Jeremiah M. Suiter
Early Memories of the Settling of the Hinkletown Area
In the spring of 1846, the family of Mordecai
Y. Suiter, a 43 year old miller, left Ohio to move to Iowa. They made part
of their trip by canoe to the Ohio River, and took a series of steamboats to the
Mississippi River, where they landed at Le Claire, Iowa, and spent the
winter. In the spring of 1847, they traveled by covered wagon to their
claim on the Iowa - Keokuk county line.
The first year was marked by a house raising, bad weather and the struggles of preparing
the prairie sod for its first planting.
The father died in the spring of 1852, in an unfortunate accident while trying
to build a dam across the English River. One son, Jeremiah, became the
blacksmith at Hinkletown through the 1880s. Follows
is the first of eight articles about the early times written by the two Suiter
brothers, Jeremiah and Mordecai Y. Suiter, Jr., as published in the Oskaloosa Globe,
1905. Jeremiah is credited for the first two, and Mordecai the remaining
By Jeremiah M. Suiter
- January 28, 1905
- January 28, 1905
I was born in the southeast part of Ohio in 1834, in Lawrence county, Upper township, one mile and a quarter from the Ohio River. My father was a miller, owning a flour and grist mill on Stonner’s (Stoner) Creek. When I was 12 years old, my father having heard people say you could do better in a new country, he determined to come to Iowa. He sold out the mill and farm to a furnace company, who wished to get the iron ore that was in the ground. He then built a canoe out of a big hollow chestnut tree. The tree being hollow, all he had to do was to shape one end to a peak, the bow end, and the other end he sawed off and boarded up. He then corked it and pitched it, and his canoe was ready. In the spring of 1846, my father loaded his household goods in the canoe and we took the canoe down to Stonner’s Creek in the backwater of the spring flood. We lashed two big boat gunnels about ninety feet long made out of poplar, to the canoe to steady it in the swift currents.
The rest of the family, my mother, three girls and one boy, went with a team of oxen to the Ohio River. My father and I went down the creek to its mouth, where it emptied into the Ohio River. We found the rest of the family staying with a Mr. Carpenter, who was a friend of my father. From there we went up the river to a town called Coalgrove (Coalfield), then, but which is now called Arlington. We stayed in Coalfield all the summer of 1846, my father having rented a farm.
In the fall of the same year, we started for Iowa, going down the Ohio River by steamboat. As you could not travel by land, there being no roads, and what there were did not amount to much. The steamboat was called the Little Packet. It was a stern wheeler, about ninety feet long, and was a very fast boat. The scenery along the Ohio River was very beautiful in those early days, when as yet hardy pioneers had not settled. It was mostly hilly along the river. The shores and hills, stretching away from the river were covered with all kinds of timber.
As we went down the river we passed many of the river bottoms and valleys that ran back into the hills. In one of these river bottoms lived a friend of my father, a Mr. Eurick, who lived in a big log cabin, with a big old-fashioned fireplace, and stick and mud chimney. This fireplace would take a log 20 feet long, six feet around. At both ends of the log house, Mr. Eurick had built a big door, hung on hinges that would open and shut, and when he wanted to lay on a log he would open both doors and drive a horse hitched to a big back log and when he got in front of the fireplace he would roll the back log onto the fire, and then he would keep putting other logs on until he would get enough in the fire place to last him a week. This man had an old coon dog named Boss. One night the dog went coon hunting by himself. About a quarter of a mile from Mr. Eurick’s house, there was a big sycamore stump about seven feet through or twenty-one feet around. It was about 10 feet deep from the top of the ground. That fall the water had gone down. The water had been up over the stump. Along through the night, Mr. Eurick and his boys, Tom and Jim, would hear Boss barking down in the bottom. So next morning they went down to see what he had treed, they supposing it was a coon. When they found that Boss was barking around the big old hollow sycamore stump.
“I’ll bet,” said Jim, “he has got a snake in that stump.” When they got down to the stump, Boss came running toward them barking along one side of the stump. Somebody had cut a big hole down to the ground. Coming up to the stump, Mr. Eurick grabbed up a pole that was lying by the stump, as the stump was full of water. Something made a big flop and threw water all over him and the boys. On looking into the stump he saw a big catfish. It had been left there by the high water. When they had gotten him out of the stump and dressed him, the fish weighed just ninety pounds. It was about four and a half feet long.
