Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

The Galland Brothers Help Settle Iowa Region

Richard Tharp said that Abel Galland was the first settler of the Farmington area, arriving in 1832. This is not cut and dried, as other sources are in disagreement. According to the “Historical Sketch of Farmington,” Leader-Record, Sesquicentennial Souvenir Edition, September, 1983, Abel Galland and William Jordan (his son-in-law) pushed as far west as Farmington in 1833. Either way, he was the first man to claim land in the area.

Not much is written about Abel Galland, because he was overshadowed by his younger brother, Isaac Galland, who was very influential in the settlement of Lee County. Isaac Galland practiced medicine, built the first school in Iowa and published the first newspaper in southeast Iowa.

Abel Galland was greatly respected like his brother, and laid out the town of Farmington in 1839 with Henry Bateman. However, his title “Dr.” may have been simply out of respect. Dr. Miles was the first physician, according to the newspaper article, while yet another doctor (Barton) was postmaster.

Abel was the oldest child born to James and Hannah Fenno Galland. Each of the children were born at different locations. Abel, was born in New Jersey, March 9, 1787. Isaac was born at what would become Council Bluffs, Iowa on May 15, 1791; Matthew, 1794, Zanesville, Ohio; David, May 10, 1795, Washington, Ohio; and Mary, Zanesville, Illinois, September 8, 1798.

Although Isaac Galland was loved and respected by the pioneers at the time, and later by the people of Iowa, he was scheming and crooked. In his own biography, History of Illinois (1834), when Thomas Ford charged him with being a notorious horse thief and counterfeiter belonging to the “Massac Gang,” Galland laughed and said, “Yes siree, I’ve been found guilty of most everything except hog stealing--and I never owned a hog.”

Abel Galland’s religious preference was never revealed to my knowledge. But he apparently did not practice the Mormon faith, because a Mormon group was not established in Farmington until 1865. His brother Isaac was a Mormon, and for awhile became an elder of the church, but his involvement may have been for the wrong purpose.

Isaac Galland was a land promoter. He juggled his land deeds, greatly embellished his land holdings, but was clever enough to stay one step ahead of the law in these ventures.

As an employee of the New York Land Company, Galland claimed to own most of the town of Commerce, Illinois (Nauvoo) and 119,000 acres of land in the Half-Breed Tract (Iowa). Unsuspecting investors in the East bought his Commerce holdings. Galland made a windfall and considered that he had made a wise investment, since this land was basically swampland. He encouraged people to move to the west and sold them land from the Half-Breed tract as soon as he could buy land from the Indians and negotiate the deeds.

His expansive interests were thwarted by the Panic of 1837 and 1839, but he “lucked out.” By this time, Mormons were being run out of Missouri communities. These people had some money and wanted to find a home. The first of these to buy land was a Brother Israel Barlow who made a mistake in his directions to Quincy, and ended up at Isaac Galland’s doorstep.

Galland solicited support from Governor Lucas of Iowa Territory, who said that the Mormons were entitled to the same rights and protection as other citizens. Isaac then proposed to the Quincy Mormons that they buy land with only a small down payment and no interest. They followed with a purchase of a large bulk of land for $18,000, to be paid in installments of $900 per year for 20 years.

Dr. Galland’s involvement with Mormonism conveniently waned when Joseph Smith lost his prestige and glory, and Dr. Galland left the church. He went on to write a history of Iowa (included in Gue’s history), publish the first newspaper in southeast Iowa called the “Western Adventurer” out of Montrose, and helped in laying out the City of Keokuk. He met with a group of doctors there with the idea of organizing a medical society in Lee Co.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick