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Iowa Official Registers

1911 -1912

 Twenty Fourth Number

Compiled under the supervision of

William C. Hayward,

Secretary of State


John M. Jamieson,


by Guy S. Brewer

Des Moines: Emory H. English, State Printer; E.D. Chassell, State Binder; 1911.




The Nativity of the Pioneers of Iowa

by F.I. Herriott, Professor of Economics and Political Science, Drake University.


Transcribed by Sharyl Ferral



The habits and manners of the primeval inhabitants of any country, generally give to it a distinctive character, which marks it throughout after ages – Wither’s Chronicle.

The lineage of a people, like the genealogy of a family, is not commonly looked upon as a matter of general importance.  The wayfaring man is wont to regard it as interesting and worth while only to antiquarians and scholastics.


But states or societies, no less than individuals, are the outgrowth of heredity and environment.  Life, be it manifest in individual organisms or in social organisms, is a complex or resultant of those two variables.  We certainly cannot understand the nature of significance of the customs and institutions of a people or a state unless we know the character of the environment of that people.  But no less true is it that we can neither comprehend the character of a people or the peculiarities of their social development, nor measure the forces that determine public life and action in the present, unless we understand the sources of the streams of influence that unite to make them what they are.  A people cannot break with its past nor discard inherited political and social ideas, any more than a man can put away his youth and its influences.  Social or political life may be greatly modified by the necessities of a new environment but heredity and ancestral traditions continue to exert a potent influence.


I.                     THE NEW ENGLAND TRADITION.


For years the declaration – “Emigrants from New England” settled Iowa – has been made by the N.Y. Tribune Almanac, a popular standard book of reference, whose compilers have always maintained a fair reputation for accuracy in historical matters.  The assertion – enlarged often so as to include the descendants of New Englanders who earlier swarmed and pushed out into the valley of the Mohawk and into the pretty lake region of New York, thence southwesterly around the Great Lakes down into Pennsylvania and thither into the lands out of which were carved the states of the old Northwest Territory – reflects probably the common belief or tradition of the generality.


Justice Samuel F. Miller, a Kentuckian by birth, was a practicing lawyer in Keokuk from 1850 to 1862, when he was appointed by President Lincoln a member of the Federal supreme court.  In 1884, in a post-prandial speech before the Tri-State Old Settlers’ Association, he said:  “The people (of Iowa) were brought from New England, interspersed with the vigor of the people of Kentucky and Missouri.”(1)  In 1896 in an address at the Semi-Centennial of the founding of the State, the late Theodore S. Parvin, who came from Ohio in 1838 as private secretary to Robert Lucas, the first territorial governor of Iowa, and who was ever after an industrious chronicler of the doings of the first settlers, declared that the pioneers of Iowa “came from New England States, the younger generation directly, the older having migrated at an earlier day, and located for a time in the middle states of that period and there remained long enough to become somewhat westernized.  They were from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.  There was an element of chivalry, descendants of the old cavaliers of Virginia, some of whom had come through the bloody ground experience of Kentucky and Tennessee; these were found mostly in the southern portion of the territory.”


Here and there we find contrary or divergent opinions.  Occasionally we encounter assertions that original New Yorkers or natives of Pennsylvania or emigrants from southern states constituted the important elements in the tides of the western popular movement between 1830 and 1860 that flowed over into and through Iowa.  But even when speakers and writers recognize that the immigration into Iowa was not entirely from the states of New England they almost always regard such other streams as of secondary importance or as subsequent to the inflow of the New Englanders or their westernized descendants.  Issuing from this common belief we have the general opinion that the predominant influences determine the character of the social and political life and institutions of Iowa have been Puritan in their origin.


In what follows I shall examine briefly the grounds on which this tradition rests.  I shall first consider the premises of the belief; second, the social conditions and political developments persistent throughout the history of Iowa that are inexplicable upon the New England hypothesis; and third, facts that clearly suggest if they do not compel a contrary conclusion respecting the region whence came our predominant pioneer stock.


The New Englander has always been in evidence in Iowa and his influence manifest.  George Catlin on his journey down the Mississippi in 1835, found that “Jonathan is already here from ‘down East’.”  In 1834 the name of Iowa’s capital city was changed from “Flint Hills” to Burlington, at the behest of John Gray, a son of Vermont.  Father Asa Turner, a son of Yale, while on a missionary expedition in 1836 found a settlement of New Englanders at Crow Creek in Scott county.  Stephen Whicher, himself from the Green Mountains, found “some families of high polish from the city of New York,” in Bloomington (Muscatine), in October, 1838.  In all missionary and educational endeavors in Iowa, New Englanders have from the first days played conspicuous parts and have been potent factors in the development of the State.  Father Turner preached Congregationalism in “Rat Row,” Keokuk, two years before Rev. Samuel Clarke exhorted the pioneers to embrace Methodism in the “Grove”.  In 1843 came the “Iowa Band,” a little brotherhood of Andover missionaries and preachers, graduates of Amherst, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Harvard, New York City University, Union College, the Universities of Vermont and Yale.  It may be doubted if any other group of men has exerted a tithe of the beneficial influence upon the life of the State that was exerted by those earnest workers.  The two oldest educational institutions in the State owe their inception and establishment to the farsighted plans and persistent self-sacrifice and promotion of Asa Turner and the Iowa Band.(2)  It is not extravagant to presume that it was the emulation aroused by those apostles from New England that created the “passion for education” among the pioneers of Iowa, that resulted in the establishment of the fifty academies, colleges and universities between 1838 and 1852.  From this fact doubtless Iowa  came to be known as the “Massachusetts of the West.”


The election of James W. Grimes governor of Iowa in 1854, and the revolution in the political control of the State which that event signified, first attracted the attention of the nation to Iowa.  Prior to that date Iowa was regarded with but little interest by the people of the northern states.  She was looked upon as a solid democratic state and was grouped with Illinois and Indiana in the alignment of political parties in the contest over the extension of slavery.


Suddenly the horizon changed.  The Kansas-Nebraska bill produced a complete overturn.  Grimes, a pronounced opponent of slavery, a son of New Hampshire, representing the ideas and traditions of the Puritans, was elected chief magistrate of Iowa and James Harlan was sent to the United States senate.  At the conclusion of that critical contest Governor-elect Grimes wrote:  “Our southern friends have regarded Iowa as their northern stronghold.  I thank God it is conquered.”  In the accomplishment of this political revolution New Englanders energized and led largely by members of the Iowa Band, were conspicuous, if not the preponderant factors.  The immigration of population from New England was then approaching flood tide.  “Day by day the endless procession moves on,” declared The Dubuque Reporter.  “…They come by hundreds and thousands from the hills and valleys of New England,  bringing with them that same untiring energy and perseverance that made their native states the admiration of the world.”(3)  The prompt, firm stand of those pioneers when shocked into consciousness by the aggressions of the southern leaders, the brilliant leadership of Grimes and Harlan for years thereafter and the long continued supremacy of the political party they first led to victory, probably afford us no small part of the explanation of the theory of the supremacy of New England in the settlement of Iowa.


Not the least important premise of this view, it may be suspected, is the observation so frequently made by students of western history in the past three decades that “migration from the Atlantic states to the interior and western states has always followed along the parallels of latitude.  Illinois is a remarkable illustration of this tendency… Southern Illinois received its population from Virginia and other southern states, while northern Illinois was chiefly settled from Massachusetts and other New England states.(4)  Historians Fiske and Schouler make similar observations about the lines of western popular movements.  Now if we extend eastward the line of the northern boundary of Iowa it will pass through or above Glen Falls near the lower end of Lake George, New York, through White Hall, Vermont, Lacona, New Hampshire, striking the coast near Portland, Maine.  Extending a similar line eastward from the southern boundary (disregarding the southeastern deflection made by the Des Moines River) we should pass just north of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and come to the coast not far from Sandy Hook.  If the general conclusion respecting western migration is universally and precisely true, Iowa, it will be observed,  would naturally have been settled by New Englanders or their westernized descendants in New York, Michigan and Wisconsin, and by those in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois.  We have been told recently by Mr. George Moore, that under the “Ordinance of 1787, New England men and ideas became the dominating forces from the Ohio to Lake Erie” in the settlement of the old Northwest Territory.(5)  A necessary consequence of this fact, if true as alleged, would be that the large emigration to Iowa from Ohio, Indiana and Illinois prior to 1860 was predominantly New England stock, or subject to Puritan ideas and institutions.


The theory that Iowa’s pioneers were of Puritan origin, while resting on these strong premises, and others that may be mentioned, breaks down when viewed in the light of common and notorious developments in the political and social life and institutions of the pioneers, many of which are manifest and potent in the life of the State today.  New Englanders were conspicuous, energetic and vocal prior to 1840; they were disputatious and vigorous promoters of their ideals of government, law and morals and religion prior to 1860; but neither they nor their kith and kin from New York and Ohio were supreme in Iowa in those days.  If they were supreme in numbers, how are we to account for the absence of so much that is distinctly characteristic of the customs and institutions of New England in the life of this first free state of the Louisiana Purchase?


In the local government of Michigan and Wisconsin the impress of New England’s democratic ideals, her forms and methods of procedure, are to be observed in striking fashion.  In Minnesota and the Dakotas the same is largely true.  In Illinois the “intense vitality” of the town meeting system of government so possessed the minds of immigrants from New England that it overcame the prevalent county form of government, and now controls nearly four-fifths of the area of Illinois, although it was not given the right of way until 1848.  Here in Iowa, it is not untrue to say, that the town meeting and all that it stands for in New England has been conspicuous chiefly by its absence.  Governor Robert Lucas urged the adoption of the township as the unit for school purposes.  An annual mass meeting was adopted in the scheme therefore.  But neither became a vigorous institutional growth.(6)  Prof. Jesse Macy has shown us that there is strong warrant for doubting the vitality of many of the laws first adopted for the regulation of local affairs in the territory.(7)  Not a few of those statutes were enacted pro forma, not especially in response to insistent local demand.  Conditions did not compel compact town or communal life.  The pioneers depended upon township trustees and school directors.  They relied upon county commissioners.  Finally it is almost impossible to conceive of New Englanders deliberately or even  unwittingly adopting the autocratic county judge system of government that prevailed in Iowa from 1851 to 1860.  It struck full in the face every tradition of democracy cherished by the people of New England.


If New Englanders settled Iowa, why did the people of the east experience a shock of surprise when the report reached them that the Whigs in 1846 had captured the first general assembly under the new State government.(8)  “What gain had freedom from the admission of Iowa into the Union,” exclaimed Horace Greeley, in the New York Tribune of March 29, 1854.  “Are Alabama and Mississippi more devoted to the despotic ideas of American pan-slavism ...?”  Was not his opinion justified when one of our senators could boldly declare in congress that “Iowa is the only free State which never for a moment gave way to the Wilmot Proviso.  My colleague voted for every one of the compromise measures, including the fugitive slave law, the late Senator Sturgeon, of Pennsylvania, and ourselves, being the only three senators from the entire non-slaveholding section of this Union who voted for it.”(9)  Von Holst ranks Iowa as “a veritable hot bed of dough faces”(10)  These current assumptions and conditions do not suggest that the State was originally or predominately settled by emigrants from the bleak shores and granite hills of New England where love of liberty was ingrained.


The people of New England from the beginning of their history were alert and progressive in the furtherance of schools, both common and collegiate.  Among our pioneers there was, as we have seen, great activity in the promotion of “Higher” institutions of learning, but the movement was largely the result of missionary zeal and work.  It was not corporate and communal as was the case in New England.  In 1843 Governor John Chambers expressed to the territorial legislature his mortification on realizing “how little interest the important subject of education excited among us.”(11)  Notwithstanding the great legal educational reforms secured by the legislatures of 1856 and 1858, the backward condition of Iowa’s rural schools in contrast with those in states west, north and east of us, has been a matter of constant complaint and wonderment.(12)

If one thing more than another characterizes the New Englander it is his respect for law and his resort to the processes of law for the suppression of disorder and violence.  Coupled with, if not underlying this marked trait, are his sobriety, his love of peaceful pleasures and his reserve in social life.  In the early history of Iowa we find much of boisterous carousal in country  and town.  In 1835, Lieut. Albert Lea was refused shelter late on a cold night, at the only house near the mouth of the Iowa river which was “occupied by a drinking crowd of men and women.”  A correspondent in  The New York Journal, writing from Dubuque in 1839, declared that “the principal amusement of the people seems to be playing cards, Sundays and all;”  while another observer speaks of the “wide and unenviable notoriety” of Dubuque.  One may come upon sundry such accounts of pioneer life in various cities along the river and inland.  Along with this sort of hilarity and reckless pleasures alien to Puritan character we find gross disregard of law and order frequent in election contests, flagrant corruption and considerable popular practice in Judge Lynch’s court. Brutal murders, cattle and horse stealing, and counterfeiting appear frequently in the calendars in the early days.  Outbursts of mob fury and hanging bees, the institution of societies of Regulators and Vigilantees form considerable chapters in the careers of many counties in the State.(13)  This lawlessness can hardly be made to square with the traditions that New Englanders brought with them to Iowa,  traditions that universally govern their conduct as citizens wherever we find them.


Finally we may note a complex or miscellany of facts that have always given more or less color to the history of the State, the significance of which is not commonly discerned. These facts consist of sundry intangible psychic or “spiritual” traits of the pioneers and of their descendants, characteristics often vague and varying and difficult to visualize, but which close observers may clearly perceive.


Iowa, by reason of the marked fertility of her soil and favorable climate, has become the garden spot of the continent.  Her citizens have attained distinguished success in the accumulation of wealth.  The high level of general contentment and prosperity of the citizen body has long been a matter of comment and admiration among peoples in neighboring states.  The high degree of popular intelligence and education , and the prevalence of high standards of private and civic righteousness are no less marked.  All these things  admirable and more are incontestable.  They no doubt suggest the preponderance of Puritan or northern influences in the life of Iowans.  Nevertheless one does not long study the history of Iowa, or converse with those familiar with the early days of the State, or scrutinize our life in recent years, before he becomes dimly conscious of something in the character of large portions of the population that clearly distinguishes them from the New England type of citizen.  About the time the writer became interested in the make-up of Iowa’s pioneer population he asked an early lawmaker of the State, (the late Charles Aldrich, founder and curator of the Aldrich Collection and the Historical Department) if, in his opinion, Iowa was first peopled by emigrants from New England, and his reply was:

            “That is a common opinion but I have long doubted the truth of the assertion.  Iowa has been very slow in making progress in education, in the promotion of libraries, in the improvement of our city governments, in the beautifying of our cities and towns, and in the public provision of facilities for art and culture.  In New England, cities promote general culture as a matter of course.  In 1856 Governor Grimes, himself a New Englander, urged public provision for libraries in country and town.  But nothing came of it.  Our people did not become aroused to the importance of libraries until late in the nineties, and then you know it was probably the munificence of the Ironmaster of Pittsburg, and the conditions of his gifts that stirred our people into active promotion of libraries.

            “Take the long struggle of the friends of the State University before they got that institution of learning on a firm foundation.  It was not until after 1880 that the vigorous opposition to its enlargement and expansion ceased.  From the fifties right on to the eighties the advocates of university education found it hard to overcome, not only active opposition, but the inertia and indifference of legislators and public towards public expenditures for education.  This same characteristic was observable in many other directions.  We have made marked progress in Iowa to be sure.  But it has been hard sledding, I can tell you.  I don’t understand the reasons for such an attitude of constant hostility and bush-whacking opposition to forward movements that prevailed go generally in Iowa before 1880.  It was hardly in harmony with the known liberalism of New Englanders.”


This attitude towards “forward” movements in Iowa, this “unprogressive ness” many would not regard in such an adverse fashion.  In their estimation it represents not indifference to the finer arts and culture of civilization but rather a strenuous individualism, a sturdy independence and self-dependence instead of an inclination to resort constantly to the agencies of government.  New Englanders from the very beginning of their colonial history have been much given to socialism.  They turn naturally to the state and communal authorities to secure civic or social improvements and popular culture.  The people of Iowa, on the contrary, have certainly been normally inclined to improve things chiefly via the individualistic route.  They have been, and now are, instinctively opposed to the enlargement of governmental power that entails increased taxation and greater interference with what the people are prone to regard as the peculiar domain of personal freedom and selection.


All of a piece with the traits just referred to is the “placidity” of so much of our life.  One often hears the comment that there is little that is interesting or picturesque either in our history or in the character of the population.  We are pronounced “prosaic.”  There is much that is old-fashioned, out of date; but it is not quaint or romantic.  Travelers have noted that while there is much of commendable success and wealth throughout the commonwealth there is a monotony in the local life, a lack of ambition, and general contentment with things as they are.  Land and lots, corn and cattle,”  hog and hominy,” these things, we are told constitute our sum mum bonus.(14)   The hasty and promiscuous observations of travelers, who sojourn briefly among us,  are not always to be accepted without salt.  Yet the fact is obvious that there is in the Iowan’s character and in his life a noticeable trait that we may designate Languor, a certain inclination to take things easy, not to worry or to fuss even if things do not satisfy.  We may observe it in commercial and mercantile pursuits, in characteristic of the New Englander.  The Yankee, whether found in Maine, or Connecticut, or New York, is alert, aggressive, eager in the furtherance of any business or culture in which he is interested.  In all matters of public concern, especially if they comprehend considerations involving right and wrong, the New Englander is ardent, disputatious, relentless.  He agitates, educates and preaches reformation.  But this is not the characteristic disposition of the Iowan.





There is a subtle attraction about exclusive explanations of political events or institutional developments that is wont to lure us into erroneous conclusions – conclusions that are too extensive or sweeping.  It is untrue to say that the population of Iowa prior to 1850 was made up entirely of emigrants from any one section of the country.  The pioneer population, no less than the present population, we shall find, was an infusion of peoples hailing from various regions.  The representatives of the several race elements each and all played parts more or less important in the life of the State.  But in the coalescence or collision of the peoples from the various sections in their new habitat some one race or group of immigrants predominated and determined the character of the government and the general drift of political opinion.  In what follows I am concerned to ascertain and to make clear what the dominant elements  or streams were among the pioneers of Iowa.


