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In order that the reader may fully understand how the State of Iowa came into existence, it is deemed appropriate to give a general account of the events that preceded and wielded an influence in its establishment. In 1493, the year following the first voyage of Columbus to the Western Hemisphere, the pope granted to Spain dominion over “all countries inhabited by infidels.” As the entire continent of North America was then inhabited by savage tribes of Indians, who might be regarded as “infidels” from the Catholic point of view, this papal grant included in a vague way the region now comprising the State of Iowa.


Three years later (1496) Henry VII of England granted to John Cabot and his sons a patent of “discovery, possession and trade to all lands they may discover and lay claim to in the name of the English crown.” During the next five years the Cabots explored a large part of England’s claim to all the central part of North America.


A little later the French Government sent Jacques Cartier on an expedition to America. He discovered and laid claim to the Valley of the St. Lawrence River and the country about the great Lakes, whence the French pushed their explorations westward and southward to the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Thus at the beginning of the Sixteenth Century three great European nations - Spain, England and France - were engaged in making explorations and claiming dominion over




certain portions of the newly discovered continent, each claiming title to the disputed lands “by right of discovery.”


Spain’s papal grant was supplemented and strengthened by the expedition of Hernando de Soto in 1540-42. In the spring of 1541 De Soto discovered the Mississippi River, not far from the present City of Memphis, Tennessee. While trying to reach the Spanish settlements in Mexico he was stricken with fever and died, his body being buried in the river he had discovered. A few of his men succeeded in reaching Florida and upon their report Spain laid claim to “all the land bordering upon the Grande River and the Gulf of Mexico.”

Claiming land “by right of discovery” did not clearly define the boundaries and in course of time a conflict arose, each nation charging others with trespassing upon its rights. In 1620 the British Government, ignoring the grant of the pope and De Soto’s explorations, issued a charter to the Plymouth Company, granting that concern “all the lands between the fortieth and forty-eighth parallels of north latitude from sea to sea.” This grant included the entire present State of Iowa. A few years later the Massachusetts Bay Company received a grant to a tract of land “one hundred miles wide and extending from sea to sea.” In making this grant the British crown not only failed to recognize Spanish claims, but also ignored its previous grant to the Plymouth Company. Had the lands of the Massachusetts Bay Company been surveyed, the northern boundary of the one-hundred-mile strip would have crossed the Mississippi near where McGregor now stands and the southern boundary a little below Davenport.

Thus Iowa, or at least a portion of it, was claimed by both Spain and England, but no effort was made by either nation to extend settlement into the interior. France was more aggressive in extending explorations and planting colonies. Port Royal was settled in 1604, Quebec was founded by Samuel Champlain in 1608, and as early as 1611 Jesuit missionaries were among the Indians on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1634 Jean Nicollet, agent of the “Company of One Hundred,” an organization authorized by the King of France to trade with the Indians, explored the western shore


of Lake Michigan. He is said to have been the first white man to make a report upon the region west of the Great Lakes.


During the first half of the Seventeenth Century the French - especially the Jesuit missionaries - were active in establishing friendly relations with the Indians in the Great Lakes country. In 1668 Fathers Allouz and Dablon founded the mission of St. Mary’s, the oldest white settlement in the present State of Michigan. One of the most active and influential of the Jesuit Fathers in America was Jacques Marquette, who established the mission at Point St. Ignacio in 1871. For many years this mission was regarded as the key to the great unexplored West.

From the Indians Father Marquette heard reports of a great river to the westward and was filled with a desire to test the truth of the rumors. It was not until the early part of 1673 that he obtained the consent of the Canadian authorities. He then hurried forward his preparations at Michilimackinac and on May 13, 1873, accompanied by Louis Joliet, explorer and topographer, and five voyageurs, with two large canoes, the little expeditions left the mission. Ascending the Fox River to the portage, they crossed over to the Wisconsin River, down which they floated until June 17, 1673, when for the first time in history white men beheld the Iowa bluffs near the present City of McGregor. Turning their canoes down stream, they descended the great Father of Waters, noting the landmarks as they passed along. On the 25th they landed on the west bank of the river “sixty leagues below the mouth of the Wisconsin would throw the place of this landing about where the Town of Montrose, Lee County, now stands. It is generally believed that Marquette and Joliet were the first white men to set foot upon Iowa soil.
Marquette and Joliet continued on down the river to about the mouth of the Arkansas River, where they met with a tribe of Indians whose language they could not understand, when they returned to Canada. Joliet’s papers were lost by the upsetting of his canoe, but he prepared from memory an


