Van Buren County
"OUR TOWN" - An Address DELIVERED BEFORE THE KEOSAUQUA LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, March 4th, 1856.
BY HON. GEO. G. WRIGHT.
PUBLISHED BY REQUEST OF THE AUDIENCE
AND THE ASSOCIATION.
JOHN S. STRIDGER, PRINTER.
C O R R E S P O N D E N C E .
KEOSAUQUA, March 5th, 1856.
HON. G. G. WRIGHT--Dear Sir : At a meeting this evening, the Keosauqua Library Association, adopted a series of resolutions, in which the thanks of this Association were tendered for your recent Lecture on "Our Town;" and the opinion expressed that justice to the past, present and future inhabitants of this place requires that such an interesting portion of "The unwritten History of the Times, " should be given to the public in a printed form.
The undersigned were thereupon appointed a committee, to solicit at your hands a copy for publication. In discharging this duty, permit us to express our hearty concurrence in the views of this Association, and our personal hope that you will comply with the request hereby communicated
Very truly your,
W. D. SANDS, )
JOSEPH F. SMITH, ) Committee.
JOHN VALENTINE, )
KEOSAUQUA, March 7th, 1856.
MESSRS SANDS, SMITH and VALENTINE--Gents : Your's of yesterday is before me. I hardly think the Address worthy of publication. In view of the fact however that the large audience who heard it,--and many friends, (including yourselves,) whose opinions I respect, have thought otherwise, I reluctantly yield to your request. I trust it may be better received and accomplish more good, than I am ready to believe it will, and thus meet your expectations, and also those you represent.
GEO. G. WRIGHT.ADDRESS
MR. PRESIDENT AND LADIES AND GENTLEMEN :--In view of the exceedingly important questions which have been brought to your attention by preceding lecturers, I am not unaware of the hazard of being thought odd or rather common place in the selection of the subject announced for this evening's entertainment. I have thought, however, that it might afford a foundation upon which I might build a superstructure of present interest and perhaps of permanent benefit to the citizens of the place. And you will allow me to say that we are all too much inclined to give attention to things afar off--to talk of those subjects which have an importance because of their novelty and supposed far reaching influence and power, to the neglect of those every day matters that are familiar--come within the power of all to immediately aid and benefit--that are village and home like in their character and sphere. To love one's country is noble; to work for its advancement and improvement a paramount duty and pleasure. To love one's town or city, and labor for its moral & intellectual preeminence is just, reasonable, and demanded by every law of the social compact. To love home; to use every exertion to make it happy and pleasant--a place where content dwelleth and love abideth is a more sacred duty still. To talk of Our Town--the place of our homes--of its past history--of some of the scenes of its settlement--of some of those whom many of us have known--of its present position--our duty as its denizens--and something of its future, is my purpose for the passing hour. I trust the subject has around it sufficient of common, self interest to engage your attention and justify its selection.page 2
The oldest inhabitant of the place is W. D. M'Bride, and to him and our fellow citizens Geo. W. Games, J. J. Kinersly, T. Lane, Maj. King, E. Manning and you Mr. President and others, I am indebted for much of my information relating to the settlement and the first settlers of the town. The first claimant or squatter on the site of the present town was John Silvers, who built in the winter of '35 and '36 a small claim pen i of round logs, on the bank of the River, near where the Keosauqua Hotel ii now stands. This pen was perhaps 8 or 10 feet square. At that time, or soon after, E. Purdom, Sen., had taken the claim immediately above town. Below, the nearest settler was Isaac W. McCarty, at the place now known as Rochester; John Patchett was where Philadelphia now is; John Tolman, with his Indian wife, where Capt. Miller now resides. iii The whole claim was covered with a dense forest much resembling the grove yet standing above and adjoining the town.
In the fall of 1836 Silvers was bought out by Meschack Sigler for $300, who came here at that time with his father-in-law and brother-in-law, Eph. and Wm. D. McBride. The elder McBride and Sigler returned to Indiana the same fall, leaving W. D. here in possession of the claim. In some two months thereafter Sigler returned with his family and took possession of the small claim pen built by Silvers. Eph. McBride also brought his family and settled on the claim now known as the Maj. King farm, below town. Mrs. Sigler is believed to be the first white woman that ever made her home on the ground where we now dwell. And I may be allowed to say that she is a noble woman, and well suited to be one of the pioneers in this beautiful but rich wilderness. She came with her husband, her children, her father and her brother, to brave the perils of a frontier, and most nobly did she sustain her arduous part. That man should peril his health and life in seeking the outposts of civilization in this American age, is not remarkable; but that the female should willingly be his companion--suffering the storms of winter--en during (sic) the hardships of a scanty and hard to be obtained subsistence--distant from the gentler influence of life, is a mark of moral heroism and adventurous independence, only topage 3
be found in our country--in our West--in a land where States are made in a year, and neighborhoods, villages, towns and cities grow up in a fortnight.
