Iowa State Gazetteer, Shippers' Guide and Business Directory.
Chicago: Bailey & Hair, 1865

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Mills County.


         Originally included in Pottawattamie County, has, since her separate organization, been bounded on the north by Pottawattamie, on the east by Montgomery, and south by Fremont Counties, while the waters and quicksands of the turbulent Missouri mark her western terminus. Her Territorial limit is the same as the smallest counties in the State, comprising four hundred and forty square miles.

         The general surface of the county, (excepting the Missouri River bottom, which is about six miles in width, and consequently comprises about one-fourth of her territory,) is high, rolling prairie, yet there is but a small portion of the land too rough or hilly to be unfit, or even undesirable for cultivation.  The large number by strangers as well as citizen farmers, whose flocks can at all seasons of the year so easily find their way to water. As a whole county, it is well supplied with timber, the proportion of timber and prairie being as one to ten.  The western portion of the county is more abundantly supplied with timber than the eastern, the bluffs contiguous to the Missouri bottom furnishing abundance of hardwood, while the groves of stately cottonwood bordering the river furnish material for fencing and building to the greater part of the county. There are some half-dozen steam saw mills busily engaged in working the timber into lumber. Along Silver Creek, which meanders the county from north to south, (a good mill stream,) and its tributaries, are extensive groves of hardwood timber, burr oak, pin oak, black walnut, hickory, white ash, elm, etc., and so with Mud Creek, Farm Creek, Indian Creek, and smaller streams, tributary to the Great West Fork of the Nishnabotany River, which sweeps through the eastern part of the south line of the county. Unfortunately for the beautiful and extensive valley of the Nishnabotany, it is not well supplied with timber.

          The soil of the county is a light sandy loam, and like the most part of the Missouri Slope, has no clay sub-soil, joint clay or "hard pan." The well-digger finds no more difficulty in excavating at the bottom of the well fifty feet deep, by the use of the spade alone, than in throwing off the first foot of the surface, the soil being the same; and while this is true, the walls stand so firmly that there is no neccessity for "curbing" at all; in fact, there are wells of ten years standing only walled up as high as the water. Experience has left a firm conviction in the minds of observing farmers, that the absence of clay subsoil is greatly to the to the advantage of grain growers. In wet seasons, the porous soil absorbs quickly the superabundance of water, and becomes damp to a very great depth, and transmits its moisture to the surface when the season is dry, and unless two or more wet or dry seasons follow in succession, the crops are seldom affected by either. For corn, spring wheat, and the whole catalogue of vegetables and root crops, the soil is well adapted and pleasant to cultivate, producing ordinarily twenty bushels of wheat, and sixty bushels of corn per acre. Diversity of opinion exists as to the tame grasses, whether they will flourish well or not, it being generally conceded that annual timothy and clover is apt to die out on account of the light nature of the soil. Yet the native grass has furnished so excellent a substitute for the tame, that thorough experimenting with the latter, has perhaps, not been indulged in, nor will it be until the necessities of the farmers demand it.

        Fruit, such as apples, pears, cherries, grapes and the smaller fruits of the hardiest kinds, flourish well; but peaches are not so certain, though they are raised. As has been the experience in all new countries, the trees imported from eastern nurseries have generally proved a failure, and consequently the production of fruit has been sadly delayed. Now, however, our nurseries have been for four or five years supplying the demand, and Mills County can boast of as many thrifty young orchards of choice fruit, just beginning to bear, as heart could wish. The writer of this, having been familiar with the flavor and beauty of the best fruit in Ohio, was last fall forced to acknowledge that Mills County produced such looking and such flavored apples as he never saw before. They grew on a young orchard a few miles.

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east of Glenwood, on trees planted by the hand of that exemplary Christian and pioneer of the M.E. Church on the Missouri River and in the Rocky Mountains, Elder Wm. H. Goode.

      Extensive limestone quarries are found all along the bluffs of the Missouri River, and at a number of other places in the county. One very extensive quarry of sandstone or freestone has long been worked in the northeastern part of the county, and from this quarry were cut the doors, window sills and caps used in the capitol building of Nebraska. Stone coal is said to have been found in limited quantities in several places along the bluffs, but as yet no vein is sufficient to warrant the working.

      From what has already been said of the soil, and the abundance of springs and living streams of water, it need only be added, that the dry winters, (for it seldom rains in the winter time,) and an abundant growth of wild prairie grass, at one settled the question, that no other locality in the same latitude can be better adapted to stock raising, particularly horses, mules, cattle and sheep, and to this branch of agriculture, the attention of farmers is becoming mainly directed. The absence of direct railroad transportation is no serious detriment to this class of farming industry, when the Eastern markets are looked to, and the absence of such communication is, perhaps, and advantage, when the wants of the gold-seekers of the West are to be supplied.

