Outline History of Iowa Part 2 of 3
From: Past and Present of Fayette County, Iowa
B. F. Bowen & Company
Indianapolis, Indiana 1910


The territory now embraced within the state of Iowa while under Spanish rule, as a part of the province of Louisiana, was subject to various grants by that nation, the most important of which were the lands granted to Julien Dubuque, near the city bearing his name; nearly six thousand acres were in like manner granted to Basil Girard, later in Clayton county, and known as the "Girard Tract" This was occupied by Girard at the time that Iowa passed from Spain to France, and from France to the United States, and his grant was confirmed by the latter power. Louis Honori received a grant from the Spanish authorities in 1799, to a tract of land which embraced the site of the present city of Montrose, and was designated as "one league square," but only one mile square was confirmed by the United States. Honori's mission, under the Spanish, was to establish an Indian trading post, barter in paltriest, and keep the Indians in true allegiance to "His Majesty."

The first of these grants was made under the jurisdiction of Baron de Carondelet, then the Spanish governor of Louisiana, while the other two were negotiated under the lieutenant governor of Upper Louisiana. It has been the policy of European nations from time immemorial that possession perfects title to any territory, and this vast domain was given away, bartered and sold without the least consideration for the rights of the original owners and occupants. But the United States, from the days of William Penn, in Pennsylvania, down through all the various treaties with the Indians, adopted the conciliatory and humane policy of recognizing their rights and buying their interests. The purchase of Louisiana Territory, in 1803, was no exception to this rule, and the transaction simply meant the severance of foreign claims upon the territory and the payment of vast sums of money to the rightful owners of the soil. In fact, the Indians are today the wards of our country and each tribe receives its regular annuity.

The vast domain acquired in the "Louisiana Purchase" included the present state of Iowa, as well as territory extending, practically, from the Atlantic ocean to the crest of the Rocky mountains, and from the gulf of Mexico to the headwaters of the Mississippi river. This territory was a bone of contention between the three rival nations at that time contending for supremacy in the United States. The allied powers of Spain and France were at war with Great Britain, the war between these nations being declared in 1796. The United States had demanded from Spain the free navigation of the Mississippi river, but with only partial success up to this time. But now the Spanish sought to place the neutral territory of a friendly power in the way of a threatened British invasion of Upper Louisiana, and the treaty of Madrid promptly granted the request.

The territory acquired from France by the purchase of Louisiana embraced one million one hundred and seventy one thousand, nine hundred and thirty one square miles, and cost the government of the United States about fifteen million dollars. This cession greatly exasperated Spain, her Florida possessions being threatened thereby. Napoleon at that time was fast overrunning the continent of Europe, and England, with unwonted severity, was exercising her always disputed rights of search and impressment. Napoleon, in retaliation, issued numerous decrees, first from Berlin, then from Milan, and another from Rambouillet, and between the two, American commerce, for the time, was destroyed. There was not a shadow of justification in the laws of nations for the action of France in this respect, since the United States was then a neutral power. But while France and England were equally wrong regarding their attitude toward the United States, the superior naval power of England rendered her the more formidable as an adversary. It was this view, we must assume, which influenced Jefferson and his successor to overlook the wrongs done by France and to seek to direct public sentiment toward England as the real enemy of the United States. However, it was thought at times that a "three cornered war" was imminent.

This is barely a hint as to the many causes which induced the United States to declare the second war against Great Britain. The purchase of Louisiana Territory, brought about through secret conferences between Spain and France, the very extensive area involved in the purchase, and the strong probability that the United States would hold and utilize it, caused intense jealousy among the rival powers. At the time of this purchase the United States was at war with Tripoli, a contest for the privilege of navigating the Mediterranean, which continued from 1801 to 1805; the Seminole war had been in progress on the settlers of Florida and elsewhere in the extreme South for many years, and culminated with their joining the British in the war of 1812, and their final overthrow by General Jackson; the North and East was in constant turmoil with the Indians in those localities, and now the struggling colonies were threatened with destruction by the united efforts of all her enemies. It was unquestionably a most critical period in our national history.

