history of adams county, iowa

In 1935 the WPA created a project to help put unemployed writers to work during the early years of the great depression. One such writer wrote the following history of Adams county Iowa.

The counties of this group are likewise covered with a mantle of loess ranging from a few inches to several feet in depth. Its subsoil is mostly of Kansan drift which is of a formation sufficiently impervious to afford an excellent water supply for plant growth. The topography of these counties is generally uniform and no great differences in evaluations are found. Each stream carried about the same amount of water in proportion to the area drained. Erosion has not advanced to the extent that all the stratus of the Kansan and Nebraskan drifts are exposed except for small portions along the Tarkio and Nodaway Rivers. Rock of the Missouri limestone formation is exposed in some localities in Page, Taylor and Adams counties, and is quarried to some extent in Adams and Taylor counties. The rock is usually covered too deep with drift to be quarried at a reasonable cost.

The Kansan and Nebraskan drift is covered in most places with a dark red impervious clay known as gumbotil. This was probably produced by the weathering and oxidation of those drifts during long arid periods when very little vegetation grew. It probably obtained its red color from iron in the loess covering which was deposited later. This gumbotil serves as a water conduit and surface water is usually trapped above this impervious layer which makes shallow wells that afford a good source of water supply.

That the Nodaway coal was laid down on an extensive area of sea bottom is shown by the large territory over which it is distributed, the practically unvarying thickness and other characteristics of the seam, and the manner in which the coal is interstratified with marine sediments. There is no soil bed below the coal, and it is overlain, without transitional deposits, by shales rich in marine fossils. It bears a constant relation to a bed of limestone of nearly uniform thickness, the capi-rock, which likewise carries a number of typical marine species. That the coal was made of terrestrial plants is also clear, for an examination of the coal itself shows recognizable impressions of fern fronds, together with the stems of other pteridophytes. The microscopic structure is in accord with evidence derived from more casual examination; the characteristic vascular tissues of ferns and their carboniferous allies are readily detected.

  1. Coal Mine - Carbon - 3 mi. N. - 1/4 mi. W. - Road A - Sec. 25 Lincoln Township
  2. Coal Mine - Carbon - 1 mi. N. - Township road - Sec. 2 - Douglas Township
  3. Coal Mine - Carbon - 1/2 mi. N. - on Township Road - Sec. 2 - Douglas Township
  4. Coal Mine - Carbon - 2 1/2 mi. W. - Road K - Sec. 9 - Douglas Township
  5. Coal Mine - Carbon - 1 mi. S. - 2 1/2 mi. W. - on Township Road Sec. 16 - Douglas Township
  6. Coal Mine - Carbon - 1 1/2 mi. W. - 3.4 mi. S. on Township Road - Sec. 15 - Douglas Township
  7. Coal Mine - Carbon - 1/2 mi. S. - Road K - Sec. 14 - Douglas Township
  8. Coal Mine - Carbon - N.E. corner city limits - Sec. 7 - Quincy Township
  9. Coal Mine - Carbon - S. Edge city limits - Sec. 13 - Douglas Township
10. Coal Mine - Carbon - S.E. corner city limit - Sec. 18 - Quincy Township
11. Coal Mine - Carbon - 1/2 mi. S. - Road B - Sec 13 - Douglas Township
12. Coal Mine - Carbon - 3/4 mi. S. - 1/2 mi. W. - Road B - Sec 13 - Douglas Township
13. Coal Mine - Carbon - 1 mi. S. - 1/2 mi. E. - Road B. Sec. 13 - Douglas Township
14. Coal Mine - Corning - 8 mi. W. on U.S. 34 & 1/4 mi. N. - Sec. 29 - Douglas Township
15. Coal Mine - Corning - 8 mi. W. on U.S. 34 - Sec. 32 - Douglas Township
16. Coal Mine - Nodaway - 1 1/4 mi. W. - Road K - Sec. 19 - Nodaway Township
17. Coal Mine - Nodaway - 1 1/4 mi. W. - Road K - Sec. 30 - Nodaway Township

Adams County lies wholly upon the Missouri River drainage slope and is drained by the East and Middle Nodaway Rivers. Numerous small tributaries of these rivers and of the One Hundred and Two River are so distributed as to give the county excellent drainage. The valleys of these rivers are narrow but fertile and are bordered by trees. The west part of the county contains the greatest amount of timber, the early surveyors estimating that one-tenth of the county was forested. it is the one farthest county in the state that has yielded coal in sufficient quantity to be worked. Good building stone has been obtained from several points along the East Nodaway River.

