Outline History of Iowa Part 3 of 3
From: Past and Present of Fayette County, Iowa
B. F. Bowen & Company
Indianapolis, Indiana 1910


No one questions but that the building of railroads had much to do with the development of the state of Iowa, as well as the entire Western country; but many well informed people likewise believe that the expenditure of the vast wealth in lands and money in the interests of their building and equipment has never been returned in kind, and that the roads would have been built, regardless of the liberal policy adopted by the state, counties, municipalities and even private contributors. Our honored ex-Governor, William Larrabee, LL. D., has ably set forth a very concise and comprehensive history of "The Railroad Question" in a book bearing that title, and now passing through the eleventh edition. Unfortunately, the work is too exhaustive for our purpose in giving a brief resume of the history of early state institutions. But with grateful acknowledgments to the venerable ex-Governor, we gladly use such portions of his work as are available for our purpose and trust the further history of railroading in Fayette county to those having charge of that department.

Quoting from Governor Larrabee's book, page 328: "The state of Iowa has not derived that benefit from the large land grants made to its railroads which her people had a right to expect. In spite of these grants, roads were built only when there was reason to believe that they would be immediately profitable to their owners. The land grants enriched the promoters of these enterprises much more than they did the state in whose interest the grants were presumed to be made." "The total number of acres of land granted by Congress to aid the construction of Iowa roads is four million, sixty nine thousand, nine hundred and forty two. A fair idea of the value of these lands may be obtained from the fact that the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company sold over half a million acres of its lands at an average of eight dollars and sixty eight cents per acre, and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy sold nearly three hundred and fifty thousand acres at an average of twelve dollars and seventeen cents per acre. But land grants form only a small part of the public and private donations which have been made to Iowa roads. Including the railroad taxes voted by counties, townships and municipalities, the grants of rights of way and depot sites and public and private gifts in money, these roads have received subsidies amounting to more than fifty million dollars, or enough to build forty per cent of all the roads in the state. There is no doubt that the contributions of the public toward the, construction of the railroads of Iowa is several times as large as the actual contributions of their stockholders for that purpose. * * * As a rule these land grants enabled scheming men to hold the selected territory until a railroad through it promised a safe and profitable investment, and to avoid the payment of taxes on their millions of acres of land, which in the meantime became very valuable. Other roads were built in an early day without government aid. They were pushed forward by the current of immigration until the threatened competition of roads favored by these grants checked their progress. The Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska road may be cited as a fair illustration. It was projected on the 26th of January, 1856, in the town of Clinton. to be built from Clinton to the Missouri river, via Cedar Rapids. It was opened to De Witt in 1858 and completed to Cedar Rapids the following year. The road was eighty two and one half miles long and was built entirely with private means, receiving neither legislative aid nor local subsidy. It 4s more than probable that this road would at an early clay have been completed to the Missouri river had it not feared the rivalry of the subsidized Cedar Rapids & Missouri road. * * *

"The first survey for a railroad in the state of Iowa was made in the fall of 1852. The proposed road had its initial point at Davenport and followed a westerly course. It was practically an extension of the Chicago & Rock Island railroad, which was then built between Chicago and the Mississippi river. On the 22d of December, 1852, the Mississippi & Missouri Railroad Company was formed, its object being toe build, maintain and operate a railroad from Davenport to Council Bluffs. The articles of association were acknowledged before John F. Dillon, notary public, and filed for record in the office of the recorder of Scott county on the 26th of January, 1853, and in the office of the secretary of state on the first day of February, following. In 1853 the Mississippi & Missouri Railroad Company entered into an agreement with the Railroad Bridge Company of Illinois for the construction and maintenance of a bridge over the Mississippi at Rock Island. The work was commenced in the fall of that year, and the bridge was completed on April 21, 1856, it being then the only bridge spanning the Mississippi river.

"The first division of the Mississippi & Missouri railroad, extending from Davenport to Iowa City, Was completed on the first of January, 1856, and was formally opened two days later. A branch line to Muscatine was completed shortly thereafter. On the first day of July the state of Iowa had in all sixty seven miles of railroad, bonded at fourteen thousand, nine hundred and twenty five dollars a mile, which at that time probably represented the total cost of construction. The earnings of these sixty seven miles of road during the six months following July 1, 1856, amounted to one hundred and eighty four thousand, one hundred and ninety three dollars, or two thousand, seven hundred and forty nine dollars per mile, which was equal to an annual income of about five thousand, five hundred dollars per mile. On the t5th of May, 1856, Congress granted to the state of Iowa certain lands for the purpose of 'aiding in the construction of railroads from Burlington, on the Mississippi river, to a point on the Missouri river, near the mouth of the Platte river; from the city of Davenport. Iowa, by way of Iowa City and Fort Des Moines, to Council Bluffs; from Lyons City northwesterly to a point of intersection with the main line of the Iowa Central Air Line railroad near Maquoketa, thence on said line running as near as practical to the forty second parallel across the state; and from the city of Dubuque to the Missouri river near Sioux City. The grant comprised the alternate sections designated by odd numbers and lying within six miles of each of the proposed roads. Provision was also made for indemnity for all lands covered by the grant which were already sold or otherwise disposed of.

"The wisdom of the land grant policy has been questioned. When these grants were made it was believed by many that railroads would not and could not be built in the West without such aid. While others did not share this opinion, they at least supposed that land grants would greatly stimulate railroad enterprise and lead to the early construction of the lines thus favored. * * *

"The price of all government lands lying outside of the land grant belts was one dollar and twenty five cents per acre. To reimburse the public treasury for the loss resulting from these grants, the price of lands situated within the land grant belts was advanced to two dollars and fifty cents per acre, practically compelling the purchasers of the even numbered sections of land, instead of the government, to make the donation to the railroads. * * *

"Designing men soon saw the advantages which the situation offered. They combined with their friends to organize companies for the construction of the land grant roads, built a small portion of the proposed line, to hold the grant, and then awaited further developments, or rather, the settlement of the cointry beyond. There are those who believe that the doubling of the price of government land within the belt of the proposed land grant roads greatly retarded immigration and with it the construction of roads. They hold that had no grant whatever been made to any railroad company and had equal competition in railroad construction been permitted, the Iowa through lines, instead of following, would have led, the tide of immigration."

Restrictions regarding space, and the further fact that this is to be a county history instead of one devoted to the state of Iowa, precludes the possibility of following the interesting and instructive details of railroad history, as so fairly and ably presented by Mr. Larrabee. It would be extremely interesting to present the history of transportation, the building of turnpikes in early days, the canals of the East and Middle West, the inventions tending to introduce "steam navigation," and some of the minutiae relating to early railroading in Iowa; but we must be content to give a brief synopsis of a few of the early conditions, as has been the case in speaking of other state institutions. But there is one railroad in which the people of Fayette county have more than a passing interest, in that it furnished us the first outlet to the markets of the world. Reference is here made to the building of the McGregor & Western railroad, which passed through so many "evolutions" that the original promoters did not recognize it ! This company was the successor of the McGregor, St. Peter & Missouri River Railroad Company, which was organized in 1857, and the construction of the road was commenced at McGregor in that year. Large local subscriptions were taken along the proposed line and every local encouragement possible was given to the enterprise. The company prosecuted the work of grading for a couple of years, when the McGregor, St. Peter & Missouri River Railroad Company was allowed to pass through the process of foreclosure, as was customary with many other roads at that time." The old stock company was completely wiped out and new owners came into possession of the property, reorganizing under the name of the McGregor Western Railway Company. Nearly all the early investments of Iowa people were thus confiscated by the same class of men who now cry out loudly against confiscatory measures." But this and other companies failed to build the road until the Legislature had made contracts with, or offered the stimulus of a large land grant, to four different corporations, the last of which was the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Company, who completed, and now operate, the road. The land grant in this case was "every alternate section of land designated by odd numbers for ten sections in width on each side of the proposed road. "Ten years after the construction of this road had commenced at McGregor it had only reached Calmar, in Winneshiek county, and more than twenty years were required, in the desultory manner employed, to build it through as far as Sheldon. It was completed as far as Algona in 1870, and this point remained the western terminus until it passed into the hands of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Company, and was completed by that company as far as Sheldon, in 1878.

