Mills County, Iowa  


History Journal




Contributed by Joe DeGisi with permission from Beverly Boileau


by D.H. Solomon


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This History of Mills County, by D.H. Solomon, was copied from newspapers belonging to Mrs. Nelle Thomas in which her grandfather, Samuel Meadows, is mentioned, and who was the original subscriber to the papers. The history ran as a serial in the Mills County Journal and the Glenwood Opinion. The first installment appears in the Journal of July 15, 1876, and is continued in the issues of July 22, July 29, and August 5. The August 12 issue is missing, but the history is picked up in the July 29 issue of the Opinion, then returns to the Journal in the August 19 issue. The story was continued still, but the August 19 issue was the last paper Nelle had.

The papers, for the most part, were in excellent condition, having just a few worn places on the folds and I've left blanks where the print was illegible. Other blanks were in the original story where the given name of a person was unknown.

I've copied this history to the best of my ability (?), exactly as it was spelled and punctuated.

Beverly Boileau
Henderson, Iowa
March, 1980

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The following advertisement appeared in the Journal at the same time the history was being serialized.


We have now in press and in course of publication in pamphlet form the History of Mills County which is being published seriately in the JOURNAL, and prepared by Hon. D.H. Solomon. It will contain some additional notes, data and corrections, made subsequent thereto, and will be in much better form for preservation than in the paper. In order to insure its success we have secured the services of Mr. T. Ivory to canvas the county for subscriptions and a limited number of advertisements, from reliable firms in the work. We have placed the price of the book at 25 cents a copy - so as to be within the reach of every family residing in the county. Subscriptions will also be received at this office by mail, addressed to:

Sherman & Howard
Glenwood, Iowa

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Mills County Journal
Glenwood, Iowa
July 15, 1876



From the Day of Small Beginnings to the Present


Growth and Development of South-Western Iowa From the Days of 1846 to 1876


Prepared by Hon. D.H Solomon, Chairman of the Historical Committee


(The following historical sketch was to have been delivered on the Centennial Fourth of July, and by general request will be published in the JOURNAL entire.)

What is now the State of Iowa was formerly part of the territory, first of France, next of Spain, then of France.

By the treaty of session concluded at Paris, the 30th of April, 1803, only 73 years ago, between the United States of America and the French Republic, the Colony or Province of Louisiana was ceded to the United States by France, in full propriety, sovereignty, and dominion, as she had acquired and held it. And the scope of country comprising the State of Iowa, was embraced therein, and was not a part of the United States or its territory during the Revolutionary War.


By an act of Congress approved October 31, 1803, the President of the United States was authorized to take possession of and occupy the territory thus ceded.

On the 26th of March, 1804, that part of the Province of Louisiana which embraced the country now the State of Iowa, was placed under the executive power, then vested in the Governor of Indiana territory, and called the district of Louisiana, to take effect in October following.

By an act approved March 27, 1804, $3,000 was appropriated for the purpose among other things of exploring the territory of Louisiana.

On the third of March, 1805, all that part of the country ceded by France to the United States, under the general name of Louisiana, and which, by an act of the last session of Congress was erected into a separate district, to be called the District of Louisiana, was designated by the name and title of the territory of Louisiana, and a governor and other officers provided therefore.

By an act approved June 4th, 1812, the territory theretofore called Louisiana, was to be thereafter called Missouri, and the temporary government of the territory of Missouri was organized, the act to take effect on the first Monday in December following.

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By an act approved June 28th, 1834, that part of the territory of the United States bounded on the east by the Mississippi river, on the south by the State of Missouri (which had been admitted in 1821) and a line drawn due west from the northwest corner thereof (Missouri was not then as it is now, bounded on the west and above the mouth of the Kansas river by the Missouri river), to the Missouri river, and on the west by the Missouri river, and White Earth river falling into the same, and on the north by the northern boundary of the United States, was for the purpose of temporary government attached to and made a part of the territory of Michigan.

By an act approved April 20th, 1836, and to take effect the 3d of July following - a separate territory to be called Wisconsin was organized for the purpose of temporary government. Bounded on the west by the White Earth and Missouri river, and on the south and east by the States of Missouri and Illinois (as now defined) and further, and by a line running from the northeast corner of Illinois through certain points named, to where the north territorial line of the United States crossed the White Earth river.

And by an act of Congress approved January 12, 1838, Iowa entered upon its existence as a separate territory under organic law.


The people of the territory of Iowa did on the 7th day of October, 1844, by a convention of delegates called and assembled for that purpose, form for themselves a constitution and State government, adopting as their boundaries, a line drawn from the mouth of the Big Sioux direct to the Minnesota river where the Wantonwan enters the same. Thence down its main channel to the main channel of the Mississippi river, and thence by the Mississippi and the State of Missouri (as it is now) and the Missouri river.

