Pioneers Polk County vol 1

Biography of Colonel J. M. Griffith

Colonel J. M. Griffith, who was an important factor in developing the East Side, came from the East in the Fall of 1850, and, after looking over the field, concluded to invest. He rented a store on Second Street, paid one hundred dollars for rent in advance, to secure what he wanted, went away, returned the next Spring, took possession of the store, and began a general merchandise business. He evinced his characteristic public spirit by laying a sidewalk in front of the store lot, the first laid in the city. The town was rapidly becoming a trading-point. Settlers from …

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Hoyt Sherman

Biography of Hoyt Sherman

Few men have been better known at home and abroad than Hoyt Sherman. From the beginning to the end of his days he was loyal to the city of his adoption, and gave to it the full benefit of his business talent, excellent judgment, conservatism and wise counsel. He was a man for emergencies. Many times he was called to fiduciary posts, local, state and national, where integrity and fidelity were fully tested. Courteous, affable, social, he was very popular. He came to Des Moines from a printing office in Ohio, in May, 1848, and entered the office of Thomas …

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Cave J McFarland

Biography of Judge Cave J. McFarland

One of the most unique and noted characters of the very early days in Polk County and Des Moines was Cave J. McFarland, the second Judge of the District Court, who stands out the most prominent in the judicial history of the state of any man connected therewith. A native of Ohio, he came to Iowa when in the full vigor of early manhood; was of strong, athletic physique,which made him especially attractive anywhere; was social, convivial, and of pleasing manner. He stopped in Lee County, opened a law office, and was soon after elected County Attorney. In 1851, he …

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Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa

Biography of Samuel N. Dyer

Late one day in the last week of October, 1851, Samuel N. Dyer sailed into Raccoon Forks in a prairie schooner, with his family, and tied up for the night at the Marvin House, on Third Street. The next morning, he went house hunting, and found a small vacant dwelling on Walnut street, where Vorse’s implement warehouse stood for many years afterward, but it was so uninhabitable, he soon after moved to one of the double log barrack cabins in First Street,near Walnut. Conrad Stutsman, a radical East Sider, had built a tavern at the corner, which he named “Pennsylvania …

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Cyrus A Mosier

Biography of Cyrus Mosier

A conspicuous person among the early settlers was Cyrus A. Mosier, or Cy., as he was better known among them. He came here when eleven years old, with his father, early in 1848, who, in November of that year, entered several tracts of Government land in the northwestern part of the present city. One tract was on the north side of what is now University Avenue, between Thirtieth and Thirty-fifth streets, on which he built a log cabin, about ten rods north of the avenue and west of Thirty-first street. There he planted the first apple tree and peach orchard …

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Colonel Edward Foster Mills Hooker

Biography of Edward Foster Mills Hooker

Known from the Atlantic to the Pacific, along the great western trail of civilization, was Colonel — everybody called him “Colonel” — Edward Foster Mills Hooker, descendant of an English family, entitled by Royal decree to wear the heraldic arms of Thomas Hart Hooker, founder of the city of Hartford, Connecticut, and cousin of the famous fighting General, Joe Hooker. He was a conspicuous figure wherever he was, and for nearly thirty years his time-silvered head, sheltered under a white, soft wool, broad-brimmed hat every day of the year, and all his life, which, with his heavy white beard, gave …

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Curtis Bates

Biography of Judge Curtis Bates

The pioneers of Polk County who are still living have a vivid remembrance of Judge Curtis Bates, who was a prominent factor in civic affairs in the early days. It was little known that he was a Yankee, born in Connecticut, as he always preferred being considered a Buckeye, for he went to Trumbull County, Ohio, when three years old. There he passed his youth and early manhood, and began the practice of law. Soon after commencing practice, he was elected State Senator, as a Democrat, but his opponent contested the election, when it was shown that he was ineligible …

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Ira Cook

Biography of Ira Cook

A very prominent man in Des Moines in the early days was Ira Cook. He came to Davenport in 1836, with his father, a small boy, worked fourteen and fifteen hours a day helping his father start a farm, and plant by hand what he declared was the first field of corn in Scott County. He came to Des Moines in September, 1852, on foot, with ten men, his supplies and camp equipage drawn by two horses, en route to sub-divide, as United States Surveyor, a district of ten townships in what are now the counties of Carroll and Sac. …

