History of Wapello County, Iowa

The aim of the publishers of this volume has been to secure for the historic portion thereof full and accurate information respecting all subjects therein treated, and to present the data thus gathered in a clear and impartial manner. If, as is their hope, they have succeeded in this endeavor, the credit is mainly due to the diligent and exhaustive research of that well-known pioneer resident of Wapello county, Capt. S. B. Evans, of Ottuma, whose high character and recognized ability as an editor and author have brought him prominently before the people of the Hawkeye State. His patient and conscientious labor in the compilation and presentation of facts is shown in the historical port on of this volume. This record gives an elaborate description of the land and its aboriginal occupants before the opening of the "New Purchase," and a comprehensive account of the organization of the county, and of the leading events in the stages of its development from 1843 to the present time, as set forth in the table of contents. Certain subjects which Captain Evans hoped to introduce have been omitted for lack of requisite data, but all topics and occurrences are included which are essential to the usefulness of the history. Although the purpose of the author was to limit the narrative to the close of 1900, he has deemed it proper to touch on some matters overlapping that period. For any possible errors that may occur in the work, the indulgence of our readers is asked.

The reviews of resolute and strenuous lives, which make up the biographical department of the volume, and whose authorship for the most part is entirely independent of that of the history, are admirably adapted to foster local ties, to inculcate patriotism and to emphasize the rewards of industry, dominated by intelligent purpose. They constitute a most appropriate medium of perpetuating personal annals and will be of incalculable value to the descendants of those therein commemorated. They bring into bold relief careers of enterprise and thrift and make manifest valid claims to honorable distinction. If "Biography is the only true History." it is obviously the duty of men of the present time to preserve in this enduring form the story of their lives in order that their posterity may dwell on the successful struggles thus recorded, and profit by their example. These sketches, replete with stirring incidents and intense experiences, will naturally prove to most of the readers of this book its most attractive feature.

In the aggregate of personal memoirs, thus collated, will be found a vivid epitome of the growth of Wapello county, which will fitly supplement the historic statement; for the development of the county is identified with that of the men and women to whom it is attributable. The publishers have endeavored in the preparation of the work to pass over no feature of it slightingly, but to give heed to the minutest details, and thus to invest it with a substantial accuracy which no other treatment would afford. The result has amply justified the care thus exercised, for in our belief no more reliable production, under the circumstances, could be laid before its readers.

We have given special prominence to the portraits of representative citizens, which appear throughout this volume, and believe they will prove a most interesting feature of the work. We have sought to illustrate the different spheres of industrial and professional achievement as conspicuously as possible. To those who have kindly interested themselves in the successful preparation of this work, and who have voluntarily contributed most useful information and data, we herewith tender our grateful acknowledgment.


Table of Contents

Chapter I.
Brief Sketch of Early Iowa 11

Chapter II.
Aboriginal Inhabitants 13

Chapter III.
Indian Census 25

Chapter IV.
South Ottumwa in Early Day's 32

Chapter V.
Occupying the Land 36

Chapter VI.
How the Pioneers Lived 46

Chapter VII.
County Organization 56

Chapter VIII.
County Seat Located 60

Chapter IX.
Ottumwa and Its Institutions 67

Chapter X.
Ottumwa and Its Municipal Officers 78

Chapter XI.
Ottumwa Water Works and Water Power 88

Chapter XII.
The Coal Palace Period 95

Chapter XIII.
Roster of County Officials and Census 104

Chapter XIV.
The Briscoe Gold Fever 112

Chapter XV.
Kelleys Army and His Fleet of Flat Boats 114

Chapter XVI.
Improvement of the Des Moines River 116

Chapter XVII.
Bench and Bar 129

Chapter XVIII.
The Medical Profession 133

Chapter XIX.
The Towns of the County 135

Chapter XX.
Notable Events 151

Chapter XXI.
War Record 160

Last Will and Testament of P. G. Ballingall 192

Biographical 197


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What is now known as the State of Iowa became a part of the United States in 1803. In 1804 it was included in what was known as the district of Louisiana. March 3, 1S05, it was organized as a part of the Territory of Louisiana. In 181 2 it was included in the jurisdiction of the Territory of Missouri, and in 1834 it became a part of the Territory of Michigan. In 1836 it was included in the Territory of Wisconsin. In 1838 it was organized as the Territory of Iowa, and was admitted into the Union as a State in December, 1846. The first legislative body that ever sat in the present limits of the State of Iowa was the Territorial legislature, which was composed of a few men and which was convened in a little room in an old frame building, gone years ago, situated on Front street, Burlington, in the winter of 1838. Robert Lucas, a former governor of Ohio, was appointed by President Van Buren to be governor of the Territory of Iowa. Governor Lucas was disposed to wield the large veto power he possessed with the sway of an autocrat and a stormy session was the result. The great wrangle arose over the location of the capital of the Territory. Both Burlington and Mount Pleasant, in the southern part of the Black Hawk purchase, wanted it, while their opponents favored a central location. The central party won. Three com- missioners were appointed to select the site of the seat of government within the limits of Johnson county. They decided on a place, and laid out a square mile, which they called Iowa City, and there the capital was located. The eighth and last Territorial legislature was held there in 1843-44. In February, 1844, the legislature adopted an act, submitting to the people of the Territory the proposition to form a state institution and to apply for admission to the nation. The measure carried, and the convention met at Iowa City in October, and on the first day of the following November finished its work and reported a State constitution and State boundaries. The latter did not meet with favor. The line between this State and Missouri lay 30 miles north of its present location, and the western line stopped far short of the Missouri River. By a small majority, the people rejected the lines. May 4, 1846, another convention assembled and another constitution, prescribing the present State boundaries, was drafted. The people adopted it, Congress adopted it, and Iowa was admitted as a State, December 28, 1846.