Homer Howard Field.

History of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, from the earliest historic times to 1907 (Volume 1) online

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Although Pottawattamie county was not organized until as Late as Sep-
tember, 1848, its real history begins at a much earlier date. During the
administration of President Jefferson, in 1804, an expedition was fitted out
under Captains Lewis and Clark to explore the country just purchased from
France, or that part lying along the Missouri river to its source. On referring
to the journal kept by Patrick Gas on this expedition we read: "Tuesday,
August 2, L804, two of our men had none out from camp to bunt for horse-
that had strayed, returned with them, and also two large bucks and a fawn.
Others brought in an elk they had killed.

"The Indian.- we had expected came in at dark: Captain- Lewis and
Clark held a council with them, who seemed well pleased with the change
of government and •what had Keen done fur them. Six of them were made
chiefs, three Otoes and three Missouri.-. This place we called Council Bluffs,
and on taking observation found it to he in latitude 41 degrees. 17 minute- "

Although the exact spot i- not positively known, this brings us to the
Mynster spring, just at the north limit of the city, where the great bluff
comes down to within a few rods of the river, and must have been a favorite
meeting place for the tribes, as shown by a burying ground back on one of
the bluffs, where are buried hundreds of all age- and both sexes, but covered
so lightly that the boy- used to dig them up. This i- the first we hear of
Council Bluffs and brine,- us on to the soil of Pottawattamie county, and,
although no permanent settlement was made for many years, it was a recog-
nized point and designated on the early maps of the country and visited
by trappers and traders that exploited this region with St. Louis as their
base of operation.

1 am aware that other points claim the distinction of being the original
Council Bluffs, notably Fort Calhoun, about fifteen miles above Omaha, and
another at Traders Point, six or seven miles south of the city of Council
Bluffs, but as there are no bluffs at either of these places, the name would
not be appropriate. Again, their journal describes the broad bottoms, and
jungles abounding with wild grapes and alive with wild turkeys and other
game, exactly as they were fifty years later, and further, if we accept the
Fort Calhoun theory, in place of 41° and 17" it would be 41" and 30", while
Traders Point would fix it at 41° and 7". We also find them on the east



side of the river when Sergeant Floyd died and was buried on the top of
a high bluff a few miles below Sioux City, which still bears his name, as
well as the little river close by.

At all events our first settlers found the name lying around loose and
when granted our city charter we appropriated it. like it. and intend to
hold it until some one with a bigger stick than our- takes it from us.

The conditions above described continued until 1838, when, during
President Van Buren's administration, the Pottawattamie Indians were as-
signed to a reservation here, and Davis Hardin was appointed to instruct
them in fanning. He with his family and a company of soldiers arrived
here on the steamer Antelope from Fort Leavenworth in the spring of that
year. This was an event. As before stated, many trappers and traders
had frequented this region, intermarrying with the Datives, but here was a
family of refined Americans conic to stay, backed and protected by the gov-
ernment. Arriving here they found the country a solitude. They located
by a big spring on what is now East Broadway and the soldiers immediately
commenced building a house for the Hardin-, and then a fort on a promontory
that was a continuation of the hill between Franklin and Lincoln avenues,
and which at that time jutted into what is now Broadway, where the dwelling
of the late John Clausen now stand-. The Pottawattamie-, escorted by a
company of cavalry, arrived a few day- later, having come across the country.
They found il indeed a goodly land, and it is doubtful if the landscape re-
vealed to Moses from the top of Pisgah, extending from the cedars of Leb-
anon to the palm live- of Z >ar, equaled in beauty that of Pottawattamie
county as viewed from the summit of these bluffs. Though not possessing
the awful grandeur of mountain scenery, tor natural beauty it is doubtful
if it can be excelled on this little world of our-. To the north the bluffs
almost assume the dignity of mountains, visible for forty miles. To the
south they roll away until they appear blue in the distance of fifty miles.
At your feet lie- the broad bottom lands, compared with which, for fertility,
the valley of the Nile is a desert. A vast natural meadow sprinkled with
flowers, while the great Missouri -weep- by in great graceful curves until
lo-t in the distance, while to the east and west the view extend- until lost
in the curvature of the earth's surface.