account of the voyage and a map of the river. When these were presented to the governor of Canada, that official became certain that the Mississippi was a reality, and it was not long until steps were taken to claim its basin in the name of France.


In 1674, the year following the voyage of Marquette and Joliet, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, was granted the seigneury of Fort Frontenac, where the City of Kingston, Canada, now stands. La Salle was of an adventurous disposition and was anxious to explore the river discovered by Marquette and Joliet. On May 12, 1678, Louis XIV, then King of France, gave him authority to descend the river, “find a port for the King’s ships in the Gulf of Mexico, discover the western parts of New France, and find a way to penetrate Mexico.” Late in that year La Salle made his first attempt to reach and descend the river, but it ended in failure. Affairs at Fort Frontenac then claimed his attention until December, 1681, when he started upon what proved to be his successful expedition. he was accompanied by his lieutenant, Henri de Tonti; Jacques de la Metarie, a notary; Jean Michel, surgeon; Father Zenobe Membre, a Recollect missionary; and “a number of Frenchmen bearing arms.”

It is not necessary here to recount all the trails and hardships of this little expedition while passing through a wild, unexplored country in the dead of winter. Suffice it to say that on April 8, 1682, La Salle and Tonti passed through two of the channels at the mouth of the river, both reaching the Gulf of Mexico. The next day La Salle took formal possession of “all the country drained by the great river and its tributaries in the name of France, and conferred upon the territory the name of Louisiana, in honor of Louis XIV.” Under this claim, which was afterward acknowledged by the European powers, Iowa became a dependency of France.

In the meantime La Salle had sent Father Louis Hennepin in 1680 on an expedition from the mouth of the Illinois River to the headwaters of the Mississippi. In April of that year Hennepin reached the Falls of St. Anthony, where the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota, now stands. Later he spent some


time as a captive among the Indians. On April 8, 1689, Nicolas Perrot took formal possession of the upper Mississippi Valley (including Iowa), thus emphasizing the claim of La Salle seven years before. As early as 1682 small trading posts were established at Kaskaskia and Cahokia - the oldest settlements on the Mississippi. During the next fifty years Louisiana was managed under charters granted to Antoine Crozat and John Law. The latter’s scheme is known in history as the “Mississippi Bubble.” In 1732 he surrendered his charter and Louisiana again became a crown province of France.


While France was trying to develop the resources of Louisiana through the activities of Crozat and Law, the English were gradually pushing the frontier of their civilization farther toward the west. In 1667 the Hudson’s Bay Company was organized and on May 2, 1670, it was granted a charter by the British crown. Within a short time its traders and trappers were operating among the Indian tribes of the interior, in spite of the French claim to the Mississippi Valley and oblivious to the French protests against their trespasses. The rivalry between the French and English traders soon brought about a situation which embroiled the mother countries. The first open rupture between France and England did not come, however, until 1753, when the French began building a line of forts down the Ohio Valley to prevent the English from extending their settlements west of the Alleghany Mountains.

On the other hand, the British Government had issued a charter to an association known as the Ohio Company, including a large grant of land on the Great Miami River and the right to trade with the Indians. A fort was built by this company in 1750, near the site of the present City of Piqua, but it was quickly destroyed by the French. The company then began a new fort at the head of the Ohio River (now Pittsburgh), and again they were driven out by the French.

