Jasper Co. IAGenWeb

Who's Who in Iowa

Jasper County

By W. S. Johnson

Published by The Iowa Press Association

THE ENDING of the Black Hawk War was the real beginning of the history of Iowa. As we all know, the real object of that war was to drive the Indians from the rich lands of the Mississippi valley and thus to give the white people a chance to move in and cultivate the rich soil and on them to produce the many different kinds of crops which the land would bring forth in great abundance. In 1843 this pushing back of the red men reached that part of Iowa now known as Jasper County, when all of the land lying east of a line running between the present locations of Newton and Colfax was declared to be open to settlement.

On the 23rd of April of that year-just seven days before the time set by the government-Adam Tool, William Highland, John Trout, John Vance, and three others, all of whom had walked from Jefferson County, reached the border of Jasper County and chose lands lying at the present location of the town of Monroe, as their future home. They named the spot Tool's Point. The wildness of the land and the utter lack of other settlers almost drove these men into turning their backs on Jasper County and going back to their former homes, but better counsels prevailed and they located their claims and built cabins and gradually changed the bare prairie into farms. Other settlers soon began to come and it was not long before Adam Tool was almost forced to turn his cabin into a hotel to accommodate the incoming settlers, and so the town of Monroe, which later barely missed being named as the capital of the state, came into existence.

To the first settlers the unlimited stretches of bare, treeless prairie was almost disheartening. But it did not so affect all who saw it for the first time. Angus Campbell, a newspaper man who came from Ohio to start a paper at Newton a few years after the county was organized, was in raptures over the beauty of the landscape. He wrote, in his paper, "This is the most beautiful land in America." He spoke of the far-reaching prairies as "a wide expanse of green and gold." The land was then generally bare of trees, but the early settlers always spoke enthusiastically of seven or eight primitive groves located in different parts of the county.

Soon the Indians were pushed still further west and Jasper County was then fully laid out and the lands rapidly taken over by settlers.

In 1846 the county seat was located at Newton. The town site was soon surveyed and a public sale of lots held. The prices paid ran from $7.00 to $37.00. John R. Sparks, who afterwards became a leading citizen and an officeholder in the county, seems to have been the heaviest bidder. A goodly number of cabins, and some real houses and little stores were soon built, and Newton became a thriving village.

There was never any trouble with the Indians in this part of the state, though there was one scare. One dark night when the county seat was still new, two men were riding through the village in the darkness when they heard blood-curdling screams. They jumped to the conclusion that it portended an attack by the Indians and they spread the report abroad. Really, a woman who was subject to "fits" had just been taken with one of these and she fell on the floor screaming. A few people-so the histories say-were so badly frightened by the silly story that they hastily packed their goods and fled to Oskaloosa for safety. (page 605) Next page