Wassonville, Iowa Historical Account Published in 1889

From The Wellman Advance  - originally published Friday, October 25, 1889.


 Its Early History and Reminiscences.

Chapter 1.

In the spring of 1839, this corner of the universe was unknown to the civilized world.   The gay and festive Indian held his annual festival and carnival on the banks of the sleepy English.   The wolf, bear and antelope played lawn tennis with the deer, the ‘coon and prairie dog, and, in common with the bull snake, the “rattler” and blue racer gamboled o’er the green.

But their frolicking soon came to grief, for in the autumn of that year, down on the old Flint Hills of Burlington, an expedition was planned which was destined to molest their hitherto peaceful habitation and spread blood and destruction in its way. 

The expedition consisted of Joseph, John and Hiram Wasson, John Mickey and Robert Mickey.  They left the old Flint Hills, going in a northwesterly direction, and halted not until they discovered the mill site, afterwards known as Wassonville.   They termed their party the “bee hunters.”   Joseph Wasson laid claim to the mill site, which claim was afterwards disputed by N.M. McFarland and Daniel McFarland, who were later arrival on the site.   Cabins were erected, and claimants resided therein during the winter of ’39 and ’40.  Early the next spring the mill site was submitted to arbitration by the contestants, and decided by disinterested parties to be the rightful property of Wasson.  None of the seven original settlers are now living.  In the spring of 1840, James and Thomas Watters moved their families on the mill site and proceeded to cut the necessary timbers for the dam.  During the succeeding winter, Thomas Watters shot wolves through the cracks in his cabin as they were prowling around for something to eat.

Joseph Wasson and family and Samuel A. Watters moved to the same place on the 21st of May, 1841, and proceeded to erect a mill.  The first mill was erected on the north bank of the river, and was burned down in ’49.  But two years prior to the burning a second mill had been built on the south bank, and it still stands as a monument to its projectors, Joseph Wasson and James Watters.  The first grinding done on this mill was in the spring of ’52.  The plant was sold to James Maheffa.

The first four families to settle in what is now Lime Creek Township were W. A. Davisson, Conrad Ross, N. W. McFarland, and “Case Knife” Smith.  Davisson settled on Section 7-77-9, where he still resides.  Conrad Ross on the same section just north of Davisson.  Mc Farland on the n.w. ¼ Sec. 12-77-9; Smith on the n.e. ¼ 19-77-8; Daniel McFarland on the n.w. 12-77-9.  Benjamin Parker, who came in ’41, settled on the farm now owned by Scheib.  N. McFarland was the first Justice of the Peace in this township and S.A. Watters was the first constable.

Marcus Hull came the same year and settled on 17-77-8, and his widow still owns the place.  William Hull and his brother Hiram, Bezel  Wina, Mr. Ramsey and Robert Wasson came the same year and settled in the neighborhood.  The farm settled upon by the last man is now owned by C. Blumenstein.  

The first white child born in the settlement was Joseph Wasson, Jr., July 7, 1841.  The first marriage was contracted by Phillip Haynes and Susan Gillaim, in 1842, N. McFarland, J.P. officiating.  Among the first to sleep in the “silent city” on the hilltop were Mrs. Squires, William King and Mrs. Bowers.

In the early days of the first white settlers they were harassed a good deal by a tribe of Mosquakee Indians, whose chief, Michintee, yearly brought his followers and camped on the banks of the river at a spring near the mill.  They would steal corn and wheat and have it ground at the mill.  They employed themselves by hunting and fishing, and would barter their game for bread stuffs and “fire water.”  It was discovered by the settlers that they had a partially white maiden in the camp and suspicion was strong that she was a white girl, stolen when a child from some family.

The fact was reported at Washington and a posse of men came over to rescue her.  They tried to persuade the girl that she, the girl, ought to go with them, but to this they received a stubborn “no.”   The tribe insisted that she was an Indian, and the girl bared her skin to she that she was dark-tinged clear through.  The rescuing party were compelled to give up and depart, though many a grave decision was held concerning her parentage, and the “white man who had been in camp.”  That party never hunted again for a “lost white child.”   (continued next week.)

1889 articles from Wellman Advance  - Community History Project, January 14, 2005. View Original Images


Yellow:  Fillmore and Greene Townships - Iowa County
Blue: Liberty Township - Keokuk County
Red: Lime Creek Township - Washington County


Map showing the tri-county area including portions of Washington, Keokuk and Iowa Counties in Eastern Iowa.  Hinkletown and Wassonville were trading and stage stops on the early leg of the east-west Diamond Trail that carried settlers from the Eastern Iowa port cities on the Mississippi River to Fort Des Moines and points westward, including California and Oregon.  Additionally, Wassonville sat on the north-south route of the Iowa City-Oskaloosa Road.  From the county maps published in the 1875 Atlas of Iowa.

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Chapter I

Founded in 1839 and settled in 1840, Wassonville was the first village in Lime Creek Township, Washington County, Iowa.   Discovered by an expedition from Burlington, Iowa, the mill site on the winding English River became the early center of activity. Wassonville quickly grew into a significant trading post on the early trail between the Mississippi towns of Burlington, Muscatine and Fort Des Moines, which would replace Iowa City as the Capitol of Iowa.  With early Indian activity, the town also served as a stop on the underground railroad,  the Gold Rush of '49, and served as a base for representatives of the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Society, who agitated and recruited travelers to settle Kansas as a Free State.

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Project Wassonville 2007

English Valleys History Center
P.O. Box 70
North English, Iowa 52316

Open Saturdays 6:00 AM - NOON

108 N. Main Street

"Promoting the rich history of towns along the English River"


All pages Copyright 2005 English Valleys History Center