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large portions of the bottom-lands to be overflowed during the rainy season and making travel difficult or impossible where there are no good roads and bridges. At other places there are rocky bluffs which preclude the possibility of an overflow at any season of the year. The stream has an abundance of good timber along its banks and contiguous thereto; it is properly noted for the abundance of fish which it contains, though since the building of numerous dams further down, the fish are not so numerous or of such good quality as formerly. One peculiarity of this stream, or rather the country bordering upon it, is that there appears to be no uniformity in the geological formations: in certain localities there is an abundance of good building-stone and other localities are characterized by a total absence of stone. Its bed lies partly in the coal-region and partly without the coalfield. There are many peculiarities in regard to the formations through which the stream flows that geologists have not yet been able to explain.
There are four other important streams in the county; they are Coal Creek, Whitebreast Creek, English Creek and Cedar Creek.
Coal Creek enters the county from the west in section 30, flows toward the northeast and. making a bold curve, flows to the northwest and leaves the county in section 7, about four miles north of the place where it entered. Its principal tributary is Coon Creek from the south.
Whitebreast Creek is a tributary of the Des Moines. It enters the county from the west about four miles from the southwest corner; its general direction is toward the northeast and the length of the stream in the county is about twenty miles.
Butcher Creek, which rises near Pleasantville and empties into this stream in section 33, township 76, range 20, is its chief tributary from the north. Wind Branch and Kirton Branch are its principal tributaries from the south. This stream flows through the most beautiful and productive part of the county and is one of the most important in the county. It affords an abundance of living water for stock purposes throughout the year, and during a large portion of the time has a sufficient volume of water for mill power; this power has in times past been utilized in the propelling of mills.
English Creek rises in the southwest part of the county and flows north of east and empties into the Des Moines some eighteen or twenty miles from its source. Long Branch and Wild Cat are its chief tributaries.
Cedar Creek enters the county from the south about five and a half miles west of the southeast corner of the county. It flows in a northeastern direction and leaves the county at a point in section 36, township 75, range 18, about eight miles from its source. It chief tributaries are North Cedar and
Walnut Creek entering it from the west.
The Des Moines has a number of small tributaries entering it from the north. The principal ones are Brush Creek, Calhoun Creek, Prairie Creek and Walnut Creek. Wild Cat Creek and Ballard Creek are smaller tributaries from the west.
The Des Moines River forms the great basin toward which from the northeast and southwest incline the two grand water-sheds which compose the territory of the county. Adown these flow the list of noble streams, in a like direction as if for a like purpose, that of watering and refreshing and
beautifying the country and making it one of the most favored and goodly regions which the sun shines upon. Many years, and possibly ages ago they digged their winding channels and nurtured a growth of forest trees from which the pioneer might construct his rude cabin. After years and years of waiting the white man came and found the country ready for his abode: it should be the abode of happiness and contentment, but we fear that too often from the valleys and the hills go up murmurings and complainings instead of what would be more appropriate, the voice of unceasing gratitude and praise.
The circumstance which more than any other favored the early and rapid settlement of Marion county was the abundance of timber. The presence of timber aided materially in bringing about an early settlement, and it aided in two ways. First, the county had to depend on emigration from the older settled States of the East for its population, and especially Ohio and Indiana. These States originally were almost entirely covered with dense forests and farms were made by clearing off certain portions of the timber. Almost every farm there after it became thoroughly improved still retained a certain tract of timber, which is commonly known as the "woods." The woods is generally regarded as the most important part of the farm and the average farmer regards it as indispensible; when he emigrated west, the great objection to the Iowa country was the scarcity of timber, and he did not suppose that it would be possible to open up a farm on the bleak prairie. To live in a region devoid of the familiar sight of timber seemed unendurable and the average Ohio and Indiana emigrant could not endure the idea of founding a home far away from the familar sight of forest trees. Then again, the idea entertained by the early emigrants to Iowa that timber was a necessity was not simply theoretical and ethical. The early settler had to have a house to live in, fuel for cooking and heating purposes, and fences to enclose his claim; at that time. there were no railroads whereby lumber could be transported from the pineries, no coal-mines had yet been opened and few, if any, had been discovered. Timber was an absolute necessity, without which personal existence as well as material improvement was an impossibility. No wonder that a gentleman from the East, who in early times came to the prairie region of Iowa on a prospecting tour with a view of permanent location returned home in disgust and embodied his views of the country in the following rhyme:
Oh, lonesome, windy, grassy place,
I'd rather live on camel hump
And be a Yankee Doodle beggar,
And shake to death with fever 'n' ager.
