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Chapter 16

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Iowa As It Is in 1856

N. Howe Parker

Chicago and Philadelphia, 1856

The text is in the public domain.

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Chapter 18

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 p135  Chapter XVII

Description of Counties — continued

Hardin County

Was first settled in 1851, and contains a population of some 2000. The largest town in the county is Eldora, which is inhabited by some 15 families.

No churches erected yet — preaching by Cumberland Presbyterians and Methodists.

Well supplied with public schools in a good condition.

Coal abundant — timber more than an average. Red sandstone, and fine white limestone in abundance. Good prairie land — no better.

Hardin, (in the language of the pioneer from whom we gleaned the statistics), "is a little out o' the way, but it's a mighty fine spot when you get to it."

 p136  Flouring and saw-mills much needed. But a comparatively small possible of land in Hardin is cultivated.

Harrison County

Situated on the Missouri River, is but sparsely settled yet, less than one-fourth of the land in the county being entered. This county is well watered by the Boyer River, the Little Sioux, and various smaller streams, tributary to these and the Missouri. Magnolia is the county-seat, beside which there is no other settlement of importance. For a description of the soil see the chapter on Western Iowa, or Pottawattamie County.

Henry County

Mount Pleasant, the county-seat, was laid out in the year 1836, by Presley Saunders; at that time the lands on which it was located were not in market, nor had it ever been surveyed, but the beauty of the location, taken in connection with the great abundance of superior building-stone, and the large body of timber that lay contingent to the site, to say nothing of the never-failing springs of water that gush from the shores of the branch that runs through the suburbs of the town, induced the proprietor to believe that a town might be built up that would be a credit to the State. Nor in this has he been disappointed. This town now contains a population of about 1500 inhabitants, and is at present in a more prosperous condition, and is improving faster than at any former period.

The population of the county in February last, was 11,180. Beside the county-seat, there are other towns in  p137 the county of considerable size and importance. Salem, in the south-west part of the county, is a thriving young place, containing 650 souls. New London, on the eastern edge of county has some 400 inhabitants. Trenton, in the northern portion, some 300; beside these are Winfield, Lowell, Hillsborough, Rome, East Grove P. O., Marshall P. O., Wayne P. O., &c.

There are six church edifices in Mount Pleasant; Congregational, Presbyterian, Methodist, Christian, O. S. Baptist, and Missionary Baptist. Other towns and villages are proportionally well supplied with churches, all of which are well attended, and in a healthy condition. In point of morality and sobriety, the community of Mount Pleasant are unsurpassed in the State.

Henry County supports two newspapers: "The Iowa Observer," Whig, and the "Iowa True Democrat," Free-Soil — both published at the county-seat.

Mount Pleasant has been named and known heretofore, as the point possessing and offering greater educational advantages than any other place in the State, and she has yet no rival in this respect except Davenport. The "Iowa Wesleyan University," under the control of the M. E. Church, is a Collegiate Institute of the first grade, has 150 students, and is in full and successful operation under the management of Prof. James Harlan, with competent assistants. The "Mt. Pleasant High School and Female Academy," under the management of Prof. S. L. Howe, a teacher of acknowledged ability and experience has an average attendance of 100 pupils. The well-merited reputation of this  p138 school at home and abroad is attested by the patronage it receives. A Select School for Young Ladies, under the superintendance of Rev. B. Wall, and taught by Mrs. Wall and Miss McHarg, has recently been opened, which bids fair to become a Female Seminary of usefulness and extensive patronage. The town and county is well supplied with well-attended and ably-conducted common schools.

There are at present no manufactories of importance in Henry County. Steam flouring and saw-mills, a foundry, and a carding and fulling-mill are much needed, and would prove good investments. Coal, in considerable quantities, has been found on both sides of the Skunk river, also inexhaustible quarries of the very best building stone near Mt. Pleasant. The Burlington and Wisconsin River railroad will be finished to Mt. Pleasant during the present year. The Muscatine and Keokuk railroad also touches Mt. Pleasant.

At the late session of the Legislature, the Iowa Insane Asylum was located at Mt. Pleasant, and fifty thousand dollars appropriated for the erection of the building.

The soil of Henry is second in quality to that of no other county in the State. The land is well watered, all entered, and rapidly filling up with a highly intellectual and industrious class of citizens.

Iowa County

North of Keokuk, and west of Johnson, is well supplied with timber along the Iowa River, which stream, with the north fork of English River, Old Man's Creek, Beaver  p139 and Richmond Creeks, affords an abundance of water for all purposes. The soil is admirably adapted for farming and grazing. The county seat, Marengo, is situated upon the Iowa River, in the northern part of the county. There are settlements at Kozta, Homestead, Downard, Millersburg and North English Post Offices. The Mississippi and Missouri railroad passes through almost the centre of the county.

Jackson County

Comprises in area fourteen full and six fractional townships of land. The principal towns in the county are Andrew, Bellevue, Wickliffe, Fulton, Maquoketa, Bridgeport, and some seventeen P. O. settlements beside.

The character of the soil is rich and fertile, and the ranging heights and diversified scenery on the banks of its numerous water-courses present an abundance of beautiful building-sites.

A railroad is in contemplation, and partly graded from Galena to a point directly opposite Bellevue, but it is uncertain when it will be completed.

Flouring and saw-mills are in active and profitable operation in different parts of the county, but it is impossible to obtain from their proprietors even an approximate estimate of their profits.

At Bellevue, are excellent openings and good sites for two more steam saw-mills and a planing-mill. Lumber for building finds very ready sale as fast as manufactured, and lumber for sawing is easily obtained. A small iron  p140 foundry, an extensive wagon-making establishment, and a cooper's establishment, would all do well in Jackson.

Jackson is one of the best watered counties in the State, and is well supplied with timber, principally white oak, black walnut, ash, hickory, elm, maple, white walnut, and basswood. Water-power, unsurpassed for manufacturing purposes: upon several of the streams are already erected flouring and saw-mills, and others are in progress of erection. The county is also one of the best for agricultural purposes in the State, and second to none for stock raising.

The soil in the valleys is a first rate black sandy loam (several feet in depth), and yields heavy crops of corn; the ridges are generally second and third rate soil, with a subsoil of clay, or in some instances ferruginous sand, and produce fine crops of wheat. Potatoes and other root crops, as well as vegetables and vines, all flourish luxuriantly. The rocks of the county are what belong to the "Upper Magnesian Limestone" formation; are well adapted for building purposes, and make a superior quality of lime.

Iron ore is found in various parts of the county, lying loosely on the surface, and no doubt, from present indications, it exists in large masses. "Galena" (lead ore) is also frequently picked up in different parts of the county, and some mines have been successfully worked in the northwest part of the county — there is a rich "lode" of "Galena" only three miles above Bellevue, dipping into the river, which can be seen at any time at a low stage of water in the Mississippi. It is the opinion of old miners,  p141 that when the mineral resources of this county are properly developed, it will prove rich in both lead and iron ores, as indications of its existence manifest themselves in almost every hill and ravine.

Bellevue, the seat of justice of Jackson county, is situated on the Mississippi river, twelve miles due south of the city of Galena; the town site is upon an elevated plateau of land about fifteen feet above high water mark; it is surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills, mostly covered with timber, which break off the severe cold winds of winter, and prevent the temperature from falling as low by several degrees, as a few miles distant upon the ridges.

This town was first settled in 1836, by J. D. Bell. In that year this site was selected (by authorised Commissioners, one of whom was the late Captain John Atcheson) for the Capitol of the then Territory of Wisconsin; and but for some difficulty between the proprietors of the land and said Commissioners, this would have then been made the Capitol of Wisconsin Territory, which at that time included both sides of the river. This spot had always been a favorite one with the Indians, and its beautiful location caused said Commissioners to select it as a commanding situation for the Capitol.

The population of our town is about 1000. The population of the county is fully 15,000, and emigrants daily arriving.

There are five organized churches in the town, viz., Congregationalist, Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist, and Catholic — one of each.

 p142  Jefferson County

The first sale of town lots took place in 1839.

The present population of Jefferson County is about 13,000. Population of Fairfield, the county-seat, 1500.

A large proportion of the population is from Ohio and Pennsylvania. In the eastern portion of the county is a settlement of Swedes, consisting at present of about 100 families. Their first settlement in that part of the county was made in 1847.

There is also in the north-east a settlement of Germans.

In Fairfield there are three churches: Presbyterian, Congregational, and Methodist.

Two newspapers in Fairfield, the "Fairfield Ledger," (Whig), and the "Iowa Sentinel," (Democrat).

Jefferson County contains 88 schools, and 65 school-houses, 59 of which are frame, the remaining 6 brick. Total amount paid teachers during the year, ending Oct. 31, 1854, $5,538.12. The average compensation of male teachers for the same time, was $20.35 — that of female, $9.97! Number of pupils in schools, 3622.

A branch of the State University is located at Fairfield. A commodious building has been erected for the accommodation of pupils; and is now leased to a company of citizens, who have established a flourishing school for young men and boys, under the charge of Mr. Anderson, a teacher of experience and ability.

