history of polk county

Historical reminiscences of the city of Des Moines, together with a full description of the city and county. H. B. Turrill, 1857
Transcribed by Ralph Leonard

Historical Reminiscences of the City of Des Moines,
together with a full description of the city and county.
view of Des Moines, 1867

State Historical Society of Iowa,
This Volume is Respectfully Dedicated,
By the Author.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in
the year 1857, by
In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court for the District of Iowa.


The Author of this volume presents it, without apology, to the public, confident that, whatever are its merits or faults, they will be recognized and properly estimated. No effort at elaborateness has been attempted, but a plain and concise statement of facts, without recourse to rhetorical flourishes or wearisome reflections, has been presented. Errors in some particulars may have occurred, but, from the pains and labor which have been employed to guard against them, it is believed that they are few and unimportant.

The history of Des Moines does not, it is true, extend through the dim and antiquated legends of centuries past, revealing the ruthless deeds of barbarity and war. It embraces a period so recent, that even romance has not disturbed its quiet, with wild tales of what was so obscure as to become suitable for imagination to enlarge upon and mystify. Human memories can yet impart interest and truth to the statements, or correct the mistakes of the historian, who would place upon record those reminiscences of interest, afforded even by the brief existence of Des Moines. To preserve those reminiscences while yet they can be derived from the lips of men who experienced them personally, and who in a few years will pass from among us, is the object of this book. The flight of every year throws a shadow upon the past. "What now is clear will soon become dim, what now is dim will finally be impenetrable.

The descriptive portion of the work is intended not so much for the edification of the citizens of Des Moines, as to afford reliable information to those abroad, whose attention has been arrested by the progress already made, and enterprise evinced by our city, and whose co-operation

iv                                                                         PREFACE

 can only be expected, or influence, or personal presence obtained, by a detailed statement of the resources and present prosperity of the city.

As the capital of the State, Des Moines is a place of uncommon interest, and public curiosity is awake to know its advantages. The author has attempted to gratify that curiosity. To those who have kindly assisted him in rendering this work more interesting and attractive, the author acknowledges himself under the most unaffected obligations. His especial thanks are due to Hon. Curtis Bates, Benjamin Bryant, Esq., Rev. R. Weiser, Peter Myers, Esq., and W. R. Wheeler, Esq., for valuable aid, and to many others for advice and encouragement while prosecuting his arduous labor of collecting material for this work.

Des Moines, May 25th, 1857.

Preface, 3
Treaty with the Indians, 9
Establishment of a Garrison at Fort Des Moines, 10
Arrival of the first Steamboat, 10
Number of the troops, 11
Capt. Allen’s Quarters, 11
Early Residents, 12
American Fur Company, 12
First Dwelling House built in Polk County, 12
Indian Traders, 12
Residence of Interpreter and Indian Agent, 13
Jonas Carsner's Feat, 14
Sketch of Keokuk and Powesheik, 15
Expiration of Indian Title, 16
Eagerness of Settlers to make Claims, 16
Organization of Polk County, 17
Its Boundaries, 17
Commissioners to locate County Seat, 17
First County Election, 18
Officers Elected, 18
First District Court 19
Names of First Grand Jury, 19
Anecdote of Judge Williams, 20
Laying out of the Town of Fort Des Moines, 21
Sale of Lots, 22
Prices then and now, 22
First Groceries, 22
Post Office, 23
First Wedding in Polk County, 24
Early Church History, 24
First Land Sale, 25
Value of Claims, 25


Fears of Settlers, 26
Organization of the Claim Club, 27
Proceedings of the Meeting, 27
Signers of the Club-Laws, 29
Other Meetings, 30
Appointment of an Agent to go to Iowa City, 30
The Reeves Mob, 31
The Perkins and Flemming War, 35
Perkins rides for his Life, 36
Arrest of Flemming and his Forcible Liberation, 37
His Re-arrest, 37
Efforts of Mob to again set him Free, 37
Coronor Philips turns U. S. Major, 38
Coolness of Alex. Scott, 38
Trial of Flemming, 38
Perkins obliged to yield to Popular Demands, 39
Erection of Court-House and Jail, 39
Holland Mob, 39
Its cause—objects—and results, 39
Incorporation of Fort Des Moines, 42
Committee to draft Town Charter, 42
Boundaries, 42
Election of First Town Council, 43
Great Flood of 1851, 43
Specimens of Dogberrian Learning, 44
Examples of new forms of Pleading, 45
Grant of Lands for Improvement of Des Moines River, 51
Extent of Grant, 51
Decision of Stuart, 51
Effect of contract made with Bangs Bro. & Co., 52
Price of River Lands raised, 52
Indignation of the Settlers, 52


