Jackson County, Iowa

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Old Towns of Jackson County


Canton, a thriving young town, is situated on the western border of the county, in Brandon township, and on the South Fork of the Maquoketa river, which here forms one of the finest water powers in the State. Any amount of machinery can be driven by means of this valuable stream now under description, and even when the river is at its lowest, the power is amply sufficient for all purposes. The river is fed by many streams, and it flows over a rocky bed and rock sides, which preserve the limped clearness of its waters, through nearly the whole of its course.

Messrs. Peck & Becker, who are the proprietors of the Canton Flouring Mills, have made valuable improvements in connection with this water power. The dam is 200 feet wide, and has a fall of 12 feet. About 500 feet above the dam, the river makes a sharp bend which prevents any serious calamity occurring at any time, from ice, floods, etc., to the dam. Nature has been lavish in all things tending to make this one of the most desirable places adaptable for manufacturing purposes, and the time is not far distant when mills and factories will crowd the river bank, and sully its silvery brightness to produce the gold of commerce. Mr. Becker purchased the property in 1868 from Dr. G. W. Trumbull, and in 1876 Mr. Peck became associated with him under the style of firm named above, Messrs. Peck & Becker, they are manufacturers of the very best description of choice family flour, corn meal, etc., and in fact, making it a rule as they do, to purchase only the very best grades of wheat, their flour has become celebrated far and wide for its acknowledged excellence of quality. p>The record of many of the solid business men of the West would form a most interesting theme in the history of the country's progress, and afford lessons of encouragement for the young as well. Integrity, energy and perseverance, will accomplish wonders in the West, and elevate men from humble positions in life, to a rank with the foremost of the merchants, manufacturers or professional men. This is exemplified in a marked degree in the standing and personal degree of confidence attained by the firm of Peck & Becker.

The people of Canton are of a liberal progressive turn, and intend that this town shall not be behind its neighbors in public improvements. As an evidence of this may be noted the fact that they have now in process of erection a fine public school building, which will have an artificial stone front, occupy an area of 24x40 feet and cost about $1,500.
[Owen's Gazetteer and Directory of Jackson County, Iowa, Owen Publishing Company, Davenport, Iowa, 1878] mkk

The Postmasters of Canton.

Hon. Jas. W. Ellis Maquoketa, Iowa.
My dear Sir: While talking with Hon. L. H. Parshall of your county a few days ago, I learned that you were engaged to writing a history of Jackson county under the direction of the S. J. Clarke Publishing Company of Chicago. I am enclosing herewith a list of the Canton postmasters which I had secured for the Jones County history, and which may be of service to you. I had a party in Washington. D. C., go direct to the records and secure an official list of all the Jones county postmasters, and as Canton was on the border, and an old landmark with the early settlers of the eastern part or our county, I also included Canton. In several instances I found the traditions in regard to the first postmasters did not correspond with the official record, and this only emphasized the unreliability of memory and tradition in writing history.

I have a fellow feeling for you in the task you have assumed. I also believe you will find many pleasures during your investigations, and also find that the only way to get anything is to do it yourself. I could not help being amused in my disappointment with one preacher in particular who early in the campaign was enthusiastic and with profus on promised to secure for me at an early date the complete history of his church, and at last after repeated efforts I was obliged to forward my manuscript to the publishers without any mention whatever of this preacher's church.
Editor-in-chief Jones County History, Wyoming, Iowa.

Canton, Jackson Co. Post Office

Postmaster - - Date of Appointment
John J Tomlinson - - July 15, 1844
Robert H Hanna - - Dec 10, 1853
Miles F Simpson - - April 25, 1854
Thomas Smith - - July 29, 1854
Thomas Gracey - - November 4, 1856
Wm A Smith - - August 24, 1857
William B Hanna - - July 20, 1859
John W Dillrance - - August 22, 1859
William B Hanna - - August 19, 1861
James B Camp - - March 7, 1865
Leander B Sutton - - October 24, 1865
John W Reade - - June 5, 1867
John Baldwin - - October 8, 1868
John T Bayliff - - June 15, 1869
Geo W Kelsall - - December 31, 1872
Lyman B Parshall - - March 30, 1886
John C Ripperton - - July 19, 1887
Alfred Frey - - December 21, 1891
Hannah E Ripperton - - April 1, 1893
Alexander Clark - - April 19, 1895
Ned L Sutton - - June 4, 1897
Robert H Buchner - - April 23, 1908

[Source: Annals of Jackson County Iowa, Reprinted from the Maquoketa Record, published by the Jackson County Historical Society, January 1910-December, 1913] mkk



In my last letter my reminiscences were confined to the village of Ozark and its vicinity. We will now go southeast and follow the river, for in the early settlement of Jackson county and in other places the first aim of the settlers was to get as near a, possible to the water courses; not that the land was better or even as good as on the adjacent ridges, but was almost invariably rough, but the water privileges seemed to outweigh the advantages of the up lands. There was a prevalent idea among the first settlers that the man who owned a good strip of the river had a bonanza, a mill seat, that only needed development to make him rich. So prevalent was this idea that the river land and that which lay along the creeks was the first to be occupied. And in due time the best of the water powers along the Maquoketa rivers were improved. Sawmills usually preceded flouring mills and it was about the year 1845 that a Rev. Dr. Blackburn from Licking county, Ohio, built a saw mill three miles below Ozark on the north Maquoketa river.

This gentleman was no exception to the general rule, but like others that improved the water power along this stream, was a man of energy and grit, and well calculated for a pioneer leader. A doctor who stood at the head of his profession, and as a preacher his ability was second to none of the pioneer ministers, in those early years, and withal a No. 1 mechanic, and was also in every way affable and easy of approach. On one occasion the writer took the liberty to question him as to his adaptability to the different professions he had acquired. To this he replied, a man must be a natural mechanic to be a successful doctor or a successful preacher and if he lacks mechanism he should seek some other profession.

Almost simultaneous with the building of this first sawmill the adjacent country began to be settled. It was about 1848 when a large portion of the land was settled by emigrants from Licking county, Ohio. Among these may be named Shepherd Caven, Ezariah Clark, Geo. Houston, Thomas Houston, Andy Houston, I. W. McCullough, Tom Oliver, Tom Saunders, Nathan Said and sons, James and Rev. J. W. Said, both of whom are yet living. But by far the most numerous among these first settlers were the Edwards and Streets families. With these the writer had not sufficient acquaintance to correctly call them by their given names, but their offspring are quite numerous and still outnumber in name all others in this community.

And now after a lapse of eight years after the first sawmill was built by Mr. Blackburn, it became apparent that a flouring mill was needed at this point, which the proprietor was not slow to build. The new mill was a fine building with a capacity of about 25 barrels per day. But this mill did not do the business that was expected by the proprietor, for the reason that the territory was somewhat circumscribed by other mills above on the same .stream, and for this reason the custom work of the neighborhood was all the patronage that centered at this place.

It was about 14 years after the first sawmill was built that Dr. Blackburn began to be to be infirm and old. He sold or traded the mill property to Isaiah and Washington Crabb. They were brothers and practical millers as well as practical mechanics, and were men of energy and push in all their undertakings, and withal were men of unblemished character, strictly honest in business and thoroughly christian in sentiment. These two brother conducted the business for a number or years to which they added a fairly good country store. Finally the senior partner died and the property became an estate, and is now operated by the grandsons of Isaiah Crabb, deceased. These boys seem to have inherited all the characteristics of their forefathers and bid fair to perpetuate the good name of their progenitors.

