Jefferson County Online
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Settlers of 1837
The Old Village of Lockridge
First Store

The following is a chapter from "The History of Jefferson County, Iowa", Pages 361-363, published by the Western Historical Company of Chicago in 1879.



In the year 1837, quite a large number of settlers came and occupied claims and commenced improvements in different parts of the county. All had to depend on the farms and mills "beyond the Mississippi" for their family supplies. Rall's mill was the acknowledged depot for breadstuffs. Corn-bread was the staple. Flour was only used on special occasions. The bread supply was hauled from the mills by ox-team. Joseph M. Parker was millboy for the entire settlement during that summer, and in which he made two or three trips, each trip occupying twenty-seven to thirty days.

In 1836, Col. W. G. Coop selected a claim in what is now the northeast corner of Section 1, in Cedar Township. In the fall of that year, he went back to the vicinity of Alton, Ill., and, during the winter, managed to trade some real property he owned there for a stock of goods. In the spring following, he shipped the goods by river for Fort Madison. On the way, the boat sunk and the goods were thoroughly wet and seriously damaged. In consequence of some defect in the insurance papers, Coop was left no redress, and was obliged to accept the goods as they were delivered, or suffer their entire loss. He chose the former alternative, and as soon as the building could be prepared on his claim, the goods were opened to sale, and "Coop's store" became the first trading-place commenced within the limits of Jefferson County. About the same time, he laid off a town which he called Lockridge. In those days, the township and section lines were established at random. A Congressional township is six miles square. The settlers took the last range of regularly surveyed townships as a basis of calculation, and measured or made a temporary survey therefrom. When township lines wre fixed, it was not a difficult matter to divide the township into sections and the sections into quarters, etc. In very many cases, the lines fixed by the settlers were almost directly confirmed by the Government Surveyors. Some times, however, the settlers' lines would be pretty widely at fault. It not unfrequently happened that the house of one settler and the farm of another would be on the same 160 acres, as established by the United States Surveyors. In each township the settlers had a Claim Association, and rules and regulations for the protection of each other. The rules required a registered description to be kept of every man's claim as he located it. When the United States survey's were made, and there were found to be conflicting interests among the settlers, the Claim Committee were called together and the claimants and their respective witnesses cited to appear. Each party and their witnesses told their own story without oath or affirmation, for such proceedings were not necessary in those days to get the truth. The word of honor of a "squatter" was as good as his oath or his bond. After hearing all the facts in the case, the Committee would correct the register according to the evidence, and from that correction and the rulings of the Claim Court there was no appeal. An old settler says: "I never knew of injustice being done in a single case."

When Coop built his storehouse and laid off his town of Lockridge, he supposed he was laying it out on the northeast quarter of Section 1, Township 71 north, Range 9 west. But when Uncle Sam's surveyors came along and fixed the line between Townships 71 and 72, they left the most of Lockridge in Township 72 (Buchanan).

At nearly the same time that Coop put up his stock of goods, a rival store was opened by Miles Driscoll, Samuel Moore and John Ratliff. This firm, it if was a firm, bought a lot of Coop and erected a store-building on it, and commenced business. John Huff made the clapboards that roofed the building, as also some of the stuff for shelving, etc. These stores were a great convenience to the settlers, but they "had to pay" for almost everything they bought -- that is to say, goods, groceries, etc. -- was enormously high as compared with the prices that prevail now. Salt retailed at the rate of $7 per bushel, and cornmeal, hauled by ox-teams from Rall's mill, in Illinois, sold at $1.25 per bushel, and almost everything else in the same proportion.

When Col. Coop laid off his town of Lockridge, and aspired to found a city that would become a metropolis of this part of the "Beautiful Land," he "reckoned without his host," for it was written from the first that it should never become a great city. His ambition was laudable and praiseworthy. He hoped to be the founder of the county seat of a great and prosperous county. But all around there were other men equally ambitious, and they managed to coop Coop's plans, and he saw his fondest hopes fall to the ground and Lockridge's promise depart before the rising glory of Fairfield. When the county of Jefferson was created in January, 1839, it was generally believed that Lockridge would be made the seat of justice. But the Commissioners appointed to locate the county seat ruled it otherwise. After one meeting of the Board of County Commissioners there, in April, 1839, at which the county machinery was put in motion, Lockridge began to fall into decay, and the place and the people that once knew it, now know it no more only in name. Its "corner lots," public parks, streets and avenues are lost in well-cultivated fields. Instead of thronged streets, crowded stores and busy shops and manufactories, there is naught to disturb the stillness but the lowing of herds, and the voices of prosperous husbandmen.

This year there was a very material increase in the population over that reported at the close of 1836. Every visitor or prospector to the frontier -- every one who made claims, was well pleased with the country, and the golden stories they conveyed to their friends in the old homes excited admiration and a desire to come and possess some part of the land that needed but to be "stirred with the plow and tickled with the hoe," to render ample and remunerative returns to tillers of the soil. Many came in this year and made claims and perfected arrangements to permanently occupy them the next spring. Those who came in time, in 1836, to plow and plant that year, raised good crops in 1837, and prosperity hovered over the frontier settlers.

In 1836, Keokuk, for himself and immediate adherents, ceded his reserve from the Black Hawk Purchase of 1832 to the United States. As he and his followers disappeared in the west, "squatters" appeared on the east. On the 21st of October, 1837, a treaty was made at the city of Washington, between Cary A. Smith, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and the confederate tribes of Sauks and Foxes, which was ratified on the 21st of February, 1838, by which 1,250,000 acres were added to the tract of land conveyed by them to the United States on the 21st of September, 1832. This strip of land adjoined the Black Hawk Purchase on the west, was of the same length, twenty-five miles in the center, and tapered off to a point at both ends. This purchase extended west to what is now the west line of Jefferson County.

In anticipation of this purchase, "squatters" pushed on beyond the limits of the "Forty-Mile Strip" long before the purchase was ratified and confirmed. Among the first to enter upon this strip was Daniel Morris and his family. Morris was more hunter than farmer, and was never contented unless away on beyond the limits of civilization. He selected his claim on the extreme limits of what it was supposed would be included in the purchase. When the purchase was ratified and the western line established, it was found that his cabin was on the east side of the line and his farming land on the west. The Indians, however, granted him permission to cultivate the land, and did not in any way interfere with his farming operations. This family, if not the first, was among the first white families to settle in what is now Locust Grove Township

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