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The State of Iowa
Early Settlements

The following is a chapter from "The History of Jefferson County, Iowa", Pages 166-173, published by the Western Historical Company of Chicago in 1879.



The first permanent settlement by the whites within the limits of Iowa was made by Julien Dubuque, in 1788, when, with a small party of miners, he settled on the site of the city that now bears his name, where he lived until his death, in 1810. Louis Honori settled on the site of the present town of Montrose, probably in 1799, and resided there unti 1805, when his property passed into other hands. Of the Giard settlement, opposite Prairie du Chien, little is known, except that it was occupied by some parties prior to the commencement of the present century, and contained three cabins in 1805. Indian traders, although not strictly to be considered settlers, had established themselves at various points at an early date. A Mr. Johnson, agent of the American Fur Company, had a trading post below Burlington, where he carried on traffic with the Indians some time before the United States possessed the country. In 1820, Le Moliese, a French trader, had a station at what is now Sandusky, six miles above Keokuk, in Lee County. In 1829, Dr. Isaac Gallaud made a settlement on the Lower Rapids, at what is now Nashville.

The first settlement in Lee County was made in 1820, by Dr. Samuel C. Muir, a surgeon in the United States army, who had been stationed at Fort Edwards, now Warsaw, Ill., and who built a cabin where the city of Keokuk now stands. Dr. Muir was a man of strict integrity and irreproachable character. While stationed at a military post on the Upper Mississippi, he had married an Indian woman of the Fox nation. Of his marriage, the following romantic account is given:

The post at which he was stationed was visited by a beautiful Indian maiden -- whose native name, unfortunately, has not been preserved -- who, in her dreams, had seen a white brave unmoor his canoe, paddle it across the river and come directly to her lodge. She felt assured, according to the superstitious belief of her race, that, in her dreams she had seen her future husband, and had come to the fort to find him. Meeting Dr. Muir, she instantly recognized him as the hero of her dream, which, with childlike innocence and simplicity, she related to him. Her dream was, indeed, prophetic. Charmed with Sophia's beauty, innocence and devotion, the doctor honorably married her; but after a while, the sneers and gibes of his brother officers -- less honorable than he, perhaps -- made him feel ashamed of his dark-skinned wife, and when his regiment was ordered down the river, to Bellefontaine, it is said he embraced the opportunity to rid himself of her, and left her, never expecting to see her again, and little dreaming that she would have the courage to follow him. But, with her infant child, this intrepid wife and mother started alone in her canoe, and, after many days of weary labor and a lonely journey of nine hundred miles, she, at last, reached him. She afterward remarked, when speaking of this toilsome journey down the river in search of her husband, "When I got there I was all perished away -- so thin!" The doctor, touched by such unexampled devotion, took her to his heart, and ever after, until his death, treated her with marked respect. She always presided at his table with grace and dignity, but never abandoned her native style of dress. In 1819-20, he was stationed at Fort Edward, but the senseless ridicule of some of his brother officers on account of his Indian wife induced him to resign his commission.

After building his cabin, as above stated, he leased his claim for a term of years to Otis Reynolds and John Culver, of St. Louis, and went to La Pointe, afterward Galena, where he practiced his profession for ten years, when he returned to Keokuk. His Indian wife bore to him four children --Louise (married at Keokuk, since dead), James, (drowned at Keokuk), Mary and Sophia. Dr. Muir died suddenly of cholera, in 1832, but left his property in such condition that it was soon wasted in vexatious litigation, and his brave and faithful wife, left friendless and penniless, became discouraged, and, with her children, disappeared, and, it is said, returned to her people on the Upper Missouri.

Messrs. Reynolds & Culver, who had leased Dr. Muir's claim at Keokuk, subsequently employed as their agent Mr. Moses Stillwell, who arrived with his family in 1828, and took possession of Muir's cabin. His brothers-in-law, Amos and Valencourt Van Ansdal, came with him and settled near.

His daughter, Margaret Stillwell (afterward Mrs. Ford) was born in 1831, at the foot of the rapids, called by the Indians Puch-a-she-tuck, where Keokuk now stands. She was probably the first white American child born in Iowa.

In 1831, Mr. Johnson, Agent of the American Fur Company, who had a station at the foot of the rapids, removed to another location, and Dr. Muir having returned from Galena, he and Isaac R. Campbell took the place and buildings vacated by the Company and carried on trade with the Indians and half-breeds. Campbell, who had first visited and traveled through the southern part of Iowa, in 1821, was an enterprising settler, and besides trading with the native carried on a farm and kept a tavern.

Dr. Muir died of cholera in 1832.

