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1876 Centennial History

of Webster County,


also the City of Fort Dodge

1854 Ft. Dodge


FORT DODGE, the county-seat of Webster county, is situated upon the east bank of the Des Moines river, two hundred miles due west from Dubuque, one hundred and twenty miles due east from Sioux City, and eighty miles north of Des Moines, in latitude 42 degrees, 26 minutes, 15 seconds, and longitude 17 degrees, 17 minutes, 37 seconds west of Washington.

By an order of the Secretary of War, issued May 31st, 1850, for the protection of the frontier settlements of Iowa, a post was ordered established on the east bank of the Des Moines river opposite the mouth of the Lizzard fork.

On the 14th day of July, 1850, Brevet Brigadier General CLARKE, Commander of the Sixth military department, ordered Brevet Major WOODS, with his company E. sixth Infantry, to proceed to construct and garrison a military post at the point designated in the order of the Secretary of War, reserving eight miles in length along the river and two miles in depth on each side, us a military reserve for the use of the government. During the summer of 1850 the post was established, and in honor of General CLARKE named Fort Clarke, On the 25th day of June, 1851, by order of Major General SCOTT the name of the post was changed to Fort Dodge. On the 3Oth day of March, 1853, Brevet Brigadier General CLARKE ordered the garrison to be broken up, and marched by the most practicable route to the new post on the Minnesota river. The waters on the rivers being high, It was late in September before the order was fully carried into effect.

After the troops abandoned Fort Dodge, Major WILLIAMS remained, and in connection with JOHN LEMP purchased seciton 10, on which the fort was built, together with the improvements, from the State of Iowa.

In March, 1854, the town site was platted and recorded. At that time the only inhabitants of the town were Major WM. WILLIAMS, JAMES B. WILLIAMS, JOHN M. HEFLEY and WM. B. MILLER and family. On the 29th day of March, JOHN SCOTT, with his brother ROBERT and family, came, and on the 28th day of June, C. C. CARPENTER. Later in the season E. H. ALBEE came, and in the fall DANIEL W. PRINDLE, CHAS. BERGK, WM. H. PLUMB, E. E. COLBURN amd others, and made a settlement.

At this time C. C. CARPENTER opened the first school in a small log building back of the old Wahkonsa hotel and taught twenty scholars, and WM. K. MILLER, opened his famous hotel, the Wahkonsa. In the spring of 1855, S. B. OLNEY. H. BEKCHER, J. L. CHYNEY, H. A. CRAMER, JOHN E. DUNCOMBE, GEO. IS. SHERMAN, JOHN GARAUHTY, R. P. FURLONG, THOS. SARGENT, ANGUS MCBANE, A. M. DAWLEY, A. MORRISON, R. E. CARPENTER and a host of others arrived, and when MILLER'S dinner-bell would ring fifty persons would make a rush for the table, which was set for the accommodation of only ten. The ten lucky ones would eat and Mrs. MILLER and her daughters wash the dishes, replenish the supplies and again ring the bell. In this way the guests were fed, These coming last getting their meals three hours after the first. In May, 1855, WILLIAM HODGES bought out MILLER and at once set a well provisioned table that would accommodate one hundred guests, and our school-master left his good bed, consisting of a board laid on two barrels, with an army blanket for a matress and another for a cover, and sought repose between clean sheets and a straw bed on an iron bed- stead. At this time the population of the town was about one hundred and fifty, the greater portion of which were young men; a majority of them are now scattered from Maine to California. These were not days of toll. Our hard-working lawyers, doctors and merchants of to-day could then have been seen pitching quoits with twenty dollar gold pieces, or in their rooms writing home to their "sisters."

It was at this time that SAM. M. ROBBIN." organized the Wahkonsa hook and ladder company, and after laying in a good supply of the "benzine" kept for sale by the County Agent at Homer, "for medicinal and mechanical purposes only." he saw a light in the room occupierd by the correspondent of the Cincinnati Enquirer, imagining a fire, be ordered his men up with their ladders. In a moment the whole upper story of the hotel was stripped of furniture; beds, bedding, etc., lay in the street. But the correspondent refused to leave, and in an angry moment told SAM. he was drunk. Then came the order to charge, and out went the corres- pondent.

The first frame building erected in Fort Dodge, aside from the fort buildings, was the small house on lot 3, block S. This house was enclosed in May, 1855, and used as an office. It is now owned and occupied by Mrs. AMANDA MCGREW. The first brick building was erected by MORGAN & BEER, in the fall of 1855, is on Fifth street, and now owned by ISAAC GILMORE.

