An Illustrated Historical Atlas
of Louisa County, Iowa, 1874


Transcribed by Shirley Plumb August 18, 2019

Page 9

    THE portion of Iowa originally ceded to the United States by the Sac and Fox Indians was a narrow strip of about forty miles in width, extending along the Mississippi River from the State line of Missouri to a point opposite Prairie du Chien. It was known as the Black Hawk purchase, because it had been ceded to the government in the treaty which closed the Black Hawk war in 1832. The Government, however, did not take possession of it till June 1, 1833. In 1834, Congress passed an act annexing this purchase to the Territory of Michigan, and, subsequently, when the Territory of Wisconsin was organized, it was attached to that also, for temporary government. In September, 1834, the Legislature of Michigan divided the purchase into two counties—Des Moines and Dubuque—the boundary between them being a line running due west from the foot of Rock Island. Thus Des Moines County, in 1834, included a large part of the Black Hawk purchase. It was about one hundred and forty miles in length, along the Mississippi River, by about forty in width east and west, and embracing an area of over five thousand square miles. By an act of Legislature of Wisconsin in 1836, it was divided, and five other counties erected out of it, viz.: Lee, Van Buren, Henry, Louisa, and Muscatine, bringing Louisa to its present limits. When Louisa was a portion of Des Moines County, the seat of justice was located at Burlington. The first court was held in April, 1835, in a log house on the hill, situated on lot number 384. We are informed that it was the cabin of Dr. Wm. R. Ross, he being clerk of the court. The records show that at the first term of court, April 13, 1835, Wm. Morgan and Young L. Hughes acted as Judges, and Wm. R. Ross as Clerk. Wm. W. Chapman was appointed Prosecuting Attorney. The following are the names of the Grand Jurors:

Hugh Wilson Francis Redding
David Hunter Daniel Chance
James Hatcher Enoch Wade
Nathan W. Latty Jonathan Morgan
James Dawson Geo. Lebrick
Solomon Osborn Jeremiah Smith
Wm. Darkins Arthur Ingram
John Chandler  


    LOUISA County was formed in 1836, and the political machinery began working in the spring of 1837. The first district court held in the county began April 20, 1837. Present: The Honorable David Irwin, Associate Judge Supreme Court and Judge of Second Judicial District; W. W. Chapman, District Attorney of the United States: Zadoe C. Ingram, Clerk. Securities, Wm. Milligan and Isaac H. Rinearson. James W. Woods was appointed District Attorney pro tem.; Rufus P. Burlingame licensed to keep a ferry across the Iowa River at the Iowa Town; Wm. Milligan licensed to keep a ferry across the Iowa River at the Town of Wapello; Wm. H. Dennison licensed to keep a ferry across the Iowa River at the Town of Mount Sterling; John Ronold, Reuben S. Searles and William Kennedy licensed to keep a ferry across the Iowa River at the town of Harrison; Nelson Derthick licensed to keep a ferry across the Iowa River at the central Wapello town; and Philip B. Harrison licensed to keep a ferry across the Iowa River at the town of Florence. The first Grand Jury were as follows:

Philip B. Harrison Reuben C. Mason
Jeremiah Smith Henry Stoughton
Philip Maskill David E. Blair
Thomas Stoddard James Erwin
Wm. H. Creighton Thomas Blair
Christopher Shnck Francis A. Roe
Wm. Kennedy Wm. H. Denison
Isaac Rinearson Wm. Dupont

    The first Petit Jury, summoned also at this court, was composed of the following persons:

John H. Benson Wm. Dupont
Wm. Kennedy Wm. H. Lee
Wesley Swank David Linn
Nathaniel Prim Peter Wygant
Orin Briggs John Reim
David Rupell Abraham Wygant
Joseph Carter David M. Hanson


