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"In the fall and winter of 1819 there were only three dwelling houses in the valley of the Yellow River. The Old Mission, called at this time the Linton House, the house of Mr. John S. Clark, on section fourteen in Franklin township, and the house of Reuben Smith on section eleven in Post township.
"It is a very difficult matter for us, who live in Allamakee County to-day, to conceive of the condition of things in the Mississippi Valley when this old Mission was first built in 1834, and it is still more difficult for the writer to convey a clear idea of it.
"There was at that time no Allamakee County, no Clayton County, no Winneshiek County, and in fact no Territory organization, but simply a wilderness waste. In 1836, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota was taken from Michigan and made Wisconsin Territory', and Iowa soon after divided all of her territory lying west of the Mississippi River into two counties, to-wit: Dubuque County and Des Moines County, the dividing lines being at the foot of Rock Island.
"The Indian tribes roamed over this whole region, and Jefferson Barracks, a military post about eight miles below St. Louis, Missouri, was headquarters for the military operations of the Mississippi Valley. Just think of it! This valley knew no railroads, no telegraphs and a very large per cent. of its present inhabitants were not then born. The military post at Prairie du Chien had been established and when they wanted to utilize the resources of this wild region about them, they detailed soldiers for the work, and in 1828, being in want of lumber, they sent a part of the garrison over to Yellow River, and built a saw mill about two miles below what is now the old Mission House, the remains of which was burned down in 1839.
"In 1840, one Jesse Danley built a saw mill on the river about one mile below the Mission, but the floods came and took the dam away, and the proprietor meeting with one mishap after another, finally abandoned it, and in time it was torn down.
"The town of Johnsonsport, at the mouth of Paint Creek, was named after a soldier who served out his time at the Prairie, and was discharged and paid off in 1837. Now this man, Johnson being fond of Indian women, took several of them for wives, and spent his time between hanging around the post and living among the tribes, and finally settled near the river bank, somewhere between what is now Harper's Ferry and North McGregor. Some of our old residents still remember him and speak of him as Squaw Johnson, but he has been dead several years, and the writer has no knowledge of his descendants, if he left any.
"In 1839, Hiram Francis and family came from Prririe du Chien to the old Mission in the employ of the Government, and remained there until it ceased to be a Mission, and from him we learn that his duties were to issue daily rations to sueh Indians as were fed at that place, and that in November, 1840, the last of them were removed to the Turkey River, and the school closed.
"In 1841, there lived at the Mission Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Rynerson, and there was born unto them a son, and this was thought to be the first white child born in the county.
"The earliest settlers in what is now Makee and Union Prairie townships, came in overland from the south, through Clayton County, there being no town then where Lansing is now. In conversation with the late Elias Topliff, when he was a citizen among us, he related to me that while living in Clayton County he, with several others, started out to hunt land on which to make a home; that they followed an Indian trail north across the Yellow River and on to the Iowa River somewhere, where the party camped over night and caught and cooked a splendid mess of speckled trout. He thought they traveled across what is now the prairie on which Waukon stands, but could not positively identify their old route,for at that time the country traveled over was in a state of nature, and there was not a white man to be seen on the trip after leaving the settlements of Clayton County. In the morning they retraced their steps and returned to Clayton county again, not finding a single foot of land that suited them. My recollection now is that the Judge located this trip in 1847.
"The first white settlers in Makee township were Patrick Keenan and his brother-in-law, Mr. Richard Cassiday. They lived together, and in October, 1848 settled on Makee Ridge, where they grubbed out and broke up about three acres of land, built a log cabin, and in 1849 abandoned it and made themselves farms ja Jefferson township, where they lived until they passed on to "the better country." Mr. Keenan was the first man in the county, of his nationality, ever made an American citizen through the naturalization law, the court at the time being held at Columbus, on the Mifsis-ippi river.* He died in March, 1878, leaving a large and respectable family and a handsome property, and was buried at Cherry Mound. Mr. Cassiday died in 1879 and was buried at the same place.
"In the spring of 1849 there was born to Mr. and Mrs. Cassiday a daughter, Margaret, now Mrs. Murphy, living in McGregor, and she was the first white child born in Jefferson township.'
“In 1850 there was a small pair of buhrs near Decorah for grinding, but no bolt attached, and our settlers from this locality with their ox teams hauled their little grists up there; but soon after (summer of 1850) one Ellis put in a small pair of buhrs, without bolt, on Paint Creek, just around the bend below where Waterville now stands. The remains of this first mill in the county still stand in that place.
*We think Mr. Dean slightly in error here, as the date of this transaction was July, 1819, when there was no settlement at Columbus.
“In the winter of 1848 the Legislature passed an act authorizing the organization of the county, and appointed Thomas C. Linton, who owned the old mission property, as organizing sheriff; and as this county then belonged to Clayton County it required him to appear at her county seat, file his bond, take the oath of office, and make due returns of his doings thereto. We have been unable to find any written record of that organizing election, and after much inquiry by correspondence and otherwise have through the kindness of Mr. J. S. Deremo of Fairview township, obtained the particulars as he gathered them the past week from Mr. Moses Van Sickle, one of the participants in that election. It was held under the call of Mr. Linton, at his house, in August, 1849, about fifteen votes being cast, and resulted in the election of the following persons:
"County Commissioners—Thomas Van Sickle, Daniel G. Beck, Thos. B. Twiford.
"County Clerk-James Haney.
"Thomas Van Sickle died in Nebraska about 1878. Daniel G. Beck died in Missouri about 1866. Thos. B. Twiford moved to Minnesota and was the founder of the town of Chatfield. James Haney lives at this time in Wisconsin. Stephen Holcomb died at the Mission about 1851. Moses Van Sickle is living at this date in Fairview township. Elias Topliff died in Waukon in 1860. Thomas C. Linton lives in Oregon.
"Lester W. Hays was for several years before his death a county charge, living sometimes at the county farm, and sometimes in Fairview township where he had a little log hut hardly high enough to stand erect in, nor large enough to afford room for many visitors; and being about eighty years old and too infirm to labor, he was allowed from the poor fund the pittance of one dollar per week, and this with the charity of kind neighbors kept life in the old man until last Christmas night, the coldest night of the year, when the mercury ran down to thirty-three degrees below zero, he perished. The next morning some of the neighbors went to the hut and found the old man lying on his rude cot, with legs and arms frozen. The county furnished a coffin, and poor Hays is no more.
*Rattle his bones over the stones,
For he's but a pauper whom nobody owns.' "This election gave the County a legal and working existence. In 1849 she had two hundred and seventy-seven white inhabitants, men, women and children.
"The county records of those early times as left by the commissioners, are either lost, mislaid, or were made in so transient a
manner as to preclude their being handed down to posterity, and so much as we have gathered has been obtained from other official records, the personal recollection of our early settlers, and has taken much time and labor, and as the years roll on these items of early history are more and more difficult to obtain in consequence of the death, removal or incapacity through age or infirmity of the parties participating in them.
"From Elias Topliff I learned that the first tax list was put into his hands for collection; that the gross amount of it was about ninety dollars; that he traveled all through the eastern part of the county to collect, and that after doing his best, collecting about one half of the list and making his returns to the Commissioners, they charged up to him the uncollected portion and took it from his compensation as Treasurer."
In a carefully preserved copy of the North Iowa Journal, pub lished at Waukon, in the summer of 1860, we find a sketch of the previous history of the county, from which we shall find occasion to make a few extracts. In regard to the County organization we find:
The county was organized by an act of the Legislature, approved January 15, 1849, and taking effect March 6th, 1849.
Thomas C. Linton was appointed organizing Sheriff; the first election being held by the order of the Sheriff on the first Wednesday of April, 1819. The officers elected were:
County Commissioners-James M. Sumner and Joseph W. Holmes.
Sheriff—Lester W. Hays.
The officers elect qualified at the house of Thomas C. Linton, April 10th, 1849.
The second election was held the first Monday of August, 1849, and the following officers were elected:
County Commissioners-James M. Sumner, Thomas A. VanSickle and Daniel G. Beck.
Clerk of Commissioners' Court-G. A. Warner.
It will be seen that there is a discrepancy between this account and that in Judge Dean's paper, as regard the time of the first election and the lists of officers elected thereat. We are inclined to take the Journal account to be authoritative, for the reason that it was published week after week for several months in succession, apparently without question, and that at a time only elev
en years after the events narrated; and further, we have reason to believe that the facts there stated were gleaned at the time from a sketch of the county history, prepared by Mr. Dean while County Judge in 1859, a copy of which was deposited in the corner stone of the Waukon Court House after being read to the people there assembled to wituess that ceremony. The original has been missing for many a year, as Mr. Dean tells us. On the other hand, the account as it appears in his later narrative is based largely upon the recollections of individuals, after a lapse of over thirty years, and no matter how honest their intentions are, it is quite likely they have erred by means of the incidents of two or more elections becoming intermingled in their memory.
The sketch we last quoted then continues:
"On the first Monday of August, 1851, Elias Topliff was elected County Judge, succeeding the County Commissioners; he served as Judge until August 25, 1857, when George M. Dean was elected. In 1859, J. A. Townsend was elected, and is now acting Judge.
James M. Sumner was elected Recorder and Treasurer in 1851. Since then the following gentlemen have served the county in that capacity: T. C. Linton, J. J. Shaw, L. O. Hatch and Elias Topliff, the present officer.
In August, 1851, Leonard B. Hodges was elected Clerk of the District Court. Lewis Hersey and C. J. White has since served. C. J. White is the present Clerk. At the same election Wm. C. Thompson was chosen Sheriff. John Laughlin succeeded him and John A. Townsend next served for two successive terms in that office. Wm. C. Thompson was again elected in 1859, and is now the acting Sheriff.
"In August, 1856, James Bryson was elected as a Representative to the Legislature.
"In 1857, G. W. Gray was chosen a member of the Legislature, J. B. Suttor, County Assessor; G. W. Gray, Drainage Commissioner; W. W. Hungerford, Surveyor; M. F. Luark, Coroner, and G. W. Camp, Prosecuting Attorney.
In 1858, J. W. Merrill was chosen Drainage Commissioner; C. J. White, Clerk of the District Court; F. W. Nottingham, Coroner, and J. W. Flint, Superintendent of Common Schools.
“In 1859, Charles Paulk was chosen a member of the Legislature; G. L. Miller, Drainage Commissioner; John Ryan, Surveyor; J. W. Granger, Coroner, and R. C. Armstrong, Superintendent of Common Schools.
"The above list comprises the principal officers since the organization of the county. The records previous to 1856 are very incomplete, and we were unable to learn the dates of the elections of the various officers.
"The total amount of taxable property in the county was: In 1849, $1,729; in 1851, $8,299; in 1854, $700,794; in 1857, $1,827,766; in 1859, $1,967,899.