Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 470 c-1 thru c-4
submitted by Charlene Nichols Hixon, October 30, 2007


The Old Settlers’ Society Mark With Marble
the Location of the First Building.
- - - - - - - -
Addresses Delivered By Various Members of the Organiza-
tion.—Some Early History Recalled.

From the Muscatine Journal, Nov. 18 and 20, 1899.

At about 2 o’clock Mr. Fultz directed Jacob Beckey, stone mason, to put the stone in place, and a few minutes later Mr. Fultz read the following address:

    President Walton’s Address.

    This stone exactly marks the first foot-print of civilization in this part of Iowa. Trade in this case as in most others in modern history, led the way for the permanent settler.

    After the close of the Blackhawk war a treaty was made with the Indians on Sept. 21, 1832, and ratified by Congress on Feb. 13, 1833, by which the eastern part of Iowa, known as the Black Hawk purchase, was sold to the United States government. (The Indians making a few reservations, the United States relinquishing their ownership to them.) In payment for this land the Indians were to receive in specie (silver dollars) for thirty consecutive years, the sum of $20,000, and the payment of the debts of the Indians that had been accumulating for seventeen years, amounting to $50,000 due Davenport and Farnum Indian traders. The government also donated 6,000 bushels of corn and many other articles.

    The Black Hawk purchase was the first land opened for settlement in Iowa. Previous to June 1st, 1833, all settlers were kept out by the soldiers. When a squatter ventured across the river his house was torn down and he was removed to the Illinois side.

    The treaty was ratified on Feb. 13. As soon as word could reach Rock Island, likely about the 1st of March, the government officials commenced to carry out the terms of the treaty.

    The Indians had two of their largest villages near here, where the two principal chiefs lived. Keokuk’s village was on the west and near the north end of Keokuk Lake, about sic miles west of our city.

    Poweshiek’s village was on Cedar river sear the Saulsburg bridge, some twelve miles to the northwest.

    For the convenience of the Indians the 6,000 bushels of corn was largely distributed at this point. To have a large number of Indians gathered together to receive their corn, etc., without having a trader on hand, would be a great mistake on the part of the traders. So Col. George Davenport sent a Mr. Farnum, with two other men, and built a trading house on this spot. Mr. Farnum remained here most of the time for two years, and traded with the Indians until the cabin and claim were sold to Col. John Vannater, on Feb. 20, 1835.

    There is no history so far as I can find, to indicate that any other house was standing on any of the government lands within the State of Iowa at the time of the erection of this one. Had not Col. Davenport been an Indian trader he would not have been permitted to build this one.

    For the location of the house we are indebted to Peter Jackson, our secretary, Suel Foster and others. While Mr. Jackson did not see the house, he saw the debris, and knows its location, it having burned down a few days before Mr. Jackson came here.

    On the 4th day of July, 1838, Black Hawk’s purchase became a part of…

    *** continued on page 470 c-2 ***

    …Iowa territory. The “boys” celebrated the event by making a bonfire of the old trading house.

    For the history of the trading house and its connection with the city we are largely indebted to Suel Foster, who has written several articles from which we have condensed the following:

    In 1835 John Vanater and Capt. Benjamin Clark bought the Farnum claim of Major George Davenport for the sum of $200. The claim was a half mile square beginning at the trading house that stood on Water street, above the foot of Iowa Avenue. The west end of the long double cabin was very nearly parallel with the east side of the Aveue, thence one-fourth of a mile down the river and one-fourth of a mile up the river, and a half a mile back from the river, which was about 60 feet back of Eighth street.

    John Vanater moved into the trading house in 1835, using one end for a small stock of goods that he sold to the whites and Indians. Vanater and Clark had the claim surveyed into lots in 1836 by Major William Gordon, of rock Island. He had a claim and lived near Nyes on Pine creek. They called the town Bloomington. It was changed to Muscatine later.

    When Major Gorder came to survey the town he wanted some definite starting point. The old trading house was some 32 feet long, so Vanater told him to take the outside of the stick chimney at the west end of the house as a starting point. Vanater’s orders were obeyed and the town plated accordingly.

    The surveyor was undoubtedly not very particular as more recent surveys show he gave the lots full measure. If anything was short it was the street. In this respect he differed very much from one of our modern city engineers, who tries to give the street full measure every time. This generous measure on the part of Major Gordon carried the west line of the town several feet over on to the next man, James W. Casey’s claim, who objected. Their dispute was settled by an arbitration, Vanater getting the disputed part.

    The proprietors began to sell undivided twelfths and undivided sixths interests in the town, in August, 1836. Suel Foster and his brother Dr. John N. Foster, paid $500 for one sixth interest. They bought of Captain Clark, it being the last portion he had.

    The first plat of the town, if any one was made, has been lost. The second one, now in the Recorder’s office, was lost for many years. In order to supply the wants of the town Abe Smalley got George Boumgardner to make another. That was taken for the legal map for many years. Lately the second plat has been found and is in the Recorder’s vault at the court house.

    We have placed this block of stone with the figures 1833 cut on the top on the east line of the Iowa Avenue, as described by Suel Foster, likely near where the stick chimney was the starting point in the survey of our city.

Other Addresses.

On the conclusion of the reading of Mr. Walton’s address, Judge J. Scott Richman was called on and made an address. [Owing to the lateness of the hour the publication of this address is deferred till our next issue.]

Peter Jackson was next called on and spoke of things as he saw them when he came to this place in 1838. We have taken some notes of Mr. Jackson’s remarks, which are necessarily deferred till our next issue.

President Fultz called on John Mahin, who said:

    This memorial stone is not as costly and may not be as enduring as the pyramids of Egypt but it commemorates better things than they. It marks the era when Christian civilization commenced to impress itself upon this particular part of our country on the west bank of the Mississippi. It is true that some years earlier white me had obtained a footing west of the river at Dubuque, Ft. Madison, Burlington and perhaps other places in the territory now known as the State of Iowa, but this memorial has special interest to Muscatine. It will without doubt be a landmark for generations to come. The stone modestly bears an inscription which tells only of the year of our Lord “1833,” but contemporaneous history which (thanks to the printing press) can never be effaced, will explain what is meant by this piece of granite with its four cabalistic figures. This gathering of citizens of Muscatine is comparatively…

    *** continued on page 470 c-3 ***

    …small and insignificant but future historians will refer to it. The patriotic forethought of President Walton in planning and executing the work of marking the site of the first house erected in Muscatine city and Muscatine county will be remembered with gratitude by those who come after us. The achievements of a people would lose their teaching value to future generations if no record was made of them. We here to-day are simply making a record, and putting it in the enduring form of granite. Let those who read this record remember how from the first log house built in the wilderness has come in less than the three score and ten years allotted to the life of man this busy and prosperous city and this magnificent country that surrounds it – all the result of planting Christian civilization on the western shore of the great river. I am glad for myself to have a share the work that has been done here to-day.

Other notes of this interesting event will appear in our next issue.


Further Concerning the Marking of the Site of First House in Muscatine.

Our report of the exercises on Water street, Saturday afternoon, on the placing of a memorial stone at the spot where the first house in Muscatine was erected was necessarily brief, as our paper went to press soon after.

The following is the address of Hon. J. Scott Richman on the occasion:

    What shall I say about the Indian trading post? First: I do not actually know anything about it – and all I shall say about the “Trading house” might properly come under the head of “they say.”

    Second: Tradition says the first building on the site of Muscatine was erected on the bank of the Mississippi river by a Davenport – not far from the mouth of Papoose Creek; that it was an Indian trading post, and that the Indians visited it in great numbers.

    I never saw the house. It was removed or destroyed before I came to Muscatine. But I have seen and followed the Indian trail most of the way from the Cedar river to this point. It was well worn and followed the best route between here and the Cedar river. The Indians were natural surveyors and engineers. Without compass or chart or chain, they always managed to find the shortest and best route between given points.

    I have heard Mr. Couch speak of Davenport’s trading post. Mr. Couch was among the early settlers. His house stood nearly opposite the depot and near the trading post. He kept a boarding house, and a very good one, too. Mrs. Couch was an excellent cook. His house was a land-mark. It stood alone, not far from the trading post. There was a cabin just west of the corner of Front street and Iowa avenue. It was the first exclusive grocery store kept in Muscatine, and was occupied by my brother, J. W. Richman, and just beyond that was the store of Ogilvie, or Ogilvie and Jackson, which was a general store; and just beyond that was the store of Howland & Brady. The Commercial center of the town at that time was on Front street, between Chestnut street and Iowa avenue.

    These buildings were all land-marks – but they have disappeared – as have nearly all the buildings of the early settlers. Those buildings like the settlers who built and occupied them, are vanishing, one by one, and giving place to others. It is sad, and at the same time interesting, to recall the early times – the buildings and the people who occupied them, and to note how rapidly they are being gathered into the great receptacle of “things lost upon the earth.”

    Ogilvie, Abbott, Couch, John Vanatta, Coleman, Dr. McKee, the Fays, Fred Stone, Gillett, the Parvins, Hastings, Day, Capt. Jim Palmer, Kinney, Arthur Washburn, the Maacks, Fimple, Berkshire, Wm. St. John, Musgrave, Dr. Blades, Howland, Brady, Fish, Lowe, Whicher, Woodward, D. C. Cloud, Gordon, Butler, Deshler, Green, the Matthews, the Israels, Dr. Weed, Dr. Reynolds, Earl, Olmstead, Isett, Crandall, Williams, Warfield, Jennison, Vannatta, Foster, Magoon, Dougherty, Humphrey, Dr. Reeder, Doctor Smith, Frank Jackson, Foss and others, these are nearly all gone – a few only are represented by living descendants or survivors.

    *** continued on page 470 c-4 ***

    The time will soon come when there will be no one living to point out the houses where they lived, or to tell of their personal peculiarities. They will become – like the spot we commemorate to-day – no longer even memories – but mere traditions.

    If the precise spot where stood the old trading house can be pointed out, it is surely appropriate that a monument or mark of some sort be placed, there while it is yet possible, to designate the site of the first building erected on the river bank in what was then known as Bloomington, the name having been changed to Muscatine. The river front now has no resemblance to the original river front on which trees were standing quite plentifully – until they were cut out, as occasion required, to gain access to the river. The trading post was the forerunner of the town of Bloomington; Bloomington was the forerunner of the city of Muscatine. Let us hope that Muscatine may be the forerunner of something which may make it worthy of a monument.

When Mr. Richman concluded, Peter Jackson was called on. He said he had no speech to make – only a little talk. He said when he landed in Muscatine in the summer of 1838 he was shown a pile of charred logs which he was told was the remains of the old trading house, built by Col. Davenport, which had been made a bonfire of on the preceding Fourth of July. He spoke of other buildings then standing, and pointed out the location of some of them, all of which are now gone – even the Iowa House, then kept by Bob Kinney, at the foot of Locust street. He spoke of a building a short distance up the Avenue occupied by ‘Squire Coleman, and referred to a report prevalent at that time that a barrel of whiskey in Coleman’s house was tapped by mischievous persons who went into the cellar for that purpose. Another incident he told which amused the audience was that Dr. Flint, a well-known physician of the town at that time, who believed in bleeding, while attending him (the speaker) for a siege of the ague attempted to bleed him, but no blood came, his system being so depleted by the disease. He also referred to a pioneer physician named McKee and a mercantile firm of those days known as Beckett & Kinson.

Mrs. L. L. Patterson, daughter of Benj. Nye, who was the first settler of Muscatine county, having located at the mouth of Pine Creek in 1834, here spoke a few words by way of correction of some of the statements made. She said the town of Bloomington (predecessor of Muscatine) was laid out in 1837, a year earlier than had been stated. She also was of the belief that when her father came to this country in 1834 there was no house on the present site of Muscatine. She also made some other statements which our reporter failed to get on account of the noise on the street.

Hon. S. McNutt said this is a memorial which generations to come will be proud of. The pioneers were the best of their generation – the most intelligent and enterprising – and their posterity are among the bravest and best of those among us at the present day. For himself he felt proud of this action.

At this point the formal proceedings ended, but Joseph Bennett, one of the early merchants of Muscatine, having driven up in his buggy, volunteered a few remarks while standing in his buggy. He said from almost this very spot he shipped by steamboat the first shipment of wheat ever sent out from the port of Bloomington (now Muscatine). at that time there was better water in the river for a landing than at the point a short distance below where steamboats were more accustomed to land afterwards. Mr. Bennett (who is an ardent temperance man) said while he shipped the first wheat but he did not know who shipped the first barrel of whiskey in. Someone asked if he and all the other merchants did not sell whiskey in those days, when he said he did not – that whiskey had done and is doing much harm, and it was no credit to the man, whoever he was, that brought the first barrel of it to Muscatine.

The crowd in the street, which continued to increase as the exercises progressed, dispersed soon after and Mr. Beckey proceeded to place the brick paving around the memorial stone, which is even with the pavement but is readily discerned by a pedestrian passing that way.

[The End]

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