Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Part 2: 1855/56 Why Moved to Durant or Wilton, Iowa?

In my last blog entry, I ended with two questions. Why did James and Susan (Stoutenburg) move to Muscatine County, Iowa? and Why did they return to New York sometime between July 10, 1860 (when the family was enumerated in Iowa) and January 21, 1861 (when their second son was born)? Although I cannot give a definitive answer to either question, I can provide some insight to the conditions of that time period.

In the late 1840s railroads were being built throughout the eastern states. In the early 1850s many of these railroads were being consolidated thus offering service over longer continuous routes. By 1853 the Hudson River and Lake Erie were connected by railway. In that same year a Pennsylvanian railway was connected to the New York line near Lake Erie. By 1856, travelers from Pennsylvania and from the Hudson River could travel to Iowa. The line followed the southern shore of Lake Erie across Ohio, Indiana and Illinois touching on the southern tip of Lake Michigan and then on to the Mississippi River near the mouth of the Rock River. This terminated at the Illinois/Iowa state line near Rock Island, Illinois and across the Mississippi River from Davenport, Iowa. On April 22, 1856, the first passenger train crossed the Mississippi from Rock Island, Illinois to Davenport, Iowa. The trip between New York City and Davenport, Iowa now took only 60 hours.

Work was being begun on railroads west of the Mississippi River in the early 1850s. Thomas C. Durant was interested in building a rail route between Davenport and Council Bluffs, Iowa to connect the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.  In September, 1853, ground was broken for the Mississippi & Missouri Railroad (M & M RR).

During this same period, Wilton and Durant were being surveyed and laid out. Durant, a town about 20 miles west of Davenport in Farmington Township, Cedar County, was laid out in 1854 by Benjamin Brayton of the Rock Island Railway. Wilton Township and the town of Wilton in Muscatine County were laid out in 1853 and platted in September 1954 by Franklin Butterfield, Joseph A. Greene and George C. Stone.

Durant and Wilton were located on the M&M RR route that was completed in August 1854 with the first passenger train leaving Davenport on August 22, 1854.

Ebenezer Cook and George Sargent, bankers in Davenport, held a large interest in the Mississippi & Missouri Railroad and in the town of Durant. To support a train stop, the town built a comfortable train depot. In 1855, an offshoot of the railroad was built between the town of Muscatine, on the Mississippi River, and Wilton. Wilton did not have a depot, simply a shed roof building. The brakeman was not permitted to announce the town of Wilton at the junction. Instead the junction was called the Muscatine or Wilton Junction. Misters Greene and Stone, bankers in Muscatine, had an interest in Wilton and held considerable stock in M&M RR. In the end, the town of Wilton, prevailed.

Durant is said to be situate in one of the richest farming areas of Iowa. The first settlers came from New Haven, Connecticut, but settlers from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Maine and Connecticut soon followed. Originally called Brayton it was renamed Durant after Thomas C. Durant.

Many of the railroad stakeholders were land agents. The stakeholders and the railroads actively advertised in Europe, Canada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and New England. The winter of 1858 was mild and 1859 yielded good crops in Iowa. The first shipment of pork from Iowa made it to the Atlantic seaboard. Business activity in Davenport was growing at a good rate by 1859.

James and Susan Stoutenburg were married in New York State in 1853 and were living in Iowa by 1859 when their son, Frank, was born. They did not appear in the 1856 Iowa State Census. With travel to Iowa by train from New York established in 1856 and the advertisements placed in New York towns and cities, it would seem that James and Susan Stoutenburg were attracted to Iowa.

The question then becomes "Why did they go back to New York?"


The Annals of the State Historical Society of Iowa. Iowa City, IA: Jerome & Duncan, Printers, 1863.

The History of Cedar County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1878.

Clarence Ray Aurner. "A Topical History of Cedar County, Iowa. Vol. I. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1910.

David A. Pfeiffer. "Bridging the Mississippi: The Railroads and Steamboats Clash at the Rock Island Bridge. "
Prologue Magazine 36.2 (2004): Web. 21 Apr. 2010.

Henry V. Poor. History of the Railroads and Canals of the United States of America. Vol. 1. New York: John H. Schultz & Co., 1860.

Irving Berdine Richman. History of Muscatine County Iowa from the Earliest Settlements to the Present Time. Vol. I. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1911.

No comments:

Post a Comment