We have seen that while there are many facts in the history of Iowa that tend strongly to substantiate the tradition that New Englanders first settled the State the absence of the distinctive local institutions of New England and in their stead political conditions, institutions and social habits of radically unlike their stead political conditions, institutions and social habits of radically unlike types, suggest, if they do not enforce the conclusion that peoples from other regions dominated by different habits and ideals constituted the major portions of the streams of pioneer immigration prior to 1850.  Our question now is – Whither shall we proceed from New England to discover the ancestral seats of the pioneers whose habits, notions and traditions of government and society so powerfully affected the currents of politics and the development of forms of government in Iowa during the formative period of the State when its fundamental institutions were given their “set” and the civic and social traits of the people were so largely determined?  Into the lands of the tall pines and the deep snows north of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence; or into the middle states; or into the vast regions south of Mason and Dixon’s line and the Ohio river? 


The nativity of the pioneers of Iowa, those settling in the State prior to 1850, unfortunately cannot be determined precisely by a resort to census enumerations.  We are compelled to have recourse to inductive proofs gathered from sundry sources and to various deductive or general considerations governing the movements of population westward from the Atlantic seaboard from colonial times up to the outbreak of the Civil war.  Such evidence is circumstantial and often variable in character; nevertheless it affords us bases for definite conclusions.


The character of a state’s immigration is determined, of course, by many and various conditions and factors.  But in the last analysis the nature of the immigration and the rate of influx are determined by two sets of conditions and causes, both being in the long run, of equal force and importance.  The first set is the character of the economic advantages which a state offers and the expense of travel thereto. The second complex of causes is the conditions, economic, political and social, in the countries or states whence the population may or does emigrate.  In brief, we shall discover the character of Iowa’s pioneer peoples in their migrations.  We must appreciate Iowa’s geographical location, the chief features of her topography, her natural products having commercial value, the routes and modes of travel to her borders.  We must likewise realize the character of the predominant industries in the regions whence the state may have received it immigration and the economic, political, and social consequences with respect to the redundant population in those regions.  Space limits obviously prevent satisfactory treatment of all these antecedent conditions and factors, and I shall consider chiefly the first set of considerations mentioned.


Furs, metals, wooded streams and beautiful prairies, with highly fertile acres and favorable climate, have been Iowa’s chief economic advantages throughout her history.  Prior to 1830 furs and metals were the attractions that lured frontiersmen within the State’s borders.  The one mineral found, viz: lead, while of consequence was not a very important factor so far as concerned its immediate effect upon pioneer immigration.  Furs, on the other hand, were an important factor.  Buffalo and deer flourished on our prairies and beaver and otter thrived in our rivers and streams.   Since 1840, however, neither our metals nor our fur bearing animals have constituted the predominant or persistent attractions of Iowa.  The attraction has been her beautiful and bountiful lands.


The routes of travel by which the pioneers gained access to the haunts of our beavers and to our fertile aces were mainly three:  First, via the Great Lakes to Green Bay, thence up the Fox river to Lake Winnebago, thence across to the Portage, and down the Wisconsin river; second, via the Ohio river, thence up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers; third, overland by wagon.  The degree of use of these routes before the advent of the railroad can only be surmised.  Prior to 1845 certainly the river routes were the highways chiefly used by the westward bound emigrants.  From 1845 overland travel by wagon became increasingly common until the railroad became a practicable mode of travel, round about 1860.


With such commercial and industrial attractions and such routes of travel thereto we should naturally presume that Iowa’s pioneer population in the main hailed from the land of the pines and from south of Mason and Dixon’s line.  Indeed, when we consider the nature of the industries of the people to the northeast and southeast prior to 1840, and the economic effects upon redundant population such a conclusion seems to be enjoined.


The first people to penetrate and frequent Iowa in any numbers were the French and Canadian hunters, traders and voyageurs.  No large or durable French settlements, however, were found when the immigrants began to come into the State after 1830.  From this fact it is perhaps commonly assumed that people of French extraction of Canadian lineage formed no considerable proportion of the State’s early population .  This conclusion, however, is hardly warranted.  But as our special concern here is the major factor in the pioneer population, I shall pass over this interesting element and turn immediately to the population that came into Iowa via the Mississippi river and overland by wagon.  From what section did the major or predominant number come?


We may determine this in various ways; first, by noting the nativity of the men chiefly in control in the State’s prenatal period; second, by ascertaining the nativity of the first residents in numerous sections; third, by the nativity of the men in power in the territorial and State governments in the pioneer days prior to 1850; fourth, by comparison of the returns of the national census of 1850; fifth, by a study of the industrial , political, religious and social habits and institutions of the pioneers; sixth, by a study of contemporary opinion; seventh, by a similar study of the pioneer immigration into and emigration from the states of the Ohio valley, namely, Pennsylvania, the Virginias, Kentucky and Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri.  I shall undertake here but a brief consideration of some of these modes of approach to the subject.


The nativity of the officers in charge of the governmental agencies in a region often, if not usually, indicates the nativity of the pioneer population – at least it points to the origin of the major political and social influences that prevail when the political habits and institutions of the people are being established.  In the first settlements of the upper Ohio valley the hardy pioneers usually pushed ahead of the army and the assessor and justice of the peace; but in the Louisiana Purchase the military authority always, and often the civil jurisdiction of the national government were “extended” over its vast unsettled regions previous to or coincident with the influx of settlers.  The reports and correspondence of such officers would naturally have a pronounced influence upon relatives, old friends and neighbors “back in the states” that would induce emigration to the region where “splendid opportunities” awaited those who would but take them.




When France released her authority over the Louisiana Purchase in 1804, the region embracing Iowa was for a short time attached to the territory of Indiana, over which William Henry Harrison , a son of old Virginia, was governor.  At St. Louis, in 1804, he negotiated the treaty by which the United States gained the right of access to most of the lands of the Sacs and Foxes.  It was a Marylander, Gen. James Wilkinson, stationed then at St. Louis, who ordered Lieut. Zebulon M. Pike forth on his exploring trip up the Mississippi.  Col. George Davenport, a one time partner in the American Fur Company, and influential in the history of Scott county and Davenport, served under Wilkinson, being with him on the Sabine during the trouble with Aaron Burr.(15)  Among the officers stationed at Ft. Madison in the winter of 1808-9 was a Kentuckian, Lieut. Nathaniel Pryor, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.(16) 


The first governor having intimate relations with the region embracing Iowa  was Capt. Merewether Lewis, a son of Virginia, the leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  The Brigadier General and Indian Agent for the territory was his distinguished companion, Capt. William Clark, another son of Virginia.  Upon the organization of Missouri Territory (that included Iowa) in 1812, Gen. Clark was made governor, holding the office until 1821, when Missouri entered the Union.  Governor Clark’s voice, however, continued potent in the region as Indian Agent until his death in 1838; one noteworthy instance being the treaty of Gen. Clark that Antoine LeClaire, afterward so prominent in the history of Scott county, was taken into the American service and given an English schooling to enable him to serve as an interpreter.  Among the first “white” women in Clayton county, it is claimed, was a former slave or house servant of Gen. Clark.  She was a mulatto.


During the period from 1821 to 1834, when Iowa was merely a part of the unorganized territory of the United States, its affairs were looked after by officers of the army and Indian Agents, whose work consisted mainly of protecting the Indians against aggressions of the whites.  Among them were many southerners who later acquired great fame in national affairs.  The first officer sent to look after the Galena miners was Col. Willoughby Morgan, a Virginian.  Col. Zachary Taylor was another Virginian with whom the miners in Dubuque came into direct collision on July 4, 1830.  Col. Taylor ordered them to disperse and on their refusal sent troops from Ft. Crawford to arrest them.  Years after he declared to Mr. Lang worthy that “those miners at Dubuque were worse to manage than the Seminoles or even the Mexicans.”  Associated somewhat intimately with Taylor, especially during the Black Hawk war, was a Kentuckian of note,  Lieut. Jefferson Davis.  He is declared to have acted with and for Taylor when the Mission School for the Winnebago Indians was established in Allamakee county in 1854.  Davis was also assigned to the adjutant ship of the First U.S. Dragoons, of which Henry Dodge was colonel.  In that regiment Davis, we are told by the late Gen. James C. Parrott of Keokuk, himself a Marylander, was a “great crony of my (Parrott’s) Capt. Browne.”  The captain referred to was Jesse B. Browne, afterwards one of the first merchants of Keokuk and the speaker of Iowa’s first territorial house of representatives that convened in Burlington in December, 1838.  With another Iowans, G.W. Jones, later of Dubuque, Jefferson Davis formed in those early days a fast friendship that endured until death severed the tie – a friendship that had a momentous influence upon the political views and conduct of one, if not both of Iowa’s first senators, a friendship  that eventually caused the imprisonment of Gen. Jones on the charge of treasonable conduct during the Civil war.  With that same regiment was Lieut. Albert M. Lea, a North Carolinian, whose report on explorations throughout Iowa determined the site of the second Ft. Des Moines, and the publication of his little book of “Notes,” in Philadelphia in 1836.  Another southerner of note in the same regiment was Capt. Nathan Boone, the youngest son of the great Daniel Bone, of Kentucky.  He aided Lieut. Lea greatly in furnishing data for the latter’s map of Iowa.


Another distinguished southerner intimately associated with the preterritorial days of Iowa was Robert E. Lee.  With respect to Lee, Mr. Langworthy suggests that it was probably largely due to his report to congress in 1838 that Iowa received her name.  There are some who claim that Lee county was named in honor of the efficient and genial officer who studied the region of the Rapids so thoroughly.  One of the classmates of Davis and Lee at West Point was afterwards a notable figure in Iowa’s history, Charles Mason, for many years Judge of the Supreme Court and subsequently the author of the Iowa Code of 1851.  In the service with these men, especially in connection with the Black Hawk war, were Generals E.P. Gaines, a Virginian and Henry Atkinson, a North Carolinian, after whom Ft. Atkinson, located on Turkey river in Winneshiek county, was named.  At this fort was stationed Capt. J.J. Abercrombie, a Tennesseean, and Lieut. Alfred Pleasanton, a Washingtonian, both of whom rose to high rank in the Union army,  and Lieutenants Simon B. Buckner, Henry Heth, Abraham Buford and Alex. W. Reynolds, all of whom became general officers in the Confederate army.  Another conspicuous figure in the negotiations with the Sacs and Foxes following the Black Hawk war was also a Virginian, Gen. Winfield Scott.


Next to Gen. William Clark, of Missouri, the most noteworthy Indian Agent of the national government immediately charged with the supervision of the interests of the Indians in Iowa and Wisconsin, was “a grand old Virginian,” Gen. Joseph M. Street.  It was he who strove so vigorously to initiate the policy of mission schools among the Indians.  His services for the nation’s wards won for him honorable distinction in the Indian annals of the middle west.  He lies buried in the graveyard at Agency City, Iowa, near by the grave of the chief Wapello, of the Sacs and Foxes.  Gen. Street’s son-in-law, Capt. George Wilson, was in the same company with Jefferson Davis at Ft. Crawford.  Both were in the company that expelled the Dubuque miners.  Capt. Wilson later became the first adjutant of the militia of the territory of Iowa.  Gen. Street’s son, Joseph H.D. Street, was the first register of the land office in Council Bluffs.


Another prominent if not dominant figure in the Black Hawk was Henry Dodge,(17)  He soon thereafter became governor of Wisconsin territory and thereby of Iowa.  He was a native of Indiana, but he spent his youth in Kentucky and began his public career in Missouri in 1805.  He gained distinction in the latter state, holding many offices from sheriff and marshal up to the major general of Missouri’s militia and member of the constitutional convention of Missouri in 1820.  He was one of the positive factors in the first legislative enactments passed by the legislature of Wisconsin that first met at Belmont, Wis., and later at Burlington, Iowa.


Of the general associations of men constitute any considerable factor in determining their conduct, in creating their attitude or state of mind with respect to life and its affairs, then enough has been shown to indicate that southern rather than New England ideas and traditions dominated the men who controlled Iowa, when it was in the initial processes of beginning, when it was inchoate, as the lawyers would put it.  Their presence in and about Iowa was unquestionably a potent fact in determining the character of the inflow of immigrants that began in 1830.  Let us ascertain, as far as may be, the nativity of the first settlers.


The first frontiersmen, other than the Canadian traders and trappers and voyageurs,  to frequent Iowa were doubtless Kentuckians.  With Lewis and Clark, besides Nathaniel Pryor already mentioned, were Sergeant Charles Floyd and nine other young men, all Kentuckians.  Floyd’s remains now lie on the bluffs of the Missouri river near Sioux City.  When William Hunt was fitting out his Astorian party at St. Louis in 1810 he was anxious to secure and did enlist the services of several Kentuckian hunters and river men.(18)  On their way up the river both the scientist, Bradbury, and Hunt separately encountered three Kentuckians returning, who for three years preceding had been hunting and trapping at the headwaters of the Missouri and Columbia.(19)  That many of these “men of the western waters” had frequently penetrated Iowa far inland is surely not a violent presumption.


Col. John Smith of Missouri, some time after the death of Julien Dubuque and the sale of the latter’s “Mines of Spain” at St. Louis, went up the river in a keel boat with sixty men, bent on mining and smelting lead in the region around about Dubuque.  The belligerent attitude of the Indians, however, effectually interfered with his plans.(20)  The inhabitants of the mining region of Galena were mainly people from Kentucky, Tennessee and southern Illinois, a region inhabited largely by people from the former states.  It was Col. James Johnson, of Kentucky, brother of the celebrated Co. R.M. Johnson, who in 1823 inaugurated the lead mining in northwestern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin.  With him were Col. James Simrall, of Kentucky, the commander of Kentucky dragoons in the campaign in the northwest between 1812 and 1813; and John S. Miller, of Hannibal, Mo.(21)  Among that mining population was a notorious mining character, “Kentuck Anderson,” who had a widespread reputation as a bruiser in fist fights, who later went over to Dubuque and in a feud six miles southwest of Dubuque was killed in 1836.(22)


All of southwestern Wisconsin was settled chiefly by southerners.  It was their presence and predilections that secured the adoption of the county commissioner system of local government in Wisconsin, and maintained it until the state was admitted into the Union in 1848, despite the wishes and protests of the New Englanders and New Yorkers who had gained control in Michigan and who were rapidly coming into Wisconsin.(23)  Col. Arthur Cunynghame traveling across Illinois in 1850 encountered numerous caravans or wagon trains of the Kentuckians and Tennesseeans returning from the Galena mines for the winter to their homes south of the Ohio.(24)  We shall see later that the Dodges and Governors Clark and Hempstead, were among those interested in lead mining around Galena.  Iowa, no doubt received prior to 1850, no inconsiderable number of the southern people from southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.  It is clear that the people who first began to look with covetous eyes across the Mississippi to the attractive lands in Iowa in the main hailed from the south.


We find southern men, or men of southern extraction, or of southern affiliation no less conspicuous and prominent in the government of the territory and State prior to 1850 and even well up to the outbreak of the Civil war.  Governor Robert Lucas, the first chief executive of the territory, was a native of Virginia, a descendant of that sturdy, Scotch-Irish stock that so early pushed westward through the gaps of the Alleghanies into the valleys converging on the Ohio.  His successor, John Chambers, although born in New Jersey in 1789, spent his life mainly in Kentucky where he died.  Governor James Clark was born in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania.  In 1836 he went to Missouri, thence to Belmont, and finally to Burlington.  He married a daughter of Governor Henry Dodge, and thereby probably resulted his appointment.  The first governor of the new State was Ansel Briggs, a Vermonter, a Whig in Ohio, who became a democrat when he settled in Jackson county, Iowa, in 1836.  His successor, Stephen Hempstead, although born in Connecticut, spent his youth in St. Louis, gained business experience in the lead mining region of Galena and settled in Dubuque in 1836.  Governors James W. Grimes and Ralph P. Lowe were northern men by birth and affiliation.  Governor Samuel J. Kirkwood was a Marylander, molded as was Governor Lucas by a subsequent residence in Ohio.


In the relations of the territory and State to the national government, southerners and men of southern predilections were likewise dominant in most of the important positions.  The first federal judge was John James Dyer, a native of Pendleton county, Virginia, now West Virginia.  But for his refusal to consider the democratic nomination he probably would have been the first governor of the State of Iowa.  The United States marshal was Dr. Gideon S. Bailey of Van Buren, a native of Kentucky.  Judge Dyer’s successor in 1855 was another Virginian, James M. Love.  Iowa’s first territorial delegate to congress was W.W. Chapman, who was born and educated in Virginia under the tutelage of the noted lawyer  St. George Tucker.  His successor in 1841 was Augustus Caesar Dodge, a son of Governor Henry Dodge, born during the latter’s residence in St. Genevieve, Mo., and he was Iowa’s national representative until the State was admitted into the Union in 1846.  When the first legislature broke the senatorial deadlock of 1846, the first senators elected were A.C. Dodge and George W. Jones.  The latter was born at Vincennes, Indiana, spent his youth in Missouri, and was educated at Transylvania University, Kentucky.  One could without doing violence to language claim one and perhaps both of Missouri’s distinguished senators as Iowa’s guardians and representatives in congress.   Thomas H. Benton had, as is well known, a direct family interest in Iowa through his nephew who early attained distinction in Dubuque and later in State affairs in Iowa, and Senator Lewis F. Linn was a half-brother of Governor Henry Dodge.  So industrious was Senator Linn on behalf of the interests of this State that he was known as the “Iowa Senator”.


Iowa’s first representative in the lower house of congress was Shepherd Leffler, of Burlington’ William Thompson of Mt. Pleasant, was our second;  both sons of the Keystone state.  Daniel F. Miller, our third representative, was born in Maryland, and our fourth, Lincoln Clark of Dubuque, was born in Massachusetts, but he had been a resident of Alabama from 1830 to 1848.  Of the six other representatives in congress prior to 1860 one, James Torrington of Davenport was a North Carolinian, and Timothy Davis of Dubuque was a New Jerseyan who lived in Kentucky from 1817 to 1847.


