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This year also saw the first mercantile firm in Decorah, Aaron Newell and his partner, named Derrick. They opened their goods in the smoke house on the premises of the Winneshiek House, afterwards removed to a slab shanty, and soon built the first frame building in town—a store known as the Pioneer Store, which has since burned. It stood on the present site of the store of C. N. Goddard, on the southwest corner of Washington and Water Streets.
This same year, 1851, came to Decorah the first minister of the gospel, Elder Bishop, preaching here monthly on a circuit described elsewhere. A few weeks afterwards a Congregational minister, A. M. Eastman, came and established monthly meetings at the log tavern. From these spring the Methodist and Congregational churches of Decorah.
The first mails came to Decorah in June, 1851. C. Day, postmaster, and Lewis Harkins, mail carrier.
1852. Lincoln Township was settled during this year.
At the April election 180 votes were cast in the county; at the August election 150.
March 8, 1852, the County Court ordered elections to be held at three precincts; 1st, at the house of Wm. Day, Decorah; 2d, at the house of Francis Rogers, Lewiston, in the southwest part of the county; 3d, at the house of John DeCow, Moneek. For furher and later divisions of the county, see a preceding chapter.
Moneek was surveyed and platted in January, but the plat was not recorded till November.
The Pioneer Store building in Decorah commenced in 1851, was completed in 1852, a public hall, known as Newell's Hall, being in the second story.
In August and September, there was built by Philip Morse, the first frame dwelling in Decorah, the one now occupied by Mr. Bonstell, not far from the Arlington House.
The first term of District Court for this county was held in Decorah on Friday, July 9, 1852, Thos. S. Wilson, Judge. The first indictment found by the Grand Jury was against Francis Teabout, for gambling; the second against Philander S. Baker, for selling intoxicating liquors; the third was against James T. Moore, for gambling. Each were held to bail to the next term of court in the sum of $100.00.
1853. The number of votes cast in the county in April, 1853, was 224; and the number steadily increased in successive years, as will be seen by the record elsewhere.
The present city of Decorah was surveyed and platted in August of this year.
The village of Frankville was surveyed and platted in October.
This year Ammon & Co. came to Decorah and were the first to add steam power to our water power, finally resulting in their foundry, machine shop, and wagon manufactory.
The government property at Fort Atkinson was this year sold at auction and Mr. Cooney, who was in 1852 appointed to take charge of the old fort and government buildings, found his "occupation gone."
In the winter of 1853-4 the first Bohemian settlers came in and settled not far from Fort Atkinson. To those settlers the present village of Spillville largely owes its existence.
1854. The village of Freeport was platted in May.
The first building in Calmar was erected this year; and the village of Calmar was platted in November.
The Decorah House was built this year, and also the Tremont House, which was burnt in 1857, and which stood on the site of the present Arlington House, Decorah.
The famous Decorah hotel, the Winneshiek House, was built in 1854-5, and a part of it, rejuvenated and repaired, still remains as our popular hotel of the same name.
1855. Early this year Ossian was platted as a village, and the plat recorded April 30th.
Decorah, which had become quite a village, received an additional impetus by the Land Office being established here, the office being opened the day before Christmas, 1855. It was removed the following year, but much of the business which it brought remained.
In the winter of 1855-6, there were nine banking houses in Decorah, two of which, the First National and the Winneshiek County Bank, are the outgrowth.
1856. This year witnessed the famous but unsuccessful fight of the then flourishing and enterprising viilage of Freeport to take the county seat from Decorah; this contest is told in detail elsewhere.
A county loan of $6,000 was also voted this year to build a Court House at Decorah, the tax to be levied in the years 1857 and 1858.
A special election was also held October 10, and the county voted $100,000 in bonds to aid in the building of the Northwestern Railroad: there being 926 votes cast for the tax, and 505 against it. As the road was not built the county was not burdened with the tax.
The year 1856 also gave the county its first newspaper, the Decorah Chronicle. It was edited and published by a man named
Tracy, but very soon Judge M. V. Burdick became the editorial writer. It had its ups and downs, and the Decorah Republic of to-day may be considered as its successor, Wesley Bailey and son buying out the establishment, and issuing it as the Decorah Republic, in 1860, and afterwards changing the name to Decorah Republican, published by A. K. Bailey & Brother.
The Court House was commenced this year and finished the following year. It is fully described in a preceding chapter.
This year witnessed the burning of the Tremont House, Decorah, then a well-known hotel.
This year, also, Decorah became an organized town. A meeting for incorporation was held on the first Monday in April, and at the election of officers on the 30th of June, E. E. Cooley was chosen President. The Legislative act of incorporation was not passed till 1871.
1858. The plat of the village of Hesper—the township having been first settled in 1851--was recorded on the 25th of February, 1858, the plat having been drawn Dec. 27th of the preceding year. The township of Hesper was also organized in 1858.
The county had grown so that the number of votes cast in October of this year was 1,288.
On the 18th of April, 1858, the first County Superintendent was elected, Dr. H.C. Bulis was chosen.