A long and expensive war with the Seminoles followed the declaration of peace between the United States and Great Britain, continuing from 1835 to 1842, and costing ten million dollars, and one thousand five hundred lives. The final subjugation of this powerful tribe led to the purchase of Florida.

The Northwest Territory, as now understood, embraces fourteen states and two territories, reaching from the gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes and from the Mississippi to the crest of the Rocky mountains.

The territory which now embraces the state of Iowa was first visited by Europeans in 1673, when two French Jesuit missionaries, Marquette and Joliet, in passing down the Mississippi, landed near the mouth of the Des Moines river, and are believed to have been the first white men to set foot on what afterwards became the state of Iowa. These missionaries were cordially received by the warlike Indians who then occupied the country. The new religion which they announced, and the authority of the king of France which they proclaimed, raised no hostile remonstrance, and they were permitted to continue their sojourn to the South. But the grand visions of the future entertained by these and other French explorers were never realized by that nation. By reason of the discoveries made by Jaques Marquette and Louis Joliet, France laid claim to the territory, and soon afterward the king named the vast extent of country west of the Mississippi the province of Louisiana. But prior to 1762 the territory now included in the state of Iowa was claimed by Spain, England and France. A treaty was carried into effect in 1763 whereby France was conceded ownership of the disputed territory lying west of the Mississippi river; but while these negotiations were pending France secretly ceded these possessions to Spain. That nation took formal possession in 1769, and retained control until 1800, when, under treaty arrangements, it was re-ceded to France and purchased from that nation by the United States in 1803. Some controversy arose as to the boundaries of the territory and in 1819 the area was reduced to eight hundred and seventy five thousand and twenty five square miles, and so remains at present.


Various territorial complications arose between the time of the Louisiana purchase in 1803 and the organization of Iowa territory on the 12th of June, 1838. In 1804 Iowa was a part of the district of Louisiana and under the territorial government of Indiana territory. In 1807 it became a part of the territory of Illinois, and five years later it was attached to Missouri territory, continuing as such until the admission of Missouri as a state, in 1821. From the date last written until July, 1836, Iowa had but a nominal political organization, but through the efforts of Gen. George W. Jones, then a delegate in Congress from the territory of Michigan (Which exercised jurisdiction over the territory of Iowa). Wisconsin territory was organized, and Iowa was attached thereto. In September, 1834, the Legislature of Michigan had created the counties of Des Moines and Dubuque, and these were later subdivided, under the domination of Wisconsin territory, into sixteen counties, Fayette county being organized from territory formerly embraced in Dubuque county: but this was, for the most part, only nominal organization, which was perfected some years later, under authority of the territorial Legislature of Iowa.

No permanent settlements Were made in Iowa until after the close of the Black Hawk war, though Julien Dubuque, a Frenchman, held a mining claim under a grant from Spain, as early as 1788.

For a year or more after the settlers began to flock into the territory of Iowa, there was no established government in force and lawlessness prevailed to a great extent. The better class of settlers asked Congress to extend the jurisdiction of Michigan territory over the territory now embraced in the state of Iowa, and this was done and courts were established in the counties then organized. At that time the two counties then existing embraced the entire territory of Iowa. Dubuque county embraced all the territorv north of a line drawn due west from the lower end of Rock Island to the Missouri rivers, and was constituted the township of Julien; and Demoines county included all territory now in the state south of this line, and constituted the township of Flint Hill.

Probably none of the western territory was settled more rapidly than Iowa. and by 1840 there were more than forty thousand people in the territory. Ten years later the population had grown to nearly two hundred thousand, the state had been admitted to the Federal Union, and the era of progress had commenced.