       The streams or water courses of the county suitable for mill seats are Mosquito Creek, which wends its way leisurely across the northwest corner of the county, through the Missouri River bottom; no mill, however, has ever been erected thereon within the limits of the county. Keg Creek strikes the north line of the county west of the centre, and making its way through the range of bluffs, strikes the Missouri bottom two miles below Glenwood, and winds its way down to the Fremont County line, before emptying its waters into the Missouri. This stream, on the older maps, is called "Five Barrel Creek," taking that name from the circumstance of so many half barrels of whiskey having been found by the U. S. dragoons, buried in its banks, near the present town of Glenwood, having been secreted there by persons carrying on such, "contraband trade" with the Indians. On this stream, at the present site of Gordon's mill, adjoining Glenwood, was built the first flouring mill in the county, by J. W. Coolidge, in the summer of 1849. There are now two other mills on this stream, one above and one two miles below Glenwood. On Wahabonsy Creek, a small stream, taking its name from the Pottawattamie chief of that name, (who, in the removal of that tribe from this county, was the last to yield to the pressure of the Government for that purpose,) rising near the centre of the county and flowing southwesterly, there has long been a saw mill, and now in its stead is a small woolen factory running three or four looms. On Silver Creek, before noticed, there are now flouring mills, and one saw mill. On Mud Creek, a rather weak tributary of the Nishnabotany, is one saw mill, and also one on Farm Creek, another, but larger streamer in the northeast corner of the county; and perhaps another saw mill on Indian Creek, a few miles further south. On the Nishnabotany River, a stream affording abundance of water-power, there is but one saw and flouring mill erected at the village of White Cloud, south and east of the centre of the county.

      The western terminus of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad is fixed in Mills County, on the banks of the river east of Plattsmouth, Nebraska, and at the mouth of the Great Platte River. This road is completed to Ottumwa, and at some future time, will be finished to the western terminus, and form the direct eastern link of the Great Pacific Road. The Council Bluffs & St. Joseph Railroad is located on the Missouri Bottom, and at the breaking out of the Rebellion, was so far under way as to be mostly graded through the county, but its southern connection being the Great Platte Railroad, of Missouri, further work was abandoned, and has not yet been resumed. The Missouri River affords our means of trade and commerce with the south and east, and its capacity is ample. A regular forwarding, storage and commission house has long been located at the Glenwood Landing, called Bethlehem or Sharpsburgh, where hundreds of tons of freight are annually shipped and received.

       Indulging in a word of commendation for this county, we feel no hesitation in asserting, with due deference to the excellent advantages and qualities of many other counties in our

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noble State; that her citizens generally feel that for agricultural purposes, their county is second to none, and is really entitles to the honor of being called, as she often is, "the garden spot of the State."

      The civil townships in the county are eleven in number, namely: Anderson, Glenwood, Indian Creek, Ingraham, Lyons, Oak, Plattsville, Rawles, Silver Creek, St. Mary and White Cloud.

       HISTORY.-- The County of Mills is so named in memory of Frederick Mills, a brave young officer of Burlington, Iowa, who was killed in one of the battles of the Mexican war. Foremost in the conflict, he was seen among the first to fall. The battle field was searched and researched by his comrades, but his body was never found. The heroic bravery of young Mills, and the mysterious disappearance of his remains excited general remark in the newspapers of the State, and hence when a new county was to be organized, the tragic story of that young officer readily suggested a name, and thus will the name of Frederick Mills be remembered when monuments of marble have yielded to the ravages of time.

       A separate organization for Mills was effected at the general election on the first Monday in August, A.D., 1851, by the election of William Smith, County Judge; W. W. Noyes, Clerk, and James Hardy, Sheriff. The first term of the District Court was held at Coonville (now Glenwood) the succeeding October, Judge James Sloan, a native of Ireland, of the Mormon persuasion, presiding. Tradition awards to Judge Sloan's Court the usual amount of  "back-woods" incidents.*

       To the disciples of Joseph Smith, the great Mormon Prophet, is due the honor of being the first white settlers on this county. In August, 1846, a little over one year after the State was admitted to the Union, a party of his followers numbering about thirty, pitched their tents on the Missouri River bottom, on the east side of Keg Creek, about four miles north of the present south line of the county.  The great Prophet had just been massacred at Nauvoo, and his followers were making their way to the Promised Land, (Salt Lake.) Too late to reach their destination, preparation for winter became necessary. The abundance of timber afforded materials for building log cabins and blazing fires for the people, and from the luxuriant growth of grass food for stock was readily obtained. One cabin raised, and another, and when winter came the new settlement in the wilderness presented a village-like appearance, and so it was christened Rushville. Of the Rushvillians, William Brittain, a much-respected citizen, and his family who now live in the suburbs of modern Glenwood, are said to be the only ones remaining, and may consequently be put down as the oldest white settlers. True it is, however, that Henry Alice, who resides a mile above St. Mary, on the river bottom, traversed our soil at a much earlier day. In the fall of 1934 Mr. Alice landed in Nebraska, where Bellevue now stands, as an Assistant Missionary to the Pawnee Indians of the American Board of Foreign Missions. He was brought up the river on one of the American Fur Company's boats. Colonel Peter A. Sarpy, who died at Plattsmouth, Nebraska, in January, 1865, and who was long a citizen of Mills County, was then (in 1836) trading with the Indians in this county. But as Mr. Alice was not located in Mills County till about the year 1853, Mr. Brittian has precedence as the first settle.  Few even of the oldest citizens are aware that Rushville ever has an existence--for it vanished as a settlement with almost as much haste as it was created. Yet a visit to forsaken Rushville will not fail to afford satisfactory evidence of its antiquity. The mounds of chimneys are yet visible. Near by in the burying ground, one rudely carved tombstone only attracts the eye of the visitor. It is native limestone, presenting a smoth surface of a foot square with this inscription:

* It is related of the Judge that a very modest member of the bar politely attempted to enlighten his understanding upon some statutory provision by opening the Code and offering to read therefrom, when to his chagrin and mortification, he was met by the stern rebuke of his honor--"Sit down Sir, down--to h--l with your Cud, the Court has the law in his head!"  By the second time the Judge came on the round of his District to hold Court at Coonville, the "Gentile" population had grown more numerous, and for some cause determined that his honor should no longer administer the laws hereabouts, and being informed of this fact by a committee of citizens, who sported rather "forcible" arguments, he cordially acceded to their demands, and was not long after succeeded on the bench by Sam. H. Riddle.

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"J. Eastman, died April 10th, 1847, aged 60 years," which is all the writer can learn of probably the first white man who died in the county.

     The first white child born in the county was Andrew J. Stewart, born in the fall of 1846, but whose father soon after removed to Salt Lake with the "first-born." The oldest white child born in the county now living here, is Miss Caroline L., daughter of William Brittain, born January 12, 1847.

     Among the Rushvillians were also Libeus T. Coon, afterwards proprietor of Coonville, Silas and Ira Hilman, and J. Everett. Mr. Coons is yet living in Harrison County. Cutler's Camp, at Silver Creek Grove, was the next settlement in the county, in the fall of 1847. These settlers or sojourners were also the followers of Smith, and comprised about seventy-five families, none of whom now remain. Cutler, the leader in that branch of the church lived in a cabin on the farm now owned by Daniel Lewis, who is among the first of the "Gentile" settlers of Silver Creek.

     GLENWOOD, the seat of justice of Mills County, was so named by act of the General Assembly, approved 12th January, 1853, and the seat of justice also permanently located here. It was incorporated as a City by special act approved January 17, 1857, and has ever since preserved her city organization. It is most beautifully located a few miles west of the geographical centre of the county, in the valley of Keg Creek, surrounded by a growth of large timber. A young growth on the town site furnishes beautiful shade trees, and the neat cottages nestled in and  among the shady groves furnished a happy contrast with the prairie towns. The site itself is very suggestive of the name "Glenwood." It is six miles to the landing on the Missouri River, with a perfectly level road, and consequently while Glenwood lays little claim to being a commercial metropolis her close proximity to the River makes her communication easy with the commercial world.

      In the spring of 1848 the town site of our present Glenwood was first settled by Libeus T. Coon, Silas and Ira Hilman, William Brittain, G. N. Clark and others, who have all passed form our view except Mr. Brittain. The first house erected in Glenwood was built at the northeast corner of the present town site, and was destroyed by fire about four years ago. The next one, erected almost simultaneously, still remains the glory and pride of our primitive architecture. It is the low, slab-roofed ten-by-twelve log cabin standing on the rear of the "Bett's House," on Mr. Mewes' lot. In this house it is said the first school was taught in Glenwood--our fellow citizen D. H. Solomon playing the pedagogue. William Coolidge is said to be the first white child born in Glenwood --in December, 1849.

      Probably the first death was that of the wife of Silas Hilman, who died in the summer of 1849.

      There are three church buildings in Glenwood, two brick and one frame--the M.E. church owning the frame building, while the Congregational and Baptist societies each have a brick house of worship.  The Christian denomination have also an organized society. A large brick school house was erected in the summer of 1856 for the use of the public schools but its capacity has long since failed to accommodate the increased number of scholars, and the Independent School District of Glenwood has now in course of construction a brick Union School House at an estimated cost of ten thousand dollars, to be completed by the fall of 1866, which will add a new interest to this already thriving town. A mammoth Court House of brick, costing about forty thousand dollars, adorns the public square.

      The Glenwood Lodge, A. F. & A. M., No. 58, meets regularly every 3d Saturday evening in each month. Glenwood Lodge I.O.O.F., No. 97, meets every Thursday evening. Glenwood Lodge 1.O.G.T., No. 125, meets every Monday evening. The Glenwood weekly Opinion, furnishes, every Saturday morning, news from all the world, published by T. P. Ballard, formerly of the Iowa City Republican.

      WHITE CLOUD is in the eastern part of the county on the West Nishnabotany River. It has one general store and one flour and saw mill.  Population 24; township 300.

      The other villages and post offices in the county, are Benton, Pacific City, St. Marys, Sharpsburg, and Wahabonsy.

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