Madison County





By Herman A. Mueller (1908)


        About 1856 or 1857 there came from Greene County, Pennsylvania, William Heaton, a very eccentric man, who who always did things very different from anyone else. Later, he became a prominent citizen and a leader of the Greenback Party in Madison County during its palmy days, whose principles he defended everywhere and all the time with all the power of speech at his command. Mr. Heaton was familiarly called "Uncle Billy" Heaton and was well known in this part of the state. He was an idealist and a dreamer. He bought large tracts of the best prairie land in Lee Township, and conceived in his mind of building a town and establishing a seminary on the broad prairie between Badger Creek and North River.

        He laid out a town in the Northeast Township in Madison County, Iowa, in the southeast part of the northwest quarter of Section Twenty Seven (27), and called it Grandview. The site at present is owned by John McLaughlin. The town was surveyed by J. M. Laird October 5, 1857, and was deeded to future lot holders April 14, 1858, which deed was approved by the County Judge, John Pitzer, and recorded June 1, 1858 in Book "E", page 527. The town was laid out in forty two blocks of twelve lots each. Each lot of 56 feet by 168 feet. Two streets running each way through the town 100 feet wide, the other streets are each 80 feet wide.

        The said William Heaton then proceeded to sell town lots in Grandview under the following contract: He obligated himself to invest the entire proceeds, less the expense of the sale of these lots for the purpose of instituting and maintaining a Seminary of the highest grade, in which shall be taught all branches usually taught in similar literary institutions, the proceeds to be invested as follows:

(1)   One block to be reserved for the Seminary building

(2)   One quarter of a block to be reserved for a Primary School building.

(3)   On quarter of a block each for three churches, the denominations to be selected by a majority vote of those who may purchase the other forty blocks.

(4)   All the remainder to be invested in the erection and maintenance of the Seminary.

        Then there followed a long agreement as the appraisement, selection, and payment of these lots. It was also to be inserted in the deed, that if the owner permitted the sale of intoxicating liquors, or gambling, he would forfeit said lot for use of the Seminary. The writer has in possession one of these contracts made with Ira C. Walker October 5, 1857, signed by William Heaton and Ira C. Walker.

        Said Heaton agreed that on the 18th day of June 1858, or when the purchasers met to select said lots, that he would file a bond for $50,000 to faithfully dispose of funds coming into his hands by said sale of lots. Davies' History says that in the summer of 1858, Mr. Heaton and quite a large number of citizens met on the ground, and speeches by B. F. Roberts and others, setting forth the great importance of a Seminary of learning at this point, etc.

        "From some cause, which we are unable to give, the praiseworthy enterprise was abandoned, and there is nothing to this day to show for the Town of Heaton, but the stakes that were driven in the ground to mark the lots." Davies' history was published in 1869, eleven years later. Mr. Heaton lived in Lee Township until about 1885 or 1886, when he returned to Illinois where he was a large property owner. He died several years ago. His son, Daniel Heaton, lived at Greenfield, Iowa fro Many years; another son, Abner, lived on the Lee Township farm and now lives at Greenfield. A son Jester Heaton, lives at Winfield, Kansas. The old settlers in Lee Township can relate many stories and anecdotes concerning the eccentricities of "Uncle Billy" Heaton.


Editor's note: One would think that a project of such a grand scale would have left historical records as to why it was abandoned but none seem to exist. The scheme seems to have some characteristics of a scam but it obviously was not since "Uncle Billy" wouldn't have stayed around another 20 years before removing to Illinois. Even Davies, whose book was published while almost all of the principals were still around, did not publish a reason for the seminary's demise. Perhaps the project wasn't financially feasible or not enough subscribers anted up to make a go of it.



Transcribed and edited by Kent Transier


Maintained by the County Coordinator

This page was last updated Thursday, 13-Apr-2017 16:53:20 EDT .