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History of Cedar
County, Iowa, 1878.

  
 

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County Seat (continued)

O. C. Ward, of Cedar County, was also a candidate for Councilman, and, chafed at being outgeneraled by Rankin, he determined upon and put in force a counter movement.  On his motion, it was resolved that, as the Councilman was the actual representative of the three counties, and each county having an equal interest in his election, the nomination should be made by their combined action and mutual consent.  Van Antwerp was then put in nomination and became the nominee, thus destroying the hopes of Rankin and blasting his chances for Councilmanic honors and political preferment.

Van Antwerp was the avowed champion of Rochester, and his nomination awakened the old sectional feeling of the Tipton people, and the Whigs presented John P. Cook as their candidate and the friend of Tipton.  All the old spirit of rivalry was at once awakened, and a determined fight was again waged between the friends of the two villages -- Tipton and Rochester.  The result was the election of Cook, and thus the victory was again declared to be with Tipton.  With that election, the county seat war ended.

Among the various features and incidents of local interest during the county seat controversy were the songs written and sung by the two parties.  The personal and local "hits" contained in them were generally taken in good part by both sides, and, doubtless, gave them a popularity to which they were not entitled as literary productions.  The first one of these songs was written and sung by John P. Cook, Tipton's poet and vocalist.  It was first sung by the author at a Christmas ball and supper, given at Tipton, on the night of the 25th of December, 1840, in honor of Tipton's first victory.  It was entitled

THE CEDAR COUNTY SEAT.

Air -- "The Tall Young Oysterman."

Billy Green he went to Burlington, and so did Stephen Toney;
They both rode white horses, and Hastings rode the pony.
When they arrived at Harrison's, they put them in the stable,
And then they paddled off on foot, as fast as they were able.

When they arrived at Burkhart's house 'twas 12 o'clock at night,
They called for some refreshments, but couldn't get a bite;
They swore they wouldn't go again, whatever might betide,
And Green was taken with a fit, which lasted till he cried.

The object of their journey was anything but mete,
For they traveled down to Burlington to move the county seat,
And there the greatest fun took place that ever yet was seen,
And all the Legislature laughed at silly Billy Green.

Billy Green said the Tipton folks would ruin all the nation,
By moving off the county seat fro Cedar navigation---
That the people of the center had surely all gone mad,
To treat the friends of Rochester so plagued mean and bad.

He told our worthy Councilman he was held in much esteem,
And that he must pull in harness with the Cedar County team;
It's true they pulled together, and made up quite a race,
But the off horse was balky, and the leader broke a trace.

When they lost their cause at Burlington, they felt so very blue,
They cursed the Legislature, and swore it wouldn't do;
Said Green, "My dearest Toney, we'll now put out for Cedar,
And fight them for the county seat, and whip their bully leader."

And now, hurrah, my Tipton boys!  let's have a Christmas spree;
A cheer for every Tipton man, and for Tipton, three times three;
We'll rally round the Center, boys, with all our strength and might,
And celebrate our victory, achieved without a fight.

These lines were received with great applause by the Tipton people, and were considered so appropriate to the occasion and the circumstances that they were committed to memory and sung by every man, woman and child friendly to Tipton, just as fast as they could learn the tune.  But Rochester had a poet -- Joseph Crane, a Justice of the Peace -- and, determined not to be overshadowed by Tipton's poet and songster, he set his machine in motion and ground out on the fly-leaf of his docket (it is said) the following, which is still preserved on the sheet of paper on which it was first written, and which is in possession of Judge Tuthill.  In was sung to the tune of "John Anderson, my Jo John," and was entitled

JOHN P. COOK

O, John P. Cook, my Jo John, you've sung in merry strains,
Of Hastings and of Toney, John, and also of the Cranes;
You've sung of Billy Green, John, and if you'll now give ear
I'll sing a song of Tipton, John -- a song you'll hate to hear.

O, John P. Cook, my Jo John when Nature first began
To try her cunning hands, John, her master work was man;
But you among them all, John, odd Nature did not know;
You're the work of Nature's prentice boy, O, John P. Cook, my Jo.

O, John P. Cook, my Jo John, your Tipton is a hoax,
Its citizens made up, John, of many funny folks;
Your Commissioners and your Jennings, John, both fight with toe to toe,
Like the famous old Kilkenny cats, O John P. Cook, my Jo.

