History of Palo Alto County, Iowa
By J.L. Martin as prepared for the Celebration at Emmetsburg
July 4, 1876


Prefatory Platitudes

In the following Brief History we have endeavored to condense into a paper not too voluminous for a single reading before a public audience the leading facts and statistics of the Early Settlement, Progress and Present Status of Palo Alto County, aiming at utility rather than embellishment. Since undertaking this labor we have been convinced of the wisdom of writing these things at this time; for many useful and interesting facts of which no record has, or con'd be obtained, have been carefully gathered and compiled from living witnesses, who were themselves fully conversant with the events here recorded. By this means much has been obtained of our early history that would soon have passed into oblivion. We would also assure our readers, that where any difference of opinion exists regarding events occurring twenty or more years ago, concerning which the memory of individuals, might be cloudy, erroneous or defective we have carefully analyzed and compared, only accepting such facts as were corroborated by several witnesses.
In our investigations we have been kindly assisted by many of the early pioneers who are still living in the county, among whom are Wm. D. Powers, James Hickey, John McCormick, Jr., Thomas H. Tobin, John Nolan, Miles Mahan, Mrs. J.P. White, Jeremiah Crowley, John T. Laughlin, M.D. Crowley and others. Our thanks are also due to that accommodating Clerk of the Courts, M.H. Bliss, who ransacked the records of Webster County, for facts we would not have otherwise obtained.

History of Palo Alto County


     During a period of about thirty-two years, from 1788 to 1820, while the vagrant footsteps of the half civilized hunter, and the adventurous house-hold of the hardy pioneer, were gaining a foothold on the west bank of the "father of waters" near the mouth of the Des Moines river, in what had passed under various names but was now know as Wisconsin Territory, and which has since become more widely known as the Commonwealth of Iowa, respectable tradition has, it, that the region now constituting Northwestern Iowa, was thought to be a barren waste, in fact a desert, part of the great sandy plains known to exist toward the base of the Rocky Mountains.
     During the succeeding forty years, the coming civilization spread away to the north and west and up the tempting valley of the Des Moines, steadily approaching the unknown land, till it swept the borders of what is now


     This county lies on either side of the 43d parallel of north latitude, and has 17 1/2 degrees of west longitude from Washington, or about 94 1/2 degrees from Greenwich. It is bounded on the north by Emmet county, on the east by Kossuth, on the south by Pocahontas and on the west by Clay, and in common with these and many other counties, was, about a quarter of a century ago, attached to Webster county as dependant territory.
     From 1850 to 1855 the military line of march between Fort Dodge, in Iowa, and Fort Ridgley, in Minnesota, lay through

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