Pottawattamie County borders the Missouri
River, in the third tier of counties from the south line of the state,
occupying a position central in the most productive portion thereof.
With the exception of Kossuth, it is the largest in the State, its
superficial area being about 960 square miles, or 614,400 acres.
Besides the Missouri River, it is drained by numerous small streams
which traverse its surface from north to south with a slight westerly
The western portion of the county is a broad,
level strip of
territory, from three to ten miles wide, and known as the Missouri
River Bottom. Bordering this, on the east, the range of bluffs rises
steep and grand, in many places almost perpendicular from two or three
hundred feet in height. The range is parted by numerous narrow valleys
and ravines, which descend from the adjacent uplands, but never loses
its distinctive outlines This remarkable range, rising abruptly from
the sweeping plain, without a rock or stone upon its face, presents a
view at once varied, grand and beautiful The adjacent uplands are
broken and in many places too uneven for tillage; but are well adapted
to grazing and are frequently interspersed with thrifty groves of
timber Further east the broken outlines give place to a beautiful,
undulating or waved surface, peculiar to the Western Slope, alternating
with level valleys, from a half mile to a mile in width, bordering the
streams. ....The corn crop of 1884 in this county was greater than that
of any county in the United States.
In the Summer of 1804, the
celebrated explorers, Lewis and Clarke, on their way up the Missouri
River, held a council with the Indians at the place where Fort Calhoun
was subsequently established, on the Nebraska side of the river, about
twenty miles above the present city of Council Bluffs. From this
circumstance they gave to that place the name of "Council Bluffs." As
early as 1824 a French trader named Hart had established a trading
house on the bluffs just above the large spring now known as the
"Mynster Spring," within the limits of the present city of Council
Bluffs. At this time, the American Fur Company had established various
trading posts in the great Northwest and this point was known to their
employes who ascended the river as Lacote de Hart, or Hart's Bluff. At
that time the Missouri River was navigated by a few traders and persons
belonging to the Fur Company, having their headquarters at St. Louis,
and only with small keel boats propelled by hand.
In 1827, FRANCIS
GUITTAR, a Frenchman in the employ of the American Fur Company,
encamped with others in the timber at the foot of the bluffs where now
Broadway with its double row of magnificent business blocks is located.
In the Summer of 1838, DAVIS HARDIN and family, including his wife and
seven children, landed in the county at the point then known as Council
Point, about four miles below the present City of Council Bluffs. Mr.
had been appointed to act as government farmer among the Pottawattamie
Indians, who were then about to be removed from the Platte Purchase in
Missouri to Iowa. A few months after, the Indians were brought up, and
Mr. Hardin then removed to where he opened a farm on a little stream
known as Indian Creek, now in the business portion of the city. His
sons were JOHN, ALLEN, RICHARD and MARTIN D. HARDIN, and became
permanent settlers, remaining here throughout the time when the region
was under Mormon control. When the Pottawattamie Indians were brought
up, a number of white persons came also, including traders, agents, and
other government employes.
In 1839 two companies of troops came up and
built a b;ock house, or sort of fort, on the bluff in the east part of
what is now the city, and shortly after, a Catholic Mission was
established here, under the charge of FATHERS DeSMITH [DeSmet] and
built a dwelling house and used the blockhouse for religious services.
No white persons came as settlers, except those among the Indians as
traders and agents in various capacities, or those connected with the
military or missions, until the Mormons came in 1846. The Indians
remained until 1846-7 when by the treaty of June 5, 1846, they
relinquished this territory and removed to Kansas. Their departure made
way for the advent of the followers of JOSEPH SMITH, who, after the
death of the prophet at Nauvoo in 1844, turned their faces westward.
BRIGHAM YOUNG, with the head men of the church, halted for the winter
of 1846-7 at a place called Winter Quarters, now Florence, Nebraska. In
the spring he departed on his journey with a portion of the colony, but
the greater part returned to the Iowa side mainly within the limits of
Pottawattamie County, where others had arrived in the Spring of 1846 in
season to plant and secure a crop. The center of this community was
established on Indian Creek in the vicinity of the old fort, at a place
first called Miller's Hollow, and afterwards by them named Kanesville,
but their settlement spread rapidly over the county and into some
adjoining counties wherever groves of timber and water afforded an
available location. Over this community ORSON HYDE, priest, writer,
editor and lawyer was installed as the president of the quorum of
twelve, and the country remained under their exclusive control for
several years. In 1846 they raised a battalion 500 strong for the
Mexican War under COLONEL CLARK, which afterward traversing Northern
Mexico and taking part in battles there, closed its campaign in
California. It is claimed that the gold in Sacramento was first
discovered by this battalion.