In 1838 a controversy arose between Iowa and Missouri over the question of boundaries, and for a time civil war was threatened. Missouri claimed a strip of territory on the southern boundary of Iowa some eight or ten miles wide, and extending across the territory. Taxes were levied on this territory and the Missouri officials attempted to collect them by distraining the personal property of the settlers. Governor Lucas called out the militia of Iowa and both parties made active preparations for war. The trouble was finally submitted to the supreme court, through the intervention of Congress. and a decision was rendered in favor of the claims of Iowa.


By virtue of an act of Congress, approved July 4, 1836, Wisconsin territory, embracing within its limits the present states of Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, was taken from that of Michigan and given a separate form of government. By the same authority. and approved on the 12th of June, 1838, Iowa territory was created, including, in addition to the present state, the greater part of what is now Minnesota and extending north to the British line. Iowa was then designated as "that part of Wisconsin territory lying west of the Mississippi river and north of the state of Missouri." In 184o, and again in 1842, elections were held in Iowa territory to vote on the question of holding a constitutional convention, but in each case the proposition was defeated. In 1844 the question was again submitted and carried. A delegate convention was held at Iowa City, October 7, 1844 and a constitution and boundary lines of the new state of Iowa were agreed upon. A controversy arose over the question of boundaries, Congress assuming to make some radical changes, and when again submitted to the people, in April. 1845, the proposition was rejected.

Another constitutional convention was held at Iowa City, Mar 4, 1846, and a constitution and state boundaries were agreed to, the boundary of the state established as at present, this action being in harmony with a statehood bill then pending before Congress. The constitution was adopted by the people at an election held August 3, 1846. and on. the 28th of December, 1846. Iowa was formally admitted into the Union as the twenty ninth state.

The question of amending or revising the constitution was agitated in 1854, and the fifth General Assembly passed an act, approved January 24, 1855, providing for the holding of a convention to revise or amend the state constitution. This action upon the part of the Legislature was authorized bye the vote of the people at the general election held in August. 1856. The delegates met at Iowa City in January, 1857, and formulated the present constitution of the state, it being approved by the electors at an election held August 3, 1857. It became operative on proclamation of the governor. dated September 3, 1857. By the provisions of the new constitution the capital of the state was located at Des Moines, and the State University was lotated at Iowa City.


It may be here remarked that the capital question had been previously undecided, the territorial capitol being located in a two story frame house at Burlington, which was also the capital of Wisconsin territory previous to the organization of Iowa territory. This building was destroyed by fire, and future meetings of the territorial Legislature were held in "Old Zion" Methodist Episcopal church. President Van Buren appointed ex-Governor Robert Lucas, of Ohio, as territorial governor of Iowan, and in the administration of the affairs of his office some dissensions arose between the Governor and the Legislature, which was soon elected and convened upon the Governor's call. But the unqualified or arbitrary veto power was the principal bone of contention. Then the members of the first Territorial Legislature, convened at. Burlington on the first day of November, 1838, was overwhelmed with work, and each member had views of his own regarding the future needs of Iowa, not the least of which was the location of the capital. Several locations were chosen by various "commissions" appointed at different times, the first change being to Jasper county, where five sections of land were donated for the purpose by the federal government. At this time the Legislature was occupying the unfinished capitol building at Iowa City. But a more central location had been decided upon, and the state buildings at Iowa City had been donated to the State University. But Monroe City, in Jasper county, ceased to be the capital of the state, even without removal to that place, and numerous bills were introduced in the House and Senate looking to the removal, first to Pella, but afterward to Fort Des Moines, the latter place being decided upon after two adverse decisions by as many sessions of the Legislature. The Governor approved the relocation on the 19th of October, 1857, and by proclamation Governor Grimes declared the city of Des Moines the capital of Iowa. Thus Iowa City, after witnessing four territorial Legislatures, and six meetings of the state Legislature, besides three constitutional conventions, ceased to be the seat of government.