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Samuel Green

Biography of Samuel Green

If the early settlers who helped to build the town, few were better known, though very quiet and unostentatious, than Samuel Green, or Sam., as he was familiarly called by old-timers. Having thoroughly learned the foundry business in New York, he came to Des Moines in March, 1857, the first practical foundry-man in town. He did, for a short time after his arrival, what all newcomers did — whatever he could find to do. One of his introductory jobs was helping S. A. Robertson, with one of his first jobs, to make repairs on the old “Grout House,” which stood …

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Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa

Biography of Dr. James Campbell

A notable character among the pioneers was Dr. James Campbell. He was a hustler from the start, and had a hand in everything going on about The Fort — politics, trade, real estate, amusements — everything which made up the wild, bustling life of that early period. He was a man of many eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, good-hearted, blunt of speech, and of peppery temperament. He came to Iowa on horseback, in 1839, stopped for a time in Van Buren County, and came to Fort Des Moines early in January, 1846, the second physician in the Settlement, Doctor T. K. Brooks …

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Peter Newcomer

Biography of Peter Newcomer

Passengers on the Winterset Branch of the Rock Island Road, just after leaving the city, pass a narrow space between the high bluff and the river, barely wide enough for the track, known as “Newcomer’s Point,” named from Peter Newcomer, one of the very earliest settlers in Polk County. It was an important landmark in the early days to the emigrant. Newcomer came here with the soldiers, in 1843, and was employed as a carpenter in building barracks at the garrison, his family living in a cabin at the Agency and Trading Post, down where the packing-houses now are. There …

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John H Given

Biography of John H. Given

An active, zealous promoter of the growth and prosperity of Des Moines was John H. Given. Its development was his constant desire and incentive to action. Very few men were more widely known in Polk County in the early days, or were more helpful to the betterment of the community. He was one of the solid men of those days. Of English descent, a native of Virginia, his youth was passed on a farm, his education obtained during Winter months in the District School. At the age of seventeen, he entered an apprenticeship to learn the trade of wagon-maker. After …

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Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa

Christmas in Early Days

In the very early days, very little attention was given to Christmas as a public holiday. From 1846 to 1850, the town was small, the people poor, their chief purpose and labor being to secure a living and establish homes. If the day was observed at all, it was with dancing parties and frolics by the young folks, who were alway ready for amusements, arranged by themselves, as concert troupes and dramatic barnstormers had not got this far West. The first Christmas observance at The Fort was in 1845. The Indian title to the Reservation had expired, and some of …

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Nathaniel B Baker

Biography of General Nathaniel B. Baker

Of all men prominently connected with the history of the state and of Des Moines, none stand out more conspicuously than General Nathaniel B. Baker. Born in Hillsborough, Merrimack County, New Hampshire, in 1818, he received a liberal education preparatory to entering Harvard University, from which he graduated in 1839, when twenty-one years old; studied law with Franklin Pierce, subsequently President of the United States; admitted to the Bar in 1842; appointed Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas in 1845; Clerk of the Superior Court of Merrimack County in 1846; elected Representative to the Legislature in 1851, and chosen …

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William H Quick

Biography of William H. Quick

One of the best known men in Des Moines, and it may be said from Chicago to Sundown, is William H. Quick, or “Billy,” as he is best known. Though not a pioneer of civilization, he was the pioneer of what has become an important part of the business life of the city and country — a great express business. born in Hamburg, Sussex County, New Jersey, July First, 1832, a descendant of sturdy Holland stock from the land of windmills, who settled in New Jersey on a land grant from Queen Anne, he is, as he said a few …

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Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa

Biography of John Hays

Prominent among those who tramped down the weeds and brush at Fort Des Moines — in fact, all over Polk County — in the very early days, and helped materially to transform the scene first presented to him,in 1846, of a row of whitewashed log cabins strung along the Des Moines and ‘Coon rivers, and eastward only a wide expanse of timber and brush, to a prosperous and beautiful city, was John Hays. Of Irish parentage, born in Virginia, raised on a farm, educated and fitted for a school teacher, which profession he followed two years, in 1846, he determined …

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Levi J Wells

Biography of Levi J. Wells

Although not a pioneer, according to a strict construction of the code, Levi J. Wells came early enough to be entitled an “Old Settler.” He hove into Des Moines in 1856, with intent and purpose to do something, but there was little or nothing doing. The town was small, times were hard, and money was scarce, and what there was of it was of the “wild-cat” variety, and of doubtful paternity. The first job he struck was hauling brick for “Jim” Savery, who was building what is now the Kirkwood House. He was a good carpenter and master workman. By …

