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James Harlan Moves to Mt. Pleasant - 1853


Posted By: Pat Ryan White (email)
Date: 7/14/2016 at 18:48:25


Toward the end of a hot day late in June 1853, a tall, tanned, lean youth, dressed simply in hickory shirt, cotton trousers stuffed inside the legs of high-topped substantial cow-hide boots, could have been seen preparing camp on the banks of English River near the northern side of Washington County, Iowa.

Two oxen, large of frame, had just been detached from a wagon, heavily laden with household goods and soon would expand their sides with copious drafts from the river, after which they would feed on the luxuriant grass, knee high, that covered all the uncultivated land.

The driver was Caswell Hanna, son of a well-known family residing in the Long Creek community south of Danville, Des Moines County, Iowa.

He had been a student at the Mt. Pleasant Collegiate Institute the preceding year and when James Harlan, attorney, druggist, book-seller, former Superintendent of Public Instruction of Iowa, having been elected President of the Institute, went to Mt. Pleasant from his home in Iowa City to rent a house, it was then necessary to find some means of transportation for his household goods. A student, Caswell Hanna by name, agreed to bring over the goods and immediately went to his home for the necessary equipment, a stout wagon and good ox-team. These he procured and set out for the capital city, a journey of about seventy five miles. There being no load, this was covered in a little less than four days and the wagon was loaded by dusk of the fourth day. With care, he was able to get everything on the wagon and next morning he rose early and started for Mt. Pleasant, nearly sixty miles southward.

At present, over a road straightened, bridged and paved, we cover the distance of fifty miles in an hour easily and a loaded truck with three or four times as much furniture, takes but little longer. Young Hanna made it the fourth day and unloaded his wagon at the little cottage in the block north of where the substantial brick residence of Senator James Harlan was erected a few years later. This residence was later enlarged by substantial additions both eastward and to the west and for many years has been widely known as the Hotel Harlan.

The writer of this little story had the good fortune to number Caswell Hanna and wife among his parishioners of the Danville charge when Mr. Hanna was well-nigh four score years of age, but very active, giving daily attention to his farm just as he had done for nearly sixty years. He stated that his initials could be found cut into one of the bricks of the old pioneer building of Iowa Wesleyan, which was erected in 1842, but the attrition of many years of weather action plus the several coats of heavy paint applied make it impossible to find them.

[Unknown author, unknown date, probably written after 1912 by a former pastor of the Long Creek Methodist Church, south of Danville, Des Moines County, IA. Note: Mr. Caswell Hanna, 1832-1912]


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