The Des Moines Valley R. R. runs up the valley of the Des Moines river through the county, making about 80 miles of railroad line completed, with seven stations in the county, viz: Farmington, Bonaparte, Bentonsport, Summit, Kilbourne, Doud's Station and independent. A daily line of hacks connects the Summit with Birmingham, Fairfield and other points north. Hacks also run from Keosauqua to the Summit in connection with all passenger trains. The people of this county have, in times past, had several railroad projects in view, but have, so far, failed to realize all their expectations in this respect. About two years ago a company was organized at Fairfield and duly incorporated for building a railroad from the Muscatine branch of the M. & M. R. R. at or near Washington, via Brighton, Fairfield and Keosauqua to some point connecting with the North Missouri R. R. - Some $20,000 of private subscriptions was raised in the town of Keosauqua, and other sums at Fairfield and other points. There seems to be some revival of interest in the project. The route of the proposed road is undoubtedly a perfectly feasible one, and the proposition is surely worthy of the serious consideration of those interested. There is also some agitation of the project of constructing a railroad connecting the B. & M. road at Mt. Pleasant with the D. V. road at Bonaparte. The day will doubtless come when Van Buren county will enjoy the advantages of increased railroad facilities.
INDEPENDENT - This is located in Village township,
being the North-west corner township of the county. It is on the Des Moines
Valley Railroad, eighteen minutes from Ottumwa, and twenty from Keosauqua. It
embraces 84 lots, mostly 65 by 132 feet in size. These lots, without
improvement, range in price from $30 to $200 each, depending upon location. One
George Stump was the original proprietor, as well as the owner of a large body
of adjacent land. His enterprise of laying out a town at this point had its
origin from the following circumstances: He desired the establishment of a
public road from his premises to the neighboring village of Iowaville, but his
project was sternly opposed by the intervening land owners. he then declared he
would be independent of Iowaville, and lay out a town on his own land.
Accordingly, in 1851, he carried his threat into execution, and located the
town, calling it Independent. It struggled along through a half score of
doubtful years under the frowns of its elder sister and rival, who delighted to
apply to it, in the spirit of contempt, the unpoetical name of "Stump Town." But
there was a day of deliverance coming. In due time the railroad wound its way up
the Valley, and found our little village quietly nestled in her romantic retreat
on the banks of the Des Moines. Under the fostering care and protection of the
railroad it imbibed new life and vigor. Independent is now a point of
considerable trade, and one of the best grain shipping stations on the Des
Moines Valley Railroad. It is also said that during the last year about $150,000
worth of hogs were shipped at this point. It now contains a population of about
150. There are five stores and groceries, a harness shop, wagon and blacksmith
shop and hotel. There is a good school house, with a school now in prosperous
condition under the charge of Miss Lizzie C. Robinson as teacher. A Methodist
Episcopal Church is being erected, a portion of the material now being ready on
A laudable enterprise in the way of establishing manufactories is beginning to appear. A joint stock company has been organized for the erection of a large flouring and woolen mill. The work has already commenced. The main building is to be 34x54 feet, and four stories high, with an engine room 14x34 feet. A fifty horse power engine is to be set up, and the entire machinery and structure is to be first class. The work has been placed in charge of Capt. George W. Elerick, formerly of the 30th Iowa Infantry. Under his superintendence the enterprise cannot fail to be a success. The facilities for operating manufactories by steam here cannot be excelled. There is a great abundance of water, timber, coal and building stone, all easily obtained. It is also in the midst of a fine grain producing region. Indeed there is no good reason why Independent should not have a prosperous future.
The principal business house of the place is that of F. G. Adams & Co., whose sales during the last year amount to over $15,000.
D. C. Beaman, Esq., keeps a stock of family groceries, and a general assortment of notions. He also serves Uncle Sam as Postmaster and acts as the agent of the U. S. Express Company. By the way, it must be kept in mind, that while the legal and railroad name of this town is "Independent," the name of the Post-office is "Hickory," but the Express office is still designated as "Independent." The reason why the name of the Postoffice was changed was because mistakes frequently occurred in the transmission of mail matter, on account of the similarity of the former name to that of Independence, Iowa.
Dr. Joseph Knowland caters to the public appetite and comfort, and our experience warrants us in the assertion that no one need leave the "Des Moines Valley Hotel" hungry. He is also a physician of the Homeopathic school.
The railroad station here is in charge of George B. Leonard, who also acts as telegraph operator.
The crossing of the road leading from Fairfield to Troy is at this point. The public will always find a safe and excellent ferry in charge of N. Sanford, who is its enterprising proprietor.
