|In this year 1914 of the
Christian Era, when the citizen of Lee County
has occasion to make a short journey from home, he can hitch his horse
to a buggy or step into his automobile and glide along over an improved
highway to his destination. If he desires to take a longer journey, he
can take his seat in a reclining chair car, or a Pullman coach, on one
of the great railway systems of the country and be transported across
the country at the rate of fifty or sixty miles an hour. But does he
pause to think how all these conveniences were brought about for him to
enjoy? Let him for a moment draw upon his imagination for the
conditions that existed in what is now Lee County in 1833, when the
United States acquired full title to the lands of the Black Hawk
Purchase and threw them open to settlement.
Then all the Forty Mile Strip was "fresh from the hands of Nature,"
inhabited only by wild beasts, untutored savages, a few hunters,
trappers or agents of the great fur companies, with here and there an
actual settler, who had "come to stay." Through the forests or over the
prairies wound an occasional Indian trail, and these trails were the
only thoroughfares. No roads had yet been opened by the white man for
his convenience and accommodation, the streams were unbridged, and
frequently some emigrant would have to wait on the bank of a creek for
the waters to subside before he could continue his journey.
In that early day the rivers of the country were the arteries of
commerce. It was therefore natural that the first settlement should be
made near the Mississippi River, so that the pioneers could keep in
touch with the outside world by means of the steamboats plying upon the
great Father of Waters. Although the Mississippi is not an "internal
improvement," in the strict interpretation of that term, it is deemed
appropriate to incorporate in this chapter a brief account of the early
steamboat traffic, as it was by this medium that the early merchants
received their consignments of goods, and the first settlers were
dependent upon this traffic for the supplies.
Among the early steamers on the Mississippi was the Shamrock, commanded
by Capt. James May, which made regular trips as early as 1 82 1.
Contemporary with the Shamrock were the Red Rover and the Black Rover,
the last named captained by George Throckmorton, a veteran river man.
In 1828 the Mexico, while attempting to descend the Des Moines Rapids,
struck upon a rock and sprang a leak. Isaac R. Campbell, a passenger on
the boat, dived into the water and thrust a blanket into the hole,
partially stopping the rush of water into the hold. Pumps were set to
work and the Mexico managed to reach Nashville (now Galland), where she
sank. The wreck was raised some years later by workmen upon the
In 1832 the Winnebago, Thomas O'Flatherty, master, made its appearance
on the Upper Mississippi, and about the same time the William Wallace
entered the Keokuk trade. The second Keokuk packet was the Rosalie,
which made regular trips between that city and Quincy, Illinois, under
command of Captain Cameron. In 1836 the Adventurer, Captain Van Houton,
came up the river from St. Louis to Keokuk.
The Mechanic, another early steamboat, made regular trips up and down
the river until she was sunk by striking upon the big rock near the
Iowa shore at the head of the Des Moines Rapids in 1830. This bowlder
was afterward known as Mechanic's Rock. The Illinois, Capt. Robert
McAllister, was wrecked upon the same rock some years later.
Other early packets were the General Brooks, Osprey, Senator, Gipsey,
Lucella and Prairie Bird. The Osprey was once owned by Joseph Smith,
the Mormon prophet, who sold her to George C. Anderson, Keokuk's first
banker. The Gipsey was the first Mississippi River boat to be equipped
with a calliope, and as she approached a landing it was the custom of
the musician to "turn loose" with such patriotic airs as "Hail
Columbia," "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Yankee Doodle," while the
entire population of the little village would cease work to listen to
the music. The Prairie Bird was wrecked a short distance above Keithsburg, Illinois,
and remained submerged until removed by the Government in 1889. She was
commanded by Larry McDonald, who became noted at the time of the Civil
war for his attempt at reprisal on Lake Erie in the interests of the
In 1857 tne °ld Northern Line established a regular schedule for boats
between St. Louis and St. Paul. The boats of this line were the W. L.
Ewing, Henry Clay, Metropolitan, Fred Lorenz, Belle, Canada, Minnesota
and Pembina — all sidewheelers except the Lorenz. These boats were the
finest ever seen upon the river up to that time and did much to
stimulate both commerce and travel.
A little later the White Collar Line was started by Commodore Davidson.
The boats of this line were the Northwestern, War Eagle, Grey Eagle,
Belle of La Crosse, Northern Light, Golden Eagle, S. S. Merrill, Phil
Sheridan and Hawkeye, and perhaps one or two others. They were
distinguished by broad white bands painted upon the smokestacks, from
which the line took its name.
