EARLY DAYS OF LINN CO.
The Old People Who Settled up the Land in Days of Youth and Hardship
Tell of the Times When Log Cabins, Crack Corn Bread, Hand Sickles and
Postage Cost 25 Cents and Corn Sold for 10 Cents After Hauling it a
Stories of "Uncle Dick" Thomas, 110 Years Old and "Granny" Glover, 100
people of Marion had tables spread
for everybody who chose to eat, and on stands about the ground were
free cigars and fruit. The noon hour was soon spent and music by the
drum corps drew the people about the stand.
first speaker was HON.
ROBERT SMYTH of Franklin, who spoke for a few minutes, giving
interesting sketches of early days.
He began by a mention of the
first settlement at Ivanhoe. They had hardships in the early day that
now would be called great hardships, but then it was no more than was
expected at the time, and they were equal to the occasion. They had as
much pleasure in little log cabins as we do now in our more commodious
homes. It was the happiest time in his life, full of hope, as he told
his wife the other day. Among the first things after his own house he
helped build a log school house and then two more within two years,
afterwards contributing and helping to build up schools of higher
education. The young men of today can now get the best collegiate
education in Linn. He always felt bad for the young man unable to get
an education. In the early times our citizenship was founded upon what
was right. He spoke of the early political history of Linn county and
the ardent desire of the early pioneers to tenaciously adhere to the
principles of sobriety and temperance. He related how in the first
political campaigns whiskey entered largely into the contest but got an
early strangle. In 1843 Cedar, Jones and Linn composed a senatorial
district. Thos. Denison of Jones and the speaker, of Linn, were
nominated on the democratic ticket for representative. A Mr. Walworth
of Jones and a Mr. Chapman of Linn were the whig nominees. A party of
men of influence in the county made a proposition that we furnish a
barrel of whiskey on election day and we should be elected. The speaker
and Walworth declined, but were elected nevertheless.
was followed by DYER USHER of Clinton, Mr. Usher was among the earliest
to come to Linn county. He operated a ferry over the Mississippi from
1836 to 1839 and after coming to this county he ran a ferry boat over
the Cedar above Cedar Rapids. Mr. Usher related how himself and others
cut a road through the brush so as to be able to attend a celebration
at Marion July 4, 1840.
URE of Fairfax made a neat speech in which he told his experiences in
early days. When a lad of 16 he would take corn to mill on horseback,
and on one occasion he undertook to cross the "raging Cedar" with load
of wheat but when he drew up the opposite bank he only had the harness
and the front wheels of his wagon, his wheat, wagon box, etc., having
floated down toward Ivanhoe.
|DR. BARDWELL - To
bring Dr. Bardwell to his place he had crossed the Cedar in a canoe
and swam the horses. In those days they sold wheat for 37 cents a
bushel and took pay in store goods. He jokingly twitted Mr. Wear about
having driven ox teams, and in closing he paid a beautiful tribute to
Linn county and her people.
R. BROWN was full of good humor and made one of his usually pleasant
talks. He had gone to weddings with his ox team and enjoyed it. He gave
a description of his Michigan breaking outfit. He said the beam was 6x8
inches and ten feet long and the plow would clip off an oak grub five
inches in diameter. He ran a breaking outfit for a whole season and
never saw a cent of money. He had no sympathy, he said, with calamity
shriekers and he would never say a word against his state whether at
home or in New York.
KEPLER of Mt. Vernon was introduced as one of the young old settlers.
He didn't expect to be called on. He said he was brought from Maryland
in a wagon and it is said of him that he cried all the way - hence his
strong lungs. While the old men here had many hardships, they hadn't
half so many as their wives had. He would write in letters of gold the
names of the pioneer women. The old ladies may think they are
forgotten, the boys and girls of '40 have not for:gotten what they
suffered and endured in those memorable days gone. Kepler's speech took
well. Mr. Kepler made a good speech and was loudly applauded.
