ANNALS OF IOWA
OCTOBER, 1865, NUMBER XII
[From the Dubuque Herald.]
DUBUQUE IN EARLY TIMES.
BY ELIPHALET PRICE.
During the early settlement of the Black Hawk
purchase, there were many scenes expressive of the progress of civilization,
patriotism and Christianity, that transpired at Dubuque before in any other part
of the country now known as the State of Iowa. Of some of these scenes we
propose to speak only in a chronological sense, while others we shall allude to
with that historical brevity which will enable us to preserve the panoramic
design of this sketch.
To begin with the progress of civilization, we will
state that the first white man hung in Iowa in a christian-like manner was
Patrick O'Conner, at Dubuque, in June, 1834. The first murder committed in Iowa
that arose to the dignity of commanding public attention, was the killing of
George O'Kief, at Dubuque, in May, 1834. The first white man publicly
horsewhipped in Iowa, by a woman, was a resident of Dubuque. The whipping took
place on Main street, in the vicinity of the ground now occupied by the Post
Office, in September, 1833. The whip was applied by Miss S - - until Mr. G---
agreed to deliver up her gold watch— which he did in a very polite and
gentlemanly manner. The man who first unfurled the Star Spangled Banner in Iowa
was an Irishman, by the name of Nicholas Carroll, living in the vicinity of
Dubuque. The flag was run up soon after 12 o'clock, on the morning of the 4th of
July, 1834. Mr. Carroll contracted with us for this flag, and paid us the sum of
ten dollars—the contract price. The flag was under our direction, and
superintended by a black woman, who was a slave. The flags at Burlington and
Davenport, we are informed, did not go up until after sunrise on that day. The
first runaway match in Iowa for matrimonial purposes took place at Dubuque, in
September, 1835. It was censured at the time by a few married women of the
village, who had forgotten that there was a time when they would have jumped out
of a three story window or paddled themselves across the Mississippi in their
sun-bonnets to follow the youth they loved, had any person attempted to annul
their plighted vows by threatening, with uplifted foot, the seat of Cupid's
trousers.— The runaways were both young. The young lady had been raised upon
the frontier, and was regarded as being very pretty. She was a wild, laughing
dashing romp, with flowing curls, and marched the young men of the mines to the
right or left, as pleased her fancy. She had a short time previously reluctantly
embarked in a matrimonial alliance under the direction of her parents, and was
being duly domesticated as the wife of one who was greatly her senior in years.
Her husband had retired to rest on the evening she left him, and was lulled to
sleep by the melody of her voice, as she caroled forth, in wild bewitching
strains, the Scottish ballad, "Coming through the Rye;"
"There is a lad, I know full weel,
I dearly love mysel';
But what his name, or where his home.
I dinna choose to tell.
Every lassie has her laddie;
Nane they say hare I,
And yet there's one—(I hear his step,)
I'm off, old chap—good bye.
The first church or house devoted to the worship of
God, in Iowa, was erected at Dubuque, August, 1834. As it has recently been
claimed by the people of Burlington that they erected the first church in Iowa,
in 1835, we will state that we have a clear and distinct recollection concerning
About the first of August, 1834, we, with five or six
other young men, were assisting Mr. Davis Grafford to raise one corner of his
log house out of the cellar into which it had fallen. While thus engaged, Mr.
Johnson, an old man much respected by the citizens of Dubuque, and who was known
to be a member of the Methodist denomination, came up and asked if we would
subscribe something towards the building of a church—and went on to describe
the size of the building and to say that it was to be used as a school house
also. One of the young men said he would give a dollar towards building a
gambling house, but nothing for a church. Johnson, who had but one eye, had on a
broad-brimmed hat, greasy and much worn; his beard was apparently of a week's
growth and he was accompanied by a swarm of flies—who, when he stood still,
settled down upon the legs of his pantaloons and the arms of his coat, to
luxuriate upon the molasses and other grocery store sweets that glistened on
these parts of his wardrobe, throwing his head and person back so as to enable
him to fix his one eyed gaze upon us, from beneath the broad brim of his hat
that lopped down in front, observed, with a smile on his countenance, and in a
mild and pleasant tone of voice:
"You are all young men who, I have no doubt, have
been raised by Christian parents. Many of you may live to raise families on the
"purchase," and, if such should be the case, I am sure that none of
you will blush when you tell your children that you helped to build the first
church in the Black Hawk purchase."
For two or three minutes nothing was said upon either
side, when the young man who proposed to aid in the building of a gambling
house, observed "Old hoss, here's a dollar." All the others gave from
fifty cents to a dollar. We paid seventy-five cents, being all the money we had.
No early scene in the history of Dubuque that passed under our personal
observation has imprinted itself upon our mind so vividly as this.
The first church quarrel that took place in Iowa,
occurred in Dubuque about the first of October, 1834. Joseph Smith, who was then
in the zenith of his glory and power at Nauvoo, dispatched one of the Elders of
his church to discourse to the benighted inhabitants of the Dubuque mines. His
arrival in town was soon noised about, and it was said at the same time that the
Methodists had the key to the church and would not permit him to preach in it.
This created some excitement when a crowd of young men started with the Mormon
to the church. It was dark, but a number of persons had already collected around
the door which was locked. One man forced his way through the crowd, stuck his
bowie knife in the door, and said, "I helped to build this church, and I'll
be damned if it shan't be free to all denominations." Just then some person
came forward and unlocked the door, when the log church was soon filled with
attentive listeners to the Mormon's discourse.
The first Catholic Church erected in Iowa, was
commenced at Dubuque in the spring of 1835, under the management and direction
of an educated and gentlemanly little French priest by the name of Mazzuchelli.
This was a stone edifice. We took the contract, and furnished the stone for this
building until it was about eight feet high, when we left Dubuque for a more
northern latitude. We never transacted business with a more honorable, pleasant
and gentlemanly person than the Rev. Mr. Mazzuchelli. We left him seated upon a
stone near the building, watching the lazy movements of a lone Irishman, who was
working out his subscription in aid of the church. We have never seen him since.
The first person tarred and feathered in Iowa was a
young man named Wheeler. This took place in Dubuque in the spring of 1834. There
had been a young man wandering about the mines for some time in a deranged state
of mind. A subscription of money was raised, and Wheeler employed to take the
insane person home to his father in Missouri. Upon the return of Wheeler to
Dubuque, some one charged him with having abused the insane person on board the
steamer, and with having left him at a wood yard, in Missouri, in a destitute
condition. Wheeler was arrested. He declared that he was innocent, and asked
them to write to the father of the insane person. Judge Lynch refused his
appeal, and he was tarred and feathered and drummed out of town. A few days
after a letter was received from the father of the deceased person, thanking the
citizens of Dubuque for returning to him his son, and requesting, them to
express to Mr. Wheeler his many thanks for the care and attention he had given
to the wants of his son during his journey from the mines to his home in
Missouri. The person who preferred the charge against young Wheeler could not be
found, and the man who wanted to get a fight on his hands had only to charge
some person with having been engaged in this tarring and feathering transaction.
