Linn County, IA Biographies


Little is known of the life of Jacob Mann, whom Hosea W. Gray, Linn county's first sheriff and an early historian of the county, credits as being the county's first settler. That he was an original and eccentric character is obvious.

Jacob Mann's parentage or his place of birth is not known. His earliest known history recalls the fact that he came to Iowa from Illinois in 1837, having come to the former place from Pennsylvania. He laid claim to a tract of land in Cherry Grove, just over the line into Jones county in July of that year, returning to Illinois immediately. There he set out with his family for his new home. He was a widower, but his daughter Sally kept house for him and for his four other children, John, Henry, David and Ann.

They arrived at their new home in August 1837. Soon after their arrival, Jacob sold his claim to his brother, David Mann, and went alone into Linn county to lay claim to new land. He staked a claim on Big creek, returned to Cherry Grove and spent the winter there. It is here that a note of mystery creeps into the history of this pioneer character.

William P. Earl and Asa Farnsworth, journeying to Linn county to establish claims, came upon the makeshift hut in Cherry Grove where the Manns made their home. They found there Jacob Mann and his daughter Sally. Sally was sick and lying on a rough cot. The cabin was of such poor construction that it did not afford adequate shelter for the sick woman. The visitors prevailed upon Mann to assist them in the construction of a new roof over the hut. So cheered was the poor woman by the presence of the helpfulstrangers that on the second day she arose and prepared a meal for them. Earl and Farnsworth later related that the woman had a child, and that she was so weak from exposure and exhaustion that she could hardly move. Where were the rest of the Mann children? Why, in cold November, had Mann not yet built a shelter suitable to withstand the cold and storms of winter? History offers no explanation.

In February of 1988 Mann and his family moved to Linn county and settled on the banks of Big creek. History records that Mann built a small flouring mill on this creek, and operated it for many years. It was of unique and original construction, being built according to Mann's own ideas. In the spring of 1851, a thunderstorm so raised the height of the waters of the little creek that they swept away the mill and with it Mann, who had refused to leave his precarious position in his mill, which he said he thought more of than life. So ends the tempestuous career of one of Linn county's first settlers.

This history of hill descendants is fully as remarkable as his own. His daughter Sally, to whom for many years was accorded the honor of being the first white woman in Linn county, was a wild character according to tales told of her by contemporary historians. After the death of her father she remained on the property he had claimed on Big creek and made a living raising cats which she sold to settlers. Naturally the newly-arrived homemakers wanted some sort of protection against the ever-present mice and rats, but the rigors of a long wagon trip were likely to spell the doom of the most hardy of feline pets. So it was that Sally Mann was able to make a comfortable living providing the early settlers with feline companionship.

0f the other descendents of Jacob Mann, history says little of the eventful life of daughter Ann, the emmigration to the west of son John, the eventual suicide of son Henry, who suffered from insanity, and the disappearance of son David who followed the call of newly discovered gold into the west.

From the Linn County Centennial Edition of The Marion Sentinel, Aug 26, 1937

Submitted by Alison Newhall on March 26th, 1999.
Copyright 1999 by Alison Newhall, All Rights Reserved.

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