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Iowa History

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Iowa Historical Record Quarterly

Published Quarterly by the State Historical Society, Iowa City, Iowa




     An attempt to give a broad general view of the early social and religious experiments in Iowa is of necessity hampered by the deplorable lack of available original sources. The genesis of any period is usually shrouded in mystery, and although the historian sometimes finds letters, diaries, or documents of pertinent importance, yet he must, in the main, depend upon autobiographies, reminiscences, and contemporary newspapers. Realizing fully the inadequacy and uncertainty of this kind of material, we are, nevertheless, compelled to admit that it gives us practically the only authentic information that we have. This crude product, uncertain as it is, if subjected to a searching critical inspection, will yet yield much that will be of direct value. Bearing this in mind I have rejected all secondary histories and culled my material only from the most available original sources. The Annals of Iowa and the HISTORICAL RECORD, the publications of the State Historical Society, are both so replete with sketches from the pens of old settlers, that they have been very largely relied upon; but extended use has also been-made of autobiographies, documentary material and monographs on special subjects. It has been my purpose to give as fully as the limits of this brief essay would allow, some of the more important historical movements which have distinguished the first thirty years of the settlement of Iowa.

          I. Introduction

     The continuous westward march of civilization, which has been so manifest throughout the ages of the past, received its most striking exemplification in the New World. America quietly received its priceless heritage from Europe, and then proceeded in its own way to work out a distinctive American development, which completely harmonized the new environment and the growing American individuality.
     This development was not, however, the result of static or fixed conditions, but, as a system, was largely influenced by the rapid expansion of the country. From a little cluster of settlements along the shores of the Atlantic, it spread first over into the Northwest Territory and then across the Mississippi into the broad plains of the great West. In each of the successive stages of this growth the changed conditions were met by a transplanted, rather than by a direct germinative social life.
     The hardy western pioneer was imbued with the inborn spirit of freedom and justice, while, at the same time, he was unhampered by the conventional restraints of civilization. He was thus enabled to develop a system adapted to his peculiar surroundings, yet containing those broad principles which, by this very process of expansion and evolution, have become fundamental to our institutions. In the words of Professor Turner: "American social development has been continually beginning over again on the frontier. This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of American life, this expansion westward with its new opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnish the forces dominating American character. The true point of view in the history of this nation is not the Atlantic coast, it is the great West .....Thus the advance of the frontier has meant a steady movement away from the influences of Europe, a steady growth of independence on American lines. And to study this advance, the man who grew up under these conditions, and the political, economic, and social results of it, is to study the really American part of our history." *
     Upon the very threshold of this great West stood the beautiful land of Iowa - a land whose beauty and potential wealth rivaled the glories of any El Dorado and outshone the fabled riches of India and the far East. It was here that the on-going column started on its great mission; and it was here that the sturdy pioneer founded a home for himself, and began the work which shaped the destiny of a great people. Within thirty years from the time the first permanent white settler built his cabin upon the western shore of the great Father of Waters, the broad expanse from the Mississippi to the Missouri had become a populous, prospering state, well advanced in the most refined type of civilization.
     The development during this brief but comprehensive period presents a picture of unusual attractiveness. Yet including, as it does, a field as broad and diverse as human life itself; any attempt to reproduce this picture by detached snapshots would only lead to obscurity and confusion as inexplicable as that which envelops the traveler lost in the labyrinthine mazes of a Moorish palace. Any adequate treatment of the subject, therefore must deal with it broadly, regarding the specific events only as parts of the unified whole and simply as amplifications of the central dominating idea. As an eminent historian has said, - "the supreme value of history depends upon the truthfulness with which it traces the great currents of human life, rather than upon its ability to explain why some particular eddy or ripple disturbed the surface of the stream at a given point." **
     The whole course of development during these early periods of frontier life was, of course, mainly tentative and experimental. The principle that the family is very intimately connected  with the origin of all government, is so well recognized that it need cause no surprise when we apply it to frontier settlements. The family, being inherently a natural organization, formed the basis for a further growth along institutional lines. It shaped the social life and spirit of the day, and from it emanated the religious faith and practices of the people Thus it is the social and religious activities, combined in one conception of organic social evolution, that forms the foundation for a better understanding of more advanced institutions. It is our purpose, therefore, to treat of the settlement and growth of Iowa from 1830 to 1860, with special reference to their essential relation to the main historical movements that have exerted such a potent influence in moulding the distinctive character of this great commonwealth.


