The man who built Iowa's first white
settlement was another French Canadian. His name was Julien
Dubuque. Like Joliet, he also was rather well educated for his time.
He was born in Pierre les Brecquets, a village on the south bank of
the St. Lawrence River, fifty miles above Quebec. As a boy he went
through the parish school there. Then, as a young man he went west,
settling first at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
Dubuque learned that the wife of a fox
Indian, by the name of Peosta, had found lead on the land where the
city of Dubuque is now located. This interested him. On September
22, 1788, he held a council with some Fox Chiefs at Prairie du Chien.
At the council he made a treaty with the Indians by which he leased
all the land upon which he had been found by Peosta's wife.
Dubuque, after making the treaty,
immediately started his settlement, taking with him ten men from
Prairie du Chien. We know nothing about these men, not even their
names, except that they were all French Canadians. Dubuque first
took his men to the village of the chief. Then he built his
settlement near the Indian village, at the mouth of Catfish Creek.
It was located about two miles below the present city of Dubuque.
This first settlement in Iowa started one hundred fifteen years
after the discovery of our state.
Dubuque had his men clear the land of
its trees. With the timber they built fences and buildings,
including a house and a horse mill. A smelting furnace was also
The mines were simple and not much
like the mines of today. Shafts were not sunk deep into the ground.
The men started digging into the side of the hill. A drift or hole
was dug as far as it was safe to go and the ore was carried out in
baskets. Dubuque hired Indian women and some of the older Indian
men to do most of the work. The Indian braves would not do that
kind of work.
DUBUQUE AND THE INDIANS
The Indians called Dubuque "Little
Cloud." He was a small, well built man with black eyes and black
hair. It is said that no other white person ever learned so much
about Indians as did Dubuque. The Indians believed that he had
magical powers that were greater than those which they thought their
medicine men had. He handled poisonous snakes without fear or harm.
Once when Indians refused to obey
Dubuque he had one of his men go a short distance up Catfish Creek
and pour oil on the water. He did not let the Indians know about
this. When the oil came floating down the creek, Dubuque stepped to
the bank and set fire to it. Then he told the Indians that they
would burn up all of their rivers and creeks. The Indians were
frightened and quickly obeyed Dubuque.
The little French Canadian lived among
the Indians for twenty two years. He never had any serious trouble
with them and his life was peaceful and quiet.
DUBUQUE AS A BUSINESSMAN
Besides the treaty with the Indians,
Dubuque also received, in November, 1796. a Spanish grant for his
land. Spain then owned the Iowa land. To flatter the Spaniards,
Dubuque called his mines "The Mines of Spain."
Dubuque became a trader as well as a
miner. He made several trips to St. Louis. He would take down a
load of furs and lead and bring back a load of goods that he needed.
The people of St. Louis liked him because he had polite French
manners. They held big balls for him several times. He gave
explorers who came to his settlement a hearty welcome.
Dubuque, although well liked, was a
poor business man.
Dubuque never married. When he died
on March 24, 1810, the Indian chiefs asked if they might carry his
body to the grave. They thought it was an honor to speak at his
funeral. The Indians built a stone vault over his grave, and for
many years the Sac and Fox chiefs paid a yearly visit to it. In
recent years the people of the city of Dubuque have built a tower at
the grave a tower at the grave as a memorial to the man for whom
their city is named.