Mr. Sigler's family continued to live in their little claim pen, having no immediate neighbors, except father Purdom's family above town, until the year, 1837. Then James Hall, Jas. and Edwin Manning, John J. Fairman, John Carnes and Robert Taylor (composing the Van Buren Company) purchased of him his claim. The trade was made by Jas. Manning and Taylor, the other members of the company then being at St. Francisville. After the purchase, it was proposed to lay out a town, and an arrangement was made by which Sigler became one of the Company. Taylor soon afterward sold his interest to William Billups and Simon Druillard. The land was then of course unentered and I believe unsurveyed. A portion of the two blocks next to the river were surveyed in 1837, by William Whittaker, but the whole town was subsequently surveyed, mapped and recorded in the spring of 1839, by Wm. D. M'Bride. The proprietors of the town then appear to have been the persons composing the company before named, and John Saylor, Charles Davis and John Carnes, the county commissioners representing what was known as the county quarter part of the town. Though laid out by the Van Buren Company they gave their town the name of Keosauqua--the Indian, as I understand, for the Great Bend, in which the place is located.2 iv South Keosauqua was surveyed in 1837. James Hall appears to have been the proprietor. He was however but the agent of the same company, who laid out the principal town.v
The first house (after the Silvers claim pen,) was built in 1837, by the Van Buren Company. vi In this Messrs Carnes & Fairman kept the first store. About this time Fairman was appointed the first Postmaster of the place--the name of the office being Portoro. vii The office was kept in this same house, except when the kind and good head of that department carried it in his hat for the better accommodation of those who desire their mail matter. The wants of the growing community and the constant visiting of the pioneers soon demanded other places of shelter; and to meet this want a hole was dug in the bank im-page 4
mediately above Chestnut Street, which was enclosed by puncheons in front and over head, leaving a convenient aperture in the roof for the smoke to escape in the absence of the chimney used in better, but perhaps not warmer houses. Here the members of the company were in the habit of burrowing--and there Mr. Sigler's guests, who might enjoy his hospitality, (which was always cheerfully afforded) would resort in the morning, with the other inmates to keep warm and take their morning jorum viii, during the preparation of the morning meal.
At the land sales in 1838, James Hall purchased in his own name, for the use and benefit of himself and associates the tract on which the town is located. The next year the first brick house was erected, by Edward R. Tylee. The same year Elias Elder erected a part of what is now known as Alexander's brick or barracks.
Previous to this time, the forest was being felled, and lots sold rapidly. Settlers were flocking in, and everything indicated progress and improvement. In 1838, our present fellow-citizen T. Lane, opened the first tailor ship, in the upper room of the building now occupied by Burton & Minich. ix During the next year he formed a partnership with J. J. Kinserly x, and they continued to carry on their trade for several years, being, as I now recollect, the only persons so engaged, in the place, as late as '42.
The first physician was Cyrus H. Ober, followed soon after by the late H. H. Barker. They were both gentlemen of strong common practical sense in their profession, and by all the early settlers at least, held in high esteem for their kindness and assiduous attention at the bedside of the afflicted.
The first Attorney was Isaac N. Lewis xi, now of Missouri, who soon after had a competitor, (as he often facetiously expressed it,) in Samuel W. Summers, now of Ottumwa. They were soon followed by Oliver Weld and Richard Humphreys. There were all here in the fall of 1840, in the full tide of successful practice, when your speaker cast his lot among them. Lewis, Summers and Humphreys are still living. Of them it is no part of my purpose to say more than, that each had his friends, his peculiarities and strong traits of character, which fitted all for a practice novel and arduous in its nature and to a state ofpage 5
society constantly changing and rapidly improving. Oliver Weld died at my residence in October, 1843. He had represented the county in the Legislature, was a man of sterling worth, strong mind, was universally esteemed by a very large circle of friends, and bid fair to occupy a proud and enviable position as a lawyer and politician. He was my partner at his death, I knew him well. He was an honest man, possessed many rare eccentricities, but a good warm heart. In his death the State lost an able man, the profession a sound lawyer, and society a valuable member.
A. M. Lyon & Geo. W. Games located here in 1839, and started the first tan yard, at the point below town. It is still owned as you are aware, by the junior partner of the firm, having been greatly enlarged, and doing now perhaps the heaviest business of any similar establishment in the county.
The first tavern was kept by Elisha Puett in a one story log house, on or near the ground now occupied by the tin shop of Mr. Grayum. 8 xii He is said to have been a rough specimen of border life, and to have kept a house characteristic of the man. He also, it is believed, kept the first grocery in the place. A portion of the hotel now owned by James Shepherd was built and used as such by Puett. He delighted in gaming, as did also his son, some 12 years of age. I am told they would play publicly in the bar-room, and should a guest arrive, the son or the father, (as they might agree,) would attend to his horse, and do the honors of the house. Should the father be losing, and direct the son to take care of the horse, he would reply, with an oath, "No. you go dad, I am winning, I cannot afford to go, but as you are losing you can." and this logic generally prevailed, when used by either according to their good or bad luck. As the town improved, it is thought society became too refined for his habits. He left for Texas, where we are told he accumulated a large fortune. xiii
The first blacksmith was David Smith. He put up a frame shop near where the Rev. W. D Sands now resides. He worked at the trade but a short time however, and was followed by E. W. Henkle, who started a shop in a little log building on the lots now occupied by Samuel Scott. He continued the business as many of us know, for a number of years; and after having visited the Pacific, has recently returned, and his hammer is again heard (sic)
In the fall of 1837, Wm. Duncan commenced erecting the Despage 6
Moines Mills, below & adjoining town. In April 1839, R. King the proprietor, laid out Des Moines City. The claim upon which it is located, was made or purchased (and I have not been able to ascertain,) by A. W. Harlan and Frank Church and their associates. Duncan has as his associates in building the mill, Russo King, Wm W. Madden xiv, Wm. Meek and others. He was a man of much energy and perseverance--attentive to his own interest--strictly temperate in his habits, and sought, ostensibly at least, to advance the moral character of the community. The success of the enterprise undertaken by him in the mill--its subsequent owners--and the difficulties under which they have labored--are too familiar to most of you to need comment from me.
