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most appropriate, for in their heroism, patient endurance of hardships, and unswerving elevation to principle were the pioneers of the county vertiable Francis Marions in their own humble sphere. How much the career of the county may have been affected by the name we shall never know but the fact remains that Marion was the favorite character among the early settlers, and that the progress and development of the county has been largely due to the exercise of the same energy and self-denial which the distinguished general practiced while engaged in deeds which in a certain sense were grander, though by no means more honorable. It is not practicable at this place to give anything like a life of this illustrious chieftian in whose honor the county was named. A few facts only, such as every school-boy should know, will be given.
Gen. Francis Marion was born in South Carolina in 1732, and died in 1795. He had a very meager education, and his first military experience was as a volunteer in the Indian expedition against the Cherokees. He entered the service of the colonists during the Revolutionary War, the first office he held being that of captain. For efficient service he was promoted from time to time until he arrived at the rank of brigadier-general. It was while holding this office that he performed the most efficient service for his country. In speaking of his career, the historian says:
"It is impossible to pursue in detail the progress of so eager a chieftain, in a career inarked by so great a variety of actions and resource. Even popular tradition fails to follow him. His camp at Snow's Island, his potato feast to the British officer, his quiet humor when dealing with both friend and foe, his perpetual vigilance and sudden movements have all entered into the legends of the country. Though Snow's Island, a natural fortress of swamps was his favorite hiding-place yet he had other retreats in almost every swamp of Carolina. His food was chiefly potatoes and corn; his only drink was vinegar and water; for months he slept without a blanket and marched without a hat; and he trained his followers to his own habit of cheerful endurance. He disciplined in his style of warfare many young officers who proved in time worthy of their master."
After the close of the war Gen. Marion was elected to the State Senate and was also a member of the State convention called to form a constitution for his native State. Upon leaving the service of his native country he returned to the avocation of a farmer almost in abject poverty. Such were some of the acts which rendered Francis Marion one of the most noted men of his day, and such were some of the characteristics of the man whom the early settlers thought worthy of honoring when they named the county.
The great popularity of the name is fully attested by the fact that seventeen different counties in the United States have received it, besides many important cities.
In this list of seventeen counties, as given in Appleton's Enclycopedia, Marion county, Iowa, is the fourteenth in the order in which they are given, but it is second in respect to population and wealth, Marion county, Indiana, which contains Indianapolis, the capital city of the State, alone exceeding it in population and wealth.
So much for the name, concerning which all of our readers would not wish to know less.
Situation--Extent--Surface--Rivers-Timber-Climate--Prairies-Soils-Geology--Economic Geology-Coal-Building Stone--Clays--Springs-Springs and Well Water. MARION County is situated south and east of the center of the State. Accurately speaking it is about fifty miles south and a very little east of the geographical center of the State.
The town of State Center, a station on the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, in Marshall county, is probably very near the geographical center of the State. The city of Des Moines, some thirty miles northwest from Knoxville, is probably more nearly in the center of wealth and population than any other city in the State.
Numbering by counties, it is in the third tier from the south boundary of the State, in the seventh tier from the north boundary, the fifth from the east and the sixth from the west. Knoxville is about 52 miles from the Missouri State line, 108 miles west of the Mississippi River, 150 miles east of the Missouri River and about the same distance from the Minnesota State line.
Its latitude is a little more that 41 degrees, being nearly the same as that of New York City; its longitude is about ninety-three degrees west of Greenwich, and about sixteen degrees west of the National Capital.
It is bounded on the north by Jasper county, on the east by Mahaska, on the south by Monroe and Lucas, and on the west by Warren and Polk. It is generally considered that Warren county alone bounds Marion on the west, but the fact is that about one mile of the western boundary touches on Polk. This came about as follows: When Polk county was organized the people of Fort Des Moines, who were in the majority, were anxious to have the seat of justice located at that place. Fort Des Moines was consequently south of the center of the county, and as this was urged as an objection to its becoming the county seat the friends of Fort Des Moines succeeded in having the north tier of townships taken from Warren and attached to Polk.
In 1852 the people of Warren petitioned the Legislature to restore the territory which properly belonged to them. This was resisted by Doctor Hull, then representing Polk county in the State Senate, and who lived on the disputed ground in the southeast part of the county, just north of the Des Moines River. A compromise was effected, whereby it was provided that all of that part of the disputed territory which lay north of the Des Moines River, should continue to be a part of Polk, and thus the matter stands yet.
Marion county is composed of congressional townships 74, 75, 76 and 77, of ranges 18, 19, 20 and 21.
The county is in the shape of a square, or as nearly so as it was possible to make it in the original surveys. Were these surveys strictly accurate, the county would be exactly twenty-four miles each way, and would embrace five hundred and seventy-six square miles, or three hundred and sixty-eight thousand six hundred and forty acres. As it is the area is somewhat larger.
The county is now subdivided into fifteen different townships as follows: Clay, Dallas, Franklin, Indiana, Knoxville, Lake Prairie, Liberty, Perry, Pleasant Grove, Polk, Red Rock, Summit, Swan, Union and Washington. Of these six coincide with their corresponding congressional townships; they are as follows: Liberty, Indiana, Washington, Dallas and Summit. Three of the civil townships are larger than the corresponding congressional townships; they are Knoxville, Lake Prairie and Clay. The remaining civil townships are sinaller than congressional townships, Perry being the smallest; Knoxville township is the largest, containing about one hundred sections or over two and a half congressional townships. Lake Prairie, comes next in size, it containing about seventy-eight sections or over two congressional townships. These two townships, Knoxville and Lake Prairie contain nearly one third of the area of the county and almost half of the population.
The county at one time was divided into civil townships whose bounda ries differed materially from the present arrangement. The present subdivision of the county is of comparatively modern origin, and natural boundaries, such as rivers, were considered rather than the arbitrary lines laid down in the original government surveys. The boundaries of civil townships are subject to frequent changes, but in Marion county it would seem that the boundary lines of civil townships have been subjected to fewer vicissitudes than is usually the case.
Upon studying the history of the county one is soon impressed by the fact that the people are less whimsical and more conservative than in the average county of the State, and the fact appears in the arrangement of civil townships which have suffered fewer changes than is usual. Such changes as have been made will be more fully discussed at the proper place.
Part of the townships have regular and well-defined boundaries, while the larger number of them have irregular and ill-defined boundaries. This is due to the fact that in many cases the boundary lines consist of the irregular and changeable channels of rivers and sinaller streams. Owing to the fact that bridges, however numerous they may be, do not furnish convenient and ready means of communication between the people of a township lying partly on both sides of a stream, this arrangement is probably the best subdivision of the county into civil townships which could be made, although in many respects the plan of constituting each congressional township into a civil township has its advantages.
These streams of water, while they present many obstacles in the way of settlement and improvement, and are continually suggesting problems over which the county dignitaries may perspire and cogitate are at the same time of incalculable benefit to the country. They will be described at the appropriate place.
The elevation of the county is somewhat less than the average of the State. The average of the county is not far from 850 feet above the level of the sea, or 406 feet above low water mark in the Mississippi River at Keokuk.
The highest point in the county is about midway between the valleys of Des Moines and Skunk, near the north part of the county where the elevation is about 895 feet above the sea level or 451 feet above low water mark in the Mississippi River at Keokuk. The lowest point is at the Des Moines River at the east side of the county where the elevation is about 684 feet
or 240 feet above low water mark in the Mississippi River at Keokuk. The difference in elevation between low water mark in the Des Moines River where it leaves the county and the Mississippi at Davenport is 215 feet; and between low water mark in the Des Moines River at where it leaves the county and the point where it empties into the Mississippi River at Keokuk is about 298 feet. The following are the elevations above the sea of the principal points in the county:
The land in the county, away from the streams, is generally an undulating prairie and has altogether a density of country seldom found in so small a space. At a varying distance from the larger streams rise irregu lar lines of bluffs or hills, sometimes wooded and sometimes, previous to improvement, covered with a luxuriant growth of prairie grass, having between them water bottom-lands of surprising beauty and unsurpassed fertility. These hills are usually a gentle slope, easily ascended and descended by wagons, and sinking into mere benches moderately lifted above the surface of the valley; again they sometimes rise to a height of over one hundred feet above the bed of the Des Moines River. From side to side between these hills the streams meander, with banks varied by hill, meadow and forest. Rising to these higher points the eye often commands views of exquisite loveliness, embracing the silvery course of river or creek, the waving foliage of trees, the changing outlines of hills and the undulating surface of the flower-decked prairie, with cultivated farms, with farm-houses from the log hut of the first settler to the brick or painted houses and barns of the more advanced cultivator of the soil, and the palatial mansions of the wealthy capitalist. A writer of considerable reputation and a close student of natural history says:
"The real beauty of this section can hardly be surpassed. Undulating prairies interspersed with open groves of timber and watered with pebbly or rocky streams, pure and transparent, hills of moderate height and gentle slope; here and there, especially toward the heads of the streams, small lakes as clear as the streams, skirted with timber, some with banks covered with the green sward of the prairie. These are the ordinary features of the landscape. For centuries the successive annual crops have accumulated organic matter on the surface to such an extent that the succession even of exhausting crops will not materially impoverish the land."