     In many respects the first settlement in any region is usually of great importance as indicating the most probable line of development. It is the source from which other settlements are formed, and from it radiates the influences that are to mould the character of the surrounding country. Strange as it may seem, this was only in a very limited sense true in Iowa. The Mississippi River was a broad highway that furnished comparatively easy access to all points upon the border, and by thus segregating interests prevented the formation of a single distributing point. Add to this the fact that the first settlement was distinctively a mining community, and its peculiar situation is even more apparent. A detailed consideration of the first attempts at settlement will illustrate this point.
     The first settlement in what is now Iowa was made by Julien Dubuque. On the twenty-second of September, 1788, he purchased from the Sac and Fox Indians a tract of land on the west side of the Mississippi River, and soon after settling there, he opened up and began to work the valuable deposits of lead upon his land. Dubuque had spent most of his life among the Indians, knew their language and their customs, and was almost one of their number.
     The second settlement was that of Lewis Honari at Montrose on the Mississippi, about ten miles above the mouth of the Des Moines River. The country then belonged to Spain, and on the thirtieth of March, 1799, he secured an official grant from Zenon Trudeau, the acting governor of Upper Louisiana, which, besides bestowing other privileges, read as follows:
     " It is permitted to Mr. Louis (Fresson) Honari to establish himself at the head of the rapids of the river Des Moines, and his establishment once formed, notice of it shall be given to the Governor General, in order to obtain from -him the commission of a space sufficient to give value to said establishment, and at the same time to render it useful to the commerce o the peltries of this country; to watch the Indians and to keep them in fidelity which they owe to his Majesty."
     This, however, did not prove permanent, as Honari held possession only until 1805, when it passed into other hands and was subsequently entirely abandoned; although long after some persons who claimed an interest, attempted to revive the title, the result being the famous Half Breed Tract Cases, which caused such extended litigation for many years. In 1808, a third attempt at settlement was made by the erection of Fort Madison. The Indians regarded this as a violation of the existing treaty as well as a continual menace to their safety and freedom of action; and, by persistent and harassing attacks, soon made the fort untenable, so that it was abandoned and burned.
     The project of Julien Dubuque was more fortunate and continued to prosper until his death in 1810. After that unfortunate event, the Indians, although they could not work the mines to any extent, continued vigilantly to guard them from encroachment by the whites. The Indians had built a village on Catfish Creek, a short distance below the mines; but, in the spring of 1830, as a result of long continued hostilities, a band of their chiefs was killed by a party of Sioux. This intelligence so alarmed the Sacs and Foxes that they precipitately abandoned their village and sought a safer habitation in the interior. The watchful white settlers upon the eastern bank soon became aware of this fact and with natural and pardonable curiosity ventured to cross the river and inspect the forbidden ]and. Among these were miners from Galena, who soon discovered the valuable deposits of ore and began to make preparations to mine and market the product. But the Indians had not yet sold their lands, and the United States, desiring to keep faith until that much desired event could be fully accomplished, undertook to keep all the settlers off that territory. Captain Zachary Taylor, who was then in command of the United States troops at the fort at Prairie du Chien, by a vigorous coup d'etat (so characteristic of the old warrior and statesman) compelled the miners to abandon the district and to recross to the other side of the river.
     In 1832, when it became known that the Government had bought the land, they again began the active operation of the mines. " They built houses, erected furnaces for smelting, cut hay, and made every preparation for a winter's work, and before the first of January there were over two hundred persons collected about the mines and many valuable lodes had been discovered, and a large amount of lead manufactured."
     Yet even this movement proved to be premature, for the treaty itself stipulated that the Indians should remain in sole possession until the first of June, 1833. It seemed considerable of a hardship to deprive the miners of the fruit of their labors, but Uncle Sam, feeling in duty bound to abide by his agreement, politely informed the land immediately.
     When at last the long desired haven was opened to settlers, the miners were chagrined to find that the government had assumed control of the mineral lands and had sent an agent to issue permits to work the mines and to see that the venous other requirements were observed. The opposition to this policy was so pronounced that the government was compelled to abandon it, and some thirteen years later the lands were brought into the market and sold.
     During the summer of 1833 the tide of immigration flowed rapidly into the mining district, and, in the following winter, a town was laid out. By a vote of the people assembled in a public meeting, the town was named Dubuque after the hardy old pioneer, who, so many years before, had discovered and first operated the rich mineral deposits. The development from the nucleus thus formed was rapid and spontaneous, and it was not long before Dubuque became a thriving populous town.
     It has seemed best to dwell thus at some length upon the vicissitudes of the first settlement at Dubuque for several reasons. In the first place, it formed practically the first permanent settlement upon Iowa soil, for though there were several other towns about contemporary in time, the legacy received from the far-seeing Julien Dubuque gives it a priority which cannot be overlooked. It also represents the difficulty which the early settler experienced in gaming access to the territory, and is fairly typical of man of the settlements along the river. But most important of all, Dubuque is unique in that it was formed and developed as a mining center. Settlers were attracted to Dubuque by its mineral wealth while the rest of Iowa, being essentially agricultural, became peopled with those who desired to make homes for themselves upon its beautiful prairies. As a mining camp it was more or less under the influence of the proverbial lawless element and in this regard, as we shall see later, Dubuque did exercise considerable influence over the early Iowa communities. It is perhaps fortunate that it did not hold as prominent a place in the formation of the public character as its position as the first settlement would seem to warrant. At any rate, we must consider Dubuque as the exception that gives vivacity to the rule and treat it merely as a very important side-light upon the main movement.


