IOWA HISTORY PROJECT
STORIES OF IOWA
FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
COLONISTS FROM EUROPE
We have read in earlier stories that white settlers began to come into the Iowa country soon after 1830. Most of these pioneers came here from other parts of the United States, but some of them came directly from Europe. People in the different European countries heard about Iowa from their friends and relatives who were already here.
The pioneers wrote many letters telling of the wonderful land they had found across the Mississippi River. The soil, they said, was deep, rich, and black. There were groves of trees for shade in the summer. The rivers were full of fish. Deer, ducks, quail, prairie chickens, and other game furnished meat. Cattle found rich pasture on the prairie grass. The climate was neigher very hot nor very cold. There was enough rain, but not too much.
This rich land could be bought for a few dollars an acre. To many of these Europeans this seemed like a wonderful opportunity, for in their country most of the land belonged to the great nobles. But there was another reason why many of these people decided to come to Iowa. Most of them were working people. They did not want to live where there were slaves, and slavery did not exist in Iowa.
Most of the immigrants who came to Iowa from Europe were from the northern countries. In 1860 there were 674,913 persons in Iowa, and of these 106,081 had come from some foreign country. There were then in Iowa 38,555 settlers from Germany, 28,072 Irish, 11,522 English, 8313 Canadians, 5688 Norwegians, 2895 Scotch, 2615 Hollanders, 2519 Swiss, 2421 French, 1465 Swedes, 913 Welsh, 661 Danes, and a small number of settlers from various other countries.
At the time the census was taken in 1890, there were 324,669 persons from foreign countries living in Iowa. Germany still led with 127,246 settlers. There were 27,353 Irish, 30,276 Swedes, 27,078 Norwegians, 26,205 English, 17,465 Canadians, 15,519 Danes, 10,928 Bohemians or Czechoslovakians, 7941 Hollanders, 7701 Scotch, 4310 Swiss, 3601 Welsh, 2327 French, and 1715 Austrians. A number of other countries were represented by less than a thousand persons.
The settlements of these European immigrants in Iowa took three different forms. In most cases the immigrant came to Iowa, looked over the land, and bought a farm or went into business. Soon he learned to speak English. His family went to the public school. In a very short time the whole family talked and looked like the Americans around them.
In other cases, people from the same European country settled in a group. Here they could use their own language and keep many of the customs of their native land. Some of these settlements have had an interesting history.
The first of these groups to arrive in Iowa directly from a country in Europe came from the Netherlands or Holland. They were the descendants of the people who, under William of Orange, had fought for their freedom against the Spanish. Now they found that even in their own country and under their king they could not worship as they wished. So they decided to come to America.
The first group arrived in August, 1847. Their leader was Henry P. Scholte. They crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Baltimore in four small sailing vessels. After looking around they decided to buy land in Marion County, Iowa. They named their town Pella. The first winter many of them had to live in dug-outs covered with straw or in houses built of straw. However, they soon had comfortable homes, many of them made of brick. Schools and churches were built. More people came over from Holland. By 1869 there were so many of these Hollanders in Marion County and so many who wanted to come to Iowa that they decided to find a new home in Sioux County.
Soon many Hollanders went to this place. Their leader was Henry Hospers. One of their towns they named Orange City in honor of William of Orange.
There was a Swedish settlement in Henry County and another in Boone County. One of their leaders was Peter Kassel. In a number of other localities there were Swedish churches, schools, and newspapers. Norwegians settled chiefly in the northern and western counties. In 1861 they established Luther College at Decorah. There were groups of Danes in Grundy, Shelby, and Audubon Counties.
A failure of the potato crop in 1845 and a dislike of the English rule in Ireland brought many Irish to Iowa. One settlement, made in 1856, was named Emmetsburg, in honor of Robert Emmet.
Little groups of German settlers were found all over Iowa. Indeed many communities were entirely German. Many of the Bohemians or Czechoslovakians settled in Johnson and Linn Counties. There was another Bohemian settlement in Winneshiek County and it was at Spillville, a Bohemian settlement, that Anton Dvorak wrote part of his "New World Symphony."
Another small but interesting group of foreign settlers were some Hungarians who came to Iowa in 1850. In 1848, under Louis Kossuth, they had tried to free their country from Austria, but they were defeated and many of them had to leave Europe to escape being put to death. They established a settlement in Decatur County. This was called New Buda after Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Here they planned to build a beautiful city to be called New Buda.
But most of these men did not know how to farm. Some of them were nobles who had never worked with their hands. The city of New Buda was never built. The chief leader in Iowa was Count Ladislaus Ujhazy - or the Count of Comorn as he had been known in Hungary. He and some of the others went to Texas. Those who stayed in Iowa learned to work and soon had homes and farms. One of them, George Pomutz, became a noted officer in the northern army during the Civil War. Kossuth County is named after Louis Kossuth, the hero of these Hungarians.
