Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 496 - 503
submitted by Charlene Nichols Hixon, October 27, 2007


Read by J. P. Walton, President of the Old Settler’s Society, of Mus-
catine County, at their Winter Meeting held on February 16th,
1887, in the Rooms of the Academy of Science.

Also the Address of Rev. A. B. Robbins, D. D.

The Old Settlers of Muscatine and vicinity met in the Academy of Science rooms last evening to celebrate their thirty-first anniversary. The attendance was such as to require the placing of temporary benches in the rear of the hall and every seat was taken.

President Walton presided, and promptly at 7:30 called the meeting to order. He remarked that owing to the appointment of the Reunion, no meeting had been called to take action on the death of Mrs. Seth Humphreys and he offered the following:

    Resolved, That we hear with sorrow of the death of Mrs. Seth Humphreys, who died on January 29th, 1887. She having lived in our community for nearly forty years, as a tribute to her memory, we desire to record our appreciation of those high qualities so marked in her life and character, and we tender our sympathy to her bereaved husband in his sore affliction.

    Resolved, That these resolutions be placed on our minutes and a copy be furnished the papers for publication.

The resolutions were adopted.

The President announced that Article 1 of the amended constitution makes all who came to Muscatine prior to 1860 and their descendants, eligible to membership, and Article 11, Sec. 1, prescribes that the object of this society shall be to collect and preserve the history of the first settlement. In compliance with this section, the President said he had prepared his address, which he read as follows:


    Bloomington was laid out in the spring of 1836 with the old trading house as a center. This building stood near the foot of the Avenue. At that time Bloomington had several log cabins located below the mouth of Pappoose creek.


    The origin of the name of this creek is a problem that I have been trying to solve for more than twenty years. In a previous paper I gave it as I learned it from Hon. S. C. Hastings. From Mrs. Laura Nye Patterson, the oldest lady resident of the county, I get a different origin for the name. She says that the Indians taught their children to swim almost as soon as they could walk. That during a course of instruction a papoose, or Indian child, was drowned in its waters; hence the name of Pappoose creek.

    Mrs. Patterson also gives the authorship of the name of Mad creek to Col. Davenport. At an early day a large portion of the transportation was done on keel boats. On one of his trips, the Colonel had occasion to tie his boat in the mouth of the creek. A heavy rain caused a sudden rise in the stream that broke his boat loose without any one being on board. He at once attributed the accident to “That mad creek,” which cognomen it has ever since carried. The Col. hired one of his men to swim out and secure his boat. Mad creek at that time had a crooked channel, large and deep enough to run a flat boat up to the main ford, near 10th street.


    Here the Indian trail crossed it. These trails were all roads or paths traveled by the Indians. They were generally located on the best ground for a road, keeping as near the river as was convenient. As a rule, an Indian will travel in the timber or along a river considerably farther in preference to venturing out in open grounds. There was one main trail that passed through our town. It entered on the west near the County Farm, running east through Butlerville or the ridge near the main street, crossed Pappoose creek north of where Henry Fuller’s…

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    …Brick yard is now located; thence around the foot of the Third Ward school house hill to the Mad creek crossing near 10th street bridge; thence up over the hill south of Dr. Weed’s residence. Indian trails were about twelve inches wide, worn about an inch below the surface of the surrounding ground and thickly matted with a short, fine, wirey trail grass not more than three or four inches high. This grass was probably indigenous with the Indian, occurring nowhere else but in these trails. It lived long after the Indians left. I could follow this trail in places where civilization had not disturbed it for years after the last Indian had stopped traveling on them.

    Our little village prospered fairly well. Frame buildings were erected along Front street; but few ventured further back.


    In the spring of 1840, Stephen Whicher erected the building now owned by W. H. VanNostrand on the west hill. The lumber was largely brought from Cincinnati and probably from the pineries of Pennsylvania. The framing timbers were cut and hewn from trees growing within the city limits. It was built with an old fashioned hip roof, the lower part being steeper than the upper, having three ridges running lengthwise. The gable ends were finished with battlements. It was an old castle in every sense of the word. Mr. Whicher had this roof and the battlements removed in 1849, robbing it of its feudal appearance.

