Pages 33 - 40 submitted by Kitty Root, January 8, 2010


        In the short time allotted me to write out the history of Muscatine county, it cannot be expected that much history can be got together. A few facts from records, and a few thoughts from memory.
        I will repeat the old history that this part of the United States was once under the Spanish government, then the French, and known as Louisiana Territory. This was obtained by a treaty between the United States and France, August 13, 1803, for $15,000,000—all west of the Mississippi river to the Rocky Mountains. Next, this was in Missouri Territory; then Michigan, for 1833 to 1836; then Wisconsin two years, until 1838; then Iowa Territory until December 28,1845, when Iowa was admitted into the Union. In the winter of 1836-7 the Territorial Legislature of Wisconsin held its session at Belmont, a place now in the open fields and prairie, about ten miles east of Platteville, Wisconsin, at which session this part of the Territory called the Black Hawk Purchase was divided into two counties, Des Moines and Dubuque; the line between the two counties was from the lower end of Rock Island, W.N.W., to an angle in the west boundary of the Black Hawk Purchase, which was about two miles east of Iowa City. Where that county line crossed the Cedar river is difficult to tell.
        In March, 1837, a man by the name of Ross, who kept a whisky grocery at Moscow, got some Indians drunk. Ross ordered them out of the grocery; one was obstinate, and Ross killed him. Ross was arrested and brought to trial for the murder of the Indian. He was indicted in Dubuque county, but it was proved that Moscow as in Des Moines county, and Ross was liberated. Antoine LeClaire, who was present at the trial as interpreter for the Indians, told the whites that if Ross went clear some other white man would have to suffer the penalty. S. C. Hastings was attorney for Ross, and the Indians were after him, but he eluded them. A few weeks after a Methodist minister by the name of Woodworth was found murdered by the Indians near the northwest corner of this county, on the road from Gilbert’s trading house to Bloomington.
        In the winter of 1837-8 Des Moines County was sub-divided into eight or ten counties, and this was named Musqutine, often spelled Musquitine, and Gov. Lucas used to call it Musquitine. The name is purely Indian. The large island below the city has borne this name from the earliest knowledge of the whites. In Bancroft’s history we find a tribe of Indians (1673) by the name of Muscoutins, inhabiting the country on the west side of Lake Winnebago, where now are the beautiful towns of Oshkosh and Fond du Lac. We are led to believe that this name was derived from that tribe—probably the last remnant of which lived upon this hospitable island, where fish and fowls were plenty, and they disbanded or were destroyed by the Iowa and Illinois tribes, who then inhabited this country, leaving nothing but the name “Mascoutin” to commemorate them.
        At the close of the Blackhawk war, September, 1832, the easterly part of Iowa was ceded by Sac or Fox Indians to the United States, and the June following the first settlement in Iowa was made at Fort Madison, Burlington, or Dubuque. The following year, 1834, Benjamin Nye, a native of Vermont moved from Kentucky and settled at the mouth of Pine Creek in the upper river township of the county. Hon. Ed. Thornton settled in township ’76, at the foot of the bluff near the slough, in 1835. J. W. Casey settled at the lower town of Bloomington in 1835. In 1835 John Vanatta bought the Farnham claim of Major Geo. Davenport for $200 and moved into the cabin. It consisted of a tract of land half a mile square, fronting on the river, and on the bank of the river, at the east side of Iowa avenue, stood the lit-log cabin, which was the first house in the county, built by Mr. Farnham as an Indian trading house, which Maj. Geo. Davenport supplied with goods from Rock Island and sent Mr. Farnham as his employe. Whether Mr. Farnham or Benjamin Nye was the first actual settler we cannot determine, not knowing whether Mr. F.’s stay here was such as to gain him a residence. It is certain that Mr. Nye’s family was the first family residing in the county, and Mrs. Nye is yet living on the same place where the family settled 42 years ago, and her daughter, Laura, is living neighbor to her.
        Among the first settlers of Muscatine were:

1835 1837 cont. Wm. Calder
John Vanatta Wm. St. John Henry Funck
J. W. Casey S. C. Hine Hon. John Ferguson
1836 Hon. S. C. Hasting Wm. F. Deweber
Charles H. Fish James Craig Chas. Dana
R. C. Kinney Adam Ogilvie ____Dibble
Suel Foster John S. Abbott Hon. D. C. Cloud
Moses Couch John Marble A. M. Winn
1837 Jacob Walliker Sauren Jenners
Mrs. Reece with four sons Chas. A. Warfield Dr. Jas. Davis
  And three daughters A. O. Warfield Capt. Jas. Parmer
J. G. Coleman D. R. Warfield Samuel Breese
Cyrus Barton Capt. Dunn Niles Higenbotham
Geo. Bumbardner Ed. Matthews (col’d) Jas. Strothers
Norman Fullington Ben. Matthews (col’d) _____Bradford
Giles Pettibone Jas. Davis Hon. Joseph Williams
Jonah Pettibone Dr. Louis McKee Hon R. P. Lowe
T. M. Isett Gen. J. E. Fletcher Hon. W. G. Woodward
E. E. Fay Wm. Gordon Hon. Stephen Whicher.