The first newspaper
published in Iowa was the Dubuque Visitor, published in Dubuque, in 1836, by
John King, who was the editor and proprietor of the paper. Mr. King was regarded
at that time as being fairly entered upon the roll of Bachelors. Many of his
editorials were addressed to the ladies abroad, inviting them to visit the west,
and particularly the mines of Dubuque. In due time the ladies appeared. The
Hymeneal lasso was thrown—King was taken and quietly withdrew into private
Taking the history of past events, as a guide for the
future, we have not a doubt but the name of John King will be as familiar to the
school boy of Iowa three hundred years hence, as the name of Guttenberg is to
the school boy of Germany at the present day. The historian of that remote
period may have to grope his way through Alexandrine ashes, to trace out the
names of our early Governors, Senators and congressmen, but he will only have to
enquire at the nearest school house to be informed who it was that published the
first newspaper in Iowa.
The first type stuck in Iowa was at Dubuque, in 1836,
by a printer by the name of Keesecker, and we have heard it said that the first
letter set up by him for the Dubuque Visitor was the letter I; which afterwards
proved to be the initial letter in the name of the State. Printers have long
been regarded as being generous and liberal, if not profligate in the
expenditure of money; but Keesecker was an exception to this rule, being prudent
and economical. He was for many years regarded as the swiftest and most correct
typographer among the printing offices at Dubuque. Questions in dispute of a
typographical character, were generally referred to him, and his decision was
held to be final and decisive. He was afflicted with a stuttering impediment in
his speech out of which many anecdotes concerning him have been stereotyped in
the offices at Dubuque—one of which we give as we heard it:
When A. P. Wood commenced the publication of the
Tribune he was unwilling that Keesecker should have the credit of being the
swiftest and most correct typographer at Dubuque, and accordingly challenged him
to a trial of typesetting skill. Keesecker accepted the challenge, and the
office of the Tribune was determined open as the place where the trial should
take place. Wood, being a member of the church, it was deemed prudent not to lay
a wager upon the result, but it was understood that the party losing should give
the other a day's work. These preliminaries being settled, it was arranged that
the subject-matter to be set up should be the Lord's Prayer, and the party
completing the job first was to announce the last word as a signal that he had
finished. Accordingly the trial commenced; Keesecker setting up the prayer
according to his New England recollection of it, and Wood following the copy as
laid down in the New Testament. When Keesecker had completed the job he
commenced the announcement of the last word with a hissing, gasping, stuttering
struggle, but before he could get through with it, Wood finished the three or
four words he had to go, and shouted "Amen." Keesecker observed,
"Th-th-that's what I've be-be-be-been trying to s-s-s-say this
ha-ha-ha-half hour." The "imp" of the Tribune roller, who
presided as umpire of the trial, after duly scratching his head with his inky
fingers and revolving the matter over in his mind, in connection with the danger
of losing his situation, decided in favor of Keesecker.
We publish below a lengthy extract, of religious and civil interest, from
On the History of the First Congregational Church of Lyons, Iowa, preached
July 3d, 1864, by Rev. Geo. F. Magoun, Pastor, now Pres. of Iowa College.
Ten years will have elapsed to-night, since the
present name of this church--First Congregational Church of Lyons —was taken.
It was done at a church meeting in the old brick school house, July 4,1854. The
church, however, had been in existence as an organization covering this with
adjacent ground for nearly fifteen years previously, now nearly twenty-five
years in all. On the 21st of next December a quarter of a century will have
elapsed since that pioneer church, the mother church, of which this is a
continuation and a representative, was organized. It took place at Union Grove,
in Illinois, a dozen miles away, and a mile or two from the present town of
Morrison. It was at the house of Henry Ustick, Esq., Rev. John H. Prentiss, of
Fulton, presiding, and the master of the house, with Mrs. Abigail Ustick, his
wife, Joseph Town and Hannah Town, his wife, Eliza Prentiss, wife of Rev. Mr.
Prentiss, and Elijah Town-six persons-were organized into the first
Congregational Church of Union Grove." Six years afterwards there were
twenty members,-eighteen had been received, ten of them residents of Fulton,
eight of Lyons. One of these ten had died, and also two of the original members,
another of whom had been dismissed. the members then residing at Union Grove,
less than the original number, of whom only three now remained, organized that
year separately, and to avoid a conflict of names, and because part of the
membership was this side of the river, "residents of Lyons and
vicinity," the name of the original church, this church, was changed to
"The Congregational Church of Fulton and Lyons." The next year, 1846,
it joined the "Northern Iowa Association," there being no
Congregational bodies in the vicinity of Illinois. Eight years after—the
church being fifteen years old—a legal incorporation was effected, also on
this side of the river, the record running, "State of Iowa, Clinton
Co.," the legal name taken being, "First Congregational Church of
Fulton and Lyons; and the record adds, "to be at Lyons, in said county,
located." Twenty-six more members had been added in these years,
twenty-four of them upon this side of the river. July 4th, following the
incorporation, the church again changed its name, by dropping the word
"Fulton." On the 22d of that month the First Congregational Church of
Fulton was organizes, with seven members, four of them dismissed from this,
three of them "other professors of religion'' residing in Fulton. Our own
organization, however, was not affected by either of these changes of name or
place. It continued the same. The Union Grove and Fulton churches were other and
new churches, separating from this. The Union Grove church is extinct; if any of
its members survive, they are in the church of Morrison. The Fulton church had
the original records granted by this church ten years ago, in consideration of
its being on that side of the river;—(the records being first copied into our
book,) but that church is also now extinct, the members having all been
dismissed by letters two years ago, and the church disbanded, and the same
members, on these letters, being immediately organized into the Second
Presbyterian Church of Fulton, which of course, is not historically, or in any
way, a representative of the original Union Grove Congregational Church. Our
organization has been kept up, unbroken, from the 21st of December, 1839, until
this day. The 2lst of December, 1864, will complete the quarter of a century.
There are now more than a hundred and fifty
Congregational Churches in Iowa; there were seventy, less than half as many, ten
years ago when Fulton church separated from this. There were twenty six, one
quarter as many, when the second Union Grove church was formed. There were three
when this church was organized in 1839. These three were at Davenport, at
Danville, (near Burlington,) and at Denmark. The Davenport church was gathered
just five months before this; the Danville church just six months before; the
Denmark church nearly a year and eight months before. Previous to that year
there was but one sustaining the principles of the Pilgrims of New England in
what was then the new Territory of Iowa. That was "Father Turner's',
church" at Denmark. It was organized May 5, l838, when the settlement was
two years old, and two months before Iowa Territory was severed from Wisconsin
Territory, July 4, 1838. Denmark at that time was itself in Missouri Territory,
the old north line of which ran a little way above where Burlington now stands.
