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History of Cedar
County, Iowa, 1878.

  
 

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County Seat ... (continued)

The following is taken from the Centennial Oration of Judge Tuthill:

"On the 7th of April, the Board was again in session, when Mr. Comstock reported that he had discharged the duties entrusted to him, and filed with the Board a pre-emption certificate issued to the county from the Government Land Office at Dubuque, and also a receipt for the purchase money -- $196.44 -- for the quarter section selected by the Locating Commissions for a permanent seat of justice for Cedar County.

"As an instance of the economy and honesty practiced by the early county officials, it is noted that the whole amount charged by Mr. Comstock for his traveling expenses to Dubuque, and compensation for his services, was only $12.50.  For the same services now $100 would be considered a moderate charge.

"John J. Tomlinson, a surveyor, was employed by the County Commissioners to subdivide the land into town lots.  The plan was completed on the 20th of May, and the plat was presented to the County Commissioners at their regular session the 1st of June, 1840, certifying it to be correct.  On the same day, the plat was filed in the office of the Recorder of the county, and thus Tipton became de jure, as well as de facto, the county seat.

"In the meantime, proposals had been invited (by advertisement) for the erection of a hewed log building for jail, court house, etc., the ground floor to be used as a jail and the upper part for a court house.  The contract was awarded to P. M. Vicker, for the sum of $2,475.  William Green proposed to build it for $2,700, and James Foy for $2,500.  January 4, 1851, the contract was transferred from Vicker to Joseph K. Snyder, and the building was finally completed on the 18th of July, 1843.

"June 15, 1840, the first sale of town lots took place.  The old records show that the following sales were made:

Lot 2, Block 10 Cummins & Co. $75.00
Lot 4, Block 10 James S. Lewis 55.00
Lot 6, Block 10 J. Scott Richman 60.00
Lot 9, Block 10 E. E. Edwards 44.50
Lot 11, Block 10 F. D. Sunderland 31.56
Lot 5, Block 11 Cummins & Co. 57.00
Lot 6, Block 11 Cummins & Co. 68.00
Lot 4, Block 19 John R. McCurdy 61.00
Lot 5, Block 19 Preston J. Friend 72.00
Lot 6, Block 19 N. Y. Walker 50.00
Lot 12, Block 19 Preston J. Friend 50.00
Lot 5, Block 20 Jacob Lauderman 27.50
Lot 11, Block 26 James S. Lewis 41.00
Lot 12, Block 26 Benjamin Frazer 91.00
        Total of first public sale of town lots in Tipton $783.50

"Notwithstanding the measures thus far inaugurated, there appear to have been some apprehensions on the part of the County Commissioners as to the permanency of the county seat at Tipton, for an order was passed by the Board on the day of the sale of town lots providing that if the county seat should be removed, the money paid on lots purchased should be refunded, with 20 per cent, interest from the time of payment.

"Improvements commenced.  The first building erected was a log store house, for John P. Cook, in which, when completed, was opened the first store in Tipton.   John Culbertson commenced the erection of a building for hotel purposes about the same time.  Preston J. Friends built a dwelling house, and other buildings were undertaken by William Cummins, John R. McCurdy, Charles M. Jennings, N. Y. Walker and others.  July 23, 1840, a post office was established, with Charles M. Jennings as Postmaster.

"In the meantime, the friends of Rochester were not idle.  Various schemes were proposed and partially carried out to overcome, or at least to neutralize, the influence at work in favor of Tipton.  Among these plans was one, which if practically and successfully carried out, would no doubt have resulted disastrously to the hopes of Captain Higginson, his friends, and to Tipton, at least so far as retaining the county seat was concerned.  The reader should bear in mind that this county seat war, as it is sometimes called, was anterior to the introduction of railroads into the country.   The only means of transportation to and from the Mississippi River, was by wagons, or perchance, by an occasional keel or flat boat on Cedar River.  With a spirit of enterprise highly commendable, the friends of Rochester brought an influence to bear, that introduced steamboats on Cedar River, and during the Summer of 1840, Mississippi River steamers made frequent trips to Rochester, bringing up goods, wares, merchandise, passengers, etc., and taking back such commodities as the country desired to send to an eastern or southern market.  But in consequence of the uncertainty and low stages of water that were sure to come as the season advanced, the scheme was abandoned as impracticable.  It was the boldest and best movement the Rochester interests ever conceived or attempted to put in practice, and it is to be regretted, the interests of the whole county considered, that the enterprise did not succeed.