It was decided by unanimous vote to hold the next meeting in
Marion. The following officers were elected: Chas. Weare, president; I.
P. Bowdish, vice-president; A. J. McKean, treasurer; J. C. Davis,
secretary and the present executive committee was retained for another
After the public exercises the photographs of the old settlers were
taken on the steps in front of the court house, arranged in groups by
the years of their arrival in the county.
It will not be many more years that the Linn county settlers of
1839-40-41 etc, will be able to tell their stories of the olden times
and while we have them with us we should aim to preserve all that is
said by them. The following interviews by THE GAZETTE will help to
accomplish this purpose and will enable that rising generations to read
in years to come of the experiences of the early founders of their own,
N. RATHBUN came to this county in 1839 from Madison county, Ohio. "When
I settled here," said he, "there were only two or three houses where
Marion is now. I preached at East Lynn Grove, Lisbon, Morten's creek
and Center Point. The people here did not have many advantages then,
and were in the sense of frontiersmen what we call rough, but I never
saw better order at religious meetings than that observed by these same
honest, industrious men and women. Some were honest Christian workers
but none scoffed at religion. I was a Methodist but did not ride a
circuit as others but performed my work as a local preacher."
A. KRAMER, living in Marion, is another settler of 1839, having settled
there in October after a tedious journey from Ohio. He said, "I think
the old days are as happy as any of my life time. We had many
difficulties to contend with, but there were many sources for enjoyment
SMYTH of Mt. Vernon settled in April, 1840, moving from Pennsylvania.
"Before that," explained he, "I was from the sod, old Ireland. I can
not now say that my old settlers' experience was greatly different from
that of some others, but if I could sit down and carefully talk over
the early days I might think of something that would make a good story
and interest your readers. I know there was plenty of hard work in
those days that is entirely unknown to the farmers of today."
G. WILSON, residing at Marion, can call himself an old settler from
December, 1838, being a former citizen of Pennsylvania. "I will be 70
years old next December, and have lived in the county," continued Mr.
Wilson, "continuously since 1839. I helped lay off Marion as a town.
There were five of us who did this work, and out of that number there
are only two living, Mr. A. J. McCain and myself. From Second street
west Marion was nothing but dense growth of timber. The brush was so
thick and heavy we had to first cut it down to allow us to use the
compass. One phenomenon in this connection I remember particularly and
which caused more or less superstitious feelings at the time. There was
a place at the corner of Fourteenth street and Fourth avenue, if I
remember rightly, where there were a great number of rocks. Whenever I
took my surveyor's needle to this spot, it was utterly impossible to
get the needly to settle, the effect on the instrument being about the
same as that of the magnetic poles on the dipping needle. This
peculiarity, however, had never been noticed since that day. I can not
explain the true cause unless the stone was temporarily charged with
electricity or something of that sort."
VAN NOTE, of Cedar Rapids, moved from Indiana into Linn county in 1849.
He said: "Our county history seems to give to Mr. Ed Crow, of Buffalo
township, the honor of building the first cabin in the county. I think
this is a mistake, for I came here in '49 and I know the old settlers
that were here then repeatedly referred to Chas. C Haskins, as having
put up a cabin near where Lisbon is now as early as 1835. I did not
know that Crow had put up a house before 1837. This is my best
recollection of the matter."
HOWARD was born in the county in 1845, his parents having moved here in
1839 from Ohio. "I remember well," said he, "how I used to sit on the
laps of the old Indians. They were the Musquawkas, and I liked them as
well as the whites. I remember there were lots of them at the time and
they always appeared friendly."
R: MARTIN of Marion, made his home in Linn county on Feb 10th, 1839,
being a native of Illinois but coming from Ohio. "It will not be long
now before I have resided here 53 years. I was only a yearling when my
parents came here. I saw a log cabin yesterday that was erected in 1838
on Martin's Creek, four miles east of Marion. It is well preserved. My
father, who died in 1846, and from whom the creek was named, put it up."
