The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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September 11, 2013

The Buells Settle Lyons

Elijah Buell died in 1889 as one of the wealthiest men in Iowa. He was born in Utica, N.Y. April 1, 1801 and went out into the world in his teens, as most young men of that era did. His family and he moved to Sacketts Harbor near Cleveland, in 1813, and by 16 he had become a navigator on the Great Lakes and was the first to bring a schooner, the Aurora, into Chicago. He moved on to become a pilot on the rivers, by 1823.


In 1828, the staunch Democrat voted for Andrew Jackson for President in Louisville, Kentucky. As in today’s politics, Jackson was vilified for marrying a divorced woman who had not been properly divorced in the courts. “Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband be placed in the highest offices of this free and christian [sic] land?” said pamphlets of the time.


Buell traveled down the Ohio River and then up the Mississippi in the 1830’s, after marrying Caroline Boyd in 1829. As a riverboat pilot, he amassed some modest finances and called St. Louis his home during that time. He was no green kid when he decided to settle further up-river. Just a little of the wild pioneer areas remained when he scouted for land to live upon. He and his family slowly wended their way up the Mississippi. In 1835, they stopped at Cordova, Illinois, arriving on the steamboat Dubuque. Elijah then planned to travel further up-river and settle on the Illinois side. It had to be near water.


That year, he and John Baker chose the narrows as a most promising site. Baker settled in what is today Fulton, IL, and Elijah Buell decided to go across to the Iowa side, even though it wasn’t officially open for settlement as yet. This was a key spot -- narrow for fording purposes; also high and safe. It was July 25, 1835. He built his cabin on the river at the very spot where he stepped ashore at 25th Avenue North. His hired man, George Harlan, and “his man” Henry Carson were with him. They built the cabin with the help of Indians who helped them “snake” logs down from the adjacent bluffs.

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