Early Settlers (1839 - 1904)
Eastern Iowa was home to the Sac and Fox Indians in the early part of the nineteenth century. The Black Hawk Purchase of September 21, 1832, however, signaled the start of the Native American's migration to the west. In the agreement, the tribes ceded a strip of land fifty miles west of the Mississippi River to the United States. The tribes began to peacefully vacate the area in 1833.
Their departure from this area was accelerated , when in February 1838, a treaty was ratified which ceded an additional 1,250,000 acres. The border of this tract of land crossed the Red Cedar River near the west line of Benton Township in Benton County.
It was on July 4, 1839, that two brothers, Bartimeus, age 27, and Hamilton McGonigle, age 32, decided to move west to the new frontier. Bartimeus and his wife, Catherine, and their two children left their home in Pennsylvania and joined up with Hamilton, his wife, Mary and their three children living in Ohio. Iowa was their destination. The area they chose to settle (later known as Center Point) was very near the edge of the frontier. They selected a site near the edge of the woods where it projected into the prairie. the section of the grove where thy settled became known as "McGonigle's Point." Today we believe their homes were located near the Fross Park and Cemetery area. The McGonigles were successful at taming the prairie and providing for their families. Bartimeus later became one of the first county officials. He was first appointed a judge of elections in 1841 at Michael Green's house, a Greens Grove's precinct, one of the three elections precincts in Linn County. In 1842 and 1843, Bartimeus served as Commissioner of Linn County.
The McGonigles were not without a neighbor when they made their claims. Robert Osborn had preceded them by a year, locating southeast of the present town site. Andrew Commings, Perry Oliphant and Andrew Motes settled about three miles southeast in 1839. During this year, David S. Way and other families put in an appearance, making claims in different parts of the township. This group of pioneers formed the nucleus around which Center Point was formed.
McGonigle's Point bustled with activity and the settlers in the area made it their headquarters. It must have started to get crowded at McGonigle's Point because in 1846 Hamilton McGonigle moved his family further north to Buchanan County near Quasqueton. The Buchanan County history states that in the middle and late 1840's many farmers from surrounding counties came to McGonigle's Point for their supply of corn. It was described as the "Egypt" of early settlers. In 1847, Bartimeus McGonigle moved his family to Clayton County near Monona and sold his farm to Hiram Campbell. Hiram was the first blacksmith in Center Point. Hiram kept the farm for two years before he sold it to Jesse Grubbs.
Native Americans were also present during these early years. Early settlers remember Native Americans who camped along the river. An early resident remembers the death of Chief Wacomo, who died in approximately 1856. He was a Sac and Fox Indian. Their burial traditions included a custom that after death, the Chief's body was placed high on a platform of poles until the moon was right for burial. When that time arrived the Chief's pony was led to the grave and killed. The horse's roup and blanket were placed with the Chief, so they would be available to him in the spirit world.
On March 28,1848, James Allenworth and Samuel M. Brice, trustees of Washington Township, ordered a village plat to be laid off on the northeast quarter of section 16, township 85 north, range 8. Andrew D. Botdorf, country surveyor, completed the survey in June 1848. Tha survey, however, was never used. A second survey, completed by John McAuthur in January 1854, was used to establish the village of Center Point. Stephen Grubbs helped carry the chain when the survey was made. At the time of the second survey, Hiram Campbell and Dr. S.M. Brice were the only residents on the town plat. Dr. S.M. Brice was a practicing physician who also sold some goods.
the Hiram Campbell house was the second house erected on the town plat; the first was McGonigle's house. The Campbell house still stand today at 1021 Main Street.
At the time the village was platted, naming the new village proved to be controversial. Many felt that the McGonigle's should honored as the first settlers and the village remain known as "McGonigle's Point." The majority, however, felt that the central location between Cedar Rapids and Quasqueton and Cedar Rapids and Independence justified the name of "Central Point". A compromise name of "Centre Point" was selected. The spelling of the name was later changed due to popular usage. As Early as the 1870s, the railroad station used the current spelling on it's sign and also printed tickets using the new spelling. The name was officially revised to it's present form on July 6, 1893. Records indicate that the spelling of the town name was officially "Centerpoint" from December 1, 1895, to December 1, 1905.
Businesses and professional people were attracted the area. Lawrence Hollenbeck opened the first general store in 1854 on the southwest corner of Main and Washington streets. John Milner and a Mr. Nicholas followed Mr. Hollenbeck's example and they too opened stores, These latter two were open for only a short time.
Jesse Grubbs obtained an abstract for his hotel, the Washington House, in 1854. He later changed the name to the Central House. there were four rooms, tow upstairs and two downstairs,. Since the village had no noon whistle, the owner of the hotel would stand on the corner every noon and right a hand held school bell to announce lunch.
After the town was surveyed, George Mitchell opened a second hotel in a house that was built by Mr. Whitney. The hotel was known as Montour House and was located on the east side of Main Street, south of the post office between Washington and State streets.
Dr. J.F. Wilson arrived in 1855 with his two sons. He opened the first drug store. Cabin and Benham come shortly afterward and opened the first general store, complete with potbelly stove and cracker barrel.
Center Point had its first taste of scandal in 1855. Mr. Brain came to the village and solicited $2000.00 from local residents to establish a flour mill. After the erection of the building was complete, he borrowed additional money to purchase machinery for the mill. Apprently, the venture lost its appeal. Mr. Brain left the scene abruptly, leaving behind a stack of unpaid bills, not the least of which was the $2000.00 borrowed from the people. The mill burned in 1864 in what was one of Center Point's first big fires.
Additional stores continued to spring up in the village. John Carr established a general store in 1855 between State and Olive streets. Nathan Johnson succeeded whim in his business venture. W.I. Langsdale settled in the country in 1849 and in the village in 1856, where he operated a genal merchandise business. In 1857, William Nevin and H.D. Metcalfe opened a general store. Philip Kewley established a business about 1861 and sold it in 1877 to the Wayne Brothers.
For many years an old flour and carding mill stood in the southeast part of town. the mills was not profitable and was relocated to Jesup by Joseph Ketchledge and Co. in 1870. the Diamond Mills, operated both by steam and water, was another mill in the area.
Mr. Manahan built the first brick building on the corner of State and Main streets in 1858. The building was used as a wagon shop and blackmith shop. Later the building was used to sell farm immplements. A. Manahan constructed another business building that was make of brick in the same year. The building was a one-story structure that was used as the first post office. Samuel Brice was Center Point's first postmaster.
As the village grew, residents began to demand services. W.L. Bliss was the first professional carpenter to settle in the village in 1855. He later became a very efficient cabkinetmaker, a trade he practiced for 15 years.
In the 1870s, A Kubias started the first harness shop. L.C. Wilson was the first jeweler, opening his business about 1880. Mr. Sniffen was one of the first lawyers. Loren Oliphant ws the first dentist. He also farmed to make ends meet.
Source: Celebrating 150 Years Center Point 1854 - 2004 pages 1-2-3-4. With permission of Philip N Andersen DDS - Transcribed by Michelle Merino-Troup