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The beautiful town of Belleview, Jackson County, Iowa, located twenty-five miles south of Dubuque, on the Mississippi River, contains a population of 2,500, and has thirty-two liquor saloons. If any Western town can beat Bellevue in the saloon business, it has yet to be heard from. [Source: Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago, IL)Tuesday, September 4, 1877, transcribed by Mary Kay Krogman]

. . . about Bellevue, Iowa

The town of Bellevue is located on the Mississippi River in Bellevue Township, nearby towns include St. Donatus and La Motte to the northwest, Springbrook and Andrew to the southwest and the Mississippi River on the east edge of town.

Data Included:

1878 Jackson County, Iowa Gazetteer
1879 Jackson County, Iowa History
Newspaper Items

From 1878 Jackson County, Iowa Gazetteer



Bellevue is situated on the Mississippi river, twenty-two miles below the city of Dubuque, and twelve miles from Galena, Illinois. The town site is upon a beautiful plateau of land whose general height is about fifteen feet above high water mark, and is surrounded by an amphitheater of hills which break off the severe cold of winter. Few places on the river present more picturesque or beautiful scenery than that witnessed from the top of the high bluffs, either on the north or south of the town, including the river with its islands, the shores of Illinois beyond, the farms and farm houses up the valley, which runs to a point westward at the distance of about six miles, and the village nestling in the ample area at the foot of the bluffs with its business streets, its levee and its tasty dwellings. A steam ferry boat makes constant trips between Bellevue and the opposite shore, whence a considerable portion of the country trade is received, and steamboats are almost constantly in sight, either at the landing, in the regular up or down river trips, or going to, or coming from Galena. The railroad trains of the Chicago, Dubuque & Minnesota road pass directly through the village to the station, which is just north of the corporate limits.


Bellevue has in some respects quite a romantic history. It belongs to a section of country which, prior to 1840, or during the time of the early settlement, was infested by an organized gang of horse thieves and outlaws. These thieves stole horses and committed depredations and sometimes murder in the frontier settlements, extending from Missouri to Rock River, Illinois. Jackson and the adjoining counties on the west, were the theater of the operations of a portion of this gang, as the settlements were scattering and the extensive timber on the Maquoketa, afforded them facilities for concealment and escape from justice. They would steal horses in Missouri and bring them across the country to Bellevue, transferring them across the Mississippi at night, and exchanging them for horses stolen on the east side of the river. This made Bellevue a sort of headquarters or rendezvous for the desperadoes, many of whom were known and identified by the citizens as belonging to the gang; but it was dangerous to point them out publicly, or attempt to have them arrested for they out-numbered the honest settlers, and were in secret alliance with members of their gang who lived in many of the neighborhoods under the guise of respectable citizens. For a long time it was difficult to determine who were honest men and who were thieves and outlaws. When a few of the honest settlers suspected their neighbors, they discussed the matter privately, but were afraid to take any public action, for they did not know who to trust, and in case of being betrayed into the hands of the thieves, they would either be murdered or compelled to leave the country. Many murders were actually committed of citizens who informed of them; others were missing from their cabins and it was never known what became of them. The courts, in the country, could do nothing to suppress them, .as they could bring more witnesses than could be brought against them, to prove an alibi, and by false swearing escape the clutches of the law.


Things went on in this way till it became necessary for the settlers to organize for their own self-protection. An association was formed at Linn Grove, in Linn County, in 1839, of which Captain W. A. Warren, then Sheriff of Jackson County, and an active participant in the stirring- events of those pioneer times, gives the following account:

