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SPANISH GRANTS. While the territory now embraced in the State of Iowa was under Spanish rule as a part of its province of Louisiana, certain claims to and grants of land were made by the Spanish authorities, with which, in addition to the extinguishment of Indian titles, the United States had to deal. It is proper that these should be briefly reviewed:
Dubuque.-On the 22d day of September, 1788, Julien Dubuque, a Frenchman, from Prairie du Chien, obtained from the Foxes a cession or lease of lands on the Mississippi River for mining purposes, on the site of the present city of Dubuque. Lead had been discovered here eight years before, in 1780, by the wife of Peosta Fox, a warrior, and Dubuque's claim embraced nearly all the lead bearing lands in that vicinity. He immediately took possession of his claim and commenced mining, at the same time making a settlenient. The place became known as the “Spanish Miners," or, more commonly, "Dubuque's Lead Mines."
In 1796, Dubuque filed a petition with Baron de Carondelet, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, asking that the tract ceded to him by the Indians might be granted to him by pacent from the Spanish Government. In this petition Dubuque rather indefinitely set forth the boundaries of his claim as "about seven leagues along the Mississippi River, and three leagues in width from the river," intending to include, as is supposed, the river front between the Little Maquoketa and the Tete des Mertz Rivers, embracing more than twenty thousand acres. Carondelet granted the prayer of the petition, and the grant was subsequently confirmed by the Board of Land Commissioners of Louisiana.
In October, 1804, Dubuque transferred the larger part of his claim to Auguste Choteau, of St. Louis, and on the 17th of May, 1805, he and Choteau jointly filed their claims with the Board of Commissioners. On the 20th of September, 1806, the Board decided in their favor, pronouncing the claim to be a regular Spanish grant, made and completed prior to the 1st day of October, 1800, only one member, J. B. C. Lucas, dissenting.
Dubuque died March 24, 1810. The Indians, understanding that the claim of Dubuque under their former act of cession was only a permit to occupy the tract and work the mines during his life, and that at his death they reverted to them, took possession and continued mining operations, and were sustained by the military authority of the United States, notwithstanding the decision of the Commissioners. When the Black Hawk purchase was consummated, the Dubuque claim thus held by the Indians was absorbed by the United States, as the Sacs and Foxes made no reservation of it in the treaty of 1832.
The heirs of Choteau, however, were not disposed to relinquish their claim without a struggle. Late in 1832, they employed an
agent to look after their interests, and authorized him to lease the right to dig lead on the lands. The miners who commenced work under this agent were compelled by the military to abandon their operations, and one of the claimants went to Galena to institute legal proceedings, but found no court of competent jurisdiction, although he did bring an action for the recovery of a quantity of lead dug at Dubuque, for the purpose of testing the title. Being unable to identify the lead, however, he was non-suited.
By act of Congress, approved July 2, 1836, the town of Dubuque was surveyed and platted. After lots had been sold and occupied by the purchasers, Henry Choteau brought an action of ejectment against Patrick Malony, who held land in Dubuque under a patent from the United States, for the recovery of seven undivided eighth parts of the Dubuque claim, as purchased by Auguste Choteau in 1804. The case was tried in the District Court of the United States for the District of Iowa, and was decided adversely to the plaintiff. The case was carried to the Supreme Court of the United States on a writ of error, when it was heard at the December term, 1853, and the decision of the lower court was affirmed, the court holding that the permit from Carondelet was merely a lease, or permit to work the mines; that Dubuque asked, and the Governor of Louisiana granted, nothing more than the "peaceable possession of certain lands obtained from the Indians; that Carondolet had no legal authority to make such a grant as claimed, and that, even if he had, this was but an "inchoate and imperfect title.'
Girord.--In 1795, the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Louisiana granted to Basil Girard five thousand eight hundred and sixty acres of land, in what is now Clayton County, known as the “Girard Tract." He occupied the land during the time that Iowa passed from Spain to France, and from France to the United States, in consideration of which the Federal Government granted a patent of the same to Girard in his own right. His heirs sold the whole tract to James H. Lockwood and Thomas P. Burnett, of Prairie du Chien, for three hundred dollars.
Honori.—March 30, 1799, Zenon Trudeau, acting Lieutenant Governor of Upper Louisiana, granted to Louis Honori a tract of land on the site of the present town of Montrose, as follows: "It is permitted to Mr. Louis (Fresson) Honori, or Louis Honore Fesson, to establish himself at the head of the rapids of the River Des Moines, and his establishment once formed, notice of it shall be given to the Governor General, in order to obtain for him a commission of a space sufficient to give value to such establishment, and at the same time to render it useful to the commerce of the peltries of this country, to watch the Indians and keep them in the fidelity which they owe to His Majesty."
Honori took immediate possession of his claim, which he retained until 1805. Wkile trading with the natives he became indebted
to Joseph Robedoux, who obtained an execution on which the property was sold May 13, 1803, and was purchased by the creditor. In these proceedings the property was described as
being "about six leagues above the River Des Moines.” Robedoux died soon after he purchased the property. Auguste Choteau, his executor, disposed of the Honori_Tract to Thomas F. Reddeck, in April, 1805, up to which time Honori continued to occupy it. The grant, as made by the Spanish Government, was a league square, but only one mile square was confirmed by the United States. After the half-breeds sold their lands, in which the Honori grant was included, various claimants resorted to litigation in attempts to invalidate the title of the Reddeck heirs, but it was finally confirmed by a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1839, and is the oldest legal title to any land in the State of Iowa.
THE HALF-BREED TRACT. Before any permament settlement had been made in the Territory of Iowa, white adventurers, trappers and traders, many of whom were scattered along the Mississippi and its tributaries, as agents and employes of the American Fur Company, intermarried with the females of the Sac and Fox Indians, producing a race of half-breeds, whose number was never definitely ascertained. There were some respectable and excellent people among them, children of men of some refinement and education. For instance: Dr. Muir, a gentleman educated at Edinburgh, Scotland, a surgeon in the United States Army, stationed at a military post located on the present site of Warsaw, married an Indian woman and reared his family of three daughters in the city of Keokuk. Other examples might be cited, but they are probably exceptions to the general rule, and the race is now nearly or quite extinct in Lowa.
A treaty was made at Washington, August 4, 1824, between the Sacs and Foxes and the United States, by which that portion of Lee County was reserved to the half-breeds of those tribes, and which was afterwards known as "The Half-Breed Tract." This reservation is the triangular piece of land, containing about 119,000 acres, lying between the Mississippi and Des Moines Rivers. It is bounded on the north by the prolongation of the northern line of Missouri. This line was intended to be a straight one, running due east, which would have caused it to strike the Mississipppi River at or below Montrose; but the surveyor who ran it took no notice of the change of the variation of the needle as he proceeded eastward, and, in consequence, the line he run was bent, deviating more and more to the northward of a direct line as he approached the Mississippi, so that it struck that river at the lower edge of the town of Fort Madison. “This erroneous line," says Jadge Mason, "has been acquiesced in as well in fixing the north
ern limit of the Half-Breed Tract as in determining the northern boundary line of the State of Missouri.". The line thus run included in the reservation a portion of the lower part of the city of Fort Madison, and all of the present townships of Van Buren, Charleston, Jefferson, Des Moines, Montrose and Jackson.
Under the treaty of 1824, the half-breeds had the right to occupy the soil, but could not convey it, the reversion being reserved to the United States. But on the 30th day of Januarv, 1834, by act of Congress, this reversionary right was relinquished, and the half-breeds acquired the lands in fee simple. This was no sooner done than a horde of speculators rushed in to buy land of the halfbreed owners, and, in many instances, a gun, a blanket, a pony or a few quarts of whisky was sufficient for the purchase of large estates. There was a deal of sharp practice on both sides; Indians would often claim ownership of land by virtue of being half-breeds, and had no difficulty in proving their mixed blood by the Indians, and they would then cheat the speculators by selling land to which they had no rightful title. On the other hand, speculators often claimed land in which they had no ownership. It was diamond cut diamond, until at last things became badly mixed. There was no authorized surveys and no boundary lines to claims, and, as a natural result, numerous conflicts and quarrels ensued.