All this side of that line (11 ° N. L.) was Wisconsin till July 4, 1838, when a
new line farther south was established for a new Territory named Iowa. But years
after that missionaries were commissioned to " Fort Madison and Dubuque,
Missouri." When this church was organized there were less than 23,000
people. in Iowa. The country had been open to settlement for five years. Seven
years before there was but one inhabitant except Indians and Indian traders.
Fifteen years before, i. e., forty years ago, President Monroe proposed to
colonize the Indians west of the Mississippi here, as they would never be
disturbed by white men! In 1839 about 65 miles in width from east to west had
been in some sort opened to settlement. A few of the older towns, in the
southern part of the Territory chiefly, had been founded. a half breed
interpreter, Antoine LeClaire, had begun a village in 1833 at Davenport-on or
near the site of an old Indian one,-it had been surveyed in l837, and in the
fall before this church was planted a town organization had been effected there.
It boasted 50 buildings. About this time Iowa City was selected as the future
State Capital, Poweshiek's band of Sacs and Foxes being encamped two or three
miles o£ Three years before, "Father Turner" and Rev. William Kirby,
of Illinois, had been upon an exploring Missionary tour as far north as eight
miles this side of the spot where Davenport was afterwards commenced, where
"Father Turner" preached the second sermon in the county of Scott,
which then extended north of this place, the Territory containing but two
counties. He says that "all the West lay spread out just as the Lord made
it, in all its primitive beauty. Muscatine was disfigured by one (log) cabin.
Indians were encamped (on the site of Davenport) waiting to receive their
pensions from the Fort on Rock Island. This (Chamberlain's neighborhood above
Davenport,) was the northern boundary of civilization. There was talk of some
explorers who had gone up as far as Wapsipinecon. Dubuque, then, we did not call
a "civilized place," On the other side of the river the people were so
few that about the same time one of the earliest settlers of this place passed
down from Port Byron to New Boston, where he found the wagons of two or three
white men, having met no one on the way. As late as 1840 Iowa City was not yet
upon any map. In 1843 the Indians were still so troublesome that Fort Atkinson
was built above Dubuque, as a protection against them.
The first settlement in this county of Clinton was made
in this town four years before this church was organized, by our fellow-citizen
Mr. Elijah Buell, viz, in July, 1835. The second settler was Mr. George W.
Harlan, who had been in the fort ton Rock Island in the Black Hawk war, and
subsequently made a "claim" where Port Byron is now built. The chef
operations in this wild region then were speculations in land claims. It was in
consequence of Mr. Buell's coming here that Mr. Harlan, who, with George and
Archilbald Allen, had commenced the settlement at the head of the Rapids, sold
out at Port Byron and came here, November, 1835. Mr. Buell brought his effects,
in boats, the July previous, and built the first cabin—on the landing between
the site of Hill & Thomas' Elevator and that of the next building south. He
made hay that season down this (Main) street, where brick buildings now stand
thickest, and it being all open prairie bottom, hauled the crop toward the
river, or as we should say, down town, for protection against fire, which then
swept unrestrained over all this plateau. That fall he brought the first cattle
into the county, and wintered them on hay. At that time Mr. LeClaire was the
only inhabitant of Davenport, and a Mr. Sullivan, (afterwards of Rockingham,)
the only one of Rock Island, trading with a few boxes of goods nearly opposite
Fort Armstrong. A claim had been taken up between Fulton and Albany, by John W.
Baker, but there were no villages along this portion of the river.
The year after Mr. Buell came, (1836) Fulton and Sabula
were commenced, and Rock Island was laid out, but without any people. In the
fall of 1837 there was a beginning at Camanche; the surveyor who laid out the
place went through on foot to Chicago in the winter, and sold town lots there
from a sketch, without having driven a stake; people came from Chicago in the
spring, and Camanche was quite a town before there was anything here or at
Fulton. In l838 or 1839 Albany was begun on John W. Baker's claim. The second
Territorial Legislature meeting at Burlington in the winter of 1839--40
organized our County of Clinton, and it being represented that Camanche polled
more votes than all the rest of the county, that was made the county seat.
Subsequently, on the question of county seat being submitted to the people, one
was selected on the prairie where DeWitt now stands, there being no inhabitants
there, and a hewn log court house erected." Mr. Buell ploughed the first
land in the town and county in the spring 1836. The next spring the town plat
was surveyed. The town was then named, after the city of the same name in
France, by Mr. Buell and Mr. Dennis Warren. The first town organization was
elected when the county was organized, three years after. All over this region
then the law was "club law" for years. There were self-protective
associations at Davenport and elsewhere to defend land-claims. When our Union
Grove organization commenced in 1839, the population here consisted of 19 adults
and 26 children. A large part of them came from Canada. The families were the
following: Mr. Buell's, Mr. Harlan's, that of Mrs. Agnes Boyd, William Hogan's,
David W. Fisher's, Elijah Owen's, with Alexander Aikman and his six sons, one of
whom had a family. They all lived within forty rods of Mr. Buell's cabin by the
river. Mr. Phillip Deeds also belonged to the settlement, living then alone on
his farm to the southwest. Mrs. Boyd was the first member of this church
residing on this side of the river. She joined three months after the
organization, (in March, 1840,) and died in February, 1858. The second on this
side was Mrs. Jennet C. Boynton, (May, 1852,) who came from Canada, and has
since removed to California. The third was Mrs. Elisabeth Owen. Dea. Wm. K.
Vincent, who came in 1846 and died in 1859, was at his death the oldest resident
member on this side; but he joined the church after the first change of name.
Mr. William Warner, now of the army investing Petersburg under Gen. Butler,
would be the oldest resident member at present, if he were at home. The oldest
one continuously resident now is Mrs. Sarah Stockwell, who united on profession
April, 1849, fifteen years ago, and ten years after the organization, while it
still included Fulton.
In the early years the town grew very little. The first
trader came in 1841, a Mr. Seball, from Georgia, who sold goods for Mr. W. G.
Haun. The store is now a part of the Foundry opposite the National Bank, and was
the first frame building erected in town. The second store opened was that of
Bope & Clayker, who were succeeded by Mr. Thomas Crew, September, 1850. Mr.
Albert M. Jacobsen succeeded Mr. Seball in 1849, but shortly went out of
business. Mr. Crew was the only trader. There were about 200 inhabitants. Mr.
James Hazlett came in 1853. After that the first stores were on the landing near
his present place of business. The railroad project of 1859, to Dixon and West,
gave the first impetus to business and population. Meantime the little church
had received up to that time about fifty members. But the village was in the
earlier years so remote from the conveniences of civilization that the first
settler was in the habit of procuring his family medicines as far off as St.
Louis, an assorted supply for two or three years at a time! The first minister
of this church was Rev. John H. Prentiss who organized it. He resided at Fulton.