While the particular branch of this road now, under discussion does not touch any part of Fayette county, it passes within a mile or two of the northeast corner, and is even nearer to the northwest corner of the county. Then it was the first railroad to which our people had easy access, and, though it did not greatly stimulate trade in this section, it did improve the McGregor market, to which most of our surplus products were hauled with teams. It was also an earnest as to the possibilities of the future in Fayette county.

There were in Iowa, at the taking of the last state census (1905), nine thousand eight hundred miles of railroad, with an average assessed value for the state of five thousand nine hundred and thirty seven dollars per mile. The gross earnings for the entire railroad systems of the state was five thousand eight hundred and fifty eight dollars per mile. There are thirty two corporations, or railroad companies, subject to many changes of names, hence a list of names for this year would be incorrect for another period.


There were six million, five hundred and seven thousand, six hundred and fifty five short tons of coal produced in 1904 - the latest official report - from twenty two counties in the south central and southwestern portions of the state. Monroe county occupies first place in the production of this staple, the output for that county being two million and sixty one thousand, eight hundred and seventy seven tons in 1904.


Though Iowa occupies third place in the production of this commodity, Michigan and New York alone exceeding it in the amount produced, yet the production is confined almost exclusively to Webster county. The value of the product for 1904 was four hundred and sixty nine thousand, four hundred and thirty two dollars.


This organization was effected in the spring of 1854 by the election of Hon. Thomas Claggett, of Keokuk, president, and the selection of three directors from each county that then had a local agricultural society in operation.

In the fall of 1854 the society held its first annual fair, in the town of Fairfield. Jefferson county. From that day until the present the State Agricultural Society has been successful. It is fostered by the state, and receives an annuity of one thousand dollars to aid in operating expenses, the balance of such funds being contributed in entrance fees, the sale of privileges, etc. The annual election of officers and directors is provided for by law, and occurs on the second Wednesday of each year at the capital of the state. Reports of the proceedings of the society are required by law to be published each year, and the secretary of state has charge of the distribution. The board of directors are also required to make an annual report to the governor of the state, and otherwise conduce to state supervision.


This organization, brought into existence within comparatively recent years, is also fostered by the state, though the expenses of operation are mostly paid by private contributions. Through the efforts of philanthropic men and women in every section of the state, much good has resulted in relieving the wants of homeless children and placing them in proper homes for their training and education.


According to the latest state census (1905), the population of Iowa is 2,210,050, which represents a decrease of .9 per cent since 1900. With this single exception, there has been a gradual increase in population at each census - taking the period from 1838, when the population was 22,859, to the present time.

Of the present residents of the state, there are 749,496 persons of school age. i. e., between the ages of five and twenty one years. These include, colored, 4,318; foreign born, t6,430; foreign parents, 259,509, and 469,239 have native parents.

In 1905 there were 460,840 men subject to military duty, i. e., able bodied between the age of eighteen and forty four years. Of these, 4,046 are colored and 66,205 are foreign born. Over seventy one per cent of the total population of Iowa are native born, the number being 1,379,981. Illinois contributed the greatest number of present inhabitants born outside of Iowa, or over seven per cent., while Ohio is second, with nearly four per cent., and New York and Pennsylvania each contributed a little over two per cent.


From a population of less than seven hundred thousand, she furnished forty seven regiments of infantry, nine of cavalry and four batteries of artillery, besides numerous enlistments in the regular army and navy, and in organizations from other states. One pioneer of Fayette county, and who is now living here, enlisted in the Fifth California, and probably others were equally as zealous and disinterested in giving prompt response to the country's call, regardless of where the credit for enlisting was placed. No state in the Union furnished as great a percentage of population for the preservation of the Union as did "Peerless Iowa." Her muster rolls included almost eighty thousand names.

In commemoration of the heroic deeds of her soldiers on the battlefields of the South, the state has during the last ten years appropriated a quarter of a million dollars to the building of monuments at Shiloh, Vicksburg. Andersonville and Chattanooga. These monuments were dedicated by the Governor in November, 1906.

