Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 0000
submitted by Jo Ann Carlson, January 20, 2008

By Suel Foster.

Chap. III.

Mr. Walton is right in correcting those dates. If he had not done it I would. Michigan became a State, and the Territorial Government was established, with Iowa attached, July 4, 1836. Iowa became a Territory July 4, 1838. This is so well known to all the Old Settlers that it scarcely needs repeating. Whether the editor or the manuscript was at fault, I know not, and dare not look it up for fear of a lack of ability to tell what the figures meant.

Some Old Settlers.

It appears, according to date that J. W. Casey was the first settler at Muscatine, having moved from Cloverport, Ky., and built his cabin in the fall of 1835. In locating towns on the banks of the Mississippi, It was a great object to find a place where there was depth of water enough for boats to make a good landing in time of low water. Mr. Casey had sounded the water along here, and found that the boldest shore was opposite the high bluff, and extending nearly down to the head of the Muscatine Island; so he made his claim next below the Farnam claim. Mr. Casey was a small man, quick, active and resolute. Mr. Vanater came in the spring of 1836, and took Mr. Farnam’s place, and a strong competition was carried on between Casey and Vanater, as to the best place to build the town, Mr. Casey having the advantage of the best water, and Mr. Vanater the best land. As the claims began to the valuable, a dispute arose as to where the line should be between the two claims. Maj. Wm. Gordon, then living at Rock Island, and having a claim adjoining Benj. Nye, Esq., above the mouth of Pine river, was called upon to survey the town of Bloomington into lots. Vanater’s claim was a quarter of a mile up and down the river each way from the log cabin, but as the log cabin was a double one, some 32 feet in length, the surveyor must have a definite point to start his measure from, and Vanater told him that the outside of the stick chimney at the west end of the cabin, was the starting point. So Major Gordon obeyed orders, and Vanater’s part of the town was surveyed and platted the town was surveyed and platted accordingly, encroaching about twenty feet on Mr. Casey’s claim. This claim line commenced on Water street twenty feet west of the east line of lot 2, block 9, thence through the centre of the Butlerville road to the Morford farm. Hard words passed. Vanater was a very large, strong and active man, about three the size of Casey, and both of them carried deadly weapons, but no fighting occurred, and the town plat held the claim. Soon after this the claim law was established, and the committee of arbitration appointed.

Mr. Casey died in the fall of 1836, and was buried on the high elevation where school house No. 2, now stands. This was the first burial. Afterwards Chas. H. Fish laid off the upper addition, and reserved that square as a cemetery, which was retained for that purpose nearly ten years, in which time there were a good many interments. Chas. H. Fish, (his native place was N.J., near Philadelphia) moved to Cincinnati,-thence to Burlington,-thence to Muscatine in 1837, with his family, his son William, and two daughters, Emeline and Caroline. Few persons were more serviceable in the new settlement than Mrs. Fish in taking care of the sick, and occasionally boarding the homeless. With her two beautiful daughters, her home added greatly to the life of our social circle.

Moses Couch came from Burlington here in the fall of 1886, and his wife the following spring, who also rendered great service in taking care of the sick and boarding the homeless. The writer of this article knows this by experience.

A family by the name of Dana came here as merchants in 18--, and opened a store and boarded at Mr. Couch’s, with his wife and a beautiful boy of five years. Few, if any, persons have lived in this city since who carried with them the same high qualities of refinement, education and intelligence. Mr. Dana died of fever, and the boy followed him the next day. Alone, among strangers, Mrs. Dana bore the affliction with becoming fortitude, as few ladies can. Mary S.B. Dana was the daughter of Rev. Dr. Palmer, of South Carolina, author of a volume of poems and other literary productions.

Mrs. Reece and her family deserve more than a passing notice; her sons Henry, John, James and Joseph, and her three daughters, two of whom are with us now.

The assignees of J.W. Casey, the Lower Town Claim Company, had built a good sized frame house up in the neck of the bluff, below where Mr. S. E. Whicher now lives, and the Reeces moved in there in 1837, and kept boarders, and a hospital for the sick also.

Then this was not a very healthy place, was it? Few, very few, escaped the bilious fever, ague or typhoid fever. The summer of 1829 was excessively dry and hot, the river was low, and the water of the river, although it continued to move on in its sluggish course, turned green from shore to shore. This, with the drying sediment of the high water of the previous spring filled with air with miasma and bilious breath. The able ones were mostly employed in taking care of the sick, and when one set got better, their assistants came down. Eighteen hundred and thirty-nine and 1840 were the trying times for our new place, new settlers crowding in and no place to go; some lying upon the floor, some in wagons, and cooking by the side of a stump. Robert C. Kinney was the first landlord who put up a sign and kept tavern. He was a native of St. Clair County, Ill., in the great American bottom, opposite St. Louis, where they raise the biggest, fattest, laziest, drollest, oddest, good-for-nothing—one of the very best men we were ever had here. He kept travelers, boarders, and hospital. This hotel was in size 16 x 30 feet, one and a half stories, divided into three rooms below and above, the first frame building in the city. It yet stands, built in the fall of 1836, the back part of the Pennsylvania House, on Water street, corner of Chestnut, having stood 38 years. The first ten years of its history would be a most wonderful volume with Mr. Kinney for its hero. We must find room for future reference to some incidents and scenes at the “Iowa House”.

Mr. Barten kept boarders in 1837-8, in a log cabin which stood on the ground between Mr. Bridgman’s store and his dwelling. John Vanater built the second hotel early in the spring of 1838, where the TRIBUNE building now stands. His hotel has been moved on to the lot of Jos. Freeman’s on Third street, where it now remains.

The first brick house was built in the summer of 1839, by Mathew Mathews, on lot 5, block 13, on Water street, where Wm. Chambers now lives; but the old house has since been taken down. The brick of this house was laid by his brother, Hiram Mathews, who built a log cabin on lot 5, block 14, for himself, and their families moved here in the fall of 1839.

The County Court House was built in 1839, by Wm. Brownell, a good size and substantial Court House for those days, Our Court House square was one of the most beautiful in our State; with the addition that was made to the building after it was burned in 183-, it is one of the most economical, respectable and convenient court Houses to be found anywhere. The people of Muscatine county can, with consistency object to the State giving way to the extravagance of a $4,000,000 or $5,000,000 State House.

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