It was not long until the competition became so great between these
rival lines that both transportation companies were operating their
boats at a loss — or, if not at actual loss, without profit. The
Northern Line was then sold to the Davidson interests and for several
years the steamers earned good dividends upon the investment. With the
building of railroads, the river business declined. As old boats went
out of commission they were not replaced. In course of time the White
Collar Line became known as the Diamond Jo Line of steamers, and later
as the Streckfus Line, the principal boats of which in 1914 were the
Saint Paul, Quincy and Dubuque.
The Government Canal
With the increase of population along the Upper Mississippi came a
demand for better transportation facilities. The greatest obstacle to
the navigation of the river was the Des Moines Rapids, the head of
which was near the present Town of Montrose and the foot at Keokuk. In
this eleven miles the fall was twenty-two feet and the average depth of
the water over the rapids was not more than three feet at any time,
except in periods of high water. Upon the bed-rock were diagonal
ridges, called "chains" by the river men, which made the channel
tortuous and uncertain, and in low water navigation was an
impossibility. To overcome this condition of affairs keelboats were
introduced for lightening purposes. These boats, propelled by poles or
towed by horses or oxen, would carry the cargoes over the rapids, the
steamer following, and at the head of the rapids the boat would be
reloaded. Isaac R. Campbell is said to have been the first man to
conduct a keelboat lighter over the rapids. Later the larger flatboat
was introduced, and it in turn was superseded by steam towboats.
As early as 1830 the river men began to agitate the subject of
improving the river so that boats could pass the rapids. In 1837 Lieut.
Robert E. Lee made a survey and map of the rapids, and suggested
certain lines of improvement. Subsequently another survey was made by
Lieut. G. K. Warren, but more than a quarter of a century passed before
any definite action was taken by the Government. During that time the
cost of lighterage averaged more than a quarter of a million dollars
annually. In 1866 Gen. J. H. Wilson was placed in charge of the Des
Moines and Rock Island rapids of the Mississippi. Under his supervision
an independent ship canal was constructed from Nashville to Keokuk —
nearly eight miles.
Work was commenced on this canal in 1868. The plans called for a canal
250 feet in width and to have a depth of not less than five feet in
extreme low water. Three locks were provided for — a guard lock at the
upper end of the canal and lift locks at Sandusky and the foot of the
rapids. The original estimate of the cost was $2,710,000, but before
the canal was finished it cost $4,500,000. It was formally opened to
traffic, on August 22, 1877. The opening was attended by large
delegations of business men from St. Louis and other cities along the
Mississippi, who saw in the canal a great advantage to river commerce.
This canal continued in use until it was replaced by the great power
dam at Keokuk.
Des Moines River Navigation
As the settlements gradually extended back from the Mississippi,
efforts were made to ascend the Des Moines River with steamboats of
light draft, in order to open up trade with the interior. Charles
Negus, in an article published in the Annals of Iowa, says:
"In 1836 the Sacs and Foxes, having disposed of their reservation on
the Iowa River, where they had villages, moved west and settled in the
valley of the River Des Moines, in which is now Wapello County, and, as
a natural consequence, trading posts were established in this vicinity,
which had to be supplied with goods. In the fall of 1837, the few
settlers along the banks of this river were for the first time
gladdened with the sound of the shrill whistle of a steamboat, making
its way up the river with supplies for these trading posts.
This boat was the S. B. Science, commanded by Captain Clark, which, by
forcing its way against the swift current, passing safely over the
concealed sandbars and hidden rocks, demonstrated that the waters of
this river, at high stages, were navigable, much to the joy and
satisfaction of those who lived in the vicinity, and afforded a theme
for pleasant conversation for days and months."
In the same year (1837), when there was a good stage of water in the
river, the Pavillion, Capt. William Phelps, reached Fort Dodge and
created the impression that the Des Moines was navigable, at least for
the greater part of the distance between that point and the mouth. The
Otter and the Dove were also early steamboats to ascend the river, but
only for a comparatively short distance.
When Fort Des Moines was established by the Government in May, 1843,
where the City of Des Moines now stands, the little Steamer lone
carried the detachment of troops and their stores up to that point. The
successful voyage of this boat added greatly to the belief that the Des
Moines was, or could be made, navigable, and on August 8, 1846,
President Polk approved an act of Congress granting to the Territory of
Iowa alternate sections of land, in such of the public domain as was
unsold, in a strip five miles wide on each side of the river, "for the
purpose of aiding said territory to improve the navigation of the Des
Moines River from its mouth to the Raccoon Fork," etc.
