THE FOUNDING OF COUNCIL BLUFFS.
Although Pottawattamie county was not organized until as
late as September, 1848, its real history begins at a much
earlier date. During the administration of President Jefferson,
in 1804, an expedition was fitted out under Captains Lewis
and Clark to explore the country just purchased from France,
or that part lying along the Missouri river to its source.
On referring to the journal kept by Patrick Gas on this expedition
we read: "Tuesday, August 2, 1804, two of our men had
gone out from camp to hunt for horses that had strayed, returned
with them, and also two large bucks and a fawn. Others brought
in an elk they had killed.
"The Indians we had expected came in at dark. Captains
Lewis and Clark held a council with them, who seemed well
pleased with the change of government and what had been done
for them. Six of them were made chiefs, three Otoes and three
Missouris. This place we called Council Bluffs, and on taking
observation found it to be in latitude 41 degrees, 17 minutes."
Although the exact spot is not positively known, this brings
us to the Mynster spring, just at the north limit of the city
where the great bluff comes down to within a few rods of the
river, and must have been a favorite meeting place for the
tribes, as shown by a burying ground back on one of the bluffs,
where are buried hundreds of all ages and both sexes, but
covered so lightly that the boys used to dig them up. This
is the first we hear of Council Bluffs and brings us on to
the soil of Pottawattamie county, and, although no permanent
settlement was made for many years, it was a recognized point
and designated on the early maps of the country and visited
by trappers and traders that exploited this region with St.
Louis as their base of operation.
I am aware that other points claim the distinction of being
the original Council Bluffs, notably Fort Calhoun, about fifteen
miles above Omaha, and another at Traders Point, six or seven
miles south of the city of Council Bluffs, but as there are
no bluffs at either of these places, the name would not be
appropriate. Again, their journal describes the broad bottoms,
and jungles abounding with wild grapes and alive with wild
turkeys and other game, exactly as they were fifty years later,
and further, if we accept the Fort Calhoun theory, in place
of 41° and 17" it would be 41° and 30",
while Traders Point would fix it at 41° and 7". We
also find them on the east
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
side of the river when Sergeant Floyd died and was buried
on the top of a high bluff a few miles below Sioux City, which
still bears his name, as well as the little river close by.
At all events our first settlers found the name lying around
loose and when granted our city charter we appropriated it,
like it, and intend to hold it until some one with a bigger
stick than ours takes it from us.
The conditions above described continued until 1838, when,
during President Van Buren's administration, the Pottawattamie
Indians were assigned to a reservation here, and Davis Hardin
was appointed to instruct them in farming. He, with his family
and a company of soldiers arrived here on the steamer Antelope
from Fort Leavenworth in the spring of that year. This was
an event. As before stated, many trappers and traders had
frequented this region, intermarrying with the natives, but
here was a family of refined Americans come to stay, backed
and protected by the government. Arriving here they found
the country a solitude. They located by a big spring on what
is now East Broadway and the soldiers immediately commenced
building a house for the Hardins, and then a fort on a promontory
that was a continuation of the hill between Franklin and Lincoln
avenues, and which at that time jutted into what is now Broadway,
where the dwelling of the late John Clausen now stands. The
Pottawattamies, escorted by a company of cavalry, arrived
a few days later, having come across the country. They found
it indeed a goodly land, and it is doubtful if the landscape
revealed to Moses from the top of Pisgah, extending from the
cedars of Lebanon to the palm trees of Zoar, equaled in beauty
that of Pottawattamie county as viewed from the summit of
these bluffs. Though not possessing the awful grandeur of
mountain scenery, for natural beauty it is doubtful if it
can be excelled on this little world of ours. To the north
the bluffs almost assume the dignity of mountains, visible
for forty miles. To the south they roll away until they appear
blue in the distance of fifty miles. At your feet lies the
broad bottom lands, compared with which, for fertility, the
valley of the Nile is a desert. A vast natural meadow: sprinkled
with flowers, while the great Missouri sweeps by in great
graceful curves until lost in the distance, while to the east
and west the view extends until lost in the curvature of the
During their stay here the Indians continued to advance in
the ways of civilization. A Catholic mission was established
and many of them embraced Christianity. A cemetery was established
on the hill some distance above the fort, which remained until
grading Franklin avenue, some thirty years ago, the Pierce
street school ground, and Voorhis street, necessitated their
removal, which was done, and the remains interred in Fairview
cemetery. The government, during their stay here, built a
gristmill on the Mosquito creek, three miles northeast from
the city, which was run by L. E. Wicks, who was married to
a half-breed, by whom he reared quite a family, and when the
Indians left for Kansas the Wicks family remained, and he
continued to make an excellent quality of flour as late as
1857 or 1858.