In 1830, James L. and Lucius H. Langworthy, brothers and natives of Vermont, visited the Territory for the purpose of working the lead mines at Dubuque. They had been engaged in lead mining at Galena, Illinois, the former from as early as 1824. The lead mines in the Dubuque region were an object of great interest to the miners about Galena, for they were known to be rich in lead ore. To explore these mines and to obtain permission to work them was therefore eminently desirable.

In 1829, James L. Langworthy resolved to visit the Dubuque mines. Crossing the Mississippi at a point now known as Dunleith, in a canoe, and swimming his horse by his side, he landed on the spot now known as Jones Street Levee. Before him spread out a beautiful prairie, on which the city of Dubuque now stands. Two miles south, at the mouth of Catfish Creek, was a village of Sacs and Foxes. Thither Mr. Langworthy proceeded, and was well received by the natives. He endeavored to obtain permission from them to mine in their hills, but this they refused. He, however, succeeded in gaining the confidence of the chief to such an extent as to be allowed to travel in the interior for three weeks and explore the country. He employed two young Indians as guides, and traversed in different directions the whole region lying between the Maquoketa and Turkey Rivers. He returned to the village, secured the good will of the Indians, and, returning to Galena, formed plans for future operations, to be executed as soon as circumstances would permit.

In 1830, with his brother, Lucius H., and others, having obtained the consent of the Indians, Mr. Langworthy crossed the Mississippi and commenced mining in the vicinity around Dubuque.

At this time, the lands wre not in the actual possession of the United States. Although they had been purchased from France, the Indian title had not been extinguished, and these adventurous persons were beyond the limits of any State or Territorial government. The first settlers were therefore obliged to be their own law-makers, and to agree to such regulations as the exigencies of the case demanded. The first act resembling civil legislation within the limits of the present State of Iowa was done by the miners at this point, in June, 1830. They met on the bank of the river, by the side of an old cottonwood drift log, at what is now the Jones Street Levee, Dubuque, and elected a Committee, consisting of J. L. Langworthy, H. F. Lander, James McPhetres, Samuel Scales, and E. M. Wren. This may be called the first Legislature in Iowa, the members of which gathered around that old cottonwood log, and agreed to and reported the following, written by Mr. Langworthy, on a half sheet of coarse, unruled paper, the old log being the writing desk:

We, a Committee having been chosen to draft certain rules and regulations (laws) by which we as miners will be governed, and having duly considered the subject, do unanimously agree that we will be governed by the regulations on the east side of the Mississippi River,* with the following exceptions, to wit:

Article I. That each and every man shall hold 200 yards square of ground by working said ground one day in six.

Article II. We further agree that there shall be chosen, by the majority of the miners present, a person who shall hold this article, and who shall grant letters of arbitration on application having been made, and that said letters of arbitration shall be obligatory on the parties so applying.

* Established by the Superintendent of U. S. Lead Mines at Fever River.

The report was accepted by the miners present, who elected Dr. Jarote, in accordance with Article 2. There, then, we have, in 1830, a primitive Legislature elected by the people, the law drafted by it being submitted to the people for approval, and under it Dr. Jarote was elected first Governor within the limits of the present State of Iowa. And it is to be said that the laws thus enacted were as promptly obeyed, and the acts of the executive officer thus elected as duly respected, as any have been since.

The miners who had thus erected an independent government of their own on the west side of the Mississippi River continued to work successfully for a long time, and the new settlement attracted considerable attention. But the west side of the Mississippi belonged to the Sac and Fox Indians, and the Government, in order to preserve peace on the frontier, as well as to protect the Indians in their rights under the treaty, ordered the settlers not only to stop mining, but to remove from the Indian territory. They were simply intruders. The execution of this order was entrusted to Col. Zachary Taylor, then in command of the military post at Prairie du Chien, who, in early July, sent an officer to the miners with orders to forbid settlement, and to command the miners to remove within ten days to the east side of the Mississippi, or they would be driven off by armed force. The miners, however, were reluctant about leaving the rich "leads" they had already discovered and opened, and were not disposed to obey the order to remove with any considerable degree of alacrity. In due time, Col. Taylor dispatched a detachment of troops to enforce his order. The miners, anticipating their arrival, had, excepting three, recrossed the river, and from the east bank saw the troops land on the western shore. The three who had lingered too long were, however, permitted to make their escape unmolested. From this time, a military force was stationed at Dubuque to prevent the settlers from returning, until June, 1832. The Indians returned, and were encouaged (sic) to operate the rich mines opened by the late white occupants.