Iowa was admitted as a state on December 28, 1846, and the land grant
was accepted by the Legislature on January 9, 1847. Two years later
Samuel R. Curtis was employed to make a survey of the river and report
plans for improving the navigation. He proposed a svstem of locks and
dams, three of which and a canal were put under contract, but none was
ever completed according to the original plans. Concerning the land
grant and the manner in which the improvement was handled, Mr. Negus
"This was a most magnificent grant, embracing some of the best lands in
the state; and if the proceeds had been judiciously and properly
expended, would have made a great thoroughfare for steamboats, besides
affording an immense water-power for driving machinery. But, through
the incompetency of managing the means and the intrigues of designing
men, the whole of the lands below the Raccoon Fork, and a large
quantity above, were disposed of and very little practical good
accomplished toward the navigation of the river.
Meantime boats continued to ascend the river to Farmington, Keosauqua
and Ottumwa, and occasionally one went up as far as Des Moines. Among
these early Des Moines River steamers were the Agatha, Captain May,
which made two or three trips in 1843; the Kentucky in 1849 and the
Jenny Lind in 1850, both commanded by Capt. J. C. Ainsworth; the Maid
of Iowa, Capt. William Phelps, in 1 85 1. During the next five years
the Colonel Morgan, Michigan, Revenue Cutter, Defiance and George H.
Wilson all ascended the river, a few going as far as Des Moines. In
1856 Captain Wilson took the Charles Rogers up as far as Fort Dodge,
and the same year the Jennie Dean, a large Keokuk packet, went up as
far as Croton. In the latter '50s the Belfast, Captain Milburn, the Des
Moines, the Belle and the Flora Temple were engaged in the Des Moines
River trade. Then came the railroads and efforts to navigate Iowa's
longest river came to an end. The last navigation of the Des Moines, of
which there is any record, was in 1894, when "General" Kelly's "Army of
the Commonweal" floated down from the City of Des Moines to Keokuk in
such craft as could be picked up or hastily constructed.
When the first white men came to Iowa, the only roads were the Indian
trails, which wound by sinuous courses along the lines of least
resistance. Where these trails were convenient they were used by the
early settlers until better roads could be opened. The first highways
constructed by civilized man were crude affairs — usually a route
marked out at will, the trees blazed through the woodlands, with here
and there a few trees removed to permit the passage of vehicles. Low
places were filled with small logs, thrown crosswise of the driveway,
thus forming the famous old "corduroy" road, which was neither easy on
the team nor comfortable for the driver, but it kept the wagon from
In May, 1837, the Legislature of Wisconsin, of which territory Lee
County was then a part, passed an act authorizing the opening of a
territorial road west of the Mississippi. The field notes of the
survey, filed with the supervisor in the following September, show that
this road in Lee County followed a course beginning at the county line
in the northeastern part "via the south branch of Lost Creek, the main
branch of Devil Creek, crossing both East and West Sugar Creeks, thence
to the Des Moines River, a distance of twenty- four miles."
The first board of road commissioners in Lee County, elected on April
3, 1837, was composed of Samuel Hearn, E. D. Ayres and Samuel Perkins.
They met for the first time on September 2, 1837, and declared the
following roads to be public highways: 1. From Fort Madison to the
northern boundary of the county, towards Augusta, Des Moines County. 2.
From Fort Madison, through West Point, to the western boundary of the
county. 3. From Hearn's Ferry, on the Des Moines River, to Fort
Madison, "beginning on the bank of the Des Moines River at Hearn's
Ferry, thence north and east (by certain described courses) to Fort
To provide for the opening and improvement of these highways, the
county was divided into nine road districts and an overseer or
supervisor appointed for each. District No. 1 included that part of the
road from Fort Madison north to the county line, from the cross street
running past the house of the late Nathaniel Knapp to E. D. Ayres'
house, George M. Ball, overseer. District No. 2 included the remainder
of that road, from the house of E. D. Ayres to the county line, Isaac
The road from Fort Madison west to the county line, through West Point,
was made to include Districts 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. District No. 3 began at
the grading on the Mississippi River and followed the West Point survey
to the top of the bluff, Joseph Morrison, overseer. District No. 4
began at the top of the bluff and extended "out to the first large
branch, on the west of George Herring's house." No overseer named.
District No. 5 commenced at the branch above named and terminated at
the public square in the Town of West Point, Lewis Pitman, overseer.
District No. 6 extended from the public square in West Point to the
crossing of Sugar Creek, on the road leading to Tuscarora, Solomon
Fein, overseer. District No. 7 joined Fein's at the ford across Sugar
Creek and extended in the direction of Bentonsport to the county line,
John B. Perkins, overseer.
Districts 8 and 9 embraced the road from Hearn's Ferry to Fort Madison.
Theophilus Bullard was appointed overseer for District No. 8, which
included that part of the road from the town plat of Fort Madison to
the crossing of Devil Creek, and District No. 9 included the remainder
of the road, for which Johnson Meek was appointed overseer.
Boundaries for each district were established and the overseers were
authorized to "call out all hands in the district to work or open the
road." In this way the first roads in Lee County were established. No
pretense of following section lines were made in opening the roads, the
most direct route being followed as a rule. Portions of these first
highways are still used, but the greater part of them has been altered
to conform to the lines of the survey.
The territorial legislature of 1838-39, the first after the Territory
of Iowa was organized, passed acts providing for the establishment of
the following roads in Lee County: 1. From Keokuk to Iowa City, via
Farmington, New Lexington and Bentonsport. James Sutton, James Robb and
James McMurry were named in the act as commissioners to locate and
supervise the opening of the road. 2. From Fort Madison to Trenton,
Henry County, via Baltimore and Mount Pleasant. The commissioners to
oversee the construction of this road were William Skinner, Samuel
Brazleton and Myriam Kilbourne. 3. From Samuel Hearn's on the Des
Moines River, to West Point, to be located and opened by Thomas
Douglass, Samuel Hearn and William Howard. 4. From Keokuk to Mount
Pleasant, via Montrose. Larkin Johnson, William Morrow and Thomas W.
Taylor were named as the supervising commissioners. 5. From Fort
Madison to West Point, following approximately the route selected by
the board of county highway supervisors the year before. John Box, John
Reynolds and Lewis Pitman were appointed commissioners to supervise the
opening of this road.
During the first few years of the county's history, scarcely a meeting
of the county commissioners occurred at which petitions for the opening
of highways were not presented. The records from 1837 to 1846 are full
of instances of this character, and there was hardly a citizen in the
county during that period who was not at some time or another called
upon to act as road-viewer, to investigate and report upon the merits
of some petition. It would therefore be impracticable, if not actually
impossible, to give an account of each of the early roads, but the
above examples are representative cases of how the first roads were
In 1 85 1 the Des Moines Valley Plank Road Company was organized for
the purpose of building a plank road from Keokuk to Birmingham. In May
of that year the contract for its construction was let to Brownell,
Connable & Cunningham at $2,390 per mile for that portion between
Keokuk and Clinton. In this contract it was provided that the road
should be completed to the "end of Muddy Lane by November 1, 1851, and
to Clinton the next season." Branches to Salem and Fairfield were
projected, but were never finished.
The Railroad Era
The first railroad project to interest the people of Lee County was in
1 8 ^ t , when the subject of building a railroad from Keokuk to
Dubuque, with a branch to Council Bluffs, became one of general
discussion. The proposition received the support of many of the leading
politicians and quite a number of newspapers advocated the building of
the road. But every editor that favored it also insisted that the road
should run through his town. Col. J. Monroe Reid, in his "Old Settlers
and Reminiscences," says: "Every town of any pretensions on and off the
river expected to get this railroad. Surveys were made, not for the
purpose of establishing any route, but to attract public attention and
to keep up the excitement; and they answered their purpose. It had its
day until the election of United States senator was over, and then it
died. Like the track of a snake in the dusty road, it ran everywhere,
or appeared to run everywhere, but ran nowhere. It was ridiculed as the
'Ram's Horn Railroad,' because it was as crooked as a ram's horn. ...
It was a political scheme, planned for political purposes, and died the
Voting Aid to Railroads
In 1853 a company was organized to build a railroad up the Des Moines
Valley from Keokuk to Fort Des Moines and from that point north into
Minnesota. It was known as the Keokuk, Des Moines & Minnesota
Railroad Company. About the same time the Fort Madison, West Point,
Keosauqua & Bloomfield Railroad Company was organized, and
petitions were circulated asking the County Court to call a special
election to give the voters of the county an opportunity to express
themselves upon the question of granting aid by subscribing for the
stock of the two companies.