There is also a Female Seminary in this place, which is  p143 in a prosperous condition, conducted by Rev. L. B. Crittenden.

Of manufactories the principal are a steam saw-mill, an iron foundry, a sash and door factory, and numerous minor establishments. We need a steam flouring-mill.

A United States Land Office is located in this place, which has been, and is still doing an extensive business.

There are several thriving villages located in the different sections of the county, among which are Libertyville, seven miles south-west from Fairfield; Brookville and Abingdon, the former six, and the latter twelve miles west; Pleasant Plain, twelve miles north; and Glasgow in the southern part of the county.

There are three extensive nurseries in the county. A county agricultural society was organised three years ago.

The eastern part is well timbered. On the borders of Skunk River and its tributaries, are fine groves of various kinds of timber, suitable for building and fencing purposes. The most common are the white and burr oak, walnut, elm, cottonwood, and linn; sugar maple is found in some places on Skunk River. The western portion of the county is principally prairie, interspersed with some groves of timber, and is well adapted to cultivation, as no portion of that land is too broken, and none too flat, for cultivation.

There is no land of any consequence in this county that is not already taken up. Much good land is owned by non-residents.

 p144  Farms in the hands of residents are beginning to assume all the appearances of extensive and tasteful cultivation.

There are extensive beds of coal in different sections of the county. Also lime-stone is found along the borders of some creeks.

Johnson County

Iowa City is the county-seat of Johnson County, and until the last session of the legislature, was the capital of the state. At that session a bill was passed, removing the seat of government to Fort Des Moines, in Polk County, some hundred and twenty miles further west; and providing for the erection of temporary public buildings, to be approved by the governor, before a session of the General Assembly will be holden there.

The present State House is not entirely finished, but is an elegant edifice of stone; capacious, well adapted to legislative and other public purposes, and an ornament to the city. This building, with its extensive grounds, is a grant to the State University, and will be appropriated to its use immediately upon the removal of the State offices and legislative sessions.

[image ALT: An engraving, from Parker's 'Iowa As It Is in 1856', of a small rectangular building, two stories and a somewhat raised basement, in the Greek Revival style, seen in a three-quarters view. In the center of the long side the entrance consists of a four-column pedimented portico five steps up from ground level; directly behind this entrance, the building is crowned in the center by an elegant small cylindrical domed lantern a bit more than one additional story in height, faced on four sides by a miniature columned portico in the same style, set on a stepped square base. The building is in a park with a few small trees and a sward of grass. It is the first State Capitol of Iowa, at Iowa City.]

State Capitol, Iowa City

The University has an ample fund, and is now in operation in this city; well provided with competent professors, and temporarily occupying what is known as the Mechanics' Academy. The number of students is at present but about forty, as the first session was opened only on the first Monday of March last.

Besides this infant institution, strong in resources and  p145 promises, there is the Female Collegiate Institute, in successful operation. This institution has been reared to its present prosperity, principally under the auspices of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, in this city and other portions of the State. The building designed for this seminary, will be completed, probably, during the present year, and no expense will be spared to render it equal in architectural beauty and finish to any in Iowa.

There is, also, the City Union School, with a principal and three assistants, besides numerous private schools, all thriving finely. There is no town in the state better supplied with educational advantages, considering its population.

There are two newspapers published in this city, the Republican, a Whig, and the Capital Reporter, a Democratic journal; connected with both of which are flourishing job-printing offices. By an act of the last Legislature, also, the State Printer will hold his office here, until the final removal of the seat of government.

A steam grist-mill is now operating successfully in this city; amount of business not known, as it has just commenced operations. Another is to be erected on the west side of the Iowa river the present season. About three miles west of town, or north-west, are Clarke's flouring-mills, clearing their owners at least $10,000 per annum.

The manufactories most needed here are a paper-mill, plow and wagon factory, wool-carding machines. A good foundry and brick-yard would also pay well.

The city is well stocked with churches, there being no less than seven church edifices, and eight religious  p146 societies. Of these, there are one Baptist, built of brick in superior style; an Old School Presbyterian, Methodist, — Protestant Methodist, Catholic, and Universalist, also of brick, and very creditable structures; and the New School Presbyterian, a neat stone edifice. The Episcopal Society worships in the basement of the Methodist Church.

According to the census of 1854, the population of the city was 3083; which is probably nearer four than three thousand at the present time. It is situated at the conjunction of two great contemplated railroad routes: the one from Davenport, of which the present year will doubtless witness the completion to this point — and the Lyons road, in which the city is also deeply interested, which will probably be finished in at least fifteen months.