And by an act of Congress approved March 3d, 1845, the State of Iowa was admitted into the Union, subject however, to the assent of the people. This assent was refused. In this act of admission the boundaries of Iowa were defined, and by them the country we live in was not embraced in the State, as the western boundary of the State was made an imaginary line east of us and leaving out the Missouri slope. Congress, no doubt, contemplated in this arrangement, a future State for us with the Missouri river flowing through its center, but this was distasteful to our brethren in the east, and the west having no voting population, it was rejected. The people then by a convention of delegates selected and assembled for that purpose on the 18th of May, 1846, did form for themselves another constitution fixing upon the boundaries of the State as they now are, which was adopted by a vote of the people.

And by an act of Congress approved August 4th, 1846, this boundary was approved.

And by an act of Congress approved Dec. 28th, 1846, the State was again declared to be one of the United States of America.

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To us in Mills county that year of 1846 was one of peculiar interest, for not only were the boundaries of the state fixed during that year, but the Indian treaty extinguishing the Indian title to our Missouri slope was made. This treaty was made on the 5th day of June, only 30 years ago, at Traders Point, in what is now Mills county, with the Pottawattamie Indians and it was during that year, and perhaps on the 20th of June that the first influx of whites who became settlers and were our frontier settlers, reached the county of Mills, and in this year the history that is local and peculiar to Mills county begins. Before giving this in detail, I will refer to the Indian tribes and treaties with them. When first the pale faces cast their covetous eyes upon the fair domains of Iowa, they found it claimed and occupied by Indian tribes. The Sioux, the Sacs, and Foxes and the Iowas. "The Sacs and Foxes were originally two distinct nations, and as such resided on the waters of the St. Lawrence. The Foxes fought their way out, contesting almost every inch of the ground, with the French and other Indian tribes until finally in 1746 they were driven out of the Fox river country westward and probably at that time a majority of them crossed the Mississippi river. As first known in Iowa, they were in alliance with the Sacs, forming the united nation of the Sacs, and Foxes. The union was probably made for the conquest of new hunting grounds west of the Mississippi. After the union the nation became strong and powerful. The Illinois were a powerful tribe extending on the west of the Mississippi to the Des Moines, but when the United States became possessed of the Mississippi valley the Sacs and Fox nations occupied most of the State of Illinois, and nearly all the country on the west of the Mississippi. The upper Iowa river being the northern limit and the Missouri river the western boundary of their country. The Iowa were a separate band, though they were at one time identified with the Sacs of the Fox river. For a time they occupied common hunting grounds with the Sacs and Foxes, but quarrels eventually sprung up between them and the Iowas, in which their numbers and strength were greatly diminished by their powerful enemies. The principal village of the Iowas was on the Des Moines river in Van Buren county, on the site of the town of Iowaville."

North of the hunting grounds of the Sac and Foxes were those of the Sioux, a fierce and war-like nation, which often disputed possession with their rivals in savage and bloody warfare. The possessions of the Sioux were mostly located in Minnesota, but were claimed by them to extend over a portion of northern and western Iowa to the Missouri river. Their descent from the north frequently brought them into collision with the Sacs and Foxes and after many a conflict and bloody struggle, a boundary line was established between them by the government of the United States.

By a treaty of peace and to fix boundaries between the tribes held at Prairie Des Chien, in the territory of Michigan, August 19th, 1825, William Clark and Lewis Cass, commissioners on the part of the United States, the boundary between the confederate tribes of the Sacs and Foxes, and the Sioux was fixed as follows. Commencing at the mouth of the upper Iowa river on the west bank of the Mississippi, and ascending the said Iowa river, by its left fork to its source. Thence, crossing the fork of the Red Cedar river, in a direct line to the second or upper fork of the Des Moines

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river, and thence in a direct line to the lower fork of the Calumet (the Big Sioux) river and down that river to its junction with the Missouri river. The Sacs and Foxes relinquished all their claim to land on the east side of the Mississippi river. The Iowas acceded to this arrangement. It being agreed that the Iowas have a just claim to a portion of the country and that the Iowa, and Sacs and Foxes shall peaceably occupy the same until divided.

The right of the Otoes, though unrepresented, to a portion of the country upon the Missouri and east and south of said line dividing the Sacs and Foxes, and Iowa from the Sioux was recognized.

In this treaty some of the phrases used in describing distances are these, "A half day's march below" a certain point, "About a days paddle in a canoe above" a certain point, "A long days march from the Mississippi river," "Thence in a straight line to the mouth of the first river which enters the Mississippi."

But this treaty did not settle difficulties, but proved a prolific source of quarrels and feuds in consequence of alleged trespasses on each other's side of the line there fixed, and by the terms of a treaty between the United States and their tribes, made at Prairie Des Chien on the 15th day of July, 1830, the confederate tribes of the Sacs and Foxes ceded and relinquished to the United States forever, a tract of country twenty miles in width from the Mississippi to the Des Moines, situated south of and adjoining said boundary line, and the Sioux ceded and relinquished to the United States forever, a similar strip on the north of said line, thus establishing between them a neutral ground of forty miles in width. The right to fish and hunt was not reserved by the terms of the treaty. It was by the terms of this treaty also that the confederated tribes of the Sacs and Foxes and Sioux, and the Omaha, Iowa, Otoes and Missourias ceded and relinquished to the United State forever, all their right and title to the lands lying within the following boundaries, to-wit: Beginning at the upper fork of the Des Moines river and passing the sources of the little Sioux and Floid rivers, to the fork of the first creek which falls into the Big Sioux or Calumet on the east side, thence down said creek and Calumet river to the Missouri river, thence down said Missouri river to the Missouri state line above the Kansas, thence along said line to the north west corner of said State, thence to the high lands between the waters falling into the Missouri and Des Moines, passing to said high lands along the dividing ridge between the forks of the Grand river, thence along said high lands or ridge, separating the waters of the Missouri from those of the Des Moines, to a point opposite the source of the Boyer river, and thence in a direct line to the upper fork of the Des Moines, the place of beginning.

But is is understood (I quote) that the lands ceded and relinquished by this treaty are to be assigned and allotted under the direction of the president of the United States, to the tribes now living thereon, or to such other tribes as the President may locate thereon for hunting and other purposes.

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On the 11th day of October, 1842, at the Sac and Fox agency in the territory of Iowa, they ceded to the United States all their lands west of the Mississippi river to which they had any interest whatever, reserving the right to occupy for the term of three years from the time of signing the treaty, all that part of the land ceded which lies west of a line running due north and south from the painted or red rocks on the White Breast fork of the Des Moines river, about eight miles from the junction of the White Breast with the Des Moines. That they were to remove to the west of that line by the first of May next following, and that so soon after the President shall have assigned them a residence upon the waters of the Missouri as their chiefs shall consent to do so, the tribe will remove to the land so assigned them. Part of them removed to Kansas in the fall of 1845, and the rest in the spring following.

By a treaty made with the Chippewa, Ottawa and Pottawattamie Indians on the 26th of September 1833, the United States granted to the united nations of Indians, a tract of country to be not less in quantity than five millions of acres, and to be located as follows: Beginning at the mouth of Boyer's river on the east side of the Missouri river, thence down the said river to the Mouth of the Nodaway river, thence due east to the west line of the state in Missouri, thence along the said State line to the northwest corner of the State, thence east along said State line to the point where it is intersected by the western boundary line of the Sacs and Foxes so far as that when a straight line shall be run therefrom to the mouth of Boyer's river (the place of beginning), it shall include five million acres. And in order to assure the Indians that full justice had been done to them in this matter it was agreed that a deputation of not more than fifty of the chiefs and head men should go and examine the country, at the expense of the United States.

They were pleased with the country and were moved to it, and continued to occupy the same as Indian country, until after the treaty, which was held at the agency near Council Bluffs. This was at Traders Point in what is now Mills county, Iowa, on the 5th day of June 1846. It was held at the residence of the interpreter, Joseph DeFlambou. They at that time ceded all their lands north of the Missouri river and embraced in the limits of Iowa. After the treaty, the Indians began leaving, and by the spring of 1847, had nearly all departed for their home in Kansas.

Prior to this treaty, and but thirty years ago, there were no settlements made in western Iowa by any of the pale faces, except such as were there by permits as traders with the Indians, and farmers, blacksmiths and missionaries for and among them. As early as 1842 there was on the land now owned by James O'Neil, a double hewn log house occupied by one L.T. Tate, Indian Agent, and prior to that time several log houses had been erected in what was known to the first settlers as Wah-ha-bon-sah. Some of them were two stories and had port holes in the upper story, and were used as forts to protect and defend the Indian from enemies, who often attacked them. There were also Indian fields of from one to five acres, on which they raised Indian corn.

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As early as 1842 at Traders Point, at which this treaty was held, there were two Indian trading houses from St. Louis, one belonging to the American Fur Company and kept by Peter A. Sarpy, and the other the house of Robert Campbell & Co., of St. Louis, L.D.S. McDonald being chief clerk.

For many years there had been at Bellevue on the west bank of the Missouri river a Presbyterian mission in charge of Rev. Hamilton, also a government farm.

Samuel Allis who afterwards settled and now resides in St. Mary's township in our county, was there for many years. There was also a trading post there.

In 1846, the ferries across the Missouri river, were at St. Joseph, at old Fort Kearney (now Nebraska City), and at Traders Point.

The Indians who traded at Bellevue and Traders Point were the Omahas, situated on the west side of the river and north of the Platte. Chief at that time was Logan Fontennell. The Pottawattamies on the Iowa side, the principal chief, Mi-au-mise (the young Miami), his home and village at that time being at Me-au-mise, the place afterwards called Indian town, now known by the pale faces as Lewis, in Cass county, Iowa. In those days the only traveled route an Indian trail from Traders Point to Me-au-mise passed a point which is now between the farms of Christopher Plumer and Henry Saar, which is plain to be seen to this day. The head chiefs of the Indian villages in the limits of our county, were: 1st, Opte-gee-shuck (or half day), at a village on Mosquito creek just below Traders Point, near the farm of Samuel Allis.

2d, Pati-qui. This village was located at or near the farm of Carlos Gove, on Pony creek.

3d, Wahha-bon-sah. This village was in what is now known as Wah-ha-bon-sah grove, in Rawles township. It was in this village the first logs were crossed for a cabin, some ten years before 1847-8, the time when the first permanent settlers landed there. The decayed condition of the houses, rails and appearance of things generally indicated that the Indian village had been made some ten years before. There was then a long box resting on a nearly horizontal limb of a low bur oak tree, chained or fastened there in some way, but the main support was the limb. It was said to be the coffin of the chief Wah-ha-bon-sah. He had not been dead long, and came to his death by the upsetting of a stage coach returning from Washington. The graves of Indians being in sitting postures, wrapped in a blanket, but with the graves open, were to be found at many places. The mode of burial had been to dig a grave nearly square, not so deep as is the custom with us. Set the Indian up erect in it, standing his gun - a rifle - up leaning against his shoulder, placing his bow and arrow across his lap and having shot his pony, placing it by the side of his grave.

In 1846 the Mormon emigration from Nauvoo from eight to ten thousand strong - men, women and children - reached Traders Point about the 20th of June. The great body of men camped on the south bank of Mosquito creek at the foot of the bluff, and on the side hills about four miles south of where Council Bluffs now is, and just above the willow slough.

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At this point, on Mosquito creek, and at the place where Parker's mill is now, there was then a government grist mill in possession and run by some French and Indians. It became known at once as the Mormon camp.

As soon as they arrived the Mormons began making a flat boat to ferry across the river in - the boat used before being but a mountain Mackinaw fur boat. The flat boat was put in at Traders Point which was in Mills county. The destination of the Mormon's being a point some 12 or 15 miles above, and on the west bank of the river at what they called winter quarters, now Florence in Nebraska. The boat was soon finished. The lumber was sawed at the Indian mill on Mosquito river. They began making a road up on the west bank of the Missouri. Word was given out that all who would work on the boat and in making the road would be carried over free, but those who did not should be charged. None were crossed over before the 5th of July.

Col. Kane came out to make up a Mormon battalion to go into the Mexican war and organized what was known as the battalion of Iowa Mormon volunteers - for twelve months - five companies - and were received at Traders Point (which was by many at that time called Council Bluffs, the place now known as Council Bluffs not having that name for sometime afterwards) on the 16th of July 1846. Discharged at Los Angeles, Cal., July 1847.


James Allen (Capt. I.M.S. Drags.) died at Fort Leavenworth, 29th of August 1846).
Andrew Jackson Smith (1st Lt. 1 Drags.) Acting 30th of August, 1846.
Phillip St. George Cooke (Capt. 1st. Drags.) 13th of Oct. 1846.


First Lieutenant, George P. Dykes, relinq. staff to command Company D.
Second Lieutenant, Philemon C. Merrill, Nov. 1, 1846.



Jefferson Hunt

Jesse D. Hunter

Jas. Browne

Nelson Higgins

Daniel C. Davis, continued in service to March 1848.


George H. Dykes (late adjt.) commanding Company D.

George W. Rosecranz, commanding Company C.

George W. Oman, Elim Luddington, James Pace.