During their stay here the Indian- continued to advance in the ways
of civilization. A Catholic mission wa- established and many of them em-
braced Christianity. A cemetery was established on the hill some distance
above the fort, which remained until grading Franklin avenue, some thirty
year- ago, the Tierce street school ground, and Yoorhis street, necessitated
their removal, which was done, and the remains interred in Fairview
cemetery. The government, during their stay here, built a gristmill on the
Mosquito creek, three miles northeast from the city, which was run by L.
E. Wicks, who was married lo a half-breed, by whom he reared quite a
family, and when the Indian.- left for Kansas the Wicks family remained,
and he continued to make an excellent quality of Hour as late as 1857 or


The French traders had established posts all along the Missouri river at
a very early day. They intermarried with the Indians and some of them
became wealthy. Among them one being at Traders Point nearly opposite
the mouth of the Platte river by Peter A. Sarpy, in honor of whom Sarpy
county, Nebraska, was named.

Contemporaneous with him was Francis Guittar, of Council Bluffs, who
married an American woman and reared a family and continued in business
until 1857. His son Theodore is a prominent man. has rilled several posi-
tions of honor and trust, among which was sheriff of the county, and at
this writing his father's widow i- living in the Bluffs.

Another of this class, a Mr. Busha, is still with us and. although one
hundred and twelve years of aye. blind and quite deaf, his mind seems clear,
bis appetite good, as well as hi- general health. Lewi- and Clark encoun-
tered one of these, whose squaw wife. Sacajawea (the Bird woman), rendered
great assistance in piloting the expedition from the head waters of the
Missouri across the Rockies. She has been called the Pocahontas of the
west and has been immortalized by a statue erected by the women of the
United States and unveiled at the Portland exposition; this was modeled by
a woman. Mis- Alice Cooper, now of Chicago, but a native of Iowa, and for
which she received seven thousand dollar.-.

During the year 1846 the Pottawattamies sold their lands to the govern-
ment and by treaty were assigned a reservation in what is now Kansas.


Hardly had the Indians left when the Mormon wave rolled in, having
been expelled from Nauvoo. This people seems to have been victims of a
most relentless persecution, commencing back in the 'oils at Kirtland, Ohio,
where they had organized and built their temple.

From there they gathered in Jackson county, Miss turi, where they were
again subjected to all manner of abuse, their property confiscated, many men
killed and women subjected to indignities. This has been denied by the
Missourians, but from subsequent acts perpetrated by the people of this sec-
tion during the border ruffian times, we naturally believe the Mormon com-
plaints to be true. From here they turned back to Illinois, built a city and
erected their temple, but were not allowed to possess them long, for the pre-
judice against them was so strong that the state tr > >p* could not. or would
not, protect them when assailed by a mob. Their president and his brother
were assassinated while prisoners, and after a parley they .agreed to remove
from the state within a specified time, with which they substantially com'
plied. Hence, their arrival here, after enduring untold hardships in cross-
ing the state in their wagons, the men mostly on foot, leaving the wagons
for their goods, women, children and invalids.

It is hard for one now traveling over the same route with his family in
.i parlor car to realize the hardships endured by a whole community in
which were the aged, the invalids and infants, camping with scant store of
provisions or medicines, crossing unbridged streams, etc., but this was accom-
plished by a people sixty years ago, many of whom are living to-day.


Nothing but religious fanaticism could have enabled them to endure]
the terrible ordeal.

It will be remembered that their destination had already been fixed at
Salt Lake, which at that time belonged to Mexico, believing they could find
asylum there, which seemed to be denied them here. Crossing the river they
halted at what later became Florence in order to raise and accumulate sup-
plier with which to continue on their course. They went into winter quar-
ters there and built cabins, while many of the men went back to the settle- j
incuts and worked at any labor they could find, and here again they were
confronted with trouble. The Indian title had not been extinguished there, '
and complaint was made to Washington, and they were ordered to recross
the liver, which proved a great blessing to them, a.- they found hundreds of
cabins and farms that had been vacated by the Pottawattamie-, of which they
were quick to avail themselves.

