Dr. S. W. Moorhead
Keokuk, the metropolis of Lee County, is beautifully situated upon the
romantic and picturesque bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River at
the foot of the Des Moines Rapids, in the southern part of Jackson
Township and the extreme southeastern corner of the State of Iowa. This
place was called by the Indians Puck-e-she- tuck, which some writers
have interpreted as meaning "the foot of the rapids," but Francis
Labiseur, who acted as interpreter in the negotiation of some of the
early treaties, and who understood the language of the Sacs and Foxes,
says its liberal meaning is "where the water runs still."
The first habitation built by a white man within the present limits of
the city was the log cabin erected by Dr. Samuel C. Muir in 1820. In an
address before the Old Settlers' Association in 1875, Capt. James W.
Campbell says this cabin "stood on the right hand corner of Main and
Levee, as you ascend the street." Doctor Muir had been a surgeon in the
United States army and was stationed at Fort Edwards. He married an
Indian girl and when the government officials issued an order that all
soldiers having Indian wives should abandon them, he resigned his
position as surgeon. Circumstances then compelled him to practice
medicine elsewhere, so he leased his claim at Puck-e-she-tuck to Otis
Reynolds and John Culver, of St. Louis, who employed Moses Stillwell as
their agent to open a trading house there.
Stillwell, accompanied by his two brothers-in-law, Amos and Valencourt
Van Ausdal, took possession in the spring of 1828. During the preceding
winter he had visited the claim and erected two cabins, one of which,
near the foot of Main Street, he occupied with his family — the first
white family to take up a residence at the foot of the rapids on the
Iowa side of the river. A little further up the hill he cleared a small
patch of ground, where he raised some corn and potatoes in 1828. A
short distance below the cabin he built a stone building about 15 by 40
feet, using the stone bluff for the back wall. This building was
erected for a warehouse for Culver & Reynolds and was used until it
was carried away by the great ice gorge in 1832. Margaret, a daughter
of Moses Stillwell, born in 183 1, was the first white child to be born
in what is now the City of Keokuk.
Shortly after Mr. Stillwell established himself at the foot of the
rapids, the American Fur Company erected a row of five houses at the
junction of Blondeau and Levee streets and installed Russell Farnham as
resident manager; Joshua Palean, Mark Aldrich and Edward Bushnell,
clerks. Paul Bessette, John Shook and Baptiste Neddo came as trappers
and hunters. The buildings of the American Fur Company were of hewed
logs and for many years were known as "Rat Row." John Connolly, John
Forsyth, James Thorn and John Tolman were employed by the company as
itinerant peddlers and in the collection of furs. Andre Santamont also
came with the company's employees and built his cabin not far from
where the roundhouse of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad
was afterward erected. He was the stepfather of Francis Labiseur, the
interpreter above mentioned.
The lease of Reynolds & Culver expired in 1830, when Doctor Muir
again took possession of his claim and formed a partnership with Isaac
R. Campbell, the firm succeeding to the business established by Moses
Stillwell. Doctor Muir died of cholera in 1832 and at the breaking out
of the Black Hawk war in that year the American Fur Company sold "Rat
Row" to Isaac R. Campbell and abandoned the field, leaving Mr. Campbell
and thirty-four employees as the entire male population. Fears of an
Indian attack were entertained, and at the suggestion of Maj. Jenifer
T. Spriggs, who had come to survey the half-breed tract, a stockade was
built around Mr. Campbell's establishment and a small blockhouse was
constructed. The men were organized into a military company, with Major
Spriggs in command. Mr. Campbell was elected lieutenant and commissary
and wrote to the commandant at St. Louis for a supply of arms and
ammunition. The company was furnished with a small swivel gun,
thirty-four muskets and 500 rounds of ammunition, but no attack was
Among the white men in Keokuk at this period were William McBride,
Thomas W. Taylor, John Gaines, William Price and Alexander Hood, all of
whom came in the year 1831. In an article on "Recollections of the
Early Settlement," written by Isaac R. Campbell and published in the
Annals of Iowa for July, 1867, the writer says: "Horse racing was a
great source of amusement to us; in this sport our red friends were
ever ready to participate, and at times lost on the result every
article they possessed on earth. Keokuk and Pash-e-pe-ho, chiefs of the
Sac tribe, were more passionately fond of this amusement than any of
their contemporaries. And when amusements of this kind ceased to be
entertaining, we called upon our pugilists, Hood McBride and Price, to
enliven the scene by a friendly exhibition of their prowess, by
knocking down and dragging out a few of the disinterested spectators.
We had no prize belt to award the victor, as the science and courtesies
of the ring had not then arrived at the perfection they have since.
Before this era, civil law, of course, was unknown, and our salutary
mode of punishment for crime was by prohibiting the criminal from the
use of intoxicating liquors, this being the greatest punishment we
For a number of years after the first settlement was made at the foot
of the rapids the place was known by various names, such as
Puck-e-she-tuck, the Point, Foot of the Rapids, etc. There seems to be
some difference of opinion as to when the name "Keokuk" was first
adopted. Dr. Isaac Galland says: "July 4, 1829, was celebrated on a
steamboat lying at the foot of what is now Main Street. It was at this
meeting, presided over by Col. George Davenport, that the name Keokuk
was given to the place."
This statement was made in a letter written by Doctor Galland a few
years before his death. Isaac R. Campbell says that "up to the year
1835, the settlement at the foot of the rapids had been without a
distinctive name. * It was finally proposed by a number
of steamboat men, while detained here lighting over the rapids, that it
should commemorate the name of the peace chief of the Sac tribe. From
this time the name Keokuk was adopted, and, in 1837, I sold my potato
patch inclosure to Dr. Isaac Galland, agent of the New York Land
Company, and, under his supervision, a city in embryo was formally
inaugurated and recorded as 'Keokuk.' "
Whether the name was adopted in 1829 or not until some years later, the
authorities above quoted agree that the honor of its selection belongs
to steamboat men.
In the spring of 1837 Dr. Isaac Galland, agent of the New York Land
Company, assisted by David W. Kilbourne, laid out the original town
plat, which was filed for record in October, 1840. In his inaugural
address as mayor of Keokuk, delivered on April 10, 1855, Mr. Kilbourne
"When the square mile upon which Keokuk is located was laid off into
streets, lots and blocks, in 1837, the main portion of it was a dense
forest; and where Main Street now is, so thick was the timber and
underbrush, that it was difficult to make the survey. Then a few log
cabins on the river bank, which had been erected and used for Indian
trading houses, composed all the improvements. Then the homes of Keokuk
and Black Hawk were near, and the graves of many of the tribes were
prominent objects upon the bluffs within our town site, over which now
stand the houses of she-mo-ko (the white man)."
In June, 1837, occurred the first public sale of lots in the new Town
of Keokuk. It had been advertised far and wide and was largely
attended. A steamboat was chartered at St. Louis and brought up a large
number of prospective buyers. At that time the only buildings were a
few scattering cabins — probably three or four — and the old trading
house called "Rat Row." Hotel accommodations were not to be had for
love or money, and the passengers occupied their state rooms on the
boat as bed rooms during the sale. Although the number of lots sold at
this sale was not as great as had been anticipated, the projectors of
the town found consolation in the fact that one corner lot sold for
$1,500, an indication that Keokuk's future was to be one great
Shortly after this sale the old Muir property was purchased by L. B.
Fleak, who opened a boat store on the levee, bought two barges and
engaged in the lightering business over the rapids. In 1839 Moses Gray
built the old "Keokuk House," a frame structure, three stories in
height, built of split lumber and roofed with clapboards. It was 26 by
44 feet and had partitions made of green cottonwood boards. Verily, in
this building the "walls had ears," but such was Keokuk's first hotel.
Mr. Fleak rented the house and opened it as a hotel, but soon after
that certain creditors of Dr. Isaac Galland, who had bought the
building of Gray, secured a judgment against him and the house was
sold. It was bid in for the St. Louis creditors by Mr. Fleak for the
amount of the judgment ($800), and not long afterward he bought the
hotel for $640. A large addition to the hotel was built two years
later. Prince de Joinville and his retinue were guests at this hotel
soon after the addition was completed.
Street Scene, Keokuk
Some Early Events
The death of Doctor Muir, in 1832, was the first to occur in Keokuk.
Moses Stillwell died in 1834, in the cabin he had built some years
before near the foot of High Street, and John Gaines, the first justice
or notary, died on April 21, 1839.
During the days of trading houses, the Indians brought in large
quantities of elk, deer, wolf, beaver, otter, raccoon, mink and muskrat
skins to trade for blankets, knives, trinkets and whisky. Valencourt
Van Ausdal used to tell of some of the sprees the red men would have
when they brought their peltries into the trading post. Said he: "They
were excessively fond of whisky, but not much in the habit of drinking
to excess unless by prearrangement to get on a 'big drunk,' when a
certain number were appointed to stay sober and protect the drunken
ones from doing harm to themselves or others. Their favorite places for
having their 'big drunks' were at what is now known as the mouth of
Bloody Run and on the bank of the Mississippi, where Anschutz's brewery
now stands. During these sprees the days and nights were made hideous
with the howls and war-whoops of the Indian bacchanalians."
