IOWA HISTORY PROJECT
STORIES OF IOWA
FOR BOYS AND GIRLs
BY BOAT AND COVERED WAGON
Before June 1, 1833, few white settlers lived in Iowa - perhaps not more than forty or fifty. Nearly all of them were located in two settlements along the Mississippi River in what is now Lee County. One settlement was called Ahwipetuk which meant "at the head of the rapids." Later it was called Nashville, and still later Galland. The other settlement was known as Puckeshetuk, but later its name was changed to Keokuk. Both of these settlements were in the region known as the Half-Breed Tract.
At a much earlier date, you remember, Julien Dubuque, Basil Giard, and Louis Honore Tesson had built homes in the Iowa country. Fur traders, too, such as Maurice Blondeau and Jean Baptiste Fairbault had lived in Iowa for a time. In 1820 Dr. Samuel C. Muir crossed into Iowa with his Indian wife and family, and built a cabin at the present site of Keokuk, and in 1829 Dr. Isaac Galland built a home at Ahwipetuk, where others soon joined him. At about the same time Moses Stillwell and Otis Reynolds erected cabins at Puckesheuk. The half-breeds allowed these settlers to stay, but the Indians in the rest of Iowa did not want white men on their land.
After the death of Dubuque in 1810 the Fox Indians would not allow any other white man to work the mines. In 1829 they permitted James Langworthy, a miner from Galena, Illinois, to explore between the Turkey and the Maquoketa Rivers; but when he asked to be allowed to dig for lead, they refused.
Langworthy went back to Galena and told the miners what he had seen. In the spring of 1830, you remember, a band of Sauk and Fox Indians on their way to Prairie du Chien from the lead-mine region were killed by the Sioux. The rest of the Indians near Dubuque's old mines fled south to the country near the present site of Davenport.
As soon as the Indians left, James Langworthy and his brother Lucius crossed over to the diggings. Other miners soon followed them. But they were not allowed to stay long. When Colonel Zachary Taylor, at Fort Crawford, heard about it, he sent soldiers to make the miners go back across the river. Lieutenant Jefferson Davis was in charge of the soldiers. He told the miners that they could not stay in Iowa until the land had been bought from the Indians. As soon as the Black Hawk War was over, the miners came back again, but once more the soldiers made them return to Illinois. Soldiers from Fort Armstrong at Rock Island also drove out some settlers who tried to move into Iowa before the Indians gave up the land.
By the treaty made at the close of the Black Hawk War the Sauks and Foxes agreed to give up their claim to eastern Iowa on June 1, 1833. After this date the soldiers did not try to keep settlers out of the Black Hawk Purchase strip.
Then the rush for land in Iowa began. When the first census was taken three years later, 10,531 people lived in Iowa. By 1840, more than 40,000 had come to Iowa, and in 1850, 192,212 lived in the new state. They had come from far-off homes in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, or the nearer regions of Indiana, Missouri, and Illinois.
What do you suppose brought so many settlers to Iowa? At an earlier date the lure of furs and lead had brought a few white men to this region. But after 1833 it was the chance to get rich farm land at a low price that caused the pioneers to leave their old homes in the east for a new home west of the Mississippi. Those who came first sent back word to relatives and friends about the beautiful prairies, groves, and streams in Iowa, and they, too, were persuaded to seek new homes in the west.
The pioneers came to Iowa by boat and covered wagon, on foot, and on horseback. Those who came by water usually took a steamboat at Pittsburgh or at some other city along the Ohio River. The boys and girls who came this way must have enjoyed the trip. Before the boat started negroes hustled about, loading freight and household goods. A throaty blast from the whistle sent up a cloud of steam, the paddle wheel turned slowly, and the long journey to Iowa began.
Stops were made along the way to load and unload passengers and freight, or to get a new supply of wood for the fire-box. Sometimes the travellers sat for hours on the upper deck watching the passing scene of bluffs and hills, of groves and prairies. When the boat reached the Mississippi, it turned upstream. After more than a month on the way the travellers reached Iowa.
Some came from Buffalo and other ports to Chicago by the Great Lakes then across Illinois to Iowa. Others came all the way by land. John B. Newhall, who came to Iowa in the late thirties, has left us a picture of the pioneers on their way. He said: "During the years 1836 and 1837 the roads were literally lined with the long blue wagons of the emigrants wending their way over the broad prairies - the cattle and hogs, men and dogs, and frequently women and children, forming the rear of the van - often ten, twenty, and thirty wagons in company. Ask them, when and where you would, their destination was the Black Hawk Purchase."
At sunset halts for the night were made by the weary travellers. Over the glowing coals of a camp fire the mother cooked a simple evening meal for the hungry family. They went to bed as soon as it grew dark. After an early breakfast they started west again. Slowly they moved toward Iowa day by day, week by week At times heavy rains made the roads almost bottomless. When the wheels mired down, the goods were unloaded and everybody helped to get the wagon out of the mud. Sometimes the travellers stopped over night at taverns.
When the Mississippi was reached the movers gathered into camp to wait their turn to be taken over in a ferry boat. The first ferries were flatboats rowed by hand. These were soon replaced by ferries on which horses in a tread mill furnished the power to move the boat back and forth across the Mississippi. Later, as the settlers came in ever increasing numbers, steamboats were used for ferries.
Where the pioneers crossed into Iowa, cities grew up - Keokuk, Fort Madison, Burlington, Muscatine, Davenport, and Dubuque, and soon towns and villages were founded farther west. As the railroads were built westward they were used more and more by the settlers bound for Iowa; but to the end of the pioneer period most of the settlers reached Iowa by boat and covered wagon.
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