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History of Iowa

Volume III



MADISON COUNTY which was at one time a part of the original county of Demoine, was established in January, 1846, lies in the third tier north of the Missouri line and in the fourth east of the Missouri River and was named for James Madison, fourth President of the United States.  It is traversed by the North, Middle and South rivers long which are borders of native forest.

The first settler in the county was Hiram Hurst who came from Missouri in May, 1845, and took a claim in Crawford township.  In May, 1846, Joel, Isaac and Charles Clanton and Caleb Clark with their families settled along Clanton's Creek.  About the same time Samuel Guye and family located on the divide between Middle and North rivers.  Crosby B. Jones and Seth Adams took claims near Middle River.  Alfred D. Jones opened the first store at a place called the "Narrows" about four miles east of where Winterset stands.  The first post-office was established at this place with Mr. Jones postmaster.

In July, 1849, the commissioners chosen for that purpose selected a site for the county-seat on a farm owned by John Guiberson who sold it to the county.  The day was cold for midsummer when the commissioners assembled at the house of Enos Berger to agree upon a name for the new town.  One of them suggested "Summerset."  William Combes who had been fortifying himself with "sod corn juice" against the cold, exclaimed "We had a site better call it Winterset"; his colleagues at once agreed and that became the name of the new county seat.

The first county officers were chosen in April, 1849, consisting of G. W. McClellan, clerk; P. M. Boyles, recorder; Joseph K. Evans, treasurer; A. D. Jones, prosecuting attorney, and William Combes, David Bishop and William Gentry, county commissioners.  The commissioners caused a double log house to be erected for the use of the county officials and courts.  Judge William McKay held the first court in May, 1849, in a cabin used for a store and saloon.  Enos Barger built the first house in Winterset and became the first postmaster.  He also built a log house for a hotel in 1849 which was the largest building in the town.  John A. Pitzer the following year built the first frame house in the county.  In 1856 James Ilor brought an old printing press and type in a wagon from Sandusky, Ohio, and began the publication of a weekly newspaper called the Iowa Patriot which afterwards became the Winterset Madisonian.  The Rock Island Railroad runs through the northern part of the county with a branch to Winterset.

MAHASKA COUNTY was embraced in the original county of Demoine and was created in February, 1843.  It lies in the fourth tier west of the Mississippi River in the third north of the Missouri State line and is twenty-four miles square containing five hundred seventy-six square miles.  It was named for the noted chief of the Iowa Indians, Mahaska, which signifies "White Cloud."  The county is watered by the Des Moines, the North, South and Skunk rivers and their tributaries, contains extensive deposits of coal and is well supplied with native timber.

The first white settler in the county was Mr. Macbeth who, in October, 1842, selected a claim one mile above the "Hardfish" Indian village which then occupied the site of Eddyville.  The cabin was occupied some years by John B. Gray and family.  The county was not opened to white settlers until May 1, 1843, but  scores of families were camped near the line in April, and, when the last night of the month came, rushed across the border to make a choice of claims.  Among those who made homes in the southern part of the county at this time were Dr. E. A. Boyer, W. A. Delashmutt, John B. Gray, A. S. Nichols, and many others.  For months settlers flocked into the county selecting homes mostly in the groves and along the timber belts which bordered the streams.

In February, 1844, M. T. Williams was appointed clerk and William Edmundson sheriff to organize the county.  At an election held in April the following county officers were chosen:  A. S. Nichols, William Stanley and Robert Curry, commissioners; William D. Canfield, treasurer; William Edmundson, sheriff; William Pilgrim, recorder, and John Cunningham, clerk.  Commissioners chosen to locate the county-seat made choice of a farm belonging to W. D. Canfield at a place called the "Narrows" and gave it the name of "Mahaska."  The county purchased the farm upon which the town was platted by David Stump, the county surveyor.  At the suggestion of M. T. Williams the commissioners changed the name of the new county-seat to Oskaloosa.

In June, 1843, a town had been laid out by William James on "Six Mile Prairie" which he named Harrisburg.  George W. Jones afterwards purchased the ground and changed the name to Auburn.  John W. Jones, his brother, who became State Treasurer, lived in the town and owned an interest in the plat.  A strong effort was made by the proprietors to secure the county-seat.