When Iowa was admitted into the union of states there were but twenty seven organized counties in the state, and about one hundred thousand inhabitants. These were mostly located along the eastern borders, the settlers coming from Illinois and other Middle states. Following the year 1833 the settlers poured in by the thousands, and by 1835 the whole western margin of the Mississippi, from Missouri almost to the northern boundary of the state, was comparatively thickly settled. But from the date last written the tide of settlement crept westward and northward along the Des Moines, Iowa, Cedar and other rivers. The western, or "prairie" portion of the state was not generally settled until after the Civil war, many returned soldiers finding homes in "Peerless Iowa."

On the 11th of January, 1858, the seventh General Assembly convened at Des Moines, now made the permanent seat of government.


Upon her admission to the Union, Iowa received a grant of five hundred thousand acres of land, in accordance with an act of Congress, approved September 4, 1841, and under the provisions of another act passed March 3, 1845. the sixteenth section of each unorganized congressional township was set apart for school purposes. Thus it will be seen that early provision was made for education, a liberal policy which has been followed throughout the entire history of the state, this donation to that purpose furnishing the nucleus to a permanent school fund exceeding four million dollars. The state constitution provides that the money derived from the sale of school lands shall remain a perpetual fund for the support of schools throughout the state. In addition to the donation of the "sixteenth section" for school purposes, the act of March 3, 1845, appropriated forty six thousand and eighty acres of land to aid in establishing the State University. The "Five Per Centum Fund" is also another source of revenue to the school fund of the state. By an act of Congress, five per cent of all moneys derived from the sale of public lands was set apart for school purposes. The interest upon these funds is distributed to the different counties and forms a part of what is called the "semi-annual apportionment." The principal of this fund can never be diminished or appropriated to any other use.

The pioneers of Iowa were a brave, hardy, intelligent and enterprising people. The Western states, which have grown into controlling importance in the Union, have been settled by many of the best and most enterprising people of the older states and a large immigration of the best blood of European nations, who, removing to a field of larger opportunities, blessed with a more fertile soil and congenial climate, have developed a spirit and energy peculiarly Western. In no country on the globe have enterprises of all kinds been pushed forward with greater rapidity, nor has there been greater independence and freedom of competition. The pioneers who laid broad and deep the foundations upon which has been erected the populous and prosperous commonwealth of Iowa, which today dispenses its blessings to two and a quarter millions of people, were of the class who knew no failure. From the inception of her institutions Iowa has had able men to manage her affairs, wise legislators to frame her laws, and able and impartial jurists to administer justice to her citizens. Her bar, pulpit and press have been able and widely influential, and in all the professions. arts, enterprises and industries she had taken. and holds, a commanding position among her sister states of the West.

Iowa has been very liberal in establishing the higher institutions of learning, and in providing for the unfortunate of all classes. The State University was authorized by the constitution and permanently located at Iowa City, Johnson county. The other institutions have been established by acts of the General Assembly, passed at different times in our history. The State Agricultural College and farm were provided for by the General Assembly of 1858, and the commissioners appointed to select the site established it at Ames. in Story county. In 1862 the Congress of the United States appropriated two hundred and forty thousand acres of the public domain to the support of this institution, and the funds arising from the sale of these lands furnishes abundant means for its support. The farm embraces eight hundred acres, devoted to advanced agriculture, the propagation of farm and garden seeds, and the testing of the various strains of livestock, with a view to demonstrating their worth for general purposes on the farms of the state. The design of the college is to furnish instruction in all the arts and sciences that have any bearing upon agriculture. Tuition is free to all inhabitants of the state over sixteen years old. Each county is entitled to send three pupils to the college, and the trustees may designate a greater number, if conditions permit of a greater enrollment. The management is placed in the hands of a board of trustees, consisting of one member from each congressional district. The governor and superintendent of public instruction are also constituted members of this board by virtue of their offices.

The State Normal School was established by act of the Legislature, approved March 28, 1876, and located at Cedar Falls, in Black Hawk county. The buildings and grounds formerly used for the Soldiers' Orphans' Home were appropriated to its use, and the school was formally opened in September, 1876. Numerous valuable additions have been made to the buildings. and the original purpose of the school has been faithfully followed in the preparation of students for the teaching profession. The management of the institution is in the hands of a board of six directors, elected by the General Assembly in joint session, two at each regular session of the Legislature.

The College for the Blind was opened for the reception of students at Iowa City, April 4, 1853. Five years later the location was changed to Vinton, Benton county, where the school still remains. The school was opened at Vinton in 1862, with a class of forty pupils. It provides free educational advantages to all blind persons of school age in the state. An industrial department is also conducted in connection with the school for the benefit of all blind persons who are dependent upon themselves for support.


Mrs. Annie Wittenmeyer was the moving spirit in the establishment of schools for the education of soldiers' orphans. In October, 1863, a convention was called to meet at Muscatine for the purpose of devising means of support and education for the children rendered homeless and dependent through the death of their natural protectors in the service of their country. This praiseworthy enterprise met with cordial support from the loyal people everywhere, and soon there were four schools (and homes) in operation at different points in the state. The first was opened at Lawrence, Van Buren county, and twenty four orphans were admitted in July, 1864. The home was sustained by private contributions until 1866, when the state assumed control of it. Schools were soon established at Cedar Falls, Glenwood and Davenport. These were maintained by the state as long as there was any need for their existence, when the buildings were mostly devoted to the uses of other state institutions. The home at Glenwood has been appropriated to the use of the Institution for the Feeble Minded, and that at Cedar Falls to the State Normal School, as has already been intimated. The home at Davenport is still in existence, the unfortunate self dependents from all the homes having been concentrated at that place, and there cared for by the state. The expenditure for this purpose during the biennial period - 1903-05 (the latest official report) - was one hundred and seventy six thousand dollars. While under the jurisdiction of the state, these homes were managed by a board of three trustees, elected biennially at each regular meeting of the General Assembly.

A Hospital for the Insane was authorized by the General Assembly of 1855, but was not opened to receive patients until March. 1861. The first institution of this character was located at Mount Pleasant, in Henry county, but additional hospitals have since been located at Independence, Clarinda and Cherokee.

The Deaf and Dumb Institution was established at Iowa City, in 1853, permanently located at Council Bluffs, July 4, 1866, and removed to that place in 1871. Every deaf and dumb child in the state, of suitable age, is entitled to an education at this institution at the expense of the commonwealth. The instruction given is of the most practical nature, and the course of study embraces those branches which will be of the greatest benefit to the pupils. There are several work shops connected with the institution and its inmates are allowed to learn any of the trades represented. The managing trustees are elected by the General Assembly, for a term of six years, one at each regular session.


There are two schools for the reformation and education of boys and girls under the age of eighteen who are found guilty of any crime except murder. The judge of the court in which a conviction has been found may consign the guilty one to this reformatory institution, and, with the consent of parents or guardians, may bind them out to service until they attain their majority. A certain amount of labor, varying with the age, strength and capacity, is required of each pupil. The five trustees having control of the two schools are elected by the General Assembly for a term of six years.

These institutions are now known as "Industrial Schools," the boys' school being located at Eldora, Hardin county, and that for the accommodation of girls at Mitchellville, Polk county. The first of these was established in 1868, in Lee county. In 1873 it was removed to Eldora, and in 1880 the sexes were separated and the school (for girls) at Mitchellville established.


In addition to the institutions already mentioned, the state has been obliged to make provisions for restraining criminals, and especially for those guilty of felonies. The first steps towards establishing a penitentiary were taken by the territorial Legislature in 1839. Directors were appointed to superintend the construction of the building, which was to be located at Fort Madison, Lee county. The fourteenth General Assembly established an additional penitentiary in 1873, at Amamosa, Jones county. The expense of maintaining these two penal institutions for the biennial period, 1903-5, was over half a million dollars, a considerable portion of which, however, was returned to the state from the sale of manufactured products and convict labor.

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