The first school in Keokuk was taught in 1833 by Jesse Creighton, in a
little log cabin that had been erected by John Forsyth, a short
distance below and a little farther back from the river than the
buildings of the American Fur Company. Mr. Creighton was also a
shoemaker and when not hearing classes would repair such shoes as the
settlers brought to him.
The first church edifice was erected in 1838; the first murder occurred
in 1839, when Edward Riley killed Barney F. Barron. He received a two
years' sentence in the penitentiary. In 1846 George C. Anderson
established a private bank — the first institution of that character in
The Town Incorporated
For several years after the first settlers came the growth of Keokuk
was slow, owing chiefly to the uncertainty of land titles in the
half-breed tract. In July, 1841, the population was estimated at one
hundred and fifty. Five years later it was 500, and in 1847 it was
estimated at one thousand one hundred and twenty. On February 23, 1847,
the governor of Wisconsin Territory approved an act of the Legislature
providing for the incorporation of Keokuk. The town was incorporated
under this act on December 13, 1847, when three wards were established.
The First Ward included "all that part of the city lying between the
Mississippi River and Second Street, bounded on the southwest by a line
drawn from the river to the center of Second Street, between and
parallel with, and at equal distances from, Main and Johnson Streets."
The Second Ward embraced "that part of the city lying between the river
and the center of Second Street, bounded on the northeast by the line
aforesaid," and the Third Ward included all the remainder of the city.
The voting places were established at the Rapids Hotel, the American
House and the office of I. G. Wickersham, in the three wards
respectively, and the first municipal election was ordered for the
first Monday in January, 1848.
The officers elected at that time were as follows: William A. Clark,
mayor; James Mackley and William C. Reed, aldermen from the First Ward;
William Holliday and Herman Bassett, from the Second Ward; and John W.
Ogden and John M. Houston, from the Third Ward. Mayor Clark, who ran as
a whig, received 175 votes, and his opponent, E. C. Stone, received 87
votes. The new government was inaugurated on January 10, 1848, just one
week after the election, when the council elected A. V. Putnam, clerk;
L. E. H. Houghton, assessor, and D. Murray, marshal, collector and
At the second meeting, on January 17, 1848, the council passed the
first ordinance, entitled "An ordinance relative to the clerk of the
council of the City of Keokuk." Other acts of the council at this
session were the granting of a privilege to S. Haight & Company to
maintain a wharf boat at the foot of Main Street; fixing the tax levy
for city purposes at 37^ cents on each $100 worth of property; and
renting a room from L. E. H. Houghton at $4.00 per month for a mayor's
Following is a list of the mayors of Keokuk, with the year in which
each entered upon the duties of the office, each one serving until his
successor was elected and qualified: William A. Clark,from January 10
to April 17, 1848; Justin Millard, April, 1848; Uriah Raplee, April,
1849 (resigned in September following his election and John A. Graham
was elected to fill the vacancy) ; John A. Graham, 1850; B. S. Merriam,
1852; David W. Kilbourne, 1855; Samuel R. Curtis, 1856; Hawkins Taylor,
1857; H. W. Sample, 1858; William Leighton, 1859; William Patterson,
i860; J. J. Brice, 1861; R. P. Creel, 1862; George B. Smyth, 1863; J.
M. Hiatt, 1864: William Patterson, 1865; William Timberman, 1867; John
A. Mc- Dowell, 1868; A. J. Wilkinson, 1869; William Timberman, 1870;
Henry W. Rothert, 1871; Daniel F. Miller, Sr., 1873; Edmund Jaeger,
1874; J orm N. Irwin, 1876; James B. Paul, 1879; James N. Welsh, 1880;
Lewis Hosmer, 1881; David J. Ayers, 1882; George D. Rand, 1883; Edmund
Jaeger, 1884; James C. Davis, 1885; John N. Irwin, 1887; John E. Craig,
1889; S. W. Moorhead, 1893; Felix T. Hughes, 1895; J. L. Root, 1897;
James F. Daugherty, 1899; Theodore A. Craig, 1901 ; Andrew J. Dimond,
1903; James Cam- eron, 1905; W. E. Strimback, 1907; Charles Off, 1909.
In 1910 the city adopted the commission form of government. Joshua F.
Elder was elected mayor, and F. T. F. Schmidt and Thomas P. Gray,
councilmen. In 191 2 Mayor Elder and Councilman Gray were reelected and
T. J. Hickey was chosen as the successor of Councilman Schmidt. The
officers elected in 1914 were: S. W. Moorhead, mayor; Joseph A. M.
Collins and F. T. F. Schmidt, councilmen.
Probably no better account of the manner in which the Keokuk waterworks
was inaugurated could be given than that published in the Keokuk Gate
City of July 19, 1878, the day following the first test of the new
plant, which is here quoted:
"The great inconvenience to which the citizens of Keokuk have been
periodically subjected through lack of water, and inconvenience
amounting almost to distress at times, induced W. C. Stripe to study
the subject of an artificial supply of that indispensable element. Some
three years since, a few citizens, at his invitation, met at the United
States engineer's office to inspect his plans and consult respecting
the feasibility of erecting waterworks. The plans, so far as they were
matured, met their approbation, and he was requested to complete them
and make estimates of the probable cost and profits.
"Before this was completed, a Mr. Weir, who had just completed the
waterworks at Muscatine, visited Keokuk and submitted to the city
council a plan to furnish a supply of water for domestic and public
purposes, which combined the two grades of gravity and di- rect
pressure — gravity for domestic and direct pressure for public
purposes, including the extinguishing of fires. Mr. Weir's plan was a
very good one and met the approbation of the city council, and he was
requested to meet the council at its next session and explain his plans
and estimates more in detail. He appeared before the council, as
requested, and explained his plans, which comprised a reservoir on the
avenue, capable of holding 130,000,000 gallons, with pumping machinery
to furnish 1,500,000 gallons each twenty-four hours, five and one-half
miles of mains and fifty hydrants, at a cost of $150,000.
"Mr. Stripe also appeared before the council, and upon permission being
given him, addressed them in opposition to Mr. Weir's proposition,
mainly on the score of its extravagant cost, criticised it in detail
and proved to the satisfaction of all who heard him that the entire
apparatus proposed by Mr. Weir could be furnished for a sum but little
exceeding one-half his figures. Considerable excitement ensued on the
subject, Mr. Weir having stated publicly that his plans would assuredly
be adopted. But the inexorable logic of figures prevailed and the Weir
project was abandoned. Now was Mr. Stripe's opportunity. He invited a
number of gentlemen who had manifestly an interest in the matter to
meet him at his residence. To them he exhibited his plans and
estimates, which they examined minutely, and having approved them
determined to submit them to the city council and ask their cooperation
to establish the work.
"Mr. Stripe met the council, exhibited the plans and estimates, which
comprised pumping apparatus to furnish 1,000,000 gallons per day, a
stand-pipe sixty feet high, to be erected at the intersection of Second
and High streets, a location 154 feet above the city datum line, and
about eight miles of mains, at a cost of seventy thousand to
seventy-five thousand dollars. This would have furnished ample supply
for domestic use all over the city and for fire purposes, without the
intervention of fire-engines at any point no higher than Main Street.
"The city fathers gave this plan a qualified approval, but decided that
to have their entire approval and cooperation, the whole city must be
protected by the hydrants independent of fire-engines. With indomitable
pluck and tenacity, Mr. Stripe again went to work and devised the plan
which was adopted, and the consummation of which has been established."
The Waterworks Company was organized on April 21, 1877, with a capital
stock of $100,000, divided into shares of $100 each. William Leighton,
Guy Wells, W. C. Stripe, Patrick Gibbons, S. P. Pond and James H.
Anderson constituted the first board of directors. William Leighton was
elected president; Guy Wells, vice president; W. C. Stripe, engineer
and secretary; and Edward Johnstone, treasurer.
Then beean a canvass for stock subscriptions. For a time it looked
doubtful whether the amount desired could be obtained, but when the
enterprise was hanging in the balance the Keokuk press took up the
matter and day by day urged the people to take stock in order to ____.
The Levee at Keokuk, Foot of High Street, in 1848
Taken from drawing said to have been made by Lieut. Robert E. Lee, who
then stationed here and who afterwards became the great Confederate
general of the
Civil War. This drawing was discovered in the war
department of the Government
by General W. W. Belnap after the latter
had become Secretary of War. secure
the construction of the works,
which would be a benefit to the entire city.
This campaign was kept up until the full amount of stock was subscribed.
