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History of Cedar
County, Iowa, 1878.


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History of Cedar County

"Westward the Star of Empire takes its way."

General Summary.

The first white occupant of any part of the territory included in the great State of Iowa, of which history gives any account, was Julien Dubuque, an adventurous Frenchman, who commenced working the lead mines in the vicinity of the site of the city that now bears his name and perpetuates his memory, in 1788.  Dubuque is said to have been a Canadian Frenchman, and probably obtained his first knowledge of the Upper Mississippi country from the reports left by James Marquette and Louis Joliette, who were authorized by the French government of Canada, in 1673, to "start from the Straits of Mackinaw and find out and explore the great river lying west of them," of which they had heard marvelous accounts from the Indians about Lake Michigan.

Marquette and Joliette, accompanied by five boatmen, left the southern extremity of Green Bay and ascended Fox River in small canoes to the headwaters of that stream, and thence carried their canoes and provisions across to Wisconsin River.  Again launching their canoes, they floated down that stream and entered the Mississippi on the 17th day of June, 1673.  "When we entered the majestic stream," wrote Marquette, " we realized a joy we could not express."  Quietly and easily they were swept down to the solitudes below, filled, no doubt, with wonder and admiration as they beheld the bold bluffs and beautiful meadows along the western bank of the Father of Waters, then revealed for the first time to the eyes of white men.  This was the discovery of Iowa -- the "Beautiful Land."

At this time, and until 1788, this newly discovered territory was inhabited only by tribes of Indians, of whom we have but a vague and unsatisfactory history.  Marquette and Joliette left but a very brief statement concerning them, and that statement is summed up in a very brief paragraph  On the 21st day of June, 1673, the fourth day of their journey down the Mississippi, they landed on the west bank and "discovered footprints of some fellow mortals and a little path leading into a pleasant meadow."  They followed that trail a short distance, when they heard the Indians talking, and making their presence known by a loud cry, they were conducted to an Indian village, the location of which, by some has been conjectured was near the Des Moines River.  Other authorities, with a reasonable degree of plausibility, have claimed that it was not far from the present site of the city of Davenport.  The inhabitants of this Indian village are said to have been of the Illini, (note:  Tribe of men.) who are supposed to have occupied a large portion of the country bordering on the Mississippi.    The Illini were succeeded by the Winnebagoes, who in turn gave place to the Iowas.  The Iowas, after having been defeated in a sanguinary conflict by the Sacs and Foxes, (Note:  The Sauks or Saukies (white clay), and the Foxes or Outagamies (so called by the Europeans), and Algonquins, respectively, but whose true name is Mus-quak-ki-uk (red clay), are in fact but one nation.  When the French Missionaries first came in contact with them in 1665, they found that they spoke the same language, and that it differed from the Algonquins, though belonging to the same stock. -- Albert Gallatin.)  yielded up their prairie homes to the victorious foe, and sullenly retired to more peaceful hunting grounds farther west, leaving the name as an unfading remembrance to the flourishing State that now occupies their aboriginal possessions.

For a period of one hundred years following this discovery, or until 1763, France claimed jurisdiction over the country thus discovered by Marquette and Joliette, when that government ceded it to Spain, but in 1801 the Spanish Government ceded back to France all interest in the Mississippi Valley, and, under treaty dated April 30, 1803, the First Consul of the French Republic ceded these possessions to the United States.

It was while under the dominion of the Spanish Government in 1788, that Dubuque found his way to the Galena section of Iowa and obtained from Blondeau and two other chiefs of the Fox tribe of Indians, what he claimed was a grant of lands.  His claim was described as "seven leagues (21 miles) on the west bank of the Mississippi, from the mouth of the Little Maquoketa River to the Tete Des Moines, and three leagues (9 miles) in depth.  This grant from the Indian chief Blondeau was subsequently qualifiedly confirmed by Carondelet, the Spanish Governor at New Orleans.  Dubuque intermarried with the Indians among whom he had cast his fortunes, and continued to operated his mines (employing about ten white men), until the time of his death in 1810.  In 1854, a case having been made, the United States Supreme Court decided that his grant from the Indian chief Blondeau, qualifiedly confirmed by the Spanish Governor, Carondelet, was nothing more than a "temporary license to dig ore, and constituted no valid claim to the soil." -- [16 Howard Rep., 224.]