        On the farming lands near the town, among the first settlers were Thomas Burdett, Humphrey and Louis Burdett, Mordeica Gilbert, Samuel and Hiram Gilbert, Samuel Comstock, Dr. Eli Reynolds, Harvey Gillett, Edwin combs, Mr. Walton, Stephen Headley, Robert Bamford, Esq., Mrs. Lillibridge, Wm. Barkalow, Jos. White, Chris. Burns, Jeremiah Fish, Andrew Smalley; and at Fairport, then Salem, James and Wm. Chambers, Sr.; and at Wyoming, John Sherfey and Aaron Usher.
        These pioneers were a noble race of men, suffering many hardships, having at times nothing but corn and pork, familiarly called “hog and hominy,” to live upon. But there was real pleasure in the high degree of friendship and social society of those early days. That generation have mostly passed away; a few only remain, soon to follow.
        After the settlements along the river in 1834-5-6, and the beautiful lands along under the bluffs and Slough bottom, the next settlement was made in Wapsinonoc township about those splendid groves of timber bordering on the rich prairie lands. These settlers had a skirmish with the Indians near Sugar Camp. Some of the first settlers here were Asa Gregg, Wm. Bagley, Mr. Nyce, Robt. Stuart, Mr. Barrus, Mr. Lane, Wm. A. Clark.
        Pike township was settled in 1837 by Gamelial Olds, Samuel Nichols, and seven brothers of the Carethers.
        Center Grove, in Fulton and Wilton townships, was settled about 1838, by three brothers of the Randals, Hon. J. H. Pigman, Mr. Hanson, Mr. Schoonover and others.
        Goshen was settled in 1837 by Anthony Boggs, Wm. G. Holmes, Esq., and John Conkling, on Cedar river.
        Moscow was settled in 1836 by Mr. Leverich, John Wilson, Joe and Chas. Henderson, Samuel Bratt, G. W. Hunt.
        In 1837 Dr. Reynolds was elected to the Legislature from this county. He lived three miles above town, at a place called Geneva. Speculation in town lots was one way of making a living in those days. At that session of the Legislature Dr. R. thought he could sell town lots at higher prices if he had a county seat on them; so he drew up a bill to remove the county seat from Bloomington to Geneva, and many other members of the Legislature were anxious to get the county seat at their homes, they “log-rolled” by giving each other town lots. In this way the bill passed both branches of the Legislature. Old Henry Dodge, the father of A. C. Dodge, was our governor, and he thought it due to the people of Bloomington to give them a hearing before he signed the bill to remove the county seat home to the farm of their representative. Se we petitioned the Governor to let the county seat remain at Bloomington, and he did so by vetoing the bill. In a few days the Legislature adjourned, and the Governor, on his way home to Dodgeville, Wisconsin, made it convenient to stop with us overnight, and the citizens of Bloomington gave the Governor as fine a supper, with all the fixings of a State and county entertainment of the fashion and feeling of those days, and never since (but once, and that was at the close of the Missouri war,) has this town seen so lively a time. Then and there the county seat was so firmly fixed here that no effort has ever since that time (February, 1838,) been able to move this county seat.


