Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick



George Duffield was one of several early pioneers who settled in Van Buren County west of the Mississippi River. With the aid of a group of friendly Indians, the Duffield family crossed the river at Pearson Ford near the mouth of Chequest Creek in April, 1837 homesteading in the Des Moines River hills a short distance north of the present village of Pittsburg.

Duffield’s pioneer venture was the subject of numerous addresses given at Old Settlers’ meetings, as well as articles written in Annals of Iowa published by the Iowa State Historical Society. According to Duffield, both Black Hawk and Keokuk frequented their cabin. In sharp contrast to most other descriptions of Black Hawk, the old chief would usually appear unkept and often quite drunk.

The Duffield account states that Keokuk’s Indian village existed along Town Branch Creek on the south side of the site of Pittsburg containing a population of about 700.

Keokuk had recently moved to this location. In 1834, his village on the Iowa River contained 40 to 50 lodges, each 40 to 50 feet in length. Wapello had a village 10 mi. above that with 30 lodges; Powesheik’s village was located a mile above the mouth of the Cedar River, and Chief Appanoose presided over a village on the Des Moines River called Au-tum-way-e-nauk, 125 miles above its mouth.

When Duffields settled near Pittsburg, there was a cabin on the right bank of Chequest Creek built by Sam Clayton in 1836. George claimed that this was the only cabin west of the Des Moines River within the present limits of Iowa. He seems to have been unaware of settlers in the Milton vicinity in 1832, Phelps’ trading post near Iowaville (1830-1838,) the settlement at Portland dating back to 1833-1834, Green’s Mill in Chequest Twp. in 1834, a Kilbourne settlement in 1834, and Irish Bend across from Kilbourne in 1836.

Likewise, when I. K. Robinson taught school at the site of present day Keokuk, he was unaware of other settlers and another school located a few miles up the Mississippi River. Robinson of Mendota, Illinois, hired to teach by warehouse owner Mr. Stillwell, began his classroom duties on December 1, 1830 and continued into the spring of 1831.

Prior to this, Berryman Jennings of Nauvoo was hired by Isaac Galland of Nashville (near Montrose.) Jennings was clearly the first schoolmaster of the region, having opened his school in October, 1830. His pupils in the fall of 1830 were Washington Galland (who became Capt. Galland) and Isaac Campbell. (Annals of Iowa, Vol. 5-6, April-July, 1898)

Obviously, some of the statements and claims made by even the most highly respected and reliable early settlers must be taken “with a grain of salt.” After all, communication systems were very primitive and people were not always aware of their “neighbors.”

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