« PředchozíPokračovat »
In the heart of the grand old forest,
A thousand miles to the West, Wbere & stream gashed out from the hill side,
They halted at last for rest. And the silence of ages listened
To the axe-stroke loud and clear, Divining a kingly presence
In the tread of the pioneer.
IIe formed of the prostrate beeches
A home that was stroug and good;
The chimney he built of wood.
While the flame up the chimney roared, He spoke of the good time coming,
When plenty should crown their board
When the forest should fade like a vision,
And over the hill-side and plain
And the fields of golden grain.
In a mansion qnaint and old,
Having reaped a thousand-fold.
The County; its Location and Name-Plan and Scope of this work.
OVER a score and a half of years have passed away since the first white settlement was made within the bounds of that territory now known as Marion county, Iowa. It is less than a half century since the uncivilized aborigines roamed the prairies wild and free, unfettered by the restraint of common or statutory law and uncircumscribed by township boundaries and county lines. The transformation which has taken place in the physiognomy of the county alone is beyond the comprehension of the finite mind; loxuriant groves where there was the wide-stretching prairie; cultivated fields where was the primeval forest; orchards, vineyards and gardens where waved the tall prairie grass. So marked has been the change in the physiognomy of the country that there has been a decided change in the climatology. The elements themselves seem to have taken notice of the great change and have governed themselves accordingly. While the annual rain-fall and the mean annual temperature remain the same in quantity they are now entirely different in quality; and although imperceptible and independent of man's will, they have nevertheless come under the same civilizing power which has changed the wilderness into a fruitful land.
The great change which has taken place in the development of the ma. terial resources of the country is more noticeable, as man can more readily discern the changes which take place by detail in his own circumscribed field of activity than he can those grand revolutions in the uncircumscribed domain of nature. The changes which have occurred in social, intellectual and moral conditions are still more marked, mind being more swift to act on mind than matter. These changes can best be established by the insti. tation of a brief contrast:
Then the material resources of the country consisted simply in the streams of water which quenched the thirst of the aborigine, wherein was found the fish which he ate and upon which floated his frail canoe; the forest where he procured his fuel, material for the construction of his rude weapons and which sheltered the game that afforded him a meager and uncertain sustenance. Such were the material resources made available to the owner of the soil. The social condition of the people was scarcely more advanced than is that of certain orders of the lower animals, whose social attainments are comprehended in the ability to unite for mutual offense and defense. In intellect and morals there was a people somewhat above the brute, but on the lowest round of the ladder.
Now the material resources of the country include in their number the soil with every useful and ornamental product known to the temperate zone; the forest, with every specie of manufacture, useful and ornamental, known to the civilized world. The water in the streams and the currents of air above ns are alike trained to do man's bidding, while from the depths of the earth beneath our feet is brought forth the hidden wealth which was hoarded by the turmoil of the ages. Cities, with their thousands of people, a country with its thousands of inhabitants, while in city and country the lofty spires of churches and school-houses are evidences of the social, moral and intellectual conditions.
All this change in material things has been brought about by the incoming of new people from the far off East, and that, too, within the space of a score and a half of years. History furnishes no parallel to the rapid development of this Western country; it has been a chain whose links were ever re
a cnrring surprises and among the surprised there are none more so than those whose throbbing brains have planned and whose busy hands have executed the work.
Almost a century ago a friend of America, although an Englishman, in language almost prophetic, wrote:
Westward the course of empire takes its way;
The four first acts already past,
Time's noblest offspring is the last.
The settlement of the new world alluded to by the writer has, as a whole, fully met the conditions of that prophecy, but not till the past quarter of a century did the onward march of empire culminate in the settlement of central Iowa. With the exception of a few mining towns in the gold regions of California and the silver districts of Colorado, nothing has been like it before and it will not be exceeded in time to come.
This has not been an accident. All kinds of material development follow recognized and well established law, and in nothing does this fact more reveal itself than in the settlement of a country.
Whoever has inade it his business to study the “Great Northwest” as it has unfolded itself in history during the last quarter of a century has doubtlese met with ever recurring surprises. The story of its unparalleled growth and alınost phenomenal development has so often been repeated that it has become a commonplace platitude; but a careful study of the country will suggest questions wbich have thus far not been answered, and cannot be. Why, for instance, have some sections filled up so rapidly, and certain cit. ies sprung up as if by magic, while others, seemingly no less favored by nature, are still in the first stages of development? These questions cannot, in all cases, be answered; but whoever has studied the matter carefully cannot fail to have discovered a law of growth which is as unvarying as any law of nature. The two leading factors in the problem of municipal growth are location and character of first settlers. The location of Marion county was most favorable; and what is true of Marion county is true of the whole State. Almost surrounded, as it is, by two of the most renowed water-courses of the world, one will readily see that it possesses advantages enjoyed by no other State in the Union. These conditions, so favorable to the past and future development of the conntry, are beautifnlly illustrated by an ingenious little poem entitled “Two Ancient Misses," written by a gentleman who has won a wide-spread reputation at the bar, and whose Dame, were we at liberty to give it, wonld be familiar to most of the people of Marion county. We here quote it, as it will illustrate our point and is of sufficient merit to be preserved.
It is an account of the past history of the most favored and prosperous region thus embraced which we desire in the following pages to chronicle.
In entering upon the work before us we have not underestimated the difficulty and importance of the task. The chief difficulty lies in the fact that the events to be treated, while having to do with the past are so inti. mately interwoven with the present that they are properly a part of it. The writer of bistory as a general thing deals wholly with the affairs of past generations and his aiin is to pause when he arrives at that realm bounded by the memory of men now living; the whole field of our investigation lies this side of that boundary line, as there are many who will doubtless perase this work who from the first have witnessed, and taken part in the events we shall attempt to relate.
The year 1843 is usually given as the date of the first settlement of the county, although part of it was not open for settlement until two years later.
Assuming that date to be the beginning of the history proper, there have elapsed but thirty-seven years; and many who came at that time or shortly afterward, still live in our midst. And such, while they have grown prematurely old in body by reason of the hardships and privations incident apon a life of more than ordinary activity and trial, have not grown old in spirit. Each one of such knows the history of the county and, be it said with due reverence for their hoary heads and bended forms, each one knows that history better than any one else. Such readers are very uncharitable critics, and a work of this kind absolutely accurate in all its details and particulars, were it within the scope of human possibility to make such a work, would undoubtedly be pronounced, by many well meaning and honest persons, faultly and untrustworthy. This results from the fact that thirty years, though not a long period in the history of the world, is a long time in the life of an individual. Events occurring at that length of time in the past we think we know perfectly well when the fact is we know thein very imperfectly. This is proved and illustrated by the reluctancy and hestation manifested invariably by old settlers when called upon to give the details of some early transaction; the old settler usually hesitates before giving a date and after having finally settled down upon the year and the month when a certain event occurred, will probably hunt you up in less than a day and request the privilege of correcting the date. In the meantime you have found another old settler who was an eye-witness of the act in question and the date be will give you does not correspond with the first date nor the corrected date as given by the first old settler.
We have noticed the same uncertainty with regard to other details of a particular transaction; such, for instance, as an early election, whether Mr. Jones was the successful or the defeated candidate, and with regard to an altercation whether Smith or Brown was the aggressor. There is at this time living in an adjoining county a noble old gray-headed man whose pioneer feet trod close in the tracks of the receding aboriginies; he has held many offices of honor and trust and although life has lost none of its cbarms he would rather die than utter an untruthful word or commit a dishonorable deed. It appeared from the official record that an early day be had held the office of county surveyor and the fact having been made public by publication in a work of this character, he sought out the writer and informed him that the statement was incorrect; that not he bnt a certain Mr. W. has been elected to the position named at the time mentioned. He clung tenaciously to his position and refused to recede from it even when the poll-book was produced confirming the statement of the writer. To this day the old gectleman firmly believes that Mr. W., and not himself was connty surveyor in 1849, although in addition to the evidence of the pollbook is evidence of the county plat-book, where are certitied over his signature the surveys of at least three different towns. There are some marked exceptions, but as a rule the memory of the old settler is not trustworthy; his ideas of the general outlines are usually comparatively correct but no one who has the grace to put the proper estimate upon his mental faculties when impaired by age and weakened by the many infirmities of years will trust it in the arbitrament of questions of particulars and details.
The stranger who comes into the county with none of the information