In part one, which is posted on the Western Fictioneers blog, I discussed Nauvoo, Illinois and Hannibal, Missouri. These towns, which are near the area I grew up, have wonderful history, that were part and parcel of my early childhood. For part two I would to share some of the history of Quincy, Illinois and Keokuk, Iowa.
In his book "Reminiscence of Quincy Illinois: Containing Historical Events and Antidotes, Matters Concerning Old Settlers and Old Times etc", 1881, Henry Asbury mentions burial mounds where the town was built. "The question of who were the mound builders, what people buried their dead upon our Mount Pisgah — the high mount through which Maine Street was opened to the river — and other high points along the River Bluffs, I leave to others to explain". Whether these were part of the Cahokia settlements is probably lost to history. Cahokia Mounds
It appears one of the first settlers, Willard keys, past the site in May 1819. An act of Congress approved May 6, 1812, and other acts concerning the military bounty lands, indicated all the country lying between the Mississippi and Illinois River were set apart for satisfying the bounties for hundred and 60 acres promised to the non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the United States. That land included Quincy in Adams County and was surveyed between the years 1815 and 1816.Not all of this land was patented to the soldiers, some was afterwards sold by the government to purchasers.
|19th Century View of Quincy Courthouse By John Sanftleben|
When the Mormons were expelled from Missouri in 1838, a number of them sheltered in Quincy prior to moving upstream to Nauvoo Illinois. In that same year Quincy also sheltered the Pottawatomie tribe when they were being relocated from Indiana to Kansas.
In the 1850s and 60s, Quincy grew as a result of steamboat traffic and railroads that ran through the town, linking it to places both East and West. With the founding of the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad in 1855 in the construction of the Quincy rail bridge, the population grew to 24,000 by 1870 and at that time was the second-largest city in the state of Illinois. Because of its proximity to Missouri, a slave state, Quincy had its fair share of controversy on the subject of slavery. For more on the history Quincy Illinois
Keokuk, Iowa is about 36 miles north of Quincy on the West side of the Mississippi River, 15 miles south of Nauvoo, Illinois and 60 miles north of Hannibal, Missouri.
|Keokuk in 1865|
Prior to the building of the dam, on the Mississippi, which began in 1910 and was completed in 1913, the area around Keokuk had some pretty hazardous rapids that effectively cut off steamboat traffic to the northern portion of the river. Known as the Des Moines Rapids, they stretched between Keokuk and Nauvoo. For more on the story of the rapids, and short read can be found here .
Keokuk, located in Lee County Iowa, was the home of one of the early co-ed medical schools. The Keokuk College of Physicians and Surgeons, which opened its doors for classes in November of 1850. The town was also the home of Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) older brother Orion. It was here young Samuel helped his brother in Orion's print shop.
Two places for additional information about Keokuk can be found here: History 1 and History 2 from 1820 to present.
My writing is informed by these towns and others in the tri-state area of my childhood. Many a story has its genesis in what I heard and learned growing up here. My first novel, "Josie's Dream" had Josephine 'Josie' as a graduate of the medical school in Keokuk, Iowa.
Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Colorado and Women's History
Member of National League of American Pen Women,
Women Writing the West,
Pikes Peak Posse of the Westerners
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet