VOL. VIII, NO. 5. DES MOINES,
IOWA, APRIL, 1908 3D SERIES
CLAYTON COUNTY AS DESCRIBED TO A
RESIDENT OF CONNECTICUT IN 1838
Co., July 7th, 1838
I am in latitude 42 1/2, a considerable distance north
of what I intended when I left home. One great reason why I came thus far north
is that on inquiry of many who had lived in the southern part of Indiana and
Illinois, I found that it was unhealthy on all those flat extensive prairies.
Besides all the good land was taken up. And the same reason which made it
unhealthy for man would render it difficult keeping sheep, one object which I
had in view when I left home. And to conclude my reasons for stopping here it is
in the vicinity of the lead mines, where there are a great many persons engaged
in mining, which makes a good market for everything which the farmer can raise
so long as there is a market on the Mississippi River. I suppose it is as good a
farming country as it is farther south, and the lead mines are said to be richer
than the gold mines of Mexico, that is, there is more profit in working them.
The claim I have to the land I am improving is like all
the other claims in the Territory (perhaps thirty or forty thousand in number).
There is not a man in Ioway Territory who has a deed of his lands. There is a
sort of combination among the settlers to support one another at the day of
sale, and keep the speculators out. So sure are they of the lands they claim
that they make as much improvement as though they now had government deeds for
them. So great is the number whose interest is to keep the speculator out, he
durst not come, neither would it be safe for him to bid on a settler's
improvement, for it is the avowed intention of many of them to protect theirs
with rifle, and defend their claims at the hazard of their lives. It was tried
at Chicago and the squatters came out victorious. I write this, not that I
approve of the measure, but seeing that the measure is adopted to receive its
benefits. Should the lands come into market before I have time to make money to
enter it I shall look at home for a supply for the purpose. I have bought me
part of a prairie team and am breaking prairie with another man, and intend
putting in spring wheat and oats in the spring, and fencing this winter. I am at
present boarding in the family of an eastern doctor, but think I shall soon
follow the custom of the country, which is keeping bachelor's hall.
This is to all appearances as fine a sheep country as
ever saw the light of the sun. When the country becomes a little older and the
wild animals thinned out, I think I shall enter into wool growing, as I think
there is a considerable extent of country that will be fine for this business.
All the grasses that will grow at the East will flourish here in abundance. It
produces white clover in abundance. The natural grass is not such as I supposed,
tall as a man's head. It is not more than knee high on the dry prairie. The tall
grass is on the low, wet land or close in the edge of the timber. I could as
easily have summered 10,000 sheep as father can five hundred. The soil is a rich
black loam with good wood and fine springs of water, which two things are
greatly needed in a great many parts of the country farther south.
I think now that I shall not come home until the land
comes into market. Ioway extends west of the Mississippi about one hundred miles
and from Missouri about four hundred miles. It has lately been set off from
From your affectionate son,
GEORGE A. WHITMAN.
Turkey River Post Office,
Thirty Miles Above Dubuque, Iowa Territory