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The First Pioneer Settlement of Fayette County Iowa
clips from  "The History of Fayette County Iowa 1878,"  pages 313-315
, extractions from Chats with Old Timers 
and other personally organized notes and deductions

The original settlement of Fayette County occurred one mile from you across this field, the Wilcox Settlement, 1840-1849.

1833....First Post Office, Dubuque Mines, Michigan Territory, June 1, 1833, the Black Hawk Purchase (actually just a land grab).

1836....The four SE townships were surveyed; Putnam, Scott, Fairfield, Smithfield (the northern line of Fairfield/Smithfield not until 1848.  Iowa became a territory in 1836.
1840....You are looking north across the rolling hill tops which in 1840 would have been covered with tall grass prairie, sloughs and wet grass prairie on the foreround, with timber and brush in the background.  You would be looking at the exact line where hilly timbered land to the NxNE meets the prairie county to the SxSW in Fayette County, Iowa.  In 1840 Franklin Wilcox moved his family to a site in the timber on the right side of the picture, one mile away from where you are standing.  He built a cabin along a prairie creek leading into the timber and emptying in the Volga River with is over the hill behind the timber in the picture, 1 1/2 miles away, only a half mile down the creek from the Wilcox Cabin.
....The Mission Trial running from Dubuque and ending at Ft. Atkinson would have been running just at the timber line in the picture.  Robert Gamble, who reportedly came with Wilcox from Ead's Groove with Wilcox, apparently slipped across the Neutral Ground line and built a cabin about 3+ miles to the NW of Wilcox, on a spring just south of a prairie grove of trees.
1841....Beatty and Orrear would build a cabin/farm no more than a couple of hundred yards south of the Wilcox site.  
1842....Atwood and Teagarden built a cabin/trading post about a mile west of Wilcox, on the very left of the picture.  They returned to Dubuque that winter,
1843.... but came back to the cabin in February of 1843..  In March of 1843, with over a foot of snow on the ground, the Teagarden Massacre occurred at the cabin.  Atwood, Teagarden and his younger son were killed by unhappy Indians who had been drinking with them at the "trading post" (the story is told on another page).
1844...Orrear married Mary Wilcox, daughter of Franklin, probably the first marriage in Fayette County.  Franklin Wilcox has by the time taken his family 3+ miles up the Mission Trail to relocate near Robert Gamble at Gamble's Groove.  Messenger settled about 200 yards east of the Teagarden Spring in the NE1/4 of Sec 6, Smithfield.  Orrear would slip into the Westfield area and "squat" on some land.  Beatty would move to the river flats on the east side of today's Fayette and with Isaac Webster raise the first crop of oats in the Fayette area.
1845...Apparently Orrear had moved onto some land along the Volga River in what would be near the present day Klock's Island Park in Fayette, or in the area of Old Westfield.  Lorenzo Mullekin lived with Beatty at Fayette during the winter.
1846...A few squatters' cabins would appear by this time from the Wilcox place to Teagarden's and this area would become known as "the Wilcox Settlement."  Iowa became a state.
1847....Horace Bemis bought Orrear's holding and entered NW1/4, Sec 5, Smithfield, which was the first official land entry in Fayette Co.

1851...All Indian land had been taken over in the Iowa land mass.


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The First Pioneer Settlement of Fayette County Iowa
clips from "The History of Fayette County Iowa 1878,"  pages 313-315, extractions from Chats with Old Timers plus  notes and a great many personal deductions

.... Joseph HEWETT, an Indian trader, who was well known to the early settlers, and somewhat connected with the history of this county, established his trading post northwest of Strawberry Point, very near the east line of Fayette, in Clayton County, in 1840. He visited the region in 1839, and when the mission was established he thought the place he selected would be a good place for a trading post.

....George CULVER built a double log cabin on the north bank of the Volga, on Section 26, Twp 93, Range 7. Previous to 1839 he had been the Teller of the Ypsilanti Bank, Michigan. When Mr. HEWETT established a trading post near the Fayette CO line in 1840, Mr. Culver became his partner and moved thither. . . Mr. Culver entered, by land warrant, Sections 26 and 27, Twp 93, Range 7, January 25, 1849, very soon after the township was surveyed.

Understanding the Mission Road gives insight into the Wilcox Settlement
A brief overview.

The general path of the Mission Road to Ft. Atkinson from Dubuque.

Notes on the Mission Road, 1840
....The Mission Road ran from Dubuque, Iowa, the major Mississippi River river port, northeast across Dubuque, Clayton, Fayette Counties and into Winnesheik County to Fr. Atkinson, a military fort erected under the guise of "protecting" the Winnebago Indians of the area from the Sioux, but in reality would function as a trail to lead supplies and white settlers into the area in the 1840's.
....When the United States government first began to service the Neutral Lands, in the late 1830's, Dubuque was the seat of supervision, and a trail was established between the two areas. Later, in 1841, an official "Territorial Road" was plotted following the old trail. Because the majority of early settlers in northeastern Iowa came in over this trail, it has significant historical value. Many of the early pioneers would travel the early trails/roads multiple time*s searching/probing for land to claim. Early settlers often were not sure which land was the best, what was available in another place, if they wanted to put forth the significant effort to make a farm go in an area, or if they really wanted to make an area their permanent home. There was a lot of wondering, claiming, and moving in the early years. The early roads and trails often followed the time proven trails of the Native Americans and game trails. The early roads were just worn paths in the timber or through 6-12 ft tall prairie grass, or broad areas of travel where ox-teams were guided along ridges to avoid wet grass prairie, sloughs, stream crossings. Level paths were always at a premium so loads did not have to be split and hauled up the big hills. Generally reach individual settler/teamster had to use his own judgment as to the course of travel. As more travel occurred, the best route became more worn and more travels, thus was the establishment of many of the early roads in Fayette County that would be traveled well into the 1900's.
....From the Edgewood area of Clayton County, the trail followed a range of hills to the future town of Strawberry Point, which was built along the old trail, with the long east-west main street being called Mission Street. About three miles west and three miles north of the Point, half way to Brush Creek (Arlington), an Indian trader, Joesph Hewitt, who had a trading post utilized by both Indians and white men in 1840. His trading post was often a resting-place for early settlers whiles they ventured out looking for ground to settle on. The ox-trains hauling supplies and produce to the military post at Fort Atkinson stopped at Hewitt's on a regular basis.
....From Hewitt's trading post, the Mission Road continued northwesterly for about four miles to the future town of Brush Creek (Arlington), just south of the creek which would also be known as Brush Creek. Here in later days the town's Main Street, which runs diagonally to the NW, was built along Mission Road. About three miles NW of the Brush Creek crossing, a Major Mumford settled on a claim and built a cabin in 1842 (exact timeline has not been verified). The Mumford's may have been the parents of the first white child born in the area.
....The new Mission road continued NW over the "Corn Hill" country to a point a couple of miles SW of the NE corner of Smithfield township where Hewitt and a man named Culver set up another trading post. Culver soon bought out Hewitt and moved the post to a point about a mile east of Wadena, next to the hill on the N side of the Volga River, as it was nearer the Indians in the Neutral Lands just to the north of Wadena and the Elgin Valley which was always a major settlement for the Indians on the Turkey River. This time frame was probably 1841-1842. About this time, Nathaniel Wilcox took a claim just west of the big spring in the Grannis Canyon, which at that time was to the north of Bear Grove which included the timber areas of the present day Brush Creek Park, to the north of Arlington. From the Corn Hill area the Mission Road turned to the W and continued to a point a couple of miles SW of present day Fayette. Two miles south of Fayette and about a half mile west, off present day Hwy 150, Franklin Wilcox, in 1840, erected the first permanent log cabin in Fayette County (there is a granite marker on the site today, just to the west of the bridge crossing the little stream, and to the north of the road). It has been written Wilcox broke up a small area close to the cabin and planted it to garden and oats. If so, this would justify as the first land broken in Fayette County. Just north of the Wilcox cabin, around the bend of the creek and below a cove in the hillside was a favorite camping spot known as " Uncle Sam*s Tavern," by the early settlers. The area offered a flat, protected, secluded area with fresh water nearby. At this time the Wilcox cabin was in the south edge of Sec. 32 of Westfield Twp., in un-surveyed land. The four SE townships of Fayette County, Fairfield, Smithfield, Scott and Putnam, had their boundary lines surveyed in 1836 and sup-divisions were made in 1837. The north line of Fairfield and Smithfield was not surveyed until 1848. It is not known if Wilcox knew this or not at the time.
....In about 1841, a year after the Wilcox cabin went up, a pair of unmarried young men, James Beatty and William Orrear, settled about 600 feet south of the Wilcox cabin and erected a cabin in the north edge of Sec 5 of Smithfield Twp., near a spring. They were reported to be very industrious, and broke land and erected split rail fences. In February of 1844, Orrear married Mary Wilcox, daughter of the elder Franklin Wilcox, who by that time had moved on up the trail to a point near what would be called Dunham's Grove. This was reported as the first marriage in Fayette County. In 1847, the Orrear's sold their holdings to Horace Bemis who entered the NW of Sec 5, of Smithfield Twp., which was the first official entry of land in Fayette County. In the meantime Beatty squatted on land near the western edge of the future town of Westfield/Fayette.
....The Mission Road beyond the Orrear claim followed a line of low hills about a quarter mile south of the Westfield Twp. Line, to a point near the intersection of Smithfield, Harlan, Center and Westfield Twps., where it turned north. There it crossed the southern boundary of the Neutral Lands just north of the Volga River crossing and on the boundary line of Center and Westfield Townships. Along the Road between Orrears and the township corners were several squatters cabins, including that of Henry Teagarten (these few cabins from Wilcox to Teagarden's would make up the "Wilcox Settlement" of the 1840's), who had a trading post for the supply of whisky, black power long guns, power, ball and flint, and other supplies for the Indians and early settlers. Teagarten*s cabin was located about a mile east and a quarter mile south of the four-township corner, near a large spring. This would be the site of the "Teagarten massacre" references elsewhere in the history of Fayette County.
....The Mission Road continued into the Neutral Land across the eastern edge of Center Twp. Continuing in a NW direction across Windsor Twp., into Windsor Twp., into Auburn Twp., crossing the Little Turkey river and proceeding in a N direction just east of the present day St. Lucas and into Winneshiek Co., Washington Twp., to Ft. Atkinson.

