Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick
BONNEYVIEW IN KEOSAUQUA
Just below the hospital on the hillside overlooking the Des Moines River is a quaint old frame house with a veranda porch and window shutters perched atop a limestone rock basement with a terraced back yard surrounded by matching retainer walls. This prize structure called Bonneyview has been frequently listed as Keosauqua’s oldest home.
In Picturesque Keosauqua and Vicinity published by the Women’s Improvement Association in 1912, Bonneyview is pictured and noted as "one of Keosauqua’s oldest homes." The date of its construction is not included, unfortunately.
There seems to be some controversy or disagreement as to exactly when Bonneyview was built, however. Even Ralph Arnold was not specific about this matter. According to him, a portion of the house was built either in 1837 or 1839. It appears as though the north end of the house was built first, and is said to house a log cabin under the weatherboarding. During the early 1840s the house was enlarged and took on its present unique appearance complete with shutters sometime prior to 1853.
For many decades historical sources have said that Bonneyview dates back to 1838. Any of these dates (1837-1839) would clearly make it the earliest house existing in Keosauqua, and one of the county’s oldest surviving structures.
At the river just below Bonneyview are the remains of the old mill, which was the point that divided the first primitive villages. Below the mill in a northerly direction was Des Moines City, not laid out until 1839 but occupied along the river as early as 1837. A short distance upstream was the original village of Van Buren laid out in 1837, which includes the ground where Hotel Manning rests. This village was called Des Moines and had the first post office named Port Oro.
The old Indian name Keosauqua sometimes referred to the area of land in between that now contained several cabins, but earlier had often referred to the entire area within the bend. Once the villages merged in 1839, they chose Keosauqua as the final name for the official town that had a year earlier been established and mapped as Van Buren’s new county seat.
Homes of the same vintage were destroyed by a tornado in 1967 that heavily damaged and nearly took out the Pearson House. The town’s oldest brick residence still remaining, Pearson House was built between 1845 and 1847, and is believed to have been part of the Underground Railroad System during the Civil War. Below one floor a hidden cellar may have housed ex-slaves who were being transported secretly to freedom. This idea is only an unproven legend, because no recorded evidence of such activity has yet been found to verify and support the claim.
In spite of advancing age far greater than other homes in the area, handsome, distinguished-looking Bonneyview proudly continues to grace the hill overlooking the meandering river. Such attractive historic landmarks as Hotel Manning, Mansion Inn, the (former Post Office) museum, the Pearson House, and Bonneyview must be preserved. Together these old focal points symbolize remarkable, picturesque Keosauqua with its rich, nostalgic, colorful, sometimes mystery-laden past.
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick