Iowa As It Is in 1856

Iowa as it is in 1856, written by Nathan Howe Parker.  Beginning on page 119:


WAS first settled in 1836, by Mr. Bourne, who located upon Sec. 1, T. 80, R. 4, East. The county was surveyed in 1837, by the Messrs. Burtz. The Surveyor General's office was then at Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1840, the county was organized by Sheriff Bourne. In 1841, R. R. Bed ford and others formed a little settlement at De Witt, and during the same year Messrs. Wheeler and Evans erected a log court-house. In stepping from the past to the present, we quote the language of one of the "oldest inhabitants." He says: "Clinton County was originally settled by the poorest class of people on God's earth; and it is with great pleasure that I have witnessed their progress, slow but sure, and now find the most of them very comfortably situated."

Although this county is, in many respects, more favourably situated than any other in the State, but little has been known of it at home or abroad, until quite recently, owing to the fact that, the great tide of travel passed over the  railroads to the Mississippi, entering the State at Dubuque, Davenport, or Burlington, and striking thence directly to Iowa City, or Ft. Des Moines, virtually running around Clinton and Jackson counties. Since the completion of the railroad to Fulton, a good proportion of the eastern travel has passed over this road, entering the State at Clinton or Lyons-thus reaching the Mississippi with fifty miles less travel than by any other railroad route. Convinced of the rapid advance and increase in population and property that awaits this point, capitalists, mechanics, and business men, are daily investing in lands and town lots, and entering into business, which will largely contribute to the credit of the County and the State. As will be seen by reference to the map, or to the list of post-offices, there are comparatively few towns in Clinton County, and although rapidly advancing, property of all kinds is much cheaper than at any other railroad terminus on the River.

The "Lyons Iowa Central Railroad Company," which some years since projected a road west from Lyons, through Tipton and Iowa City, after making a fair beginning upon the work, in consequence of the financial crisis, failed.
Their stock, bonds, &c., were purchased at sheriff's sale, by a number of gentlemen of reliability and reputation, who have organized a new company under the name of the "Chicago, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad Company." For
numerous and satisfactory reasons, they fixed upon a point two miles below Lyons, as the eastern terminus of their road. 

The " Iowa Land Company," owning the lands there, and being also interested in the new organization, laid out a town, calling it CLINTON. Their town plot, embracing 1000 lots, is laid out upon the most liberal scale. Whole blocks
have been left for parks; four lots given to each of the several churches; also liberal provision for seminaries, libraries, and public schools. The original proprietors of the town grade the streets, and plant shade trees along the side-walks, at their own expense. The wide streets and avenues, the liberal policy of the proprietors, the prospect of the railroad, must, together with the unsurpassed beauty and admirable adaptation of the location for a large town, gave it a popularity which few towns of its age enjoy. In seven months from the first sale, nearly all the lots in the plot were sold to individuals who must improve them; such being the conditions of sale.

To the stranger abroad, the proximity of two growing towns, situated as Lyons and Clinton, within two miles of each other, on the banks of the Mississippi - the one opposite, the other nearly opposite to the terminus of a railroad
running out of Chicago, the question would arise "which will be the city?" In the present embryotic state of the two places, it is natural that much petty jealousy and some rivalry must exist between the inhabitants and those particularly interested in the places; but we believe that the sentiment contained in the following toast, read at the celebration of the founding of the town of Clinton, (Aug. 1, 1855), and the commencement of the new railroad, exists among the earnest workers for the prosperity of this important point, on the Upper Mississippi:
"Our sister city, Lyons.- Her interests and ours are the same. In building up the waste places between us, we propose to meet her half way."

The population of this County in 1840, was 821; in 1850, 2822; in 1854, 7000; and in 1856, 11,000. The population of Lyons in 1850, was 453. Now, the  population of this point, (Lyons and Clinton), is 2700! Since the completion of the Railroad from Chicago, the produce from a large section of country finds here a ready market, which adds much to the business of the city. Several heavy produce houses will be opened in each of these places, and mills are being erected in each. In Lyons, there are already in operation, 3 steam mills, and 1 foundery, and another nearly completed. A new hotel is to be built at Lyons, this season, and another at Clinton, in addition to the one just completed. This house is three stories high, large and commodious, capable of accommodating
500 persons. Several three, four, and five story brick and stone blocks are under contract in Clinton, and as many more projected in Lyons. It is thought the increase in buildings and inhabitants, at this point, in 1856, will exceed that of any other in the State. 

At both Lyons and Clinton, recently, the Episcopalian and Presbyterian denominations have each organized a church, and in Lyons settled pastors. The Congregational and Methodist organizations at the former place, have been
some years in existence. A fine edifice is being erected by the Episcopalian Society, at Clinton, and another for a Free Church and school building. Ex-Governor Baker, of New Hampshire, has identified himself with the place, and, with others, is making arrangements for founding (and building) a university, public library, &c. The Congregational Church, at Lyons, is just being completed, and occupies one of the most commanding and beautiful sites in this section. Other church buildings are needed, and will probably be erected this year.

This point, which has so recently been brought into notice by the completion of the Chicago and Fulton Railroad, has been richly endowed by nature with some of the most commanding views found on the Upper Mississippi. With the splendid bluff scenery, and gently sloping plains that descend to the river's brink, thickly wooded with a fine growth of scrub oak, affording beautiful and refreshing shade, may be found one of the finest locations in the world for a large city; and we predict that 1860 will find a rapidly growing city of 20,000 inhabitants-a city stretching along the Father of Waters for three miles, whose massive warehouses gather the wealth of a rich inland tract, while her magnificent bluffs are crowned by the tasteful cottage and the splendid mansion.

Camanche, eight miles below Lyons, is improving rapidly, also, and bids fair to become a town of importance. During the past year, several new and  substantial brick buildings have been erected, and extensive preparations are
making for building this season. Population of Camanche, 1000.

De Witt is the county-seat, and the largest interior town in the County. Being near the centre of a rapidly improving, a fast populating, a most fertile and prosperous country, De Witt holds out great inducements to those who want town property, or farms, near the first depot west of the Mississippi, on the Iowa City Railroad.

Of newspapers, there are a Democratic and an Independent paper at Lyons, an Independent one at De Witt, and one about being established at  Clinton-making 4 in the county.

Clinton consists of beautiful, rich, rolling prairie, interspersed with groves of timber. " Second-hand lands can be bought on better terms in Clinton than any county in the State, according to their true value."

Clinton contains five churches- Episcopal, Methodist, Congregational, Roman Catholic, and one union of the Baptists and Disciples. 

Good public and select schools in every town of the county, and in good condition.