A Border Sketch
summer, through the Western counties of Iowa, and one day becoming
weary, I put up, a short time before night, at the principal inn of a
town which for the present incident I shall call Cambridge. Supper not
being ready, and finding my hotel somewhat deserted, I concluded to
stroll through the village, and, seeing quite a crowd collected about a
covered wagon which stood in the direction I had taken, I soon mingled
them, hoping to gain some information, or, perchance, to see some
face. My acquaintance, however, did not embrace any of the crowd,
cannot say I did not receive some information.
The wagon contained
two men: one a regular-looking, out-and-out frontiersman; the other a
of Erin, who seemed to enjoy everything and rejoiced that he lived,
perhaps was the result of himself and his companion being fully
They were on their
way, or rather intended to proceed, to the land-office at Fairfield to
the title to some government land, and, as is sometimes the case with
their condition, were very independent citizens: plenty of money,
span of horses and a wagon, they felt themselves a little above the
and of course only condescended to hear what some of the crowd had to
communicate to them.
It seems, as I learned
from a good-natured Hoosier, and a clever fellow (I always stick to
impressions), who stood looking on, that the team had then and there
stopped by the good citizens to "argue the question," as Jack Easy
has it, as to the propriety of their entering the certain tract of land
which purpose they had started, upon the ground that the "claim"
belonged to another person.
Through the influence
of this other person, the citizens generally had given judgment in his
and if Judge Lynch was not presiding, it was because the "committee"
were not present to order summary justice to be done, all governments,
believe, taking measures to prevent the commission of offenses as well
punish the offender.
Our teamsters were
quietly requested to return and abandon their purpose, expostulated
even threatened with subsequent punishment if they persisted in and
accomplished their designs, but all to no purpose; go they would, and
they had done nothing more than declare their intention, it was deemed
sufficient to administer to them but light specimens of retributive
half-dozen began quite a pleasant conversation with our patrons of the
liquor-dealer at the front end of the wagon, while the hinder wheels,
the quiet efforts of some half-dozen more, were undergoing the process
losing their linch-pins.
accomplished, they were permitted to proceed in the even tenor of their
Nature seems, and
wisely too, to have constituted all men differently, and, allowing the
"claim-jumpers" to have been "tenants in common" and alike
partakers in the contents of the jug, the effect produced upon them
justified that, even in this case, there was no exception to the
being in his opinion much more intelligent, wealthy, generous and
the other, and in consequence of thus being the tighter, as a
course insisting in his ability, took command of the team, and they
proceeded on their "winding way," anxiously watched by a number of
urchins and "big boys" to witness their discomfiture.
Now it so chanced that
when they had driven about a mile the horses seemed inclined to take a
right-hand road which diverged from the right one, slightly at first,
finally led off and was lost in the bottom timber, such as is very
that region, and which more than once betrayed me, ere I knew it, into
settlement of stumps.
They proceeded on
their wood-road out of sight without any disaster, much to the chagrin
of the watchers, and after a short walk I returned to the hotel.
About sunset my
attention was arrested by a shout of boys, and, stepping to the door, I
in the same direction it had come in the afternoon, the wagon—minus,
both hinder wheels, by reason of which the axles were doing ample
the moist earth.
The wagon being again
surrounded, the soberer inmate recognized a face among the crowd.
said he, "is that you?"
"How long have
you been here?"
"Do you mean
since I came here?"
you needn't think I am drunk. Didn't I see you in Cambridge to-day?"
"You did. I think
you must have made a quick trip to Fairfield."
Why, Young, you must be drunk. Ain't we in Fairfield?"
sir; you are in Cambridge."
devil! Why, Young, you know there's no hillside like this in
siree! I'm not that drunk yet, Young."
sir," said Young, "your hind wheels are gone; you are on the level
ground—it's only your wagon-bed."
"Oh, Young, don't
be trying to fool a feller this way? That cuss didn't get you to come
keep us from entering that land?"
"Just stick your
head outside your wagon-cover and satisfy yourself where you are,"
Crawling up to the
end-gate and taking a view, he began to realize the truth, drunk as he
that they had only been winding about through the timber, and were no
advanced now than in the middle of the afternoon.
Turning to his
companion, "Patrick!" shouted he, "we've played the devil! Here
we are in Cambridge yet, and the hind-wheels gone—stir up here!"
Patrick, however, who
had some time before released the reins, was close bordering on
only muttered out to " dhrive on, and don't be a-jawin' thravelers."
finding himself called upon to exercise some judgment to extricate
signified his intention to return on the track of his axles in search
Sundry remarks from the crowd, that they, the men of the
two-wheeled wagon, were puppies, dogs, cowards, etc., had the effect of
bringing Patrick's companion on terra firma, and there,
himself of coat and vest, very unsolemnly made oath that he could whip
that said such things of them, and thereupon elevating both feet from
ground at the same time, made an effort to smack his feet together."
Finding that no one
would brave the danger of making any of the charges to his face, he
his apparel and started in search of his wheels.
Tracing in the dust,
and by the aid of a friendly moon till he could no longer observe the
set about a search for the wheels, and after a fruitless search of an
more returned to town to find his wagon upset, and Patrick still in it
occupying the bows for a pillow; he seemed, however, to be slightly
the inverse plan of bedding, for on the reappearance of his companion
"Hallo, Patrick," he only stammered out something about a "long
trip" and "rough roads."
The truth is that when
some of the boys found that the wheels were to be looked for they made
march, found the wheels and hid them away in the grass so that a sober
day time, would have been excused for not finding them.
To cut short the facts
of the incident, for facts they are, the two teamsters were taken to a
convenient branch and there threatened with immediate immersion if they
not renounce their intentions, which they unhesitatingly did. Patrick,
was scarcely responsible for his promise on the occasion, even taking
duress out of the question, for on going to the branch on which he
"right and left scene supporter" he complained that there was a
"divilish crowd wanten land."
obtained their solemn promise not to meddle with the "claim" they
were conducted to my hotel and provided with comfortable quarters.
Next morning they were
duly sober, wagon top undermost, two wheels gone, horses missing and
The same men who but
yesterday had helped to do all this now assisted to restore everything
could be done by them, and the horses having strayed home the real
owner of the
claim who had been "about" all the time, actually lent them his horse
and procured another from mine host, who, by the way, took no small
effecting a reconciliation of the parties. They rigged again their
claim-owner and claim-jumpers, side by side, started to their several
Transcribed by Pat Wahl.
A New Departure
From the time of the first settlement of the county in the vicinity of
Richland, there was a steady and continuous growth, and what is
commonly known as the “old strip,” became well settled for those days.
Not all the land was taken up by any means; not even a large part of
the best land was secured, but such portions as offered the greatest
inducement to settlers were pre-empted; and all along the boundary line
here, as elsewhere, were gathered many prospecters [sic], who
impatiently awaited the night of April 30, 1843, when they would have a
right to pass over and possess the land.
Those expecting to make settlements on the “new purchase” were
forbidden to come to the reserve until the time of its delivery into
the hands of the government by the Indians, May 1, 1843. Dragoons were
stationed all along the border, whose duty it was to keep the whites
out of the country till the appointed time. For some weeks previous to
the date assigned, settlers came up into the new country, prospecting
for homes, and were quietly permitted to cross the border and look
around, so long as they were unaccompanied by wagon, and carried no ax.
This latter weapon was sometimes placed, without a handle, in the
knapsack of the traveler, and an impromptu handle fitted in by a
penknife when necessity called for its use. During the last few days of
April the dragoons relaxed their strict discipline, and an occasional
wagon slipped in through the brush. The night of April 30 found some
scores of newcomers on the ground, who had been prospecting the
country, who had decided mentally what claims they would make, and had
various agreements among themselves. These settlers were mostly along
or near the river, it then being thought that prairie land was not half
so desirable as the river and timber country.
As it neared midnight on the morning of May 1, settler after settler
took his place upon the border of his claim with his bunch of sharpened
stakes and lantern, or his blazing torch, and when it was thought
twelve o'clock had arrived, there was some lively surveying by amateur
engineers in the dark. The claims were paced off, and strange to say
there were few cases of dispute, the matter having been pretty
generally understood on the preceding day. Some of the claims were
pretty large, more, in fact, than the law suffered the claimants to
hold, some of whom were not unmindful of the wholesome advice of a
mother in Hoosierdom, who possibly lived in a later day, but who
counseled, “git a plenty while you're gittin,” to which the settler
added, “and git the best.”
The memorable midnight of that “last day” of April, 1843, dark as it
may have been, opened to the welcome dawning of a glorious “May day” in
the prosperity of this heaven-favored land as the crowds of anxious
emigrants, so long held in check by the old boundaries, began to cross
the line in multitudes and press forward to “possess the land” and
secure their claims of 320 acres each in goodly heritage. It was a
rapid, successful movement in the advancement of emigration and
civilization, which gave evident and assuring proof of the wisdom of
the government in promptly securing the title to this valuable
territory. It is estimated that before the nightfall of May 1, 1843,
there were nearly one thousand of such claims occupied by pioneers, and
including in the count the families and attendants of these, in so
short a time an aggregate population of about four thousand souls, had
crossed the old limits to find homes in the new possessions, and
convert the Indian's hunting ground into the white man's earthly Eden.
Thus had come at last the much desired day, bringing to the unsettled
pioneer the welcome privilege to choose, from all the goodly land
before him, his future home. When the last barrier of restraint was
thus removed, the tide of emigration so long held in check began to
come in at a rapid rate over these prairies, and thus has it continued
to roll, wave after wave, in rapid succession, until it has reached the
Western shore, carrying with it the energy and talents and enterprise
of nations, and washing to the surface the gold from the mountains and
valleys on the Pacific slope, it has enveloped our land in the mighty
main of enterprise and civilization.
After the way had thus been opened by that memorable treaty, emigration
began at once to pour in and spread especially along the river; claim
after claim was taken, cabin after cabin was erected, settlement after
settlement was made, and the enterprising sound of the white man's ax
was heard echoing from every side, as with busy stroke he felled the
trees, and prepared logs for his humble cabin home.
