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History of Cedar
County, Iowa, 1878.


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John Brown (continued).

John Brown went East, visited the principal cities and employed his time until November, 1857, in raising assistance for his beloved cause.

In February, at Collinsville, Connecticut, he contracted for 1,000 pikes -- steel knives, eight inches long, to be attached to poles six feet long, for the use of slaves.   In April, he arranged with Col. Hugh Forbes, author of a military text book, to instruct his young men at Tabor, Iowa.  Col. Forbes went to Tabor in June, 1857, but as he and Mr. Brown could not well agree, he returned.  Mr. Brown gathered recruits from Kansas and started East from Tabor to attend military school.  At Springdale, Cedar County, they stopped, and as they could not sell their horses, according to plan, and continue the trip by rail, they remained in that vicinity during the Winter.

Two hundred Sharpe's rifles, two hundred revolvers and other stores were shipped from West Liberty, Muscatine County, to Ohio, thence to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, thence to Harper's Ferry.  The company then consisted of Captain John Brown, Owen Brown, A. D. Stephens, alias Whipple, Charles Moffit, C. P. Tidd, Richard Robertson, Col. Richard Realf,  L. F. Parsons, William Leeman and ------ Cook; Edwin and Barclay Coppoc, sons of Mrs. Ann Raley, of Springdale, and J. H. Kagi joined the company.   They stopped with William Maxson near Pedee, where they pursued a course of military studies with A. D. Stephes as Drill Master.  The people of the neighborhood were generally in sympathy with the work, and an old store room at Springdale was used as a store house.  About the middle of April, they left for Chatham, Canada, via Chicago and Detroit.

At Chatham, a convention for the purpose of organization was called;  Captain John Brown was elected Commander-in-chief; J. H. Kagi, Secretary of War; Richard Realf, Secretary of State; Treasurer, Owen Brown; Secretary of Treasury, George B. Gill (brother of Dr. Gill of Springdale); Members of Congress, Alfred M. Ellsworth, Osborn Anderson.

This little band were next heard from at Harper's Ferry, and the whole civilized world knows the result.

A great price was offered for the capture of the "out-laws."  During the stay of John Brown's men at Springdale, a band of Iowa City men determined to make a raid upon them.  As the secret leaked out, William P. Wolf, then in Iowa City, and Jerome N. Duncan, of the Iowa City Republican, secured a box car on the railroad, and ordered it left at West Liberty, subject to John Brown's orders, intending to have Brown's men "shipped" before the assault by the Iowa City men, and thus avoid a bloody conflict.  Mr. Wolf then started to inform Mr. Brown, and met en route a man (who proved to be J. H. Kagi) of whom he inquired if John Brown was at Springdale.   After ascertaining that Mr. Wolf was a "friend," Kagi told him that John Brown had just passed them on a peddler's wagon.  They turned about and overtook Mr. Brown, who, on being informed of the condition of affairs, went on to Iowa City and watched the proceedings from a room opposite the headquarters.

Word being spread through Springdale the next morning of the projected raid, every man who could muster a gun was marshaled, together with Brown's men and placed in battle array on the premises near the fort.  Soon a number of covered wagons were seen coming in sight, and the conflict was supposed to be near at hand, when Squire James says to Emor Rood, "let's go home."

One after another, the citizens suddenly thought of important business at home, and hurried away.

The wagons proved to be those of movers who were innocent of any intent to attack Brown's men.

Brown spread a report in Iowa City of the large numbers and determined spirit of his party, so that when the time for departure came, there were not enough warriors to be found to fill a wagon.

This is the only war of which we have an account in Cedar County, though Ed. Morrison and Charles Ball were afterward killed while ferrying negroes in Missouri.

