IAGenWeb Project

Iowa History

       An IAGenWeb Special Project


Join the IAGenWeb Team







April 7


In the spring a man named Bennett put up a small saw mill on Spoon river, some two or three miles below us and Slocomb cut some logs on the river bank and floated them to the mill for lumber with which we built an addition to our house. One day I went with the loggers and while in the timber stirred up a doe and a fawn. The latter hid in a clump of bushes and I caught it, cared for it during the day and took it home at night by which time it was extremely hungry. At milking time it smelled the milk and was ready for me when I went to feed it and sucked my finger and drank the milk like a calf. About this time we got a young puppy and the dog and the fawn were raised together even eating together for a time. It was not long before the pup developed the dog habit of growling when eating and the deer got timid about eating with him. But they grew up together as pets and were a very interesting pair. In their play the deer would frequently make a high jump with the evident intention of landing on the dog, but always got out of the way. Likewise when the dog would jump for the deer the deer was never there. In their racing the deer was the faster of the two, although the dog was fast, being part hound. One day I went to mill and dog and deer went with me. At the mill some other dog got after the deer and he flew for the brush and timber and the dogs soon lost him. A little later he appeared up the road some distance away and we found him at home on our arrival. Later when we were digging potatoes some boy with dogs came along and the dogs startled the deer. The potato lot was endowed by a high fence and the deer went over the fence like a bird through the brush for home. We measured the jump and from track to track it was thirty-two feet. When we moved from there we killed the deer, which broke my heart and at this late date it seems a heartless thing to have done.

During the season of 1835, from the time the grass was high enough to pastures until the close of the season a steady stream of immigrants came pouring into and passing thru this section. Nearly every day one could look out on the road or over the prairie and see the white covers of the prairie schooners slowly winding their way. A large number were our old acquaintances in White County and some of our relatives, among the latter being some of the Beck, Nevitt, Slocomb and Withrow family’s including my sister Betsey and her husband James Withrow, a number of them going into Henry County.

In the fall of 1836 a man named Clark came into our section looking for a location and to him Alfred Slocomb sold our place agreeing to give possession the following spring.

A little before this Slocomb had become interested in a townsite that had been located on the Mississippi river in Whiteside county near the mouth of the Meradois river by two brothers named Corbett and they had claim shanties on the place, one standing about where the present post office in Albany is located, the other on a little knoll on the river bottom a little above the present residence of Mrs. Nevitt, but on the river side of the railroad track. Slocumb and Billy Nevitt with some others, bought out the Corbett brothers and during the winter went up with teams and supplies to improve the place. They went over to Beaver Island and cut logs with which to build a house which was the first house built in the village now known as Albany. It was built on the side of the hill near the residence now occupied by Charles Slocomb.
Several trips were made between this place and the Knox county home during the winter and I went up on one of them and remained for some time.

We moved to the new location the next spring or rather in the early summer as we left about the first of June 1836. We had all become very much attached to the place and were quite homesick at the thought of leaving it. Some twenty-five or thirty families had settled around us during the last two years and we had formed some very close friendships. I might say here that many of the descendents of those people are still living in that locality.

We had accumulated a surprising amount of movable and more or less valuable property, much of which was disposed of by public sale, I think. There was left however, several wagon loads of stuff and we had a good bunch of stock, some of which had been bought from White county.

The first night out we stopped at a farm house at Henderson Grove. The second night we camped on the open prairie on which night the coyotes gave us an elegant serenade which interfered with our slumbers and caused a good deal of uneasiness among the stock, but did us no harm. The third night we reached Rock river at Wilson’s ferry, and the fourth night found us at Campbell’s Island on the Mississippi. Here I saw a steamboat for the first time on the Mississippi river, a stern wheel boat called the Gipsy. As we traveled up the river we came upon the wreck of the Emerald at where is now Rapid City and there we camped for the last time before reaching our destination. There was a storm that night and we slept in a house for shelter. There I saw the first pile of coal out on the bank for use of steamboats. At where is now Port Byron the next day we found a few houses and I believe there was one or two at where is now Cordova. One of the Corbett’s was operating a ferry across the Meredosia over which we crossed and were soon at the end of our journey, the place then being called Van Buren. At the ferry I saw Indians for the first time. There were a number there and the smell of them caused considerable commotion among our animals. It may seem a little surprising that there was a ferry in operation at his time and at this point. There was at this time a good deal of travel along the river bank between Galena and Rock Island and a horse back mail route had been established between the two places.

Immediately we began to build a house with the remainder of the logs harvested from the island the past winter. This was the second house to be built and was located near the bank of the river and was of considerable size being “double length” and two stories as it was intended for a hotel. It was sided with short clap boards, some four feet in length riven (?) out by hand as there were no saw mills in that section and northern lumber had not yet made its appearance. Its shingles were also made by hand.

Other people arrived and built houses and soon we had quite a community. Among them were Uriah Cook; Clem Nevitt; John Culbertson; Johnathan Davis; and right here I will say that a daughter of his was the first white child born in the community; Samuel Mitchell; Gregg and Oliver McMahon and their parents; Isaac and Erastus Allen; Samuel Searles; Chester Lusk; C. R. Rood who was our first school teacher, and two men named Chandler and Niblar.

Mitchell and the McMahon’s had come from around on the Ohio river and brought their effects in a barge that was towed up by the steamer Brazil, commanded by Capt. Orrin Smith who later became president of the Minnesota Packet Company, and at the time was making regular two week trips. They, Mitchell and McMahon, brought material for a house or two which they immediately got up a little lower down the river and which they called Lower Albany, what is now Union street being the dividing line. Sinclair Booten came in about this time and built a house on land south of won afterward called the Ellingham house. He returned to White county after one winter’s experience considering the country too cold.

As soon as possible after getting settled we began to think of making crops. Alfred Slocomb rented fifteen acres below the “Dosia” as tho Merdosia was universally called, that they previously been broken and a darky and myself were assigned the task of ploughing it and raising a crop of corn. In our operations we frequently had to swim the “Dosia” our clothes tied to the ox yoke to keep them dry, the tails of the oxen tied together and the two of us hanging there to. We also broke some ground for ourselves on the eighty acres now occupied by Harry Booth and W. D. Yopat, as well as small patches here and there as everyone was anxious to get in some crop.


Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure


back to History Index