    On the hill in the rear of the Congregational church stood a group of buildings owned by Pliny Fay, William Brownell, Joseph Williams and others that were put up on or before 1840. Mr. Brownell’s house was the first to give way to improvement. Judge Williams’ soon followed. Last summer Pliny Fay’s had to go, leaving two or three others of the first old buildings still standing. This group of buildings made the


    They could be seen for miles away. While talking about these buildings, it may not be out of place to describe some of the owners. Mr. Brownell was a large, well-formed, well-dressed and good looking gentleman; a merchant and contractor by occupation. His store was situated on Chestnut street, near Front street. The Court House and the military road across the bottom, on the other side of the river, were among his contracts.

    Hon. Joseph Williams was our District Judge; afterwards he was Chief Justice of Iowa. He was a genial, good-hearted man, the prince of story tellers and could play a fife, beat a drum, or make a public speech with equal gusto. While he could not be called a studious man in the strict sense of the word, no Judge has ever presided on the bench since his time that gave better or more universal satisfaction. He was always the friend of the plain pioneer of those early days, a good neighbor, and a consistent member of the Methodist church. When this


    Was organized, thirty-one years ago to-day, Judge Williams was elected its first president. We met in the basement of the Congregational church. Hon. T. S. Parvin, who was elected our secretary, had prepared articles of organization and had them there; so the organizing took but a short time; most of the remainder of the afternoon was occupied by the president in relating his early adventures in Iowa while traveling as a Judge.

    We must not forget our owl townsman, Stephen Whicher. He was tall, slim and dignified. As a lawyer he had no superior. He always managed to have a comfortable living but never became what would be called wealthy. He was one of the leading men of our town. At public meetings he was usually president, or chairman on resolutions. Sunday would always find him in his seat in the little church on the hill. He was noted for his pungent wit. Whicher’s witty sayings are still remembered by many of our old settlers. One story told of Mr. Whicher is too good to be missed. Previous to the days of Commodore Davison and his Northern Line boats all steamboats carried bars and were said to have the best of liquors. At that time liquor drinking was practiced by almost every one and to get it where the boat could be had was considered “all right.” When a steamboat landed you could see a score or more thirsty fellows rushing aboard the boat. Their, business was generally, with the …

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    …Barkeeper. Mr. Whicher rarely drank much but concluding he wanted a drink and seeing a large number going aboard ahead of him he concluded to keep up with him. Placing his hand on his stomach and leaning a little forward he walked leisurely up to the bar and asked, have you any good brandy, sir? The barkeeper’s sympathy was excited and he promptly replied, “yes sir,” sitting out his best bottle. Have you a tablespoon? Asked Mr. W. No, but I will get one, answered the b-k., starting for the pantry. When the spoon was procured our friend held it over his glass and commenced to pour the brandy into the spoon, and continued to do so until the glass was sufficiently full to meet his requirements, he then majestically straightened up and drank it all down. Sitting down the glass he produced his money enquiring, “How much is the charge, sir?” “Nothing,” was the reply. “I never charge anything for a spoonful of brandy.” Our friend thanked him for his generosity and left the boat amid the roar of the bystanders. After that a large measure became synonomous with Whicher’s spoonful.

    In the spring of 1841 several tradesmen made their appearance: Henry Molis, with his little gun shop, Major A. M. Hare manufactured hats, Joseph Brentlinger started a tin shop. In 1842 P. W. Hamilton started a cigar manufactory, and W. B. Fish a broom factory. During the long cold winter of 1842 and 1843 the farmers of the county became dissatisfied with the prices and the manner they had of selling their produce. Wheat was worth 30 cents, corn no sale, pork $1.50 per hundred – all store pay.


    The farmers organized a joint stock company and built a warehouse to store and ship their produce but not having a sufficient amount of commercial knowledge or time to spare, all being busy on their farm, the warehouse was allowed to remain idle. Finally the organization broke up, I think without shipping a bushel of grain. The building was converted into a brewery and afterwards to a freight depot for the railroad company.


    Hardly a family lived in Bloomington that did not have some interest in the grave-yard. It was located on the hill where the Third Ward school house now stands. It soon became necessary to select other and more distant grounds. The east side of the present cemetery was purchased and laid off into lots. On Saturday, the 19th of August, 1842, the lots in the new cemetery were opened for sale. The Bloomington Herald of August 18th contained the following notice: “Our town authorities have surveyed our new burying ground. It is located about a half mile from the town, on the Iowa City road, near Lowe’s.” The Iowa City road then ran out to the Fletcher house and turned square to the north and ran over to Walliker’s (now John Barnard’s.)


