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Interesting History of Iowa
Three Foreign States Have Claimed Jurisdiction

At various times this State has been ruled by the monarchs of Spain, France, and England; that is, they have ruled it to the extent of giving it away to various people whom they didn't dislike enough to behead.  The State of Iowa has been passed around like a municipal franchise among people who didn't appreciate it, and at last had to develop itself without any foreign aid.

Capt. Frank E. Landers, Secretary of the State Executive Council, is the author of a little work that has much merit as a graphic exposition of some of the most interesting figures in connection with the history of the State.  It consists of a book of maps, showing the development of the territory that is now the State of Iowa, from the dawn of the history of the Western world.  There are, in all, about 150 maps, carefully drawn with the pen, showing the State at each period when some legislative or other change was made to mark a period or a development in its history.  They show first the developments of the Territory and State, and afterward the changes from time to time in the Congressional, legislative, and judicial districts; also the organization of the counties and their changes in name.  On the margin of each map are notes indicating the changes, and explaining the legislative or other enactments by which they were brought about.

The first alleged owner of the State of Iowa was Spain, which claimed everything in the world for a while, by virtue of the accidental discoveries of Columbus, who never knew he had found a new continent.  Then John Cabot came along and discovered Labrador, and England claimed everything in sight, or out of sight, on this account.

Capt. Landers, presumably being of English extraction, doesn't pay any attention to the other claims, and begins with that of England.  His first map is a simple outline of the State, marked "Plymouth Territory."  The marginal notes explain that it was part of the territory granted to the Plymouth Company in 1620, by James I of England.  The grant comprised the territory between the 40th and 48th degrees of north latitude, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The Plymouth Company concluded not to build any railroads west that year, and the next map shows the State divided into three zones, by east and west lines.  The south and north zones still belong to the Plymouth Company; the middle one to the Massachusetts Bay Company.

The next map shows the south zone owned by Lords Say, Seal, and Brooke, by virtue of another grant from the King of England, who, whatever faults he may have had, was a good fellow about his land, and gave it away freely.

After this there is a map which shows that the south part of the State belonged to the Province of Virginia.  The next change is shown by the map of 1652, which gives the whole north half of the State to Massachusetts.  This grant included the site of what has since become famous as Sioux City.  On the whole, it would have been cheaper if Massachusetts had held on while she had it, instead of waiting 250 years and then lending all its money on Sioux City town lots, and taking the place under foreclosure.

The same map which gave Massachusetts the north half of the State names Connecticut as the owner of the next strip south.  The Connecticut people had as that time just set themselves up in business, and for some time they held on to the strip, for even at that time it was known that Iowa had the most fertile soil on earth.

It was about this time that the French began to claim rights in this territory.  They doubted the right of King James and his successors to give away a lot of ground that they had never seen, and that may be was not there at all.  So they sent over a man named La Salle III to find out if there was such a country.  He found it, and advised his King, Louis XIV to go to giving it away too, just by way of manifesting an interest in it and establishing a claim.  For in the peculiar system of generosity which Kings and potentates affect, the giving away of a thing gives them a peculiar and inalienable right to it.  So Louis gave the entire Mississippi Valley to Anthony Cruzart.  Mr. Cruzart, however, was infatuated with the effete and luxurious life of Paris, and in a short time he ceded the country back to the King, who gave it away again, this time to the Western Company.

This company was as unappreciative as its predecessor, and, after raising corn and potatoes in its mind's eye for three years, got discouraged, and ceded the whole back to the King.

After a while, along in the latter part of the eighteenth century, France ceded a large part of the Western Hemisphere to England, including all that section west of the Mississippi River.  But the next time the thing appears the entire State of Iowa is named "Province of Louisiana," having been re-ceded to France.  Finally, in 1803, the United States bought from France the Province of Louisiana, and Iowa for the first time became a part of the United States.

The next map shows the State labeled "District of Louisiana."  A district was a sort of overgrown county in those days, and the District of Louisiana was under the control of the Governor and the Judges of Indiana Territory.  After this the Territory of Louisiana was established.  It was ruled by a Governor and three   Judges, appointed by the President -- that is, it was nominally ruled in this way.  As a matter of fact, the three Judges, the Governor, and the President at that time supposed there was nothing here except a section of the Great American Desert.  They regarded it probably as somewhat less valuable than the Territory of Alaska is now esteemed.

The next map, dated 1812, shows the State marked "Territory of Missouri."  It was part of one of the Territories carved out of the Louisiana Purchase.  After a while, when Missouri was made a State, the name, which was about the only thing to indicate that it had any connection with civilization, was changed to "Territory of Michigan," and Iowa was for a while a dependency of Michigan, which was then about one-third as large as the whole of Europe.  At this time appears the first subdivision of the State.  The Blackhawk Indian boundary, about forty miles west of the Mississippi, and practically parallel to it, marked the territory which was then open to white settlement.  The County of Dubuque included most of the eastern end of the State.  The other county included the southeast corner of the State, and was named Domine.  The imported style of spelling had not at that time been adopted; the people of the section were poor, and they managed, by hook or crook, to struggle along with the domestic article of spelling of a French name.  There is no more pleasing evidence of the early development of culture in the great West than the fact that at an early date the people of Iowa discovered their homespun system of spelling was too old fashioned, and adopted the Parisian article.  But for their forethought the capital of Iowa might be an ordinary place instead of a French city.

The next thing that happened to the State of Iowa was its annexation to Wisconsin.  Michigan had got admitted to the Union.  The Territory of Wisconsin, was organized out of the battered remnants, and the present State of Iowa became a part of it.  Several more counties were cut out of the eastern part of the State, but all except a fringe along the Mississippi was still wilderness, and a man who wandered out of sight of the Father of Waters after night was liable to leave his scalp as an evidence of good faith in the hands of some Blackhawk Indian.

After this the changes are rapid.  New counties were organized by each Legislature.  In 1838 the name of Iowa was adopted for the first time, and appears on the map of this date.  It was then "Territory of Iowa."

The name "State of Iowa" adorns the 1846 map.  A line drawn from the northeast to the southwest corner of the State on this map will just about cut off the organized from the unorganized part of the State.  East and south of this line the counties were about as now; north and west the Pottawatomie and Winnebago Indians were still in control, and no counties had been organized.

On the 1851 map appears for the first time the list of counties, nearly as it now is.  What is now Lyon was then Yell, the present Calhoun was then Fox, and the Hamilton of to-day was then Risley.

From this time on, the development of the State into its present form was rapid; in fact, the internal lines have changed little.  The Congressional, judicial, and Legislative districts have changed considerably from time to time and all the developments are marked by the maps.  At one time there was a curious legislative mistake by which a tier of townships, now belonging to Guthrie County, was left out in the cold, and formed a sort of No Man's Land for a while.  In the reorganization of the boundaries of the counties these four townships were accidentally cut off from one county, but not annexed to another, and during the biennial period from one Legislature to another they had no allegiance to any county.  The people could not hold any elections for  county officers, and, in fact, had few pleasures left in life.  The next Legislature annexed them to Guthrie, and they have never rebelled against its rule.

~Des Moines Leader, September 18, 1895
~transcribed for the Iowa History Project by S. Ferrall

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