     What we have characterized as the main movement in the settlement of Iowa was the tendency of settlers to find homes for themselves upon the public domain. As the eastern States became more thickly settled, the desire for larger opportunities prompted many deserving and ambitious people to seek an opening in the unknown West. The large majority of these were farmers, who brought with them not only the most important implements of their vocation, but also the spirit of a tiller of the soil. The predominating impulse of the settler was thus agricultural in its nature, and the broad prairies gave an added incentive for a full realization of this purpose. Very early in the century, and long before the regular settlement began, a few isolated trading- posts had been established at various points west of the Mississippi in what was known as the Black Hawk territory. The several Fur Companies continued to maintain agencies well into the interior in order to secure the first chance at the furs and pelts of the Indians and trappers. But though these were probably the first harbingers of civilization, they were too uncertain and transitory to exert any permanent influence or take rank as important institutions. Besides these traders there was another class of early arrivals which were generally known as " squatters" . It seems to be one of the inborn elements of human nature to possess a fascinating desire for forbidden fruit. It takes a very strong and unaccommodating conscience to withstand such allurements, and often the uncertainty furnishes a too welcome spice for the monotony of life. The government, in undertaking to keep the settlers out of Iowa until a certain date, furnished just such an opportunity for adventurous spirits, and although unusual vigilance was exercised, it is an undoubted fact that a few pioneers evaded the careful circumspection of the dragoons and secured early homes on the frontier. It is no more than just to say, however, that these were comparatively few, and that the great mass of the settlers were meritorious and law abiding citizens, who made their claims upon Iowa soil only after it was regularly opened for settlement.
     With the exception, then, of the trader and the "squatter," there were no white settlers in the territory until June first, 1833, when the land was nominally, though not legally, thrown open to all comers. On that date the Indian title was extinguished and the active military restraints of the government ceased. Claims were immediately taken at the most advantageous points along the river. Many of these new comers hailed from Illinois, having come directly across the river. Most of them, however, came from the East, generally by a long and tedious journey down the Ohio and up the Mississippi. It is no wonder, therefore, that they stopped at the first convenient landing-place, and, in this way, unintentionally built up the towns on the lower Mississippi much more rapidly than those farther up the river.
     Burlington was the first town to be regularly laid out, the original plat being surveyed in November and December 1833. Its early prominence was due in part to its having previously been an Indian trading-post "with numerous old trading houses, boat houses, and a number of Indian graves along the bank of the river" and in part to its accessibility as a landing place. About the same time claims were made near Fort Madison, although the town was not platted until 1835. In 1836, as a result of a meeting of settlers at the home of Colonel George Davenport at Rock Island, a town was surveyed and named Davenport in honor of the colonel, who, besides being one of the early settlers in the region, was also one of the prime movers in the new enterprise. In 1837 the embryo town of Keokuk was formally laid out in what had been the potato patch of one of the early settlers.
     The difficulties of travel made immigration seem comparatively slow for the first few years. The first comers usually settled near the river and, as the population increased, the less desirable lands were taken up or the settler moved a little farther from the river before selecting the site for his cabin. The best locations were thus rapidly acquired, and it is evident from the dates at which the towns were laid out that the formation of a town plat was considered one of the first requirements of a growing community. The towns which were thus favorably located grew rapidly.
     There were a great many other towns laid out in the hope that they might become county seats, or great emporiums which would receive the trade of the whole country; but too often these fond hopes were realized only in the dreams of the deluded speculator. The city of Rockingham is a case in point, and is fairly typical of many another bursted bubble. It was settled in the fall of 1835 and the location chosen (a short distance below the present site of Davenport) near the center of the county, in order to be sure of the county seat, and at a place "possessing many advantages." Beautiful lithographs were sent out to eastern cities to attract prospective citizens, and the immigrant, who viewed for the first time the beautiful slope upon which the city was located, thought it was a paradise indeed. But the unexpected annual overflow of the Mississippi cut off the " embryo city " from the bluffs by vast sloughs and mud holes, and this, in connection with the loss of the county seat alienated its population to such an extent that it soon sank into an insignificant village. Its rival, Davenport, continued to grow and prosper and soon began to contend with Dubuque for the supremacy of the river.
     The publication of the
Dubuque Visitor, the first newspaper in Iowa, in 1836, and the appearance in 1838 of the Iowa Sun at Davenport indicated the substantial nature of the development. The latter paper in its salutatory professes. that it is the disinterested purpose of the Sun to " cast its rays; over the -moral and political landscape, regardless of the petty interests and local considerations which might contract its beams " However, the editor takes particular pains to specify that Davenport is " the center of the system around which all our territorial interests harmoniously revolve." Both these papers afforded a much needed means of communication and were of great benefit in crystallizing the common interests of the people. They also did great service in bringing Iowa to the attention of the people of the east.
     The introduction of ferries and of more commodious river boats, as well as the running of public roads throughout the country very materially improved the facilities for transportation. This fact tended greatly to augment the number of immigrants who were constantly seeking homes in the new country. The river counties filled up very fast and the new settlers were compelled to go still farther westward.
     A space was cleared on the Iowa River in 1839 and in June of that year, the town of Iowa City was surveyed and the capital located there, pursuant to an act of Congress which donated a section of land and $20,000 for the purpose of erecting buildings. The first sale of lots occurred August 18th of the same year and as the capital of the young territory, the town made rapid strides in the first few years of its growths As Professor Shambaugh very aptly says " the ordinary town has a natural unplanned origin, and grows by reason of the superior advantages of its location," but with Iowa City the case was different, for before the sod of the surrounding county had been turned Iowa City was, with the exception of Dubuque and Burlington, the most prominent town in Iowa. In short, Iowa City was a special artificial creation, deliberately planned and created by the Territory of Iowa to afford a permanent location for the seat of Government of the Territory."
     When Iowa City was first located it was undoubtedly on the outer fringe of civilization, but it did not long remain so. The rush of immigration continued unabated, until by 1841 almost the whole of the territory acquired from the Indians by the Black Hawk purchase, comprising a strip of country about fifty miles wide along the Mississippi River, was taken up by settlers' claims. This fact made it imperatively necessary that the government should still farther extend the public domain and this it finally succeeded in doing by acquiring title to other Indian lands. But before considering the further westward trend of settlement (which presents many peculiar phases) and even before we consider more in detail the religious and social life of the early pioneers, it is necessary to briefly notice an institution upon which depended not only the possession of the settlers' land and home, but which at this early time was practically the only force which regulated the actions of the community.


