HISTORY: Mitchell County, Iowa

From the A.T. Andreas
Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa, 1875





At the session of the Iowa State Legislature in the Winter of 1850-51, this county was formed and bounded, and named Mitchell, in honor of that noble Irish patriot, John Mitchell. Its territory is divided into fifteen townships, viz; Burr Oak, Cedar, Douglass, Jenkins, Liberty, Lincoln, Mitchell, Newburg, Osage, Otranto, Rock, Stacyville, St. Ansgar, Wayne, and Union. This county contains an area of 504 square miles. It is one of the northern tier of counties of Iowa, and fourth in number from the Mississippi River. It is bounded on the north by the State of Minnesota, east by Howard, south by Floyd, and west by Cerro Gordo and Worth Counties.



The surface between the streams is a gently rolling prairie, almost destitute of timber, and presents, by the fairness of its surface, an amount of tillable land surpassed by but very few counties of the state.



The soil is very fertile; is a rich loam, well adapted to a bountiful production of all cereals common to this latitude. The soil is also particularly well adapted to the production of tame and native grasses, and grazing; and the raising of blooded stock attracts the general attention of the intelligent class of farmers that have settled here.



Mitchell County is well watered, not only by numerous streams of larger size, but by small brooks and never-failing springs. The larger streams are the Wapsipinicon, which flows through the northeast portion of the county; the Little Cedar, which rises above the north line, flowing in a southeasterly direction the entire length of the county; while the Red Cedar, coming in from the northwest takes a southeasterly course, skirting the south center line of the county the entire length of its townships. Some of the streams afford excellent water-power privileges, many of which are successfully improved. Rock Creek heads in the northwest corner of the county, passes through the county and becomes tributary to the Red Cedar after passing into Floyd County; Deer Creek heads in Minnesota, passes between Rock Creek and Red Cedar, taking nearly an easterly course, and unites with the Red Cedar at Newburg.



There are in the county nine flouring mills, six saw mills, and one woolen mill, the motive power of which is water.



The streams are densely lined with heavy growths of the most valuable timber, among which can be mentioned oak in every variety, butternut, walnut, hickory, hard and soft maple, elm, basswood and poplar, furnishing an abundant supply for fuel, building, manufacturing and other purposes.



Nothing can be said of Mitchell County geologically more than in every part of the county the limestone predominates over all other formations. In fact it is really the only one ever discovered. The large quarries afford the best quality of building stone, and are considerably worked. Also the clay found in many parts of the county produce a class of brick superior in strength, durability color and finish. Any amount of lime can be produced here of excellent grade.



Reports for 1874 show the number of bushels of wheat raised 708,978; corn, 227,074; oats, 395,345; barley, 141,296; wool shorn, 8,817 pounds.



Prominent among the institutions of Mitchell County appears the agricultural society. It was organized in 1859. This organization was not successful, and after a three years' trial the organization was abandoned. The first officers were; President, Thomas Wardell; Secretary, S. B. Chase, Treasurer, Amos S. Faville. In 1871, the society was re-organized, and twenty acres of land purchased adjoining the flourishing City of Osage, at a cost of about $2,000. Commodious and necessary buildings were erected for the purposes of exhibition, and also a building for the officers. A half-mile track was laid out and put in such order that no track of the same length in the state surpasses it. The grounds were enclosed. The society is now in a flourishing condition, and the interest is increasing among the farmers and citizens of the county, who have a fixed determination to make it a most complete success. The present officers are as follows; President, F. B. Stacy; Vice President, Daniel Sheehan; Secretary, E. S. Fonda; Treasurer, M. Loomis.



This organization takes it individuality as the name implies. Its capital is to the amount of property insured as to valuation, and is on the mutual plan. Its assets are over $200,000, and the organization is said to be a success.



The educational statistics of the county for the year 1874 are as follows; School tax, $31,860; number of pupils, 4,243; number of teachers, 146; number of districts, 54; number of school houses, 87, of which latter 67 are frame, 12 brick, 6 stone and 2 log. All are comfortable and commodious.



The county has a poor farm, situated two miles north from Osage, the county seat. It consists of eighty acres of excellent farming land, which was purchased in 1872, at a cost of $1,200. In 1873 a house was constructed thereon at a cost of $2,500. Levi Gray is steward of the farm, yet it is under direct control of the board of county supervisors.



The court house is of red brick, well finished and furnished. It was erected in the Fall of 1858, at a cost of $25,000. The county jail was built in 1859. It is constructed of plank spiked together, making a wall twelve inches in thickness, the inside lined with sheet iron, and a brick wall around the outside. The foundation is of stone and cement, not less than two feet in thickness in any part under the whole surface of the jail. Cost of jail, $13,500.



