Janesville, the first town platted in Bremer County, was founded in 1849 by John T. Barrick. Mr. Barrick was a fur trapper who had moved from Ohio to Iowa with his wife and children. The family had previously lived in Sturgis Falls (now Cedar Falls) for a few years before making the move into the wilderness, which became Janesville. The town of Janesville was named in tribute to his wife, Jane Barrick and was anticipated to become the Bremer Countyseat. This did not become a reality because of land grabbing by political figures in Black Hawk County. Janesville was incorporated in 1854, and is the oldest town in Bremer County. The following paragraphs illustrate some of the milestones of the community.
At the time of Janesville’s settlement, the only neighbors were the Native Americans. The land that Janesville is located on was bought from the Sauk and Fox Tribes in 1843. The tribes surrounding Janesville varied in number and size but included as many as 1,700 warriors.
Early settlers began arriving in 1850, which prompted the building of the first school house. In 1853, the Janesville city post office was established and the local newspaper was started in 1855. Typhoid fever broke out in the city in 1855 and tragically claimed approximately one-third of the city’s growing population. Due to the stoic and determined settlers, the town was able to recover its population.
Tragedy once again struck when a fire on the west side of Main Street almost destroyed the city of Janesville in 1898. Thanks to hard work and perseverance, those living within the City of Janesville were able to rebuild and remain in the young town. The determination of the residents became evident when the fire did not stop the installation of the initial telephone service. The ingenuity and inventive genius of the settlers of Janesville was demonstrated when Isaac Barrick, the son of the founder of Janesville, utilized the abundance of wildlife and animals in the prairie. First, he harnessed two buffalo to a plow to till the soil, much like the typical work of the horses. He also harnessed elk to his buggy and discovered that the elk could out run the best horse.