     It is very generally conceded that the absence of any authorized government in frontier settlements was more beneficial than otherwise. It is true that the wild pioneer life was very conducive to unrestrained acts of lawlessness, but in most cases the better class of citizens seem to have " taken the law into their own hands " and maintained a fair degree of public order. But more important than this consideration is the fact that the settlers were left to work out their own institutions in harmony with the needs of the time. As Professor Macy has plainly shown, the settlers were in a better position to shape their own forms of local government than was Congress, or even their own Territorial legislature. " The real local institutions of the early settlers of Iowa are not recorded in any statute-books and many of the institutions recorded in the statute- books never had any existence." The early settler was so far away from the seat of Government, and the laws and legislative provisions filtered so slowly and vaguely through the wilderness, that he was practically independent of such remote supervision. When important acts of the Government which vitally affected the character of his daily life did reach him, he generally managed to secure its compliance in harmony- with frontier custom; and in many cases custom, which was in reality the common law of the settler, was recognized later by the Government as rendering the statute inoperative, for the broad and beaten path of custom leading directly across it (the statute) had obliterated every apparent vestige of its existence."" The Claim Association is a very instructive example which illustrates the working of this principle." When the Indian title to the Iowa land was extinguished the settlers who immediately settled thereon believed they had a perfect right to occupy the land, and that in time they could secure a valid title from the Government. Prof. Macy has very clearly shown that "the statute passed in 1807 forbidding settlements on lands ceded to the United States until authorized by law" was still unrepealed and that "according to the letter of the law the settlers in Iowa were subject to removal, fine and imprisonment. But they were undoubtedly unconscious lawbreakers, very few even so much as knowing the statute existed and to these few the fact that it had remained inoperative for over twenty- five years rendered it practically void. The unoffending and innocent pioneer believed he was doing a noble and patriotic service in reclaiming the wilderness and making it "blossom as the rose."
     The energetic settler, although he was entirely oblivious to the governmental punishment which might at any moment have descended upon his head, was well aware of the fact that he had a very insecure hold upon his property. He realized that he had no legal title, and that when the Government put the land on sale there was a possibility that someone else might bid in his claim and thus deprive him of his land with its valuable improvements. Upon this principle the Claim Associations were instituted. Each community formed an Association or Club, with strict " By-Laws" and agreements, and with the definite object of protecting
bonified settlers in the possession of their homes. The main features of; the agreements of these organizations have been summarized by Prof. Macy as follows:
     "(First) There was a provision as to the amount of land in a 'claim. In some cases this was 480 acres, in others it was I60 acres. There was sometimes a provision as to what part should be prairie and what part timber. (Second) There was a provision as to the amount of improvement required to hold the claim in cases where the claim was not occupied. (Third) There was a provision as to occupancy, desertion for a specified time or a failure to make the required improvement worked forfeiture. (Fourth) Claims could be sold to any person approved by the organization, and the buyer had all the privileges and obligations of the original claimant. A deed was given and recorded. (fifth) Provisions were made for settling disputes between claimants....The members of the organization bound themselves to abide by the decisions of courts established by the association; or difficulties were settled in mass meetings; or special arbiters were chosen to settle special cases; or a neighboring association was invited to assist in settling a difficulty. In one or other of these ways nearly all cases were adjusted in an orderly way. (Sixth) There were provisions for securing the enforcement of all decisions and for protecting their claims against outside parties."
     In general these provisions seem to have been rigidly adhered to, but in many cases the requirements were very liberally interpreted. This was especially true of speculators who took the claim originally and then sold it to someone else one writer in describing the scenes among the early settlers in regard to land claims says, that in reality " a legal squatter's claim consisted in putting up a shanty or enclosing a few acres of land with a fence, or breaking prairie, or blazing on trees if in the grove. This held the claim six months, then actual residence. Sometimes actual residence consisted in the squatter taking a blanket and a lunch out to the claim, and boarding and lodging there an hour or two, and washing out his dirty stockings. This made a substantial claim for six months more." This was the exception, however, most of the settlers being hard-working, frugal, and indefatigable in the endeavor to improve their farms. It was generally several years after the settler had secured his claim before the Government survey was made, and as these surveys divided the land accurately into townships and sections they played have with the irregular claims of the settler. The settler found that his farm was situated on two or perhaps four quarters, and the difficulties that grew out of these conditions were innumerable. Honest neighbors easily settled these differences by deeding to each other the portions of their claims in other sections, thus equalizing matters by a fair settlement. Others, not so kindly disposed, were embroiled in the most bitter controversies. It was here that the arbitration committee of the association did its best work. This committee was, in most cases, the court of final instance, and obedience to its decisions was obligatory. This board and its work is one of the most important institutions of the period.
     It was a part of its duty to see that claims were properly entered and all requirements fulfilled. This phase of the work of the committee of adjudication is admirably shown by the following notice to claimants which appeared in the
Iowa Sun of March 27, 1839. For we assure you it will be truly unpleasant for your committee to give judgment against any of the old friends of this association.

