Franklin T Oldt.

History of Dubuque County, Iowa; being a general survey of Dubuque County history, including a history of the city of Dubuque and special account of districts throughout the county, from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryFranklin T OldtHistory of Dubuque County, Iowa; being a general survey of Dubuque County history, including a history of the city of Dubuque and special account of districts throughout the county, from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 56)
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were the first wliite persons to reside permanently in what is
now Dubuque county, Iowa. They came here probably in
1788 and began to work the lead mines, and Dubuque, at least,
lived here more or less continuously until his death in 1810. After
the latter date until 1827, it is not probable that any white persons
resided permanently here, though doubtless, in spite of the fact that
the Indian title was not extinguished and the Indians themselves
were hostile to such advances, white explorers from the older Galena
and Wisconsin districts, invaded cautiously this county with the ob-
ject of settlement when the lands should be secured by treaty and
thrown into market. It is also known that white traders resided more
or less permanently on the islands in front of Dubuque from 18 10 to
1830. The period from 1827 to 1832 has thus been called the
period of exploration when white men on the east side of the
Mississippi invaded the wilds west of the river to select homes with
the view of early future settlement. This invasion was doubtless
one of the sequences of the Indian treaties of 1804, 1818, 1824, etc.,
which forecast the speedy acquirement by the government of lands
west of the river. Many who afterward became permanent resi-
dents of this county made explorations during this period ; among
them were James L. Langworthy, Lucius H. Langworthy, James
McPeters, E. M. Wren, Samuel Scales, George W. Jones, Thomas
McCraney, Anton Loire and others.

A party of ladies and gentlemen from Galena celebrated the
Fourth of July, 1828, at the mouth of Catfish creek, Dubuque
county. This was probably the first time in what is now Iowa that
the flag was raised and that day celebrated. In 1832 another party
from Galena celebrated the same day at the same place. — (Herald,
November 2, 1865.)

George W. Jones came here to trade with the Indians as early as
1828; he then resided at Sinsinawa Mound. In order to convey
his ox team and cart across the river, he lashed two canoes or other
boats together and then put his whole outfit on board and all were
ferried over by the Indians. He obtained lead and gave money
and goods therefor. The Langworthys and a dozen other men who
afterward became settlers here were thus engaged, several of them
as early as 1827. Some times they dealt with the traders on the



islands and sometimes directly with the Indians. It is said that one
or more of Dubuque's French companions resided here or on the
islands until 1826.

When the first explorers arrived they found a large village was
still standing silent, solitary and deserted, at the mouth of Catfish
creek. Every Indian had vanished. About seventy buildings, con-
structed with poles and the bark of trees, were all that remained.
The council house, though rude, was large and contained a great
number of furnaces where kettles had been placed to prepare the
feasts of peace or war. On the inner surfaces of the bark of the
council house were paintings of elks, bufifaloes, bears, panthers and
other animals. Even their sports, feasts and fights were thus repre-
sented. Here seemed to be a rude record of their history. The
whole place was destroyed by fire in the summer of 1830 by some
visitors in a spirit of vandalism, much to the regret of the first

The treaty with the Sacs and Foxes by which what is now
Dubuque county became open to settlement, was concluded Sep-
tember 2, 1832, and took effect in June, 1833. No sooner was it
learned that the treaty had been concluded than miners, adventurers,
explorers, families and homeseekers generally began to cross the
river in order to secure first choice of permanent locations. This
fact reaching the knowledge of the authorities caused orders to be
issued to the soldiers at Prairie du Chien to remove all such per-
sons ; whereupon Lieutenants Gardonnier, Abercrombie, Wilson and
Davis (the latter becoming afterwards President of the Southern
Confederacy) came to what is now Dubuque and compelled the
invaders to re-cross to the east side, though many went no farther
than the islands in the middle of the river, where traders had
sojourned for many years. Being fully convinced that the treaty
would soon be confirmed, the settlers returned when the soldiers lost
their vigilance or were withdrawn. The result was that a score or
more of permanent settlers made their claims in Dubuque county
late in 1832 and early in 1833. After the spring of 1833 the sol-
diers did not longer seriously molest the settlers here. Some score
or more of the first settlers date their settlement here from 1832,
because they came then and went away temporarily only because
the soldiers compelled them to go.

