The earliest settler upon any territory within the State of Iowa of which history gives us any account, was an adventurous Frenchman named Julien Dubuque. He is believed to have been a Canadian Frenchman, and, it is supposed, obtained his first knowledge of the Upper Mississippi country from the reports made of the explorations of James Marquette and Louis Joliette, who, in 1673, under authorization from the French Government of Canada, voyaged along the northern shore of Lake Michigan, through Green Bay, up the Fox River and Lake Winnebago, and down the Wisconsin River, having made a portage between the two latter waters, to the Mississippi. They entered the latter stream on the 17th of June, 1673, and floated down to the solitudes below, gazing with wonder and admiration upon the bold bluffs and beautiful prairies along its western shore. They were the discoverers of Iowa—the "Beautiful Land."

At this time, and until 1788, this newly-discovered territory was inhabited by Indians, of whom no authentic history is known. Marquette and his companions only record a brief paragraph in regard to the tribes they found. On the 21st day of June, 1673, the fourth day of their journey down the Mississippi, they landed on the west bank, and "discovered footprints of some fellow-mortals and a little path leading into a pleasant meadow." They followed that trail, with their companions, five French Canadians, a short distance, when they heard the Indians talking, and, making their presence known by a loud cry, they were conducted to an Indian village. Various conjectures have been made as to the probable location of this village, but it seems to be only conjecture. It is reasonable to believe it was near the present site of the city of Davenport. The inhabitants of this Indian village are said to have been of the Illini, meaning "tribe of men," who are supposed to have occupied a large portion of the country bordering upon the Mississippi. The Illini were succeeded by the Winnebagoes, who in turn gave place to the Iowas. The Iowas, after after having been defeated in a sanguinary conflict by the Sacs and Foxes, yielded up their prairie homes to their victors, and pushed westward to more peaceful hunting-grounds, leaving their name to the beautiful State which has risen upon their aboriginal possessions. A remnant of these Sacs and Foxes remained here when the first settlers arrived. Albert Gallatin, in writing upon Indian history, says, "The Sauks, or Saukies (white clay), and the Foxes, or Outagamins (so called by Europeans), and Algonquins respectively, but whose true name is Mus-quaq-kiuk (red clay), are, in fact, but one nation." A remnant, called "Musquakies," now reside upon their reservation in Tama County, Iowa.

For a century following the discovery by Marquette and Joliette, France claimed jurisdiction over the country, when it was ceded to Spain ; but in 1801, the Spanish Government ceded back to the French all interest in the Mississippi Valley, and, under treaty dated April 30, 1803, these possessions were ceded by the French Government to the United States. It was while a province of Spain that, in 1788, Dubuque found his way into this wilderness, and, reaching the galena section of Iowa, he obtained from Blondeau and two other chiefs of the Fox tribe of Indians, what he claimed to be a grant of lands. His claim was described as follows: "Seven leagues (twenty-one miles) on the west bank of the Mississippi, from the mouth of the Little Maquoketa River to the Tete Des Mortes, and three leagues (nine miles) in depth." This grant from the Indian chief Blondeau was subsequently qualifiedly confirmed by Carondelet, the Spanish Governor at New Orleans. Dubuque intermarried with the Indians among whom he had cast his fortunes, and continued to operate his mines until the time of his death, in 1810. In 1854, a case having been made, the United States Supreme Court decided that his grant from the Indian-chief Blondeau, qualifiedly confirmed by the Spanish Governor Carondelet, was nothing more than a "temporary license to dig ore, and constituted no valid claim to the soil." [16 Howard Rep., 224].

The oldest settlement in the State, is, therefore, Dubuque, which, as a trading post, is identified with the French pioneer whose name it bears.

The territory embraced within the boundaries of Iowa has been purchased by four different treaties. The first, known as the "Black Hawk Purchase," in 1882; the second, in 1836; the third, in 1837, and the fourth and last in 1842. At about the time of the first purchase, a settlement had been made at Galena, Ill., and Forts Madison and Bellevue were military posts. Early in the spring of 1833, several companies of settlers crossed from Illinois into Iowa at and near Burlington, and, from this period, the extension of settlements and increase of population became more rapid than in the history of any territory.

