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A brief Description

of

Fort Dodge,

Iowa;

Its Agricultural, Mineral, and Commercial Facilities and Character;

Being an Answer to Letters of Inquiry on the Subject

Fort Dodge:
Printed by A.S. White, at the Sentinel Book & Job Printing Office.
1858


Introductory
(I've tried to catch typo's from the conversion from pdf format to web page,
not always successfully)

The attention of western emigrants has been turned very much to the State of Iowa for the past two or three years. Especially have the eyes of men been charmed, with the beautiful country which lies along the Des Moines Hiver. Letters of inquiry are received daily, in large numbers, by those who have been here long enough to be supposed to have any information to give, and the settlement of the regoin about Fort Dodge promises to be rapid. To meet these inquiries, and furnish correspondents with the means of answering those who desire information, the following statement has boen prepared for their use, and may be relied upon as literally true, and worthy of implicit confidence.


A Brief Description of Fort Dodge.

The Valley of the Des Moines River docs not present a more powerful attraction at any point through its whole length, than the region that lies about Fort Dodge,—either in reference to beauty of scenery, richness of soil, purity and abundance of water, extent and variety of mineral wealth, or healthfullness.

The town lies upon the east bank of the river, 200 miles west from Dubuque, and was selected by Government, gn accovu.it of these advantages, as well as the fact that it lay directly in the line of Chicago, Dubuque, Sioux City and the South Pass. It is tlie County Seat of Webster County ; the Land Office of the central District of northern Iowa is located here ; it commands the trade of the valley from the Minnesota lino on the north to the Boone River on the south, together with all the range of country which lies between the Des Moines and the Missouri.

the Valley of the Des Moines is already settled through its whole length, having thriving villages springing up at short intervals, all of which, within the limits specified, must always find their outlets through Fort Dodge. These local advantages clearly indicate tlie importance of the place, testify to the wisdom of. an early settlement, and promise a bright and prosperous course for the future.

The site of Fort Dodge was selected for a Military Post, by Brevt. General Mason, thou Colonel of the 6th Infantry. Its object was to keep in check the Sioux Iudians, and was placed at the extreme part of what was called the neutral ground between the Sioux, Sac amd Fox Indians. Maj. Woods was ordered on, in the spring of 1850, and established a post which lie called Fort Clarke. But another post in Now Mexico having rooieved the same name, to prevent confu-

6

sion, it was changed, by order of the Secretary of War, to Fort Dodge, in honor of Senator Dodge, of Wisconsin. In July, 1863, the troop* were withdrawn, and ordered on to establish Fort Ridgely. November 5th, 1855, a Land Office was established hero, and the country known as "The Fort Dodge Land District." The present town-site was purchased, when vacated as a Military Post, by the "Fort Dodgo Company," consisting of the Hon. Bernhart Henn, Hon. George Gillaapy, Col. Jesse Williams, and Maj. Wm. Williams.

Fort Dodge is nearly midway between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, in a rich, beautiful and picturesque valley, and must of necessity be important as a place of trade and manufactures for its supply. It is now reached by the Dubuque & Pacific R. R. as far as Nottingham, 40 miles, and thence by stage in throe days travel by daylight only. Also, through Demoine, from Iowa City, in four days and one night. Freights are brought both ways, at an expense of from $2,50 to $3.00 per 100. The Dubuque & Pacific R. R. will soon bo open to Manchester, making 50 miles. Sixty-one miles further is partially graded, and the whole is under contract to Fort Dodge. To carry this road to completion, in addition to stock, a full grant of 3,810 acres of land por mile (the same as given to the Illinios Central,) has been made, which, at $12 por aero, which is less than the average of prices got for thoir land, will bring tho road $15,2'75,520, or $46,080 per mile. The company is entitled to lands for 20 miles before commencement, a like quantity when 20 miles is completed, and so on till the whole is finished. In addition to this, donations of land to the value of $600,000 have been made by individuals. These facts are a guarantee that the road will be completed at an early day.