    Our early milling interest should not be forgotten. Just west of the city we have a creek that reminds one of the river Niger as it appeared on the old atlas when I went to school. It has a head, but no mouth. This creek is now known as Lowe’s Run. In 1843 or `44 Hon. R. P. Lowe built a grist mill on this creek about two hundred yards southwest of where the present iron bridge now stands. He filled in a bank of earth fully 30 feet high, for a dam to make a water power. A heavy rain washed out the fill; the mill a large two-story building, never did any grinding. The creek ever after was known as Lowe’s Run. A road bridge was built across the gap in the dm for the old Cedar Bridge and Road Company. Where this creek comes out of the bluff it was known as Vanatta’s Run. Col. John Vanatta owned the farm and built a mill some two or here hundred yards below the present road bridge. I think this mil ran and did some grinding some time about 1840 or 1841.

    A little further down near Mr. Miller’s, another mill and woolen factory was erected. It was the intention to run the mill by water from Miller’s spring. This proving insufficient, the waters of Kincaid’s Run were turned in. Not proving satisfactory steam was introduced. The woolen department was kept running in a very limited manner until it burned down some fifteen or twenty years ago.

At the conclusion of the address, the chair introduced the Trinity choir. The choir is composed of Mrs. Chas. F. Garlock, Miss Mattie Jackson, Dr….

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…C. H. Sterneman and Mr. Frank B. Boydston, with Miss Gertie Carskaddan, organist. They gave with great beauty Keller’s American Hymn.

G. W. VanHorne was then called upon by the President to speak of the


    Mr. VanHorne addressed the meeting for half an hour. He believed that no place under the sun, not excepting the cities of the Caesars and Diogones ever gathered within its walls such a number and variety of interesting characters as peopled Muscatine thirty-one years ago, and with a special eulogy upon Hon. Suel Foster as a neighbor, he proceeded to mention the salient peculiarities of many of the Old Settlers, including Judge Woodward, Judge Williams, Jacob Butler, James S. Hatch, Stephen Whicher, Wm. McCormick, Marx Block, John G. Stein, Andrew Fimple, Gen. Ansel Humphreys, Gen. Fletcher, Gen. Gordon, the Dunsmore brothers, Vincent and Anderson Chambers, Pliny Fay, Cornelius and Richard Cadle, Jacob Mahin, Adam Ogilvie, Chester and Dr. James Weed, Dr. Reeder, Henry Funck, Henry Molis, J. B. Dougherty, D. R. Warfield and others, not forgetting among the living, Uncle Billy Gordon, Sam. Sinnett, Joe Hoopes, Joe Freeman, Joe Bennett, and Joe Walton, just as odd and characteristic to-day as thirty-one years ago, which proves that swan never will become geese to the end of time. He also referred to the topographical plat of the town that he had drawn as it appeared in 1840, with its untouched hills, trees and elder bushes, its Indian trails, few streets and many cow paths, its cabins and frame dwellings, stores and hotels, so that in that early period when, during the excitements of the day, the men sat around at the offices and stores, seriously engaged in whittling, playing seven-up or bartering with the Indians, or later, when the smoke curling up from the half hidden cabins in the brush told of supper preparing, and the boys and girls went hither and yon over the paths for the cows, or later still, when the fiddle began to creak, and some cabin showed the illumination of an extra tallow-dip for the ball and Joseph Bridgman, A. O. Warfield, Peter Jackson, George Magoon, and other fast young men of the town were seen hastening thither with their girls, with this graphic plat before him, the speaker said he was able to writ e his series of articles under the title of the Old settlers’ Chair. Somewhere on that plat he tried to place the figure of the young theologian just fresh from Andover, who is to celebrate the 44th anniversary of his Muscatine pastorate on Friday evening, but the figure always appeared incongruous to the scene though it has become the blessed component of a thousand hallowed incidents and sweet memories of the city.

