Iowa State Gazetteer 1865

Clinton County

Was organized by act of the Territorial Legislature in the winter of 1839 and 1840.  Gov. Henry Dodge appointed James D. Bourne, sheriff of the county, who called the first election in March 1840.  The first term of the District Court was held at Camanche, Oct. 12th 1840, Martin Dunning, clerk.  The first claim docketed was that of James Claiborn vs. J. S. McCoullough.

James D. Bourne, one of the first, if not the first white settler, settled on the "Waubesepinicon," at an old trading post of the American Fur Company, in September, 1836.  Elijah Buell settled at Lyons, the same fall, and in the winter following, Abraham Folks, at Folks Grove, and A. G. Harrison, at Round Grove.  During the next year, R. C. Bourne, William D. Follett, Daniel Smith, Eli Goddard, ---- Dickerman, the Aikmans and Hessel S. Coy, G. W. Harlin, J. L. Pearce, A. Dennis, J. Booth, J. C. Holbrook, Lorenz Wheeler, C. Harrison, John Riggs, Martin Dunning, Arthur Smith, C. Bovand, G. W. Ames, the Evans', and many others settled in different parts of the county.

J. D. Bourne was the first postmaster at a place called first Monroe, and afterwards "Waubesepinicon," six miles south-east of DeWitt, at the old trading post above mentioned.  He was appointed during the winter of 1836 and 1837.  The mail was carried from Davenport to DuBuque on a pony, by way of the old Indian trail, connecting those two points.  The ferry on the Wapsi consisted of two canoes, and Newfoundland and pointer dogs.  The dogs passing the mail bag over the streams in times of thin or rotten ice, when the pony could not be crossed.  For instance, the mail going north, when the river was impassable, the carrier would be on the south bank, and the post office on the north.  The dogs were sent over, the mail delivered to them and brought over; after examination, the dogs took it back to the carrier who returned to Davenport.  This happened frequently.  Hon. William E. Leffingwell was the first lawyer who made a permanent settlement in the county.  He brought a letter of introduction to sheriff Bourne, whom he found at DeWitt, the county seat, dressed in buckskin, and a slouched straw hat.  He often said afterward, that he was singularly struck with the "native" appearance of the magisterial officer of Clinton county. *

Clinton county is bounded on the south by the "Waubesepinicon," (White Potatoe) river, on the west by Cedar and Jones counties, on the north by Jackson, and on the east by the Mississippi River, called momose cepo (Mother River,) by Sauk Indians.  It lies in the great eastern bend of the Mississippi, in the central part from north to south.  It has an area of 720 square miles, and contained in 1840, a population of 816, in 1850, 2,800, in 1860, 17,000 and at this time about 23,000.  The surface is undulating and interspersed with groves of timber along the streams.  It has a rich alluvial soil intermixed in parts with sand, and is unsurpassed in the production of all kinds of cereals, grasses and esculent roots.  The timber is principally oak, walnut, hickory, cherry and hackberry.  Building stone, lime and sandstone is plenty and brick clay is abundant.

It is watered by Elk Creek, which flows through the north-eastern corner and Deer, Mill, Deep, Silver, Brophy, Clear Rock, and other small Creeks, mostly emptying into the "Waubesepinicon."

It has twenty townships, viz: Berlin, Brookfield, Bloomfield, Centre, Clinton, Camanche, DeWitt, Deep Creek, Eadon [sic], Elk River, Hampshire, Liberty, Lyons, Orange, Olive, Spring Rock, Sharon, Washington, Waterford and Welton.  The Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska Railroad runs from Clinton west through the entire county, 36 miles.  The stations are Clinton, Camanche, Low Moor, Ramessa, DeWitt, Grand Mound and Wheatland.

LYONS CITY is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, at the point of its greatest eastern bearing, and near the 42d parallel of latitude; 136 miles due west from Chicago, and directly opposite Fulton City, Ill., the western terminus of the Dixon Air-Line Railroad.  It is 43 miles above Davenport, and 76 miles below DuBuque.

The land which comprises the present site of Lyons City was purchased of the United States Government in 1840, by Dennis Warren, Elijah Buell and Beale Randall, and is admirably adapted to the requirements of a large and picturesque city.