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Fourth of July Postcard

Fourth of July in Early Days

The pioneers were patriotic as well as public-spirited and industrious. The first Fourth of July celebration of the town was in 1846, less than four months after the town had a legal existence. The soldiers had left, taking away all the cannon, but cannon improvised from logs, and blacksmiths’ anvils,were utilized to make a noise, while the small boy echoed it by charging old smooth-bored, muzzle-loading muskets with bullets picked from cabin logs which had been “peppered” by the soldiers in some of their hilarious moments. There were no cartridges and breech-loaders in that day. Early in the day, a …

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Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa

Pioneer Women of Polk County Iowa

My reminiscences of pioneers and old settlers — the pioneer claims a little distinction because he was “first in” — has been confined mostly to the men, but the wives and mothers should not be forgotten. While they did not build houses, business blocks, churches, and schoolhouses, make laws, and lay the foundation of civic government, they did lay the foundation of what is most essential to good government, to a successful, progressive, and prosperous community. They were the home-builders, the moulders of child life. They left to succeeding generations a heritage in the character of their children (was there …

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Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa

Biography of Judge William McKay

A pioneer of Des Moines who took an active and influential part in the formative period of the town was Major William McKay, a graduate of a Kentucky military school, hence his title. He came in February, 1846, while the soldiers were here, and while Fort Des Moines was under military control, but considerably relaxed, settlers having been permitted to come in and take residences as best they could. He was a young man of culture, courtly manners, genial and attractive. He soon gained public attention, and was considered a very desirable acquisition to the little hamlet just entering into …

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Colonel J. N. Dewey

Biography of Colonel J. N. Dewey

Thirty years ago, a very dignified and prominent individual in Des Moines was Colonel J. N. Dewey. How he acquired the military title, I never learned. He was not a Kentuckian, nor was he ever in the military service, except by implication. By profession, he was a civil engineer, and in the early ‘Fifties, did railroad engineering in Massachusetts and New York. When Hugh Riddle was at the head of the New York and Erie Road, the Colonel surveyed, laid out, and assisted largely in building that road, and when Riddle came to Chicago and became President and head of …

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Judge William W. Williamson

Biography of Judge William W. Williamson

Of the pioneers of Des Moines who came early, grew up with the town, and became prominent factors in civic affairs was William W. Williamson, or Judge, as he was more familiarly known, a Kentuckian by birth. On learning, through the newspapers, in 1848, that the Capital of the state was to be removed from Iowa City to Monroe City, which had been selected by a lot of Quakers appointed by the Legislature,because of faith in them to resist the machinations of sharpers, speculators, and temptations of “the flesh and devil.” So, with his wife, a carriage, and two fine …

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James S Clarkson

Biography of James S. Clarkson

Born in Brookville, Franklin County, Indiana, May Seventeenth, 1842, James S. Clarkson was literally raised in the printing office of his father, Coker F., who published the Brookville American. He began setting type in the office when he was so small, boxes had to be piled up for him to stand on and reach the type boxes, and there he acquired an education in one of the best practical schools in this or any other country.

Judge William H. McHenry, Sr.

Biography of Judge William H. McHenry, Sr.

One of the pioneers who became prominently identified with county and city was William H. McHenry, Sr., who, as his name indicates was of Irish descent. His ancestors settled in Maryland long before the Revolutionary War, becoming quite prominent. Fort McHenry was named for them. He came here in August, 1848, from Indiana. There were no bridges, and he forded the river, went up to Beaver Creek, about six miles northwest, selected a claim near the creek, built a cabin, and became a citizen. In his youth, he was deprived of the opportunity to get a liberal education, but he …

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Pioneers of Polk County, Iowa

Biography of Michael H. King

Going over the roster of those prominently identified with the growth of Des Moines, very few so impressed his personality upon it as Michael H. King, or “Mike,” as he was universally called. He came here in 1856, at the age of twenty-four years. His first job was as clerk in the store of R. W. Clark. Soon after, he engaged as bookkeeper with Alex. Scott, who was running sawmills, mining coal, and promoting the removal of the State Capital to Des Moines, and locating the State House on the East Side. While he was with Scott, in 1857, the …

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