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Pioneer Life
In and Around Cedar Rapids, Iowa from 1839 to 1849
Rev. George R. Carroll

Special note by County Coordinator

- Chapter I -

(pages 1 - 5)



It is always a matter of interest to trace the history of towns and communities in their origin and subsequent development.  Too often, however, the beginnings of these histories are neglected till it is too late ever to get at the facts necessary to a complete record of events so desirable to be known.

The founding of the now important city of Cedar Rapids dates back more than a half century, and yet only a meager and imperfect account of those early times has ever been written.

The people who lived in those primitive days and participated in its scenes have dwindled down to a very small number.

Having been a participator in those scenes of long ago, and being able to recall somewhat vividly many things that transpired at that period, I have been impelled, through the urgency of friends, to attempt a record of a few things that transpired when the foundations of this city and the community around it were being laid.

There are several questions that naturally suggests themselves to every inquiring mind with regard to the settlers of any country, and more especially of a new country:

  1. The first is, who were they?
  2. The second, whence came they?
  3. The third, what led them to this particular place?
  4. The fourth, how did they come?
  5. The fifth, what and whom did they find when they arrived?
  6. And finally, what did they do after they reached their destination?

These questions it will be the purpose of the writer to answer with respect to his own family, and at least a part of them so far as he is able, with respect to other families that will be mentioned in these pages.

In the very nature of the case I find it impossible to write out these reminiscences without bringing into a somewhat disproportionate prominence my own family. But I trust it will be deemed a sufficient apology for this, when it is remembered that the experiences of this one family are essentially those of many others, and hence, the narrative here presented, will give the reader a true picture of life as it then existed.

The Family History.

My father, Isaac Carroll, was born in the county of Ontario, State of New York, December 1, 1777.  My grandfather was a native of the State of New Jersey, and his father, I believe, was a native of Ireland.

In early manhood, I think it must have been, my father, together with his father and several brothers, emigrated to the town and country of Oxford, Canada West, or Upper Canada, as it was then called.

My mother, whose maiden name was Lovina Skeel, was born in the county of Rutland, State of Vermont, October 20, 1791. Most of her early life was spent at Clarenden, now known as Clarenden Springs, and somewhat noted watering place.  Subsequent to that she moved to Johnson’s creek, New York, a few miles east of Lockport.

Both my father and mother had been previously married and each had children, some of whom were grown up and away from home before I was born.

My father and mother were united in marriage at Oxford, Canada, November 12, 1826.  From this marriage there were born to them the following children:

        Catharine Lovina, August 27, 1827

        Isaac Wesley, October 12, 1829

        George Ryerson, March 13, 1831, and

        Julia Anjenette, August 24, 1833 

It was in the spring of 1833 that the family moved from Oxford to Malahide, in the county of Elgin, ten miles north of lake Erie and near Talbot street.  This was our farm home for six or seven years.

My father was too much of a liberal and my mother too much of a Yankee ever to be contended under monarchical rule.  And so for a number of years the question of emigrating to “the states” was agitated.

Tidings from the Far West.

Somewhere about the year 1838 we began to hear a good deal about the Rock River country in the far-off state of Illinois.  So many favorable things were said of it that my parents though quite favorably of going to that new country where land could be easily secured and the boys could get farms when grown up.  In fact they had about decided to make that the objective point of their travels, when the time came for them to make the change, when all of a sudden a new direction was given to their thoughts.

“The New Purchase.”

Just at this time, a neighbor of former years, John Brooks by name, having gone West a year or two before, returned, and gave glowing accounts of “The New Purchase” in Linn county, in the Territory of Iowa.

In 1838, a portion of the territory in which Linn county is now included, was purchased of the Sac and Fox Indians, and so it became known as “The New Purchase.”

Destination Settled.

This visit of Mr. Brooks decided the question of location and fixed our destination beyond the “Father of Waters.”

Our farm was sold to a man by the name of Joel Stephens, the price of which I do not remember, if, indeed, I ever knew.  I can only recall the fact that in one part of the payment there were one thousand half dollars which seemed to me like an enormous sum of money.

About the middle or last of May, 1839, all the arrangements had been made, and we were at last ready to take up the line of our march to the land of promise.

It seemed to us all like a great undertaking.  The distance appeared to us so immense that we never expected to return again to the old home.  And although the distance now seems quite insignificant, as a matter of fact, some of us have never looked upon the old home from that day to this.

Our family consisted of father and mother, Sarah Carroll, our half sister on father’s side, Charles C. Cook and B. F. Cook, half brothers on mother’s side, together with the four children already mentioned, making in all a family of nine persons.

Source: Pioneer Life In and Around Cedar Rapids from 1839 to 1949 by Rev. George R. Carroll. Pub. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Times Printing and Binding House, 1895.

Transcribed by Terry Carlson for the IAGenWeb. For research only. Some errors in transcription may have occurred.


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