The First Settlement of Fayette County Iowa
(Utilizing the 1878 History of Fayette county, Iowa, pp 313-315, with personal deductions.)

...."The first white settlements in Fayette County were made south of, and near the Neutral or Winnebago Reserve Line, in that part of the county that was included in the Black Hawk Purchase.  There is no knowledge or tradition of any such settlement prior to 1840, except the attempt of Edson and Grant to build a mill on Otter Creek, although it is very probably that trappers and Indian traders may have built temporary cabins in this region prior to that time.  these roving frontiersmen were accustomed to starting out in the early fall, taking some flour and salt, building temporary cabins near some good spring or stream in sheltered timber, and spending the winter in hunting and trapping, sometimes "making wages."

....There is a tradition that Wilcox built a cabin south of the Volga, about 1835, ten years after the Black Hawk Purchase, and spent some time here at that period hunting and trapping.  This is purely tradition, however, as there is nothing to corroborate the story.   It is possible the Wilcox may have been along the Volga to "spy out the land" prior to removing his family hither in 1840, but that is more than doubtful.  Mrs. Joel BAILEY, the daughter of Judge Clement COFFIN, of Coffin's Grove, Delaware County, states that she was at Eads' Grove (today's Manchester, in Delaware Co) in 1840, when Wilcox and his family moved up on the Volga, and that he had not built a cabin there previous to that time.  It is possible that the Wilcox cabin might have been a little further north of the spot indicated, but it could not have been very far.

The Wilcox Settlement, 1840-1849
....In 1840, the Government established a military post north of Fayette County, in Winnesheik, called Fort Atkinson, and three or four miles south established a Mission school for the Winnebagoes. (This village would be known as The Old Mission, and later become St. Lucas, in the NW corner of Auburn Twp, Fayette Co.) This naturally attracted the attention of the pioneers of that day, and in the Spring or early Summer of 1840, Franklin WILCOX, with his wife and little daughter, and his brother Nathaniel, came from Illinois to Fayette County and made a settlement. Franklin Wilcox built a cabin thirty or forty rods north of the north line of Township 92-8, on unsurveyed land, six or eight rods west of a little creek (to be named Alexander Creek on the later maps, bz) that runs northerly through the southeast quarter of Section 32. The bed of the creek has changed since that time. Its channel was then east of the east end of the iron bridge that now spans the stream at that point. The site of this pioneer cabin as pointed out to the historian, on the 16th day of June, 1878, by Mr. LAMB, was about five rods northwest of the northwest corner of the west stone pier of the bridge, near some thorn apple trees. There appears to have been an excavation, and some of the stones of an old chimney are still to be seen. It is said that Wilcox did some breaking either east of the creek or on the little sheltered prairie north of his cabin. If this is true, this was the first breaking done in Fayette County. Nathaniel Wilcox made a claim east of his brother's place, on Section 1, Township 92, Range 8.

Robert Gamble and Gamble's (Dunham's) Grove

Robert GAMBLE came with the Wilcox's from Eads Grove. It is said that Gamble selected a location on the Reserve near a large spring, which afterward proved to be on Section 13, Township 93, Range 9, and the grove now known as "DUNHAM'S," north of the spring, was, in consequence, called "Gamble's Grove," and was known by that name in 1850, when the post office of "Gamble's Grove" was established, with Thomas WOODLE for Postmaster. Gamble's Grove was about four miles north northwest of Wilcox's cabin. Mr. Gamble did not remain long, however, as he was taken sick, was carried back to Eads' Grove in the Fall of 1840, and never returned to Fayette County.  Actually this site selected by Gamble was very near the Mission Trail.  He probably just continued on from Wilcox, crossed the Volga River, and proceeded on a couple of more miles to find a "spring" coming out of the wet grass prairie and built a cabin just south of a big grove of trees which were out on the prairie in the region.  He was only 3+ miles from Wilcox at the time, so it is probably they helped each other build their initial structures, as cabin building was not a one man operation, given the choice. 

Wilcox "Farm" and "Uncle Sam's Tavern"

....About two hundred yards below (this would be to the north or downstream on the Creek, toward the Volga River, bz) Wilcox's is a smooth bit of level ground, shaded by trees, which was in "ye olden time" a favorite camping ground for immigrants, and was, in consequence, dubbed "Uncle Sam's Tavern," or "The Continental House." As seen June 4, 1878, the terrific storm of the preceding Saturday night, June 1, must have flooded the site of "Uncle Sam's Tavern" eight or ten feet, and the water crept to within a few feet of the spot where, without doubt, Wilcox dwelt, the pioneer settler of Fayette County, thirty-eight years ago (1840).

"Uncle Sam's Tavern" or "The Continental House" is the area in the background along the high bank of the creek.

....Franklin Wilcox would have his cabin to the left of the above picture, about 100 feet away near the base of a moderate hill.  He probably plowed with a single share plow pulled with one or two oxen, small fields such as is on the right side of the picture or the flat bank area in the background.  This would probably have been the first field work in the county.  The fields would have been the size of a big garden, the land having never been "broken" by a plow and needing the trees and brush cleared by hand ax and burning. Any small areas of meadow or grass would be plowed first.  The light snow area in the background would have been "Uncle Sam's Tavern."

....Another view of the Wilcox fields.  His cabin was on the left about 200 yards away across the creek. You are literally standing on the Old Mission Trail, with the view to the NW, down the Creek to the Volga River, which is about a half mile away, as the big trees on the right side of the picture.  Wilcox would have plowed small fields where the plowing was the easiest, which is right in the foreground and on the other side of the creek in the background.  "Uncle Sam's Tavern" is across the creek where the snow is the lightest.

The Franklin Wilcox Cabin

....The Franklin Wilcox cabin was a double cabin structure, much like the above picture.  These cabins were actually quite large structures for the times.  Each side was one room with an open common's in the middle, all under one roof.  The logs for these cabins would be cut by hand axe from local timber.  Barked and shaped on the spot, then drug by oxen and chain into place.  Both round logs and flat hewn timbers were used.  The cracks were filled generally with a mixture of grass and mud/clay.  Fireplaces where build from local rock with mud/clay used to "bond" the rocks. Often there would be a log chimney sitting on the rock fireplace as wood was lighter and easier to build up compared to heavy rocks. The roof would usually be hand split "clapboard" shingles from oak.  In a true frontier setting, there were few to no nails or iron works to start with, plus no lime kilns to make lime cement/mortar.  Everything was done with hand tools and axes. If the builder had the tools and skills, coupled with enough time, these cabins could be comfortable living considering the tough frontier life.  With severe NE Iowa winters, consideration had to be given for a sufficient supply of fuel wood, grass and/or grain to carry livestock and small animals through a long winter which could run from late October into April. 

....If the original Wilcox cabin was not at this exact location, it would have probably been no farther south, or toward you in this picture, but instead a bit north perhaps no more than in the ligher cleared area at the back right of the picture.  It is almost certain that if it were 1844+ you would be looking at the Wilcox cabin which probably faced to the right of the picture toward the creek.  You would be just a bit north of the original Mission Road.

....You are looking east down the present county road.  The Mission Road probably followed nearly this exact path.  The Wilcox cabin would have been at the point where the road re-appears around the bend in front of you.  Nathan Wilcox, Franklin's brother has settled about 5 miles down the trail in front of you, or to the east.  Robert Gamble is 3+ miles up the trail back of you and to the left.   Beatty and Orrear had their cabin and farm down the hill, behind the trees on the right in the picture, near a prairie spring entering the creek.  The Atwood and Teagarden Cabin would have been about a half mile behind you and a little south or right.  The Wilcox "Settlement" was along this trail from about 1840-1849, and consisted only of a few other cabins built as other settlers came up the trail waiting for the Indian's to be pushed out and the Neutral Ground opened for settlement which would happen by 1850.  The Neutral Ground is the left of the picture.  In the early 1840's there are a few settlers coming into the SE corner of the county around the Brush Creek area, and a few coming up across the Clayton County line, and slipping up the Volga River.  But in the 1840's, Fayette County is still basically unavailable for white settlers, and just starting to open up.

....In 1842 Andrew HENSLEY came from Wisconsin to Fayette County, and purchased the claim of Nathaniel WILCOX on or near Sec. 1, T. 92, Range 8, about five miles east of Beatty and Orrear's. Mr. Hensley went back to Wisconsin, intending to return in the same fall but sickness prevented his return. In September 1843, he returned as far as Eads' Grove, Delaware County, with his family, consisting of a wife and four children, among whom was Andrew Jackson HENSLEY, then a lad of ten years. Here he spent the Winter. In the spring of 1844, he rented Joe Hewett's place, northwest of Strawberry Point, just in the edge of Clayton County, and moved his family into a little cabin about one and a half miles west of Hewett's, in the edge of Fayette County, owned by Moses, son of Joe Hewitt by his first wife. Here, November 27, 1844, Daniel P. HENSLEY was born, the first white child born in Fayette County, unless Mr. Mumford's baby, born in the brush near Yankee Settlement, is to be credited to Fayette.

The Beatty and Orrear Cabin and Farm

....Next, and soon after Wilcox settled, probably the next year, two young men, James BEATTY and William ORREAR, or O'REAR, located and built a log cabin a few rods west of the creek, on the NW1/4 of NE1/4 of Section 5, Township 92, Range 8. Their cabin was located near a beautiful spring of clear water that still bubbles from the base of the hill. Mr. HENSLEY states that it was about forty rods south or southwest of Wilcox's place, just south of the old Mission Road, which at this point crossed the creek very nearly on the line between Townships 92 and 93, Range 8. Judge BAILEY, of Delaware, who spent some days here in January, 1843, says that Wilcox's cabin was a little way below, in the timber. There appears to be some difference as to the orthography of O'Rear's name. In his marriage certificate it is spelled "Orrear," and as this is presumably the way he spelled his name, it is adopted in this history. It is impossible now to fix the precise date of Beatty and Orrear's settlement, but in the Fall of 1842, their cabin was the stopping place for a few travelers on the old Mission road, and they had been there long enough to have made some improvements, and to have built some fences. Both were unmarried then, and appear to have been industrious and hardworking farmers. 

