When Wassonville was settled in the 1840, the site was chosen for its picturesque setting by the English River. A grist mill was immediately built on the north bank of the river, and the original townsite quickly grew in the low-lying valley on the same side. Early accounts relate semi-annual floods, which wiped out nearly the entire town. Each time, the settlers attempted to rebuild their homes and businesses on the same land. This scene must have been repeated several times, as the town was formally laid out and platted in 1848. Drier years would encourage the settlers to continue to rebuild the townsite, only to be leveled during the following spring. According to an 1889 history of Wassonville, printed in the Wellman Advance, "Bridges, ferry boats and houses were swept away in the torrents and nothing remained but mud and destruction to show for it. Her merchants made fortunes and lost them in a single day."
The years 1849 and '50
must have been abnormally rough at Wassonville, as accounts from settler
Berrimand Breeden at nearby Foote, Iowa (Hinkletown) relates the
following: "It began to rain
on the 12th day of May (1850) and rained all summer, and did
not stop raining until the 10th of August.
The rivers were all flooded out of their banks, the river bottoms
and low lands being covered with water from bluff to bluff. We used
to go out to break the sod and our cattle would sink down in the mud and
mire, then all of the shouting and yelling you would hear until we got
During the early 1850's, their resolve finally broken, the townspeople began moving to higher ground on the south side of the river, and in 1854, another half mile south on the high ground that became the town of Dayton (later Daytonville,) laid out by Lewis Longwell. It is clear that Wassonville witnessed its relatively short period of about 15 years of "glory" from 1840 to the mid-1850s. The Wassonville Mill continued to operate until about 1918.
The site of the Wassonville Mill, and the adjoining town site was vulnerable to annual flooding that often nearly destroyed the town. Steel bridge over the English River at far left. Old Wassonville Mill to far right.
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