March 16, 1804, the boundary line between Upper and Lower Louisiana was established.    The lower country was called the Territory of New Orleans, and the upper country the District of Louisiana.  The District of Louisiana embraced the present States of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota, and was attached to the Territory of Indiana for political and judicial purposes.  In 1807, Iowa was organized with the Territory of Illinois, and in 1812, it was included in the Territory of Missouri.  In 1821, when Missouri was admitted into the Union as a sovereign and independent State, Iowa was left, for a time, as a "political orphan," in which condition she remained until attached to Michigan Territory, in June, 1834.  Under an act of Congress, approved April 20, 1836, which went into effect July 3, of the same year, the territory now comprising the States of Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota was organized as Wisconsin Territory, and Henry Dodge appointed Governor.

"At the close of the Black Hawk war," says Hon. C. C. Nourse, in his State Address, delivered at the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia, Thursday, September 7, 1876, "and on the 15th of September, 1832, General Winfield Scott concluded a treaty at the present site of the City of Davenport (on the grounds now occupied by the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Depot. -- Ed.) with the confederate tribes of Sac and Fox Indians, by which the Indian title was extinguished to that portion of Iowa known as the "Black Hawk Purchase."  This was a strip of land on the west bank of the Mississippi River, the western boundary of which commenced at the southeast corner of the present county of Davis; thence to a point on Cedar River, near the northeast corner of Johnson County; thence northwest to the neutral grounds of the Winnebagoes; thence to the Mississippi to a point above Prairie du Chien, and contained about six million acres of land.  By the terms of this treaty, the Indians were to occupy this land until June 1, 1833."  Under the jurisdiction of Michigan Territory this strip was divided into tow counties -- Dubuque and Des Moines -- being divided by a line commencing at the flag-staff at Fort Armstrong (Rock Island), and thence running due west forty miles.

In 1836, when the first census of this district of country was taken, the population of the counties of Dubuque and Des Moines aggregated 10,531.

At the first session of the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature, held in 1836, the counties of Des Moines, Lee, Van Buren, Henry, Muscatine and Cook, now called Scott, and Slaughter (now Washington) were organized out of the original Des Moines County.  At the second session, which convened at Burlington, Des Moines County, in November, 1837, Dubuque County was sub-divided, and the following counties erected therefrom:    Dubuque, Clayton, Fayette, Delaware, Buchanan, Jackson, Jones, Linn, Benton, Clinton and Cedar.

Descriptive Geography -- Indian Names -- Timber.
By Judge William H. Tuthill.

Cedar County is twenty-four miles square, composed of Congressional Townships 79, 80, 81 and 82 north of Ranges 1, 2, 3 and 4, west of the Fifth Principal Meridian, and is bounded north by Jones County, east by Clinton and Scott, south by Muscatine, and west by Johnson and Linn.

Cedar River enters the county on its west side, some nine miles south of the northwest corner, and running in a southwesterly direction, passes out of the county at or near the center of the southern boundary.

The Wapsipinicon River flows through the northeast corner, and both are skirted by large belts of timber.  There are also numerous small groves upon their tributaries through the central portion of the county.

These rivers, together with the streams, creeks and spring runs, which meander through the prairies, have peculiarly adapted the county to stock raising, and those who have engaged in the business have found it largely remunerative.

Cedar River, from which the county derives its name, was so called from the fact that prior to the settlement of the country by the whites, large quantities of red cedar were found on its banks, principally in what are now Benton and Black Hawk Counties, much of which was cut and rafted down the river by outlaws from the Mississippi before the Government survey of the Territory.

The Indian name of the river is Mosk-wah-wak-wah, meaning Red Cedar, the literal translation being Moskwah, red; wakwah, cedar or cedar tree.    (Note:  This information respecting the Indian name of Cedar River was given to the writer in 1859 by Antoine LeClaire, of Davenport, who was considered the highest authority upon all subjects relating to the Indians, and was, undoubtedly, the most accomplished Indian linguist of his day.)

The Wau-bis-e-pin-e-ka, orthographically modified to Wapsipinicon, has retained its aboriginal name, and translated, would by waubis, white; pinekas, potato; so that, if rendered into English, it would be the White Potato River.

Wau-bis-e-no-noc, the Indian name of both branches of the small stream in Iowa Township, in English would by White Paps or White Breasts.

Anamosa is a Chippewa word for dog or dog pup.  Maquoketa is a Chippewa word for high bank.  Wakoah is a Saukie word for fox.

For agricultural purposes, Cedar is considered one of the best counties in the State.    The soil is a deep, black loam, underlaid with clay, and is unsurpassed for richness and fertility.  The prairies are high and rolling, supplied with a fair proportion of timber and an abundance of good water.  It presents all the natural advantages to secure to its industrious citizens a bountiful harvest and comfortable and happy homes.

