CEDAR RAPIDS, Io., Linn co. On Cedar River, the northern fork of the Iowa. (Gazetteer of the United States of America, 1854)
CEDAR RAPIDS is located on the northeast side of Cedar River, in Rapids township, being embraced mainly by sections 21, 22, 27 and 28, in township 83 north, range 7 west. The location is one of the most delightful to be found in any of the rich valleys of the west, being situated on a plain rising above the river's bed, and reaching back nearly half a mile, with but slight variations of surface, serving to render the plat one of great convenience for building, and giving a peculiar grace to its appearance.
In the rear of this table land a somewhat abrupt elevation, varying from twenty to forty feet, occurs, which is covered with a luxuriant growth of native oak. Here are beautiful sites for residences, being sufficiently elevated to overlook the valley for miles in either direction. Back of this the depressions and elevations alternate, making this portion of the city a series of circular, undulating swells.
The city proper also extends on the west side of the river, and embraces numerous other positions, which are being occupied and improved, and though not embraced within the present city limits, forms a part of the VALLEY CITY.
Cedar Rapids is situated 220 miles due west from Chicago, with which city it is connected by railroad. It is 75 miles southwest from DuBuque, and is connected with that city by the DuBuque Southwestern Railroad. Centrally located in the rich valley of the Cedar, with no rival town nearer than 25 miles, the position is such as must secure a rapid and permanent growth...
D. W. King and T. Gaines were the first settlers of any advantage to the country. They reached here in 1839, and soon after made a permanent settlement on the west side of the river.
The first man, however, who pitched his tent on the ground, now occupied by the Valley City, was a notorious counterfeiter and horse thief by the name of Shepard, who took up his abode and erected a log house on what is now Commercial street, near the mills, in the year 1838.
Thus early was this location selected as a central point for commercial operations with the surrounding country, and although the character of the operators was worse than some who have followed them in business, it nevertheless indicates their wisdom in making a good location for their enterprises.
In 1849, D. W. King established ferries for crossing the river, and continued to run them up to the time of his death in 1854. They were located at Iowa avenue and Linn street crossings. They were self-propellers, being forced across the river by the power of the current. A wire rope or cable extended across the stream, upon which a pulley was placed, and connected by ropes to the boat. The first dam across the Cedar was commenced in 1842, and the first saw mill erected in 1843.
In March, 1843, the lands came into market. The first flouring mill was erected by N. B. Brown, in 1844–5, at a cost of $3,000. Extensive additions have been made to this mill since. It is still owned and run by Mr. Brown. In 1845, A. Ely erected the second saw mill, and the following year the second flouring mill, at a cost of $9,000. In 1848–9, the first woolen factory was erected. Cost, $10,000. The first steam engine was set in operation in 1855, in the machine shop of A. Hager.
The first store was opened by J. Green, in the building now standing on the northeast corner of Iowa avenue and Washington street. The second store was opened by Mr. Cleveland, and the third by Mr. Mulford. The proprietor of these stores have all left the city. Mulford's store was destroyed by fire in 1850, being the first building thus destroyed in Cedar Rapids. The second fire occurred in 1855, when the buildings on the west side of Commercial street, between Iowa avenue and Linn street, were mostly consumed. The post office was established in 1847, and J. Green appointed postmaster.
The first brick building was erected in 1844, on the northwest corner of Iowa avenue and Washington street, by P. W. Earle, and is now occupied by him. The Union House, on the northwest corner of Adams and Market streets, was the first hotel. It was destroyed by fire early in 1865. The first school house was erected in 1847, and the first school taught by Nelson Felch. This structure is now occupied as a dwelling on the north side of Eagle street, between Jefferson and Madison. The first white child born was a daughter of John Vardy, now removed to Texas. The first church erected is that commonly known as the “Muddy,” and is still used as a house of worship. It is a small “grout” building at the southeast corner of Eagle and Adams streets. The first death was that of a young man by the name of Wm. Brookey, some time in 1843. The first frame building was built by John Vardey.
The Lodge of Free Masons was established in 1850, and James Keeler, an Episcopal minister, was the first W. M. The Lodge took the name of Cedar Rapids Lodge, No. 25. Its name was changed in 1864 to the more euphonious and Masonic name of Crescent.
The first newspaper was established by D. O. Finch, in 1854. Three volumes only were issued. D. O. Finch, James J. Child and James L. Enos, were successively its editors. The Era was purchased in 1854 by James L. Enos, and the name changed to the Cedar Valley Times, by which name it still flourishes. C. M. Hollis, Esq., is the present editor. The second paper was the Cedar Valley Farmer, J. L. Enos, editor. The Cedar Rapids Democrat was the third paper established, by W. W. Perkins & Co., in 1856. The Voice of Iowa was commenced in January, 1857, by the Iowa State Teachers' Association, and J. L. Enos elected editor. This journal reached a large circulation, and did much to give form to the school system of the State. The present public school edifice was erected in 1856–7–8, at a cost of some $15,000. It has six departments, and employs seven or eight teachers.