Work on the plant was commenced on February 8, 1878. The machinery was
installed by the Holly Manufacturing Company, of Lockport, New York,
and the pipes were furnished by Dennis Long & Company, of
Louisville, Kentucky. The specifications called for the completion of
the works by June 18, 1878, but the city was engaged in grading some of
the streets upon which mains were to be placed, which delayed the work
and the final tests of the works were made on July 18, 1878, just
thirty days behind time. Concerning these tests the Gate City of July
19, 1878, says:
"Display number one consisted of a stream thrown from three hydrants
through An inch nozzle at the Presbyterian Church, corner of Seventh
and Blondeau streets. This location was chosen in order to compare the
altitude of the stream with the height of the church steeple. Soon
after the water was turned on, a section of hose near the nozzle burst
and had to be replaced. Just as the stream was beginning to climb well
the second time, a break occurred in the main at the corner of Sixth
and Main streets, tearing up the street and crossing, and forcing a
large volume of water to a height of several feet. This interfered with
the pressure so that the stream on Seventh only reached an altitude of
164.23 feet. Except for the break, it would no doubt have ascended to a
height of two hundred and twenty or two hundred and thirty feet. The
contract calls for an altitude of 100 feet at that point, so that as it
was the stream went sixty-four feet higher than was required."
Tests were also made from hydrants at five different places on Main
Street at the same time, the water at every point rising some thirty
feet higher than called for by the contract with the company. The final
test was made at the corner of Main Street and the Levee, where four
large streams, each of which was thrown through three lines of hose
centering in one nozzle, rose to a height of over two hundred feet.
In the construction of the works, the engine house — a brick structure
35 by 60 feet, with slate roof — was located at the foot of Concert
Street, and a filter 15 by 50 feet was installed. Through this filter
all water for private consumption passed. The pumping machinery at
first consisted of a four-cylinder engine, with four pumps, of the
latest Holly designs, with a capacity of 2,200,000 gallons daily, and
about ten miles of mains, varying in size from six to fourteen inches
were laid in the streets. Numerous additions and alterations have been
made, new mains extended to outlying districts, and the water has
always been kept up to a high standard of purity. A city ordinance
compels the city physician or physician to the board of health to make
examinations of the water twice a week, or oftener if he considers
necessary. Tests must be made for alum and bacteria in both the
filtered and unfiltered water, a cubic centimeter being unit of
measurement. If 1,200 bacteria are found in this quantity of unfiltered
water, or 125 in the filtered water, the ordinance gives a 98 per cent
test. Dr. C. A. Dimond, the city physician, in a report in August, 1 9
14, says the water in Keokuk is as good as that to be found in most
cities along the Mississippi River and better than that found in many
The Keokuk Waterworks Company is now a subsidiary corporation of the
American Waterworks and Guarantee Company, which controls and operates
waterworks in more than forty United States cities. This company uses
chlorine for the purpose of purifying the water, with the result that a
high grade of water is furnished to the people of the city, except on
occasions when too much chlorine is left in the water, which leaves an
At one time, while the great dam at Keokuk was under construction, it
looked as though the Mississippi River Power Company and the Waterworks
Company would become involved in serious litigation, growing out of the
question as to the right of the former to raise the tracks of the
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad in front of the waterworks
property. The question was taken to the courts and after a hearing of
several days, the vice president of the Waterworks Company entered the
court room one morning, called aside Hugh L. Cooper, chief engineer of
the Mississippi River Power Company, and informed him that the American
Waterworks and Guarantee Company was willing to submit the entire
question to an arbitrator. He also stated that he was authorized to
leave the entire matter with Mr. Cooper for adjustment. As a result,
John W. Alvord, a prominent Chicago engineer, was agreed upon as
arbitrator and upon his decision the question was settled to the
satisfaction of all the parties concerned.
In the spring of 1 8 q6 Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 was organized
with Benjamin F. Dodson as president; D. B. Smith, secretary; and John
B. Knight, treasurer. The first truck foreman was L. L. O'Connor. This
was the first organized fire company of which there is anv authentic
record. The Young America Fire Company was organized on October 9,
1856, at a meeting held in Burrows Hall, presided over by John A.
McDowell, who afterward served as mayor of the city. In this company
were several men who afterward became men of national reputation. Among
them may be mentioned Samuel R. Curtis, who served as mayor of the
city, a member of Congress, and as a general in the Union army in the
Civil war; William W. Belknap, who was secretary of war in the cabinet
of President Grant; Hugh W. Sample, who was elected mayor of Keokuk in
1858, and the Confederate General Winder, then a young lawyer of
Keokuk, who went south, joined the secession movement and became
notorious as the superintendent of Libby Prison, at Richmond, Virginia.