Accordingly, Judge Edward Johnstone, then county judge, ordered an
election for November 26, 1853, at which the proposition of subscribing
for $200,000 of the capital stock of each company was to be submitted
to the voters, the money thus paid to be expended within the limits of
the county. The call for the election also stated that a tax of not to
exceed one per cent should be levied upon all the taxable property of
the county annually, to provide a fund with which to pay the interest
upon the bonds and redeem them when they fell due. The proposition
carried by a vote of 1,964 to 805, and on April 4, 1855, the county
judge made the subscription to the stock.
In the meantime public sentiment with regard to voting subsidies to
railroads had undergone a change, and a petition signed by over
one-fourth of the legal voters of the county was filed with the county
judge, asking for another election to vote on the question of
rescinding the order for the stock subscription. An election was
ordered for the first Monday in April, 1855, but was postponed for a
time at the request of the petitioners. The vote on the question of
rescinding the issue of stock was 1,553 t0 ^S 21 * tn e proposition to
rescind being carried by a bare majority of thirty-two votes.
While this question was pending, the Keokuk, Mount Pleasant &
Muscatine Railroad Company had been organized in 1854 to build a road
from Keokuk to Muscatine. The citizens of Keokuk voted a bond issue of
$100,000 to aid in the construction of this road, and the merchants and
shippers of St. Louis raised $52,500 by private subscription, as the
road would be of great benefit to their interests by reducing the cost
of lighterage around the Des Moines Rapids of the Mississippi.
The people realized the building of railroads would aid materially in
the development of the country, and there was an evident desire on the
part of many to encourage their construction. On August 3, 1856, a
petition, signed by a large number of Lee County's most prominent
citizens, came before Samuel Boyles, then judge of the County Court,
asking for a special election to vote on the question of voting aid to
the roads. Judge Boyles therefore ordered an election for Wednesday,
September 10, 1856, at which the following questions were to be
submitted to the electors:
"1. Shall the county subscribe $150,000 to the capital stock of the
Keokuk, Fort Des Moines & Minnesota Railroad Company?
"2. Shall the county subscribe $150,000 to the capital stock of the
Keokuk, Mount Pleasant & Muscatine Railroad Company?
"3. Shall the county subscribe $150,000 to the capital stock of the
Fort Madison, West Point, Keosauqua & Bloomfield Railroad Company?"
It was also ordered by the court that each proposition should be voted
on separately; that no stock was to be subscribed unless each and all
propositions received a majority in favor of such subscrip- tions; that
the roads should give bonds that the proceeds resulting from the sale
of county bonds should be expended within the limits of the county, and
that all stock subscribed for under the previous election should be
surrendered. The three propositions were carried by majorities of
1,600, 1,652 and 1,602, respectively, and on Jan- uary 1, 1857, the
county issued its negotiable bonds in the sum of $450,000, with
interest at 8 per cent, payable semi-annually, for the benefit of the
The Keokuk, Des Moines & Minnesota
The survey of this road was made in 1854, under the direction of Col.
J. K. Hornish. In the spring of 1855 the company was reorganized as the
Des Moines Valley Railroad Company, with Hugh T. Reid, president; C. F.
Conn, secretary, and W. C. Graham,
treasurer. The City of Des
Moines and Polk County gave $100,000 to assist in bringing the road to
the capital. A contract for the construction of the road was let to
Smith, Leighton & Company in 1855 and grading was commenced. Track
laying began in the summer of 1856, and on October 7, 1856, the first
train was run from Keokuk to Buena Vista, a distance of about three
miles. On June 10, 1857, the first train was run from Keokuk to
Farmington. The road was completed to Eddyville in that year, when work
ceased until after the Civil war.
On July 10, 1866, J. M. Dixon, editor of the Des Moines Daily Register,
announced the fact that the road had finally crossed the Polk County
line in the following expressive if not elegant rhyme:
"Sammum Hillum! Something's broke! The cars have got inside of Polk!'
On August 22, 1866, a proclamation was issued that the first train on
the Des Moines Valley Railroad would arrive at Des Moines on the 29th.
Thus, after eleven years of trial and tribulation, the capital of the
state was placed in communication by rail with the Mississippi River at
Keokuk. On the first through train there were about one hundred and
fifty people from Keokuk, who went to Des Moines to attend the
celebration. James Tibbetts, of Keokuk, was on the locomotive as
engineman, and R. Patch, also of Keokuk, was the conductor. This road
is now a part of the great Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway
Keokuk, Mount Pleasant & Muscatine
This was one of the three roads that were aided by stock subscriptions
on the part of Lee County. In 1855 the stockholders voted to place the
construction of the road under the control of Col. J. K. Hornish, an
experienced engineer. During the spring and summer of 1856 work was
pushed with vigor and the road was finished from Keokuk to Montrose
before the winter could interfere with its construction.
