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Soon after the close of the war and the discharge of the volunteer army, the writer, with some twenty others who had served through the war, formed a company for the purpose of laying out the town of Dubuque. One of their number, Capt. James Craig, being a surveyor, he was selected to survey the lines and lay out the town. About the middle of September, 1832, he started out from Galena with his chain-carriers, stake-drivers, etc., (stakes having been previously sawed and split on an island opposite, all ready for use), and in due time completed the survey. Blocks fronting the river on three or four streets back were completed, each lot receiving its stakes, whilst those farther back were staked as blocks, and not subdivided. A few of the original proprietors built and took possession at once. Among them were the Messrs. Langworthy, enterprising and energetic young gentlemen, who commenced business as grocers in a small way, with supplies for miners. Their faith was strong that adventurers would come in, and that the time was not far distant when the town would take a start, and in a few years become a populous city. Miners and prospectors soon took possession of claims in the immediate vicinity, and in one instance a claim was made and ore struck within the limits of our survey.
It was well known that the Indians had been in the habit, for many years, of visiting this portion of their country, for the purpose of getting their supplies of lead; hence the supposition of miners, who had long been engaged in prospecting for lead-mining, that lead would be found on this side of the river and in the vicinity of Dubuque. This caused a great rush to the new fields, of hundreds, who expected to strike it rich with less labor and expense. All were aware, however, that under the treaty just made with the Sacs and Foxes by Gen. Scott and Gov. Reynolds, they had no right to enter upon these lands, and stood in daily fear of being ordered off by United States troops. But their numbers steadily increased. At length the long expected order came. Major Davenport, Indian Agent at Rock Island, was ordered to go forward, and, with one company of infantry in two Mackinaw boats, commanded by Lieut. Beach, they landed near the mouth of Fever river (Galena) about the first of October. The Major came up to Galena with a letter from Col. George Davenport to the writer, to assist him in the discharge of his delicate duty. Word was sent to Lieut. Beach not to proceed up the river until the afternoon of the next day, as the sight of troops by the miners might make them hard to manage; otherwise, I assured the Major, he would have no trouble. We proceeded at once to a point opposite Dubuque, where we found a comfortable stopping place with the ferryman, and he being a man of considerable influence, I suggested to him the propriety of going over to Dubuque to send men to all the mining camps, requesting a meeting the next morning, at nine o’clock, of all the miners, with the agent, to hear what he had to say, and to assure them at the same time that his mission was a peaceable one, and that there should be no objection manifested to disobey the orders of the Government.
After the departure of our messenger we took a private room to talk over the program for the meeting, when we suggested that, on assembling, the Major should make a little speech explanatory of his visit, in which he should express sorrow for the hardships it would be to leave their claims, with the hope that the time was not distant when all might lawfully return, etc. The Major said he was not a speech-maker, or a very good talker, but would read the orders sent to him to dispossess them, and see that they crossed the river.
After some discussion, the writer, at his request, wrote out a short address for the Major, and on going over the next morning, we met some four or five hundred miners at the grocery store, who had assembled to listen to the orders sent for their removal. There being no boards or boxes into which to improvise a stand for the speaker, a whisky-barrel was introduced, from the head of which, after apologizing to the miners for the disagreeable duty that had been placed upon the Major, and in consequence of his suffering from a bad cold, we had taken the stand to read to them his short address, and as most of them had spent the summer in the service of the Government as soldiers in the field, and had been honorably discharged, the Major felt satisfied that there would be no objection manifested by any one in the large crowd before us to disobey an order from the Government. After the close of the Major’s address, the question was put to vote by raising of hands. There was a general upraising of hands, which was declared to be unanimous for immediate removal. Owing to the good treatment received by the Major, he proposed to treat the entire party, and, to facilitate the matter, buckets of whisky with tin cups were passed around, and after all had partaken they shook hands with the Major and commenced Crossing over in flatboats.
At three o’clock in the afternoon we crossed over on the last boat, and took our departure for Galena. During the evening the Major’s report of how his peaceable removal of a large body of intruders from the west to the east bank of the Mississippi had been accomplished, was made out and mailed. But the further fact that all those miners had recrossed the river, and were then in their mining camps, was not recorded, for the reason that the Major had not been posted as to their intentions.
Owing to the provisions of the treaty, it was a long time before Congress passed an act for the sale of these lands, and confirmation to the titles of town sites, hence, many of those who had laid out the town of Dubuque had left the county, and at the time of proving up their claims failed to put in an appearance–the writer being one of them–whilst those who remained, with the Messrs. Langworthy, became sole proprietors–the latter having lived to see the town rise in importance, and at this time become one of the most populous cities on the west side of the Mississippi.
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