Howard A Burrell.

History of Washington County, Iowa from the first white settlements to 1908. Also biographical sketches of some prominent citizens of the county (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryHoward A BurrellHistory of Washington County, Iowa from the first white settlements to 1908. Also biographical sketches of some prominent citizens of the county (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 37)
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G. • ■M.L.I

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3 1833 01716 2543



Washington County.

From the First White Settlements to 1 908


Also Biographical Sketches of Some Prominent Citizens of the County






lu proof of my appreeiatiou of the
Washington County Historical Society,
I dedicate this book to that body of men,
linind to be admitted to fellowship with
thiisc who honor the memory of the
Pioneers and those later Old Settlers
who made to onr hand, ont of the Wild
and the Raw. the civilization in this
county that we all prize and enjoy.


Enclosed please find labels to be used
in correcting errors in the "History of
Washington County."

The errors are found on the following

"^I — The names under the plates of SAMUEL
CONNER and A. H. GUZEMAN should
be transposed.

149— The names of THOMAS B. DAWSON and
DAVID BUNKER should be transposed.

284. The schoolhouse at the top of the page
SCHOOLHOUSE and the one below THE

345. The names under the pictures of JUDGE A.
NETT should be transposed.

I Littler's History
)8o, and from the
;ral papers in the
lave received, with
ne, from Colonels
Brookhart ; from
yer, J. J. Kellogg ;
.:helberger, Marion
A'ilson, Hon. C. J.
I E. Latta, Auditor
Ties Judge Dewey,
a, Miss Anna Hen-
■. Charles Hdiener,
J'arks, Nate Jones,
enderson Wallace,

389. —The names of ENOCH ROSS and WM.
McGAUGHY should be transposed.


v\ED A. BunuF.LL.




But why a preface? Unless, indeed, to make my acknowledgements.

I have had satisfaction and help from Hon. Nathan Littler's History
of this county, and from the county history issued in 1880, and from the
Atlas of Washington county, date 1906, and from several papers in the
Iowa Annals written years ago by Irving A. Keck, and I have received, with
gratitude, much help in preparing data for this first volume, from Colonels
D. J. Palmer, W. B. Bell, Charles J. Wilson and S. W. Brookhart; from
Captains J. A. Young, D. E. Cocklin, J. S. Gray, D. A. Boyer, J. J. Kellogg;
and from J. W. Morton, Porte Lewis, Tom Allen, D. J. Eichelberger, Marion
O'Loughlin, and in civil and social life from Hon. C. H. Wilson, Hon. C. J.
Wilson, Recorder Hugh Kendall and his deputy Miss Ruth E. Latta, Auditor
Chauncey Myers and deputy Miss Anna Dawson, Mesdames Judge Dewey,
J. A. Harwood, Ab. Anderson, Dr. Bailey, Cora Bell Wilson, Miss Anna Hen-
derson ; and from Win. .\. C<iok, ( ). P.. P.rown, W. E. Kerr. Cliarle- He1;>eiitT,
John Yockey, Squire Neiswanger, Wm. Coppock, John Parks, Nate Jones,
Marsh W. Bailey, Senator Alberson, John Williams. Henderson Wallace,
James Eckles, John Shields et al.

All these 1 thank, and to them I orient myself and kowtow.

HoWAEl) A. BrKl!ELI..

fMVyyy(L ,


It is an ea

ipcT than ]

all that




Washington county is a part of the vast region- once called "Louisiana,"
which embraced all the territory west of the Mississippi river, except Texas
and the areas ceded to the United States by Mexico and Russia. It was
called "The Louisiana Purchase," or "The Colony," or "The Province of
Louisiana." France claimed it in 1671 by virtue of the voyages of certain
zealous, holy, romantic, heroic Frenchmen, whose eyes had absorbed many
horizons of that terra incognita. And at the peace of Rysvvick in 1697 all
Europe recognized the validity of her claim.

It is an easy way to get title to real estate — easier than by conquest,
cheaper than by purchase. When the world was new, this western world
that was stumbled on by mistake, as it were, in a dark night or in a day of
fog, all an European sovereign had to do, to gratify his earth-hunger, was
to send out a discoverer, who should go ashore, set up his patron's standard,
draw his sword, take a gallant attitude before the wondering natives, and
say, "I take possession of this island, this continent, in the name of my
sovereigns. Ferdinand and Isabella, or of Louis XIV, or of the king of
England." That island or continent was thus transferred to said king, and
all that was needed, more, was to give a commission to an artist to paint
the scene — C Columbo and his men standing near their small boats, saluting
with drawn swords the imperial banner whose staff was stuck in the sand,
a lot of aborigines grouped around unconscious of their physical charms, in
very decollete dress, or undress, looking on this strange pantomime. The
poor creatures were surprised that they had been discovered. In fact they
iid not know that they had been lost.


Because two gentlemen from France, Marquette and Joliet, had paddled
down the Mississippi from the mouth of the Wisconsin river, as far as the
mouth of the Arkansas river, and there learned that the big river did not
empty into either the gulf of California or into Virginia, but into the gulf
of Mexico, and cast their eyes over their right shoulders and saw leagues
on leagues of land to the west, they filed a claim to all that sunset region
for France ; claiming not only what they saw, but the whole stretch of land
above and below the terminals of their voyage. *Faith is the substance of
things not seen. In 1682 La Salle went down the river and took possession
of some more. Spain missed out on this imperial claim. De Soto had
marched from Florida to the Mississippi river in 1542, but, wounded by an
Indian arrow, he had died and his body was buried in the river at night,
before he could take possession, set up a standard, file his claim, and hire
a painter.

Balboa, another Spanish gentleman, carried this easy mode of gaining
real estate to a ridiculous extent. One day, September 26, 1513, to be exact,
he climbed a peak in Darien, and looked all over the isthmus, and instantly
annexed it to Spain per formula, and then he exclaimed, "Holy powers,
bless me, if that blue dampness out in the offing is not the Pacific ocean."
And he hastened down, before any body else could get it, waded in as far
as he dared, jabbed the standard into the sand, and with naked sword waving
solemnly to the west he took possession of the whole ocean as a Spanish
lake. Just as easy ! No such snaps now ? Yes, as we shall see.

The wild continents and the islands of the sea were in this simple fashion
seized by globe-trotters for Portugal. Spain, France, Italy, Great Britain
and Holland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in somewhat the same
unceremonious way that Africa in our day was partitioned by Germany,
England, France. Italy and Belgium, under the unwritten law of ethics.
.Might makes Right.

Easy come, easy go. In 1763 France tossed that easily won estate to
Spain, as carelessly as a steamer passenger throws a biscuit to a gull. In
1800 the shuttle shot back, and Spain ceded Louisiana to France. Our early
statesmen fretted under the situation — Spain holding Florida and France,
Louisiana. The correspondence of Washington, Jeflferson, Hamilton, Pick-
ering, King, Livingston, Madison, Monroe, beginning August 27, 1790, and
extending to January 4, 1804, on "who shall own Louisiana?" is published,
showing that these great men did not relish the fact that powerful Spain
and France were on our flanks and rear. Livingston was sent to Paris to
try negotiations with Napoleon for the purchase of Louisiana, but the wary
first consul was co}', and skillfully pretended he wished to colonize Louisiana



a la Eg)-pt. Monroe was sent to help Livingston. Finally, when war
between England and France seepied likely, Napoleon, in 1803, knowing the
fickle nature of war and foreseeing that the English navy would wrest
this region from his grasp, put the vast province on the bargain counter
and marked it down to fifteen millions. President Jefferson took it, though
he had no authority to buy it. But congress backed him, with here and there
a dissenting critic who could see no farther than an owl at noon. Even
Daniel Webster, later, had no faith in our great northwest. It would never,
could never, be settled, and was practically worthless, in his judgment — not
quite infallible. Men, even shrewd men, said Seward was a fool to pay seven
millions for Alaska, but it has paid for itself dozens of times over.

Congress on October 31, 1803, authorized the president to take posses-
sion and provide a temporary government for Louisiana. If far-off Wash-
ington county, and Iowa proper, as parts of one stupendous whole, felt a
thrill at the announcement, I know not. but have strong affirmative sus-
picions. On March 4, 1804, congress divided the territory, and on the
following October i, all the area south of the thirty-third parallel of north
latitude was named "Orleans," and the rest "the district of Louisiana," the
latter to be under the government of Indiana territory. But this district
was on July 4, 1805, made a territory, self-governing, called "Louisiana."
and so it continued till 1812. The territory of Orleans was on April 30,
1812, admitted into the union as the state of Louisiana, and the next Decem-
ber the territory of Louisiana was recognized as the territory of Missouri.
On Alarch 2. 1819, congress created Arkansas territory, comprising the
present limits of the state of that name plus the country to the west of it. and
Missouri came in as a state in March, 1821. For the next thirteen years
there is no record of an organized territory west of the Mississippi river.
north of the Missouri line. Washington county and indeed all Iowa were
then in No-man's land. There were but few whites in this region, and they
had permits to trade with the Indians and live among thein. They needed
government no more than do colonies of prairie dogs, owls and rattlesnakes,
tenants of the same hole, and they doubtless endorsed the political maxim,
"that government is best, that governs least."