Major WM. WILLIAMS was the lirst post-master. His office was in the hack part of the store occupied by J AS. B. WILLIAMS & Co., one of the old fort buildings, and Dr. S. B. OLNEY, the first physician, occupied a canto of the same store for his office, laboratory, bed-room, etc. A. M. DAWLEY sold goods in a small log building now standing near the foot of Market street, and lived with his family in a small shed addition. JOHN F. DUNCOMBE, our first attorney at law. hung out his shingle in the broker's office of HENN, WILLIAMS & Co. HEZEKIAH BRECHER, finding no room in which to display his law-library, burned a kiln of lime near the railroad-bridge and built the grout building, now standing on Williams street. THOS. SARGENT, desiring a home for his wife and family, shouldered his ax and marched to the woods, where he cut the greater part of the timber for the house he now occupies on Third street. JOHN GARAGHTY erected a log house, the first residence building erected in Fort Dodge, in the rear of the brick he now occupies on Williams street, and preserved his library, while he spent his time burning lime and getting together the materials for his brick house. E. H. ALBEE ran a supply train from Muscatine and Fort Des Moines to the fort, often competing with the weekly stage in carrying passengere, at the same time cultivating the farm enclosed on the bottom south of town, while Mrs. ALBEE, the first woman in Fort Dodge who now lives here, opened her house to all who came until it was full to overflowing. DANIEL W. PRINDLE, after assisting in building the first store building erected-In town, purchased a team and hauled goods from Muscatine, often having for a load down, the Receiver of the Land-Office, with his guard and boxes of gold coin. Messrs. CHEYNEY and CRAMER, after building a house for themselves, assisted their neighbors in building houses when not engaged in improving their claims. ANGUS MCBANE, preferring "to wear out than to rust out," drew his logs to HINTON's mill, saw them on the carriage, and then loaded his wagon with the lumber, never losing sight of the log until the last board was sawed. A lack of confidence in the integrity of the man of the mill led to this extra caution. With the lumber thus obtained, he erected on Williams street, opposite the Wahkonsa hotel, a banking house that he, in connection with WM. & R. K. WILSON, subsequently occupied. Tills was the first building erected here for such purpose. WM. H. PLUMB at once turned his attention to farming and the raising of blooded stock. GEO. B. SHERMAN opened the first grocery store, where he furnished the early settlers with choice groceries, often exchanging them for furs, deer skins, or any other commodity that would bear transportation to market, then at Muscatine. ROBERT E. CARPENTER assisted in subdividing the townships on the northern boundary of the Slate, and worked the balance of the tiine on his homestead. Thus time passed until fall, when a valuable acquisition to our population was made by the introduction of several families containing young ladies. Then the i ed shirts were laid aside and a white shirt helped to make the toilet of the Fort Dodge beaux. The hook and ladder company was abandoned, the sales of the County Agent grew less, churches were organized and quietness reigned in town.

The improvements up to this time had all been made on Williams street, west of Sixth. At this time two stores were built on Market street, the oldest of which has just been torn down by Mrs. SCHAUPP.

As winter approached the squatters began to come in from off their claims, and the hotel and boarding houses being full, " batchelor's halls " were opened. It was no uncommon sight to see a young batchelor broiling his venison ham or making doughnuts, or on an extra occasion begging the loan of a few spoons or an extra platter of some fair house-wife who had them to spare, that he might feed his hungry comrades.

The winter of 1855 and 1850 was cold, and snow lay on the ground all winter to the depth of ten inches. On the 8th of December it rained all day and at night snowed hard from the north- east. Young DAY, a son of the Rev. Mr. DAY, who lived near the slide, crossed the ford near the lower bridge, and although the lights from the town were discernable, he allowed his horses to turn about and wander down the river. One horse he mired in a ravine near PHIL. KARCHEH'S, tied another to a tree, and the third he rode into a hole near JOHN MEASLES', killing the horse and injuring himself, so that he crawled out upon the prairie and froze to death. This was the first death from freezing, but during the winter there were several west of this.

By an Act of Congress approved May 15th, 185B, a grant of land was made to the State of Iowa for building a railroad from Dubuque to Sioux City. At a special session of the Legislature, which convened at Iowa City July 2d, 1858, this grant was given to the Dubuque & Pacifie railroad company, who at once ran a preliminary line, selected their land and sought of the county subsidies. This county, under a promise that the road should be built at once, and Fort Dodge made a point, voted $200,000 of bonds. This gave the town a new start, and more stores were opened, new hotels built, and the town grew rapidly, and for fear there would not be room enough for all that came, additions to the town were surveyed and platted.

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