Striking evidence of the domination of men of southern affiliations and antecedents in Iowa’s political affairs prior to 1850, and even beyond, is afforded in the membership rolls of the early legislatures and constitutional conventions.  The delegation from this side of the Mississippi in the Wisconsin legislatures that met first at Belmont and later at Burlington, numbered 18 out of the 39 members.  Of Iowa’s quote there was only one representative of New England, and one from New York, whereas there were four from Pennsylvania (three  being from Washington county).  The south had eight representatives; one each from Virginia and Georgia, and three each from Kentucky and Tennessee.  There was one each from Ohio and Illinois.  In the first legislature of the Iowa territory in 1838, there were twenty southerners, five New Englanders, eight from the middle states, and five from Ohio and Illinois.  Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee were the southern states represented.  Disregarding the southern stock among the people of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois, sons of the south constituted more than half of the membership.  The records of nativity are not complete for subsequent sessions and the states of origin cannot be given except for the State senate in 1851, and the fifth general assembly that met in 1854.  In the senate of the third general assembly (1851) southerners continued the most numerous, seven as against two from New England.  In 1854, however, we note an increase in the relative proportions of the representatives from the middle and northwest states.  Nevertheless there were in the Senate ten southerners and only four New Englanders, and in the lower house sixteen from the south and but nine from northeast of the Narrows.


In the constitutional conventions that convened in 1844, 1846 and 1857, we find men hailing from south of Mason and Dixon’s line greatly outnumbering the New Englanders.  In the first convention there were eleven Virginians, six North Carolinians, eight Kentuckians and one Tennesseean, twenty-six in all; while New England was represented by ten; the middle states by twenty-three, of whom thirteen came from  Pennsylvania; Ohio had eight, and Indiana and Illinois each one.  In the second the numbers were fifteen from the south, eight from New England, four from the middle states and five from the northwest states.  In the convention of 1857 the south had ten, New England six, the middle states eleven and the Northwest states nine representatives.


[The table showing  the “Nativity of Some of Iowa’s Legislative Representation”  has not been reproduced here]






The declarations of local chroniclers respecting the “first” events in pioneer times, such as the “first white child” born, or marriage solemnized, or the first house built, or the first church dedicated, are often born of misty memories or hasty surmises indulged in by ardent patriotic temperaments.  Nevertheless, while subject to suspicion, and often heavy deductions, taken altogether they may afford us considerable data from which substantial conclusions may be drawn.  A cursory examination of the histories of the counties of Iowa, of the few memoirs, journals and letters relating to the first years of the State will soon convince one that New Englanders were not always the first settlers in all of the counties, and contemporary opinion often indicates that their presence was rare in various communities.


In Lee county, excluding the French Canadians and Creoles, the first American settlers are said to have been Richard Chaney, a native of Prince Georges county in Maryland, and Peter Williams, of Kentucky or Tennessee.   The first merchant of Ft. Madison, it is asserted, was one Walsh, a Baltimorean.  Hawkins Taylor, himself one of the first settlers, states that Lewis Pitman, A Kentuckian, was the first settler “in all the section round about” West Point; and in Charleston, he informs us, there was a man by the name of Allen who “prided himself on being a Yankee – an article scarce in that section.”  Of the five members of the legislature from Lee in 1838 four were from southern states:  Capt. Jesse B. Browne, Kentucky, William Patterson, Virginia, Hawkins Taylor, Kentucky, C.J. Price, North Carolina, and James Brierly, Ohio.  Among the immigrants to Ft. Madison in 1837 was a family of North Carolinians whose head was John A. Drake, afterwards the founder of Drakesville in Davis county.  One member of that family, Francis Marion Drake, became governor of Iowa in 1896.  When Gen. Joseph M. Street was ordered to drive back the squatters from the second Purchase he appointed a Virginian as the first licensed ferry-man over the Des Moines, a man who afterward exercised a marked influence upon his fellows in territorial days, Mr. Van Caldwell, the father of Henry Clay Caldwell, a prominent state senator in 1860 and ’62, and later a judge of the Federal Circuit Court for the District of Arkansas, and still in active service.


Southerners were not an inconsiderable number in Des Moines county.  The first county clerk and city postmaster of Burlington was a Scotchman, Dr. Wm. Ross, who had lived many years in the south, in Kentucky and Missouri.  In 1836, Lieut. Albert M. Lea bought in the “raw village” of Burlington from “one David, a shrewd Kentuckian,” four lots fronting the court house “in expectancy,” and the next year sold them to John Pemberton, the father of the celebrated officer who years after surrendered Vicksburg to Gen. U.S. Grant.  In 1838 Gen. William Thompson, Iowa’s second representative in congress, a Pennsylvanian whose parents moved into the Keystone state from Virginia registered at the “Wisconsin House, the largest hotel” in Burlington, whose hostess and assistants were “all West Virginians from the flats of Graves Creek.”   One of the most influential of the first pioneers was Isaac Leffler, a Pennsylvanian, who had served eight years in the legislature of Virginia and represented that state in congress.  He was one of the representatives of Demoine county in the Wisconsin legislature at Belmont.  In the first territorial legislature four of Des Moines representatives were from Kentucky and Virginia, one each from Ohio and Pennsylvania, and two from New Hampshire.  Another notable early settler of Burlington was no less than John C. Breckenridge, of Kentucky, who became vice president in 1857.  Here is interesting to note that in the case of the fugitive slave “Dick,” whose owner sought by suit to recover him in order to take him back to Missouri, not only were both the leading attorneys southerners, but so was the mayor of the city.  Mr. M.D. Browning, for the plaintiff, was a Kentuckian, and Judge David Rorer, for the defendant, a Virginian, and the mayor, S.A. Hudson, who was expected to maintain peace and order, was a Kentuckian.


In Scott county we find men from south of the Ohio river much in evidence in the early settlements. Mr. Barrows, one of the first surveyors and cartographers of Iowa, writing in 1863, says that “probably the first settler in Scott county” was Capt. Benj. W. Clark, a native of Virginia, who had commanded a company of mounted rangers in the Black Hawk war.  He was given the first ferry franchise between Rock Island and Davenport.  He founded the town of Buffalo.  Bowling Creek in Scott county derives it name from James M. Bowling, another Virginian.  The town of Princeton was settled first by a Kentuckian, Thomas Hubbard, Sr.  The names of Col. George Davenport and Antoine LeClaire have already been mentioned.


The first settler in Clinton county, it is said, was one Elisha Buell, a New Yorker who had been “a pilot on the Ohio and lower Mississippi,” coming up from St. Louis in 1835.  Perhaps the most notable and forceful character among the first settlers of Jackson county was Col. Thomas Cox, a Kentuckian who had been a member of the senate of the first state legislature of Illinois and had served in the Black Hawk war before coming to Iowa.


The population that came across to Dubuque between 1830 and 1840 from the Fever River or Galena mining region was a variegated mixture of Canadian French and Scotch, Irish, Yankees and Southerners.  Excepting the Canadian infusion the majority of the “down easters” had been previously “westernized” either in southern Ohio or southern Illinois, or in Kentucky and Missouri, e.g. the Hempsteads and the Langworthys.  The southerners were influential.  Among them were Thomas S. Nairn and General Wm. Vandever, Marylanders, Wm. Carter, Iowa’s first manufacturer of shot, and General John G. Shields, Kentuckians and the Emersons, John King, General Warner Lewis, Major Richard Moberly and William G. Stewart, Virginians.  John King had the distinction of being the founder and editor of  The Dubuque Visitor,  the first newspaper printed in Iowa (1836).  His associate, Andrew Keersecker, who was the printer or compositor of the firm, was likewise a Virginian.


Concerning Cedar Rapids, we are told that “it should be remembered that in the settlement of our city and its vicinity a strong and important element was from the south.  That element brought a rich strain of blood, and means, and intelligence into the raw community.  And with this element the force of tradition and pride of race and early education held to accepted ideas of their section.”  Another writer only recently declares that those “influential pioneers” came “from Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia and from South Carolina, and from a number of southern states,” and they “left a social impress upon the community which, even to this day, has not been entirely obliterated.”  Among the number that came from South Carolina were the three Bryan brothers, Michael, B.S. and Hugh L.; Mr. and Mrs. E.G. Staney,  Mrs. Rutedge and two sisters, and Donald M. McInosh, a “brilliant lawyer.”  But the chief star of them all was Mary Swinton Legare, a sister of Hugh S. Legare of South Carolina, who became attorney general in President Tyler’s cabinet and later succeeded Webster as secretary of state.  Miss Legare was her brother’s constant companion until his death and later the editor of his literary works.  She married Lowell Bullen, of North Brookfield, Mass., in the “old muddy church” in Cedar Rapids, and lived in Marion for some time, but she exerted her great social influence chiefly in Cedar Rapids.


A census taker in Cedar and Johnson counties in 1836, and the first sheriff of Johnson county appointed by Gov. Henry Dodge, was Col. S.C. Trowbridge, a Virginian.  In Walter Terrell, one of the early millers of the State, Iowa City had another “fine old Virginia gentleman,” highly educated in the classics and mathematics, widely traveled and influential among his fellows.  Rev. John Todd, on his arrival at Percival, Fremont county, in October, 1848, found that most of the Methodists thereabouts were “from Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri.”  In 1854 James W. Grimes spoke at Glenwood, some thirty miles north of Percival in Mills county, in behalf of his candidacy for governor, and in a letter to Mrs. Grimes describing his reception he said: “When I came here I found that the population is entirely southern.”


Following up the Des Moines river valley we find numerous sons of the Old Dominion, Kentucky and Missourian among the first settlers.  In Jefferson county the “first white settler” was John Ruff, a Virginian. In Mahaska the De Lashmutts, Edmundsons, Phillips and Seevers families brought with them the traditions of the Cavaliers and of the proud gentry of the Blue Grass region.


