MUSCATINE COUNTY IOWA|
Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 350, 353 & 354
submitted by Jo Ann Carlson, October 21, 2007
OLD SETTLERS’ DAY.
Sep 21st 1892 (hand written)
An Excursion to that Romantic Spot, Wyoming Hill.
AN UNUSUALLY ENJOYABLE TIME
A Ride on the River-A Picnic Dinner-Visit to Wyoming Grotto-Speeches, et.
If the day had been made to order it could not have been adapted than was yesterday for the annual meeting of the Old Settlers of Muscatine county. It was clear, warm and pleasant for out-of-doors-one of those delightful autumnal days, with a hazy and yet balmy atmosphere, so fitting in every respect for an old settlers’ anniversary.
As previously announced, the steamer Fleetwing with a new excursion barge, just built and launched by Fisher & Koehler, was in readiness at 9 o’clock to take the old settlers and their friends to Wyoming Hill. The barge was filled to its fullest capacity, carrying about 120 persons. A number who feared to make the passage in that way, and others who could not conveniently do so, went to the picnic grounds by other methods-some by the cars and others by their own conveyances. Had it been known beforehand that the Firefly would stop at the grounds both coming and going (as it did) at a convenient hour for attending the exercises, no doubt a great many more would have gone that way.
The boat arrived at the designated spot (a few hundred yards this side of Wyoming Hill) at about 11 o’clock, as did also those going by train. Some conveyances had arrived before and some came later. Altogether there were about 200 persons on the grounds.
The first thing in order was the picnic dinner, some partook of this on the barge and others by families or companies under the shade of the trees.
After dinner a stroll was taken to the romantic spot known as Wyoming Hill. In this hill is a grotto-a sort of a waterfall when the small stream in which it is situated has any water to fall over it. Under this grotto, on top of it, and on the hillside back of it, most of the company was grouped while Mr. Oscar Grossheim, who had brought his camera along, took a picture of the scene. This visit to the grotto occupied more than an hour, but on account of the primitiveness of the scenery and the many and beautiful wild shrubs and flowers, it was much enjoyed.
Returning to the place of landing. President Walton called the company to order under the shade of the trees. Camp chairs were provided for most of the company and about two hours were spent in listening to speeches.
Mr. Walton said he had invited Rev. A.B. Robbins, the old settlers’ pastor, to open these exercise with prayer, and he expected to be present but was prevented. The following communication from Dr. Robbins was then read by Secretary Jackson:
President Walton-Dear Sir: I have been absent for two Sundays, at Independence, preaching in the Congregational church, there. At that city there is a famous race course, and, what is more to its honor, a noble institution of our State for the care and cure of 800 of its insane.Sept. 21, 1892.
Upon my return yesterday morning. I find my wife so unwell that I can not leave, and must lose our annual Old Settlers’ gathering. I am sorry I cannot expect to attend many more of these unique and often pleasant gatherings. As one of these coming in 1843, when I was 26 years old, to this State from old Massachusetts, I would send through you, sir, my kind salutations to all who may meet.
I have noticed in the Bible recently, that the blessings of God, our heavenly Father are set before us with a dark back-ground of admonitions. The rich and cheering assurance that blessings shall “come on” us and “overtake” us.-“Blessed shalt thou be in the city and blessed shalt thou be in the field.”-Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. “Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.” &c., &c.
These blessings are set out in their beauty before us, for our reception. And all these are flanked by still more in number of assurances that, refusing the terms upon which we may have the blessings, we shall bring upon us some one or more of the curses. “Cursed shalt thou be in the city and cursed shalt thou be in the field, cursed shall be thy basket and thy store.” Twelve verses of blessing! The dark background of these consists of fity-one verses of curses. Now, this may seem to you a not very good preaching. But preaching of rnearly fifty years, I cannot well say anything that is not either a blessing or an admonition.
It is in my heart to hope and pray that each old settler of Muscatine county and their children may choose life and not death. With much interest in all and each of you and in our grand State of Iowa, I remain very kindly, yours-A.B. Robbins, pastor, emeritus, on Congregational church.
Secretary Jackson also read the following annual report:
Since our last annual gathering we have record of the deaths of:
John Seiler Mrs. Sarah Bumgardner Robert Kirk Mrs. Worsham Jeremiah Greiner Mrs. T. Schoonover Ab. Tschillard Tunis Smith Capt. A. Kennedy Mrs. Robt Williams S.N. Candee John Hubacher Mrs. Ogilive Catherine Conway John Fisher J.Philip Thompson Mrs. John Sherfey Mrs. Sophia Hubbard Simon G. Stein Mrs. Fifield Richardson Mrs. Mary G. Horton Mrs. S.O. Butler S.L. Lawrence (Wilton) Mrs. Mahala Briles Mrs. Marga’t Craig U.C. Mayes Mrs. Jos. Bridgman John Fyock James Johnson M.P. Pace Cordelia Mathis Charles W. Hubbard John Opelt Stephen L. Foss R.M. Burnett Christian Rensink Charles Schermer George Cook
Thus thinning our ranks very fast. Looking at the apparent fewness of old settlers still among us this seems a very large number to be taken from us in one year, and yet I have no doubt but the number of old settlers’ deaths throughout the county, if all were heard from, would largely increase the number here recorded, and in a very few years there will not be any of the “forties” left.
After the reading of the foregoing communication, President Walton delivered his annual address, as follows:
Old settlers, ladies and gentlemen:
We meet together to-day to exchange greetings-to relate old stories and to talk over the early events of our city, our county and our State. It being the Columbian year our nation should not be forgotten.
Too much honor or credit cannot be bestowed on Columbus as a discoverer. His discovery, as it afterwards proved to be but a small island, changed the character of the whole civilized world. The crusade to the Holy Land on the east became a thing of the past; the new world to the west offered inducements for many a conquest. It was more than a hundred years after the discovery before any settlement of importance was made. While Columbus advanced the idea and worked out of discovery, the credit of being the first discoverer of this continent belonged to another.
To Sebastian Cabot, an English navigator, is due the credit of first seeing this American continent in the year 1497. A little later Ponce deLeon, and other Spanish explorers, laid their claims to our Gulf and western States.
Iowa was once under Spanish rule if any but the Indian rule existed. While you are most likely all familiar with its history as a State there are many disputed points on which the old settler has to be considered authority. One that comes to my mind now is the origin of the names of our counties. We will consider the name of Lee county. You will pardon my introduction. If it were not for that I would not know anything about the name. In the autumn of 1837, my father, Amos Walton, came west from New England. He came across the State of Pennsyvlania, down the Ohio and up the Mississippi river. While on the steamboat at St. Louis he became acquainted with a man by the name of Harvey Gillett, who was coming to this country with his family. He persuaded my father to come here with him, offering him work during the winter, which he gave him. He lived with him from November to June and became very familiar with Mr. Gillett’s family and business. I have heard my father relate much of it, among other things the following Lee county story:
Mr. Gillett’s family consisted of a wife and several children. The wife was the sister of a wealthy man in New York City by the name of Lee. He was the head man in a large mercantile house of the name of Lee, Brewster & Co. Mr. Lee associated himself with several others and organized a land company. I think it was known by the name of the New York Land Company. They sent Mr. Gillett out to purchase lands. He made extensive purchases of the half-breed lands and had to look after them.
In October of 1836, the Territorial Legislature met at Belmont, Wis. I was understood that a sub-division of the then two counties would be made. Mr. Gillett went there to look after the Land Company’s interests. While at Belmont he fell in company with Dr. Eli Reynolds, one of the Representatives from Des Moines county, the southern one of two counties of the Territory. There he formed a partnership with Dr. Reynolds. They laid out the now obsolete town of Geneva. During this session of the Legislature several counties were organized, together Lee attached to it in honor of its biggest land owner, or the principal man of the biggest land company in the county.
The name of Des Moines county was most likely taken from the Des Moines river, taken from the Des Moines river, which was known on the early maps as the Moingona river.
As before stated originally there were but two counties-Dubuque and Des Moines. Burlington being the oldest and most populous place within the county they most likely retained the name of the county.
The name of Louisa county is also in doubt, which perhaps old settler may be able to serve. On page one of Portrait and Biographical Album of Louisa County is being the following:
“The origin of the name is somewhat in doubt, though the most favorable view of the case is that it was named after Louisa county, Va., the name being given by William L. toole, who was a native of that State and a member of the Territorial Legislature when the act was passed to establish a county. It is said by some that it was named after Louisa Massey, who performed a heroic deed by avenging the death of her brother.
