Isaac Galland’s Warning of the “Honey comb” Scheme

On February 19, 1839 the Illinois legislature authorized creation of the Des Moines Rapids Railroad to be managed by eleven commissioners:[1]  These included:  Mark Aldrich, Joseph Duncan, the former governor, Richard F. Barrett, Calvin A. Warren, Isaac Galland, Daniel S. Witter, David W. Matthews, John Montague, William D. Abernathy, Joel Catlin, and Isaac N. Morris.

Aldrich, Duncan, Barrett and Warren were land speculators and formed a partnership in 1837 named the Warsaw Land Company. Isaac Morris was the President of the Illinois and Michigan Canal.  Richard Barrett was the Illinois State Fund Commissioner and was heavily involved in the Northern Cross Railroad intended to connect Quincy through Springville to the Indiana border. The leadership of the Warsaw Land Company benefited from inside information of the state’s priorities and issues involved in all the improvement projects and in the details of the Illinois and Michigan Canal construction.

This 1839 Act authorized capital stock for the Des Moines Rapids Company for $100,000. Its key provisions authorized construction of a railroad line:

“commencing on The Mississippi river at the head of the Des Moines rapids, at or near the town of Commerce, in Hancock county, and from thence, in the direction to Warsaw, to intersect the Peoria and Warsaw railroad at such point as shall be determined upon after a survey shall have been made of the route by and between the Board of Commissioners of Public Works and the said company; … and for the purpose of cutting, embankment, stone, and gravel, may take as much more land as may be necessary for the proper construction and security of said railroad:”

Critical to the various railroad projects in the state, including the Des Moines Rapids Railroad was the successful undertaking of the Illinois and Michigan Canal which was to connect the Illinois River with Lake Michigan and thus provide transport access from the Atlantic Ocean through the Erie Canal on to Lake Michigan and through the new Canal to the Illinois River. Beardstown on the Illinois River was to be the key connecting point of turnpike roads and later railroad connection lines to connect Warsaw and Nauvoo through Carthage and Rushville and on to Beardstown on the Illinois River.

The lands to be traversed by the Des Moines Rapids Railroad in or near Commerce and Commerce City had previously been owned by James White and his sons, Hugh and Alexander and son in law Isaac Campbell. The White family had previously been actively involved in running boats back and forth to Galena and the lead mines.

Hotchkiss and his investors purchased 300 acres of land on the river and on the bluffs from George Atchison for $11,000 and also purchased a smaller parcel from Alexander White.

Joseph Teas sold land to Charles Munson and recorded the deed May 26, 1835 in a transaction that was clouded due to prior discussions to sell the lands to James Doyle. For this transaction Charles Munson, living at the time in New Haven, Connecticut had his sister Mary Ann Cutler make the purchase from Teas who was then living in the Iowa Territory.  Hiram Kimball, while living at the residence of Alexander White, also acted as Munson’s agent.  Kimball worked as a clerk at the store of Mr. and Mrs. Cutler.

Munson sold one half of the Teas tract for $6,000 in 1836 to Benjamin F. Lee, Joshua Aikin and Abijah Fisher, members and agents of the New York Land Company. They saw the potential early to be realized by combining their efforts of purchases of land in the Half-Breed Tract immediately across the river with purchases of land on the opposite shore with close access to steamboat and ferry crossings.

Hugh White and George Atchison were both steamboat pilots engaged in transport between St. Louis and Galena and Dubuque who were loyal to the Chouteau’s and the St. Louis merchants. They too resided in St. Louis.  As veterans, they knew that the best steamboat landing sites were on the Hotchkiss lands just north of Commerce and Commerce City.  These were the most strategic sites due to the Des Moines Rapids.  John Atchison, the brother of George was a merchant at Galena at the time.[2]

Isaac Newton Waggoner was also a steamboat pilot operating out of St. Louis. He married Mary another of the daughters of Captain White.  They had land holdings in Montebello. Luther Whitney, a former Hancock County Commissioner, and Whig Party activist, with his sons Edson and Horace, were also major landowners in Montebello Township.  They were all anxious to make large land profits due to the expected commercial developments in the area pertaining to the Des Moines Rapids Railroad projects which would have crossed through their lands.

