Newhall’s book encouraged many living in the East to venture to this beautiful and bountiful land called Iowa Territory to make a new life for themselves. Such is the story of Walter Terrell.
Walter Terrell – born Apr 14, 1805 in Caroline County, Virginia. Terrell came to Iowa City in 1840, obtained a permit to build a dam and mill on the Iowa River, but ventured to New Orleans before returning in 1843 to complete the project. Terrell and his family successfully ran his mill until his death on January 30, 1887 (age 81). He, his wife Margaret (1822-1856), and daughter, Mary Ann Sanders (1850-1916) are buried in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City.
In 1843, Walter Terrell, with the help of a skilled carpenter, Irish immigrant William Windrem, built a dam and a three-story grist (flour) mill on the Iowa River just north of Iowa City (what is today – directly in front of the Mayflower Apartments).
But, life for the pioneering settlers of Iowa City was not easy in the 1840’s…
Yet for nearly 40 years, Terrell was a highly successful master miller. His grist mill was equipped with three run (top and bottom) of 3¹/₂ -foot millstones and three run of four-foot millstones. The water wheel was the undershot type where the power wheel that turned the millstones was made to revolve by the water undershooting the wheel. The mill could grind 300 bushels of grain in 24 hours.
The pioneers of Johnson County and surrounding country traveled up to 100 miles with ox teams and wagons loaded with wheat or oats or rye or corn. At the mill, each man waited, sometimes for days, for his turn in the order of his arrival.
The demolition of Terrell’s dam. Walter Terrell’s original mill (1843) was carried away in the flood of 1881, ending his successful milling business, but the dam remained in place until well after the turn of the century, when it was dynamited and replaced with a new dam and water power plant further downstream, adjacent to the Burlington Street bridge. With the Terrell dam gone, the river sank back to its original level, flooding curtailed and improvement projects by both the city and the university began along both sides of the river. In 1909 the Iowa River’s landscape changed with the construction of Park Road Bridge, which for the first time directly linked the city on the eastern side of the river to the park on the west. It provided wagon, auto and trolley car traffic access to the newly opened Manville Heights area. Click here to read more about Iowa River bridges.
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.