Wassonville, Iowa Historical Account Published in 1889

From The Wellman Advance  - originally published Friday, November 29, 1889.


 Its Early History and Reminiscences.

Chapter VI.

The years 1850 - 55 were the great boom period of far-famed Wassonville and vicinity.  Emigration poured in from the east, north and south.  Great caravans passed through on their way to California, Oregon and "Bleeding Kansas."  Many left their company and settled with the pioneers of this township.  The old mill filled many an empty meal sack for the overland emigrant and the owners in turn were  made happy by clinking coin taken in exchange therefor.

Early in 1853, all the government land was taken and the value of homesteads increased as if by magic.  Wassonville grew to be a town of 300 people, a good trading point, with brilliant prospects of rapid development, but alas, the semi-annual freshets almost wiped it from the face of the earth.  Something had to be done, for the new houses were scattered in all directions wherever a bit of high ground could be found.  The necessity of laying out a new town was inevitable.  Lewis Longwell looked the ground over and purchased the land where Dayton now stands and awaited developments.  Subsequent movements demonstrated his judgment, for the following years of '53, '54 and '55 were exceptional years for the settlement.  Crops were good, money plenty, and the people happy generally.

The country was rapidly improving and the particular spot designated by Mr. Longwell became a flourishing trading point and was named Daytonville.  The glory of Wassonville began to wane.  Building after building was moved to the new town until only the mill and one or two others remained.

California emigration ceased and everything and everybody on the move were headed for "Bleeding Kansas."  The stimulating cause for this Kansas land-slide was the slavery agitation in that state.  Everybody seemed determined to make Kansas a free state.   Wassonville as a stopover point or recruiting station was the scene of many a battle of words and hot discussions.

It was here that J. H. Lane stopped with 280 men and two pieces of artillery and any quantity of smaller fire arms.  He remained from Saturday till Monday, and having a minister with them they held divine services on the river bank.  

Another prominent man was one Calvin Cutter with a force of 75 men who, in a lecture delivered on the river bank, gave clue to the Missouri River password into Kansas. 

He said the emigrant seeking transportation on the ferry boats were made to say the word "cow" and if they pronounced it "keow," they were refused passage.; 


The last but not least of the noted persons who passed through this place was old John Brown, (the original John Brown of war fame,) with a small crew of mighty men.  One of his mules became lame and he stayed some two weeks, becoming pretty well acquainted with the early settlers.

Many a heart quickened to the inspiration of so strong a personality, for his brave heart knew no such thing as fear.  His trusty company might be likened unto those brave Three Hundred, who held at bay the eastern  hordes at the pass of Thermopohe.  But the history of old John Brown is well known to every child who has read the history of the civil war, and we need not dwell upon it.

  (To be continued next week.)

Project Wassonville 2007 

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



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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