On the 16th of March, 1804, the boundary lines between Upper and Lower Louisiana was established. The lower country was called the Territory of New Orleans, and the upper country, the District of Louisiana. The District of Louisiana embraced the present States of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota, and was attached to the Territory of Indiana for political and judicial purposes. In 1807, Iowa was organized with the Territory of Illinois, and, in 1812, it was included in the Territory of Missouri. In 1821, when Missouri was admitted into the Union as a State, Iowa was, for a time, a "political orphan," remaining as such until June, 1834, when it was attached to Michigan Territory for temporary jurisdiction, and two large counties—Dubuque and Des Moines—were organized. The line between these two counties commenced at the flag-staff at Fort Armstrong, Rock Island, and ran due west forty miles. The population at the time of their organization was 10,531, as returned by the census in 1836. By an act of Congress, approved April 20, 1836, and which took effect July 3, of the same year, the territory now comprising the States of Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota was organized as Wisconsin Territory, and Henry Dodge appointed Governor.

The Territory of Iowa was organized on the 4th of July, 1838, and Robert Lucas, a former Governor of Ohio, was appointed Governor and Superintendent of Indian affairs.

"At the close of the Black Hawk war," says Hon. C. C. Nourse, in his State Address, delivered at the Centennial Exhibition, at Philadelphia, Thursday, September 7, 1876, "and on the 15th of September, 1832, Gen. Winfield Scott concluded a treaty, at the present site of the city of Davenport, with the Confederate tribes of Sac and Fox Indians, by which the Indian title was extinguished to that portion of Iowa known as the 'Black Hawk Purchase.' This was a strip of land on the west bank of the Mississippi River, the western boundary of which commenced at the southeast corner of the present county of Davis; thence to a point on Cedar River, near the northeast corner of Johnson County; thence to the Mississippi to a point above Prairie du Chien, and contained about six million acres of land. By the terms of the treaty, the Indians were to occupy this land until June 1, 1833."

In 1829, Caleb Atwater was appointed a United States Commissioner to negotiate with the Indians of the Upper Mississippi for the purchase of the "mineral country." He published an account of his trip in a volume entitled, "Remarks Made on a Tour to Prairie du Chien, thence to Washington City, in 1829." In that volume, while describing the country along the Mississippi from Keokuk north, he utters the following prophetic words: "When locomotive engines are brought to the perfection to which experience and ingenuity will soon bring them, goods and passengers could pass between the two seas in ten days. That this will be the route to China within fifty years from this time, scarcely admits of a doubt. From sea to sea, a dense population would dwell along the whole route, enliven the prospect with their industry, and animate the scene." He seems also to have a humorous side, as, after prophesying of the future greatness of the West, he says: "At this moment, 50,000 old maids could find industrious husbands in the Western States. For my authority, I refer to the late census."

Mr. Atwater describes St. Louis as a town with about forty stores, and a population of 7,000. On the 30th of June, 1829, he left St. Louis with "a great number of passengers, male and female, bound mostly either to Galena or Prairie du Chien." and "on the morning of July 4, we landed under a discharge of cannon at Keokuk, 240 miles north of St. Louis, at the foot of the rapids of Des Moines." "Keokuk belongs to the half-breeds, whose capital it is, on the western side of the Mississippi." It took him three days to reach Rock Island. "Fort Armstrong and the village," he says, "occupies the extreme lower end of the island. The village adjoins the fort on the north, and a few families live here; Mr. Davenport, who keeps a store for the American Fur Company, being a principal man among them." He notices no other evidences of civilization until he reaches Fever River arid Galena. At Galena, the great treaty with the Winnebagoes, Chippewas, Ottawas, Pottawatomies, Sioux, Sauks, Foxes and Menominees was held, at which, in July and August, 1829, a tract was ceded from the upper end of Rock Island to the mouth of the Wisconsin, from latitude 41 degrees and 30 minutes, to latitude 48 degrees and 15 minutes on the Mississippi. At this council, the Winnebagoes became turbulent, and threatened to massacre the whites, but Keokuk, who was present with 200 warriors of Sauks and Foxes, and who was friendly to the United States, began a war dance, reporting that steamboats with United States troops and 400 warriors of his own were near at hand, and by his firmness and faithfulness turned the tide and prevented any bloodshed.

At the first session of the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature, held in 1886, the counties of Des Moines, Lee, Van Buren, Henry, Muscatine, and Cook (now called Scott), and Slaughter (now called Washington), were organized out of the original county of Des Moines. At the second session, which convened at Burlington, Des Moines Co., in November, 1837, the following counties were erected from the original Dubuque County: Dubuque, Clayton, Fayette, Delaware, Buchanan, Jackson, Jones, Linn, Benton, Clinton and Cedar. Loring Wheeler was a member of the House which numbered thirteen, the Council consisting of six members. In the fall of 1837, the question of a separate Territorial organization for Iowa began to be agitated. A convention was called to meet at Burlington on November 1, to devise "ways and means" to accomplish that end. The Wisconsin Legislature, then in session, were favorable to the movement, and united in a petition to Congress. A bill was prepared in answer to the prayer of the petitioners, which, on the 12th of June, 1888, became a law, and went into effect on the 3d of July following. The Legislature of Wisconsin Territory had convened in Burlington in June, 1838, but the passage of the law creating the new Territory rendered their action nugatory so far as related to Iowa, and they adjourned sine die on July 3. On the next day, July 4, 1838, Robert Lucas assumed the functions of Governor, under appointment from President Van Buren. William B. Conway was appointed Secretary; Charles Mason, Chief Justice, and Thomas S. Wilson and Joseph Williams, Judges. Burlington was designated as the temporary seat of Government. The population had increased from 10,581 in 1836, to 22,860 in 1838.

Soon after assuming the duties of his office, Gov. Lucas issued a proclamation for an election of members of the first legislative Assembly, and dividing the Territory into suitable districts for that purpose. The election was held September 10, 1838, and the members of the Assembly, composed of a Council of thirteen, and a House of Representatives, composed of twenty-six members, were elected. Samuel R. Murray, of Camanche, was returned as elected to the House for the counties of Clinton and Scott, but his election was successfully contested by Joseph A. Burchard, of Scott.

By act of Congress, approved March 3, 1845, provision was made for the admission of Iowa, with boundaries extending on the north to the parallel of latitude passing through the mouth of the Mankato or Blue Earth River, and with the line between Ringgold and Union Counties and Taylor and Adams. The Constitutional Convention, in 1844, had adopted much more extensive boundaries even than those of the present State, the northwestern line extending from the mouth of the Big Sioux or Calumet River direct to the St. Peter's River, where the Watonwan River (according to Nicollet's map) enters the same; thence down the Mississippi, embracing within the proposed limits some of the richest portions of the present State of Minnesota. The reduction of these boundaries by Congress was so distasteful to the people, that the whole Constitution, which was framed at the first Constitutional Convention, which convened October 7, 1844, at Iowa City and adjourned November 1 following, was rejected by a vote of the people at the election held August 4, 1845, 7,235 votes being cast "for the Constitution," and 7,656 votes "against the Constiution." Lyman Evans and Ralph R. Benedict were the members of that Convention from Clinton County.

In 1846, the present boundary lines were proposed by Congress, which were embodied in the Constitution framed at the second Constitutional Convention, which convened at Iowa City May 4, 1846, and adjourned May 19 following, and, at the election held on the 3d day of August, 1846, the Constitution was ratified by the people, the vote being 9,492 for and 9,036 against its adoption. Henry P. Haun was the member of this Convention from Clinton County.

SOURCE: Allen, L. P., History of Clinton County, Iowa, Containing A History of the County, it's Cities, Towns, Etc. and Biographical Sketches of Citizens, War Record of it's Volunteers in the late Rebellion, General and Local Statistics, Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men, History of the Northwest, History of Iowa, Map of Clinton County, Constitution of the United States, Miscellaneous Matters, &c, &c., Illustrated. Chicago IL; Western Historical Company, 1879

 

 

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