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
The French traders had established posts all along the Missouri
river at a very early day. They intermarried with the Indians
and some of them became wealthy. Among them one being at Traders
Point nearly opposite the mouth of the Platte river by Peter
A. Sarpy, in honor of whom, Sarpy county, Nebraska, was named.
Contemporaneous with him was Francis Guittar, of Council
Bluffs, who married an American woman and reared a family
and continued in business until 1857. His son Theodore is
a prominent man, has filled several positions of honor and
trust, among which was sheriff of the county, and at this
writing his father's widow is living in the Bluffs.
Another of this class, a Mr. Busha, is still with us and,
although one hundred and twelve years of age, blind and quite
deaf, his mind seems clear, his appetite good, as well as
his general health. Lewis and Clark encountered one of these,
whose squaw wife, Sacajawea (the Bird woman), rendered great
assistance in piloting the expedition from the head waters
of the Missouri across the Rockies. She has been called the
Pocahontas of the west and has been immortalized by a statue
erected by the women of the United States and unveiled at
the Portland exposition; this was modeled by a woman, Miss
Alice Cooper, now of Chicago, but a native of Iowa, and for
which she received seven thousand dollars.
During the year 1846 the Pottawattamies sold their lands
to the government and by treaty were assigned a reservation
in what is now Kansas.
Hardly had the Indians left when the Mormon wave rolled in,
having been expelled from Nauvoo. This people seems to have
been victims of a most relentless persecution, commencing
back in the '30s at Kirtland, Ohio, where they had organized
and built their temple.
From there they gathered in Jackson county, Missouri, where
they were again subjected to all manner of abuse, their property
confiscated, many men killed and women subjected to indignities.
This has been denied by the Missourians, but from subsequent
acts perpetrated by the people of this section during the
border ruffian times, we naturally believe the Mormon complaints
to be true. From here they turned back to Illinois, built
a city and erected their temple, but were not allowed to possess
them long, for the prejudice against them was so strong that
the state troops could not, or would not, protect them when
assailed by a mob. Their president and his brother were assassinated
while prisoners, and after a parley they agreed to remove
from the state within a specified time, with which they substantially
complied. Hence, their arrival here, after enduring untold
hardships in crossing the state in their wagons, the men mostly
on foot, leaving the wagons for their goods, women, children
It is hard for one now traveling over the same route with
his family in it parlor car to realize the hardships endured
by a whole community in which were the aged, the invalids
and infants, camping with scant store of provisions or medicines,
crossing unbridged streams, etc., but this was accomplished
by a people sixty years ago, many of whom are living to-day.
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
Nothing but religious fanaticism could have enabled them
to endure the terrible ordeal.
It will be remembered that their destination had already
been fixed at Salt Lake, which at that time belonged to Mexico,
believing they could find asylum there, which seemed to be
denied them here. Crossing the river they halted at what later
became Florence in order to raise and accumulate supplies
with which to continue on their course. They went into winter
quarters there and built cabins, while many of the men went
back to the settlements and worked at any labor they could
find, and here again they were confronted with trouble. The
Indian title had not been extinguished there, and complaint
was made to Washington, and they were ordered to recross the
river, which proved a great blessing to them, as they found
hundreds of cabins and farms that had been vacated by the
Pottawattamies, of which they were quick to avail themselves.
No more industrious, frugal and temperate community was ever
known. Among them were mechanics of almost every kind, and
they proceeded to build a city here, which they called Kanesville,
in honor of a brother of the Arctic explorer, who had been
a staunch friend during their persecution. Not only did they
build the city, but the rich valleys became hives of industry;
good crops were raised, which enabled them to assist their
fellow pilgrims who were passing through, some with horses,
some with ox teams and some with handcarts. In fact, without
this halting place to rest, make repairs and lay in supplies,
it is hard to conceive how they could ever have made the thousand
mile trip across the plains and mountains.
At this time everything was controlled by the church. Idleness
and dissipation were not tolerated. There was no jail nor
need for one. A newspaper was published by Orson Hyde called
the Frontier Guardian, and although the buildings were mostly
of logs, good stocks of goods were kept by as honorable merchants
as you will find anywhere. All the trade was with St. Louis,
with this as the head of steamboat navigation, except an occasional
boat with supplies for the forts above. Although polygamy
was permitted and, in fact, encouraged, it is not probable
that ten per cent of the men here had plural wives, and the
strangest feature of it was that the women were the strongest
defenders of the practice.
The wife of one of the elders was visiting with the wife
of the writer a few days previous to their starting for Salt
Lake, and during their conversation my wife said, "I
should think you would be afraid your husband would take another
wife when you get out there." She replied, "Why,
I should expect him to," and her expectation was fully
realized. It is hard to understand why so much prejudice exists
against this people. We know of none of their teaching except
polygamy that is more fanatical than that of other churches,
and that is practically abandoned. That need not be a matter
of anxiety to civilized people. Nature has spoken too plainly
on that subject by creating the sexes in equal numbers, and
the boys are not going to long permit the old roosters to
have a monopoly of the pullets.
As before stated, the Great Salt Lake valley was at that
time in Mexican territory, and on breaking out of the war
with that country, they, while
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
here, raised a battalion and tendered its services to the
government, which was accepted, and as a curious instance
of the irony of fate, after the treaty, those that had already
settled there found themselves back within the jurisdiction
of the United States.
After, by industry and economy, they had become a prosperous
community, it is doubtful if a happier one could be found
anywhere than here. Work was the order of the day until the
crops were raised, harvested and gathered, tithing paid and
the poor provided for, after which the winter evenings were
devoted to amusement, of which dancing was the favorite, and
was encouraged by the clergy and conducted with the utmost
decorum, balls being usually opened with prayer and closed
with the benediction.
Up to this time and later the country had not been surveyed
and consequently the occupants had only a squatter's title,
but this was good as long as they occupied it, and a quit
claim was a valuable asset to a purchaser provided he continued
to occupy it in good faith.
This applied to the farming community as well as that of
the city, and "jumping" one's claim was a dangerous
At this time the whole of Pottawattamie county, which was
much larger than at present, as well as considerable adjoining
territory, was under exclusive control of the Mormons. They
made public sentiment, controlled election of all public officers,
and representatives of their faith sat in two sessions of
the state legislature. In 1849 the great wave of California
immigration set in, and hundreds of trains and thousands of
men assembled here and camped while laying in supplies, and
Kanesville became a great outfitting point, and the merchants
reaped a rich harvest. The farms furnished abundance of grain,
while steamboats arrived almost daily with large stocks of
goods for the merchants, and the rush was so great that at
times emigrants had to wait for days for their turn to be
ferried across the river. Not only that, but the Mormons saw
money in it and proceeded to establish ranches along the trail,
and ferries across the rivers. Among these were two old timers,
Uncle Bill Martin and Old Bill Powers, that had a ferry across,
the Elk Horn. Every week or two they would bring their money
down in a sack and put it in Stutsman & Donnel's safe.
At the end of the season they would take out the sacks, empty
them down on the floor and sit down, one on each side of the
pile; then one would take off a gold piece, then the other
would take one of the same denomination, and so on down to
the smallest coin until the pile was exhausted. This method
of settling partnership business they had learned from the
Indians and claimed it as the only fair way.
This great movement of the California immigration in connection
with the gradual exodus of the Mormons soon wrought a great
change in affairs. Some of the emigrants, on seeing the wonderful
fertility of the soil, with its fine groves of timber along
the streams, changed their minds, traded part of their outfits
to the Mormons for their claims and settled here permanently.
Also there were many that considered Brigham Young an usurper,
and young Joseph the true prophet. These rejected the doctrine
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
and those that remained organized churches, which they still
maintain, and are as good an element as we have in the present
This, with the natural influx of Gentiles, so changed matters
that its character as a Mormon community was lost forever.
In fact, their whole doctrine, religiously and politically,
being contrary to all our traditions and teaching, could only
Whether this change was morally beneficial is debatable.
Under the old dispensation -the saloon, gambling and "bawdy
house were not tolerated, but now blossomed out in full vigor,
and as there were no state laws or city ordinances in force
(at least not more than at present), in fact, the city was
what would now be called a wide-open town.