Colonel Cox, Mr. Moss and I took our departure, promising Bear we would return the next day. Passing up the Wapsie we came to Russell's, where the town of Fairview is now located. Russell and Mr. Crow accompanied us to Linn Grove to the house of Mr.-- which had been selected as our place of meeting. Arriving there about twelve o'clock we found the house crowded. Cedar County was represented by Messrs. Whitlesy, Culbertson, Roberts and others. Mr. Roberts will be remembered by members of the Territorial Legislature as the gentleman from Cedar, who, upon the introduction of any bill, would invariably address the chair with: ''Mr. Speaker, ar Cedar in that ar bill, if not, I can't vote for it." Notwithstanding his little eccentricities of speech, he was a faithful representative, and true to his constituents. Jones County was represented at the meeting by Messrs. Bowen, Beardsley, and perhaps others. The object for which we met was to devise concerted action for the more effectual protection of the settlers from thieves and desperadoes, who were daily preying upon the honest portion of the community. Colonel Cox explained the steps that had already been taken in Jackson County, and said he was glad to see the leading men of his sister counties present. He was an early settler in Illinois, and knew that all new counties were invested with banditti, who fled from justice in the older States, and held full sway for a time on the frontiers. But the hardy and honest pioneers are just the men to finally weed out such a class. He was of the opinion that moral suasion was wasted upon thieves and murderers. You cannot even reach them with the law, for when one of the band is arrested, no matter how strong may be the evidence of his guilt, his confederates will prove an alibi for him. In Illinois we rid the country of them, and found the most effectual means to be hemp, and my idea now is to thoroughly organize and protect every citizen, not only in his property, but in free speech. Let the officers be vigilant, and arrest all trespassers of the law, and see that it is vigorously enforced. Whenever the law cannot be enforced, treat the desperadoes as we did in Illinois. After the Colonel's address the associations was formed, and picked men selected in every county to give information and carry out the plans of the society. Many incidents of horse stealing and passing counterfeit money were related by those present.


Among the apparently respectable citizens connected with the banditti, and discovered to be a leading man of the gang, was one Brown, proprietor of the Bellevue House, the only hotel then kept in the place. This house was the rendezvous of the thieves in transferring their stolen property across the Mississippi, and at it occurred the fight with the desperadoes known as the Bellevue War, in the spring of 1840. The fight was brought on in the following manner:

One James C. Mitchell, a prominent citizen, had become obnoxious to Brown's gang, on account of his exposure of their attempts to induce him to join them, and they determined to assassinate him. Accordingly a party entered his house in the evening for that purpose; but Mitchell being absent at a party in the village, they robbed the house and attempted an outrage upon the person of his hired girl. The girl made her escape, and information was conveyed to Mitchell. The leader of the murderous gang was one James Thompson, who appears to have had respectable relations in the State of New York. When Mitchell heard of what had been done, he armed himself and started for his house. On a corner of the street he met Thompson and Montgomery-the latter afterwards noted for the murder of Brown, of Maquoketa. Thompson attempted to shoot Mitchell, but his pistol missed fire, and the shooting was on the other side. Thompson fell, mortally wounded, and expired in a few moments. The Brown thieves made an attempt to lynch Mitchell, but he escaped and fortified himself up stairs in his house till he could send for the Sheriff, into whose custody he surrendered himself.

This act of daring outrage created a great excitement in the village and throughout the frontier settlements. The honest citizens, fully aroused, demanded lynch law. Captain Warren consulted Judge T. S. Wilson, who advised that the whole party should be arrested and brought before the District Court for trial. Warrants were accordingly issued by Justices Watkins and Harris, and Sheriff Warren was charged with the duty of arresting the parties. Meanwhile Brown and his confederates, some twenty-three in number, had fortified themselves in the Bellevue House, occupying principally the upper story, and, armed with guns and pitchforks, were prepared for a desperate resistance. Captain Warren visited Brown in person, who agreed to surrender if the Captain would guarantee that he would not be at once seized and lynched by the excited people. To this the Captain, after consulting with his friends, agreed; but as he was approaching the house in company with three men, to make the arrests, Brown appeared on the outside and ordered him to halt, saying that he had changed his mind; that he had determined to resist to the last extremity; that Warren might come alone and consult; but if the others advanced another step they would be shot down. Warren finding all efforts to induce a peaceable surrender fruitless, returned and informed the settlers, who, together with the citizens of the village, had assembled to the number of eighty men of the association. Out of these, forty were selected and made ready for the scene of action. Captain Warren ordered them to march so as not to expose themselves to the fire of the enemy stationed up stairs, and when near the house gave orders for them to charge into the building. In this action one of the citizens was shot. Brown met the charging force at the door, and when ordered to surrender dropped his gun, which was discharged in falling. This was the signal for firing from the outside. One of the citizens taking good aim through a window, shot Brown in the neck, killing him instantly. The thieves in the upper story were well armed, so that it was impossible for the besieging party to get up stairs. Warren then called for a brand to set the house on fire, in order to burn them out, and while stooping to kindle the fire at the end of the building on the outside, two shots were fired at him from an adjoining shanty, in which several of the thieves had secreted themselves, which lodged in the clap-boards a few inches above his head. The thieves seeing the house about to be consumed, began to jump out of the back windows and run for the brush in the rear of the building. Some of them were followed and shot. Twelve were captured, mostly in running from the house; among the number were the notorious Young and Fox, the murderers of Colonel Davenport at Rock Island.


