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A Glimpse of Iowa in 1846
By John B. Newhall



Although information of a specific rather than a general character is the object of this little work, yet it may not be deemed foreign to the subject or devoid of interest to the reader, to take a brief glance of the great Valley of the Mississippi. This vast and magnificent region includes about two thirds of the United States, and contains more than a million and a quarter of square miles; and is capable of sustaining a population of more than one hundred and fifty millions souls. There is not part of the globe of equal extent, which has so small a portion of waste land and so great an amount of soil susceptible of cultivation. It is not only the Garden of America, but of the world! And well and truly might M. De Tocqueville, that learned French statesman, exclaim, "It is the most magnificent dwelling place prepared by God for the abode of man."
This wide and fertile domain is at least six times as extensive as the whole of France, and ten times larger than the island of Great Britain. It is watered by rivers that have been formed on the same corresponding scale of vastness and grandeur; these, taking their rise in the far off mountains on either side-the Alleghanies on the East, and the Rocky Mountains on the West-meander through the rich plains below for hundreds and frequently for thousands of miles, until they are merged in that ceaseless flood which rolls along the bottom of the valley called in the simple yet eloquent.

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language of the aborigines. "Miss se-po", (Mississippi,) the "Father of the Great Rivers."

     The great Valley of the Mississippi may, with propriety, be divided into four sub-divisions or sections; that portion which lies below the Ohio river, possessing peculiarities of surface, soil and climate, is called the Lower Valley. This constitutes a portion of the cotton, tobacco, hemp and sugar growing States, and embraces Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and western Alabama on the East, and Louisiana, Arkansas, southern Missouri, Nebraska and northern Texas upon the West.

     That portion which lies above the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi is called the "Upper Valley," and embraces Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin upon the East, and Iowa, and Missouri on the West. These may be denominated the Grain and Stock growing States-abounding with great natural meadows of exhaustless fertility, affording the richest herbage for cattle, hogs and sheep. The country watered by the Ohio and its tributaries, is frequently denominated the Ohio Valley-while that wide and fertile region which lies along the Missouri is appropriately termed the Valley of the Missouri.

     The country described in the following pages embraces that portion of the Upper Mississippi Valley lying north of the State of Missouri, and west of the Mississippi river, known as the




     Situation, Boundaries, &c.- The present territorial limits of Iowa embrace all that portion of country lying north of the State of Missouri, and west of the Mississippi, to the Missouri and White Earth rivers. Its northern boundary is the line dividing the British Possessions and the United States, thence west along said river to its junction with Missouri; thence down the Missouri, to the northern boundary of the State of Missouri; thence eastwardly along said boundary to the Mississippi river, embracing the Half Breed Reservation of Sacs and Foxes.

     A bill has been introduced, during the present session of Congress, (1846) defining the permanent boundaries of Iowa. The provisions, in reference to extent, are ample,

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and it is believed will give general satisfaction to the citizens of Iowa.* This bill defines the boundaries of the future State as follows:

     "Beginning in the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi river, opposite the mouth of the Des Moines river, thence up the said river Des Moines, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to a point where it is intersected by the old Indian boundary line, or line run by John C. Sullivan in the year eighteen hundred and sixteen; thence westwardly along said line to the 'old north-west corner of Missouri;' thence due west to the middle of the main channel of the Missouri river last mentioned, to the mouth of the Sioux or Calumet river; thence in a direct line to the middle of the main channel of the St. Peter's river, where the Watonwan river enters the same; thence down the middle of the main channel of said river, to the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi river; thence down the middle of the main channel of said river, to the place of beginning."




Time of Settlement, &c.- The rapid progress and present condition of this fertile region, stretching to its verdant meadows and wooded banks along the majestic Mississippi, the variety and excellence of its agricultural productions, its richness of mineral wealth, its countless rivulets and streams, which are destined to pour out its exhaustless treasures, and carry back comfort and luxuries to its remotest borders; its whole physical aspect, in short, combines as many requisites for human enterprise, as is developed in any tract of country of the same extent on the face of the globe.

