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1914 County History

Dr. S. W. Moorhead

Keokuk, the metropolis of Lee County, is beautifully situated upon the romantic and picturesque bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River at the foot of the Des Moines Rapids, in the southern part of Jackson Township and the extreme southeastern corner of the State of Iowa. This place was called by the Indians Puck-e-she- tuck, which some writers have interpreted as meaning "the foot of the rapids," but Francis Labiseur, who acted as interpreter in the negotiation of some of the early treaties, and who understood the language of the Sacs and Foxes, says its liberal meaning is "where the water runs still." 

The first habitation built by a white man within the present limits of the city was the log cabin erected by Dr. Samuel C. Muir in 1820. In an address before the Old Settlers' Association in 1875, Capt. James W. Campbell says this cabin "stood on the right hand corner of Main and Levee, as you ascend the street." Doctor Muir had been a surgeon in the United States army and was stationed at Fort Edwards. He married an Indian girl and when the government officials issued an order that all soldiers having Indian wives should abandon them, he resigned his position as surgeon. Circumstances then compelled him to practice medicine elsewhere, so he leased his claim at Puck-e-she-tuck to Otis Reynolds and John Culver, of St. Louis, who employed Moses Stillwell as their agent to open a trading house there. 

Stillwell, accompanied by his two brothers-in-law, Amos and Valencourt Van Ausdal, took possession in the spring of 1828. During the preceding winter he had visited the claim and erected two cabins, one of which, near the foot of Main Street, he occupied with his family — the first white family to take up a residence at the foot of the rapids on the Iowa side of the river. A little further up the hill he cleared a small patch of ground, where he raised some corn and potatoes in 1828. A short distance below the cabin he built a stone building about 15 by 40 feet, using the stone bluff for the back wall. This building was erected for a warehouse for Culver & Reynolds and was used until it was carried away by the great ice gorge in 1832. Margaret, a daughter of Moses Stillwell, born in 183 1, was the first white child to be born in what is now the City of Keokuk. 

Shortly after Mr. Stillwell established himself at the foot of the rapids, the American Fur Company erected a row of five houses at the junction of Blondeau and Levee streets and installed Russell Farnham as resident manager; Joshua Palean, Mark Aldrich and Edward Bushnell, clerks. Paul Bessette, John Shook and Baptiste Neddo came as trappers and hunters. The buildings of the American Fur Company were of hewed logs and for many years were known as "Rat Row." John Connolly, John Forsyth, James Thorn and John Tolman were employed by the company as itinerant peddlers and in the collection of furs. Andre Santamont also came with the company's employees and built his cabin not far from where the roundhouse of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad was afterward erected. He was the stepfather of Francis Labiseur, the interpreter above mentioned. 

The lease of Reynolds & Culver expired in 1830, when Doctor Muir again took possession of his claim and formed a partnership with Isaac R. Campbell, the firm succeeding to the business established by Moses Stillwell. Doctor Muir died of cholera in 1832 and at the breaking out of the Black Hawk war in that year the American Fur Company sold "Rat Row" to Isaac R. Campbell and abandoned the field, leaving Mr. Campbell and thirty-four employees as the entire male population. Fears of an Indian attack were entertained, and at the suggestion of Maj. Jenifer T. Spriggs, who had come to survey the half-breed tract, a stockade was built around Mr. Campbell's establishment and a small blockhouse was constructed. The men were organized into a military company, with Major Spriggs in command. Mr. Campbell was elected lieutenant and commissary and wrote to the commandant at St. Louis for a supply of arms and ammunition. The company was furnished with a small swivel gun, thirty-four muskets and 500 rounds of ammunition, but no attack was made. 

Among the white men in Keokuk at this period were William McBride, Thomas W. Taylor, John Gaines, William Price and Alexander Hood, all of whom came in the year 1831. In an article on "Recollections of the Early Settlement," written by Isaac R. Campbell and published in the Annals of Iowa for July, 1867, the writer says: "Horse racing was a great source of amusement to us; in this sport our red friends were ever ready to participate, and at times lost on the result every article they possessed on earth. Keokuk and Pash-e-pe-ho, chiefs of the Sac tribe, were more passionately fond of this amusement than any of their contemporaries. And when amusements of this kind ceased to be entertaining, we called upon our pugilists, Hood McBride and Price, to enliven the scene by a friendly exhibition of their prowess, by knocking down and dragging out a few of the disinterested spectators. We had no prize belt to award the victor, as the science and courtesies of the ring had not then arrived at the perfection they have since. Before this era, civil law, of course, was unknown, and our salutary mode of punishment for crime was by prohibiting the criminal from the use of intoxicating liquors, this being the greatest punishment we could inflict." 

