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History of Iowa

Volume III


Two pictures are included with this chapter:  The Grasshopper Scourge and the State College of Agriculture.

The total receipts of the State Treasury during the two years ending November 2, 1867, were $1,365,158.57 and the expenditures for the same period $1,315,654.74.  The debt of the State at this time was $385,000 of which $300,000 was for expenses incurred for military purposes during the Civil War.

The Republican State Convention met at Des Moines on the 19th of June, 1867, with nine hundred and eighty-four delegates in attendance.  There was an animated contest for the nominations, a nomination being considered equivalent to an election.  The principal candidates for Governor were Colonel Samuel Merrill of Clayton County, J. B. Grinnell of Poweshiek, Colonel J. A. Williamson of Polk and J. W. Cattell of the same county.  On the first ballot the vote was as follows:  Merrill, four hundred and twenty-six; Grinnell, two hundred and sixty-two; Williamson, one hundred and seventy-seven; Cattell, fifty-eight.  On the next ballot Merrill was nominated by a large majority.  The candidates for Lieutenant-Governor were John Scott, E. B. Woodward, S. A. Moore and Nathan Udell.  On the second ballot Colonel Scott was nominated.  Joseph N. Beck was nominated for Supreme Judge, Henry O'Connor for Attorney-General and D. F. Wells for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The following were the important resolutions adopted:

"Resolved, That we again proclaim it as a cardinal principle of our political faith that all men are equal before the law, and we are in favor of such amendments to the Constitution of Iowa as we secure the rights of the ballot, the protection of the law and equal justice to all men irrespective of color, race or religion.

"We approve of the military reconstruction acts of the 39th and 40the Congresses.

"The Republican members of Congress are entitled to the thanks of the Nation of their firmness in resisting the conspiracy to turn over the Government to the hands of traitors and their allies and defeating the purpose of a corrupt Executive, thus sustaining the interests of liberty in a great and dangerous crisis in our history."

The Democratic State Convention assembled at Des Moines on the 26th of June and nominated the following candidates for the various officers:  for Governor, Charles Mason of Des Moines County; Lieutenant-Governor, D. M. Harris of Guthrie; Supreme Judge, J. H. Craig of Lee; Attorney-General, W. T. Barker of Dubuque; Superintendent of Public Instruction, Maturin L. Fisher of Clayton.

The important declarations in the platform were as follows:

"Resolved, That each State has the right to order and control its own institutions.  Each State has the right to regulate the elective franchise for itself and, as citizens of Iowa, we are opposed to striking the word "white" out of our State Constitution.

"That the existing tariff should be repealed or greatly modified.

"That we favor taxing Government bonds the same as other property.

"That we favor the repeal of the present liquor law of the State and the enactment of a well regulated license law.

"That we are in favor of granting the elective franchise to foreigners who have resided in the State one year and declared their intention to become citizens.

"That the denial of representation to ten States of the Union, through odious military reconstruction, in violation of the Constitution, should meet with the unqualified opposition of every good citizen."

No convention was held by the Conservative Republican party this year and its members generally united with the Democrats.

The election resulted in the success of the Republican candidates by the following vote:  Colonel Samuel Merrill, 89,144 votes; Judge Charles Mason, 62,657:  Merrill's majority-26,587.  The other candidates on the Republican ticket received substantially the same majorities.

It was in August of this year that myriads of grasshoppers first appeared in western Iowa.  They seemed to come from the region of the Rocky Mountains where they breed in vast numbers.  When large enough to fly, they rise in the air to a great height usually moving in a northeasterly direction.  They seem to know in what direction they wish to migrate and when on the wing, if overtaken by adverse winds, frequently settle to the earth and alight until the wind changes or subsides.  While upon the ground they feed ravenously upon tender vegetation, devouring growing crops and garden vegetables.  In 1867 they were traced from the mountain regions west of Kansas, alighting in that State at various points and doing serious damage to growing crops.  Moving in a northeasterly direction they crossed the Missouri River and invaded the western counties of Iowa.  Their ravages were most serious in the counties of Woodbury, Ida, Sac, Calhoun, Page, Adams, Ringgold, Clarke, Adair, Warren, Polk, Madison, Cherokee, Carroll, Greene, Dallas, Boone and Webster.