"During the Summer of 1840, the Rochester people prepared and circulated a petition, which was presented to the Legislature at the session following, asking for the passage of a law to enable the people to vote upon the question of re-locating the county seat.  The friends of Tipton were equal to the emergency and prepared and circulated a remonstrance against any change, or the passage of any law looking to a change.   Both documents were industriously circulated, and the canvass was so thorough that in a short time the name of every legal voter in the county was enrolled on one side or the other,  with but little difference in numbers.  It is said there were eight more names on the petition than on the remonstrance, thus showing Rochester really had a majority of eight.  This majority, however, was overcome by the names of fifteen Scotchmen and one Englishman, of Red Oak, that were secured to a duplicate remonstrance of the same tenor as the original, to which was added the written statement that they were not legal voters by reason of foreign birth, but that they were bona fide settlers, on registered claims and that they had duly and legally declared their intentions to become naturalized citizens.  The names of these sixteen men were John Ferguson, John Safley, Robert Dallas, Charles Dallas, Samuel Yule, John Chappel, William Coutts, Alexander Coutts, Robert Perie, Sr., Robert Perie, Jr., John Leith, John Garrow, Peter Garrow, Duncan McNee, Daniel McNee and John Goodrich."  (Note:  These names were gathered with much difficulty and research by Judge Tuthill.)

The contest was a spirited one and the excitement ran high.  The interest was so intense that for a time it was feared the angry and passionate discussions, criminations and recriminations would end in bloodshed, but, fortunately, the decision of the question was not with the people, but with the Territorial Legislature.  Before the meeting of that body, the feeling gradually cooled off, and, by tacit, if not mutual agreement, hostilities were suspended until the Legislature should meet and pass upon the prayers of the petitioners and remonstrants.

December 8, 1840, the respective papers were presented to the Legislature at Burlington.  William Green, Stephen Toney and Nelson Hastings were present as delegates, or lobby members, from Rochester and spared no efforts to press their claims upon the attention of the territorial law-makers.

Samuel P. Higginson, single-handed and alone, represented Tipton.  Says Judge Tuthill:  "The free, jovial and open-hearted sea-captain was something new and attractive to many of the members, who, for the first time fell in with a real salt-water sailor.  Whatever might have been the cause, whether the remonstrance had sufficient intrinsic merit in itself, or whether the captain's advocacy carried with it unusual weight and power, the result was the success of Tipton.

"The petition and remonstrance were referred to a Select Committee of the House, of which Herman Van Antwerp, the friend of Rochester, was Chairman, and a bill was introduced by him in accordance with the prayer of the petitioners, which, being read a first and second time, and the question then being put upon by a third reading, was voted down by the decisive vote of seven yeas to nineteen nays, and the bill was consequently lost.  This disposed of the question until another session of the Legislature."

Thus far the victory had always been on the side of Tipton or the geographical center, and the result inspired Higginson and his friends with renewed vigor and energy.   Improvements and population at the new county seat kept steadily increasing.   Town lots were being sold and new buildings erected.  Each recurring month added to its numerical strength, and during the Summer of 1841, the County Commissioners entered into a contract with John Finch for the erection of a Court House (Note:  That Court House served until the erection and completion of the present brick structure, when it was removed to the west side of Cedar street, and between Fourth and Fifth streets.   The upper part of it is now occupied by the Conservative printing office, and the lower part by the millinery establishment of Mrs. Rodabush, and the grocery establishment of M. J. Cosman.  36 x 42 feet, to be built in the center of the public square.  Tipton was jubilant.

Beaten, but not discouraged -- defeated, but not conquered, the Rochesterites determined to continue the war, and proposed that the next battle should before the people and at the ballot box.  They maintained that inasmuch as all county seat changes were determined by the Legislature, it was necessary in order to win success, to secure power and influence in that body by the election of members of the Council and House who were friendly to their interests, and with this object in view they brought all their energies to bear upon the choice of representative law makers.  The first grand step was the election of a member of the House from Cedar County whom they could trust -- a man known to be on the side of Rochester, and in whom there "was neither variableness or shadow of turning."  This was a strategic movement and one that required consummate skill and sagacity to execute with success.  The election district at that date was composed of three counties -- Cedar, Linn and Jones.  The district was entitled to one Councilman and two members of the House; and as the counties voted by general ticket, there was a possibility that a member might be elected who would be adverse to the Rochester interests, even if they had a majority in Cedar County.  To add further difficulty to the issue, neither one of the two political parties -- Whig and Democratic -- had a sufficient majority in the district to ensure certainty of success to either party, for a nomination in those days was not equivalent to an election, as has been the case in later years.  Cedar and Linn Counties were both Democratic by small majorities, from twenty-five to fifty votes each, while Jones was claimed for the Whigs by about the same majority.  Additional complications were suggested, in the fact that the greater part of the Whigs in Cedar County lived South of Rochester, and, in consequence, had a community of interests with those who were fighting for the county seat at that village.  The Democrats lived in the north and eastern parts of the count, and were, therefore, identified with the Tipton interests.

The Democrats were the first to enter the political arena.  A meeting was called to assemble at Tipton to choose delegates to a District Convention to be held at Gilbert's in Linn County, at which meeting sixteen delegates were chosen, all of whom were known to be friendly to Tipton.  This was an important movement, as the delegates from their respective counties were usually allowed, and rightfully too, to select their own candidates for Representatives or members of the House.