For a number of years after the first settlement was made at the foot of the rapids the place was known by various names, such as Puck-e-she-tuck, the Point, Foot of the Rapids, etc. There seems to be some difference of opinion as to when the name "Keokuk" was first adopted. Dr. Isaac Galland says: "July 4, 1829, was celebrated on a steamboat lying at the foot of what is now Main Street. It was at this meeting, presided over by Col. George Davenport, that the name Keokuk was given to the place." 

This statement was made in a letter written by Doctor Galland a few years before his death. Isaac R. Campbell says that "up to the year 1835, the settlement at the foot of the rapids had been without a distinctive name. * It was finally proposed by a number 

of steamboat men, while detained here lighting over the rapids, that it should commemorate the name of the peace chief of the Sac tribe. From this time the name Keokuk was adopted, and, in 1837, I sold my potato patch inclosure to Dr. Isaac Galland, agent of the New York Land Company, and, under his supervision, a city in embryo was formally inaugurated and recorded as 'Keokuk.' " 

Whether the name was adopted in 1829 or not until some years later, the authorities above quoted agree that the honor of its selection belongs to steamboat men. 

In the spring of 1837 Dr. Isaac Galland, agent of the New York Land Company, assisted by David W. Kilbourne, laid out the original town plat, which was filed for record in October, 1840. In his inaugural address as mayor of Keokuk, delivered on April 10, 1855, Mr. Kilbourne said: 

"When the square mile upon which Keokuk is located was laid off into streets, lots and blocks, in 1837, the main portion of it was a dense forest; and where Main Street now is, so thick was the timber and underbrush, that it was difficult to make the survey. Then a few log cabins on the river bank, which had been erected and used for Indian trading houses, composed all the improvements. Then the homes of Keokuk and Black Hawk were near, and the graves of many of the tribes were prominent objects upon the bluffs within our town site, over which now stand the houses of she-mo-ko (the white man)." 

In June, 1837, occurred the first public sale of lots in the new Town of Keokuk. It had been advertised far and wide and was largely attended. A steamboat was chartered at St. Louis and brought up a large number of prospective buyers. At that time the only buildings were a few scattering cabins — probably three or four — and the old trading house called "Rat Row." Hotel accommodations were not to be had for love or money, and the passengers occupied their state rooms on the boat as bed rooms during the sale. Although the number of lots sold at this sale was not as great as had been anticipated, the projectors of the town found consolation in the fact that one corner lot sold for $1,500, an indication that Keokuk's future was to be one great prosperity. 

Shortly after this sale the old Muir property was purchased by L. B. Fleak, who opened a boat store on the levee, bought two barges and engaged in the lightering business over the rapids. In 1839 Moses Gray built the old "Keokuk House," a frame structure, three stories in height, built of split lumber and roofed with clapboards. It was 26 by 44 feet and had partitions made of green cottonwood boards. Verily, in this building the "walls had ears," but such was Keokuk's first hotel. Mr. Fleak rented the house and opened it as a hotel, but soon after that certain creditors of Dr. Isaac Galland, who had bought the building of Gray, secured a judgment against him and the house was sold. It was bid in for the St. Louis creditors by Mr. Fleak for the amount of the judgment ($800), and not long afterward he bought the hotel for $640. A large addition to the hotel was built two years later. Prince de Joinville and his retinue were guests at this hotel soon after the addition was completed.

Street Scene, Keokuk
Street Scene, Keokuk

Some Early Events 

The death of Doctor Muir, in 1832, was the first to occur in Keokuk. Moses Stillwell died in 1834, in the cabin he had built some years before near the foot of High Street, and John Gaines, the first justice or notary, died on April 21, 1839. 

During the days of trading houses, the Indians brought in large quantities of elk, deer, wolf, beaver, otter, raccoon, mink and muskrat skins to trade for blankets, knives, trinkets and whisky. Valencourt Van Ausdal used to tell of some of the sprees the red men would have when they brought their peltries into the trading post. Said he: "They were excessively fond of whisky, but not much in the habit of drinking to excess unless by prearrangement to get on a 'big drunk,' when a certain number were appointed to stay sober and protect the drunken ones from doing harm to themselves or others. Their favorite places for having their 'big drunks' were at what is now known as the mouth of Bloody Run and on the bank of the Mississippi, where Anschutz's brewery now stands. During these sprees the days and nights were made hideous with the howls and war-whoops of the Indian bacchanalians." 