The country embraced in the territory of Iowa has been purchased by the United States, of the confederated tribes of Sac and Fox Indians, at four successive treaties. The first was made in 1832, at the termination of the "Black Hawk" war, generally known as the "Black Hawk Purchase." The second purchase, known as the "Keokuk Reserve," situated on both sides of the Iowa river, was made


     * These boundaries are the same as those embodied in the first Article of the proposed Constitution of Iowa, and adopted in Convention, Nov. 1st, 1844.

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by Gov. Henry Dodge, at Rock Island, in 1836. The third was made at the city of Washington, in 1837,and the fourth and last in 1842, by Gov. Chambers.

     The county ceded to the United States by the last treaty, known as the "New Purchase," embraces some fifteen millions of acres of land. It is probably the richest and most desirable region of country ever obtained by the nation, either by treaty or conquest. It is well watered and timbered, possession abundant mill power, and it is settling up with a rapidity scarcely paralleled in the annals of history. Further notice will be given of this interesting portion of the territory under the head of the "New Purchase."

     Soon after the termination of the Indian War of 1832, (generally known as the Black Hawk War) many of those hardy and enterprising pioneers, ever to be found in a frontier country, began to perambulate the western shore of the Mississippi in search of choice "claims," eligible Town Sites, Mill Seats, &c.; and, for a season, it was quite difficult for the small garrison of U.S. troops, then stationed at Rock Island, to keep the white men from trespassing upon their Indian neighbors.

     The time at length arrived, agreeable to treaty stipulations, for the Indians to leave their ancient hunting grounds. The first day of June, 1833, may be considered as the first permanent settlement of Iowa by the "Pale Faces." The "floodgates" of emigration were now opened, and scarcely had the "Red Man" set his footsteps in the order of march, towards the "setting sun," ere the settler began to cross the Mississippi with his flocks and herds, to make a "new home" on the fertile plains of Iowa.

     The tide of emigration seemed now fully set for the Black Hawk Purchase. A Tide, which up to the present moment hath known no ebb; till it hath poured over the blooming prairies of Iowa, a population of one thousand souls!

     The writer of these pages, frequently having occasion to traverse the great thoroughfares of Illinois and Indiana, in the years 1836-7, the roads would be literally lined with the long blue wagons of the emigrant slowly wending their way over the broad prairies-the cattle and hogs, men and dogs, and frequently women and children, forming the rear of the van-often ten, twenty and thirty wagons in company.


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Ask them, when and where you would, their destination was the "Black Hawk Purchase."

   I well remember one beautiful autumnal evening in 1836, crossing the "Military Tract" in Illinois. The last rays of the sun was gilding the tree tops and shedding his mellow tints upon the fleecy clouds, as my horse turned the short angle of a neighboring "thicket," I encountered a settler "camped" for the night. How little do the trans-Alleghanians know of such "scenes." I'll try to give them the picture-not coleur de rose, but from the life-breathing and real.

The "old lady had just built her "camp fire," and was busily engaged in frying prairie chickens, which the unerring rifle of her boy had brought to the ground; one of the girls was milking a brindle cow, and that tall girl yonder, with swarthy arms and yellow sun-bonnet, is nailing the coffee mill on the side of a scrub oak which the little boy had "blazed" out with his hatchet. There sat the old man on a log, quietly shaving himself by a six-penny looking-glass, which he had tacked to a neighboring tree. And yonder old decrepid man sitting on the low rush-bottomed chair, is the aged, grand-sire of all; better that his bones be left by the wayside than that he be left behind among strangers. He sits quietly smoking his pipe with all the serenity of a patriarch-apparently as ready to shuffle off this "mortal coil" that very night, as to sit down to his prairie chicken supper. What a picturesque group for the pencil of the painter; yet these are the "scenes" that we frequently witness in the "Far West." This is "Emigrating." 'Tis not going away from home; the home was there, that night, with the settlers on Camp creek," under the broad canopy of heaven, by that gurgling brook, where the cattle browsed, the dogs barked, and the children quietly slumbered.