The first president of the company was R. H. Magruder, who, with
Curtis, Belknap, Sample and McDowell, took active steps to supply the
company with hand engines and other fire-fighting apparatus. Two
engines were purchased — the "Gallery," built by Rogers & Son, of
Baltimore, Maryland, and the "Honneyman," which was built in Boston,
Massachusetts. The Gallery, after being used a few years, was
dismantled and sold as old metal, but the Honneyman continued in use
for about a quarter of a century. The Columbia hose reel, purchased at
the same time as the two engines, was afterward remodeled and change to
a one-horse truck.
In i860 the Rolla Fire Company was organized. The early meetings of
this company were held in the blacksmith shop of Chris Smith, who was
one of the members and made a large triangle, which served the company
in place of a bell.
Union Fire Company No. 3 was organized in 1861, with George T. Higgins,
afterward sheriff, W. B. Miller, William Landers, Jacob Speck and
Donald Robinson among the active members.
The first steam engine was purchased by the city in the spring of 1866.
It was manufactured by the Amoskeag Works, of Amoskeag, New Hampshire,
and was called the "Young America," for the company to which it was
assigned.* Prior to that time the old hand engine Honneyman had been in
the hands of this company, but when the steamer arrived and was placed
in commission, the Honneyman was turned over to the Rollas.
After the great fire of July 4, 1870, it was decided to buy a second
steamer and a Silsby engine, manufactured at Seneca Falls, New York,
was purchased. It was christened the "Rolla" and went to the Rolla Fire
Company, the old Honneyman being sold to the Town of West Point.
In October, 1878, the paid fire department was organized and engines,
hose reels, hook and ladder truck, etc., were placed under the control
of the city. In 1914 the department consisted of four stations, and the
apparatus of two steam engines, one chemical engine, one hook and
ladder truck and four hose reels, manned by an efficient force of men.
On Friday evening, January 4, 1856, the streets of Keokuk were lighted
by gas for the first time. The original founders of the Keokuk Gas
Company were William Herrick and Edward Kilbourne, who built a plant
and laid mains in the fall of 1855. These two gentlemen and Charles B.
Foote filed articles of incorporation for the Keokuk Gas Light and Coke
Company on December 20, 1855, with Edward Kilbourne as the first
president and Josiah Davis as the first secretary. The capital stock
provided for in the articles of incorporation was $100,000, enough of
which was paid up to put the works in good condition.
In 1865 Daniel Mooar acquired a controlling interest in the gas works
and a few years later a reorganization took place, Mr. Mooar being
elected president; R. H. Wyman, vice president, and H. R. Miller,
secretary and superintendent. Under this management substantial
improvements were made and the mains extended. In 1900 the works were
transferred to the Keokuk Gas and Electric Company.
Electric lights were introduced into Keokuk by the Badger Electric
Company, which was incorporated on March 2, 1885, by S. S. Badger, of
Chicago, A. J. McCrary and Charles J. Smith, of Keokuk. A plant was
established on Third Street, between Johnson and Exchange, with a
capacity of sixty arc lights of 2,000 candle power each, most of which
were installed for street lighting, though a few were placed in stores,
etc. After about seven years the holdings of the company were
transferred to the Fort Wayne Electric Company, of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
In the meantime a small incandescent plant had been established by J.
C. Hubinger for his personal benefit. Being unable to secure gas from
the gas company for lighting his residence, he drilled an artesian well
and utilized the water to operate a small electric generator,
sufficient to furnish incandescent lights for his house. Some of his
neighbors were afterward placed on the circuit and the plant was
enlarged. After the Fort Wayne company took over the Badger interests,
the old Thompson-Houston equipment was replaced by Wood machines and
other improvements were made, after which the entire plant was sold to
Mr. Hubinger. Both the gas works and the electric light plant are now
controlled by the Stone & Webster Syndicate, which also operates
the power plant at the big Keokuk dam.
The Keokuk Street Railway Company was organized early in the year 1882,
with James H. Anderson as president, practically all the stock being
held by local capitalists. Work was immediately commenced on two lines.
The first began at the corner of Main and Fourteenth streets, thence
east on Main to Fifth Street, and down Fifth to B Street in Reid's
addition. The other line started at the railroad station, thence via
Main to Sixth Street, on Sixth Street to Morgan, on Morgan to Eleventh,
on Eleventh to Seymour, and on Seymour to Rand Park. Subsequently a
line was built on Fourteenth Street from Rand Park to Main Street, so
as to form a loop.
Mules and horses furnished the motive power until 1892, when the local
company sold out to the Hubbell Syndicate, of Des Moines, which
converted the plant into an electric railway system. The Main Street
line was extended west to Nineteenth Street, on which car barns were
built, and a little later the line on Nineteenth Street was extended to
Oakland Cemetery. The Des Moines company sold out to J. C. Hubinger and
others, and for a time it was operated in connection with the electric
light plant. After one or two other changes in ownership the railway
passed into the hands of the Stone & Webster Syndicate, which has
put on new cars and otherwise greatly improved the service.