The chief object of the first settlers was to work the lead mines
and incidentally to secure tracts of land advantageously situated.
By the spring of 1834 the village contained 300 inhabitants — set-
llers, miners and temporary residents. In the spring of 1833 the
first log cabin was built near where Finn's old tavern afterward
stood. During this year Milo H. Prentice became the first postmaster
and the first sermons — Protestant and Catholic — were preached. In
1833 also Robert Read established a farm on what afterward became
the W. G. Stewart place in Dubuque township. Hosea T. Camp,


whose daughter married John Pahner, brouglit tlie first family to
reside here permanently in 1833. In June P. Weigel brought his
family ; three of the children are yet living in Dubuque. Rev.
Erastus Kent, Presbyterian, of Galena, and Rev. Burton Randall,
Methodist, held services here in 1833. The first raft of lumber
was brought down the river by James H. and Ezekiel Lockwood
in 1833. Mrs. Camp and Mrs. Susan F. Dean, later Mrs. Law-
rence, were the first women to come here for permanent residence —


In May, 1833, Patrick Quigley arrived in Dubuque. The cabins

or shanties were so few that for the first two or three months he
was obliged to sleep out of doors more than half of the time. In
August he moved into his own house, which had neither doors nor
windows. The first flurry of snow late in autumn obliged him to
enclose his quarters. He was the first justice of the peace in
Dubuque and received his commission from Governor Horner of
Michigan territory. The next year the first hotel was built — Bell
Tavern — partly of logs — and stood a few rods north of where the
Julien House is now located. The houses then were few, poor and
huddled together. The growth of the place this year (1833) was
rapid. In 1834 the town did not advance in population and appear-
ance as rapidly as it had in 1833. Many who had come here
to mine, left, not meeting with success. Others were perhaps fright-
ened away by the cholera which appeared here. A Methodist chapel
was built this year, and a Catholic cathedral of stone in 1835. The
masons and carpenters who worked upon it charged $5 per day.
Saloons were numerous and nearly everybody drank.

In the summer of 1834 a public meeting was held and attempts
were made to change the name of Dubuque to that of Washington.
The former had been adopted by common consent and not by any
formal act of the inhabitants or the authorities. However, it was
not thought wise to change the name, as the place had already
become widely known as Dubuque. In 1S34, the Fourth of July
was celebrated on Bee branch. Simon Clark was the orator and
Clark and Lucius H. Langworthy sang the "Star Spangled Banner."
On May 18, 1834, Rev. Burton Randall became regular pastor of
the Methodist church which had been organized the year before ; he
preached in a log building which stood on the present site of the
Julien House. The first church was a log structure, which stood
where Washington Park now is. By act of June 28, 1834, Congress
attached the Black Hawk Purchase to Michigan territory, and on
September 8, 1834, the Legislature of Michigan territory formed
the two counties — Des Moines and Dubuque. Thus, prior to 1834,
Dubuque may be said to have had no law, but it was not altogether
lawless. It was a typical mining town, with dram shops where
armed men congregated to drink and fight. Although it is usual
to attempt to make the village previous to 1834 appear intensely


ASTORv lEtrox Am




wild and wicked, it was not so in reality, because the lawless were
held in check by men like the Langworthys McCraney, John King,
Mile H. Prentice and others, who united to secure good order and
morals and were immensely aided by the first ministers and the
first religious congregations. But moral suasion was supplemented
by a set of orders or resolutions drawn up by John King and adopted
by the citizens as a guide of law and order to serve until the usual
courts could be set in operation.

A young man named Wheeler was tarred and feathered in
Dubuque in the spring of 1834. He had been engaged by the citi-
zens to take an insane person to his father in Illinois. Upon his
return he was charged with having pocketed most of the subscription
and with having left the insane man in destitution down the river.
Wheeler declared he was innocent and asked his accusers to write
to the father of the insane man; but they refused, tarred and feath-
ered and dumped him out of town. A little later the citizens received
a letter from the father of the insane man requesting them to thank
Mr. Wheeler for tlie care and attention given his son on the journey
down the river. After that not a person who had preferred the
charges against Wheeler or was concerned in his tarring escapade
could be found. In order to get a fight it was only necessary to .
ciiarge someone with participation in the outrage. — (Eliphalet Price
in Herald, July 13, 1865.)

"The population almost without exception was of the roughest
sort, being composed mostly of miners, whose amusements con-
sisted in gambling and drunken frolics on the most villainous
whisky. A miner would work until he had accumulated sufficient
for a spree and until cleaned out at keeno or some other game he
alternated between drunk and drunker — between drunk enough to
howl and fight, or too drunk to do either. The standard of morality
was infinitely low; the taking of life or any other species of crime
was regarded less a wrong than a pastime. Acts of extreme law-
lessness, however, were rare, for there was a regular system of
organization among the miners by which was administered a set of
laws with inflexible impartiality. The streets such as they were
presented different aspects than at present. Then a ragged Sac or
Dacotah, blending in his presence the savage dignity of the red man
and the unsteady evolutions of a modern top-heavy civilization and
barbarity trying to affiliate. A half dozen miners — fierce in unkempt
locks and ragged beards, eyes glaring and bloodshot, swaying with
unsteady pace from shop to shop, going from bad whisky to worse
and varying the performance by an occasional fight." — (Early
description of Dubuque, Herald, April 17, 1859.)

During the winter of 1835-6 a small band of Sacs and Winne-
bagoes encamped on an island in front of the town, killed one of
their number — a large man — and left him, terribly mutilated, lying
on the ice. It was thought he was killed for cruelty to his squaw.


This circumstance was narrated at a later day by Re\-. H. W. Reed,
who came to Dubuque in 1835. At that time he was the only
Protestant minister in this region. His cabin stood eight or nine
miles west of Dubuque and was built of round logs, with a single
three-light window with oil paper for glass. The roof was so poor
that during storms pans were used to catch the water running
through. There his first child was born and there it died. On
Sundays he traveled eight miles to the bluffs to preach to the miners
at 9 o'clock ; then at 1 1 o'clock he preached in the village below the
bluffs ; at 3 o'clock at Peru, and in the evening again at Dubuque.
At Peru there was no church building and on two occasions he
preached in gambling rooms. He preached occasionally at Durango.
Card playing was a fa\orite amusement — Sundays and week days.
It was about 1836 that the local paper here advertised for a min-
ister — -"One who can reason, preach, sing and enforce the fourth

At the close of 1835 the population of Dubuque was estimated at
1,000. The people were then described by Lieut. A. M. Lee in his
"Notes on Wisconsin" as exceedingly active and enterprising, carry-
ing on a brisk and lucrative mineral trade and supplying the miners
with the necessaries and comforts of life. When the territory of
Wisconsin was set off in July, 1836, it was thought that Dubuque,
owing to its central location, might become the seat of government.
Belmont and Madison competed with it for this honor and Belmont
won. The final struggle between Madison and Dubuque was earnest
and exciting. The speeches of the Dubuque members of the Legis-
lature were effective and eloquent. Patrick Quigle)' was one of
them. He compared the founding of cities here with those in
Europe and said, "They traversed the Caspian, the Black and the
Mediterranean seas and founded their Constantinople, their Car-
thage and their Rome, not as gentlemen are attempting to raise
Madison in a wilderness of swamps, but where there were good and
commodious harbors and where commerce and jiopulation invited."
The slowness of travel is shown b}- the following extract taken from
the Visitor of October 19, 1836: "A goodly number of the Visitors
left Dubuque on the 14th of September for Chillicothe, Ohio, but
after traveling as far as Indianapolis. Indiana, became w^orn out and
being destitute of covering returned to Dubuque. We have again
dressed them in a new livery, put them into an old worn-out. two-
horse stage — (we like unifoiTnity), and cautioned them to keep the
driver from using them as a seat (which is the common practice),
and they would probably see their friends in Chillicothe in time to
receive their New Year's gift."

In the autumn of 1836 a weekly mail was established between
Dubuque and Fort Des Moines. Previous to that year no surveys
had been made here, except by pri\ate citizens, who were aided by
subscrii)lion. .\mong these private surveys was one by George W.


Harrison, who laid off between twenty and thirty blocks in the
central part of the city. In 1836 Gen. George W. Jones, congress-
man, secured a grant of the section, which then constituted the
town. By this act public surveys were made and the town was
laid off in lots and outlots, the proceeds of the latter to be devoted to
the improvement of the fonner.

In an oration, July 4, 1836, W. W. Coriell, in speaking of the
struggle between Madison and Dubuque for the capital, said : "Only
three years have elapsed since the white man came into possession of
the country in which Dubuque is situated, and already, including
the county of Des Moines, it is estimated that we number more than
twelve thousand inhabitants on the west side of the Mississippi,
being about one-half of the population of the whole country of
Wisconsin. Our town and its immediate vicinity has doubtless a
population of two thousand industrious and enterprising citizens as
any to be found in the broad extent of the United States. Dubuque,
from its commanding situation, being easy of access from any
point, from the fertility of the soil and the vast mineral resources
of the country in its vicinity, from the number of its population,
being greater than that of any other town in the territory, may
well aspire to be tlie capital." — (J^isifor, July, 1836.)