     The predominant features in the landscape of Iowa are prairie and timber; the face of the country is beautiful in the extreme. It is what may be termed moderately undulating, no part of the territory being traversed by mountains, or even high hills (if we except the northern or mineral region, where the hills are of considerable magnitude); on the margin of the rivers there are frequent ranges of "bluffs," or calcareous strata of lime rock, intersected with ravines.

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The southern portion of the territory may be termed the most picturesque, abounding with grassy lawns and verdant vales, interspersed with groves and meandering rivulets.- The northern part presents more bold and rugged features in its scenery. It is a rare and singular feature in the mineral region of Iowa, that the country abounding in the richest ore is frequently in the neighborhood of the most fertile fields of grain. This territory is remarkably well watered by beautiful rivers and creeks, the margins of which are skirted with woodlands and groves. A striking characteristic of Iowa and Wisconsin over many prairie countries, is the admirable distribution of prairie and woodland to the wants and convenience of the husbandman.

     Although probably nearly three fourths of the territory is without trees, yet so happily and conveniently are the waters and timber arranged throughout, that nature appears to have made an effort to arrange them in the most desirable manner possible.



     The soil of the prairies of Iowa, and particularly the alluvial bottoms is extremely rich and fertile. It is a black vegetable mould, sometimes intermixed with a sandy loam, easily cultivated, and stands a drought remarkably well. The soil on the upland prairies will average from 18 to 24 inches depth, and on the rich bottom lands from 38 to 40 inches in depth. The surface is nearly black, but becomes lighter in descending, until it imperceptibly mingles into a bed or under a layer of reddish clay, sometimes mixed with gravel or sand, sufficiently compact to preserve moisture and capable of being converted into excellent soil. Good water is usually obtained in the upland prairie, from 20 to 30 feet below the surface.




     All the grains, fruits and plants, of the temperate regions of the earth, grow luxuriantly in Iowa. The agricultural productions consist principally of corn, wheat, rye, oats, buckwheat, potatoes, turnips, beans, melons; all kinds of garden vegetables. Clover, timothy, and every description of tame grass grows luxuriantly, and well repays the labor of the husbandman. No country can excel this in its adaptation

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for rearing all the choicest fruits and fruit-bearing shrubbery. Wild fruit, crab-apples, wild plums, berries, strawberries &c.; are remarkably fine and plenty, and are very convenient for the judicious wife in spreading her board with excellent preserves. Corn may be considered a staple production, and the comparative ease with which it is cultivated would astonish a New Englander.

     Foreign vines are susceptible of easy cultivation. The indigenous vines are prolific, and produce excellent fruit.

     Both hemp and tobacco may be successfully cultivated in Iowa. Thus far, all experiments of the kind have proved eminently successful, and it only requires the attention of the enterprising to embark in this profitable branch of cultivation. The castor bean may likewise become a profitable crop. The cultivation of sugar beet root, and the manufacture of the sugar may be carried on advantageously and with great profit in Iowa. The introduction and manufacture of lard oil in the West, as an article of merchandise, promises to be an important event, and may be regarded as a new feature in the value of swine. No portion of the upper Mississippi valley presents greater inducements for the introduction of sheep, and the raising of stock of every description, than the fertile prairies of Iowa. For Mineral Productions, see Statistics of the Lead Regions.




     The growth of the uplands consists of every variety of oak, sugar maple, hickory, hazel, cherry, white walnut, mulberry, linn, hackberry, &c. The bottom or interval lands produce ash, sycamore, black walnut, mulberry, bur oak, elm, cottonwood, pawpaw, grape vine, plum, dogwood, spice bush, sumac, and a variety of other descriptions of trees and shrubs. The black walnut is much used for the building materials, cabinet work, &c., and sustains a fine polish. The sycamore is the "buttonwood" of New England, is frequently hollow, and in that state used by the farmers; being cut in various lengths, it is cleaned and used as depositories for grain, well-curbs, casks, beehives, &c.