A red-hot nebula has to rotate a long while in the frightfully cold inter-
stellar spaces before it radiates its heat and solidifies into a habitable sphere.
In 1838 we began to see the crystals shooting into a soHd organization. On
June 12 of that year congress divided Wisconsin territory and established
the territory of Iowa. Before that, the territory had been a sort of proto-
plasmic "district" which, from 1834 to 1836 was attached to Michigan
territor\ for judicial purposes, and all of the country north of a line drawn

12 IIlSTom' ()!■ WASlllXC.TOX COL'XTV

west from the lowir pari of Rock Island was to be Dubuque county, and all
south of that we>t line to the north line of ^tissouri was to be "Deraoine"
county, and that county was to constitute a township known as Flint Hills,
that is, Burlington. Each of these two counties was to have a court with
annual sessions in April and September. The people could elect township
officers. That was the first legislative enactnTent by Michigan. From 1836
to 1838 we were attached as a tail to Wisconsin's territorial kite. Then the
umbilicus was cut, and we stood on tottering baby feet under our proper
name "Iowa," and the territory reached from the north line of ^Missouri to
the southern boundary of British Columbia. The map appended will be
scanned with interest by the reader, a map published in Xewhall's Sketches
of Iowa, issued in :84i.

At last, we were "Iowa." a word meaning "this is the place." "the beau-
tiful," or "beautiful land." as one chooses to interpret it. Some say the word
is a modification of the old name of a tribe of Indians. Ayouas, or from the
river Ayoua, which was finally spelled loway. Iowa. As late as the expedi-
tion of Lewis and Clarke, the Indians here were called .'\youas.

Iowa was for long a poUywog, but its absurd yet nutritive tail was long
since absorbed into a frog that can sing and croak for itself.

The first territorial governor of Iowa was Robert Lucas. He served
from 1838 to 1841. President Harrison, a Whig, hated Lucas, a Democrat,
and removed him. It was the first political scalp raised in this state, but not
the last. John Chambers was appointed governor March 25. 1841, and
re-appointed by Taylor in 1844, and removed by Polk October 20, 1845.
The only thing noteworthy about him was, he wrote his autobiography
for his son. but he couldn't spell or punctuate any better than high school
pupils do now.

Sixteen of the twenty counties of Iowa took part in the first election,
September 10, 1838, for members of the first legislative assembly. Des
Moines county cast the largest vote, eight hundred and fifty-four, and John-
son, Linn, Jones, Slaughter (the first name for Washington) plumped from
twenty-seven to thirty-five votes each. The total vote was four thousand four
hundred and ninety-two. James M. Clark was elected councillor or senator
for the Muscatine, Louisa and Slaughter district, and John Trierson, W. L.
Toole, Levi Thornton and Clinton Hastings were the representatives, and
W. W. Wallace delegate in congress. This legislature held three sessions
in Burlington in Old Zion church.

Congress had on January 26, 1835, passed an enabling act for Iowa terri-
tory, to form a constitution and state government. The delegates went to
Detroit, George W. Jones was chosen delegate to congress, and Major Jerry


Smith, Jr., and Joseph B. Teas were elected members of Michigan territorial
legislature, and attended at Green Bay. Henry Dodge, father of Augustus
Caesar Dodge, was governor, and he ordered a census, which revealed a
population of ten thousand five hundred and thirty-one in Iowa territory.
"Demoine" county had six thousand two hundred and fifty-seven, Dubuque
county four thousand two hundred and seventy-four, in 1836. He also
ordered an election of thirteen senators and twenty-si.x representatives,
Demoine to have seven representatives and three senators, and the winners
were Jerry Smith, Jr., Joseph B. Teas and Arthur B. Ingham senators, and
representatives Isaac Leffler, Thomas Blair, Warren Jenkins, John Box,
George W. Teas, Eli Reynolds, David R. Chance. The Teases were brothers
and lawyers. Later, George W. Teas became a Methodist minister, preach-
ing in Washington, and dying here. His son Lucien, who never was a cler-
gyman, is living now in Crawfordsville.