In the 15 years that elapsed from the first settlement of Rev. Dr. Blackburn, the country was fairly settled by 1860. The war of the rebellion soon followed and patriotism among the boys around Crabbtown ran extremely high as also it did all over the western part of Jackson county. Nearly all the boys who were of proper age and muscle around Crabbtown enlisted at the first call of the government. Although Brandon township had at that time a population of less than 900 all told, out of this population 77 men, the cream of the township, went into the service of Uncle Sam during the four years of that war, or nearly 9 per cent of the entire population. Of these in the immediate vicinity of Crabbtown were T. J. Houston, Amby Harden, Richard Clark, Alfred Baty, Eli Heath, DanielHeath, Chas. Said, J. W. Said, James Said, Christopher Barger and brother, Zackarlan Said, Tom Edwards, Tom Post, Abe Post, Chas. McCullough, Jacob Lusere, Geo. Johnson, James Johnson, (19 all told of the Crabbtown school district.) Of the other 57 of Brandon's soldiers no less credit is due. If patriotism can be measured by the large proportion of the brave men who responded to the government's call, then this part of Jackson county stands in the front row with any other district of like population in the state. By far the largest number of the Brandon boys were in the 26th Iowa Regiment, and among all these there were killed or wounded from which they died, John Sinkey Jr., Leonades Miller, Harvey Swift, and Chas. Said. Of those who died of disease while in the service were the following: John Cooley, Ambrose Robins, James Johnson, Charles Johnson, Tom Mulford, Admant Cooley, Sam Alberry, and a Mr. Boyd, eight men in all.

It will readily be seen how the industrial interests of the country would be affected by so heavy a drain on the bread winners of the over-patriotic districts. The young men who composed the bone and muscle of what makes business win, were now in the sunny south, and the farmers were hard put to secure the necessary help to run their business even at reduced proportions. But this difficulty was soon, at least partially overcome. The ladies now began to enlist, not as gunners but as plowmen, as drivers on mowers and reapers, as corn huskers, in short they took to themselves all the rights that men had or could have, except the right to vote at the elections. This same condition was common in all sections of the country and especially so in districts like the western part of the county, where an overdue proportion of the men had obeyed the government call. It is but due to the ladles to here say that to them belongs a full share of credit and honor for the part they took in sharing the burdens, not in the fields of blood but, in the harvest fields and other industries that furnished supplies for the vast armies that were battling for the supremacy of the flag of our beloved country.

In my next letter I will speak of the draft that was ordered in the last year of the war, and how it occurred that Jackson coun ty was drafted at all.
LEVI WAGONER, ("Old Observer.")

[Source: Annals of Jackson County Iowa, Reprinted from the Maquoketa Record, published by the Jackson County Historical Society 1907] mkk


Is located in Farmers' Creek Township, eight miles from Maquoketa City. It was laid out in the year 1851 by William Morden. It has a good public school building, erected in 1870, with an average attendance of about 60. A Presbyterian Church was built in 1874 at a cost of $1,800. The main business of the town consists in the large general mercantile business carried on by Mr. W. C. Morden, whose stock is one of the largest in the county. Mr. Morden is a gentleman whom it is an honor to know, and whose genial qualities of mind and heart will ever be remembered by the writer; in fact, his popularity with all classes is such that he has attained to the highest and most honorable position in the county, that of Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

There are two saw mills located near this place. One, owned and operated by Mr. W. H. Slipper, a gentleman of known reliability, does the most extensive hard-wood lumber manufacturing in this county, his sales extending in a large radius, embracing Davenport, Dubuque, and other centres of trade. Mr. Slipper is also proprietor of one of the finest farms in the West, consisting of over 600 acres in a high state of cultivation.
[Owen's Gazetteer and Directory of Jackson County, Iowa, Owen Publishing Company, Davenport, Iowa, 1878. Submitted by Mary Kay Krogman.]


A village situated in the northern part of Brandon township, three and one-half miles from Canton, was first established as a post office in 1855. It has a grist mill and a woolen mill in successful operation, as well as a saw mill, all under the proprietorship of Mr. John Reyner. The flouring mill was erected in 1855; the woolen mill in 1863 at a cost of $5,000. Mr. Reyner is also postmaster and keeps a general store.
[Owen's Gazetteer and Directory of Jackson County, Iowa, Owen Publishing Company, Davenport, Iowa, 1878. Submitted by Mary Kay Krogman.]