Before many days had passed the curling smoke was seen rising through
the tree tops from many such hopeful, happy pioneer homes in the
western wild; and within these rustic walls were found thankful hearts,
cheerful faces, welcome voices and liberal hospitality, which displayed
on every side an air of prosperity and contentment, and made “assurance
doubly sure” that the great work of the settlement and cultivation of
this fertile land was actually begun by the white pioneer, even within
the present territory of Keokuk county, and that it would be thoroughly
carried on to the western territory.
In order to the improvement of a pioneer home in the West, in those
days, timber for fuel and fencing and shelter was considered the
material thing in importance, second only to the “staff of life,” and
therefore the timber lands and tracts of prairie adjoining were almost
invariably taken first, since these were considered by the early
settlers to be the cream of the country.
But in this regard, experience, the effectual teacher, soon worked a
radical change in the minds of men. When they began to test the
fertility and richness of the prairie soil, they soon found that it was
much easier and cheaper to haul timber and prepare shelter and dwell in
the fresh, pure air on the bleak, yet fertile prairie, feeling sure of
an abundant crop with less labor from a large acreage, than it was to
have the best advantages of a timber location, and spend time, labor
and money in clearing and grubbing and fertilizing, and then fall short
in the yield per acre, and be confined to a limited area of farming
The timber settlers slowly but surely became convinced of the fact, and
began to reach out and secure, in some cases, large tracts of the
prairie land adjoining them, thus combining these two important
elements in one large estate, and securing some of the very finest
farms in the country. While, on the other hand, very many of the first
settlers on timber claims, from want of means or fear of failure in
speculation, did not become awake to the real importance of this until
the best sections adjoining them were all taken, and they were
compelled either to go out, perhaps miles from their homes, to secure
more farming land for their increasing families, or to remain shut in
upon their original claims.
In different localities throughout our State, many of the first
settlers, and best of men, have thus been compelled to sell their
comfortable, hard-earned homes when “the boys grow up,” and “move out
west for more land,” or they have found out at last, perhaps, that they
are “timber poor,” with limited income, and meagre [sic] support in
return for the faithful, arduous labors, while many of their wealthy
prairie neighbors, who only a few years before were the hired hands
working by the month or the day for small wages, are now prosperous and
independent on their large prairie farms, which yield them bountiful
Others, again, soon discovering their mistake in choosing river or
timber locations for agricultural pursuits, disposed of the claims as
soon as possible at reasonable profits, to their adjoining neighbors,
or later arrivals, and moved on toward the front, better prepared by
experience to make new and more judicious selections.
In treating of the early settlements of the county, the reader must
bear in mind that at that time none of the present artificial
organizations of townships, or even of the county itself; were then in
existence. Geographical distinctions, after the removal of the Indian
boundary line of 1837, were only such as were made by such natural
boundaries as rivers. The township organization, as it now exists, was
not made till 1847, and such distinctions as are made by reference to
township lines cannot be spoken of till further on.
From the older settlements in the southeastern part of the county, the
work of permanent improvement spread west and north. South of South
Skunk river we find some of the first settlers of Richland taking the
best claims. The Rock creek district, now in the bounds of Jackson
township, had the reputation of being a goodly land; and there,
especially, was a speedy increase of settlement during the fall of
1843. Among the early settlers in that neighborhood we notice the names
of such as Aaron Miller, William Scearcy, Robt. Blacker, William Webb
and Richard Quinton, most of whom had come over from the Richland
settlement. on the night of May 1st, while at least one of them, Mr.
Scearcy, who had a good many things to move, and to be sure that he
would be in time had started a day or two beforehand. Settlements still
further west were made the same day that legal possession was given.
Among some of these settlers we mention the names of William Hutton, G.
W. Hayes, Christopher M. Wood, and a Mr. McNutt, who was the first
white man buried in that section. Still further west, at a later
period, claims were taken and settlements made by D. P. Helm and J. W.
Among the first settlers in these neighborhoods south of the river,
there was manifested a spirit of enterprise and a desire for the
establishment of all branches of industry, as well as the foundation
and maintenance of religious and educational institutions.
We have already spoken of the mill erected by Mr. Wimer, near the forks
of the river, and completed in February, 1843. Farther west, some time
afterward, Cornelius Hurley and Benjamin Hollingsworth erected a
flouring mill. It was started with one run of burrs, in the spring of
1846, and is now known as the old “Clapboard Mill.” A tannery was
erected, in 1845, by R. B. Whitted. The first mercantile enterprise
started was in Richland, some time in 1843, by L. J. Smith, the
merchandise consisting of groceries and liquors. The first dry goods
store was opened by Beriah Haworth, in the year 1844; followed by
William A. Jordan, who established a dry goods and grocery store the
following year. Mr. Williams was the first postmaster, followed by
William Tingle, who, it seems, was a doctor, and the first one to
locate in the county. He—that is, the doctor—was followed by Drs.
Jones, Fidler, Efner, etc. Farther west, in 1852, a post-office was
established by the name of Olean. It was kept at the house of Samuel
Bowman, who was the first postmaster. Previous to this time, the
nearest post-office was at Richland, or Fairfield. The office of Olean
was removed to Ioka six years later. As is the case of other times and
other places, schools and churches followed, but in a different order
from that in which we find them elsewhere. It is usual for schoolhouses
to be erected first, and here the people meet for public worship until
they are able to erect church buildings. The early settlers in the
neighborhoods now referred to established their church buildings and
organized churches before they built school-houses and organized
schools. “For several years the schools were taught in the houses of
public worship, or in private dwellings,” is the account which the
chronicler gives of early school matters in those parts. In 1851 John
Davis erected a school building in Richland, which was known by the
name of “The Seminary.” Zachariah Trueblood and John Callet taught the
first school in this building. Since then “The Seminary” has had quite
a career of usefulness, to which we allude more fully further on. In
the Rock creek neighborhood, the first school taught was by a teacher
of the name of Brown, in a cabin near where John Dare afterward
resided. As we shall refer to church buildings and church organizations
at length under a special topic, suffice it to say here that churches
were erected as early as 1848, and organizations were formed long
before that time. Among the early pioneer preachers we mention the
names of Andrew P. Tannehill, Elder Kirkpatrick, Elder Gilmore, and
North of the river we find that quite a settlement had been formed
prior to May 1, 1843; after that date settlements spread rapidly north
and west. In taking up these claims, some very exciting contests took
place between parties whose rights to the same claims interfered. We
give the following account of one of the most exciting incidents
growing out of one of these contests:
A valuable water-power had been found on the Indian side of the line,
on North Skunk river, about two miles above its mouth. The settlers
observed this, and two of them, each having his adherents, intended to
claim and occupy it as soon as they could be entitled to cross over
into the new territory. One of these men, L. B. Holmes, as early as
February, 1843, built a cabin at the mill-site and moved into it with
his family, although the whites were not legally entitled to settle
before the first day of May: The other party, composed of the Messrs.
Hendersons, arrived on the ground at dark on the evening of April 30th,
and proceeded without delay to smoke out Mr. Holmes. This resulted in
the burning of the cabin. Mr. Holmes, then, apparently defenseless with
his family, suggested that they should all wait till morning, and then
decide who should hold the claim, the other party agreeing to wait till
midnight. After that hour, the first claim made was the legal one,
according to the rules of the settlers, and the other party, finding
that they had force enough to keep Mr. Holmes a prisoner and make the
claim too, agreed to an armistice for a few hours. They were totally
unaware that Mr. Holmes had a choice squad of friends concealed, who
were quietly noting all that was being done. His direction to these men
before night was: “Keep quiet till twelve o’clock; after that make the
claim as soon as possible. If you are pushed for time, close your lines
inside of theirs and make the claim good if you don't get more than ten
At 12 o'clock, the Henderson party started with their torches, leaving
a guard with Mr. Holmes. The party, having the advantage of the lights,
kept ahead, and by a signal agreed upon announced that they had
surrounded the claim. Mr. Holmes cried out, “Boys, have you closed your
lines?” “We have,” was responded with a whoop, and the new party now
made their first appearance. The guard lost no time in informing his
comrades, who returned without so much as closing their lines, saying
they were resolved to have the claim. Mr. Holmes proposed to settle the
dispute by paying or receiving $280, which the other party agreed to
take and quit-claim the premises. In the fall of the same year Mr.
Holmes sold the property to Mr. Cooley. Mr. Cooley put up a dwelling
house and mill, surveyed lots and called the place Rochester. In the
spring of 1845 Rochester contained the families of Cooley, A. H.
Haskell, and Charles Frisbie.
Frisbie was from the town of Richland, and brought with him an old
bachelor by the name of L. J. Smith, who sold whisky and tobacco. The
lands were not yet in market but were subject to preemption, and Smith
and Frisbie thought to make a good thing of it by preempting the mill
tract, as they resided on it, and which they actually did. Information
of this fact was soon received from Fairfield, and the country for
miles around turned out to have Cooley reinstated in his title to the
claim. Smith and Frisbie fled to Richland, where the company forthwith
marched. On hearing of their approach, Smith took his gun and made for
the brush. The company soon surrounded the spot. Smith was induced to
surrender, and, with Frisbie, was escorted by the company back to the
mill. On the route, Frisbie complained of feeling faint and wanted to
get off his horse, but the company only regarded it as a ruse to get
away, when Holmes, upon looking closely, saw blood on his clothes and
inquired, “why, Frisbie, have you stabbed yourself?” “Yes,” said
Frisbie, “and a mortal wound, too; and I am dying a perjured man.”The
company came to a halt. The wound was examined and found to be a
dangerous thrust in the side, near the region of the heart; it was
dressed as well as the circumstances would permit, and the wounded man
made a full statement of the villiany by which he and Smith had
preempted the mill. His knife was then taken from him, and a litter was
constructed, on which he was carried to the mill. Upon arriving there,
Mr. Holmes, who had been selected as captain, addressing Frisbie, said:
“Mr. Frisbie, your guilty conscience has prompted you to an act quite
as severe as the committee had intended to inflict upon you. Should you
survive the effects of your self-inflicted wound, you are expected. to
leave the territory within three days.”