To settle these difficulties, to decide the validity of claims or sell them for the benefit of the real owners, by act of the Legislature of Wisconsin Territory, approved January 16, 1838, Edward Johnstone, Thomas S. Wilson and David Brigham were appointed Commissioners, and clothed with power to effect these objects. The act provided that these Commissioners should be paid six dollars a day each. The commission entered upon its duties and continued until the next session of the Legislature, when the act creating it was repealed, invalidating all that had been done and depriving the Commissioners of their pay. The repealing act, however, authorized the Commissioners to commence action against the owners of the Half-Breed Tract, to receive pay for their services, in the District Court of Lee County. Two judgments were obtained, and on execution the whole of the tract was sold to Hugh T. Reid, the Sheriff executing the deed. Mr. Reid sold portions of it to various parties, but his own title was questioned, and he became involved in litigation. Decisions in favor of Reed and those holding under_him were made by both District and Supreme Courts; but in December, 1850, these decisions were finally reversed by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Joseph Webster, plaintiff in error, vs. Hugh T. Reid, and the judgment titles failed. About nine years before the "judgment titles" were finally abrogated as above, another class of titles were brought into competition with them, and in the conflict between the two, the final decision was obtained. These were the titles based on the "decree of partition" issued by the United States District
Court for the Territory of Iowa, on the 8th of May, 1841, and certified to by the Clerk on the 2d day of June of that year. Edward Johnstone and Hugh T. Reid, then law partners at Fort Madison, filed the petition for the decree in behalf of the St. Louis claimants of half-breed lands. Francis S. Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner, who was then attorney for the New York Land Company, which held heavy interest in these lands, took a leading part in the measure, and drew up the document in which it was presented to the court. Judge Charles Mason, of Burlington, presided. The plan of partition divided the tract into one hundred and one shares, and arranged that each claimant should draw his proportion by lot, and should abide the result, whatever it might be. The arrangement was entered into the lots drawn, and the plat of the same filed in the Recorder's office, October 6, 1841. Upon this basis the titles to land in the Half-Breed Tract are now held.
EARLY SETTLEMENTS. The first permament settlement by the whites within the limits of Iowa was made by Julien Dubuque, in 1788, when, with a small party of miners, he settled on the site of the city that now bears his name, where he lived until his death, in 1810. Louis Honori settled on the site of the present town of Montrose, probably in 1799, and resided there until 1805, when his property passed into other hands. Of the Girard settlement, opposite Prairie du Chien, little is known, except that it was occupied by some parties prior to the commencement of the present century, and contained three cabins in 1805. Indian traders, although not strictly to be considered settlers, had established themselves at various points at an an early date. A Mr. Johnson, Agent of the American Fur Company, nad a trading post below Burlington, where he carried on traffic with the Indians some time before the United States possessed the country. In 1820, Le Moliese, a French trader, had a station at what is now Sandusky six miles above Keokuk, in Lee County. In 1829. Dr. Isaac Gallaud made a settlement on the Lower Rapids, at what is now Nashville.
The first settlement in Lee county was made in 1820, by Dr. Samuel C. Muir, a surgeon in the United States army, who had been stationed at Fort Edwards, now Warsaw, Ill., and who built a cabin where the city of Keokuk now stands.
Messrs. Reynolds & Culver, who had leased Dr. Muir's claim at Keokuk, subsequently employed as their agent Mr, Moses Stillwell, who arrived with his family in 1828, and took possession of Muir's cabin. His brothers-in-law, Amos and Valencourt Van Ansdal came with him and settled near.
His daughter, Margaret Stillwell (afterward Mrs. Ford), was born in 1831, at the foot of the rapids, called by the Indians Puch9-she-tuck, where Keokuk now stands. She was probably the first white American child born in Iowa.