The last group settlement in Iowa was made by English people near Le Mars about 1880. This was begun by a young Englishman named William B. Close, who came to the United States to take part in a rowing contest in 1876. He and his brothers soon bought thirty thousand acres of land in Plymouth County. Other Englishmen who wanted to try farming came to Iowa and bought large farms near the land owned by the Close brothers.
Most of these English settlers had money enough to buy land and then buy cattle, sheep, and horses for their farms. They had large houses and barns and servants to take care of them. You see this was different from some settlements where the people were poor and had to do without things for a long time.
But not all the settlers here were rich. The English formed a large company to buy land. This they divided into small farms on each of which they built a small house and stable. These farms were rented to men who could not afford to buy land. They gave the company a part of the crop or paid a cash rent.
There were between five and six hundred English people around Le Mars. Young men who did not know how to farm in Iowa sometimes spent a year or two with some man who did. One man had twenty-two of these young men with him. Many of them did not do much work. They had horse races and played tennis, cricket, hockey, polo, football, and lacrosse.
But many of these rich Englishmen did not intend to stay in Iowa. They had homes in England. Some of them moved to Minnesota. Those who stayed in Iowa soon became Americans and the English colony ceased to exist.
In all these groups each man owned his own farm, house, or store, and decided all questions for himself. But there were three foreign settlements in Iowa in which the property belonged to the entire group. We call this community ownership.
The first group of this sort to settle in Iowa were some Cistercian or Trappist monks from Ireland. In 1849 Bishop Loras offered these monks some land in Dubuque County. Here they built a monastery and here they still live. The monks work in the gardens and on the farm. They pray often, eat very plain food, and talk only when it is absolutely necessary. No women are ever permitted to enter th monastery. The number of monks at the Trappist Abbey in Dubuque County has never been large.
The second community settlement in Iowa also belonged to a church group. This was made by a society called Amana or the Society of True Inspiration, begun in Germany in 1714.
In 1842 they decided to come to America. Two of their leaders were Christian Metz and Barbara Heinemann. They first settled in New York; but it cost a great deal of money to buy land there, so in 1855 they moved to Iowa. The first village was named Amana, which means "remain true."
Soon more people came and the society built five more villages. These were named West Amana, South Amana, East Aman, High Amana, and Middle Amana. In 1861 the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad reached the little town of Homestead near the Amana villages. The society bought the entire town, so they now have seven villages.
There is a church and school in each village. The people live in comfortable brick or frame houses. The cooking is done in the community kitchens and the people usually eat in the central dining halls. The women take turns cooking, working in the gardens, or sewing.
The gardens are a delightful feature of the Amana villages. Rose bushes and grape vines climb over the brick or unpainted walls of the houses. In summer the flower beds are full of all kinds of flowers. But it is in the vegetable gardens that the Amana people perhaps take greatest pride. Here are corn, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, cabbages, and all the other kinds of vegetables you can imagine.
The Amana community is governed by a board of trustees who are elected each year. At present the society owns about twenty-six thousand acres of land, most of which is in Iowa County. The men farm this and have fine herds of cattle and sheep. They also have woolen mills where they make blankets and other woolen fabrics.
There are now about fifteen hundred people in the Amana society. They dress plainly and are serious and well behaved. One of their beliefs, like that of the Quakers, makes them dislike war.
A third community settlement in Iowa was made by some French people, called Icarians. They were named from a book written by their leader, Etienne Cabet.
These Icarians left France in 1848 and started a colony in Texas. But they found it was too hot there. In March, 1849, 300 of them reached Nauvoo, Illinois, where they found many empty houses all ready for them. The Mormons, you remember, had left Nauvoo in 1846.
In 1855 there were five hundred Icarians at Nauvoo. All their lands and houses belonged to the community, not to individual men or women. They had schools and workshops, but no church, for this community did not think churches were necessary. Among the Icarians at Nauvoo was a young Frenchman, named A. Piquenard, who later made the plans for the state capitol building at Springfield, Illinois, and for the Iowa capitol at Des Moines.
In a community of this kind the work had to be assigned to the men and women by the leaders. Before long the Icarians began to quarrel about the work and the food. They became very angry. Finally Cabet and one group left and went to St. Louis.
Those who remained at Nauvoo soon decided to move farther west. They bought some land in Adams County, Iowa, and by 1860 they had started a new community near Corning. They had to work very hard to plow up the prairie sod and build their houses.
They called their town Icaria. In the center of a square was a dining hall. Here they also held meetings. Around the sides of the square were the log cabins and the workshops. As soon as they could, they built white frame cottages instead of the log cabins. They had a school but no church. The men worked together on the and or in the shops. The women took turns cooking, washing, and sewing.
But again they could not agree. In 1876 Icaria was divided into two villages. They called one the Icarian Community and the other the New Icarian Community. Of course they used the French names, for almost all of them spoke French.
One of these groups moved to California about 1886. The other remained in Adams County until 1895. By that time there were only a few people left in the village. Most of them were getting too old to work, so they decided to divide up the property and give up the community.
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