submitted by Jo Ann Carlson, January 24, 2008

(From Andreas’ Illustrated Historical Atlas of Iowa.)


While the “Blackhawk Purchase” was attached to the territory of Michigan, it was divided into two counties—Des Moines on the South, and Dubuque on the North; the division line entering the Mississippi river at the Rock Island Rapids. This division placed the present county of Muscatine, or Musquitine as it was then called, mostly in Des Moines county, though a portion of the northern part was in Dubuque. The county was organized and Bloomington made the county seat, by act of the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature, approved January 8, 1837. At the next session of the Legislature, held at Burlington in the winter of 1837-8, Doctor Ely Reynolds, who was the representative from this District, succeeded in getting a bill passed removing the county seat to Geneva, a small berg he had laid out on the river a short distance above Muscatine, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Dodge. The first officers of the new county were, Judge of Probate Arthur Washburn, appointed in 1837; County Commissioners, or Supervisors as they were called under the old Michigan and Wisconsin statutes, Arthur Washburn and Edward Fay, elected in 1837; clerk of District court, John S. Abbott, appointed in 1836 or ’37. Arthur Washburn was the first acting postmaster in the county, appointed in 1836. The first election in the county after its organization was probably held in the spring of 1837.

First court.

The first District Court ever held in Muscatine county was convened at the house of Samuel Parker, in Bloomington, now Muscatine, on Monday, April 24, 1837. Hon. David Irwine, Judge of the Second Judicial District, and Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Wisconsin, presiding; W.W. Chapman, U.S. Attorney; John S. Abbott, was appointed clerk. The following is the first grand jury empaneled for the county, and on the part of the United States. Robert Bamford foreman, Benjamine Barton, Edward E. Fay, Robert C. Kinney, Jonathan Pettibone, Eli Reynolds, A.L. McKee, Joseph Mountz, Thomas I. Starks, Nathan Paison, Samuel Parker, William Sparks, Christopher Barnes, John Briggs, Levi Chamberline, Norman Fillington and Andrew Pace. Alexander W. McGregor was admitted to the bar at this time, while the principal other business transacted was granting license to different parties to run ferries across the Mississippi river. Judge D. Irwine held a second term in May, 1838, while the first one under the territorial government of Iowa, was convened October 8, 1828, by Hon. Jos. Williams, who was one of the Judges of Iowa Territorial Supreme Court, and presiding Judge of the Second Judicial District. The first meeting of the Supervisors was held at the house of Robt. C. Kinney, in Bloomington, at which session Samuel Shorteridge, Jas. R. Strithers and S.C. Hastings were appointed assessors of the county, and were allowed two dollars per day. The first taxes were collected by Jas. Davis, for which service he was allowed fifteen dollars. In 1838 an annual license tax of one hundred dollars was assessed on liquor saloons and peddlers of brass and wooden clocks.

First things.

The first school in the county was taught by Geo. Bumgardner, in the spring of 1873. The first birth was a daughter of Samuel Kinney, the same spring, and the first death that of Mrs. J.W. Carey, which occurred a littler earlier. The first sermon was preached by a Baptist minister by the name of Lowren, in the house of Samuel Kinney, early in the spring of 1837, while the first regular preacher stationed here was Reverend Norris Hobert, a Methodist, who came later the same year. The first church organized was the Methodist in 1839, while the Presbyterian was organized the next year, with Rev. John Stocker as pastor. The first school house in the county was built at Bloomington, in 1839 and was used for a long time for a church, school house, public hall, etc.


But few counties in the State have better railroad facilities than Muscatine. The main line of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific passes through the northern tier of the township, while the southwest branch of this road intersects the main line at Wilton, and running in a southwest direction passes through the city of Muscatine, and the eastern portion of the county. The main line of the Burlington Cedar Rapids & Minnesota Railway passes through the western townships, crossing the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific at West Liberty. The Muscatine Western Railroad, starting at Muscatine and running west, has been completed across the county, crossing the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Minnesota at Nichols, and has penetrated quite a distance in Johnson county.

War Records.

Muscatine county has a war record of which it may well be proud. Probably no county in the truly patriotic and loyal State of Iowa responded more freely or furnished more men for the late war of the rebellion. When the muttering thunders of civil war reverberated along the horizon of the Republic, the noble, heroic young men of this county sprang to arms, their country’s honor to maintain, and more than four hundred of those brave, heroic hearts now sleep beneath the sod whose sacred sell they stained with their life’s blood, that the beautiful banner of liberty that has so often carried peace and joy to many fainting ones, might still wave pure and untarnished over the land they loved so well. About eighteen hundred men went from this county to swell that grand, host of noble patriots, who, when the clouds hung the thickest, begging to be allowed the proud honor of dying for their country and liberty. Two companies for the gallant Iowa First, and one for the Graybeard’s regiment show how fearfully in earnest they were. Not content with sending their volunteer soldier, the proudest, most soldiery soldiers the world ever saw, the mothers, sisters and wives at home were among the most zealous in rendering aid and assistance to al philanthropic institutions which had for their object the improvement of the condition of the soldiers or their families. The city of Muscatine has the proud satisfaction of being the first in the commonwealth which led the sisterhood of States in providing home comforts and educational advantages for the children whose brothers’ strong arms had held the bayonet at the breast of armed treason. Their last, though not least, praiseworthy act was to rear an elegant monument in the shady court house park, to the memory of their heroic slain, which was dedicated and unveiled July 3, 1873, by Iowa’s war Governor, Samuel J. Kirkwood.

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