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Iowa and the Nation

By George Chandler, Author of Practical Civics and Civics for the State of Washington


John L. Cherny, State Inspector of Schools, Department of Public Instruction Des Moines



Chapter VI




            Special Taxes. In addition to the tax on property each male citizen between the ages of 21 and 45 years must pay a poll tax and a road tax, unless he is exempt. Honorably discharged soldiers, members of the National Guard and firemen are not required to pay these taxes. Sometimes special assessments are levied against property. For example, when a street is paved adjacent property owners are required to pay their proportionate share of the cost…


Chapter VII




            Origin. The Ordinance of 1787 by which the Northwest Territory was organized, declared that “Religion, Morality and Knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” When Iowa became a separate territory in 1838, the territorial legislature took immediate steps to organize a system of public schools, but owing to lack of means for support, the system was not established on a working basis until about ten years after the state was admitted into the Union.

In the early years all school were conducted as private enterprises, the teachers obtaining their support from tuition charge the pupils. These schools gradually gave way to public schools as the state became more densely populated, and the development of her resources made the support of public schools possible. This system has been developed from small beginnings, until it has become one of the best in the country.

Educational Opportunities. The people of Iowa have provided almost unlimited opportunities for those who wish to continue their education beyond the requirements of the compulsory attendance law. After the course of study for the first eight years, or common school course, as it is called, is complete, any pupil of school age in the state may pursue an additional four-year high school course. If the school district in which he lives will be required to pay the tuition not to exceed three dollars and fifty cents a month. After completing a high school course, any student in Iowa may secure a college or university education practically free of cost at the State Teachers’ College, the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, or the State University of Iowa…


Part II

Chapter I


I. History


            …Iowa Territory. In 1838, that part of the territory of Wisconsin lying west of the Mississippi was organized as the territory of Iowa, and Robert Lucas, of Ohio, was appointed governor. Under his direction, the first census was taken, members of the legislature were chosen, and civil government in Iowa was begun. The act of congress that provided for the organization of this territory gave the governor full power to veto any and all acts of the legislature.

Constitutional Convention. In 1840, and again in 1842, attempts were made to call a convention to draft a state constitution, but without success. In 1844, however a convention called for this purpose, met in Iowa City, and drafted a constitution, which prescribed boundaries differing very much from the present boundaries of Iowa. Within these limits was included a large part of what is now Minnesota, as well as all of Iowa, except a small portion of the northwestern part of the state, embracing the counties of Lyon Osceola and Sioux, and parts of three or four adjoining counties.

Iowa a State. These boundaries proved to be unsatisfactory to Congress, and new ones were proposed by that body. The meridian of 17° 30´ west from Washington was to be the western boundary, and the northern boundary was changed so as to limit the state in that direction also. In April, 1845, this constitution, owing to the dissatisfaction with regard to the boundaries, was rejected by the people. After another unsuccessful attempt in the following year, a constitution with the present boundaries, which had been proposed by Congress, was adopted August 3, 1846, and December 28, of the same year, Iowa, the twenty-ninth state, was admitted into the Union.

Early Settlers. Reference has already been made to the early settlements in Iowa. The permanent settlement of the state did not begin until after the close of the Black Hawk War, in 1832. In June of the next year, people from Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan pushed across the Mississippi and staked out claims at Fort Madison, Burlington, Davenport and several other places along the river.

A noted author, in speaking of these settlers, says: “The pioneers of Iowa as a class were brave, hardly, intelligent and enterprising people. Among those who have pioneered the civilization of the West, and been founders of great states, none have ranked higher in the scale of intelligence and moral worth than the pioneers of Iowa who came to the territory when it was still an Indian country, and through hardship, privation and suffering, laid the foundations of this great and prosperous commonwealth, which today dispenses her blessings to more than a million and a half of people. In all the professions, arts, industries and enterprises which go to make up a great and prosperous people, Iowa has taken and holds a front rank among her sister states of the West.”

Indian Claims. The territory obtained from the Indians by the Black Hawk Purchase extended along the Mississippi from the northern boundary of Missouri to the mouth of the Upper Iowa River. The strip averaged about 50 miles in width, and contained nearly 6,000,000 acres, or about one-sixth of the present area of Iowa.

Half-Breed Tract. In a former treaty with the Sac and Fox Indians, a valuable tract of land, containing nearly 113,000 acres, was reserved for the half-breeds of these tribes. This land was situated in what was afterwards the southern part of Lee county. The covetous eyes of land speculators were soon turned towards this reservation, and companies were formed for the purpose of purchasing the rights of the half-breeds to the soil. As might have been expected, conflicting claims arose, and several years were spent in litigation. At last, the supreme court appointed commissioners to settle the vexing question. These men divided the tract into 101 shares, and the titles granted by them were afterwards declared valid by the courts.

In 1842, the government made another treaty with the Sacs and Foxes, and by its terms gained possession of the land till the remainder of the lands belonging to those tribes in Iowa. The Indians were to retain possession of the land till the first of May, 1843. This region had been thoroughly explored by the whites, but the United States authorities had prevented any settlements from being made. As the time for the opening of the land to settlers drew near, hundreds of families encamped along the line, and by sundown of the first of May, over 1,000 families had settled in this new territory. These settlers were simply squatters, for the lands occupied by them had never been surveyed, and still belonged to the general government.

Land Sale. Under the laws of the United States then in force, all lands subject to settlement were to be offered at public sale and sold to the highest responsible bidder. If the land could not be sold for want of bidders, actual settlers acquired the right to enter it at the minimum price of $1.25 per acre. When Iowa was admitted into the Union, there were 27 organized counties, but immigration had been so rapid that many of the 100,000 settlers had founded homes for themselves, even before the lands were surveyed or the counties organized.

Capitals. The first session of the legislature of the territory of Iowa convened at Burlington, in 1839. Nearly all of its meetings were held in the M. E. church of that place. In the early part of the session three commissioners were appointed to select a site for a permanent seat of government within the limits of Johnson county. The commissioners selected a section of land, caused it to be surveyed into town lots, and in accordance with an act of the legislature, named the place Iowa City. Work on the public buildings was begun at once, and on July 4, 1840, Governor Lucas reported to the legislature that the foundation of the capitol was nearly completed.

At the first session of the state legislature, it was decided that Iowa City was too near the eastern boundary of the state for a permanent seat of government. It was accordingly determined to re-locate the capital at some point nearer the geographic center of the state. The commissioners appointed to select the new site chose five sections of land in the southwestern part of Jasper county, and called the town which they laid out Monroe City. The public buildings at Iowa City were to be given to the State University, which had been established the year before.

But Monroe City did not thrive, and the legislature continued to meet at Iowa City. In 1855, an act was passes removing the capital to Des Moines, and, three years later, the legislature began its work at that place. In a few years the capitol building was found to be inadequate to the appropriated for a new building. Other appropriations amounting to more than $2,5000,000 have since been made, and the new capitol is a magnificent building and the pride of the people of the entire state.


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