The method of deciding the fate of these desperadoes was rather novel. It was no less than balloting with beans-white beans for hanging, red beans for some other punishment. Carried against hanging by two beans. The punishment inflicted was from ten to fifty lashes on the bare back, and after this salutary scourging the victims were "rivered "-that is, put aboard of canoes and sent adrift down the river, with the solemn injunction never to show their heads again in these parts on pain of having their necks stretched. This vigorous treatment of the horse thieves of Jackson and Linn Counties, was the beginning of the effectual breaking up of their operations throughout the county.


The first settler in Bellevue was John D. Bell, who erected the first cabin in the Fall of 1835. The first hotel was built by Peter Dutell, in 1836, and was called the Bellevue House. The town of Bellevue was first laid out by John D. Bell, in 1835, the survey being done by Phillip McLean. It was again laid out by commissioners appointed by the United States, among whom were General George Cubbage and Wm. W. Cahill. At that time lots were valued at $7.50 for front lots and $5.00 for back lots, the proceeds, after paying the commissioners and the cost of surveying, being appropriated to the town. The surveyor on the part of the United States• was George W. Harrison.


Bellevue has a population of about 2,000, and is a large shipping point both by river and rail. The exports from Bellevue by river are: Wheat, 100,000 bushels; oats, 200,000 bushels; rye, 30,000 bushels. The exports from Bellevue over C., C. & D. Railroad are: North, oats, 50,000 bushels; corn, 30,000; South, wheat, 50,000 bushels; oats, 100,000 bushels; live and dressed hogs, 30,000 head. Freight received during 1877, 3,636,400 pounds; freight forwarded during 1877, 4,417,700 pounds. •
[Owen's Gazetteer and Directory of Jackson County, Iowa, Owen Publishing Company, Davenport, Iowa, 1878. Submitted by Mary Kay Krogman.]

From 1879 History of Jackson County Iowa


The beautiful and attractive site now occupied by the little city of Bellevue was one of the first points occupied by the habitation of white men west of the Mississippi River.

The Western Annals, in speaking of the military exploits in 1812, makes the following mention of Bellevue:

"There was a United States factory and a small stockade up the Mississippi,at the point now called Bellevue, which was besieged by a party of Winnebagoes, about 200 in number. It was not an eligible situation for defense, as, from points of steep and high bluffs, the invaders could throw firebrands and burning sticks upon the block-houses. The commanding officer, Lieut. Thomas Hamilton, with Lieut. B. Vasquez and a small force, resolutely defended the fort, and drove off the assailants."

The Missouri Gazette, of July 31, 1813, also speaks of the military post situated here, as follows:

"Our little garrison on the Mississippi has taught the Indians a few lessons in prudence. With about thirty effective men, those brave and meritorious soldiers, Lieuts. Hamilton and Vasquez, in a wretched pen improperly called a fort, beat off 500 savages of the Northwest."

The disparity in numbers in estimating the force of an Indian party is not unusual, even in our own day. The fort was soon after abandoned, and ceased to be a military post.


In 1836, the Legislature of the Territory of Wisconsin passed an act for the incorporation of towns, and, the same year, an act was passed supplementary to the same, and was as follows :

Be it enacted by the Council and House of Representatives of the Territory of Wisconsin, That the towns of Bellevue and Peru, in the original county of Dubuque, are hereby authorized to elect Trustees for said towns, and to be governed in all respects according to the provisions and to have the same privileges and to do all things which any other incorporated towns can or may do under the provisions of the said act.

But Bellevue did not form a town government until 1841, the first election for town officers being upon the 6th day of October, 1841.

Philip McClaer surveyed and laid out the town in the spring of 1835, but it was resurveyed and platted by the Government in the following year. A special act of Congress "for the laying off the towns of Fort Madison and Burlington, in the county of Des Moines, and the towns of Bellevue, Dubuque and Peru, in the county of Dubuque, Territory of Wisconsin, and for other purposes," was passed. The following is a part of said act:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the tracts of land in the Territory of Wisconsin, including the towns of Fort Madison and Burlington, in the county of Des Moines, Bellevue, Dubuque and Peru, in the county of Dubuque, and Mineral Point, in the county of Iowa, shall, under the direction of the Surveyor General of the Public Lands, be laid off into town lots, streets, avenues, and the lots for public use, called the public squares, and into out-lots, having regard to the lots and streets already surveyed, in such manner and of such dimensions as he may think proper for the public good and the equitable rights of the settlers and occupants of the said towns. Provided, That parts of land so to be laid off into town lots, etc., shall not exceed the quantity of one entire section, nor the town lot one-half of an acre, nor shall the out-lots exceed the quantity of four acres each.

