pages 15-25; Volume 1 History of Pottawattamie County, Iowa 1907

History of

Pottawattamie County


Volume I



Before the supremacy of the Mormons was ended, the Gentiles (as all others were called) were pouring in. In November, 1851, Rev. G. G. Rice started a little church of eight members, also a Sunday School in a log house on Broadway, a little west of the intersection of Glenn avenue. This was Congregational and has grown to be a large and influential society. Mr. Rice at eighty-six is still with us although not engaged in the ministry. Rev. Moses Shinn, of the Methodist persuasion, used to preach and some claimed that he was 'as learned in full deck poker as in theology, but this was probably a joke.

Courthouse, Council Bluffs, 1907 Courthouse, Council Bluffs
(click on image for full size)

At this time Kanesville contained over seven thousand population, including its suburb of Carterville, which was east of the Mosquito creek and extended from that stream to the top of the hill in a southerly direction.

In '52 matters had reached a point where it seemed desirable to have a city organization, and early in 1853 a charter was granted for the city of Council Bluffs, and Kanesville disappeared. In April of that year the first



charter election was held, which resulted in the election of Cornelius Voorhis for mayor; W. H. Robinson, recorder; M. W. Robinson, marshal; S. S. Bayliss, G. G. Rice, S. T. Carey, L. O. Littlefield, L. M. Klein, J. E. Johnson, J. K. Cook and J. B. Stutsman, for aldermen; R. L. Douglas, attorney; Samuel Jacob, engineer, and David DeVol, assessor, and the frontier camp became a city.

Up to this time the city was mostly along Indian Creek valley. What is Broadway was an irregular trail and the principal business within two squares of the corners of Broadway and Hyde (now First) street.

In the summer of '54 the original town of Council Bluffs was surveyed, platted and recorded by Mr. Thomas Tostevin, who later filled the important offices of county surveyor, city engineer, county treasurer and mayor of the city, and died August, 1905, at the age of seventy-six years. In 1853 the name of the post office was changed to conform with that of the city. And in the same year the United States land office was opened and speculators flocked in armed with sacks of gold and silver, land warrants and revolvers. H. D. Street was the first register and Dr. S. M. Ballard the first receiver. Both were Whigs and received their appointment from President Fillmore. Eighty-three thousand land warrants had been issued by the general government to the soldiers of the Mexican war and thousands of these found their way to this office and were located on the rich lands of western Iowa. Some by the soldiers, but by far the largest part by speculators, into whose hands they had fallen. Dr. Ballard, who had been living in Iowa City, now moved to this city arid made his home here, although most of his time after his term of office had expired was spent on his farm, one of the largest and finest in Audubon county. With the dissolution of the Whig party he promptly joined the republicans and became one of its pillars. He was a man of commanding personality, being six feet six, with a long beard white as snow, and would command attention in any assemblage, as was later illustrated at the republican state convention of 1875. When the announcements of candidates were being made, several names had been talked over, but that of Gov.
Kirkwood had not been mentioned. .At the proper time he stepped into the forum and announced his name. A number of the delegates arose and demanded by what authority he made the announcement, and whether he would accept. Without taking his seat he responded; "In the name of the great republican party I make this nomination, and in its name and for it I promise the great war governor will accept." This took the convention by storm, and he was elected as triumphantly as nominated.

We have seen the county brought to its present limits; the district court organized; the United States land office opened; postoffice established; and the frontier camp of Kanesville transformed into the city of Council Bluffs.

Many new-comers were constantly arriving and in addition to the merchants previously named came Cornelius Voorhis, R. P. Snow, Thomas Hinshall, B. R. Pegram and Patrick Murphy and, a little later, J. L. Forman. But now the out-go of emigrants exceeded the influx, so that the population of Council Bluffs was less for a few years than was that of Kanesville.



Among the arrivals of 1850 were G. A. and William Robinson, who accepted clerkships in stares, but were destined to be prominent a little later by the first opening of the Robinson house, which was the leading hotel for same years, and the other becoming a member of the firm of Babbitt & Robinson. Notwithstanding the resident population was now decreasing in the city, the country was settling rapidly after opening of the land office, and the California and Salt Lake travel was coming as well as going, and the business continued to increase.

On the 8th of October, 1853, a destructive fire occurred that destroyed half of the business part of the city, and but a small part of the goods were saved. These buildings were lag and were rapidly replaced with frames only to be consumed again a year later. This time, however, part of them were rebuilt with brick, a brickyard having been in operation far same two, years, owned by Benjamin Winchester.