          (Signed) RODOLPHUS BENNETT,
          JAMES HALL,
          THOMAS DILLON,
          J. LITCH,
          JOSEPH NOLL.
          March 16 1839."

     During the first few years previous to the organization of a more definite Territorial Government these committees acted as the practical judiciary of the country. They formed the tribunal before which were brought many of the difficulties which arose in the social life of the community. Moreover it formed a working police organization. The committees were boards which were more or less directly responsible for the public peace. Each member of the association could be called upon to render assistance in keeping order as well as in protecting the rightful owners of claims, and in this manner, all sorts of crimes and offenses were dealt with. The activities of these Claim Associations were focused when the time for the land sales drew near. The government advertised the sale of public lands on a specified day, and each of the associations had a bidder present who, as soon as each settler's section was called, bid off the land for him at the uniform price of $1.25 per acre. Of course there was a sufficient body of men present from each locality to add moral force to their claims upon the land, and woe to the unwary speculator or land shark who attempted to bid against the recognized claimant. He was promptly knocked down and hauled out of the way of temptation, and the settler's bid was thus recognized without opposition.
     With the termination of the land sales the settler had a full legal title to his land, and there being no further need for the Claim Associations, they died a natural death.
     There is one important aspect of this question which should not be overlooked. In 1839 the Legislature of the Territory of Iowa passed a law recognizing the neighborhood customs in regard to claims as legal in actions at law. By this act the principles involved in the Claim Associations were given complete legal recognition; and emphasis laid upon the fact that wise
customs founded upon experience will, in the end, prove to be sound law.
     The selection and retention of claims and the general subject of land possession gave rise to a large proportion of the difficulties of pioneer life. "Claim jumping " was frequently attempted, and the settlers in a body would wait upon the offender and speedily show him the error of his way. Whipping, tar and feathers, and other modes of punishment were frequently resorted to.
Then the difficulties of the claimants themselves often led to broils and fights and sometimes almost to bloodshed and loss of life. It is this aspect of the case that has led some to characterize it as the rule of " mob law." But a careful consideration of the conditions convinces us that the difficulties in regard to claims and the Claim Associations, were grounded in the fundamental social needs of pioneer life. The whole family life of the settler was bound up in his claim and in his right was questioned, all the considerations of self-protection justified him in striking "for his altars and his fires."
     Aside from this we must recognize the fact that the frontier community is subject to the depredations of disreputable and lawless characters, who are encouraged by the knowledge that there is no regular instituted court of justice or territorial organization of any efficiency. The only way to deal with such characters is by a just and summary visitation of punishment for crime. The settler must be his own law-maker and his own executive, and the self- constituted tribunal is the main-stay of public order in a pioneer community.