The first school in Keokuk was taught in 1833 by Jesse Creighton, in a little log cabin that had been erected by John Forsyth, a short distance below and a little farther back from the river than the buildings of the American Fur Company. Mr. Creighton was also a shoemaker and when not hearing classes would repair such shoes as the settlers brought to him. 

The first church edifice was erected in 1838; the first murder occurred in 1839, when Edward Riley killed Barney F. Barron. He received a two years' sentence in the penitentiary. In 1846 George C. Anderson established a private bank — the first institution of that character in Lee County. 

The Town Incorporated

For several years after the first settlers came the growth of Keokuk was slow, owing chiefly to the uncertainty of land titles in the half-breed tract. In July, 1841, the population was estimated at one hundred and fifty. Five years later it was 500, and in 1847 it was estimated at one thousand one hundred and twenty. On February 23, 1847, the governor of Wisconsin Territory approved an act of the Legislature providing for the incorporation of Keokuk. The town was incorporated under this act on December 13, 1847, when three wards were established. The First Ward included "all that part of the city lying between the Mississippi River and Second Street, bounded on the southwest by a line drawn from the river to the center of Second Street, between and parallel with, and at equal distances from, Main and Johnson Streets." 

The Second Ward embraced "that part of the city lying between the river and the center of Second Street, bounded on the northeast by the line aforesaid," and the Third Ward included all the remainder of the city. The voting places were established at the Rapids Hotel, the American House and the office of I. G. Wickersham, in the three wards respectively, and the first municipal election was ordered for the first Monday in January, 1848. 

The officers elected at that time were as follows: William A. Clark, mayor; James Mackley and William C. Reed, aldermen from the First Ward; William Holliday and Herman Bassett, from the Second Ward; and John W. Ogden and John M. Houston, from the Third Ward. Mayor Clark, who ran as a whig, received 175 votes, and his opponent, E. C. Stone, received 87 votes. The new government was inaugurated on January 10, 1848, just one week after the election, when the council elected A. V. Putnam, clerk; L. E. H. Houghton, assessor, and D. Murray, marshal, collector and treasurer. 

At the second meeting, on January 17, 1848, the council passed the first ordinance, entitled "An ordinance relative to the clerk of the council of the City of Keokuk." Other acts of the council at this session were the granting of a privilege to S. Haight & Company to maintain a wharf boat at the foot of Main Street; fixing the tax levy for city purposes at 37^ cents on each $100 worth of property; and renting a room from L. E. H. Houghton at $4.00 per month for a mayor's office. 

Following is a list of the mayors of Keokuk, with the year in which each entered upon the duties of the office, each one serving until his successor was elected and qualified: William A. Clark,from January 10 to April 17, 1848; Justin Millard, April, 1848; Uriah Raplee, April, 1849 (resigned in September following his election and John A. Graham was elected to fill the vacancy) ; John A. Graham, 1850; B. S. Merriam, 1852; David W. Kilbourne, 1855; Samuel R. Curtis, 1856; Hawkins Taylor, 1857; H. W. Sample, 1858; William Leighton, 1859; William Patterson, i860; J. J. Brice, 1861; R. P. Creel, 1862; George B. Smyth, 1863; J. M. Hiatt, 1864: William Patterson, 1865; William Timberman, 1867; John A. Mc- Dowell, 1868; A. J. Wilkinson, 1869; William Timberman, 1870; Henry W. Rothert, 1871; Daniel F. Miller, Sr., 1873; Edmund Jaeger, 1874; J orm N. Irwin, 1876; James B. Paul, 1879; James N. Welsh, 1880; Lewis Hosmer, 1881; David J. Ayers, 1882; George D. Rand, 1883; Edmund Jaeger, 1884; James C. Davis, 1885; John N. Irwin, 1887; John E. Craig, 1889; S. W. Moorhead, 1893; Felix T. Hughes, 1895; J. L. Root, 1897; James F. Daugherty, 1899; Theodore A. Craig, 1901 ; Andrew J. Dimond, 1903; James Cam- eron, 1905; W. E. Strimback, 1907; Charles Off, 1909. 

In 1910 the city adopted the commission form of government. Joshua F. Elder was elected mayor, and F. T. F. Schmidt and Thomas P. Gray, councilmen. In 191 2 Mayor Elder and Councilman Gray were reelected and T. J. Hickey was chosen as the successor of Councilman Schmidt. The officers elected in 1914 were: S. W. Moorhead, mayor; Joseph A. M. Collins and F. T. F. Schmidt, councilmen.