He was from Onondaga, "West Hill," New York; came to Joliet, Illinois,
June, 1835, organizing the Congregational Church there, and removing to Fulton
in 1838. Dr. Daniel Reed of Fulton, was one of the original members of both
these churches. Mr. Prentiss preached here a year or two, and then removed
successively to Naperville and Payson, (Ill.,) and to Onondaga where he still
resides. In June, 1841, Rev. Oliver Emerson, Jr., a member of the little church
at Davenport, who had been a Baptist minister there, but rejected by the
Baptists for not adhering to "close communion," and had preached six
months for the Congregationalists, began to preach here, "at regular,
though distant intervals, and occasionally administering the sacrament,"
continuing till 1844. Part of that time other ministers preached here—his
cousin, Mr. Thomas P. Emerson, an unordained licentiate, who had labored
previously at Marion, and Mr. John C. Holbrook, one of the first deacons of the
Davenport church, also a licentiate, commissioned for the winter of 1841-2 as a
home missionary for "Pleasant Valley, Clinton County, &c" Mr. T.
P. Emerson left the State, and Mr. Holbrook was sent to Dubuque in the spring of
1842. The appointments of these brethren were arranged by Mr. Emerson; and
fulfilled, as his were, on this side of the river. Two or three years after
(1814) his labors were directed to De Witt, Albany, (Ill.,) "and places
between and round about." Lyons and Fulton were destitute. Dea. Vincent
came in September, 1846, and his fidelity and earnestly active piety made up, in
good part, the lack of a ministry. I do not know but he ought to have almost an
equal place among those who have had the care of his church with that which
Elder Brewster holds in the church of the Pilgrim Fathers at Plymouth. The
prayer meeting he sustained with unflagging zeal In the fall of 1866 this father
in Israel, who sits before me, (Rev. Hiram G. Warner,) came here. He had been
for a few years a Congregational minister, but for 27 years previous to 1841 a
traveling and local Methodist preacher, uniting with Congregationalists first in
the Milwaukee (Wis.) "District Convention," some 23 or 24 years ago.
Father Warner is now 75 years of age. He was licensed to preach by the
Methodists at Oswego, N. Y., at the age of 25; in the year 1814. It is therefore
fifty years since his work in the ministry began. I suppose there is no other
man living in Iowa licensed so long ago as a Protestant preacher. In the spring
after he came (1847) he began to preach in his own log cabin two miles north of
town, and then in town, there being some fifteen or twenty houses, and continued
to preach there until Mr. Emerson resumed his appointments, doing missionary
work for some time in the neighborhood. He was long the only resident minister
to bury the dead. Mr. Emerson labored again between one and two years till Rev.
Silas J. Francis came, in the summer of 1840. Mr. Francis was commissioned to
"Fulton and Lyons" before the legal organization here, but lived and
preached on this side of the river two years, until l851. The next preacher was
a Free Will Baptist, Elder Junia T. Morey, who came from Rhode Island, an early
acquaintance of the Pearce family, several members of which were in the church.
He seems to have preached about two years, and now lives at Sand Prairie, on the
Wapsipinecon. In 1853-4 Mr. Emerson's work was resumed again. The people were
preparing to build their first church edifice, and he aided in this, but had no
commission for this field. In 1854, Rev. J. C. Strong, formerly a missionary of
the A. B. C. F. M., among the Choctaws, became the minister, and remained two
years. After he left in June, Mr. Lorenzo J. White, then a licentiate, was
invited to preach for one year, but declined. Rev. S. N. Grout, of Fulton, then
supplied the pulpit one month. In November Rev. Ovid Miner was engaged for six
months, "to preach one sermon every Sabbath P. M.," and Rev. George R.
Moore "to preach at 101/2 o'clock A. M.," Mr. Miner did not remain his
full time, and the forenoon service was given up in January, 1857. In the
following May, Mr. White accepted another invitation and began his labors. He
was ordained and installed the next year, (June 7,1858,) and resigned in July,
I860, after a ministry of three years and two months. A call was then given to
the present pastor, which was at first declined, and renewed in November, and
accepted, and his labors commenced with the first of December and have now
continued three years and seven months. In length of time Mr. Emerson's ministry
here is first- some six years—mine is the next longest. In the number of
members received, Mr. White's stands first—more admitted in one year than in
all of Mr. Emerson's or mine. In the number of services held and sermons
preached, mine comes even before Mr. Emerson's, for he lived elsewhere, and
supplied a number of other places, and was here not frequently. But in the self
denials, fatigues, journeyings, perils, exposures to health and expenditure of
strength it cost, there are none of us who have ever labored here who can
compare our ministry with Mr. Emerson's.
The remuneration to those who preached and ministered
in early days was very slight. Something—a
little—was paid to Mr. Emerson from 1841 down. Father Warner, being engaged in
opening a farm, was never commissioned here as a home missionary, or paid for
his labors. During the time of his preaching here and there, some four or five
years, he once received from a gentleman at the funeral of whose wife he had
preached, $2.50 in a letter. I found upon the records in Davenport that in 1810
Mr. Emerson was voted for service there $15.00 a month and a seat at the tables
of the church members in succession. In 1856 this church voted Mr. Grout $15.00
for preaching one month—one sermon a day, I suppose. The self sacrifices and
unrequited toil which the planting of these churches cost the ministers at an
early day can hardly be appreciated now. This
church has had in all three places of worship of its own. Religious services
began to be held on this side of the river first in 1836, after the new Union
Grove organization, though sometimes still at Fulton. They were held a few times
previously at Union Grove, but chiefly at Fulton. The first places of meeting in
this town were the log cabin of Mr. Daniel Hess on Second street, just north of
the foundry, and now a blacksmith's shop, and the cabin of Wm.. Logan, rented
for a time as a school house, which stood nearly on the site of the present
"St. Louis House," upon the landing. Preaching was also held at Mr.
Buell's cabin, in the Thomas neighborhood, at Father Warner's, as before
mentioned, and in what is now Clinton. In 1847, after Mr. Warner began to preach
in town, the new brick school house,—still standing with additions on Fourth
street, south of Main,—became the center for public worship. It was the
smaller part next to the street which was then built. To this the people came
from Teed's Grove, seven miles north, and from the Thomas neighborhood, four
miles south. The Congregationalists and Methodists used it alternately. The
first church edifice ever erected in town was the old brick Catholic church, now
used as a warehouse, next back of Dr. Ennis' drug store. It was built in 1851.
The second one was the brick Congregational, still standing in New Town, the
first Protestant church edifice. The subscription paper with which it was
started is dated April 16,1854; Wm. K. Vincent, Wm. Sherman and Elijah Buell
committee to whom subscriptions were to be paid. It was erected in I855-6,
principally through the indefatigable and self denying exertions of Deacon
Vincent and Wm. Sherman. For a few Sabbaths before it was opened the old brick
Catholic church was occupied. It was dedicated July 13, 1856, President
Blanchard of Knox College preaching the sermon. The prospects of that part of
the town, through which the railroad had been expected to cross from Illinois—after
the railroad interests were removed to Clinton—rendered the location
undesirable, and public service was held in it but a short time. Mr. Miner's
last preaching was in that house, and the first of Mr. White's; though Mr.
White's first sermon, the year before, was in the old Catholic church. The next
April after the dedication it was decided to build again; this lot was obtained,
an edifice of wood was erected in about two months time, and dedicated within a
year from the dedication of the brick church, less one day, vis., July 12, 1857,
the present pastor, then pastor at Davenport, preaching the sermon. In November
or December following, during a series of meetings held with the aid of Rev.
George Clark of Ohio, a Lecture Room was added at the southwest corner for
inquiry and prayer meetings. In March, 1859, a belfry and bell were added. In
February 1860 the house was destroyed by fire; the bell, the carpeting—part of
this now in use—the lamps, the settees-part of these—and one pulpit chair
being saved. In March (1860) it was voted to build again; the present edifice
was erected, though not completed, and dedicated on the 24th of June, Rev. Dr.
Haven, Professor in Chicago Theological Seminary, preaching the sermon. the
audience room then occupied but part of the building, this west end being
partitioned off for a lecture room; and the tower was built no higher than the
bell deck. In the fall of 1861 the audience room was enlarged to the size of the
house. In the fall of 1862 the spire was completed, and the present chapel
building erected, and dedicated October 12th.
The first deacons of this church were Henry Ustick of
Union Grove, and Daniel Reed of Fulton-elected January 15th, 1840, at Union
Grove, the church when first organized having no officers but Moderator and
Clerk. They served nearly six years, when Deacon Ustick went with the new Union
Grove organization, and Dr. Reed removed to Galesburg, Ill. for five years again
the church was without deacons; though it was voted that "Brother Allen
Cowles act as deacon until further action," which he did, though never
formally elected, until he also moved away. The second deacons were Wm. K.
Vincent and Grosvenor H. Rice, elected March 16, 1851. Mr. Rice ceased to be
deacon when the new Fulton church was formed ten years ago, he and his wife and
Dr. Reed and his wife (who had returned in the meantime,) being the four
dismissed to commence that organization. Deacon Vincent continued in office till
his death in Aug., 1859. The next election, May 1856, was that of Francis Page
to the place left vacant by Deacon Rice. The senior deacon living at a distance,
in April 1857, a third was chosen, Brother Amos B. Blakely, who, however, never
accepted the office, and in September Dr. Joseph Brown was appointed. In May,
1858, a Church Manual was adopted which provided for four deacons, and Messrs.
Vincent, Brown, Page and John Q. Root were chosen. After the death of Deacon
Vincent, Nov., 1839, Brother J. H. Barnun was elected to the vacancy, and on the
dismission of Dr. Brown last Dec., Dr. Albert P. Sayles was elected.
The first Sabbath School ever gathered here is said to
have been "held in the summer of 1839, in the house of Chalkley A. Hoag;
this school was not regularly organized; the first organized Sabbath School was
held in the summer of 1841 or '42, Frederic Hess Superintendent." When
Father Warner came he found none in existence, and gathered a new one, in 1847,
at his cabin two miles out of town. There are young persons here now grown to
man's and woman's estate who were carried to that Sabbath School from town,
being then children. After that there was a Union Sabbath School till 1856, in
the brick school house. Deacon Vincent was Superintendent for a while. The
Congregational Sabbath School was first held-in our brick church in 1856, with
37 members on the first Sabbath, Francis Page, Superintendent. It has had for
Superintendents since, Deacon Page, Dr. Brown, Deacon Barnum and Dr. Asa P.
Tenney. As other churches have been formed and church edifices built, other
Sabbath Schools have come into existence; the Methodist Sabbath School, for
example, being, organized May 25th, 1856, with 23 scholars.
The choir of this church has had a history specially
pleasant in that it has been chiefly composed from the beginning of the same
persons, and has been exempt from misunderstandings and dissensions. It has
been, in deed and in truth, a fountain of "harmony." Mr. Mark M. Jones
has been for the longest period its conductor. The Ladies' Societies hardly
belong to the public history of the church. The first one was organized May 28,
The other churches in town, the majority of them the
juniors of this by fifteen years, were organized in the following order: The
course of organization in the Methodist Episcopal church is peculiar, and not
after the complete form of other denominations. A "class'' was gathered
here in the summer of 1840,—the year after our organization,—by Barton H.
Cartwright, of Illinois, the first Protestant preacher in Iowa, as I suppose He
is said to have been "a member of Rock River Conference." Lyons was
made a part of Camanche circuit, and continued so for several years- "In
the summer of 1855, the circuit somewhat changed; the conference sent Rev. J. B.
Taylor, who at once commenced to make arrangements for a station. The first
quarterly- meeting of Lyons charge was held October 18, 1856." The Roman
Catholic church was gathered in 1851. The Lutheran in 1954. The Baptist church
was organized in 1855, (Aug. 23) an earlier "Fulton and Lyons" Baptist
church having been gathered in I845, and disbanded after an existence of about
four years.— The present church has no connection with that whatever. The
Presbyterian church was organized in l855, (Nov. 11) and the parish of Grace
Church in December of the same year. The German Catholic Church separated from
the other of the same denomination in Jan., 1863. Nothing ever fees. They soon
returned to Court, were discharged, and the Court adjourned till the next term.
Jeremiah Church, one of the jury, says in his journal,
they were an uncouth and barbarous looking set; that he felt constrained to
apologize to the Judge for their rough appearance —but Mr. Church does not
state whether his habiliments were altogether up to the dignity of a grand Juror
or not. Judge Williams jocosely told him that men might have clean hearts under
dirty shirts; and that in a new country every allowance was to be made for
personal attire and appearance.
Judge Williams, afterwards Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court of Iowa, possessed valuable and extensive legal acquirements, which his
long judicial career in this State has abundantly proven. He was, withal, an
inveterate joker, and never so happy as when he had an opportunity to give his
mirthful proclivities full exercise. many stories illustrating his ready wit and
appetite for fun, are related. The only person, however, who ever beat him with
the tongue, was a woman, Mary Haps. The feminine Charon of the Des Moines rather
checked his loquacity, when one day he attempted to play off one of his jokes
upon her. The Judge was boarding on the river—bridges existed only in the
imaginations of the most enterprising—and in attending Court he crossed to and
fro in a skiff. Sometimes one, sometime another ferried him over, but once there
was no man at hand. Miss Hays, a young, and in all probability, a very
good-looking lady, was washing near the river bank.
"Mary," said the Judge, "how am I to get
across this river ?"
"Why try, in a skiff, I suppose, Mary quietly
"But there is no one to bring back the boat, and I
am a poor rower. Now, Mary, really, don't you think you could take pity on a man
in such troublesome predicament, leave your interesting work and volunteer to
row me over? I'll pay you in any number of—kisses you ask, sweeter and
heartier ones than you ever received in your life."
Certainly, I'll take you over; but as to kisses, Mr.
Judge, I don't want any thing of that sort, particularly from such an old scrub
"O, I suppose you have had rather a surfeit of
that article lately. Has Jim ___"
If you want to go across, just get in and sit still, and be still!"
waited until they had got fairly out in the current of the river. Mary plied the
oars as if she had seen sea-service.