The first mill in the county was built on Muchekinock Creek by Joseph H. and John K. Bennett in 1843.  Miss Semira Hobbs taught the first school in 1844; and a church was organized the same year by the Methodists at Six Mile Prairie.  The Oskaloosa Herald was established in July, 1850, by W. H. Needham and Hugh McNeeley.  The Des Moines Valley Railroad was the first built into the county.

MARION COUNTY was created in June, 1845, from territory embraced in the original county of Demoine.  It lies in the fifth tier west of the Mississippi River an din the third north of Missouri, is twenty-four miles square and contains five hundred seventy-six square miles.  The county was named for General Francis Marion of the Revolutionary War.  The Des Moines River and its tributaries flow through the county in a southeasterly direction; the water courses are usually bordered with forests and the county has large deposits of coal.

The first white settlers were Indian traders who, as early as 1841, established trading posts at several points.  William Phelps was the first who opened a trading house near the eastern border.  John Jordon, Gaddis, Nye, Turner and Shaw established posts near Red Rock.  The county was opened to white settlers May 1, 1843, when a large number secured claims upon which they made homes.  During the year settlements were made at Red Rock, White Breast, Bluffington and other localities, making a population of more than seventy families.

In the spring of 1845 the citizens held a meeting at the house of Nathan Bass on Lake Prairie and took the first steps toward organizing a county government.  Commissioners were chosen, located the county-seat in August and gave it the name of Knoxville in honor of General Knox of the Revolutionary War.  An election was held at which the following county officers were chosen:  Conrad Walter, William Welch and David Durham, commissioners; Sanford Dowd, clerk; F. A. Barker, probate judge; James M. Walters, sheriff; David T. Durham, treasurer, and Robert S. Lowrey, recorder.

Judge Williams held the first court at the new county-seat in March, 1846.  The first settlers in Knoxville were Luther C. Conrey, Lysander W. B. Abbitt, George Gillaspy and Lewis Pierce.  Mr. Conrey built the first house.

In 1847 a colony of Hollanders under the leadership of Henry P. Scholte located at lake Prairie where they purchased 13,000 acres of land upon which they built sod houses thatched with slough grass.  In the spring of 1848 Mr. Scholte and others laid out a town which they named Pella, the "city of refuge."  In February, 1855, H. P. Scholte and Edwin H. Grant  issued the first number of a weekly newspaper called the Pella Gazette which was the first journal established in the county.  In 1853 the preliminary steps were taken to organize a college at Pella which was named the Central University of Iowa.

In October, 1855, William M. Stone, afterwards Governor of the State, established the Knoxville Journal at the county-seat.  The Des Moines Valley Railroad was the first built into the county.

MARSHALL COUNTY was created in January, 1846, by a division of the original county of Benton.  It lies in the sixth tier west of the Mississippi River, in the fifth south of the Minnesota line and was named for Chief Justice John Marshall of the United States Supreme Court.  The Iowa River flows through it in a southeasterly direction which, with numerous tributaries, waters a large portion of the county.  It contains sixteen congressional townships making an area of five hundred seventy-six square miles.  Excellent building stone is abundant and the county contains more than 30,000 acres of native forest.

Joseph and William Davison were the first white settlers in the county.  In 1847 they took claims in what is now Le Grand township.  The following year Joseph M. Ferguson, Josiah Cooper and others settled near Timber Creek and a large number of families made homes in other parts.

In 1849 the county government was organized by the election of the following officers:  David E. Cooper, clerk; J. M. Ferguson, sheriff; J. Hobbs, probate judge; Zeno B. Freeman, treasurer; Jesse Amos, Joseph Cooper and James Miller, county commissioners.  The first court was held by Judge William McKay in the fall of 1851 in a log cabin belonging to John Ralls which stood in the grove north of where Marshalltown was built.  It 1851 the county-seat was located at Marietta where a town was laid out.  William Dishon was the first postmaster, keeping the office in his store.  Doctors Whealen and Nixon were the first physicians in the town and county.