The Post Office
The first person to act as postmaster at Keokuk was John Gaines, though
he was never regularly appointed. The first mails were carried by
Robert McBride from St. Francisville, Missouri, on horseback, or from
Warsaw, Illinois, in a skiff, and Mr. Gaines under- took the work of
distributing letters and other mail matter to the proper persons.
On June 24, 1841, L. B. Fleak was appointed postmaster and held the
position for about three years. In speaking some years afterward of his
experiences as postmaster, Mr. Fleak said: "The post office was first
kept in the Keokuk House. When I rented out the hotel in 1843, I moved
the office to the corner of First and Johnson streets, and afterward to
a building midway between First Street and the levee on Johnson Street.
During the time 1 kept it at the latter place, my store was robbed, but
the mail matter was not molested. There was $22,000 belonging to the
United States lying in an old pine desk in the store room when the
robbery took place. It had been handed to me by Major Stewart, army
paymaster, for safekeeping and I had gone home and forgotten it. When
we caught the burglar, I asked him why he did not open the desk and
take the money. He said he did lift the cover, but thought no one would
be fool enough to leave money in such a place."
When Mr. Fleak resigned, in the summer of 1844, W. S. McGavic and J. C.
Ainsworth were applicants for the place, but through the influence of
Henry J. Campbell and others the appointment went to Adam Hine, a river
man, who was hardly ever at Keokuk. He appointed John B. Russell his
deputy and some years later Mr. Hine said that all he knew about being
postmaster was that he was called upon to make good a shortage of
several hundred dollars, when his successor took possession of the
office and checked up the business. This shortage was attributed solely
to careless methods of keeping accounts.
On March 16, 1887, ground was broken for the present post office
building at the corner of Seventh and Blondeau streets and about two
years later the new building was opened to the public. It is a
substantial structure of stone and brick, two stories high, the main
floor being devoted to the handling and distribution of mails and the
second story to the United States Court. In the tower is a clock which
marks the time and strikes the hours. In 19 14 the Keokuk post office
employed, besides the postmaster and assistant postmaster, fourteen
city carriers, three substitute carriers, two rural carriers, twelve
clerks and three janitors. The annual receipts of the office, in round
numbers, amount to $83,000.
St. Joseph's Hospital
Federal Court House and Post Office
Keokuk Public Library
High School and United Presbyterian Church
Y. M. C. A. Building
On January 22, 1906, the Keokuk Commercial Club was organized "for the
purpose of fostering the splendid industries now flourishing and to
encourage additional manufacturing enterprises that may wish to locate in the city."
In January, 1911, the club was succeeded by the Keokuk Industrial
Association, with C. R. Joy as president and A. D. Ayres as secretary.
Soon after the association was organized, it inaugurated a "clean up"
campaign, under the auspices of the committee on parks, playgrounds and
general improvements. Later in the year, through the advertising agency
of N. W. Ayer & Son, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the association
expended about eleven thousand dollars in advertising the advantages of
the city in some of the leading magazines of the country. In the spring
of 191 2, John Nolen, an experienced landscape architect of Cambridge,
Massachusetts, was employed by the association to present plans for the
beautification of the city. His work was completed in the fall of 1913
and his plans have been adopted by the mayor and city commissioners.
Another publicity campaign was conducted in the summer of 1913, when an
especially trained man was engaged to supervise the work of
advertising. Articles on Keokuk appeared in newspapers throughout the
civilized world, and thousands of window display cards, bearing
photographic views of Keokuk and the great power house, were
distributed among merchants of the United States, Canada, England,
Germany, France, Austria, China and Japan. During the year over one
hundred specially prepared articles relating to the power plant were
printed in magazines.
Sixty-six acres of land on the extension of Main Street were purchased
by the association in the summer of 1913 as a location for new
factories, the sum of $17,000 being appropriated from the treasury for
that purpose. This ground has been platted as an industrial district.
The association has also given considerable attention to the
entertainment of conventions; the improvement of the river front; the
construction of the boulevard from Keokuk to Montrose; the adjustment
of freight rates between Keokuk and all points east and west, and in
the movement to build a new bridge across the Mississippi it has played
a conspicuous part.
The officers of the association in 1914 were as follows: C. R. Joy,
president; J. A. Kiedaisch, first vice president; C. F. McFarland,
second vice president; J. F. Elder, secretary; Ira W. Wills, treasurer.