Burlington was the capital of the territory until March 4, 1839. The
capitol building cost fourteen thousand dollars, and burned December 13,
1837. Zion church received the body, which deliberated amid the subdued
echoes of Aniens. The first enactment was the divorce of Mary McArthur
from John, and the second was like unto it, and several more couples, loaded
with incompatibility, absence of cohering affinity, and inability to stand with-
out hitching, had their bonds unsoldered by the assembly. It seems that way
back there the State of Matrimony was a state of insurrection. Parties then
were joined, but not mated. They were in theory one, but the trouble was to
find which was the one. Two souls with but a single thought, and that thought
to get rid of each other, to cleave to some one else, very likely ; two hearts that
beat not as one, but as two, most decidedly. Marriage was a good deal of a
failure and gamble then, as now. In fact, the time of the legislature was
so taken up, rectifying Captain Dan Cupid's wretched work, there was not
time to attend to matters of state. Hearts were trumps, till the assembly
by statute, in sheer desperation, turned these miseries in the chest, over to
the courts. Lawyers could afford to deal with them for the fees.

The sixth act set the boundaries of the counties Dubuque, Jackson, John-
son, Jones, Linn, Cedar, Clinton, Clayton, Scott, and authorized the forma-
tion of Buchanan, Delaware. Benton, and Fayette. Under an act passed
December 7, 1836, "Demoine" county was divided into the counties Lee, Van
Buren, Des Moines, Henry, Louisa, "Musquitine," and Slaughter. Our
county was first named in hon(ir of Wm. Pj. Slaugihter, a clever territorial
secretary, but a merciful and esthetic Providence, perhaps stirred into action
by vigorous protests, dropped that ugly name and adopted that of the
Father of his Country, and we have been trying ever since to live up to it,


and succeeding beautifully, as all know. The date of that change was
January 25, 1839. Think of living now, and having others know we are
living in the city and county of Slaughter, a word that rhymes with nothing
fair but "daughter." and nothing ethical but "ort-er."

Let's get this fact fixed fast in memory. The legislature of Wisconsin,
January 18, 1838, named "us" Slaughter. We have never liked Wisconsin
since that day, and the grudge has been accumulating down to the climax —
La Follette. I find this bit of history in a paper by Frank Harmon Garver
in the January, 1909, Iowa Journal of History and Politics, and I quote :

"This act was one redefining the boundary lines of those counties carved
by the law of December 7, 1836, from the original county of Demoine. The
two laws differed in that the earlier one included a county called Cook, which
was omitted from the later act, while the latter included a county called
Slaughter not mentioned in the former.

Slaughter county is not to be considered as a continuation of Cook
county. Xone of its territory came from the latter. Most of it, in fact,
was received from the original counties of Louisa and Musquitine. Possibly
the southwest corner had been within the limits of the original county of
Henry. It is certain that the northwest corner was new territory. All
except this part had been within the limits of the original county of Demoine
at an earlier date.

As first established. Slaughter county included townships 74, 75, and
76 north of ranges 5, 6, 7, and S, west. The three easternmost townships,
those in range 5, are now part of Louisa county. The remaining nine town-
ships are part of Washington county to-day.

The original county of Slaughter was reduced in size by an act of the
legislature of the territory of Iowa approved on January 12, 1839. This
act, the title of which referred only to Louisa county, redefined the boun-
daries of that county so as to include within them the three easternmost
townships of Slaughter county, although the latter was not mentioned in
the act. This loss of territory left Slaughter county only three townships,
or eighteen miles square in size — the smallest county ever included within
the limits of Iowa. In this reduced form it remained in existence only
thirteen days, for on January 25, 1839, there was approved an act of the
legislature of the territory of Iowa which changed the name of Slaughter
and then enlarged the latter by extending its limits one township farther
north and one range farther west. Thus the county gained seven townships
and received practically its present territory. Yet one more change had to
be made to secure permanence, and this was made by the legislature June i,
1845, by the terms of which the Iowa river was made the boundary line



between the two counties for six or eight miles. Washington county lost to
Johnson that part of township "j"] north, range 6 west, which lay east of the
Iowa river. Since 1845 the boundaries of Washington county have not been

The territory included within the present limits of Washington county
was acquired from the Indians in three separate treaties. All of it was ceded
by the Sac and Fox Indians. Nearly half of the county (the southeastern
portion) belonged to the Black Hawk Purchase of September 21, 1832. The
northeastern comer was part of the Keokuk Reserve ceded to the United
States government September 28, 1836. The western and northwestern
portions were acquired by treaty of October 21, 1837.

