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By Sue Rekkas


Willard Barrows


The Daily Gazette, Wednesday Morning, March 8, 1865, page 4.


  For Idaho – Our old-settler friend Willard Barrows, Esq., leaves in a day or two for Virginia City, Idaho, taking along a number of ladies.  The party goes by river all the way to the headquarters of the Missouri, and from there only a couple hundred miles of land travel remain.  We wish him and his fair companions a safe and pleasant journey, and hope the red men of the plains will allow them to reach their destination without depriving their craniums of the hairy appendages that now adorn them—a trifling operation they very much like to perform whenever they get a good opportunity. 



The Daily Gazette, Tuesday Morning, April 4, 1865, page 4.


Steamer Bertrand Sunk – A telegraphic dispatch dated Omaha, April 3rd, received yesterday from Willard Barrows, Esq., informs us that the steamer Bertrand which was on its way to the headwaters of the Missouri, having on board a large number of passengers bound for Idaho, among which was quite a number of Davenporters, is sunk 20 miles above Omaha.  The cargo is a complete loss but the passengers were all saved, and the Davenport folks are “all well.”  Friend Barrows had better take the old land route.  If he can keep clear of the Indians it is the safest after all.  No danger of “snags” or “sand bars” on the great “sage-brush” road.


The Daily Gazette, April 13, 1865, page 4.


 The Sinking of the Steamer Bertrand – Our old friend W. Barrows, Esq., returned Tuesday evening from the Missouri River, where he was wrecked on the steamer Bertrand, on the first day of April, being bound for Montana, by way of Fort Benton, and having on board his daughter, Mrs. Millard, and children, and several other lady passengers, some from this city.  Mr. B. says the Bertrand was snagged about twenty-five miles from Omaha and sunk in five minutes, carrying down a cargo of groceries valued at $300,000—which will be nearly a total loss.  The Bertrand was a new boat, valued at $55,000, and becomes a total loss.  Most of the effects of the passengers were saved, and the cargo was generally fully insured.  No blame was attached to the pilot, as the snag was entirely out of sight.  The disaster took place in the day time, amid pleasant warm weather.  About one third of the cargo had been taken out in a damaged condition when Mr. B. left.


There were about forty passengers, none of whom were lost; and most of them were transferred to the U.S. Grant, which is bound for Fort Benton.  The scene on board—as described by Mr. B.—at the time of the accident, was thrilling, many leaping over-board and swimming to the shore.  One side of the boat rested in twelve feet of water, and careened over into water twenty feet deep.  One side of the upper deck was above water, from which the passengers were taken off by small boats.


Mr. B. leaves this evening for St. Louis to try again.  He had twelve tons freight on board, was fully insured, and if not too late in the season, will yet see Idaho as it is.




 The Daily Gazette, October 2, 1865, page 3.


Three Thousand Miles up the Missouri.




(From the Boston Review for September.)



The Missouri River, from its constant changes in its channel and the caving of its banks, carrying with it trees whose roots soon become fastened in the sands on the bottom, is a river of snags.  The tops of the trees are soon worn and broken so that they become pointed, and always lying with the current, they are elevated in general to the surface.  Sometimes the whole tree becomes submerged and out of sight.  This was the case with the case with the one that the Bertrand struck.  It was a submerged log.  The scene on board for a time was very exciting.  Ignorant of the depth of water in which the boat lay, and the depth to which she might go, all were at a loss what to do.  She soon struck bottom and commenced to careen over into deep water, when the chairs, tables and other furniture of the cabin were thrown to one side; glass ware, crockery, skylight windows, and glass doors of the cabin were broken as the croaking, laboring vessel was parting and straining her timbers in rolling over.  The screams of women and cries of children for a time passed description, and can be understood only by those who have experienced such a disaster.  Many jumped overboard and swan for the shore, others made their way as best they could for the hurricane deck and pilot house, while others stood in mute despair, speechless and powerless.


The scene was soon over, and the boat rested on a ridge of sand in water twelve feet deep and running off into twenty feet on the starboard side, being about thirty feet from the shore.


The boat’s yawl was got ready immediately after she struck; and a line made fast on the whore, when it returned and commenced taking off the passengers, who had gathered upon the bow of the boat.  The gang planks were soon floated to the stern, and a staging made from the guards of the ladies’ cabin to the shore, when all were taken off in safety, and landed on a sandy beach, four miles from any inhabitants or shelter.


We were on the west, or Nebraska side of the river.  The little town of De Soto was some five miles distant.  A runner was sent for teams to convey the passengers to a place of shelter for the night, while others were soon engaged in erecting temporary shelter for such as were obliged to remain.


A few of the ladies and children were sent off before night, but the greater number of the passengers remained upon the ground.  The crew of the boat were soon at work removing freight from the wreck, out of which the walls of rooms twenty foot square were soon made and covered with tarpaulins.  Carpets and furniture of the boat were brought on shore, and bedding from the state rooms, some stoves set up, and the people made comfortable for the night.


