The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


September 4, 2013

The bluff and the river

When Elijah Buell went to the post office in the 1830's, it was a several-day trip along Bluff Road to the Wapsipinicon River to where J.D. Bourne had the only Post Office for miles around.   A letter from Utica, N.Y. might have taken many weeks or months to get there.  The news would then have been very old.  Compare that to today's instantaneous internet!  Buell might have had to stay overnight at one of the way-stations on Bluff Road.  Two of them still exist, the John New house across from The Sarah Harding Home, and the old limestone home at 8th Avenue So. and Bluff.  These structures were built in 1837 and 1838, respectively.

Why was the old Bluff Road the primary artery between Lyons and Camanche from 1835 to 1850?  The main transportation route was still the river.  Inland travel by road was rare and only followed natural trails such as this highway.  It was there for centuries gone by, as the Indians used it.  It was hard, having been chiseled out of native limestone by nature. The river was much deeper 50,000 years ago!   At one time after the Ice Age, the riverbank was located on the bluff and the road was a natural shelf at its edge.  This was a reliable road not subject to problems of rain, mud, and swamps, which were regular difficulties down by the Mississippi in the lowlands.

Soon, a horseback mail route was established to bring letters to the settlers, but the principal receiving spot was the American Fur Trading Company on the Wapsi.  Also, at this time, J.M. Bartlett operated a trading post several miles south of Buell's cabin.  He called his village New York, but it had no settlers, because most of them chose to go up to Lyons.  Eventually, Bartlett sold his interests to Captain C.G. Pearce, Colonel B. Randall, and Colonel Jennings.

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