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

Section 4 - Page 18, Submitted by Submitted by Cheryl Sheets March 20, 2012

Muscatine Was Just a Trading Post When William Gordon Came Here to Engage in the Trade of Carpentry

Muscatine was only a trading post known as Bloomington when William Gordon, a native of Scotland, pursued his course up the Mississippi from St. Louis and landed here on Aug. 10, 1836. Sharing prominently in the development of the town, he lived here until death removed him on Dec. 9, 1897.

One of the very earliest settlers of Muscatine and for 61 years an honored citizen of this community, Mr. Gordon was born in Scotland, June 12, 1612. [as written] His paternal ancestors were descended from the dukes of Gordon of Gordon castle, and on his mother’s side he was descended from the Ogilvies, a distinguished Scottish family.

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Profiting little from the high degree of his forbears, William accordingly was apprenticed at an early age to the carpenter’s trade, at which he served a term of five and a half years. Deciding at the age of 19 to emigrate to America, he sailed from his native Scotland in the sailing vessel, “Universe” for New York. Partially dismasted and driven out of her course by storms, the ship finally reached the port of Galveston. After making necessary repairs, the crew turned her prow toward New York where they arrived safely after a tempestuous winter voyage of seven weeks and three days, during which time they suffered greatly from hunger and thirst, and were for several days in danger of their lives.

On his arrival in New York, William secured employment through the help of friends and in the course of his work he assisted in the erection of such well-known buildings as the Astor House, the New Exchange of New York, and the magnificent Catholic church of Paterson, N. J. In the summer of 1836 he went to St. Louis with his uncle and subsequently reached Muscatine that same year.

Only 12 white persons were then residents of the town, but the Indians swarmed here by the hundreds. Mr. Gordon and his uncle located at his point, his uncle, Adam Ogilvie, being the first carpenter to settle here. At that early date there were no sawmills in the country, and consequently no lumber. Material was cut from forest trees, from which timber was hewed, clapboards split and shaved, and floors were made of split slabs hewed down to a surface. The first building erected by Mr. Gordon was the Hotel Kinney, then known as the Kinney House, which stood on Front street.

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In the boundary dispute between Iowa and Missouri, the so-called Missouri war, Mr. Gordon joined Col. Vanatta’s force, was commissioned lieutenant and marched to Burlington, but there the regiment was met by a messenger bearing the news that a treaty of peace had been signed.

Mr. Gordon married Miss Eliza H. Magoon on Oct. 20, 1840. She was born in Palmer, Mass. Five children were born of the marriage, one son and four daughters. Mrs. Gordon died Aug. 8, 1872.

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In the summer of 1857, Capt. Gordon was elected sheriff of Muscatine county, and he was twice re-elected, serving five years in all on the democratic ticket. He was subsequently elected assessor and was re-elected to this office several times. His principal business up to 1877 was contracting and building, and many of the finest buildings in the city at that time, both public and private, were erected under his supervision.

In 1875 he nearly lost his eyesight when a barrel of hot unslaked lime upset above him as he was nailing some mouldings to a ceiling.

He was active in Masonic work and helped organize DeMolay commandery in Iowa.

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Among Earliest In Militia

Henry Vincent Bodman, one of the early settlers of Muscatine, which at that time was known as Bloomington, was born in Bernshausen, Kingdom of Hanover, Feb. 15, 1809, and in his native land learned the tailor’s trade, which he followed for many years. He studied at Hildesheim and Goettingen, and on the death of his father was appointed teacher of the public school. He was united in marriage with Miss Regina Becker, and 1843 emigrated to America, landing in New York in May or June of that year. After working at his trade of tailor there for about one year he moved his family to Elizabethtown, N. J., and then came to Muscatine, then called Bloomington. After remaining here a short time he returned to Elizabethtown, where he was taken sick. After a long illness he returned to Muscatine, in November, 1847, bringing his family with him.

In 1848 he lost his leg in an accident at Bennett’s Pork House. He then was weigher at Bennetts Mill for several years, and during that period he attended high school, taking a course in bookkeeping. He became a bookkeeper and followed that occupation until his death which occured in August, 1881.

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Trends of Business

Business of Muscatine for the Year 1855

Banking Business  
Capital employed in banking $466,000
Amount of exchange $2,178,000
Discount and loans $986,000
Mercantile and Manufacturing Business  
Capital invested in merchandising $1,450,000
Amount of goods sold $2,762,000
Capital invested in manufacturing $454,000
Amount of manufacturers’ articles sold $1,693,000
Shipment of Produce  
Barrels of flour $125,000
Bushels of wheat $375,000
Other productions, estimated at 230,000 tons.  
Pork Trade  
Number of hogs packed during the season of 1854-5 $17,000
Lumber Trade  
Amount of lumber, shingles, lath and logs bought at Muscatine for the year 1855:  
8,750,000 feet lumber costing $23.00 per 1000 feet in the yard $201,250
4,500,000 lath at $3.00 per 1,000 $13,500
7,500,000 shingles at $4.50 per 1,000 $33,750
Logs, timber, etc. $121,500
Total $370,000

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