The History of Keokuk County, Iowa



All the lands of Keokuk county were surveyed from 1843 to 1845.  At that time Gen. James Wilson was surveyor-general of the United States for Wisconsin and Iowa.  Gen. Wilson entered into contract with various deputy surveyors, who entered upon the work of surveying the lands shortly after the ratification of the treaty whereby the Indians ceded the land to the government.  From copies of field notes of the original surveys, it appears that the work of running the township lines for Keokuk county was performed by deputy surveyor Alvin Burt, and was completed July 31, 1843.  The sub-divisions of the township into sections was begun shortly afterward.  Townships 74 and 75, range 10, were surveyed by deputy surveyor S. W. Durham, and the work was completed September 30, 1843. Township 76, range 12, was surveyed by the same deputy, and the work completed October 20, 1843.  Also townships 74 and 75, range 11.  Deputy surveyor George W. Harris sub-divided townships 76 and 77, range 10, completing the work November 10, 1843.  Township 75, range 13, was sub-divided by deputy James E. Freeman, finished November 30, 1843.  Geo. W. Harris also certified to the survey of 76 and 77, in 11, on the 20th day of November, 1843.  November 26, 1844, Henry Wiltse completed the survey of township 77, range 12.  Townships 76 and 77, range 13, were surveyed by the same deputy, the work being completed December 9, 1844.  The remaining townships were surveyed later by deputy surveyor Samuel C. Wiltse, the entire survey having been completed by March 1, 1845.  As a matter of course no lands could be sold by the government till these surveys were completed, and it was fortunate for the settlers that they were not offered until some time after, as very few of them were in a condition to purchase. So long as the lands remained unsurveyed, there was no danger of the settler losing his claim, but when the surveys were completed the lands were liable to be thrown on the market at any time; and in such a case the claim-holders who were not prepared to purchase were at any time liable to lose their homes, or else come into conflict with the general government.  It was probably in view of these difficulties, and the hardships which would befall many worthy pioneers, that no land located in Keokuk county was thrown upon the market till 1846.

In 1846 the government offered for sale all the lands in the county.  The land office at that time was located at Fairfield and on the first day of the sales all the settlers who had provided means, either in person or represented by bidders, were on hand.  The sales were made exclusively for cash, and the government would receive nothing but bills on the State Bank of Missouri and specie in payment. General Lowe, who had been deputized to purchase land for quite a number of the settlers, started for the land office with a large sack of gold and silver, it being all that a large strong horse could do to bear up under the weight of that bag of specie and the rider.  The minimum price of the land was a dollar and a quarter per acre. The sale continued two days and ostensibly, the land was sold to the highest bidder, but in reality there was but one bidder to each tract and that was the owner of the claim or his representative.  During the two days sale there were disposed of about one hundred and fifty tracts.  The following are the names of the men who entered land at this, the first land sale for the county:

William Basey, William Dunn, O. Tharp, J. W. Snelson, Daniel Connor, Conrad Shivey, Joseph Lowe, Jacob Wimer, Jacob B. Whisler, William Jacobs, J. A. Pitzer, Aaron Gaskell, Hawley Ice, Joseph Knox, George M. Holliday, Benjamin P. Shawhan, Samuel Singmaster, Samuel Walley, John Oswald, Elisha Byers, David Morgan, Mahlon Haworth, John Haworth, John Singleton, Jeremiah Hollingsworth, Eli Haworth, Allen Hayworth, G. Hayworth, J. R. Edwards, Moses H. Husted, William Bales, Elizabeth Pringle, Thomas Rhodes, J. R. Hobson, M. A. Woodward, Joseph Hadley Henry Dickerson, Griffin Abraham, David Stout, William W. McGrew, James Hutton, Walter Braden, Samuel Fye, Jeremiah Fye, James Williams, Aaron Miller, Elijah Menefee, Meshack Davis, Thomas Sater, Mitchell Gill, Valentine Nelson, Jacob Shoemaker, J. B. Brown, Samuel Bowman, Robert Blacker, Jacob Ashcraft, Benjamin Robinson, John J. Franklin, Reuben Whitson, William Scearcy, William Campbell, Charles Friend, Caleb Scott, Theodore Cox, John J. Smith. Z. Bothkin, Milton Brittain, Charles P. Lyon, John Cox, F. M. Brittain, Elias Petre, Owen Monahon, Andrew Taylor, Joel Skinner, Thomas Richardson; C. M. Wood, Moses McConnell, Philip Henninger, Jacob Smith, David Hawk, Jeremiah Brown, James Green, Finley Messick, J. G. Brooks, Roland Driskell, William T. Beard, Henry Koons, G. W. Hathhorn, D. P: Helm, Joseph Hillery, N. Macy, Solomon Beaver, David Lentz, Tinsley Brooks, B. McCoy, William Trimble, Henry Able, Joseph M. Manifold,. Joseph Young, William Waugh, Parrish Ellis, Maxon Randall, Andrew J. McNabb, John Scott, William McCann, Jacob Luce, William Lacy, Joseph McGlasson, James Chitwood, Mary Burnside, Joseph Butler, John Stroup, Samuel Mealley, David N. Henderson, Thos. Henderson, James Jenkins, John Baker, John Shockley. Wesley Goss, Robert Alexander, Michael Hornish, William Shockley, John Warner, William C. Cole, Benjamin Cobb, William Trueblood, Asa Cobb, James Williams, John. Greenlee, Elijah Shockley, Peter Helwig, William Lyle, David Voltmer, Charles Bakehouse, James Keegan, Thomas Cobb, Johnson Collings, Presley Doggett; John Lambert, John Cobb.

This was the only public sale of lands that was held for the land lying in Keokuk county.  Thereafter individuals went in person, or by agent, to the land office and entered such lands as were available. Some time afterward there was a land office established at Iowa City.  Lands situated in the southern half of the county, as before, were to he entered at Fairfield, while those lying in the northern half of the county, had to go to Iowa City to enter their lands.  Several, whose names appear in the foregoing list of purchases, still live on the identical tract of land purchased in May, 1846, and all such, without exception, are pleasantly situated and have acquired quite handsome fortunes.  Of the land originally entered the largest share was situated on or contiguous to streams of water, the settler thinking it impossible to live away from timber.  On this account the best land in the county was not entered for some time, and thus fell in the hands of non-residents and speculators.  Large portions of such land lay untouched for years, but at the present time the plow has found its way into these rich alluvial prairies.

Transcribed by Steven McBride. Thank you, Steve!


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