In June, 1832, the troops were ordered to the east side to assist in the annihilation of the very Indians whose rights they had been protecting on the west side. Immediately after the close of the Black Hawk war, and the negotiations of the treaty in September, 1832, by which the Sacs and Foxes ceded to the United States the tract known as the "Black Hawk Purchase," the settlers, supposing that now they had a right to re-enter the territory, returned and took possession of their claims, built cabins, erected furnaces and prepared large quantities of lead for market. Dubuque was becoming a noted place on the river, but the prospects of the hardy and enterprising settlers and miners were again ruthlessly interfered with by the Government, on the ground that the treaty with the Indians would not go into force until June 1, 1833, although they had withdrawn from the vicinity of the settlement. Col. Taylor was again ordered by the War Department to remove the miners, and in January, 1833, troops were again sent from Prairie du Chien to Dubuque for that purpose. This was a serious and perhaps unnecessary hardship imposed upon the settlers. They were compelled to abandon their cabins and homes in mid-winter. It must now be said, simply, that "red tape" should be respected. The purchase had been made, the treaty ratified, or was sure to be; the Indians had retired, and, after the lapse of nearly fifty years, no very satisfactory reason for this rigorous action of the Government can be given.

But the orders had been given, and there was no alternative but to obey. Many of the settlers recrossed the river, and did not return; a few, however, removed to an island near the east bank of the river, built rude cabins of poles, in which to store their lead until Spring, when they could float the fruits of their labor to St. Louis for sale, and where they could remain until the treaty went into force, when they could return. Among these were James L. Langworthy, and his brother Lucius, who had on hand about three hundred thousand pounds of lead.

Lieut. Covington, who had been placed in command at Dubuque by Col. Taylor, ordered some of the cabins of the settlers to be torn down, and wagons and other property to be destroyed. This wanton and inexcusable action on the part of a subordinate clothed with a little brief authority was sternly rebuked by Col. Taylor, and Covington was superseded by Lieut. George Wilson, who pursued a just and friendly course with the pioneers, who were only waiting for the time when they could repossess their claims.

June 1, 1833, the treaty formally went into effect, the troops were withdrawn, and the Langworthy brothers and a few others at once returned and resumed possession of their home claims and mineral prospects, and from this time the first permanent settlement of this portion of Iowa must date. Mr. John P. Sheldon was appointed Superintendent of the mines by the Government, and a system of permits to miners and licenses to smelters was adopted, similar to that which had been in operation at Galena, since 1825, under Lieut. Martin Thomas and Capt. Thomas C. Legate. Substantially the primitive law enacted by the miners around that old cottonwood drift log in 1830 was adopted and enforced by the United States Government, except that miners were required to sell their mineral to licensed smelters and the smelter was requried to give bonds for the payment of six per cent. of all lead manufactured to the Government. This was the same rule adopted in the United States mines on Fever River in Illinois, except that, until 1830, the Illinois miners were compelled to pay 10 per cent. tax. This tax upon the miners created much dissatisfaction among the miners on the west side as it had on the east side of the Mississippi. They thought they had suffered hardships and privations enough in opening the way for civilization, without being subjected to the imposition of an odious Government tax upon their means of subsistence, when the Federal Government could better afford to aid than extort from them. The measure soon became unpopular. It was difficult to collect the taxes, and the whole system was abolished in about ten years.

During 1833, after the Indian title was fully extinguished, about five hundred people arrived at the mining district, about one hundred and fifty of them from Galena.

In the same year, Mr. Langworthy assisted in building the first school house in Iowa, and thus was formed the nucleus of the now populous and thriving City of Dubuque. Mr. Langworthy lived to see the naked prairie on which he first landed become the site of a city of fifteen thousand inhabitants, the small school house which he aided in constructing replaced by three subatantial edifices, wherein two thousand children were being trained, churches erected in every part of the city, and railroads connecting the wilderness which he first explored with all the eastern world. He died suddenly on the 13th of March, 1865, while on a trip over the Dubuque & Southwestern Railroad, at Monticello, and the evening train brought the news of his death and his remains.

Lucius H. Langworthy, his brother, was one of the most worthy, gifted and influential of the old settlers of this section of Iowa. He died, greatly lamented by many friends, in June, 1865.

The name Dubuque was given to the settlement by the miners at a meeting held in 1834.

In 1832, Captain James White made a claim on the present site of Montrose. In 1834, a military post was established at this point, and a garrison of cavalry was stationed here, under the command of Col. Stephen W. Kearney. The soldiers were removed from this post to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1837.