One of the French forts was located upon land claimed by Virginia and Governor Dinwiddie sent George Washington, then only twenty-one years of age, to demand an explana-


tion of this invasion of English territory while the nations were at peace. The reply was insolent and unsatisfactory. The following year (1754) Washington, now a lieutenant-colonel in the Virginia militia, was sent with a detachment of troops into the disputed territory. Part of his orders was “to complete the fort already commenced by the Ohio Company at the forks of the Ohio,” and “to capture, kill or drive out all who attempted to interfere with the English posts.” This order naturally aroused the indignation of France and in May, 1756, that nation formally declared war against Great Britain.


The conflict which followed is known in European history as the “Seven Years’ War,” and in America as the French and Indian War.” It was concluded by the treaty of Fontainebleau (November 3, 1762), by which France ceded to Great Britain all that part of Louisiana lying east of the Mississippi River, “except the City of New Orleans and the island upon which it is situated.”

On February 10, 1763, the treaty of Fontainebleau was confirmed by the treaty of Paris. At the same time it was made known that, by a secret agreement, “the City of New Orleans and the island upon which it is situated, and all that part of Louisiana lying west of the Mississippi, including the whole of the country to the headwaters of the great river and west to the Rocky Mountains, is hereby ceded to Spain.”

Thus, through the French and Indian war, France lost all her possessions in that part of North America included in the United States and Iowa became a Spanish possession. Practically all the French inhabitants west of the river remained in the province as Spanish subjects. Many of them afterwards became active in business and public affairs. On the east side of the river it was different. Many of the French in that region refused to acknowledge allegiance to Great Britain and removed to the west side of the river.


When the Revolutionary war broke out in 1775, the British had military posts at Kaskaskia and Cahokia, Illinois,


and Vincennes, Indiana. Vincennes and Kaskaskia each numbered about eighty houses, Cahokia and about fifty, and there was a small settlement at Prairie du Rocher, just across the Mississippi from St. Louis. Virginia claimed the territory in which these posts were situated and upon the recommendation of Patrick Henry, then governor of that colony, the Legislature fitted out an expedition in 1778 for their reduction.

Gen. George Rogers Clark was selected to command the expedition and before the summer was over all the posts were in the hands of the Americans. Clark’s conquest of the Northwest was one of the most thrilling campaigns of the Revolution. He was greatly aided by some of the French who had refused to acknowledge the authority of Great Britain and removed to the west side of the Mississippi fifteen years before. As soon as it became certain that the American colonies were to become involved in a war with the mother country, many of these French people re-crossed the river and joined the colonists in their struggle for independence.

Although Clark’s expedition had no direct effect upon the territory comprising the State of Iowa, the capture of the British posts had the effect of fixing the western boundary of the United States at the Mississippi River in the treaty of 1783, which ended the Revolutionary war and established the independence of the United States. By thus extending the limits of the new republic to the great Father of Waters, the way was opened for the acquisition of territory west of that river. This acquisition came just twenty years later in the


To understand the reasons for the purchase of Louisiana by the United States, it will be necessary to go back and notice some of the events immediately following the Revolution. Soon after the United States became a nation, a controversy arose with the Spanish authorities of Louisiana over the free navigation of the Mississippi River. The lower portion of the river lay entirely within Spanish territory. Taking advantage of this, the Louisiana authorities assumed control of the navigation of the entire river. Posts were established at various places along the river and every de


scending boat was compelled to land at these posts and submit to arbitrary revenue charges, which materially decreased the profits of the American trader. After much discussion and diplomatic correspondence, the question was settled, temporarily at least, by the treaty of Madrid, October 27, 1795, which provided that “The Mississippi River, from its source to the Gulf, for its entire width, shall be free to American trade and commerce, and the people of the United States shall be permitted, for three years, to use the port of New Orleans as a port of deposit, without payment of duty.”

During the three years following the conclusion of this treaty the commerce of the settlements on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers greatly increased. At the end of that period Spain showed a disposition to return to the old order and the free navigation of the Mississippi again became a subject of paramount importance to the people of the United States. While the question was under discussion the secret treaty of San Ildefonso, between France and Spain, was concluded on October 1, 1800. By this treaty Spain agreed to cede Louisiana back to France under certain conditions. The secret treaty was confirmed by the treaty of Madrid (March 21, 1801), a copy of which was sent to President Jefferson by Rufus King, then the United States minister to England. It was received by the President on May 26, 1801.