The same autumn xv, the few settlers here were first gladdened with the sound of the steamer's whistle--the S. B. Science, Capt. Clarke, Master, having then made this port, ladened with goods for the Indian trading posts above, and with flour, meal, pork and other things (including whiskey) for this and other points. This was a happy day to the few settlers of the valley, and many of the "oldest inhabitants" can even now describe the Old Science--as the boat was called--her spacious Cabin ! her elegant suits of the State Rooms ! and portly and proud commander. She had plowed the bright waters of our beautiful river--walked over the golden sands and pebbly bottom of the belle stream of the West--demonstrated the navigability of the waters that laved xvi our shores, and left with blessings on her prow--a theme for days and months, for the boys in their plays, the ladies at their social meetings, and the gentlemen over their juleps and grog.
Previous to, and after this time however, the good Keel boat, Capt. Cash, Master, made frequent trips up and down the river. Her freight was brought principally from Warsaw and Quincy in Illinois, and consisted of flour, meal, corn, pork and other similar commodities, including goods (wet and dry,) for in them days all these things had to be brought from the towns on the Mississippi, or from the country South of us in the State of Mo. Flour was then from $12 to $18 per bbl.--Pork from $18 to 20 per hhd. xvii Meal and Corn from $1 to $2 per bushel. The nearest Mill at first was at Sweet Home, a distance of thirty miles. This was propelled by horse power. Father Purdom afterward built a duplicate of it, near town, the remains of which some of us recollect. We sometimes talk of high prices now, and of the privations some of us have undergone within the last eight or ten years. But imagine this little settlement with In-page 7
dians all around them--destitute of provisions and milling facilities--dependent upon what might be brought by wagons and keel boats from the Mississippi and other places, and then rejoice at our prosperity and abundance. I am told indeed that the arrival of Capt. Cash's Keel, was looked for frequently with the most intense anxiety. Their flour would give out--leaving only dodgers xviii made of water and salt, and even of these not an abundance. Tea, coffee and Scutiappo would become scarce, and of course there would be a general season of complaint, and an anxious looking for Capt. Cash. When his well filled vessel would come into port, all could supply themselves. Wheat bread would be substituted for the dodger--fine fat rolls of Missouri and Illinois bacon greased their dry throats--the digestion of all which was much aided by plentiful cups of Rio xix for the women and children, and good new whiskey for the men. Those were holidays--happy days. We have none such now; but it may well be doubted whether after all we are more contented, or more ready to lend the helping hand to the needy and distressed.
About this time two of our citizens appealed to the code of honor for the settlement of their grievances. The parties were Aaron W. Harlan and one Bushnell. Their seconds were Russo King and M. Sigler--the place of meeting near where the Odd Fellows' Hall now stands. xx They had pistols without the coffee, xxi and I am happy to state, that their friends reconciled the belligerents without the shooting. In the settlement, blows ensued however. Harlan came off victor, and this ended the first, and it is hoped the last appeal to the bloody code in our law abiding and peaceable community.
The first Recorder of the county was William Welch. Henry Bateman was the first Probate Judge, and Henry G. Stewart (now residing near Montrose) first Clerk. Stewart was appointed April10, 1839 (sic) , xxii by the Hon. David Irwin, who then held the first termof (sic) the Court for the county. This term was held in Farmington, that being the first county seat. This county was then a part of Wisconsin, and W. W. Chapman, District Attorney for the U. S. was present at this Court. On the third day of the term, the Grand Jury found eight indictments; and it is worthy of remark, as indicative of the sterling character of that tribunal or of the bad state of society, or both, that one of the indictments was against an officer of the Court and two against a member of their own body. xxiii At the same term also anindictment (sic) was found against one Doose "for exercising the office of constable within our Territory under the laws of Mis-page 8
souri." And here we have perhaps the first judicial assertion of our jurisdiction over a territory, that was afterward the theater of the most bloodless war ever recorded, and to which I shall refer more at length hereafter.
Isaac J. Nowell, was the first Sheriff. He carried no sword or other insignia of office but we are assured that he had a well tanned and close fitting suit of buckskin, which struck terror to the minds of all evil doers, and those who did not have the fear of the law, and a due respect for the Court and its officers before their eyes. He was succeeded by Henry Heffleman, and Mr. Stewart by Frye B. Hazeltine, who was appointed Nov. 12, 1838. On the same day I. N. Lewis, before named, was admitted as an Attorney, and he is believed to have been the first person so admitted in the county.
The District Court was first held in this place in April 1839--the Hon. Charles Mason (now Commissioner of Patents,) presiding. 9 Mr. Duncan before named was foreman of the grand jury, and the first trial by jury was that of the U. S. vs. Blankenship and Helms for Riot. As a matter of curiosity I have obtained and give you the names of the jurors trying this cause. 10 Of these four have died, and of those living, six are in this place and vicinity--and are all worthy and valuable citizens.
The first political convention of the county was held by the democratic party in the spring of 1840, in the same room occupied by the District Court. It was about this time that parties began to take shape in the young Territory, and that men were voted for to some extent on account of their political faith. Some of those who figured in that convention lived to enjoy the fruits of the organization in the way of good fat offices, and others have at times been made to realize that a dominant party cannot always be successful, even under the most strict party drill.
Wilson Stanley and Sewall Kenney were the first justices in the place. xxiv They were appointed by the Governor. The date of their appointments I have not been able to ascertain. On the 29th December, 1838, Kenny took the acknowledgment of a deed--and this, as far as I can trace, was his first official act. On the 11th of the succeeding January he joined in marriage Benj. F. Green, to Susan Kidwell, and on the 27th Stanley united Lewis Lapplant and Nancy Hill. This latter marriage, aspage 9
far as I can learn, was the first ever solemnized in the place.
Alfred Vertrees is believed to have been the first Constable. Whoever it was however, I am told that soon after his induction into office, he was given a summons for service on a defendant some six miles from town. Not finding him at home he served his writ on a yoke of cattle and drove the same to the justices' office. While this was not strictly in accordance with the law in such cases made and provided; it may well be doubted whether the method was not quite as efficient to collect debts, as many of those devised in the more modern days of the law.
Father Purdom's was where the minister first found a home and a place to preach. The house was a double log cabin, with an entry between--and stood on the bank of the river about three hundred yards above the town. Preaching was heard but seldom, and I recollect that as late as 1840, the Methodist minister preached once a month. Even then, one of these rooms would scarcely be filled. Byrant, Hawk, Summers, Arrington, Shinn of the Methodist; Bell and the two Rankins (Uncle and Nephew,) of the Presbyterian; and Post of the Baptist Church, if not the first, were among those who first taught the way of life to those attending upon their ministry at this place. They preached at the house in the winter, and frequently in the grove in the summer. The congregations were not large, but uniformly attentive, manifesting an appreciation of the moral lessons inculcated. Father Purdom was a Kentucky Methodist. His house was always open however to the traveling ministry of all denominations. While he had strong prejudices and great quaintness of character, he was a warm friend and as warm an enemy. He had a very strong attachment for his church, his home and his family. In 1848, (sic) xxv he departed this life, much respected and lamented--and sleeps in the grave yard--a tract which he gave from his premises for the town burying ground. He left a large family--all of whom have left, and are now settled, as we are aware, in Western Missouri.
It is believed that the first white child born in the place was a daughter to William Billups. She is still alive, and with her father some twenty-five miles distant. xxvi Her mother, as far as I can learn was the first adult person who died in the place. She was buried on the top of the rocky hill, just above the Steam Mill in South Keosauqua. xxvii
The "Iowa Democrat and the Des Moines River Intelligencer," was the first newspaper published in the place, commencing in the summer of 1843. The proprietors were Jesse M. Shepherdpage 10
and John T. Mitchell. It was neutral in politics professedly and so continued until James Shepherd, (the acknowledged veteran of the press in this part of the State,) removed to this place. He then assumed control and lifted it from what he regarded the mire of neutrality on to the solid ground of democracy--the interest of which party it subsequently sought to promote.
Previous to 1839, as already stated, a conflict arose between the State of Missouri and this Territory, relative to the strip of country lying between this place and what is now the established Northern boundary of that State. She insisted that the Rapids of the Des Moines, mentioned in her State Constitution as a point in her Northern boundary, referred to the Rapids in that River at this town--and we claimed and insisted that the Des Moines Rapids in the Mississippi were those meant. This being the state of the controversy, both parties claiming to exercise jurisdiction over the disputed territory for revenue and other purposes--in 1839, the clarion of war resounded through the land. Our town though then but small, had willing and brave soldiers, ready to sacrifice themselves in defense of the rich acres of which the enemy sought to despoil us. [I] cannot dwell upon the scenes of that mighty conflict, as they would alone furnish matter for more than one evening's entertainment. They are varied and rich, and will repay the investigation of the curious and such as have a taste for the martial history of the times. Suffice it to say that our troops were led on by E. A. M. Swasey, as Gen.; Giles Wells, as Major, and the gentleman who presides with so much dignity over the meeting of this association, as Captain, (J. H. Bonney.) Withou(t) bloodshed our troops were victorious--the enemy having consented to yield the territory, until the right thereto could b(e) settled by judicial or civil proceedings. Subsequently, as we are aware, the tract was adjudged ours, by th(e) determination of the Supreme court of the United States. The wags of those times attributed the result of this bloodless conflict to two causes--First, that our troops had the most good liquor; Second, that ours had moccasins and the enemy none, and they being unable to withstand our good cheer and the cold of winter, were persuaded and frozen into a glorious peace. But in truth, while we are now accustomed to look upon this controversy as but little serious, yet it was a matter of deep moment at the time, an(d)page 11
engaged the serious attention of the best men of our Territory. It appears that the Sheriff of Clark County, Missouri, came on to the disputed land under the laws of that State to collect revenue. Many, and I believe most, of the citizens refused to pay, and disputed his authority. While so engaged he was arrested by our officers and lodged in jail at Muscatine--or if not in jail was at least taken to that place and there detained, having the limits of the city upon his pledge of honor to remain. Soon afterwards his deputy appeared with a large posse to enforce the collections of this revenue. And this was the occasion when our citizens were called on to resist their demands. A state of intense excitement prevailed for some time, until finally after one ineffectual conference on the open prairie South of Indian Creek, at which James Hall and others officiated as commissioners on our part, and a second one at Waterloo, at which the late Stephen Whicher and others acted for us, the controversy was settled. The Sheriff of Clark Co., (---- Gregory, ) xxviii was indicted for so exercising the duties of his office under the laws of Missouri, but subsequent to the compromise, the Attorney for the Territory entered a nolle prosequi xxix and he was discharged. In this controversy, while our citizens were so called out, many of them expended large amounts of property; and it is a matter of regret that to this time they have not been compensated for such expenditure and loss. xxx Every principle of right and justice demands that those who sacrificed their property should be paid, and it is hoped that the compensation so long withheld may soon be cheerfully accorded by either the State or National Government.
About this time was commenced and continued what is known as our County Seat difficulty. Numerous towns were then laid off, throughout the county, and all or most of them were competitors for the location. In this contest we had to compete with Pittsburg, Philadelphia, Rochester, Columbus, Rockport, Bentonsport, Lexington, Farmington, Utica and perhaps other points. Several Legislative acts were passed, two or more elections held, one or more different commissions appointed, until finally after an arduous struggle it was permanently located at this place. The Legislature located it at Rochester at one time, but this was vetoed by the Governor, and soon after, the bill passed fixing it here provided certain conditions were performed by the proprietors of the place. The strife then created, the hostility then engendered, between the rival towns was bitter, and continued against our town forpage 12
years after, and even now we can occasionally see the old leaven at work.
A brief reference to the original proprietors of the place, and I leave this part of the subject.
Robert Taylor and James Manning were never so far identified with our place as citizens, as to be classed with the proprietors in this connection. As before stated, Taylor sold out soon after the purchase, and Jas. Manning has never resided with us.
John Carnes might be called appropriately the talking, bragging member of the firm. It was his peculiar province to dwell on the advantages of the place and its high destiny in the future. He originated the flaming handbills, and magnified the hydraulic privileges connected with our location at the Des Moines Rapids. And one person assures me that to these hand bills and Carnes' exaggerated statements as to the amount of water fall and character of the Rapids at this point, may be traced the idea in the minds of the Missourians that these Rapids, were those meant in their State Constitution. However this may be, certain it is, that he could "pretend to say" more fine things in favor of the "Rapids City," the "Bend City," the "Mill City," than all of his associates. He was a man of fine education, great activity, but little fitted however for trade or the every day practical affairs ot (sic) life. He was from New York, and is still living, almost if not quite blind, and retaining many of his earlier peculiarities and virtues.
John J. Fairman was also from New York, and died as we are aware, during the last summer, and is buried near his constant and esteemed associate James Hall. They were as brothers, Hall being the elder brother. Fairman was the wit of the company. Few men possessed greater vivacity, or quicker perceptive faculties. I think I never knew him at fault in the arena of fun and sharp wit. He always had an answer for every person--quick, apt and frequently severely biting and sarcastic. He read much of light literature and the drama, and in his happier moods would not inaptly personate the Stars of the theatrical board. He talked of business, and made many fine resolves to accomplish this or that project, but practically did but little. He accumulated no property, but died poor. He had a good kind heart, and I believe was an honest man.
James Hall, (or Cap. Hall as he was uniformly called,) was a man of great suavity of manners, exceedingly polite and gentlemanly in his intercourse with society, and might properly be called the politician of the association. He was once a member of the House and subsequently a member of the Council of thepage 13
Territorial Legislature. A man of pleasing address, he had very warm and active friends, and was popular with the people. A man of strong impulses, generous to the last cent, tenacious of this honor, ready to resent an insult, enjoying the convivialities of the dance or the glories of a corn husking or house raising, give his personal influence to all public or benevolent enterprises, treating all person respectfully, he was a general favorite, and died generally lamented as any one who has brought mourners to his bier in our place. He was from Kentucky and died in 1845.
Of M. Sigler, who is still living in our county, and E. Manning, still of our town, it would be scarcely proper for me to say much. Meshack, (or Mash as we call him,) was from Indiana, and was and is decidedly a rich character. He was always a lover of fun and mischief in his way, and after his manner, no man enjoyed himself more. He had a great fancy for hoaxing and ghosting strangers; and would at any time give a good lot for a proper subject upon whom to exercise his extraordinary faculties in this respect. xxxi He has but little education, but I have seldom known a man who can more correctly and quickly judge of human character, or one more correct in his estimate of property, or in determining any given proposition.
Mr. Manning was always just what he now is,--the solid, active, shrewd business man,--uniformly attentive to his own interest. He stands high in the commercial world wherever known. While all the other proprietors are gone, he is still here, one of us, one of Our Town. While they engaged in other projects, he has attend to number one, and has garnered a good harvest, as the result of his economy and prudence. Let us hope that he may use it to the upbuilding and improvement of his town, and our town.
There are others of the early settlers of whom I would like to speak, had I time. Of Stanley, or as he was afterwards called Pashpaho; of Uncle Simon Druillard or Wabesha; of Kinersly or White Pigeon; of Billups the first ferryman, with his fast horses and brag stock; of "traveler" Bill Smith and Charley Washburn; of John Medley the man of personal prowess; of W. W. Hadden, the strict Presbyterian and man of Puritan habits; of Wm. Steele, the stern and unflinching Democrat and politician; of Lewis, with his hearty Kentucky laugh, his old boots and careless dress; of the social gatherings at old Pashpaho's with his occasional by word of 'by-gum,' and of the great good feeling then prevailing. Of all these I would like to speak, but I find I must hasten on.page 14
A brief reference to some facts drawn from the experiences of our oldest inhabitants, to some causes which have tended to retard our growth, and of our duty in the future and I have done.
While it is not denied that the habits of many of the earlier settlers, were such as are incident more or less to all new countries--such as gaming and drinking--yet I doubt whether any place and vicinity, was ever settled with a more honorable, liberal and generous population. Take the pannel (sic) of grand and petit jurors, first summoned at this place, and I doubt whether even now we are likely to secure for such purposes, more substantial, correct and thinking men. I have before given you the names of the Petit Jurors, and I now give such of the Grand Jurors as many of you will recollect. 12 All good men, all worthy men. Of this entire list Eph. McBride and Obed Stannard alone remain in this place. Father McBride is quiet aged and infirm, and it is feared, the even now, his last hour has come, confined as he is to a bed of sickness and pain. 13
But again, as to to (sic) the early settlers of this place. As the future society of all communities is shaped to some extent, by the mental and moral character of those who lay the foundation, so in this, the social, liberal and easy manners of the pioneers have influenced our population even to this time. And it should be, and is a matter of just pride to us, that while other places have abused and condemned us, while they have been torn asunder by little petty jealousies, have been divided into classes, warring and jarring sects and sets, there has in this place been a remarkable unity of feeling, an almost universal sympathy in each others misfortunes, and a general conviction that it is merit, and not money or soulless professions that make the man.
So also I think I may with truth assert, that no population, with the same means, ever was more ready to assist in every benevolent and religious enterprise, or to give more freely to advance the interests of our little community. This remark is general. To it, there are, I am sorry to say individual excep-page 15
tions. If they are satisfied, then those who have performed their duty in this respect ought to be. To prove our liberality, let me refer to a few enterprises. We gave $600 to open what is called the bluff road; xxxii about $5000 (as an estimate) to build our two churches; $300 to establish a free ferry, to say nothing of our subsequent taxation to support the same; about $1500 to build one school house, and $2000 being collected to build a second; over $4000 being subscribed and appropriated to build two Academies; $5000 paid toward the construction of a bridge across the river, which however was entirely lost; xxxiii some $17000 stock taken in the Railroad from the East, (and instalments (sic) paid as called for); about $2000 invested in Halls for two benevolent Orders, (Masonic and Odd Fellows.) and various other smaller sums which I need not mention. And this has been done we must remember when property was not advancing in value, but rather, until within the last year, decreasing. Other places, where property was rapidly risiug (sic) in value may have done more; but few, if any, have been so liberal and public spirited, with the same aggregate of means, under like circumstances.
Again I think I may state it as true, that there has been as much of morality, respect for religion and compliance with contracts made, as in any other place. Not more than two failures have taken place with our business men, in the last fifteen years, and I hazard nothing in saying that the credit of our merchants, is deservedly high in St. Louis and the East; and that they enjoy an enviable reputation for honesty and punctuality in all their contracts at home and abroad. This I know from a professional experience of some sixteen years in this valley; and from the uniform testimony of those with whom they trade. And this circumstance I assure you speaks for their integrity and capacity, as well as for the healthy tone and state of society.
I also affirm that we have had as few larcenies, affrays, deaths from violence, or other infractions of the criminal code, as have occurred, in any the most peaceable community, in the same time. So also I with confidence state that we have had as little dissipation and gaming--but I nevertheless must say that we have had too much of both. These things have sapped the moral character and periled the health of some of our noblest and best men--and are doing so even yet. It is passing strange that it should be so--that noble men--thinking men--influential men--ordin-arialy (sic) moral men--intelligent men, will surrender themselves even partially to theses banes of society; these destroyers of health, of their own peace and comfort, and that of their homes and families. I beg all such in all sincerity andpage 16
friendship to avoid the one and the other as they would the deadly upas xxxiv--to shun these miserable haunts as they would the serpents den or the adders sting. Doing so they will promote their own peace and permanent happiness, their own individual prosperity, and the substantial welfare of their families, and the good name of Our Town.
But you ask, if our citizens have been thus energetic and liberal, why have we not had greater prosperity. I will give you some of the causes. In the first place we have had to encounter the most unrelenting opposition from all the neighboring towns, originating as before stated in the county seat difficulty, and continued with more or less bitterness of feeling ever since. This is much to be regretted, but I am glad to know that it has been to a great extent lived down and surmounted.
So also while we are situated in the midst of a rich agricultural district, and while we are the Shire-town of a wealthy county; yet we are off any main thoroughfare, and have constantly had some 12 to 15 towns and as many other trading points in the county to divide with us the business of the country. And when we add to this the fact that in regard to one or two important transactions, our farmers have been impressed with the belief, whether justly or not is immaterial, that some of our citizens have acted in bad faith, and that they have believed that we had those among us who lived off the county and at their expense, we need not wonder that our progress has been slow or that the confidence of those around us has in times past been withheld.
But in addition to these drawbacks, and for sometime the unsettled condition of our county seat, the want of mills, such as have given impetus to other places, the hopes and disappointments connected with the improvement of the river, the fact that a large portion of our lots fell into the hands of non-residents, who have held them at high prices; I say in addition to all these, was the greater draw back of the unsettled condition of our Southern boundary. This made all distrustful as we know, and led all to hesitate about investing their means in town property or permanent buildings. Contracts were made as we are aware, conditioned upon the result of this controversy. After the favorable decision, time was necessary to restore confidence, and hence it is only within the last two or three years that our property has acquired a substantial marketable value.
These and other causes have tended to retard our growth. Some of these have been measurably overcome--others still exist. We have now however better prospects and more generalpage 17
prosperity than ever before. To ensure ultimate success and a continuance of prosperity, requires some things at our hands and of these I now proceed to speak.
We have a most beautiful place by nature, a more pleasant town site is not to be found on this the most beautiful of streams. That it is a healthy location, as much so as any in all this valley, time has and will continue to demonstrate. 14 We are in the centre of the richest agricultural county in the State, and if properly managed may control the trade of a very large territory south and west of us. We have business men of experience and capital, occupying favorable positions in the financial world. If improved, we can command the finest hydraulic power in the State. 15 It is a season of unexampled prosperity, strangers are constantly coming in, property is rapidly advancing in value, building contracts are being made and material in demand, and if we do our duty our Town, may be all we could wish.
And in the first place, if we owe anything, let us pay it, and then keep out of debt. I referred to this at length on a former occasion, and only design glancing at it now. I know the thraldom, xxxv the oppression of being weighed down by a heavy indebtedness, and I believe I can appreciate the independence and joyousness of being relieved therefrom. I have known the strong man --the active man-- the business man--the go ahead man, brought down and his spirits crushed for life by over trading, promising to pay when he could not. I have known him lead an after life of restless uneasiness and hopeless anxiety, and in view of such instances have felt how destroying was an unlicensed credit system, and how much our happiness, integrity, prosperity and independence would be promoted, if we would but pay as we buy, or to use a homely adage, "if we would cut our garments according to our cloth," Let us all do this and our reputation for promptness and punctuality, if put to the test, will be sustained, and general competence and thrift obtain in our midst. A community free from debt, must be prosperous, If burthened xxxvi with debt, it cannot be.page 18
In the next place, let us be liberal in encouraging all public beneficial enterprises; and especially all projects of an educational character or those looking to the moral elevation of the community; and the construction of avenues of trade and commerce in every direction. Let us not stop either with mere talk, or merely encouraging others to give their money, but let each one do his duty by giving and affording material aid. All we give or invest in such objects will return to us a hundred fold, beside promoting our happiness and comfort, and securing rich blessings to our chilnren (sic) whose well being should be our constant and paramount care.
Again, for I must be brief, let us all get homes. Every man that has not, let me beseech him to make it his first care, to buy him a home or build one as soon as he can. Have a home--an abiding place--a spot of God's earth you can call your own. Be it ever so humble, have a place where you can lay down your own sod, plant your own trees, transplant your own shrubs, cultivate your own plants and grow your own flowers. If you do so, your fruit will have a richer flavor, your vegetables a brighter hue, your walks and shrubs a lovelier and more home like appearance, your flowers a sweeter fragrance, than when you plant, dig or grow them upon the land of another. Have a home where your children can grow up and call it by that sweet name; where you can feel that you are lord of the manor; where you have to pay no man from your hard earnings for the privilege of breathing in his old tenement and looking at God's green earth through hired windows. I don't care what it is to start with, build or have something for a shelter. When you have the beginning, then every nail you drive, every rail or stone you lay up, every pen you build, every tree, shrub or flower you set out is yours, and is adding to your daily wealth, and the ultimate happiness, comfort, moral character and independence of yourself and family. If you say you are not able to build, then I say you are not able to pay rent. The rent that many pay in three years, would build better houses than half the miserable ones they pay others for using. You will never, I assure you get able, by paying rent. It is the poorest and least profitable investment a man ever makes. If you fail in building you are in no worse condition, than if you are kept poor by paying rent. But you need not fail. You never knew a man of good health'fail, by undertaking in good faith to build him a home. The very act gives those around him confidence in his permanence as a citizen and his integrity as a man, and will lead them to give aid and assistance that they might otherwise withhold.page 19
I say then again obtain a home. And to to (sic) those that have, use more oil and white lead and plant more trees so as to give to them an additional air of neatness and comfort, and remove the appearance of age and dilapidation. And to those that can, I say build others, and especially business houses. Do not lock up your means, or invest in lands and mortgages, but in permanent substantial improvement to meet the wants of trade and an increasing population.
And again and finally I say do good, do right. And by this I mean just what I say. Not alone to think right--to promise right--to theorize good-- to mean good--to intend good--to pray for good, but do good and do right. Let us have the practical and not the theoretical. Let us feed the poor, not talk about it. Let us relieve the distressed and needy, and not stop at solemn resolves. Let us have the kind heart that has feet and legs that carry us where charity is to be exercised; a heart that has arms and hands that expand and open to the calls of humanity. Let us (to use a common figure,) keep the mercury in our religious thermometer at the proper temperature, without the aid of a blanket labeled with twenty percent interest, or the warming influence of quilts patched up of professions, and made warmer by the expectation that our neighbors will see our good deeds, and herald them to the world. A working, a practical philanthropy; an active, a doing Christianity; a relieving, a present humanity, are worth more in the sight of God and man, than all the solemn promises, honest resolves, and ardent wishes and anxieties for relief, that were ever made or indulged in. Let us do good then, be faithful in offices of human benefaction; cultivate habits of sobriety; be practically ready with loosened purse strings to do right; demonstrate that bullion is as cheap and as easily bestowed, as mere lip service; and by so doing we shall retain our good name, and live to rejoice in the fair character, desirable society and permanent prosperity of our home, of our community and of "Our Town."
i The definition of claim pen seems to have evolved over time. In the present context of Eastern Iowa in 1836, it referred to a primitive structure to house a family. By 1843 in Monroe County, Iowa a claim pen was described as follows: "Some brave pioneer settler would select a claim, but, being unable to make a homestead filing on it at once, would erect a "claim-pen"—i.e., a log pen sixteen feet square and four rounds high; this would hold his claim for six months, at the end of which time it was presumed he would have completed a cabin." History of Monroe County, Iowa, page 21. By 1854, the Omaha Township (Nebraska) Claim Association rules were recorded as follows: " Sec. 6. Marking the claim and building a claim pen four rounds high in a conspicuous place shall hold the claim for thirty days. Sec. 7. At the expiration of thirty days as in section six the claimants shall erect a house thereon." History of Nebraska, Morton and Watkins, page 190
ii The Keosauqua House was located on Front St. and Van Buren as per 1855 Democratic Union advertisement. James Shepherd was the proprietor. A later comment in this speech about James Shepherd using Elisha Puett's old hotel building for his hotel along with the deed record, suggest the Keosauqua House was on L4, B6 side of Van Buren and Front Street.
iii Captain Miller's land was 6 miles from Keosauqua on the Birmingham Road according to an 1852 lost item report appearing in the Democratic Union. Deed records shows a James Miller first purchased land in this area (Sections 5, 6 and 7, 69, 9) starting in 1843 and adding more land in 1846. An early Road viewing report filed with the county commissioners on June 26, 1837 for a road along the North side of the Des Moines river to the Indian Line states: "then taking up a left hand point following the Road from Columbus to Mathews untill we come to the forks one Leading to Rockport then going a west Direction to the forks of Coperafs (Copper or Corpras) Creek from thence to the head of the Bend Leaving Tolmans old place about 3/4 of a Mile to the Right hand striking the Rivver at John S. McCrutcheon..."
iv The spelling is Ke-o-shah-quah according to a March 25, 1835 letter entitled "Expedition To the Sacs and Foxes" by Cutting Marsh quoted on page 123 of John E. Chapin's "Early Presbyterianism in Wisconsin", Wisconsin Historical Collection Vol . xv. Ke-o-sa-qua - Clear, Broad River is another spelling variant given on page 23 of the article "A Memoir of Indian Names in Iowa with their Signification" By Samuel Storrs Howe found in the Annals of Iowa Vol. 1, No. 1, New Series January 1882. In a letter to the The Republican (Geo. A. Henry Editor & Publisher) dated August 17, 1876, Aaron Word Harlan writes "The name of your town was meant to be the Indian name of the river De Moine, and to this day I can scarcely write it without using the "h", and if it was spelled in this way : Keoshauqua, almost every person would give it the correct Indian pronunciation. The Indian name of the big bend was Waque Shauk."
v James Hall bought the South Van Buren lands for the Van Buren Company. The original partnership transfers from Hall to Edwin and James Manning, recorded in October 1839, contain lots in both towns. See Deeds A-561 and A-564.
vi This is the second lot down river from Chestnut Street which faces on the now closed Front Street.
vii The early post offices in pre-Congressional Survey Van Buren county were unofficially organized by Aaron W. Harlan in the Fall of 1836 when he brought the contract for the St. Francisville to Sweet Home mail route from William Bedell for $40. He extended the route to Keosauqua and appointed his own postmasters in the towns along the way. See Harlan's letter of August 17, 1876 to The Republican newspaper, Geo. A. Henry, Editor & Publisher.
According to Patera and Gallagher's Iowa Post Offices 1833-1986, Portoro was officially organized on January 24, 1838, It was changed to Van Buren on February 6, 1840. Van Buren was changed to Keosauqua on October 8, 1844.
viii jourm - a large bowl or jug used for serving drinks such as tea or punch.
ix find where this Burton & Minich building was located - deed search?
x Lane and Kinnersley purchased Lot 4 in Block 7 on 4 NOV 1840. See Deed B-590. Lane sell out to Kinnersley on 10 MAY 1844. See Deed E-244. J. J. Kinersley marries Margaret, a niece of Abner Kneeland, on June 15, 1843.
xi I. N. Lewis and John Purdom were partners in the hotel founded by James Hall and later connection to Russell House.
xii Deed records show Elisha Puett owned Lot 4 in Block 6. for a short time and Lot 10 in Block 7.
xiii Elisha Puett's children seems to have lived to Bell Co., and Milian Co., TX
xiv William White Hadden not "Madden"
xv The date was September, 1837 according to A. W. Harlan quoted in Early Steamboating On the Des Mioines River by Tacitus Hussey. Harlan's goods were loaded at Sweet Home and delivered to his store on Lot 1 of Block 6 in Des Moines City.
xvi lave - wash against or over (something)
xvii hhg - hogshead - a large cask, a measure of capacity - 63 gallons of wine and 64 gallons of beer.
xviii corn dodger - a boiled cornmeal dumpling
xix "Rio" was coffee. In the 1820's, large coffee plantations were planted in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. See Wiki.
xx In an 1855 meeting notice, the IOOF hall was at 2nd and Van Buren Streets, 1897 Plat Map shows Lot 2 in Block 26
xxi For context see this quote from THE KANSAS CITY JOURNAL, TUESDAY, AUGUST 3, 1897. "There were lively times in the county court "room yesterday afternoon. ... "The statement you make Is not true, and you know it." said Judge Stone. "You know you do not state the facts." was the retort... Time was when such an exchange of civilities would have been followed by coffee and pistols or pistols without the coffee."
xxii Existing court records show David Irvin held the first county court in 1837 but the first District was not held until 1839.
xxiii add details of these indictments
xxiv Samuel C. Reed and Henry Bateman were hold over Justices from the old Des Moines County. They were involved in the Hendershott/Knapp murder case, Case #20, at Columbus in July of 1837.
xxv Elijah Purdom Sr. was born 8 OCT 1777 and died 12 NOV 1846.
xxvi William Billups died in Chartion Co., MO on 9 JAN 1887.
xxvii According to an 1844 mortgage recorded in Record A-105, there was a steam saw mill located on Lot 5 of Block 2 in South Van Buren/Keosauqua. Record A is a combined Bill of Sale and Mortgage book located in the Recorder's vault.
xxviii Uriah S. Gregory, nicknamed Sandy, Sheriff of Clark Co. from 1837-1842. - See History of Clark Co. : Goodspeed Publishing 1887, pages 290 and 367.
xxix nolle prosequi a Latin legal phrase meaning "be unwilling to pursue" - Wiki
xxx story about Henry Bateman of Farmington's loss in this matter.
xxxi For a story illustrating this behavior, see Sketches of the Settlement of the Des Moines Valley by A. W. Harlan in the Daily Gate City Septermber 6, 1870.
xxxii This, no doubt, was the road from Water and Main streets in Keosauqua to Columbus along Gillian's Bluff as recorded on 17 OCT 1839 in Old Survey A on page 93 and on page 72 of New Survey A.
xxxiii The flood of 1851 destroyed the bridge under construction at the time. The timber being cut around Iowaville and rafted down to Keosauqua was all washed away. The flood even put the fire out the boiler powering the sawmill.
xxxiv upas - a Javanese tree alleged to poison its surroundings and said to be fatal to approach.
xxxv thraldom - historically a slave, servant or captive.
xxxvi burthen - an archaic form of burden
Submitted by Mike Miller
Van Buren County IAGenWeb Project