Red Rock, Iowa
Marion County, IA





RED ROCK
The town of Red Rock, in the southeastern part of the township of the same name, was surveyed for John D. Bedell in August, 1845. It takes its name from the deposits of red sandstone near by. At the time it was first laid out the government survey had not been completed in that part of the county, and on April 3, 1847, it was resurveyed by Claiborne Hall, then county surveyor, for the firm of Bedell, Drouillard & Harp. John Jordan and a man named Shaw had established trading houses in the vicinity before the town was laid out, but the first house built in the town proper was a log cabin erected by James Harp, in 1845. It stood a short distance from the river bank and consisted of two rooms, one of which was used as bachelor quarters by the owner and the other was occupied by Ezra H. Baker as a store room. Subsequently Mr. Baker removed his stock of goods to Bennington, about twelve miles farther up the Des Moines River.

During the years 1847 and 1848 quite a number of people settled in Red Rock, but the town received a blow with the great flood of 1851 from which it never recovered. This flood occurred in June and the sudden rise in the river came in the night while the people were asleep. They awoke to find their beds surrounded by water, and those who were fortunate enough to live in two story houses hurried upstairs. Every canoe and skiff within reach were pressed into service to rescue the people from their deluged homes, and even rafts were constructed for the purpose. Several houses were completely destroyed by the flood and those that were left had to be thoroughly renovated before they were fit for occupation as dwelling places. Scarcely had this been done and the people reestablished in their homes, when the river again rose and compelled them to undergo another two weeks' exile. To add to their discomfort the supply of breadstuffs became exhausted, the nearest mills were on the opposite side of the river, and to cross that raging torrent was out of the question. There was plenty of corn, but how was it to be ground into meal. David B. Worth, living about two miles north of the town, was the possessor of a small hand mill, which was kept going day and night to supply the demand. Some of the people crushed the corn with an ax or an iron wedge and then ground the broken grains in a coffee mill. The corn that had been planted on the bottom lands before the flood was either washed out or covered with mud, and some of it was replanted as late as the 4th of July. Fortunately a favorable season enabled the farmers to secure a fair crop to tide them over the winter.

Prior to this flood, the people of Red Rock had entertained hopes of securing the county seat. These hopes were now abandoned and several families left the town. Those who remained still had one hope left. If slack water navigation could be established Ain the Des Moines River, or a railroad company could be induced to build a road to the town, Red Rock might yet come into its own. But the slack water project, about which there had been so much talk, was soon abandoned and the Des Moines Valley Railroad missed the town by several miles, passing over the prairie on the east and north. For years after this the growth of Red Rock was hardly noticeable, the population remaining about stationary. Then the Des Moines & St. Louis (now the Wabash) Railroad was built nearer the river and the company ran a spur to the sandstone quarries on the west side of the town. This was followed by a revival of business and a moderate increase in the population.

Concerning the early history of Red Rock, Donnel says: "From first to last Red Rock possessed a notoriety not enjoyed by any other village in the county. Situated on a much frequented Indian trail, and at the border of the United States territory, it early became a place of resort for the savages for the purpose of trading and obtaining whisky at the trading houses. It is said that even the squaws would sometimes come, obtain a supply of the baneful beverage, and then lie about in a state of beastly intoxication, their infants (those that had them) crying with starvation. In pity for these suffering innocents, the sober squaws would feed them with the soft pulp scraped from the inside of elm or linwood bark, which they would devour with evident relish. Some of these squaws appeared to be desperate under the influence of liquor, and were tied to the fences to prevent them from running over the river bank.

"The place also became the frequent rendezvous of the rougher portion of the settlers, and others whose character classed them with adventurers and desperadoes; and as a natural result of such a fusion of spirits, inspired more or less by the ardent, fights were of frequent occurrence. It is a fact worthy of note that Red Rock, though a comparatively small place, has been the scene of several assassinations, shooting and stabbing affrays and lawless carousals, the details of which are not pertinent to this history."

But all this has changed. The Indian, the unscrupulous trader, the adventurer and the desperado have all disappeared. No longer is whisky one of the chief articles to be found in the trading house, the general stores of the village dealing in the commodities intended to supply the wants of a civilized community. The public school, employing three teachers, is to be seen instead of drunken squaws tied to the fence, and Red Rock is a typical modern town.

From:
History of Marion County, Iowa
And its People
John W. Wright, Supervising Editor
W. A. Young, Associate
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1915


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