The History of Keokuk County, Iowa

Early Settlements

    Every nation does not possess an authentic account of its origin, neither do all communities have the correct data whereby it is possible to accurately predicate the condition of their first beginnings. Nevertheless, to be intensely interested in such things is characteristic of the race, and it is particularly the province of the historian to deal with first causes. Should these facts, as is often the case, be lost in the mythical tradition of the past, the chronicler invades the realm of the ideal, and compels his imagination to paint the missing picture. The patriotic Roman, was not content till he had found the "First Settlers" and then he was satisfied, although they were found in the very undesirable company of a she bear, and located on a drift, which the receding waters of the Tiber had permitted them to preempt.

   One of the advantages pertaining to a residence in a new country, and the one possibly least appreciated, is the fact that we can go back to the first beginnings. We are thus enabled not only to trace results to their causes but also to grasp the facts which have contributed to form and mould these causes. We observe that a State or county has attained a certain position, and we at once try to trace out the reasons for this position in its early settlement and surroundings, in the class of men by whom it was peopled and in the many chances and changes which have wrought out results in all the recorded deeds of mankind. In the history of Keokuk county, we may trace its early settlers to their homes in the Eastern States and in the countries of the Old World. We may follow the course of the hardy "Woodman of the "Buckeye" or the "Hoosier" State on his way west to "grow up up with the country" trusting only to his strong arm and his willing heart to work out his ambition of a home for himself and wife, and a competence for his children. Yet again, we may see the path worn by the Missourian in his new experience in a land which to him was a land of progress, far in advance of that southern soil upon which he had made his temporary home, in his effort to adapt himself to new conditions. We may see here the growth which came with knowledge, and the progress which grew upon him with progress around him, and how his better side developed. The pride of Kentucky blood, or the vain glorying of the Virginia F. F. V's, was here seen in an early day only to be modified in its advent from the crucible of democracy when servitude was eliminated from the solution. Yet others have been animated with the impulse to "move on," after making themselves part of the community, and have sought the newer parts of the extreme West, where civilization had not penetrated, or return to their native soil. We shall find little of that distinctive New England character which has contributed so many men and women to other portions of our State and the West, but we shall find many an industrious native of Germany or the British Isles, and a few of the industrious and economical French—all of whom have contributed to modify types of men already existing here. With confidence that general results will prove that there is much of good in everything, and that a justice almost poetic has been meted out to the faults and follies, to the foibles and the virtues of the early settlers of this county, we may now enter upon their story.

   As before stated, prior to October 21, 1838, the whites were not allowed to settle in any part of the territory now embraced in the boundaries of Keokuk county. At that time the United States came into possession of territory before held by the Indians; this new territory embraced within its bounds a small portion of what is now Keokuk county, including nearly all of the southeastern (Richland) township, and about half of the first, and a small portion of the second townships north of it. Upon this "strip," as has already been shown, the whites were then entitled to settle. This, however, cannot be taken as the date of first settlement; prior to that time a number of claims had been made and improvements commenced. The treaty had been made, and although, theoretically, this was forbidden ground, and the pioneers could at best but take a position on the border line and view at a distance the promised land, yet, practically, the country was open for exploration some months sooner, and the more adventuresome land-viewers and claim-seekers crossed over, looking at the country and marking the best localities, in order that they might be the better prepared to make an intelligent selection before settling a permanent claim. Early in the spring of this year a claim had been taken and a permanent settlement began. From this time, therefore, must be traced the history of Keokuk county, and at that time must be dated the "first settlement."

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