The first child born here was Susan Ann McCraney, who mar-
ried John S. Barnes. A Mrs. Butterfield, aged no years, died here
about 1850. David Stiles, aged 106, died in 1871. George Cubbage
taught school in 1833. Catholic services were held at the residence
of Patrick Ouigley late in 1833. A Mr. Fox died in 1833 — the
first ; he was probably the first person buried in the old cemetery at
Jackson square. Ira Williams, Warner Lewis and Patrick Quigley
were the first justices — 1834 and 1835. On March 9, 1834, the first
temperance meeting was held. In August, 1834, a meeting to sup-
press vice and to expel gamblers and other bad characters was held.
In November, 1836, William A. Burt made the first county surveys;
he was the inventor of the solar compass. The first brick house
was built by Leroy Jackson in 1837. Alexander Levi was the first
alien to receive naturalization papers — 1837. Saloons were closed
for the first time on Sunday in August, 1835. George W. Jones
made the first political speech in 1835. George Zollicoffer made the
first wine from native grapes in 1834.

In 1836 there were very few buildings north of Fifth street. At
Locust and Sixth were two frame buildings which were torn down
in 1873. At the corner of Fifth and Locust was the Visitor in a log
house. Sixth street was once called Church because it led to the
old log church at what is now Washington square. The original
Athenaeum was built in 1S40 by Emerson and Crider at Sixth and
Main. Here the Express and later the Herald were issued; this
was called "Democratic Corner." In 1846 it became the Key City
hotel. In 1863 it was transformed into the Athenreum bv W. G.


Stewart and the public hall therein became famous. Here the the-
atrical stars of the country appeared — Sallie St. Claire. Anna
Bishop, Edwin Forrest, Lawrence Barrett, Edwin Adams, James E.
Murdock, J. W. Wallack, Jr., Daniel Marble, J. B. Rice, Julia Dean,
J. B. Booth, \V. J. Florence, John Wilkes Booth, E. A. Sothern and
others, and here appeared also, under the auspices of the Young
Men's Association, \\'endell Phillips, J. G. Holland, Horace Greeley,
Victoria Woodhull. Anna E. Dickinson. Stephen A. Douglas, E. T.
Youmans, B. F. Taylor, L. Agassiz, H. \V. Beecher, the Hutchin-
sons, Adelina Patti, Ole Bull, and others.

On May ii. 1836, the Dubuque J'isitor, the first newspaper in
Iowa, and the first west of the Mississippi and north of St. Louis,
made its appearance in Dubuque. It was edited by John King, who
was assisted in June by William C. Jones, and from the start by
Andrew Keesecker.

Its motto was, "Truth Our Guide — The Public Good Our Aim."
It was issued at "Dubuque Lead Mines, \\'isconsin Territory." and
was printed by Mr. Jones on a Smith press which was afterward
used on the early newspapers at Mineral Point, Wisconsin ; St. Paul,
Minnesota, and Sioux Falls, Dakota. The J'isitor was first located
at Church and Main streets, the former being then a street between
Fourth and Fifth. It was a two-story log building, 20x25 i^^^r
erected in 1834 by Pascal Mallet for a residence. In October, 1836,
King claimed nearly 1,000 subscribers for the Visitor. In about six
months the office was remo\'ed to the east side of Main street, just
above the Globe building. In 1837 the name was changed to Iowa
Nezvs and the office was changed to the east side of Locust street
near Fifth and there remained until discontinued about 1842. The
material for the J'isitor in 1836 was obtained at Cincinnati. Both
Jones and Keesecker wrote articles for the J'isitor. The latter set
the first type in the territory ; he continued to set type in Dubuque
until his death in 1870. King and Keesecker were Democrats, but
Jones was a Whig. Later the latter went to New Orleans and
finally to California, where he died in 1867. King was a Virginian
and came to Dubuque in 1833, and from the start bore a prominent
and useful part in the development of the city and county. He was
justice of the peace in 1835, was postmaster about 1839; assisted
Plumbe in promoting the first Pacific railway in 1836; was a mem-
ber of the city council from 1854 to 1866, and at his death in 1871
was paid great honor by an immense concourse of citizens.

The old graveyard was laid out before the act of Congress was
passed, which provided for a survey of the town of Dubuque in
1836. Before that date the citizens had taken possession of the
tract, buried their dead there and placed around it a good fence.
An act of Congress sanctioned the lots already surveyed, occupied
and improved.

"From 500 to 800 head of stock cattle might be advantageously


disposed of at this place." — {Visitor, May 11, 1836.) "Artisans
of almost every description are needed at Dubuque and would find
immediate employment at good wages, particularly brickmakers and
masons." — {Visitor. May 11, 1836.) Great improvements were
made in 1836 and early in 1837 ; streets were straightened, cut down,
leveled and drained.

"Congress accordingly passed an act on July 2, 1836, giving the
inhabitants of Dubuque and other towns in Wisconsin named in
the act, pre-emption rights to the town lots occupied and improved
by them, so tliat title by occupation and improvement will be per-
fectly good. . . . There is no Spanish or French grant to
lands at or near Dubuque. The claim of the heirs of Dubuque and
Chouteau is but a baseless fabric which was decided upon by Albert
Gallatin when that gentleman was at the head of the Treasury
Department and declared to have no validity. It appears from the
papers in that case that Julien Dubuque was only a tenant at ivill of
the Fox Indians by the permission of the governor of Louisiana
and held by no tenure which ever could entitle his heirs or assigns
to the fee simple. Dubuque died in 1810 and the country which he
occupied was abandoned to the Foxes in 1812 and not again settled
upon until the year 1832." — {Iowa N'cius, June 17, 1837.)

Early in 1836 the citizens were informed by George W. Jones,
their delegate to Congress, that if they would prepare a petition to
that effect he would cause the sale of the public lots in Dubuque and
the expenditure of the proceeds upon the harbor. This petition was
duly prepared and forwarded.

Great complaint was made against the irregularities of the mail,
which, according to contract, should have been conveyed three times
a week between Galena, Dubuque and Peru, as shown by the
following :

"The mail that was due on Wednesday last came the next day
and the carrier, fatigued with his extraordinary exertion, leaving
his mail bag in town, took a small jaunt into the country by way of
recreation and did not return until tlie next day ; consequently our
papers and letters were detained from Galena twenty-four hours.
The mail was due again on Sunday, but the carrier being probably
conscientiously opposed to traveling on that day, it did not come
until brought by a steamboat passenger on Monday. The variety of
times in which tlie mail makes its trips is only equaled by the variety
of means used in its conveyance. It comes on horseback, in wagons,
big and little, in carriages, occasionally in stages, and not infre-
quently in order to have an easy trip, is retained at Galena for the
arrival of a steamboat ; and sometimes, to save trouble and expense,
it waits till next time." — {Visitor. May 18, 1836.)

Thomas Graffort kept the Washington hotel at Oak and Locust
streets. At a citizens' meeting it was "Resolved, That the persons
who first selected the present place of burial be a committee to lay


ofl and siiperinlend the fencing of tliis piece of ground, viz. : James
L. Langworlhy. Thomas McCraney and Hosea T. Camp." John
Evving, Hosea T. Camp and James Smith were appointed to collect
subscriptions to defray the expense. It was asked at this time, why
not remove the graveyard to the bluffs back of town? Another
meeting was held in July, 1836, to consider the proposition of "cut-
ting a canal through the isthmus." James L. Langworthy, Hiram
Loomis and James Co.x were appointed a committee to call for pro-
posals to cut a canal that should "connect the main slough with the
bayou — sixty feet wide at the top, forty feet at the bottom, an
average of six feet deep and 1,600 feet long.

"The tide of emigration is pouring in upon us an immense number
of families this spring. Every steamboat from below is crowded
with passengers. We have had twenty-five different arrivals by
sixteen ditYerent steamboats, as follows: Galenian — Captain Rogers;
Wisconsin, Du Buque, Olive Branch, Heroine, Banner — Captain
Dickerson ; Cavalier — Captain Patterson ; Missouri, b\ilton,
Palmyra — Captain Cole ; Warrior — Captain Gleim ; Far West,
Envoy, Frontier — Captain Harris ; Ouincy — Captain Cameron, and

Online LibraryFranklin T OldtHistory of Dubuque County, Iowa; being a general survey of Dubuque County history, including a history of the city of Dubuque and special account of districts throughout the county, from the earliest settlement to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 56)