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

Section 4 - Page 2, Submitted by Shirley Plumb, May 5, 2012

Public Buildings, Island Levee, Meteorology Records are Lasting Memorials to Josiah P. Walton.

Photo of J. P. Walton - Father of the Muscatine Island levee, contributor of the first floral conservatory to the city of Muscatine. Muscatine’ chief meteorologist for more than 30 years, charter member of the Muscatine Academy of Science, one of a dozen founders of the Republican party in Muscatine, and long-term president of the Muscatine County Old Settlers’ society.

These are some of the major achievements of Josiah Proctor Walton, early Muscatine county settler who, during his life-time, was regarded as a living encyclopedia of Muscatine events from its earliest history.

Mr. Walton played a prominent part in the construction of the Muscatine Island levee. He helped to formulate the law under which the first one was built and wrote the bill which afterward became a law, under which the present levee and all other levees in Iowa were constructed at that time.

Mr. Walton was an apt student of entomology, botany and natural history, and during his lifetime accumulated one of the finest collections of entomological specimens in the west. As a meteorological observer in Muscatine, he shared honors with the Hon. T. S. Parvin as originators of the most extensive record in the Mississippi River valley.

Besides being a charter member of the Muscatine Academy of Science, he served as president and treasurer for a number of years. He was one of 12 men who signed the call for the first Republican convention in Iowa. He served many terms as president of the Muscatine County Old Setters’ society.

Mr. Walton’s activities branched even farther. He was a director of the Muscatine board of trade, and at different times filled nearly all the offices of the different Masonic bodies in Muscatine. Many Muscatine buildings still stand as a monument to Mr. Walton, who followed the carpentering trade during his early years in Muscatine. As an architect and builder, he designed and aided in the construction of high school buildings in Muscatine and Wilton, the Episcopal Church here, the mansion of Benjamin Hershey in Muscatine, and many other Muscatine structures.

Mr. Walton came to Muscatine with his folks in 1838, and was married on June 2, 1857, to Miss Mary Elizabeth Barrows, a native of New York. He was a prominent resident of Muscatine county for a half a century.

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Ralph P. Lowe, Fourth Iowa Governor Lived in City Several Years

Photo of R. P. Lowe - The city of Muscatine supplied the state of Iowa with its fourth governor. He was Ralph P. Lowe, a native of Ohio, who migrated to Iowa and Muscatine at an early age and, soon after his arrival, started laying the ground for a thriving career as a public servant.

Mr. Lowe served only one two-year term as governor of Iowa, from 1858-1860, but his lifetime accomplishments were notable in many other respects. While still a resident of Muscatine, he was chosen to represent this county at the constitutional convention in 1844, which framed a constitution which was later rejected by the people. He also served a five-year term as district judge while residing in Lee county, Iowa, where he moved from Muscatine.

In 1857, Mr. Lowe was nominated as the republican candidate for the governor of Iowa, and was victorious by a margin of 38, 498 votes to 36, 088 votes over his democratic opponent Benjamin M. Shmuels. His term of service started in 1858, and he was defeated for the renomination by the Hon. S. J. Kirkwood in 1860. An account of Governor Lowe’s term in office is contained in state historical records.

    “No events of importance occurred during the administration of Gov. Lowe, but it was not a period of uninterrupted prosperity. The governor said in his biennial message of Jan. 10, 1860, reviewing the preceding two years. “The period that has elapsed since the last biennial session has been one of great disturbing causes, and of anxious solicitude to all classes of our fellow-citizens. The first year of this period was visited with heavy and continuous rains, which produced the measure of our field crops below one-half of the usual product, whilst the financial revulsion which commenced upon the Atlantic coast in the autumn of 1857, did not reach its climax for evil in our borders until the year just past.”

    “He referred at length to the claim of the state against the federal government and said that he had appealed in vain to the secretary of the interior for the payment of the 5 per cent upon the military land warrants, that the state is justly entitled to, which then approximated to a million of dollars. The payment of this fund, he said, is not a mere favor which is asked of the general government, but a subsisting right which could be enforced in a court of justice, were there a tribunal of this kind clothed with the requisite jurisdiction.”

    “The subject of the Des Moines River grant received from the governor special attention, and he gave a history of the operations of the state authorities in reference to obtaining the residue of the lands to which the state was entitled, and other information as to the progress of the work.”

Twice during Governor Lowe’s term it was necessary to quell Indian uprisings in northern and northwest Iowa. These uprisings were handled in thorough fashion by a company of 30 men known as Frontier Guars.

Following his defeat for renomination for governor, Lowe was appointed as one of three judges under the new constitution, and served for a period of eight years. After that period, he returned to the practice of law, gradually working into a claim business at Washington, where he located in 1874. He died later at that place.

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He Came in 1850

Photo of David Erwin Freeman - Early pioneer names in Muscatine county included those of the Freeman family. Shown here is David Erwin Freeman, born Jan. 4, 1807 in Butler city, near Pittsburgh, Penn., he came here in the year 1850. He was the father of Sarah Freeman Craddock who resides at 201 West Second Street.

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A City’s Industry

Knit closely into the history of Muscatine in its more than century of life is the Mississippi River. The mighty stream, wending its way past the city, played a prominent part in the inception of the city’s two biggest industries – the saw mills and the manufacture of pearl buttons.

Recalling the industrial era which reached its peak in the last half of the 19th century are the two pictures at top of the front pieces of this section. At top is the Benjamin Hershey mill, in operation. Long an industrial landmark in Muscatine, it was built in 1857 and dismantled in 1902.

Many old times and those not quite so far advanced in years will remember scenes portrayed in the center picture, the floating of large rafts of logs downstream, propelled by a steamer typical of that era.

Late in the 19th century came the birth of the fresh water pearl button industry, as a result of the discovery of a German emigrant, John F. Boepple. In the lower picture of the front page tier Mr. Boepple is shown at work on his first crude machine from which buttons were cut from mussel shells.

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