John Harrison Establishes Town of Birmingham
Birmingham was laid out in June, 1839 by John Harrison.  The first charter was dated June 1, 1856.  The first settler in the town was a man named Berry, although Dr. I. N. Norris passed over the land, where the city now stands, when that plat was all grass-grown.
The first hotel was kept by James Steel; Mr. Berry was the first blacksmith, William Miller the first physician, H. C. Clinton the fisst [sic] lawyer, and Jacob Lawton the first postmaster.  The first child to be born was a daughter of Dr. Norris, and the first death was a child of Titus Moss.
Dr. Norris taught the first school in Birmingham in 1838 and '39.  The first school was in a log hut, but a frame schoolhouse was built later.  In 1872 the residents erected a public schoolhouse and [fo]ur teachers were employed.  [A publ]ic Academy named the "Birmingham Collegiate Institute" was built in 1857 in charge of the Rev. Mr. McArthur, a United Presbyterian.  This institution was very successful.
The first minister was Rev. Joel Arrington, a Methodist, who preached in the old log schoolhouse in 1838.  The society of Methodists was organized in 1839 and they used the old log schoolhouse as their church until a frame church was built in 1857 or '58.  The Rev. Solomon Coles organized the Presbyterian society in 1839.  They held their first meeting in a baron [sic - barn?] but built a church in 1850 and a new one in 1854.  The United Presbyterians organized in 1839 and built a church in 1848.  Their first pastor was Rev. Mr. Vincent.  Rev. Mr. Douty organized the Free Methodist society in 1874 and the members built a church.
In 1878 the town of Birmingham was next in importance to Bonaparte as a manufacturing town in the county.  A plow and wagon factory was operated by Shott and Hope.  It was established in 1866.  A woolen factory was built in 1856 by D. C. Cramer and Company but did not start operating until 1861.  It operated for about ten years successfully.  Gwin & Bott erected a saw and grist mill in 1850.
Birmingham had a tannery in 1868 which was operated by James Glanden, Joseph Porter, "Tanner" Ross and John Park.  This business ran one year then was converted into a pork packing house by Benjamin Smith, who operated it two seasons then moved it to Keokuk.

Source: clippings from scrapbook located in the Van Buren Co. Genealogical Society Library, Keosauqua, IA

Contributed by Volunteer Transcriber Paul French


Van Buren Co. GenWeb Project