Near this place, on land belonging to the estate of the late George Stump, is a spot of ground exhibiting a peculiarity which may excite speculations of the curious. It formerly contained an area of 30 feet square, on which, for twenty years, no vegetation could be made to grow, although regularly planted each year with various kinds of grain. The barren spot is now somewhat smaller, but still embraces about 20 feet square, on which not a single spear or leaf has ever been known to grow. The ground is a rich black loam, slightly damper than the surrounding land. It is situated on the side of what is called in the West a "draw," and below it at the bottom of the ravine is a spring, the water of which is slightly impregnated with sulphur. Scientific investigation may solve the mystery. Part of the town is an immense heap of sand, rising, we should judge, nearly 100 feet above the bed of the river. It is mixed with a sufficient quantity of vegetable mould to render it quite fertile.
IOWAVILLE. - A little over one mile west of Independent is the old trading post of Iowaville. This part of Van Buren county is indeed historical ground. Here the renowned Black Hawk, after his glory had departed, spent the closing days of his life. Near this place he was buried in the fall of 1838. This is also the old battleground of Sacs, Foxes, and Iowa Indians, and the ruins of Keokuk's old house are still visible. The village is situated on the north bank of the river in the midst of an exceedingly fertile portion of the Des Moines Valley, which has in times past, produced immense quantities of corn for consumption at the large distillery a few years ago in operation at this place. The village contains a mill, two or three stores, and two churches, with a population of about 150. W. T. Abel is the proprietor of the mill and wool-carding factory, and C. D. Bailey and Aaron Parks have the principal stows of the place. The last named gentleman is postmaster.
DOUD'S STATION: -
Some five miles down the Des Moines Valley from Independent, is the handsome and
sprightly little town of Doud's Station, only 18 months old. Its original
proprietors were Hon. David Doud, and Hon. Eliab Doud, the present distinguished
State Senator from Van Buren county. Every deed conveying lots in this town
contains a stipulation that no intoxicating liquors shall ever be sold as a
beverage by the grantee, or with his concent, upon the premises. Of course there
are no beer shops or whisky salons in Doud's Station. The place contains three
dry goods and grocery stores. Those engaged in this trade are David Payne,
Manning and Parker, and T. P. Doud. Each of these dealers has a well selected
stock, and all of them seem to be doing a profitable business. The firm of
Manning and Parker have sold during the past year goods to the amount of twenty
thousand dollars. They have also shipped about 500 head of hogs and 2,500
bushels of grain. The sales of T. P. Doud have amounted to $25,000. He has also
shipped a large amount of grain - about 4,000 bushels - in the last month.
Messrs. Winterbotham & Son, recently of Fort Madison, have just established a
hardware store, and also deal largely in stoves, tin-ware, and furniture. Two
lumber yards supply lumber to a large extent of country - one kept by Capt.
James Elerick, and the other by Tobias & Son. Capt. Elerick did his country
service in the 59th Illinois Infantry. - Tobias & Son also deal largely in
agricultural implements. The village also contains a harness-maker, shoe-maker,
painter, wagon and blacksmith shop, saw-mill, milliner, etc., all doing a
prosperous business. There are two physicians, Drs. Crawford & Whitten. Miss
Mary A. Doud, daughter of Senator Doud, has charge of the Postoffice. Our young
friend, T. C. Jackson, is the genial and accommodating railroad agent, telegraph
operator, and U. S. Express agent.
The town is beautifully located on the north bank of the Des Moines, directly opposite the ancient town of Portland, the scene of many a pioneer adventure, and with which it is connected by an excellent ferry. It is 21 miles from Ottumwa, 12 miles from Keosauqua, 28 from Bloomfield, 15 from Fairfield, and 55 from Keokuk. The surroundings are highly picturesque and beautiful, with its landscapes of field, forest, and river. Vast quarries of the finest building stone are found in the immediate vicinity, some of which is susceptible to a fine a polish as to be nearly equal in that respect to marble. Sone coal is abundant, and the surrounding country is heavily timbered. The Doud brothers own some seven hundred acres of the best land to be found in the Des Moines Valley. They settled here about 27 years ago, in the days when almost the only roads were cow paths and Indian trails. They have lived to see the transforming influences of civilization and Anglo-Saxon energy. May they long live to enjoy the fruits of their personal sacrifices, and to witness the continued growth and prosperity of the town which they have founded.
I must not forget, however, to say that several new buildings are about to be erected., some of which are now under way. Among the improvements in contemplation, are a school house, church, hotel, and mill. Mr. Payne is erecting a fine residence. The village probably has a population of 100. Every thing about it impresses one with the idea of neatness, comfort and industry.
TO BE CONTINUED.
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