History of the Township and Village of Buffalo.  

"From the History of Scott County, Iowa 1882 Chicago - Interstate Publishing Co."

Surname List:   Clark, Smith, Mounts, Moats, Binckley, Lyon, Baker, Bowling, Babbett, Donaldson, Moore, Campbell, Wilkinson, Sry, Burnside, Pence, Shelly, Gabbert, Sprout, Beard, Maston, Davenport, Reynolds, Robinson, Spencer, Stevenson, Whiteside, Mix, Pillsbury, Vanata Dolittle, Moss, Grant, Campbell, Morehead, Bassett, Webster, McMurtry, Mead, Wright, Murray, Cooper, Pace, Edgington, Daniels, Lynde, Gordon, Shoe, Bosworth, Maskell, Bailey, Gardner, Taylor, Dorman, Karges, Hastings.

In December, 1833, the first settlement in what is now Scott County was made by Captain Benjamin W. Clark, who some years previously had made some improvements on the Illinois shore where the town of Andulusia was subsequently laid out, and who moved over the river shortly after the Indian claim was extinguished, raised a cabin and planted a crop.  His nearest neighbor at this time upon the Iowa shore were at Burlington and Dubuque.

Early Settlers

Among the early settlers of what is now Buffalo Township were Capt. Benjamin W. Clark, Smith Mounts, Andrew Moats, Henry Binckley, Mr. Lyon, Wm. II. and R. S. Baker, Jas. M. Bowling, Orange Babbit, Dr. A.C. Donaldson, Joseph and Mathias Mounts, Elias Moore, Andrew W. Campbell, Jas. Wilkinson, John L. Sry, Jas. E. Burnside, Wallace Pence, Michael Shelley, Wm. H. Gabbert, Mr. Sprout, Elias Moore and others.  Capt. Benjamin W. Clark was born on his father's farm in Wythe Co., Va., in 1791.  His education was limited, as the only schools were taught by men who roved about, picking up a few dollars to assist them until something better offered.  He volunteered in 1812, went to New Orleans, where he served during the war, in payment for which service his heirs recieved a "land warrant."  Young Clark went at the close of the war to Wabash County, near Mt. Carmel, on the Wabash River, where he married, in 1818, Miss Mary Beard, by whom he had two children--John P., who was born in Wabash County, December, 1820, and Warner Lewis, born at same place Nov. 14, 1822, at whose birth Mrs. Clark died.  In 1824 Benj. Clark was again married, this time to Miss Celia Gabbert, of Kentucky.  They removed soon after the marriage to Fort Edwards, now Warsaw, Ill.  Purchasing a half interest in a herd of cattle owned by Major Maston, of the U.S.A., Mr. Clark took charge of the cattle, keeping them in the large low lands below where Warsaw now stands, on the Mississippi River, remaining there until the summer of 1827, when he divided the cattle with Major Maston and removed to Rock Island, where he found Black Hawk, Keokuk, and their tribes, numbering several thousands.  

He built a log cabin below, but within a few rods of where the present wagon bridge joins the Illinois shore.  He fenced a piece of land and sowed turnips where the residence of Hon. Bailey Davenport now stands, afterward laying what is called "the worm of a fence" around his entire claims.  During the first winter (1827 and '28) the traders refused to sell supplies to Mr. Clark, they wishing to prevent the whites from settling (the Indians being the more profitable customers).  

The family would have suffered had not the soldiers, learning that Capt. Reynolds, of the steamer "Black Rover," had left a barrel of whisky with Mr. Clark, stole out at night carrying food, clothes, and shoes, to exchange for whisky, thus enabling the family to live comfortably until boats arrived in the spring.  In the spring of 1828,

