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from 1875 Andreas Atlas


Is situated on the northeast side of Cedar River, embracing sections 21, 22, 27, 28, etc., in Rapids township. The location is one of the most delightful in the state, occupying a plain rising above the river bed and extending back nearly half a mile, with a slightly rolling surface, affording fine building sites, with but little trouble in grading, and with peculiar grace in appearance. Ten years ago this level plat was surrounded by an abrupt elevation twenty-five to fifty feet in height, covered by a luxuriant growth of native oak. On these elevations to-day are elegant residences overlooking the valley for miles in either direction. On the south side of the river is Valley City, but so closely connected as to form but a single town as you gaze upon it from some elevation in the neighborhood. There is no rival city within twenty-five miles, and the richness of the surrounding country gives assurance of rapid growth. It is 220 miles due west from Chicago, and 75 miles southwest from Dubuque, and is well supplied with railroads leading to all parts of the country, east and west, north and south.

The rapids in the Cedar River are the first as you ascend from its mouth at the Mississippi, and the water-power is one of the finest in the country. A dam and race have been constructed at a cost of about $30,000, and the water-power is being utilized by energetic capitalists. The timber in the vicinity is sufficient for ages to come.


Among the first settlers in Cedar Rapids were D. W. King and T. Gaines, who came in 1839 and effected a permanent settlement on the west side of the river. There was a man, however, by the name of Shepard, a noted horse-thief and counterfeiter, who erected a cabin near what is now Commercial Street, near the old mills, in 1838. His house was the rendezvous of a lawless band engaged in horse-stealing and plundering the early settlers, and their booty was secreted on the islands of the river. This gang of desperadoes and freebooters was not driven out of the country till about 1851.

Mr. William Stone, in 1838, staked off a town where Valley City is now located, which he called Columbus; but it was never surveyed, and was finally abandoned.

The following events mark the progress of Cedar Rapids during its early years:

In 1842 the first dam was constructed across the Cedar River. In March, 1843, the lands came into market and first sales made. The same year the first saw-mill was erected. The first death was that of William Brookey. The first frame building was built by John Vardey.

In 1844 the first flouring mill was erected, by N. B. Brown, at a cost of $3,000.

The same year the second saw mill was built, by A. Ely; the first brick building, by P. W. Earle; the first hotel -- the "Union House" -- on corner of Adams and Market Streets.

In 1846 the second flour mill was erected, at a cost of $9,000.

In 1847 a post-office was established; J. Greene, postmaster. The first store was opened by Mr. Green, the second by Mr. Cleveland, the third by Mr. Mufford. The first school house was built this year; Nelson Felch, teacher. The first white child born was a daughter of John Vardey. The first church -- at the corner of Eagle and Adams Streets -- was a "grout" building, and was called "The Muddy."

In 1848-9 the first woolen factory was erected, costing $10,000.

About 1850 the first newspaper -- the Progressive Era -- was started, by D. O. Fitch.

In 1855 the first steam engine was set in operation, in the machine shop of A. Hager. The same year the free bridge was built; it was carried away by the ice, and two young ladies drowned.

In 1856 Cedar Rapids was incorporated as a city; Isaac N. Whittam, Esq., Mayor.

In 1864 a paper mill was put up by Messrs. Couch, Reed & Rish, and a pork packing house established by Mr. Chase et al.

In 1865 first printing paper made; and a second woolen factory erected, by the Cedar Rapids Manufacturing Company.

The city at this date (1875) contains --
Dwelling houses1,445
Dwelling houses1,445
Number of white males3,534
Number of white females3,573
Number of colored males40
Number of colored females32
Total population7,179
Number of voters1,701
Number of militia1,286
Its real property is assessed at$1,259,190
Its personal at510,667

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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. 438.

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