In the summer of 1853 Henry Anson and John Childs laid out a town on a claim made by Anson two years before, where he had built a log cabin.  It was named Marshall for a town of that name in Michigan.  But upon learning of one in Henry County bearing the same name, the proprietors changed it to Marshalltown.  A fierce contest at once began to secure the removal of the county-seat from Marietta to Marshalltown which continued for several years until in December, 1859, a decision of the Supreme court settled the contest in favor of Marshalltown.  The first newspaper in the county was established by T. J. Wilson in 1855 at La Fayette, now Albion, named the Iowa Central Journal.  The paper was moved to Marshalltown in 1857 by E. N. Chapin and R. N. Barnhard who changed the name to the Marshall County Times.  Wells Rice was the first postmaster when the office was established at Marshalltown in 1854.  G. M. Woodbury was for many years one of the most enterprising citizens in securing railroads and promoting manufacturing in the growing city.  In 1863 the Iowa and Nebraska Railroad was built through the county from east to west, passing through Marshalltown.

MILLS COUNTY was created in 1851 and named for Major Frederick Mills, a gallant young Iowa officer who was killed at the Battle of Cherubusco in the Mexican War.  Its western boundary is the Missouri River and it lies in the second tier north of the Missouri State line.  The county is twenty-four miles in length from east to west and eighteen miles in width, containing four hundred forty-four square miles.  The western portion of the county consists of level bottom land of the Missouri River valley, in places reaching a width of from three to seven miles, east of which rise the high bluffs which in remote ages formed the shore of the river.

The first white settler was Colonel Peter A. Sarpy who as early as 1836 established a trading house and was an agent of the American Fur Company.  He laid out a town near the mouth of Mosquito Creek and named it St. Mary.  For many years it was a thriving village but the Missouri River encroached upon it gradually undermining the buildings until most of them disappeared beneath the floods and the town was abandoned.  Henry Alice, who came as a missionary to the Pawnee Indians in 1834, made his home near St. Mary.  In 1846 thirty Mormons, who were among those driven out of Nauvook stopped in Mills County on the east side of Key Creek near the Missouri and built cabins to shelter them through the approaching winter.  They formed a village to which they gave the name of Rushville.  Among them was William Brittain who became a permanent resident of the county.  In 1847-8 Silas Hillman, Libeons Coon, Ira Hillman, G. N. Clark, J. Everett and others settled near the present site of Glenwood.  In 1849 Mr. Coon laid out a town on his farm which he named Coonville.

In 1851 the county government was organized by the election of the following officers:  William Smith, judge; W. W. Noyes, clerk and James Hardy, sheriff.  The county-seat was located at Coonville where the first term of court was held in 1851, at which Judge James Sloan, a Mormon, presided.  In 1849 the first flouring-mill in the county was built by J. W. Collidge.  Here D. H. Coloman, a young lawyer taught the first school in a log cabin ten feet by twelve in size.  Mr. Soloman became a prominent lawyer and was one of the framers of the Constitution of the State in 1857.

In 1853 the name of the county-seat was changed from Coonville to Glenwood.  Soon after the close of the War of the Rebellion one of the Soldiers' Orphans' Homes was located at Glenwood and later the Institution for the Feeble Minded was built there.  The first newspaper in the county was the Glenwood Times, established in May, 1856, by J. M. Dews.  The largest apple orchard in the State was planted in Mills County by John Y. Stone.  The soil of this region seems to be peculiarly adapted to fruit growing.  Malvern is a thriving town near the center of the county.  The Burlington Railroad was the first built in the county.

MITCHELL COUNTY, originally a part of Fayette, was created in 1851 and named for the Irish patriot John Mitchell.  Its northern boundary is the Minnesota line and it is in the fourth tier west of the Mississippi River.  The county embraces an area of four hundred seventy-three square miles.  The Red Cedar, the Little Cedar and the Wapsipinicon rivers flow southward through the county.  James B. Cutler and William Ramsdell were the first settlers in 1852; they took claims and built cabins about a mile north of where Osage stands.  L. S. Hart and his son Orin entered land and settled at Spring Grove the same year.  In June, 1853, a colony of Norwegians under the leadership of C. L. Clanson came from Wisconsin and settled near where St. Ansger stands on the Red Cedar River.  In September of the same year Josiah Cummings and his son William E. located at Mitchell.

The county government was organized in 1854 by the election of the following officers:  A. H. Moore, judge; Amos Cummings, clerk; B. C. Whitaker, treasurer and recorder, and L. S. Hart, sheriff.

