One of the risks to home and property, encountered by
the early settlers was the prairie fire. These fires originated in many
different ways; sometimes they were set out by Indians or settlers purposely
and sometimes permitted through carelessness; sometimes a careless rider
over the vast prairie after lighting his pipe would toss the burning match
amid the tall grasses at his side, at first a spark, a tiny blaze, then a
flame leaped upward, was caught by the wind and with the speed of a race
horse the northland was on fire. These fires would occur every autumn and
settlers could not always succeed in defending themselves against the
destroying element. Often a fire was started to bewilder game, or to bare a
piece of ground for the early grazing of stock the ensuing spring, and it
would get away under a wind and soon be beyond control. Violent winds would
often arise and drive the flames with such rapidity that riders on the
fleetest steeds could scarcely escape. On the approach of a prairie fire the
farmer would immediately set about "cutting off" supplies for the devouring
enemy by a "back fire." Thus by starting a small fire near the bare ground
and letting it burn back against the wind he could keep it under control and
thus burn off a strip around him which would prevent the attack of the
oncoming flames. A few furrows or a ditch around the farm were in some
degree a protection.
An original prairie of tall and exuberant
grass on fire, especially at night, was a magnificent spectacle, enjoyed
only by the pioneer. To a person who has ever witnessed a prairie fire at
night, though it may have been long years ago and in his boyhood days, the
impressions made upon his memory of that event can never be affaced or
Sometimes these fires would start hundreds of miles
distant in the northland and the first sign of them would be a red, livid
sky at night away to the north and the old settlers would know that a fire,
though far away, was coming upon them. The next day perhaps it would be
"smoky" and the next night the whole northern sky would be all aglow with a
fierce and lurid light and finally when the roaring, leaping flames came in
view a great line of fire extended along the horizon, and great torrents of
flame curled and leaped along in resistless splendor, while dark clouds of
crimson smoke swept over the sky until moon and stars were almost obscured.
Then the rushing, crashing sounds, like roaring cataracts mingled with
thunder, were almost deafening, while danger and death glared around and
screamed for victims.
Too much credit cannot be given to the "old settlers,"
the brave men and women who experienced the privations and trials of pioneer
life and of making a home on the wild and wind-swept prairies of the West.
There were many long days of sadness and distress. The endearments of home
in another land had been broken up; and all that was hallowed on earth, the
home of childhood, and the scenes of youth, were severed.
Many of the settlers had nothing to begin with, save the hands, health and
courage and their family jewels, "the pledges of love," and the "consumers
of bread." It was not easy to accumulate money in the early days of the
State, and the "beautiful prairies," the "noble streams," and all the
romance and poetic imagery did not prevent the early settlers from becoming
To offset all the discouragements, however, was the
open hospitality, social equality and freedom of spirit that was found
nowhere else and among the few that now remain, who lived in the days of
that old regime, they sometimes sigh for the old times once more.
The following poem was written by Marie Louise Follett,
of Le Claire, Iowa, and used as a recitation at the pioneer settlers' annual
meeting at the Scott County Fair Grounds, 1898:
The old times are left far behind us,
The old times so jolly and free;
Only memories bright now remind us,
How merry in old times were we.
Bring back; bring back the old times to me.
We had house-raisings, choppings and huskings, And quiltings and
Only think of the dance in the evenings;
Was there ever such pleasure in view,
Bring back; bring back the pleasure to me.
Quail pie and corn-pone in the oven,
Prairie chickens, a dish for a king,
Venison, turkeys and squirrels at 'even,
With pride would our hunters home bring.
Bring back; bring back the wild game to me.
Potatoes that caused us to wonder;
Colors, purple and pink, blue and white;
Prairie flowers that grew the ground under,
When cooked they were mealy and light.
Bring back; bring back the "taters" to me.
And such smearcase and greens in spring-time, And butter so golden and
All sorts of wild fruits in the summer;
In old times we had dainties to eat.
Bring back; bring back the dainties to me.
Flowers, purple and yellow and crimson,
White daisies and star blossoms blue;
Sure a rainbow had painted the prairie,
So varied and brilliant in hue.
Bring back; bring back the wild flowers to me.
We had preaching sometimes at the schoolhouse God's spirit shown down from
And the singing school all through the winter,
We learned music and lessons in love.
Bring hack; bring back the lessons to me.
All hail; and farewell to the old times;
We'll cherish the years that remain;
As each autumn returns in her beauty,
Please heaven we'll all meet again.
Meet again, greet again;
in heaven we'll all meet again.
| Carroll county is in
the center of the state north and south, and in the third tier of counties
east from the Missouri river, and was named-after Charles Carroll, one of
the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It is twenty-four miles
square, containing 576 square miles of surface or 368,640 acres. It was
formerly attached to Guthrie county for judicial and other reasons.
The surface is somewhat diversified, much of it being
smooth or gently rolling, but some of it is rather rough and broken. It
embraces within its limits a section of the dividing ridge or watershed that
starts some of its waters towards the Mississippi and some towards the
The principal stream that traverses the county is Coon River, and besides
this there are many small tributaries. Cool, clear and sparkling water can
be obtained almost anywhere by digging to a depth of 15 or 20 feet.
The highest point in the county is 858 feet above Lake
Michigan and 800 feet above the Mississippi river at Clinton. This elevation
affords a fine view of the surrounding country. Among the streams that water
and drain its surface are the North Raccoon, Brushy Fork, Storm, Willow and
Whiteds creeks, East Nishnabotna and Boyer rivers.
The soil varies somewhat in kind in different
localities, but is universally rich and productive. Along the river bottom
the soil is a rich dark loam, somewhat mixed with sand and exceedingly
fertile, and closely resembles the loamy deposits in the valley of the Nile
in Egypt, or the soil of the Yazoo valley, both famous the world over for
On the divides and high prairies the soil is composed
of what geologists term bluff deposits—a yellowish colored fine material
more or less calcareous, with which is mixed a small percentage of clay.
Native timber is scarce and found only along the
streams. Farmers who in years past have set out trees in the rich deep soil
of this county, now have as fine groves as one could wish, standing as a
living monument to those who planted and eared for them.
The early settlement of the twenty was an era of great
speculation, and, an it ante-dated the homestead and land limitation act,
the eastern speculators who thronged the land offices of the state were only
limited in their entries by their cash, their cupidity and their caution
and, as a natural result, the lands were in the first instance largely held
by eastern or non-resident owners who, in many cases, owned considerable
tracts. Hence the first settlers were generally men of small holdings. For
emigrants, the county did little more than grant them reluctant right-of-way
across its fertile lands, as they steered their “prairie schooners" to the
drouth-stricken, grasshopper-raided plains beyond or up the Missouri river.
Time however, and the logic of events, wrought the solution and changed the
abnormal condition, thus settling up the county with well-to-do and
enterprising people. The result was that prices of land advanced and, where
the figures reached the ideas fixed by eastern speculators thirty years
before, they were glad to "unload" and cease paying taxes.
Corn is king and an average yield is forty bushels per
acre. It never fails and planting is often done two weeks earlier than in
Northern Illinois. Oats are superior to any grown in Illinois, Wisconsin or
Southern Iowa. Wheat, barley, rye and potatoes also are sure crops and are
largely grown. Everything the farmer plants and properly cultivates, whether
a hill of beans or a thousand acres of corn, will yield a great harvest; for
anything he attempts to raise in the way of live stock, from a brood of
chicks to a herd of shorthorn cattle, he is going to receive good returns if
they are given half a chance. This is the paradise of the stockman and
farmer. Nature so intended it to be. It is an established fact that Carroll
county soil will produce anything and everything grown in a diversified
farming country. There are numerous farmers in the county who came here at
an early day with no capital at all and were renters for several years, but
today own large, well-improved farms, and have snug little fortunes to their
credit in the local banks. Of course, there are farmers who will always be
renters, no matter how productive the soil or what opportunities may be
afforded them in the country in which they may locate; but farmers who have
the necessary push and energy, and are endowed with a reasonable amount of
frugality and thrift, cannot help but succeed in Carroll county.
The first settlement was made by Enos Buttrick in 1854.
He settled in the east central part of the county.
The first election was held at the house of Henry
Coplin in the southeasterly part of the county, in August, 1855. The
following officers were elected: A. J. Cain, county judge; Levi Thompson,
clerk; James White, treasurer and recorder; Robert Lloyd, surveyor; L.
McCurdy, attorney, anti J. Y. Anderson, sheriff. At this time the population
of the county was about 100.
The first school taught in the county was by Jane L.
Hill, at Carrollton, in 1856, and the first newspaper was published at the
same place by Mr. Manning and called the Carroll Enterprise.
The first marriage license was issued to Joseph Ford
and Sarah Ochampaugh, September 16, 1855, and they were married a week later
by A. J. Cain, county judge.
An old Indian trail is still decipherable that in the
early settlement or before was railed the War Path, and was considered the
dividing line between the hunting grounds of the Sioux and Pottawattamie
Indians. It was said to be a death penalty for an Indian of one tribe to be
found hunting on the grounds of the other. Stories are told of a terrible
battle fought near Crescent Lake about a mile south of Carroll Center,
between the Sioux and the Pottawattamies over infringements of the law in
regard to their hunting grounds It is related that at the close of the
battle every Sioux warrior who engaged in the conflict was dead, and all but
three of the Pottawattamies. The bodies of the dead made feasts for the
wolves and their bones were left to bleach in the summer sun for many years
If you will examine carefully the map of Iowa, you will
observe that no town in the state is better located for a distributing point
than Carroll. The Chicago Great Western and the Chicago & North-Western, the
latter with its two important branches, afford direct communication east,
west, north and south. Towns situated on any of these lines of railway
within a distance of forty miles on either side of Carroll, are more
accessible than from Des Moines, Sioux City, Council Bluffs or Marshalltown.
Carroll is the natural base of supplies for a region covered by a radius of
at least 50 miles.
Carroll has never had what might be called a "boom."
From its birth its growth has been substantial. In 1870 the population was
344; in 1873, 563; in 1875, 812; in 1880, 1,385; in 1885, 1,835; in 1890,
2,428; in 1900, 2,882; in 1905, 3,205.
The surrounding county is of that nature which insures
an everlasting and enviable local trade that can never be wholly cut off by
rival towns, while her artificial strength is increased by reason of the
great trunk lines of railways that span the vast territory on each side,
giving direct connection with competing lines in every direction.
Being surrounded by a country having large agricultural
resources, and possessing a class of energetic, wide awake and experienced
business men, who know how to make the best possible use of the advantages
within their reach, Carroll is destined to remain one of the important towns
of western Iowa.
Carroll was first platted in August, 1867.
The new town seems to have been backed by valuable
friends from the start, for almost before it had gained a name on the map of
the county it had a petition before the board of supervisors for an election
to remove the county seat from Carrollton. The petition was granted and the
election held the second Tuesday in October, 1867. The total votes were only
118, but of these 88 were in favor of removal and 30 for retaining the
county seat at Carrollton. A few of the citizens of the latter place entered
a vigorous protest, charging fraud and railroad domination and steps were
immediately taken to prevent the legal removal of the records, alleging
informality in the petition and failure to comply with the law regarding
elections for the removal of county seats. It was also alleged that no such
place as "Carroll City" had a legal existence at the time of holding the
election and therefore was not eligible to become the county seat. The
protest contained the following appeal: "Do not bow to railroad interests.
We know they are mighty, but Carroll county and Carroll citizens are more
mighty than they."
Carroll may have existed for a brief time without a
name, but there was a force, or something behind it which ruled its destiny,
and in spite of the protests, the supervisors ordered the removal of the
records, etc., which was done April 28, 1868.
The business of the county was done and the records
kept in a house leased to the county by William Gilley, at $50 per month for
a term of sixteen months. The county fathers soon concluded, however, that
it was impolitic to continue paying rent for offices, etc., and a
proposition was submitted to the general election of 1868 providing for the
levying of a tax for courthouse purposes. It met with defeat, however, there
being but 53 votes for the proposition and 169 against it. The former were
probably largely cast by the citizens of Carroll, while the rest of the
county was apparently united against the town. The agitation for a
courthouse kept up, however, and, in 1869, at the January session of the
board, a petition was presented asking that an appropriation be made for
erecting a county building. Among the petitioners are noted the following
familiar names: William Gilley, G. P. Wetherill, J. K. Deal, E. Griffith, J.
H. Colclo and Thos. Elwood. The board could not agree, there being a
disposition to purchase a lot for the new building, to which the petitioners
objected, as the present square had already been procured and donated to the
county for courthouse purposes by the Blair Town Lot and Land Company. The
matter was therefore laid over until the April session, when a much larger
petition was presented. A resolution was then passed authorizing the clerk
to employ John W. King to draw plans and specifications and advertise for
bids for a building not to exceed $4,000. The building erected under this
resolution was occupied until the spring of 1886 when fire destroyed a part
of it. The offices were then removed to the Joyce Lumber Company's office
building which was used for a court room. In the meantime there had been
several futile attempts to get the voters to levy a tax on themselves for a
new courthouse, but to no avail. At the general election, November 3, 1885,
such an election was taken, resulting in 1,557 against the tax and 1,248
for. The supervisors seemed to think that another effort would succeed, for
a month later, December 8, 1885, a special election was held under an order
of the board, but again the tax failed to carry, this time by a narrow
margin, the vote being 1,119 and 1,156 against. After the fire, however, and
with the county again paying rent for the various offices and a court room,
the taxpayers took a different view of the situation. In November of 1886
the question of issuing $50,000 bonds was submitted and carried by the vote
of 1,885 to 1444. With the money thus raised the present splendid building
and jail were erected the following year, 1887. It has the finest location
of any court house in the Middle West, and stands on a natural elevation in
the center of the town.
In 1869, Carroll became a city of the second class, 0.
H. Manning, William Gilley, and a Mr. Tracy being commissioners of
The first municipal officers under the corporation were
I. N. Griffith, mayor; B. S. Terry, recorder; J. E. Griffith, treasurer;
Thomas Bosler, marshal: J. W. King, Dr. Wayne, F. Dennett, L. C. Bailey and
Will lam Boots, commissioners.
I. N. Griffith opened the first general store and
Daniel Griffith the first furniture store.
The first child born was Carroll Kidder, or "Carrie"
Kidder as she was generally called, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Kidder.
Mr. Kidder was the first postmaster of Carroll. The family subsequently
removed to Utah.
J. M. Patty was the first doctor to locate in the town.
J. H. Colclo kept the first hotel.