During the same year, 1832, soon after the close of the Black Hawk War, Zachariah Hawkins, Benjamin Jennings, Aaron White, Augustine Horton, Samuel Gooch, Daniel Thompson and Peter Williams made claims at Fort Madison. In 1833, these claims were purchaed by John and Nathaniel Knapp, upon which, in 1835, they laid out the town. The next Summer, lots were sold. The town was subsequently re-surveyed and platted by the United States Government.

At the close of the Black Hawk War, parties who had been impatiently looking across upon "Flint Hills," now Burlington, came over from Illinois and made claims. The first was Samuel S. White, in the Fall of 1832, who erected a cabin on the site of the city of Burlington. About the same time, David Tothero made a claim on the prairie about three miles back from the river, at a place since known as the farm of Judge Morgan. In the Winter of that year, they were driven off by the military from Rock Island, as intruders upon the rights of the Indians, and White's cabin was burnt by the soldiers. He retired to Illinois, where he spent the Winter, and in the Summer, as soon as the Indian title was extinguished, returned and rebuilt his cabin. White was joined by his brother-in-law, Doolittle, and they laid out the original town of Burlington in 1834.

All along the river borders of the Black Hawk Purchase settlers were flocking into Iowa. Immediately after the treaty with the Sacs and Foxes, in September, 1832, Col. George Davenport made the first claim on the spot where the thriving city of Davenport now stands. As early as 1827, Col. Davenport had established a flatboat ferry, which ran between the island and the main shore of Iowa, by which he carried on a trade with the Indians west of the Mississippi. In 1833, Capt. Benjamin W. Clark moved across from Illinois, and laid the foundation of the town of Buffalo, in Scott County, which was the first actual settlement within the limits of that county. Among other early settlers in this part of the Territory were Adrian H. Davenport, Col. John Sullivan, Mulligan and Franklin Easly, Capt. John Coleman, J. M. Camp, William White, H. W. Higgins, Cornelius Harrold, Richard Harrison, E. H. Shepherd and Dr. E. S. Barrows.

The first settlers of Davenport were Antoine LeClaire, Col. George Davenport, Major Thomas Smith, Major William Gordon, Philip Hambough, Alexander W. McGregor, Levi S. Colton, Capt. James May and others. Of Antoine LeClaire, as the representative of the two races of men who at this time occupied Iowa, John. C. C. Nourse, in his admirable Centennial Address, says: "Antoine LeClaire was born at St. Joseph, Michigan, in 1797. His father was French, his mother a granddaughter of a Pottowatomie (sic) chief. In 1818, he acted as official interpreter to Col. Davenport, at Fort Armstrong (now Rock Island). He was well acquainted with a dozen Indian dialects, and was a man of strict integrity and great energy. In 1820, he married the granddaughter of a Sac chief. The Sac and Fox Indians reserved for him and his wife two sections of land in the treaty of 1833, one at the town of LeClaire and one at Davenport. The Pottawatomies, in the treaty at Prairie du Chien, also reserved for him two sections of land, at the present site of Moline, Ill. He received the apointment of Postmaster and Justice of the Peace in the Black Hawk Purchase, at an early day. In 1833, he bought for $100 a claim on the land upon which the original town of Davenport was surveyed and platted in 1836. In 1836, Le Claire built the hotel, known since, with its valuable addition, as the LeClaire House. He died September 25, 1861."

In Clayton County, the first settlement was made in the Spring of 1832, on Turkey River, by Robert Hatfield and William W. Wayman. No further settlement was made in this part of the State till (sic) the beginning of 1836.

In that portion now known as Muscatine County, settlements were made in 1834, by Benjamin Nye, John Vanater and G. W. Kasey, who were the first settlers. E. E. Fay, William St. John, N. Fullington, H. Reece, Jona Pettibone, R. P. Lowe, Stephen Whicher, Abijah Whiting, J. E. Fletcher, W. D. Abernethy and Alexis Smith were early settlers of Muscatine.

During the Summer of 1835, William Bennett and his family, from Galena, built the first cabin within the present limits of Delaware County, in some timber since known as Eads' Grove.

The first post office in Iowa was established at Dubuque in 1833. Milo H. Prentice was appointed Postmaster.

The first Justice of the Peace was Antoine LeClaire, appointed in 1833, as "a very suitable person to adjust the difficulties between the white settlers and the Indians still remaining there."

The first Methodist Society in the Territory was formed at Dubuque on the 18th of May, 1834, and the first class meeting was held June 1st of that year.

The first church bell brought into Iowa was in March, 1834.

The first mass of the Roman Catholic Church in the Territory was celebrated at Dubuque, in the house of Patrick Quigley, in the Fall of 1833.

The first school house in the Territory was erected by the Dubuque miners in 1833.