....This picture is looking south from the bride across the creek.  The Mission Road probably forded the creek at about this spot as it the easiest hill gradient across the creek.  Originally the surrounding timber and prairie would have acted like a giant natural sponge supplying a constant source of water draining into the creeks. Today the watershed is gone as everything is tiled out, so the original water level in the creeks would have been much higher.  The Wilcox cabin would be to your back.  Beatty and Orrear built a cabin and farm down this creek about 200 yards and just off the right of the picture, where a spring came out of the prairie hills from the west.  Actually these prairie springs were just low areas/valleys draining off surface water from the "giant prairie sponge.

....The creek today carries a small fraction of the water today compared to the 1950's, when I trapped the two mile section from the Wilcox cabin south, as did my father during the 1930's.  One can only imagine the plentiful water supply and the natural habitat at the time Franklin Wilcox arrived.  Orrear's farm is 200 yards ahead and to the right in this picture.  Below, along the prairie creek bottoms, one would find wet prairie grassland interspersed with wetland woody species.  The picture is not to unlike what Wilcox, Beatty and Orrear were living around and farming.  They also would have been taking a lot of wild game as a food source.


Other Early Settlers and Family Connections along the Mission Trail

....In 1841or 1842 two Indian traders built a small log cabin for a trading post on the Old Mission Road. One of these was _____ ATWOOD, and the other Henry or Moses TEGARDEN, or TEGARDNER. These two were somehow engaged together in whisky trade with the Indians. Both were murdered by some Winnebagos in March 1843. At least one child of Tegarden's was also murdered at the same time. One version of the story is that two other children of Tegarden's were badly wounded but escaped. Their mother was not at home that night. Two sons were William and Daniel. Mrs. Valzick Tegarden married Zophar PERKINS August 5, 1846 and "Bill" married Perkin's eldest daughter, Absenath, August 6, 1847. 

William VanDorn, Mrs. Franklin Wilcox's brother, came in 1843, and M. C. SPERRY located a claim near Mumford's about that time. A Mr. OATMAN, an elderly man, who had been a hotel keeper at La Harpe, Ill., located on the prairie near the little stream called Brush Creek. He began the construction of what was to be a hotel but decided there was no future for a hotel there and soon left the county. His son, Lorenzo, was killed by the Apaches while on the way to California in 1850. Another son and two daughters escaped. One of the daughters wrote a book about her experiences while a captive. James TAPPER was in Fayette CO in 1843 when he was appointed Supervisor of the road from Lowry's farm to the military road.

William ORREAR and Mary A. WILCOX, both of Fayette County, were married on Feb 25, 1844, which appears to be the first marriage of Fayette settlers. On August 6, 1847, George CULVER and Margaret E. CASTALL were married by Rev. Simeon CLARK, the pioneer preacher of Delaware, and March 27, 1848, Charles GLIDDEN and Mary LOWE were married by Andrew HENSLEY J.P. Mr. Hensley states that William VanDorn and Miss ________MESSENGER were married in 1845, but the marriage is not recorded.

A Mr. MESSENGER settled about 40 rods east of the Tegarden spring, probably in 1844. John MOYNE located a claim near Bear Grove in 1844 but did not enter land or settle permanently until 1847. Madison BROWN built a rude cabin north of Bear Grove and located there with his family in 1844. In July 1845, D. J. FINNEY settled in Township 92, Range 7. Isaac WEBSTER had a claim on the Volga bottom a short distance east of Beatty's, lived with Beatty, and during the season of 1844, raised a crop of oats on part of the ground now covered by the village of Fayette. During the winter of 1845, Lorenzo MULLIKEN lived with Beatty.

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