In 1853 a town was laid out on the Cedar River by Dr. A. H. Moore and B. C. Whitaker which was named Cora.  In 1854 the property was sold to Boardman, Downs and Gibbs, who changed the name of the town to Osage, in honor of Orin Sage of Massachusetts.

In 1855 the county-seat was located at Mitchell where a town had been platted on the east bank of the Cedar River.  A bitter contest soon arose between the citizens of Osage and Mitchell for the permanent county-seat.  Several elections were held with varying results until April, 1861, when Osage was declared the county-seat by a majority of nineteen votes.  By injunction proceedings Mitchell held the county records until the fall of 1871 when the courts settled the contest in favor of Osage.  In July, 1856, the United States Land Office was moved from Decorah to Osage.

The first mill in the county was built at Newburg in 1854.  The first court was held by Judge Samuel Murdock at Mitchell in June, 1857.  The Osage Democrat was the first newspaper in the county; it was established in the spring of 1856 by Datus E. Coon of Osage, who issued the first number under the shade of a tree.  In 1857 the Methodists organized a church at Osage with Rev. Holbrook as pastor.  A. S. Faville taught the first school at Mitchell in 1854.

The first railroad constructed through the county was the Cedar Falls and Minnesota which followed the valley of the Cedar River.

MONONA COUNTY lies on the Missouri River in the fifth tier south of the Minnesota line.  It is about thirty miles long from east to west by twenty-four wide containing an area of six hundred eighty-five square miles.  The county was created in 1851 from territory in the old county of Benton; the name is of Indian origin.  In 1865 the eastern tier of townships was detached and given to Crawford County.  The valley of the Missouri River spreads out to a great width in this county containing more than 165,000 acres of level bottom lands of unsurpassed fertility, the black soil varying in depth from six to fifteen feet.  The Little Sioux River runs in a southwesterly direction through the county.

The first permanent settler was Isaac Ashton, who, in 1852, made a claim about two miles north of Onawa, while Josiah Sumner located near him.  The same year Aaron Cook settled on the bank of the Missouri River at a place which became known as Cook's Landing.  In 1854, Charles B. Thompson, a Mormon leader, with several followers settled on Soldier Creek.  During the year he was joined by about fifty Mormon families who preempted several thousand acres of the best lands in that vicinity.  Thompson laid out a town called Preparation.  A quarrel arose among the members of the colony; litigation ensued and the members gradually disposed of their lands and removed to other parts.

The county government was organized in 1854 by the election of the following officers:  Charles B. Thompson, county judge; treasurer and recorder, Hugh Lytle; clerk, Andrew Hall; and J. F. Lane, sheriff.  The county business was transacted at the Mormon town, Preparation.  The commissioners chosen to locate the county-seat selected Ashton in the fall of 1854.  The same year Mr. Thompson started two papers; one, a weekly called The Messenger, and the other a monthly named Zion's Harbinger.  The were published at Preparation.

In 1857 the Mormon Land Company laid out the town of Onawa and the first house was built by S. S. Pearse in July, while J. E. Morrison the same season built a hotel called the Onawa House.  C. E. Whiting was one of the early settlers in the county who planted large orchards and extensive groves of trees.

In 1858, by a vote of the people the county-seat was moved to Onawa.  The Sioux City and Pacific Railroad was the first built through the county.

MONROE COUNTY lies in the second tier north of the Missouri line and in the fifth west of the Mississippi River.  It has twelve congressional townships containing an area of four hundred thirty-two square miles.  The county was first named Kishkekosh and organized under that name but changed to Monroe August 1, 1846, in honor of the fifth President of the United States.  A history of its organization and early settlements will be found in the sketch of Kishkekosh County.  The name of the county-seat, Princeton, was changed to Albia.  In 1854 A. C. Barnes established a newspaper at Albia in the interest of the "free soil" movement which was called the Albia Independent Press.  The main line of the Burlington Railroad runs through the county from east to west with a branch to Des Moines.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY lies in the second tier east of the Missouri River and also in the second tier north of the Missouri State line.  It was created in 1851 and contains twelve congressional townships with an area of four hundred thirty-two square miles.  The county was named in memory of General Richard Montgomery an officer of the Revolutionary War who was killed in the assault on Quebec in 1775.  The Nodaway and Nishnabotna rivers flow through the county in a southwesterly direction.