The cook house being on the boiler deck was not submerged, and its stove and fixtures soon erected on shore and in full operation.  There were ample boat-stores saved, and a good supper was smoking upon our dining table before the sun set.


No goods stored on the boiler deck or in the ladies’ cabin were wet, except such as rolled off when the boat careened; but the freight on the main deck, and in the hold of the vessel, about two hundred and fifty tons, mostly groceries, was nearly a total loss.  The boat valued at forty thousand dollars, was partially insured; and the freight generally.  All were turned over to the Underwriters on Insurance, who must have loss two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.


In about five days, the steamer U. S. Grant, belonging to the same company which owned the Bertrand, came along, and all who could, and desired, were reshipped on her for Fort Benton, with such of their effects as were saved from our unfortunate boat.  She became a perfect wreck.


We returned to Omaha with the ladies and children in our charge, where they remained with friends until we returned to St. Louis, purchased another stock of goods, and shipped them on the steamer Roanoke, with nearly the same officers and crew that were on the Bertrand.  She left St. Louis on the 2nd of May, and on the 13th we all took passage again at Omaha for Fort Benton.


On this boat we have some thirty passengers, with a freight of about two hundred and fifty tons.


We passed the wreck of the Bertrand this afternoon, May 14th, and also the wreck of the steamer Cora, snagged five days since, and a total loss; though no lives were sacrificed.


We passed the wreck of another steamer today, the 15th, the E. O. Stanard, snagged yesterday and took off some of the passengers, of which she had about forty.  Also passed the R. P. Converse with shaft broken, thirty days out from St. Louis, bound for the Mountains.  These boats were all bound for Fort Benton with heavy freights and passengers.  Boats sunk, in Missouri generally become a total loss, as they fill so quick with sand that it is impossible to raise them.


We are now in the worse portion of the Missouri River for navigation.  From Omaha to Sioux City, or to the mouth of the Big Sioux River, a distance of some two hundred miles, the river spreads over a large extent of country, varying in width from a quarter to a mile in width, and from one to twenty miles between its main bluffs.  It is heavily timbered, its channel narrow and full of snags.  When once above this section we are comparatively safe from snags and the scenery on its banks grows more interesting.






This is the Headstone of Willard Barrows in Oakdale Memorial Gardens, Davenport, Iowa.  His wife, Anne was a founder of the cemetery.  His death occurred on Sunday, January, 5th, 1868 from heart disease.



1860 Federal Census   State of Iowa County of Scott   City of Davenport


Barrows    Willard      54    surveyor

                   A H             54

                   Sarah J       26

                   Carrie G     22

                   Benj H        12

Williams   Nathaniel   86

Boil            Grace         23    servant


History of Iowa from the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century, Volume 4.

Iowa Biography – Notable Men & Women of the State, page 14.


WILLARD BARROWS was one of the first Government surveyors of the public lands of Iowa.  He was born at Munson, Massachusetts, in 1806 (September 25th) and received a good education.  In 1832 he was employed in surveying the lands of the Choctaw Purchase and later the swamp lands of the Yazoo River.  In 1837 he came to Iowa and was employed in the first surveys of the “Black Hawk Purchase,” along the Wapsipinicon River.  In 1838 he located with his family at the new town of Rockingham on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River, five miles below Rock Island.  In 1840 he surveyed the islands in the Mississippi between the Rock River and Quincy.  In 1853 he made a careful examination of northern Iowa and published an excellent map of the State, with descriptive notes.  It was by far the best map of Iowa that had been made and was adopted as the official map of the State, when published in 1854.  Mr. Barrows was an extensive traveler over the American continent and an accomplished writer.  He was the author of the first history of Scott County, which was published in the old Annals of Iowa.


The Daily Gazette, Monday Morning, January 6, 1868, page 4.



Barrows – at his residence in this city, January 5th, at 2 o’clock p.m. Willard Barrows aged 51 years.

  Funeral services at Presbyterian Church this Monday afternoon at 2 o’clock.  Friends of the family are invited to attend.


The Daily Gazette, Monday Morning, January 6, 1868, page 4.


  Another “Old Settler” gone—It becomes our painful duty this morning to chronicle the death of another old settler, William (Willard) Barrows, Esq., one of our most respected citizens, who departed this life yesterday, after a lingering and painful illness.  This event had been looked for by his friends for some time past; he was reported to be in a dying condition as we went to press last Saturday morning.  His malady was heart disease.  The deceased was too well known and appreciated by our citizens for any words of ours to add to the estimation in which he was justly held.


Daily Gazette, Monday Morning, January 6, 1868, page 4.


  Notice to Old Settlers – The members of the Pioneer Settler’s Association are requested to assemble at the residence of the late Willard Barrows, Esq., at 1 o’clock p.m., this Monday, January 6th to attend the funeral of our deceased brother.

   By order of the President,

    D.P. McKown, Sec’y.


Daily Gazette, Tuesday Morning, January 7, 1868, page 4.


The funeral services of the late Willard Barrows. Esq., were held in the Presbyterian Church, at 2 o’clock, yesterday afternoon.  The building was well filled; very many of our oldest settlers were to be seen scattered here and there throughout the audience.  The funeral sermon was delivered by Rev. S. McAndrews, basing his remarks on Job six, 25, and 27:

  “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:

   And though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God:

   Whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold, and not another;

     though my reins be consumed within me.


After the sermon a short address was delivered by Elder Challen, of the Christian Church, in which he gave a brief review of the life of the deceased.  At the close of his remarks, he read a favorite hymn of Mr. B., which he had desired to have used at his funeral; accordingly it was sung by the choir, and after the closing prayer the corpse was borne out by the following gentlemen as pall-bearers:  Dr. Barrows, Judge Wm. L. Cook, C. C. Alvord, D. P. McKown, John Owens, Isaac Glaspell, Samuel Little and Nathaniel Squires –“Old Settlers”—which organization was out in large numbers, and took especial charge of the funeral.


The following sketch of his life we condense, in part from Davenport – Past and Present:

 Mr. Barrows, was born in Monson, Mass, in 1806, and passed most of his youth in New England.  Previous to his choosing his life profession, that of a civil engineer, he labored several years very successfully as a teacher at Elizabethtown, N.J.  In 1835 he was introduced to his profession by a government contract to finish the surveys of the Choctaw Purchase in Mississippi, an exhibition fraught with many interesting and often dangerous incidents.  After completing his work he proceeded to ST. Louis intending to return east via the lakes.  On the up river trip in the spring of 1837 he fell in with Col. George Davenport and Mr. Duncan Campbell Eldridge, who tried to persuade him to locate here.  He landed here and went on an exploration to the Cedar River, scarcely known at that time to the while man.  In the fall of that year he was engaged upon the first surveys of Iowa, continuing the work though the following winter, during which time he was on the Wapsipinicon River.  In the spring of 1838 he returned to his home in New Jersey where he had left his wife.  Two years afterwards we find him engaged in farming in addition to being Justice of the Peace, Post Master and Notary Public.  The surveys were resumed in 1843 and he was sent into the Kickapoo country, north of the Wisconsin River, where his party narrowly escaped starvation.  From 1845 to 1850 he was almost constantly engaged on government and county surveys in Iowa.  In 1850 he took advantage of the general dullness of business to make a long desired visit to the Plains and the Rocky Mountains.  His experience, on this trip, full of hardship and danger, were given our citizens in a series of brilliant articles published in the Banner.


After remaining some time in California Mr. B. returned home in 1851 via Central America and Cuba, stopping a while in the latter country.  During the year 1854 he published “Barrows’ New Map of Iowa, with Note.” Issued from the house of Doolittle & Munson, Cincinnati, Ohio.  This was at the time a very important work: copies of it were ordered by the Legislature for each of its members and for each of the officers of the State.


 About 1859 he wrote a very excellent historical sketch of our country, since which he has been known as the “Historian of Scott County.”  Having within a few years past gone into banking business and established a branch in Virginia City, he has spent considerable time visiting the gold-bearing regions of the Rocky Mountains.  For three years past he had not been much away from the city—his health having become impaired.






 A large number of the pioneer Settlers of Scott County having assembled at the residence of the late Willard Barrows, Esq., January 6th, 1868, for the purpose of paying the last tribute of respect to his memory, the Hon. James Thorington offered the following preamble and resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:

 WHEREAS, It has pleased Almighty God again to visit our number, and take from our midst one of the earliest of our pioneer settlers, and a well beloved companion, Willard Barrows, Esq., it becomes us, therefore, to properly express ourselves on the occasion of this sad and solemn bereavement, and show such mark of respect and esteem as is due on such occasions: therefore.


Resolved.  That in the death of Willard Barrows, we feel that we have lost one of our most genial and whole souled members. His place will be missed at our annual meetings, in the Community and at the social board; his going forth from among us forever, will indeed, make us realize the fact that we are fast hastening to the “undiscovered country from whose Bourne no traveler returns.”  Willard Barrows loved the Old Settlers and probably was the first to give us a “distinct identify (?)” as “Old Settlers.”  He was the historian of Scott County.  We therefore cherish his memory.


Resolved.  That we sincerely condole with his widow and family in their lose, and that we will attend the funeral in a body.


Resolved.  That the officers cause these resolutions and preamble to be signed and published in the Gazette and Democrat of this city, and that a copy be furnished the family of the deceased.

                                                                          Israel Hall,

D. P. McKown,                                                         President








Collected and Transcribed by

Sue Rekkas

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