1859. A prominent historical event of this year was the resurrection of the alleged bones of the famous Indian Chief Decorah, after whom the county seat was named. The grave was at the intersection of Main and Winnebago streets, and must give place to travel necessitated by the growth of the thriving little city. The story of the removal is told in a preceding chapter. It was considered an important event, and observed with due solemnity. The bones were again resurrected in 1876, in order to improve the Court House grounds, and before their final interment some of the Indian relics found with them were stolen.
The close of this year brings us up to the commencement of a decade which opened with some changes in the manner of county government, made necessary, or at least desirable, by the increase of population and the prospective growth and importance of the county. By the census of 1850, the population was 540, while it was now by the census taken in 1860—the following year13,942. We will not, however, anticipate, but briefly note the important events as they occur.
During this year a change was made in the management of county affairs, up to this time administered by the County Judge. A Board of Supervisors, consisting of one from each township, was elected, the change taking effect on the 1st of January, 1861.
In April, 1860, the firm of Bailey & Son. consisting of Wesley Bailey and his son, Ansel K. Bailey, purchased the Decorah Republic, succeeding B. F. Jones, as publishers of that paper. The first number under their management appeared April 13th.
In the first issue are notices of Decorah's institutions as follows: "Population of Decorah, estimated, from 1,600 to 2,000. It has a brass band, 17 stores, 3 barness shops, 6 blacksmiths, 5 cabinet makers, 3 wagon makers, 2 plow and horticultural implement manufactories, 2 jewelers, 2 milliners, 2 tanneries, 1 lumber yard, 2 bakeries, 1 daguerreotype artist, 2 meat markets, 1 distillery, 1 brewery, 1 gunsmith, a dozen lawyers, 3 doctors, 1 dentist, 2 barbers, a Methodist church in their own building, and a Congregational church, holding services in the Court House, their church not yet being completed."
Hesper has a literary society that meets one a week.
May 3, five prisoners escape from the County Jail, one in for horse stealing, one for counterfeiting, and the others for minor offenses.
April 29, the house of Postmaster Stanberg, of Calmar, was burned.
May 18, Mr. McKinney left Fort Atkinson for Pikes Peak, with N. Otis, of Decorah.
May 17, a Norwegian celebration of their national anniversary occurred at Peterson's trading post, B. O. Dahly delivering the address.
Postmaster Kimball, of Decorah, improves his post office and store.
In June, the Landers residence on Broadway was commenced, also the Francis residence on Broadway, now owned by A. Bradish.
Fourth of July was celebrated in Decorah, the orator being Douglas Leffingwell.
By the census then being taken the population of Decorah township and city was given as follows: Population of Decorah....
904 Population of West Decorah.
315 Rest of township....
.1,925 August 7th, Wm. Day died at the Winneshiek House, in the 69th year of his age. He came here in 1850, was a liberal, honest, public-spirited man. He built the first house, for some years the only hotel, and afterwards built the Winneshiek House.
August 30th, Fitz Henry Warren (Republican), spoke at Decorah, Judge Clark, of Dubuque, opposing him.
The Congregational church of Decorah was in process of erection this season.
September 21st, County Fair was held in Decorah.
October 5th, a daily mail was established between McGregor and Decorah.
1861. At the opening of the year, the Board of Supervisors, one from each township, in order that the terms of office might not expire at the same time, they cast lots to see which should hold office for one year, and which for two years. The result was as follows:
For one year-Levi Bullis in place of Dan Lawrence, who was elected and resigned, for Decorah; J. Pagin, Frankville; J. T. Galby, Summer; I. West, Canoe; G. N. Holloway, Hesper; J. G. Ackerson, Burr Oak; S. Christen, Madison; Lars T. Land, Calmar; Levan Wanless, Bluffton.
For two years—W. H. Baker, Bloomfield; F. S. Northup, Glenwood; Ole Nelson, Pleasant; W. B. Chamberlin, Orleans; Ammon Ammundsor, Highland; D. E. Shelmadine, Fremont; M. J. Woolsey, Military; A. O. Lommen, Springfield; Orville Jennison, Washington.
G. N. Holloway was elected President of the Board. March 3d, the remains of a Norwegian, named Iver Knudsen Jouen, were found near the foot of the bluff at the head of Trout Run. He started home from Decorah, drunk, on Christmas evening. Going over the road past the cemetery, it is thought that he lost his way, rolled down the bluff and froze to death.
The Decorah cemetery grounds were laid out this year.
April 8th, a public meeting was held and the Decorah Guards organized, being the first company to enter the service in the war of the rebellion. The record of this and other companies from the county, will be found in a preceding chapter. June
th, E. E. Cooley received the appointment as postmaster of Decorah, and took possession July 1st.
June 11th, the County Supervisors voted $3.00 per week to each of the families of the Decorah Guards.
June 17, L. Standring turned the first scraper full of dirt into the Decorah branch of the Northern Iowa Railroad. Gangs of men were set at work at Decorah, Calmar, Ossian and Monona, but the work was discontinued.
July 4th, celebration at Decorah. with oration by Geo. A. Stephens
In July the plastering and mason work of the Congregational Church was completed.
The Norwegian Lutheran Synod decided to build a college on the site selected in West Decorah.