O John P. Cook, my Jo John, your Captain is the man
Who fought with Jo K. Snyder, John, and was legged by Sancho Pan;
But the Captain, ne'er affrighted, John, did scratch and bite and blow,
Till he scared poor Sancho Panza Pan, O John P. Cook, my Jo.

O John P. Cook, my Jo John, your Snyder is a "hoss,"
He's everything that's nice, John, and of Tipton's he the "boss;"
On Sabbath days he's pious, John, as all the people know,
For he'll preach the Gospel in the church, O John P. Cook, my Jo.

O John P. Cook, my Jo John, your jail and court house, too,
Are nought but castles in the air, as Sancho Panza knew;
So he left the whole caboodle, John, to the care of righteous Jo;
And the Devil was the architect, O John P. Cook, my Jo.

O John P. Cook, my Jo John, your jail logs have stepped out,
And so the Devil is blamed, John, for what Jo brought about;
Now the Devil is your friend, John, as you full well do know,
For he dearly loves the Tipton folks, and John P. Cook, my Jo.

O, John P. Cook, my Jo John, and Billy Miller, too,
Your county seat must move, John, in spite of all you'll do;
For the people will be heard, John, or to fighting they will go,
As their fathers did, in seventy-six, with Johnny Bull, my Jo.

O, John P. Cook, my Jo John, your Commissioners are two,
And they are Tipton "to the hub," in everything they do;
So, firebrands and death, John, they scatter to the foe,
And love and mercy to the friends of John P. Cook, my Jo.

O, John P. Cook, my Jo John, your bully Finch came down
To get his grinding done, John, in the suburbs of our town;
But he couldn't hold his "clack," John, and old "Billy," never slow,
Just tanned the dog hide, ere he left, of John Finch, my Jo.

The people they have spoken, John, attention to them pay,
Or they will, in their might, John, take your county seat away;
Your town will then re-echo, John, with the sounds of grief and woe,
And the frogs will sing the funeral dirge of John P. Cook & Co.

There were many other local ballads, but we will only quote one more, which was composed by Judge Tuthill and sung by the Tipton Minstrels at the huskings, during the Councilmanic contest between John P. Cook and Harmon Van Antwerp, in 1842.  It was sung to the tune of "Teddy the Tiler," and was called

THE BOYS OF THE ROCHESTER PARTY.

I s'pose you've heard of Teddy O'Rann,
Who wanted to be a Councilman,
But his heels were tripped up by Gen. Van
And the boys of the Rochester party.
The plot was concocted over the slough,
Old Sam he chuckled, and swore it would do,
There was Bissell and Shell-head, they knew were true,
Jack Southern, Jake Wink and the Boltons, too:
Then at Antwerp they met, with the "Norway rats,"
And they got some twenty or thirty flats
To unite the Tipton Democrats,
With the boys of the Rochester party.

CHORUS:  Success to the union, and fill the bowl;                 
We'll merrily dance round the hickory pole,
And mix helter-skelter, and cheek by jowl,
With the boys of the Rochester party.

Now, Teddy he said it was all in vain
To try a Tipton ticket again;
He was all for Union, he told Joe Crane,
And the boys of the Rochester party.
So deep were his plans and so cunning his pate,
That he managed the Sheriff quite handy and nate;
With the Treasurer's office he got Bradley straight,
And hooked Bob Long with Recorder bait.
All the Wapsipinicon precinct was keen,
And at Pioneer Grove there were full thirteen,
With twenty at Tomlinson's carding machine,
Would go with the Rochester party.

The delegates met, the whole matter to fix;
Fifteen were from Cedar, from Jones County, six,
And twenty from Linn, who put in their best licks
For the boys of the Rochester party.
Then they counted the ballots' mid the clamor and noise,
And Teddy came out second best in the choice;
Both Tony and Shell-head did greatly rejoice
When they found out that Van had the popular voice.
For a speech, then, they called on Teddy by name,
And he got up and thanked them, he said, all the same,
For that, whatever happened, he never would blame
The boys of the Rochester party.

Success to the union, and drain the bowl,
Let us merrily dance round the hickory pole,
And mix helter-skelter, and cheek by jowl
With boys of the Rochester party.