        In December, 1839, a dispute between Missouri and Iowa arose about the line between the two States. The sheriff of Clark county, Mo., had undertaken to collect taxes in VanBuren county, on the strip of county which that State claimed. This became a serious matter, and caused Gov. Lucas to call out the militia. An order was sent to Muscatine county for every able-bodied man to go to the defense of his country. Gen. J. E. Fletcher ordered out all the militia of Muscatine, Scott and Cedar. About one hundred rendezvoused at Bloomington, forming two companies, one of cavalry and one of infantry, under command of Col. John Vanatta, Capt. J. W. Brady and Sargeant S. C. Hastings. Sargeant Hastings was in command of the cavalry. Some of the men thought they were really going to fight the Missourians, and some thought they were going for a spree. Although it was late in December (a former history has the war in October), and the weather at zero, with six inches of snow on the ground, we, as early settlers, knew no privations and hardships too great to encounter for our country’s sake.
        The first night we camped out in the snowy woods of Iowa bottom, on the Iowa river opposite Wapello, and crossed the river on the ice in safety the next morning, with all our accoutrements of war, foot and dragoons. The second day at the end of our march, four miles from Burlington, just as we were camping for the night, we were met by Capt. Grimes and his company of Iowa soldiers, with the joyful news of PEACE.
        Then instead of fighting the Missourians, we had what some had gone for,--the spree. Never was the Muscatine soldiery so demoralized, nor a State Capitol so enlivened as on that occasion. The legislature was then in session, and willingly surrendered the State House to the destitute soldiers, and we took possession and camped in that house that night.
        A commission on the part of the two contending parties agreed to leave the case to Congress, and by Congress it was settled in favor of Iowa. All this difficulty arose out of a land speculation—an attempt by the half-breed law claimants to enlarge their half-breed tract.


        The pioneer settlers had much difficulty about their claims. A claim was considered to be a right to purchase of the Government the land embraced within a claim, which was first a quarter of a section, but after embraced a half section or more. The Government survey was made in the summer of 1838. Previous to that the settlers were without section lines, and when the Government survey was made the lines came through their claims, houses, field and farms in awkward forms. Committees of reference were appointed in every neighborhood, and parties agreed to deed to their neighbors when the land was bought, whatever rightfully belonged to them. Sometimes claims crowded each other and lapped over, and severe quarrels were made. Our Legislature, from the necessity of the condition of our early settlements, passed a law making these arbitrations, not only in personal property, but in claims for which they had no other title than possession, legal and binding.
        In November, 1838, about half the townships of the county were brought into market, by public sale, at Burlington, and the following March, 1839, a second sale took place at Burlington, and a third, in the fall, at Dubuque, of the north one-third of the county, being the line township 78 north, embraced in the Dubuque land district.
        The first assessment of lands for taxes was made in 1840, as no taxes could be levied until after they were bought of the Government.
        The claim of half a mile square where the centre of Muscatine now is, when the Government survey was made, divided it into four different quarters of irregular shape. By an act of Congress, any county could select a quarter section of Government land on which to locate the county seat, and have it at the minimum price of $1.25 per acre. The land was not donated by Congress, as a former history of Muscatine say. Muscatine county took the se1/4 Sec.. 35, township 77, range 2 west, where the Court House stands nearthe centre of it, in the fall of 1838, just before the first land sale took place.
        The County Commissioners decided to let the original claimants to lots take them for $18,000, the use of the money to be applied to the building of a Court House. Accordingly our Court House was built in 1839-40, by Wm. Brownell. It was burned out in 1856, by careless construction of a flue, and rebuilt in 1857 with the back addition.
        In 1837, Judge Irving, of Wisconsin, whilst we were a part of that Territory, held a term of court at Bloomington, having a small log cabin on Iowa Avenue, where the TRIBUNE office now is, for a Court House, whilst the jurors’ rooms were up a ravine to the west, in the open air.
        The first school was taught by George Bumgardner, in 1837, in the same log cabin occupied as Court House on Iowa Avenue.
        The first Sabbath, with a religious meeting and preaching, was held in Mr. R. C. Kinney’s Union Hotel dining room, corner of Water and Chestnut streets, preaching by Mr. Semore, Baptist, of St. Clairsville, Ill., March 1837. That house, the back part of the Grigg Hotel, the first frame house in Bloomington, erected by R. C. Kinney, in 1836, for a hotel, is yet standing.
        That summer a Methodist circuit minister preached here once a month. His name was Hurlburt.
        In 1839 a house was built for a church and school house. It stood on Iowa Avenue, where the JOURNAL office now is. The Rev. John Stocker, Presbyterian, was the first minister, settled here in 1840.


        No town in the State is more favorably situated for trade than Muscatine. Adam Ogilvie and John S. Abbott were the first merchants here in the spring of 1837, with their stock of goods in a log cabin. In 1838 they built a respectable frame two-story store and dwelling on Water street, where Mr. G. A. Garrettson now has his wholesale store.
        Lumber has long been our greatest business in commerce and manufacturing. The first saw mill was built in 1838, by A. O. and D. R. Warfield, on Mad Creek, water power, half a mile from its mouth near where the wagon road crosses the two railroads and Mad Creek.
        In 1840 R. C. Kinney, Lawson and Lewis, built a small steam saw mill on the site where the Chambers’ mill was lately burned. In 1850 Cornelius Cadle built another saw mill near the same place.

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Page created by Lynn McCleary on January 8, 2010