Rochester entered an earnest protest against the proceedings of this county caucus, alleging it was called without authority, that no notice of the meeting or its purpose, had been given except to the friends of Tipton.  The Democratic Executive Committee of the county, of which Joseph Crane, a friend of Rochester, was Chairman, entirely ignored the proceedings of the meeting, and issued a call for another caucus at Rochester, giving due publicity to the call.  But even at that meeting the Rochester people were again defeated in their hopes and purposes.  On the day of the meeting, the people from the northern and eastern parts of the county "came down life a wolf on the fold," invaded that quiet, but aspiring town in solid columns and overwhelming numbers.  They organized the meeting and ratified all that had been done at the Tipton meeting and carried everything their own way.

The District Convention met at Gilbert's on the 17th day of June, 1841, and one of the Cedar County delegates failing to put in an appearance, his place was filled by the appointment of Joseph Crane, of Rochester.  The Tipton men presented the name of Harvey G. Whitlock as their candidate for member of the House of Representatives, and Mr. Crane presented the name of Herman Van Antwerp as a candidate for the same position.   Of the further proceedings of the convention Mr. Crane gave the following graphic account:

Whitlock was called n for a speech and, of course, a pledge.  Mr. Whitlock responded by saying that he was not prepared to make a speech, but if any person present had any questions to ask, he would be happy to answer them.  "I arose and asked him," said Crane, "if he had ever been a Mormon preacher?"   This question appeared to take every one by surprise.  Whitlock made no answer, and seemed thunderstruck.  There was an awkward suspense for a few moments when old Jo. Leverich broke the silence by crying "Out of order!  Out of order!   The vote was taken, and on the first ballot Van Antwerp was nominated -- Linn and Jones going in a body for him.  The Cedar County delegation, with Bissell at their head, withdrew in indignation, and it soon became known, says Judge Tuthill, that the Democratic party in "old Cedar" was pretty well demoralized.

The Whigs, as was to be expected, quickly  availed themselves of the demoralized condition of the Democrats, and a primary meeting was called at Tipton to appoint delegates to a District Convention, which was to meet at Goudy', in Linn County.  To avoid the trouble that befell the Democrats, the delegates were divided equally between Tipton and Rochester.  When the District Convention met, the Rochester delegates presented the name of James W. Tallman, and the Tipton delegates named the county seat war horse and sea dog, Samuel P. Higginson, as their respective candidates for Representative.  The delegates from Linn and Jones were assured that the Tipton Democrats had pledged themselves to support the Whig candidate, as he could be relied on to sustain Tipton as the county seat.  A decision was quickly reached, and Capt. Higginson was nominated for Representative on the first ballot.  Their standard bearers thus duly chosen, the antagonistic forces of Cedar County prepared for an active and vigorous campaign.

The August election, 1841, is admitted to have been the most exciting one ever held in the county.  One candidate represented Tipton, and the other one represented Rochester.  The political predilections of the two candidates were entirely ignored.   It was Tipton against Rochester -- that was the only issue.  The friends of Tipton did not stop, when they went to the polls, to inquire whether Higginson was Whig or Democrat.  All they asked to know was "Is he for Tipton?"  So with the Rochester candidate, "Is he for Rochester?"  This question being settled satisfactorily, the voter cast his ballot accordingly, and then set to work to "electioneer" among the doubtful.  The result was not long in doubt.   Higginson was elected by about thirty majority, and Rochester was again vanquished and the question believed to be definitely settled.  For a time, all apprehensions of a removal of the county seat to be quieted, and a new impetus was given to the growth of Tipton.

In 1842, another contest came up, and was conducted with a good deal of spirit, but the energetic spirit that characterized the campaign of 1841 was absent, the contest being more from the force of circumstances than a premeditated movement.

It is remember that, when the Democrats were united, they had a very handsome majority in the county, but divided, from any cause, the Whigs always managed to carry off the victory.  William R. Rankin, jocularly called "Teddy" Rankin, was an aspiring young lawyer, and attempted to harmonize the sectional differences that had grown out of the county seat war, and to unite them on the election of a Councilman, to be chosen that year.  Rankin, as the reader has already suspected, was a candidate, and the most prominent one named.  It is said that, in his zeal to secure the nomination and election, he gave assurances to the Rochester Democrats that if elected he would not consider himself pledged to Tipton, but would act in consonance with the wishes of the majority of his constituents.

A caucus meeting was held at Antwerp to appoint delegates to the District Convention.   Rankin and a large number of his friends attended, and secured a majority of the delegates.  The District Convention was held at Gilbert's, and, at Rankin's suggestion, it was resolved that the Councilman to be nominated should be chosen from Cedar County, while the two members for the House should be nominated from Linn and Jones Counties.  This was pretty sharp practice on the part of Rankin, and was evidently intended to insure his nomination beyond the peradventure of a doubt.

 

 
 

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