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Our Iowa, Its Beginning and Growth

Herbert L. Moeller and Hugh C. Mueller

New York, Newsom and Company


Transcribed by Debbie Gerischer & Kaylee Bopp






The first settlers who came to Iowa land, before it had been bought by the United States, were mostly French Canadians.  That is, people of French descent who had been living in Canada.  Not many such settlers came, however, and no permanent settlements were made by them.


Following the French Canadians, settlers came to Iowa from Missouri, Kentucky, and other southern states.  These people settled mainly in the southeastern and southern part of the state.  A number of early settlers also came from New England and the Middle Atlantic states.

Among those who came from New England were several groups of Friends, or "Quakers" as they are sometimes called.  One Friends' settlement was near Salem.  Here the settlers took an active part in the anti-slavery movement by providing a station for runaway slaves on the underground railway.


Many people came directly from European countries to Iowa.  Often a few, whom we call pioneers, settled in Iowa from a certain locality in Europe.  When they saw the wonderful opportunities that were here, they wrote to their friends and relatives back home and urged them to come.  Many did so and the result was that Iowa's cheap farm land was quickly taken up and its population increased rapidly.


Iowa has many citizens today who are descendants of immigrants from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

Several families of Norwegians settled in Lee county as early as 1840.  They came from Missouri.

From 1849 to 1860 the Norwegian immigration was directed to northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.  The first settler from Norway in this section came to Clayton county in 1846.  Others soon settled in Fayette, Allamakee and Winneshiek counties.

Luther College was established at Decorah in 1862 and that city soon became widely known as a center for Norwegian interest and culture.  Few immigrants have come from Norway since 1890.

The first Swedish settlement in Iowa was at Bush Creek - later New Sweden - in Jefferson county in the fall of 1845.  Other settlements were soon made in Henry and Wapello counties and by 1850 tow hundred fifty immigrants from Sweden had located in Burlington.

The counties of Boone, Hamilton, and Webster had many early Swedish settlements.  Madrid, in Boone county, was first named Swede Point.


In 1847 about seven hundred Hollanders arrived in St. Louis, looking for a new home.  A committee that was sent out to look for a suitable location chose a place in Marion county, Iowa, where they founded the town of Pella.

The first winter many of the Dutch settlers had to live in dugouts with straw-thatched roofs.  But they were a hard-working people who saved their money and soon were able to build fine homes, schools, and churches.

Later many Dutch people settled in Sioux county.


Some wealthy Englishmen, the Close  brothers, bought 30,000 acres of land in Plymouth county.  Others from England bought more land.  Young Englishmen of "noble" birth came to work on the farms and to build up an estate.  In some cases, wealthy parents sent irresponsible sons with the hope that they might become useful citizens.  About six hundred English people settled near Le Mars but many later moved away.


Two countries from which many immigrants came were Ireland and Germany.  More came from Germany than from any other European country.  Davenport was an early headquarters for Germans.  Before a railroad had been built across  Illinois, many of these immigrants came to New Orleans and hence up the Mississippi to various points in Iowa along that river.  Later German settlements sprang up in many sections of Iowa.


Not many immigrants  Not many immigrants who came to Iowa failed to stay.  Most of them built permanent homes and the influence of their rugged and sturdy lives is still left.  There was one exception.  A group of Hungarians who were driven from their own country after an unsuccessful revolution, settled in Decatur county in 1850.  The winters were too cold for them and most of them soon moved to Texas.


Since Iowa has become settled it has received many immigrants from Italy and Greece.  Most of these people live in the cities and towns.  Their European training and background are not such as would lead them to farming in a state like Iowa


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