The Mormon population (in the county) was
probably most numerous in 1848, but in 1849, after many had fled to
Utah it numbered 6,552 and in 1850 7,828, but they were not all within
the present limits of the county. Many followed Brigham Young previous
to 1852, when finally the word went round that all true believers
should gather together at Salt Lake. The Gentiles now swarmed into
Kanesville and all the surrounding country. Farms were sold to them,
lots, cabins, stores were bartered off, all at a ruinous sacrifice, and
the emigration went forward and continued with diminishing volume
during the several succeeding years, until all who were willing to
acknowledge Brigham as their leader and the true successor of the
prophet had left the country. A remnant, however, remained, some of
them abjuring the Mormon faith, and others rallying around the standard
of JOSEPH SMITH JR. who abjured the practice of Polygamy.
In 1849, the
unexampled run of emigration to the California gold mines commenced.
Kanesville lay directly in its route, and soon became a general
rendezvous and starting point for all who crossed the State of Iowa as
the last settlement here they set out on the plains. The county was
organized September 21, 1848. The first county commissioners were A.H.
PERKINS, DAVID D. YEARSLEY, and GEORGE D. COULTON, and they held their
first session at the house of HIRAM CLARK in Kanesville. T. BURDICK was
their clerk; he was also first county judge, elected in 1851. JAMES
SLOAN was elected district judge and held his first term in the county
May 5, 1851. EVAN M. GREEN was Clerk and ALEXANDER McREA, Sheriff. At
this term, ORSON HYDE was admitted to the bar. SLOAN was appointed by
the Governor; he was a native of Ireland and many anecdotes are related
to his wit and eccentricity on the bench. He resigned in the course of
a year and was succeeded by JUDGE BRADFORD. These officials were all
In June 1848, a store was established on the
present site of
Council Bluffs, a point then known as Miller's Hollow before it was
named Kanesville. The business was opened in the name of STUTSMAN &
McDONALD, and was carried on by Mr. STUTSMAN. Mr. JONATHAN B. STUTSMAN
was the first Gentile who settled among the Mormons. He soon after
married and remained a prominent resident of the place. His business
was carried on for some time in a log building. He subsequently built
the first frame store, and also first frame dwelling house in Council
Bluffs. The next Gentile settler was Mr. CORNELIUS VOORHIS, who arrived
on the 17th of August 1848. The third was WM. B. FERGUSON of St. Louis.
The various settlements scattered about the
included one a short
distance east of Kanesville, on Mosquito Creek, near the seat of Wick's
old Indian Mill, where WILLIAM GARNER, EZRA SCOFIELD, SIMON GRAYBILL,
ALEXANDER FOLLETT and ALEXANDER MARSHALL remained after the exodus;
another on Pigeon Creek, in the northern part of the county; another on
the Nishnabotna at a place afterwards called Macedonia, where PETER
HAAS and WEYMEYER built a mill, and another in the northwestern part of
the county in and about Lewin's Grove, where the first settlers were
CAPTAIN JOSHUA HEADLIE, WM. HENDERSON, and JOHN KRITZINGER, the latter
of whom built a mill. In the summer of 1850 JOSEPH TOOTLE came up from
St Joseph Missouri and established the celebrated outfitting house for
California emigrants, known as the Elephant Store, and J.A. JACKSON
became connected with the house in 1851. The trade of the place was
also increased in 1850 by the accession of W.D TURNER, S.H. RIDDLE, and
J.I. FOREMAN. DR. B.Y. SHELLY commenced the practice of medicine here
the same year, and DR. S.E. WILLIAM, then a medical student, arrived in
the fall. DR P.J. McMAHON came in 1851, so also did B.R. PEGRAM, A.S.
BRYANT and the ROBINSON BROTHERS. The immigration that came in 1852 to
take the place of the Mormons was numerous. Early that Spring, Mr.
SAMUEL BAYLISS purchased of HENRY MILLER his tract in the valley of
Indian Creek. The deed was signed by ORSON HYDE and commenced, "Jesus
Christ and the Church of Latter-day Saints sell to Mr. Samuel Bayliss,"
etc. The title has never been disputed. The public lands of
Pottawattamie County were surveyed during the years 1851-2 and the
United States land office was located at Council Bluffs early in the
Spring of 1853, with JOSEPH H.D. STREET, Register, and DR. S.M.
BALLARD, Receiver. The first entry was made by JOSEPH D. LANE.
Source: Atlas of Pottawattamie
County, Iowa, Illustrated, C. R. Allen