IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Misc. Historical Items

Lansing in 1871

Lansing, Iowa - A Romantic River Town

From our Regular correspondent.

Lansing, Iowa, Dec. 11, 1871 - In my letter from Waukon I said that Allamakee county has been called the New England of Iowa. Since then I have ridden by stage across the country, eighteen miles, to Lansing on the Mississippi River, and I now say Allamakee is the New England of Iowa, and Lansing stands amid the finest and grandest of it. The scenery here is rugged and grand to the fullest extent. The bluffs shoot up, steep and tall, till you almost wonder whether back and beyond the hills can possibly give way to a plain, open country. Everywhere something meets the eye to interest.

Immediately over the town, Mount Hosmer (I haven't time to tell the story) holds its head above the highest point between this and St. Louis. Just below the town is the famous Lover's Leap, worthy to run along the curious string of Indian legends down a whole phalanx of generations, telling how Waw-kaw-chaw-kee-kaw and Rob-kaw sprang over the steep at once into the pale moonlight and the sleep of death, because it was not possible that each could take the lovely E-now-kaw-kaw to himself in lawful wedlock.

Still farther down, is the massive stone god of the Indians - alas! rudely thrown from his seat to make way for the rushing iron horse - worn smooth by simple Indian skill and black with the poor sacrifice and worship of burning coffee and tobacco.

The islands in the river still hold the lodges of the Indians, the county records in its very name, the guttural clumsiness of their speech and their awkward attempt to speak the name of their old friend, Allen Magee, and parents point their children to this or that, and whisper in their ears bewitching little tales of Indian times till the young enthusiasts fairly wish themselves back thirty or forty years in history, or that they had been born actual savages themselves.

I have acknowledged, one or more, to Boston-loving dunces that there is no grand scenery in this region of the West; but if I can be pardoned for that, I shall do the thing no more. Lansing scenery is tame in no possible sense. On the contrary, it is good enough to point out this place as one of the coming favorite resorts for comfort and pleasure.

But I almost regret that I began to speak of it under circumstances that compel me to do it so slight justice. I am rather compelled to deal with Lansing as a business town. It is comforting, however, in turning from these pretty hills, to meet a subject so worthy as the commercial standing of this town. I am willing to believe there is not another town of 2,500 inhabitants on the river that does more, or even so much business, and handles more money.

Its lumber trade amounts to 5,000,000 feet annually; its shipments of wheat to 1,275,000 bushels; its actual exchange to $1,500,000; its shipments of flour to over 12,000 bbls.; of pork, to 1,400,000 pounds; of butter, 50,000; of hides, to 50,000; its freights received, to over 4,000,000 pounds annually.

From the warehouse of C.W. Hufschmidt there have been shipped to Milwaukee alone, since the second day of last September, 69,102 bushels of wheat, while two other warehouses have shipped almost as heavily. These items, selected with no small degee of care, indicate a wealthy, active people.

Manufacturing is gaining fast and doing well. Messrs. Bockfinger and Boeckemire own an establishment 72 by 78 feet, two stories high, have about twenty hands employed in the manufacture of wagons, plows, sleighs, etc., and turn out $35,000 worth of excellent products annually. The Lansing Iron Works of Messrs. Reith, Seiger & Boeckh, manufacturing portable and stationary engines, is among the most important establishments of the place. They have capacity for all kinds and sizes of work in their line, employ thirty hands, and, in the first dull [sic] year of beginning, did a business of more than $20,000. They make, also, Mullikin's Eureka Turbine water-wheel, which has been in use here for more than a year with satisfactory results, both as to economy in the volume of water required and the force attained.

Additional to these, there is the manufacture of sash, doors and blinds, and the more general work of the lumber mills. I have already shown by figures somewhat of the extent of the lumber business here. The principal dealers in this important branch of trade are Hemenway & Wood, S.O. Smith & Co., S.B. Johnston, E.T. Albert & Son, and H.M. Traverse.

The manufacturers in tobacco and cigars are M. Simon and M. Englehorn. Besides these there are the smaller workers, and the usual brass fitting and stove and tinware manufacturers, to all of which might be added an extensive brewery.

Four miles below town stands the Village Creek Woolen Mills, of Dayton & Co., doing a business to the amount of $50,000 annually, and turning out cloths that are known not only here, but in the adjoining states, for their excellence and finish. This company has carried off prizes upon its work in several cases of close test, as, for example at the Exposition of Western Woolen Mills, at Chicago, in 1867; and, by the unvarying character of their work, have become of a great value, indeed a necessity, to this region.

There is one bank in the place, the First National, with a paid up capital of $50,000; also a savings bank, incorporated in June of the present year, with an authorized capital of $100,000. The principal officers of these institutions are G. Kerndt, J.W. Thomas and H. Neilander.

Business lots in convenient localities can be had at prices running from $3000 to $1,000, and lots suitable for dwellings, from $150 to $300. The best of water may be had from 8 feet to 25 feet below the surface, when it is not supplied by springs. Good fuel costs from $1.50 to $3.50 per cord, and building material can be had in great abundance, wood, stone or brick, at as low prices as at any point in Iowa. No other can furnish stone in greater quantity, better quality, and lumber so cheaply.

The Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, Roman Catholics and German Methodists all have comfortable places of worship, while the Lutherans are just building.

The school-going population is about six hundred. The schools are graded under nine teachers, and furnish excellent instruction both in English and German.

I think I can sum up the business firms almost exactly, as follows:

-Agricultural implements: C.W Hufschmidt and Healy & Lyon. A prosperous trade.

-Dry goods: G. Kerndt & Bros., Geo. Purdy & Co., C.H. Whitney, Geo. Kemble, Shaw & Daniels, Neilander & Brockhausen, and J.H. Pope.

-Clothiers: Geo. Miles, S. Fuiks, J. Dorman and J. Tourthe.

-Grochers and provision dealers: Martin & Blune, Henderson & Bushnell, Rockwell & Schierholz, Q. Trayer and Israel Bequette.

-Boots and shoes: Bryant and Thorp, John Strauss, Charles Bergeler, E. Burgess, and S. Simonson.

-Harness and saddlery: J.C. Harvey, a fine stock; Wenigort & Brother, and F. Schiller.

-Hardware: R.B. Spencer, T.P. Grant, J. Reith and dealers in other lines also operate in this.

-Liquor dealers, mainly by wholesale: John Tully, Weist & Umersbach, Martin & Blum, Neilander & Brockhausen, G. Kerndt & Bros., and J.H. Pope.

I am surprised when I come to make the statement that, larger and smaller, there are a dozen or more hotels, all doing a fair business in their way, which will indicate more of the amount of business here than I could express briefly in any other way. The best of these are the Lansing House, near the river; and the St. Nicholas, by John Schingel, in the busy part of the town.

The newspapers are the Mirror, published by the Metcalf Brothers, Republican in politics; and the Patriot, by Sherburne & Son, of opposite political faith.

From the above, an idea can be obtained of what is, and can be, done in this one of the weathy towns of Iowa. And whoever wants a romantic, healthy home with abundance about him and admirable opportunities to accumulate wealth, could hardly fail to find all these at Lansing.

~The Milwakee Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Monday, December 18, 1871
~transcribed by Sharyl Ferrall for Allamakee co. IAGenWeb
~See also Postville in 1871 and Waukon in 1871


Return to "other history" Index