The board of directors was then composed of the above officers and A.
D. Ayres, T. A. Craig, L. A. Hamill, A. Hollingsworth, Stephen Irwin,
J. T. McCarthy, C. A. McNamara, L. F. Rollins, Jacob Schouten and G. S.
The River Bridge
The Keokuk & Hamilton Mississippi Bridge Company was incorporated
in January, 1866, for the purpose of constructing a railway and wagon
bridge across the Mississippi to connect the two cities. A ferry had
been established here in 1850, but the progress of the times made a
number of public spirited citizens feel that some more adequate means
of communication were necessary. A preliminary survey for the bridge
was made in the spring of 1867, from which plans were made and
submitted to the city authorities of Keokuk, and on May 25, 1868, the
mayor approved an ordinance granting the bridge company a right of way
across the levee. Final plans and estimates were then prepared by T. C.
Curtis, and on December 6, 1868, the contract for the construction of
the bridge was let to the Keystone Bridge Company, of Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, for $850,000.
This bridge is 2,192 feet in length and twenty feet wide in the clear.
On either side of the railroad track is a passage way for vehicles, and
on the outside of the superstructure are the sidewalks for foot
passengers. At the time the bridge was completed it had the longest
draw span on the Mississippi River. On April 19, 1871, the first
locomotive crossed over the bridge, drawing two coaches filled with.
the officers of the bridge company and invited guests. The building of
this bridge secured to Keokuk a large trade from Illinois.
Plans for a new bridge have recently been prepared by Ralph Modjeska
and his assistants, to be built upon the abutments of the old bridge.
In the new structure there are to be two decks — the upper one for
vehicles and pedestrians and the lower for railroad trains. The
approach on the Keokuk side will be in the form of a viaduct, which
will run out on First Street, between Main and Blondeau, making the new
bridge much more easy of access than the old one. This viaduct will be
about seven hundred feet in length.
Young Women's Christian Association
On January 24, 1848, the governor approved an act of the Iowa
Legislature providing that two terms of the District Court of Lee
County should be held annually at Keokuk. By the act of January 8,
1857, a branch of the recorder's office was established at Keokuk, and
this was soon followed by branches of the other county offices. In 1859
tne county bought the old Medical College building for a courthouse,
and since that time all the county business pertaining to the six
southern townships has been transacted at Keokuk.
Besides the public utilities mentioned in this chapter, the city has an
excellent system of sewers, one large storm sewer beginning at Rand
Park and running to the Mississippi, and into this great trunk sewer
lateral sewers discharge their contents. A city ordinance for- bids the
throwing of coarse offal of any kind in the sewers, so that the drains
are always kept in good working order.
Keokuk has a fine high school building and a number of modern graded
school buildings. Several of the schoolhouses were being reconstructed
in 19 14, which will give the city a complete quota of buildings
unsurpassed by any city of its size in the Mississippi Valley. There
are also several parochial schools. Churches of all the leading
religious denominations have comfortable houses of worship; the Young
Men's and Young Women's Christian associations have homes that would be
an ornament to any city; the Elks' Club House and the Masonic Temple
are pointed to as evidence that the fraternal orders of the city are
both prosperous and popular; the well paved streets and cement
sidewalks, and the three public parks — Rand Park, Kilbourne Park and
the Triangle — all combine to make Keokuk a desirable residence city,
as well as a business center.
The business interests of the city are represented by four banks,
several large manufacturing plants, a number of well stocked mercantile
establishments, two daily newspapers, a telephone exchange, good hotels
and a number of minor business enterprises.
Keokuk also has a good public library, a history of which will be found
elsewhere in these pages, one of the best kept cemeteries in
Soui.rtustern Iowa, and a large number of handsome residences. The
social life of the city is shown by the large number of literary,
social and charitable societies and clubs.
In the early days Keokuk was a great shipping and outfitting point for
the tide of emigration from the older states to the great West. Among
the early warehouse and mercantile firms may be mentioned Chittenden
& McGavic, Connable, Smyth & Company, B. B. Hinman &
Company, Foote & Company, Stafford & McCune and J. B. Carson.
The establishments of these firms were chiefly along the levee, as the
river traffic was then in the zenith of its glory. When boats could
ascend the Des Moines River the merchants would use that method for
shipping goods to the interior of the state, and when the river was too
low to admit of the passage of boats wagons were used. The great amount
of trade and emigration that then passed west via this point gave
Keokuk the name of the "Gate City," which it has ever since retained.
The population in 1910, according to the United States census, was
of Lee County,
Iowa, by Dr. S. W. Moorhead and Nelson C. Roberts, 1914