Wassonville, Iowa Historical Account Published in 1889

From The Wellman Advance  - originally published Friday, November 1, 1889.


 Its Early History and Reminiscences.

Chapter II.

I1842 another act of emigrants came to Lime Creek Township and located some two miles east of Wassonville at what is now known as Maple's Mill.  This mill site was originally claimed by William L. Hewitt, and was improved and operated by him.  He owned the mill for a period of nearly 30 years and sold it to Van Horn.  The first merchant at Hewitt's mill was one Josiah Stilling, who had a small stock of goods in a log cabin.  In that day the main trading point was Burlington, and all manner of merchandise was freighted in wagons drawn by oxen, or if the teamster was well-to-do, by mules or horses.

Wasson's mill was, however, the main point in the settlement.  It was the "hub," so to speak, and there congregated seers, sages and jokers, to exchange ideas, crack jokes and spin yarns of all colors and lengths.


About this time, as related by I.L. Gilliam, the Indians came thick and often to have their grinding done at the mill.  The came under the leadership of a chief named Ashcash.  It will be borne in mind by those familiar with the history of our state that the spot where now stands the Wassonville mill was only about five miles east of the line known as the boundary line to the Blackhawk Purchase, from which the Indians were excluded by treaty made with the U.S. 

But the wily Indians would cross the line and come to the mill to have their grinding done.  In fact the owners of the mill would encourage them, and the result was that the woods about the mill were constantly full of "red men."  Semi-occasionally the U.S. troops stationed at Iowa City would hear of them and come out and put them off the purchase.  The Indians never disobeyed orders, but no sooner were the soldiers gone than they would return. 

It so happened that the troops came to put them off while they were busy grinding at the mill and they asked to be allowed to remain till their grinding was done, but the sergeant refused and ordered them off.   At this instant Daniel McFarland, who spoke the Indian language, and who befriended the red men, and was dearly beloved by them, climbed to the top of some lumber and gave a war whoop, when the woods poured forth her red men.  And lo and behold they were legion!  Dan McFarland then politely informed the officer that he had given his orders and done his duty, and he had better depart in peace or he would turn the Indians loose on him and let them breakfast on his squad.  Suffice it to say they left.



Daniel McFarland took his claim on section 8-77-8, and as early as 1841 began the art of charming reptiles.  He secured quite a collection of snakes, which he termed his "pets" and would travel with them through the various parts of the western and middle states, exhibiting them and doing all manner of performances with them.  While on one of his tours at Saint Louis, Mo., he was giving an exhibition to a large audience, when one of his large rattlesnakes bit him on the fleshy part of the thumb.  He had the bitten portion removed at once, but the poison had taken such affect that he never fully recovered, tough he soaked himself in whisky.  He died shortly thereafter, and his ashes lie in the Wassonville cemetery. 

Dr. James Watters was the first M.D. to practice medicine in this part of the vineyard.   He was also the first postmaster at Wassonville.  The first sermon was preached in the house of Joseph Wasson by a Presbyterian minister named Nichols.  Thus the glory of pioneer Methodism was eclipsed by the Presbyterians.  (To be continued next week.)
Project Wassonville 2005

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

Chapter I

Wassonville Mill from The Palimpsest, January 1961 Iowa State Historical Society, "Iowa -  Land of Many Mills" - (1940) Jacob A. Swisher.  Photograph courtesy of Susan Webb Wright

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Project Wassonville 2007

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 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.  From the county maps published in the 1875 Atlas of Iowa.


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


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 served as a stop on the underground railroad,  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.

Project Wassonville 2007

English Valleys History Center
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