HAGERMAN of Marion said: "I came here in the spring of 1840 from
Pennsylvania and in the summer worked for old "Uncle Dick" Thomas in
his mill that he run with Hiram Bale, who died several years ago. I
think "Uncle Dick" seemed as old then as he does now and people used to
say he was nearly 75 years old then."
W. HOLLENBECK, living between Marion and Cedar Rapids, came to the
county in 1842 from Jennings county, Indiana. He said: "I worked for
"Uncle Dick" Thomas in 1842 on the farm. We threshed then by tramping
the grain out on the ground with horses. Old Uncle Dick would always
carry the threshed grain away from the spot. We used three horses for
that purpose and I rode the middle one. The straw was pitched out of
the way with a fork made from a forked stick. I think we could thresh
out about ten bushels a day in this manner. At that time wheat was
worth 40 cents, corn 10 cents, potatoes 10 cents and pork $1.00 a
hundred. We did all our marketing at Dubuque or Muscatine and it took
about a week to make the trip. We enjoyed life immensely then as there
was only one class of society and no cliques to stir up broils."
THOMAS, better known to the people of Linn county as "Uncle Dick," was
the prominent figure on the grounds. He came to the county in April,
1840 from Ohio. By the kindly assistance of his wife and friends he was
able to greet everybody with a hearty handshake. He is reported to be
110 years old but seems as strong and lively as many men at fifty. By
means of additional information furnished by his wife, he said, "I was
born near Baltimore where I lived until I guess I was 19 years old. I
saw the first capitol of the American government burned by the British
in the war of 1812. My memory is pretty good." continued he, "unless
many friends talk to me like today when I get a little confused." This
seemed to be the case for he had shaken hands with hundreds during the
morning exercises and when they were finished he was compelled to asked
his own wife who she was. When asked if he still enjoyed life, he
replied: "No, I don't. I wish I was dead. I would be better off. I can
come here and see the people and that's all there is to it. I am too
old to have much interest in this life any more. In the war of 1812 I
thought it was fun to haul supplies for the government to use against
the British. The best recollection I have of my age is that I am about
110 and I may be 115 years. I was married 26 years ago to
Julia Jones, at Fulton, Ill. I have a grandchild 6 years old. I came to
this territory in 1837 at Muscatine. I attended the first legislature
in the state. I never experienced anything like real sickness in my
life and never used tobacco. I have a good appetite and sleep like a
baby. I live on a 64 acre farm on Ninth avenue, where I hope you will
come sometime and visit me. I lived an old bachelor until after I was
75 years old, so you see a man never gets too old to marry."
DUNLAP of Brown township came from Ohio in 1851. He said: "I
have lived on the same place for forty years. There was nothing much
in Cedar Rapids and Marion. Mr. Daniels had the biggest establishment
then and Joe Mentzer and Judge Welch kept store here then. Muscatine
was market, where I bought groceries as cheap as now. Sugar was worth 4
cents a pound. I am 74 years old."
F. DANCE - "I live in Otter Creek township. I settled there in 1852,
coming from Lancaster, Penn. I live on the same land that I entered,
the warrant for which was signed by President Pierce."
WINK - "I moved to Lisbon in 1854 from Bucks county, Penn., and engaged
in the harness business in a log cabin. Mechanicsville and Solon were
unknown then and I did work for men for more than 35 miles around. I
will be 72 years old Oct 29th and carry the mall at home."
DORWART of Cedar Rapids, said: "There were just three merchants in
Franklin township in 1849, when I settled there after being burned out
in St. Louis. We then sold goods on 12 months credit with the privilege
of paying in two years, taking a note at 10 percent interest. Our
business was conducted on the plan of kite-flying. We merchants paid
our wholesale men what we could at the time and then they let us draw on
them for enough to carry us through until we could settle. We boated
the goods up from St. Louis, and then hauled them over the country.