Probably no better account of the manner in which the Keokuk waterworks was inaugurated could be given than that published in the Keokuk Gate City of July 19, 1878, the day following the first test of the new plant, which is here quoted: 

"The great inconvenience to which the citizens of Keokuk have been periodically subjected through lack of water, and inconvenience amounting almost to distress at times, induced W. C. Stripe to study the subject of an artificial supply of that indispensable element. Some three years since, a few citizens, at his invitation, met at the United States engineer's office to inspect his plans and consult respecting the feasibility of erecting waterworks. The plans, so far as they were matured, met their approbation, and he was requested to complete them and make estimates of the probable cost and profits. 

"Before this was completed, a Mr. Weir, who had just completed the waterworks at Muscatine, visited Keokuk and submitted to the city council a plan to furnish a supply of water for domestic and public purposes, which combined the two grades of gravity and di- rect pressure — gravity for domestic and direct pressure for public purposes, including the extinguishing of fires. Mr. Weir's plan was a very good one and met the approbation of the city council, and he was requested to meet the council at its next session and explain his plans and estimates more in detail. He appeared before the council, as requested, and explained his plans, which comprised a reservoir on the avenue, capable of holding 130,000,000 gallons, with pumping machinery to furnish 1,500,000 gallons each twenty-four hours, five and one-half miles of mains and fifty hydrants, at a cost of $150,000. 

"Mr. Stripe also appeared before the council, and upon permission being given him, addressed them in opposition to Mr. Weir's proposition, mainly on the score of its extravagant cost, criticised it in detail and proved to the satisfaction of all who heard him that the entire apparatus proposed by Mr. Weir could be furnished for a sum but little exceeding one-half his figures. Considerable excitement ensued on the subject, Mr. Weir having stated publicly that his plans would assuredly be adopted. But the inexorable logic of figures prevailed and the Weir project was abandoned. Now was Mr. Stripe's opportunity. He invited a number of gentlemen who had manifestly an interest in the matter to meet him at his residence. To them he exhibited his plans and estimates, which they examined minutely, and having approved them determined to submit them to the city council and ask their cooperation to establish the work. 

"Mr. Stripe met the council, exhibited the plans and estimates, which comprised pumping apparatus to furnish 1,000,000 gallons per day, a stand-pipe sixty feet high, to be erected at the intersection of Second and High streets, a location 154 feet above the city datum line, and about eight miles of mains, at a cost of seventy thousand to seventy-five thousand dollars. This would have furnished ample supply for domestic use all over the city and for fire purposes, without the intervention of fire-engines at any point no higher than Main Street. 

"The city fathers gave this plan a qualified approval, but decided that to have their entire approval and cooperation, the whole city must be protected by the hydrants independent of fire-engines. With indomitable pluck and tenacity, Mr. Stripe again went to work and devised the plan which was adopted, and the consummation of which has been established." 

The Waterworks Company was organized on April 21, 1877, with a capital stock of $100,000, divided into shares of $100 each. William Leighton, Guy Wells, W. C. Stripe, Patrick Gibbons, S. P. Pond and James H. Anderson constituted the first board of directors. William Leighton was elected president; Guy Wells, vice president; W. C. Stripe, engineer and secretary; and Edward Johnstone, treasurer. 

Then beean a canvass for stock subscriptions. For a time it looked doubtful whether the amount desired could be obtained, but when the enterprise was hanging in the balance the Keokuk press took up the matter and day by day urged the people to take stock in order to ____.

 The Levee at Keokuk, 1848
The Levee at Keokuk, Foot of High Street, in 1848
Taken from drawing said to have been made by Lieut. Robert E. Lee, who was
then stationed here and who afterwards became the great Confederate general of the
Civil War. This drawing was discovered in the war department of the Government
by General W. W. Belnap after the latter had become Secretary of War. secure
the construction of the works, which would be a benefit to the entire city.
This campaign was kept up until the full amount of stock was subscribed.

Work on the plant was commenced on February 8, 1878. The machinery was installed by the Holly Manufacturing Company, of Lockport, New York, and the pipes were furnished by Dennis Long & Company, of Louisville, Kentucky. The specifications called for the completion of the works by June 18, 1878, but the city was engaged in grading some of the streets upon which mains were to be placed, which delayed the work and the final tests of the works were made on July 18, 1878, just thirty days behind time. Concerning these tests the Gate City of July 19, 1878, says: 

"Display number one consisted of a stream thrown from three hydrants through An inch nozzle at the Presbyterian Church, corner of Seventh and Blondeau streets. This location was chosen in order to compare the altitude of the stream with the height of the church steeple. Soon after the water was turned on, a section of hose near the nozzle burst and had to be replaced. Just as the stream was beginning to climb well the second time, a break occurred in the main at the corner of Sixth and Main streets, tearing up the street and crossing, and forcing a large volume of water to a height of several feet. This interfered with the pressure so that the stream on Seventh only reached an altitude of 164.23 feet. Except for the break, it would no doubt have ascended to a height of two hundred and twenty or two hundred and thirty feet. The contract calls for an altitude of 100 feet at that point, so that as it was the stream went sixty-four feet higher than was required." 

Tests were also made from hydrants at five different places on Main Street at the same time, the water at every point rising some thirty feet higher than called for by the contract with the company. The final test was made at the corner of Main Street and the Levee, where four large streams, each of which was thrown through three lines of hose centering in one nozzle, rose to a height of over two hundred feet.

In the construction of the works, the engine house — a brick structure 35 by 60 feet, with slate roof — was located at the foot of Concert Street, and a filter 15 by 50 feet was installed. Through this filter all water for private consumption passed. The pumping machinery at first consisted of a four-cylinder engine, with four pumps, of the latest Holly designs, with a capacity of 2,200,000 gallons daily, and about ten miles of mains, varying in size from six to fourteen inches were laid in the streets. Numerous additions and alterations have been made, new mains extended to outlying districts, and the water has always been kept up to a high standard of purity. A city ordinance compels the city physician or physician to the board of health to make examinations of the water twice a week, or oftener if he considers necessary. Tests must be made for alum and bacteria in both the filtered and unfiltered water, a cubic centimeter being unit of measurement. If 1,200 bacteria are found in this quantity of unfiltered water, or 125 in the filtered water, the ordinance gives a 98 per cent test. Dr. C. A. Dimond, the city physician, in a report in August, 1 9 14, says the water in Keokuk is as good as that to be found in most cities along the Mississippi River and better than that found in many of them. 

The Keokuk Waterworks Company is now a subsidiary corporation of the American Waterworks and Guarantee Company, which controls and operates waterworks in more than forty United States cities. This company uses chlorine for the purpose of purifying the water, with the result that a high grade of water is furnished to the people of the city, except on occasions when too much chlorine is left in the water, which leaves an unpleasant taste. 

At one time, while the great dam at Keokuk was under construction, it looked as though the Mississippi River Power Company and the Waterworks Company would become involved in serious litigation, growing out of the question as to the right of the former to raise the tracks of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad in front of the waterworks property. The question was taken to the courts and after a hearing of several days, the vice president of the Waterworks Company entered the court room one morning, called aside Hugh L. Cooper, chief engineer of the Mississippi River Power Company, and informed him that the American Waterworks and Guarantee Company was willing to submit the entire question to an arbitrator. He also stated that he was authorized to leave the entire matter with Mr. Cooper for adjustment. As a result, John W. Alvord, a prominent Chicago engineer, was agreed upon as arbitrator and upon his decision the question was settled to the satisfaction of all the parties concerned. 

Fire Department

In the spring of 1 8 q6 Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 was organized with Benjamin F. Dodson as president; D. B. Smith, secretary; and John B. Knight, treasurer. The first truck foreman was L. L. O'Connor. This was the first organized fire company of which there is anv authentic record. The Young America Fire Company was organized on October 9, 1856, at a meeting held in Burrows Hall, presided over by John A. McDowell, who afterward served as mayor of the city. In this company were several men who afterward became men of national reputation. Among them may be mentioned Samuel R. Curtis, who served as mayor of the city, a member of Congress, and as a general in the Union army in the Civil war; William W. Belknap, who was secretary of war in the cabinet of President Grant; Hugh W. Sample, who was elected mayor of Keokuk in 1858, and the Confederate General Winder, then a young lawyer of Keokuk, who went south, joined the secession movement and became notorious as the superintendent of Libby Prison, at Richmond, Virginia. 