When the survey of the lots shall be completed, a plat thereof shall be returned to the Secretary of the Treasury, and, within six months thereafter, the lots shall be offered to the highest bidder at public sale, under the direction of the President of the United States, and at such other times as he shall think proper. Provided, That no town lot shall be sold for a sum less than five dollars. And provided further, that a quantity of land of proper width on the river banks at the towns of Fort Madison, Bellevue, Burlington, Dubuque and Peru, and running with said river the whole length of said towns, shall be reserved from sale (as shall, also, the public squares), for public use, and remain forever for public use as public highways, and for other public use.

This act was approved July 2, 1836. In the following year, an act was passed creating a Board of Commissioners to hear pre-emption claims, and for other purposes. It was approved March 3, 1837. An official survey, under authority of this act, was made, and the sales of land began in 1844.

Although Bellevue was used as a military fort as far back as 1812, yet there were no actual settlers here until twenty years afterward. He who has the honor of being the first white man to take up land and make this his home was James Armstrong, who came here in the spring of 1833, and began farming in the valley just south of the present town site. He was followed in the fall of 1833 by William Jonas, David Segar, Thomas Nicholson and William Dyas. These men settled in the same valley with Armstrong, and engaged in farming. Alexander Reed, settled in Pleasant Creek Valley, and broke the first ground in the county; also John and James White settled in the same valley.

This settlement grew slowly, and it was not until 1836 that the first store was established here. Mr. J. K. Moss came in that year, with a stock of miscellaneous goods, and opened his store on the lot that is marked No. 1, on the official plat. He was followed by Nic. Jefferson, who opened a store on Lot 40.

The first men who did anything at blacksmithing were Hankins, Ziegler & Whittemore, in 1839. They had a shop on Second street, near where the Merchant's Hotel now stands. They did a locksmith's trade as well. The first regular blacksmith-shop was started in 1842, by a man of the name of Hawkins, near where M. Altfilisch's store now stands. He was followed soon after by Henry Jones, who opened a shop a little further up on Front street.

The first saw-mill was built by Bell & Sublett, in 1838. It stood about where the present Jasper flouring-mill stands. About the same time, Mr. Kincaid built the first grist-mill. It stood upon the Duck Creek, in the valley, just below the bluffs that overlook the present town site on the south. A ferry was established between this shore and the Illinois shore in 1835, by Vincent Smith; but it was located some six miles above the present site of Bellevue, at the mouth of Fever River.

In the year 1838, William Bartlett and J. S. Kirkpatrick established a ferry here, consisting of a flatboat propelled by oars. This was the style of ferry until 1851, when W. A. Warren obtained a charter and established a horse ferry from Bellevue to Sand Prairie, on the Illinois shore. He was obliged to cut a channel through Cut-Off Island, about one hundred yards long, three feet deep and twenty-five feet wide. It has since been enlarged fifty yards wide. This channel connects with Crooked Slough. The ferry connects with the highways leading to Galena, Hanover and Savanna.

Bellevue was the first county seat of Jackson County, which was established in 1837. The county seat remained here until 1841; then was removed to Andrew; then back to Bellevue, in 1818; then back to Andrew, in 1861, and then to Maquoketa in 1873.


The original name of the town was Bellview, in honor of John D. Bell, who was, in one sense, the proprietor of the place. This name was subsequently changed to the French spelling—Bellevue.

The town is located about forty feet above the water's edge, in a sort of wide valley, or, more properly speaking, a recess in the bluffs of the river. Mill Creek enters the Mississippi at this point, and, with the exception of the gorge where this stream breaks through to the Father of Waters, from its course through the uplands, Bellevue is surrounded, north, west and south by high bluffs or hills.

The bluff just above the river is probably two hundred and fifty feet in height, and is sometimes called "North Bluff." From the summit of this eminence is one of the finest views in the Mississippi Valley, a landscape of ravishing beauty in the summer or autumn. To the north and south, the bosom of the great Father of Waters is visible for miles, on whose gentle surface, the hulls of an inland commerce find their great continental highway, and bear from the rich fields which skirt its banks the harvests of one of the most fruitful valleys of the world.

Toward the west, is the narrow, steep gorge of Mill Creek, the confluence of a dozen tiny brooks and living springs. Just below, by the art of trade, it widens into a mill-pond, to furnish the power which machinery demands, and to which the creek is a willing and a joyful slave. At the foot of the bluff nestles the city, with a look of peace, thrift and security, which imagination might ascribe, in part, to the influence of the rock-crowned sentinels on either hand, which stand as silent monitors of the ages.