The first act of the national government, which dealt specifically with the territory included within the limits of what is now Adams County was the making of a treaty July 15, 1830, with several tribes of Indians who held rival claim to this section. On September 6, 1833, a reservation was created in the territory and the Pottawattamie Indians located here. It was from these Indians that the land was ceded back to the government and the Indians moved to Kansas.

For governmental purposes the Iowa territory, which was then a part of the territory of Michigan, had been divided into two counties, the whole southern half being included in Des Moines County. On February 24, 1847, the new state legislature approved a law relative to the disposition of the newly-acquired land, providing a method of creating counties and specifically for the organization of Pottawattamie County. The county so organized included the present territory embraced by Adams County.

This area remained a part of Pottawattamie County until January 15, 1851, when the most important act in the formation of counties was passed. By this act fifty counties were created, covering at least one-half of the Iowa territory. These counties were named in order and, Adams being third, it was one of thirty-four receiving permanent boundaries at this time. The same legislature provided that inasmuch as the territorial legislature had failed to honor the distinguished president, John Quincy Adams, it was deemed most fitting that a county should be named for him, hence the name of the new county.

By the new law which became effective July 1, 1851, an entire change in the method of county government was provided. The board of county commissioners which had existed from the first organization of the territory was abolished and a single office, that of county judge, was given its powers. It was under this new law that Adams County was organized. On January 12, 1853, a law was approved which considered Adams four other counties as legally organized by the first Monday in April. For election, revenue and judicial purposes, the counties of Montgomery and Union were appended to Adams. The election, at which 13 votes were cast, was held at the home of Isaac Poston, located 1/2 mile west of the town of Quincy, which later became the county seat. Samuel Baker was chosen county judge and John Calvin was elected treasurer-recorder in this election.

The legislative session which had called this election established a commission to locate the county seat and gave it the name of Quincy, also in honor of President Adams. So the first order of Judge Baker which appeared on the records was the allowance of a claim of William Davis in payment for thirteen days' services as one of the commissioners to locate the oounty seat. The county organization was completed some time during the summer of 1853, for on September 21st, the first land transfer was recorded. This was a deed made by Jacob M.B. Miller and wife to the county of Adams and conveying all the even numbered lots in the town of Quincy. The town plot of Quincy was originally upon government land, but which had since been entered by Jacob M.B. Miller.

All authorities and early histories regard Elizah Walters, a Daniel Boone type of settler, as the first white man to locate in the county. Some give the date as 1849, others as 1850. coming from Missouri, he established a "squatter's" claim and built a log cabin on a location which later was marked as being about two miles south of Quincy. A small creek nearby received the name of Walters Branch, which it still bears. To this settler belongs the credit for establishing the first grist mill on the Middle Nodaway river at a place long known as Walters Mill, but later the site of the village of Carbon. It was fitted with millstones which Mr. Walters brought from Savannah, Missouri.

An interesting story related by a former sheriff, Joel Powell, in an old newspaper clipping reveals the character of Adams County's first settler. Powell had a warrant for the arrest of one of Walters' sons and went to the mill to take the offender into custody. However, his approach sent the culprit into hiding in a barn, where he held the sheriff off with a shotgun for two hours. Powell was stricken with fear but held his ground until Walters finally appeared with his son, signed a bond for court appearances and sent the sheriff away. Before the court convened, the family fled to another frontier region and was never heard from again.

The first land entry was that made by Isaac N. Poston in February 1852, Section 18, Township 72, Range 34, which was about one half mile west from Quincy. However, Poston was unable to pay for the claim and it was sold to William Wilson, who entered it at the Council Bluffs land office. The family continued to live in a log house which had been built in the timber and it was here the first child, a boy, was born in the county.

