History of Decatur County, Iowa
The history of Decatur County as United States territory reaches back to that eventful day in May, 1803, when the treaty was signed by which France ceded the vast territory included in the Louisiana Purchase to our Federal Government. The hand of Providence seems plainly manifest in the course of events which led to its acquisition. It is said that the American envoys who conducted the negotiations on behalf of the United States "spent no small part of their time explaining that they only wished a little bit of Louisiana, including New Orleans and the east bank of the Mississippi." Livingston indeed went so far as to express a very positive disinclination to take the territory west of the Mississippi at any price, stating that he should much prefer to see it remain in the hands of France or Spain, and suggesting by way of an apology for its acquisition, that it might be resold to some European power. Madison who was at the head of the state department at that time "felt a strong disinclination to see the national domain extend west of the Mississippi and he so instructed Monroe and Livingston," who were in charge of the matter on our part. But Napoleon, harassed on every hand by the great powers of Europe and fearful that the territory might fall into the hands of the English, rapidly abated his demands from the exorbitant sum first asked, finally offering to take $15,000,000 and forced Livingston and Monroe to become reluctant purchasers not merely of New Orleans, but of all the immense territory stretching vaguely northwestward to the Pacific. Another strange thing about the matter is that Jefferson, in whose administration the purchase was made, "had led his party into power as special champion of states' rights and the special opponent of national sovereignty. He and they rendered a very great service to the nation by acquiring Louisiana; but it was at the cost of violating every precept which they had professed to hold dear." Thus came into the possession of the United States a territory of vast and very ill defined extent. Congress authorized a temporary government for the newly acquired province on October 31, 1803, but its jurisdiction was merely nominal as the French governor retained his power at the request and by the authority of the United States. By further action of Congress the whole of the province north of the 33d parallel was organized into a court district and formed for governmental and judicial purposes a part of the Territory of Indiana. This action was had March 26, 1804, and affected what are now the states of Arkansas, Missouri and Iowa, also Southern Minnesota; it was called Upper Louisiana, and in this way the name District of Louisiana was originated, by which it was known during the early history of the country.
On March 3, 1805, Iowa was included as a part of the Territory of Louisiana, with the capital at St. Louis, and that part of the Louisiana Purchase now known as Louisiana became Orleans Territory. The Territory of Missouri was organized June 4, 1812, and Iowa was embraced in it. When Missouri became a state in 1820, Iowa with other territory, was detached and forgotten and "remained a country without a government, either political or judicial, until June 28, 1834, when the abuses of outlawry and crime became so prominent and so serious that, as a means of redress and correction, it was included in the Territory of Michigan. During all of these years, it is probable that the only civil law in force in Iowa was the provision of the Missouri Act which prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude in the territories of the United States north of thirty-six degrees, thirty minutes, north latitude."
By 1836 the population of this region had so increased that the territorial government of Wisconsin was organized, which at first included a part of the upper peninsula of Michigan, the whole of Minnesota and Iowa, and that part of Dakota lying east of the Missouri and White Earth rivers. When the Territory of Iowa was organized July 12, 1838, it included the present State of Minnesota and parts of North and South Dakota.
By an act of Congress approved March 3, 1845, provision was made for the admission of Iowa into the Union as a sovereign state, with boundaries extending on the north the parallel of latitude passing through the mouth of the Blue Earth River and on the west only to seventeen degrees, thirty minutes, from Washington, corresponding very nearly to the existing line between Ringgold and Union counties on the one hand and Taylor and Adams counties on the other. This reduction of the boundaries laid down by the Constitutional Convention of 1844 was very distasteful to the people, the admission was rejected by a popular election and in 1846 Congress proposed new boundary lines, having the State of Minnesota for the north boundary, Missouri for the south, the Mississippi River on the east and the Missouri and Sioux rivers on the west. The date of admission to the Union was December 28, 1846.
Comparatively few of the counties as at present established had been organized previous to the convening of the first territorial assembly. It was not until after Iowa was organized as a state that we find Decatur represented in the Legislature. It was the last of twelve counties created by the act of the Legislature of the Territory of Iowa, approved January 13, 1846, and its boundaries as at first defined have remained permanent. The land included within the limits of the county was ceded to the United States Government by the Sac and Fox Indians in a treaty dated October 11, 1842. Decatur was west of the line by which this cession was divided into two parts and therefore did not have to be vacated by the Indians until three years after the date of cession. The three southern tiers of counties in Iowa at present were carved from the original territory of the County of Des Moines. Des Moines was the second county established in Iowa, Dubuque having been the first. The limits of the County of Des Moines were defined in section 2 of an act to lay off and organize counties west of the Mississippi River. In the definition of the boundaries of Des Moines County an error was made in that the county was not limited, in so many words, to territory to which the Indian title had been extinguished. The intention of the framers of the act was to erect the southern part of the Black Hawk Purchase into Des Moines County, but by the omission of a phrase the county was apparently extended westward to the Missouri River. The territory enacted into new counties was only the southern part of the Black Hawk Purchase. It did not extend westward to the Missouri River.
Table of Contents
EARLY SETTLEMENT OF DECATUR COUNTY 1
ORGANIZATION OF DECATUR COUNTY 16
SUMMARY OF COUNTY OFFICIALS 30
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP BEFORE THE WAR 34
ABOUT NEW BUDA AND THE HUNGARIANS 48
DECATUR'S WAR STORY 54
ROSTER OF DECATUR COUNTY SOLDIERS WHO SERVED IN THE WAR OF REBELLION 63
PROGRESS OF EDUCATION IN DECATUR COUNTY 77
THE CITY OF LEON 110
THE FOUNDING OF LAMONI AND THE WORK OF THE ORDER OF ENOCH 130
THE BEGINNING OF THE LATTER DAY SAINTS CHURCH 138
EARLY SETTLEMENT AT GARDEN GROVE 143
DECATUR COUNTY TOWNS 154
POLITICS IN DECATUR COUNTY 183
THE MEDICAL PROFESSION 190
THE LEGAL PROFESSION 197
THE NAMES OF DECATUR COUNTY STREAMS 204
GEOLOGY OF DECATUR COUNTY 228
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In the beginning of Iowa history, and with it that of Decatur County, settlements were miles apart and social intercourse was difficult. Log rollings, husking bees, barbecues, cabin buildings and other entertainments significant to the pioneers supplied the only opportunities for the people to congregate together and these periods were often months apart. So the pioneer lived alone with his family in the silent and mighty forest and on the monotonous level of the prairie, sallying out before dawn to shoot the game for the day's food or to cast a line in the nearby stream. The clothes were manufactured by the good housewife who sat for days before the loom and spinning wheel, patiently working; linsey-woolsey and homespun, adorned with the skins of wild animals, were the popular fabrics.