The first view is most possibly incorrect, as Mr. Toole was not a member of the Territorial Legislature at that time. The latter heroic tragedy that Miss Louisa Massey was connected with occurred at Dubuque at or near the time the Legislature was sitting at Belmont. The whole community was talking it over, hence the most possible origin of the name of that little county of Louisa.
*** continued on page 353 ***
The name of our Muscatine county was taken from the Muscatine Island, an Indian name that was applied to the Island as early as 1816. The meaning of the name opens a field for the Indian student to explore.
We spoke about Harvey Gillett and Dr. Reynolds and their now obsolete town of Geneva. I am going to venture a short description of the town as it appeared to us on our arrival in June, 1838. It was situated three miles up the river from Muscatine where Col. Hare’s farm is. The principal building was a steam saw mill on the bank of the river just below the mouth of the creek. It was owned by John Vannatta, Robert Smith and a German by them name of Temple. John Vannatta was the manager, Smith the engineer. The unsophisticated German furnished the money, which proved to be a permanent investment. I think he became the sole owner. It was not a success as a saw mill; it took too much cord wood to run it. There were also three hewed log houses and two log cabins. The three log houses were occupied by the sheriff, James Davis, Harvey Gillett and his brother, Adison Gillett. The two log cabins were occupied by Hon. Dr. Eli Reynolds and Amos Walton, the postmaster.
James Davis had a small outside building that he had been keeping a grocery in. There was little left but the liquor when we came here, and I doubt very much if anything else was ever kept there other than tobacco.
The principal place of congregating was at the mill, while running, if not at the postmaster’s. This went very well until August or September, when we all got the ague, which we did so badly that at times not one of our number of five could help the other to a drink of water. We had this ague from August to the following April, and occasionally for several years afterwards. I am not going to describe a “shake of the ager” to these old settlers; most of them have had the enjoyment, and heard the rattle of their teeth. It was said that some men got too lazy to shake. I never saw one. After the shaking was over the quantity of water required was marvelous. During the summer season, the water for the whole town was gotten from a spring on the bank of the river. Some of us had to carry our water 150 yards and take very sulphury water at that. When the river was high my father made a box around the spring and kept out the warm river water.
As before stated my father kept the post office. We were on the main mail route north and south. I think we had a mail one day from the south; the next from the north; but none on Sundays. It generally consisted of one pouch; it had to be overhauled in 7 minutes. While we were shaking with ague, this was a tough job. We always managed to “stand in” with the mail carriers-in the summer time a drink of butter milk, in the winter a cup of our pea coffee, made us all O.K. In return, any favor we wanted, such as a sack of meal from Rockingham or Davenport, was brought us without charge. He was always willing to help assort letters and papers, which was a great help to us.
During the winter season there was considerable travel; of course the passengers had to be warmed while the mail was being overhauled. It made our small cabin not, more than 16 feet square, quite lively. We kep the post office for three years. After the death of my father it was discontinued.
The stoppage of the post office was the stoppage of the town. The mill and other buildings were moved away or taken down, and nothing now remains to mark the place but the sulphur spring that continues to flow.
President Walton announced the following committees: On resolutions, John Mahin, J.S. Richman and John Barnard. To report concerning the death of Mrs. Sherfy; S. Sinnett, S. Smalley and S.W. Stewart.
The President then said it was in order to call on any one to speak John Mahin being called for, spoke substantially as follows:
On a day like this we realize the words of Selden, the poet:
“Old friends are best. King James used to call for his old shoes, they were easiest for his feet.”
So on these occasions we enjoy ourselves in free and easy sociability. Though as King Henry the 4th said “there is some smack of age in us, some relish of saltness of time,” yet our hearts are mellowed by memories which are brought up by our association together as old settlers. Former differences are forgotten and the happier fellowships of the past are revived and enjoyed again with renewed zest. We claim no superiority over our fellow-citizens who came later to this goodly heritage where we encountered the wilderness-where we found the prairie grass matted as nature’s carpet, resisting the implements for tilling the soil, and where we saw the hazel brush and the scrub oak before they had given place to highways of travel; where treacherous sloughs and nonfordable rivers were difficulties now unknown. We claim only that honor which should be accorded to the pioneers who opened the way for the larger and greater civilization that has followed us.