The officers of Mitchell County for 1875 are the following;



M. H. WHITE, Clerk of Courts.

E. P. SHIPHERD, Treasurer.

E. L. SAWYER, Recorder.

L. D. PIPER, Sheriff.

L. F. WINNEK. Superintendent of Schools.   

E. HUNTINGTON, Surveyor.



In the Fall of 1851, Leonard Cutler and his son J. B. passed through Mitchell County prospecting, and were the first to observe its beauty with an idea to a commencement of a permanent settlement. In the Spring of 1852 the first land claims were made, the claimants being David B. Cutler and William Ramsdell. They commenced the settlement by the erection of the first cabin, which was of logs, on what is now known as "Doran's Farm," about one mile north from Osage. But the first family in the county was that of L. S. Hart, senior, who with his son Orrin came here in the Summer of 1852, and stuck a stake about two miles below what is now Osage, at what was then known as Spring Grove. L. S. Hart, junior, came on in the year 1853 and settled on the place where he now resides. This is where the first family lived. Their first house was covered with new mown grass, but soon after a log cabin was erected.

In the year 1852, Reverend C. L. Clausen, a Norwegian minister, arrived with some of his countrymen from Wisconsin and made claims where St. Ansgar now stands, on the Red Cedar River; they then returned to Wisconsin, but came back and became actual and permanent settlers on their claims June 23, 1853. In April, 1853, Lorenzo Merry settled on the Cedar, at a point since known as "Merry's Ford", and also came that year a number of settlers to make permanent homes in the Hart Settlement, and others were added to Clausen's Settlement. In September, 1853, Josiah Cummings and his son Wm. E. commenced the settlement at Mitchell. He was followed in the Spring of '54 by C. C. Prime, John Adams and A. T. Cady, and in August of the same year by Doctor D. G. Frisbie, who was for many years a prominent citizen of the county. Thus began the early settlement of the county, started by a pioneer band that has opened up one of the richest agricultural counties of Iowa.

Prior to 1854, this county had been added to Chickasaw for county purposes, but in this year it was organized by the election of the following officers; A. H. Moore, County Judge; Amos Cummings, Clerk; B. C. Whittaker, Treasurer and Recorder; L. S. Hart, Jr., Sheriff, Rev. C. L. Clausen, School Fund Commissioner.



Three commissioners were appointed from Howard, Bremer and Floyd Counties respectively by the Iowa Legislature in January, 1855, to locate the seat of justice for the county; and on the first day of March, 1855, the same was located at Mitchell. An election between Mitchell and Osage, in April, 1856, was ordered by the county court, and resulted in favor of Osage. Mitchell contested the election, however, on the ground that the court had illegally granted the election, the remonstrance outnumbering the petition, and gained a decision in the District Court. Osage appealed to the Supreme Court, but pending the decision a second commission was appointed by the Legislature in 1857, to settle the matter. It consisted of one member each from Chickasaw, Floyd and Cerro Gordo counties-met first in May and again in June, 1857, when it located the county seat at Osage. Another election on the question was held in April, 1860, and resulted in favor of Mitchell by 69 majority. A third and last vote was taken in April, 1861, which, as counted by the board of supervisors, despite an injunction forbidding the canvass from the district judge, resulted in a majority of 19 in favor of Osage. Mitchell then retained the records by an injunction suit, which carried the case a second time to the courts, where it was not finally settled until the Fall of 1870, when a decision was made in favor of Osage. Thereupon the records were removed thither and it has since peaceably enjoyed the possession of the seat of justice of Mitchell County.



The first term of the Mitchell County Court was held by Judge Moore, October, 1854.

The first election was held in August, 1854, and the following were the places for voting; At the house of Benj. Whittaker in Osage; at a school house in Mitchell, and at the house of Rev. C. G. Classen in St. Ansgar.

The first prosecuting attorney was under appointment, J. M. Bennett, in 1855.

The first declaration of citizenship was filed by Alof Anderson, in 1855.

The first marriage license was issued to Madison Rice and Emelline Knapp, April 7th, 1856.

The first term of the district court was held June, 1857, by Judge Samuel Murdock. Previously Mitchell had been attached to Floyd County for judicial purposes.

The first death in the county was of Orrin Hart, October 12, 1854.

The first estate administered upon was that of Nels Johnson, deceased, March 22, 1856.

The first bill against the county was audited July 2, 1856, and warrant issued to A. S. Faville, for $50.75 for services as road commissioner.