As before remarked, there are two reasons why the first settlers refused to locate at a distance from the timber and why the timbered regions bordering upon the Des Moines River became densely populated while the more fertile and more easily cultivated prairies remained for many years unclaimed. The pioneers were in the main the descendants of those hardy backwoodsmen who conquered the dense forests of Indiana, Ohio, and the
regions farther east. When farms were opened up in those countries a large. belt of timber was invariably reserved from which the farmer could draw his supply of logs for lumber and fence rails, and fuel for cooking and heating purposes. Even at the present day a farm without its patch of timber is exceedingly rare in those countries. Having from their youth up been accustomed to timber, the emigrant from these timbered regions of the East would have ever felt lonesome and solitary deprived of the familiar sight of the tall forest trees and shut off from the accustomed sound of wind passing through the branches of the venerable oaks. Then again, timber was an actual necessity to the early settler. In this day of railroads, herd laws, cheap lumber and cheap fuel, it is easy enough to open a farm and build up a comfortable home away out on the prairie, far from the sight of timber. But not so under the circumstances surrounding the first settlers. There was no way of shipping lumber from the markets of the East, coal-mines were unknown, and before a parcel of land could be cultivated it was necessary to fence it. In order to settle the prairie countries it was necessary to have railroads, and in order to have railroads it was necessary that at least a portion of the country should be settled. Hence the most important resource in the development of this Western country was the belts of timber which skirted the streams; and the settlers who first hewed out homes in the timber, while at present not the most enterprising and progressive, were nevertheless an essential factor in the solution of the problem.
From either side of the river flowing in a southwestern and northeastern direction are a number of small streams or creeks. The uniform width of the belt of timber along the Des Moines was originally about four or five miles, but where these smaller streams empty into the river the timber extends much further out. These places are called "points" and at these points were the first settlements made; here were the first beginnings of civilization; here began to operate the forces which have made the widerness a fruitful place and caused the desert to bloom as the rose.
Much of the present forest has been removed; part of it was economically manufactured into lumber which entered into the construction of the early dwelling-houses, many of which still remain; much of it was ruthlessly and recklessly destroyed. From the fact that attention was early given to the culture of artificial groves, Marion county now has probably about as much timber as formerly, and the State much more.
Among the most abundant of all trees originally found was the black walnut, so highly prized in all countries for manufacturing purposes. Timber of this kind was very plentiful and of good quality originally, but the high price paid for this kind of timber presented itself as a temptation to destroy it which the people, frequently in straightened circumstances, could not resist. Red, white and black oak are still very plentiful, although they have for many years been extensively used for fuel. Crab-apple, elm, maple, ash, cotton wood and wild cherry are also found. The best timber in the State is found in this county.
A line of timber averaging four miles in width follows the course of the Des Moines River, and all the other streams are liberally supplied. Detached groves, both natural and artificial, are found in many places throughout the county, which are not only ornamental, in that they vary the monotony of the prairie, but likewise very useful in that they have a very im
portant bearing on the climate. It is a fact fully demonstrated by the best of authority that climate varies with the physiognomy of the country.
The climate is what is generally termed a healthy one; subject, however, to the sudden change from heat to cold. The winters, however, are as a general thing uniform although there seems to have been very marked modifications in the climate during the past few years, resulting, doubtless, from the changes which have taken place in the physiognomy of the country.
At one time it was asserted, with much confidence, that the climate of the Mississippi Valley was warmer than that of the Atlantic States in the same latitude, but this idea has long since been exploded by observations which have been made in both regions.