Of this vast army enlisting from the state in the sixties, but ten thousand, four hundred and eighty eight are now living within its boundaries, though some have removed to other localities, but the casualties of war and the ravages of time are responsible for almost the entire shrinkage. There are twenty five thousand, five hundred and sixty nine veterans of the Civil war now living in Iowa, many of whom became residents of the state under the liberal homestead laws extended to them soon after the close of hostilities.

But enlistments, alone, did not determine the extent of Iowa's patriotism, as will be told more fully in the department devoted to county history The sudden, though not unexpected, declaration of war, found the national government, as well as the states, wholly unprepared for an insurrection of such magnitude. The enlistment of men was the least part of the trouble. Arms and military equipments had been largely appropriated to the use of the organizing Confederates, whose leaders were in position to devastate the country before leaving their seats in Congress, in diplomatic circles or in the United States army. The national treasury was also depleted through the same agency, and we found ourselves on the verge of a great war, confronting an enemy already organized and equipped, without the necessary means of arming and uniforming a single division.

In this dilemma, the state was authorized at a special session of the Legislature, convened May 15, 1861, to secure a loan of eight hundred thousand dollars to meet the extraordinary emergency. Previous to this authorization, however, the First Regiment had been clothed with extemporized "uniforms" of all colors, shapes and materials, mostly the result of the volunteer labors of the loyal women in the towns near the regimental rendezvous. The same was done, in part, for the Second Infantry, but the completion of their outfit was forestalled by the assumption of authority 1w the state and the means secured through the loan.

Ex-Governor Samuel Merrill, then of McGregor, at once took a contract to supply three regiments with complete outfits of clothing, agreeing to accept, in payment, state bonds at par. The terms of this contract were complied with to the letter and within one month a considerable portion of the clothing was delivered from the manufacturers in Boston to the rendezvous at Keokuk, and the remainder was forthcoming within a few days. But the color was gray, and the Confederates were uniforming with that color! The war department had decided upon blue as the uniform color for the national troops. Other states had sent forward troops uniformed in gray, hence the uniforms were condemned by the war department, and this involved much apparently needless expense, though the reader will readily recognize the confusion and danger arising from two hostile armies meeting in deadly conflict when clothed in the same colors, and but little difference in their respective flags. The state of Iowa was reimbursed, in later years, for the cost of these uniforms and other irregular war expenses.

The loyal women, all over the state, at once took in hand the care of the families of soldiers at the front, and organizations were effected in every county for the collection of funds and the distribution of necessaries among the indigent families. Nor were the women alone in this loyal and philanthropic work, but the non combatants at home were equally zealous in raising funds for soldiers' families. Parties of "lint scrapers" were held weekly, in almost every neighborhood, the purpose being to prepare hospital supplies to be sent to the hospitals where sick and wounded soldiers were cared for, and many a patient has been made happy by the timely arrival of a box of palatable "goodies" from the hands of those he loved.

The United States Christian Commission was an early organization for promoting the spiritual, as well as the temporal, comfort of disabled soldiers in the field. Millions of dollars were collected and dispensed through this one agency, and no doubt it was instrumental in saving many lives. The Sanitary Commission was another very useful and effective agency, both in camp and about the general hospitals, their mission being, especially, to look after sanitary or "health" conditions among the soldiers, either sick or well. The work of these beneficent organizations was carried on without a dollar of expense to the general government, and few of those engaged in it, except nurses, ever received any money recompense for their services. But the great heart of the nation was enlisted in a common cause, and it is a pleasure to all survivors of the contest to know that the efforts at the front were so ably seconded by those who could not share in the glories of the battlefield.

But the culmination of all our military glory comes from the knowledge that our services, after the lapse of nearly half a century, are still shown tangible appreciation by the nation we served. No nation on the globe has ever been more liberal in pensioning its soldiers and their dependents than the United States. While this is true of the general government, the states, not to be outdone in their devotion and loyalty to the veterans, have, without a single exception, we believe, erected homes to care for those dependent upon their own efforts, in order that they may be nearer to their friends than in the National Homes, of which there are enough to supply all demands. The state has generously remitted the taxes of soldiers, within certain limits, and the "poor house" can no longer be a menace to the over sensitive but indigent veteran.

Iowa did not pay any bounties for enlistments, though toward the close of the war small bounties were paid by some cities and counties.

