A Short History of Wapello County, Iowa from A. T. Andreas' Illustrated
Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa. 1875
This county derives its name from Wapello, a subordinate chief of the Sac
and Fox Indians, who occupied this section of country immediately
previous to the advent of the whites. The soil is generally a loam, somewhat
firmer than is common in this part of Iowa, and rather less capable of
enduring severe drought. The Des Moines River, entering at the northwest corner and passing out at the southeast, traverses the county diagonally, separating it into two nearly equal parts. In the northeast part rolling prairies predominate, and the soil and attendant conditions of culture are better adapted to the needs of the husbandman. In the southwest part much of the surface is hilly and heavily timbered, the soil a firm clay, and a smaller proportion of the entire area susceptible of satisfactory tillage.
Wheat, corn, oats, rye and the grasses are the principal crops; potatoes and other vegetables are likewise extensively cultivated. Of fruits, apples and cherries are the more abundantly raised, while peaches, pears and plums rank next in amount and importance.
Geological explorations demonstrate the fact that at least half the county is under-laid with inexhaustible beds of bituminous coal. All along the Des Moines River it exists in vast deposits, while near Eddyville a large vein forms part of the river bed. In the hills, south of the river, it has been found in many places, and also in the vicinity generally of the smaller streams. According to the census returns for the current year, twenty-four coal banks are now open in the county, in which two hundred and thirty-six hands are employed. The number of tons mined in 1874, are reported to have been 518,544, valued at $1,041,200. Persons conversant with the facts affirm that the actual number of hands employed, and tons mined, far exceed the figures stated. Nearly all this coal is of excellent quality, and the veins, usually thick, being near the surface are easily worked. Large amounts are annually consumed by the locomotives of the adjacent railroads; other large amounts find a ready market otherwise within the county and beyond its limits.
Concretionery limestone, excellent for building purposes, and from a superior quality of lime is manufactured, abounds along the Des Moines. Of fire clay, and clay and sand suitable for the making of brick, the supply is also ample.
The railroad facilities of the county are scarcely excelled by those of any other interior county in the State. Direct connection is had with Burlington, Chicago and the East, by means of the Burlington and Missouri River division of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. Like connection with St. Louis and the southeast and southwest, is had by the Northern Division of the St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern Railroad, terminating at Ottumwa. The Keokuk and Des Moines Railroad additionally passes through the county, following the valley of the Des Moines River. All passenger trains of the Central Railroad of Iowa which has for its southern terminus Albia, in the adjoining county of Monroe, also run to and from Ottumwa, over the track of the Keokuk and Des Moines Railroad, which intersects that of the Central at Eddyville. The Southwestern Division of the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad crosses diagonally the southeast corner of the county. The Cedar Rapids and St. Louis Railroad, now in course of construction, and nearly completed, from Ottumwa to Sigourney in Keokuk County, is intended to form a junction with the St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern Railroad, at Ottumwa.
On May 1, 1843, that part of Iowa west of the west line of Jefferson County, adjoining Wapello County on the east, and which was last in possession of the Sac and Fox Indians, passed pursuant to previous cession into the possession of the United States Government. Before night of this day several hundred settlers were actually inhabiting the county. The greater part of these had squatted along the line of Wapello County, in Jefferson County, preparatory to passing into Wapello County as soon as midnight of April 30th should arrive, which moment was awaited very impatiently. Prior to May 1, of the year named, whites were not permitted by the terms of the treaty, to settle within the bounds of the "New Purchase." At the exact hour guns were fired to denote the beginning of the duly appointed day. Instantly Wapello County was peopled by busy incomers, who at once made extraordinary preparations to maintain an indisputed right to variously selected parts of the newly acquired soil. New wicamps were built to aid in being accurate with a show of justice; piles of dry wood were fired to mark boundaries by, and torches glared in the midnight gloom as the work of defining and locating claims-each embracing from eighty to three hundred and twenty acres-proceeded by getting stakes in the prairie, and by blazing trees in the timber. Quite naturally much of this work was done very inartistically. Many of the boundary lines were disjointed, others were crooked, and still others encroached one upon another.
This state of affairs inevitably led to many disturbances called "claim difficulties," for the peaceable adjustment of which "claim committees" were organized. Thus a claim made and held in good faith, was a sacredly protected as are the firesides of the present inhabitants. The judgment of these crudely formed but necessary tribunals, was enforced by summary process. This process was generally a plain written statement of the opinion of the claim committee, setting forth the right of the injured party and the wrong complained of, and an order to the wrong-doers to comely with the judgment rendered. In default of such compliance the power of the county was invoked to enforce the judgment instantly. From these judgments there was no appeal nor any stay of execution. Obedience to their requirements was therefore customary. Occasionally, however, insubordination was manifested, and the judgment disregarded. When this occurred, war, without any formal declaration, resulted on the spot.
"THE DAHLONEGA WAR"
As an example of these wars, that of the "DAHLONEGA War," is the most conspicuous. It originated with James Woody, who came from near DAHLONEGA, Lumpkin County, Georgia, and was one of the earliest settlers of the county. Having made a claim, now the farm of Enos King, near DAHLONEGA, he sold to Martin Koontz for $200 in gold and received the money. Afterwards, conceiving the price to be inadequate, he repented of the bargain, "jumped" the claim- re-occupied it -and took steps to preempt the land under the laws of Congress. Erecting a cabin thereon, he was warned off; failing to go, the action of the claim committee was invoked, when he was again ordered to surrender possession. His refusal so to do was of course a signal to arms. The friends of Koontz, about sixty in number, well provided with various weapons, repairing to the cabin erected by Woody, and finding him in it, speedily demolished it over his head. This action was quickly followed by his ejectment from the claim. Thereupon, the friends of Woody rallying in turn, between the opposing forces a most desperate fight ensued, in which one of the Woody party was killed.
This war was succeeded by an effort on the part of the civil authorities, at the instance of Woody, to inflict upon the leaders of the Koontz party the penalty of outraged law. Wapello County being then attached to Jefferson County, for judicial-but not for military-purposes, process was sued out in the latter county, and placed in the hands of Deputy Sheriff Woodard, who came from Fairfield to make arrests. On reaching the seat of war, this officer found that men banded together by the strong ties of honor and courage, to protect their rights, were not to be arrested in the ordinary way. Himself unequal to the duty, he summoned to his aid a constable of the town, but without avail. In short, Deputy Sheriff Woodard, instead of arresting the resisting offenders, was himself arrested by them. Keeping him over night, the next morning they brought him out, placed him on his horse, and escorted him to the public square in DAHLONEGA, where, riding around him, with their trusty rifles in hand, they gave him as they passed a most respectful military salute, which he as respectfully returned. This ceremony ended, the captain of the Koontz forces advanced and announced to the officer, that his captors having no further need of his services, he was at liberty to go. When they wanted him again, they would send for him. Should he return until thus summoned, they suggested to him the propriety of executing his last will and testament before leaving home. Whereupon the officer departed hastily, and was seen thereabouts no more.
The prosecutions instituted in Jefferson County against the Koontz men remained undisposed of until Wapello County was organized, when, from some oversight in legislation, Jefferson County lost jurisdiction of the cases, and they were dismissed. Thus ended the "DAHLONEGA War," and its consequences, Woody of course losing the claim.
Pursuant to an act of the Territorial Legislature, approved February 13, 1844, "The County of Wapello" was "organized from and after the first day of March next" thereafter. This act declared that the Clerk of the District Court of the county, aided by the Sheriff of the county-the later officer appointed by the act-should be the organizing officers. The duty of the Clerk-Henry B. Hendershott, was to appoint judges and clerks of election; fix the places of voting; receive, open, and canvass the returns, declare the result, and issue certificates of election. The duty of the Sheriff-James M. Peck, was to post notices of the time and places of holding the election, deliver to the judges and clerks the poll books, etc.
The first election was held April 1, 1844, which being "all fools' day," some joking was indulged in, at the expense of the candidates. James. M. Montgomery, Lewis F. Temple, and Charles F. Harrow, were elected County Commissioners; Charles Overman was elected Commissioners' Clerk; Paul C. Jeffries. Judge of Probate; Joseph Hayne, Sheriff; James Caldwell, Assessor; Thomas Foster, Treasurer; Milton J. Spurlock, Recorder; Hugh George, Surveyor; with a number of Justices and Constables. Of the officers here named, Paul C. Jeffries, now eight-six years of age, Joseph Hoyne, and Thomas Foster are the only survivors.
Joseph B. Davis, of Washington County, John H. Randolph, of Henry County, and Solomon Jackson, of Lee County, commissioners for the purpose, appointed by the Territorial Legislature, located the seat of justice for the county, in May, 1844, on the present site of the city of Ottumwa, a short distance south of the geographical center of the county.
On the 20th of the same month the Board of County Commissioners, who were at this period the fountain head of justice and equity in the county, convened for the first time for the transaction of business. In June another session was held, when townships were organized, points named where elections should be held, a sale of town lots ordered, and a ferry license granted to J. P. Eddy, then proprietor of Eddyville, which ferry is said to have been the first ferry established in the county. The first tax levied by the board, on the 4th of July, 1844, was as follows: Five mills on all personal property, a poll tax of fifty cents, one mill for territorial purposes, and a road tax of fifteen cents on $100.
The first term of the District Court of the United States, within and for the County of Wapello, and Territory of Iowa, was appointed to be held at the court house at Ottumwa, on the 16th of September, 1844. The claim committees that had been appointed by the settlers to arbitrate claims in dispute, could not reconcile matters satisfactorily. Litigants, lawyers, jurors and dram-sellers therefore looked forward to this term of court with much interest, expecting to be benefited thereby in more ways than one. On the first day of the term, the Judge, Hon. Charles Mason, of Burlington, failed to appear. The old red coach that weekly brought the mail, brought no intelligence of him on the second day. As whiskey was cheap and business stagnant with lawyers and claimants, they exhibited their muscles in a free fight. On the third day Judge Mason arrived and the court was duly organized. The officers in attendance were Henry B. Hendershott, Clerk, and Joseph Hayne, Sheriff. The persons summoned as Grand Jurors at this term were James Wier, George W. Knight, Seth Ogg, Robert H. Ivers, Thomas H. Pendleton, Henry Smith, William Brin, Lewis F. Temple, John Humphreys, Martin Fisher, Paul C. Jeffries, John Fuller, Findley Lindsey, William Pritchett, William C. McIntire, John Clark, James R. Boggs, John Kirkpatrick, John Murray, Isam Garrett, Shannon Hackney, Philaster Lee and Thomas Wright. William A. Winsell, Peter Barnett, Richard Fisher and Jacob T. Hackney, talesmen, were added to the jury to supply in part vacancies occasioned by the non-attendance of Messrs. Ivers, Fisher, Fuller, Clark and Kirkpatrick. James Wier was appointed foreman, and George B. Warden, bailiff in charge. Thus opened the first term of the first district court, both on the part of the Territory of Iowa, to administer the laws of the Territory, and on the part of the United States to administer the laws of Congress. The sessions of the court were held in a building constructed of smooth hewn logs, a story and a half high, with windows and doors, and a roof covered with shingles; situated on the lot where the First National Bank of Ottumwa now stands.
The first judicial act of the court, after its organization, was the disposal of the case of "Josiah Smart, agent," who sued "for the use of S. S. Phelps vs. Elias Orton." It was a case of assumpsit, in which the damages were laid at $500. On coming up for a hearing by consent of the parties it was dismissed, at the cost of the defendant, taxed at seven dollars and fifty-two and one-fourth cents. The first jury trail had at this term was in the case of "James Poor, for the use of James Moody, appellee, vs. Demps Grigsby, appellant." The jury consisted of Samuel Magee, John Anderson, H. G. Hendrick, Jeremiah Starr, Benjamin Jones, Benjamin H. Russell, Rizen Howard, Franklin Brown, Plemworth Mortimer, George Harmon, Daniel Denison and Benjamin Sunderland. They found a verdict for the defendant, whereupon the court gave judgment accordingly for twenty-three dollars and fifty-four cents. At the next succeeding term, in April, 1845, the case again came up to be heard on a writ of error, when by agreement of all parties it was dismissed at the cost of the plaintiff, taxed at one dollar.
So far as the record shows the grand jury returned but one indictment, which was for larceny. The defendant was arraigned, and pleading not guilty, was bound over for trial at the next term of court. At the latter term the trial was further postponed one term longer. Finally prosecution of the case was abandoned and the defendant discharged.
September 19, 1844, on the fourth day of this term, John Wall and George Wall, natives of England, and late subjects of Queen Victoria, were fully invested with the rights and privileges of American citizens. These were the first naturalizations in the county, and the only ones at this term of court. On the same day William Snodgrass was appointed Crier to the Court.
J. C. Hall, of Burlington, I. N. Lewis and James H. Cowles, of Keosauqua, and George May and W. H. Galbraith, of Ottumwa, are shown to have been in attendance as attorneys of the court. On the last day of the term Henry B. Hendershott presented to the court his resignation in writing of the office of clerk. Thereupon John W. Ross was appointed his successor.
The first record book furnished by the United States in which to enter the proceedings of the court, is still in a good state of preservation. It consists of about half a quire of very inferior foolscap paper, stitched together with white thread and covered with a very coarse kind of brown paper.
This first probate proceeding of record in the county is the bond of William Crawford, administrator of the estate of Thomas Crawford, deceased, in the penal sum of $500. John Stout united in the execution of the bond as surety. Both bond and surety were approved September 2, 1844, by Paul C. Jeffries, Probate Judge. Thomas Crawford, whose estate was administered upon, was the member of the Woody party killed in the DAHLONEGA War as previously stated.
During the session of the Legislature of 1851, the County Commissioners' Court was abolished, and the office of County Judge created. Silas Osborn, the first county judge of Wapello County qualified August 12, 1851. The then probate judge at first not fully comprehending the situation, refused to give up the books and papers of his office to his newly created and official successor. After two weeks of mature deliberation, however, his duty in the premises became more clearly apparent to his understanding, and he quietly delivered over the documents.
In 1861, also by legislative general enactment, the supervision of the financial and other business affairs of the county, previously exercised by the County Judge, became vested in a County Board of Township Supervisors, and the office of County Judge was abolished. At the first session of the board, held at the Court House in Ottumwa, January 7, of this year, the following supervisors appeared and were qualified: Form Adams Township, William Cloyd; Agency, Thomas Bedwell; Center, George Gillaspy; Cass, George F. Myers; Competine, A. Major; Dahlonega, J. C. Hinsey; Green, William Knight; Highland, Silas Osborn; Keokuk, William C. McIntire; Polk, Lauren Rose; Pleasant, George Neville; Richland, Aaron Harlan; Washington, Moses C. Israel, Supervisor Gillaspy, of Center Township, was elected president of the board, and Hugh Brown, Clerk of the District Court, discharged the duties of clerk ex-officio. The terms of the members respectively, determined by lot, were Messrs. Cloyd, Bedwell, Billiaspy, Major, McIntire, Harlan, and Israel, one year each; Messrs. Myers, Hinsey, Knight, Osborn, Rose, and Neville, two years each. Peter Knox, supervisor elect of Columbia Township, being absent, the clerk drew for him a like term of two years. On the third day of the session the Honorable Edward H. Stiles, of Ottumwa, was elected attorney of the board. In 1871, by further legislative enactment, the township system of electing supervisors was succeeded by that of a board of three supervisors, to serve for the term of three years, one of the number to be elected annually by the county at large. Henry Canfield, Henry Reinhard and Thomas J. Nelson, composing the new board in this year, drew terms of service as follows: Mr. Nelson, one year; Mr. Reinhard, two years; and Mr. Canfield, three years. Mr. Canfield was chosen chairman of the board, and George D. Hackworth, County Auditor was ex-officio clerk.
The first term of the Circuit Court of Wapello County opened at the Court House in Ottumwa, March 8, 1869, at two o'clock in the afternoon. Present, Honorable Robert Sloan, of Keosauqua, Van Buren County, judge; Thomas Bedwell, sheriff; and L. M. Godley, clerk. Without transacting any business the court adjourned until the next morning. The first cause that appears to have received judicial notice at this term was that of "Alfred H. Nice vs. D. H. Chilcote and T. B. Chilcote. Petition at law." On motion it was stricken from the docket. The first case in which a judgment was rendered, at the same term, was a suit upon an account, entitled "William W. Paul vs. T. C. Woodward." Judgment by default was rendered in favor of the plaintiff for $1,017.69 and costs. Isaac Rogers, W. S. Carter, A. Emory, Henry Canfield, M. M. Lane, Jr., R. D. Williams, Joseph Luder, William Reeves, Sr., Harvey Tindall, Isaac Logan, Samuel Ryan and W. F. Lyon were the first petit jurors empaneled; in the case of "Lawrence & Chambers vs. J. H. Ward and the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company," W. S. Carter was foreman of the jury. The suit was brought to recover the value of a sack of coffee delivered by the plaintiffs, at the freight house of defendants, at Ottumwa, and lost. The jury found for the plaintiffs and assessed the damages at thirty-eight dollars and seventy-eight cents.
The county seal first used in all the courts was an American half-dollar dipped in ink.
Recurring to the early history of the county it is worthy of note that for some time succeeding the first settlements, the inhabitants in the southeast part obtained their mail matter from Keosauqua, Van Buren County; those in the central and other parts of the county, from Fairfield, Jefferson County. At this time news from Washington City was usually three weeks in reaching the settlers, and news from Europe from four to six months, while news from other foreign lands was seldom received. The first post-office in the county was established at Ottumwa in the Spring of 1844, and Judge Paul C. Jeffries was the first postmaster. The mail route extended from Keosauqua by the way of Agency City, and the mail was carried weekly, on horseback.
At this time also, mills were even more distant than post-offices. Moffit's mill, on Skunk River, at Augusta in Des Moines County, seventy-five or eighty miles north-westwardly, and Meeks' mill, in Van Buren County, forty to fifty miles southeastwardly were principally patronized by the settlers. Six and eight days were frequently spent in these milling trips.
The first birth in the county was that of Mary Ann Smith, daughter of David P. Smith, early in 1843; and the first death that of Mary Ann Hall, daughter of David and Rebecca Hall, who died in the Summer of the same year. The Reverend B. A. Spaulding, a Congregational minister, preached the funeral sermon, and the citizens very generally paid their last respects to the young maiden whose life had terminated so early.
On the 15th of March, 1844, the first marriage license was issued to Andrew Crawford and Mary Ann Montgomery, both minors, upon the joint request in writing of Thomas Crawford, father of Andrew, and of Peter Walker, guardian of Miss Montgomery. The marriage ceremony was performed the same day by R. R. Jones, a justice of the peace, at the house of Mr. Walker. The age of the bride was sixteen years, that of the groom nineteen years. All the parties were residents of Wapello County. The second marriage license was issued on the same day to Doctor C. W. Phelps and Miss Elizabeth C. Weaver, both of lawful age and both residents of the county. It does not appear record when, or by whom, they were married.
The first legal instrument of record in the county is an assignment by Charles F. Harrow to his son-in-law, Jesse Brookshire, of a lease held by the former of "the Baker Farm, situated in Wapello County"-one mile east of Agency City, on which farm the assignor then resided; also of a lease of part of a farm known as "Widow Street's Reservation." The consideration of the assignment was the sum of $79.50 and that the family of Harrow should live with and form part of Brookshire's family, and be supported by him until December 20, 1844. The instrument was acknowledged before Green B. Savery, a justice of the peace, witnessed by George May, and is dated April 29, 1844. The date of record is not noted.
The persons who first acquired titles to land from the United States, in the county, were James Longshore and John Caldwell, both on the same day-September 16, 1844. The former purchased lots 6, 7, and 8, and the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section 4, 71, 13.
The first physician in the county was Doctor Charles C. Warden, from Kentucky, whose advent occurred in 1843. His practice extended to nearly all inhabited parts of the county, in consequence of which he was many times called "to ride long distances to visit patients, over bridgeless streams, in pelting storms, and with no guide through the starless nights. Subsequently he became, and still remains, a dry good merchant in Ottumwa. The first lawyer that settled in the county was William H. Galbraith, long since deceased, who also came in 1843.
To the Reverend T. M. Kirkpatrick, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, apparently belongs the honor of having preached the first sermon in the county, on Keokuk prairie, south of the Des Moines River, just below Ottumwa, in an Indian wigwam made of bark, early in the same eventful year, 1843. Under the ministry of this preacher, also, was organized the first Methodist Episcopal class in the county, in 1844. It numbered five members, and was led by H. P. Graves.
Between Ezekiel Rush, still living in the vicinity, and a Mr. Tansey, who officiated as a teacher at Dahlonega, with the presumption in favor of the former, lies the honor of having taught the first school. Sabbath Schools were organized at an early day at Agency City, Eddyville, Ottumwa, Dahlonega, and elsewhere. Of these, one organized a the house of the Reverend W. A. Nye, near the present site of Chillicothe, is thought to have been the first. It was organized mainly through the efforts of G. F. Myers, in June, 1845.
At the Presidential election in 1852, there were 1465 votes cast in the county, and the assessed value of property in the same year was over a million of dollars.
In the war of the Rebellion Wapello County was represented by a little over sixteen hundred officially recorded volunteers, including a little over two hundred veteran re-enlistments. A very creditable exhibit of patriotism, certainly, for a county having a total population in 1860, of 14, 518 only. For the relief of such families of volunteers and a very few drafted men as were thus left destitute, a special relief fund was created in September, 1862, by the Board of Supervisors. By means of a special tax levied in that and other years, supplemented by generous private contributions, many thousands of dollars in money were raised and appropriated to the needs of the worthy beneficiaries. Contributions of sanitary and other stores made by the citizens of the county for the relief and comfort of their absent kindred and friends in the army, were equally liberal. From 1860 till the close of the war, party feeling in the county was bitter, but no overt act occurred against the Government. At a session of the Board of Supervisors held in June, 1863, a resolution was adopted pronouncing it to be the duty of the military authorities and Governor of the State to disband, without delay, a volunteer force previously raised for military border service in Wapello and other counties on the southern border of the State; also, pronouncing it to be the duty of the Legislature to repeal the law organizing such force, at the earliest opportunity. The reason assigned by the Board for this somewhat extraordinary action, was the alleged absence of any necessity for such a law, and its tendency to incite raids by Missouri bandits, upon Iowa border counties, without any compensating benefit.
COUNTY BUILDINGS AND INSTITUTIONS.
The county buildings of Wapello County consist of a court house and a jail. The former building is a large but not architecturally imposing brick structure, occupying an elevated and convenient site on the northwest corner of Fourth and Court Streets in a well settled portion of the City of Ottumwa. The lower part is apportioned to the use of the principal county officers, and the upper part appropriated mainly to the court room and apportenant offices. The building was erected in 1855, at a cost of about $13,000. The county jail, occupying an adjoining lot in the rear, on Court Street, is a small, square, two-story brick building, equally unpretentious in style. It was erected in 1857, at a cost of about $9000. Several attempts have been made in the county, at different times, to obtain the sanction of the tax-paying voters, for the purchase of larger and more suitable grounds, and the erection thereon of buildings of more modern construction and better adapted to the use of the county. In every instance, however, the proposition has been largely rejected.
The only public institution in the county is a Poor Farm, which has the reputation of answering literally in description to its official designation. It consists of about one hundred and fifty acres of inferior land situated on the north bank of the Des Moines River, about three miles southeast of Ottumwa. The buildings upon the Farm are likewise of a very inferior character. Various suggestions and resolutions have been offered in the Board of Supervisors of the county, from time to time, with a view to the sale, leasing, and exchange of this undesirable property. All these, nevertheless, have failed to accomplish the purpose intended.
County Agricultural Society.- The Wapello county Agricultural Society was organized January 24th, 1852. The officers chosen at this time were J. W. Hedrick, President; G. D. Hackworth, Vice-President; J. W. Norris, Secretary, and Bela White, Treasurer. At the first meeting eighty-nine members were enrolled, much interest being manifested in the society. The first Fair was held on the farm of Joseph Hayne, near Ottumwa, October 14th, 1853. The attendance was large, and the Fair very attractive to the farmers and stock-growers in the county. Many books and about seventy dollars in money were distributed as premiums. A month later five acres of land were purchased, a mile northeast of Ottumwa, for a permanent ground for exhibitions. A donation of $110, received soon afterward from the State, gave increased effect to the operations of the society in the following seasons. In 1857, the original Fair Ground having become too small for the greatly enlarged needs of the society, was sold at a fair price, and another ground, ten acres in extent, purchased, fenced, and fitted for future occupation. Annually from that time to the present Fairs have been held, which in all essential particulars have been creditable to the people of the county.
The pioneer newspaper of the county was the Des Moines Courier, the first number of which was issued August 8th, 1848. J. H. D. Street and R. H. Warden, the publishers, with an ox team transported the press from Keokuk to Ottumwa. It was started as a Whig organ, with a circulation less than two hundred, and was at the time the most western paper in the United States. In January, 1851, Mr. Warden became sole proprietor, and so remained until December, 1855, when he was succeeded by James W. Norris, who in the Summer of 1866 was in turn succeeded by N. D. Musselman, W. H. Caldwell, and W. C. Holden. In August, 1869, Gen. John M. Hedrick and Maj. Augustus H. Hamilton, the former present United States Supervisor of Internal Revenue for the District of Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and Dacotah, and the latter present Postmaster of Ottumwa, acquired the existing proprietorship. In January, 1857, by the substitution of the prefix Ottumwa, for that of "Des Moines," the title of the courier was partially changed. A daily edition, started April 5th, 1865, has a large and increasing circulation. As a consistent and persistent exponent, under all proprietors, first of Whig and since of Republican politics, the Courier has ever exerted in the county and state an influence greater than is commonly exerted by local journals.
The second newspaper in the county was entitled the Des Moines Republic. It was published at Ottumwa, by James Baker & Co., and the first number was issued in July, 1850. In less than two years thereafter it had passed out of existence.
The immediate successor of the Des Moines Republic was the Ottumwa Democratic Statesman, in 1858, of which G. D. R. Boyd was the publisher. J. H. D. Street next conducted it awhile, then- in 1861- H. B. Hendershott and E. L. Burton, who changed the name to that of the Ottumwa Democratic Union. In 1862 Mr. Hendershott retired, and S. B. Evans, now of the Ottumwa Democrat, became associated with Mr. Burton in its conduct. Thereupon a further change of name occurred, that of Democratic Mecury being substituted for that of Democratic Union. In the Winter of 1863-4 Mr. Evans retired, and S. H. Burton united with his brother, E. L. Burton, in the publication of the paper. In October, 1865, the latter Mr. Burton gave place to Russell Higgins, and he to Mr. Evans again, in the following month of November. In March 1868, Mr. Evans a second time, and finally severed his connection with the Mercury leaving Mr. S. H. Burton sole editor and proprietor. A few months later the publication of the paper was permanently discontinued.
In March, 1868, an exceedingly ultra Democratic newspaper entitled The Copperhead, previously published at Pella, Marion County, was removed to Ottumwa. M. V. B. Bennett, H. M McCully, and S. B Evans here continued its publication until December of that year, when Mr. Bennett withdrew. In December, 1870, Mr. McCully also withdrew. Mr. Evans, on thus succeeding to the sole editorship and proprietorship, immediately changed the name The Copperhead to that of the Ottumwa Democrat. Under the able and vigorous conduct of Mr. Evans the Democrat "still lives," and within the extended sphere of its political influence exerts a controlling power. A daily edition of the Democrat, which promises to become a successful and remunerative publication, was begun in the Spring of the current year.
The Ottumwa Journal, A German weekly newspaper, established by A. Danquard, in 1871, has a considerable circulation among persons of that nationality in the county and vicinity.
The Spirit of The Times, a weekly independent newspaper, was established at Ottumwa, by G. F. Foster, O. C. Graves, and N. M. Ives, constituting the Ottumwa Printing Company, in April, 1874.
The Eddyville Free Press, J. W. Norris, editor, an independent newspaper, was started by a printing company at Eddyville, in 1853.Three years later it was changed to the Commercial, B. H. Palmer, editor. Three years later still it died. Then a period of three years intervened with no paper but the Observer J. T. Cooke, editor, which continued three months. At the end of these nine years, in 1862, Melick and McConnell started the Eddyville Star. The latter soon afterward went to the war, leaving the former alone. Upon the completion of yet another cycle of three years-in 1865, C. W. Sherman succeeded Mr. Melick, and in August of that year the Star forever disappeared. In March, 1866, Melick and Bitner started the Independent. Clement and Craig subsequently started the Gazette. Neither survived long. In 1869 the Eddyville Advertiser was established by W. L. Palmer, and is still conducted by the same publisher. Politics, Republican. The Eddyville Advance, of Democratic politics, was started by W. A. Fast, in June, 1875.
The Agency City Newsboy was started in February, 1871, by S. A. Morehead, with the office material of the suspended Eddyville Gazette. After a feeble existence of about six months the Newsboy expired, and his remains were conveyed to Batavia, Jefferson County. In the Fall of 1878 the Agency Independent, of Republican politics made its appearance, C. L. Morehouse, publisher, who still conducts it.
Ottumwa, the county seat, is pleasantly situated on the north side of the Des Moines River, very nearly in the geographical center of the county. Here intersect the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, the Keokuk and Des Moines, and the St. Louis, Kansas City & Northern Railroads. A large part of the city site, immediately on the river, is level, but sufficiently elevated to be secure from freshest. It is principally occupied for railroad, manufacturing and general business purposes. Back of this part suddenly rises to a considerable height a range of hills, exclusively the locality of private residences, including many handsome and costly mansions. Views more attractive or extensive than are here obtained seldom lend a charm to western scenery.
