The first record we have of white men visiting what is now Pottawattamie county is that of Captains Lewis and Clark who, on their memorable expedition in 1804, reached the present location of Council Bluffs August 2 of that year, and there held a council with the Otoe and Missouri Indians, for which event the place was named Council Bluffs.
During President Van Buren's administration, in 1838, the Pottawattamie Indians were consigned to a reservation along the Missouri river, and Davis Hardin was appointed to instruct them in farming. With his family and a company of soldiers he arrived there on the steamer Antelope from Forth Leavenworth, in the spring of the year. Trappers and traders had visited the region before, intermarrying with the natives. The soldiers built a house for the Hardins, and a post, where Upper Broadway now is. During the year 1846, the Pottawattamies sold their land to the government, and, by treaty, were assigned to a reservation in Kansas.
Pottawattamie county, which was named for this Indian tribe, was created in 1847, and comprised originally a large territory. The county was formally organized in September 1848. The name "Pottawattamie" means "makers of fire."
After the establishment of the Mormon colony at Kanesville the county was for a while under the absolute control of the Mormons. The first paper in the county, "The Frontier Guardsman," was established by a Mormon, Orson Hyde, in 1848. Later the county was reduced to its present size. County officers were first formally elected in 1851.
The first town laid out where Council Bluffs now is was called Hart's Bluff. The Mormons from Nauvoo, Ill., passed through Iowa on their way to Salt Lake, and in the summer of 1846 their advance guard reached the bank of the Missouri river where they established a camp. They changed the name of the town to Traders' Point. The same year Colonel Kane of Pennsylvania came to the settlement, and organized "The Mormon Battalion" for service in the Mexican war He was a warm friend of the Mormons, and the name of the town was changed to Kanesville in his honor. Most of the Mormons crossed the river, and established themselves on the Nebraska side at Winter Quarters, later caller Florence, but many of them remained at Kanesville and other places in Iowa along the route until 1854, when they were summoned to Salt Lake City. Finally, in 1853, the name of the community was fixed as Council Bluffs, by act of the legislature, upon the petition of its citizens, and a charter was granted for the village.
The first train arrived in Council Bluffs on the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River railroad December 22, 1867. The Rock Island was completed to Council Bluffs in May, 1869. The Deaf and Dumb Asylum, which was first established by act of the legislature at Iowa City in 1855, was removed to Council Bluffs in 1866.
The building of the Union Pacific railroad with Council Bluffs as eastern terminal added greatly to the growth and importance of this city, which is now the chief railroad center and leading grain market of western Iowa. Four transcontinental railroad lines cross the Missouri river at Council Bluffs, and three other main lines from the east have their western terminals in this city and in Omaha. The population of Council Bluffs is 42,048. The business section of the city is somewhat cramped, but some of its residence districts are beautifully located on the adjoining hills with a magnificent outlook over the river and the metropolis of Nebraska.
One of the very early settlers in Council Bluffs was C. C. Mynster, a Dane, who came there from St. Louis in 1850, and established a store for fitting out emigrants for California during the gold rush. By trading off his stock to Mormons he acquired considerable land, including the famous Mynster Spring. He died in 1852 of cholera, and his wife in 1892. A considerable number of Danes settled later in Council Bluffs, where some of them now are prominent in both commercial and civic lines.
When the first Swede arrived in Council Bluffs is not recorded, but some Swedes are known to have located in Pottawattamie county in the fifties. Among the first ones were a Mormon family by the name of Swanson who had emigrated from Sweden in 1855. They landed in St. Louis the 22nd day of March that year, came to Winter Quarters, Nebr., May 25, 1857, and to Crescent City, Iowa, the following summer, One of the sons, W. S. Swanson, came to Council Bluffs in 1869, and worked there as a cabinet maker a year. Afterwards he worked at his trade in Illinois, Montana and California, and returned to Pottawattamie county in 1880. A brother of his, N. Swanson, located in Crescent city in 1882, and became a merchant and postmaster in the town. Charles Sanderson, who was born in Sweden in 1839, emigrated to Princeton, Ill.. at the age of 17. He enlisted in Company D. Seventh Kansas Cavalry, in 1861, and served four years in the Civil War. After the termination of the conflict he came to Iowa, and located in Council Bluffs in 1868, where he engaged in teaming until he entered the fire department service in 1872. Frank Levin, who was born in Linköping, Sweden, July 16, 1854, came to Omaha with his parents in 1868, and to Council Bluffs in 1869. His parents came with the Mormon immigrants and traveled by rail to Council Bluffs, and thence by stage on the ferry boat across the river to Omaha. Mr. Levin started business in Council Bluffs as a cigar manufacturer in 1877 and is still conducting his business in that city.
The present Swedish colony in Council Bluffs is mostly the result of later immigration, partly from the Halland settlement, and partly direct from Sweden. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Nelson and Miss Carolina Olivia Carlson arrived in 1880, the last named from Fremont, Iowa, to which place she had emigrated from Sweden in 1876. In 1887 she married Mr. P. Nelson who with his brother Andrew arrived in 1884. Mr. and Mrs. Nels Swenson located in Council Bluffs in 1882. Towards the end of the eighties the Swedes in Council Bluffs were numerous enough to attract the attention of Swedish Lutheran ministers, and Rev. B. M. Halland from Stanton, Ia., visited them in 1888, and Rev. A. J. Ryden in 1889. A Lutheran congregation was organized November 20, 1890, by Rev. A. F. Nelson from Fremont, Ia., with eight charter members. Religious services were first held in a hall on Main street. The church was erected in 1892-94. The congregation has now an adult membership of 115. A Swedish Baptist church was organized in 1893, but it has since been dissolved.
The Swedish population of Council Bluffs is now approximately 500. Among the business and professional men of the city a score or more are of Swedish descent. One of them is Charles E. Swanson, who is now serving his second term as Congressman from the Ninth Congressional District of Iowa. He was born in Galesburg, Ill., Jan. 3, 1879. Both his parents came from Sweden. After completing his course at Knox college in Galesburg in 1902, Mr. Swanson studied law at Northwestern University where he graduated in 1907. He was admitted to the Iowa bar in the same year and began legal practice in Council Bluffs. During four terms (1915-1923) he was prosecuting attorney in Pottawattamie county, and, in 1928, was elected to membership in the 71st Congress (1929-1931) from the Ninth District of Iowa, being reelected in 1930 for a second term. Mr. Swanson is the only congressman from Iowa of 'Swedish descent.