In response to the call of July 18, 1864, a draft was made in Iowa, not because she was behind in her quota of men, but because of the necessities of the government, which, for the time being, changed the apportionment in this and other states. There were one thousand, seven hundred and twenty seven men raised by the draft in 1864. One regiment of three months' men and four regiments and one battalion of infantry composed of one hundred days' men, comprised the irregular, or short term enlistments from the state. Some five thousand men, at times of threatened invasions or border troubles, served under irregular enlistments or as emergency militia. Nearly eight thousand men re-enlisted in the field, thus rounding out a term of about four years in actual service. With the exceptions here enumerated, the term of service was three years, but the war was brought to an end before the latest enlisted men had served out the full term for which they enlisted.

Two Iowa cavalry regiments served the entire three years on the Western plains, where they confronted hostile Indians from 1863 to 1866. Some of these companies were among the last to return to their homes.

Upon final settlement after the restoration of peace, it was found that Iowa's claims against the federal government were fully equal to the amount of her bonds, issued and sold during the war to provide the means for raising and equipping her troops sent to the field and to meet the inevitable demands upon her treasury in consequence of the war. This is a record of which but few of the older and wealthier states can boast; since most of them had heavy war debts for many years after the close of hostilities.


In the Spanish-American war the state furnished four regiments of infantry, two batteries of field artillery, a signal company, and a company of colored immunes. The United States navy was also represented, Fayette county having a representative in the person of Doctor Pattison, of Oelwein, who was a lieutenant.

A few veterans of the Mexican war are still living within the state, Fayette county having one who is a veteran of two wars.


Within comparatively recent years there has been a complete reorganization of the old "State Militia," which is now designated as the National Guard of the several states. The organization and discipline is much more thorough than formerly, while the equipment and emoluments are correspondingly improved.

The Iowa National Guard now consists of four regiments of infantry, of twelve companies each, and designated as the Fifty Third, Fifty Fourth, Fifty Fifth and Fifty Sixth Regiments. The headquarters of these are, respectively, Cedar Rapids, Muscatine, Ames and Sioux City. Each regiment is divided into three battalions in command of as many officers, ranking as majors. All of these regiments were called into active service during the war with Spain, the Fifty Fifth serving about eighteen months, while the others served lesser periods. The governor of the state is the commander in chief, while he is assisted in the performance of his military duties by a staff of officers designated as adjutant general, quartermaster general, surgeon general, judge advocate, inspector general, chief of engineers and chief signal officer. These general officers have assistants, while there are seven "aides" appointed or detailed as assistants to the commander in chief, most of whom rank as lieutenant colonels. Rotation in these appointments may account, in part at least, for the long list of "colonels" to be found in almost every county throughout the state.

The adjutant general ranks as brigadier general, and is the chief executive officer of the National Guard, upon whom devolves a very large part of the detail work of that organization, the making of reports, and carrying out the orders of the commander in chief. He has charge of the State Arsenal and grounds, and all other property of the state kept or used for military purposes.


Under this department there are various organizations, with the purpose, in most cases, of enforcing or strengthening the power of existing laws. Among these may be enumerated the state railroad commissioners, the executive council, bureau of labor statistics, board of parole, food and dairy commissioner, state printer and binder, fish and game warden, department of agriculture, state veterinary surgeon, board of veterinary examiners, Iowa State Library, state librarian, historical department, state mine inspectors, commission of pharmacy, custodian of public buildings and property, board of health, hotel inspector (operative since July 4, 1909), geological board, library commission, Iowa state highway commission, hall of public archives, Horticultural Society, board of law examiners, state oil inspectors, superintendent of weights and measures, director of weather and crop service, Iowa Academy of Sciences, the State Historical Society (established by law in the year 1857), educational board of examiners, Iowa State Teachers' Association (in existence since May 10, 1854). The official heads of most of these various departments are appointed by the governor, and in most of those not so constituted the governor is designated as a member of the board by virtue of his office. The purpose of establishing these departments, in connection with the state government, will be readily understood from the titles of the offices created. In addition to the foregoing, there are a number of minor offices, the duties of which are not so universally applicable to all the people of the state.

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