We continued our way down the river, passing one boat between that and the next town. As we got farther down the river the country got flatter and was not so hilly. The next place we stopped was at Portsmouth, Ohio. A little way above Portsmouth is the famous hanging rock, where the Indians chased a white man, and he jumped over the rock to get away. My father told me the story on night as we were going past the rock. He said there lived a man on the other side of the river, the Virginia side, who used to bring his horses over the river to graze, as the feeding was better on that side of the river. One day as usual, he had brought his horses across the river to feed, he tied a bell around one of the horse’s neck, the other horse would follow the belled horse. The next day he came across the river in his canoe to see after his horses. When following the sound of the bell, he followed it up to the top of the hill, when coming into an opening between the trees he saw that some Indians had caught his horses, and one of them was ringing the bell.
As soon as the Indians saw him, they started after him; he tried to run back the way he had come, but they headed him off, chasing him onto the hanging rock. He saw they would catch him and just then, one of the Indians threw his tomahawk at him, and just missed his head. Rather than be caught, he jumped over the rock, landing on top of a big poplar tree about one hundred feet below that was covered with grape vines. Breaking on through the vines he went down to the ground and was unhurt, except being jarred up from the fall. As soon as the Indians saw he would jump rather than be caught, the one that was in front yelled out: “Whoop, Indian run: white man fly like turkey.” The Indian had to grab a sapling that grew on the edge of the rock. He was going so fast he twisted the bark off the tree as he swung around it. My father said he had seen the sapling the Indian had grabbed to keep from going after the white man. The white man escaped by getting into his canoe and going across the river. When the Indians got there he was across, as they had to go over a mile to get around the rock. The rock was 200 feet high.
We did not stay at Portsmouth only long enough to land and take on wood. We passed two or three steam boats going own the river, all loaded with emigrants for the west. One or two of them raced with us but we always beat them, as the Little Packet was the fastest boat on the Ohio River at that time. The country below Portsmouth was more hilly and not so flat as above.
The next place the boat stopped on the way down the river was Cincinnati, where we took on freight and emigrants going west. Leaving Cincinnati we went on down the river, until we got to Ohio Falls, where we went through the canal. At Ohio Falls there lived the big Kentucky giant, who was seven and a half feet high. His name was Jim Porter. He was a very thin man, having long arms and legs; his fingers were six inches long and his thumbs were three and one-half long. He was married and had two boys, 12 and 14 years old. He kept a grocery store and the post office.
At Ohio Falls we changed steamboats, leaving the Little Packet for the Danube. The Danube was a two-wheeler, having a wheel on each side of the boat, and was one hundred and fifty feet long. We stayed all that day and night at Ohio Falls, having arrived about noon. In the morning we went through the locks. We had to go through four locks to get to the river below the falls. I did not get to see the falls.
The country below the falls was pretty hilly, but in some places the river flowed between prairies and bottom land. In the afternoon of the day we left the falls we steamed out onto the broad Mississippi and steamed up the river. It had taken us a week to come down the Ohio River. The country along the river was pretty hilly and well timbered. The Danube raced with another steamboat, the other boat being a new steamer. In the race the Danube engineer burned up a barrel of rosin and many sides of pork. The race was very exciting, the captains standing on the bridges and swearing at each other. The safety valve on the Danube kept blowing off and every once in a while the engineer would reach up and throw his weight on to the valve and then you could see the Danube shoot ahead of the other boat. Even though the other boat was a new one the Danube had better engines, and so we beat them.
As the steamboat got nearer St. Louis, the river got more shallow. The Danube one dark night ran onto a big rock. She stayed there that night and in the morning we got her off. At one place the boat had to go away in toward the shore, and around out of the main channel, as there were too many rocks in it for safe passage. We arrived at St. Louis the first of October, 1846. St. Louis in those days was not a very large city. In fact it was no larger than Oskaloosa is now. There was no wharf or steamboat landing. When we steamed in near the shore, the boat hands run the gang plank over the rocks near the shore to land. We stayed there a half day to see the town, while the boat wooded up. It was a very busy place. We could hardly get through the crowds near the shore as the arrival of a steam boat was a great event at that time. That evening the boat steamed up the river.
The next place we made was Burlington, Iowa. We did not stay very long there. The next town was Muscatine, and then Le Claire, which was our stopping place. It had taken us just six weeks to come. The total distance we traveled by water was 1,500 miles.