From Blodgett's Climatology of the United States we learn that the "early distinctions between the Atlantic States and the Mississippi Valley have been quite dropped as the progress of observation has shown them to be practically the same, or to differ only in unimportant particulars. It is difficult to designate any important fact entitling them to any separate classification; they are both alike subject to great extremes; they both have strongly marked continental features at some seasons and decided tropical features at others and these influence the whole district similarly without showing any line of separation. At a distance from the Gulf of Mexico, to remove the local effect, the same peculiarities appear which belong to Fort Snelling; Montreal as well as to Albany, Baltimore and Richmond."
As this county is nearly on the saine parallel as central New York it is fair to presume that the climate is nearly identical, provided the above be true. Yet observation shows that there is a preceptible tendency to extremes as we go further west, owing to the lakes and prairies probably, and shows that the spring and summer are decidedly warmer, and the winters colder here than in New York. From the open country, the great sweep of the winds, and the force of the sun, the malaria from the rich prairies is counteracted and dispelled so that the climate here is as healthy as in any portion of the known world.
March and November are essentially winter months as the mean temperature rises but little, if any, above the freezing point. The hottest days occur some years in July and in other years in August. Observations made during the period of twenty years show that the hottest day of the year has ranged from June 22d, to August 31st. During that period the hottest day of the year occurred twice in. June, nine times in July and nine times in August. The coldest days occur some years in December and other years in Jannary, while observation has established the fact that not unfrequently the coldest day occurs in February. During a period of twenty years, extending from 1850 to 1870, the coldest day occured seven times during the month of February, nine times during the month of January and four times during the month of December. The coldest day came earliest during the year 1851, when it occurred on the 16th day of December, and it came latest in 1868, when it was the 10th of February. The days upon which the temperature most closely approximates the mean annual temperature occur in April and October. During a period of twenty years they occurred in no other months; except in 1866, when the day most nearly approximating mean annual temperature occurred November 2d.
During a period of thirty-one years, extending from 1839 to 1870, the latest appearance of frost has ranged from April 5 to May 26, and its latest appearance from September 2 to October 23. This is true of all the years except 1863, when there was frost every month in the year, the latest occurring August 25, and the earliest August 29. During those thirty-one years the latest frost occurred twenty times in April, twenty times in May and once in August; the earliest frost occured nineteen times in September, twenty-one times in October and once in August. It will thus be seen that with the exception of the year 1863, when there was frost every month in the year, there was no frost during the months of June, July and August. Heavy frosts of such severity as to destroy fruit seldom occur later than April 15: even during the year 1863, when there was frost every month, there was none of sufficient severity to damage anything after that date.
With regard to the amount of rain-fall, a distinguished author on the subject of climatology, after giving numerous illustrations says: "The array of facts here presented will, it is hoped, prove of interest, not only to the residents of the State of Iowa and the Mississippi Valley, but also for the dwellers upon the seaboard, as furnishing data from which a comparison may be drawn as to the difference in the temperature, amount of rain-fall, the source thereof, etc.; as also their distribution through the several seasons of the year. Eastern meteorologists have been greatly surprised at the great amount of precipitation of vapor in the valley, overlooking the fact that there the rain winds are northeast, here southwest. The amount precipitated has not diminished since the first settlement of the country, and probably will not as the area covered by timber has not decreased with the settlement of the State, and is not likely to in the future; on the contrary is increasing and is likely to increase with the growth of settlement in age and extent. The peculiarities of our soil and climate are such that the past decades have demonstrated that our State can endure an extreme of drought or rain with as little or less loss than any other cultivated region of our country."
The largest rain-fall during any one year since the settlement of the county was in 1851, when it amounted to 74.49 inches; the least was in 1854, when it was only 23.35 inches. The average or mean amount of rain-fall for twenty-two years was 44.27 inches. August was the month of greatest amount of rain and January the least.
The following table shows the amount of rain for each year during the twenty-two years, from 1848 to 1870: