Chapter 1 (translation): The Origins of the State of Iowa and Its History
The Formation of the State of Iowa and its History
Unlike European countries, the state of Iowa does not stand on classic historical grounds. Nevertheless, the state’s documented history extends over more than two centuries. On the graceful shores of the Mississippi and the Missouri River bounded by mountains, nearly every mountain peak, every valley and almost every brook exposes the events of the past, like so many books do. We have no monuments from the times of knights here, no proud castles are reflected in our beautiful rivers. The Rhine of our adoptive homeland, the Mississippi River, tells us about other human races, different times and – if the earth experts are right – about an older age. The cliffs that rise in mighty heights on both shores of the upper Mississippi River, can tell stories about brave and splendid deeds. On our prairies, the native peoples fought massive battles and the forests and gulches of our new home witnessed heroic accomplishments about as great as one can find in any other place in world history.
Those battles were fought by the Redskins of the jungles and the prairies, by wild men, just like our ancestors on the Rhine. But with the difference that the last mentioned were a people capable of culture while the original inhabitants of the new world only with difficulty and only in some cases submitted to civilization and proved themselves progressive.
Nearly simultaneously with the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers, the so-called Puritans, who were banished in England because of their religion, the monarchs of the Old World directed their attention to these unexplored regions. Already in 1636, there were settlements of Canadians and French at Lake Huron and three years later, the fearless explorer Jean Nicollet, who already came to Canada in 1631 and had learned the Algonquin-Indian language, arrived at Green Bay in today’s state of Wisconsin. He was without any doubt the first white man traveling so far into the West. Father Vimont, who describes the journey of this explorer especially his trip up the Fox River, says that if this man had stayed three more days on the big river (he means the Wisconsin River), he would have discovered the Mississippi.
Either way, their history is interesting and instructive.
The history of Iowa is basically the history of the whole northwest of America. Incomplete indeed would be a story that would not tell of the initial events that brought the first explorers and adventurers into this land. And it is not only the prerogative but the duty of the historian to note all the causes which led to the colonization of the state he wants to describe. And by fulfilling this duty he is forced to mention at least part of the history of the neighboring states as long as both histories a connected to each other.
Although the real colonization of Iowa just started 67 years ago, the reader may be interested in following the first events on the former Northwest Territory of whom Iowa is a part of.
The Indians, who back then lived in these regions, were known as the “Puants” or “Stinkards”, a name which they got from the shores of a lake in the far west whose inhabitants were called the tribe of the “stinking Water”.
The clergyman Jean De Luens wrote in 1655 that from the nations of the lake, known as “Stinkards”, one would be composed of 60, another of 40 and another one of 30 villages. He was told that 300 chiefs would appear at a meeting in order to conclude a peace treaty and that those “nations” would wage war with other far away nations.
The Catholic missionaries were the first Europeans who looked for the wild native people of the Northwest and lived among them. Not inspired by profit but by humanitarian motives of civilizing and instructing the wild Indians, they carried the cross, the symbol of their belief, into the remote regions and suffered from the greatest complaints and deprivations, often even risked their own lives in order to bring them the divine revelation and Christian faith in the one true God. The Jesuit Claudius Allouez was one of the earliest of those missionaries who built a mission in Green Bay.
It was then that the Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette joined him. In the following year, Nicklaus Perrot with a team of French as interpreters was sent by the director of Canada, Tallon, in order to search for copper mines and to take possession of the land in the name of the French king. He traveled to Green Bay and after a short stay, he continued his journey across Lake Michigan to the Illinois River.
Three years later, the Canadian director received the order from the French premier to look for a waterway to the South Sea. Because of the great importance, the exploration had to start directly. Therefore, Tallon appointed a young Canadian, Louis Joilet, and the latter went directly to Mackinaw where he met Father Marquette; On May 13, 1673, the two of them travelled in two canoes west, accompanied by five Canadians, to possibly find the great stream which they had heard about and at the same time to visit the beautiful land of the “Iowas” and take possession of it.