The county is one of the finest agricultural counties in the State — well adapted for stock raising; also wheat, corn, and potatoes. A flourishing Agricultural Society of two years' standing is organized, and an immense interest is awakened in its behalf. The population at the last census was 8446, which is increasing at an astonishing rate.

Jasper County

Is bounded on the east by Poweshiek, west by Polk, north by Marshall, and south by Marion and a portion of Mahaska Counties. In no county in the State, perhaps, is there better soil for all purposes and in Jasper.

The following description of this section of country we insert, from a communication to the "Iowa City Reporter":—

 p147  "Probably no portion of our State surpasses Central Iowa in point of beauty, fertility, healthfulness of climate, and the thriftiness of its inhabitants.

"The eye is pleased with the alternation of oak openings, timber land, and the crystal streams that murmur along their channels, guttered out of the prairies. A few years have elapsed since this portion of our State was marked by the Red man's track and the simple wigwam. Then the rich agricultural resources of Central Iowa were unknown to thousands who have since found homes in the "Prairie Land." Here the spirit of American enterprise has found a wide field for action, and, by its magic power, the hidden wealth that lies in the fat hill-sides is beginning to flow into the lap of Western industry. The wigwam has given place to the pioneer's home, and the sound of the Indian rifle has died away, and nought is heard but the sound of busy industry. Yes, a new people, possessing a new spirit, are now on the prairies of Central Iowa, grappling with the "strong-holds" of Nature, and building up towns and cities on the ground where a few short years ago was seen a collection of wigwams. The contemplated line of railroad from Davenport to the Missouri River runs through this portion of our State, and truly a great artery of trade will be demanded by the rapid growth of Western Iowa. Nowhere in the West has the hand of Western industry effected greater changes than in Jasper County, from which I now write.

"In 1846, the Senatorial Legislature formed it out of a portion of Mahaska County; and, in 1847, Newton, the  p148 county-seat of Jasper, was laid out by Thomas Henderson and Jacob Fisher. At that time but few pioneers had pushed their way to Central Iowa, but the way had been "blazed" by the founders of the newly laid-off town, and in 1848 a few log-cabins were reared in Newton. A more favorable location could not be obtained. It is on the boundary between the North and South Skunk Rivers. The country around the town-site is rolling enough to render it entirely free from marshes, or anything that would give rise to deleterious miasmas. Many have been attracted to the place by the healthfulness of its position, and the country around. The log-cabin has been removed, and the stately frame-dwelling erected in its stead; the "old cabin" store-house no longer greets the eye, but on the site it occupied stands a store-house that would do credit to towns of more pretensions. The prospect of securing a railroad has infused a new zeal into the citizens of the place, and they have determined to erect a new court-house on the square which will reflect credit upon the enterprising spirit of Newton. The Methodists are taking steps to build a new church. Mercantile houses are being erected as fast as possible, while those now operating are driving a heavy business. The mechanic and farmer are also keeping pace with the prosperity of town and county.

"Large quantities of fine stone-coal are found in the immediate vicinity of the place, and the traveller often finds it upon the surface of the ground. When we consider that this article seems almost inexhaustible, there can scarcely be a question as to the profitableness of almost any branch  p149 of mechanical and manufacturing industry which may be established in this portion of our State. Lime-stone, suitable for building purposes, is found on the banks of Elk Creek and Skunk River; this one article greatly facilitates the operations of our citizens in erecting buildings, and in many other ways. One grist-mill and two saw-mills are now in successful operation; but the demand for mills is constantly increasing. Men of capital, and true Western spirit, are making arrangements to erect forges and work-shops, which, when completed, will render Newton quite a point for manufacturing."

Jones County

Was first settled in 1836, organized in 1839, and the county-seat located at Anamosa in May, 1847. The population of the county in October, 1854, was 6300 — being about eleven to the square mile. In this county will be found a due proportion of timber land and prairie land; while the mill-sites upon the Wabsipinnicon are numerous, and building-stone abundant. Beside the Wapsie', are the North and South Forks of the Maquoketa, Bear, and Mineral Creeks, and numerous first-rate springs of good water. The towns in the county are Anamosa, Rome, Bowen's Prairie, Fairview, and Monticello. In Anamosa is published one newspaper, "The News." There are also one Congregational and one United Brethren church edifices, and organizations each, of Methodists, Christians, and Universalists. The Masons and Odd Fellows each have  p150 Lodges there. The Iowa Central Air-Line Railroad passes through the county, touching at Anamosa. This line is located and under contract as far as Marion, Linn County.

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