    After the grand jurors were sworn, they were conducted to their chamber, a gulch in the bank of the Iowa River, its covering the canopy of heaven. Their seat was the beautiful sward clothed with the verdure of Spring. The clerk was seated with his pencil in hand and a sheet of paper on his knee, taking down the evidence of the various witnesses introduced by the government. Twelve true bills of indictment were found. The offenses enumerated being: The selling of liquor to the Indians; assault and battery, and gambling. The petit jury were not burthened with much business, as thee were but two cases on the docket. Their time was mainly consumed in gazing at the fine horses on the ground, and getting up little races for amusement, there being a race track close by. This sport was practiced at a later day than the time of which we speak. Upon one occasion while the court was in session, there was a horse-race of more than usual interest. Just as the horses, at full speed, passed a hole in the wall, then called a window, the judge, who was sitting on the bench, cried out at the top of his voice, “Hold on gentlemen! I’ll bet on the little gray!”


    The representative from this district in the legislature had the county named after Louisa Massey, whose history and the deed that gave her the notoriety that made her so conspicuous, that our county will perhaps always bear her name, is briefly narrated as follows:

     [It will here be in taste to accord to David W. Herrick, Esq., of Wapello Township, the honor of having collected the facts on which this event is based, and through the commendable public spirit for which Mr. Herrick is noted, is by him kindly for the first time submitted to the public of this county in print.]


    Louisa Massey was the youngest child and only daughter of Dr. Isaiah Massey, of Rutland, Jefferson County, N. Y. Her mother’s maiden name was Sarah Coffeen, and her father, Harry Coffeen, was the first settler of Watertown, in the year 1800. Dr. Massey was from Windsor, Vermont, and was a man remarkable for literary culture and reading in medicine, and came to Watertown in 1802, and soon after was united in marriage to Sarah Coffeen. He soon bought a farm in Rutland, and Louisa Massey was born there June 6, 1818. Her father, having bought a number of “soldier’s rights” of the War of 1812, in hopes to better the condition and prospects of his family, determined to move his family to Illinois. In October of 1819 Louisa being then a little over one year old, they left Watertown in wagons for Olean, at the head of navigation on the Alleghany and Ohio Rivers, where they took flat-boats and pursued the rest of their journey down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi to their destination near Edwardsville, where his “soldier’s rights” were located. The following summer, Dr. Massey and some of the Coffeen family took the prevailing fever of the country and died, leaving his family with little else but his uncultivated lands, in a sickly climate, discouraged, and enfeebled by sickness.

    In 1824 or 1825, Mrs. Massey returned to Watertown with Louisa and her three youngest boys. The oldest boy, Woodbury, remained in Illinois to look after the farm. After the return of Mrs. Massey to Watertown, Louisa attended the common school. The family soon went on to a farm in the Township of Antwerp, near the Village of Theresa, where they lived about two years. Louisa then returned to Illinois with her youngest brother, Lycurgus, who went into business at Galena, where the tragical event took place which gave her such notoriety as a brave heroine. After the shooting of Smith, she went to live with another brother down the river. There she married a Mr. Williamson who was a resident of Dubuque at the time of the shooting of the elder Smith by Lycurgus, and the younger by Louisa. Louisa died in 1849. She is described as tall, erect, and with a bearing of great dignity. The occasion of the shooting of the Smiths was as follows:

    About 1834, Woodbury Massey went to Dubuque where his cousins, the Langworthys, were successfully mining on the bluffs west of the river. Here he bought a mining claim which the Smiths, father and son, afterwards claimed a belonging to them. The question of title went into the courts, and was decided in favor of Woodbury Massey. The sheriff and witnesses accompanied Mr. Massey, to put him in possession of the claim accorded him by the courts. The Smiths had secreted themselves nearby, and, rising, fired, shooting Massey through the heart, in sight of his family. The Smiths were arrested and tried before the Circuit Court of Mineral Point, whose decision was—lack of jurisdiction. They …