Small grain was harvested before their appearance and escaped damage while corn and vegetables were freely devoured by the millions which literally shadowed the sun like a cloud, as they pursued their onward flight.  On a bright day they first attracted the attention of persons looking toward the sun, when they had the appearance of snow flakes, their gauzy wings glistening in the sunlight at a great height above the earth.  When wishing to feed they slowly settled to the earth until the ground was covered with a moving swarm of the insects, devouring every green, growing thing within the line of their march.  They often remained for weeks in the same region, at night crawling up corn stalks, large weeds, fences and the sides of buildings and when daylight appeared, descending again to the ground to feed.  In some localities they remained until November, depositing millions of eggs just beneath the surface before they resumed their travels in the air.  After completing their stay, suddenly, as though a signal had been given, they would, after months of living on the ground, slowly rise with glistening white wings to a great altitude and disappear.  The damage done by the pests was not great, as most farm crops were well matured before their advent to the earth.  The first observed passed over high in the air and were seen no more; while the eggs deposited by the swarms which came later and remained several weeks, hatched the next summer and from these great damage was done before their wings grew large enough to enable them to fly.  While they remained their appetites were unlimited and as they hopped and crawled along, every green plant on their line of march was wholly or partially devoured.  They spread out over most of western Iowa but were much more numerous in some localities than in others.  Crops were only partially destroyed but the aggregate damage was very great in more than forty counties.  Early in June the wings of the earliest hatched had become large enough to enable them to start on their travels and by the last of the month nearly all had disappeared.

The Twelfth General Assembly convened at Des Moines on the 13th of January, 1868.  Hon. John Russell of Jones County was chosen Speaker of the House of Representatives.

In his message Governor Stone recommended the establishment of a State Reform School for the reception, safe keeping and education of youthful criminals and convicts of tender age, whence they might be removed form the corrupting influence of hardened criminals confined in the penitentiary.  He stated that of the convicts now in the penitentiary fifty-nine were under twenty-one years of age and a number of these from twelve to eighteen years of age.  He recommended the resumption of the land granted to the Dubuque and Sioux City Company for the reason that the company had failed to comply with all of the essential conditions of the grant.  He said:  "The Agricultural College building is nearly completed.  This structure, in its architectural design and mechanical execution, is one of the most imposing and substantial in the State."  He recommended a liberal appropriation for its completion and equipment.  He urged the prompt ratification of the proposed amendments to the Constitution of the United States and the necessary legislation to submit to a vote of the people the amendment to our State Constitution already approved by the last Legislature.  He recommended the creation of the office of county auditor and the establishment of inferior courts to relieve the District Courts in the most populous counties.

On the 16th of January the two houses assembled in joint convention in the presence of which Samuel Merrill was sworn in as Governor and John Scott as Lieutenant-Governor; after which Governor Merrill delivered his inaugural address.

The most important acts of the General Assembly were the ratification of the amendments to the Constitution of the United States and ratifying and confirming the amendment to the Constitution of the State of Iowa, heretofore mentioned.  Acts were passed providing for the establishment of a State Reform School, creating the office of county auditor, providing for an Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb and for an additional institution for the insane; resuming the grants of lands to the Dubuque and Sioux City Railroad Company; and regranting to the Iowa Falls and Sioux City Company; also resuming the grant to the McGregor Western Railroad Company and granting the same to the McGregor and Sioux City Railway Company; establishing a system of Circuit Courts; requiring a registry of voters and providing for the taxation of shares in National Banks.  An act to encourage fruit growing and timber planting by exempting land thus planted from taxation for a term of years was also passed.  Resolutions were passed in each house, by a strict party vote, in favor of the impeachment by Congress of President Johnson, the Republicans voting for and the Democrats against it.

