IOWA HISTORY PROJECT
HAIR, JAMES T., Ed. Iowa State Gazetteer, Shippers' Guide and Business Directory. Chicago: Bailey & Hair, 1865
|government were held out to them to make them abandon the
manners and customs of the savages, and apply themselves to agriculture,
but it was of no avail. They chose to lead their primitive, untrampled
life, to supply their wants from nature's storehouse, to fish and hunt,
"and chase the bounding deer."
A few of the younger ones learned to read and write, but their education extended no further. They desired no teachers save the "Great Spirit," at whose shrine they worshipped, and no books, except the book of nature, which was spread out before them. It became necessary to remove them, in order to give place to a more permanent settlement of the country, and, with their removal, the necessity which led to the erection of the Fort and Mission was obviated. They were both abandoned by the government many years ago, and have been sold to private individuals.
The permanent settlement of the county commenced in 1848. Frances Rodgers, George Bachel, F. J. Huber, David Reed, George Ream, Wm. Day, Philip, Morse and Wm. Painter were among the first settlers.
The first marriage in the county of which there is any record, was solemnized on the 26th day of October, 1851. The parties were Johannes Evenson and Katherine Hellene. The officiating clergyman was Rev. N. Brant. The first child known to have been born in the county was ---- Bachel, son of George Bachel, Esq. The exact date of his birth is unknown but it was some time in the fall of 1849.
The climate of the county is quite similar to that of corresponding latitudes farther east, with the exception that there is usually less snow and less severe cold weather. Spring usually opens about the 10th or 15th of March.
The soil is variable, but principally a rich, black loam, with a slight intermixture of sand, to the depth of several feet. The uplands are well adapted to raising wheat, while the bottom lands cannot be surpassed for corn and vegetables.
The county is well timbered, about one-fourth of it being heavily timbered, on-fourth oak openings, and the balance prairie. It is watered by the Canoe, Upper Iowa and Turkey Rivers, and their tributaries, and numerous springs. The streams all have gravelly beds, swift currents, and pure water. While the county is excellent for agriculture purposes, its facilities for manufacturing are unsurpassed to the West. On each of the rivers good mill privileges can be found as often as once in two miles, and each have a sufficient volume of water to carry any reasonable amount of machinery. Besides, there are quite a number of springs gushing forth from the bluffs, of sufficient capacity to "drive the busy mill."
Dunnings Mill is decidedly a novelty. It is propelled by a stream which gushes forth, cold and pure, from a bluff, 50 feet above its base, and is carried by a conductor, and falls upon a double overshot wheel, from ten feet above the top of the mill. Trout Creek also deserves a passing notice. This stream is about one-forth as large as the Upper Iowa, and comes forth in one large spring, from the foot of a perpendicular bluff, about two miles from its mouth. It has its source about two miles south of Decorah, and empties in to the Upper Iowa about two and one-half miles southeast from that place, at the southern bend of the river. At the head of the stream A. Aikins, Esq., has established a woolen factory and carding machine.
While speaking of natural curiosities, there is one which must not be omitted. Just opposite Decorah, in the bluffs of the Iowa River. There is a large fissure in the rock, known as the "Ice Cave." It descends into the bluff some two hundred feet, and in summer, at the inner extremity, water is continually trickling down the rocks, and congeals into ice. The warmer weather outside the more ice is formed within. While it is extremely cold in summer, in winter it is warm. This has never satisfactorily accounted for.
In general, the surface of the county is gently rolling, but along the streams are high, rocky bluffs, and the uplands are accessible to the bottom lands by means of the many ravines which run in every direction. The prairies are well watered, and agreeably diversified with groves and thickets. Washington, Franklin and Madison prairies are noticed for their adaptation to farming purposes.
The county is well adapted to raising stock. On the bottoms the prairie grass grows in abundance, while the table lands produce good crops of clover ad the tame grasses. In
|some sections of the county there is yet a good range for
cattle, but the country is do fast settling up, and being improved, that
the time is near when the people will be compelled to keep their stock in
enclosures, at all seasons of the year. This will be no great
inconvenience, as there is plenty of timber for fencing, and there are so
many springs and spring brooks that most of the farms are well supplied
It has been thought by many that fruit would do well, owing to the fact that the trees first transplanted in this locality were brought from Southern Iowa and Illinois, and were not sufficiently hardy to stand the cold winters, but it has now been satisfactorily demonstrated, by some of the most enterprising farmers, that the hardier varieties, which are raised from the seed in this locality, will do well. There are already varieties, which are in the county, which look thrifty and bid fair to pay the owners for all the trouble they have had in raising them. The smaller fruits, such as currants, gooseberries, English raspberries, and the like, grow to perfection. The groves afford an abundant supply of wild plums, blackberries, and other wild fruits.