Isaac Galland conveyed his partnership interests in the New York Land Company to Franklin Wilcox on January 9, 1839 for the sum of $21,000.[3]  Galland, as one of the eleven initial commissioners for the Des Moines Rapids Railroad appointed in February of that year, must have determined his best interests were to forsake the New York Land Company and join ranks with the other commissioners and the St. Louis Land Company allies.  He published notice of his total withdrawal from the New York Land Company partnership in the Iowa Territorial Gazette printed at Burlington on April 27, 1839 while warning others to beware of dealings with the New York Land Company.  He also claimed that previously some of his prior interest in the partnership was conveyed in a fraudulent manner to Dr. William Channing of New York City.[4]

In spite of several attempts to proceed with these internal improvement projects and land development opportunities through the use of investors, and state and federal funding efforts they all failed. Heavily in debt and paying taxes on lands they couldn’t sell they developed a scheme for future acquirers to take over improving the area.

On May 1, 1839 Joseph Smith and associates purchased 135 acres from Hugh White for $5,000 and lands west of White’s from Isaac Galland.   Improvements then included one stone house, three frame houses, and two block houses.  These constituted the town of Commerce.  To initiate transactions in the Iowa Territory with the Mormons, Isaac Galland sold five shares of stock in the Half Breed Land Company “for lands in the Sac and Fox half Breed Reservation”.  To Oliver Granger, Galland sold 1,998 acres for $5,000 on May 17, 1839 and 640 acres for $1,600 on May 29, 1839.  Soon after, a sale was made to Vinson Knight of 12,745 acres for $32,342.22 on June 6, 1839 and 4,228 acres for $10,636 from June 26 to June 29, 1839.[5] Instructions were given by the prophet to build a town on these lands to be named, Zarahemla.

To assist the Saints, several leading citizens of Quincy, including Senator Richard M. Young and Isaac N. Morris, wrote letters of recommendation for John P. Greene and Sidney Rigdon to aid them as agents for the Church.[6] Additional lands were sold to the Mormons in Nashville, formerly the home site of Isaac Galland.  After arriving in Chillicothe, Isaac Galland wrote Samuel B. Swasey in July 1839 commenting on his recent transactions with the Mormons:

“I feel greatly relieved in having got out of hearing of the half Breed Lands… I have disposed of my half breed lands, for 50 thousand dollars, that is to say $2500, annually for 20 years, my home place, the same which I purchased of Capt. White, I also sold for 18 thousand dollars, to be paid likewise $900 annually for 20 years, the above sales were made to the people called Mormons who were last winter expelled from the state of Missouri… The people have also bought out Hugh White and some others, and will probably continue to buy out the settlers of that neighborhood, until they again acquire a sufficient quantity of “honey comb” to induce the surrounding thieves to rob them again; at which time they will no doubt have to renounce their religion; or submit to a repetition of similar acts of violence, and outrage.[7]

Confidentially, Isaac Galland was explaining the pattern demonstrated at Missouri of “the honey comb scheme”. After the Saints had gathered and made their initial land purchases, they would continue to buy lands of the old settlers, then, earnestly improve the sites with great zeal and determination.  Enemies nearby including those that had sold them lands originally would rob them again.  They would compel them to renounce their religion or escalate violence until they could force them out.  They would then reclaim the lands with improvements while retaining the money paid for the land and prepare to resell it at higher prices.  Such was the pattern in Missouri.  It was common for beekeepers to retrieve a saturated honeycomb from the hives, extract the honey then replace the honeycomb for the bees to replenish which could then be re-harvested and given to others.  Galland perceived the citizenry of Iowa, and those near Commerce (Nauvoo) to include lawless and greedy elements of society.  He had been a partner of the New York Land Company and a Commissioner for the Des Moines Railroad when writing to Mr. Swasey.  Undoubtedly, his New York Land Company partners and fellow railroad commissioners, knew of “the honey comb scheme” from contacts in Missouri.