The retrocession of Louisiana to France changed the whole situation, as it now became necessary for the United States to Negotiate with France for the free navigation of the Mississippi. In August, 1801, Robert R. Livingston went to Paris as the American minister. Immediately upon his arrival in Paris he asked Talleyrand, the French prime minister, if Louisiana had been retro-ceded to France. Talleyrand replied in the negative and in one sense of the word he was correct, as the treaty of Madrid was not signed by the King of Spain until in October, 1802. For some time President Jefferson and his cabinet were kept in a state of suspense as to the status of Louisiana and no progress was made toward the settlement of the navigation question.

In his message to Congress at the opening of the session in 1802, the President stated that the change in ownership


of Louisiana would necessarily make a change in our foreign relations, but did not explain what the nature of that change was to be. On January 7, 1803, the lower house of Congress, acting upon the President’s recommendation, adopted the following resolutions: “Resolved, That it is the unalterable determination of the United States to maintain the boundaries and rights of navigation and commerce through the Mississippi River, as established by existing treaties.”

About a week later Mr. Jefferson wrote to Mr. Livingston that if France deemed Louisiana indispensable to her interests, she might still be willing to cede to the United States the Island of Orleans and the Floridas. Or, if unwilling to cede the island, she might be induced to grant the right of deposit at New Orleans and the free navigation of the Mississippi, as they had previously been under the Spanish regime, and directed him to open negotiations with that end in view. A few days after this letter was written, thinking the cession of the island could probably be more easily accomplished by sending an emissary direct from the United States for that purpose, the President appointed James Monroe minister plenipotentiary, to cooperate with Mr. Livingston. Monroe’s appointment was promptly confirmed by the senate and Congress placed at his disposal the sum of $2,000,000 to be used by him and Mr. Livingston to pay for the island.

Before the arrival of Mr. Monroe in Paris, Mr. Livingston had opened negotiations for the purchase of the Island of Orleans and West Florida (believing the Floridas had been included in the treaty of San Ildefonso). On April 11, 1803, Napoleon placed the entire matter in the hands of the Marquis de Marbois, minister of the French treasury. The same day Talleyrand startled Mr. Livingston by asking if the United States would not like to purchase the entire Province of Louisiana. Livingston replied in the negative, but Talleyrand insisted that the province would be worthless to France without the city and island and asked Livingston to make an offer for the whole of Louisiana. The next day Mr. Monroe arrived. That evening the two American envoys spent several hours in consultation, with the result that Mr. Livingston was selected to conduct any further negotiations.



It may be well to note, in this connection, that the ultimate success of Livingston and Monroe was no doubt furthered by a letter written some months before by Pichon, the French minister to the United States, to Talleyrand. Under date of April 18, 1802, President Jefferson wrote a long letter to Mr. Livingston, advising him of the situation in America, and concluded this letter by saying: “The day France takes possession of New Orleans fixes the sentence which is to restrain her forever within her low water mark. It seals the union of two nations who in conjunction can maintain exclusive control of the ocean. From that moment we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation. The first cannon which shall be fired in Europe will be the signal for tearing up any settlement she may have made, and for holding the two continents of America in sequestration for the common purpose of the united British and American nations.”

Whether Pichon knew anything of the contents of this letter is not certain, but he wrote to Talleyrand that the people of the United States were thoroughly aroused over the suspension of the right of deposit at New Orleans, and that the administration might be forced by public opinion into an alliance with Great Britain. War had just been renewed between France and England and Napoleon saw it would be a difficult matter to hold Louisiana if an alliance should be made between Great Britain and the United States.