As in most new communities the large majority of the inhabitants were young or middle aged, and comparatively few had children of school age, still there were enough to call for the school marm. There is same uncertainty as to who taught the first, but, at all events, a man by the name of Brown taught in 1853 in the old log court house, which was for same years afterward used for the same purpose. James B. Rue and his wife, both excellent teachers, opened a private school on Washington avenue, and a little later two sisters, the Misses Rockwell, opened a select school.


During the spring of 1854, while the city was full of emigrants, a man named Samuels was camped in the glen on the ground that is now Glen avenue. A young man named Muer had made arrangements to go with him, and while Samuels was sleeping, Muer killed and robbed him. The emigrants swarmed out like bees, captured the murderer, gave him a fair trial, including the benefit of attorney, jury and clergy, and when he saw his case was hopeless, he confessed to Elder Shinn, and directed him to where he had hidden the money. He was then taken back to the spot where he had committed the murder, a man climbed an elm tree, adjusted a rope around a limb with the other end around Muer's neck. He was made to, stand on the back of a mule which was led from under, and he died from slow strangulation. The civil authorities did not interfere and it would probably have been useless if they had, as the campers were more numerous than the citizens. Some twenty-five years later, in working the road about the eastern limit of the city, a plow tore through an old rotten stump and a lot of gold coin rolled out and was scrambled for by the laborers. They would not tell the amount, but this was undoubtedly the money far which the murder was committed.

For years after this ravine was called by the name of Hang Hollow.



The second murder was that of Fred Lord by Tom Golden, on account of difficulty over a load of stone. There were two attachments against the stone and Lord was hauling it away by virtue of one, when Golden shot him from ambush. This was July 10, 1854. Although arrested he was cleared in some manner. This was at Trader's Point, close to the south line of the county. The murdered man left a young wife and infant daughter who are both living at this writing.


Judge W. C. James, who was to become prominent later on, came here in December, 1852, flat broke, having tramped across the western part of the state and earned his first dollar here, cutting up a load or cord wood into stove wood for Dr. P. J. McMahon. Like most great men, he, had the good fortune to be born in Ohio, at Elyria, Lorain county, January 1, 1830, on a farm where he worked during boyhood, then worked his way through Oberlin College, studied law with Wilson and Wade in Cleveland. He had also some knowledge of brick laying and plastering, which he turned to account by building a house for Enos Lowe, which, with two others, lay claim to being the first brick building in the city. He entered into politics with the same zeal that characterized all his movements. He was elected county judge in the fall of 1856; he also was a member of the city council at different times and finally in 1874 was elected mayor of the city. Politically he was intensely democratic. As a lawyer he did very little at the bar, but was a shrewd office manager. He was married in 1857 to Miss Annie Van Arnam, who was a gifted singer. By this union they had three children--two daughters and a son. The son died in his boyhood. The eldest daughter inherited her mother's musical talent and became proficient in opera and sang with success in New York, London and Paris. In 1867 he and Milton Rogers built the three-story block at the southeast corner of Main and Broadway, long known as the James block. He also owned a large farm near what is now the town of Oakland. He died on Easter Sunday, 1898. His widow at this time is living in Chicago.

Contemporaneous with Judge James, was Frank Street. He was of Quaker stock, born July 12, 1819. His parents moved from Salem, N. J., to Salem, Ohio, from there he settled in Knoxville, Tenn., where the subject of this sketch was born. From there he came to Springfield, Ill., and from there to Salem, Henry county, in this state. Here he remained until he came to Council Bluffs, in the meantime having studied law in Mt. Pleasant.

Arriving here, he entered actively into politics and became county judge.

On the 6th of April, 1854, congress passed an act to enable the citizens of Council Bluffs to acquire title to their lots. It authorized Judge Frank Street, under rules prescribed by the legislature of Iowa to execute deeds to bona fide claimants, provided these claims were made within one year from the passage of the act. On the 10th day of May following the approval of the president of the act, Judge Street made an entry of two forty-acre



tracts in Section 30, that is known as the Old Town Plat, and also two forties in Section 31 in Township 75, Range 43 west. He also entered for the same use at the same time 240 acres in Section 25, and the same number of acres in Section 36 in Township 75, Range 44. This substantially included the territory embraced in the Baylis; claim in the Old Town plat, and in that east of Madison street, so as to include the George Keeline property.

