to build their nests. I like to roam about the Indian graves. When
any of the Indians die, they put on all the best garments they have, then
they wrap them up in a new blanket, if they have any; then they dig the
grave about two feet deep. As soon as they lay the body into the grave,
the friends of the one that died walk over to the grave, then they go off
mourning; sometimes they fast five days; they carry fire to the grave;
they put it at the head of the grave four nights, so that the spirit might
keep away from the wigwam and they carry food to the grave, and put it on
top of the grave, under the boards which they lay over it; then they play
the game which the one that died liked the best; they say if they dont
prepare things, that the spirit wont keep away from the wigwam; sometimes
they say that they see the spirit sitting in the wigwam in the night. They
say that our spirits dont go with white spirits, they go to another place;
they go to good hunting grounds, where they have plenty of game and
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