Other Early Settlers

Shortly after Dubuque built his cabin, a friend by the name of Basil Gaillard, whom he had met at Prairie du Chien, came to be his neighbor. He obtained a tract* of 5,760 acres in what is now Clayton County, in and around the prosperous city of McGregor, and here he lived for many years among the wild scenes of this practically unknown country. He traded with the Indians and made frequent trips to St. Louis, much the same as
did his friend Dubuque. No doubt the two men often exchanged visits, and had many interesting adventures together. But no record of this is left to history.

Far to the southward of Dubuque, on the present site of the town of Montrose in Lee County, another Frenchman settled in 1799. His name was Louis Honori. The title to his land, which lie secured some years later from the governor of the Louisiana territory, is the oldest title to Iowa soil. Strangely enough, too, it is said to include the spot where Marquette and Joliet, the first white men to see Iowa soil, landed. Honori improved his land more than either of his “neighbors,” but he failed as a trader and was forced to sell out and leave.

Another settler and trader who had much to do with the early history of the country was George Davenport. He was an Englishman, famous for his many adventures on sea and land. He made himself a home on Rock Island, not far from the city which now bears his name. Here he opened friendly relations with the Sacs, the Foxes, and the Winnebagoes, journeying by boat along many inland streams to trade with them. He had posts at Burlington, and along the Iowa, Maquoketa, and Wapsipinicon rivers. The Indians loved him, and after his death they used to visit his grave every year to hold a service in his memory.

Other French traders traveled here and there over the state. They made no attempt to till the soil, and generally left their claims in a few months’ time. Chief among these was the half-breed Le Claire. He was a famous scout, trapper, and trader. He spoke fourteen different Indian tongues, besides French and English, and was often employed as an interpreter. He had a hand in almost every important treaty made between the Indians and the whites within the borders of Iowa. He was one of the founders of Davenport and a good business man. Chief Black Hawk and lie were warm friends.
Many large eastern fur companies, who had bead quarters at St. Louis, built cabins for trading posts here and there, along most of the principal streams, and stationed agents there to barter for furs and to supply the Indians with goods. Sometimes cabins grew up around the trading post and a town was begun. Then the trading post became the principal store where the settler could satisfy his wants. Here was to be found “molasses, hams, corn, Rio coffee, codfish, tobacco, soap, candles, whisky, brandy, gin, beer, wine, powder, shot, caps, gun wadding, indigo, glass, nails, etc. “a regular wonderland department store! From such posts rose the present cities of Ottumwa, Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Raccoon Forks (Des Moines), and others.


White, Judy Wallis. The Story of Iowa.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Access Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top