Early settlement in Allamakee County

Dreams and more dreams. When early settlers arrived in Iowa Territory at the Ferris Mills/Lundy Bridge Road junction in Allamakee County in the 1830s they bought land and built barns and homes. Here is a barn at this junction, northeast of Decorah, dating to early days of settlement. This crib barn is small, but had enough room for a horse, cow, and/or pig, as well as storage bins for grain or fodder. There were a number of crib barns at one time in this neighborhood, but this is the only one remaining.

This large two-story log home nearby was part of this farmstead. It has been vacant for decades but still had a bed on the upper floor a few years ago, according to a local resident who helped me find these buildings. It is still in existence today. Very few log buildings are found in their original settings, although in many Iowa counties there is an original log cabin or a reconstructed one in a county park or county museum area.

Glimpses of Pioneer Life

Early photos of farms give us a glimpse of life in pioneer days. Here we see Patrick Dunn, a central Iowa farmer, feeding his horses and cattle. The photo, taken by an itinerant photographer circa 1895, portrays not only the family but also their livestock and a way of life.

Winters around the turn of the 20th century were colder and more snowy than winters today, and the cattle and horses in this photo would have required a lot of corn and hay. The sheds and barn do not look very substantial, even though Patrick Dunn had been in America on this farm over 30 years. He had immigrated from Ireland, settling on this farm in Marshall County in the mid-1860s.

A close-up view of the center section of the photo below portrays his wife Catherine, their children, and the family dog. Catherine died in 1911 and Patrick in 1913. These buildings have been gone for decades, but the heritage of the family remains today.

Do you have an early photo whose image had faded and is barely visible? This photo is extracted from the farm scene above, enlarging the family enough that individuals can be recognized. Photos deteriorate over time, as did the original, but restoration may achieve dramatic results.