R. M. Burnett was called up to speak of

    He landed at Muscatine in July 1852, and attended service the following day at the Baptist church. He remembered seeing among the worshippers, Dr. Hastings and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Butler and Miss Jarboe, later Mrs. Seth Humphreys. Back in Skaneateles, New York, whose scenery, he thought, would rival what Mr. VanHorne had described as spread around the Mt. Holyoke of his boyhood, he had looked on the map of beautiful Iowa, and longed to see the land. On his way out he met Mr. Lillibridge, father of Chet, who was enthusiastic about the City of the Great Bend. He was thus drawn hither, landing in July, the city dusty as a Sahara, and no street sprinkling. He was a Democrat at that time – it was a good while ago – and Muscatine was a Democratic city, and to show what the old Democracy was like, he stated that he went through the city and looked into every corner, and reported to a good friend back east, that there was not a saloon in the place. Such was the Iowa and Muscatine Democracy of 1852. He had much difficulty in finding a house to live in; was taken up and shown to “Old Chepultepec,” the long barracks recently standing on the Brent lots, 4th street, and then recently vacated by a lot of railroad hands, but finally found a roof on the hill, where his wife was entranced by the beautiful prospect. That was a stirring year in Muscatine. Among the buildings going up were the residences of Mr. C. Chaplin, Dr. Reeder,…

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    …Joseph Butler, W. W. McQuesten, Abraham Smalley, and the new Congregational church. Reuling’s block, Green & Stone’s, Hare’s hall, the Scott House, Nevada Mill, the old Music Hall, Trinity church, Isett’s brick stable, additions to the eastern and Commercial hotels. The speaker gave a description of Second street and its occupants. Though one of the later settlers, there is but one business place, continuously occupied by the same person, older than his own – Stein’s lumber office. Most of the houses have changed business and occupants. The U. B. church is the only one now used for service that was then occupied for Sunday worship. He bought his first watermelon of Benj. Neidig; his first Doctor’s fee was paid to Dr. Waters; his first law fee to J. Scott Richman and did his first trading with Mr. Hull. Henry Clay Dean was preaching his last sermons here, and the speaker spoke of his interest in him. The suburbs were described, the Avenue running into a bank where the Methodist parsonage ought to be. The speaker referred to many of the Old Settlers and their peculiarities, and concluding said that he hadn’t spoken of the women, because he wouldn’t have the temerity to speak in that presence of ladies whom he had known thirty-five years ago!

The choir rendered the beautiful son of “Sweet and Low.”

The President calling on the meeting generally for remarks, Secretary Peter Jackson read from the records some interesting reminiscences of the first settlement of Muscatine and of Iowa.

While the Secretary was reading, Rev. Dr. Robbins entered the hall, from the train, on his return from Ottumwa, and the President called him to the speaker’s stand. The Doctor delivered the following address.


    As our worthy president has told me in substance that if I would write something for this gathering of Old Settlers it should be printed, “seriatum, puncuatum, et verbatim” and as, at least one man, the printer, and another man, the proof reader, and another man, the writer, will read what is written, I have consented (though way down on the Des Moines and close by where Stormy Jordan and his loving friends hold sway) to put down on paper a few thoughts: I have been at the thriving city of Ottumwa – to help do what I think has never yet been done in Iowa, certainly not in our order of Christians – viz: dedicate a parsonage, costing $7,000, or more, though sold the church at Ottumwa for $5,000. It is a house with ten rooms, built of brick and stone, with a mansard roof; with water works, gas, Edison electricity, fire places, a furnace and laundry; just about the right sort of a house for a Congregational minister. It was purchased and dedicated in honor of Rev. Benj. A. Spaulding, the first pastor of the church, and one of the band coming in 1843 to Iowa, and who died in 1867.

    My impression is that the personal experience of that good brother as to a pastor’s home was more like my own experience about those days. It is a fact, in my old settler experience, that, for one year at least, my home was marked by a necessary protrusion of stove pipe through the front window of my residence, which was then on a little elevation of the site, at present, of Mr. Bitzer’s store, corner of 4th a and Mulberry streets. Mr. Spaulding’s eyes would glisten could he have seen, on the evening of Feb. 15th, the brilliantly lighted and finely warmed Spaulding parsonage.

    I belong to the orthodox band of the old settlers, those who came to Iowa before it was made a State, December 28, 1846. My belief has ever been that an old settlers’ society would gradually grow less and less, as they pass into the gates of the life beyond, one by one, until the last two shall meet and say farewell; and their children and all the children of all the old settlers should gather and bury them with honor; and file away, in the archives of the Historical Society of the State, the record of their meetings, their names and any good and noble deed done by them. The poem about “The Last Man,” not seen or read by me for a long time, has left abiding a sense of the courageous and sublime; looking out as he did upon a desolated and depopulated world, and bidding it a kind and grateful farewell, wrapping his cloak about him, and lying down upon the mountain top for his last long sleep, and, like Moses, leav-

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    ing his body to be cared for by that Go who said at the creation of man, in distinction from all other animals, “Let us make man in our own image and after our likeness.”

    But the wisdom of others, the majority, was that the society be perpetuated by the admission of more recent settlers who have a little smack of what it is to be a pioneer; and as they have proved themselves a genial and well-behaved, and, some of them, a handsome set of men and women, and are helpers to us, we shall be content to the degree that we shall not grumble or look askance upon them.

    I wish that they and we all, “Knights of Labor,” “Greenbackers,” “Democrats,” “Republicans,” “Soldiers,” “Good Templars,” and all loyal men, of the score or more society organizations, and all loyal men, whether out or in the church, or holding aloof from all bonds of society, State or church; I wish we might all unite in the effort to make law and order and mercy and justice prevail over demagogues and saloon keepers. No one need say that this is introducing politics into this meeting of old settlers. There is no politics in it. It is a question of orals, whether liquor and its twin, bawdyism, shall prevail; and I would that all old settlers would say “No more of that, if you please!” I have had the honor to vote, once in my life for a Democrat, a Knight of Labor, and though a Yankee of the Yankees, as blue as they can make them, for an Irishman. I would do the same again if thereby I could mark a score against the hoary old tyrant, Alcohol.

    My former ministerial brother and co-laborer here, Rev. Henry Clay Dean, said once “that he hated the war Democrats like the devil.” Like the woman who thanked the man for swearing for her when they were both late for the train just passing out the end of the depot platform. I am about ready to adopt the rather profane sentiment of that out-spoken hater, if I may be allowed to put the word “saloon” before either Republican, Democrat, Knight of Labor or Greenbacker or church member. I don’t mean when I let him say for me that I hate a saloon Republican or a saloon Democrat, that I have any malicious hatred to anybody, but that I have a tremendous amount of holy indignation against any man that will not do what he can to abolish that which only curses ourselves and our children and our fellow citizens and brings three-fourths of all the terrible accidents that come upon us and multiplies our burdens wonderfully. And when I say I am inclined to thank Brother Dean for saying for me that I hate “like the devil.” I suppose him to mean that he has a superiative amount of indignation against a “war Democrat,” and that a man can say piously, almost as well as it may be said maliciously, that he hates like the devil. It is mainly a matter of taste in the use of language. Reverence becomes us when we use the name of God, but only caution is necessary when we mention the name of Satan, for fear he may get a little too near.

    But, passing this, do we not feel to-day somewhat as soldiers feel who have just passed through a hard attack and who, when they close up, find, with sadness, that too many have fallen. This has been a year, as I suppose you have already noticed and had called to your attention, of unusual bereavement among us. Especially true has this been in my own more immediate circle. It has had the effect, in my own case, to make more full of interest to me each and all of those left. They look, however much spectacled and gray, however much stooping and slow, however homely and forlorn, however wanting in those traits which I more highly esteem more and more near to me. I have more personal interest in them; my heart goes after them the more. I long more, as my business is to speak to men, so to speak to them as to help warm and cheer them. I have had some hard knocks this year. I have joined the ranks of the broken-armed legion. I am, despite my determination and the evident indistinctness of utterance in others, which prevails so much in this elocutionary age, passing along into the hard-hearing or def squad. A “fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind,” and I don’t feel quite so confidently that no man ought to be broken in limb, or thick in speech, or slow in going up stairs, or have a headache or be unable to digest good food. And I begin to feel that it is partly, at least, my own fault, that all the beef seems to come from Texas and nearly all other meats seem to impregnated with gutta percha. Some of us are getting to-

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    ward the seventh act of the play. If we would do anything for each other (and the poor fellows that are outsiders know nothing of the privilege of being an old settler), we must do it soon.

The choir sang “Auld Lang Syne” in which the audience joined.

The President now announced a recess for social converse and to give Old Settlers an opportunity to look over the Album, and for the contribution of their photographs; also to permit persons to join the society by signing the constitution.

Among those present from the country was Mr. W. S. Fultz, who brought the poll list of 1850-52 of Moscow township, whose jurat and names excited much interest. Moscow seems to have run down to Muscatine in those days.

On motion of Secretary Jackson a vote of thanks was tendered to Trinity choir for the beautiful music they had contributed to the meeting.

No business presenting itself, the reunion was adjourned.

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