     The pioneers are the van-guard of the great army of progress. Leaving their former homes and friends, they penetrate the boundless West and there begin the great struggle of life in the attempt to found a new home in a new country.
     From our earliest childhood we have all been accustomed to listen to our fathers, grandfathers, and other old settlers, describe the vivid picture of the hardships and sufferings of the early pioneer. We have heard of how- they crossed the trackless prairie; forded streams; braved the perils of the severest weather; and faced the prowling beast of prey, as well as endured the troublesome smaller animals. We have heard of their many encounters with their-uncertain friends, the Indians, and their thrilling adventures with the savage red man when he dons his paint and starts upon the war path We have heard of .the hardships endured when, many miles away from the nearest trading center, they were deprived of many of the bare necessities of life; how they had to make long trips to- have their corn and wheat milled; how the scarcity of money and the difficulty of getting needed articles made the most penurious economy, necessary.
     All these and many other trials of pioneer life have become a household story to us all, and it would not only be the height of presumption to treat them at length here, but it would indeed be a work of supererogation. We must keep them well in mind while considering the importance of the social life of the pioneer settlement, and yet at the same time, we must also remember that the early settler, looking back upon these events, is apt to see them through the rosy-hued spectacles of the present, rather than in their normal relations. The - subjective element is so strong that the tendency is to unconsciously add color to the transparent events of long ago. The fact is that most of the occurrences which to us seem so vivid and interesting were really rather prosaic and uneventful. Frontier life, in spite of its perils and hardships, grew painfully monotonous. Nevertheless, this strenuous mode of life tended to produce rugged characters. The daily toil, rendered more difficult by the necessity of overcoming natural obstacles as well as by the paucity of working materials, gave the individual a rough and hardy physique. The usual dreary isolation and monotony, varied only by occasional flashes of excitement, tended to tinge this sturdy temperament with touches of fearless abandon, which often found expression in some form of excitement.
     We have already seen that the settlers were very often engaged in the most bitter controversies over land claims. Lawlessness and crime, of course, were more or less prevalent in every community, and it seems to have been assisted in its work by the presence of liquor shops, which, if we may judge from the numerous testimonies of old settlers were considered among the necessities of frontier life. ; The author of " Davenport Past and Present," in attempting to extenuate this apparent immorality, says that the old settlers " but complied with the character of the times, while absent from social refinements, and the elegance of older towns, almost all strangers to each other, and craving for that excitement, which now is indulged in the intercourse of hosts of friends, and friendly relations of long standing, they could not well do otherwise than they did. Mostly men from large cities, they were impressed by the comparative quiet of frontier life, and to vary their listless lives resorted to stimulants, or whatever else would afford excitement."
     As a demoralizing influence the crude whiskey of the pioneer undoubtedly occupied an important position, but that it was more than a contributory cause of many of the distinctive evils of frontier life would hardly be a warrantable assumption, especially when we consider the prominence of the saloon at the present day.
     As his desire for excitement often found vent in other ways. An old settler in describing "Dubuque in Early Times," tells of the first public horse-whipping, having occurred in 1833, the first tar and feathering, in 1834, the first execution by self constituted tribunal in 1834, and the first elopement in 1835. All these occurred for the first time in Iowa at Dubuque during the first few years of settlement. The same author in another article on " Lynch Law at the Dubuque Mines'' gives a vivid picture of the wrongs often committed by' this sort of justice. But if we remember that Dubuque was a mining town, we are prepared to accept these accounts of lawlessness as one of the necessary adjuncts of that class of settlements. That it spread, and such scenes were of frequent occurrence throughout Eastern Iowa, must be candidly admitted; but to contend that unrestrained acts of violence were so prevalent as to endanger life and property to any great extent, would be to distort this element out of all proportion to its true position. It was only the occasional discord which sometimes occurs to mar the complete beauty of the symphony.
     To counterbalance this we have the widespread influence of the Claim Associations in adjusting differences and preserving public order; and also the fact that after 1840, when the
territorial courts were organized, there was scarcely any work for them to do and often the session lasted but a few days. Lawlessness very rapidly decreased and, as the rim of emigration pushed rapidly westward, much of this undesirable element went with it.