The Marquis de Marbois was averse to entertaining any proposition for the purchase of the Island of Orleans, but offered Livingston and Monroe the entire province for 125,000,000 francs ($25,000,000) though it was afterward learned that Napoleon had directed him to accept 50,000,000 francs, provided a better price could not be obtained. After several days of negotiation the price finally agreed upon was 80,000,000 francs, three-fourths of which were to go directly to the French treasury and the remainder was to be used in settling claims of American citizens against the French Government. The next step was to embody these terms in a formal treaty. As this treaty gave to the United States a territory of nearly nine hundred thousand squares miles, including the present State of Iowa, it is here given in full. It is known as the


“The President of the United States of America and the First Consul of the French Republic, in the name of the French people, desiring to remove all sources of misunderstanding relative to objects of discussion mentioned in the second and fifth articles of the convention of the 8th Vendemaire, an 9 (30 September, 1800), relative to the rights claimed by the United States, in virtue of the treaty concluded at Madrid, the 27th of October, 1795, between his Catholic Majesty and the said United States, and willing to strengthen the union and friendship which at the time of said convention was happily re-established between the two nations, have respectfully named their plenipotentiaries, to wit: The President of the United States of America, by and with the advice of the senate of said states, Robert R. Livingston, minister plenipotentiary of the United States, and James Monroe, minister plenipotentiary and envoy extraordinary of said states, near the Government of the French Republic; and the First Consul, in the name of the French people, the French citizen, Barbe Marbois, minister of the public treasury, who after having exchanged their full powers, have agreed to the following articles:

“Article I - Whereas, by the article the third of the treaty concluded at St. Ildefonso, the 9th Vendemaire an 9 (October 1, 1800), between the First Consul of the French Republic and His Catholic Majesty, it was agreed as follows: ‘His Catholic Majesty promises and engages on his part to retrocede to the French Republic, six months after the full and entire execution of the conditions and stipulations herein relative to his royal highness, the Duke of Parma, the colony or province of Louisiana, with the same extent that it now has in the hands of Spain, and that it had when France possessed it; and such as it should be after the treaties subsequently entered into between Spain and other states,’ and “Whereas, in pursuance of the treaty, particularly of the third article, the French Republic has an incontestable title to the domain and possession of said territory; the First Consul of the French Republic, desiring to give to the United States a strong proof of his friendship, doth hereby cede to the United States, in the name of the French Republic, in


full sovereignty, the said territory, with all its rights and appurtenances, as fully and in the same manner as they have been acquired by the French Republic in virtue of the above mentioned treaty concluded with his Catholic Majesty.

“Article II - In the cession made by the preceding article, are included the adjacent islands belonging to Louisiana, all public lots and squares, vacant lands, and all public buildings, fortifications, barracks and other edifices which are not private property. The archives, papers and documents relative to the domain and sovereignty of Louisiana and its dependencies, will be left in the possession of the commissioners of the United States, and copies will be afterward given in due form to the magistrates and municipal officers of such of the said papers and documents as may be necessary to them.

“Article III - The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated into the Union of the United States and admitted as soon as possible, according to the principles of the Federal Constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States; and in the meantime they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property and the religion which they profess.

“Article IV - There shall be sent by the Government of France a commissary to Louisiana, to the end that he do every act necessary, as well to receive from the officers of his Catholic Majesty the said country and its dependencies in the name of the French Republic, if it has not already been done, as to transmit it in the name of the French Republic to the commissary or agent of the United States.

“Article V - Immediately after the ratification of the present treaty by the President of the United States, and in case that of the First Consul shall have been previously obtained, the commissary of the French Republic shall remit all the military posts of New Orleans and other posts of the ceded territory, to the commissary or commissaries named by the President of the United States to take possession; the troops, whether of France or Spain, who may be there, shall cease to occupy any military post from the time of taking possession, and shall be embarked as soon as possible, in the course of three months after the ratification of this treaty.


“Article VI - The United States promises to execute such treaties and articles as may have been agreed between Spain and the tribes and nations of Indians, until by mutual consent of the United States and the said tribes or nations, other suitable articles shall have been agreed upon.