No more industrious, frugal and temperate community was ever known.
Among them were mechanics of almost every kind, and they proceeded to
build a city here, which they called Kanesville, in honor of a brother of the
Arctic explorer, who bad been a staunch friend during their persecution. Not
only did they build the city, but the rich valley- became hive- of industry;
good crops were raised, which enabled them to assist their fellow pilgrims
who wen- passing through, some with horses, some with ox teams and -oine
with handcarts. In fact, without this halting place to rest, make repairs
and lay in supplies, it is hard to conceive how they could ever have made
the thousand mile trip aero- the plains ami mountains.

At this time everything was controlled by the church. Idleness and
dissipation were not tolerated. There was no jail nor need for on,.. A news-
paper wa- published by Orson Hyde called the frontier Guardian, and al-
though tlie buildings were mostly of logs, good stocks of goods were kept
by as honorable merchants as you will find anywhere. All the trade was
with St. Louis, with this a- the head of steamboat navigation, except an oc-
casional boat with supplies for the fort- above. Although polygamy was per-
mitted and. in fact, encouraged, it is not probable that ten per rem of die
men here had plural wive-, and the strangest feature of it was that the
women were the strongest defenders of the practice.

The wife ,,f one of the elder- wa- visiting with tlie wife of the writer a
few day- previous to their starting for Salt Lake, and during their conversa-
tion my wife -aid. "I should think you would he afraid your husband would
take another wife when you get out there." She replied, "Why, T should
expect him to." ami her expectation was fully realized. It i- hard to under-
stand why so much prejudice exists against this people. We know of none
of their teaching except polygamy that is more fanatical than that of other
churches, and that i- practically abandoned. That need not lie a matter of
anxiety to civilized people. Nature ha- spoken too plainly on that- subject
by creating the sexes iii equal numbers, and the boys are not going to long
permit the old roosters to have a monopoly of the pullet-.

As before stated, the Great Salt Lake valley was at that time in Mexican
territory, and on breaking out <if the war with that country, they, while


here, raised a battalion and tendered its services to the government, which
was accepted, and as a curious instance of the irony of fate, after the treaty,
those that had already settled there found themselves hack within the juris-
diction of the United States.

After, by industry and economy, they had become a prosperous com-
munity, it is doubtful if a happier one could be found anywhere than here.
Work was the order of the day until the crops were raised, harvested and
gathered, tithing paid and the poor provided For, after which the winter
evenings were devoted to amusement, of which dancing was the favorite, and
was encouraged by the clergy and conducted with the utmost decorum, balls
being usually opened with prayer and closed with the benediction.

Up to this time and later the country had not been sun-eyed and con-
sequently the occupants had only a squatter's title, hut this was good as long-
as they occupied it. and a quit claim was a valuable asset to a purchaser pro-
vided he continued to occupy it in g 1 faith.

This applied to tin- fanning community a- well as that of the city, and
"jumping" one's claim was a dangerous proceeding.

At this time the whole of Pottawattamie county, which was much larger
than at present, as well as considerable adjoining territory, was under ex-
clusive control of the Mormons. They made public sentiment, controlled
election of all public officers, and representatives of their faith .-at in two
sessions of the state legislature. In 1849 the great wave of California im-
migration set in. and hundreds of trains and thousands of men assembled
liere and camped while laying in supplies, and Kanesville hecame a great
utfitting point, and the merchants reaped a rich harvest. The farms fur-
nished abundance of grain, while steamboats arrived almost daily with large
cks of goods for the merchants, and the rush was so great that at times
emigrants had to wait for days for their turn to lie ferried across the river.
Not only that, hut the Mormons saw money in it and proceeded to establish
ranches along the trail, and ferries across the rivers. Among these were two
[old timers. Uncle Bill Martin and Old Bill Powers, that had a ferry across
the Elk Horn. Every week or two they would bring their money down in
la sack and put it in Stutsman & Donnel's safe. At the end of the season
they would take out the sacks, empty them down on the floor and sit down,
one on each side of the pile: then one would take off a gold piece, then the
other would take one of the same denomination, and so on down to the
smallest coin until the pile was exhausted. This method of settling partner-
ship busine-s they had learned from the Indians and claimed it as the only
fair way.