With the end of Mormon supremacy the people began to look
about to see where they were. The county, which was much larger
than now, was reduced to its present size, an election held,
and A. H. Perkins, David D. Yearsly and George Coulson were
elected the first commissioners. The first clerk was James
Sloan, and its first county judge was T. Burdick, elected
in 1851. The first term of the district court was held May
5, 1851, James Sloan presiding as district judge, with Evan
M. Green as clerk and Alex McRae, sheriff. Orson Hyde was
one of the practicing attorneys in this court.
After presiding one year Judge Sloan resigned and the governor
appointed Judge Bradford, who presided until the people elected
S. H. Riddle.
In 1848 Evan M. Green was appointed postmaster, but it was
some time before a regular mail route was established connecting
this with the nearest postoffice in Missouri, and several
years before regular mails from the east came across Iowa.
In 1848 Orson Hyde started the Frontier Guardian, with Mr.
Hyde and A. C. Ford as editors. This paper was politically
Whig, religiously Mormon, and lasted four years.
Among the early prominent merchants of this early day was
J. B. Stutsman, of the firm of Stutsman & Donnel, the
latter being at St. Joseph. In addition to merchandising he
built a flouring mill where the town of Macedonia now is,
laid out Stutsman's addition to the city, built a good comfortable
dwelling, which at that time was the most palatial residence
in the city, and which is still in good repair, while he himself
at ninety is still rustling at the city of Harlan, Shelby
Another of the prominent merchants of that time was James
A. Jackson, of the firm of Tootle & Jackson. Milt Tootle,
as everybody called him, lived at St. Joseph, Missouri, and
as the county settled up he established stores all along the
river as fast as a town was started and placed his most trusted
clerks in charge, making them partners. It was Tootle &
Jackson here, and later, in Omaha and Sioux City. Mr. Jackson
was what you might call an up and up man. As an index to his
style, a little incident that occurred when new cities were
being started all along the Nebraska side of the river will
illustrate it. He sent a clerk on a collecting tour. He was
all right with one exception. He had a weakness for liquor.
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
After making same collections he fell in with three most
agreeable young men who soon discovered that weak point and
proceeded to profit by it. After getting him in proper condition,
the inevitable game was proposed wherein three proposed to
relieve one of his money, which was son accomplished.
On coming to himself he returned, made a full confession,
expecting no mercy. Did Jim Jackson kick him out doors or
send him to jail? Not much! He gave him fifty dollars more,
and said: "Now, go back and insist on another show for
your money and I will be around." The scheme worked;
they had just got started in a quiet room by themselves when
Jackson dropped in and, presenting a six-shooter, said: "Give
that man his money you robbed him of or I will kill every
son . . . of you in a minute." They complied.
After conducting the business here far several years, he
went to St. Louis and engaged in the wholesale grocery business.
On finding his health failing, he went to the mountains and
engaged in mining and later in stock-raising on the plains,
but failed to regain it, and finally died December 24, 1893,
and now rests under a beautiful granite shaft in Fairview
cemetery, while his venerable widow is at this writing living
at Sioux City with her son.
Among those that were bound far California but were attracted
and stopped off here was S. S. Bayliss. He was a Virginian
of the old school, courteous and dignified, but not accustomed
to roughing it. He traded his outfit for claims that included
much of the most desirable property of the city. Of this he
caused to be platted and recorded as Bayliss' addition, and
square of which he gave to the public far a park, and for
many years he was considered very wealthy. But in later years
money in divers ways slipped from him, his family became scattered
and he died in 1874 in comparative poverty. For years there
was a band stand in the center of the park where during summer
evenings free concerts were given, but later this was supplanted
by a beautiful fountain, and as we enjoy the shade of this
beautiful spot, it seems sad that there is not even a statue
placed to perpetuate the memory of the giver. There are numerous
similar cases, but not all are so pathetic as this.
Addison Cochran was another fine old southern gentleman,
who had been a colonel in the Mexican war. He bought more
property than he could handle or pay for and when crowded,
begged his creditors to take all and release him. This they
refused to do and he fled to the mountains, went into mining,
made a raise, as well as had his land, during his absence.
He sold some, redeemed the balance and became rich at last.
He was elected mayor of the city. He also donated a square
for a park which has been nicely improved. He died May 20,
1896, and has a beautiful monument in Fairview.
But we are going too fast. We must go back to the early times.
The California emigration, added to the Mormon occupation,
had brought us to the place where we must assume the duties
and responsibilities of established communities.
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
The county having been organized, it became necessary to
have the other accessories. A huge log house was bought of
the Mormons for a court house arid a small building for a
jail. These were built on South First street (then called
Hyde) opposite the foot of Platner street. The jail was about
eighteen feet square, constructed of three-inch plank, doubled
so as to break joints, and filled so full of spikes that it
would be impossible for a prisoner to saw out, and although
occasionally one would escape, it is altogether probable they
were let out by some friend having access to the key.
This was called the Cottonwood, and Judge Frank Street had
the credit of being the architect. After doing duty for the
county a number of years the city moved it down on the northwest
corner of Second and Vine streets where Quinn's lumber office
now is, and used it for a calaboose. It came to a sad ending
in '67 by an unfortunate man being burned to death in it.
At that time there were no police, only the marshal. A laboring
man was put in for drunkenness. The furniture consisted of
a bunk, wood stove, table and two chairs. It is supposed that
he had added wood to the fire and left the stove door open
and the fire rolled out and caught. His cries were heard by
a near neighbor, but they thought nothing of it, as drunken
men frequently kept up a noise, but when the light attracted
attention and help arrived it was too late. He was a harmless
man with a family and his only fault was this weakness. It
was a shock to the entire community.
As soon as a good room could be rented the old court house
was abandoned and for years the district court was held in
rooms rented for the occasion.
Another man that was attracted here by the California emigration
was C. O. Mynster. He was a native of Denmark, had been living
for some time in Washington City, stopped in St. Louis, bought
a stock of goods, and came here in 1850, but too late for
the spring rush, and opened a store in the building that later
became notorious as the Ocean Wave saloon, where he traded
off his stock to the Mormons, who were pulling out for Salt
Lake. Among 1ihese claims was one that included the famous
Mynter spring before alluded to. He thus acquired a large
amount of valuable land, some being in the bluffs, heavily
timbered, as well as bottom land. He died in 1852 of cholera.
His widow, Mrs. Maria Mynster managed the estate for many
years, living at the corner of First street and what is now
Pierce, later built a fine residence on Scott street and Washington
avenue, but finally moved to a home with her son, by the big
spring, where she died in May, 1892.
For these facts we are indebted to W. A. Mynster, the son
above referred to, who at this writing is president of the
bar association of the county. He fully believes that spot
by the spring to be the original Council Bluffs, as he occasionally
finds evidence of former presence of white men and Indians,
of pottery and stone implements that must have belonged to
inhabitants of prehistoric times.
Dustin Amy was another refugee from Nauvoo. He placed his
family and outfit with David DeVol and family for the pilgrimage
across the state while he came around by St. Louis, where
he laid in a stock of stoves and tinware and opened up and
carried on the business for a while, but finally
HISTORY OF POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY
went on to Utah. His wife declined going farther and the
family remained here, she opening a boarding house, and their
son Royal succeeded him in the business which, though only
eighteen years old, he conducted successfully for more than
a half century, while his mother, by industry and good investment,
became quite wealthy, and later, when her husband became feeble,
she went and brought him back and cared for him until his
death in 1868.
David De Vol, before mentioned, who came at the same time,
clerked in stores, held several public offices' and reared
a fine family. His son, Paul Colman, built up a large business
in the hardware, stove and tin business, which he conducted
until his death, when it became incorporated as the P. C.
De Vol Company, with his son as manager, thus perpetuating
the name. The pioneer, Mrs. DeVol, died October 28, 1894.
Mr. De Vol died July 6, 1901, aged ninety-six years. Two daughters
at this time survive them, Miss Mary, who has lived at the
homestead on First street for sixty years, and Mrs. W. R.
Vaughan, of St. Louis.
These great movements of men wore a groove that was soon
to be followed by the pony express, the stage coach, the telegraph,
and finally the Union Pacific Railroad. The same cause that
has always impelled mankind to follow the sun was more active
than ever before, and no such body of men-men consisting of
those of all occupations, trades and professions ever moved
with such irresistible force to capture such a prize as the
host that launched itself upon the frontier for the conquest
All young or middle aged men, very few women and no children.
In their rough clothing you could not distinguish a senator
from the backwoodsman, but all had a keen sense of honor,
and thieving and petty crimes were almost unknown, and a woman
was safer in that rough crowd than in New York city to-day
with its thousands of police.
Following these grand movements, however, came the jackalls
to prey upon the mass until it becomes necessary to crush
them without due process of law.