In 1867 an attempt had been made in the House of Representatives of Congress to impeach President Johnson.  The matter was referred to the judiciary committee.  After several months spent by the committee in taking evidence, on the 25th of November, three different reports were made.  Five of the Republican members reported in favor of impeachment.  James F. Wilson of Iowa and Woodbridge, Republicans, reported against impeachment while the two Democratic members were also opposed to impeachment.  When the resolutions came before the House that the body by a vote of fifty-six yeas to one hundred and nine nays refused to impeach.  Price and Loughridge of Iowa voted for impeachment; while Allison, Dodge, Hubbard and Wilson voted against it.  In the following August the President suspended from the War Department, Secretary Stanton, and directed General Grant to act as Secretary in the interim.  The removal of Secretary Stanton from the position he had filled with such marked ability during the war, aroused intense indignation throughout the Northern States among the members of the Republican party, as they had long regarded Stanton as the one fearless and uncompromising member of the Cabinet who stood between the arbitrary designs of the President and the will of the loyal people as expressed by the acts of their Representatives and Senators in Congress.  On the 13th of January, 1868, the Senate by a vote of thirty-five to five (a strict party vote) passed a resolution to the effect that the Senate did not concur in the removal of Secretary Stanton and General Grant thereupon retired from the position.  In February the House committee on reconstruction reported a resolution as follows:  "Resolved, That Andrew John don, President of the United States, be impeached of high crimes and misdemeanors."  The resolution was adopted by the House on the 24th by a vote of one hundred and twenty-eight yeas to forty-seven nays, all the members from Iowa voting for impeachment.  A committee of seven was appointed to prepare articles of impeachment and James F. Wilson of Iowa was a member of this committee.  When the articles were adopted by the House he was one of the managers chosen by that body to conduct the trial before the Senate.  The people of the country were wrought up to intense excitement over the trial, a large majority of the Republicans strongly approving the impeachment, while the opposition was bitterly denouncing the attempt to remove the President from office.  The trial lasted from March 5th to May 16th when the vote was taken in the Senate.

It stood thirty-five for conviction to nineteen against.  As it required two-thirds to convict the President was declared acquitted, amidst the most intense excitement.  All who voted "Guilty" were Republicans, while seven Republicans voted "Not Guilty," as did all of the Democrats.  Senator Harlan of Iowa voted to convict while our other Senator, James W. Grimes, voted to acquit.  Never  in the political history of the country has there been such a fierce and ungovernable outcry of rage and denunciation raised against public officials as was hurled by the Republican press and people at the seven Republican Senators who conscientiously and bravely gave their votes for the acquittal of the President.  It drove all of them from public life, for a time alienated life-long friends and cast a cruel stigma upon reputations earned by pure lives in long and faithful public service.  The denunciation of Senator Grimes by Iowa Republicans was unmeasured, almost unanimous and brutal on the extreme.  For a time reason was ignored, justice smothered and rage ruled supreme.  His motives were impugned and his superb and patriotic services to his State and country, during the darkest years of the war for the Union, were ignored, while his Republican constituents vied with each other in vile abuse of a Senator who was courageous enough to render a judgment which met the approval of his conscience upon the trial of a bitter political opponent.  Time had indicated his judgment and the brave act which for a time overwhelmed the strong man and eminent statesman.  He did not live to see the day, but it soon came, in which every citizen of the State he served so long and well honored his memory as one of the blest and noblest public men.

The Republican State Convention assembled at Des Moines on the 7th of May, 1868, and renominated the State officers whose terms were about to expire.  Henry O'Connor was nominated for Attorney-General in place of F. E. Bissell who died before the expiration of his term.  The platform reaffirmed the principles declared in the last convention and unanimously recommended the nomination of General U. S. Grant for President.

The Democratic State Convention was held at Des Moines on the 26th of February and nominated the following candidates for State officers:  Secretary of State, David Hammer; Treasurer, L. McCarty; Auditor, Harvey Dunlavey; Register Land Officer, A. D. Anderson; Attorney-General, J. E. Williamson.  The resolutions declared the reconstruction policy of Congress to be unconstitutional; in favor of abolishing the National Bank system and the substitution of United States notes in place of bank currency; in favor of the repeal of the prohibitory liquor law and the enactment of a license law; opposed negro suffrage in Iowa and interference by the General Government with suffrage in the States, and in favor of George H. Pendleton for President.  The two conventions nominated candidates for Presidential electors and chose delegates to their respective National conventions to nominate candidates for President.

The Republican National Convention met at Chicago on the 20th of May and nominated General Grant for President and Schuyler Colfax for Vice-President.  It approved the reconstruction policy of Congress and denounced President Johnson and his executive acts and policy.

The National Democratic Convention assembled at New York on the 4th of July, nominated Horatio Seymour for President and Frank P. Blair for Vice-President.  Andrew Johnson received considerable support in the convention during the twenty-one ballots.  The platform of the convention was very lengthy  and in general terms approved the policy of President Johnson in his controversy with Congress over the reconstruction measures.

The campaign was waged with great determination by the two parties in Iowa and resulted in the following vote on President:  Grant, 120,399; Seymour, 74,040.  Majority for Grant, 46,359.  The vote  for the State officers did not very much from that for President, the highest vote being 120,265 for Wright for Secretary of State.  The vote on the Constitutional amendment for striking the word "white" from the clause qualifying electors, stood as follows:  for negro suffrage - 105,384, against - 81,119; majority for 24,265.

The legislature in 1868 in regranting lands to the Iowa Falls and Sioux City, and McGregor and Sioux City Railway companies, incorporated in each act a clause which read as follows:

"Provided, said railroad company accepting the provisions of this act, shall at all times be subject to such rules, regulations and rates of tariff for the transportation if freight and passengers, as may from time to time be enacted and provided for by the General Assembly of the State of Iowa and further subject to the conditions, limitations, restrictions and provisions contained in this act and the act of Congress granting said lands to the State of Iowa."

The declaration by the State of this right to regulate the charges of railroads for conveying freight and passengers was very obnoxious to the various railroads and railroad construction companies and they joined in an attempt to defeat the enactment of the principle of such regulation by the General Assembly.  Their efforts were unsuccessful although they were supported in that position by many members representing portions of the State which were destitute of railroads, who were assured by the representatives of the companies that such restrictions would defeat, for a long time, the extension of railroads into the sparsely settled regions of the State.

After the adjournment of the Legislature several of the railroad companies declared that they would build no more roads in Iowa so long as that restriction remained on the statute books.  The people living in sections remote from railroads, organized strong movements to influence the Governor to call an extra session of the General Assembly for the purpose of removing the obnoxious restriction and thus promote railroad building.  

Committees were appointed to correspond with members of the General Assembly with the object of securing the consent of a majority that, in the event of the assembling of the Legislature in special session, the restriction would be repealed.  The effort was not successful and after a long delay railroad building was again resumed.

The main building of the State Agricultural College was completed in the fall of 1868 and a preparatory session was opened on the 21st of October.  Dr. A. S. Welch, United States Senator from Florida, had been chosen President.  Young women were admitted as students on an equality with young men.  On the 17th of March, 1869, the college was formally opened.  More than 1,000 persons assembled from all parts of the State to witness the inauguration of the people's college from which so much benefit was expected.  Governor Merrill and Lieutenant-Governor Scott delivered addresses.  B. F. Gue, President of the Board of Trustees, which had erected the buildings and organized the college, gave a history of the work.  Hon. John Russell, chairman of the building committee, followed with an interesting address.  President Welch then delivered his inaugural explaining the plan of work and the chief aims of the industrial college.  Strong opposition had been made to the admission of women but the trustees decided upon their admission making this the second Agricultural College to permit girls to be enrolled as students.

