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Old Settlers Association and Member Nicknames

Lee County Pioneers Arriving Before July 4, 1840 Form Old Settlers Association in 1871

Thirty three men will have their names copied for your interest today because they signed a roll early in 1871, founding the "Old Settlers Association of Lee County."

They met first at the Court House in Fort Madison, on Jan. 5 and chose as their first President Hon. Philip Viele, with R. W. Pittman to serve as the secretary. The meeting was adjourned to April 13 to perfect the organization and appoint a committee to draft a constitution and by laws, which were submitted and accepted by the general meeting held on July 4, at the fair grounds in Fort Madison. This latter was the first of a series of annual gatherings for reminiscence, speeches, music, basket dinners and a general good time, with the assembly moving to other parts of the county, such as Keokuk, in later years.

What had these thirty three persons in common? All were men, all had arrived in Lee County before July 4, 1840, and all had the good fortune to live and remain residents of the county until 1871.

By a subsequent amendment, as the "old timers" became fewer, persons coming before December,1846 were admitted to membership. By 1874, the roll had lengthened to about 200 members. Biographical sketches of the members were written down as a memorial to their pioneering labors.

Here are the 33 names, as printed in 1874, that were inscribed in 1871, all with their year of arrival or of birth in Lee County, many giving even the month and day of their entry into Lee. Some had come as men, or their own decision, and some, we know, like James W. Campbell, were children brought in by their parents or other kinsfolk.

The two first officers started the list: Philip Viele, June 2d, 1837, and R. W. Pittman, April 2d, 1835. Their names are followed by Alex Cruikshank, March 1st, 1834; Elias Overton, Aug.16th,1836; James W. Campbell, Oct. 1829; Peter Miller, Sept. 22d,1836; John G. Kennedy, April 12th,1836; E. S. McCulloch, May.1836 and J. A. Casey, July 6th. 1836.

Continuing, we find the names of James T. Blair, Nov. 16,1839; Elkanah Perdew, June 19,1840; Samuel Paschal. Sept., 1835; Daniel F. Miller, April 15,1839; James Caldwell, May 4,1837; R. McHenry, 1840; James Cruikshank, May 7,1835; George D.Leidy, May,1840; Robert A. Russell, April,1839; Philotus Cowles, May 3,1838; R. McFarland, Nov.,1839; and Silas D. Hustead, June, l835.

Concluding the names,we are led to remember: J.C. Parrott, Sept. 1834; John Vandyke, Jan. 22, 1837; J.E. Marsell, May 1, l839; May 1, 1839; I. Hale, May, 1839; Hazen Wilson, July 1837; Ferdinand Kiel, March 15, 1849; John H. Douglas, June 20,1836; E. G. Wilson, Nov.28, 1837; George L.Coleman, Nov. 29,1887; Cromwell Wilson, Feb. l, 1837; Louis G. Pittman, April 2,1835; and Jacob Abel, Oct.15, 1836.

Apparently the above 33 first signers were not all who were eligible. The "Old Settlers' Memorial" is quoted as listing Mark Aldrich as at "The Point," now Keokuk, as early as l829, perhaps earlier, but he had gone to Warsaw and died in Arizona. The " Memorial" names some other men who were in various parts of Lee County in 1837, though not all of them were still living and still residents of Lee County in 1871. Among these arrivals before 1837 had been: Col.Wm.Patterson, John Box, Joshua Owen, James Brierly, Capt. Jesse Brown, Hawkins Taylor, Dr. Walker, Edwin Guthrie, William Coleman, David and Edward Kilbourne, Stephen Burtis, Judge Johnstone, John Gains and Isaac R. Campbell, Mr. Campbell moved to St. Francisville, Clark County, Missouri about 1837, and his partner, Dr. Samuel Muir, Indian trader at the site of the future site of the city of Keokuk, one of the earliest settlers in Lee, died in the cholera epidemic of the early 1830's.

These men and others not named endured the hardships of pioneering, cut the timber, built cabins, broke the sod and participated in the founding and government of their townships and the cities of Lee County, while some served in the Iowa Territorial Legislature.

Written by Pearl Gordon Vestal, Hamilton, Illinois, contributed by Connie Street

Letter from Mr. Henry S. Austin

Vicksburg, Miss, Sept. 27, 1885

 Mr. Edward Johnstone, President

 My Dear Sir: -- Sometime since I received an invitation to attend your Reunion at Keokuk to be held the 30th inst.  I had determined to attend that meeting and revive the memories of the past, but along this journey of life we are subjects of disappointment.  I left my home in Chicago, Ill., on the 12th inst., for Jackson, Miss., to take car of a suit in the Chancery Court, involving a large amount of money, with an attachment on 250,000 acres of land.  I expected to have been through with that, in time to be at your reunion, but fate and the law’s delay determined otherwise.   I did not get through with my suit till last evening – and came here this morning.  I find myself “stuck” here for the day and shall not get home in time to visit you on that occasion when there will be a happy meeting of old settlers and old friends.  There are no friends like OLD friends.   How I shall miss the pleasure I had anticipated and hoped for, I cannot tell you.  I want to tell you of many things, past long years since.  I came west in the summer of 1835, fifty years ago, half a century, can it be possible?  How time flies!  “We take no note of time, but from its  loss.”  Yet I have kept some notes of things; a journal, daily, for over sixty years (that shows me what most men call an old man,) 74 years old, and NOT ASHAMED of my past life.

I took possession of “Old Fort Des Moines,, ten miles north of your city, on the first of June, 1837 (?), when the United States Troops left for Leavenworth, leaving me there alone, so far as white men were concerned, with about three thousand Indians around me, the Sac and Fox Nation.  I soon formed the acquaintance of Old Black Hawk (called Muk-e-tah-Mosseka-ka) and his wife (mo-a-e-quah) and his son Nash-eash-kuk; and old Keokuk, (Pash-c-pa-ho) and others, Frank Labessier, the half-breed, &c, &c.  Then came in the Kilbournes and Colemans, and many others who proved fast friends during eight months of fighting troubles with the border ruffians sent by the Reddick ring from St. Louis to dispossess us under the “Spanish Claim.”

That fall we laid out the town of Keokuk, and the town of Montrose.  WRIGHTS will never forget the hog-stealing cases tried before old justice Gaines, of Keokuk, who now lies buried in your cemetery, and who was a well meaning man, but much governed by the early practices of that early period.  They, (the Wrights) will not forget the whiskey jug that stood by the seat of justice, and the tin cup passed from time to time to the jurors called to try the “thieves,” (for they were not examining for a probable cause to bind over to a higher tribunal, but the J. P. claimed and exercised the power to TRY and punish all malefactors.)   Do the Wrights remember the occasion?  The good old man (Wright) has gone to the happy home above, but I believe some of the family still live north of and near your city, and I hope will be at your meeting.  I cannot say more now, but hope to meet your association at some future time.

Please express to your Association my regrets that I am unable to be with you at this meeting.

I enclose you my resemblance of the 50 years agone and now, that you may see how the young man looked when he emigrated to the west and fought prairie fires, and how he looks now, while yet hale and and hearty, and still fighting “the world, the flesh and the devil.”

With kindest regards, I am truly,


Henry S. Austin

Transcribed by Sally Youngquist with the help of Barbara

Sketches and Anecdotes of the Old Settlers and Newcomers

by Col. J. M. Reid Attorney at Law
R. B. Ogden, Publisher

It used to be the custom here, in “early times,” to select for every character of any special note in the place, some soubriquet or nick-name such as the whim of its donors might deem appropriate; upon the same principle, it is presumed, that Napoleon was dubbed by his idolizing soldiery, the “Little Corporal,” Jackson, “Old Hickory,” and Taylor, old “Rough and Ready.” Thus, we had here, some eight or ten years ago - the originals of which every Old Settler will readily call to mind from the soubriquet - The tall Cedar of Lebanon; Devil Creek; Citizen; Dot and go 1; Joe Doane; Doublehead; Compromise; Government; Pompey; Sweet William; Split Dog; Big Muddy; Donty; Flitterfoot; Cousin William; Old Jums; Rouser; Little Pee Dee; Fat Boy; Peril; Oh!la me; Peezzle Weezzle; Wharf Rat; Little Reed; Red Fox; Heels; Terror; Dornicks;  B---s Bill; Berkshire; Osprey; Jurisprudence; Little Duff; Pacing Johnson; Dabney; Picayune Andrews; R.B.; and Bucket No. 1;  Bucket No. 2;  Bucket No. 3, etc., etc., etc.

Among the well known “institutions” of Keokuk in early times, and still remembered also in connection with her public men, was “Rat Row,” a string of log cabins stretched out upon the ground between the fine store houses now fronting upon the levee, and the river; the “Shot Tower,” a noted frame building, somewhat upon the lantern order of architecture, that formerly embellished the ground now occupied by the Hardin House;  the ancient “Wharf Boat,” fitted up for the accommodation of passengers on their arrival and departure; the “Rapids” hotel - sometimes under the noted management of “Sweet William” - the Astor House of the aspiring young City, and where “Peril” the “Tall Cedar,” and others, did sometimes congregate to concoct and perform their exploits; the old “Mansion House” - the rival of the “Rapids” - catered for in those days by the inimitable “Pompey”;  the “Old Elm Tree,”  a short distance above the old Packet Depot, to which most of the Steamboats landing here were in the habit of “making fast”; the “Painted Rocks,” down near the first Pork House, a favorite place of resort - until their beauty and romance were destroyed by the barbarous innovations of modern stone quarries - of ardent young “lovyers” upon any pleasant Sunday afternoon;  the “Fleet of Tow Boats”, used for carrying freight over the rapids in low water, and for hauling which, when the supply of rope on hand fell short - as happened not unfrequently - the native grape vine, found in abundance along the river bank, or the bark of the paw-paw and the hickory, was put in requisition as a substitute.

The tall Cedar of Lebanon was General Jesse B. Browne

Devil Creek, William A. Clark, first Mayor of Keokuk

Citizen, A. Browne, Commission Merchant

Dot and go 1, Capt. Silas Haight

A. Holland, Capt. Trotter

Joe (rest indecipherable)

Doublehead, Colonel John Hillis

Compromise Roberts, Robert Roberts

Government, Captain Adam Hine

Pompey, L. B. Fleak

Sweet William, William Coleman

Split Log, Colonel Mitchell, of Missouri

Big Muddy, Lou. Collins of Muddy Lane

Donty, Dr. Birdsell

Flitterfoot, Valencourt Vanorsdall

Cousin William, William F. Telford

Old Jums, James H. Wise

Rouser, Captain William Holliday

Little Pee Dee, P. D. Foster

Peril, Dr. O’Hara

Terror, Dr. Hogan

O! la, me, John A. Graham

Red Fox, General H. T. Reid

Peezle Weezle, William C. Graham

Little Reed, J. P. Reed

Heels, Lyman E. Johnson

Dornicks, Calohill E. Stone

Taller, Dr. Thos. M. Sullivan

Burns Bill, William C. Rentgen

Pacing Johnson, J. Nealy Johnson

Berkshire, William Timberman

Black Hawk, Israel Anderson

Osprey, George C. Anderson

Jurisprudence, Joseph A. Clark

Dearduff, Little Duff

R.B., Ross B. Hughes

Dabney, Zephaniah Meeker

Billy Confang, William Morrison

Horse Head, Dr. D. Hoover

Picayune Andrews, James Andrews

Bucket No. 1, Isaac R. Campbell

Bucket No. 2, Henry J. Campbell

Bucket No. 3, Captain Jim Campbell

Beef McCready, John McCready, of the country

Chips, J. B. Thurman

Wharf Rat, Capt. Daniel Hine

Sheeps, George A. Hawley

____, John McKean

Jiggery Jones, Joab Jones

Garry, Lewis R. Reeves

Garret, C. F. Davis

Wapsi, Hugh W. Sample

Old Continental, Peter Eicher

Black Bill, Bill Thompson

Off Ox of Democracy, J. C. Hall

Old Blueface, Palmer of Iowa City

Cock-eye, Henry W. Starr

Bow-legs, W. H. Starr

Old Timber, J. W. Woods

Elcana Perdew, Kil Kenny

Uncle Toby, Francis Semple

Peach Blossom, Phillip Viele

Old Tilthammer, Peter Miller

The Old He Possum, Josiah Clifton

Old John A. Murrell the Law Pirate, M. M. Morrill

Ghost of Buster, Daniel F. Miller

Old Buck, Captain William Edwards

Chief of the Blackfeet, Dr. J. D. Elbert

King of the Hairy Nation, Dr. John J. Sellman

Cottonwood, John Hill

Besides the foregoing there were numerous others such as “Skillet Head,”  “Trigger Leg,” etc., in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

Contributed by Carol Griswold Salli

For a directory of members in 1880, click here.

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