Then, turning to Mr. Smith, Holmes continued in the blandest manner:
“Now, Mr. Smith, be good enough to take off your hat.” Smith complied.
“Now, Mr. Smith, be good enough to take off your coat.” Smith again
“Now, Mr. Smith, take off your shirt.”
Mr. Smith was good enough to do this also without hesitation. He was
then informed that he could retain his pantaloons if he desired to do
“Now,” continued Mr. Holmes, “Mr. Smith, we have a duty to perform and
I want you to act the man while Mr. Goodheart is discharging his duty.
Mr. Goodheart, will you be good enough now to invest Mr. Smith with the
regalia of his office?”
Whereupon Mr. Goodheart emptied about half the contents of a bucket of
tar over the defenceless [sic] head, shoulders and arms of Smith. A
feather pillow which had been provided was then opened and the contents
placed in profusion over Smith, after which the remainder of the tar
was applied over the feathers, when he was informed that he was at
liberty to leave the territory as soon as Frisbie, but advised not to
take Frisbie's route to the next world until he should be better
Smith then thanked the company from the bottom of his heart; was as
polite as possible for a man in his garb, and said that he had expected
to be burned alive; that in the “multiplicity of business” he had got
into this unjust speculation, and now politely backed out. It is not
known what became of Smith. Frisbie died some two years later, in
Missouri, from the effects of his wound. It may be added that Frisbie
also expected nothing less than being hung or tortured to death by the
company, the fear of which led him to attempt suicide.
We are next led to consider the early settlement of the country lying
between the two forks of Skunk river. In this section the primitive
settlements were made by Obadiah Tharp, John W. Snelson, Presley
Doggett, Wm. Trueblood, James Robinson; B. F. Chastain, William McGrew,
James M. Mitts, Jesse B. Mitts, George Wimer, J. B. Whisler, Amos
Hollowway, David Stout, and J. G. Dement. Farther west, a settlement
was made on the 3d day of May, 1843, in what has always been known as
the McNabb neighborhood.
Mr. Snelson located on a claim which afterward became the home of
Corbin Utterbach. For some time Mr. Snelson maintained a ferry across
North Skunk at that point. A cabin was erected here, where Mr. J. B.
Whisler commenced selling goods in 1844. Mr. Holloway was known as the
great “bee hunter.” We are indebted to Mr. S. A. James for the
following account of this pioneer:
“Wild bees at that time were plenty, and were generally found in the
trunk or limb of a tree, twenty, and sometimes thirty, feet from the
ground. Mr. Holloway would start out with a yoke of oxen, a wagon, two,
or three empty barrels, provisions and conveniences for camping. He
would camp out at night, and would generally be gone from three to four
weeks on one expedition. At the end of that time he would usually
return with his barrels full of a delicious sweet which no Yankee
patent receipt has yet been able to equal. Whether any philosopher ever
contemplated a barrel of honey with other than gustative reflections we
are unable to say; our own reflections upon an ox load of this
commodity was that the million little laborers whose industry had
gathered the store, and then had their homes despoiled and robbed, were
in no worse condition than many of our fellow-beings in despotic
countries, whose labors enrich the rulers and whose sting is only felt
when too closely pressed, but whose minds remain ignorant of their true
remedy. The process of finding a bee-tree was to place a small vessel,
with some substance which emitted a sweet odor, near the forest. A few
bees finding this would sip satisfaction, and then invariably make a
'bee-line', or straight fly, to their tree of deposit. At this point
consisted the greatest skill of the hunter, and it grew into a settled
quotation that Holloway 'could see a bee plumb a mile.' When the
bee-tree was found, it was felled to the ground and the bees driven
away from the honey by fumes of brimstone.”
J. B. Whisler afterward removed to the town of Lancaster, where he sold
goods, and at his mills, four miles west of the town. Although the
river has since swept away nearly all the improvements, the site
continues to be known as the “Old Whisler Mill.” He was a persevering
man at whatever he engaged, possessed a large amount of patience and
good humor, and made fast friends of all his acquaintances. His
business prospered and enabled him to assist many persons in securing
their homes. He sold the settlers Mexican bounty warrants on time,
making it advantageous to both parties. The settler who could not
secure a sufficient amount of money to “enter” his claim, and many
could not, were at any time liable to be entered out by some speculator
in warrants, who could snap his finger at club laws and remain beyond
the jurisdiction of Judge Lynch. Scores of worthy settlers, in the
absence of a homestead law, thus secured their lands and continued to
enjoy their homes in prosperity. On coming to the county, he was
supposed to be an unmarried man, although he never alluded to his
domestic affairs. Some five years after settling, he was married to a
lady of the neighborhood, with whom he lived happily till his death,
which occurred in 1852. Some time after the death of Mr. Whisler, a
woman from Pennsylvania appeared in the county, who claimed to be his
wife, and, moreover, came prepared with evidence to prove the relation.
She instituted suit for the possession of Mr. Whisler's estate, which,
through the industry and business sagacity of that gentleman, had grown
to be very valuable. The courts decided that the Pennsylvania lady was
the rightful wife and heir to the property, the second wife receiving
but common wages during the time she had lived with the deceased, which
extended through a period of about five years and amounted to about
$1,000. While living with his second wife, there was born to Mr.
Whisler one child, a daughter, who is married and living at this time
in the county. Mrs. Whisler was married a second time and is now living
in the county.
Among the first settlers in the McNabb neighborhood were A. J. McNabb
and T. J. Hicklin. The former located on section 2 and the latter on
section 3. McNabb plowed the first furrow in that neighborhood and
planted potatoes. He still lives on his first claim.
On the 7th day of May, 1843, Maxon Randall located a claim, where he
resided until recently, when he removed to the county seat. Mr. Randall
describes the first house he lived in as a cabin one and a half stories
high, size 16x20, built of round logs; puncheon floors, covered with
clapboards; containing two rooms, one below, and one above, to which
they ascended by means of a ladder. Mr. Randall says that in early days
they were very much troubled with wolves. He and his neighbor, McNabb,
bought traps, but did not succeed in capturing many. Finally they
bought a bottle of strychnine and prepared a repast for the intruders.
The next morning Mr. Randall says there were four dead wolves in sight
of his sheep pen and afterward found seventeen more. He and Mr. McNab
exterminated in this way over one hundred of the wolves, and after that
were troubled no more. In the spring of 1844 Jacob Kansler began the
erection of a saw and grist-mill on North Skunk, west of range 12. The
people erected a school-house in this neighborhood the same year. The
same year John Hasty, John Scott and E. Sampson located claims in this
neighborhood, the latter being the father of the Hon. E. S. Sampson,
who for two terms represented this district in Congress.
The first marriage solemnized in this neighborhood was that of Robt.
Mann to Miss L. Pence, by John Ellis, Esq. The license was obtained at
Washington, Iowa, This marriage was soon followed by three or four
others in quick succession. Mr. Thos. J. Hicklin was chosen to be the
father of, and to provide food and clothing for, the first child born
in that locality.
Gen. James A. Williamson, at present Commissioner of the General Land
Office, at Washington, D. C., was one of the early settlers of the
McNabb neighborhood. After an absence of twenty-three years he returned
to deliver an address before the annual meeting of the Old Settlers'
Association. We take the liberty of quoting liberally from such parts
of the address as refer to the early settement [sic] of the country:
“After a long and wearisome march from the central portion of the State
of Indiana, keeping time to the slow tread of the gentle, patient ox
team, which it had been my business to guide and goad through the bad
roads of the Hoosier State, and the almost trackless prairies of
Illinois and Eastern Iowa, you may imagine with what feelings of
delight I laid down the implement of my continuous warfare with the
noble bovines which had drawn that rare specimen of the architecture of
North Carolina known in the West at that time as a prairie schooner (a
very large projecting top wagon), upon my arrival in what was then
known as the McNabb settlement—since more familiarly known to old
settlers as 'Zion's Lane,' owing, as I suppose, to the piety of us
early settlers in that vicinity.
“Some small portion of the southeastern part of the county was embraced
in what was then known as the ' Old Purchase,' and save in that part
there was but little or no settlement in the county made prior to the
“I think the first crops grown in Warren township, and perhaps in all
other parts of the county, except the part embraced in the old
purchase, were planted in 1844. The first I saw was in 1845. During
that year, before the maturity of the crops, many had the misfortune of
going hungry to bed, contenting ourselves with dreams of the fullness
and fatness which should follow the harvest.
“At the appointed time the harvest came, and with it a corporeal
increase in the physique of most of the old settlers with whom I was
then acquainted. The dreams of the harvest had not been as potent in
producing muscle, tissue and avoirdupois as its realization.
“I see many of my friends here to-day who were then my nearest
neighbors. You will not, perhaps, give full faith and credit to the
statement that I feel, for truth's sake, compelled to make concerning
them. These persons were so slender as to make them almost incapable of
casting shadows, and they tightened their girdles another hole with the
buckles instead of taking their dinners until after their early
potatoes and green corn were sufficiently matured for food.
“In the fall of that year when our little 'sod crops' had ripened,
millions of prairie chickens came to feed upon them. This was
providential, though it threatened destruction of our crops, for we
shot and trapped them by thousands, thus supplementing our bill of fare
with that most excellent game. The quails and the manna were not more
needed and appreciated by the Hebrew hosts who followed Moses in his
slow and circuitous marches beyond the Red Sea than were the corn bread
and grouse to the sturdy but hungry pilgrims who spent the winter of
1845 in this now most rich, productive and beautiful country. The early
settlers of this county were strong, sturdy and determined men and
women, otherwise they would not have been here in those early days.
“Having heard of this fair land of promise while cultivating the poorer
soil of their native States, they, with the energy and bravery so
characteristic of their natures, and so necessary to the settlement and
development of a new country, resolved upon the trans-Mississippi
journey of many hundreds of weary miles of overland travel. Upon
arriving at their points of destination, most of those hardy and
determined men found themselves possessed of little or nothing except
their strong arms and brave hearts—their wives and little ones—a small
quantity of household furniture and wearing apparel, a few rude farming
implements with which they tilled the soil in States farther east,
which were wholly unadapted to the cultivation of the soil of Iowa.