“Article VII - As it is reciprocally advantageous to the commerce of France and the United States to encourage the communication of both nations, for a limited time, in the country ceded by the present treaty, until general arrangements relative to the commerce of both nations may be agreed upon, it has been agreed between the contracting parties, that the French ships coming directly from France or any of her colonies loaded only with the produce of France or her said colonies, and the ships of Spain coming directly from Spain or any of her colonies, loaded only with the produce or manufactures of Spain or her colonies, shall be admitted during the space of twelve years in the ports of New Orleans, and all other ports of entry within the ceded territory, in the same manner as the ships of the United States coming directly from France or Spain, or any of their colonies, without being subject to any other or greater duty on merchandise, or other or greater tonnage than those paid by the citizens of the United States.

“During the space of time above mentioned, no other nation shall have a right to the same privileges in the ports of the ceded territory; the twelve years shall commence three months after the exchange of ratifications, if it shall take place in France, or three month after it shall have been notified at Paris to the French Government, if it shall take place in the United States; it is, however, well understood, that the object of this article is to favor the manufactures, commerce, freight and navigation of France and Spain, so far as relates to the importations that the French and Spanish shall make into the ports of the United States, without in any sort affecting the regulations that the United States may make concerning the exportation of the produce and merchandise of the United States, or any right they may have to make such regulations.
“Article VIII - In future, and forever after the expiration of the twelve years, the ships of France shall be treated


upon the footing of the most favored nations in the ports above mentioned.

“Article IX - The particular convention signed this day by the respective ministers, having for its objects to provide for the payment of debts due to the citizens of the United States by the French Republic prior to the 30th day of September, 1800 (8th Vendemaire, 9) is approved and to have its execution in the same manner as if it had been inserted in the present treaty, and it shall be ratified in the same form and at the same time, so that one shall not be ratified distinct from the other.

“Another particular convention signed at the same time as the present treaty, relative to a definite rule between the contract-parties, is in like manner approved and will be ratified in the same form and at the same time, and jointly.

“Article X - The present treaty shall be ratified in good and due form, and the ratification shall be exchanged in the space of six months after the date of the signatures of the ministers plenipotentiary, or sooner if possible. In faith whereof, the respective plenipotentiaries have signed these articles in the French and English languages, declaring, nevertheless, that the present treaty was originally agreed to in the French language; and have thereunto set their seals.

“Done at Paris, the tenth day of Floreal, in the eleventh year of the French Republic, and the 30th of April, 1803.



From the vast territory acquired by this treaty have been carved the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, nearly all of Montana, three-fourths of Wyoming and Oklahoma, and about one-third of Colorado. The original cost to the United States was approximately three cents per acre, but McMaster says: “Up to June, 1880, the total cost of Louisiana was $27,267,621.” In the purchase of the entire province, Livingston and Monroe exceeded their authority and Jefferson’s administration was criticized as “extravagant” by the Federalists, who declared the region purchased was “nothing but a desert and unfit for human habitation.”




in 1924 the income of the State of Iowa alone - that is the value of crops and products for the year - was $1,876,000,000 or more than sixty-eight times the cost as given by McMaster.

The treaty was ratified by the United States Senate on October 20, 1803. President Jefferson then appointed William C. C. Claiborne, governor of Mississippi, and Gen. James Wilkinson commissioners to receive the province from Pierre Laussat, the French commissary. The transfer was make on December 20, 1803, when the Stars and Stripes were raised at New Orleans in token of the extension of the United States domain to the summit of the Rocky Mountains.


On March 26, 1804, President Jefferson approved an act of Congress dividing Louisiana on the thirty-third parallel of north latitude. The act provided that from and after October 1, 1804, all south of that parallel should be known as the Territory of Orleans, and that part north of the said parallel as the District of Louisiana, which was attached to the Territory of Indiana, of which Gen. William H. Harrison was then governor. Accordingly, on October 1, 1804, General Harrison made formal entry into St. Louis and assumed his duties as governor of the District of Louisiana.

Indiana was a free territory and the slaveholders objected to this arrangement. The result was that on July 4, 1805, the District of Louisiana was made the Territory of Louisiana and Gen. James Wilkinson was appointed governor thereof. No further change was made until 1812, when the Territory of Orleans was admitted to the Union as the State of Louisiana and the name of the upper district was altered tot he Territory of Missouri. Iowa was then included in the territory of Missouri until March, 1821, when Missouri was admitted to statehood with its northern boundary as it is at present.

From 1821 to 1834 Iowa was a sort of “No Man’s Land.” With the exception of a few trading posts of the American Fur Company, the only inhabitants were the Indian tribes, numbering about ten thousand. This period may be called the darkest in the history of the state. Without the protection of the laws, the trading posts were abandoned, the In-



dians grew restless, and this unrest culminated in what is known as the Black Hawk war of 1832. On September 21, 1832, while Black Hawk and his two sons were held as prisoners in Fortress Monroe, a treaty was concluded with the Sac and Fox tribes, by which the United States acquired about six million acres of lands claimed by those Indians in Eastern Iowa. As this land was really taken as an indemnity for the expenses of the Black Hawk war, the tract was known as the “Black Hawk Purchase.” It was the first of the Indian lands in Iowa acquired by the United States for white occupation. (For a further account of this treaty see Chapter IV).

The Black Hawk Purchase was opened to settlers on June 1, 1833. Says Doctor Salter: “There were some instances of strife and contention among the adventurers for town sites, mill sites, belts of timber and the best lands, but good feeling generally prevailed and rules and regulations as to claims were agreed upon in the interest of fair dealing and mutual protection.”

By the close of the year 1833 there were several hundred families living upon the Black Hawk Purchase. In the absence of any established government the people took the law into their own hands and administered justice as they saw fit. An instance of this is seen in the trial and execution of Patrick O'Connor for the murder of George O'Keefe at Dubuque. The authorities of Missouri and Michigan both disclaimed jurisdiction, where upon a citizens’ court was organized. A jury was impaneled and the proceeding s were conducted with all the dignity and solemnity of a regular court. The murder was committed on May 19, 1834, O'Connor was found guilty and the execution took place of the 20th of June.

This incident probably stirred the Federal authorities to action, for on June 28, 1834, President Jackson approved the act attaching Iowa to the Territory of Michigan, which then included all the territory between Lake Huron and the Missouri River. This attachment lasted less than two years, however, for the boundaries of Michigan were restricted, preparatory to admission into the Union as a state, and on April 20, 1836, the President approved the act creating the Territory of Wisconsin, to take effect on the 4th of July following. Gen. Henry Dodge was appointed governor of the



new territory, which extended from Lake Michigan on the east to the Missouri and White Earth rivers on the west. On October 1, 1838, pursuant to Governor Dodge’s proclamation, the first election ever held in Iowa was held for the purpose of electing members of the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature.


Early in the fall of 1837 the question of dividing Wisconsin and erecting a new territory west of the Mississippi became on of great interest to the people of Iowa. The sentiment in favor of the movement found definite expression in a convention held at Burlington on November 6, 1837, which adopted a memorial to Congress asking that body to erect a new territory west of the Mississippi. In response to this expression of popular sentiment, Congress passed an act providing for the establishment of the Territory of Iowa, to include “all that part of the Territory of Wisconsin which lies west of the Mississippi River and west of a line drawn due north from the headwaters or sources of the Mississippi to the northern boundary of the territory of the united States.”

The act was approved by President Van Buren on June 12, 1838, and became effective on the third of the following month. The President appointed Robert Lucas, of Ohio, as the first territorial governor; William B. Conway, of Pennsylvania, secretary; Charles Mason, of Burlington, chief justice; Thomas S. Wilson, of Dubuque, and Joseph Williams, of Pennsylvania, associate judges. These officials assumed their respective duties on July 3, 1838, and the people of Iowa now, for the first time, had a government which they could rightfully call their own.


If one hundred well informed citizens of Iowa were asked when their state was admitted, the chances are that ninety-nine would reply in December, 1846. While this answer would be correct, it is equally correct that a state bearing the name of Iowa was admitted more than eighteen months before that date. As early as 1840 Governor Lucas advocated



that a state government be formed, but the proposition was defeated at the polls. Two years later, upon the recommendation of Governor Chambers, the question was submitted to the voters and was again defeated, the people seeming reluctant to accept the responsibilities and expense of a state government.

