ANNALS OF IOWA
VOL. VII. IOWA CITY, OCTOBER, 1869. NO. IV.
RECOLLECTION OF THE EARLY SETTLEMENT OF
N. W. IOWA.
BY N. LEVERING, MECKLIN, MO.
The town is situated on the east bank of the
Missouri River, about one and a half miles below the confluence of the Big Sioux
and Missouri Rivers, and extending east as far as the Floyd River, embracing an
area of about one thousand two hundred acres of very beautiful bottom and table
lands, and extending back upon the high lands which overlook the rich and
beautiful valleys of the Floyd, Perry Creek (which winds its way through the
city) and many miles of Nebraska. The beauty and great natural advantages of
Sioux City soon began to attract much attention and a lively interest among
enterprising men. During this year (1855) a town company was organized under the
style of " the Sioux City Company," consisting of Dr. J. E. Cook, Gen.
A. C. Dodge, of Burlington, Gen. G. W. Jones, of Dubuque, Hen. Williams &
Co., of Fairfield, Dr. S. P. Yeomans and H. C. Bacon, of Sioux City. Through the
efforts of these gentlemen a tide of emigration was soon turned toward Sioux
City, and north-western Iowa, cabins of the sturdy pioneers were soon visible
springing up as if by magic over the fertile prairies. county
seat was moved by a majority of fourteen of the legal voters of the county, from
Thompson town, (or Floyd's Bluff) to Sioux City, where it still remains.
Sometime in 1855, 1 believe, a settlement was commenced in the east part of the
county, on the Little Sioux River, and a town rayed out which was called Smith
Land, in honor of its founder, Aaron Smith, who I think was the first settler at
this point. Curtis Lamb, Elijah Adams, John and William Turner, and many others
soon followed, so that in the spring of 1856, there were some forty or fifty
settlers in and about Smithland. In the same year, and about the same time that
the settlement was commenced at Smithland, a settlement was commenced at what
was called Sergeants, on the Missouri River bottom, about seven mires below
Sioux City. A town was staked off here by Dr. J. D. Crockwell and other. Several
houses were built here during 1855, and among them two or three business houses,
one of which was occupied by Alexander McCrady, for a dry-goods and grocery
store. This place attracted some attention and flourished for a season, but the
rapid growth of Sioux City soon checked its progress for several years. In the
spring of 1856, Sioux City received a new impetus in facilities for improvement.
The steamboat "Omaha," freighted for Sioux City, arrived early in
June. She had on board several frame houses, and a large amount of provisions;
the latter was very acceptable, as provisions were becoming quite short. Austin
Cole, formerly of Iowa City, was in the spring of 1855, elected justice of the
peace, the first in the county, and opened a boarding house in this place during
the winter of 1855-6. Early in the spring his stock of provisions got quite low,
and none were to be had nearer than Council Bluffs, a distance of one hundred
and ten miles. Now Austin was in the habit of taking a nip, as he called it,
quite frequently, and so frequent had been the nips of Austin and others, that
their whisky, as well as provisions, had ran quite short. So Cole rigged up a
team end set out for Council Bluffs, for a supply of the necessaries of life.
Having arrived at the Bluffs, he set about at once to make his purchases, that
he might relieve the famine and drought at home as early as possible. Among his
purchases was a bbl. of the needful. He started for home, but finding the roads
extremely bad he concluded to leave a part of his load on the way, not being
able to take all through. As milk was quite scarce at home, he concluded the
whisky had better be carried through; accordingly the provisions were left
behind, and our host arrived in due time with what was left of the whisky, to
the great disappointment of his boarders, who were longing for a change of diet,
more than a change of spirits.
By the 1st of January, 1856, some eight or ten hewed
log houses had gone up; among them were the Western Exchange, and a double log
house near the levee occupied as a hotel and known afterwards as the Hagy House;
residence of Dr. J. K. Cook & Co. The want of lumber impeded the growth of
the town materially. Notwithstanding this, the town grew rapidly and emigration
poured in so rapidly that many were obliged to camp out. The Sioux Indians were
now becoming excited and jealous of the advance of civilization, and fearing
that their hunting grounds would be tampered with by the white men, their
principal chiefs, "Smutty Bear" and "Strike the three,"
ordered the settlers to leave, which orders were repeated with threats of
violence; which in no manner intimidated our pioneers or checked the tide of
emigration. These threats and menaces were accompanied by some demonstrations of
hostilities, such as stealing horses, cattle, &c. Several small expeditions
were started out against them, but without accomplishing much good, when Gen.
Kearney, who was then, I think, stationed at Fort Randal, about one hundred and
fifty miles above Sioux City, on the Missouri River, was ordered with troops for
the protection of this point. He stationed his command near the mouth of the Big
Sioux River, on the Dakota side, and issued orders to the Sioux not to cross
over to the Iowa side, without a permit from him, under the penalty of death,
which for sometime checked depredations. The bloody battle of "Ash
Hollow" was yet fresh in their minds, and the name of Kearney struck terror
to their savage hearts.
Jos. Lionais, sometime in the spring of 1855, sold his
claim of one hundred and sixty acres to the Sioux City Company, for three
thousand dollars, which claim was rayed out into lots, and called Sioux City
East addition. The pressing necessity of mail facilities was now much felt.
Application was made and a route obtained from Council Bluffs to this point, and
in the first week of September, in the same year (1855), the first stage and
first mail arrived at Sioux City, which wee hailed by the denizens as a bright
omen of prosperity, which seemed to infuse into them new life and spirits, as
the many empty bottles and happy looking faces indicated that evening. Dr. J. E.
Cook, I think, was the first Post Master.
This winter was one of severity, and one for
which few of the settlers were prepared; consequently there was considerable
suffering among them. There were two stores opened in the place during the fall
and winter, one by Tootle and Jackson, in a small log house, and the other by J.
M. White and J. T. Copeland, in a tent, when in the spring of 1856, they erected
a story and a half hewed log store room on the corner of Third and Pearl streets.
This spring the total population numbered about one hundred and sixty souls,
within the city limits. This spring the
(To be continued.)