The city was organized under a special act passed by the Legislature and approved January 24th, 1855.

The business part of the city occupies a level plat of ground, for the most part from six to ten feet above high water-mark, varying in width from a point on the north, where it commences, to about one-third of a mile, and bounded by a semi-circular range of "bluffs," the north end of the semi-circle resting on the river.  These "bluffs" rise in successive tables, receding irregularly, until they reach an elevation of 125 feet.  There are two principal plateaux, the lower one overlooking the town and river, and commanding a view of Fulton, and a magnificent range of landscape on the Illinois side.  The higher plateau affords a still more-extended range of view, which for variety, beauty and sublimity, is rarely equalled in any country.

A noticeable and valuable feature of these "bluffs" is their easy ascent.  They have just altitude enough to afford a suitable stand-point for the widest and most beautiful views of rural and water scenery, without being, as in many places, so high as to be difficult of access, and too bleak to be desirable as residence sites.  There is not a point on these "bluffs" that is not of such gentle acclivity as to be practicable with a carriage, even before streets are graded.  There are more than one hundred of the most delightful and salubrious of residence sites, within six minutes walk of churches, schools, and the general business of the city--exempt from the heat and dust by their elevation and abundant native shrubbery, and yet so near the river as to bring under the eye the daily life and activity of the city.

A level plat of ground lying between the "bluffs" and the river, slopes sufficiently for all necessary drainage, and furnishes ample room for a city of large dimensions; and the extensive and convenient levee affords a landing adequate to the accommodation of a commerce equal to that of St. Louis.  A flat rock underlies the whole city at a depth of from two to three feet below the surface.

There are six organized Protestant congregations, to-wit: Baptist, Methodist, Congregational, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Lutheran.

The rapid growth and maturity of the Public Schools, and the superior facilities afforded for education, are an earnest of the enterprise of the citizens, and an evidence of the enlightened policy pursued by them in reference to the interests of education.

The system of Public Instruction comprises three departments, and occupies three buildings -- one large centre edifice, and two side or "ward" buildings.  The centre building is 58 by 75 feet on the ground, and is four stories high; the first story being of stone and the others of brick with stone corners.  No pains or expense has been spared to secure the most approved model for its construction, and in point of architectural beauty, or internal adaptation to the wants and convenience of students, it will compare favorably with any similar Institution in the older States.  It cost entire, about $20,000, and contains eight school rooms, a music hall, director's room, library, eight dressing rooms, and the whole of the basement is divided into exercise rooms.

These buildings are all located in healthful and picturesque localities, being sufficiently elevated to overlook the business portion of the town and the river scenery, but not high enough to be objectionable in point of access.

LYON'S FEMALE COLLEGE was dedicated on the 15th day of September, 1858, and consists of three substantial brick buildings.  It is in successful operation, under the management of Rev. George R. Moore.

This College is beautifully located on the first "bluff," commanding an admirable prospect from the main entrance and the surrounding grounds.  The buildings were erected at an expense of $30,000.

While sectarian preferences are scrupulously avoided, the College is kept under strictly Christian influences.  Special pains will also be taken not only to cultivate the mental and moral habits of the young ladies, but also to protect their physical health, and to make their stay in the Institution not less agreeable than profitable to themselves.

The College year is divided into two terms of twenty weeks each, commencing respectively on the 1st Wednesday of September, and the 1st Tuesday of February, vacating the week of the holidays.

Lyons has the following number and variety of stores:  3 wholesale liquor; 4 hard-hardware [sic]; 12 grocery; 3 dry goods; 4 drug; 3 boot and shoe; 2 book and jewelry; 4 furniture, and 4 general stores; also, two banks; 3 distilleries; 2 breweries; 2 foundries; 3 flouring mills; numerous saw mills, planing mills, sash, door and blind factories, etc. etc.

The climate in this region of the Mississippi valley is mild, and the atmosphere is pure and dry, producing a healthful and invigorating influence.  The healthfulness of Lyons is a consideration which should not be overlooked.  Had the promotion of health and relief from many chronic diseases of the Eastern States been the sole subject of the original founders of Lyons City, they could not have selected a better locality in the whole Northwest.  There are no natural impediments to make it otherwise than healthy.  The water is good, the soil is dry, the city is elevated, and there are no wet marshes lying back of it.  The Mississippi has here a rapid current, and, except in time of freshet, the water is clear.