     In the northern portion of Iowa and Wisconsin are immense pineries, where mills are already established, and large rafts of pine lumber are floated down the Mississippi river, and sold out at the different growing towns. By this means,

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the whole country will be supplied with the best building materials at very low rates. Even at the present time, lumber can be obtained at less than one-half the price that it could seven years ago.




     The principal rivers of Iowa are the Mississippi, which forms the eastern boundary, and separates it from Illinois. The Des Moines, which is a beautiful stream and susceptible of slackwater navigation for about 200 miles from its mouth. The Iowa, which is navigable for light draught stream boats, to Iowa City, about 90 miles from its mouth. The Red Cedar, Checauque (or Skunk), Wapsipinicon, Maquoketa, Turkey and Yellow rivers; all emptying into the Mississippi. There are numerous smaller streams, presenting admirable facilities for mills and machinery. The neighborhoods are generally well supplied with mills for sawing various kinds of lumber, grinding Indian corn, wheat, &c.




     Beauty of the landscape similar to many views in England, France and Belgium. Erroneous notions of their susceptibility for cultivation.

          "These, the unborn fields, boundless and beautiful,
             For which the speech of England has no name-
             The Prairies."--BRYANT.


     Undoubtedly one of the most captivating features in the landscape scenery of a great portion of the upper Mississippi valley, is the unique and beautifully diversified Prairies, or unwooded tracts. They are, in fact, the gardens of nature. And who that has been an eye witness can ever forget the impressions made upon his feelings, when, for the first time, he gazed with rapturous delight upon the boundless prairie? The characteristic peculiarity of the prairies, is the entire absence of timber; in other respects they present all the varieties of soil an surface that are found elsewhere. Sometimes they are spread out in boundless plains; at other times they are gently rolling, like the swell of the sea after a subsiding storm. A diversity of opinion exists as to the origin of prairies. Their undulating and finished surface, crowned with the richest alluvial mould, bears ample proof, (in the writer's mind) of their having been, at some anterior period, sub-

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merged beneath the waters of vast lakes, or inland seas; and these, subsequently receding, have formed the natural channels through which our vast and numerous rivers flow. Hence the rich alluvial deposit, and fossil remains that so frequently occur; * also, the laminae formation of secondary lime rock; and successive strata of soil, are all evidences of a once submerged country.

    These meadows of nature are covered with a rich coat of natural grass, forming excellent grazing for cattle; and, in the season of flowers, present the most captivating and lovely appearance. The traveler now beholds these boundless plains, untouched by the hand of man, clothed with the deepest verdure, interspersed here and there with beautiful groves, which appear like islands in the ocean. The writer has often traveled amidst these enchanting scenes, on horseback, for hundreds of miles, long before civilization commenced; sometimes threading a narrow defile made by the "red man," through the tall grass, and again suddenly emerging to a broad expanse of thousands of acres covered with ever variegated flowers.

 It has been urged by some that, however our prairies may have added to the beauty of the landscape, they are impediments to the settlements of a country. Ten years ago, this objection was urged much more strenuously than at present. For in that length of time many prairies, both in Illinois and Iowa, have been converted into highly cultivated farms, upon which the "croakers" of early times predicted that no settler would ever venture; and in ten years more, that such an objection ever did exist will be a matter of wonder. A little calculation would convince the most skeptical that it is cheaper, in the proportion of four to one, to haul fencing [rail] timber two or three miles (which is about the extent that any Iowa or Wisconsin farmer need go,) than to expend eight or ten years of toil and labor in clearing the heavily timbered lands of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Canada.