Samuel Thompson

Lorenzo Clark

Ruel Barrus

Andrew Lytle

Philemon C. Merrill (adjutant)

Cyrus C. Caufield

William W. Willis

Robert Clift

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There were at that time many buildings at Traders Point, and some of them good ones. The 4th day of July 1846 - just thirty years ago - was celebrated there in a good old-fashioned way. It was by a great dance. The Mormon band played and the French and Indian half-breeds and Mormon men and women joined promiscuously in the festivities. Among them were some exquisitely beautiful young Indian women, dressed as fine as ladies anywhere dressed, many of them educated at St. Louis; some at Bellevue. There were also half-breeds in whom the Indian blood could scarcely be told. Jewelry of the finest character was not scarce at all. The dance was on the bare ground which had been cleared and made smooth for the purpose. To the music of a brass band equal to any in the entire country, and violin. All was free and gay and continued through the entire day and all night, and then ceased only for refreshments. And though there was no lack of intoxicating liquors, nobody was drunk.

Among them were to be seen the gallant army officer, Indian traders, .such as Peter A. Sarpy, whom many of us have known, Brigham Young, Orson Hyde and nearly all the Mormon leaders, priests and apostles - they had twelve. It was said the Indians invited the twelve to a feast on fat puppies. Our former fellow citizen, J.W. Coolidge, being one. John Davenport called off. Many merry songs were sung and toasts given. There was a great throng, and everything went on peaceably and quietly "and merry as a marriage bell."

Most of the Mormons crossed over and went up to winter quarters. Among them were Rufus Pack and family, D.B. Harrington and his father John and family, Almond Williams and many others who afterwards were among our best citizens.

In the fall of 1846 there were about 1500 cabins erected at winter quarters. But as the Indian intercourse laws had not yet been removed on the other side of the river they had to leave there. Some came back on this side in 1847, but most of them went west.

The pioneers with Brigham, under a call for 500 had started for the west in May 1847, to make roads and bridges. But the people knew not where they were going.

The first permanent settlers in our county were Mormons, or Latter Day Saints. Heman Able and family left the advancing hosts at the crossing on Silver creek in Pottawattamie county, and dropping a few miles below, settled in the spring about the middle of April 1846, on Silver creek, on the place that was the Ward farm, and now is the Betts farm; remained there two years and then went to Indian Creek and began making the farm where he now resides. He crossed the Nishanabotana in a log canoe. The first year he had to go to St. Joe for provisions for his family. The road was "a hard road to travel" at that time. There were no bridges and he had to swim the streams and get his goods across as best he could. He had to go 100 miles to mill.

Our William Britton (he had not worked the road and could not cross free and so remained on this side) and his family, Joseph Harker and family, George Gates and family, came down in August 1846 to a place on Keg creek, on the Missouri bottom, some two or three miles above the

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south line of our county. There were some half breeds, French and Indians living there when they got there, who gave their permission for the weary pilgrims to stop there. The Indian intercourse laws had not yet been removed. Other families followed soon after, about thirty in number. The fall range was good, there was a good rush bottom there then; stock wintered and kept fat upon them.

Among the names of this frontier colony, were Rufus Andrew Jackson and Franklin Stewart, Otho Wells, _____ Raleigh, ______ Cabet, James Eldridge, James Eastman, Franklin Eastman, father and son, Almond Williams, and his father and mother, ______ Whipple, ______ Clines, Libbeus T. Coons, Russell K. Hamar, Russell Rogers, and ______ Wilson, a mile above.

They built log cabins to winter in - some of split, some of round, and some of hewn logs; covered some with clapboards and some with earth. They got their grinding at a mill on Rock creek, Missouri, about 40 miles off; some went as far as St. Joe. Teams were passing all the time during the winter, between winter quarters and Missouri. They called the place Rushville. The cabins were mostly on the west side of Keg creek. A half-breed lived on the east side of Keg creek who had a farm at the foot of the bluffs; his name was Frank Bullbona. His farm was on the Fletcher place; where Van Eaton now lives. There were many Indians over in the Wah-ha-bon-sah grove - the Pottawattamies - and they did not leave until the fall of 1847. These newcomers worked, some of them, during the fall for Bullbona, and received a bushel of corn, or a bushel of potatoes a day for work. Billy Britton cut him some cord wood and corded it on the bank of the river, for fifty cents per cord. There was a big farm opened then at the place now called Egypt. Otho Wells bought it of a man by the name of Smith who had himself - or his wife had - some Indian blood, and he rented it to a man by the name of Daniel Hendrix (the father of Thomas A. Hendrix most likely!). Billy Britton worked for this man in the summer of 1847.

In January 1847 and on the 12th day Caroline Louisa Britton was born at Rushville. She was the first child born of our race in the county, of parents who made permanent settlers and now resides in our city of Glenwood, and is Mrs. Deuell.


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