Various islands are in the river at this point, adding to the beauty of the scene by their appearance, like to cushions of green in a "picture of silver." The Illinois shore, flat and swampy for a distance, is covered with groves of heavy timber, flinging their broad shoulders over the land, until they give way to fields ripening to a perennial harvest, fields which the hand of industry adorns with beauty, while compelling them to contribute to usefulness. The view is grand, and no visitor to Bellevue can afford to allow the difficulty of ascending the bluff to prevent him from beholding its loveliness.


Bellevue and vicinity was formerly inhabited by the tribes of Indians known as the Sacs and Foxes. Immediately below town, on the ground now occupied by the Presbyterian Cemetery, there was a village of the Sacs. In 1850, the war-pole was still standing. Immediately below the village was their burying ground. Dr. Lawrence Millar, an amateur archaeologist and resident of Bellevue, hearing of this burying-ground, went prospecting among the graves. Upon opening one grave, he found the remains of a man, evidently a chief, and upon the body he found a large silver breast plate or pin, about three inches in diameter. On the bones of the arm were found silver bracelets. Beside the skull, earrings, and a ring, that had evidently been worn in the nose. The vermilion, or war-paint, was still fresh on the scalp. The body had been buried in a sitting posture, with the knees and head together, facing toward the east, and had been enveloped in a robe of fur, evidently of a wolf. On the outside was a casing of elm-bark.

In another grave, were found the remains of a female, with the same kind of rings in the ears, and about the waist a wampum belt, so much decayed, however, that it crumbled when brought to the air. On the third body found, there were iron bracelets on the arms. The bracelets had been placed. The remains of a child were also found, which were evidently of recent burial. A string of bronze bells were also found near the body, about the size of small hickory nuts.

Along the shores are found many arrow points. A little way below where the village stood, there is a stratum of two feet of muscle-shells and clamshells, evidently being a place where the Indians had their annual clam feed. Immediately below this, there is a mound on the bank of the Mississippi, about twenty-five feet in height and about forty feet in base diameter. This mound Dr. Millar dug into, and found it formed of different strata of clay. Some of the earth had been brought from the surrounding plain, some from the bed of the river, containing muscle-shells and portions of carnelian. Then came another stratum of white clay, which must have been brought threefourths of a mile, for there is none to be found nearer than that. This stratum was about two feet thick. About four feet below the top of the mound was found a body of recent burial. About ten feet below were found decaying bones and some flat stones, a part of a rude vault which had fallen down. Beneath the stones were found fragments of rude pottery, of nearly the same ware as is seen in a modern crucible, made of clay, sand and gravel. About two miles below this mound there is another, but the owner of the land would not allow it to be examined. He said that when he came there in 1833, the Indians used to sit upon this mound and black their faces. Dr. Millar saw Col. Forquer, who was a member of Gen. Grant's staff during the war, and who is the present chief of the Oneida tribe of Indians, and a grandson of Red Jacket. He asked him about these mounds. Forquer said that his people held them in great reverence, but that there were no traditions as to their origin; that they were pre-historic, and built by a race who inhabited these regions long before his people were here.

Dr. Millar opened another mound, just north of the town on top of the bluff. This one was most prominent of eight in number, running due east and west. About four and a half feet below the surface was found a regularly built platform of stone, seemingly an altar, upon which the ashes and charcoal were perfectly fresh. The wood had been of red cedar, which, at that time, grew plentifully on the adjacent bluffs. The remains of a human body were found in a charred condition. They were of a female and child of about twelve years of age. Charred bones of a dog or wolf were also found. This, evidently, had been a place of sacrifice. Upon opening the other mounds, nothing was discovered.

There were, a few years ago, the remains of ancient fortifications about where Hyler's store now stands, regularly built breast-works, showing a great amount of skill.

On the Illinois side of the river, there are mounds on the bluffs, which run east and west, and in the valley beneath they run north and south. Some have been opened and found to contain portions of ancient pottery and human bones. These mounds must be very old, for there are white oak-trees growing upon them that are two and a half and three feet in diameter.

Dr. Millar has a fine collection of articles found about Bellevue, which belong to ages long passed away, among which are pottery, stone axes, spearheads, arrow-heads, instruments for tapping maple-trees, and stones which were used for fleshing hides.

[The History of Jackson County Iowa, Published November 1879. Transcribed by Mary Kay Krogman]

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