The man who was the occasion of the “Tally War” during the rebellion was a Tennesseean.  In Monroe county one John Massey surveyed Albia.  One naturally conjectures whether he was a lineal descendant or relative of  Nathaniel Massie of Kentucky, who surveyed Virginia’s lands in south central Ohio in 1789-92.  A large proportion of the Mormons who stopped in Monroe county came “from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia and other mountainous regions.”  Claiborne Hall, a Virginian, was the first settler in Red Rock, Marion county, coming up from Missouri in 1833, and the two following him were from Kentucky.   George Gillaspy, likewise from Kentucky, settled first in Louisa county (1840), going to Marion in 1843.  He became assessor, sheriff, treasurer of board of public works, member of the constitutional convention of 1857, and the first democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in Iowa in 1858.  A fugitive from justice in Missouri is alleged to have been the first settler in Madison county, but soon there followed him a “colony of newcomers” from Missouri, among the party was a McCrary, “an old Tennessee mountaineer.”


The first white settlers in Polk county came in when the second Fort Des Moines, at the “Raccoon Forks” was garrisoned in 1843.  Among the troops and the attaches of the garrison were a number who remained permanently in the region, and one finds southern blood common, coming in directly or indirectly through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.  The government contractors, the brothers John B. and W.A. Scott, came via Indiana from North Carolina stock.  The tailor of the fort, J.M. Thrift, was the son of a Virginia slave owner and Baptist preacher who took his slaves to Ohio and gave them their freedom, whose grandson is now (1906) adjutant general of Iowa’s militia.  Peter Newcomer, who was granted permission to take a claim at Agency Prairie on condition that he would build a bridge over Four Mile creek, was a Marylander.  One of the first trappers along the Des Moines was Landon Hamilton, a Virginian, who a few years since left his estate to the city of Des Moines and to the State of Iowa.  Among the southern stock that came in later was James C. Jordan, a Virginian, afterwards state senator, whose home just west of Des Moines became a noted station on the Underground railway.  Another Virginian was John H. Given, father of Mrs. Pauline Given Swalm, and another was Thos. N. Napier, a county judge under the law of 1851.  M.D. McHenry, an attorney and later State senator and Jas. A. Williamson were prominent Kentuckians.  In the development of the transportational facilities of Des Moines were Dr. M.P. Turner, a Missourian, who became interested first in the ferry franchises and later inaugurated the first street car system, and Jefferson S. Polk, a Kentuckian, who upon graduation from Georgetown  College entered upon the practice of law in Des Moines in 1856 –since the early nineties he has been the manager and chief owner of the electric railways of Des Moines.  Des Moines and Polk county was settled by great numbers of Indianians and Ohioans whose ancestors came from south of Mason and Dixon’s line and the Ohio river.  Many names of men of note might be mentioned; a few may be cited – Thomas J. Saylor and Alexander C. Bondurant, after whom Saylorville and Bondurant were named, Senators P.M. Casady and Col. C.H. Gatch, Col. Isaac W. Griffith and Gen. Ed. Wright, Judge Wm. H. McHenry, St., and Tacitus Hussey.


Southern stock predominated in the first settlement of Boone county.  It was named after Captain Nathan Boone who first surveyed the region; William Boone, a relative, early settled near Boonesboro that commemorated the old home of their great namesake in Kentucky; many of his descendants are found in Worth and Des Moines townships in Boone county today.  In the same townships are also many relatives of the Virginian who became a noted circuit rider in Illinois, Peter Cartright.  A South Carolinian has his name preserved in the town of Luther, and a Virginian in Zenorville.  The common practice of western emigration preceding by “families” and “neighborhoods” is excellently illustrated in the career of the Hull family.  Three brothers, James, George and Uriah, of Virginia Scotch-German stock, settled in and about Boone between 1847 and 1850, and their numerous families and relations almost immediately made them the most potent political factors in the county, an influence which they maintained until the war and after.  Two other brothers, John and C.J. McFarland, representatives of southern stock and views, early attained positions of marked influence, the former in banking and business and the latter on the bench.  Judge McFarland was an exceedingly picturesque character in the annals of the county judge system.


One may find some interesting evidence of the make-up of the population in various section s of the northwestern counties of Iowa in the muster rolls of the Northern Border Brigade, raised in the fall of 1862 to guard our frontier against the threatened forays of the blood-thirsty Sioux.  The five companies, comprising 16 officers and 254 men, were recruited from an extensive region including Harrison, Shelby, Woodbury in the southwest, Hamilton and Hardin in the southeast and Emmet and Kossuth on the north.  The lieutenant-colonel, James A. Savage, of Sioux City, was a Tennesseean.  Of the 270 there were 24 from New England, 55 from New York and Pennsylvania, 34 from the southern states, 84 from the northwest states, and 7 from Iowa.  The first mentioned were chiefly in the northern counties.  In the southern and western counties the southern states and Ohio and Indiana claimed the major number.  In company B, for instance, recruited chiefly in and about Ft. Dodge, 18 out of the 42 native born were southerners, mostly North Carolinians and Tennesseeans.(25)


This somewhat drearisome recital of particulars may be closed by one other reference.


During the high waters in the Missouri and Floyd rivers in March, 1857, it was discovered that the floods were encroaching dangerously near to the grave of Sergeant Floyd, the young Kentuckian of Lewis and Clark’s party who died and was buried on the river bluffs in 1804.  His remains were taken up for reinterment.  On May 28, 1857, under directions of Capt. James B. Todd, late of the United States army, they were taken to the steamer for transfer to their present resting place.  The pall bearers whose names are preserved, were W. Craft, of Virginia, T. Griffy, of Kentucky, L. Kennerly, of Missouri, W.H. Levering, of Indiana, N. Levering, of Ohio, and D.W. Scott of the army.   In Woodbury it appears that southerners seem to form a goodly proportion of the population if the suggestions of those names were worth consideration.


If we examine into the nativity of the pioneers among the professions we find many noteworthy southerners.


Iowa’s first preacher probably was a Kentuckian, Rev. David Lowry, a Cumberland Presbyterian, who assisted Gen. Street in his work with the Winnebago Indians at the Mission school in Allamakee county.  In Mahaska county in 1844, Mrs. Phillips tells us, “Cumberland Presbyterians seen to predominate.” “Rev. Launcelot Graham Bell, a Virginian, organized the first Presbyterian church” at West Point, Lee county, at Muscatine, at Iowa City, and in cities and towns along the southern part of the State to the Missouri.  It was Rev. John Hancock, of Kentucky, assisted by Mr. Bell, who started the first Presbyterian church in Council Bluffs.  The first Presbyterian preacher in Red Rock, Marion county, and the first resident pastor in Des Moines was a North Carolinian, Rev. Thompson Bird.  The first preacher of the Christian church in Iowa was David R. Chance, a Kentuckian.  He was one of the seven representatives of Demoine county in the legislature at Belmont in 1836.  His experiences with legislative virtue in the location of the territorial capital did not enhance his faith in human nature.  It was Elder D.S. Burnet, of Baltimore, who established the Christian church in Iowa City,.  One of the forceful and constructive men in the Methodist church was Rev. Samuel Clark.  He was born in Virginia, and was chaplain of Virginia’s constitutional convention in 1829-30, in which sat ex-presidents Madison and Monroe.  He was one of the founders of the Wesleyan University at Mr. Pleasant and the father of the brilliant editor of The Keokuk Gate City,  Sam M. Clark.  Bishop Loras of the Catholic church, who came to Dubuque in 1836, was stationed in Mobile, Alabama, from 1829 to 1836.


Among the doctors of the State were Dr. Enos Lowe, of Burlington, a native of North Carolina.  He was made chairman of the constitutional convention that met in Iowa City in 1846 that framed the constitution finally adopted.  Dr. John D. Elbert of Keosauqua, Dr. John W. Finley of Dubuque, Dr. John F. Henry, of Burlington, were Kentuckians.  Dr. W. Patton of Council Bluffs was from Virginia.  Dr. G.L. Brown of Marion county was a Tennesseean.  There were two physicians in the first territorial legislature and both hailed from the south, Dr. Gideon S. Bailey of Van Buren county, from Kentucky, in the house of representatives, and Dr. Jesse B. Payne of Henry county, from Tennessee, in the council.  In the constitutional convention of 1844, four out of the five doctors who were members were from the south.  In the convention of 1846 honors were even, one was from Alabama, one from North Carolina, and two from Vermont.


In the military service several distinguished names are met with:  Gen. James C. Parrott of Keokuk,  Gen. J.G. Lauman of Burlington, Gen. William Vandever of Dubuque, all Marylanders; and Gen. John Edwards of Chariton, and Gen. James A. Williamson of Des Moines, were both Kentuckians.


