Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 124 & 129
submitted by Neal Carter, Sept. 28, 2007



Annual Banquet in Hooks Hall

The Old Settlers of Muscatine county held their annual reunion and banquet in Hook’s Hall to-day. This is a simple announcement but it means a great deal. It means a meeting of the founders of our beautiful city – those who braved the privations and dangers of a savage solitude and were the first to assist in carving from the wilderness one of the noblest commonwealths of the Union. It was from their log cabin chimneys rising here and there above the “bush” at this point that the ascending smoke told the passing steamer that American civilization had crossed the great river. They were the Iowa pioneers in the march of empire to the west. It was not altogether by self-denial and hardship that the foundations of Muscatine were laid, if we may believe the stories that come down to us from those early days. Indeed, if the half be true, there is no occasion for lacerating ourselves in compassion for these pioneers. From all accounts the social life was as gay and brilliant, the board was heaped with all the good things which the earth could produce and the best of cooks could devise, strong bonds of friendship bound the settlement in ties of whose neighborly spirit and fellowship modern society offers little in comparison, and the whole life of those log cabin days was redolent with a freshness and romance of which the present knows little, if anything.

The ranks of the old settlers have been terribly broken by the rude hand of death, and the stranger who looks in upon the reunions of these days and fails to see the Woodwards, Whichers, Williams, Fletchers, Warfields, Hawleys, Butlers, Fimples, Greens, Gordons, Ogilvies, Blocks, Couches and others who constituted the life and leadership of the settlement will fail to appreciate the real character of Muscatine’s early history and the high personal worth upon which her future was assured.


The committee of the O. S. society arranged the table in Hooks’ Hall for two hundred guests and every seat was taken. The spread occupied the whole area of the room. President Bridgman with the clergy and singers sitting at a table at the stage, the old settlers dating their residences prior to 1840 being honored with seats at the right and left of the President.

The board everywhere was ornamented with bouquets and loaded with the treasures of city and county larders and the choicest fruits of the conservatory.

At 12:30 the President signaled his company of 200 to take seats at the table and the exercises began with the choir singing “Auld Lang Syne,” most of the company joining heartily in the chorus.

Rev. J. H. Barnard invoked the divine blessing.

The order was then given to “fall to” and was executed with great spirit and dispatch.

The dinner lasted about an hour and at its conclusion the choir sang “America,” concluding with a verso of “Auld Lang Syne.”

The President announced the following officers for the ensuing year:

President – Suel Foster
Vice-President – Wm. Gordon
Secretary – Peter Jackson
Treasurer – Mrs. Peter Jackson

The society was now addressed by President Bridgman, as follows:

    Old Settlers of Muscatine County and Vicinity: As President of your society I bid you welcome and extend to you all a right cordial greeting.

    Thanks to that Kind Providence that has watched over us for nearly half a century, “since we were first acquaint,” and permitted us to meet together again around this festal board on this joyous occasion to cement anew the bonds of friendship, to grasp the hand, to talk over our reminiscences of early pioneer life, calling to mind the home partings, the leaving of parents, kindred and friends, repeating the story of pioneer families whose descendents have ever been in the van on the skirmish line of the frontier. You will pardon me, then, if I have something to say of my own family and their antecedents, dating back to the early part of the seventeenth century, of the germs they planted, the springing up of the blade, reaching its height and maturity, for the present generation reap a bountiful harvest. How true it is “that they planted better than they knew.”

    The Bridgman family have ever been a pioneer family. Mr. James Bridgman came from Warwickshire, England, in 1640, twenty years after the landing of the pilgrim fathers on that wild rock-bound coast, and settled in Hartford, Conn. His descendents in after years were scattered over the colonies. Early in the present century we find them in Ohio and among the early settlers of many of our Western States.

    I left my New England home in the early spring time of 1837 and came to what was then the Territory of Wisconsin, leaving behind me a widowed mother and the grave of my father.

    In the summer of 1830 my oldest brother left his home (and never to return) and settled in Macon, Georgia, afterwards moving to Alabama, where he died in 1850. My oldest sister is still living and with daughter in Sunny Italy. Another lies buried in Harrisburg, Pa., the youngest in the cemetery at Council Bluffs, Iowa. My two remaining brothers who came here in the thirties are still living – one in Keokuk, the other is pay master in the army. So the living and the dead of our family are all but one away from the old homestead – our mother died in Keokuk in 1850 and is buried there.