We stayed all the winter of 1846 at Le Claire. It was a very cold winter. My father went a hunting several times and killed a number of deer and plenty of small game. We stayed with a brother of my father’s, Phillip Suiter, he having come to Iowa before the Black Hawk war. My uncle had a friend who had fought in the war, his name being Pearsall. He was very fond of telling the story of how his wife saved his life. When the war broke out he joined a company. Before going away his wife came to him and gave him a ball of yarn and told him to mend his socks with it. He placed it in a breast pocket and forgot all about it. It was not long before his company got into a battle with the Indians, old Chief Black Hawk leading them in person. The battle was very fierce and during the hottest of it Pearsall was shot and knocked down and supposedly he was badly wounded. On examination, it was found that the bullet had hit the pocket the ball of yarn was in. It had gone half way through the ball of yarn, and knocked him down. The ball of yarn saved his life.
The same man told me a story of how he killed his first bear. He was a boy about 15 years old when his father bought him a gun. It was one of the old flint lock rifles. He started out one day and got out into the forest quite a way when he run onto an old she-bear. He went to shoot her and he got so nervous that he only wounded her slightly in the side. She started for him and he started to run. He somehow got his powder horn into the mouth of the rifle and poured nearly all the powder in. He then got a bullet in the gun and pounded it down. After a while he got tired of running and then turned on the bear.
The bear was so close that he jammed the barrel of the gun into her mouth and pulled the trigger. It blew the top of her head off and knocked him down. He had put so much powder in it, that it nearly bursted the gun.
We stayed at my uncle’s all that winter and in the spring my father entered at the government land office for land and got 400 acres near the English River in Iowa and Keokuk counties, just on the line. The next fall, in the fall of ’47, we moved out on the land. In moving out my father used two teams, each hitched to a big covered wagon. When we got to the Cedar River we had to ford it, as there was no bridge. That night we stopped at an old settler’s house, who had been there about five years, he having come from Ohio also. This man kept two big bull dogs to fight wild cats, as they were so thick. The wild cats carried away nearly all his pigs, until he got the bull dogs. We continued on our way the next morning and in about three days we came to the Iowa River, crossing in a ferry boat. They had a cable stretched across the river and had a pulley on the cable, and then fast to the ferry boat. The cable held the boat straight while the men rowed across.
The next day we came to Iowa City. It was still thirty-three miles to our place from Iowa City. I mention it here because we had to go there to do our trading. It took us a day to drive there from our house. The next evening we arrived at our destination and stopped all night with a neighbor, Mr. Carter, where we stayed until my father got his log house built. Mr. Carter helped my father. When we got the house ready to raise we had what they called in those days a house raising, the neighbors coming from miles around, some as far as eight or ten miles. The people in the pioneer days had to stand together. The country was not very thickly settled, and the houses were six and seven miles apart.
The Indians were not very friendly, the white people having to stand on their guard against them. The Indians that lived nearest us were the Sac and Fox tribes.
After we got the house raised we all went down to Mr. Carter’s, his good wife having cooked a big dinner ready for us of venison, and all kinds of wild game. After dinner all the folks went home and my father and I and Mr. Carter went down to work on the house, just having the walls up. We went to work to put on the roof which was made of clapboards, shaved thin and nailed on. It was the only roof in the country nailed on. All the other roofs were put on with the log and knee system. At one end of the log house we built a big log and stick chimney. The chimney was built about 5 feet above the fireplace, and on up through the roof, the chimney being daubed with mud. The fireplace was a big back log laid up against the end of the house, and the fire built in front of it. We had lots of trouble with our chimney as every once in a while, the soot would get on fire and we would throw water on it. But perseverance will win in the end, and after a while, we got a very good chimney out of it. We did not get to daub the house that winter, but in the spring we did. It was very pleasant for one could lie in bed and see the sun rise through the end of the house. The winter of 1847 – 48 was a bitterly cold winter.
End of Article #1
an upcoming book:
A History of the Green Valley Area and The Early Settlements Within
by Hinkletown Community History Project – August 3, 2005
by Hinkletown Community History Project – August 3, 2005
Community History Project
English, Iowa 52316
Second Account of Early Settler Jeremiah M. Suiter
Early Settler Account of Pioneer Berrimand Breeden - 1849
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