     Social pleasure also occupied a very important place in frontier life. A few specific instances will best serve to illustrate its general nature. As an example of social life upon the extreme border and among the outlying trading-posts, the following account is interesting. " In our pioneer days there was not the reserve or restraint in society that there is today; when our red friends presented us with a pointed stick, we asked for no explanation, but followed them to their wigwams and fared sumptuously on dog meat. In winter, whites and half-breeds mingled in the dance, their favorite dancing tune being original, was called " Guilmah " or " Stumptail Dog." Those who did not dance could be found in an adjoining room engaged at cards; our favorite game was "Bragg," played with three cards; and one who was so stupid as not to understand or appreciate its beauties was considered ineligible to our best society. Horse racing was another great source of amusement to us; in this sport our red friends were ever ready to participate, and at times, lost on the result, every article they possessed on earth."
     In the more advanced settlements this class of activities was somewhat more varied. The author of " Davenport Past and Present " seems to sum up the testimony of the old settlers (especially in the river counties) when he says rather characteristically, " For other amusements, our settlers had at this period,
besides preachers, steamboat arrivals, which everybody went down to see; horse racing at the upper end of-the present site of the city, which all, from the carpenter on the roof to the merchant behind the counter, left to witness; sleigh rides to the neighboring places, followed by a dance, to which all went; balls at home, and wolf hunts." And the author says further that " social cast was not then recognized, and all went in simply for enjoyment."
     Davenport must have gained some renown as a town for "social enjoyment," for in the
Iowa Sun of August 25, 1838 we find the following advertisement which, but for its moderation, would almost make us believe we were reading one of the flaming posters of a modern circus. Good old fashioned "Bees" and "House Raisings" seem to have been a favorite amusement. Literary societies, sociables, parties, etc. were very common, especially among the young people. In these the little church or school house was the center around which the social life of the community revolved. Church going was an important item in the settler's life. If there was no church building, the services were held in the private cabins whenever a minister happened that way. These itinerant preachers were gladly welcomed by the community and many are the settlers who have testified to the good their visits have done.
     The following, from the pen of a hardy old pioneer, illustrates the attitude toward these preachers on the very outermost edge of the frontier, the trading-post:—" We had no church edifice or church members, and when the missionary visited us, I welcomed him on behalf of the citizens, tendered him the use of a part of my house for church services, and, in the capacity of warden, I announced in my bar-room to the loafers who were to comprise the audience when the time of services began."
     These early churches were often very plain affairs and very rudely furnished. The following description of one of the first brick chapels in Davenport gives a good picture of those primitive structures: " This church was seated at first with slabs and split saplings, flat side up; and lighted with a 'chandelier' composed of a block of wood suspended by a rope from the ceiling, in which were inserted some half dozen tallow candles; and warmed by a stove that looked as though it might have done good service before the flood." Many, and indeed most, of the churches in the more remote settlements were not so elaborate even as this one being simply rough log houses with the plainest kind of necessary furnishings.
     In connection with the work of these pioneer ministers mention should be made of the " Iowa Band," a devoted company of twelve theological students from Andover Seminary, who came out to Iowa and gave their life to the work of God's Kingdom. The results of their efforts are to be seen in scores of prospering churches, and in Iowa College, the first college of the state, which was planned and maintained through their untiring zeal and devotion.
     The limits of this paper have compelled an all too fragmentary and cursory view of early social conditions, but it shall have served its purpose if it has revealed the general nature of pioneer life. Crude this life undoubtedly was, but this very fact insured its ultimate triumph; In this early formative period, crudity was an essential element of a strong and healthy growth. The people may have been rough and hardy, but they were possessed of an inherent strength of character and a firm fidelity to purpose.
     On the whole, if we take a fair and comprehensive view of early Iowa society, we must conclude that it was of the better type. Iowa was settled by people who came mostly from New England or from territory which had been originally settled by New Englanders. It would be natural, then, that the ideas instilled into the Puritan should be transplanted to this far western soil. No wonder that the church and school grew up side by side. No wonder that the inborn religious zeal manifested itself in the social life of the new West. Religion has plainly shown itself as the inevitable concomitant of the social life of the people, and these two forces have in turn been the great factors in giving our western life the purity and stability which has made the great State of Iowa what it is.