On February 12, 1844, the Iowa Legislature passed an act providing for another expression of popular opinion and at the township elections the vote in favor of statehood was nearly twice as great as that of the opposition. At the August election seventy-five delegates to a constitutional convention were chosen. The convention met at Iowa City on October 7, 1844, and finished its work on the first day of November. The constitution was forwarded to Congress and C. A. Dodge, Iowa’s territorial delegate, was requested to urge its immediate adoption. But Congress decided that the boundaries, as defined by the constitution, included too much territory. On March 3, 1845, President Tyler approved an act admitting a state called Iowa, with the boundaries as follows: “Beginning at the mouth of the Des Moines River, thence by the middle channel of the Mississippi to a parallel of latitude passing through the mouth of the Mankato or Blue Earth River; thence west along said parallel of latitude to a point where it is intersected by the meridian line seventeen degrees thirty minutes west of the meridian of Washington City; thence due south tot he northern boundary line of the State of Missouri; thence eastward following that boundary to a point at which the same intersects the Des Moines River; thence by the middle channel of that river to the place of beginning.”

Had these boundaries been accepted, Iowa would have included the eleven southeastern counties of Minnesota, but the thirty-one counties in the western part of the present State of Iowa would have been left out. The state would have been about one hundred and eighty miles wide from east to west, and about two hundred and fifty mile long from north to south. Delegate Dodge advised the people to accept the boundaries as the best that could be obtained and many Iowans were in favor of this course. But there were three men


who believed that the Missouri River should be the natural western boundary of the state and decided to wage war upon the proposed constitution. These men were: Enoch W. Eastman, a prominent lawyer of Eldora; Frederick D. Mills, of Lee County; and Theodore S. Parvin, who had come to Iowa in 1838 as Governor Lucas’ private secretary.

Against great odds these three men began a campaign against the ratification of the constitution. A little later they were joined by Shepherd Lefler, who had been president of the constitutional convention of 1844, and James W. Woods, on of Burlington’s leading attorneys. It was an uphill fight against a strong sentiment in favor of admission at any cost, but in the end they won. When submitted to the voters on august 4, 1845, the constitution was rejected by a majority of 996 votes.

A second constitutional convention assembled at Iowa City on May 4, 1846, and remained in session for two weeks. The result of its labors was submitted to the people on August 3, 1846, and was ratified by a vote of 9,492 to 9,036. The new constitution, which defined the boundaries of the state as they are at present, was then sent to Washington, where Iowa found a champion in Stephen A. Douglas, then a member of Congress from Illinois. The bill for admission passed both houses and was signed by President Polk on December 28, 1849. Since that date Iowa has been one of the sovereign states of the American Union.


The first counties in what is now the State of Iowa were created in September, 1834, by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Michigan. The act was as follows: “Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislative Council of the Territory of Michigan, That all that district or country which was attached to the territory of the United States west of the Mississippi River and north of the State of Missouri, to the Territory of Michigan, and to which the Indian title has been extinguished, which is north of a line to be drawn due west from the lower end of Rock Island to the Missouri River, shall constitute a county and be call Dubuque; said county


shall constitute a township which shall be called Julien, and the seat of justice shall be at the Village of Dubuque.

“Section 2. All that part of the district aforesaid which was attached to the Territory of Michigan situated south of said line to be drawn due west from the lower end of Rock Island, shall constitute a county and me called Demoine, said county shall constitute a township and be called Flint Hill; and the seat of justice shall be at such place as shall be designated by the judge of the county court of said county.”

Although the act provided that the line from the lower end of Rock Island should be extended to the Missouri River, the Indian title had been extinguished only to the tract known as the Black Hawk Purchase, which extended only fifty miles from the Mississippi. Twenty-two counties were created west of the Mississippi by the Wisconsin Legislature, twenty-three others were added when Iowa Territory was created, but the western part of the state remained unorganized until the act of January 15, 1851, which erected fifty new counties in that unorganized territory. The twenty counties embraced in this history were among the fifty then established. (See chapters on County History.)


~ transcribed and submitted by Mary E. Boyer for Iowa History Project, August 2008

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