The "small lakes," so called, have proved to be simply ponds or marshes, which in certain seasons of the year resemble small lakes. The county has less land unfitted for cultivation, by reason of sloughs and marshes, than any of the neighboring counties. According to the report of the Commissioner of the Land-office, Polk county had 14,596 acres of swamp lands, Boone 27,773, Story 15,640, Marion 6,400. There is probably not a section of country of like extent in the State which possesses such an extensive and well-distributed drainage system as Marion county. There is proportionately such a small area of waste and swampy lands, and the facilities for draining such are so admirable that waste lands arising from this cause are too insignificant to be worthy of particular mention.
The country presented to the first settler an easy task in subduing the wild land. Its natural prairies were fields alınost ready for the planting
of the crop, and its rich black soil seemed to be awaiting the opportunity of paying rewards as a tribute to the labor of the husbandman. The farms of lowa at present are generally large, level, unbroken by impassabie sloughs, without stumps or other obstructions, and furnish the best of conditions favorable to the use of reaping-machines, mower, corn-planters and other kinds of labor-saving machinery.
Marion county is so well supplied with living streams of water and they are so well distributed over the county that the people could not possibly make an improvement upon the arrangement if they were allowed the privilege and endowed with the power to make a readjustment of the system of rivers and creeks. Many of these streams have fine millsites, and by reason of the water-power thus made so accessible, the early settler was spared many of the hardships and inconveniences experienced by the pioneers of other sections. These mill-sites, even to the present day, constitute a very important factor in the further development of the material resources of the county.
Des Moines River-The Des Moines River is the principal stream of the county, as it also is of the State. It enters the county from the west about one and a half miles from the north boundary line. It flows in a southeastern direction and leaves the county about ten miles north of the southeast corner. In section 28, township 77, range 20, the river once made a large curve to the southwest, forming a long peninsula. In 1847 the river at this place became blocked with ice and drift and the river was forced to cut a new channel. This place is known as the "cut-off." This we believe is the only important change which has taken place in the channel of the river in modern times. The average width of the stream in Marion county is more than one hundred yards and its waters are of a crystal clearness when not disturbed by freshets. Many mill-sites may be found along this stream within the bounds of the county,.but few of these have thus far been improved. No county in this or any other State has better facilities than this for flouring-mills, or the propagation of any kind of machinery. The available water-power along the Des Moines River in Marion county alone, were it utilized, would furnish a remunerative occupation for all the able-bodied men in the county. It has been but recently that the full value of the Des Moines River for water-power begun to be appreciated and at some points (as at Ottumwa, for instance), is become to be regarded as the foundation of future municipal wealth and greatness.
The custom of adopting Indian names for rivers had its origin in the precedent laid down by the first settlers of America. The wisdom of this plan has gradually become more and more apparent, as by use the ear becomes accustomed to the sound and the eye familiarized with the sight of these names. By following this custom our language becomes greatly enriched, and each successive generation is reminded of a people once numerous and powerful, but now so weak and abject as to be virtually eliminated from the family of nations. These names have invariably a pleasing sound when the ear becomes accustomed to them, and their adoption is a most befitting tribute to a nation which although savage possessed certain characteristics which make the story of their misfortune the most remarkable