Page 12

… were accordingly discharged, and left the country for awhile. Afterwards, the elder Smith came to Galena. Woodbury Massey’s younger brother saw him pass the shop, and instantly taking a loaded pistol, went into the street and shot him dead. The younger Smith, hearing of the death of his father, came to Galena with the determination of shooting one of the Massey brothers on the first opportunity. Louisa, hearing of the threat and knowing his desperate character, determined to save her brother’s life by killing Smith. She disguised herself, took a loaded pistol kept for the occasion, and as she had never seen Smith, took a boy to point him out. She found Smith in a store, and, approaching him, said: “If you are Smith, defend yourself.” As he arose, she fired; but a large wallet filled with papers, in his breast pocket, prevented the ball from entering his body, and thus saved his life. It is said that he lived but a few years after, and died from internal injuries caused by his shooting. Louisa, after the shooting, went down the river, and lived in St. Louis till her death. Her act shocked to a certain degree the sensibilities of good citizens, but was, from all the facts connected with the case, very generally approved as a deed of self-defense.


     “Old Christopher Shuck,” who settled near Toolsborough, was probably the first permanent settler of Louisa County. But, it will be in taste to observe that others are desirous of this honor, and that the intervals of their settling are so indistinct and so nearly allied that, with a proper regard for their friends and the consistency of history, they may be mentioned as Philip Harrison, who settled in Elliott; John Ronold, who settled in Port Louisa. Wm. Kennedy started the first mill in the county, at Harrison. Amongst the first white persons born in the county were James Higbee, of Marshall; Samuel Chance, of Port Louisa; Mrs. E. R. Jones, of Grandview, who was born December 8, 1836, in Port Louisa Township. John Ronold, who settled in Port Louisa Township, was a member of the first Constitutional Convention of the state of Iowa. John McClery, of Grandview, was the first white child born in Louisa County. Jacob Minton was the first representative sent by the county to the territorial legislature. Alexander Blakie, a clergyman of the “Associate Reformed,” preached the first sermon in the county. The celebrated “Puke” War broke out in 1839, concerning boundary in the southeastern portion of the state. Governor Lucas, of this state, did not like the “Pukes” of Missouri, and called out the “Hawkeyes.” No blood was shed, and the troops of Louisa were disbanded without leaving Wapello. Robert Williams was the first white man that built a cabin in the Indian Reserve west of Wapello. The celebrated aboriginal notorieties, Black Hawk, Wapello, Keokuk, and Powesheik, favored Louisa as the resort of their best hunting grounds, and the renowned mounds of an antediluvian epoch are located at Black Hawk, in Jefferson Township.

    The first occupancy of the district, now Louisa County, was in 1835, at and near the mouth of the Iowa River, and near the ancient mounds and fort; also, near the Indian villages of Keokuk, Wapello, and Black Hawk. Amongst the early settlers thereabouts, may be mentioned Toole, Harrison, Creighton, Deihl, McClery, Thornton, Pearsons, Benson and Shuck, and soon afterwards Hook, Hale, Guest, Crow, Isett, Bell, Bird and Springer. The section in which these distinguished pioneers located was the favorite and happy resort of Black Hawk, and they all have had the pleasure of a pastime with the renowned aborigine. Mr. E. Hook deserves the credit of having amicably settled a difficulty in 1836, when contending parties, numbering some twenty or thirty on each side, assembled there with guns, pistols, knives, etc., to decide a right of possession. There are creeks in the county, viz., Long Creek, Short Creek, Otter Creek, Goose Creek, Indian Creek, Yankee Creek, and Smith Creek. The name of our State is derived from the Indian, signifying “beautiful.” It is said that a band of Indians, in search of a home at a very early date, encamped on the high bluff of the Iowa River, near its mouth, in sight of the ancient mounds, and, being happy, exclaimed: “Iowa, Iowa, Iowa!” (beautiful, beautiful, beautiful).

By A Young Girl

Soon bustling towns were spreading wide
O’er the grassy plain and the far hill-side’
And the iron horse, with his whistle shrill,
Wake the sleeping echoes on distant hill,
Till Louisa stands in all her pride
Of conscious power, by her sister’s side –
The brightest star and the richest gem
That glitters in Iowa’s diadem.
Methinks her sky has a deeper blue.
And her flowers to me have a richer hue –
As if the sunbeams, with stronger power,
Kissed the dewy lips of each blushing flower;
And the god of day, when his golden beams
Gild the far hill-tons and the gurgling streams.
Looks with loving eyes, and glances mild,
On Louisa. Iowa’s fairest child.