Farm products were cheap them. I sold 3,000 bushels of corn at 1 cents
after there was a railroad through this territory. Our mail service was
primitive. An old fellow who wore a big over coat in the winter and
roomy linen coat in the summer, carried the mail from Muscatine to
Marion and Cedar Rapids in his coat pockets and yet we thought we were
SNYDER of Linn township, moved from Stark county, Ohio, into the county
in 1854. "I followed saw milling." said he, "for thirteen years. I
sawed a walnut tree 90 feet in length and 5 feet across that made 8000
feet of half inch lumber. The greater portion of it was used in siding
Andrew Safely's barn. I also sawed a cottonwood tree that made, 1,800
feet of half inch lumber. In 1855, 8 walnut lumber sold for
$20 a thousand that today will bring $50; common hard lumber was worth
from $18 to $20 a thousand; we sawed all the year around but never sent
any of the lumber away. I also had a machine for making shingles. I see
some shingles that I made, still in use. Shingles sold for from $3.50
to $400. Stephen L. Dows of Cedar Rapids, was my partner in the saw
mill and shingle business."
W. DURHAM - "I live in Marion. I located in the county in 1840 and laid
out Cedar Rapids. I was the first surveyor in these parts to keep
anything like a record of the surveys made of the towns or lands."
J. FUHRMEISTER of Ely, said: "I came here from Germany in 1843, and am
now living in the same place I settled on. I went to Muscatine for
provisions. It was a 55 mile trip and not a single bridge on the road.
I had to ford everything. I father came into the country in 1839 and
helped to organize the territory.
W. CARROLL, of Cedar Rapids, said: "I came to Linn county from Canada
in 1839. We had to go to Muscatine to have our milling done. We would
travel 60 miles, wait until a sack of corn meal was ground and then
return home, and perhaps not think anything more about it than farmers
do now who have to go five or six miles."
|ED M. CROW
the man who first settled in Linn county, is still living, hale and
hearty, and was at the old settlers' meeting. In fact he came here
before Linn county was organized. Mr. Crow came to Linn county June 5,
1837, and settled in what is now Brown township. He has resided in the
state ever since and since 1838 has lived upon the same farm in Buffalo
township. Mr. Crow related how he would walk all the way to Galena,
Ill., for his mail and then pay 25 cents postage before he could get
the letters out of the post office. On one occasion he went to Davenport
to get his plow repaired. Once he spent ten days on a trip to Dubuque
to get corn and buckwheat ground. Mr. Crow was born in Indiana, June 4,
1816, and is now 75 years of age. He has a great fund of information
and is full of anecdotes and accounts of early days and is keen in
"I am positive I was the first man to build a log cabin
in the county. The talk about C. A> Haskins antedating is incorrect.
Haskins may have gone through the county in 1837 and blazed the trees
for a claim but he did not make a permanent settlement. I went to
Galena, Ill., for groceries. I ground my corn in a mortar and bolted it
with a piece of mosquito bar. In 1838 I got as high as 75 cents for
corn, and $1.25 for dressed pork in 1839."
of Marion first set foot on Linn county soil in 1854, moving from
Morgan county, Ohio. He said: "I entered 80 acres near Big Head school
house that was made of plain logs. There were only 3 months school in
the year. I cut barley for Rufus Lucore with a sickle and I can tell
you it was slow work. The biggest fool, I thought I had ever seen in my
life, was a fellow by the name of Enock McIntosh, who came here from
Ohio soon after I did and bought 3,700 acres of land, for county was so
raw and wild then, I never imagined it would settle up at all. I tell
you our postage came high then. We made our envelopes of the paper on
which the letter was written and then sealed it with common sealing
wax. It cost 25 cents to send that kind of letter. Elisha Kemp got a
dollar bill in a letter once. The postage was 25 cents and Kemp had to
give 50 cents to get the other half. That was the regular government
charges and only left him 25 cents out of the bill, you see."
of Cedar Rapids is another Ohioan who settled here in 1854. He said: "I
was a carpenter and attended the first meeting held to see about
building a dam across the Wapsie at Waubeek in the fall of 1854.