The first Sabbath school was organized at Dubuque early in the Summer of 1834.

The first woman who came to this part of the Territory with a view to permanent residence was Mrs. Noble F. Dean, in the Fall of 1832.

The first family that lived in this part of Iowa was that of Hosea T. Camp, in 1832.

The first meeting house was built by the Methodist Episcopal Church, at Dubuque, in 1834.

The first newspaper in Iowa was the Dubuque Visitor, issued May 11th, 1836. John King, afterward Judge King, was editor, and William C. Jones, printer.

The pioneers of Iowa, as a class, were brave, hardy, intelligent and enterprising people.

As early as 1824, a French trader named Hart had established a trading post, and built a cabin on the bluffs above the large spring now known as "Mynster Spring," within the limits of the present city of Council Bluffs, and had probably been there some time, as the post was known to the employes of the American Fur Company as Lacote de Hart, or "Hart's Bluff." In 1827, an agent of the American Fur Company, Francis Guittar, with others, encamped in the timber at the foot of the bluffs, about on the present location of Broadway, and afterward settled there. In 1839, a block house was built on the bluff in the east part of the city. The Pottawatomie Indians occupied this part of the State until 1846-7, when they relinquished the territory and removed to Kansas. Billy Caldwell was then principal chief. There were no white settlers in that part of the State except Indian traders, until the arrival of the Mormons under the lead of Brigham Young. These people on their way westward halted for the Winter of 1846-7 on the west bank of the Missouri River, about five miles above Omaha, at a place now called Florence. Some of them had reached the eastern bank of the river the Spring before, in season to plant a crop. In the Spring of 1847, Young and a portion of the colony pursued their journey to Salt Lake, but a large portion of them returned to the Iowa side and settled mainly within the limits of Pottawattamie County. The principal settlement of this strange community was at a place first called "Miller's Hollow," on Indian Creek, and afterward named Kanesville, in honor of Col. Kane, of Pennsylvania, who visited them soon afterward. The Mormon settlement extended over the county and into neighboring counties, wherever timber and water furnished desirable locations. Orson Hyde, priest, lawyer and editor, was installed as President of the Quorum of Twelve, and all that part of the State remained under Mormon control for several years. In 1846, they raised a battalion, numbering some five hundred men, for the Mexican war. In 1848, Hyde started a paper called the Frontier Guardian, at Kanesville. In 1849, after many of the faithful had left to join Brigham Young at Salt Lake, the Mormons in this section of Iowa numbered 6,552, and in 1850, 7,828, but they were not all within the limits of Pottawattamie County. This country was organized in 1848, all the first officials being Mormons. In 1852, the order was promulgated that all the true believers should gather together at Salt Lake. Gentiles flocked in, and in a few years nearly all the first settlers were gone.

May 9, 1843, Captain James Allen, with a small detachment of troops on board the steamer Ione, arrived at the present site of the capital of the State, Des Moines. The Ione was the first steamer to ascend the Des Moines River to this point. The troops and stores were landed at what is now the foot of Court avenue, Des Moines, and Capt. Allen returned in the steamer to Fort Sanford to arrange for bringing up more soldiers and supplies. In due time they, too, arrived, and a fort was built near the mouth of Raccoon Fork, at its confluence with the Des Moines, and named Fort Des Moines. Soon after the arrival of the troops, a trading post was established on the east side of the river, by two noted Indian traders named Ewing, from Ohio.

Among the first settlers in this part of Iowa were Benjamin Bryant, J. B. Scott, James Drake (gunsmith), John Sturtevant, Robert Kinzie, Alexander Turner, Peter Newcomer, and others.

The Western States have been settled by many of the best and most enterprising men of the older States, and a large immigration of the best blood of the Old World, who, removing to an arena of larger opportunities, in a more fertile soil and congenial climate, have developed a spirit and an energy peculiarly Western. In no country on the globe have enterprises of all kinds been pushed forward with such rapidity, or has there been such independence and freedom of competition. Among those who have pioneered the civilization of the West, and been the founders of great States, none have ranked higher in scale and moral worth than the pioneers of Iowa, who came to the territory when it was an Indian country, and through hardship, privation and suffering, laid the foundations of the populous and prosperous commonwealth which to-day dispenses its blessings to a million and a quarter of people. From her first settlement and from her first organization as a territory to the present day, Iowa has had able men to manage her affairs, wise statesmen to shape her destiny and frame her laws, and intellingent and impartial jurists to administer justice to her citizens; her bar, pulpit and press have been able and widely influential; and in all the professions, arts, enterprises and industries which go to make up a great and prosperous commonwealth, she has taken and holds a front rank among her sister States of the West.

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