Pioneers of Marion County, Iowa

In presenting this work to the public, it appears to me that an apology is indispensable, and I make it in the form of a preface.

It is now upwards of four years since I first entered upon the laborious but pleasant task of collecting the materials that compose this book. It was then my design to compile brief biographical sketches of the earliest settlers, together with complete accounts of their pioneer experience; but as I proceeded with the work, materials of a more general historical character, fraught with interests that demanded attention, accumulated upon my hands, swelling the volume far beyond the limits I had first marked out for it. So, beyond giving a history of the pioneers of Marion county, I have given a history of the county itself, and retain the title originally intended for it.

If in some instances I have erred in date or statement, or have omitted any circumstances worthy of mention, the reader will please to bear in mind that in sifting and selecting from a large mass of matter collected from various sources, the liability to err is unquestionable. Notwithstanding the great difficulty of avoiding mistakes, I have carefully endeavored to do so, and it is to be hoped that few or none of importance have found then- way into these pages.

I have also carefully endeavored to avoid making any statement prejudicial to any person, or offensive to any political partizan, deeming such matter not only undesirable, but uncalled for in an impartial history. This work has nothing to do with the partizan politics of the country, and may be safely relied upon as a source of useful information and entertainment to all parties. In short, I have tried to make a hook well worth being made a keepsake in every family in Marion county.

In conclusion, I return my sincere thanks to the many good friends who so kindly welcomed me to their homes, and aided me with such historical facts as they had in their possession, I hope to merit their continued kindness and good will.


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Marion county originally belonged to a large tract of country ceded to the United States by the Sac and Fox Indians, at a treaty held at Agency, in the autumn of 1842. At that treaty the entire tribe was assembled, and Keokuk was their spokesman. Among other stipulations it was agreed that the new purchase should be vacated by the Indians as far west as the red rocks on the Des Moines river, on the first day of May, 1843, and the remainder by the tenth of October, 1845. The line to distinguish the United States from Indian Territory, that crossed the river a short distance above the present site of Red Rock village, was ran by Geo. W. Harrison, U. S. surveyor, in the autumn of '43. In running this line, the distance from the Missouri state line to the monument he erected over the red sand-stone bluffs, north of the river, was found to be just 69 miles.

Marion is in the third tier of counties from the south line of the State, the fifth from the east line, the seventh from the north line, and the sixth from the west line. Its center is about 52 miles north of the south line of the State, 108 west of the Mississippi river, 150 from the north line of the State, and about the same distance east of the Missouri river, calculating these distances in a straight direction. It is in the 41st degree of north latitude, and 16 degrees west of Washington. It is nearly on the same latitude with Sandusky City, Ohio, Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut, Providence and Newport, Rhode Island, Madrid, in Spain, Rome and Naples, in Italy, Constantinople, in Turkey, and Salt Lake City, in Utah.

Marion county is bounded on the north by Jasper county, on the east by Mahaska, on the south by Monroe and Lucas, and on the west by Warren. It is in an exact square of 24 miles, and therefore embraces an area of 576 square miles or sections, equal to 368,690 acres, at least seven eights of which is rich, tillable land. And this area is occupied by a population that averages a little more than 42 persons to the square mile.

The principle streams that run through the county are the Des Moines and Skunk rivers, much the larger of which is the Des Moines. This stream rises in the southern part of Minnesota, runs nearly south till it reaches the capital of Iowa, where it takes a direct southeast course, till it empties into the Mississippi at Keokuk. It enters Marion county at section 7, township 77, and range 21, being near the northwest corner, and leaves it in section 13, township 75, range 18, In the section of this stream that forms the boundary line between Red Rock and Union townships, it once made a large curve to the southwest, forming a long peninsula with a narrow neck. In 1847 this curve was so dammed with ice and drift-wood that the water was forced to cut a new channel across the neck, leaving the old one a mere bayou. This place is known as "The Cut-off." The Des Moines is navigable for small steamboats as far as the capital, during freshets.

Skunk river crosses the northeast corner of the county, entering it in section 5, township 77, range 18, and leaves it in section 24, same township and range. The Indian name for it was Chicauqua by which it was also known by the old settlers of the lower counties through which it runs. The term Chicauqua is said to signify anything of a strong odor, and is supposed to have been applied to this stream on account of the great quantity of wild onions that grew about its head waters. In accordance with this supposition, (which is probably true,) and also in order to give the little stream a more practical name than Skunk, a bill was introduced during the session of the State legislature of 1869 and 1870 enacting that it should be called Chicanqua, which however failed to pass. It is an exceedingly crooked stream, with a deep, narrow channel and abrupt banks, which give it a treacherous look during high water.

White Breast, the third stream of any importance, enters the county in section 18, township 79, range 21, runs in a northeasterly direction, and empties into the Des Moines in section 10, township 76, range 19. The Indian name for this stream was Waupo-ea-ca, the name of an Indian chief, some account of whom is given in the history of Polk township.

There are numerous smaller streams that I shall take occasion to notice in my township histories.

All streams of any considerable size, are widely margined by timber mostly of an excellent quality. Walnut, cotton- wood, soft and hard maple, hackberry, elm and ash, are abundant on the bottom lands. Oak is the prevailing timber on the up-lands. Between these strips of timber are the high undulating prairies, on which innumerable small streams or feeders take their rise, flowing each way into the larger creeks, and they to the rivers. On the most elevated portions of these prairies, lasting water of an excellent quality may be found from fifteen to twenty-five feet below the surface. The soil is a black mould of vegetable formation, from eighteen inches to three feet deep. There are also many small prairies along the streams, the black soil of which is four or five feet deep.

The only railroad completed through the county is the Des Moines Valley. Its line is through the northeast comer, making Pella and Otley points in this county, and Monroe just within the limits of Jasper. Either of these points does a large amount of shipping.

Three other reads are in prospect, one of which, the Albia, Knoxville and Des Moines, is partly graded east of Knoxville, and will undoubtedly be completed within a reasonable time. The Muscatine Western will make Pella a point, and is now graded to Monroe, Jasper county will probably make the village of Red Rock a point; all of which will secure to Marion county abundant commercial intercourse with all parts of the United States, as its agriculture and resources demand.