The first case docketed was O. P. Harwood as plaintiff and D. W. Poindexter, defendant.

The first saw mill in the county was built at Newburg in 1854.

The first newspaper in the county was the Osage Democrat, which made its appearance in the Spring of 1856, D. E. Coon, editor and publisher. The first number was printed under the shade of a tree in the vicinity of where the Dunton House now stands on Main Street.

The first white child born in the county was Major W. Hart, son of L. S. Hart, Jr. December 13, 1853.

The first judgment in the district court was entered June 6, 1857, for $149.50 in favor of S. B. Scott, and against J. S. Woodward.

During the Winter of 1855 two post offices were established in the county. One at Osage, the other at Mitchell. Philo Cady was employed to carry the mail once a week from Charles City at three dollars a trip. This expense was paid by the citizens. Pervious to establishing these offices, the nearest post office accommodation was first Independence, 100 miles distant; next West union, 70 miles away; afterward Bradford, only 40 miles distant, and gradually the office approached until the final establishment of the two mentioned, which were the first in the county.

The first school house was at Mitchell in 1854.



This thriving town is the seat of justice for Mitchell County; is beautifully situated on a graceful rise of prairie a little over a mile from the Red Cedar River, and the space between the town and the river is covered with a dense belt of forest which protects it on the west and southwest. It is afforded railroad communication by the Illinois Central Railroad. The town is well laid out, the streets following the cardinal points of the compass. Main Street follows a section line running east and west, while Seventh Street, which crosses Main at right angles, runs north and south on another section line. Main Street is one hundred feet wide, and the other streets four rods wide. The principal business street is Main, at the foot of which stands the Illinois Central Railroad depot. The business blocks are nearly all very fine, and would do credit to a much larger and older town than Osage. They are constructed principally of brick, nicely arranged, well filled with goods, and everything shows an excellent business, well conducted. Many fine shade trees are being cultivated in the town, and ornamental shrubbery is being neatly arranged on many of the fine lawns, to decorate the palatial homes of the successful business men here. There seems to be a spirit of energy prevalent in Osage, engendered by the knowledge of its fine location, its natural beauty, its great educational, religious and business advantages, backed by the unsurpassed fertility of the farming districts about it, and the independent and liberal condition of its citizens. Osage was incorporated as a town by an election held in April, 1871, at which the following were the officers chosen; Mayor, W. I. Belding; Recorder, N. L. Rood; Trustees, Cyrus Foreman, W. H. Bishop, D. B. Cotton, G. W. Furgason and Charles Sweney. M. Loomis was appointed Marshal, and Cyrus Foreman, Treasurer. The officers for 1875 are; Mayor, H. W. McNabb; Clerk, I. F. Winnek; Treasurer, Jesse Brush; Marshal, William B. Cutler; Trustees, W. H. H. Gable, J. H. Agen, D. Mandigo, S. B. Chase, and Joseph Kelly. Shipments. —During the year 1874, there were shipped over the Illinois Central Railroad from Osage, the following amounts of freight; Wheat, 289,000 bushels; barley, 18,000 bushels; potatoes, 9,600 bushels; dressed pork, 20 car loads; live stock, 70 car loads; flour, 30 car loads; butter, eggs, etc., 20 car loads. Total number cars shipped, 1,055. Receipts for 1874 over same line as follows; Merchandise, car loads, 150; lumber, 130; coal, 30; agricultural implements, 60. Total cars received, 370.



The town was first laid out in 1853, when Doctor A. H. Moore and B. C. Whitaker, platted the new city and named it "Cora," which plat was never recorded. In 1854, Messrs. Downs, Gibbs and Boardman, purchased the interest of Moore & Whitaker, and changed the name of the town to "Osage" (O-Sage), in honor of Orrin Sage, of Ware, Massachusetts. Afterwards additions were made, and in February, 1856, Doctor S. B. Chase for himself, and agent for other interested parties, had the present Town of Osage surveyed, platted and recorded. In July of this year the United States Land Office was moved to Osage from Decorah, which brought hundreds of strangers to the place, and millions of dollars were handled or in possession of strangers or residents during the continuance of the land office here, till the lands were sold and the records removed to Des Moines in September, 1859.

In May, 1857, four townships of land in the county were brought into market, and during the sale it was estimated that Osage contained 2,500 people, four-fifths of whom were strangers, and $1,000,000 in gold.

The early settlers of Osage, the men who nursed it through the early stages of its business life, and gave it the credit, character and enterprise it is possessed of, are many of them now here reaping the reward of well-spent lives by the result of the enterprise in starting a town that has grown to a flourishing young city.



Cedar Valley Seminary. --This institution, so beautifully located in the northwest portion of the city, reflects credit upon its projectors and sustainers, by the high reputation it enjoys as a college for moral, mental and useful training of the mind. No educational institution is more favorably known, and none by reason of its efficient superintendence, merits greater favor, or is more successful in performing the work indicated by its name.

This school was first opened on the 10th of January, 1863, under the direct personal superintendence of its present honored principal, Professor A. Bush, than whom there is no more thorough or accomplished educator in the state. In September, 1864, this seminary passed under the control of the Cedar Valley Baptist Association. At the next annual meeting of the association, articles of incorporation were adopted and a board of trustees elected. In 1867 the board placed it on a college basis, and provisions were made for teachers in the classics, modern languages and natural sciences, since which time it has met with great success.

The building is of brick, 72x36 feet, two stories high, besides basement; cost about $20,000. It is well supplied with all the latest improvements in educational apparatus for the convenience of teachers and students. The average attendance is about eighty-five. The present officers are; President, Joseph Kelly; Vice President, Judge Arad Hitchcock; Secretary, Doctor S. B. Chase; Treasurer, Alva Bush.

Library Building. --Here is a most worthy enterprise started which can not terminate otherwise than in most gratifying success. A library building has been erected at a cost of about $6,000. The principal donor to this was the namesake of the city, Orrin Sage, who gave $2,000 and 600 acres of land. The balance, $4,000, was raised by special tax of the city, and the land remains unsold, to be used for the purchase of books, etc. The building has just been completed, and when stocked with necessary reading matter will be an institution of which Osage may well be proud.

Independent District Graded School. --This is another educational institution which reflects credit to Osage and the worthiness of its citizens. It was built in 1872 at a cost of $20,000. It has an attendance of 350 pupils, employs Professor W. R. Edwards as Principal, and a corps of five assistants. Under their supervision the school is justly popular.

First National Bank of Osage. --This bank was organized in 1866, with a capital of $50,000, and has a surplus of $25,000. It is well conducted and officered as follows; President, J. H. Brush; Cashier, J. P. Brush.

Sweney Bros.' Bank, --This is a private banking institution, established in 1874. It is one of the leading private banking houses of Northern Iowa.

Osage Steam Elevator Company. --This is a co-operative institution, under control of the order of Patrons of Husbandry. The elevator has a storing capacity of 25,000 bushels of grain. It was erected in 1874 at a cost of $6,000. President, W. G. Frazer; Secretary, D. L. Talcott; Treasurer, Theo. Wilson.



The Osage Democrat was the first newspaper printed in the county, appearing in the Spring of 1856. It survived a little over a year. In the Fall of 1857 The North Iowan was issued from the late Democrat office, by Hutchins & Snow. In 1859, J. H. Brush bought the establishment and continued its publication until the Fall of 1860 as a Republican paper, when A. G. Owen bought it and removed it to St. Ansgar, where it appeared as The St. Ansgar Journal, a neutral paper, and it there died, after having been continued about six months. Mr. Brush again bought the office and brought it back to Osage. In November, 1861, R. K. Crum purchased the material and issued and continued The North Iowa Standard until March, 1865, when William Toman purchased it from him and changed it back to The North Iowan, and made it a success. This he continued until November, 1868, when he sold out to Crum & Rood, who changed the name to The Osage Tribune. Six months later Mr. Rood retired; the Tribune was merged with The Mitchell County Press, then published at West Mitchell, and the publication of the Press continued at Osage for three months, when Mr. Crum retired, and since which time the Press has continued under the entire control of T. M. Atherton, who, on the 1st day of March, 1865, first issued The Mitchell County Press at West Mitchell, and on May 20, 1869, moved the office to Osage, when it was consolidated with the Tribune. Since this consolidation the Press has been regular in its appearance, and met with a degree of prosperity worthy the well directed and able efforts of its editor and proprietor. It is Republican in politics, in size a nine-column sheet, printed on a Potter power press, and has a circulation of 1,300 copies. A good book and job printing office is in connection with the newspaper office.

The Mitchell County News. --Shortly after the consolidation of the Press and Tribune, Doctor S. A. Cravath and D. G. Frisbie purchased the material on which the Press had been printed, and issued the first number of the News at Mitchell. It was moved to Osage in June, 1871, and went under the control of Clyde & Stradley, who established it as a weekly Republican journal. On February 1, 1872, it was completely destroyed by fire with no insurance. Material for another office was purchased, and on April 1, following, A. W. Clyde and A. A. McEwan re-issued the paper, Stradley having retired. Since November, 1873, A. W. Clyde has been sole publisher. The News is an eight- column sheet, and Independent Republican in politics. It is well conducted and has a circulation of about 1,000 copies. A good job office is in connection.



