Earliest County Record; First Marriage Record; First Records of County Court; First County Warrants; First Statement of Treasurer and Collector's Accounts; Miscellaneous Orders and Warrants; Court House Contracts; Ferry Licenses; Township Organizations; History of Paint Creek Township

History of Winneshiek and Allamakee Counties Iowa,1882
by W. E. Alexander
Sioux City, Iowa: Western Publishing Co., 1882
Reprinted by Winneshiek County Historical Society


As we have said, there remains not the scratch of a pen relating to the official acts of the old County Commissioners of this county, and there is no election record previous to the year 1856. In view of these facts it will be seen that the task was no easy one to prepare the foregoing list of officers, and a great deal of time and labor have been given to it. Taking one fact (of no importance in itself) from one source and another, and so on, and combining or comparing them, we can form very accurate conclusions in many cases, and we believe this list will be found quite useful for future reference.

The very earliest record we have been able to find n the county offices is in a book of naturalization of aliens, and is as follows:

"State of Iowa, Allamakee County:

"Be it remembered that on the 9th day of July, A. D. 1849, Patrick Keenan, and alien, has this day filed in this office his declaration to become a bona fide citizen of the United States, took and subscribed an oath required by law.

Clerk of the District Court.

There is nothing whatever to indicate in what part of the county the office of the clerk was situated, but it is supposed to have been at the old mission, or in that vicinity.

The first marriage record is as follows:

"Be it remembered that upon the 23d day of November, A. D. 1849, that a license was issued from this office authorizing any person qualified by law to solemnize a marriage between Elias J. Topliff and Anna Reed.

Clerk of the District Court.

"This certifies that on the 6th day of December, A. D., 1849, I, Grove A. Warner, a Justice of the Peace, united the above named Elias J. Topliff, aged 22 years, and Anna Reed, aged 18 years, in the holy bonds of matrimony.

Witness my hand at Allamakee County this 6th day of December, A. D. 1849.
Justice of the Peace.

After these early specimens there appears nothing of interest, except similar documents, until we come down to the time of the establishment of the County Court, in 1851, the very first records of which we find to be the following:

"Minutes of the County Court commenced and held in the town of Columbus, the 18th of September, 1851, by Elias Topliff, County Judge.

"It appearing to the Court that no tax has been levied for the year 1851, it is therefore ordered by the Court that the following tax be levied and collected to-wit:

"For State revenue 3 mills on a dollar, and for poll tax 50 cents; for county tax, 6 mills on a dollar; for tax for support of schools, 1 " mills; road poll tax, $2; road property tax, 1 1/2 mills."

At the October term, 1851, an order was made for a special election, to take place Nov. 18, to decide whether a tax be levied to raise $250 for the purchase of suitable books for the use of the county, and a county seal. At such special election all vacancies in the several township offices were to be filled. But no civil townships had been organized at that date, as near as we can ascertain.

At the November term, on motion of A. J. Ellis, W. C. Thompson was appointed a commissioner to view the location of "Road No, 2," proposed to be established from near Thompson's place in Lafayette southwesterly, "crossing Paint Creek at Riley Ellis' grist mill. Thence southward to W. F. Rosses on the divide between Paint Creek and Yellow River, thence on the nearest and most practical route to Esquire Sutter's, south of said Yellow River, thence southward to county line between Allamakee and Clayton counties," and report to the Court. Mr. Thompson reported unfavorably at the following January term, and another route was eventually adopted. It was while on this prospecting tour, and not expecting to meet any white inhabitants except at the points mentioned, that Mr. Thompson ran across Reuben Sencebaugh, who had erected a log hut and was hard at work making a "clearing" in the heavy timber. He staid over night with him, and tried to persuade his host to abandon his attempt to make a farm in the woods and take a claim on the prairie where there was an immense "clearing" already prepared by nature, but Mr. Sencebaugh was too used to a woody country to act upon his advice. He also discovered J. C. Smith, over in the Yellow River valley; and relates how pleasant it was to meet a whit man in those days when the settlements were so scattered.

At the December term, 1851, Thos. B. Twiford was appointed to view proposed road No. 3, "from Columbus up the valley of Village Creek to Geo. C. Shattuck's, and thence to the Winneshick County line, near James Cutler's."

Ezra Reid was appointed to view a proposed road from a point at or near where the State road from Paint Rock to Fort Atkinson crossed the west line of the county, to school house in Ezra Reid's district, thence northerly to intersect the Lansing road.

County warrant No. 1 was issued December 2, 1851, in favor of Lester W. Hayes, for services as sheriff in summoning Grand and Petit Jury.

Warrant No. 2 was issued to Wm. M. and Jas. C. Smith for laying out a road "from opposite Monona to the old county seat, in June 18 0," and "two days clerk of election in Franklin Township on the first Monday in May, 1851."

O. S. Conkey gave bond as deputy sheriff under L. W. Hayes.

At the January term, 1852, the county officers presented their accounts and were allowed pay as follows:

E. Topliff, County Judge, to January 1, 1852 $58.77
Jas. M. Summer, Recorder 58.77
Thos. B. Twiford, District Clerk (for seven months) 64.92
J. W. Remine, Prosecuting Attorney 15.00
Jas M. Summer, account as County Commissioner 15.00

Jas. M. Sumner produced a statement of his accounts as Treasurer and Collector as follows:

Whole Amount Charged.
State Tax $195.23
County tax 497.96
School tax 97.61
Road tax 527.61

Amount Collected to this Time.
State$ 97.21
County 232.43
School 48.60
Road 96.60

Report filed for thorough examination at the next March term.

At the April (1852) term, we find a warrant was issued to O. S. Conkey for services as Deputy County Recorder. D. W. Low resigned as Deputy Assessor May 7th; John Sutter appointed Deputy Assessor by Sheriff Hayes.

June term, ordered that Columbus town lots be advertised for sale, on the terms, one-third down, balance in one year, and the proceeds be applied to the erection of suitable county buildings at that place, then the county seat.

At the July term the county officials, it appears, found themselves entitled to a small increase of back pay, as follows:

"It appearing from the census returns of 1851 which have recently been produced by the Sheriff that the population of this county on the first day of August, 1851, was 1117, it was adjudged by this Court that the salaried county officers were entitled to receive $200 per annum instead of $150 as had been hitherto supposed; consequently it is ordered that they be permitted to draw upon the county for as much as will bring their salaries to the legal allowance of $200 per annum.

At the August term T. B. Twiford was appointed deputy Assessor by Sheriff Thompson. Who was the County Assessor at this time we have been unable to ascertain. We find several references to a deputy Assessor, and at the July term, 1853, "Assessors all present but those of Taylor, Fayette, and Paint Creek townships." In the election register we find that John B. Sutter was elected County Assessor at the April election, 1857; but this is the only record in any shape, of such an election.

September 14th, 1852, "petitions were presented by P. P. Cady, John S. Clark, Benjamin Clark and Thos. B. Twiford, asking to be discharged from their liability on the official bond of James M. Sumner, as recorder and Treasurer of Allamakee county, and the Court being satisfied that the petitioners had good ground of apprehension, ordered that a notice be served on the said James M. Sumner requiring him to file new bonds by the 25th day of Sept. Inst., or his office would be declared vacated." What these grounds of apprehension were will sufficiently appear from the fact that one of the very first indictments found by the first grand jury, at the first term of District Court, at Columbus, July 12th, 1852, was against Jas. M. Sumner, for willfully neglecting and refusing to make report, etc., and it was ordered that process issue against defendant, returnable at next term of court.

On the 23d of September Sumner saw fit to resign his office, and the vacancy was shortly after filled by the appointment of James Bell, who held the office but a few months and at a later year went to Tennessee, and has not been heard from since the war that we know of.

On the 26th day of November 1852, an order was made that notices should be issued as follows:

"Notice is hereby given that a contract for building a court house on the County square of Allamakee county, in the village of Columbus, in said county, will be let to the lowest bidder on the fifteenth day of December next, at ten o'clock, at my office in said village. Approved securities will be required for the faithful performance of said contract. Sealed proposals will be received until that day. Any person wishing said contract will be furnished with a plan and specifications of said building by calling at my office. "Given under my hand this 26th day of November, A. D., 1852.
[Signed] Elias Topliff,
County Judge."

On the day specified the contract was let to Thos. B. Twiford, with W. C. Thompson and J. M. Rose as security, his being the lowest bid with security. The amount of the contract is not stated.

The following spring the county seat was located at Waukon, as elsewhere narrated, and to accommodate the District Court, which was to sit in June, the residents of that place put up a temporary courthouse in the shape of a small log cabin, in which the court was held. And at the September term of the County Court for that year a contract was made for a new courthouse, as follows:

"On this 6th day of September, A. D. 1853, being the day (by previous arrangement) for entering into a contract for putting up a county building, the proposition of William Ramsdall being the lowest bid, it was ordered by the court (by said Ramsdall giving sufficient security) that the said William Ramsdall should have the contract, which contract was entered into for the amount of three hundred and twenty-five dollars."

This was the first of the two small frame buildings on the east side of Allamakee Street, the second of which was built alongside of it in 1857. About this time the town lots of Waukon were offered for sale.

At this term a license was granted to Wm. C. Thompson to establish and run a ferry between a point on the west side of the Mississippi river, generally known as the "Red House Landing," (in the south part of Section 22, Fairview township), and the east side of said river, at or near Prairie du Chien.

October 2d a license was granted to Jas. Brookman to ferry across the Iowa River on the southeast quarter of section 15, township 100, range 4.


The county records are very incomplete as to the organization of the civil townships, and in some instances further light is thrown on the subject by consulting the township records. The substance of all we have been able to ascertain in the limited time at our disposal will be found as follows:

Post Township was organized in 1851.

At the February--1852--term of the County Court, Judge Topliff, a petition was presented praying for the organization of the township of Lansing and defining its boundaries.

At the March term, 1852, a petition was presented for the organization of the township of Makee, and in accordance therewith a commission was issued to Israel Devine to call an organizing election on the first Monday in April following.

At the same term a commission was issued to Ezra Reid to call an election for the organization of Ludlow Township.

Also a commission to call an election on the first day in April Union Prairie Township for its organization. The court record fails to give the name of the party to whom the commission was issued, but by those who recollect the circumstances it is said to have been Geo. Merrill.

A commission was issued to Ensign Chilson to organize Union City Township, by an election on the first Monday in April.

Lafayette Township was bounded and commission issued L. W. Low, to call an organizing election at the house of Thos. B. Twiford on the first Monday in April.

At the April term, 1852, a petition for the organization of township 96, range4, was rejected "for reasons too numerous to mention."

The course of Paint Creek was officially recognized as the division line between Linton and Taylor. A petition for the division of Linton Township was rejected.

In the record of the July term there appears a beginning of an entry as follows: "Bunker Hill Township." No township of that name was ever organized, but the uncompleted entry suggests that an attempt was made to organize Linton under that name.

At the December term, 1853, we find that boundaries were established for the following townships: Linton, Taylor, Paint Creek, Jefferson, Franklin and Post. All these townships had held elections previous to this date however, as we have returns from each of the twelve so far mentioned, at the county election of Aug. 1st, 1853, but no account of township officers.

At the March term, 1855, the boundaries of Hanover Township were defined, and a warrant issued to Marshall Cass to organize.

Fairview bounded and ordered to be organized, same term.

Iowa township the same, and warrant issued.

May 7, 1855, the name of Paint Creek Township was changed to Waterville; but two years later, March 2, 1857, it was again changed to Paint Creek, upon petition of its citizens.

At the March 1856, term of county court an order was issued for the organization of what is now Center Township, under the name of Village Creek. O. Deremo was the organizing officer, and "the first election was held at the house of Eric Sund, 8th of April, 1856. Officers chosen as follows: Trustees, E. Sund, C. J. Drake, Thomas Gordan; Clerk, A. Drake; Assessor, O. Deremo. Justices of the Peace, Thomas smith, A. Drake."

