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Boone County History

Des Moines River Land Grant

No legislative act has ever affected the interests of the people of the Des Moines River Valley as the Des Moines River Land Grant. No other land grant made to the state, for any purpose, created so much excitement and sorrow.

In the first place it was a great mistake for anyone to have supposed that the Des Moines River could have been made navigateble by any process of improvement. The only excuse which can be offered is the fact that at a proceeding the date on which the grant was made, there was a greater volume of water in the river than there has been since that date.

The Des Moines River Land Grant was passed and became a law on August 8, 1846. Just who it was that formulated this act is not generally known but as the act was passed by Congress about four months before Iowa became a state, the grant must first have been proposed by A. C. Dodge who was then the territorial delegate in Congress. Through his influence, most likely it was placed before the committee on territories of which Stephen A. Douglas was then chairman.

The language of the act first says that the grant was made for the improvement of the navigation of the Des Moines River from its mouth to the Raccoon fork and then follows the language defining the grant to be a mority in alternate sections of the public lands (remaining unsold and not otherwise disposed of, encumbered or appropriated) in a strip five miles in width on each side of the river to be selected within said territory, by an agent or agents appointed by the governor thereof, subject to the approval of the secretary of the treasury of the United States.

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