DeWITT, the county seat, is on the C. & N. W. R. W., 20 miles west of Clinton.  It is on a high prairie, and is surrounded by a very fine farming country.  A large amount of grain is shipped annually from this point.  It contains four churches, seven groceries, six general stores, three drug stores, two hardware stores, two flour mills and one brewery.  The DeWitt Observer is published weekly.  Population, about 1,200.

CLINTON is on the Mississippi River, at the crossing of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, which from here to Cedar Rapids takes the name of the Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska Railway.  The offices of the Iowa Division of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway are located here.  A splendid railroad bridge was lately completed across the Mississippi at this point.

Clinton was commenced in 1855.  J. C. Bucher was the first settler, the pioneer of the Iowa & Nebraska Railway, and one of the incorporators of the Bridge & Land Company.  He is a large owner of land in the immediate vicinity, and is at present the largest dealer in the town in dry goods and groceries, and the only commission merchant and dealer in agricultural implements.  He has a fine store on Front street, and a large warehouse just below the business portion of the town.

The town contains eight grocery stores, two boot and shoe stores, three drug stores, three general stores, one hardware store, one bank, one car building establishment, one foundry, one flour mill and three saw-mills.  Population, about 1,000.

WHEATLAND, (or Yankee Run,) is on the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, thirty-five miles from Clinton, and near the Wapsipinicon River.  It has five general stores, two groceries, one drug store and one hardware store.  The Clinton Advocate is published weekly, by Gault & Baker.

CAMANCHE is on the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, five miles west of Clinton.  It has three general stores, one grocery, two drug stores, one flour mill, one distillery and one brewery.

BOONE SPRING is a post office in the northern part of the county, in Deep Creek Township, eighteen miles from DeWitt, the county seat.

The soil of the township is dark loam, with clay sub-soil, well adapted for the different cereals.  It is watered by Deep Creek, Simmons and Barret Creeks.  Timber is rather scarce, except on the streams.  Cattle, horses and hogs are raised extensively.  Population of township, 1,000.

CALAMUS is in the western part of the county, on the Chicago & Northwestern Railway.  It contains two general stores.  Population, 100.

ELK RIVER is in the north-east portion of the county, on the Mississippi River, forty-five miles from Davenport.

It contains two churches, Congregational and Methodist, two flouring mills and one sawmill.  The township is well watered by springs and by Elk River, which affords good mill privileges.  That portion of the township lying on the Mississippi River, is well timbered.  Population, 120; of township, 1,100.

GRAND MOUND is a station on the Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska Railroad, about six miles west of DeWitt.  There is a Baptist Church here.  Population, 200.

BURGESS is in the north-west part of the county, twenty-five miles from DeWitt, the county seat.  It has two churches, Disciples and Methodist.  The township consists about equally of prairie and oak "openings." Population of township, 500.

BUENA VISTA is on the Wapsipinicon River, about eight miles south-west of Grand Mound.  It has one general store.

TORONTO is on the Wapsipinicon River, eight miles north-west of Wheatland.  It has one general store.

LOW MOOR is a station on the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, ten miles west of Clinton.

RAMESSA is a station in Eden Township, on the Chicago & Northwestern Railway.  Population of township, 500.

Brookfield, Charlotte, Orange and Welton, are other villages and post offices in the county.

*  The following incident occurred at the old trading post.  Judge Ingles of St. Louis, while on his way to DuBuque, wished to cross the Wapsi.  The canoe being out of repair, and the dogs not being able to ferry him over he concluded to swim the stream.  He divested himself of all his clothes, [except his drawers] and tied them on to his saddle.  The horse swam safely over, but when the judge made the attempt, he became entangled in his drawers and went down.  It happened that an Indian was one of the three spectators, who stood upon the bank and being asked to jump in and save him, he ran quite confusedly up and down the bank, till they supposed the judge drowned, and then jumping in brought him to show where after some exertion he was restored.  The Indian on being asked why he did not go in sooner replied, "When white man alive he drown Indian, when dead he bring him out easy."

Source: Hair, James T. Iowa State Gazetteer. Chicago: Bailey & Hair, 1865.