Geo. Davenport, who had a trading house at Rock Island, bought the claim owned by Benj. Clark, making payment in silver, which filled a small tin truck level full.   Possession being given next day, Mr. Clark removed a few rods west, where he erected a double log cabin which stood until after the completion of the C. & R. I. R. R. in 1854.  During the spring of 1828 several families came in, and Black Hawk saw that his days were numbered as a resident of Rock River county.  Capt. Clark, Black Hawk and Keokuk were warm personal friends, this friendship continuing until after the treaty, when the latter were exiled with their tribes to the Far west, where they died.  Mr. Clark next removed to White Oak Springs, Wis., where he purchased a large hotel and smelting furnaces connected therewith.  In the spring of 1832, at the commencement of the Black Hawk war, settlers within a radius of miles collected and built a fort around the hotel, organized a company to protect the fort, electing Harry Smith, captian, who (if living) now resides at Elk Horn Grove, Ill.  Capt. Clark raised a company of mounted rangers (from whence he derived his title) tendering his services to Gen. Henry Dodge.  He was in many skirmishes and in the forward company when the Indians made the attack at the battle of Wisconsin Heights.

Capt. Clark furnished supplies for nearly two months to all in the fort at the springs, as well as to his command for which neither he, nor his heirs, have ever received compensation.  After the close of Black Hawk war, Capt. Clark went to Andalusia, Ill., and made a claim.  In 1833, removed his family to that place; then established the ferry which became so noted in the first settlement of the central part of Black Hawk's purchase.  At the same time he "took up" and purchased claims on the river at Buffalo, Iowa, comprising two and one-half miles of river frontage, together with timber land, amounting to about 2,000 acres, and in December, 1833, removed his family to the Iowa side, finding at last, after many wanderings, the spot upon which he wished to live and die.  His was the only white family between Dubuque and Flint Hills (now Burlington).

In the summer of 1833 Capt. Clark raised corn, beans, peas and other vegetables, the first produce raised in Scott County, and in 1834 had 100 acres of wild land broken, by Andrew Robison, of Warren Co., Ill., who was uncle to James H. Robison, of Blue Grass.  The ground was broken as follows:  10 acres on the lower end of farm now owned by his son, Capt. W.L Clark; 40 acres where there the town of Buffalo now stands; 10 acres north of where the new railroad depot stands; 40 acres above where Mrs. Capt. Dodge's orchard is situated.  The writer particularizes because others claim to have done the first breaking in Buffalo Township.  He built, in 1835, a comfortable log house, a story and a half high, glazed with glass brought from St. Louis; lumber for windows, facings, trimmings, etc., was of old dry-goods boxes broken up; flooring from Duck Creek Mill.  He put into it the first cook stove ever brought to Iowa, a great curiosity then for novelty, as it would be now behind this progressive age.  He brought also the first carriage and two Peacock plows from St. Louis, which latter were a great improvement over those then in use.  Later, stores came in, and the necessity for making long journeys to obtain household supplies was done away.  His children attended school at Blue Grass, three miles from home, thus obtaining knowledge under difficulties.

Capt. Clark purchased, in 1834, of Hon. John Spencer, late of Rock Island, a large tract of land at the mouth of Duck Creek, where he erected the first saw-mill in (now) Scott County.  After reserving a few lots and the ferry franchise, he sold his Andalusia property to Col. Stevenson, Whiteside and others, upon which they afterward laid out the town of Rockport, now Andalusia.  The sale of this land brought $17,000 in specie.

Capt. Clark, in 1836, disposed of a two-thirds interest in 90 acres of land to Capt. E.A. Mix and Dr. Pillsbury, of Buffalo, N.Y., for $30,000, part cash payment.  The three men above named at once laid out the town of Buffalo, naming it in honor of Buffalo, N.Y.  This was the first town laid out in what is now Scott County.  About the same time a man named John Vanata and Capt. Clark bought the claim and laid out the town of Bloomington, now Muscatine.  Lots were in demand in Buffalo, and all went smoothly until the county lines were formed, which threw the new town so near the Muscatine line as to kill its prospects for a county seat.  Other towns were included in this disappointment, as they were also desirous of obtaining the same object.

Up to this time there had been only two divisions in the territory of Black Hawk's purchase, Des Moines and Dubuque, the line running through the west end of Davenport, the glucose works being in the latter, and the site of school No. 2, in the lower end of town, in the former.  In 1838 Capt. Clark sold his Duck Creek property to Messrs. Dolittle & Moss; the price received was $8,000.  One barn was taken in part payment-price, $500-which still stands on the Dodge farm, at Buffalo.  The barn was of unusual dimensions for the times, being 30x40 feet.