Records as to the next arrivals in the county are not complete, but the families of Adam Poor, Morgan Warren and Samuel Hardesty located there early in the county' history. In the newly-created town of Quincy, Jacob M.B. Miller built a house during the summer of 1853 and it was here that the first girl in the county, Ellen Miller, was born in February 1854. In this same household, death made its first appearance in the county, Mr. Miller dying in November 1854. In April of that year Miller had been elected county judge.

"First events" marked the year 1853, J. R. Holbrook completed the first house in Quincy at that time and later opened the first store in September of that year. During that year, the first county assessment tax list was prepared. The first list was not available, but the second was acquired by Dr. A. A. Rawson and and from it he obtained data for his monograph which was completed in 1896. The total assessed valuation for the county was $320.21. During the August term of court a levy was made and John Calvin, the county treasurer, ordered to collect it. The state levy was one and one-fourth mills, county poor fund, five mills, school levy, one and one-fourth mills, bridge one mill, road poll, $2.00 and poll tax, fifty cents. The levy was made for the county as a whole because at that time there was no subdivision into townships.

For the same reason there was only one voting precinct in the first two elections. The poll list for the second election recorded seventeen Whigs and nineteen democrats. Unfortunately, the records of the first two elections were lost in the early sixties and the history of these has been pieced together by Dr. Rawson from information gathered from early settlers.

Quincy township at first comprised the whole county, but about 1856 the present boundaries were established. It is thought that Jasper township was organized during the same year. In 1857, Queen City, later known as Prescott township, was organized. J. Loran Ellis, in his history, NEVIN, gives and account of the organization of the fourth township, Colony. On February 1, 1858, the Adams County court, acting on a petition of Nevin, established Township 73, Range 32, as Colony township and at an election held at the New England House in Nevin on Monday, April 5, township officers were elected by unanimous vote, only seven ballots being cast.

The eight remaining townships were organized as follows: Washington and Union, 1858, Nodaway, April 4, 1859; Carl, August 1, 1859, Douglas, May 23, 1860; Mercer, June 1869; Lincoln, September 7, 1868, and Grant 1870.

Another first event of 1853 was the opening session of the district court, held September 6 in a log house owned by Lewis Jeffery, nearly three miles southwest from Quincy. Allen A. Bradford had been elected district judge in 1853 for the Sixth Judicial District and had been commissioned by Governor Hempstead. During the year 1860, the method of conducting county business was changed, a county board of supervisors having charge of this work instead of the county judge. Eight townships were organized and each was entitled to one member. John S. Barnett was elected to represent the portion of the county that had not been organized into townships. The office of treasurer-recorder was separated into two offices April 5, 1867. The first county school officer, who was known as the school fund commissioner, was William F. Davis. This office was changed to that of county superintendent of schools and Edward Homan was elected to this position May 17, 1858.

An excellent description of the county at the time he settled here May 28, 1856, was given by Dr. Rawson. He came by the route then used by the early settlers, via steamboat from Saint Louis to Saint Joseph and from that point by stage coach to Savannah, Missouri, a distance of fifteen miles. At this place, a carriage was hired to complete the ninety mile journey northward.

At Quincy Dr. Rawson found a population of approximately one hundred person occupying log cabins. Mail was delivered from town to town, east and west, once weekly and in bad weather it was sometimes two or three weeks between mail deliveries. The mail was generally carried by horseback riders and as there were few bridges, travel was slow and difficult. At a somewhat later date, mail was delivered three times weekly by stage coaches, which also carried passengers.

In the Corning public library is a bound volume of THE CORNING SENTINEL, the first paper to be published in the county. The first issue of the volume is dated April 21, 1858. The paper was three-columns in size, with twenty and one half inches to the column and printed on only one side. Practically no local news was used, but a number of legal publications appeared in this paper. The next issue was a six-column paper, but also printed on only one side. A copy of the first issue was given to Elizah Walters and "his lady," who were the first settlers. In the issue of June 9, 1859, appeared the census report. Seven hundred and sixty-six males and six hundred forty-seven females were reported as residents of the county. In 1859, a short-lived paper, THE QUEEN CITY VINDICATOR, was published at the rival hamlet of Queen City. The Adams County Gazette was founded in 1866 at Quincy and moved to Corning in 1869. The QUEEN CITY LEADER was published in 1869 at Queen City, but was soon moved to Quincy, where it was known as THE QUINCY JOURNAL. Its life, too, was short, but a few copies are on file.

In 1888, the Adams County court house burned, resulting in the destruction of many of the records. This was particularly true of the school records and there is an uncertainty about early school history. The Iowa school reports for the period ending October 31, 1859, give an abstract from the report of the Adams County school commissioner which shows that there were then ten organized districts, nine of which were district schools. Two hundred and twenty-four pupils had been enrolled. Four log school houses had been built during 1859 at a cost of $275.00. The average salary paid to male teachers was given as $17.68. Evidently the school fund was not sufficient to maintain the schools as $115.00 was reported as voluntary aid. The New England colony built a school house in Nevin in 1857 before dwellings had been erected for all families.

As early as 1857, rumors were afloat that the Burlington and Missouri railroad would be extended west from Burlington. The prospect promoted the surveying of two new town sites. In May 1857, the town of Corning was surveyed and the plat recoreded. Both of these towns were claimants for future railroad favors and both aspired to obtain the county seat. Neither the fact that the Civil war was imminent or that the citizens of Quincy wanted to delay the struggle prevented the question of removal being agitated as early as 1859. However, no definite action was taken until 1862, when a petition asking for a vote was rejected by the board of supervisors. During the next year Queen City lost its standing and disappeared. In 1869, the railroad was built through Corning, bringing the issue to a head. In October a vote was taken, but Corning lost. In November 1872, another vote was taken which favored removal of the county seat to Corning. An impetus was given the proposal by a promise that Corning had given a new courthouse to the county. The feeling was still so bitter that restraining notice was served on the men who were employed to transport the safe. It was necessary for James Walker, with his two yoke of oxen, to make the trip to Corning with the safe under the cover of night.

Another significant event occured in 1853, when a French colony, composed of socialists, followers of Etienne Cabet, purchased about 3,000 acres of government owned land near the banks of the East Nodaway, about three miles east of the present site of Corning. Icaria, as the community was called, was to be made an experiment of owning land in common and self-government under socialistic theories. A general assembly was composed of a president, secretary, treasurer and a director of agriculture, industry and clothing. No money compensation was ever given for any form of service. There being no religious service, Sunday was given over to recreation and amusement. As the younger generation grew up, dissensions arose. Many became dissatisfied, resulting in a charter being made in August 17, 1879, which dissolved the party into groups. The younger group founded a new colony on the east side of the original tract. This did not bring about the desired end, disturbance after disturbance taking place until the finances were in such straits that a receiver, E. F. Bettannier, was appointed October 1, 1889. Judge Horace Towner accepted the report of the receiver and declared the colony to be at an end.

Another interesting group to settle in the county was the New England colony, whose settlers came here through false representations made by eastern real estate promoters. The mortgage brokers, Roswell W. Turner and Richard B. Smith of Boston, Massachusetts, employed Solomon Brown as an agent to boom a land enterprise in southwestern Iowa. They planned to buy land warrants (land warrants of Mexican war soldiers were on the market) to the amount of twenty-five sections. Mr. Brown posted bills along the east coast towns and advertised his project in THE BOSTON RECORD. In this advertising he made fabulous claims, pictured the region as a veritable Canaan with the immediate prospect of two railroads being built. An appeal was made to mechanics, school teachers, physicians and ministers to make a settlement of entirely New England people and to make themselves and their families independent.

The promoters decided to locate their land warrants in the northeast corner of Adams County, visited the section entered the land at the Chariton land office, as Adams County was then in the Chariton district. They then returned to Boston and on Wednesday, April 16, 1856, the first party of six settlers and the agent left for the promised land, making the trip by train, boat, team and on foot. On May 8th they arrived in the vicinity described in their deeds, but imagine their chagrin when they could not find this wonderful place and continued far west in the county in their search. Finally another locality was reached and they were directed to their destination. Their disappointment was great and they were ready to turn back. It was necessary for Mr. Brown to offer a bribe of $100 to each to induce them to stay.

The land was surveyed about the middle of August in 54 tracts of 160 acres, 38 tracts of 40 acres each, 108 lots of 10 acres and 150 lots of 20 acres each, with a 10-acre tract in the center for public purposes. Recruits began to arrive, giving cheer and comfort to the settlers, but the newcomers were greatly disappointed when they viewed their purchase. The people who made up the settlement were industrious, progressive and educated and in the early history of the colony written by J. Loran Ellis, a member of the group, a steady record of progress was recorded.

A saw mill which sawed the lumber used in all the new buildings erected by the colonists was built in September, 1856 and a school house was built the following year. A bible class was also organized on July 26th of that year and a cemetery deed was recorded November 22, 1858. A hotel, the New England House, was started in September 1857 and a post office was established July 8, 1858. January 2, 1857, a lyceum was organized and the colonist observed Independence Day and Thanksgiving day in 1858.

The New England colonists and the Quincy group met at the first Adams County fair held on a lot southeast of the public square in Quincy October 20, 1858. Mr. Ellis wrote that the Nevin people went to the Quincy hotel and the proprietors, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Neal, gave them a separate table. The residents at Quincy had heard of the Yankees who were settling in the northeast part of the county but had seen few of them, especially the women. They were watched to see if they expected napkins and to see how they used their knives and forks. The Nevinites had asked for tea and Mrs. Neal was so excited that she forgot to put the tea in the teapot.
While the railroad that the Boston promoters of 1856 promised never materialized, the original Nevin land all passed into improved farms and a new permanent settlement was made. However, its distinguishing character as being entirely a New England settlement has long since passed away.

The first Bohemian settlers in Colony township were Mr. and Mrs. Frank Krisenger, his father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Krisenger and several brothers and sisters, of whom Agnes, now Mrs. W. H. Williamson, is the only one now living, and Mrs. and Mrs. Joseph Vonasek. The men were employed by the railroad and brought their families to Creston from Iowa City, where there was a large Bohemian settlement. Attracted by the fertile black soil, they decided to settle in Adams County, but chose the northern part because at that distance from the railroad land could be bought for $2.00 an acre. This was about 1872. Incidentally, Colony township still contains the area farthest from a railroad possible in Iowa.

Later Joseph Blazek came here direct from Czechoslovakia (then Bohemia), lured by the letters of Mrs. Krisenger and Mrs. Vonasek, his aunts. Within two years he sent for his mother and father and his unmarried brothers and sisters. The Bohemians, like the Nordic races, are land hungry and with this nucleus, it was but a question of time until there was a thriving Bohemian settlement here. Many came directly from Bohemia to join relatives settling in Adams County, while others cam as tenant farm hands to work for the landed settlers. The saying was "Pay a Bohemian $300 a year and he'll save $350 of it."

Many of the settlers came from Omaha, where Victor Rosewater, then editor of THE OMAHA BEE and himself a Bohemian, had been instrumental in establishing many of his countrymen in homes of their own. Some came from Iowa City and a few from Chicago. Always their dream and ambition was to own land, to make it possible for their children to own their own homes and to build up the community in which they lived.

Another idea of the character of the early settlers may be gained from the civil war record of the county. ANDREAS' ATLAS gave the voting population of the county during that period as less than 400 votes and from this number 150 men and five commissioned officers were furnished. Mr. Ellis, in writing of the New England colony, said that they were loyal to the Union cause and furnished their quota. At one time a Nevinville home was used as a station in the Underground Railroad system. Miss Gallagher, in writing about the Icarian colony in Volume two of the PALIMPSEST related "Every Icarian qualified was enrolled in the Union army. Forty casualties were reported."

Some time ago Edgar Harlan, curator of the Iowa Historical department, gave a series of radio talks on Iowa history in which he stated that Adams County was one of the last counties to be settled, giving two reasons: the first, the fact that the county was so located that neither a major stream or any of the great wagon trails passed through its areas, and the second, the original surveyors gave the land second rating. Prior to 1858, the county settled up rapidly, but after that time and up to 1866, it remained stationary. Since that time it has enjoyed a steady increase in population.

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