Southerners loom up prominently in the early annals of Iowa’s legal profession.  Besides Judge Caldwell already mentioned, and Judges Dyer and Love referred to, Judge James Grant, a North Carolinian who settled in Davenport, was a man of remarkable force of character if one-half that hosts of admirers relate of him be true.  He was a member of the first constitutional convention of 1844, and he called the second convention to order in 1846, and was a potent factor in their deliberations.  Other southern lawyers in those conventions were W.W. Chapman of Virginia, our territorial delegate to congress, Wm. R. Harrison, Washington county, from North Carolina, H.P. Haun of Clinton county, from Kentucky, and G.W. Bowie, of Des Moines county, from Maryland.  Judge Dyer’s brother-in-law, Ben M. Samuels, a Virginian, was one of the forceful lawyers of Dubuque.  In Mahaska county we have the name of William H. Seevers, who gained fame both as a codifier and as a judge of the State supreme court.  A vigorous lawyer in the pioneer days of Council Bluffs was Judge R.L. Douglass, a native of Maryland.  One of the leaders in the constitutional convention of 1857 was William Penn Clarke, a Marylander.  Another Marylander then rising into prominence was C.C. Nourse of Keosauqua, who later became attorney general of Iowa.  The name of one Iowa lawyer, however, stands above all, Samuel F. Miller of Keokuk, a Kentuckian, who practice law in the Gate City from 1850 to 1862, when President Lincoln made him associate justice of our great supreme court at Washington. 


In the development of the public schools of Iowa men from the southern states were not a little in evidence.  A young Kentuckian, Berryman Jennings, was the first school teacher in Iowa, conducting a school in Lee county from October to December, 1830.  W.W. Jamison, a Virginian, a graduate of Washington college, was among the first teachers of Keokuk.  The first school house was built three years later at Burlington by Dr. Ross, a long resident Kentuckian, already mentioned.  It was Gideon S. Bailey of Van Buren, also a Kentuckian, who introduced the first school laws in the territorial legislature in 1838.  The schools of Council Bluffs were started by Mr. and Mrs. James B. Rue from Kentucky.  In 1838 a nephew of the author of “Thirty Years View,” Thomas H. Benton, Jr., a Tennesseean, educated in Missouri and Tennessee, founded a classical school in Dubuque.  Ten years later he entered upon an influential career as State superintendent of public instruction that did not cease until his death in 1867.  The influence of Rev. Samuel Clarke in the founding of the Iowa Wesleyan University at Mt. Pleasant has been noted.  The founder of Cornell college at Mt. Vernon was Rev. Geo. B. Bowman, a North Carolinian.  The first instructors in Oskaloosa college, in 1861, were two brothers, Rev. Geo. T. and W.A. Carpenter, both sons of Kentucky.  The former was made president and held the office until 1880 when he with the assistance of his brother-in-law, Gen. F.M. Drake, founded Drake University in Des Moines.


V.                  SOME OPINIONS.


Among the pioneers opinions were now and then expressed concerning the nativity of the population.  As we might anticipate the subject was not one that, amidst the press of efforts to subdue forest, prairie and stream, would seriously engage attention or elicit seasoned opinion.  Personal associations, especially political and religious affiliations, usually narrowed vision and interfered with impartial judgment.  A few recorded opinions are found that are of interest although they are somewhat divergent; some were expressed early in the history of the State, some in memoirs and recollections published in recent years.


Writing to Peter Cooper in 1868, Governor Samuel Merrill, a native of Maine, who came to Iowa in 1856, declared that the State was “settled mainly from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania, with a large admixture from New England.”  Judge Francis Springer, also a son of Maine, who represented Louisa and Washington counties in the territorial council in 1840-41, and in 1857 became president of the third constitutional convention, stated in his “Recollections,” published in 1897, that “the first settlers of Iowa, it has been said, were, from southern Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.”  Professor L.F. Parker, one of Iowa’s pioneer teachers and historians, writing in 1893, said that “the earliest settlers came largely from southern Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and the most northerly of the southern states; Pennsylvania soon furnished a large contingent. ... About 1854 large additions were made to the population from New England and from its earlier overflows into New York and northern Ohio.”  Mr. George Duffield of Keosauqua, a pioneer of 1837, has recently told us that when his father, James Duffield, started west in 1837, there were thousands of settlers “on the move” towards Iowa, leaving Pennsylvania and Ohio.  “They (the Duffields) were joined on their way down the Ohio by movers from the Carolinas, Kentucky and other states, and all were afloat in keel boats, ‘broads’ and steamboats.”  The observation of the late Theodore Parvin respecting the settlement of sons of the Old Dominion in southern Iowa has already been quoted.  According to Hawkins Taylor “Yankees were a scarce article” in Lee county in the first years of the territory.  During the winter if 1841 the late Mr. James Hilton of Monroe county made “a pedestrian tour of the counties of Lee, Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson and Van Buren” and he found that “by far the greater part of the settlers in that part of Iowa were from Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana...”


Three opinions are especially noteworthy.  They were expressed by men whose experience with and knowledge of the pioneers were both extensive and official.  Each opinion was expressed in connection with or relative to a critical event in the life of the territory or the State.  The nativity of the people was  consciously considered in the first and third and evidently in the mind in the second:  hence their significance.


When the first proposals for the organization of the territory of Iowa were being urged upon congress, the lynx-eyed, far-seeing guardian of slavery, Calhoun, was stoutly opposed.  George W. Jones, the delegate of Wisconsin, who urged our case “told him that the inhabitants were mainly from Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois; that the institutions of the south had nothing to fear from them.  Mr. Calhoun replied that this state of things would not last long; that men from New England and other states, where abolition sentiments prevailed, would come in and drive him from power and place.”  The error of both Jones and Calhoun was their lack of appreciation of the abolition or anti-slavery sentiment among the southerners who came north.


Writing to Salmon P. Chase upon conditions in Iowa in 1856, Governor Grimes declared: “the southern half of our State is strongly pro-slavery, but I think we will be able to carry a majority with us for free principles. ... The north third of our State will be to Iowa politically what the Western Reserve is to the state of Ohio.”  The implications plainly are:  first, people of southern sympathies, if not of southern lineage numerically prevailed in Iowa up to 1856; second, the same was true of southern Ohio; and third, the opponents of slavery, if they were to win in their fight against the arrogant advance of the leaders of the southern system had to depend upon the division of the southern residents in Iowa.  The latter fact has not been fully appreciated in Iowa.  No more has a similar state of facts in southern and western Pennsylvania, in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.


In 1859, excluding slavery, the question that vexed Iowans locally more than any other matter, was the continuance of the county judge system that was instituted in 1851.  The gross disregard of economy in financial administration, and often flagrant misuse of their autocratic powers in many districts outraged the dearest traditions of the New Englanders and New Yorkers who came into Iowa in such numbers between 1850 and 1860.  Mr. Julius H. Powers was elected to the senate in 1859 from a district in north central Iowa comprising nine counties.  He was chairman of the senate committee on county and township organization.  In describing the contest in the legislature over the attempt to revolutionize the system of local government, Mr. Powers explains the animus of the struggle, and so far as I can discover he is the only observer or writer who has perceived the profound social and political consequences of the different streams of pioneer immigration into Iowa in the ante bellum period:

            “Two tides had flowed into Iowa in populating the State, one from the east, bringing the New England element and habits, with its memory of town meetings and individual rights, and one from the south, bringing with it the southern element with its thoughts and polity.

            “In the early settlement of the State the southerner had largely predominated, and the State’s early organization was fashioned and moulded by that influence, and the old baronial system had been perpetuated through the slave power where necessity required a centralizing.  To abolish this one man power and disburse it among the many was looked upon by the southern element as dangerous in the extreme, and considerable bitterness was engendered when a change was demanded.

            “Party lines were thrown down, and former influences and surroundings controlled the vote.”




All these things may be so; and still the numerical preponderance of southern stock in Iowa prior to the civil war is by no means demonstrated.  The predominance of southerners among the men charged wit the supervision of this region in the preterritorial days may have been a mere chance occurrence.  The preference of the national government for men of southern blood or views in the territorial appointments was due, some may contend, to political conditions affecting the entire nation.  Again the large number of southerners in our early legislative and constitutional assemblies, while very suggestive, is not in and of itself proof of the numerical preponderance of southern stock.  As to opinions they usually are based on promiscuous and vagrant impressions.  The facts may be far different.


We have three census enumerations, the federal counts of 1850 and 1860, and the state census of 1856, that enable us to determine, with precision, the nativity of Iowa’s pioneers at the close of the period here under consideration.  A comparative study of their returns enables us clearly to discern the predominant elements in the previous decades.


According to the federal census of 1850 the number of native born New Englanders in Iowa was only 5,535; of which 813 were natives of Maine, 580 of New Hampshire, 1,645 of Vermont, 1,251 of Massachusetts, 256 of Rhode Island, and 1,090 of Connecticut.  The pioneers hailing from the middle states aggregated 24,516; Pennsylvania was credited with 14, 714, and New York with 8,134.  The total number born in the southern states amounted to 30,954.  Virginia gave us 7,861; Maryland 1,888; North Carolina 2,589; Tennessee 4,274; Kentucky 8,994 and Missouri 3,897.  From the states of the old Northwest territory we received 59,098; Ohio sending us 30,713; Indiana 19,925; and Illinois 7,247.  The native born Iowans numbered 50,380.


There are some striking exhibits in the foregoing.  In the first place the inhabitants of Iowa who claimed New England as their place of birth did not number four in the hundred of the population of 1850.  Second, the number hailing from the southern states was nearly six times the number coming from east of the Hudson.  Third, there were more native born Virginians than there were native born New Englanders altogether.  Fourth, the number of Kentuckians likewise outnumbered the total number coming from New England.