Carpenters got $3 a day and matched their own flooring and made their
own shingles. It always required two men to match the flooring. I have
taken oak lumber right from the saw, smoothed it with a plane and put
it on the building on which I was working. We made our laths with a
frow. Oak timber was mostly used in building and a new 16 foot board on
a building would often shrink a quarter of an inch. A house 16x24 feet
and 12 feet high cost about $125 in those days."
|JAMES D. THOMAS.
"I live in Lafayette, coming here in 1846 from Kentucky. I entered 120
acres on Otter Creek. We didn't have much farm machinery in those days.
Somebody in the township would buy a plow of Andrew Safely and let the
whole neighborhood do their plowing with it. The Tom Hare plow was all
the rage then. Give a Tom Hare plow to a hired man now in the morning
and he wouldn't be on the farm when you came home at night. Cradling
grain used to make sweat. You could easily spit over all I could cradle
in a day, perhaps not over three or four acres. Old Man Erastus
Egleston, one mile from me, had the only threshing machine in the
county, I guess."
of Marion township, settled in 1839 from Illinois. "I stopped at "Jim"
Martin's house on Martin's creek for six weeks, until I could build a
cabin of my own in May. It was built of logs, had no floor in it and had
holes for windows. Marion wasn't laid out then. What few cabins were
here had cow paths leading from one to another. I got my groceries in
Knox county, Illinois, something over 100 miles away. My father got his
claim of 160 acres of land for 150 bushels of Illinois corn from Sam
Deen the same place where I am now living. We used to send our corn to
Muscatine on flat boats and get 12 1/2 cents a bushel for it on the
|M. H. MOROHEAD
- "I came to Linn county in 1854 from Ohio and now live in Marion. I
remember that the first wheat my father raised we hauled to Iowa City
and traded it for groceries. After hauling it 25 miles we only got 40
cents for it and that was after 1854. We could not even trade the wheat
for dry goods or get any money for it, groceries were the only thing.|
|NANCY ANN GLOVER
or better known to the public as "Granny Glover," lives in Marion, but
owing to a slight illness was unable to get to the park, although her
home is only a half block away. She is a patriarchal companion to
"Uncle Dick" Thomas, as she is nearly 100 years old. The Gazette
representative called on her and her chatty conversation made the visit
very pleasant. "I was born," said she, "on May 14, 1792, making just
about ten years difference between my age and that of "uncle Dick."
That the way it was when I came into Linn county in 1847 and I guess
the old fellow is about 110 years old. I was born in North Carolina. I
was married on the same day general Jackson fought his great battle.
When I was in Indiana there were lots of Indians. It took a train of
them a whole week once to pass through in going to the reservations. My
eye sight has always been good. I can thread a needle without using
spectacles and do all my own sewing without them. I have fiver
generations now living. My oldest daughter, Elmina Garrettson, is 73
years old and my baby boy, David Martindale, is 67 years old. My whole
history is in this Bible, which was printed in 1858 and given to me by
a party of gentlemen after it had settled a Biblical dispute."|
of Lisbon, located in 1850. "I claim to be the oldest living shoemaker
in the county, having worked at the trade since 1850 when I built a log
cabin. I am 67 years old and did work for most of the people in my
portion of the county."|
|M. E. MCKINNEY of
Jackson township, became a resident in 1840. "I settled first in Maine
township. I cracked corn for meal with two hard stones made like
mortars and later went 56 miles to a mill. I brought a year's provision
from Taswell county, Illinois, making the drive with oxen in 19 days,
it being over 175 miles. I am 82 years old."|
says that he came to Linn county in 1839. At that time calico sold for
37 1/2 cents and on one occasion he paid five dollars in gold for a
bushel of salt. He was seven weeks coming from Pittsburg, Pa., to
Muscatine. Four weeks of the time was spent reaching Cincinnati and
three weeks from there to Muscatine, having made the trip in boats.