First, they came to Green Bay, from there they went up the Fox River up to a point where the river was no longer navigable and from which it was only a short distance to the Wisconsin River. They dragged their boats over the isthmus and went down the above mentioned river. On July, 17, they spotted the great river, the massive Mississippi, (“Missi” big and “Sepe”, River) and simultaneously the majestic mountain shores of our current state. For the first time, Caucasians saw the Upper Mississippi and the great Upper Mississippi Valley.
How solemn the sight must have been for the daring men, for the man of God and for his companions. In this archetypical nature, the two mile wide stream and the high shores, often castle-like rocky peaks, must have left a deep impression, and it is therefore not amazing that they, seized by the solemnity of this moment and the landscape, hastily went from the estuary of the Wisconsin River, through the lagoons of Wyalusing and Glen Haven, crossed the Mississippi in their boats and as soon as the rapids allowed landed on Iowa’s shores, which happened on a small land area near the current city of Clayton in the county of the same name.
And as once Christopher Columbus discovered America and arranged a church service after his landing, so did they. After they put up the Cross of Christ, they consecrated the newly found land to the Immaculate Virgin and took possession of it in the name of the French king. The cross, which was put up by Father Marquette, was maintained by the successors of La Pointe, who had already discovered Lake Superior in 1680, by Le Baptiste and the other Canadian and French wild hunters and explorers. Many other cities claim the honor of being the landing point of the discoverers, but, for one who is familiar with the area, there is no other conclusion than that the above mentioned point was the one where the first footstep of a white man was made on the ground of Iowa. The author can confirm that he still saw the cross at the location mentioned 48 years ago with his own eyes.
Later on, vandals or maybe forest fires destroyed it. The discovery of the Mississippi Valley belongs to the greatest world events and is therefore depicted by all historians depicted as the main event regarding the exploration of the Northwest Territory.
No European before had stepped onto the shores of the Mississippi-River. Probably primitive maps were in use, which showed a great waterway many miles away from the big lakes; but all knowledge of it was acquired from the Indians. Their information was incomplete and untrustworthy. The big problem had been solved – the American continent was a richer find than thought –a new part of the world, so to speak, had been acquired for mankind.
If Pater Marquette and his companion Joliet had stayed longer at their first landing place or had gone seven miles upstream with the tide, they would have found a mighty Indian village at the location where today Prairie de Chien is placed, which is named after the native inhabitants, which were called Chien- (Dog) Indians and are said to have counted 5000 souls. But the explorers had no clue and did not find any traces of human beings during the four days of their journey downstream. They passed beautiful Prairie la Porte (where the most German city of Iowa, Guttenberg, is located today) but did not see any humans either. Historians assert that they stopped above the isthmus where the city of Keokuk is situated today. In said location, the famous Indian chieftain Keokuk had his village. There, the missionary Marquette pitched the cross and started his work to convert the Redskins to the Redeemer’s faith.
Only six years later – in 1690 – the next Europeans came to the northwestern areas far away from any civilisation. It was an expedition led by LaSalle; with him were the famous Franciscan Louis Hennepin and two others. In April 1680 they were all captured by Minnesota or Dakota Indians. After they were held for two months as prisoners
close to Mille Lacs (the Thousand Lakes), they were invited by Dakota chieftain Mahze-koo-ah to a buffalo hunt. History does not indicate how many buffaloes were killed at this time. But there is no doubt that back then countless herds were grazing on Iowa’s, Wisconsins’ as well as Nebraska’s and Wyoming’s plains. On July 28, they met another explorer on the shores of the Mississippi downriver of the mouth of the Wisconsin, Duluth, with five Canadians, who had embarked on an exploration like Hennepin and his companions. Duluth ranks high in the annals of war between the French and New York Indians. He returned to Canada in 1681.
In 1683, Nicklaus Perrot came to the Mississippi Valley. The discovery of the lead sources is accredited to him. He was sent by Canadas governor to start friendly relations with the Dakota Indians. He also built the first fort. Le Sueur came in the same year. He was also a commendable explorer who discovered the Minnesota River and he was the first to see Dakota’s copper mines. Legend tells that Prairie du Chien’s first „white“ settlement (on the eastern shore of the Mississippi vis-à-vis McGregor, Iowa) took place in the same year.
In 1689, Perrot reappeared in the Mississippi Valley and formally took possession of the land in the name of the king of France due to a contract with the Indians, which was concluded near where the Wisconsin flows into the Mississippi, and was signed by Joseph John Marest, S. J. N. Perrot, Borie Guillot and Le Sueur. Borie Guillot was appointed as commander of the Mississippi Valley and Prairie Chien was elected as a place for supplies and ammunitions. In September of that year, Baron Le Hontan came via Green Bay and the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers to the Mississippi and went up the river.
From 1710 to 1750, the Northwest was a dangerous place of residence for „palefaces“, as the Indians called the French,
even for fearless explorers and adventurers like Le Sueur and his companions. The Indians, always on the warpath, did not find any friends amongst their brothers on the Plains and less so among the „palefaces“. The animosity of the Dakota and FoxIndians was so pronounced that any association with the Indians almost ended for years and the Fox and Wisconsin River route was factually closed. It was not opened again until the Fox Indians had been displaced from the Fox River.
To protect the French in the upper Mississippi Valley the French government built a fort in Prairie du Chien in 1755 (Prairie du Chien is located on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi, vis-à-vis McGregor and North McGregor) which created a new era in this area. Merchants, speculators, miners and adventurers swarmed around this new stronghold and big and profitable trading was established with the natives. The historian Carver gives a report about this place, as it was in 1766, i. a. as follows: “The locality has about 300 families; the houses are built well after an Indian fashion and are well off, on very fertile ground from which they get all they need. Here I saw many beautiful and large horses. This locality is the great market town which all neighboring Indian tribes and those who live in the furthermost branches of the Mississippi Valley visit once a year at the end of May to trade with their furs.”
In 1763, after the long French war ended a treaty was concluded in Paris whereby France transferred its part of the American continent to England. Spain received the area around the Mississippi River while England received Canada and the northern territories which remained in British possession till now. Until 1763, the whole continent of North America belonged to France, Spain and England. The State of Iowa was located in that part, which was transferred to England in the before mentioned treaty. This district remained for 37 years in Spanish possession but was given to France in the treaty of 1800.
But on April 20, 1803, France gave the land, for the sum of $11,250,000 and the payment of certain claims by United States citizens which added up to the sum of $3,750,000, to the United States. The area in which our present state of Iowa is located was governed once each by Spain and by England and twice by France.
Hunters, adventurers and speculators from England and Canada came right after the area was ceded by France to England. Already in 1775, representatives of the North-West Company from Montreal were here and immediately hired Canadian voyageurs to maintain trading relations with Iowa’s and Minnesota’s Indians which the French had developed before. In 1796, this Company built a fort at Sandy Lake and expanded their trading relations to the Missouri River. In the same year, Louis Tesson Honori came to Montrose, Iowa, and planted 100 apple trees, Iowa’s first fruit orchard, but left in 1805.
Spanish Land Grants
When the area which is now the state of Iowa was under Spanish rule as part of the province of Louisiana certain claims and land grants were made by Spain which the United States had to accept later. We want to mention them briefly.
DUBUQUE. On September 22, 1788, Julien Dubuque, a Frenchman from Prairie du Chien, received a land grant on the Mississippi River for mining from the Fox in the area where now the city of Dubuque is located. In 1780, lead had been discovered by the wife of Peosta Fox, a warrior, and Dubuque’s grant covered all the lead area in this neighborhood. He immediately took possession of his land and built mines and founded a settlement. This place was known as the „Spanish Mines“ or usually „Dubuque’s Lead Mines“.