     With a force as irresistible as a mountain torrent, the stream of immigration flowed farther and farther westward. Its advance beyond the point to which we have already traced it, was, in the main, very similar to its former course. The experiences of the eastern part of Iowa were repeated in the western section of the State. The same troubles were experienced in gaining titles from the Indians and keeping the settlers off until the old title was fully extinguished. The same difficulties of settlement were undergone by the settlers who flocked into the new country. The same social and religious life accomplished about the same results in the West as in the East. It was the recurrence of pioneer life in a new stage under nearly analogous conditions. Yet this further progress was greatly accelerated by several new factors, and the new conditions also contain a few peculiar features.
     The continual encroachments of the whites were beginning to arouse the Indians, and their incessant restlessness breaking out in savage ferocity at the most unexpected times made increased military activity necessary. This had an important influence upon the development of the western part of the State, because it was unsafe for a settler to be very far away from a military post, and thus the frontier fort became the nucleus in the formation of settlements. It is indeed a significant fact that nearly all of the most important towns in western Iowa were built up in this way.
     As early as 1839 the government, having removed the Pottawattamie Indians from Missouri to southwestern Iowa, thought it best to watch them rather closely, and so, for that purpose, erected a fort at what is now Council Bluffs, and garrisoned it with two companies of United States troops. At the same time two Catholic missionaries established a mission there, building rude log huts for themselves and using the block house of the fort for their meetings. This was, however, an exceptional case of a fort established well into the interior for a special purpose, and it was sometime before regular settlements were made at that place.
     In 1843 Fort Des Moines was built at the junction of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers and provided with a garrison of United States dragoons." Even this was in fact an extreme frontier outpost as the territory lying north and northwest of the fort "was comparatively an unexplored region of country, the habitation of the wild Sioux Indians, and ranges for buffalo and elk." The settlement of the surrounding country had not yet really begun, and so, with the exception of occasional immigrants, very few people succeeded in penetrating so farmland. This dull sort of existence was protracted for a decade, and yet, even at the end of that time, according to the testimony of one pioneer, "independent of the troops at the fort the population of Polk County was only about one hundred and fifty souls." Ordinarily this would not be considered a very desirable journalistic field. but on July ~6, 1849, the first issue of the
Iowa Star made its appearance at Fort Des Moines. A month later the second number was published, and in this the editor, after explaining that the delay was caused by the wagoner who was to bring the paper from Keokuk, having been taken sick, and after having expressed high hopes for the future, says, " Some have thought this a premature movement—establishing a weekly newspaper this far out—and particularly so, to start out with the largest paper in the state. [They should] remember that this point is the center of a state nearly as large as all New England, the whole of which is richer than Holland, and more productive than the famed alluvions of the ancient Nile." It is a source of gratification to know that the Star realized the buoyant expectations of its founder and regularly appeared thereafter until it became a thriving publication in a growing metropolis.
     The increasing number of scattered settlers and the hostility of the Indians rendered a more northern fort necessary, and in 1849 Fort Dodge was founded and garrisoned. This was originally called Fort Clark, but the name was changed in 1851, because the existence of another fort by the same name made differentiation difficult. In 1853 the troops were moved north to Fort Ridgely, but the vacated site of the old fort was purchased and in the first part of the year 1854 a town plot laid out and called Fort Dodge.
     During the winter of 1853 the town of Sioux City was located by some government surveyors, who were attracted by the beauty of the region around the upper Missouri. The fort which we have seen was established at the present site of Council Bluffs did not long remain in commission and was later abandoned. The old site was reoccupied in rather a peculiar way. The Mormons, after having been driven out of Illinois, started to emigrate west, but found it necessary to go into winter quarters in 1846, after reaching the Missouri. Many of the adherents of the faith did not move on in the spring but formed a colony in Pottawattamie County. They founded the town of Kanesville, which became a Mecca for all of their faith who travelled westward to the land of promise at Salt Lake City. It exerted a prominent influence in the affairs of that part of the state and the Mormons were in entire control. About 1849 the tide of gold seekers, which flowed so incessantly through the city, attracted gamblers, thugs and all the worst class of people. This new element was a menace to the peaceful Mormons and it was not long before they again began their journey westward to join the colony which had preceded them. In 1853 the name of Kanesville was changed to Council Bluffs and the influence of the Mormons practically ceased in western Iowa.
     From 1850 on, the influx of immigrants and settlers reached enormous proportions. The railroad was an important element in securing this result. The Rock Island road was completed as far as the Mississippi, early in I854, and extended as far as Iowa City by I856. At the same time the active construction of a road east from Sioux City was commenced and pushed rapidly forward. The fact that the settler instead of having to pursue a slow and tedious journey over the trackless prairie was now brought right to the land by the railroad was a momentous one in the western development.
     It surfeited the country with claim seekers, and thus gave rise to a class of speculators and town boomers. The continual rush of gold seekers on their way to California tended to augment this condition. Everything was hurry and excitement and the spirit of speculation ran rife. As one pioneer says, "During the years of 1856 and 1857 the town mania ran to an alarming extent among the settlers of the northwest, while corn and wheat fields were sadly neglected. Very many good quarter sections were spoiled by being driven full of stakes and gorgeously-displayed on paper, while the only perceptible improvements-were the aforementioned stakes and the only citizens gophers, who held the lots by right of possession, and who seriously objected to having their range intercepted by cottonwood stakes. Few out of the many of those paper towns proved a success."
     But these manifestations were only temporary, and after the Indians had been finally pacified and after the demoralizing effect of inflated speculation had been worked off, the country settled down again to its normal condition of gradual development.
     After having considered very briefly these activities which seem to have had special significance in western development, it is still plain that they have little value aside from the movement as a whole. It is one continuous expansion, a pushing over from one section into another, and it is this essential unity which makes so potent the organic development of the state. By 1860 this real formative period was practically completed and Iowa stood a strong, well equipped state, willing and able to hold her own in the battles that were to come.


     We have thus brought our sketch of early Iowa social conditions down to the point where maturity begins. The structural formation is now complete and the normal state enters upon a period of purely strengthening and perfecting growth. Although these early stages have been purely experimental we must conclude that, on the whole, as experiments they have been eminently successful. They may have swung from one extreme to the other and at times trembled on the verge of failure, but, taken collectively and with reference to their essential contribution to history, it is evident that they have formed a basis sufficiently firm and enduring to stand the weight of succeeding institutions.
     Our aim has been to show the true nature of these early experimental stages and to trace the main historical movements that run like threads of gold throughout the complicated web of social life. The attempt has not aimed to be exhaustive but merely suggestive, and it will, perhaps, call attention to the vast storehouse of historical material which lies ready for the hand of the future historian.

 * "The Significance of the Frontier in American History, " by Professor Frederick J. Turner of the University of Wisconsin. Annual Report of the American Historical Association, 1893, pp.200-201.

** William Roscoe Thayer, Dawn of Italian Independence, Vol. I, p. 348


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