River Land Meeting at Fort Des Moines, 53
Resolutions adopted, 53
Failure of Bangs Bro. & Co., 55
Incidents at Land Sales, 56
Establishment of U. S. Land Office of Fort Des Moines, 57
Incident at Land Sales, 57
Incorporation of Fort Des Moines, 58
Efforts to make it the Capital of Iowa, 58
Their Success, 58
Incorporation of the City of Des Moines, 60
Its Boundaries, 60
Kidnapping Scheme of Meacham, 60
War at Fort Dodge, and consequent excitement at Des Moines, 61
History of the Des Moines Newspapers, 66
Polk County—General Summary, 69
City Charter, 73
Descriptive Sketch of Des Moines, 85
Inducements to Immigration, 104
Des Moines Business Directory, 115


Reynolds and Rider, 123 Brown & Brown, 138
ARCHITECTS. Bates & Phillips, 134
Dyer H. Young, 133 G. C. Graves, 141
Jno. McQueen, 130 W. Nash, 131
S. A. Robertson, 117 Jno. A. Grow, 121
Samuel Hannaford, 138 Finch & Crocker, 121
ARTIST W. H. & M. D. McHenry, 142
W. R. Wheeler, 134 Williamson & Gray, 142
Jewett & McCormick, 124 Galbraith, Latshaw &
S. Reynolds, 124 Foster & Taylor, 133
J. S. Polk, 141 Child, Sandford & Co., 118
W. Pottenger, 134 HOTELS.
BOOKSELLERS. Demoine House, 133
Redhead & Dawson, 137 Everett House, 135
J. R. Hadsell, 133 Grout House, 116
N. W. Mills & Co., 120 A. Mills and Co., 122
BANKERS. E. H. Hart, 132
Britton & Husband, 136 INSURANCE.
Hoyt Sherman & Co., 121 Redhead & Dawson, 115
White & Smith, 144 JEWELRY.
J. Stevens & Co., 123 J. N. Newell, 124
Greene, Weare & Rice, 144 J. H. Brown, 122
Cook, Sargent & Cook, 140 O. H. Baker, 119
F. Allen, 130 JOB PRINTING.
Leas & Harsh, 120 N. W. Mills and Co., 120
BOOTS AND SHOES. W. H. Farner,  
Frank M. Mills, 120 Porter & Hedge,  
BILLIARDS. Bausman & Co., 128
S. Savery, 119 McGaughey, Nash & Co., 142
BRICK YARDS. P. W. Day, 142
Robertson & Monroe, 117 W. Pottinger, 134
Burns & Rentgen, 140 W. H. & M. D. McHenry, 142
DRY GOODS, ETC. Dewey and Tubby, 126
Little, Garrison & Co., 119 Hoyt Sherman and Co., 121
Woodward & Hepburn, 125 Leas and Harsh, 120
J. M. Clouston, 116 A. J. Stevens and Co., 123
Francis & Spaulding, 131 Hedge and Heaton, 130
W. W. Moore, 120 Britton and Husband, 136
DENTIST. Jas. Summers, 120
S. C. Brownell, 140 Thos. Cavanaugh, 144
S. Savery, 119 Middleton, Wallace and Co., 131
Jno. McWilliams, 125 Lovejoy and Brother, 117
F. W. Longworth, 123    
Journal, 139 J. and I. Kuhn, 122
Citizen, 143 Morris and Downer, 122
NURSERY. Billstein, Simon and Strauss, 119
Foster and Taylor, 133 SEED STORE.
PHYSICIAN. J. M. McCullough, 132
Dr. Wm. Allen, 138 STAGE COMPANY.
POST OFFICE. P. Cooper, Agent, 141
W. Redhead, P. M., 115 WOOL CARDING.
  E. Smith, 134

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