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Our Iowa, Its Beginning and Growth

Herbert L. Moeller and Hugh C. Mueller

New York, Newsom and Company


Transcribed by Debbie Gerischer & Kaylee Bopp




After Columbus discovered America in 1492, Spain claimed all of the "New World."  Other countries became jealous.  They did not want Spain to become too rich and too powerful.  So they also sent expeditions to find new land.  England sent the Cabots.  They landed on the mainland of North America in 1497.  Because of the Cabot discovery, England laid claim to all of the continent of North America.


In 1673, as we have learned, France sent Marquette and Joliet to explore the Mississippi region and they found Iowa land.  A few years later, in 1682, another Frenchman, Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle, commonly called Le Salle, went down the Illinois River to where it enters the Mississippi.  From there he went south to the mouth of the big river.  He built a fort at the lower end of the Mississippi and claimed for France all of the land that was drained by the great river and its branches.  It was La Salle who gave the name Louisiana to the land he claimed for his king, Louis XIV.

La Salle never saw Iowa land; but a missionary, Father Hennepin, who traveled with him, came north on the Mississippi from the mouth of the Illinois River.  Hennepin was therefore, one of the first white men to see our state.

Later, La Salle tried to establish a French colony at the mouth of the Mississippi.  He sailed from France with 280 colonists and hoped to find the river's mouth by way of the Gulf of Mexico.  He missed the place and landed too far west.  His colony settled in what is now Texas and proved a failure.  La Salle himself was shot to death by traitors in his own expedition.

Still another Frenchman, D'Iberville, established the first permanent settlement in the lower Mississippi Valley.  It was located eighty miles west of where New Orleans now stands.  From this settlement French explorers and traders went through the valley of the great river, many of them visiting Iowa land.

France may be said to have been the first nation that really had a right to call itself the owner of the Mississippi Valley.  She could claim it by discovery, by exploration, and by settlement.


By the middle of the eighteenth century (that is, 1750) both France and England had many settlements in certain parts of North America.  Both wanted the same land.  They fought a war, usually called the French and Indian War, to settle the quarrel, in which France was defeated.  She lost Canada and all of the land east of the Mississippi except a strip near its mouth.  In that part of the valley she was given the right to own and control both banks of the river.  West of the Mississippi the territory left to the French, reaching as far west as the Rocky Mountains and Spanish Mexico was still called Louisiana.

England was the greatest sea power in the world.  France, now that she had been defeated, feared that she could not keep England from getting the rest of her land in North America.  Because of that fear, France, in 1762, secretly gave Louisiana to Spain.  Thus Iowa land, because it was a part of Louisiana Territory, became Spanish property.

The French people who had settled in North America were now forced to live under either the English or the Spanish flag.  They hated England, and when George Rogers Clark captured the Northwest Territory during the Revolutionary War, the French in that section north of the Ohio River were glad to help Clark and to declare allegiance to the new American Government.


When Spain first took over the government of Louisiana Territory, the French settlers refused to recognize the Spanish officials.  The King of Spain had to send a stern governor as their new master.  Spain, who had long owned Mexico and California, now controlled also all the land between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi.  She also owned, for three hundred miles from its mouth, the east bank of the big river.  This large area in 1768 had only about 13,500 inhabitants.

Spain wanted to make a great and powerful colony of Louisiana.  She established Spanish courts and laws and required that the people speak the Spanish language.

A few years after Louisiana Territory was given to Spain, our Revolutionary War took place.  As a result of this was the thirteen English colonies along the Atlantic Ocean became free from England.  They set up a new government and called themselves the United States of America.  The western boundary of the new nation was the Mississippi River.  The new American nation was a rival of the Spaniards in Mississippi Valley.  Spain feared losing her land to this new country.

The Spanish governor of Louisiana sent men through the upper Mississippi Valley who tried to get the settlers to turn against the United States.  Spain even tried to buy off the settlers.  She had always levied heavy taxes on goods that were sent down the Mississippi, but now she told the settlers these would be no more taxes if they would join the Spanish colony.  Some of the settlers wanted to join Spain, while others became angry and wanted to go to war with her.  The United States Government finally got Spain's permission to let settlers send their goods down the river without a tax.


It was a weak French king who gave Louisiana to Spain.  When Napoleon became ruler of France, a few years after our United States Government was organized, he wanted Louisiana back.  He intended to build a large colony in North America.  Because he had a large army and Spain did not dare to oppose him, Louisiana was given back to France.

Napoleon's plans for a big American colony did not come to pass.  He was about to go to war with England and he needed money.  So, in 1803, he sold Louisiana Territory to the United States.

Little progress was made in what is now Iowa during the years it was owned by European countries.  No permanent settlements were made, although many trading posts were established.  A number of grants of land were given and people were beginning to see the value of Iowa land.  Soon after the United States bought the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon, many settlers came west to live.  Iowa land, however, was kept for the Indians for a number of years.


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