A Rail Road is also in progress from Keokuk up the Des Moines Valley, which is to extend to the Great Bend of the St. Peters, in Minnesota, giving us ready access to the Lower Mississippi, and opening a communication with the timber country which lies to the north. Thus there will be opened a market east and south, and reaching that part of the Mississippi which is below the embarrassmonts which occur in a low stage of water.

The town of Fort Dodge is situated upon an elevated plateau, cornposed of throe terraces, which rise in all about 150 feet above the level, of the rivor. Upon the cast it is approached by an extensive prairie ; on the north, west, and south, it is surrounded by heavy timber. The

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banks on the west side torminato precipitously, forming an amphitheatre around the town, and adding exceedingly to the beauty of the scene, which is declared by all who have seen it, to be unequaled by anything west of the Mississippi River. the Des Moines, a pure, bright, clear stream, flows over a rook and pebble bottom at the base. Streams enter above and below the town, and a never failing stream, called tho Lizzard River, enters from the west ;—all those are clothed with timber, and furnish an abundanco of water power, the Des Moines at this point is about as largo as the Cuyahoga at Cleveland, and abounds with salmon, pickerel, and other fine fish. From its central position in such a country, away from the reach of any large city which could divert trade, and having dependencies at the north and west, it must of necessity hold out inducements hardly to bo equaled at any other point.

The first building, aside from Government barracks, which were eleven in number, was put up in the spring of 1856, but the population now amounts to 1200, while that of the county is over 5000. A good brick School House, two stories high, and costing over $4000, has been built, and a school of 96 scholars is now in successful operation. The Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Congrogationalists, Methodists, and Episcopalians, have each an Organization and minister ; the two former have built places of worship, and the two latter contemplate doing so next summer.

The population is made up of emigrants from all the Eastern and Middle States, England, Ireland, and Germany, and will compare with any town in the east, in respect to education, refinement, and intelligence. A large number are graduates of eastern colleges, and the notes of the piano and other instruments are no strangers to our ears. It is confidently believed that there is no town in the west where there is a larger proportion of men and women of education and cultivation. An evidence of this may bo seen in the maintenance of a weekly Literary Society, at which original essays, poems, and rhetorical exercises, aro exibited. Over 1400 subsciptions to various periodicals are received at this office. A large and well conducted weekly newspaper, "THE FORT DODOGE SENTINEL," is published by A. S. White, (John F. Duncombe and A. S. White, Editors,) and other means of improvement and amusement are kept up.

Among the many inducements presented to settlors at this point, not the least is our

Mineral Wealth.

On both sides of the Des Moines River, inexhaustible beds of Coal of excellent quality, crop out of the banks. These beds are already opened

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and wrought, within eighty rods of the depot grounds, and are reached without excavation or extra expense. Besides furnishing fuel for domestic and industrial purposes, it must be an important source of revenue when the Dubuque & Pacific Rail Road opens this valley to the upper Mississippi.

There is also an immense deposit of Plaster of Paris, or Gypsum,— perhaps the best in the United States. It is 18 to 20 feet thick and covers an area of not less than ten miles square. When calcined and pulverized, it is as white as any1 in the world. Preparations will be made, next summer for grinding it. It has been thoroughly tested, and is found to be of superior quality for building purposes, and can be furnished at much less cost than lime. It has been used with sand alone for plastering walls, and makes a smoothe and beautiful finish at a very tritling cost.

The timber upon the river consists of Whito and Red Oak, Sugar- Maple, Black and White Walnut, Linn or Basswood, Kim, Hickory and Locust, beside many others öf inferior growth, such as Iron wood, Cottonwood, &c. the price of lumber this Spring will bo from $2 00 to 50 for all kinds to finish a house. There'aro several saw and grist mills within some 10 to 13 miles,—some of which are near the town, and a huge flour mill is to be erected here the coming season. Carpenters, masons and other mechanic's, get high wages, and there is a pressing necessity for a largo increase. Stonecutters, agricultural implement makers and other mechanics, could not fail to do well.

