Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick



A magic land alive with wild game spreads along the new frontier, where fish jump from pure water streams, honey flows from trees, and specks of gold can be found along the pebble bottom stream beds.

Video displays of the countryside were not possible in 1836, thus people back east depended on advertising in newspapers and magazines. Agents took advantage of this and often stretched descriptions into glowing reports that included finds or suggestions of great riches (such as the illustration above.)

By 1836, people in eastern states became aware of the existence of a stream called the Des Moines River. This large Mississippi feeder was supposed to rise somewhere in an unknown northern region and flow in large volume toward the southern line of the newly carved Wisconsin Territory. It was different from any other western stream. This water course passed over pebbly, rocky bottoms and angled through the most beautiful region man had ever beheld! This was the same country where the Ioway Indians lived, once described by French novelists and explorers as "living in Oriental luxury."

Des Moines City was pinpointed as a rugged frontier village nestled within the hills and Indian hideouts that circled a large horseshoe bend of the river, just a day’s journey from Sweet Home. Downstream on the banks of the Des Moines, the town of Sweet Home displayed white cottages decked with green shutters amidst lush flower beds and yards overflowing with roses, according to reports read by Easterners.

Many pioneers would ask about Sweet Home at Burlington, Ft. Edwards (Warsaw, Illinois) or Keokuk and would receive directions to the village located on the Missouri side of the river. Although the outpost of civilization usually proved disappointing for those that ventured there, all travelers soon learned that there was plenty of open land left on both sides of the river for claims.

Many arrived in Farmington, the county seat of Van Buren County, where they found good hotel accommodations. When they asked about other points of civilization, they learned about Mt. Pleasant, a new community to the north that offered promise. And yes, there was a beautiful winding river with timber as far as the eye could see! This afforded a marvelous opportunity for building mills and for venturing into water related activity.

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