“I have seen many men on their arrival in this county drive their teams
upon the places which were to be the sites of their dwelling houses and
their future homes, descend from their wagons and tenderly assist, with
their strong arms, their wearied wives and children to the ground which
they hoped to some day call their own.
“After arriving at their destination, the first thing to be done was to
'stake off' a claim of 160 acres, which each head of a family might
hold under the local 'claim laws' then or thereafter to be made, and in
addition to this, a small timber lot, not exceeding forty acres, might
be taken and held. This being done, our hardy pioneers immediately set
about building a log house, which was the only kind possible, as there
were no saw-mills or lumber within reach. If two or three or more
families, as was often the case, moved in company and made their claims
adjoining, they would unite their force and build one house, which
would serve for a time as a home for all.
“In the meantime, while the house was building, the good, patient and
loving wives—God bless them—had been cooking their frugal meals by the
fires built upon the ground, and in unpacking and airing their goods,
washing and mending the clothing, and preparing generally for the grand
good time which they were to have on the occasion of the 'house
warming', which was to take place as soon as the mansion of one room,
not more than 16 x 16 feet, should be completed.
“It would be difficult to convince the younger children and later
generations of those same early settlers how much comfort and happiness
was found in one of those humble dwellings, which first suggested the
feeling of home and ownership to their fathers and mothers, who had
borne the hardships and privations of the long move or march into the
Territory, and had finally succeeded in getting a home, however humble,
which they could call their own.
“The settler who, by priority of a few weeks in his settlement, had
succeeded in getting his house built, stood upon his threshold, his
face beaming with joy and his heart swelling with pride as he welcomed
the emigrant, who, a few days or weeks later came along in search of a
location, into his hospitable mansion, assuring him that there was room
and plenty for all. I shall never cease to be astonished when I reflect
upon the holding capacity of some of those log cabins which were built
by the first settlers of this county. It was no uncommon thing for four
or five families to occupy for a time a room not more than 16 or 18
“The hospitality of the settlers in those early days knew no bounds; a
house was never full, and a larder never empty. As long as it contained
one morsel of food, so long would the generous hearted housewife set it
before the home or claim hunter, and bid him eat, without a thought of
reward or compensation. If such boundless hospitality existed to-day,
when the people are so able to entertain and to give, I fear that it
would have at least one bad result, viz.: that of increasing the number
“The difficulties of settling any portion of the territory of the
United States at the present day are nothing when compared with those
of settling this county thirty-five years ago. Then the nearest
railroad was many hundreds of miles away; but little, if any, was then
built west of the State of Ohio. Now, railroads, under the munificent
policy of the general government in aiding in their construction, are
built in advance of the settlement, so there is, in reality, no
frontier for the agricultural settler; no place is so far away from
another as Iowa was from the Ohio river in those days. Then there were
no telegraph wires, no stage coaches, no lines or means of public
conveyance anywhere within hundreds of miles, save an occasional
steamer upon the Mississippi river, almost a hundred miles distant from
our settlement. The transportation of mails was slow, and for many
years all we received was carried from or near the Mississippi river on
horseback. The postage was twenty-five cents on a single letter, and we
had no money with which to pay it. Now all these conditions are
changed. All the appliances and results of a high civilization are
found almost equally in all parts of the country, North and West.
“The improved plows, mowers, reapers, and indeed all other improved
machinery, precede the agricultural settler to his new home.
“It is hard to find a place where a daily mail is not received; letter
postage is only one-eighth now of what it was then. I well remember the
first letter which I received through the Sigourney post-office. It was
in the year 1845. My friend, S. A. James, was postmaster, or, if not,
he was acting for that official. I heard that there was a letter in the
post-office for rne, and knowing that it would require twenty-five
cents to pay the postage, the problem of getting that sum of money
taxed my energy and financial ability to the utmost for many days. None
of my neighbors were in such affluent circumstances as to be able to
'do my paper' for that sum. Suspecting that the letter might be from my
little sweetheart, from whom I had reluctantly parted some time before,
I was exceedingly anxious to break the wafer seal of that letter, but
the ransom for it I could not procure, and I was about despairing of
being able to pay the postage, when I heard of a kind-hearted man
(since dead, peace to his ashes), living in the western part of the
county, some miles from where I did, who was reported to have received
twenty-five dollars some time before from the East. It was also alleged
that he had loaned the sum of twenty-five cents to each of several
persons in the McNabb settlement with which to pay postage. This news
gave me new hope and courage. I started early one morning to find the
capitalist, and negotiate with him for the loan of 'a quarter, which,
with some difficulty, I accomplished; and then, with hastening steps
and palpitating heart, walked to Sigourney and procured the letter, and
returned home the same day, after a walk of something over twenty
miles. Whether that letter was from my sweetheart or not, and what she
said if it was from her, I will never tell.
“Then the public lands were offered for sale to the highest bidder soon
after the same were surveyed, and the settler had no right or advantage
over the speculator except such as was given him by the pre-emption
laws of that time, and the still more effective claim laws; framed and
adopted by the settlers themselves for their mutual protection. An
infraction of these claim laws by speculators was sometimes punished by
a well-aimed shot from the rifle of some one of the law-makers.
“Now, in nearly all parts of the country, the public lands are withheld
from market for actual settlement under the homestead and pre-emption
laws. The lands are now freely given to any citizen, or to any person
who has declared his intention to become such if he will only settle
upon and cultivate the same for a period of five years. If the
homestead law of the present time had been in force in Iowa in 1843,
and since, it is safe to say that this State would contain one million
of inhabitants more than it does to-day.
“Only think of the Herculean task of earning and saving two hundred
dollars, with which to pay for the 160 acres of land in those days,
when it is remembered with what difficulty twenty-five cents was
procured by an enterprising young man to pay the postage on a single
letter. No more equitable thing could be done by the general government
than to restore every dollar that was paid for land actually settled
upon and cultivated by the early settlers in this and other
Northwestern States and Territories”, and if ever I am in a position
where my voice will be potential in urging this measure, I shall not
fail to do it. There would be far more justice in doing that than in
taking money out of the treasury to pay for losses incurred by citizens
of the Southern States during the late war for the preservation of the
“In those early days when the farms were to be broken or plowed for the
first time, and the rails were to be made and hauled from the timber
land to fence them, the manual labor necessary to do this was a sort of
legal-tender for nearly all kinds of indebtedness. The doctor who
wanted to make a farm would give his physic when you were sick, and you
might make fence rails for him when you regained your health and
strength, if you were so fortunate. The manufacture of about one
hundred fence rails, or the cutting of one cord of wood, would pay for
one small portion of jalap, and calomel, which was the standard remedy
in those good old times of allopathic practice, before President
Lincoln had been interviewed and expressed his terse opinion as to the
virtue and efficacy of homoepathic system of medical practice. The
settler who came the year before would give to the settler who came the
year after one bushel of corn for making one hundred fence rails, or
for one day's work at other labor, which was considered an equivalent
and legal-tender therefor. The shoemaker and blacksmith of the village
or settlement would perform labor of their kind, and take in exchange
for it the less skilled labor of the rail-splitter or the wood-chopper.
“I know how this was by experience, having bartered in the exchange of
the above named commodities, exchanging as I did the unskilled for the
skilled article, submitting to an immense discount on what I had to
“Within two miles and less of the place where we are now
many weary days and months when I was a boy, and not a very strong one,
I wielded the ax, the maul and the mattock, for more than ten hours a
day, receiving therefor the liberal wages of ten dollars a month in
'store pay' —this I did when the mercury ranged from twenty degrees
below zero in January to ninety above in July. I trust that your
present able representative in congress, who has won renown on the
battle field, who has worn with honor the judicial ermine, and won an
enviable reputation in the halls of Congress will not be offended with
me for stating in this public manner that I knew him when he was
engaged in the same kind of labor that fell to my lot, and that he
performed them well.
“I do not mention this in the belief that it will ever materially aid
either of us in being President, as the same kind of labor, perhaps,
did the most illustrious man of modern times, in procuring that office.
I only mention it to show that honest toil of the rudest and hardest
kind will not prevent a man from rising to an equality with those who
were more favored with fortune in early life.
“In those days, as is well known, and perhaps regretfully remembered by
us old settlers, we had absolutely no money, and whatever could not be
procured for labor in the first year or two, and after that for several
years, for labor and farm products, could not be procured at all.
People were educated to this view of life and its realization. This was
not so great a calamity as it may now appear to the young, or to those
who cannot realize the situation in consequence of not having been
forced to learn it, as we were.
“The daily labor of a strong man was rated at and paid for with a
commodity or produce which the owner would willingly sell for from
twenty-five to fifty cents in cash. The price of all kinds of
merchandise was exceedingly high as compared with the price at the
present day; the purchasing power of a dollar, which cost at the very
least, two days of labor, was not then nearly so great as the
purchasing power of a dollar now, which does not cost more than one day
of labor and often not so much as that.
“It would be hard to deduce from the foregoing statement of facts a
reason why in those early days of hard times and cheap labor in the
history of our old county, and indeed of the territory and State, why
every man seemed intent upon laboring for himself or for others—intent
upon earning by honest industry all that he desired or expected to
enjoy or call his own, why there were no vagabond tramps endangering
the lives and property of honest men who had acquired their substance
by faithful honest toil, or why the reverse of all this is the true
situation of the case to-day, not only in this country and in this
State, but throughout our whole common country.
“I have dwelt sufficiently long upon what we suffered, and think it but
right that some reference should be made to the joys which come as a
compensation for the suffering and self denial.
“The kind and generous soil which you secured by being here at an early
day has yielded you rich rewards for the labor bestowed. You have lived
in affluence and comfort, rearing healthful, stalwart children, deeply
imbuing them with a love of freedom, home and country, educating them
under the auspices of the noblest free school system ever inaugurated
and maintained by man. These results achieved, life may be said to have
been well spent and rewarded.
“Many of you who were the first to settle in this county as young
married men and women, are still young and strong, with much yet to be
enjoyed. Many who started in the race with you have fallen; some who
have gone lived to see the fruition of their hopes; others fell early
in the struggle with the hard life of the pioneer. I remember, with
pleasure for having known them, and with deep regret for their loss,
many settlers who have passed over; a few of whom I shall name in the
order in which their names occur to me:
“J. B. Whisler, J. G. Crocker, P. B. Shawhan, George Shawhan, Judge
Pinkerton (and I think all of his family), Wm. A. Jordan, Joseph Knox,
Samuel Johnston, Jacob Goodheart, Thomas Hendryx, Ezekiel Sampson,
James L. Hogin, J. T. Axtell, Judge Baker, William Landers, B. S.
McCoy, John C. McNabb, Sanford Leathers, Austin Jacobs, Wm. Jacobs, and
last but not least, the gallant General Marcellus M. Crocker—
'He was a man, take him all in all,
We shall not look upon his like again.'
“Many of you remember the fact, if not the circumstances, connected
with the warm and almost more than brotherly friendship between Gen'l
Crocker and myself. We became acquainted when we were boys, and that
friendship grew and strengthened with increasing years, until the end
of his life. The last letter I ever received from him, written but a
short time before his death, and when he knew that his life was fast
drawing to a close, was one in which he poured out his soul to me in
such words as he only, of all the men I ever knew, could utter,
referring to the friendship which was the result of our mutual
struggles in early life to maintain our lives and those dependent upon
us. His great indomitable soul was called from earth all to [sic] soon.
“I hope I may be pardoned, and not thought vain or immodest, when I
refer to the fact that of the general officers in the late war who
achieved distinction, and whose acts during the war became a part of
the history of the Republic, no less than three were pioneer settlers
in this county, though all had removed from the county before the war
commenced. My friend General Crocker, was one of the number, and I do
hope and believe that the old settlers of Keokuk county still cherish
and love his memory, and feel a just pride in the fact that his boyhood
days, and a part of the days of his early manhood were spent among you.
“I have not referred to the record of Keokuk county soldiers during the
late struggle for the nation's life. I have not had at my command the
roll of honor, and cannot remember the history of many of the brave men
who offered their lives that the Union might live, yet I should not
hesitate to assert before all the world that the soldiers whom this
county sent to the army were loyal, brave and fearless, and helped to
create and fully sustain the high reputation borne by Iowa soldiers
throughout the Republic. I can at this moment only recall the history
of one private soldier of the county who fell in the late war. When I
was myself a boy, a very young man, I knew a fair young boy, many years
my junior. I loved this beautiful boy for his intelligence and
gentleness. Years rolled by; I grew into manhood and went away from
among you while he was still a young boy of great promise. The cruel,
wicked war came on, and I heard that my young friend had enlisted.
Later on I learned the number of his regiment, and also in what portion
of the army it was serving. Bearing this in mind, I visited his brigade
commander, on the first opportunity, and asked him to send for the
young soldier. That gallant, great hearted soldier, General Wm. W.
Belknap, told me, while tears streamed from his eyes, that I was too
late. He told me that my gallant young friend had fought his last
battle—had laid down his young life for the salvation of the
nation—that he had fallen in the face of the enemy on Kenesaw's rugged
embattled front. That young hero was Robert Lowe. He also stated, if I
remember aright, that my young friend had been appointed a cadet at
West Point, and was to have left in a few days for that place.”
Prior to the summer of 1843 very little progress had been made in the
settlement of the country west and north of North Skunk river. It was
at this time there appeared in this part of the county a man, who,
probably more than any other, contributed to the future prosperity,
development and good name of the county. Energetic in manner, upright
of character, prompt and accurate in business matters, his fellow
citizens long and often honored him with the most important office in
the county. His name is S. A. James. We have frequently referred to him
as authority heretofore, and shall hereafter refer to him possibly
still more frequently. There is nothing which we could say as
appropriate and relevant, at this period of the history of the county,
as the following so aptly said in this gentleman's, own language.
“About the first of June, 1843, I left the town of Washington, Iowa,
intending to make a claim in Keokuk county. I went in the company of
Arora Clemons and family, who had a yoke of oxen and lumber wagon, with
which they hauled some provisions and a very small amount of household
plunder. Mr. Clemons had, before that time, been up to Keokuk county,
made him a claim, and had built on it a small log cabin at the grove on
the present (1879) John Holzworth farm, about a mile north of Harper.
Staying with Mr. Clemons the first night, at his cabin, I set out early
next morning to find a couple of friends who were improving a claim,
lately known as the Jack Lightfoot farm, but now owned by Mr. Detchon
and Mr. Renfro, about three miles northwest of Sigourney.
At this time there was not, besides Mr. Clemons, a single inhabitant in
the northeast fourth of the county. Taking the landmarks with which I
had been furnished, I struck out, as stated, to find my two friends.
But I bore off too much southwest, crossed over the prairie where
Sigourney now stands, and first learned I was too far south by finding
one Robert Linder and some others cutting logs for a cabin where Mr.
John M. Brunt now lives. They could give me no tidings or directions to
find my friends, and I commenced to retrace my steps. At the close of
the day I found myself alone in the small elm grove where Joel Long now
resides, about three miles northeast of Sigourney, and finding a bark
cover beside a large log, where some one had previously camped, I
determined to make a night of it there, which I did, after making
supper on two or three cold biscuit I had with me.
“The next morning when I awoke at sunrise, my ears were greeted with
the songs of birds, and the calls of numerous turkeys, not fifty yards
from me. I had no gun, or any arms larger than a penknife, and,
perforce, I stood and gazed at the large gobblers as they strutted by.
“I then struck northward, visiting every grove, to find some settler.
In this way I continued my search till I came to the timber of South
English river, on the outskirts of which was a pretty well beaten road,
made by the bee hunters. I was now satisfied I could not find my
friends without a better direction and equipment, so I went down this
bee hunters' road till I came in sight of the upper timber of Crooked
creek, for which I aimed, and spent my third night out from Washington
at David Delong's, some eight or nine miles northwest of that town.
“The next day I returned to Washington, rested a day or two, obtained
better directions, a rifle, an ax, a pint of salt, a few more biscuit,
and again started out in search of my two Keokuk county friends. It had
been, meantime, raining very much, and in many places the prairie was
three to six inches deep in water, especially on the bottoms. I found
my ax of service in crossing small streams, by felling saplings, and
finally made my destination about dark, all 0. K, but oh! so tired.
“I soon after made me a claim four miles north of Sigourney (where
Leander Delong now lives), and after assisting my friends in their
improvements for a month or two, we all returned to Washington to spend
the winter. On this return trip we found a Mr. Schnakenberg had settled
on German creek. We reached his cabin at dark. The family were about to
take mush and milk for ther [sic] supper, but gave us the first table.
I know the family must have thought our stomachs were made of India
rubber. We were so hungry, and it was so palatable! The next day we got
to Washington. And this was my first trip to Keokuk county.”
Richard Schnakenberg, mentioned in the foregoing sketch, together with
five or six others, had formed the first settlement in that
neighborhood, May 1, 1843. Among others who came about this time, or
shortly afterward, were Casper Klett and John Beinhart, who are both
now dead, the latter dying shortly after arriving. These gentlemen, as
well as a large majority of the people who afterward settled in that
neighborhood, were Germans, and upon the organization of the county,
the township was called German from that fact. The people in that
settlement, have always been noted for their industry and thrift, and
have fully contributed their share toward the development of the
material resources of the county.
Shortly after locating upon his claim, Mr. Schnakenberg, in company
with an old gentlemen by the name of Seaba, visited the place where
Sigourney is now located. The latter was by no means enthusiastic over
the prospects of the present county-seat, and remarked that there never
could be any market here, and that he would return to Cincinnati and
make a living by doing “days' work.” Mr. Seaba, however, did not go
back to Cincinnati, but settled down and lived long enough in the
county to surround himself with all the comforts of life, and died at a
very advanced age, respected by all his neighbors as one of the most
intelligent and enterprising citizens of German township. Mr. Klett was
always noted for his liberality. It is said that he would divide his
last pancake with a neighbor, would lend anything he had, and was very
accommodating in various ways. He did a great deal of freighting with
horses and oxen to and from Keokuk and Burlington. On one of these
trips the roads were so bad that it took two days to go four miles. He
always kept the best of horses, and plenty of them, and when their
[sic] was a boiler or anything particularly heavy to move, Mr. Klett
was generally called on to perform the work.
Farther west, in the neighborhood of what was destined to become the
metropolis of the county, and the center of trade, there had been very
little done in the way of settlement as early as the summer of 1844.
About this time, S. A. James, who had recently been appointed county
clerk, came into this neighborhood looking for the county-seat, which
had just been located. Upon reaching the place he found a stout pole
planted in the ground, the stake of the commissioners, but nothing else
to disturb the ramblings of the grey wolf or the cooings of the wild
grouse. The eye swept the circle of vision to rest on one single
habitation, that of Jacob Shaver, who had located in the grove
southwest, now known as “Skillman's Grove.” Mr. Shaver had made his
claim and erected his cabin the previous season, and early that spring
had moved his family upon the premises. William Shaver, John Shaver and
Robt. Linder located about the same time, one mile southwest of Jacob
Shaver. This constituted the whole of the settlement in the
neighborhood of the present county-seat. East, west, and north, the
whole county for miles lay unclaimed, and remained so for some time.
Upon arriving at the seat of justice, Mr. James forthwith set to work
erecting a cabin. This cabin was erected in short order. Considering
the speed with which this builing [sic] was erected, the total absence
of all building material and the complicated plans which necessarily
entered into the erection of a building which was to subserve such a
variety of purposes, we hesitate not in saying that one would search in
vain to find it surpassed in the whole annals of public improvements.
This remarkable edifice was 12x16, floored with puncheons and covered
with clapboards put on with nails purchased in Washington. Here were
the county offices and the public records; the judge's room and the
jury-room; indictments filed and suits tried; the county's cash hoarded
and its criminals incarcerated; here, also, the county officials ate,
lodged and slept.
Later in the fall another cabin was erected, and the following spring
the population was augmented by the arrival of a lawyer by the name of
Blair, who for a while had a monopoly of the criminal as well as the
civil business in the courts of the county. Mr. Blair was soon followed
by a representative of the medical profession, Dr. B. F. Weeks, who was
succeeded by Dr. E. H. Skillman, who for several years was the only
physician in that part of the country, his professional visits leading
him to the various settlements scattered around throughout the county.
During this time there were the following arrivals: G. B. Cook, A.
Covey, Joseph Adams, E. Shugart, Wm. Basey, James Shields, Josiah
Crawford, W. Hulbert and B. F. Edwards. The nearest settlements were as
follows: The Rosecrans neighborhoood [sic], three miles northwest; the
German creek neighborhood, six miles east, and the Smith settlement on
Smith creek, five miles west.
During this summer James Shields erected a cabin and stood behind a
rough counter offering groceries for sale. Mr. Crawford reared a pole
shanty or house, and placed therein a very fair law library. It was
probably the best the county afforded, and Mr. Crawford was studying
law. At the July term of the District Court, that year, he applied for
license to practice law; the committee reported adversely to his
admission, whereupon he arose and made a speech to the court in which
the bar, and especially the committee, were severely handled: his
practice would not leave them much to do; they were jealous of his
abilities, jealous of his library, and he intended to rise yet head and
shoulders above them, He closed his speech by announcing that he
intended to emigrate from the judicial district, which he accordingly
Schools and churches were not organized till some time later; the first
church, the Methodist, being organized and a building erected the
following year. There was a post-office established, and the first mail
received on the 7th of February, 1845; the mail was carried on
horseback from Washington to Oskaloosa by Mr. J. H. Bragg, the
contractor, once every two weeks. Mr. James was the first postmaster.
This was the only post-office in the whole section of the country at
that time, and as there was but one mail every two weeks, mail day was
a very important occasion.
Before the close of the next year several new business enterprises had
been started. Joseph Knox began to sell dry goods; Martin Grimsley and
J. G. Crocker sold groceries; Joseph Adams started a blacksmith shop,
Rob't Linder a harness shop, Jacob Shaver a cooper shop, and Haskell
& Burgess a shop for manufacturing fanning mills. B. F. Edwards
erected a log building where he displayed quite a creditable assortment
of general merchandise for sale.
At that time there were but seven families residing along English
river. One hot summer day while Edwards was rubbing his hands for a
customer, a man from that part of the country came in and inquired the
price of beeswax. He was informed that he could have twenty-five cents
a pound in trade. He produced a. small quantity tied up in a pocket
handkerchief, which upon being weighed proved to amount to a
half-pound. Upon being asked what he would have for it he surveyed the
shelves for a few minutes in silence and then replied that his wife
would be in town in a few weeks and he believed that he would prefer to
have her “take up the goods.”
The first settlements made in the vicinity of English river were in the
neighborhood of the present site of South English, in 1845. The first
settlers were Jas. Mahaffa, James Thomas and John Houston. Thomas took
a claim on the northwest quarter of section 22; Houston on section 24,
and his place was for many years known as “Houston's Point.” Afterward
came James, Chambers and H. H. Rodman, who located on section 30. John
Duke and John Ballard made settlements farther west. Some later Thomas
Morgan came. Chambers Rodman froze to death some few years after he
located in the county.
Churches were organized in this neighborhood shortly after its
settlement. They were organized in the following order: first came the
Methodist, then the Baptist, Christian and Congregational. The first
school was taught by S. M. Glandon in a school-house which had no
windows in it. The first store was kept by Ethan Post, and it is said
by the old settlers that he could generally be found at his post, fast
Mr. Arora Clemmons, in 1842, took a claim and began a settlement
south‑east of South English, near what is now known as Holsworth's
Grove. Although the land in that vicinity is not excelled by any other
tract in the State for its beauty and the fertility of the soil, on
account of the scarcity of timber it was not settled till some time
after the other parts of the county where timber was more abundant. We
quote from the centennial address delivered at Keota, July 4, 1876, by
Hon. Isaac Farley:
“In fact, our most beautiful prairies were shunned by early settlers.
Inhabitants of to-day whilst contemplating our broad prairies, dotted
with neat, commodious dwellings, barns, orchards and artificial groves,
look back with surprise at the choice of the first settlers. The
uninviting features of our Western prairies remind me of a poem
descriptive of them which I used to read in my boyhood days. The poem
was doubtless written by some New England pedagogue after returning
from a flying visit to some such a country as this was in early days:
“'Oh, lonesome, windy, grassy place,
Where buffalo and snakes prevail;
The first with dreadful looking face,
The last with dreadful sounding tail.
I'd rather live on camel hump
And be a Yankee doodle beggar,
Than where I never see a stump
And shake to death with fever 'n' agr.'”
Fortunately for the settlers of this locality, owing to its high and
dry surface, they were seldom afflicted with malarial diseases and
fever and ague have been almost unknown. In 1843 came J. J. Kreamer and
J. P. Kreamer and settled on Clear creek. This was prior to the time
the land was put into the market, consequently settlers at that time
were called squatters. Six of the first settlers, to-wit.: the
Kreamers, Newton, Gilbert, Keeley and Carris, still live upon the land
they first entered.
Transcribed by Pat Wahl.
A Western Romance
During the winter of
there appeared at Iowa City a stranger who gave his name as Col. Wm.
Johnson, and who was accompanied by a young woman whom he represented
as his daughter, and whom he called Catharine, or, usually, Kit. Both
were of more than ordinary strength of character, and well educated.
Johnson claimed to have been the hero of the Canadian revolt, which
took place in 1838, and was the occasion of considerable diplomatic
correspondence, and came so near causing war between Great Britain and
the United States. The girl, he stated, was the "queen of a thousand
isles," and authentic history so far corroborates his story as to
mention the fact that on the St. Lawrence there was a certain young
woman who gave aid and assistance to the patriots in this border
trouble. Johnson succeeded in cutting quite a figure in Iowa City
during the session of the legislature. He was honored by a seat on the
floor of the house, and was toasted and banqueted by some of the
law-makers of the then State capital. In 1842 Johnson located at the
geographical centre of Buchanan county, where he proposed laying out a
town, and where he expected by his fame and prowess to draw around him
a band of followers, and secure the county-seat. This excited the
jealousy of the first settler of that region, Wm. Bennet, a notorious
character, who had laid out a village where Quasqueton now stands, and
where he hoped to enrich himself by securing the county-seat of the new
county. Bennet gathered a few congenial spirits about him, went over to
Johnson's, loaded up his effects for him, then tied him to a tree and
flogged him, though with what severity is unknown, as accounts differ.
Johnson went to Marion, where he lodged complaints against his
persecutors, and the sheriff of Linn county rode up to Quasqueton to
arrest Bennet. The latter awaited him at his cabin door, armed with his
rifle and a pair of pistols. The sheriff modestly retired and went back
for a posse. Bennet and his companions became convinced that they had
better leave Quasqueton for a while. On their way to a place of escape
they suffered terribly from intense cold. Some of the parties perished,
and others were frozen so as to be mutilated for life. This, of course,
aggravated Bennet still more, and he and Johnson became deadly foes.
Soon after Johnson, loving his popularity, left Buchanan county, got in
with a gang of horse-thieves, and fled to Mahaska county to escape the
law, bringing with him the girl Kit, and another man and woman. Johnson
seemed to have this girl entirely under his control, and in his fits of
passion, it is said, threatened to kill her, in consequence of which
she was in mortal fear of him. Johnson located on Middle Creek, about
eight miles northeast of Oskaloosa, in a grove now owned by James K.
Woods. He there built a shanty. In the spring of '43, a family by the
name of Peck came to a point on Skunk river, about four miles from
Oskaloosa, where Russel Peck, with his son-in-law, Geo. N. Duncan,
built a grist-mill. Johnson and his daughter, so-called, lived for some
time with the Duncans and Pecks. Several times, it is related, during
the time he staid with them, strangers from the north came there and
asked to stay over night. They were kindly treated, lodged, and nothing
charged them. This made Johnson very angry, the reason for which being,
as was afterward learned, that these were of Johnson's enemies in
Buchanan county, who, for some reason, did not get an opportunity to
accomplish their purposes, i. e., revenge on Johnson. During this time
an attachment sprang up between Kit and Job Peck, son of Russel Peck, a
young man of about twenty-one years. Johnson was greatly enraged on
discovering this, and removed to his own cabin above mentioned, taking
the girl with him. Wm. D. Neely was engaged to Peck's sister, Sarah. An
elopement was planned. While Johnson was away one evening, about dusk,
Kit was stolen away, and the two couples started in an easterly
direction. The following day they reached the house of a relative of
Peck's, about four miles from Fairfield, where they were married and
lodged for the night. Upon his return home, Johnson set out in search
for them, came to the house where the fugitives were near one o'clock
at night, entered the house, and, with drawn revolver, dragged Kit from
the bed, compelled her to dress herself, and mount behind him and ride
thus to his home.
The following evening, about seven o'clock, Johnson was shot dead
through a crevice in his cabin, while standing in front of the fire.
Job Peck was arrested on charge of the murder, taken to Washington
county and lodged in jail. His lawyers were J. C. Hall, of Mt.
Pleasant, and Colonel Thompson. These gentlemen, learning that a
warrant was out from the northern part of the State for the arrest of
Kit, as being an accomplice of Johnson, it was arranged that the girl
should be secreted until she could be provided for. This was done, and
a young law-student of Hall's, named Wamsley, was sent with a buggy to
Mahaska county, to the girl's hiding-place. This Wamsley, while fording
the Skunk river, a short distance from Oskaloosa, met a man on
horseback in the midst of the stream. The stranger stated to Wamsley
that he was in search of a girl, giving her description, being the same
one that Wamsley was after. The latter, to throw the officer off of the
track, told him he had seen such a girl in a certain house in the
direction in which he had come. The officer started in pursuit, and
Wamsley proceeded about three miles and a-half to Kit's hiding-place.
She was taken to Burlington, put on a steamboat, and sent by Hall to
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Job Peck was acquitted, having proved an
alibi. Some time after the murder, and during Peck's imprisonment, a
stranger stopped at Duncan's and informed them that his name was
Bennet; that he was one of the men who had stopped with them, and whom
they had so kindly treated; that he and Johnson had been deadly foes.
He told the Duncan's that they need not be alarmed in regard to Job's
acquittal, as he (Bennet) knew Peck was not guilty, and gave the
Duncan's to understand that he knew who was.
If we are correctly informed, and we have good authority, the most
romantic part of this story is yet to come. During the time that he was
imprisoned Peck knew nothing of his wife's whereabouts, nor was he
informed by his lawyer until some months after his release. Finally her
address was given him and he set out for Pittsburgh. There he found her
living with people of the highest respectability, in most elegant
style. Peck himself stated to our informant that the house was
furnished with a grandeur that he had not dreamed of; that his wife was
a fine musician; that she had played for him on a piano in that house,
and that he had these evidences of her accomplishments, which he had
not before conjectured. She was ready to come away with him, did come,
and for several years lived near Oskaloosa with him. Parties now living
remember her well; say that she was a woman of fine education, of
refinement and unblemished character, wrote a beautiful letter, and
gave every evidence of a good "bringing up." No one believes‚€”she
herself denies‚€”that Johnson was her father; but who she was, or who
Johnson was, possibly her husband, certainly her husband's family never
knew. She lived happily with Peck in California, until the latter's
death. She has a noble family, and is again married to a devoted
husband. Her portrait of late years has nothing of the romantic in it,
but every lineament marks her intelligence and happiness. To-day this
"Queen of a Thousand Isles" is queen of a happy household in a far
Since writing the above we have been cited to an article in "Scribner's
Monthly" for April, 1878, entitled "Among the Thousand Islands." From
this article we make the following extracts:
"Of late years perhaps no event caused such a stir of excitement in
this region as the so-called patriot war in 1838, a revolt of certain
Canadians dissatisfied with the government of Sir Francis Bond Head
then Governor-General of Canada, which was joined by a number of
American agitators, ever ripe for any disturbance.
"It was a wild, insane affair altogether, and after some time consumed
in petty threats of attack, finally reached a climax in the burning of
the Canadian steamer, 'Sir Robert Peel,' one of the finest vessels upon
the St. Lawrence. The most prominent actor in this affair was Bill
Johnson‚€”a name familiar to every one around this region‚€”whose
forms a series of romantic adventures, deeds and escapes, followed by
his final capture, which would fill a novel. Indeed, we understand that
a novel has been written by a Canadian Frenchman on this theme, though
we have not had the good fortune to find any one who has read it.
"Johnson was originally a British subject, but turned renegade, serving
as a spy in the war of 1812, in which capacity he is said to have
robbed the mails to gain intelligence. He hated his native country with
all the bitterness which a renegade alone is capable of feeling. He was
one of the earliest agitators upon the American side of the border, and
was the one who instigated the destruction of the 'Peel.' A reward was
offered by the governments of each country for his apprehension, so he
was compelled to take to the islands for safety. Here he continued for
several months, though with numbers of hair-breadth escapes, in which
he was assisted by his daughter, who seems to have been a noble girl.
Many stories are told of remarkable acts performed by him, of his
choking up the inlet of the Lake of the Isle with rocks, so as to
prevent vessels of any size entering that sheet of water; of his having
a skiff in which he could outspeed any ordinary sailing craft, and
which he carried bodily across necks of land when his enemies were in
pursuit of him, and of his hiding in all manner of out-of-the-way
spots, once especially in the Devil's Oven, previously described, to
which his daughter, who alone was in his confidence, disguised as a
boy, carried provisions. He was finally captured and sent to Albany,
where after suffering a slight penalty for his offense, he was
subsequently released, although he was always very careful to keep out
of the clutch of the indignant Canadians."
Transcribed by Pat Wahl.
No doubt the desire for "gold" has been a main-spring of all progress
and exertion in Keokuk county, from the beginning until the present
time, and will so continue unto ages remote. But usually this desire
has been made manifest only in the usual avenues of thrift, industry
On two occasions, however, it has passed the bounds of reason, and
assumed the character of a mania or delusion, which produced nothing
but evil effects. The desire for riches is a benefit only when it comes
like a gentle and steady rain, sinking into the ground and refreshing
the earth; but when like a wild storm, it leaves only wreck and
disaster in its path. Such is the moral easily drawn from the
experience of Keokuk county.
The first gold mania here dates back to the fall of 1849, when stories
first began to spread of the wondrous richness of the placer mines of
California. The excitement grew daily, feeding on the marvelous reports
that came from the Eldorado of the West, until at last nothing was
talked of but the adventures and achievements of the Argonauts of '49.
Instead of dying out, the fever mounted higher and higher. It was too
late that season to attempt to cross the plains, but many of the Keokuk
county people began their preparations for starting early in the coming
spring. The one great subject of discussion about the firesides of the
log-cabins of Keokuk county that winter was the gold of California. At
one time nearly every man in the county was unsettled in mind, and
seriously considering the project of starting for California. The more
hardy and adventurous impatiently awaited the time when they should
abandon the little property and comfortable homes already gained by
honest thrift, and join the wild rush for California as soon as the
weather and grass would permit. Even the most thoughtful and
sober-minded men found it difficult to resist the infection.
Wonderful sights were seen when this great emigration passed
through—sights that may never be again seen in the county, perhaps.
Some of the wagons were drawn by cows; other gold-hunters went on foot,
and hauled their worldly goods in hand-carts. The gold-hunters
generally had left the moralities of life behind them, and were
infested with a spirit of dis- order and demoralization. The settlers
breathed easier when they had passed.
Early in the spring of 1850 the rush began, one line of the California
trail passing directly through this county. It must have been a scene
to beggar all description. There was one continuous line of wagons from
east to west as far as the eye could reach, moving steadily westward,
and, like a cyclone, drawing into its course on the right and left many
of those along its pathway. The gold-hunters from Keokuk county crowded
eagerly into the gaps in the wagon-trains, bidding farewell to their
nearest and dearest friends, and many of them never to be seen again on
earth. Sadder farewells were never spoken. Many of the gold-hunters
left their quiet, peaceful homes only to find in the "Far West” utter
disappointment and death. Very, very few of them ever gained anything,
and the great majority lost everything, including even "their lives,
their fortunes and their sacred honor."The persons who really gained by
the gold excitement were those who remained on their farms and sold
their produce to the gold-crazy emigrants. The rush continued until
about the first of June, 1850, when the great tide began to abate,
although belated gold-hunters kept passing through for some time. But
the excitement began to die away, and those citizens who had judgment
enough to resist the contagion now settled down in quiet to pursue the
even tenor of their way.
The scene along this line, through this vicinity, in thus described by
one who was an eye-witness:
"It seemed that Bedlam itself had been let loose. A continuous line of
wagons, stretching away to the west as far as the eye could see. If a
wagon was detained by being broken down, or by reason of a sick horse
or ox, it was dropped out of line and the gap closed up immediately. If
a poor mortal should sicken and die, the corpse was buried hurriedly by
the wayside, without coffin or burial service. When night came on, the
line of wagons was turned aside, and their proprietors would go into
camp. Very soon the sound of revelry would begin around the camp-fires
thickly set on every hand, first to bottle and then to cards, to the
echo of the most horrid oaths and imprecations that were ever conceived
or uttered since the fall of man. These poor deluded votaries of Mammon
scattered that dreadful scourge, small-pox, everywhere that they came
in contact with the settlers on the way. Game cards were strewn all
along the line of travel. Glass bottles, after being emptied of their
nefarious contents down the throats of the men, were dashed against
wagon wheels, pieces of which were thickly strewn all along the road,
as if to mock the madness of the advancing column of these fervent
janizaries of the golden calf.
"At the time of the treaty of Gaudalupe Hidalgo, the population of
California did not exceed thirty thousand, while at the time of which
we are writing (1850) there were more than one hundred and fifty
thousand people that had found their way thither, of which number at
least one hundred thousand were ‘gold-hunters' from the States. There
had been taken from the auriferous beds of California, up to January,
1850, over $40,000,000 in gold.
"The evil effects of this gold mania upon the moral status of the
people of the United States is still seen and felt everywhere, and
among all classes of society, and no man can see the end. It has
popularized the worship of Mammon to an alarming extent throughout the
country, and to this worship may be imputed, to a great extent, the
moral declension of to-day."
Years after, this county had another gold excitement, which, happily,
was not so serious as the first, and did not produce the same evil
effects. But it is an equally good illustration to show how quickly men
will lose their senses when they hope to gain wealth more rapidly than
by honest work and thrift.
The excitement of the discovery of gold at Pike's Peak, in 1859, drew
off a large number of the citizens of the county, many of whom returned
poorer than they went, and glad and anxious to get home again from that
land of high prices and small profits from mining. We have not been
able to discover that any of the gold-seekers from the county ever
became “bonanza kings."
When the leading men of the nation were bending all their energies
toward the perfecting of arrangements whereby the one-hundredth
anniversary of the nation might be creditably celebrated, and hundreds
of people all over the western country were looking forward to the
great "Centennial,"when they should visit the home of their childhood,
and, as they expressed it, "take in the Centennial,"there were hundreds
of others whose eyes were turned in the other direction.
The Custer expedition which, by order of the government, had made an
examination of the rich hunting grounds of the Sioux Indians returned,
and the official report of the expedition confirmed the former rumors
with regard to the rich gold deposits of that region. The whole West
was immediately ablaze with excitement, and although the government had
not authorized the opening of that country for immigration, and
although the savages were known to be numerous and hostile, yet from
every quarter came the cry, "to the Black Hills!"
The leading lines of railway leading across the State were taxed to
furnish transportation for the thousands who sought to throng the
trains, and upon every wagon route leading west and northwest might be
seen mule teams, ox teams, and teams of horses with their steps leading
toward the Black Hills. From the West, too, came the gold-hunters.
Hundreds of men who, in forty-nine and fifty, had crossed the plains to
the Pacific in quest of the yellow treasure, now retraced their steps
in search of the god which was supposed to be enshrined in the
dominions of "Sitting Bull."This ruler of the dusky race did not invite
into his dominions these worshipers of the golden god, but on the
contrary most emphatically objected to this violation of sacred
treaties; moreover he gave some very decided exhibitions of his
displeasure, and from the belts of warriors soon dangled many a
pale-face scalp; yet the multitude surged on, and the watch-word was,
"to the Black Hills! Sitting Bull or no Sitting Bull. "The opening of
several rich mines, and the founding of the city of Deadwood, was the
result. While some made their fortunes, many thousands lost their all,
and those who did not lose their lives on the plains returned poor,
disheartened and many broken down in health. Keokuk county furnished
its full quota to the Black Hills army, and the Black Hills army
furnished to Keokuk county its full quota of paupers, and thus was
equilibrium again restored.
Transcribed by Pat Wahl.
The Fool's Book
When the old court-house was still in use and before the county-seat
was removed to Lancaster there flourished what was called the "Fools
This affair originated with the every day loafers' society; it was a
quire or two of paper stitched together in which any one whose spirit
moved him could indite whatever thoughts presented themselves. It had
no special custodian, but laid around loose and contained many
specimens of chirography. It was not intended for the ladies although
it did sometimes emigrate into their presence. A few extracts from this
book will save its memory from oblivion if they do not interest the
The following are the rules of writing:
"1st. Every person writing in this book must write a plain legible hand.
"2d. No person shall write anything of a vulgar, obscene or immoral nature.
"3d. All fines collected under these rules are to be paid in foolscap
paper, to be attached to this book for the benefit of the fool writers.
"4th. In commencing a writing on any subject, the writer must leave at
least one inch of white paper between the commencement of his writing
and the end of the preceding piece, on penalty of paying one whole
sheet of fair, white foolscap paper, and shall number his piece in
"5th. If any fool should blot or tear this book, he shall be fined a like sheet of foolscap paper.
"6th, Every fool writing in this book must sign his real or fictitious name to his composition.
"7th. All persons writing in this book must be fools, and are requested
not to write anything without saying something either witty,
instructive, amusing, pleasing, funny, ridiculous—or somehow else."
"Well, I am going to dinner, certain—thank my stars! It is not every
fool that can get his dinner just when he wants it. Lucky dog am I, if
I do wear an old coat; and that is not all: I am a contributor to the
fools' book, which is a great honor to a chap of my cloth; reckon the
fools are about as numberless as any society of great men."
"Now, I suppose there are many persons who are not aware of any such
publication as the fools' book; and it is well that this is the case,
for there is at present such an insatiate rage for new books that the
whole community run mad and remain so until they have perused the last
new work, and the knowledge of the existence of the fools' book would
excite such a tremendous sensation, such universal interest, find so
many favorites and be read with such avidity by a large and respectable
majority of the citizens of Keokuk county and vicinity, that it might
have a deleterious effect upon the mental organization of the species
of animal sometimes called homo."
"She has a pretty face, has she, eh? Well, what of it if she has? If
that is all the good quality she has, if a quality it may be called, I
would not give a snap for her. I have seen a number of such girls that
even did not darn their own stockings; but while their mothers were
making slaves of themselves their promising daughters were sighing,
longing and looking sentimentally before a mirror. Away with such
trash! I say; give me the real buxom, tom-boy romp of a farmer's
daughter, who is out of her bed-room of a morning ere the lark begins
to warble forth his morning hymn; the glow of health is on her rosy
cheek; her eyes sparkle with wit and good humor; her step is dignified
and majestic; her countenance displays an air of cheerfulness and
maiden simplicity, when thus in the bright and rosy morn, ere the sun
has yet gilded with rose-tint hues the Oriental horizon, she goes forth
amid the song of birds to feed the old hen and chickens."
"Sigourney, April 6, 1846
"My Dear Fools:
"I am happy to inform you that I am yet alive and able to kick.
"This has been the most all-fired particular queer day I have ever
seen. It has been both good and bad; and both good and evil have been
completely mixed up with mud. I think it would be a good idea for the
people here to commence brick-making, for two reasons: first, the
mortar is already mixed up; second, we need the brick-bats to throw at
birds and other varmints that infest this town. The folks had an
election here today, and it beat Buncombe. The rains beat down all day
something like Noah's deluge, and yet the folks were so dry that they
drank something less than seven barrels of whisky; in fact, with some
that was the all-absorbing question. The people were all hot as pepper
about something, and could not keep cool no how you could fix it. The
way they electioneered beat all nature and Davy Crockett into the
bargain. Everybody was on one side or t'other—only some, and they were
afraid to be on any side. I guess they want office, and go on what we
used, in Buncombe, to call the non-committal question. I tell you what!
the Hawkeyes are great folks for office, so I will say no more about
the election—only that one side beat, and t'other didn't.
"The wind has just set in to blowing very hard, and I may be blowed off
to dear-knows-where, and I am sick, anyhow; but if you should never see
or hear of me again, remember that I am your sincere friend and
"P. S.—As the hurricane is now kinder over, and I aint much scared
nohow, I will just say that there is not many of our society here, the
people being mostly very smart folks; but what few fellows are fools
are of the real grit. A more noble set of fellows never lived, and have
ever treated me with the most foolish kindness, which shall always be
reciprocated in the same tender spirit by BUNCOMBE."
"Probably the most appropriate article which could be selected from
this fool's book is the Declaration of Independence. It is rather
lengthy, but its adaptability to the phraseology of our National
Declaration, and its exceeding fitness for the occasion when written,
has induced us to copy it. To its better understanding let it be
premised that Sanford Harned was the Whig candidate for delegate to the
convention for the formation of a State Constitution; resided at
Richland, and had always been favorably disposed toward Sigourney. J.
B. Whisler was his Democratic opponent; Was the owner of, and merchant
at, Lafayette, now Lancaster, and was considered the embodyment of the
opposition to Sigourney.
This Declaration was greatly applauded by several individuals, and, on
request, was probably read to more than a hundred persons before
election. There is little doubt but that the Fools' Book thus elected
our Judge Harned as delegate. The first paragraph we omit, being an
exact copy of that of seventy-six. The rest of the Declaration is as
"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created
equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable
rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness; that to secure these rights in some measure political
parties are instituted among men, deriving their influence from
nominations and leading men; that whenever a party becomes destructive
of these ends, it is the right of the people to lay it aside for a
time, and to take such steps as to them shall seem most likely to
effect their safety and happiness.
"Prudence would indeed dictate that the Democratic nomination long
adhered to should not be bolted for light and transient causes, and
accordingly all experience has shown that the rank and file are more
disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right
themselves by abandoning the nomination, for once, to which they
"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably
the same object, evinces a design to take away our county-seat and
reduce the value of our property, it is their right, it is their duty
to abandon such nominations and provide other guards and candidates for
their safety and future security. Such has been the political suffering
of the northern side of Skunk river, and such is now the necessity
which constrains them to abandon the Democratic convention.
"The history of the present king of Lafayette, and his coadjutors, is a
history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct
object the establishment of the county-seat in the forks of Skunk
river, and consequently taking it away from its present judicious and
"To prove this let facts be submitted to a candid mind.
"They have refused to acknowledge the county-seat as the place of doing county business.
"They have called together the county commissioners at places unusual
and distant from the depository of the public records for the sole
purpose of fatiguing us into compliance with their measures.
"They have forbidden their county commissioners to pass orders of
immediate and pressing importance, such as laying out a town at the
"They have endeavored to prevent the population of the north side of
this county, for that purpose misrepresenting the face of the country,
the abundance of timber, fertility of soil, etc.
"They have made John Borough, assessor, and other officers dependent on their will, alone, for the tenure of their offices.
"They have selected a multitude of new hobbies and sent hither swarms
of electioneerers to harrass our people and take from them the value of
"They have kept among us, in times of peace, spies and item catchers without our knowledge and consent.
"They have affected to render a faction independent of and superior to the laws of the land.
"They have plundered the reputation of our locality, ravaged our court,
retarded our town and impeded the settlement of our people.
"They have repeatedly professed friendship to us for the sole purpose
of tightening their grasp upon us while we should be napping in fancied
"In every stage of these apprehensions we have petitioned for redress
and remonstrated in the most humble terms. Our repeated remonstrances
have been answered only by repeated injury.
"A 'set' whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a
speculator and a miser is unfit to have their nominee elected.
"Nor have we been wanting in our attention to our southern brethern. We
have warned them from time to time of attempts by their leading men to
set the county-seat on wheels. We have reminded them of the
circumstances of our emigration and settlement here in good faith. We
have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have
conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these
usurpations which would inevitably interrupt our political harmony and
the success of Democratic principles.
"They too, with a few noble exceptions, have been deaf to the voice of
justice and equal rights. We must therefore acquiesce in the necessity,
this once, which announces our separation, and hold them as the Whigs,
enemies in war; in peace, friends.
"We, therefore, the advocates of Sigourney and equal rights, wherever
we may be in Keokuk county on the first Monday of April, 1846,
appealing to the good sense of the people of this and adjoining
counties for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in and by the love we
have for justice, equal rights and the preservation of our property,
solemnly publish and declare that this county ought not to support,
either directly or indirectly, the nominees and advocates of the
removal party of the county, as we would, thereby place ourselves
entirely within their power.
"And that the Democracy favorable to the removal of the county-seat,
are, and of right ought to be, free and independent of the pretended
nominee for delegate. That they are absolved from all obligations to
vote for the said nominee, and that all political connection between us
and the removal party is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the
support of the voters of Keokuk county, we roll up our sleeves and
Transcribed by Pat Wahl.