Muscatine County, Iowa
Muscatine Journal & News-Tribune
Centennial Edition
31 May 1940

Section 2 - Page 10-11, Submitted by Charlene Nichols Hixon, April 27, 2012

Earliest Hotels Left Much to Be Desired By Fastidious Guests; Bathrooms an Unheard-of Luxury;
Bob Kinney Was First Landlord Here
American House Leading Hotel for Long Time

Photos on page include: Robert C. Kinney; Old Pennsylvania House, built 1836; Ogilvie House; Old Vanatta Hotel, 1838; Park House; Clover House, 1855; American House, 1840 and Log Cabin.

A stranger stepped off the soot-blackened steamboat near the foot of Chestnut street in the pioneer town that was then Bloomington. Picking up his bag, he strode to the town’s only hotel, the Iowa House, which stood at the west corner of Front and Chestnut streets. After signing his name to the book which served as a register, he turned to the landlord, genial Bob Kinney.

A Handy River

    “Where can I wash up?” he asked.
    “You got a handkerchief?” bluntly asked the proprietor. The newcomer nodded in the affirmative.
    “Well,” said Bob with a condoling air, “There’s the river. Wash there and wipe on your handkerchief.”

That little story serves to illustrate the “conveniences” which travelers could expect at Muscatine’s lone hostelry back in the days when all men demanded was a bunk to flop on at night.

Robert C. Kinney commenced his hotel in 1836 by erecting a building 20 by 30 feet in size and one and a half stories high. This was the town “skyscraper” and undoubtedly the largest building in the town at that time. Several years later, he had enlarged it building on a front which had a two-story porch the full length.

The porch proved a very popular loafing spot, with the men using the lower porch, while the upper one was reserved for the women guests. Kinney later moved to Oregon, but the hotel stood for 44 years before it was torn down in 1880.

His Ads Original.

If a visitor could not be accommodated at Kinney’s, he frequently would stop at “Captain Jim’s,” the next hotel which was located on Second street at a site where the post office was later to be situated. “Captain Jim,” James Parvin according to birth records, was a well-known character and his ads had the tang of originality and frankness in them – and that’s the least you might say.

Here’s a sample of one which appeared in the Bloomington Herald, Dec. 3, 1841:

    “A Proclamation

    “Whereas I, Capt. Jim, long a dispenser of food to the hungry and a couch to the weary, as well as a “horn” to the dry, having taken possession of that large and commodious house on Second street, Bloomington, Iowa, formerly the residence of his Hon. J. Williams, do hereby declare and make known to the world that I am now prepared at the sign of Capt. Jim to accommodate those who may call upon me, in a satisfactory manner, otherwise they go scot free. That this statement may the more fully prove true, I hereby declare and make known that the following are my charges for all of which the best the market can afford are furnished:

    “Single meal, 25 cents; board per day, with lodging, 75; three days, per week, 62 ˝; per week, $3.00; one horse feed, 12 1/2 ; horse per night, 25; horse per week, $1.62 ˝.”

Brick Structure in 1841.

In the spring of 1839, Josiah Parvin occupied the old wooden building which stood on the corner of Second street and Iowa avenue, where the Muscatine Bank and Trust Co. now stands, and kept a hotel there until moving into his new edifice – the first brick hotel in the history of the city – in 1841.

Known as a “big Hearted” individual, Mr. Parvin set the best table in town, and was honored by having some of the best people as guests. Gov. Lucas boarded at his hotel, and Gov. Dodge was also among his patrons.

But his “good heartedness” and his easy going nature proved to be the undoing of the pioneer hotel landlord and he was forced to abandon his project for financial reasons. The building which he occupied was later remodeled and

(Continued on Page 11)

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known as the National Hotel.

A fourth hotel was started in the spring of 1841 by T. S. Battelle, located where the Olds’ Opera House was later to be erected. It was known as the American House and stood until 1867 when it was torn down to make way for the new brick block put up by L. W. Olds.

The American House was the leading hotel of town for a long time, and during the winter season while travel was suspended on the river and the old-fashioned stagecoach was made to take its place, the place was in its glory. Old-timers say that it was no uncommon sight for a dozen stages to start out at a time, all heavily loaded. In this hotel, the town held forth its first cotillion in the winter of 1842-43.

The American House was the stopping place for nearly all of the early traveling entertainments, circuses comprising the main portion of this trade. Minstrel troupes made their appearance some time later after the old hotel had lost most of its prestige.

Mr. Battelle, the first proprietor, succeeded well financially with the hotel, but became dissatisfied with the hotel business and purchased a steamboat, the Oswego. He lost considerable money trying to run it, and after sinking the boat once or twice gave up the idea and finally left for Oregon.

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City Had Population of 71 in 1839; Grew 911 In Next 5 Years

Muscatine, in 1840 presented few possibilities for a newspaper, according to modern standards. J. P. Walton wrote of its appearance “if you pick out the roughest part of the county you have a fair idea of the appearance of Muscatine then.” T. S. Parvin, another early historian, records the town’s inhabitants numbered few more than 500.

Historical data is contained in files of the Muscatine Journal, known then as the Bloomington Herald, as early as 1845. From works of Mr. Parvin is printed that in June, 1836 the town contained two families of four persons. By February of 1839 the population had increased to 71 “mostly males and only four or five children.”

The Journal of Jan. 21, 1852 lists the 71 early inhabitants of Muscatine as follows.

    “Jonathan Pettibone, carpenter; Giles Pettibone, carpenter; Arthur Washburn*, Justice of the peace; Henry Reese, cabinet maker; John Reese, cabinet maker; Robert C. Kinney*, inn keeper; Norman Fullington*, blacksmith; Daniel Mauck, stone mason; Mr. Barrack, stone mason; Edward E Fay, postmaster, clerk of court and county clerk; John Marble*, constable; Adam Oglivie*, merchant; John W. Bracy, merchant; John Reed*, Moses Couch*, T. M. Isett, W. Gordon, Mr. Thomas, S. Baer*, Mr. Breese, Mr. Higginbotham, Mrs. Reese and daughter, Charles Fisk, surveyor; John Champ*, Samuel Parker, Joel Yates*, Dr. Morrow, Dr. McKee, Dr. Thompson, S. C. Hastings, attorney at law; Suel Foster. - “Those marked thus (*) had wives.”

From the same issue in the Journal is the information that in 1839 “there were but 33 buildings, log and frame houses, store, stable and shop, and but three of them north of Pappoose creek” in the early part of that year. The first brick house was erected that year by Hiram Mathews. It stood on the corner of Front and Cedar streets. By November there were 84 buildings of every description in Muscatine.

Log cabins had gone out of existence in Muscatine by 1840 and buildings here then numbered 116. They were mostly frame structures. Thirty-three were north of Pappoose creek. By 1844 there were 200 buildings, 150 frame and only 50 of brick. Twenty brick buildings and 70 frame structures were on the “upper side of Sycamore street, or north of Pappoose creek.”

Some idea of the growth of Muscatine can be obtained from census figures of that year. Where Muscatine had but 71 inhabitants in 1839, five years later it had contained 558 males, 401 females and 23 colored persons. Of this number 280 were enrolled as militiamen, 409 were under 20 years of age and 322 were voters. That year the county population was listed as 2,882.

The census of 1850 gives Muscatine a population of 3,020 and Mr. Parvin estimates the number of persons living in the city by January 1851 as 4,000. The county population that year was 5,731. Other county census figures are: 1860, 1644; 1870, 21,688; 1880, 23,170.

The state census report of 1855, showing the county with a population of 24, 320 lists the various townships as follows: Bloomington, 1,433; Cedar, 345; Fulton, 1,104; Goshen, 937; Lake, 616; Montpelier, 663; Moscow, 776; Orono, 466; Pike, 1,001; Seventy-Six, 661; Sweetland, 1,237; Wapsinonoc, 2,232; Wilton, 2,461; Muscatine City, 10, 389.

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Pocket Book of Early Settler a Veritable Bank

Times couldn’t have been too hard nor ready money too scarce for at least one pioneer in this area. Under the caption, “Lost or Stolen,” in the publication of Aug. 30, 1841, one Charles M. Jenings inserted this advertisement:

    “A Large Calf-Skin Pocket Book, containing about one hundred and forty dollars in bank bills; two $20 bills on the State Bank of Indiana, one $20 bill on Miner’s Bank at Dubuque, and one $20 bill on the State Bank of Illinois, the remainder of the bills not recollected. Also, several certificates for land; two bonds for town lots in the town of Tipton; several notes of hand, one of John Campbell for $50, one on J. W. Reed for $38, one on M. White for $7, and numerous other papers not recollected. A liberal reward will be paid for the delivery or information of the pocketbook, with its contents, or any part thereof, to the subscriber, in the town of Tipton, Cedar county.”

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Served As Justice
Photos of Jesse Brogan and Mrs. Jesse Brogan

A prominent member of the Methodist church, who assisted in building two houses of worship, Jesse Brogan for many years was active as a farmer. He served for a time as justice of the peace of Sweetland township.

Coming with his father, John Brogan, who was a soldier in the war of 1812, he established a residence in Muscatine county in the year 1843. He was born in Campbell county, Kentucky, Feb. 11, 1821 and married Miss Elizabeth Hill, the daughter of Isaac Hill, in 1851. Mrs. Brogan was born in Ohio, April 10, 1819, coming here one year prior to her marriage. Mrs. Brogan died on June 5, 1883 and Mr. Brogan on Sept. 15, 1907. After the death of his first wife Mr. Brogan married Miss Julia Webber on June 11, 1884.

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