"Suppose I just turn this boat down stream, carry
you off and marry you; would it not be a delightful plan. You would just suit
me, and I would you. Certainly destiny always in tended us for mates, and I
suppose a little scheming would be excusable to gain such a lovely prize as you.
Here we go now, down the river to New Orleans, or elsewhere."
At this Mary's provoked spirit fairly glittered in her
eyes. With intensity of emphasis, she exclaimed:
"You carry me off ! You marry me! I would not have
such an old dried-up cracklin'. I wouldn't marry you if you were the last man on
earth, and a woman couldn't get to heaven without a husband; and if you don't
stop your nonsense and behave yourself, I'll pitch you head first into the
river, and you may make as long a voyage as you please, but one thing is
certain, you don't take me with you!"
The Judge, of course, stopped teasing her at this,
laughing heartily at her Amazonian threats; and rumor does not say whether he
paid his fare in exchange in Cupid's bank or not.
LAW PROCEEDINGS IN EARLY TIMES
We now propose to give something of a later date,
showing the astonishing advances made in legal knowledge in a few years, and the
jocular spirit of some of our lawyers. The history of the case we here insert is
William Oakes became indebted to various persons, in
small sums, as naturally happens in the course of business, and among others to
Reuben Davis and Wyatt Brownlee. Oakes went to Boone County to attend to a farm
he had there, and while he was gone Davis brought suit against him by
attachment, before Madison Young, Esq., and obtaining a judgment, an execution
was issued, and Mr. Oakes' cow sold by the constable to satisfy the judgment. At
this suit Mr. Brownlee was a witness. However, as it happened this cow was the
only one Mr. Oakes had, consequently she was exempt from execution; and on his
return he applied to Hon. Curtis Bates for council, who replevied the cow from
the purchaser, Wm. D. Corkeram, and she was placed again in the possession of
Oakes. Corkeram had paid sixteen dollars for her, which, of course, he did not
wish to lose, and for want of better advice sued Davis and Brownlee (plaintiff
and witness in the former suit), on the following bill:
February 21st, 1843
Reuben Davis and Wyatt Brownlee,
To Wm. D. Corkeram, Dr.
To cash paid for a cow at constable's sale, $16.00
" costs of suits before Wm. M'Clelland, Esq.* 5.00
" keeping cow four weeks, 4.00
" expenses in prosecuting and defending suits,
Total, $40 00
Davis and Brownlee were not, certainly, responsible
because Mr. Corkeram chose to buy and keep a cow illegally seized and sold by
the constable, but his attorney, Madison Young, Esq., thought otherwise, and the
parties met for trial.
To plaintiff's petition, setting forth the grounds of
his claim, the defendant returned the following answers. The reader, if at all
versed in law, will perceive they are quite a variation from Chitty, Gould, and
all the established authors upon pleading.
Mr. Young was for plaintiff, Bates and Jewett for defendants.
Wm. D. CorkeramBefore W. M'Clelland, a Justice of the
vs. Peace within and for the township of Reuben Davis and Des Moines, Polk
county, and State of Wyatt Brownlee. Iowa
The separate answer of Reuben Davis to a petition filed
against him in the above snit. And for answer to the charge in said plaintiff's
account or petition first specified, defendant says: That the defendant never
was a constable nor a deputy, nor did he ever officiate as one, nor did he ever
directly or indirectly sell, bargain, or contract to soil, bargain or contract
to said plaintiff any cow, bull, calf, steer or any other animal of that
species, either as constable, deputy constable, sheriff, deputy sheriff, or in
the character of any other officer, either judicial, ministerial or executive,
or as a private person, for himself or anybody else, either as principal or
And though said cow might have been sold,
And paid for in American gold;
Yet this defendant never did,
Either sell or take another's bid.
And as to the second account in said plaintiff's
account or petition specified, this defendant for answer says: That he never was
chosen either as plaintiff or defendant, in any suit at law or equity, which was
tried before said Justice of the Peace, and if he ever was a party it was
bald-faced meanness and transparent folly, not to inform him of it.
And that a suit could e'er be tried,
And the parties never notified
Is clearly wrong-and this Court sees,
That we are not liable for the fees.
And as to the third charge in plaintiffs account or
petition specified, defendant for answer says: That he never employed said
plaintiff to keep a cow for him, that he paid him for all the keeping of cows he
ever did for this defendant; and lastly, that this defendant never had any cow,
that plaintiff could have kept.
And Why this defendant should be dunned
For keeping of cows he never owned
Or which he never agreed to pay,
I all submitted for the Court to say.
And as to the fourth and last charge in plaintiff's
account or petition specified, this defendant for answer says: That he never
employed said plaintiff to either defend or prosecute a suit for this defendant;
that the last time he did employ him he managed it so badly that he was not
entitled to any fees, and that this defendant has paid him all his services were
And to charge this party with that load
In not according to the :Code."
And the only way we think to end it,
Is to render judgment for defendant.
J. E. Jewett, Att'y for Davis
Wm. D. Corkeram vs. Des Moines' Township, Polk
County, Reuben Davis and Iowa, Feb. 26th, 1863.
Now, as you see,
Comes the defendant Brownlee
And on his own book defends-Because
he seriously contends,
That he is not indebted;
As by said Corkeram stated.
"Persons having adverse interest to plaintiff.
May, as defendants, be joined," says the Code:
And to join those having unity
Of interest, is the true mode,
But Brownlee doth most seriously declare,
That he never joined in the suit now pending,
Is far beyond his comprehending.
Plaintiff;s bill charges the defendants, sixteen
As cash, paid by him for cow.
Which (as we gather from what follows),
He bought at a constable's sale, somehow-When
she was offered as the property of the poor man Oakes.
And being his only cow, the sale turned out a hoax.
That Corkeram in good faith, to the constable
His money paid, isn't denied;
Nor that the money was to the payment
Of Davis' judgment applied.
But what of that? This defendant was but a witness
No party to the suit-Though
he fed, for a short time,
The old, dumb brute,
But neither this,
Nor the receipt of his fees,
Could make him jointly liable
With Davis'-if the Court please,
Nor is he liable to Corkeram,
In any event;
He therefore asks for costs
And for judgment!
Wyatt Brownlee, by his Att'y, C. Bates.
We need only add to conclude this amusing affair, that
judgment was rendered for defendants; that the "poor man Oakes" kept
his cow; that Davis kept the money he received from the sale of her, by the
constable; and that Corkeram lost his sixteen dollars, which he paid to the
constable; his four dollars for four weeks' cow-pasture; and his twenty dollars,
alleged, in his bill as expenses of sundry law-suits.
Davis and Oakes were the most highly gratified at the
result, as one received payment of a just debt; the other, in satisfying the
debt, found his property undiminished. To Corkeram, it is yet an inexplicable
mystery, why, when he had paid Oakes' debts, he could obtain no relief at law!
THE TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF PATRICK
O'CONNER AT THE DUBUQUE MINES IN THE SUMMER OF 1834.
BY ELIPHALET PRICE.
In giving a detailed historical account of the trial
and execution of Patrick O'Conner, at the Dubuque mines, in the summer of 1834,
we are aware that there are many person still living who participated in
bringing about a consummation of justice on that occasion; as well as many who
were witnesses of the stern solemnity attending its closing scene; which may
subject this reminiscence to a criticism which we believe will not extend beyond
the omission of some minutia, which did not come under our personal observation.
Soon after the treaty between the United States and the
Sac and Fox Indians at Rock Island in 1839, which resulted in the extinguishment
of the Indian Title to the lands embraced in the present State of Iowa,
permanent mining locations and settlements began to be made in the vicinity of
the present city of Dubuque; and at the close of the winter of 1831, Congress
attached the country acquired under the treaty, to the Territory of Michigan,
for election and judicial purposes.
Up to that period no judicial tribunals existed in the
country, except those created by the people for special purposes. Difficulties
of a civil character were investigated and settled by arbitrators; while those
of a criminal character were decided by a jury of twelve men, and, when
condemnation was agreed upon the verdict of guilty was accompanied by the
sentence. Such was the judicial character of the courts which were held at that
time, in what was known as the "Blackhawk Purchase."
Patrick O'Conner, the subject of this memoir, was born
in the year 1797 in the county of Cork, Ireland, came to the United States in
the year 1826, and soon after arrived at Galena, in the State of Illinois, where
he embarked in mining operations Having fractured his left leg in the fall of
1828, on board of a steamboat, in Fever river, it was found necessary to
amputate the limb, which operation was performed by Dr. Phileas of Galena In
this situation O'Conner became an object of public charity. The citizens of
Galena, and the mines in that vicinity, promptly came forward and subscribed
liberal sums of money for his support and medical attendance and in the course
of time he was enabled to get about with the assistance of a wooden leg, when he
began to display a brawling and quarrelsome disposition, which soon rendered him
no longer an object of public sympathy. In this situation he endeavored to
awaken a renewal of public charity in aid of his support by setting fire to his
cabin in Galena, which came near destroying contiguous property of great value.
This incendiary act, and the object for which it was designed, being traced to
O'Conner, and exposed by Hr. John Brophy, a respectable merchant of Galena.
O'Conner soon after, while passing the store of Mr. Brophy in the evening, fired
the contents of a loaded gun through the door with the view of killing Brophy.
Failing to accomplish his object, and being threatened with some of the
provisions of lynch law, he left Galena and came to the Dubuque mines in the
fall of 1833, where he entered into a mining partnership with George O'Keaf,
also a native of Ireland. O'Keaf was an intelligent and industrious young man
about 22 years old, and much respected by all who knew him. They erected a cabin
upon the bank of the Mississippi river, near the present smelting furnace of
Peter A. Loramier, about two miles south from Dubuque; while their mining
operations were conducted in the immediate neighborhood. On the 19th of May,
1834, O'Keaf came up to Dubuque and purchased some provisions, when he returned
to his cabin about 2 o'clock in the afternoon, accompanied by an acquaintance.
Upon arriving at his cabin and finding the door fastened upon the inside, he
galled to O'Conner to open it. O'Conner replied:
"Don't be in a hurry, I'll open it when I get
O'Keaf waited a few minutes when he again called to
O'Conner, saying: ' It is beginning to rain, open the door quick."
"To this, O'Conner made no reply; when O'Keaf, who
had a bundle in one hand and a ham of bacon in the other, placed his shoulder
against the door and forced it open. As he was in the act of stepping into the
house, O'Conner, who was sitting upon a bench on the opposite side of the room
in front of the door, immediately leveled a musket and fired at O'Keaf. Five
slugs entered his breast and he fell dead. The young man who accompanied O'Keaf
immediately ran to the smelting furnace of Roots & Ewing, about a mile
distant, and gave information of what had transpired. In a short time a large
concourse of miners were assembled around the cabin, when O'Conner being asked
why he shot O'Keaf, replied, "That in my business," and then proceeded
to give directions concerning the disposition of the body. Some person present
having suggested that he be hung immediately upon the tree in front of his
cabin, a rope was procured for that purpose. But the more discreet and
reflecting portion of the bystanders insisted that he should be taken to
Dubuque, and the matter there fully and fairly investigated. Accordingly
O'Conner was taken up to Dubuque. And on the 20th of May, 1834, the first trial
for murder, in what is now known as the State of Iowa, was held in the open air,
beneath the wide spreading branches of a large elm tree, directly in front of
the dwelling then occupied by Samuel Clifton. A large concourse of people had
assembled and stood quietly gazing upon the prisoner, when upon the motion of
some person, Captain White was appointed prosecuting attorney, or counsel in
behalf of the people. O'Conner being directed to choose from among the
bystanders some person to act as his counsel, observed: "Faith, and I'll
find to my own business," and appeared perfectly indifferent about the
matter At length he selected Capt. Bates of Galena, who happened to be present,
and in whose employ O'Conner had formerly been engaged. The two counsel then
summoned from among the bystanders twenty-four persons, who were requested to
stand up in a line; when Capt. White directed O'Conner to choose from among
those persons twelve jurors. He accordingly chose the following persons, calling
each by name: Woodbury Mussey, Hosea L. Camp, John McKensie, Milo H. Prentice,
James Smith, Jesse M. Harrison, Thomas McCabe, Nicholas Carrol, John S. Smith
and Antoine Loire. The names of the other two jurors, who were traveling
strangers, cannot after a period of thirty years be discovered. It was known,
however, at the time of the trial, that six of the jurors were Americans, three
of them Irishmen, one Englishman, one Scotchman and one Frenchman. The jury
being seated upon some house logs, Capt. White observed to O'Conner, "Are
you satisfied with that jury?" O'Conner replied, "I have no objection
to any of them; ye have no laws in the country, and ye cannot try me."
Capt. White continued, "you, Patrick O'Conner, are
charged with the murder of George O'Keaf, do you plead guilty or not
O'Conner replied, "I'll not deny that I shot him,
but we have no laws in the country, and cannot try me."
Three or four witnesses were then examined; when Capt.
White addressed the jury for a few minutes and was followed by Capt. Bates, who
endeavored to urge upon the jury to send the criminal to the State of Illinois,
and there have him tried by a legal tribunal. Capt. White replied that offenders
had been sent to Illinois for that purpose, and had been released upon
"habeas corpus," that state having no jurisdiction over offenses
committed upon the west side of the Mississippi River. After this, the jury
retired, and having deliberated for an hour, returned to their seats, upon the
logs, with Woodbury Mussey as their foreman, who read from a paper the following
verdict and sentence:
We the undersigned, residents of the Dubuque Lead
Mines, being chosen by Patrick O'Conner, and empanelled as a Jury to try the
matter wherein Patrick O'Conner is charged with the murder of George O'Keaf; do
find that the said Patrick O'Conner is guilty of murder in the first degree, and
ought to be, and is by us sentenced to be hung by the neck until he is dead;
which sentence shall take effect on Tuesday the 20th day of June, 1831, at one
o'clock P. M." Signed by all the jurors, each in his own hand writing.