Edwin Coppoc, of Cedar County, was hung with others at Harper's Ferry.  Barclay Coppoc reached home after a narrow escape and a long tramp in the mountains.  In spite of the solicitations of friends, and in defiance of Virginia officers, he continued to remain at Springdale, braving the dangers of arrest.  At times he would engage in organizing Union Leagues, and then he would disappear for a time, sometimes in one direction and again in another.  When a suitable requisition was finally obtained, the Sheriff of Cedar County (Jesse Bradshaw) was ordered to go to Springdale and make the arrest.  To Springdale he went, as in duty bound, and innocently asked everybody he met if they had seen a young man named Barclay Coppoc, adding that he had authority to arrest him and would be much obliged if some one would tell him where to find him.  He went from place to place, peeped into sheds, turned over dry goods boxes, etc., and finally made a return of the papers with the entry indorsed thereon that he had "made diligent search and the party could not be found."  Then Virginia sent a special detective to Muscatine, who offered any one $50 to go and arrest Coppoc, whereupon he was requested to try himself.  After seeking in vain to induce a posse of men to go and make the arrest, he finally ventured to Springdale alone.   Coppoc and Dr. H.. C. Gill were walking leisurely along the street talking, and as the Virginian approached, Coppoc recognized him and wanted to shoot him right then and there, but Dr. Gill prevented it, and a bloody tragedy was avoided.  A few minutes afterward, they met him again, but no attempt was made to make the arrest, and had there been, the detective officer would doubtless have paid the penalty with his life.  In fact, from his return until all danger was past, Barclay Coppoc never carried less than four revolvers, and never allowed any stranger to approach him without cocking and holding one in each hand in his pocket.

In the Fall of 1861, he enlisted a squad of men to join the company of W. R. Allen, of Jefferson, Ashtabula County, Ohio, for Lane's Brigade, in Kansas.  While on the way with his men, and while passing over the railroad between Hannibal and St. Joseph, Missouri, he was killed by the falling timbers of a bridge, which had been nearly sawed in two at night by the bushwhacking rebels of Missouri.


Political Economy.

It is now necessary to go back a little, in order to bring up the political history of the Territory of which Cedar County forms a part.  In the Fall of 1837, the question of a separate Territorial organization for Iowa began to be agitated.  A convention was called to meet at Burlington on the 1st of November, to devise "ways and means" to secure that end.  The Wisconsin Legislature, then in session, joined in the scheme, and united in a petition to Congress looking to that purpose.  At that time, Gen. Geo. W. Jones, of Sinsinawa Mound, Wisconsin, was the Territorial Delegate to Congress, and through his agency the petition was presented to Congress.  A bill was prepared in answer to the prayer of the petitioners, which, on the 12th of June, 1838, became a law, and went into effect on the 3d day of July following.  The Legislature of Wisconsin Territory had convened in Burlington in June, 1838, but the passage of the law creating the new Territory, rendered their functions obsolete and void so far as related to Iowa, and they adjourned sine die on the 3d day of July.  On the next day, the 4th, Robert Lucas, formerly Governor of Ohio, assumed the functions of Governor of the new Territory, under appointment from President Van Buren.  William B. Conway was appointed Secretary; Charles Mason, Chief Justice, and Joseph Williams and Thomas S. Wilson, Judges.  Burlington was designated as the temporary seat of Government.  The population had increased to 22,860, since the census of 1836.

Soon after assuming the duties to which he had been appointed, Gov. Lucas issued a proclamation for an election of members of the first Legislative Assembly, and dividing the Territory into suitable districts for that purpose.  The Assembly was composed of a Council of thirteen members, and a House of Representatives, composed of twenty-six members.  The election was held on the 10th day of September, 1838, and on the 1st day of November following, the first Territorial Legislature of Iowa met in session at Burlington.  Cyrus S. Jacobs, of Des Moines County, duly elected and returned as a member from Des Moines County, was killed in an unfortunate encounter in Burlington before the Legislature met, George H. Beeler was elected to fill the vacancy.  Samuel R. Murray, of Comanche, Clinton County, was returned as elected from the district composed of the counties of Scott and Clinton, but his election was successfully contested by J. A. Burchard, of Scott County.  With these exceptions, the members returned elected and proclaimed so by Gov. Lucas, held their seats during the session.  Robert G. Roberts was chosen as Representative from Cedar County and Charles Whittlesey was elected Councilman.  Mr. Whittlesey, it is said, made a most excellent, useful and influential member.



From the organization of the county in the Spring of 1838, to August, 1851, the management of county affairs was vested in a board of three Commissioners, chosen by the people, and were recognized and known as a Board of County Commissioners.  This system of county management originated with Virginia, whose early settlers soon became large landed proprietors, aristocratic in feeling, living apart in almost baronial magnificence on their own estates, and owning the laboring parts of the population.   Thus the materials for a town were not at hand, the voters being thinly distributed over a great area.  The county organization, where a few influential men managed the whole business of the community, retaining their places almost a their pleasure, scarcely responsible at all, except in name, and permitted to conduct the county concerns as their ideas or wishes might direct, was, moreover, consonant with their recollections or traditions of the judicial and social dignities of the landed aristocracy of England, in descent from whom the Virginia gentlemen felt so much pride.  In 1834, eight counties were organized in Virginia, and the system extending throughout the State, spread into all the Southern States, and some of the Northern States, unless we except the nearly similar division into "districts" in South Carolina, and that into "parishes" in Louisiana, from the French laws.