You will pardon me if I speak of some thing’s peculiar to myself. I lately fell in conversation with a farmer of this county who was surprised to learn that I had had experience as a farmer’s boy. Yet it is true that my earliest recollections are associated with farm labor. And it was different from the farm labor of the present day. It was more exhausting and required more patience and perseverance. We had no riding plows and cultivators in those days; no horse hay rakes, no reaping machines and self-binders, no threshing machines and corn-shellers. The ordinary plow which had to be held by the hand, while the plow-boy walked in the furrow behind it, was the only kind in use. The hoe was the chief implement with which to cover the seed corn and annihilate the weeds. When a boy I assisted in making the log cabin home with its puncheon floor, with rough mortar and stones filling the chinks between the logs, with a clap-board roof and with a mud-and-stick chimney. I helped to rive the clap-boards and the staves in use in those days. I have assisted in threshing out wheat in the way then in use, by having the sheaves laid in a circle on hard, beaten ground and driving our leading horses over them. I have also beaten out the wheat with a flail. I have hacked flax helped make hominy in the old style, taking the hull off the grain with soaking in lye or beating it in a mortar with a pestel. I know how good a “Johnny cake” and a corn “pone” used to be to a hungry boy.
I know what it is to rise with the sun in the summer time to begin the laborious task of the farmer’s boy and continue it till late in the evening. I know what it is as a boy to go to bed o so tired. But the sleep that followed was restful and undisturbed. I experienced when a youth among the pioneers some hardships not now met with by boys on the farm. We then had no opportunity to buy readymade clothing. The boy’s wardrobe in summer usually consisted of two garments, a tow linen shirt and pants made of some coarser material that came from a farm loom in the neighborhood. Shoes were not thought of. The boys’ toes were often sore and scarified from being “snubbed” by coming in contact with the stump of a sapling or a projecting root left when the wood was cleared away through the underbrush.
What were are social opportunities in those days? Very few indeed. The school which we attended several weeks in the winter, the occasional spelling school and the less occasional church service.
The experiences that I have thus hinted at were previous to making my home in Muscatine. When I first saw this place it was bustling town called Bloomington. It had a dozen or 15 stores and one steam mill-Ballow’s-on Pappoose creek, near the corner of, Second and Sycamore. The chief business of the place was trading goods to farmer for their wheat and pork. All travel and trade with other parts of the country was then by steamboats. And we had good steamboats in those days-some of them far better than those we see on the river in these days. The change in this respect is due of course to the advent of railways.
Our pioneer people were sociable. Then everybody knew everybody, almost. In witner we were comparatively shut in from the surrounding world. The first steamboat to come from St. Louis in the spring was an event to call a large part of the population to the landing, and that boat was considered the favorite for the season.
We had no paved streets then and but few sidewalks. Gas had not been introduced; electric lights were unknown. No telepgraph or telephone; no street cars. No carriages, even such as our liverymen now have forhire. We were indeed a primitive people.
As an apprentice boy in a printing office I remember seeing some of the leading citizens of the town. Stephen Whicher and Ralph Lowe were the oldest and best known lawyers. Professional men in those days wore long cloaks in winter, buttoned at the chin and reaching almost if not quite to their heels. Lawyers, doctors and preachers, especially presiding elders, wore these cloaks. I have not seen one of them in use for more than thirty years. They were always regarded as a badge of respectability if not of wealth and social standing.
I began my apprenticeship on the 1st Monday in November, 1847. I remember it well. I had for several years desired to learn the printing business, and as the morning came when I was to begin I was up long before daylight, and had the office swept out before anybody appeared for business. The office was a room about 20 by 25 feet on the third floor of the building where Adam Hild now has a grocery. There were not over a dozen cases of type in the office. The press was a Washington, operated by hand. It was my duty to put the ink on the forms with rollers. Sometimes, as in the case of ball tickets, we used a big ball wrapped with silk serge. All such appliances would now be regarded by printers as interesting relics of the past.
I have sightiness thse things because they may be of interest to some of the younger persons present and may revivie recollections in the minds of some of the older one.