As early as 1847 there was a settlement begun around what is now the village of Ozark. At this point was found an excellent water power on the north fork of the Ozark or Maquoketa river. This site was first improved by one Joseph E. Hildreth in about 1848. Mr. Hildreth built a dam of brush and logs to dam the water sufficient to run a saw mill. It was in 1850 that the writer first visited the place. The town consisted of five slab shanties They were built of slabs set on end in a trench dug in the ground instead of being set on a stone foundation. The walls were double, the slabs were placed face to face and solidly nailed together, which left the walls as rough in the inside as the outside. But it made a strong and warm house. These shanties were one story high with shed roof which was also made of slabs. Thus equipped Mr. Hildreth with his crew of half a dozen stalwarts, began his career as pioneer of this part of Jackson county.

It was soon after this that emigration began to pour into Iowa, and lumber was in large demand and Mr. Hildreth was unable to supply the demand with his present force of help, and he found it necessary to build more slab houses and double his force of men around the mill to enable him to run at night as well as in day time. It was in 1850 that the writer first visited the place and found everything in running order as above described.

Mr. Hildreth was a man or great energy and business ability, and withal one of the kind that did not leave his religion on the east side of the Mississippi river, but early in his little village established a preaching point to be supplied by the itinerant missionaries, as they made their rounds. His moral and christian zeal was quite as great as his business energy, and altogether made this first settlement a model community. And as the surrounding country was being settled with sturdy farmers whose first aim was to raise as much wheat as they could, for wheat in those days was king; Mr. Hildreth soon learned that a flouring mill was the next great necessity. This he proceeded to build in 1853, five years after he built his first slab shanties, but this was not a slab affair, It was a first-class structure two stories high with a capacity of 60 barrels flour per 24 hours, for it, as did the sawmill run day and night, and still was not sufficient to keep up with the constant increasing business for the reason that there was not then a flouring mill, north nor east, short of the Mississippi river 25 miles distant.

In addition to the mills Mr. Hildreth found it necessary to establish a general store. This enterprise he began on a small scale which he increased as the business increased, until the stock in the store amounted to $15,000, and employed the time of four clerks.

The first settlers throughout the country almost invariably kept sheep enough for the wants of the family for clothing, which was spun and wove in nearly every house, which was the case in all parts of our country before we had woolen factories as at the present day. Mr. Hildreth being a man that was always up-to-date now began to see the necessity of a woolen factory in connection with his other business, and this industry he brought into activity in about 1858.

It was now full 10 years since Mr. Hildreth had began his career at Ozark, and it looked now like being fully developed as a village of over 100 population. There were no other inducements to build up a town at this point outside the mills that were already there. Among the employees at the flouring mills as boss millers were a Mr. A. Boyd, Mr. Harry Spray and A. Heister. The woolen mills were run under the supervision of John Raynor & Sons. All these mills were run to their full capacity and the little village • was one of the busy places of Iowa, notwithstanding its tender age.

It was at this time that the village received its death blow. Mr. Hildreth, together with Mr. Heister, his miller were making repairs in a breech of the dam. Mr. Hildreth with a heavy crowbar, was trying to dislodge a large boulder on the bluff to be used in mending the breach. The rock in rolling down struck the crowbar in Hildreth's hands and the bar in turn struck his head and scattered his brains over several yards of ground. This catastrophe acted as a pall over the village and also affected the settlement of the country around. The property now was placed in the hands of administrators, and when finally settled was sold to parties in Dubuque, under whose management the decline was steady from start to finish. Now there is scarcely a vestige of its former importance remaining.

Among the first settlers of Ozark and its vicinity may be named James Ryan, John Hayden, Tom Mulford, the Howard brothers, Tom Boyd, Geo. Turner, Snyder Horton, E. Harding, Sam Bickford, A. Hildreth, A. Heister, E. Ralston, J. Ralston, Chas. Basely and others.

Among other industries of the town the cooper business also deserves mention. Ln those days flour was all packed in wooden barrels, of these the mill used daily from 40 to 60, and of pork barrels that were manufactured here, Dubuque and Galena furnished the market. The number of coopers that found steady employment at this point often exceeded twenty that is including those who manufactured shingles which were made from the fine native oak that was found for a number of miles around the village. In this forest the native hoop pole was also found in great abundance.

Of other settlers who came to the vicinity when Jackson county had its greatest boom in 1850, the following may be named: Geo. Duel, John Sinkey, Jack McCullough, John M. McCullough Sr., Van Shirley, Geo. McCullough, Joe Pennell, Millen Ralston, Rube Jacobs and others, for the most part these early settlers have lived in this vicinity continuous since that time, but by far the larger number are now dead and their places occupied by the generation that followed.

Having now given a brief description of the early settlement of Ozark and its vicinity we will now follow the river down stream three miles in quest of another early settlement that was made near the beginning of 1845, and is at the present time best known as Crabbtown, which I will describe in my next letter.

[Source: Annals of Jackson County Iowa, Reprinted from the Maquoketa Record, published by the Jackson County Historical Society 1907] mkk


Van Buren. Commonly known as Buck-Eye, is a post office about three miles north of Preston. Mr. Otto Schmidt is postmaster, a gentleman who has been a resident of this county over 20 years. He keeps a general store, which he opened in the fall of 1870; and his stock embraces everything to be found in any first-class country store.
[Owen's Gazetteer and Directory of Jackson County, Iowa, Owen Publishing Company, Davenport, Iowa, 1878] mkk

J. L. Saner Its Founder Fifty-five Years Ago.

It was about the year 1852 that one, J. L. Saner of western Pennsylvania, was looking for a location in the northwestern part of Jackson county, Iowa, suitable for the erection of a sawmill. This he found on Lyttle's creek on the line between Jackson and Dubuque counties. Along the creek for a distance of six or seven miles was a fine body of timber from one to one and a half miles wide. Here Mr. Saner bought several hundred acres of land, not so much for the land as for the timber that was on the land. It was in 1853 that he began building the needed sawmill for this part of Jackson was beginning to be settled with emigrants from the eastern states, and the demand for lumber was already great, although in the vicinity of Mr. Saner's mill site there were no improvements for several miles. It was here that Mr. Saner set a gang of men to work at building the first sawmill in this part or the county. This gang consisted of 16 men. Some were carpenters, some millwrights, and some were hewers of wood, and others plied the pick and the shovel. It was here that I did my first solid work in Iowa. Mr. Saner, the proprietor, had his quarters where his family resided, one mile north of the mill site on the open prairie. His house was a frame shanty 16 x16 feet square, one and a half stories high. Around this were temporary sheds for sleeping quarters for the gang of builders.

lt was after considerable progress had been made at the mill when a stranger put in an appearance where the men were at work. This stranger told the men that he lived five or six miles north on the open prairie for the last five years and congratulated the men because of the noble work they were engaged in, a work that would greatly facilitate the development of that part of Jackson and Dubuque counties. But, said the stranger, you need not be surprised if some day when out in these woods you will find a herd of wild hogs. This last was by far the most interesting part of the stranger's talk to our gang, for we had several nimrods in our crew. After bearing of this wild herd of porkers our men never went to the woods without taking several rifles out to where the timber was being hewed for the construction of the dam and fore bay of the prospective mill, and every man was anxious to catch sight of the swine. But after looking in vain for at least two weeks our gang began to believe that the report was purely a fish story and that there were no such aborigines in these woods. It was after the mill was approaching completion, and the head race conducting the water to the mill, which was a canal about 20 rods long and about 5 feet wide and 4 feet deep, was finished. Within a few yards of the place where it was to receive water from the dam was the unfinished end, its backs slightly sloping. It was the custom to those days to work early and late, and our breakfast was often served by candlelight, and it was after one of the early breakfast that our gang started millward. Our nimrods as usual carried their rifles, and after passing through the narrow road that was cut through the thicket that hid from view the dam and the newly dug canal, the wild hogs were discovered. At this sight the mill gang was jubilant and quickly placed a strong guard at the place where the swine had entered, and it was believed that the entire herd might be captured by closing up the entrance. But this calculation bad to be given in less time than it takes to tell it. No sooner had the porkers caught the scent of the mill gang when they immediately made a wild rush through the canal and easily scaled its banks in their mad fight for liberty. Although our party fired several shots into the fleeing herd without effect, except one of the largest of the razor backs had a little difficulty in getting out of the canal and therefore was behind time in getting away in the meantime the guns had all been discharged except one in the hands of one John Croft who was a crack shot, and now leveled his long rifle at the fleeing porker, and at a distance of over 30 rods brought his game to the ground. The ball broke his back and the capture was easy. After the usual blood letting the huge porker was inspected by the whole party and Mr. Saner was also on the ground and soon deployed two out of our gang to take the ox team which was already in sight, and take the carcass home and dress it for future use. The specimen now secured was apparently one of the finest in the herd, and would weigh approximately 300 lbs. It was in fair flesh, and of a dull brown color with here and there a small spot of gray. Our crew were now in ecstacy. The thought of now having plenty or fresh pork made the men feel good, for of the many good things to eat fresh pork was the most in lack which could not be obtained short of Dubuque, 16 miles distant. But we were all disappointed for the meat was not nearly as good as had been expected. It was course in grain and ill flavored, but the novelty of having native pork to eat made it go.

But we were not confined to native pork or smoked bacon, for Lyttles creek was literally alive with the finest of fish, fish of large size of different varieties, and often our boys went to the water after nightfall for an hour's angling and in this way secured all the fish that our large family could use, which consisted of 28 persons including women and children.

It was about October 1st, when the dam and mill was completed and our large family began to break up. The carpenters and millwrights went in quest of other jobs, but John Croft of wild hog notoriety and the writer were retained to assist the proprietor in odd jobs and running the mill. But this John Croft was of a hunting disposition and was not satisfied to allow that herd of swine to entirely escape without a thorough search of the woods, if perchance he might again get sight of the natives. But in this he was disappointed but succeeded in finding the place where they had their shelter and sleeping quarters. About a mile northwest from the mill in a deep ravine with bluffs' on either side was a cave under rocks that run into the hill 50 feet or more was a fine shelter and an abundance of room for the entire herd. In this cave there was an abundance or dry leaves and grass that had evidently been carried in for bedding, and was to all intents and purposes, a good hog nest. But this is all that Mr. Croft found. He never saw the drove after the affair in the canal. This herd as seen by the mill crew numbered about 20, and appeared to represent at least three generations. There were shotes of about 60 lbs., and others about 100, and again others of 150 lbs., and a few of the herd would tip the beam at 300. It was not at all difficult to see how these wild rooters could live here from year to year and keep in thriving condition summer and winter, for in this belt or timber all kinds of mast was so abundant that a time of scarcity could hardly occur The acorn of the white oak literally covered the ground, and then there was the bur oak, the shellbark hickory, and the hazel thickets, all contributed to supply food for the entire year.

It was after this first sawmill had run about five years and much of the adjacent timber was cut and the country around began to be settled that Mr. Saner sold his interest to a company composed of Oliver Bossart and David Kiter. These men in addition to the sawmill, built the large flouring mill that did a large business for a number of years or until wheat raising in these parts gave way to corn raising and corn and hogs became king, and have reigned ever since. The place, where at these mills I did my first hard work, is the present village of Washington Mills, and is on the Narrow Guage, Bellevue and Cascade Railway. The first settlers in the vicinity of the mills were P. Miller, Geo. Gallager, the Sweeny brothers, the Stautons, a Mr. Hughes, Mathias Scholian, D. Kifer, Oliver Bossart, J. L. Saner, Henry Burke, a Mr. Canon, a Mr. McLaughlin and others. Of these first named settlers there is not now any that are living, except Oliver Bossart of Essex, Page county, Iowa.

[Source: Annals of Jackson County Iowa, Reprinted from the Maquoketa Record, published by the Jackson County Historical Society 1907] mkk

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