According to Mr. Deremo, who has taken pains to investigate and look up these matters, the following are some of the "first things" of Center Township:

"The first funeral was that of Jos. Reynolds, a soldier of the War of 1812. The sermon was preached by Mr. Howard. He entered the N. W. And S. W. Sec. 33, and was buried thereon.

"The first church was built by the Lutherans; it was commenced in 1857 and finished some years later, and stood where the east church now stands.

"The first school meeting was held at the house of E. Howard, May 14th, 1855, J. Reed, was secretary.

"The first school was taught in the winter of 1855-56 by Miss L. Stillman. The schoolhouse was a log building situated in what is now sub-district No. 4.

"The first frame house was built by a man named Streeter, on the farm now owned by P. Swenson, in 1850 or 1851."

French Creek and Waterloo townships were also ordered to be organized during the March term of 1856; and these make up the list of the eighteen townships in Allamakee county.


The following history of Paint Creek Township, prepared by John S. Bryson, will be of interest in this connection, and it is to be regretted that no similar sketches of the other townships have ever been written.

"On the morning of the 8th of May, 1850, James Bryson and family arrived at what was then called McGregor's landing, now the city of McGregor, with teams and baggage, and at once started for Garnavillo, the county seat of Clayton County, seeking a home. After resting here two days they, in company with part of Robert Moor's family, who had made a claim on Paint Creek, started for Allamakee county, following the trail via what is now Monona, then called Sodom in consequence of its whisky trade with the Indians, then down Hickory creek to Clark's ford, on the Yellow river, then north to the "old stake" in Jefferson township, now the farm owned by Elias Pettit and a short distance east of his house, and down on to Paint creek, where they camped May 11th, 1850.

"Mr. Bryson located on Sections 17 and 18 where Thomas and Robert Moore and John Ghraim had made claims about nine months previous, while the Indians were yet camped there for their winter's hunt, this being a favorite hunting and camping place for them. They were gone when the Bryson family came in, but the skeletons of their wigwams remained, and the brands and ashes of their campfires showed that the new settlers occupied as they departed.

"Five of the wigwams or teepees stood close by the finest spring on Paint Creek. This spring was covered with a blanket of moss from two to six inches thick, showing that it had been a camping spot for a long time, and the wild deer dare not come to eat the moss, but they did the winter following. We cleared the most of this off the head of the springs and the water boiled up from ten to twelve inches, flowing over the beautiful green moss as clear as crystal and as cold as if it came through a mountain of ice.

"We found here many flint arrow heads, two tomahawks or hatchets, one dead Indian pony and many buffalo and elk horns.

"The Indians had for years dug up the wild sod in the valley in patches and raised a crop of what might be called "squaw cor," but we broke the first sod on what is now Paint Creek, on the 15th of May, 1850.

"The Government put the land into market at one dollar and a quarter per acre about the first of October following, and found us with more claimed than we had money to pay for, but Mr. Wm. H. Morrison, who lived near the mouth of the creek, having been appointed as agent to select a portion of the 500,000 acres granted by the General government to Iowa for school purposes, came around and we entered our claim as school land; this helped us as well as many more poor settlers by giving us time to get the money and make our payments without submitting to the extortions of the land sharks as the settlers called those who speculated in land and reaped a rich harvest, at the expense of the hard working pioneer.

"In the summer of 1850, a large number of Norwegians came in from Wisconsin and settled on the prairie north of the creek among whom were Swen Enderson Hesla, Ole O. Storia, Ole Grimsgaart, Thomas Anderson, Lars Knudtson, Nels Tolfson, Ole Severson, Bennett Harmonson, who lived in their canvas covered wagons until they could build something to get into, and the most of these families are well-to-do farmers in Paint Creek to-day.