This great movement of the California immigration in connection with
he gradual exodus of the Mormons soon wrought a great change in affairs,
ome of the emigrants, on seeing the wonderful fertility of the soil, with
ts fine groves of timber along the streams, changed their minds, traded part
of their outfits to the Mormons for their claims and settled here permanently.
Also there were many that, considered Brigham Young an usurper, and
young Joseph the true prophet. These rejected the doctrine of polygamy


and those that remained organized churches, which they still maintain, and
are as good an element as we have in the present community.

This, with the , natural influx of Gentiles, so changed matters that its
character as a Mormon community was lost forever. In fact, their whole doc-
trine", religiously and politically, being contrary to all our traditions and
teaching, could only be temporary.

Whether this change was morally beneficial is debatable. Under the
old dispensation the saloon, gambling and bawdy house were not tolerated,
but now blossomed out in full vigor, and as there were no state laws or city
ordinances in force (at least not more than at present), in fact, the city
was what would now be called a wide-open town.


With the end of Mormon supremacy the people began to look about to
see where they were. The county, which was much larger than now, was
reduced to its present size, an election held, and A. II. Perkins, David D.
Yearsly and George Coulson were elected the first commissioners. The first
clerk was James Sloan, and its first county judge was T. Burdick, elected
in 1851. The first term of the district court was held May 5, 1851, James
Sloan presiding as district judge, with Evan M. Green as clerk and Alex
McRae, sheriff. Orson Hyde was one of the practicing attorneys in this court.

After presiding one year Judge Sloan resigned and the governor ap-
pointed Judge Bradford, who presided until the people elected S. H. Riddle.

In 1848 Evan M. Green was appointed postmaster, but it was some time
before a. regular mail route was established connecting this with the nearest
postoflice in Missouri, and several years before regular mails from the east
came across Iowa. In L848 Orson Hyde started the Frontier Guardian, with
Mr. Hyde and A. ('. Ford as editors. This paper was politically Whig, re-
ligiously Mormon, and Lasted four years.

Among the early prominent merchants of this early day was J. B.
Stutsman, of the firm of Stutsman A: Donnel, the latter being at St. Joseph.
In addition to merchandising he built a Souring mill where the town of
Macedonia now is. laid out Stutsman's addition to the city, built a good
comfortable dwelling, which at that time was the most palatial residence in
the city, and which is still in good repair, while he himself at nirvety is
-till rustling at the city of Harlan. Shelby county.

Another of the prominent merchants of that time was ■lames A. Jack-
son, of the firm of Tootle & Jackson. Milt Tootle, as everybody called him,
lived at St. Joseph, Missouri, and as the county settled up he established
stores all along the river as fast a- a town was started and placed his most
trusted clerks in charge, making them partners. It was Tootle & Jackson
here, and later, in Omaha and Sioux City. Mr. Jackson was what you
might call an up and up man. A< an index to his style, a little incident
that occurred when new cities wen being started all along the Nebraska side
of the river will illustrate it. He sent a clerk on a collecting tour. He was
all right with one exception. He had a weakness for liquor.


After making some collections he fell in with three most agreeable young
men who soon discovered that weak point and proceeded to profit by it.
After getting him in proper condition, the inevitable game was proposed
wherein three proposed to relieve one of his money, which was soon accom-

On coming to himself he returned, made a full confession, expecting
no mercy. Did Jim Jackson kick him out doors or send him to jail? Not
much! He gave him fifty dollars more, and said: "Now, go back and
insist on another show for your money and I will be around." The scheme
worked; they had just got started in a quiet room by themselves when Jack-
son dropped in and, presenting a six-shooter, said: "Give that man his

money you robbed him of or I will kill every son of you in a

minute." They complied.