    How their thoughts wander back to the old home around the endeared hearth-stone! How the memories linger around the place of my childhood and call up in sweetest tenderness and fresh reality the scenes of long ago, when one after another the children left the old home to try their fortunes in another part of our land. I sorrow for the man or woman that has grown up from childhood and has not known a mother’s tender care, a mother’s love. Well do I remember the morning I left the garden gate for this to me an unknown land, followed with anxious look, the trembling voice of my mother’s “God bless you, my child,”

    I say I sorrow for those whose memory can linger around no such parting…

    *** continues on page 129 *** such flooding of the cheeks from the fountain of tear.


    “Thou hast been to me what ne’er
    In ruby’s rays hath shone,
    A mother from a purer sphere,
    To love me from my own;
    And I have watched the rising light
    Of each inspiring word,
    As they who track the farewell flight
    Of some ascending bird.

    Thro’ every night of doubt and ill,
    And every darksome day,
    A sunny smile was ‘round thee still
    To drive their gloom away;
    And when the world in rudeness spoke
    Thy voice was heard above
    The tones that from their murmurs broke,
    In its unchanging love.”

    More than four decades have been told off by the finger of time since many of us left our footprints upon the soil of what is now the great State of Iowa. Change has been written upon every page of our lives, and we have been actors in this grand panorama in this resplendent pageant that has passed in review before us.

    In our western life we have experienced changes that the wildest dreams could not have fancied and conjured up in the most prolific brain. Villages, cities and States have grown up, people of the older States and the world have cast their lot with us, who first opened the door to this virgin land, this grand domain.

    What brought us to this western land? is a question we have often asked ourselves. Some little incident, some trifling circumstance, some invisible finger that pointed out the star that was tending its westward way, and that seemed to be the star of our destiny, and we followed its course until it stood over this fair land; and here our journeyings ceased, here we pitched our tents, took up our abode in this goodly land, this delightful heritage. And it is meet that we should have these assemblies, keeping up these pleasant anniversaries, setting aside a day to celebrate the year when we left home, kindred and friend. So we have come up here to-day, bringing with us our children’s children, to instill into their young hearts the memories of these anniversaries that they may now hold in sweet remembrance those who first opened up this land, established schools and colleges, built churches, only to leave these rich legacies to the coming generation; many none of our descendents leave a foul blot upon the fair escutcheon of Iowa or blot out the star that glitters to her name.

    And in the rolling years, when this world has grown old, may this bright star in our glorious constellation be the last to set in the twilight of the evening of time and cast its pale light upon a dissolving world.

    Those of us who have lived in the central decades of this century, this grand epoch, these wonder working years, these triumphs of the electrician, the painter, the searcher of the hidden treasures of earth and air, bringing into subjection and harmonizing to their use the lightnings of heaven, controlling them with the slightest touch, sending our thoughts and voices from continent to continent, from city to city, in the “path that no man knoweth;” and with this same invisible power moving ponderous machinery, lighting up the heavens with an almost lunar brilliancy. Our lot has indeed been cast in a goodly land, and in a glorious period of the world’s existence. Wonders have been multiplied and each trod so fast in the retreating footsteps of its predecessors that we have stood with uncovered and bowed head at the onward, but silent, march of this mighty power, this wonderful unfolding of the long hidden treasure that the Almighty has placed at the disposal of those who would stand at the portal and enter nature’s great laboratory and bring out from her inexhaustible storehouse the useful, the grand and ornamental, laying them at the feet of an admiring, wondering people for their use and benefit.

    There is something sad in the reflection that our fathers should have lived so near even the dawning of this glorious epoch, grand with the developments of such Godlike minds that have opened up to the outside world a solution of these wonderful problems. It is like the repetition pf the long ago history of the Hebrew nation that were so near the promised land and yet not permitted to look upon it.

    And as this autumnal season returns and we come together may they ever be days of pleasure and their paths paths of peace, looking up to Him who hath led us with hearts full of gratitude.

At the conclusion of the address, which was received with cheers, a standing vote of thanks was tendered to the retiring President for the high ability with which he had executed the duties of this office.