The first president of the company was R. H. Magruder, who, with Curtis, Belknap, Sample and McDowell, took active steps to supply the company with hand engines and other fire-fighting apparatus. Two engines were purchased — the "Gallery," built by Rogers & Son, of Baltimore, Maryland, and the "Honneyman," which was built in Boston, Massachusetts. The Gallery, after being used a few years, was dismantled and sold as old metal, but the Honneyman continued in use for about a quarter of a century. The Columbia hose reel, purchased at the same time as the two engines, was afterward remodeled and change to a one-horse truck. 

In i860 the Rolla Fire Company was organized. The early meetings of this company were held in the blacksmith shop of Chris Smith, who was one of the members and made a large triangle, which served the company in place of a bell. 

Union Fire Company No. 3 was organized in 1861, with George T. Higgins, afterward sheriff, W. B. Miller, William Landers, Jacob Speck and Donald Robinson among the active members. 

The first steam engine was purchased by the city in the spring of 1866. It was manufactured by the Amoskeag Works, of Amoskeag, New Hampshire, and was called the "Young America," for the company to which it was assigned.* Prior to that time the old hand engine Honneyman had been in the hands of this company, but when the steamer arrived and was placed in commission, the Honneyman was turned over to the Rollas. 

After the great fire of July 4, 1870, it was decided to buy a second steamer and a Silsby engine, manufactured at Seneca Falls, New York, was purchased. It was christened the "Rolla" and went to the Rolla Fire Company, the old Honneyman being sold to the Town of West Point. 

In October, 1878, the paid fire department was organized and engines, hose reels, hook and ladder truck, etc., were placed under the control of the city. In 1914 the department consisted of four stations, and the apparatus of two steam engines, one chemical engine, one hook and ladder truck and four hose reels, manned by an efficient force of men. 

Public Lighting

On Friday evening, January 4, 1856, the streets of Keokuk were lighted by gas for the first time. The original founders of the Keokuk Gas Company were William Herrick and Edward Kilbourne, who built a plant and laid mains in the fall of 1855. These two gentlemen and Charles B. Foote filed articles of incorporation for the Keokuk Gas Light and Coke Company on December 20, 1855, with Edward Kilbourne as the first president and Josiah Davis as the first secretary. The capital stock provided for in the articles of incorporation was $100,000, enough of which was paid up to put the works in good condition. 

In 1865 Daniel Mooar acquired a controlling interest in the gas works and a few years later a reorganization took place, Mr. Mooar being elected president; R. H. Wyman, vice president, and H. R. Miller, secretary and superintendent. Under this management substantial improvements were made and the mains extended. In 1900 the works were transferred to the Keokuk Gas and Electric Company. 

Electric lights were introduced into Keokuk by the Badger Electric Company, which was incorporated on March 2, 1885, by S. S. Badger, of Chicago, A. J. McCrary and Charles J. Smith, of Keokuk. A plant was established on Third Street, between Johnson and Exchange, with a capacity of sixty arc lights of 2,000 candle power each, most of which were installed for street lighting, though a few were placed in stores, etc. After about seven years the holdings of the company were transferred to the Fort Wayne Electric Company, of Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

In the meantime a small incandescent plant had been established by J. C. Hubinger for his personal benefit. Being unable to secure gas from the gas company for lighting his residence, he drilled an artesian well and utilized the water to operate a small electric generator, sufficient to furnish incandescent lights for his house. Some of his neighbors were afterward placed on the circuit and the plant was enlarged. After the Fort Wayne company took over the Badger interests, the old Thompson-Houston equipment was replaced by Wood machines and other improvements were made, after which the entire plant was sold to Mr. Hubinger. Both the gas works and the electric light plant are now controlled by the Stone & Webster Syndicate, which also operates the power plant at the big Keokuk dam. 

Street Railway

The Keokuk Street Railway Company was organized early in the year 1882, with James H. Anderson as president, practically all the stock being held by local capitalists. Work was immediately commenced on two lines. The first began at the corner of Main and Fourteenth streets, thence east on Main to Fifth Street, and down Fifth to B Street in Reid's addition. The other line started at the railroad station, thence via Main to Sixth Street, on Sixth Street to Morgan, on Morgan to Eleventh, on Eleventh to Seymour, and on Seymour to Rand Park. Subsequently a line was built on Fourteenth Street from Rand Park to Main Street, so as to form a loop. 

Mules and horses furnished the motive power until 1892, when the local company sold out to the Hubbell Syndicate, of Des Moines, which converted the plant into an electric railway system. The Main Street line was extended west to Nineteenth Street, on which car barns were built, and a little later the line on Nineteenth Street was extended to Oakland Cemetery. The Des Moines company sold out to J. C. Hubinger and others, and for a time it was operated in connection with the electric light plant. After one or two other changes in ownership the railway passed into the hands of the Stone & Webster Syndicate, which has put on new cars and otherwise greatly improved the service.
The Post Office

The first person to act as postmaster at Keokuk was John Gaines, though he was never regularly appointed. The first mails were carried by Robert McBride from St. Francisville, Missouri, on horseback, or from Warsaw, Illinois, in a skiff, and Mr. Gaines under- took the work of distributing letters and other mail matter to the proper persons. 

On June 24, 1841, L. B. Fleak was appointed postmaster and held the position for about three years. In speaking some years afterward of his experiences as postmaster, Mr. Fleak said: "The post office was first kept in the Keokuk House. When I rented out the hotel in 1843, I moved the office to the corner of First and Johnson streets, and afterward to a building midway between First Street and the levee on Johnson Street. During the time 1 kept it at the latter place, my store was robbed, but the mail matter was not molested. There was $22,000 belonging to the United States lying in an old pine desk in the store room when the robbery took place. It had been handed to me by Major Stewart, army paymaster, for safekeeping and I had gone home and forgotten it. When we caught the burglar, I asked him why he did not open the desk and take the money. He said he did lift the cover, but thought no one would be fool enough to leave money in such a place." 

When Mr. Fleak resigned, in the summer of 1844, W. S. McGavic and J. C. Ainsworth were applicants for the place, but through the influence of Henry J. Campbell and others the appointment went to Adam Hine, a river man, who was hardly ever at Keokuk. He appointed John B. Russell his deputy and some years later Mr. Hine said that all he knew about being postmaster was that he was called upon to make good a shortage of several hundred dollars, when his successor took possession of the office and checked up the business. This shortage was attributed solely to careless methods of keeping accounts. 

On March 16, 1887, ground was broken for the present post office building at the corner of Seventh and Blondeau streets and about two years later the new building was opened to the public. It is a substantial structure of stone and brick, two stories high, the main floor being devoted to the handling and distribution of mails and the second story to the United States Court. In the tower is a clock which marks the time and strikes the hours. In 19 14 the Keokuk post office employed, besides the postmaster and assistant postmaster, fourteen city carriers, three substitute carriers, two rural carriers, twelve clerks and three janitors. The annual receipts of the office, in round numbers, amount to $83,000.
Views of Keokuk
St. Joseph's Hospital
Federal Court House and Post Office
Keokuk Public Library
High School and United Presbyterian Church
Y. M. C. A. Building

Industrial Association

On January 22, 1906, the Keokuk Commercial Club was organized "for the purpose of fostering the splendid industries now flourishing and to encourage additional manufacturing enterprises that may wish to locate in the city."

In January, 1911, the club was succeeded by the Keokuk Industrial Association, with C. R. Joy as president and A. D. Ayres as secretary. Soon after the association was organized, it inaugurated a "clean up" campaign, under the auspices of the committee on parks, playgrounds and general improvements. Later in the year, through the advertising agency of N. W. Ayer & Son, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the association expended about eleven thousand dollars in advertising the advantages of the city in some of the leading magazines of the country. In the spring of 191 2, John Nolen, an experienced landscape architect of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was employed by the association to present plans for the beautification of the city. His work was completed in the fall of 1913 and his plans have been adopted by the mayor and city commissioners. 

Another publicity campaign was conducted in the summer of 1913, when an especially trained man was engaged to supervise the work of advertising. Articles on Keokuk appeared in newspapers throughout the civilized world, and thousands of window display cards, bearing photographic views of Keokuk and the great power house, were distributed among merchants of the United States, Canada, England, Germany, France, Austria, China and Japan. During the year over one hundred specially prepared articles relating to the power plant were printed in magazines. 

Sixty-six acres of land on the extension of Main Street were purchased by the association in the summer of 1913 as a location for new factories, the sum of $17,000 being appropriated from the treasury for that purpose. This ground has been platted as an industrial district. The association has also given considerable attention to the entertainment of conventions; the improvement of the river front; the construction of the boulevard from Keokuk to Montrose; the adjustment of freight rates between Keokuk and all points east and west, and in the movement to build a new bridge across the Mississippi it has played a conspicuous part. 

The officers of the association in 1914 were as follows: C. R. Joy, president; J. A. Kiedaisch, first vice president; C. F. McFarland, second vice president; J. F. Elder, secretary; Ira W. Wills, treasurer. The board of directors was then composed of the above officers and A. D. Ayres, T. A. Craig, L. A. Hamill, A. Hollingsworth, Stephen Irwin, J. T. McCarthy, C. A. McNamara, L. F. Rollins, Jacob Schouten and G. S. Tucker. 

The River Bridge

The Keokuk & Hamilton Mississippi Bridge Company was incorporated in January, 1866, for the purpose of constructing a railway and wagon bridge across the Mississippi to connect the two cities. A ferry had been established here in 1850, but the progress of the times made a number of public spirited citizens feel that some more adequate means of communication were necessary. A preliminary survey for the bridge was made in the spring of 1867, from which plans were made and submitted to the city authorities of Keokuk, and on May 25, 1868, the mayor approved an ordinance granting the bridge company a right of way across the levee. Final plans and estimates were then prepared by T. C. Curtis, and on December 6, 1868, the contract for the construction of the bridge was let to the Keystone Bridge Company, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for $850,000. 

This bridge is 2,192 feet in length and twenty feet wide in the clear. On either side of the railroad track is a passage way for vehicles, and on the outside of the superstructure are the sidewalks for foot passengers. At the time the bridge was completed it had the longest draw span on the Mississippi River. On April 19, 1871, the first locomotive crossed over the bridge, drawing two coaches filled with. the officers of the bridge company and invited guests. The building of this bridge secured to Keokuk a large trade from Illinois. 

Plans for a new bridge have recently been prepared by Ralph Modjeska and his assistants, to be built upon the abutments of the old bridge. In the new structure there are to be two decks — the upper one for vehicles and pedestrians and the lower for railroad trains. The approach on the Keokuk side will be in the form of a viaduct, which will run out on First Street, between Main and Blondeau, making the new bridge much more easy of access than the old one. This viaduct will be about seven hundred feet in length.

Young Women's Christian Association
Young Women's Christian Association


On January 24, 1848, the governor approved an act of the Iowa Legislature providing that two terms of the District Court of Lee County should be held annually at Keokuk. By the act of January 8, 1857, a branch of the recorder's office was established at Keokuk, and this was soon followed by branches of the other county offices. In 1859 tne county bought the old Medical College building for a courthouse, and since that time all the county business pertaining to the six southern townships has been transacted at Keokuk. 

Besides the public utilities mentioned in this chapter, the city has an excellent system of sewers, one large storm sewer beginning at Rand Park and running to the Mississippi, and into this great trunk sewer lateral sewers discharge their contents. A city ordinance for- bids the throwing of coarse offal of any kind in the sewers, so that the drains are always kept in good working order. 

Keokuk has a fine high school building and a number of modern graded school buildings. Several of the schoolhouses were being reconstructed in 19 14, which will give the city a complete quota of buildings unsurpassed by any city of its size in the Mississippi Valley. There are also several parochial schools. Churches of all the leading religious denominations have comfortable houses of worship; the Young Men's and Young Women's Christian associations have homes that would be an ornament to any city; the Elks' Club House and the Masonic Temple are pointed to as evidence that the fraternal orders of the city are both prosperous and popular; the well paved streets and cement sidewalks, and the three public parks — Rand Park, Kilbourne Park and the Triangle — all combine to make Keokuk a desirable residence city, as well as a business center.

The business interests of the city are represented by four banks, several large manufacturing plants, a number of well stocked mercantile establishments, two daily newspapers, a telephone exchange, good hotels and a number of minor business enterprises.

Keokuk also has a good public library, a history of which will be found elsewhere in these pages, one of the best kept cemeteries in Soui.rtustern Iowa, and a large number of handsome residences. The social life of the city is shown by the large number of literary, social and charitable societies and clubs.

In the early days Keokuk was a great shipping and outfitting point for the tide of emigration from the older states to the great West. Among the early warehouse and mercantile firms may be mentioned Chittenden & McGavic, Connable, Smyth & Company, B. B. Hinman & Company, Foote & Company, Stafford & McCune and J. B. Carson. The establishments of these firms were chiefly along the levee, as the river traffic was then in the zenith of its glory. When boats could ascend the Des Moines River the merchants would use that method for shipping goods to the interior of the state, and when the river was too low to admit of the passage of boats wagons were used. The great amount of trade and emigration that then passed west via this point gave Keokuk the name of the "Gate City," which it has ever since retained. The population in 1910, according to the United States census, was 14,008.

Source:  History of Lee County, Iowa, by Dr. S. W. Moorhead and Nelson C. Roberts, 1914

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