IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

David Olmsted
Monona Twp.

David Olmsted was born in Fairfax, Franklin County, Vt., May 5, 1822. His father, Timothy Olmsted, was born in Ridgefield, Conn., where his ancestors settled about the year 1740, and where he resided until about 1810, when he removed to Franklin County, Vt., where he settled on a farm in Fairfax. In 1827 David removed with his parents to Fairfield, in the same county, where he resided until he was sixteen years old, when, with the consent of his parents, he started to search for a home in the Great West. His opportunities for obtaining an education were very limited, his being less than the average New England boys on account of severe inflammation of his eyes having prevented his attending the district school for two years, when ten and eleven years old; but by perseverance and the aid of his mother, who was a woman of unusal intelligence and discretion, he succeeded in securing a fair knowledge of the common English branches, which, with his stern integrity and native ability, in great measure compensated for the meager advantages for obtaining an education at school. About the first of May, 1838, he started, with only about $20 in money and a change of clothing, to find a home in the West. He crossed Lake Champlain in a steamer to Port Kent; from thence he traved on foot to Ogdensburg, thence deck passage to Toledo, mostly by steamer; from Toledo to Mineral Point, Wis., on foot, where he arrived on June 15, 1838, where he found employment with J. T. Lathrop, who kept a hotel, where he remained until September, when the hotel was destroyed by fire in the night; he, with several others, narrowly escaped being consumed with it by jumping from an upper story window without any clothing except his night clothes. The following month he went to Grant County, Wis., where he purchased forty acres of land near Burt's Mill, on Grant River, where he resided until November, 1839, and where his brother Page visited him when very sick with fever. After his recovery he and his brother went to Prairie du Chien, where they found work the following winter, and in July, 1840, they fitted themselves with a light tent and as much provisions as they could carry on foot, with a blanket for each, and started on an exploring tramp through the then unsettled portion of Iowa, on the waters of Turkey and Yellow Rivers. After spending about two weeks in looking over the country as far west as Fort Atkinson (which the United States Govermenert had commenced to build), they selected a claim at what has since been called Cold Spring, in section 13, township 95, range 5, now Monona Township, and immediately commenced the erection of a cabin, which they soon completed, and which was the first building erected in Monona Township. At that time there were no white settlers less than six miles east, and none west nearer than California, and none north nearer than Pembina, except some military or trading stations. About a year after making their settlement they sold their claim to John Rowe, and took up separate claims where the village of Monona has since been built. David worked at improving his claim for about three years. In 1844 he was elected to the first Constitutional Convention. In 1846, he, with E. H. Williams and others, raised a company of volunteers and tendered their services for the Mexican War; were mustered into service and sent to Fort Atkinson, to relieve the regular troops, under Captain Sumner, who were ordered to Mexico. David, who had been commissioned Lieutenant, remained at Fort Atkinson with his company in charge of the Winnebago Indians about two years, and in June, 1848, removed the Indians to Long Prairie, Minnesota. After his company was discharged, he remained at Long Prairie, and engaged in trade with the Indians. In August, 1849, he was elected a member of the council, and at the organization of the first Legislature of the Territory of Minnesota, in September, 1849, was elected President of the council. In 1850 he was nominated for a delegate to Congress, but withdrew his name before election day. In 1851 he was married to a daughter of Orlando Stevens, a prominent lawyer of St. Albans, Vt. In 1852 he quit the Indian trade at Long Prairie, and removed with his wife to St. Paul. In June, 1853, he commenced editing the Minnesota Democrat, at St. Paul, but about one year later he removed to Winona, where he had purchased a large interest in the town-site, which proved a very profitable investment. In 1855 he was again nominated as delegate to Congress, and accepted the nomination, but was defeated by H. M. Rice. In the summer of 1856 he was attacked with consumption, from which he never recovered. He spent the winter of 1856-'7 in Cuba, the summer of 1857 in Winona and St. Paul, visited his mother and other relatives in Vermont, became so feeble that he was unable to travel, was confined to his bed for about three years, and died at Fairfax, Vt., Feb. 2, 1861. He left two children, one son and one daughter.

source: History of Clayton County, Iowa, 1882, p. 1056-1058
Transcribed by Sally Scarff and Marlene Chaney


Return to Biographies Index