The election of John P. Cook as Councilman, in 1842, was accepted as a final and decisive termination of the county seat war, at least by the greater part of the voters, although there are some few old soldiers around Rochester who still cherish, or profess to cherish, the belief that the county seat will yet be removed to and re-established at their village on Cedar River, at the "head of navigation."

In 1846-7, a scheme was undertaken, more as a pecuniary speculation than from any other motive, to create a new county, by changing the boundary lines of Jackson, Jones, Linn and Cedar Counties.  The movement, however, was strongly opposed by the people of the several counties.  The speculators presented their plan to the Legislature, but that body treated the measure so coolly as to "freeze it out," and consign it to perpetual and ignominious oblivion.  Had the movement been favored by the Legislature, the county seat war would have been renewed between Tipton and Rochester with the fierceness of olden times, and the result might have been satisfactory to the Rochesterites.

Monday, March 12, 1852, the County Court being in session, William Green, of Rochester, presented a petition signed by himself and four hundred and thirty-six (436) others, praying "that the county seat of Cedar County be re-located at Rochester, and that the question be submitted to a vote at the election in April, A. D. 1852."   William G. Woodward and J. Scott Richman, appeared as attorneys for the petitioners.  After hearing the arguments of the attorneys in behalf of the prayer of the petitioners, and no person offering objections to the prayer of the petitioners, "it was ordered that the following question be submitted to the people of Cedar County at the election to be held on the first Monday in April, A. D. 1852, viz.:

"Whether the county seat of Cedar County, Iowa, shall be removed to the town of Rochester, in said county.  The vote for and against the above question may be taken by the words 'For removal,' or 'Against removal,' being written or printed on the ballots."

In securing this hearing before the people, the victory was with the Rochester petitioners, but the tally sheets of the election showed that a majority of the people were averse to the prayer of the petition.  No certified returns of the election are to be found, so we have not the means of showing the number of votes cast "for removal" or the majority "against removal."  That poll book and the hopes of the Rochester people, brave to the last, are lost together.  The county seat war cry disturbs the people no more, and "everything is quiet on the Cedar."

 

Cedar County Freebooters.

Prefatory.

About the confines of American civilization, there has always hovered, like scouts before the march of an invading army, a swarm of bold, enterprising, adventurous criminals.  The broad, untrodden prairies, the trackless forests, the rivers, unbroken by the keels of commerce, furnished admirable refuge for those whose crimes drove them from companionship with the honest and law-abiding.  Hovering there, where courts and civil processes could afford but a weak bulwark of protection against their evil and dishonest purposes and practices, the temptation to prey upon the comparatively unprotected sons of toil, rather than to gain a livelihood by the slow process of honest industry, has proved too strong to be resisted.  Some of these reckless characters sought the outskirts of advancing settlements for the express purpose of theft and robbery; some, because they dare not remain within reach of efficient laws; others, of limited means, but ambitious to secure homes of their own, and with honesty of purpose, exchanged the comforts and protection of law afforded by the old, settled and populous districts for life on the frontiers, and not finding all that their fancy painted, were tempted into crime by apparent immunity from punishment.  In all new countries, the proportion of the dishonest and criminal has been greater than in the older and better regulated communities where courts are permanently established and the avenues of escape from punishment for wrong-doing more securely guarded.

When white people first began to enter upon and possess the Cedar River country, there were but two counties organized west of the Mississippi River, even to the Pacific Ocean, if we except the counties of Missouri.  These two counties were Dubuque and Des Moines.  They extended from the flag staff at Fort Armstrong back into the country forty miles, and from the Missouri State line northward to a line running westward from Prairie du Chien.  It was a vast scope of country, and afforded secure hiding places for outlaws and desperadoes.  When the rich prairies, beautiful forests and magnificent valleys began to attract honest immigration, human vultures followed in the rear or settled down in the midst of the industrious, toiling pioneers to prey upon their substance, well knowing that, by reason of the unorganized condition of society, there would be comparative freedom and immunity from detection and punishment.

In 1837, the country began to be flooded with counterfeit money -- in fact, says our informant, there was more counterfeit money than there was of good.  Occasionally, and the occasions were rather more frequent than angel's visits, a horse would be stolen.   No one could tell where the counterfeit money came from, nor where the stolen horse was hidden.  At last horse stealing became so general and was so successfully prosecuted that when a farmer missed a horse from his stable or his pasture, he never hunted for him beyond a half mile from his premises.  It was useless, the gang was so well organized, and had such a perfect system of stations, agents, signs and signals.

