Palo Alto County Early Settlers

The first settlement in Palo Alto occurred in May of 1855. William Carter, his wife and son, Fayette and the Jeremiah Evans family settled on a permanent claim near what is now West Bend. That harsh winter the Carters, Evans and a band of Indians led by Sleepy-Eye were the only residents of the area. In the Spring of 1856 Samuel McClelland and William D Powers joined the small colony. Powers eventually married Ann Carter. In July of 1856, a group of Irish settlers from Kane County, Illinois ended up in what is now Emmetsburg. These families included:

1. Nolan-James, his wife, Anastasia and children Maria, James and John F

2. Nolan-John, his wife, Bridget and son Charlie. In 1858 Jack Nolan housed a post office with himself as postmaster. It was called Emmetsburg

3. Neary-John, his wife, and children John F and Mary

4. Mahan-Edward and his wife Margaret and children Ann, Ellen, John and Myles

5. Laughlin-Martin, wife Mary, and children Lott, J.T., Patrick, and Ellen

6. Downey-Thomas, wife Ellen and daughter Ellen

7. Sylvester-Orrin and wife Ellen

8. Jackman-Patrick


In the Fall of 1856 James Hickey and his wife joined the Irish colony. Their daughter Maggie (later Mrs. Patrick McNally) was the first white child born in the County. Also that fall Jerry Crowley Sr. and his children J.P., Michael H, Katie, Ellen, and John joined the group.

The West Bend area also continued to attract more settlers. In 1856 some of these families were:

1. McCormick-John Sr and his son Robert. Mrs. McCormick, son James and daughter Isabel joined later in the year. The other son, John McCormick Jr. joined the rest of the family in the Spring of 1858.

2. Simmons-Jason

3. McFarland-R.M.J. Sr. He stayed only until 1858 when he sold his claim to Charles Coyle and returned to Wisconsin. In 1864 he returned to the West Bend area and bought his claim back from Coyle.

4. Linn-James. He eventually married Elizabeth Carter in one of the first marriages to take place in the county.

5. Howe-Dan

6. Campbell-Thomas

7. Shippey-William

Both colonies continued to see growth after after 1856. Some of these families included:

1. Mahan-Myles, wife Mary Ann and children Miles E, James, John, Patrick, William, Mary, Anna, Maggie, and Esther- Spring of 1857

2. Murphy-William-Oct 1857 but not permanently until 1871

3. Reed-William and family-1857

4. Coonan-Martin, wife Catherine and 5 boys-1858

5. McCasker, James who ended up being the first county surveyor-1858

6. Tobin-Tom, his father, mother, sister Alice-1857

7. Mulroney-Joe and Ken-1857. In 1858 Mrs Mulroney and daughter Maggie joined

8. Shea family-1858

9. Coonan family-1858

10. Pendergast family-1858

11. Maher-Thomas and William -by 1860

12.Kane-Daniel-by 1860

13. Downey-Thomas-by 1860

14. Lynch-Patrick-by 1860

In 1861 J.P. White taught the first school in Walnut Township.The first religious service was Catholic by Father Marsh sometime between 1859 or 1860. Father McComb held the first presbyterian service. The county government was organized in 1858 when 3 speculators from Fort Dodge, Hoolihan, Cahill, and Cavanaugh employed William Murphy to lay out a town. Hoolihan was a champion of the opressed Irish and suggested they name the town after his favorite Irish patriot Robert Emmet. To distinguish themselves from Emmet township they called the town Emmetsburg.