After conducting the business here for several years, he went to St. Louis
and engaged in the wholesale grocery business On finding his health fail-
ing, he went to the mountains and engaged in mining and later in stock-
raising on the plains, but failed to regain it, and finally died December 24,
1893, and now rests under a beautiful granite shaft in Fairview cemetery,
while his venerable widow is at this writing living at Sioux City with her

Among tho<e that were bound for California but were attracted and
stopped off here was S. S. Bayliss. He was a Virginian of the old school,
courteous and dignified, but not accustomed to roughing it. lie traded his
outfit for claims that included much of the most desirable property of the
city. Of this he caused to be platted and recorded as Bayliss' addition, one
square of which he gave to the public for a park, and for many years he was
considered very wealthy. But in later years money in divers ways slipped
from him, his family became scattered and he died in 1874 in comparative
poverty. For years there was a band stand in the center of the park where
during summer evenings free concerts were given, but later this was sup-
planted by a beautiful fountain, and as we enjoy the shade of this beautiful
spot, it seems sad that there is not even a statue placed to perpetuate the
memory of the giver. There are numerous similar cases, but not all are so
pathetic as this.

Addison Cochran was another fine old southern gentleman, who had been
a colonel in the Mexican war. He bought more property than he could
handle or pay for and when crowded, begged his creditors to take all and re-
lease him. This they refused to do and he fled to the mountains, went into
mining, made a raise, as well as had his land, during his absence. He sold
some, redeemed the balance and became rich at last. He was elected mayor
of the city. He also donated a square for a park which has been nicely im-
proved. He died May 20. 1896, and has a beautiful monument in Fairview.

But we are going too fast. We must go back to the early times.

The California emigration, added to the Mormon occupation, had brought
us to the place where we must assume the duties and responsibilities of estab-
lished communities.


The county having been organized, it became necessary to have the other
accessories. A huge log house was bought of the Mormons for a court house
and a small building for a jail. were built on South Fir.~t street (then
called Hyde) opposite the font of Plainer street. The jail was about eighteen
feet square, constructed of three-inch plank, doubled so as to break joints,
ami filled so full of spikes that it would be impossible for a prisoner to saw
out, and although occasionally one would escape, it is altogether probable they
were let out by some friend having access to the key.

This was called the Cottonwood, and Judge Frank Street had the credit
of being the architect. After doing duty for the county a number of years
the city moved it down on the northwest corner of Second and Vine street, 5

where Quinn's lumber office imw is, ami used it for a calal se. It came to

a -ad ending in »>7 by an unfortunate man being burned to death in it.

At thai time there were no police, only the marshal. A laboring man
was put in for drunkenness. The furniture consisted of a bunk, wood stove.
table and two chairs. It i- supposed thai he had added wood to the tire
ami left the stove door open and the tire rolled out and caught. His cries
were heard by a near neighbor, but they thought nothing of it. a- drunken
men frequently kept up a noise, but when the lighl attracted attention and
help arrived it was too late, lie was a harmless man with a family and his
only fault was this weakness. It was a shock to the entire community.

A- soon a- a good room could be rented the old court house was aban-
doned and for year- the district court wa- held in room- rented for the

Another man that was attracted here by the California, emigration was
('. 0. Mynster. lie wa.- a native ol Denmark, had been living for some
time in Washington City, stopped in St. Louis, bought a stock of goods, and
came here in 1850, but to i late for the spring rush, and opened a mire in
the building that later became notorious as the Ocean Wave saloon, where
he traded off his stock to the Mormons, who were pulling out for Salt Lake.
Among these claim- was one that included tin famous Mynster spring before
alluded to. He thus acquired a large amount of valuable land, some being

Online LibraryHomer Howard FieldHistory of Pottawattamie County, Iowa, from the earliest historic times to 1907 (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 59)