Over the next few years, Governor Carlin and the Illinois legislature nearly bankrupted the state by accepting and proceeding to construct too many internal improvement projects to appease legislators in different regions of the state. The crisis became so serious that all projects were cancelled due to lack of funding.  With the Des Moines Rapids Railroad only needing about 12 miles of tract laid, some in the state were hopeful it could be reinstated.  This project was supported by many as a means to solve the Des Moines Rapids low water problem during several months each year when the Mississippi River level was low and the Rapids impeded steamboat traffic.  Their plan called for using Warsaw at the foot of the Rapids to load the railroad northwards to bypass the Rapids and then unload at Nauvoo at the head of the Rapids.  Cranes were expected to lift cargo directly from the steamboat at the landing sites and loaded directly onto railroad cars.  Another plan, previously proposed by Lt. Robert E. Lee of the Army Corps of Engineers called for blasting rocks along a passage in the Mississippi River known as the “Spanish Chute” to allow steamships to pass all year.  Warsaw leaders were against this plan as the Spanish Chute bypassed Warsaw’s steamboat landing site.

On August 8, 1840 Joseph wrote to John C. Bennett expressing,

“It would afford me much pleasure to see you at this place, and from the desire you express in your letter to move to this place, I hope I shall soon have that satisfaction. I have no doubt you would be of great service to this community in practicing your profession, as well as those other abilities of which you are in possession…

It is our intention to commence the erection of some public buildings next spring. We have purchased twenty thousand acres in the Iowa Territory opposite this place, which is fast filling up with our people…

A charter has been obtained from the legislature for a railroad from Warsaw, being immediately below the rapids of the Mississippi, to this place- a distance of about twenty miles, which if carried into operation will be of incalculable advantage to this place, as steamboats can only ascend the rapids at a high stage of water. The soil is good, and I think not inferior to any in the state.  Crops are abundant in this section of country- and think provisions will be reasonable… ” [8]

In February 1841, the Des Moines Rapids Railroad proposal was reinstated along with a few other railroad projects.  The industrious Mormons had by then cleared out the swamp areas and were developing a steamboat and ferry landing area near the Nauvoo House.  Many homes were built and the city had established a strong commercial base.  Unfortunately for the land speculators and railroad promoters, the Illinois and Michigan Canal construction was still dormant.  When Governor Ford came to office he devoted significant time and attention to get new funding for the Canal in late 1843.

With expectations that the Canal would provide the incentive for investors to continue the Des Moines Rapids Railroad project the time became urgent to force the Mormons out.  Mormons controlled the steamboat landing sites and were dwelling on the key lands necessary to complete the planned railroad route and connecting turnpike road routes.  Enemies of the church concluded the time was eminent that the previous “honey comb” plan be executed so they could seize the lands and improvements the Mormons had developed which the previous owners and developers had failed to accomplish.

[1] Incorporation Laws of Illinois p. 75 in “AN ACT to incorporate the Des Moines Rapids Railroad Company” In force, Feb. 19, 1839

[2]J. Young Scammon, State of Illinois, Supreme Court Records.  Information taken from various depositions in James Doyle v. Joseph Teas December Term 1843.  The case was heard at the October 1842 term before Judge Stephen A. Douglas, Classic Reprint Series, 202-268

[3] David W. Kilbourne, Strictures on Dr. I. Galland’s Pamphlet, entitled, “Villainy Exposed,” with some account of his transactions in lands in the Sac and Fox Reservations, etc., in Lee County, Iowa (Fort Madison, Iowa, 1850), 8

[4] Ibid. 8

[5] David W. Kilbourne, Strictures on Dr. I. Galland’s Pamphlet, entitled, “Villainy Exposed,” with some account of his transactions in lands in the Sac and Fox Reservations, etc., in Lee County, Iowa (Fort Madison, Iowa, 1850), 9

[6] Joseph Smith, History of the Church Vol. 3 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1978),  348, 349

[7] Lyndon W. Cook, Isaac Galland- Mormon Benefactor BYU Studies 19 (1979), 261-284;  quoting from letter “Isaac Galland to Samuel B. Swasey, 22 July 1839.

[8] Joseph Smith, History of the Church Vol. 4 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1978), 177-178

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