The town was laid out in May, 1843, by the Appanoose Rapids Company, composed of James R. McBette, Urial Biggs, John D. Elbert, Paul C. Jeffries, Thomas D. Evans, Hugh George, David Glass, John Lewis, William Dewey, Sewell Kinney and Thomas Devin. This company, previously, in 1842, surveyed the county to find the center, at which point they anticipated the building of a city so soon as the Indian title to the land should become extinguished. When this occurred, in the following year, they established their claim to the site of the town by instant occupation and continuous possession. Of about four hundred lots first laid out, each alternate lot was donated to the county, upon the condition that the county seat should here be located. In May, 1844, the commissioners appointed to locate the county capital, in the exercise of their evidently sound judgment did locate it upon the identical quarter-section whereon the Appanoose Rapids Company had founded the new town to which they had well given the name Ottumwa. This name-the Indian name of the place-is of somewhat doubtful signification. By some versed in Indian terms, it is thought to mean "the place of the lone chief;" by others, "the lone village;" by still others, "tumbling water," or "the rapids." The latter meaning accords with the apparent understanding of the term by the Rapids Company, who, in their articles of incorporation are described as "proprietors of the property or claim near and adjoining the Appanoose Rapids of the Des Moines River, known way the Indian name of "Ottumwa.'" The county seat commissioners dubbed the town Lewisville. To this ville-anous appellation the Rapids Company, with creditable taste, of course objected. In persistently adhering to the original, very appropriate, and very beautiful name, they were fully sustained by a large majority of the settlers. In the following year the name Louisville was finally dropped, and the name Ottumwa permanently adopted.
Among the earliest settlers in Ottumwa were Doctor Charles C. Warden, Hugh George, William Dewey, Paul C. Jeffries, David Glass, S. S. Norris, David Hall, Sewell Kinney, David P. Smith, John Myers, David Armstrong, Heman P. Graves, William H. Galbraith, Levi Buckwalter and Reverend B. A. Spaulding.
In 1844, the town contained but nine log cabins, and one small frame house built by Elder Jameson, a Methodist preacher of the pioneer type, who had several charges. In the same year S. Richards established the first store in a log structure not far from the corner of Court and Main Streets. It was under the charge of Heman P. Graves. About this time also the Ottumwa House-the first public house for the accommodation of travelers-was built, first of logs, but afterwards clapboarded and made to answer the purposes of a fine hotel. The first landlord of this of house was David Hale, the owner.
During the year 1845, the Appanoose Rapids Dam and Milling Company was organized for the building of mills and the improvement of the Des Moines River water power. A county jail for temporary use, and the first brick house, the latter erected by Dow Davis, were prominent additions to local improvements in this year.
About 1846 an Israelite established the first drug store, which was well patronized. The next year Mr. Graves introduced the first cook-stove that superseded bake kettles and tin reflectors.
In 1847 and '48 fevers and other disorders incident to settlement in a new country prevailed on the Des Moines River; in nearly every family the sick outnumbered the well. In 1848 several flatboats loaded with grain at Ottumwa, and others at Eddyville, went down the river to Keokuk, where the grain was re-shipped to St. Louis on steamboats. In 1848, also, Ottumwa Lodge No. 9, of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was organized with seven charter members. The lodge met in a hall owned by John Ross.
In 1849, Empire Lodge, No. 9, of the Masonic Order, was established with thirty charter members. The "California fever" carried off many Ottumwans to the golden coast, likewise in this year.
In 1850, Doctor Warden had a store in Ottumwa, the goods for which came from New York City by sea to New Orleans, thence by steamboat to Keokuk, and thence by wagon to their destination.
In 1851, Ottumwa became an incorporated town under a general city and town incorporation act of the State Legislature. The town officers chosen at this time were, George Gillaspy, President of the Board of Trustees; Bertrand Jones, Clerk; Joseph Leighton, Assessor, and T. A. Taylor, Marshal. The Trustees were J. W. Caldwell, A. Mudge, Silas Osborn and John Myers, Sr. This year witnessed also the erection of Methodist and Congregational Churches. In the Spring and Summer of 1851, incessant rains caused the Des Moines River to rise ten feet higher than ever before known to "the oldest inhabitant," white or Indian. Boats navigated the principal streets of Ottumwa and Eddyville, and great destruction of property resulted.
On the 17th of January, 1852, was held the first of many subsequent railroad meetings in Ottumwa. On this occasion aid was sought to be given to the Lafayette, Burlington and Council Bluffs Railroad project, which, like others, proved a failure. Thereafter, during several years, various schemes for the construction of railroads passing through Ottumwa created much excitement in the county.
In 1855 the present court house was built, and the present jail in 1857. In the latter year, moreover, the city was organized, under a special charter. The first city officers were: Duane F. Gaylord, Mayor; James D. Devin, Recorder; Erastus Washburn, Treasurer; S. W. Summers, Solicitor; Hosea B. Jones, Assessor; John A. Newman, Marshal; S. W. Harwell, Engineer. Aldermen: First Ward. B. Abrahams, F. W. Hawley, and Thomas Bigham; Second Ward-H. P. Graves, A. Hawkins, and James Milligan; Third Ward-Charles Lawrence, William L. Orr, and J. A. Hammond.
In 1858 a Baptist Church was built, mainly by the extraordinary efforts of the Reverend Mr. Worcester, a Baptist missionary preacher, who first bought the lot, mostly with his own earnings, and afterward contributed to the erection of the building by his personal labor. He was pastor of the church for seven years, then retired from the ministry and engaged in business in the city.
In 1859 the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad was completed to Ottumwa, the first passenger train leaving the depot near the river on the 14th of August in that year. Also, in 1859, C. F. Blake laid out Blake's addition, a new and since very populous and important addition to the city. The publication of the first map of the city, by A. Hodge, surveyor, was another notable occurrence in this year.
In 1860 the Des Moines Valley Railroad, now the Keokuk and Des Moines Railroad, was completed to Ottumwa, by the aid, as in the case of the Burlington and Missouri River Road, of a liberal issue of Wapello County bonds.
Since 1860 Ottumwa has continued to advance steadily in population, wealth, trade, manufacturing, and general importance. The completion to this point, in 1870, of the North Missouri Railroad, now a part of the St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern Railroad, thus affording direct connection with St. Louis, as well as with Chicago, gave increased impetus to the material progress of the city. For many years Ottumwa has done probably more business than any other city of its size in the state. It has long had a heavy wholesale trade with many of the southern counties of Iowa and and northern counties of Missouri. This trade at present amounts to about $33,000,000 a year. Comparatively little capital employed in the city has come from abroad. The citizens having here made the most of their money in legitimate business, manifest their confidence in the stability of the city and the permanent growth of trade, by erecting substantial and costly buildings, constructed almost exclusively of brick.
Business Statistics.-The total amount of business done in Ottumwa may be summed up as follows: Wholesale trade, $3,000,000; retail grocery trade, $500,000; retail dry goods trade, $400,000; retail clothing trade, $200,000; retail meat trade, $130,000; retail hardware trade, $125,000; retail drug trade, $110,000; retail boot and shoe trade, $100,000; retail furniture trade, $80,000; retail agricultural implement trade, $70,000; retail sewing machine trade, $65,000; retail saddlers and harness trade, $40,000; retail jewelry trade, $30,000; retail crockery trade, $20,000. If to these be added the grain, wool, and live stock trade, and various minor branches of business not above specified, the grand total trade of the city at the present time will be found to approximate very nearly, if not quite amount to $6,500,000.
Manufactures.-Among the principal manufacturing establishments in the city are one of agricultural implements, two breweries, two foundries, four of machinery, three grist mills, one planing mill, one plow manufactory, one saw mill, one sewing machine ruffier manufactory, one steam cigar-box manufactory, one show-case manufactory, four carriage and wagon manufactories; besides which others of the usual variety and of lesser importance abound. Two pork packing establishments in the city during the season, beginning November 1, 1874, and ending March 1, 1875, employed eighty men, and packed 35,000 hogs, doing an aggregate amount of business in the period named of about $500,000. Three lumber yards in the city do an annual business of $250,000.
Water Power.-A considerable fall in the Des Moines River at Ottumwa affords an immense water power, which is about to be made available for manufacturing and other purposes. To this end and other purposes. To this end the Ottumwa Water Power Company was organized in March, 1875, with W. B. Bonnifield, President; A. H. Hamilton, Vice President; J. O. Briscoe, Secretary; C. F. Blake, Treasurer; and W. B. Bonnifield, C. F. Blake, A. H. Hamilton, W. Daggett, and D. Eaton, Directors. capital stock, $100,000. The improvements contemplated will consist of dams across the river, and head and tail races across a bend of the river at this point, about three-quarters of a mile in length. A fall of water ten and a half feet, or 2,460 horse power, will thus be obtained. The company will also erect an industrial building in which water power will be rented to small manufacturers. The entire improvements will be completed by means of present cash subscriptions to the amount of $75,000, and of an additional sum of $25,000, to be paid by the city for the use of water and incidental power, for fire and sanitary purposes. No bonds will be issued nor permanent indebtedness incurred.
Churches and School.-Ten church buildings in Ottumwa are occupied by two white and one colored organizations of the Methodist Episcopal denomination, and one organization each of the Congregations, Presbyterian, Baptist, Protestant Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Christian, and Swedish Lutheran denominations. religious services are also held regularly in the court house, by a portion of the German residents of the city. Several of these church erections are neat and commodious.
The school buildings of Ottumwa are three in number. The principal of these is a high school building, constructed of brick, three stories high, containing twelve rooms well arranged and seated, and capable of accommodating from eight hundred to nine hundred pupils. It occupies a plat of four and a half acres on one of the highest and most prominent elevations in the city, and was erected in 1864, at a cost of $30,000. A ward school building in the north part of the city, erected in 1871, also of brick, is two stories and a basement in height, contains four rooms and accommodations for two hundred and fifty pupils. It was erected at a cost of about $8,000. A second ward school building, now in course of erection, is also of brick, three stories and basement in height, and will contain six rooms and accommodations for three hundred and fifty pupils. The latter building will occupy a plat an acre and a half in extent in an elevated and beautiful part of the city, and will probably cost, exclusive of ground, about $12,000. It is designed to be an ornate as well as a model school structure. The conduct of the public schools of the city is vested in a board of directors, of which J. W. Edgerly is president, and W. E. Chambers, secretary. Professor Wilson Palmer, superintendent of schools, is assisted by a corps of seventeen teachers.
In addition to the public schools there are three private schools in the city. The principal of these is the Academy of the Visitation, under the charge of the Sisters of Visitation-Roman Catholic. In this institution three female instructors impart instruction to one hundred and twenty-four female students in all the branches of a thorough English and classical education, including music, needle work, etc. The income of this institution, in 1874, was $2,600. St. Joseph's School, also a private school under the charge of the Roman Catholics, has one male and one female instructor, and sixty-five male students. Income in 1874, $1,500. The third private school-not sectarian-is attended by twelve male and twenty-eight female students, and is under the conduct of two female instructors. These three are the only private schools in the count.
Masonic and other Orders.-Ottumwa Lodge, No. 16, A., F. & A. M. Regular communication on Thursday on or before full moon. Empire Lodge, No. 269, A., F. & A. M., meets on Thursday after full moon in each month. Ottumwa Council, No. 12, of R. & S. M. Regular convocation on Tuesday on or before full moon. Clinton Chapter, No. 9, of R. A. M. Regular convocation on the first Wednesday in each month.
Ottumwa Lodge, No. 9, I. O. O. F., meets every Tuesday evening in Odd Fellows Hall. Ottumwa Encampment, No. 22, I. O. O. F., meets first and third Friday evenings in each month in Odd Fellows Hall. Laramie Lodge, No. 230, I. O. O. F., meets every Monday evening in Odd Fellows Hall.
Wapello Lodge, No. 12, K. of P., meet every Thursday evening at their (Castle) Hall.
The Ottumwa Library Association was organized in 1872, and the library was first opened to subscribers in August of that year. Two thousand well selected volumes in the various departments of literature are now collected on its shelves.
City Police and Fire Department.- The police force of the city consists of a City Marshal, Deputy City Marshal and two additional policemen. Special policemen also are appointed on occasions when the services of a greater number of officers are required.
The fire department consists of a small but efficient body of men, under the charge of chief and assistant engineers. The fire apparatus pertaining to the department consists of one Silsby steamer, one hook and ladder truck, two hose carriages, and about 1,500 feet of hose.
City Property and Finances.- The total valuation of the city property, in the current year, is $31,500. This property consists in part of a City Hall, 46x90 feet, built of brick, two stories in height, and erected in the Winter of 1873-4, at a cost of about $15,000. The lower part is used principally as the repository of fire apparatus, and the upper part as a council chamber, and a commodious public hall. The city is the owner of other minor real estate to the value of $3,000 more.
On the 1st of July, 1875, the entire bonded indebtedness of the city was $13,000.
Population of the City.-According to the census returns of the present year, the population of the city, within the corporation limits, comprising an area of about three hundred and forty acres, is 6,326. The population of additions to the city, not included in the city limits, is 1,175. Total population of Ottumwa, 7,501. These figures doubtless do not fully represent the present population of the city and its suburbs, which is conceded by all acquainted with the facts, to amount to 8,000 at the very least. The population, as well as the wholesale and retail trade of the city, continues steadily and materially to increase.
Present City Officers.-The present officers of the city are Honorable W. L. Orr, Mayor; A. Vannaman, Marshal; W. H. Fetzer, Clerk; D. W. Tower, Treasurer; O. M. Ladd, Solicitor. Aldermen: First ward-W. B. Armstrong, P. G. Ballingall. Second ward-James Hawley, H. L. Waterman. Third ward-J. L. Moore, Simon Chaney. Fourth ward-J. M. Lamme, C. C. Peters.
EDDYVILLE is situated in the northwest corner of Wapello County, a part of it reaching over into Mahaska. It lies on the Des Moines River, and is surrounded by a very rich agricultural region. The Des Moines Valley Railroad passes through it, and is intersected at this point by the Iowa Central, giving the town the advantage of two roads. Eddyville is named after J. P. Eddy, who laid out the village in 1843. Mr. Eddy had been a trader with the Indians, and when they were removed he continued his store, which was for some time the only one in this part of the country.
At one time Eddyville was a strong rival of Ottumwa, but the latter, from its location in reference to the trade of Southern Iowa and Northern Missouri, and doubtless other causes, outstripped its rival, which, although it has been doing a good, steady business, has grown and improved but little during the past few years.
The business enterprises of Eddyville consist of six dry goods stores, five grocery stores, three drug stores, one hardware store, three millinery stores, two leather and saddlery stores, one boot and shoe store, two jewelry stores, two clothing stores, two furniture stores, one woollen goods store, one marble works, two lumber yards, two breweries, two saw mills, two grist mills, one woolen mill, four wagon manufactories, one plow factory, one packing house, and a variety of shops. There are also one private banking institution, a graded school building, brick, erected in 1868, at a cost of $20,000, an opera house, erected in 1874, Masonic and Odd Fellows halls, and Presbyterian, Congregational, Baptist, Methodist and Roman Catholic churches. Population, 1,300.
AGENCY CITY is situated on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, seven miles east of Ottumwa. It is the oldest town in the county, having been the Indian trading post when called the Indian Agency. The town contains Methodist Episcopal and Baptist churches, and a Congregational Society as yet without a church building; also two grist mills, two saw mills, two wagon manufactories, one carding mill, four dry goods stores, two drug stores, four groceries, one agricultural implement warehouse, various shops, etc. Population, 700.
KIRKVILLE, eleven miles northwest of Ottumwa, contains one Methodist church, one Presbyterian church, three dry goods and grocery stores, one drug store, saw and grist mills, and the usual shops. Population, 400.
ELDON is located at the crossing of the Keokuk and Des Moines, and southwestern division of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroads, in the southeastern part of the county, and is comparatively a new town, of railroad origin. Besides a Methodist Episcopal church, it contains three general stores and several shops. Population, 400.
BLAKESBURG, fifteen miles south of west of Ottumwa, is situated upon a high rolling prairie adjoining a heavy body of woodland. In the vicinity is an abundance of excellent coal. The town contains principally Methodist Episcopal, Baptist and Protestant methodist churches, one grist and one saw mill, five general stores, one drug store, wagon, blacksmith and other shops. Population, 350.
DAHLONEGA, four miles east of north of Ottumwa, originally settled by immigrants from DAHLONEGA, Lumpkin County, Georgia, was at fist nicknamed "Shellbark," from the fact that the primitive buildings ere erected of shell bark hickory logs, from which the bark had been stripped. The town was at an early day quite famous in the county, and at one time an aspiring rival of Ottumwa for the honor of being the county seat. It soon subsided, however, into insignificance. It now contains one Methodist Episcopal Church, two stores, and one or two shops. Population, 200.
CHILLICOTHE, on the south bank of the Des Moines River, eight miles northwest of Ottumwa, contains a Methodist Church, grist and saw mills, three general stores, and a few shops. Population, 200.
BLADENSBURG, ten miles northeast of Ottumwa, contains Christian and Methodist Episcopal Churches, saw and grist mills, and two general stores. Population, 250.
Ashland, Marysville, Port Richmond, Point Isabel and Ormanville are small hamlets.
County Officers, 1875.-Treasurer, W. H. H. Asbury; Clerk of Courts, L. M. Godley; Auditor, W. H. Caldwell; Recorder, Wade Kirkpatrick; Sheriff, Thomas P. Spilman; Superintendent of Schools, Clay Wood; Surveyor, William McGlashon; Coroner, E. L. Lathrop; Supervisors, D. H. Michael, S. McCullough, S. M. Wright.
Wapello County, Iowa Genealogy