There were many disputes to settle before titles could ill' all cases be perfected, and Judge Street employed Thomas Tostevin, a surveyor, to make an accurate survey of the lands held in trust by him for the claimants as just described, and plat the respective lines. This was done and Thomas Tostevin's map has been taken as accurate where a reference is made to that date. Thomas Tostevin and his brother David were both masters of their profession and their work has not been confined to western Iowa, but has extended into Nebraska and, Dakota, and their work has been considered authority for a half century. They held alternately the offices of city engineer and county surveyor for many years. Thomas also held the office of mayor of this city during 1868-9, and from 1866 to 1868 that of county treasurer. They were natives of the Isle of Guernsey in the English Channel, came with their parents to Brooklyn, N. Y., and as they grew to manhood drifted west. Both married and reared families. David died-in 1898 and Thomas in August, 1905, but was active in his profession until within a few weeks of his death. But to return to Judge Frank Street, after filling the office of county judge he practiced law for several years, built up an abstract of titles, was an active republican at the birth of the party and to the end of his life. Was mayor of city, 1857-8.

At the city election of 1854-5 J. K. Cook was elected mayor, and J. E. Johnson, S. T. Cary, W. Hepner, C. Voorhis, L. O. Littlefield, J. B. Stutsman and S. S Bayliss, aldermen, and W. D. Brown, city marshal.

In the fall of 1853, fol1owing the opening of the U. S. land office; the first bank was started by Messrs. Green and Ware.

With the inauguration of the Pierce administration, Messrs. Ballard and Street were retired from the land office and L. W. Babbitt and Dr. Enos Lowe, democrats, were appointed register and receiver, respectively.

With the first opening of the office, the first entry made was by Joseph D. Lane, the second by Jacob Bush, and the third by Maria Mynster, which included Mynster's addition to Council Bluffs.

During these times the receiver was required to make his deposits at Dubuque and there being no public conveyance, it was quite an undertaking to remove the treasure across the state.

In conversation with Mr. Lowe many years after, he related his experience of one of these trips to the writer. He took a light, two-horse rig, hired two men that he had every confidence in and, all being well armed, started with their treasure on their three-hundred mile trip. There were some twenty-mile reaches without a house, and in making one or two of these the thought would occur, "Supposing these two should prove treacherous, what could I do?" and the thought oppressed me until I pretended to be sleepy, spread down blankets and laid down with my head on the treasure



chest and feigned sleep, while watching them with my hand on my revolver, determined to get the first shot if the emergency should arise. On nearing a settlement this feeling would vanish, and I would feel ashamed for having doubted their fidelity. Later, arrangements were made to deposit at St. Louis, with which we were connected by steamboat. This was more convenient for transporting thirty or forty thousand dollars in gold.

At the regular judicial election in 1853, Samuel H, Riddle was elected judge of the district court, but he, not being a lawyer, the canvassing board refused him a certificate of election. His opponent for some reason was also refused, which created a vacancy. It appearing that Riddle had received a majority of all the votes cast, Governor Hemstead appointed him to fill the vacancy. In 1854 he was elected for the full term, and served with credit, his decisions being approved by the people and sustained by the supreme court.

He was a native of Kentucky, plain and companionable, was not an office seeker, but later, at the request of many citizens, without regard to party, he consented to run for president of the board of education, was elected by a large majority and served acceptably.

Among the most noted arrivals during the early part of 1854 was that of Marshall Turley, He came from Galesburg, Illinois, became interested in a tract of land in connection with William Gale and Clark E. Carr, which they laid out and platted as the Galesburg addition to Council Bluffs. He was an original character, of strong convictions and one of the most progressive of men, although from his deep and patriarchal appearance he would be taken for the reverse. He was quite an inventor, as well as philosopher, and as a public speaker had few equals, always having a fund of anecdotes to emphasize his remarks.

He seemed to care but little for money and was open and above board in all his transactions, used no secrecy in his experiments and as a consequence was cheated out of some valuable patents, He was undoubtedly the real inventor of the sulky plow, which has worked wonders in farming. He was intensely anti-slavery in his political views, and as a natural result became a staunch republican as that party crystallized, He was also a strong prohibitionist. He was generous to a fault, In 1863, when the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad was approaching but still holding in uncertainty their point of striking the river, at last, in July an agent appeared and proposed to make this their terminus, and have their cars running in here by the first of January, 1857, providing the people would donate $30,000 cash, the right-of-way from north line of county and depot grounds in the city. It had been years since many of us had heard a locomotive whistle, and although we all knew it was coming anyway, enthusiasm was aroused, a mass meeting called at Burhop's Hall, the band got out, and the hall filled. When the proposal was announced, Mr. Turley arose and said: "I will give you eighty acres for your depot purposes." "Which way do the two forties lay," the agent asked; "east and west, or north and south?" "Take your choice," said Turley, The effect was magical--the rest of the donation was soon subscribed, and the cars arrived as promised.



In 1853 the great increase in travel seemed to demand better hotel accommodations than already existed, and S. S. Bayliss proceeded to build the Pacific House on the spot now occupied by the John Beno Company's store. It was a plain three-story brick, with long dining room running back, and at that time far superior to any of the others here. Its opening on Christmas with a grand ball at night was quite an event. Additions were made later, and for a number of years it was the leading hotel west of Des Moines and north of St. Joseph.

Besides a number of names already mentioned that arrived in the spring of 1854, who were destined to become prominent, were those of R. L. Douglas and A. V. Larimer, both lawyers of ability. Mr. Douglas was a native of Hager3town, Maryland, and removed to northern Indiana in his youth, where he studied law, and after practicing there for a number of years came here to resume it, became active in public affairs, was a member, of the city council for two terms, then city attorney two terms and later judge of the circuit court, took an active part in the organization of the K. C., St. Jo. & C. B. Railroad, and later in that of the Wabash. Soon after the close of the war, he went to Florida on account of his health, started an orange grove, died there in 1877, and his widow moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where his relatives were living. Judge Larimer was born, in Center county, Pennsylvania, March 21, 1829. His early education was in the "little log schoolhouse" during the winter months. Being ambitious, he secured a scholarship at Alleghany College at Meadville, Pennsylvania. After studying a year, his means giving out, he returned to the farm and worked for a time, then went west, and, like Lincoln, engaged in flatboating for a time and returned to college, studied law and attended law 1ectures at the law school of Judge McCartney at Easton, Pennsylvania, came to Council Bluffs and became active in public affairs. In the fall of 1854 he became candidate for prosecuting attorney on the democratic ticket against L. M. Kline, whig, and was elected. There being a vacancy in the office of county judge, he was appointed to fill it, holding that position until 1856. In the latter year he was elected to house of representatives against B. R. Pegram. He built up a good practice, made good investments and became wealthy. He was a bachelor, but built a fine residence and for a time occupied it with his sister. Later on he went to Sioux City and remained there several years, then to Omaha, where he died in 1905.

The same year J. M. Palmer came from Chester county, Pennsylvania, engaged in the real estate business, was elected mayor four terms, built a three-story block of store buildings and a public hal1 and engaged for a time in banking, but failed in the crash of 1857. He married Miss Helen M. Day, of Portage county, Ohio, a niece of H. H. Field. He had one son, Captain Charles D. Palmer, a graduate of West Point, who served during the Philippine war and afterward engaged in banking. One daughter, Mrs. Charles Stilling, died in 1896, one in infancy and one, Mrs. Harriet Fell, is now living in, Omaha. He died in 1892.

During 1854, owing to the increasing travel across the Missouri and the ,prospect of the opening up of Nebraska for settlement, it seemed necessary



to improve the means of crossing the river, consequently a company was formed and a charter obtained for the Council Bluffs and Nebraska Ferry Company.

The incorporators were Dr. Enos Lowe, S. S. Bayliss, Jas. A. Jackson, General Samuel R. Curtis, Dr. S. M. Ballard, W. W. Brown, Jesse Williams and J. H. D. Street. Steam ferry boats were put on, which continued to run until the expiration of its charter, when bridging of the river made its renewal unnecessary and it became a thing of the past. On the west side of the river, on a beautiful plateau, a town was laid out and platted during the summer of 1854 and named Omaha, from the Omaha tribe of Indians that occupied that vicinity but had sold their lands to the government and settled on a reservati6n some seventy miles north. This embraced some of the finest lands in the territory. The projectors of this town were mainly the incorporators of the ferry company, whose names were given above, and with one or two exceptions residents of P6ttawattamie county. Even at this early day railroad men were casting about for ultimately reaching California by rail, and already a line had been surveyed from Rock Island to Council Bluffs, and the Platte valley seemed to be the most natural route. The line surveyed was known as the Mississippi and Missouri, and was the one mainly adopted in the final construction of that road across the state.