Early in 1837 or 1838, a number of persons settled in Cedar County, whose habits and practices gave rise to the suspicion that they belonged to a regularly organized gang of law breakers, horse thieves and counterfeiters.  They had no visible means of support, and were almost constantly coming and going, wore good clothes -- that is to say, they dressed better than the honest, toiling farm makers -- had plenty of money, and were ready at all times and on all occasions to pay their way.  When the young men and women -- the sons and daughters of the settlers -- got up a ball, these suspected parties, at least the unmarried portion of them, sought to "run things" according to their own notions, and at last became so overbearing and dictatorial that, as a measure of self-protection, the scions of the pioneers found it necessary to choose as managers of their Terpsichorean entertainments the strongest and most athletic of their number to do the fighting -- the "knocking down and dragging out" of the domineering young pirates, who generally carried their revolvers wherever they went.

These people were shrewd, cunning and secret in their business maneuvers.  To their immediate neighbors they were obliging, kind and charitable, where charity was needed.  They wore an outward garb of respectability, and so hedged themselves as to escape detection and exposure for many years.

Personale of the Freebooters.

Among the representative men of these bold plunderers were Squires, Congolese, James Stoutenburg alias James Case and Christian Jove.  Squires lived in Iowa township.  Congolese first settled at Gofer's (Cedar Bluffs) Ferry, but subsequently moved across the county line and settled in Johnson County, near what is now Morse Station.  Stoutenburg alias Case was an unmarried man, and divided his time between the houses of Squires and Congolese as best suited his convenience and the purposes of those with whom he was connected and associated.  Jove was also an unmarried man, and, while Congolese managed Gofer's Ferry, worked for and made his home with him.   Besides these men, there were a number of others of equally suspicious character.   Some of them lived in Cedar County, and others lived in the borders of the adjoining counties.

Besides those above named, there was a man named McBroom -- a keen, shrewd, cunning fellow, with some knowledge of law -- who was always present to defend such members of the gang as found themselves in the "clutches" of the law.  McBroom came here from Illinois, and was regarded as a very dangerous character, and a "member in good standing" with the unworthy fraternity.

John Broody and his four sons -- John, Stephen, William and Hugh -- came to the country in 1839, and were among the first settlers in Linn County.  They were natives of Ohio, and commenced their career of villainy in that State as much as fifty years ago.   Somewhere about 1830 or 1832, they were driven from the Clear Fork of the Mohican River, in Richland (now Ashland) County, and sought refuge in Steuben County, Ind., for two or three years, where they became so notorious as to arouse the entire country against them, and in 1835, they were forced to quit that country and flee westward.  In the year last named, they found their way to the Rock River (Illinois) country, and settled at what came to be known as Brodie's Grove, in Dement Township, Ogle County.  At that time, that region of country was completely under the power and dominion of outlaws and desperadoes, and there, for  a time, they found congenial companionship and associations.

At last, however, the honest people organized themselves as Vigilantes or Regulators, as a measure of self-protection; and, in 1839, the Brodie brood was bought out, and warned to leave the country.  They accordingly left there at once, and came to Linn County, where their houses became refuges and hiding places for their accomplices in crime and villainy.  For a number of years after the Brodies came to Linn County, there was scarcely a term of the court in which some of the family were not arraigned for trial, on the charge of horse stealing.

Sam Literel and Joe Leverich were said to be members of the gang; and, if not actively engaged in horse stealing, their homes and houses were resorted to by those who were.

This gang operated over a large scope of country, and with so many members located in Cedar County, such secure hiding places, and so many of the gang coming and going, it is but little wonder that the people came to live in constant fear and dread.  But the villains worked so cautiously and secretly as to be almost past finding out.  Horse stealing became so common that a man who owned a good horse never presumed to leave him over night in an unlocked stable, and, in many instances, farmers and horse owners slept in their stables with their rifles by their sides.  The time came, however, when the gang planned and undertook the perpetration of a robbery that aroused honest people throughout the country, and caused the immediate organization of a protective association, and the visitation of quick and summary punishment upon several of the Cedar River Buccaneers.

 

 
 

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