Theodore and William Moose and Wm. McCoy came in about the same time. James R. Conway, Reuben Sencebaugh, and others came in very soon after and settled on the south side of the creek. In the summer of 1850 a family named Ellis, from Linn County, Iowa, came in and selected mill sites on the creek at what is now Beumer's mill, and one of them, Riley Ellis, located a mile site just around the bend below Waterville, known as Peter Iverson's mill, when he put a pair of two foot French buhr millstone on a few logs built over the creek, which were kept running all winter cracking corn for all who came. The buhrs stood out of doors all winter and the next spring--1852--they were inclosed and a small bolt made of book muslin was attached for making buckwheat flour. Then we lived sumptuously, substituting buckwheat cakes and wild honey for our former diet of pork and corndodger, and people came from all quarters with their little grists, and in all sorts of conveyances, some from what is now Waukon, some from the Iowa River. It was here I first saw Scott Shattuck, late from California, and when I first saw him he held in one hand a piece of raw pickled pork and corn dodger, and in the other hand a large knife with which he was cutting alternate slices of each for his luncheon. This was the first gristmill ever built in the county, if it had capacity enough to be called a mill. I run this mill the most of the time the first eight months. Not long after this Nathaniel Beebe commenced getting out timber for what is now known as the Waterville mill, and later Colonel Spooner and Mr. Carpenter came in and joined him, and the mill was built and started in the winter of 1854 and 1855. They also opened a store in the spring of 1855 near the mill. In the spring of 1851, Thomas B. Twiford, of county seat notoriety, and Wm. McCoy, built the Thomas Ellis saw mill above where Beumer's mill now stands, and it did a good business until 1860.

"By this time many settlers had come in, the Norwegians generally settling on the north side of the creek, the Irish on the south side, with a few Americans and other nationalities sprinkled in among them, but the large per cent. Of settlers were of foreign birth.

"The county records fail to show when the township was organized by the election of township officers, but there is an entry in them dated December term, 1853, as follows: Paint Creek Township was organized so as to conform to the congressional township of town ninety-seven, range four. The Trustees gave the township its present name, and the township records show the first election to be held in Riley Ellis' mill, where the corn cracker was, August, 1852, James Bryson, George Watkins, and Reuben Sencebaugh being judges of election and William McCoy and Thomas G. Ellis were the clerks. The Trustees appointed William McCoy, Township Clerk. These are the earliest dates our records show.

"The first election was held on the first Tuesday in November, 1852, and was the presidential election. The third election was on the fourth of April, 1853, and is the first record I find of the election of township officers, being for Trustees: James Bryson, Andrew Mitchell and Reuben Sencebaugh; for Township Clerk, Wm. McCoy; for Assessor, James Bryson; for Constables, John Bryson and John Stull; for Justices of the Peace, James Bryson and Reuben Sencebaugh. At this election there were cast for county seat, fifty-eight votes, of which Columbus had forty-nine and Waukon nine. The trustees held two meetings in the winter of 1852-3, one to appraise and divide section sisteen, and the other to divide the township into road districts, doing this work so well that the district remains the same to this date.

"In 1856 Mr. James Beebe built a large frame hotel in Waterville, capable of accommodating all the guests that a town of one thousand inhabitants would furnish, but it failed for want of patronage, and its builder is now in New Mexico. In 1857 was organized in this hotel the Prairie du Chien & Mankato Railroad Company, with the Hon. John T. Clark, now of Postville, for President. The object of this company was to build a railroad from the Mississippi at Johnsonsport, connecting there with the railroad from Prairie du Chien, and running up the creek to Waukon, thence west to Calmar and on to Austin and Mankato, Minnesota. Engineer Wm. W. Hungerford was the active man in the enterprise, and devoted considerable time to it, making surveys and locating the line from the starting point on the river to the State line in Howard County. Most of the resident right-of-way on the entire line was secured, and about forty thousand dollars in subscriptions and donations to the capital stock, the design being to donate this to the railroad company running into Prairie du Chien if they would extend their line across the river and cover the route. The enterprise failed, the extension being made via Bloody Run and Monona, in Clayton countly.

"In the spring of 1857, Spooner and Beebe started at Waterville the first tannery ever built in the county. They purchased a recipe for tanning with japonica, using it with hot liquor, thus tanning the hides in a few days so that they could put them on the market and get returns very much quicker then by the old way of tan-bark and cold water. They run their business about two years, but not proving profitable they abandoned it."


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