There was a unanimous expression of all the bystanders
in favor of the decision of the jury. No dissenting voice was heard, until a
short time before the execution, when the Rev. Mr. Fitzmaurice, a Catholic
priest from Galena, visited O'Conner and inveighed against the act of the
people, denouncing it as being illegal and unjust. Immediately the Catholic
portion of the Irish people became cool upon the subject, and it was evident
that they intended to take no further part in the matter.
Up to this time we did not believe that O'Conner would
be executed. It was in the power of the Rev. Mr. Fitzmaurice to save him, and he
was anxious to do so. Had he appealed to the people in a courteous manner, and
solicited his pardon upon the condition that he would leave the country, we
confidently believe that they would have granted it; but he imprudently sought
to alienate the feelings of the Irish people from the support of an act of
public justice, which they, in common with the people of the mines, had been
endeavoring to consummate. This had the effect of closing the avenues to any
pardon that the people might have previously been willing to grant. They,
however, up to this time would have recognized a pardon from the Governor of
Missouri or the President of the United States. Application was made to the
Governor of Missouri to pardon him; but he replied that he had no jurisdiction
over the country, and referred the applicant to the President of the United
States. President Jackson replied to an application made to him that the laws of
the United States had not been extended over the newly acquired purchase, and
that he had no authority to act in the matter; and observed, that as this was an
extraordinary case, he thought the pardoning power was invested in the power
that condemned. A few days before the execution, a rumor got afloat that a body
of two hundred Irishmen were on their way from Mineral Point, intending to
rescue O'Conner on the day of execution. Although this report proved not to be
founded in truth, it had the effect of placing the fate of O'Conner beyond the
pardoning control of any power but force. Runners were immediately dispatched to
the mines to summon the people to arms; and on the morning of the 20th of June
1834, one hundred and sixty-three men, with loaded rifles formed into line on
Main street in front of the old "Bell Tavern," where they elected
Loring Wheeler Captain of the Company, and Ezra Madden, Woodbury Massey, Thomas
R. Brasher, John Smith and Milo H. Prentice, Marshals of the day. The company
being formed six-a-breast, marched slowly by a circuitous route to the house
where O'Conner was confined, while the fife breathed in lengthened strains the
solemn air of the Dead march, accompanied by the long roll of the muffled drum.
The stores, shops and groceries had closed up their doors and life no longer
manifested itself through the bustling hum of worldly pursuits. All was silent
as a Sabbath mom, save the mournful tolling of the village bell. Men whispered
as they passed each other, while every countenance denoted the solemnity and
importance of the occasion. Two steamers had arrived that morning from Galena
and Prairie. Du Chien, with passengers to witness the execution. The concourse
of spectators could not have been less shall one thousand persons.
The company having marched to the house occupied by
O'Conner, now owned by Herman Chadwick, halted and open ed in the center, so as
to admit into tihe column the horse and cart containing the coffin. The horse
was driven by William Adams, who was seated upon the coffin, and was employed as
executioner. He had on black silk gloves, and a black silk handkerchief secured
over and fitted to his face by some adhesive substance, which gave him the
appearance of a negro. The Marshals soon came out of the house, followed by
O'Conner and the Rev. Mr. Fitzmaurice. The two latter took a position directly
behind the cart, while the former mounted their horses and rode to the front of
the column, which now moved slowly to the smith-shop of Thomas Brasher, where
the irons were stricken from O'Conner by Henry Becket. Our position in the
column being in the front rank, following the priest and O'Conner, we were
enabled to observe the bearing of the latter. He seemed to have abandoned all
idea of being released, and was much distressed, wringing his hands and
occasionally ejaculating detached parts of some prayer, "Will the Lord
forgive me?" he would frequently ask of Mr. Fitzmaurice, who would reply,
"Whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved,"
together with other like scriptural expressions. After he returned from the
smith-shop, the Captain of the company desired him to get into the cart, when
the priest observed, ' No, I wish to talk to him; let him walk." Capt.
Wheeler replied that he had orders to place him in the cart; but would go and
state his request to the Marshal. Accordingly he advanced to where Mr. Madden
was setting upon his horse, who observed in a loud tone of voice, "No; if
that gentleman wishes to talk with him, let him ride upon the cart with the
murderer." This was spoken harshly and contemptuously by Mr. Madden, who,
we learned afterwards, was deeply offended at some remarks previously made by
Mr. Fitzmaurice concerning himself, and imprudently took this opportunity to
retaliate, which we have reason to believe he afterwards regretted.
The Captain of the company delivered the message as he
received it, though in a more pleasant tone of voice. Fitzmaurice bowed
respectfully to the message, but made no reply. O'Conner being now seated upon
the coffin, the column commenced moving forward, to quarter minute taps of the
drum, and arrived about twelve o'clock at the gallows, which we erected on the
top of a mound in the vicinity of the present Court House. The company here
formed into a hollow square, the cart being driven under the arm of the gallows,
at the foot of which the grave was already dug. The Captain immediately ordered
the company to ground arms, and uncover. Even many of the spectators removed
their hats, while the priest offered up, in a clear and distinct tone of voice,
a fervent and lengthy prayer, parts of which were repeated by O'Conner, who, at
the close of the prayer, addressed a few remarks to the people, saying that he
had killed O'Keaf, that he was sorry for it, and he hoped that all would forgive
him. Then pausing for a moment, he observed, "I wish Mr. Lorimier and
Gratiot to have my—" here he was interrupted by the priest, who observed,
"Do not mind your worldly affairs; in a few minutes you will be launched
into eternity; give your thought to your God.,' The hangman now spoke to
O'Conner and assisted him to re-ascend the cart, when he adjusted around his
person a white shroud; then securing his arms behind him at the elbows, he drew
the cap over his face, fixed the noose around his neck, and lastly, he removed
his leg of wood; then descended from the cart, and laid hold of the bridle of
his horse and waited for the signal, which was given by one of the Marshall, who
advanced into the open area, where he stood with a watch in one hand and a
handkerchief at arm's length in the other. As the hand of the watch came around
to the moment, the handkerchief fell, and the cart started. There was a
convulsive struggling of the limbs for a moment, followed by a tremulous
shuddering of the body, and life was extinct. The body hung about thirty minutes
when Dr. Andros stepped forward, felt of his pulse, and said., "He is
dead?" The body was then cut down and placed in the coffin, together with
his leg of wood, and deposited in the grave. The company now marched in single
file to the front of the Bell Tavern, where a collection was taken up to defray
the expenses, when the company was disbanded. Immediately; after this many of
the reckless sad abandoned outlaws, who had congregated at the Dubuque Mines,
began to leave for sunnier climes. The gleam of the Bowie knife was no longer
seen in the nightly brawls of the street, nor dripped upon the sidewalk the gore
of man; but the people began to feel more secure in the enjoyment of life and