In 1851, a County Court was created (see Code of Iowa, 1851, chap. 15).  The act creating that Court gave the County Judge jurisdiction of Probate affairs and clothed him with all the powers previously exercised by the Board of County Commissioners.  In short, it legislated the Commissioners out of existence.

The Township System. -- On the 22d of March, 1860, the State Legislature passed an act entitled an act creating a Board of Supervisors and defining their duties (see Revision of Iowa, page 48.)  This law went into effect July 4, 1860, and provided for the election of one Supervisor from each civil township.  When assembled together for the transaction of county business, these town representatives were known as the Board of County Supervisors.  The township system had its origin in Massachusetts, and dates back to 1635.  The first legal enactment concerning this system provided that, whereas, "particular towns have many things which concern only themselves, and the ordering of their own affairs, and disposing of business in their own town," therefore, "the freemen of every or the major part of them, shall only have power to dispose of their own lands and woods, with all the appurtenances of said towns, to grant lots, and to make such orders as may concern the well ordering of their own towns, not repugnant to the laws and orders established by the General Court."   They might also impose fines of not more than twenty shillings, and "choose their own particular officers; as constables, surveyors for the highways, and the like."  Evidently this enactment relieved the (Note:  The New England colonies were first governed by a "General Court," or Legislature, composed of a Governor and small Council, which court consisted of the most influential inhabitants, and possessed and exercised both legislative and judicial powers, which were limited only by the wisdom of the holders.  They made laws, ordered their execution by officers, tried and decided civil and criminal causes, enacted all manner of municipal regulations, and, in fact, did all the public business of the colony.)  General Court of a mass of municipal details, without any danger to the powers of that body in controlling general measures of public policy.  Probably, also, a demand from the freemen of the towns was felt, for the control of their own home concerns.

Similar provisions for the incorporation of towns were made in the first constitution of Connecticut, adopted in 1639; and the plan of township organization became universal throughout New England, and came westward with the emigrants from New England into New York, Ohio and other Western States, including the northern part of Illinois; and there being a large New England element among the population of Iowa, it is fair to presume that their influence secured the adoption of this system in Iowa, as created in the act already quoted.  One objection urged the adoption of this system in Iowa, as created in the act already quoted.  One objection urged against the county system was that the heavily populated districts would always control the election of the Commissioners to the disadvantage of the more thinly populated sections -- in short, that under that system, equal and exact justice to all parts of the county could not be secured.

It seems, however, that the township system did not find general favor with the people of the State, for in 1871, the system was almost entirely abrogated.  At least, the law was so far repealed or modified that the Board of County Supervisors was reduced from one member from each civil township, to three members (see Code of Iowa, chapter 2.)   From the time this law went into effect in 1871, until after the regular election in 1873, county officers were under the management of a County Board of three Supervisors, with the County Auditor as their clerk.

Section 299 of the same act provided, however, that the Board of Supervisors of any county might, when petitioned to do so by one-fourth of the electors, submit to the qualified voters of the county at any regular election, the question, "Shall the members of Supervisors be increased to five" or "seven," as the Board might elect.

In 1873, agreeable to the provisions of this act, one-fourth of the qualified voters of the county petitioned the Board of three to order an election on the question of increasing the number to five.  The result showed 1,603 votes in favor of the increase, and 482 against the increase, a majority of 1,211 in favor of the proposition.   So the county is now, 1878, under the management of a County Board of five Supervisors.



The first session of the County Commissioners commenced at Rochester, then recognized as the county seat, on the 2d day of April, 1838.  A record of their proceedings was commenced on a single quire of uncovered foolscap paper, stitched together, which is still preserved in the Auditor's office, and from which the following transcript is made:

Rochester, 2d April, 1838.

This day the County Commissioners of Cedar County, Wisconsin Territory, came together, and after being duly organized, proceeded to business.