Town lots vary in price from $75 to $000, according to location. Improved farms, within three, six and ten miles, are hold at from $10 to $20 per acre. Prairie lands, samo distances, unimproved, from Government price up to $8. Timbered lands, from $10 to $25. Prairie lands

9

may be fenced for about 60 cents per rod, all hired ; and after the first crop, are the same as old farms in all desirable respects. The soil,, which is a dark alluvial, varies from 2 to 6 feet in depth, is suitable for all kinds of grain. Corn, potatoes, wheal,—iu line, all the products of the middle States, grow in the richest profusion.

For the benefit of thoso not conversant with prairie lands, wo will remark that the turf is broken, if hired, for from $2 60 to $3 00 per acre. Corn is then planted and left untouched until harvest, when from 2.0 to 40 bushels ma)' bo gathered, having cost no further labor than planting and picking. After this crop, the land is fit ior auy crop, and is free from thoso incumbrances which so long , injure the appearance and productions of a farm where the timber is heavy. It is, evident from these facts, that a small investment iu land, with another for a small house, many a man who is. struggling with poverty at the East, might soon be entirely independent. It must be remembered that , every acre of this land is not only, tillable, but of the richest quality, none of it lying waste because of rocks and swamps, The timber lands furnish him posts and boards, i f ho chooses, or he can use wire, which is cheaper,—the coal mines his fuel, so that his farm need not be any larger than he may wish to keep under cultivation.

There is another important fact to be noticed. The hay, which may bo cut anywhere upon the open prairie, is pronounced as good as that made of timothy and clover, so that a man may keep any amount of stock he may desire, without waiting several years for his fields to be ready for the scythe. The grass in summer is of such richness that cattle are always fat, and sheep are healthy and vigorous.

The climate is excellent ; for except the two last winters, there has boon very little difference between the present and past winters, since the first settlement of the State. This vicinity is remarkable for health, being free from those intermittent fevers which are the terror of settlers. We have thus united such manifest advantages over most other portions of the West, as must commend our town and vicinity to the favorable consideration of observing men.

By looking at the map you will see that with the Dubuque & Pacific and Valley Railroads, we must command a wide extent of country, and have the advantage of communication with both Southern and Eastern markets. Giving due weight to these considerations, it must be evident that thousands would greatly improve their worldly condition, and run no risk, by removal to this part oí tho West. At present, prices are high for heavy goods; but when our Railroads are finished, which must be at no distant day, they will be furnished as cheap as at Chicago,

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All the products of the country are low, this year, and it is important that those who contemplate a removal to the West, should be hero soon if they wish to avail themselves of the low price of land and other advantages of an early settlement, as every month is adding to the value and price of land. If it is delayed till the Railroad is finished, the price of land will be quadrupled. Fort Dodge has already got such an upward impulse, that it is vain to deny that it will be an important town. The land within six miles West, and twice that distance North, is already settled by pre-emptors, and, with the adjacent land on the Plast sido of the river, already contains a population sufficient to support a good sized town, while the whole length of the river is lined with thrifty farms- Merchants of various kinds aro needed, in addition to those already here, to meet the wants of a constantly increasing community.

Since the above was prepared, orders have been given at Washington to bring in all the unsold lands in this part of tho State, which will immensely increase the weight of all theso considerations, and render what might be thought mere conjecture, a matter of certainty.

Advertising pg 11: John F. Duncombe, John Garaghty, Chas. M. White, Charles B. Richards, Egbert Bagg

Advertising pg 12: Hezekiah Beecher, Edward D.G. Morgan, J.C. Woobury, A.M. Dawley, James B. Strow, John D. Strow

Advertising page 13: W.O. Ruggles, G.G. Bissell, C.R. Bissell S.B. Olney, Albert Morrison, James Swain

Advertising page 14: B. Grayson & Co., Chas. A. Sherman, C.H. Stoddard, H.D. Merritt

Advertising page 15: G.G Bissell, C.R. Bissell, Luther L. Pease, G.S. Ringland, J.J. Barclay Henry Carse, Dan. H. Smith

Advertising page 16: Wm. N. Meservey, Hon. Thos. Sargent, Henry Wisner, James Gilchrist, Sam. M. Ribbins

Advertising page 17: C.G. Bruce, C. Bruce, Stephen B. Ayers


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