John Ross was the first white man to make a home in the county in 1849.  Among the settlers previous to 1853 were Amos G. Lowe, S. C. Dunn, John W. Patterson, John Stafford, Carl Means, John and James Ross and Samuel Baker.  The first settlements were made along the Nodaway River in the eastern portion of the county.

In 1853 the county government was organized by the election of the following officers:  Anos G. Lowe, judge; S. C. Dunn, clerk; John W. Patterson, treasurer, and R. W. Rogers, sheriff.  The commissioners chosen to locate the county-seat selected a tract of land in the center of the county where a town was laid out and named Frankfort, July, 1854.  The first house was built by John Burnside.  Dr. Asa Bond and A. G, Lowe soon located there and the new town made a rapid growth.  Samuel Baker taught the first school in the county in 1856.  In 1857 Alfred Hebard, David Remick and Charles Hendrie laid out the town of Red Oak on the banks of the Nishnabotna River.  The same year Joseph Zuber built the first house on the town site.  In 1863 by a vote of the people the county-seat was removed from Frankfort to Red Oak.  From that time Frankfort declined and many of its buildings, including the court-house, were removed to Red Oak.  In March, 1868, Webster Eaton established a weekly newspaper named the Montgomery County Express, the first in the county.  The main line of the Burlington Railroad runs through the county from east to west.

MUSCATINE COUNTY was created from territory originally embraced in Demoine County.  In 1836, when the boundaries were first established, it included a portion of the present counties of Scott, Johnson and Washington.  Soon after the creation of the counties of Scott, Slaughter and Johnson, Muscatine was reduced to its present limits.  The name is derived from the Musquetine tribe of Indians which at one time possessed the island in the Mississippi River and the west shore.  The county lies on the Mississippi River, includes Muscatine Island and is in the fourth tier north of the Missouri State line.  It embraces an area of four hundred thirty-seven square miles.

In the fall of 1833 Major George Davenport, who had a trading post at Rock Island, sent Mr. Farnam down the river to where Muscatine stands to establish a trading post.  Farnam built a log cabin in which he placed a stock of goods and opened trade with the Indians.  After two years the store was sold to John Vanata.  In May, 1834, Benjamin Nye settled at the mouth of Pine Creek.  The following year James Casey built a cabin just below the Davenport trading house.  Dr. Eli Reynolds soon after laid out a town three miles farther up the river named Geneva.  Other settlers located at Moscow, on the Cedar River.  In the spring of 1836 Colonel Vanata occupied his claim and laid out a town which he named Bloomington.  A few months later J. W. Casey and others laid out a town lower down the river which was named Newberry.

The county was organized in January, 1837.  In 1837 a postoffice was established at Bloomington and the following year was made the county-seat.  By this time about fifty houses had been built and the population of Bloomington numbered about two hundred.  Adam Ogilvie opened the first store in 1837 and Edward E. Fay was the first postmaster.  The Iowa House was the first hotel, which was opened by Robert C. Kenney in the spring of 1837.  On the 18th of August of that year the steamer Dubuque,  Captain Smoker, exploded its boiler seven miles above Bloomington where twenty-two lives were lost.  Seventeen of the dead were buried in one grave in the cemetery at Bloomington.  Suel Foster was one of the proprietors of Bloomington, laying out additions.  In 1849 the name of the town was changed to Muscatine which signifies "little prairie."

The first school was taught by George Baumgardner at Bloomington in the spring of 1837.  The Methodists organized a church in the village the same year with Rev. Norris as pastor.  Judge David Irwin held the first term of court at the house of Samuel Parker in April, 1837, of which John S. Abbott was clerk.  When Lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike explored the upper Mississippi River in 1805, he named the high ground which rises from the river at Muscatine, "Grindstone Bluff."

The first court was held by Judge David Irwin at Bloomington in April, 1837; the next year the county was organized by the election of the following officers:  sheriff, James Davis; clerk, J. G. Monroe; treasurer and recorder, Lewis McKee; commissioners, John Vanata, E. Thornton and Aaron Usher.

The first newspaper established in the county was the Iowa Standard published by Crum and Bailey in 1840.  Early in the next year it was moved to Iowa City, the new Capital of the Territory and the first number of the Bloomington Herald by Hughes and Russell was immediately issued to take its place.  The Rock Island Railroad was the first line built through the county


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