Methodist Episcopal Denomination. —The first Methodist Episcopal Church Society of Osage, was organized in 1857, by Reverend Mr. Holbrook, and consisted of twelve members. In 1869, the society commenced the erection of a fine brick edifice, which was completed and dedicated as a house of worship in 1874. The building is 38x70 feet, and cost $14,000. The membership now numbers about 150. Present pastor, Reverend R. N. Earhart.

Congregational. --The first Congregational Church Society of Osage, was organized in December, 1858, Reverend W. J. Smith, pastor. At the time of organization the membership was eighteen. For a number of years this society received aid from the Home Missionary Society, but in 1869, became self- sustaining. In 1858, the society erected a brick church building at a cost of $6,000. In 1874, a new and handsome building was erected in a more central part of the town. It is built of wood, and cost $8,000. Since 1868 the pastorate has been filled by Reverend T. O. Douglass, and under his management the society has been successful. He is still retained as pastor. Membership 135.

Baptist. --This religious society was organized in 1862, with nine members. Since the building of the Cedar Valley Seminary, this denomination has held religious service in the chapel. Under the pastorate charge of Reverend A. Bush, the society is in a flourishing condition.

Christian Church. --This church was organized in 1871, with sixteen members—membership now about 80. First pastor, Reverend Melvin Nichols. This society holds worship every Sabbath in McNabb's Hall.

Universalist. Organized September 1, 1869, by about twenty families. First officers; Judge Arad Hitchcock, President; H. I. Smith, Secretary; H. Huntington, S. W. Hastings, G. M. Stoughton, William Button, and H. L. Knowlton, Trustees. First pastor, Reverend Newmarch P. Smith. Present membership thirty families, and pastor, Reverend J. H. Ballou.



The Village of Mitchell, properly speaking, is divided into three distinct villages, Mitchell, West Mitchell, and Mitchell Station, where the railroad passes between the former two. West Mitchell is situated on the east bank of the Red Cedar River, which affords it one of the finest water privileges in Northern Iowa. The first settlement of this place was begun in 1853, and among the early settlers may be mentioned Messrs. Prime, Abbott, J. F. English, and Stacy. In the early settlement the Villages of Mitchell and West Mitchell grew up almost as rivals, when some years after the Cedar Falls and Minnesota Railway was constructed, it chose to run directly between the two towns, and thus the third town, or station, sprang up. This drew the business from the eastern town, and its business men followed and transferred their trade and wares to the station, while the West Mitchell people continue to carry on business successfully where they originally started.



At Mitchell is located the Independent Graded School, an institution that reflects credit to the three villages. It is a wooden structure built in Gothic style of architecture, well located, and cost including grounds $4,500. It has an average attendance of 150 pupils. The principal of the school is G. W. Smith. He has two assistants.

The Methodist Episcopal denomination has a church erected in 1873, at a cost of $3,000. Reverend S. L. Garrison is the present pastor.

The Catholics have a church edifice built in 1873 at a cost of $3,000. These churches and the high school are located at Mitchell. There is also here, now used as a town hall, the old court house built in 1855 of stone, which cost $4,000.

The West Mitchell flouring mills were erected at an early day by Chambers & English. They are now the property of Messrs. English & Glover. Besides a large custom work they are manufacturing and shipping 300 barrels of flour per week. Their superior "Diamond A" brand, made by a new patent process, is universally popular.

A large woolen factory where cloth of the excellent grade are largely manufactured, is located here, and propelled by the same water-power.



The settlement of Riceville was begun in the year 1855, by three brothers, Dennis, Franklin C., and Gilbert H. Rice, and for them it was named. During the year 1855, nothing but a mere hut had been erected, but in the Fall of 1856, among other things newly begun, a steam saw mill was built and put in operation by these brothers, and continued until destroyed by fire in the Spring of 1858. The same season they improved a water-power, and completed for the same a grist mill which is in operation at the present day, which, since 1866 has been owned by Nelson Pierce. This mill was the second built in Mitchell County. The town is well situated and steadily improving.

The first school taught here was in the Winter 1859-60, by Miss Emma Seeley. The first religious service was held in the Spring of 1856, by Reverend A. Loomis. The first church society organized was the Baptist in 1858. Its nearest railroad point is Le Roy, Minnesota, ten miles distant.

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