The eastern portion of the county also belonged, for a time, to the original
county of Demoine. Certain portions were included a little later within the
limits of Cook, Musquitine, Louisa, and Henry counties as established by the
act of January 18, 1838."

The state capital was removed in 1839-40 to Iowa City, when the place
had but twenty families, and not a grist mill nearer than the Mississippi river,
till one was built in '41. All roads led to Rome, but not to Iowa City, and
folk got lost on the prairie trying to find it, especially those coming from
Dubuque way, and the citizens hired Lyman Dillon to plow a furrow one
hundred miles long, from Iowa City to Dubuque. His outfit was five yokes
of oxen, a two-horse wagon filled with bedding and provisions, and the
cattle lived on grass along the way. It was the longest furrow on record.
I^ter, a road was made alongside the furrow, which served as a sort of

This county was a part of Demoine county till January 18, 1838, when
its boundaries were defined thus: "Beginning at the north-east comer of
Henry county, thence west to the north-west corner of same, thence north
to tap a line dividing townships 76 and TJ north, thence east on the same
line to the line between ranges 4 and 5 on it, thence south with said line to
place of beginning, is hereby set off into a separate county by the name of
Slaughter, and the seat of justice of said county is hereby established at the
town of Astoria, and all the territory west is hereby attached to the county
of Slaughter for judicial purposes."

But our people would tolerate neither Slaughter nor Astoria, so things
were not "established." Astoria was located on the south-east quarter, sec-
tion 25, township 76 north, range 7 west, that is, in what is now Oregon
township, near to and south of Ainsworth. It was laid out in 1837 by three
Henry county men as proprietors — Lawson B. Hughes, Col. W. W. Wallace
and Dr. Jacob Myers, who were, later, members of the territorial legislature.


The town was surveyed, but the records are lost. Simpson Goble helped the
trio lay oft the town. They built a cabin of hewn logs, with a rear addition,
for a court-house. It was not a noble specimen of Renaissance architecture ;
it lacked a plaster of paris heroic-sized figure of a woman in directoire gown
slashed down part of one leg, as an effigy of the Goddess of Justice, with
bandaged eyes, like the Amazon perched above the south door to our present
court-house, holding scales and a sword, but who was probably, really, hunt-
ing a man, as usual. But this primitive court-house, that was, indeed, quite
ambitious fur a back-woods period, was never ustd. It and its site were left
with ]\Ir. Goble to sell as a common claim. It was the first grave-yard of
Great Expectations, the sepulcher of the Last Sixpence, and the scene of
"vaulting ambition o'erleaping itself and falling on the other side," and
getting a bad sprain.

Many years later. Judge Francis Springer, of Louisa county, said a
court was held at Goble's Point near Ainsworth (called Astoria in 183Q),
and he was prosecuting attorney and Cal. Shelladay foreman of the grand
jury. Xo bills were found, and no one was there to be prosecuted.

This county was Slaughter county but one year, and the records are
mostly lost. However, a spectral figure glances across our vision for a
moment. One John C. Ellis was sheriff, and his acts were legalized at a
special session of the legislature in June, 1838, and he got thirty-four dollars
and ninety-eight cents for taking a census and finding our population was
two hundred and eighty-three. \Miy did he not make his bill an even thirty-
five dollars ? He seems to have been marked down to ninety-eight cents. And
then he went off at that price, and no more is known of him than of men who
lived five thousand years ago. In the record of the legislature this feature-
less, almost bodyless man flits like a ghost across the platform, like Hamlet's
father's shade, very pale, as the cock-crowing was near and he must be oft',
and so with that far-oft' dawn he fades away utterly from men's ken, being
of such stuff as dreams are made of.

Another spectral thing, that fairly haunts the historic imagination, is that
pale session of court at Astoria, May 7, 1838, David Irwin judge. Thomas
Baker was appointed clerk and gave bond in two thousand dollars, with Xel-

Online LibraryHoward A BurrellHistory of Washington County, Iowa from the first white settlements to 1908. Also biographical sketches of some prominent citizens of the county (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 37)