What's New   Contact Us   
IAGenWeb, dedicated to providing free genealogy records.


 Iowa History

       An IAGenWeb Special Project


Join the IAGenWeb Team



Our Iowa, Its Beginning and Growth

Herbert L. Moeller and Hugh C. Mueller

New York, Newsom and Company


Transcribed by Debbie Gerischer & Kaylee Bopp





Iowa is, and always has been, a land prized by its owners and praised by all visitors.  The Indians fought many desperate battles to control the land that is now Iowa.  They never gave up their claims to Iowa willingly.  The early trappers and traders knew Iowa land abounded in valuable furs.  When they went back East, or to Europe, they told stories of marvelous prairies and woodlands.

Early settlers left homes in eastern states and in Europe to settle on the rich lands that today constitute Iowa.  They learned to love their land because they knew its value.

Others realized the great possibilities in Iowa.  Rich men from eastern states came and invested millions of dollars to develop Iowa in a commercial way.  They built approximately 10,000 miles of railroads because they had confidence in its future.

But the development of Iowa has not been an easy task.  We owe much to the sturdy pioneers who braved the hardships of early days.  The first settlers brought but little farm machinery.  A plow, a shovel or spade, and a hoe was about all they could find room for in their covered wagons.  Only a few acres could be cleared for planting the first year.  And what a task it was to harvest the crop!  Only the simplest tools were used.  All in all, the pioneers' life was a hard one.  Nevertheless, they were happy because they believed that better days were ahead.


All of the early reports concerning Iowa land were not favorable.  Lieutenant Stephen W. Kearny made a trip in 1820, from the present site of Omaha, Nebraska, to that of Fort Snelling, Minnesota.  He and his men crossed the Big and Little Sioux rivers and two branches of the Des Moines River.  In his reports to the Government, Kearny said that the land which is now northwest Iowa would never have many settlers.  At a later date congressmen still spoke of this section of Iowa as part of the "great American desert."

It is doubtful if many other pioneers had as many hardships as those of northwest Iowa.  They had to fight against cutworms, gophers, grasshoppers, chinch bugs, hailstorms, June floods, drought, strong winds, and prairie fires.  In 1851, the Government sent a party of surveyors into northwest Iowa to lay the territory out in townships.  We are told that "They were unfortunately surrounded by a prairie fire and burned out, teams, wagons, camp equipage, provisions, field notes, and records of survey."

Prairie fires were the worst terror of pioneers on Iowa's treeless plains.  The rate of speed varied greatly but was usually from 8 to 10 miles an hour.  Flames often leaped fifty feet into the air.  One person, telling of a fire, said, "We could read fine print for one-half mile or more."  S. H. M. Byers wrote, "I would travel a hundred miles to witness a prairie fire, to see a sea of flame and experience the wild excitement of those times long gone."

The worst grasshopper years were in 1873 and 1874.  A committee in Emmet County reported in 1874, "In this county, containing the well-tilled farms of formerly well-to-do settlers, there remain not to exceed 50 acres of poor wheat, and 100 acres of poorer oats and corn."


Today all true Iowans are grateful for the sacrifices and the courage of the rugged pioneers who endured hardships in order that a great state might be developed.  Agriculturally, Iowa abounds in "firsts."  She is first in corn, producing 18% of the United States total; first in oats, with 22% of the United States total; first in hogs, having 27.5% of the total number slaughtered in the United States; and first in horses, with 8% of the United States total.  On January 1, 1937, she ranked first in the value of all livestock, amounting to $366,524,000.  She was first in the number of fat cattle, number and value of poultry, and the number and value of eggs produced.  The income from poultry and eggs was nearly as great as the income from corn.

Iowa is the world center for popcorn and for timothy seed.  She is also first in the total value of grain crops, of land and farm buildings, of farm implements, of farm-owned automobiles, and of farm-owned telephones.  She has the highest per cent of improved farm land and her people rank lowest among the states in their per cent of illiteracy.

It is said that "no single 'civilized' area in the world of comparable size has such consistently fertile soil as Iowa.  It is a vast, unbelievably rich garden, beautiful beyond description."

The total wealth of Iowa is over ten billion dollars.  The per capita annual income in Iowa is $600 as compared with $390 for the United States.

But the efforts of Iowa's people have not been entirely devoted to producing wealth.  The state has over 18,500 acres in state-owned parks, preserves and lakes.  She ranks seventh in paving and no place in Iowa is more than twelve miles from a railroad.

Ray Murray, former State Secretary of Agriculture, in an address said of Iowa, "A land that produces more corn than any other state or any foreign nation.  A land that produces more hogs than any two other states.  A land that produces more dressed poultry and eggs than any other state.  A land whose soil produces, each year, more wealth than all the gold mines in the world and over twice as much as the silver mines."


In concluding his address, Mr. Murray paid a glowing tribute to Iowa.  The authors believe that his words are a fitting conclusion to this book.  He said:  "To me, Iowa is the great North Star among the constellation of states.  And of my state I want to say-

"Here's to Iowa - a land of smiling sunshine and copious showers, of babbling brooks and of fertile fields, of golden corn and cheerful people;


"A land of schoolhouses and of colleges and of prosperous communities, rich in optimism and outlook and opportunities;

"A land of promise, where nothing is good enough today, but must be better tomorrow, where despite what has been and is now, still better is yet to be;

"A land rich in its yesterdays, proud of its today's, but ever looking into the future;


"A land whose citizens feel deeply, speak plainly, and live comfortably;


"A land that is first in most things that men call good, a land that smiles a bouteous welcome.......and where only the good are great;


"Let me give you an Iowa Creed:

"I believe in Iowa, I glory in her growth, I marvel at her abundancy, I appreciate her beauty, and I rejoice in her strength and lavishness.

"I believe in our Iowa people, in their independence of action and their freedom of thought, in their love of country and their faith in our ideals, in their ambition and in their courage, in their achievements and in their devotion towards the promotion of all that is good in government, society, education, or mutual helpfulness.

"I believe in Iowa's institutions, in Iowa's ideals, and in Iowa's idealists, in the character of her people, in the wealth of her harvests, in the beauty of her country sides, in her fertility, her productivity, her capability, her adaptability, her reality, and in her glorious future.

"I believe in Iowa, Iowa the beautiful, Iowa the land of plenty."


back to History Index