The county now contains a population of between 16,000 and 17,000 inhabitants, and is rapidly increasing. The McGregor Western Railroad is now completed to Ossian, and it is confidently expected that the Decorah's Branch will be completed the current year.
But few counties in the State hold out better inducements to immigration. Her resources are yet but partially developed. There are thousands of acres of uncultivated soil awaiting the finishing touch of the finger of art to make it a garden, and her beautiful rivers run unimpeded over hundreds of places where industry and capital combine might near a large mechanical and manufacturing business. These opportunities will doubtless, soon be improved and Winnesheik will take rank among the wealthiest counties in the State.
DECORAH, the county seat, is situated on the Upper Iowa River, about three miles east of the geographical centre of the county. It was first settled in the spring of 1849, by Wm. Day, who was followed, the following June, by Wm. Painter. There were no flour mills within seventy miles, and these men were, for a tine, compelled to grind flour for their families in a coffee mill, and bolt it with a sieve. They lived comparatively alone for two years, but in 1851, immigration commenced pouring in upon them. Mills, hotels, stores, mechanical shops and private dwellings sprang into being, as if by enchantment, and yet not sufficiently fast to supply the demands of trade. A large extant of country has a commercial centre here, and but few, if any, interior towns in the State do as large a business. Nearly all kinds of farming implements are manufactured by several firms, and yet they fail to supply the demand. Twenty-five stores are doing a thriving business and others will be opened soon. During the last year two brick and stone stores were erected, which for capaciousness and convenience cannot be erected west of Chicago.
The educational facilities of the town are not as good as would be desirable, yet there are schools sufficient to accommodate all the children and youths. The Norwegian Lutherans have a Theological College in operation, and have a large attendance of pupils. They are erecting, on the west side of the river, a college building, which cannot fail to be a credit to the place, and to the Scandinavian element of the population. It is a large substantial brick structure, built on an eminence and commands a view of the whole town -(page is torn and missing here)- the surrounding country. There are two church edifices owned by the Congregational and Methodists, respectively.
BURR OAK is in the northern part of the county, in a township (page is torn and missing here) twelve miles northwest of Decorah. It has two churches, Methodist (page is torn and missing here), three general stores. Population, 300.
SPILLVILLE is on Turkey River, southwest of Decorah (page is torn and missing here)
churches, one general store, one flour mill and one saw mill (page is torn and missing here) Population, 1354.
FESTINA is in the southwestern part of the county (page is torn and missing here)
miles from Decorah. It contains a Roman Catholic Church (page is torn and missing here)
and distillery, and one woolen factory. Population 200. (page is torn and missing here)
NORWEGIAN LUTHER COLLEGE, DECORAH, IOWA
COURT HOUSE AT DECORAH.
Winnesheik County, Iowa
| FREEPORT is a thriving village
in Decorah township, three miles east of Decorah. It was settled in 1848,
and contains one church, (M. E.,) a good school, one general store, one
hotel, one physician, one flour mill, one saw mill, one grocery and two
wagon makers. Population, 250.
BLUFFTON is in a township of the same name, on the Upper Iowa River, about twelve miles northwest of Decorah. It has a Methodist Episcopal Church, one flour and saw mill, and one general store. The northern part of the township is good timber, the central, rich river bottom, and the balance prairie. Population of village, 150; of township, 500.
HESPER is in the northern part of the county, fourteen miles from Decorah. It has four church organizations, two Quaker, Methodist Episcopal and Second Advent, and one Lodge of Good Templars; also one flour and saw mill, and one general store. The township, on the north and west, is prairie, the remainder burr oak openings. The soil is rich and fertile, well watered and well supplied with good timber and building stone. Population of township, 1,000.
OSSIAN is on the McGregor Western Railroad, forty miles from McGregor, and twelve miles south of the county seat. It has a Baptist Church, three general stores and one grocery. It was laid out in 1864.
FORT ATKINSON is situated on Turkey River, in the southwestern portion of the county. It contains two churches, Baptist and Presbyterian, one flouring mill, and three general stores. Population of township, 1,000.
SPRING WATER is in Canoe township, three miles northeast of Decorah. It contains one flour and saw mill. Population of township, 600.
CASTALIA is in the southwestern portion of the county, on the McGregor Western Railroad. It has two churches, Baptist and Methodist, also two general stores and one saw mill. Population, 60; of township, 800.
The remaining post offices and villages are Big Canoe, Calmar, Canoe, Frankville, Locust Lane, Moneck, Morgan, Old Mission, New Alba, Plymouth Rock, Twin Spring, Willimantie and Winnesheik.
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