I wish to say in this connection that I have always had a profound admiration for the old Mississippi river since the time I first saw it from the Illinois shore, opposite Bloomington, in the fall of 1843.
I sometimes wonder if we appreciate the fact that we are in daily sight of the greatest river in the world. In the many changes that have taken place in other respects since pioneer days, very little change can be noted in this great river. We can almost apply to its Byron’s words:
“Time writes no wrinkle on thy azure brow-
Such as creation’s dawn beheld, thou rollest now.”
[After some moralizing Mr. Mahin closed as follows:]
The Franch have have a proverb that “to be young is delightful; to be old is convenient.”
Let us all make a convenience and a pleasure of the treasures that experience has brought and a joy and a helpfulness to the younger generation out of the superior privileges that age accords to us.
President Walton than called on John B. Lindle for remarks.
Mr. Lindle said in 1856 he worked …
*** continued on page 354 ***
…on the farm just across the road from where this assembly had met, it was then owned by A. Petricken. Mr. L. related some of his experiences in those days-how he was fooled by a neighbor into sowing cockleberry seed for something valuable; how he found wild honey; how he had good fishing, and how he enjoyed himself generally, because all were friends, though he was “a Dutchman,” and “am one yet,” he added. Mr. L also stated some of his experiences in the cholera times of 1851, when he was a cabin boy on the steamer Prairie Rose.
John J. Scott Richman was called for and responded with a happy offhand speech, in which he said he never referred to “the good old times,” because he believed those times were not half as good as these times. True we have worse grumblers now than then; as times grow better grumblers increase. Alluding to women’s work, he showed that in pioneer days they had more arduous and pressing household duties than now-so much sewing to do and the sewing machine unknown. He concluded by declaring that evolution is upwards and not downwards, and that it is indeed a privilege to live in such a good land and he had even higher hopes for the future.
S.W. Stewart, of Wilton, was the next speaker called out. He heartily coincided with the sentiments advanced by Judge Richman. As for himself, he could say that he had enjoyed as much as any man of 76 years could enjoy, but he did not want to go back and live it over; he would prefer to start in with the world as it is now, for to-day we have the best we ever had. The balance of Mr. S’s time was taken up in the relation of an anecdote illustrative of a certain phase of pioneer society in 1841. As agent of the anti-horse thief society he went to Linn county, where a warrant was procured for the arrest of two horse thieves. In company with Ambrose Harlen, the deputy sheriff, Mr. Stewart started in pursuit of thieves. They were traced to the house of Michael Green, at an early hour in the morning. Green was very hospitable and invited the half-frozen, hungry officers to warm by his big fire place and to take breakfast, while “the boys” put up their horses. Before breakfast, Green said it was their custom to have prayers. Harlan being a Methodist and Stewart a “hickory Presbyterian,” they assented to it. Green took down his Bible and read all of the 149th Psalm. He also sand a hymn of seven verses to the long drawn out tune of Mear. Then they knelt in prayer, and Green prayed for everybody and everything, rehearsing in his prayer nearly all the leading events related in the bible and the book of Maccabees. The purpose of this prolonged religious exercise did not dawn on the unsuspecting visitors till all was over, when it was discovered that it was to give opportunity for “the boys” to get away as far as possible with the stolen horses! Mr. Stewart in relating this incident, said he meant to cast no reflection on the Christian religion, as he firmly believed it to be the only hope of man and the prime cause of our highest type of civilization.
The next thing in order, the president said, was the election of officers.
Judge Brannan moved that J.P. Walton be re-elected president, and putting the motion it was carried unanimously.
Mr. Walton protested, saying this was the tenth time he had been chosen, and that he was put in the first time because he was not present. Judge B., responded that he was put in now because he was present.
On motion, the other officers were re-elected, viz; John Barnard, 1st vice-president; S.W. Stewart, 2nd vice-president; Peter Jackson, secretary, and Mrs. P. Jackson, treasurer.
Judge Brannan was then called on for a speech. He excused himself from making a speech, as he said he was not among the old timers having come here in 1855, when civilization was well planted. For his part he had some doubt whether the world was better; as wealth increases, so the desire for wealth increases, and temptations to do wrong are thereby multiplied.