    Laid out in 1839, by Wm. Milligan, Israel L. Clark and Wright Williams, acting as a board of commissioners for Louisa County, Iowa Territory, for a seat of justice for said county. It is situated in the southeast of Section 27, town 74 north, Range 3 west, on the west bank of the Iowa River. Surveyed by John Gilliland.


    Laid out by Edward F. Wilson, in 1841, on the northeast quarter of Section 36, Town 75 north, Range 5 west. Surveyed by John Gilliland.


    Clifton is the second station west of Muscatine, on the Missouri Railroad. It is situated on the southwest quarter of the northeast quarter, and the southeast quarter of the northwest quarter, of Section 23, Town 75 north, Range 5 west. Surveyed and staked out by A. Kenney, C. E., September 15, 1858.


    Laid out by Wm. Todd, on the south bank of the Iowa River. Surveyed by John Gilliland, 26th day of May, 1857.


    Alimeda was laid out by James Waterbury, July 22, 1859; is located on the southwest corner of the northeast quarter of Section 20, Town 75 north, Range 4 west. J. R. Sisson, Surveyor.


    This town is situated on the east bank of the Iowa River, immediately below the junction of the Iowa and Cedar Rivers, in Section 20, Town 75 north, Range 4 west. Laid out and surveyed by John Gilliland, February 12, 1846.


    Was laid out by Jacob Schmettzer, Elisabeth Wheelock, Wm. Edwards, James M. Edwards, and Augustus Dubruil, on May 14, 1856, on the southeast corner of the southeast quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 19, Town 75 Range 4. John R. Sisson, Surveyor.


    Laid out by Joseph A. Green and Cyrena Green, October, 1855. Town 75 north, Range 3 west.


    This town was laid out by Allen Clark and Robert Childers. It is situated in the southwest quarter of Section 22, town 75 north, Range 3 west. Surveyed by John Gilliland, July 3, 1841.


    Port Washington was laid out by Wm. Hardin and Wm. Johnson, on Lot No. 2, Section 8, Town 74 north, Range 2 west. A. D. Hurley, Surveyor.


    Port Louisa was laid out by John C. Lockwood, in Lot No. 4, Section 5, Town 74, Range 2 west. John R. Sisson, Surveyor, 20th day of March, 1854.


    Surveyed and laid out by Wm. Kennedy. It is situated on the northeast side of the Iowa River. May 11, 1841, surveyed by John Gilliland.


    Situated on the northwest quarter of Section 11, Town 73, Range 2. Surveyed by John Gilliland. Laid out by Wm. L. Toole, May 2, 1840.


    This town was laid out by Edward Burrall and Isaac J. Shuck, on the west bank of the Iowa River. It is situated on the south half of Section 11, Town 73 north, Range 2 west. Surveyed by John Gilliland, June 30, 1840.


    Laid out by M. P. Vanloon, May 15 and 16, 1861, on Lots 4 and 5, Section 7; Lots 1 and 2, Section 18; all of Town 74 north, Range 2 west of 5th P. M. Surveyed by W. S. Kremer.


    Laid out by Cicero Hamilton, on the 13th day of September, 1851, on the northeast corner of the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 25, Town 73, Range 4. Surveyed by John R. Sisson.


    Laid out by James H. Marshall, June 15, 1865, on the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 28, Town 74 north, Range 4 west, W. S. Kremer, Surveyor.


    Was laid out by James McKee, Erastus Graves, W. H. Crocker, and Chas. H. Abbott; is situated on Sections 25 and 36. Town 76 north, Range 5 west of the 5th P. M. Surveyed the 4th and 5th of October, 1854, by John R. Sisson.


    Was laid out by J. W. Garner, on the east half of the southeast quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 19, Town 75 north, Range 4 west, 1st day of March 1870. J. S. Camero

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