I O W A   C O U N T Y








The history of Iowa County as United States Territory reaches back to that eventful day in May, 1803, when the treaty was signed by which France ceded the vast territory including in the Louisiana Purchase to our Federal Government. The hand of Providence seems plainly manifest in the course of events which led to its acquisition. It is said that the American envoys who conducted the negotiations on behalf of the United States "spent no small part of their time explaining that they only wished a little bit of Louisiana, including New Orleans and the east bank of the Mississippi. Livingston indeed went so far as to express a very positive disinclination to take the territory west of the Mississippi at any price, stating that he should much prefer to see it remain in the hands of France or Spain, and suggesting by way of an apology for its acquisition, that it might be resold to some European power. Madison, who was at the head of the stat department at that time "Felt a strong disinclination to see the national domain extend west of the Mississippi and he so instructed Monroe and Livingston," who were in charge of the matter on our part. But Napoleon, harrassed [sic] on every hand by the great powers of Europe and fearful that the territory might fall into the hands of the English, rapidly abated his demands from the exorbitant sum first asked, finally offering to take $15,000,000 and force Livingston and Monroe to become reluctant purchasers not merely of New Orleans, but of all the immense territory stretching vaguely west and northwestward to the Pacific. Another strange thing about the matter is that Jefferson, in whose administration it was made, "had led his party into power as special champion of states' rights and the special opponent of national sovereignty. He and they rendered a great service to the nation by acquiring Louisiana, but it was at the cost of violating every precept which they had professed to hold dear." Thus came into possession of the United States a territory of vast and very ill defined extent. Congress authorized a temporary Government for the newly acquired province on October 31, 1803, but its jurisdiction was merely nominal as the French governor retained his power at the request and by the authority of the United States. By further action of Congress the whole of the province north of the thirty-third parallel was organized into a court district and formed for governmental and judicial purposes, a part of the Territory of Indiana. This action was had March 26, 1804, and affected what are now the states of Arkansas, Missouri and Iowa, also Southern Minnesota; it was called Upper Louisiana and in this way the name District of Louisiana was originated, by which it was known during the early history of the country.

On March 3, 1805, Iowa was included as a part of the Territory of Louisiana, with the capital at St. Louis and that part of the Louisiana Purchase now known

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as Louisiana became Orleans Territory. The Territory of Missouri was organized June 4, 1812, and Iowa was embraced in it. When Missouri became a state in 1820 Iowa, with other territory, was detached and forgotten, and "remained a country without a government, either political or judicial, until June 28, 1834, when the abuses of outlawry and crime became so prominent and serious that, as a means of redress and correction, it was include in the Territory of Michigan. During all of these years, it is probable that the only civil law in force in Iowa was the provision of the Missouri Act which prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude in the territories of the United States north of thirty-six degrees, thirty minutes, north latitude."

By 1836 the population of this region had so increased that the territorial government of Wisconsin was organized, which at first included a part of the upper peninsula of Michigan, the whole of Minnesota and Iowa, and that part of Dakota lying east of the Missouri and White Earth rivers. When the Territory of Iowa was organized on July 12, 1838, it included the present State of Minnesota and parts of North and South Dakota.

By an act of Congress, approved March 3, 1845, provision was made for the admission of Iowa into the Union as a sovereign state, with boundaries extending on the north to the parallel of latitude passing through the mouth of the Blue Earth River and on the west only to seventeen degrees, thirty minutes, from Washington, corresponding very nearly to the existing line between Ringgold and Union counties on the one hand and Taylor and Adams on the other. The reduction of the boundaries laid down by the constitutional convention of 1844 was very distasteful to the people, the admission was rejected by a popular election and in 1846 Congress proposed new boundary lines, having the State of Minnesota for the north boundary, Missouri for the south, the Mississippi River on the east and the Missouri and Sioux rivers on the west. The date of admission to the Union was December 28, 1846.

The second session of the Territorial Legislature of Wisconsin was held at what is now Burlington, Ia., during the winter of 1837-8. An act was passed by the Legislature, was approved, and went into effect December 21, 1837, creating the County of Johnson in the Territory of Wisconsin, also thirteen other counties. Section 14 of that act is as follows: "All the country within the following limits, to wit: beginning at the southeast corner of Linn County" (Linn County was created by the same act) "thence west with the southern boundary of said County of Linn to the line dividing ranges 12 and 13, hence south on said line to the line between townships 76 and 77 north, thence east with said township line to the line dividing ranges 4 and 5, west of the fifth principal meridian, thence with said range line north to the place of beginning. shall be and the same is hereby constituted a separate county to be called Johnson County."

Johnson County, Wis., included all of what is now Iowa County, Ia., three northeast townships of Keokuk County and the four northern townships of Washington County.

The further steps in the governmental history of Iowa County are delineated in the chapter on organization and government.