Judge Brannan concluded by expressing a desire to hear some of the ladies talk. He called on Mrs. Laura L. Patterson, the oldest settler present but she modestly declined. [Mrs. P. is the daughter of Benj. Nye, who settled at the mouth of Pine creek in 1834.]
Mrs. Ruth McDonald was called on, but in lieu of making a speech recited a touching poem of her own composition, relating to a dream of a beautiful river which was gently bearing away human griefs on its bosom.
Samuel Sinnett responded to calls for a speech. He said he crossed the river in 1839. Phillips, the ferryman, charged him a dollar for the passage, and on the following New Years, when ice was running, he paid $5 for passage back. He spoke of the inconveniences of the pioneer dwellings as compared with those now; thought, however, that we pay higher taxes now in proportion to our means, and concluded by adimadverting on bad roads, especially those in the limits of the city of Muscatine.
The company having been again arranged in front of Mr. Grosheim’s camera, another picture was taken by him, when word was given to go to the boat and the assembly dispersed at a few minutes after 4 o’clock. The boat made the passage to Muscatine in about an hour.
The following is a list of the old settlers in attendance, as far as our reporter could obtain their names:
Austin, Mrs. P.A. Greiner, Mrs. J, son and daughter Madden, H. C. and wife Ashcraft, Mrs. Frank Grosheim, Oscar and wife Musser, Mrs. Richard Brogan, Jesse and wife Greiner, Mrs. Benj McBride, Mrs. Mary Brannan, W.F. Geiger, Frank Mark, Mrs J. B Baird, Mrs. R.B. and daughter Hughes, Mrs. SE Patterson, Mrs. Laura L Baker, Harvey Hine, H.H. and wife Parvin, Mrs. S. H. Brisbine, James Heaton, F M Richman, J. Scott Boland, Patrick Hill, S. B Richie, W.S. and wife Barnard, John and wife Holmes, W.G. and wife Rosseau, Mrs. L. P. Brown, Mrs. Mahlon and daughter Howe, Mrs. S Reppert, Mrs. F. Couch, Mrs. Moses Hitchcock, J. C. and wife Reimke, Mrs. G.A. Chaplin, Chas. And wife Hoopes, J E and wife Sinnett, Samuel Craddock, A.C. and wife Hoopes, Joshua W. and wife Sherfey, Niles Campbell, Mrs. Wm Hoover, Mrs. Henry Sherfey, Elbridge Downer, Mrs. R.M. and daughter Hopson, A and daughter Smalley, Abraham Davidson, Mrs. W.L. Hoffmeister, Rudolph Smalley, Shepherd Drake, T.H. and wife Holtz, John Stewart, S.W. Dunn, John M Hopkinson, A. C. and wife Schmidt, Herman and wife Dean, Mrs. Emma Jackson, Peter and wife Schenck, Mrs. R C Dewiler, Mrs B.A King, mazzie and Addie Vail, C B and wife Eichelberger, Levi Kuhn, Mrs Walton, J P and wife Eversmyer, Mrs. John Lindle, John B Winn, Geo C and wife Fultz, Wm. S Lyons, T and wife Winn, Mrs. G C Frutig, Mrs. L R Madden, Henry and wife Winn, A M Geisler, Chas Mahin, John Woods, C P Geisler, Mrs. F McDonald, Ruth
The following were visitors from abroad:
Mrs. G. W. Bayley, of Denver, daughter of Mrs. Downer. A.S. Sweet, of Springfield, Mo. Mrs. J.E. Graham, of Woodstock, Ill., nee Alice Sherfey. A.E. Van Camp, of Highmore, S. D. Mrs. D.S. Parker, of Chicago, nee Miss Sherfey. Wm. A. Short and wife, of Malone, N.Y.
Whereas, the report of our secretary shows that an unusual number of the old settlers have passed to their final home during the year just closed-too many, in fact to particularize in this report-therefore.
Resolved, that we pay this tribute to their memories and express our sympathy for the bereaved surviving relatives.
Resolved, further, that in this rapid thinning of the ranks of the old settlers, we see additional reason for those remaining to come into closer fellowship, and we ask especially for a larger and fuller attendance at the next old settlers’ reunion.
- John Mahin
- J.Scott Richman,
- John Barnard,
Back to Book One, INDEX
Back to the Muscatine Co. IAGenWeb, Index Page