Northwestern Iowa was yet a wilderness, sparsely peopled y its aboriginal inhabitants, when Iowa became a state in the Union in December, 1846.  It was the last section of the state to be conquered by the pioneer.

The first settlement of Iowa began at the Mississippi River in the early '30s and was extended slowly westward, but so slowly that in 1851, five years after statehood, substantially one-half of the area of the state was unoccupied and unorganized.

Twenty counties constitute the area treated in this work as follows:  Woodbury, Ida, Sac, Calhoun, Monona, Crawford, Carroll, Greene, Pocahontas, Buena Vista, Cherokee, Plymouth, Sioux, O'Brien, Clay, Palo Alto, Emmet, Dickinson, Osceola and Lyon.  This area comprises some of the most productive agricultural land in the state, abounding in prosperous communities and served by many lines of communication and all of it has been reclaimed from savagery within a space of seventy-five years.

Northwestern Iowa was included in the territory acquired by the purchase of Louisiana in 1803.  Its boundaries were first touched by white explorers in 1804, when the Lewis and Clark expedition ascended the Missouri River.  It became a part of the Territory of Wisconsin in 1834, and it was included in the Territory of Iowa when that territory was created in 1838.  When, in December, 1846, Iowa became a state in the Union, Northwestern Iowa was still a wilderness occupied by the wild Indians.  These Indians having been divested of their lands in 1851-1852 by treaties, the unorganized territory of the state was organized, forty-nine new counties being created.  Included among these counties were the twenty whose history is related in this work.  The only town of importance in Western Iowa at that time was Kanesville, subsequently renamed Council Bluffs.

Following dispossession of the Indians in 1851-1852 the influx of settlers began, and between 1851 and 1857 settlements were established at various points in Northwestern Iowa.  From that time on the inflow was continuous, being only slightly deterred by Indian depredations and other pioneer discouragements, like the grasshopper scourge of the early '70s.  At first the United States Land Office was at Kanesville, but in the fall of 1855, Sioux City having been established early in that year, the office was moved to Sioux City, and all subsequent entries of land were made there.  Settlement was greatly accelerated by the building of the railroads, the first line to reach Northwestern Iowa being the Sioux City and Pacific Railroad, which was completed to Sioux City in 1868.  Other lines from th east and north soon followed.

The history of Northwestern Iowa, brief though the period be, is of surpassing interest and importance.  Here, within the span of a lifetime, a wilderness has been subdued and civilization established in its place.  Contemplating Northwestern Iowa today, it is scarcely credible that the pioneer's plow first turned the prairie sod so recently as seventy-five years ago.  The progress and achievements of three-quarters of a century have been no less than marvelous.

Woven into the history of this period is more than romance, for romantic as is pioneering in some of its aspects, it involves vastly more of peril and hardship.  So through the narrative runs the thread of toil, deprivation, isolation, hardship, suffering, the menace  of the Indian and the frequent sacrifice of death.  The life of the pioneer was a hard life, but the men and women who came to Northwestern Iowa and conquered it were courageous and resourceful.  It was because of their labor, their fortitude, their perseverance, that the land was won.  It was they who laid the foundation of the empire that is today Northwestern Iowa.  To them the present generation owes a debt that it can never hope to repay.  The record of their achievements and sacrifices merits preservation.

The aim of this history has been to present to the student a background of such Iowa history as shall explain the development of the northwestern section of the state.  This is largely contained in the topical chapters.  The separate county sketches embrace maters which are more of a local nature, and are given in deference to those who take an interest and a just pride in the progress of those political subdivisions and governments which are closer to them than the stare at large.  The editor and his coworkers have endeavored to draw the strong lines and picture the high lights of Northwestern Iowa without overburdening the narrative with details, which often serve more to confuse than to enlighten.

Finally, in the writing and progress of this work, the supervising editor acknowledges with thanks the assistance of Constant R. Marks, who contributed the chapter on the "Railroads in Northwestern Iowa," and of Dr. John N. Warren, who wrote the "History of Medicine."  Many others who were members of our Reference and Advisory Board have been uniformly courteous and helpful.  Both in that capacity and as head of the Sioux City Public Library, Clarence W. Sumner has been of indispensable assistance.

Arthur F. Allen

Northwestern Iowa Table of Contents