submitted by Neal Carter, Aug. 14, 2007

9 July 1869


At the close of the Black Hawk war in May, 1833, Geo. Davenport, the Indian trader who lived on Rock Island, sent a small stock of goods down here by a Mr. Farnham, who built a small double log cabin. This cabin stood on Water street just above Iowa Avenue. The place was called Grindstone Bluff. Mr. Farnham died in about two years and Maj. Davenport sold the claim to John Vanata. I am informed by J. P. Walton that the date of Davenport Quit Claim to John Vanata was Feb. 20, 1836. It is doubtful whether Mr. Farnham should be considered an actual settler as he was only the agent of Davenport. Mr. Vanata sold one half of his claim to Capt. Benj. Clark, of Clark ferry, with a view of laying out a town here. This claim was half a mile square and a quarter of a mile up and down the river from the trading house. Mr. John Vanata was a soldier in the Black Hawk war, after which he was for a time with Maj. Geo. Davenport. Mr. Vanata moved from Rock Island here in the fall of 1835. About that time J. W. Casey came from Cloverport, Ky., and made a claim immediately below Vanata’s, the division line of which was near the lower end of the present freight depot, 100 feet east of Spruce street. Mr. Casey put up a log cabin in the fall of 1835 under the bluff, on a high bank of the river, just below the foot of Broadway, making his home while at work at his cabin at Mr. B. Nye’s, at the mouth of Pine creek, 12 miles up the river.

Benj. Nye was probably the first actual settler of the county, having settled at the mouth of Pine Creek in 1834.

The first survey of the oldest claim of Muscatine into town lots was made in May 1836, by Maj. Wm. Gordon, who lived at the mouth of Pine creek, who was a military educated man and a surveyor. The proprietors named the town Bloomington.

The Black Hawk purchase, a new district of the country just opened for settlement, on the west bank of the Mississippi river, extending 250 miles north from the State of Missouri, and from 40 to 80 miles in width, was a land of great attraction for new settlers from Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Many of them coming with their wagons, families, stock and movables, and crossing Clark’s ferry, induced the proprietors to believe that he had a better place for a town site than Bloomington was, and accordingly Capt. Clark sold his interest in this town, myself being the purchaser of his last interest, August, 1836, it being one undivided sixth part of the central quarter section, my interest being about 90 lots for $500. On the same property there was a tax in 1839 of $2,800, for the purpose of building a court house.

I am not able to give the names of all the joint partners as first proprietors of this city, but can name the most of them. It must be recollected that the settlement was begun three years before the land came in market, and when our title was only a claim, which was considered to be a privilege to buy the land at $1.25 per acre when it came in market. In the central and oldest part of the town the following persons were the principal proprietors: John Vanata, T. M. Isett, Suel Foster and J. W. Nealley, each owning one sixth part. Those owning smaller shares were Moses Couch, and several others at Burlington, and Wm. D. Abernathy, of Illinois. Proprietors of the lower addition were Lyman C. Hine, Wm. St. John, Henry Reece & Brother, J. & G. Pettibone, A. Whitting, Alex. Smith, Breese & Higinbotham. Upper addition: Chas. H. Fish, Chas. A. Warfield, Dr. Lewis McKee and others. Titles were obtained of the Government at a land sale in Burlington, November, 1838, for that part of the city in township 77, north; and that part of the city lying in 76, north, the land sale was in March, 1839. – We had a book of records of our claims, which the Legislature of the Territory legalized and made such claims property – real estate – subject to execution.

Many a serious and bitter quarrel arose between neighbors, on account of conflicting claims. Several circumstances caused these conflicts. One was that the claims were made before the Government surveys were, and when the section lines and subdivisions were made they often ran through towns, farms and claims. – These difficulties were settled by arbitration of three men, or before a Justice’s court and jury, either of which was made legal by statute law. Another source of conflict was, what amount of improvement constituted a good and valid claim? And what time of residence, or what time of absence, should forfeit the claim.

Among the first settlers of the county was Benj. Nye, Esq., who settled at the mouth of Pine river, in the year 1834 or early in 1835, which was previous to any permanent settlement at Muscatine. There were three or four settlers down the Slough road in 1835, and early in the spring of 1836 many settlers came in – among them were Thomas Burdett, Samuel Gilbert, James and William Chambers and Mr. Franklin, who settled at Fairport, and Bartle who settled near the north corner of the city and had a corn field on the level ground on both sides of the east end of 8th street, in 1836 – having made his settlement in 1835 – and he, with his son and son-in-law, Mr. White, claimed one mile square, including the upper addition to the town, the Smalley lands, the Ogilvie lands, and a part of the Isett and Weed lands.

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