Along with him came M. C. Jordan.|
|M. C. JORDAN
- "I now live in Severy county, Kansas, going away from Linn county in
1880. I settled here in 1848, coming from Maine. My nearest neighbor
was fives miles distant. I walked seven miles once to give a neighbor
a day's work, and eight miles to sit up with a sick man. I hauled
dressed pork to Muscatine and got $1.50 a hundred for it, and sold
wheat for 30 cents a bushel."|
|I. N. KRAMER,
the florist, who corroborates what Mr. Lutz says as to prices. He sold a
load of 40 bushels of wheat in Dubuque for $10, or 25 cents a bushel.
Mr. Kramer says that their first post-office was Muscatine and on one
occasion he received a letter from Pennsylvania that had no address on
the envelope. The postmaster at Muscatine sent it up thinking it might
belong to some of the people up in Linn. In those days it took 25 cents
to pay postage upon a letter.|
who came from Duchess county, N.Y., April 19, 1856, have lived together
in the old homestead near Waubeek with their mother who is now 80 years
old. "We came with father" said they, "who was intending to go
north for a home, but meeting S. H. Marshall, an old friend, we
temporarily stopped with him and finally concluded to make this our
home. We came from the east over the Erie Canal, where thieves stole
everything we had, even to the family bible."|
- "I live near Covington and passed through what is now Linn county in
November, 1836. I passed the Cedar Rapids site on the Cedar river in a
canoe, after the Indians had run us out from our hunting cabin near
Bradford. In 1837 I again passed through on a hunting expedition and
two years later took a claim in the county at Louisa. In 1836 John
Anns, J. Craig and myself crossed over the country from the Mississippi
to Council Bluffs on an Indian trail, finding only one house on the
way. I drove the first government stake in the territory. In my three
years and four months stay in the west, I only saw one man I had ever
of Central City, settled near the site of that village in 1839. The
place was called Clarksford after Mr. Clark. "I moved here from
Michigan with teams, driving over 500 miles over all kinds of roads. I
entered 300 acres of land. My nearest neighbor was fifteen miles away
at Viola. I ground my corn on a hand mill. Perhaps there were not over
one hundred people in what is now Linn county. I threshed with cattle
tramping the grain out. The best winter wheat that was raised then went
53 bushels to the acres. I bought a cloth called "Hard Times" at
Dubuque for 23 cents a yard and had clothing made for my family. The
wind would blow through it like mosquito bar."|
|H. N. BROWN
- The old settler who received much attention was Horace Brown. He is
in very feeble health, being unable to walk without assistance. Mr.
Brown lives on the same farm he entered in 1839. To a Gazette reporter
Mr. Brown related some of his experiences. He said that the county seat
was located by Adam Nott, Ben Nye and Thomas Dennis. The town was named
after Gen. Marion of revolutionary fame. Mr. Brown said the county
business was first transacted at the town of Westport, then better
known as "Pumpkin Bottom."|
"What were the ruling prices in the early
days, Mr. Brown?" asked the reporter. "I have sold dressed pork in
Dubuque for 75 cents per hundred for light weight and for $1.25 where
they dressed over 200 pounds. I have paid 50 cents per bushel for
grinding corn when the corn was worth only 25 cents. Wheat was
often sold for 39 1/2 cents. Corn, wheat and pork was about all we had
"How about prices of the good you consumed as compared
with what we pay now?" "Excepting sugar everything was higher. Farm
tools and everything we used on the farm was much higher. Sugar is now
at about the price it was in the '40s and '50s."
"Which period has been the best for money making on the farm, from 1839 to the present?"
"The latter period has been much the best."
Brown carries a fine gold beaded cane presented him last June by his
Brown township friends upon the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his
settlement in Linn county.
Source:The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) 02 Oct 1891, Fri, pg. 2