submitted by Neal Carter, Sept. 2, 2007

The Old Settlers of Louisa County

One of the finest social gatherings we ever attended was the Pioneers’ and Old Settlers’ Festival, yesterday, at the grove midway between Columbus City and Columbus Junction. In company with Drs. J. M. and W. S. Robertson, we went by train, arriving at the Junction at 10 o’clock, where carriages were in waiting to take us to the grounds. Here were assembled several thousand people of all ages, with rather more than the usual number of grey-haired sires and matrons in our social gatherings. The grounds are elevated and admirably adapted for celebrations.

The exercises commenced at 11 o’clock with a short address by the President of the Day, Hon. A. D. Hurley. After singing “Auld Lang Syne” and music by the brass and military bands, prayer was offered by Rev. M. See, of the Methodist church, when Robert E. Benton, orator of the day, was introduced, and read a somewhat lengthy address, intended as a 25 years’ review of the history of Louisa county. After speaking of the towns of Wapello, Columbus City, Morning Sun, Blackhawk and Grandview (styling the latter “the Athens of Louisa county,”) he referred to the old $100,000 bond debt and the brilliant and creditable war record of the county.

The speaker next turned his attention to the personnel of the Old Settlers, referring to Judge Springer, Col. Garner and A. Gamble, of Columbus City; N. M. Letts, “the cattle king,” and Abraham McCleary, of Grandview; Henry Rockafellow, of Port Louisa; Judge Coe and Wm. L. Toole of Blackhawk; John Drake, Jacob Mintun, M. Jamison and David Hurley, of Wapello; Wm. Brown, Rev. Josiah Vertrees and the Jarvises, of Morning Sun; Jos. Marshall, a settler of 1838 in Virginia Grove; John Marshall and James Gamble, of Cairo; and Abraham Hill, of Long Creek. The speaker closed by a humorous reference to his own condition as a bachelor, who had “a through ticket for life, but had not made the proper connection.”

The next thing in order was dinner, which was served in picnic style. At the “Old Settlers’ table” were served the pone and punkin pie with primitive et ceteras. Such a time of enjoyment as this proved to be is indescribable.

After dinner, the assembly was again called to the stand, where toasts and responses were promised, which, however, proved to be meagref but good. The following toast was offered:

The Young Settlers of our County – May Louisa fare as well under the new settlers as she has under the old.

For the Journal ---- Responded to by Arthur Springer, a youth of only 17, whose remarks were choicely worded, replete with beautiful and appropriate sentiments, and delivered with the grace and elegance of a practiced speaker. He closed with this sentiment:

Old Settlers
– Like the Sybilline books, may they increase in our regard as they diminish in number.
Responded to by A. Gamble, in a few happy remarks.

The audience was then treated to a patriotic song, entitled “The American Star,” which was well rendered by Martin L. Maddox.

The balance of the day was spent in hand-shaking and general greetings and conversations between old friends. The Drs. Robertson, of Muscatine, were kept busy shaking the hands and returning the warm and cordial greetings of their many old friends and acquaintances with whom they had spent a quarter of a century as citizens, dating back from the year 1842. We noticed also John Idle, P. P. Trask, T. M. Brown, E. A. Brockway and several other old settlers from Muscatine county, who joined in the festivities of the occasion. There were also several from Des Moines county, among whom was Hon. John H. Gear, of Burlington.

The number in attendance at the festival is variously estimated at 3,000 to 4,000. The utmost good order prevailed. Messrs. Garner and Gamble, the committee of arrangements, claim that this was owing mainly to the fact that they had no public police, and assert that, in their experience, at fairs and other like assemblages, police officers do more to destroy the harmony and pleasures of the day than to promote the public welfare.

In company with Judge Springer, we enjoyed a delightful ride in the evening over the country, visiting his mansion near Columbus City, and noting a number of substantial improvements in the twin cities. At 7 o’clock the faithful train of the C., R. I. & P. R. R. brought us home, well pleased with our first interview with the Old Settlers of Louisa county.

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