For six years after
the Black Hawk war, there was not a human habitation within the
boundaries of Marion Township. The virgin soil was yet unbroken, and
the site of the city yet undisturbed by the hands of civilization. An
occasional band of Musquakies, or Sauk and Fox Indians, encamped at
the groves as they journeyed to and from trading points and hunting
After peace with the
Indians had been restored, the interrupted current of immigration was
resumed, and began to fill up the valleys of Eastern Iowa,
entering Linn County from the southeast. Not until the Spring of 1838
did the white settlers come as far as Marion to plant claim-stakes and
build rude log huts, with a view to residence.
Farnsworth took up a claim adjoining the town on the south, at
Isbell's Grove, in 1838, and was probably the first actual settler,
although other claims had been taken by persons living further east;
among these were those of James, Preston and Prior Scott, who
claimed a large amount of land just east of the village site. Soon
after the county seat was located, there came Luman M. Strong,
who located north of the west part of the town; James W. Bassitt,
adjoining him on the west; Rufus H. Lucore, two miles west;
John C. Berry, two and one-half miles north. Soon after, James
W. Willis settled north of the east part of the town; Hosea W.
Gray, who settled about August 20, 1838, and moved to Marion in
the Spring of 1839; George W. Gray settled adjoining on the
south; John Margrave, one-half mile northwest; Aaron
Moriarty, one mile up Indian Creek; James and Henderson Smith
settled on the Kemp place, three miles north; James H. Blackman,
adjoining on the northeast; Samuel Ross, his mother and several
brothers, adjoining the Willis place, now the E. A. Vaughn
place; Henry Thompson erected a mill three miles south. The
southwest and west, being timber, was taken up only in smaller parcels
for timber. Ephraim T. Lewis, one of the Second County
Commissioners, and A. B. Mason settled between Marion and Cedar
Rapids, and were the first settlers in that direction. All of these
came in during 1839. In the fall of 1839, the Brodies and
Leverichs settled two miles northwest of the town.
Among other early
residents, were Norris Cone, who settled a few miles south, but
now resides in town; Norman, George and John Ives, three miles
east, where the two former still live, while the latter now resides in
Marion; Ira Wilson, three miles east, with his sons, George
W., now in town, Ira G., on the farm, and John S.
near the old place: W. L. Winter and wife settled on Dry Creek
in 1842. Mr. Winter was a public-spirited man; active in securing
railroads and mills.
The early days were
times of great trial. At first, it was necessary to go to Rochester or
Muscatine to trade and get mail. Prairie fires often swept away a
house or stack. The creeks were not bridged, and the roads were few,
yet grain had to be hauled to Muscatine. Many oxen were used to open
up the farms.
As stated in the
General History, Marion was located as the county seat by a special
Board of Commissioners appointed by the Territorial Legislature in the
Spring of 1839.
The first official
act of the County Commissioners, after perfecting their organization,
September 9, 1839, was to name the county seat "Marion," in honor of
Gen. Francis Marion.
In November, 1839,
the Board appointed David A. Woodbridge to superintend laying
out the town of Marion and the sale of its lots, and at the same time,
Ross McCloud, County Surveyor, was ordered to proceed to lay
out the town. The Commissioners' Clerk was instructed to advertise the
sale of lots to take place on December 6, 1839.
survey of Marion was made December 2, 1839, by Ross McCloud,
assisted by H. W. Gray and A. J. McKean, chain carriers,
Elisha Kemp, stake driver, and Ira Wilson, flagman,
under the direction of David A. Woodbridge, Agent, on the west
half of the northwest quarter of Section 6, Township 83 north, Range
6, and the east half of the northeast quarter of Section 1, Township
83, Range 7 west of the Fifth Principal Meridian, with blocks 250 feet
square, lots, 60x120 feet, alleys, 10 feet. The lots on which the
court buildings now stand were reserved for public use.
August 26, 1842, Gray
& Greene's Addition was made on the north side of town, being the
space which the first surveyed north line varied from the proper
section line, as afterward established by the general survey.
The land on which the
county seat was located belonged to the Government, though it was
included in the claim of Luman M. Strong. It was entered by
Ephraim T. Lewis, Barimeas McGonigle and Oliver
Day, County Commissioners, on February 20, 1840.
The house of Mr.
L. M. Strong, then without the town plat, but now included, was
the first to be built. It was erected on the Center Point Road, in
1839, and occupied by Mr. Strong as a tavern. It is now known as the
old Martindale house.
In the same year,
Henry Thompson and David A. Woodbridge built the second
house, a frame structure, then north of the town plat, near the site
of the late residence of H. P. Elliott, subsequently removed,
and now used as a blacksmith shop. About the same time, these men
built the first store, a log shanty, in the rear of Mrs. W. L.
In relation to the
first store, the Commissioners' Record says: "Ordered, That
Woodbridge & Thompson be allowed a license to vend and
retail foreign merchandise, at their store in Marion, for one year
from the 9th day of October, 1839."
Wm. H., a
brother of David Woodbridge, came with him. The latter built a
small house in 1839, in the northern part of the town, which is now
nearly opposite McKean's book store.
In March, 1840,
Addison Daniels came to Marion on horseback from Iowa City,
seeking a location in the Western country. He found there a broad
prairie covered with tall wild grass - not a house, not a tree within
the "city limits." The outlook for merchandising was not very
favorable, yet Mr. Daniels courageously set out for Muscatine,
and thence to St. Louis, where he purchased a stock of goods and
returned with them to Marion. On his arrival, he found the house which
he had contracted for with Hosea W. Gray completed, and he
immediately opened his small stock of goods therein.
It is an unusual fact
that Mr. Daniels has remained in business to the present time,
thirty-eight years, having been associated with his brothers during a
great portion of the time, and is now one of Marion's wealthy,
The old building
which Mr. Daniels first commenced business was twenty by
twenty-two feet in size, and cost about $75. This log house, sided
with sawed lumber, is still standing on the west side of Market
street, near Main, and is occupied as the shoe shop of J. G. Ross.
This was the fourth house in Marion, those previous being George
Green's house, built on Main, west of Market street; Joseph W.
Bigger's house, where Dr. Bardwell now lives; and the first
frame house in town, built by Joseph W. Gibber for L. D.
Phillips as an hotel, and known as the American House, on the site
of the Newhall House. Here within a year Mr. Phillips
opened a stock of groceries. After eight or ten years, Mr. Phillips
moved to Mineral Point, Wis., where he has become a prominent citizen.
In the same Spring,
O. S. Hall built, just north of Mr. Daniels' first
store, a story and a half frame building, where he opened the Iowa
House. He died in 1846, and the hotel was continued by his wife and
sons, O. S. Hall, Jr., until 1871. The building in which they
began the hotel business is now occupied by the bakery of C. Domer.
In the same Spring
the old log jail was built on the site of the Court House. The first
prisoner was installed within it for horse stealing before the logs
had been laid higher than his shoulders. The Court House was built at
the same time. This building was purchased by O. S. Hall, in
1845, for use as a Methodist Church, and is now occupied by the
grocery and restaurant of O. S. Hall, Jr.
S. D. Thompson
came in the Fall of 1840, and has been in Marion, more or less, to the
In that year,
Woodbridge & Thompson moved their store down on to Main street.
Porter W. Earl
was the first painter in Marion, 1840.
In the Spring of
1840, Hiram Beales built and operated a saw-mill, probably the
first in the county, a half mile west of Marion. "Uncle Richard"
Thomas, now living in Marion, soon became a partner.
In 1840 came
George Patterson, who yet remains a citizen of Marion. The built a
house in that year, and was followed in the next year by his brother,
Wm. J. Patterson, who built the frame store building now known
as the "Regulator." in which Robert and Magnus Holmes opened a
stock of goods. Seven years later, Charles Nye became a partner
of Robert Holmes; afterward Henry Ristine purchased
Mr. Nye's interest, and, successively, Charles Carter
replaced Mr. Ristine. Mr. Carter died in 1856, and the
firm ceased in 1857, Mr. Holmes becoming connected with the
an original genius, established Marion's first saloon, in 1840,
opposite the "Phillips House." His log cabin was so primitive that he
was compelled to offer an occasional reward for goods which the boys
stole at night by reaching through the chinks between the logs. If gun
caps were inquired for, he would reply, "Just out, but have got some
good flints." "Have you any salt?" "No, but I've got some excellent
were first held under a roof in the Court House. Outdoor meetings were
held as early as the Summer of '40.
In 1841, the first
school house was built by subscription, near the site of the Prairie
Hotel, on Main street. It then stood alone on the open prairie, and
school was first taught there by Mr. Higby. Religious services
were also conducted there by Rev. Mr. Emerson. A Methodist
society was organized, and in the next year, Rev. Mr. Rankin,
of the Presbyterian Church, held services there.
The county officers
and other in-comers soon erected houses, and Marion began to assume
the form and dignity of a village.
The first post office
was established in 1839, at the house of Luman M. Strong. Soon
after arrival, Mr. Daniels assumed the office of Postmaster,
and in turn, transferred it to John Zunbro, who with Mr.
Hoops, established the next store after that of Robert Holmes,
in 1841. In 1843, Harvey Gillett, of Muscatine, opened a store
at Marion, under the management of O. H. Lovett. About 1846,
G. W. Gray engaged in a general merchandise business.
The first brick
building was built by Wm. H. Woodbridge (Ambrose Harland,
mansion), as a residence, regardless of the town plat, on the northern
part of Marion street, in 1842. It is now known as the Berry House.
Here the land sales were held soon after it was built. In the
following year, Wm. H. Woodbridge (known as "Democ," because of
his strong Democratic sentiments) built a second brick building on
Meridian street, south of Main, now owned by A. Daniels & Co.
With similar disregard to streets, he began the foundation for this
house diagonally to the lines of the block, but was persuaded to wheel
into line with civilization.