The enumerations of 1856 and 1860 show some increases, both absolutely and relatively, in the numbers hailing from New England and the middle states.  Nevertheless the people of the south continued to outnumber the natives of  New England three and two to one, as may be seen from the following summery.  Even in 1860 the Virginians in Iowa alone exceeded the total number coming from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont:

    1850/percent 1856/percent (26)  1860/percent  
  New England 5,535/3.2% 18,389/4.3%     25,040/4.4%  
  Middle States  24,516/14.3% 85,196/20.0% 103,173/18.1%  
  Southern States




  Northwest States     59,098/34.5% 172,303/40.6% 193,005/33.9%  
  Iowa  50,380/29.6%   93,302/21.9% 191,148/33.7%  
  Other States 138/0.8%  122/0.3% 2,460/0.5%  
    ---------------- ---------------- ----------------  

Total natives

170,621 424,254               568,832  


The significance of these figures cannot be appreciated, however, until we realize that the peoples coming to Iowa from Delaware, from southern and western Pennsylvania and from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and southern Wisconsin were likewise predominantly southern in their ancestry, affiliations and traditions.  This fact, I believe, is no less demonstrable than the preponderance of southerners in Iowa in ante bellum  days.


The New England tradition must be adversely considered, and presumptuous though it may seem, Justice Miller’s judgment must be reversed; the decision must be Iowa was settled first by sons of the Old Dominion interspersed with the vigor of New England.  Upon such a holding much that is inexplicable in Iowa’s history becomes easily understandable.  We can readily appreciate why Senator Dodge could so confidently proclaim in the senate in 1854 that he and his colleague, General Jones, wit the senator from Pennsylvania were the only senators from the north who had voted against the Wilmot Proviso and for the fugitive slave law; and why Governor Grimes found the south half of Iowa so strongly pro-slavery.


This predominance of southern stock among Iowa’s pioneers, the prevalence of southern traditions among the dominant political forces of the State prior to the civil was had ineradicable effects upon the life and institutions of Iowans.  Throughout the entire history of the State one may discern a sharp cleavage among the people of Iowa that in general typifies the traditional conflict between the Cavalier and the Puritan.  It is manifest not only in the political life of the State, but in the social life of the people, in industry and commerce, in church and religion, in education and modes of recreation – sundry phases of which the writer hopes some time to set forth.




1. A reprint of a brochure entitled, Did emigrants from New England First Settle Iowa?

Note --- Numerous foot notes citing authorities, appearing in the original manuscript, are omitted from this article.


2. Denmark Academy, and Iowa College founded at Davenport in 1846, and in 1858 moved to Grinnell.  L.F. Parker’s Higher education in Iowa,  p. 137, and Adams’ The Iowa Band,  pp. 103-125.


3. Quoted in N. Howe Parker’s Iowa as It Is in 1855, pp. 5-6.


4. Shaw’s  Local Government in Illinois, pp.


5.Moore’s  The Northwest Under Three Flags, p. XX.


6. Henry Sabin, Iowa’s distinguished Superintendent of Public Instruction, a New Englander by birth and education, has the following pertinent observations in his last biennial report (1897).“It is worthy of note that the first of these governors [Robert Lucas] in his message urged the adoption of the township as a basis of school organization.  It never can be sufficiently regretted that we ever departed from his recommendation,” p. 20.

                “There is no question that the commission [viz. of 1856] favored the township system. ...Governor after governor, the state superintendents in unbroken line, prominent educational men, have remonstrated in vain, and in vain have attempted to secure a simpler organization.  It will remain rooted in the prejudices until better ideas of school economy render it odious,” p. 22.


7. Macy’s Institutional Beginnings in a Western State,  J.H.U. Studies, vol. II, pp. 22-23.  Annals of Iowa (3d series), vol. V. p. 337.


8. Niles  Register, Nov. 14, 1846, p. 176, and Nov. 21, p. 178.


9. Salter’s  Life of Grimes, p. 114.  Congressman John Wentworth of Chicago, in 1853 (?) introduced Grimes to President Pierce who knew the Whig relatives of Grimes in New Hampshire.  Wentworth conceived it to be a “great joke” to introduce him “as the next Governor of Iowa, as he was.  Pierce thought he would have to change his politics first.”  Memorandum of Wentworth quoted in Salter’s  Grimes, p 7.


10. Von Holst, Constitutional History, vol. V. p 278.


11.  The following from Dr. Salter’s Life of Grimes strikingly illustrates the contention above:  “He (Grimes) presided at an educational convention held in Burlington, June 7, 1847, in which the duty of the State to provide for the education of all children by equitable taxation was earnestly advocated and the profound regret expressed  that the first general assembly of Iowa had made no provision for building school houses by law, but had left the whole matter to voluntary subscription.” p. 26.


12. In his report in 1887 State Superintendent J.W. Akers, in some perplexity pointed out the striking similarity of the conditions of education in Iowa to those prevalent in the southern states, pp. 57-58.  Dr. W.T. Harris, National Commissioner of Education , showed that while Iowa spent large sums for schools, the schedules of salaries  for teachers were the lowest of all the north central states. (Report, 1895-96, p. LXVIII).  In his presidential address before the State Teachers’ Association in 1902, President Charles E. Shelton of Simpson College said appropos of the rural schools: 

                “Something must be done for our country schools.  I want to say to you tonight my friends, that I believe that three-fourths of the teaching in the rural schools of Iowa is absolutely worthless, and that an equal proportion of the money spent is absolutely  thrown away.  I do not say this upon simple speculation and conjecture, but it is the experience of every man and woman here...”  (Proceedings. p. 17.)

                The Association by formal vote commended the “entire address of President Shelton for its common sense treatment in every  particular and its clear statement of the various important phases of the real education of the boys and girls who go to make up the citizenship of our State and nation.” p. 12.


13. The following ringing letter of Grimes to the sheriff of Clinton county, written in the last year of his term as Governor, affords both instructive reading and interesting evidence of the character and extent of lawlessness in eastern Iowa in the fifties:

                                EXECUTIVE OFFICE, IOWA, BURLINGTON, July 8, 1857.

                Your letter of the 29th, June, in which you state that you have warrants in your hands for the arrest of persons who seized and hanged Bennet Warren in your county on the 25th inst.; that you are “informed that a very large combination has been formed, banded together by agreement or oath to execute similar outrages upon other persons, and protect and defend any of their members who may be attempted to be dealt with according to law,” and that this combination is supposed to number “about two thousand persons in Jackson and the adjoining counties,” has been duly received.

                You ask me “what course shall be pursued?”  I answer unhesitatingly, serve the warrants in your hands and enforce the laws of the State.  You have authority to summon to your aid the entire force of your county.  If you deem it to be necessary to do so, call for that force, and prosecute every man who refuses to obey your summons.

                If the power of your county is not sufficient to execute the laws, a sufficient force from other counties shall be placed at your disposal.

                I am resolved that, so far as in me lies, this lawless violence, which, under the plea of administering justice to horse thieves, sets at defiance the authorities of  the State, and destroys all respect for the laws, both human and divine, shall be checked.  I shall have no hesitation, therefore, when officially advised of the exigency, to call out the entire military power of the State, if necessary, to crush out this spirit of rebellion, which has shown itself in your county.

                I shall direct all the military companies in the State to hold themselves in readiness for duty. – Salter’s Grimes, pp. 93-94.


See G.W. Ellis’ In By-Gone Days, in which is described at great length the numerous mobs and lynchings in Jackson county, reprinted from the Record  of Maquoketa, Iowa.  See, also, Porter’s History of Polk County, pp. 505-507, 525-529, 531-543.


14. See Rollin Lynde Hartt on  The Iowans,  in the Atlantic Monthly, vol. 86, pp. 186,  et seq.


15. Annals of Iowa (1st ser.) vol. I, p. 99.  After his discharge from the army Col. Davenport was employed in the service of Col. William Morrison of Kentucky, a government contractor.


16. Annals of Iowa (3d ser.) vol. III, pp. 98-99.  Tuttle in his  History of Iowa (p. 60) credits Zachary Taylor with constructing Ft. Madison but without warrant.


17. Governor Ford of Illinois disputes Gen. Dodge’s fame as the hero of the Black Hawk war.  See his History of Illinois,  pp. 146-159.


18. Irving’s Astoria, ch. XIII.


19. Bradbury’s  Journals (Thwaite’s ed.), p. 98; Irving’s Astoria, ch. XIII.


20. Iowa Historical Record, vol. XVI, p. 105.


21.Dr. Moses Meeker on Early History of the Lead Region, Wisconsin Historical Collections, vol. VI, pp. 272-280.  Caleb Atwater, in his Tour to Prairie du Chien,  says erroneously, that “Gen Henry Dodge, of Missouri,” first settled in and began to work the lead mines.  American Antiquities, p. 170.


22. Meeker Ibid, foot note of L.C.D. (Lyman C. Draper), p. 275.


23. Wis. His. Coll, vol. VI, pp. 502, 506, 507, Spencer’s  Local Government in Wisconsin.


24. Cunynghame’s A Glimpse at the Great Republic, p. 52.


25. Capt. W. H. Ingham’s article,  The Iowa Northern Brigade of 1862-3,  Annals, (3d ser.), vol. V, pp. 513-523.


26. Some of the items included in the totals (for 1856) here given are so blurred in the original tables that the numbers may be subject to slight corrections.


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