On the 1st of January, 1869, the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad had one hundred and eighty miles of its main line completed to Afton, in Union County.  The gross earnings of the road for the year 1868 were $841,653.  This road had, up to this date, received of its land grant 287,095 acres.  The Chicago and Rock Island Company had completed on the 1st of January of the same year two hundred and seventy-six miles of railroad, had received 474,674 acres of public land and its gross earnings for 1868 were $1,051, 828.

The Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company had completed a line from Clinton to Council Bluffs and received of public lands 775,454 acres, its gross earnings for 1868 were $3,372,628.

The Dubuque and Sioux City Railway had, up to January, 1869, completed one hundred and forty-three miles of road of its main line, a branch to Cedar Rapids of fifty-six miles and one to Waverly to twenty miles.  It received land upon completion of the road amounting to 1,226,588 acres.  Its gross earnings for 1868 were $970, 696.

The McGregor and Sioux City Railroad had eighty-five miles of road completed and received of public lands 372,800 acres.  Its gross earnings for 1868 were $498,322.

The Des Moines Valley Railroad was completed from Keokuk to Des Moines, a distance of one hundred and sixty-two miles.  Its gross earnings for the year were $710,240.  Its entire land grant was estimated at 464,023 acres, of which 100,000 acres were reserved to secure it's building into Fort Dodge.

The Sioux City and Pacific Railroad was a line built from Sioux City, a connection with the Northwestern at Missouri Valley in Harrison Count, a distance of about seventy-five miles.  Its gross earnings for 1868 were $127,000.  A land grant was obtained by this road in Nebraska.

The council bluffs and St. Joseph Railroad was completed to the south line of the State, a distance of forty-two miles.  Its gross earnings for the year were $153,854.  It had no land grant.

The Council Falls and Minnesota Railroad was extended north from Cedar Falls a distance of forty-two miles and had no land grant.

It will be seen from these reports that Iowa had, on the 1st of January, 1869, 1,473 miles of railroad completed and in operation.  The entire amount of public lands granted to the roads to aid in their construction was 3,127,785 acres.

During the year 1868 there was entered at the United States Land  Office in the Sioux City District 255,993 acres of public lands.  Of these entries 31,738 acres were cash sales;  78,240 acres were taken with Agricultural College scrip, 9,666 acres with military land warrants and 80,700 acres as homesteads.  It was estimated at the end of the year1868 that but one-third of the tillable land in the State had been brought under cultivation.  The auditor of the State reported that during the two years from January, 1866, to the close of 1868, there had been added to the material wealth of the State over $38,000,000.  The total value of the real and personal property in 1869 shown by the Auditor's report was $194,532,199.

A convention was held  at Dubuque on the 11th of November, 1869, composed of prominent men of Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois to promote water navigation between the great lakes and the Mississippi River. Resolutions were unanimously adopted urging Congress to make an appropriation to aid the improvement of the navigation of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers and the Michigan Canal.

The Republican State Convention met at Des Moines on the 10th of June, 1869, and renominated Governor Merrill by acclamation.  The prominent candidates for Lieutenant-Governor were Major M. M. Walden, L. W. Ross, John A. Parvin and John Hilsinger.  Major Walden was nominated  on the first ballot.  Judge John F. Dillon was nominated for reelection;  and A. S. Kissell was renominated for Superintendent of Public Instruction without opposition.  The resolutions were unimportant, making no new issue.  For  the first and only time Republicans State Central Committee made to the convention a full report of its receipts and expenditures for the last political campaign.  The contributions were $3,132 and the total disbursements were $3,181.

The Democratic State Convention met at Des Moines on the 14th of July and nominated the following ticket:  Governor, George Gillaspy;  Lieutenant-Governor, A. P. Richardson; Supreme Judge, W. F. Brannan;  Superintendent of Public Instruction, Edward Jaeger.  The resolutions were substantially  a reaffirmation of the platform of the last State Convention.

At the election the Republican candidates were chosen by an average majority or 40,000.  The vote for Governor was as follows:  Samuel Merrill-97,243,  George Gillapsy-57,257;  Merrill's majority, 39,986. Dillon's majority was 40,308.

The thirteenth General Assembly convened at Des Moines on the 10th of January, 1870.  A. R. Cotton was elected speaker of the House.  Governor Merrill and Lieutenant-Governor Walden were sworn into office in the presence of the joint convention of the General Assembly on th 13th of the January by Judge C. C. Cole.  On the following day Lieutenant-Governor Walden was installed as president of the Senate.

Hon. James W. Grimes, having resigned his seat in the United States Senate, this General Assembly elected a Senator to fill the vacancy and also one to serve for the full term  of six years from March 4, 1871.   There was a warm contest for these positions before the Republican caucus which made the nominations, as the Republicans had a large majority on joint ballot and their choice was sure to be ratified by the  Legislature.  George G. Wright of Des Moines, William B. Allison of Dubuque and Governor Samuel Merrill of McGregor were candidates for the full term;  James B. Howell of Keokuk, J. B. Grinnell of Grinnell, William Vandever and D. N. Cooley of Dubuque and John Scott of Nevada were candidates for the short term.

In the joint convention of the General Assembly which convened on the 20th of January, George G. Wright received one hundred and twenty-one votes for the United States Senator for the full term of six years and Thomas W. Clagett, the candidate for the Democrats, received eighteen.  For the short term James B. Howell received one hundred and twenty-two votes and John T. Stoneman, Democrat, received nineteen.

The most important acts of this General Assembly were the following:  the creation of a State Board of Immigration, consisting of the Governor and one member from each of the six Congressional Districts, its secretary to act as the Commissioner of Immigration.  The board was authorized to send agents to the eastern States and to Europe for the purpose of aiding immigration of Iowa.

 A strong effort was made at this session to pass a bill to prescribe rules and regulations for railroads and to establish uniform and reasonable rates of tariff for transportation of certain freights thereon.  The bill met with the powerful opposition of the railroad companies throughout the State and was the beginning of the long contest between the people and these corporations as to the power and right of the Legislature to control railroads.  The bill was defeated in the Senate, where it originated, by a vote of twenty-one.  An act was passed providing for the taxation of railroad property, after a long and earnest debate.  The plan was to tax the gross receipts at the rate of one per cent..  On the receipts of $3,00 per mile;  on receipts over $3,00 and under $6,000 per mile, two per cent; and on the excess of receipts over $6,000 per mile, three per cent; these taxes to be in lieu of all taxes on the  road-bed, right of way, rolling stock and necessary buildings for operating the road;  any other property belonging to the company to be taxed as property of individuals in the county where situated.

An act was passed to enable townships, incorporated towns and cities to aid in the construction of railroads by voting taxes.  A former law for this purpose had been declared unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court and this act was so framed as to endeavor to avoid the objections raised to the former law.

The Legislature passed an act to divide the county of Kossuth and form the north three tiers of townships into a new county to be named Crocker, in honor of General M. M. Crocker.  It provided for the election of supervisors in 1870 and other county officers;  authorized the supervisors to locate a county-seat at its meeting in January, 1871, which they did by establishing it at a new town laid out near the geographical center of the county, which was named Greenwood Center and where a post office was established.  Crocker County had but brief existence, as the Supreme Court, in case brought before it, declared the act by which the county was created to be in conflict with the constitution and void.  Acts were passed for the government and management of the two insane asylums, one at Mount Pleasant and one at Independence.  Acts were provided for the government of the State University at Iowa City and one authorizing the several counties to establish and maintain high schools.  A commission was created to revise the statues of the State.

 A long and bitter contest was had in this General Assembly over a bill to provide for erection of a new and permanent Capitol Building.  It was ably supported by Hon. John A. Kasson who was elected to the House from Polk County for the purpose of securing the appropriation for a new State House.  For years there had benn strong opposition to the measure but never more determined than at this session.  By judicious management, however, he succeeded in procuring an appropriation for the beginning of the great work which gave to the State a permanent building at a moderate cost, one which ranks among the most beautiful of State Capitols.

The Legislature ratified the fifteenth amendment to the National Constitution


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