Digital Exhibits Early Settlement of Austin

Austin Nichols claimed 112 acres of land on the Cedar River, near the current location of Oakwood Cemetery, in 1853 or 1854.  Nichols was a bachelor who hunted and trapped for fur pelts and was probably familiar with the area from previous hunting travels.  He built the first cabin and saw mill in what would become Austin.  In 1855, he left Austin and sold his claim to Chauncey Leverich. 

Original tintype of Austin Nichols, date unknown. Mower County Historical Society, 93.26.1

In the mid-1850s, settlers poured into Mower County. By 1860, people claimed land in all twenty of Mower County’s townships. Men like Alanson Vaughan, Chauncey Leverich, Jeremiah Yates, Joshua Davidson, and brothers Orlenzer and Ormanzo Allen came to Austin to make names for themselves as early leaders and business owners. Leverich’s saw mill is considered the first business established in Austin and Vaughan opened the first store. Austin grew quickly between 1855 and 1865 as it transitioned from a small prairie settlement made up of a few claim shanties to a village of around 100 people.

The 300 block of north Main Street in Austin, ca. 1860. Mower County Historical Society, 03.500.0238a
The 300 block of Main Street in Austin, ca. 1860. The building at the far left with the exterior staircase is the Headquarters Building. Mower County Historical Society, 03.500.0237a
Looking south on Main Street from Water Street, ca. 1865. Mower County Historical Society, 87.3.20
Mill Street in Austin, ca. 1865. Mower County Historical Society, 89.117.36a

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