The surface of the country in Linn County is undulating, and like Jones County, is broken into low, conical hills, with intersecting valleys running in every direction, while the general inclination is to the southeast and south, the water-shed being near the south bank of the Wapsipinicon River, and extending nearly parallel with it. The soil is good, the whole county well watered, and the climate conducive to health. Well water is peculiarly pure and sparkling. The people are cheerful, busy and properous. [sic prosperous] All professions are well sustained, and industry is well rewarded.
The first cabin within the limits of Linn County was built by John Mann, in Linn Grove, on what is known as Upper Big Creek, in February, 1838. It is said (though disputed by some) that he was the first white settler. He built a small flouring mill, which was carried off by a flood in the Spring of 1851, and he perished with his mill. The creek rose to the height of twenty feet in less than half an hour, and he was unable to make his escape. His body was found several days afterwards, and was interred near by. He was from Pennsylvania.
The next settler, John Crow, was from North Carolina. He made claim to a tract of land on the Wapsipinicon in April, 1838. He was a gentleman of wealth and culture, and died a few years after his settlement here, leaving a family, some of whom still live in this and Jones County.
After the above mentioned, several families came in 1838, among whom were John J. Gibson, Robert Dean, John McAfferty, Peter McRoberts, William Abbe, in Franklin Township; Judge Mitchell, Jacob Leabo, Mr. Henry, in Westport, Bertram Township; Samuel C. Stewart, James and John Scott, Robert Osborn, Hiram Thomas and Isabell Safely (who died in 1875, aged 103), in Linn Township. John Stewart, Joseph Morford, J. Burge, and D. S. Hahn, and others were her early.
Claims were made in Marion Township as early as 1838, and in 1839, John C. Berry, H. W. Gray, Rufus Lucore, James Willis, Luman M. Strong, Esquire Bassett and others erected their cabins within its limits. We transfer the following items, taken from an article recently published, at the risk of repetition:
During the Summer of 1838 the settlements gradually extended in the east part of the county. The only persons now recollected of that early period as remaining, are John Gibson, of Mt. Vernon, and Andrew J. McKean, and Hosea W. Gray, of Marion. The first family west of Big Creek was that of Jacob Leabe, from Kentucky. The first west of Indian Creek was that of James W. Bassett, from Vermont. The first justice of the peace was John McAfferty, commissioned in 1838. The first judge of probate was Israel Mitchell, a Tennessean, now residing in Oregon. The first sheriff was Hosea W. Gray. The first clerk of the district court was Socrates H. Tryon; he was also the first practicing physician. The first judge of the district court was Joseph Williams, a Pennsylvanian. The first officiating minister was the Reverend Christain Troup, a German Lutheran, who preach regularly in his own cabin near the mouth of Spring Creek, every Sunday during the latter part of the Summer of 1838. The first marriage was that of Richard Osborn and Sarah Haines, in the Spring of 1839. The first birth was that of a daughter of Mrs. Samuel McCartney, in July, 1838. The first death was that of Mrs. Haines, an invalid elderly lady, who died from the effect of an accidental fall in July, 1838. The second was that of James Logan, an Irishman, who was killed by the caving in of a well which he was excavating in Marion, July, 1840.
To be the founder of a city, and to reap the emoluments thereof, early engaged the attention of the pioneers. Israel Mitchell laid out the first town July, 1838, which was named Westport, and in September following, William Stone staked off a town on Cedar River, which he named Columbus, but soon abandoned it. His site was a good one, and is now occupied by the City of Cedar Rapids. In October of the same year, Anson Cowles laid out a town and cudgeled his brain a long time for a name, and was finally relieved by Sir Walter Scott, and called his town Ivanhoe, but it has since been vacated.
The first store opened in the County was at Westport by Albert Henry, in the Fall of 1838. The second at Ivanhoe in the Spring of 1839, by Colonel Wm. H. Merritt.
In 1839, the first 4th of July celebration took place at Westport, and Judge Mitchell was the orator of the day. The usual dinner, toasts, and ball followed, and William H. Smith, Andrew J. McKean, and H. W. Gray were the ball managers.
In 1840, the census of the county was taken by H. W. Gray, Deputy Marshall; the population amounted to 1,342, so rapid had been the immigration in little over two years. Three years afterwards it was more than doubled again. This fine farming country could not long lie idle, when every home letter was full of its praise. Some of the early settlers were from the Southern States, but Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and other states had their representatives. Almost every settler finding himself in a land free from the trammels of political organization, immediately became a statesman, and advocated strongly whatever he could remember of the civil polity and police regulations of his own state. There was consequently no lack of variety of opinions, but some difficulty in harmonizing them. As they could not agree in adopting the code of any particular state, they came to the sage conclusion that they knew their own wants and could provide for them, and if transgressors found that justice was meted out in a more summary manner than was incident to the "law's delay," it was no more than they deserved. They at least learned that these hardy pioneers were not to be trifled with.
"In common with all frontier settlements," says Edmunds, "the first settlers here were poor; they were obliged to transport their produce in wagons mostly, to the Mississippi River, at points sixty or seventy miles distant. When reached, at such disadvantage, the markets were very low, consequently the accretions of wealth were slow, and were mainly invested in the homestead of the farmer. The discovery of gold in California, with the resulting emigration and the building of railroads, connecting the people with Eastern markets, greatly accelerated the prosperity of this country, as well as all other parts of the West. The financial crisis of 1857 interposed a check to this onward career of prosperity. It was but temporary, however. The people had fully regained their former standing when the Rebellion commenced."
Elam Hollar settled on Prairie Creek, in College Township, about 1840, or before.
Abner, Isaac and Joseph Cox, and John and Isham Hollar settled in Hoosier Grove about the same time.
Colonel Henderson was one of the early settlers near Western. He had seven sons, all prominent men.
Linn County received its name from the Hon. Lucius F. Linn, United States Senator from Missouri, who being a favorite with some of the early settlers, was honored by having his name attached to one of the finest sections of Iowa.
The limits of the county were defined by act of the Territorial Legislature. In 1837, while Iowa was a part of Wisconsin Territory, and consisted of twenty congressional townships -- being an equivalent of 460,800 acres, or 2,880 farms of 160 acres each.
In October, 1838, the first election was held at Westport, being the only poll opened for the county. There were thirty-two votes cast for members of the assembly, and the first member to the General Assembly from Linn County was the Hon. George Greene, member of the Legislative Council in 1840.
September 9, 1839, the county commissioners, consisting of Samuel C. Stewart, Peter McRoberts and Luman M. Strong, met a tthe house of James W. Willis, about half a mile north of the present site of Marion, and organized the county in due form of Law.
Hosea W. Gray was appointed sheriff, and John C. Berry, clerk.
The site which had been suggested was approved and named Marion by said board. They divided the county into road and election districts, and appointed for constables, William H. Smith and Andrew J. McKean.
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Transcribed by Cheryl Siebrass August, 2015 from "A. T. Andreas Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa", Chicago: Andreas Atlas Co., 1875, pg. 437.