A paper mill was erected by Messrs. Couch, Reed & Fish, in 1864, and is now in successful operation. The first printing paper was manufactured in 1865. A pork packing establishment was erected in 1864, by Mr. Chase and others. A second woolen factory was established here in 1865, by the Cedar Rapids Manufacturing Company. The growth of Cedar Rapids has never been rapid, but has always been behind the country, hence its growth has been steady and permanent.
Cedar Rapids was incorporated as a city in 1856, and Isaac Newton Whittam, Esq., was chosen the first mayor. A free bridge was constructed across the Cedar in 1855–6, but was soon carried away by the ice. As it fell, a large number were standing on the banks watching the ice as it rapidly tore the stone piers from their positions. Two sisters, daughters of Mr. Black, passed by the guard, which was stationed at the end of the bridge to keep people from passing on, and had reached about the middle, when the frail fabric went down. Both young ladies were drowned, and the body of one was never recovered. A toll bridge was erected the following year, and though a slender structure, has thus far withstood the action of ice, though occasionally broken down by cattle passing over it.
The American Express Office was opened at this place in 1859, and W. B. Mack appointed agent. Few persons have any idea of the amount of freight shipped by this Company. The shipping season for wild game commences about the first of October, and ends the middle of February or first of March. During the winter of 1863–4, 330,617 pounds were sent by express alone from this office. The largest shipment made in any one day, was on the 22d of December, 1863, when 27,759 pounds were shipped. The most of this was prairie chickens. The Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska Railroad was completed to this place in June, 1859.
The city contains seven churches, viz: Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal, N. S. and O. S. Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran and Roman Catholic. Two national banks are located at Cedar Rapids, besides an exchange and deposit bank, which does an extensive business.
The Flouring Mills, of which there are four, do an extensive business. The mill of H. G. Angle and Co., during the year ending July 15th, floured 150,000 bushels of wheat, and upwards of 50,000 bushels of other grains. This mill has a capacity of 300 barrels a day, and if pushed to its utmost, could flour 450,000 bushels of wheat per annum, and 100,000 bushels of other grains. Much of this flour is shipped to Des Moines and other points west, though more than nine-tenths has been sent east. N. B. Brown's mill also does an extensive business, though not as extensively engaged in shipping.
Over $75,000 worth of agricultural implements have been furnished from this point, one firm selling over $40,000 worth....
Table of Business Houses.—Four flouring mills, one cooper shop, five wagon and carriage factories, three cabinet and chair factories, one plow manufactory, four boot and shoe manufactories, two saddle and harness manufactories, four tin, copper and sheet iron establishments, two woolen factories, two agricultural implement dealers, four merchant tailors, two chair and bedstead manufactories, one newspaper, one paper mill, four saw mills, one pork packing house, two livery stables, four blacksmith shops, one pottery, sixteen grocery stores, five clothing stores, eight dry goods stores, two millinery and fancy dry goods stores, three drug stores, three jewelry stores, four hardware stores, two book and periodical stores, three meat markets, one book bindery, five hotels, two lumber yards, two bakery and confectionery establishments, three banking houses, one insurance company, one tobacconist and two brick yards.
A good iron foundry would do a good business here if properly managed, and also any kind of business that would flourish in any part of the country. Manufacturing ought to be carried on extensively. With a water power unequalled in the west, and surrounded by one of the richest farming districts in the world, Cedar Rapids may become one of the first commercial points in the Northwest. Heavy bodies of timber are in the vicinity, and immense coal fields lie just west, which are now being penetrated by railroad. Excellent building stone is also abundant.
Railroads.—The Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska Railroad, connecting Chicago (via Clinton) and Cedar Rapids. This road passes through a very rich farming country, and is 82 miles in length. The Cedar Rapids & Missouri River Road, connecting Cedar Rapids with some point on the Missouri River. This road is now completed to Boonsboro, 124 miles west of Cedar Rapids, making a connected line of road for 344 miles, extending in a due west course from Chicago.
The DuBuque Southwestern Railroad. This road commences at Farley, twenty-two miles west of DuBuque, on the DuBuque & Sioux City Railroad, and runs to Cedar Rapids.
The Cedar Rapids & St. Paul Railroad, extending from Cedar Rapids via Vinton, Waterloo, Waverly, &c., to the State line, where it will connect with the St. Paul Road. The organization of this company was completed at Cedar Rapids on the 29th of June, and arrangements made for the completion of the first twenty-five miles of the road to Winton, in Benton county, by the 1st of September, 1866.
The Iowa Union Railroad, connecting Cedar Rapids and Columbus City, and there with a road running to Keokuk.
The Cedar Rapids & St. Paul and the Iowa Union Railroads virtually form one line of road, extending from St. Paul to St. Louis. This entire road will doubtless be completed within four years.
It will be seen by this exposition of railroad connections, that Cedar Rapids enjoys a position possessed by few cities in the West; and in view of her immense water-power, and the unsurpassed richness of the surrounding country her future is bright. A commercial centre by nature, the energy of her citizens have added one link after another, until she occupies a position of which she may well be proud. Population, 2,500. (Hair's Iowa State Gazetteer..., 1865)