In the season of 1835-'36 Capt. Clark erected a hotel at Buffalo, dimensions being 40x50, two stories high, the pine lumber for finishing being brought by steamer from Cincinnati, Ohio, at the expense of $60 per thousand feet.  During the winter of 1838-'39 Capt. C. was robbed of a large sum of money, the robbers carrying the secretary containing the money out of the house, down under the shadow of the river bank, and forcing the locks.  This was the first occurrence of that nature in the county.  No positive clue was ever obtained of the perpetrators.  The lands of this district were advertised for sale in the fall of 1839, at Burlington.

 Capt. Clark went in a canoe, taking a large amount of money in silver; the writer remembers that it almost filled a wash-tub (a barrel sawed in halves), the only tub then in use.  Upon arrival at Burlington he found that the sales were postponed; thereupon he took a steam boat for home.  He was feeling quite unwell when he reached home, and within a few days died of inflammation of the brain, on Oct. 25, 1839.  Before his death Capt. Clark requested that Hon. James H. Davenport should administer upon his estate which he promised to do, providing he was allowed to have the assistance of Judge James Grant.  They jointly settled the estate.  Capt. Clark at death left a widow and six children.  Mrs. Clark only survived her husband one month, her death occurring Nov. 25, 1839.  Capt. Clark died surrounded by his family, thus ending the life of one of the most energetic and enterprising men that ever resided in Scott County, regretted by all who were associated with him.  He and wife were interred upon ground that he had donated for a cemetery for the future city of Buffalo, commanding a fine view of the river and of the home that he had created.

James M. Bowling, from Virginia, settled in Buffalo Township, the 4th of July, 1835, at the mouth of Bowling's Creek.  He purchased the "claim" of one Orange Babbett, the quit-claim deed to which was presented to the State Historical Society by Mr. Bowling.  Mr. Bowling commenced farming in 1835.  That fall he went back to Virginia, married, and returned in 1836 with his wife and two sisters.  In 1837 he had the prospect of a fine crop, but the Indians, who still loitered about the country, were encamped upon this creek.  In June there were some 500 Indians living near him, and very troublesome.  They set fire to the prairie and burned up the fence surrounding his corn, which was at the time six inches high.  The Indian horses then ate much of it, and he was compelled in the heat of summer to cut timber and make rails to enclose his field again; but, notwithstanding all his misfortunes, he succeeded in raising a very good crop.

Leroy Dodge emigrated to Iowa in 1836, from the State of New York.  He was for many years, a pilot on the Mississippi, and then commnder of steamboats.  Having secured some 400 acres of land  along the river and bluff above Buffalo, he built a pleasant cottage on the banks of the river and turned his attention to agriculture, principally to stock-raising, a business in which he was quite successful.  In 1852 he represented Scott County in the Legislature.  He was an unflinching Democrat.

Andrew W. Campbell was among the most enterprising of the early settlers, having opened a large farm on the bottom land of the river.  He sold it to Henry C. Morehead, at an early day, and removed to the prairie, near where the town of Blue Grass now is, where he opened another large farm.  He was elected, in February, 1838, one of the county commissioners, it being the first election ever held for officers under the county organization.  He also filled other places of responsibility and trust.


Erastus H. Bassett, as already stated, taught a few months' school in the village, in the winter of 1836-'37, being the first in the place.  Mr. Bassett was engaged in the mercantile business, but trade not being brisk gave him leisure to teach the few present the common branches of an English education.

For some years a graded school has been held in the place.  In 1865 a frame school-house, two stories high, was erected at a cost of $7,000.  School is taught therein nine and ten months each year.  The present principal is William Webster.


The first school in the township was in the winter of 1836-'37, and taught by Erastus H. Bassett, in the village of Buffalo.  Mr. Bassett held a three months' school in a log cabin erected as a dwelling-house.  The first house built for school purposes was on section 16, in 1839.  This was before the public school system was originated, and the neighbors for some miles gathered together and erected a rude log cabin, where many were inducted into the mysteries of the English language.  Many changes have been made since that day, changes, too, for the better, and in educational progress the township of Buffalo has kept pace with other parts of the county.

Buffalo Township has been divided into independent districts, the town of Buffalo being one, with a graded school, in which two teachers are employed.  There are six other districts known as Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.  The value of the school property is estimated at $9,800, of which amount $2,400 is credited to the town of Buffalo.


The first religious services held in the township were in 1836, in the village of Buffalo, by Rev. Mr. McMurtry, a pioneer Methodist Episcopal preacher, then living on the opposite shore in Illinois.  Rev. Martin Baker, a Christan or Newlight preacher, was next, in 1837.  Rev. Enoch Mead was also among the early preachers, and preached in the township for many years.

There are now in the township seven church organizations, four of which are in the village of Buffalo, one in Blue Grass Village and two in the country.  In Buffalo, the Methodist Episcopal, Christian, Catholic and Episcopal denominations are represented.  The Methodists have a church in Blue Grass, one at the Cross Roads, and one in the northeast part of the township, known as the Asbury Chapel.


Coal was first discovered here in 1834, on the farm of Capt. Benjamin W. Clark, and as early as 1835 and 1836 was dug out and sold to steamboats at the mouth of Bowling's Creek, which empties into the Mississippi, about half way between Buffalo and Rockingham.  The first bank opened was about half a mile up this creek, and was worked to a considerable extent by Dr. A. C. Donaldson, who settled in 1837 near its mouth.  Still higher up this creek, some three miles, Benjamin Wright and E. Murray, from Zanesville, Ohio, opened a bank in 1837, and furnished coal to Davenport and Rockingham for 15 cents a bushel.

First Things

The first hotel in the township was built by Benjamin W. Clark, at Buffalo, in 1836.  The first couple, residents of this township, united in marriage, were John P. Cooper and Jane Pace.  The distance being so great to Burlingtion for the prupose of obtaining licenses, the couple crossed the river, and were married by Daniel Edgington, a justice of the peace, Oct. 9, 1836.  The first couple married, the services being performed in the township, were Matthias Mounts and Susan Daniels, in 1837.  The first birth was that of David H. Clark, son of Benjamin W. Clark, born April 21, 1834.  This was likewise the first in the county.  The first physician in the township was Dr. Moss, who spent here the winter of 1835-'36.  He then left, his whereabouts being unknown.  The first school was in the winter of 1836'37.  The first death was that of Henry Binckley, a discharged soldier, who died in 1836 at the house of Capt. B.W. Clark.  The first ground set aside for burying purposes was about  one-half mile from Bufflao, and donated by Capt. Clark.  The first postoffice was that of Buffalo, established in 1836.  The first merchandise sold in the township and county was in Buffalo in 1834, on section 21, now the farm of Capt. W.L. Clark.  The first coal marketed was taken from the farm of Mr. Wright.

Village of Buffalo

The village of Bufflao was originally laid out in 1836, by Clark, Mix & Pillsbury, who, in the summer of 1836, opened a stock of goods in the place, which they placed in charge of Erastus H. Bassett.  Previous to this time, and as early as 1834, a Mr. Lynde then living in the present city of Rock Island, commenced the sale of merchandise in the place, and sold not only the first goods in Buffalo, but in the entire county of Scott, by a regular merchant.

The first public ferry across the Mississippi, between Burlington and Dubuque, was established by Captain Clark in 1833, or as soon as emigrants began to cross the river, at Buffalo, and Clark's ferry was the only regular place of crossing in all this region of country.  In 1835 he commenced the erection of a public house, a large frame two-story building, which at that time was considered a great enterprise.  The house was completed in 1836.  He brought the lumber from Cincinnati at a cost of $60.00 per 1,000 feet.  Says Willard Barrows:

"For many years the town of Buffalo attracted much attention, and bid fair to become a serious rival to Stephenson, then just merging into existence.  But Davenport and Rockingham were soon laid off, and a ferry being established between Davenport and Stephenson, by Mr. LeClaire, travel was directed to that point, and the division of the country into counties left Buffalo in no evniable situation.  It had been the most prosperous town in this region of country, doing a large business with the emigrants to the Territory, who were then beginning to settle up and down the river and along the Cedar Valley, furnishing grain and provisions of all kinds to the new comers.  Capt. Clark spent much time in showing emigrants the country and assisting them in making claims, and probably did more toward the early settlement of this country than any other man that ever came into it.  He died at Buffalo, Oct. 25, 1839.

"To show the prospects of Buffalo, as a point of interest at that day, we might relate a circumstance that occurred in reference to the value of town lots.  After Davenport was laid out, Maj. Wm. Gordon and some others, proprietors, called on Capt. Clark and offered him an even exchange of 40 or 60 lots in Davenport for an equal number in Buffalo.  But the Captain declined, regarding it as a poor offer, as it probably looked to be at that time.

"Buffalo, with all her just claims, was sacrificed by placing her in the lower end of the county.  Davenport and Rockingham 'doubled teams' on Buffalo and got the county seat, and then fought for choice of location.  This was the killing stroke to Buffalo. Davenport ultimately received all the benefits derived from the trickery and corruption of legislative enactments, while Geneva, Montpelier, Salem, Fairport, Mouth of Pine, and some half dozen other towns that were laid out along the Mississippi River from Muscatine Island to Davenport, 'went under,' carring with them all their visionary schemes for greatness and power."


In 1835 Benjamin W. Clark erected a public house, to be used for the accommodation of the traveling public.  It was a large frame building, two stories high, and at the time was considered a great enterprise.  Capt. Clark brought the finishing lumber from Cincinnati.  The building is yet standing.  This hotel was the first in the place.  There are now three places of entertainment-the Washington House, Mississippi House and Nickle House.


In the spring of 1854 Shoe Brothers erected a steam saw-mill in the place, with a capacity for sawing 30,000 feet each day.  A planing and lath and shingle mill was attached.  The mill was used till the summer of 1881, when it was torn away to make room for the railroad.


A postoffice was established at Buffalo in 1836, and Benjamin W. Clark received the appointment of postmaster.  Mr. Clark did not care for the office, but suffered himself to be appointed in order to have the office established, and as soon as it could be done he resigned, and M. W. Bosworth was appointed.  Mr. Bosworth held the office at Buffalo for a time, and removing down the river he took the office with him, and there retained it until the postoffice authorities at Washington could ascertain the facts.  In the case, when he was removed, and Philip Maskell was appointed.  Mr. Maskell was succeeded by Elijah Bailey, who in turn was succeeded by Caleb H. Gardner.  The latter gentleman was appointed by the Whig administration of Gen. Taylor.  Before the expiration of his term he went to California, and there died in 1854 and was buried near Sacramento.  Henry Dorman was next appointed, in 1854, and served until 1878, when he was succeeded by Wilham Karges, the present postmaster.


The first criminal trial in Scott County took place in buffalo early in 1836.  A young man was arrested for stealing a small amount from a store, and was taken before S.E. Hastings, a justice of the peace, with a commission signed by the Governor of Michigan and subsequently chief justice of the state of California.  The justice could find no law with which to convict, but as the fact was clearly established to his mind, and the further fact being known that the prisoner had stolen the sum of four dollars from himself, he sentenced him to return the four dollars and to receive 20 lashes on his bare back.  It was a bright moonlight night, and the prisoner was taken to the woods near by and the lashes were well laid on by each of the spectators to the number of 10, giving each two blows.  After the whipping they took him to the river, and place him in a canoe without oars, shoved him off and that was the last ever seen of him in these parts.  Some years after, when Judge Hastings was on his way to California, at a small town on the Mississippi River, a man got on board that he at once recognized as the one he had punished for theft.  Approaching the Judge, the man asked him if he recognized him, and on being informed that he did, he said:  "For God's sake don't tell any one.  That theft was my first and last.  I was in great want, and have bern sufficiently punished.  Since that day I have lived an honest man; have married and have a family, and I would not for the world they should know that one great sin."  Although unused to weeping, the Judge says that he felt the tears trickling down his cheeks, and he quickly promised that he would not betray him.