  1. Appointed Moses B. Church for Clerk.
  2. Appointed Richard Runsford for their Chairman.
  3. Received of Robert G. Roberts the several bonds taken by him as an officer of Dubuque County, and given by Henry Hardman, John Blalock and George McCoy, for the faithful performance of the duties of Justice of the Peace by each of the above named individuals; and likewise, a bond given by James W. Tallman, for the faithful performance of the duties of a Sheriff, which bonds were approved and filed in the office of the Clerk.
  4. Received a petition praying for a ferry across Cedar River, at the town of Rochester, to be kept by George W. McCoy, which was laid over for further consideration.
  5. Received a petition praying for a county road from Elizabethtown by Tallman's and Centreville, in the direction of Montpelier, which was laid over for further consideration.
  6. Received a petition praying for a road from the northwest end of Pioneer Grove, through Red Oak Grove and Centreville, by Freeman's mill, in the direction of Bloomington (Muscatine), which was laid over for further consideration.
  7. Received a petition praying for a road from the eastern boundary in the direction of Gilbert's on the Iowa, which was laid over for further consideration.

This ended the business of the first day of the first session of the Board of Commissioners of Cedar County.

3d April, 1838

The Board ordered that the county be divided into four districts.

9.  Sec. 1.  Be it enacted by the Board of Commissioners of the County of Cedar, that the four northeast townships shall constitute the District No. 1.  The four northwest townships shall constitute the District No. 2.  The four southwest townships shall constitute the District No. 3, and the four southeast townships shall constitute the District No. 4.

Sec. 2.  The First District shall be attached to the Second District for district purposes.

Sec. 3.  There shall be three election precincts in the county, viz.:  One at Linn Grove, in District No. 2, at the house of Elias Eperson; one at Rochester, in District No. 3, at the house of Stephen Toney, and one at Centreville, in District No. 4, at the house of Moses B. Church.

Sec. 4.  William Mason, Alanson Pope, and Elias Eperson are appointed Judges of Election for one year in District No.2;  William Green, Jonathan Morgan and Jehu Kenworthy in District No. 3; William Miller, David W. Walton and Charles Whittlesey in District No. 4.

10.  Sec. 1.  Be it enacted by the Board of Commissioners of the County of Cedar, that a permission be given to George McCoy, to keep a ferry over Cedar River, at the town of Rochester, until the first Monday of next July, and the place of landing shall be opposite to Van Buren street.

Sec. 2.  The rate of ferriage shall be as follows:  For a wagon, 25 cents; each span of horses or yoke of cattle, 25 cents; man and horse, 25 cents; a footman, 12 cents; loose cattle per head, 6 cents; hogs and sheep per head, 4 cents.

11.  Sec. 1.  The Board of Commissioners selected the following persons to serve as grand jurors, to wit:  Alanson Pope, Martin Baker, John Kenworthy, John Jones, Robert G. Roberts, David W. Walton, Charles Whittlesey, Solomon Knott, William Mason, Harvey B. Burnap, Jonathan Morgan, Henry Hardman, William Miller.

Of the above named grand jurymen, Alanson Pope, Martin Baker, John Jones, Robert G. Roberts, David W. Walton, Solomon Knott, William Mason, Jonathan Morgan and William Miller died in Cedar County.  Jehu Kenworthy removed form the county about 1848 or 1850, and is supposed to be dead.  Charles Whittlesey returned East some thirty or thirty-five years ago, became insane, was sent to a private insane asylum in the State of New York, where he died several years ago.  Harvey B. Burnap removed from the county at an early day, and all knowledge of him was lost..  Henry Hardman is the only one of the first grand jury selected known to be alive.  He still resides in the county.

Sec. 2.  The following persons were selected as petit jurors, to wit:   Benjamin Frazer, John Scott, Charles W. Moberly, Prior Scott, Washington A. Rigby, Walter Freeman, Felix Freeland, James Buchanan, Elias Eperson, Richard Knott, Daniel Hare, Abraham Nix, George Miller, Jr.

[Of these first petit jurymen, Benjamin Frazer died in Tipton in the Spring of 1874; Daniel Hare died in Cedar county; John Scott removed to Linn County at an early day, and remained there until his death; Charles W. Moberly died in Missouri in 1868; Felix Freeland now living in Rock Island, Ill.; Prior Scott and Washington A. Rigby still reside in the county; Walter Freeman removed to Oregon in 1852, where he was still living at the date of this writing, April 15, 1878; Elias Eperson removed to Mills County, Iowa, some time between 1845 and 1848, where he died as much as twenty years ago; Richard Knott removed to Harvey County, Kansas, about 1874 or 1875, where he still resides; Abraham Nix and Geo. Miller, Jr., removed from the county in 1839, since when the gentleman (William M. Knott) from whom these facts are obtained, has lost all knowledge of him; James Buchanan deceased.



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