Hon. H. H. Benson, of Davenport, was catalogued for an address and he was presented to his audience. The speaker expressed himself as surprised at the expectation of an address from him, but went on with a speech glowing with bright thoughts and beautiful with choice imagery in which was set many a fair picture of pioneer life. In the course of his remarks the speaker mentioned that Senator Harlan spent his first night in Iowa in the cabin of the speaker’s father, standing at the mouth of the Iowa river.

Rev. E. P. Smith, of Wilton, was introduced as a pioneer of ’41. His remarks were brief but exceedingly interesting and he managed to crowd into a five minutes speech, an eloquent review of the character of Iowa pioneers and a picture of a log cabin school house, to the building of which each settler contributed two logs and in which the speaker taught school, numbering among his pupils the Rev. John Haynes, now pastor of the First Methodist church of Muscatine.

The next speaker was the venerable Zephaniah Washburn, whom we believe is 82 years old, and a citizen of Muscatine for 43 years. Mr. Washburn leaves next month in company with his son, L. H. Washburn, Esq. for Los Angeles, Cal., and his leave-taking with his old pioneer brethren and sisters was one of the most affecting scenes that has been witnessed at these reunions.

The Hon. R. M. Burnett was called up and responded with one of his happiest after dinner speeches, which he limited to two minutes.

Rev. John Haynes was next introduced and took up the early school life in the Iowa log cabin mentioned by his old teacher and reverted to other phases of his childhood in the new west which sounded like pages of romance to his intently listening audience.

The President presented Rev. J. H. Barnard as pastor and friend and representing the guests of the Old Settlers. Mr. Barnard expressed for himself and fellow guests the pleasure which had been enjoyed in listening to the experiences of those who lived the early history of Iowa. The speaker’s birth year fell within the charmed line of ’40, if that could establish a relationship with the pioneers, and being answered that it would if he were born in Iowa. Mr. Barnard very happily used the interruption for paying an affectionate tribute of respect to the Keystone State, land of his birth, and thought the man was fortunate who could boast of a citizenship in two such States as Pennsylvania and Iowa. Mr. Barnard appropriately returned thanks for all who had had the pleasure of sitting as guests at the banquet.

Mrs. Laura Patterson was introduced to the company as the oldest living resident of the county, having moved hither with her father, Mr. Benjamin Nye, in 1834, in the 7th year of her age. Mrs. Patterson spoke briefly of the time when her home was the only mark of civilization in the county, but her voice was keyed so low that our reporter could not clearly distinguish her remarks.

The concluding speech was followed by the President elect, Hon. Suel Foster, who humorously referred to the time when “Miss Laura Nye” (the last speaker) was boarding at the Rev. Mr. Stockers, (Mr. Barnard’s first predecessor) and it occurred to the speaker’s gallantry to treat the young girl to a ride. His character being tolerable to fair at that time. Mr. Stocker offered no objection, and the two started on horseback. There were no roads in those days and Mr. Foster and his companion galloped up the bluff, until coming to a large log obstructing the way the speaker wheeled his horse to go around it. “Miss Laura” thought her horse could jump the log, and there said the speaker, “my narrative ends!”

This brought down the house and amid the laughter the reunion of 1882 was declared at an end.

Before the company dispersed Peter Jackson, the secretary of the society, requested all members who had not yet furnished their photographs for the old settlers’ album to do so.

It was also resolved to hold the reunions hereafter on the last Wednesday of each year.


The following old settlers who came to Muscatine prior to 1840 were present at the reunion:

Isaiah Davis, Peter Jackson,
J. Scott Richman, J. P. Walton,
Wm. Calder, Sam. Sinnett,
John Zeigler, Abraham Smalley,
A. M. Winn, W. P. Wright,
Shepherd Smalley, J. M. Kane,
J. Bridgman, Suel Foster,
Andrew Sheeley, Z. Washburn,
I. Mauck, Hiram Gilbert,
L. H. Washburn, Joseph Bennett,
H. H. Benson, A. D. Silverthorn.

Mr. J. P. Walton has been appointed a committee to obtain the names of all the old settlers in the county who came prior to 1840 and the names of their surviving descendents.

President Bridgman is to be warmly congratulated for the success attending the second reunion under his presidency.

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