In 1796, Dubuque submitted a request to Baron de Carondelet, the Spanish governor of Louisiana that the land which was conceded to him by the Indians, be awarded him by letter patent from the Spanish government. In this request the borders of his claim where specified rather vaguely, „about seven miles (leagues) along the Mississippi River and three miles wide“, to surround presumably the river front where specified rather vaguely, „about seven miles (leagues) along the Mississippi River and three miles wide“, to surround presumably the river front between the little Maquoketa and the Mertz Rivers mouths, encompassing 20,000 acres. Carondelet granted this request and the approval was passed by Louisiana’s Land Commissioner later on.
In October 1840, Dubuque transferred the bulk of his grant to Auguste Chouteau of St. Louis and on May 17, 1805, they jointly submitted their claim to the commission official. On September 20, 1806, the authority decided in their favor and declared the claim a regular Spanish grant, made and executed before the first day of October 1800; only one member, J. B. C. Lucas, voted against it.
Dubuque died on March 24, 1810. The Indians, well knowing that Dubuque’s claim under their former act of cession was only binding as long as he lived and that in case of his death the domain reverted to them, now took possession of it and continued the mining. Despite the decision of the commissioner, the military authority of the United States also supported them. When the Black Hawk purchase was completed, the Dubque claim, which now was possessed by the Indians, was included in it because the Sacs and the Fox did not make any exceptions in their contract of 1832.
But the heirs of Chouteau were not inclined to give up their claim without a fight. Later in 1832, they hired an agent to look after their interests; they authorized him to acquire the right to dig for lead. The mineworkers, who were working under this agent, were forced by the military to stop their operations and one of the claimants went to Galena in order to get legal support. But he did not find a court with the required authority although he ordered a suit for recovery of the lead which he had mined in order to attest to his legal title.
Since he could not identify the lead, he was defeated again.
Because of an act of Congress, approved on July 2, 1836, the city of Dubuque was measured and designed. After building sites were bought and taken by their owners, Henry Chouteau prosecuted Patrick Malony who possessed land in Dubuque under a United States patent, for ejectment to recover seven undivided eighths of the Dubuque claim as bought by Auguste Chouteau in 1804. The suit was heard in the United States district court for the district of Iowa and decided against the plaintiff.
Because of legal mistakes, the suit was brought to the upper court of the United States, which took care of the matter in December 1853. But the decision of the court was sustained by declaring the claim of Carondelet as just a leasehold law for the mines. What Dubuque had claimed and the governor of Louisiana had granted, was nothing more than “a peaceful possession of certain estates, received by the Indians. That Carondelet had no legal authority to make such grants and even if he had had, it would just have been an initial and incomplete title.”
GIRARD. In 1795, the lieutenant governor of Upper Louisiana donated 5,860 acres of farmland in present Clayton County, known as the “Girard-Tract”, to Basil Girard. He owned the land when Iowa was transferred from Spain to France and from the latter to the United States; in view of this, the United States granted him a patent and the land went into his legal possession. His heirs sold it to James H. Lockwood and Thomas P. Burnett from Prairie du Chien for 300 dollars.
HONORI. On March 30, 1799, Leon Trudeau, lieutenant governor of Upper Louisiana, donated an area, where today the town of Montrose (Lee County) is located, to Louis Honori.
Honori was in possession of the grant until 1805.
While trading with the Indians he went into debt and his creditor, Joseph Robedoux, bought the land on May 13, 1805. In these negotiations, the land was described as follows: “About six leagues above the Des Moines River.” Robedoux died soon after. Aug. Chouteau, his executor, sold it to Thomas F. Reddeck. The land grant as made by Spain was one league square and the United States only permitted one square mile. By the time, the “half- breeds” sold their land, this land also was included; different persons made a claim on the same and started suits. But in the end, it was allocated to Reddeck by the upper court of the United States. This happened in 1809; this is the oldest legal land title in the state of Iowa.