Its physical and agricultural character is well described by Prof. David Dale Owen, in his geological survey.  He says:

"On leaving the northwestern margin of that portion of the Illinois coal field which, on the west side of the Mississippi, juts into Iowa in the vicinity of Muscatine, a sudden change is observable, not only in the character of the soil, but, also, to some extent, in the climate.  The soil which overlies the sandstones of the coal measures is of that warm, quick, silicious, porous character, which rapidly advances vegetation, but is apt to leave it in a parched condition during the drouths of Summer or Autumn; while immediately north of the mouth of Mud Creek, the stiff, dark, calcareous soil, marking the transition to the limestones of the Cedar Valley, appears. Though less forcing in its character than the other, this soil is much richer and more retentive, storing up the successive acquisitions and infiltrations from organic decomposition, until the proportions of geine, humus and other organic principles rise from ten sometimes to even thirty per cent.  For wheat and small grain generally, this soil is well adapted."

Timber, etc.

The same authority says:

"though the valley of Cedar River cannot boast the dense forests of Indiana or Ohio, yet, for a provident people, it contains timber sufficient for fuel, fencing and building purposes; and the absence of continuous forests is well repaid by the facility with which the settlers in the prairie can, in a few years, reduce an extensive farm to excellent order, aided, as in these level meadow lands he has an opportunity to be, in his sowing and harvesting operations, by labor-saving machinery."

The timber consists of White Oak, Quercus Alba; Black Oak, Quercus Tinctoria; Red Oak, Quercus Rubra; Burr Oak, Quercus Macrocarpa; Hickory, Carya Alba; Elm, Ulmus Americana; White Maple, Acer Dasycarpum; Sugar Maple, Acer Saccharinum; Linden, or Basswood, Tilia Americana; Cottonwood, Monilifera; Oak predominating.

The natural fruits are crab apple, wild cherry, plum and grape.

[From the report of David Dale Owen.}

No thorough geological survey of the county has ever been made, continues Judge Tuthill.  In the Spring of 1849, David Dale Owen and his party made a somewhat hasty examination of several localities.  In his report, he says:

On Section 27, Town 79, Range 2, on the east bank of Sugar Creek, ledges of rugged magnesian limestone rise twelve feet above the water level, at the foot of a dam.  In this rock I found no well-defined fossils, but the imperfect Terebratulae and Pentameri, as well as the lithological character, leave little doubt that it belongs to the Upper Silurian epoch.  This inference was confirmed by observation on the opposite side of the same stream, where these magnesian beds are at an elevation of from fifteen to twenty feet, and have resting on them from fifteen to twenty feet of a white, brecciated, close-textured limestone, similar to the beds of the Upper or Rock Island Rapids of the Mississippi River.

In juxtaposition with these calcareous beds, in a hollow; not thirty paces from the creek, and at an elevation of twenty-five feet above it, a light, buff, banded freestone, an outlier of the coal formation, crops out.

On Section 15, Town 79, Range 2, on the same creek, are solid ledges of magnesian limestone, to the height of thirty feet.  At this locality, no white limestone was observed overlying it; only some loose pieces of freestone are scattered on the slopes.   In some of the slabs of magnesian limestone lying in the quarry are casts of Cyathophyllae, a small Terebratula and an Orthis, not sufficiently well preserved to make out the species.

At the mill on Rock Creek, in Section 14, Town 80, Range 3 (now known as the stone mill), is a similar rock, having, however, a more earthy and arenaceous appearance, and sometimes banded.  There, the white, brecciated limestone lies about twenty feet above the water.

On Cedar River, half a mile from Rochester, is magnesian limestone like that at Parkhurst, and a variety of freestone is again in close proximity; and half a mile west of the same place, twenty feet of buff-colored, earthy, magnesian limestone is exposed, with nests of calcareous spar and black spots disseminated, such as are found at the head of the Upper Rapids.

On Rocky Creek, Section 30, Town 80, Range 3, a light-colored magnesian limestone is in place; and the same rocks form ledges of thirty-five feet above the level of Rock Run, on Section 27, Town 80, Range 3.  At these latter localities, the magnesian limestone is of a much lighter color than usual; it has, however, the texture and glistening aspect peculiar to the dolomite rocks.  Only obscure casts of organic remains are found in it.

In digging a well on Section 9, Town 80, Range 3 (on the John Huber place), rock was struck at thirty-two feet and the excavation continued for forty-three feet more; first, through white, close-grained limestone, and then magnesian limestone.  The top of the well is about seventy feet above the waters of the Cedar.  A mile or a mile and a half from this place, on Rock Run, earthy magnesian limestone, with dark specks, is exposed, eight feet above the water.