During the summer of 1854 Sylvanus Dodge with his family moved out from Massachusetts and located on a beautiful tract of land on the Elkhorn river in Nebraska. He had two sons, Granville M: and Nathan P., who were destined to play conspicuous parts. The former not only in Pottawattamie county, but in the affairs of the state and nation. The Indians becoming troublesome, they settled in Council Bluffs where the sons engaged in banking, the former becoming a member of the firm of Baldwin & Dodge, while in addition to this he continued his surveying and engineering as occasion required; while Nathan P. managed their banking and real estate business. Both of these ,men are so well known by the entire community as to make anything said by the writer at this time superfluous. Both are living and active, though having passed their three score and ten years.

The winter of 1854-5 was a remarkably mild one, much of the time like Indian Summer, so much so that on Christmas a party of young people were starting out from the Robinson House for a horseback ride, when it came to a sad end by one of the young ladies being thrown from her horse, which resulted in her death in a few hours. Years afterward, old timers, in speaking of the mild winters, would refer to this as the Ann Floyd winter, that being the name of the lady.

During the preceding year a number of substantial people arrived and bought out claims and became permanent residents, among which were D. B. Clark, A. J. Bump arid J. J. Johnson, who went into farming extensively from two to four miles east of the city, while another number settled a few miles northeast, convenient to the Wicks mill.

First Courthouse First Courthouse-Purchased of the Mormons, who used it as an assembly room. (Click on image for full size)

Some of these were Mormons, but remained after the exodus. Among



these were William and Henry Garner, George Scofield, Simeon Graybill, Alex Follett and Alexander Marshall.

These all secured good farms and became wealthy. A mail route was now established between Des Moines and the Bluffs, the mail being carried in a small two-horse hack that made the round trip once week. The first station east being at Silver Creek, the second at Wheeler's Grove, the latter being kept by Noah D. Wheeler, and the third just east of the county line at a little settlement called Indian Town.

Up to this time there were but three voting precincts in the county, those being Council Bluffs, Wheeler's Grove and one in what is now Rockford township.

The first marriage of gentiles in Kanesville was that of M. D. Hardin and Miss Harriet Joiner, January 26, 1852, by Rev. E.E. Rice. This was appropriate, Mr. Hardin, son of Davis Hardin, being the first white boy to locate permanently here. Mrs. Hardin is still with us, Mr. Hardin having died in 1893.

The marriage of James A. Jackson and Miss Henrietta Cook soon followed, also that of William H. Robinson and Miss Mary Ann Lafferty.

Nebraska was rapidly settling up and although this history relates to Pottawattamie county, it is so closely interwoven with that of those adjoining, both in Iowa and Nebraska, that we are compelled to step over the line occasionally. Claims were being made constantly by persons from this side, frequently resulting in violence and bloodshed. A case of this kind occurred at the old site of Fort Calhoun. A party consisting of Hadley.D. Johnson, Addison Cochran, A. J. Poppleton, Jas. C. Mitchel, J. P. Casady, H. C. Purple, A. V. Larimer, and a number of others of Council Bluffs, all prominent men, had made a claim for a town site. Sherman Goss, of Rockford township, was also associated with them. Word came that their claim had been jumped. It has never been legally determined which claimant was in the right, but it was true, another party was in actual possession of the cabin, and was making improvements, and it was resolved to dislodge him, peaceably if possible, forcibly if necessary, and, organizing themselves into a little army, well armed, with Mr. Goss for their captain, they took up the march. Arriving, they found they had been correctly informed. The fortress was occupied, but the strength of the garrison was not known, but chinking had been removed from between the logs, forming good embrazures. Halting within a few rods of the cabin, a command to surrender was made, to which, after a parley, the commandant refused, whereon an order to charge was made, and as the storming party got within a few feet the garrison opened fire and Captain Goss fell dead, with two shots in the breast, and Mr. Purple lost an arm; and a spectator declared the retreat was the most masterly previous to that of Bull Run. A little later Council Bluffs parties had a conflict over a claim over on the Elkhorn in Nebraska. The claimants were R. P. Snow on the one side and Jesse Winn on the other. They met in the cabin and a quarrel ensued, in which Mr. Snow was severely cut and Winn killed. The Snow side of the story is, that Winn cut him with a knife and his father-in-law, Mr. Tabor, shot Winn in defense of his



son-in-law. Winn being dead, his story could not be heard, and their cause has long ago gone to a higher court than any here, as all the parties have passed over.

A. J. Poppleton, mentioned in connection with the Fort Calhoun affair, came to the Bluffs in 1854 from the state of New York. He opened a law office here and boarded at the Pacific House, where he formed the acquaintance of Miss Sears, a relative of the proprietor, which resulted in their marriage in 1856, after which he moved to Omaha, where he rose to the head of his profession and when the Union Pacific road was built he became its general solicitor.


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