     I have often inquired of those individuals who reason

     * The writer, a few years since, in one of his reconnoitering journeys in the northern part of the Territory, obtained from a friend, in the neighborhood of Dubuque, the tusk of the Mammoth, or Mastodon, of immense size; and which he had obtained one hundred feet below the surface of the earth, imbedded in clay and lime rock; the enamel of which was as perfect as on the day of his death. Quere: Was his Mammothship of the antediluvain race or not?

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against the settlement of prairies, if they ever knew a man to leave the Prairie for the Timber? I have always inquired in vain. But we do know that tens of thousands annually leave the Timbered counties to settle upon the Prairies.

     A popular error has prevailed, to a considerable extent, in the Atlantic States, that our prairies were universally low, wet, swampy lands! Prairie does not imply wet or flat lands. Our rolling prairies present all the undulating features and diversity of the surface that are to be met with in many other countries.

     The associations of the New Englander, and most of the inhabitants of the Atlantic States, (respecting a new country,) are woods-interminable woods. The English, the French, and the Belgians, have a better simile of comparison with their own landscape. I well remember my first impressions, some thee years ago, the first hour I set my foot upon the shores of old England, landing upon the shore of a beautiful bay on the coast of Sussex.* I involuntarily exclaimed (casting my eyes over the bright and verdant landscape,) how much of the scenery of Britain reminds me of the prairie scenery of America. Subsequently, I was often forcibly reminded of the striking similarity of scenery. For instance, the vale of Worcestershire and Herefordshire; likewise the scenery of the Thames above London, affords a striking resemblance of many beautiful spots upon the banks of the Des Moines. And that charming panoramic view from "Richmond Hill" may justly be compared to the scene in which the traveller beholds from the grave of Julien Dubuque, or from the "Cornice Rocks" above Prairie Du Chien.

     The American tourist who has ever or may travel over that pleasant road, from Brussels to the Field of Waterloo, along the forest Soigoine, will have an admirable standard of comparison for much of the scenery of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. Performing a pedestrian tour through that picturesque and highly cultivated country, in the summer of '44, I often stopped by the road side to contemplate the scene before me. It required no stretch of the imagination to shadow forth many of the identical spots that I was wont to look upon in my native land.
          *Pevensy Bay.

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     Perhaps, among all the long catalogue of benefits and privations respecting emigration, none is more worthy of consideration than climate, and I doubt if upon any one topic there has been more conflicting testimony. The salubriousness of climate, in all the new States, depends much upon the locality. The thermometer does not range more widely here, if as wide, than in similar latitudes east of the Alleghanies. We are exempt too, from those easterly winds, so searching and blasting in their effects to the invalid pulmonary complaints, upon the seaboard. Along the low "bottom lands," which are occasionally subject to inundation, there will be more liability and predisposition to bilious diseases, fever, ague, &c. But upon the uplands, and broad rolling prairies, the atmosphere becomes salubrious and free from "miasma." In short, there is, almost every day, in the elevated portions of the country, a breeze from some quarter as refreshing as that from the ocean. It would be presumption on the part of the writer, to advance the opinion that any new country is entirely exempt from disease. Neither can I endorse the "sweeping" assertion often ascribed to the new States "that it is impossible for people to enjoy good health." One year of general sickness, or some prevailing epidemic, is not a criterion of the general health of a country. That our new States are not unfavorable to human life, may be inferred from the unprecedented increase of their population. The number of inhabitants in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, cannot be less than six or seven millions! Had they been unhealthy, it is quite incredible so great a number would have congregated within their borders, since the brief period of their first settlements. A vast number of people in emigrating to a new country, get sick from exposure, by living in damp uncomfortable houses, change of diet, water, &c., and attribute it all to the climate.

     Mr. Peck observes-and he is good authority-"The same causes for disease exist in Ohio as in Missouri; in Michigan as in Illinois; in Kentucky  as in Tennessee as in Indiana. All have localities where intermittents and agues are found, and all possess extensive districts of country where health is enjoyed by a large proportion of emigrants. There is some difference between a heavily timbered and a prairie country,

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