South of Mason's Grove, porphyritic boulders are scattered over the prairie, of a similar composition to those observed in the Winnebago Reserve, but smaller, about one third the size.

At the crossing of Clear Creek, on Section 29, Town 82, Range 4, twenty-six feet of buff-colored magnesian limestone, with cavities, is exposed in a quarry.  The lower strata, to the height of fifteen feet, lie in heavy beds, from one and a half to three feet thick.  The next foot is composed of layers, of from one to three inches thick; and over the whole, the beds are much broken and irregularly divided.

In the bed of Cedar River, in Township 80 north, Range 3 west, probably on Sections 34 and 27, limestone, possessing a close, lithographic texture, is found, at a low stage of the river.

On Section 28, Town 81, Range 4, where the south line of the section strikes the west side of the river, above Washington Ferry (now Cedar Bluffs), are ledges of cream-colored limestone, in even, bedded layers, to the height of some thirty-five feet above the river.

In some of the layers, small hemispherical concretions run in the joints of the strata, as well as through the substance of the rock itself.  The best of the slabs approximate in character, although of too course a texture, to lithographic limestone.   The lowest layers have very much the aspect of the beds observed on the west side of Clear Creek.  A north and south crevice traverses the rock at this place, containing some calcareous spar and ferruginous clay; but no metallic ores have been discovered, the crevice being filled with tumbled wall-rock intermixed with red clay.   The strata have a southerly dip of 3.  A corresponding wall of rock is also on the opposite side of the river, which would form solid natural abutments for a bridge.

A quarter of a mile lower down, near the middle of Section 34, Township 81, Range 4, there is a fine quarry of heavy beds of subcrystalline magnesian limestone.  This rock, which is of the Upper Silurian period, dips southwesterly under the thin bedded limestone above the ferry.  These latter appear, from their chemical composition, to belong to the Devonian system, although no evidence was derived from organic remains, which are very scarce at both localities.  Some well known Devonian forms are however found in the debris of the river near by.

In Hickory Grove, on the southeast corner of Section 34, Township 80, Range 4, both magnesian limestone and white limestone lie within two yards of each other.  The latter containing Spirifer euruteines, Gorgonia retiformis and stromatopora polymorpha.

The inferences to be deduced from the foregoing observations are, that all the rocks, as well those referable to the Upper Silurian as to the Devonian periods, have been subjected to disturbances subsequent to the carboniferous era.  These disturbances have been chiefly dislocations, through which the strata have been displaced more by abrupt vertical depressions and elevations than by prolonged arched waved movements.

That the subcarboniferous limestone, which forms a zone around the coal measures and occupies the Valley of the Mississippi between latitude 40 and 41 is lost to view in Cedar County.

The calcareous beds, which constitute a conspicuous feature of the lower coal measures of the Des Moines Valley are not traceable here.

The Devonian rocks consist chiefly of close-textured white or gray limestones, sometimes brecciated, or of argillaceous limestones, both varieties containing a much smaller percentage of magnesia than the adjacent dolomitic rocks of Upper Silurian date.   The former are no great thickness, probably not exceeding seventy feet, upon which Judge Tuthill makes the following comment:

"In the subsequent geological survey of the State, by Professor James Hall, in 1855-56-57; and by Dr. Charles A. White, in 1866 to 1869, Cedar County seems to have been somewhat neglected by them; but both agree in the conclusion that some three-fourths of the rock formations of the county are Devonian, of the Hamilton group, thus placing them above and of a later formation than the Upper Silurian, as stated by Prof. Owen."

Doctors, we know, will disagree, but in this case the difference of our learned Professors is really unimportant, the Devonian being the geological formation that immediately overlies the Upper Silurian, and, as both are below the carboniferous coal measures, we must in either case give up the idea of finding coal in Cedar County in paying quantities; and it will perhaps be good policy to give up also the dream of native silver, which some of our enthusiastic Rochester (Note:  See chapter devoted to Rochester for a full history of the Rochester silver mining excitement.) friends have indulged in, for Dr. White says:

"To most persons, it will doubtless seem superfluous to offer any remarks in relation to silver in Iowa, yet considerable local excitement has been caused by the alleged discovery of silver in Cedar County.  These reports were believed in by many to be true, especially when silver or a metallic compound resembling it were shown as the product of the rock reported to contain it."

This rock is of the Devonian age, and consists of more or less irregular layers and concretions of carbonate of lime, occasionally having fine crystalline specs of iron pyrites disseminated through it.

A number of specimens of this rock have been obtained both by personal selection and from persons interested in knowing the facts in the case.  These have been carefully analyzed by Prof. Emory, and the result is that no trace of silver has been detected in any instance.



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