While this part of the road was under construction, the people of Fort
Madison, through the cooperation of the Fort Madison, West Point,
Keosauqua & Bloomfield Railroad Company, began the building of a
road from that city to a point a little south of what is now the
station of Viele, and in 1857 tne Keokuk, Mount Pleasant &
Muscatine was extended northward from Montrose to Viele, thus
establishing railroad communication between Keokuk and Fort Madison.
The road then took the name of the Keokuk & St. Paul. The northern
terminus of the road was at Fort Madison until 1869, when the line was
extended to Burlington.
Burlington & Southwestern
About 1868 or 1869 a company was organized at Burlington to build a
road westward from Viele to Farmington, Van Buren County. Work was
commenced at Viele in the summer of 1870 and the road was completed to
Farmington in the spring of 1871. From Viele its trains ran to
Burlington over the tracks of the Keokuk & St. Paul Railroad. This
road was at first known as the Burlington & South- western and
later as the Chicago, Burlington & Kansas City. Subsequently it was
extended to Carrollton, Missouri, and is now the Burlington, Laclede
& Carrollton division of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy
On July 17, 1 871, a company was organized at Fort Madison for the
purpose of building a narrow-gauge railroad from Fort Madison via West
Point, Birmingham, Fairfield and Oskaloosa to Council Bluffs. This road
was known as the Fort Madison & Northwestern Narrow-Gauge Railway.
Cars began running between Fort Madison and West Point early in 1879.
The road was then sold to a construction company, which completed it to
Collett, forty-five miles from Fort Madison. About 1888 the road again
changed hands, the new company taking the name of the Chicago, Fort
Madison & Des Moines Railroad Company. The new owners changed the
road to a standard gauge and completed it to Ottumwa. It is now the
Fort Madison & Ottumwa branch of the Chicago, Burlington &
Quincy System, which also operates a line from Keokuk to Mount
Pleasant, passing through the central part of Lee County.
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe
Shortly after the close of the Civil war a line of railroad was built
from Topeka westward through Kansas, closely following the line of the
old Santa Fe Trail. A little later the road was extended eastward to
Atchison, Kansas, which city was then a great outfitting point for
westward emigration, and a branch was built from Topeka to Kansas City.
The road then became known as the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. It
was not many years until the company announced its intention to extend
its line from Kansas City to Chicago. When this fact became generally
known, several cities on the Mississippi River offered inducements to
secure the road. In this contest Fort Madison possessed some decided
advantages. In the first place, it was nearly on the "air line" between
the two terminal cities, and in addition to this a company of men at
Fort Madison held a charter to build a bridge across the Mississippi at
that point, which charter they offered to turn over to the railroad.
Work was commenced on the eastern extension in 1886 and on December 7,
1887, the first train crossed the Mississippi River on the new bridge
at Fort Madison. Fort Madison was made a division point on the road and
the company maintains large shops and yards at that point.
Toledo, Peoria & Western
In 1853 a company called the Logansport, Peoria & Warsaw Railroad
Company was organized to build a line of railroad from Hamilton to
Carthage, Illinois, which was completed in 1856. Three years later the
line was extended southward to Clayton, Illinois. When the railroad and
wagon bridge was built across the Mississippi at Keokuk in 1868, that
city was made the western terminus of the road, thus giving Keokuk an
eastern outlet. Since that time Keokuk has been made the terminal city
of a division of the Wabash System, which connects with the main line
at Bluffs, Illinois.
Of the $450,000 voted by the people of Lee County in aid of railroads
in 1856, one-third was expended by the Keokuk, Mount Pleasant &
Muscatine Company in building the road from Keokuk to Montrose;
one-third by the Fort Madison, West Point, Keosauqua & Bloomfield
Company in building the road from Fort Madison to Viele; and the
remaining one-third was used by the Des Moines Valley Railroad Company
in the construction of its line from Keokuk to Bentonsport.
According to the county auditor's report for the year 1913, Lee County
then had 159.64 miles of railroad, the estimated actual value of which
was $6,420,420, but which was assessed for taxation at $1,605,105.
of Lee County,
Iowa, by Dr. S. W. Moorhead and Nelson C. Roberts, 1914