During the time span of 1671 to 1689, Nicolas Perrot, Robert Cavalier Sieur de la Salle, Daniel de Greysolon Sieur de Luth (Du Luth) and Sieur Saint-Lusson claimed the region in the name of France. In 1762, France ceded Iowa to Spain, but then it was given back to France in 1800.
Then, in 1803, the Louisiana Purchase put it under United States ownership. It was made part of the Illinois Territory in 1808 and then the Missouri Territory four years later. The first settlements started to pop up in the area in 1832. As of 1834, the settlers were considered part of Michigan territory, then became part of Wisconsin Territory two years after that. The area finally became Iowa Territory in 1838 and stayed that way until it gained statehood, in 1846.
The only residents in Iowa Territory before 1800 were the French and the Native Americans. Near what is now Dubuque, there was a lead mining operation started by Julien DuBuque, in 1788. He received a land grant in 1796 from Louisiana’s governor. Then, additional grants were granted by the government of Spain. In 1799, 6,000 acres were granted to Louis Honore Tesson in what is now Lee County. The next year, land in Clayton County was acquired by Basil Giard. In 1804, Louis and Clark visited the area, staying mainly near the Missouri River. Zebulon Pike flew the first American flag in the area on August 23, 1805, near what is now Burlington. In 1808, Fort Madison was constructed, but it was burned and abandoned within 5 years due to the War of 1812 and conflicts with Chief Black Hawk.
Fort Armstrong was erected on Rock Island, in 1816. Beginning in 1820, settlers came to the area from the eastern United States. In 1832, Danish immigrants came to the area and the next year pioneers from Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio all came to the area.
When Iowa Territory was established, in 1838, many settlers came to the area. The first capital of the Iowa Territory was Burlington. In the 1840’s, Dutch, Irish, Scots, Welsh, Germans and Scandinavians all came to the area. New Englanders also settled there in 1840, with Quakers following a year later and Mormons arriving five years after that, in 1846. The Pella area was settled by immigrants from the Netherlands the year after that. In 1854, there was a large migration of Ohio residents who moved to Iowa. Then, over the next thirty years or so (1850 to 1880) a large amount of German immigrants moved to Iowa. However, many Iowa residents actually left to go to California as a result of the 1849 Gold Rush.
From 1850 to 1877 it was the peak of the steamboat industry in the state, while the first railroad in the area was established in 1855. The population of Iowa as of 1860 was 674,913 and had grown to 1,194,020 by 1870.
In the late 1800s, most of the immigrants that decided to settle in the area were European. They found that land was cheap, but difficult to farm. It required cooperative drainage plans and heavy equipment, which turned farming in the area into a commercial business, not an individual or family-oriented business. The commercial farming industry led to the need for a large network of railroads in the area. Then came the financial depressions of 1873, 1893 and the 1930s. The community-owned Amana Colonies still exist today, as do other rural farming operations, but the twentieth century made farming much easier and commercialized it in much of Iowa, causing a lot of farmers to get out of farming and move to the cities.
Iowa Ethnic Group Research
In the 1840s only slightly more than 300 African Americans were living in Iowa. Free African Americans were discouraged, if not totally forbidden, from migrating to the state by a ruling in April 1839. It stated that any African American, “black,” or “mulatto” must provide “a fair certificate of actual freedom under a seal of a judge and give bond of $500 as surety against becoming public charges” before being permitted to settle in Iowa. After 1865, however, the African-American population in the state tripled, most migrating from Missouri and other Mississippi and Ohio river areas. Very few histories of African Americans in Iowa exist at this time.
In 1781 the wife of Peosta, a Fox warrior, reported the discovery of lead deposits in the Iowa country. Seven years later Julien Dubuque, a fur trader, obtained sanction from the Indians to work lead mines near what is now Dubuque. The following timeline of the Native Americans in Iowa will provide a guideline to their disbursement within and beyond the state.
1824: Half-Breed Tract established in present Lee County
1825: Neutral lines established between Sioux, Sac, and Fox
1830: Neutral ground is established between Sioux, Sac, and Fox
1832: Black Hawk War terminates in cession of strip of lands west of Mississippi River known as Black Hawk Purchase; Winnebago tribe is given part of neutral ground
1833: Title to Black Hawk Purchase is transferred to United States Government; Ottawa, Pottawattomie, and Chippewa tribes are given lands in what is now southwestern Iowa
1834: “Half-breeds” are given fee simple title to Half-Breed Tract by act of Congress
1836: Sac and Fox cede Keokuk’s Reserve of the United States
1837: Sac and Fox cede to the United States 1,250,000 acres of land known as the second Black Hawk Purchase
1838: Chief Black Hawk dies at his home near the Des Moines River in Davis County
1842: Sac and Fox cede all remaining lands in Iowa
1843: Sac and Fox vacate lands east of line passing north and south through the Red Rocks of Marion County
1845: Sac and Fox withdraw from Iowa
1846: Pottawattomie relinquish lands in western Iowa
1848: Removal of Winnebago tribe begins
1851: Sioux cede lands in northern Iowa
1857: Spirit Lake Massacre: Sioux attack settlers and kill thirty; small band of Sac and Fox return, permitted to buy eighty acres of land in Tama County; members of these tribes still live on a semi-reservation north of the village of Tama
1862: Blockhouses erected in northwestern Iowa for protection against the Sioux
Iowa History Databases and other Helpful Links
The websites below will provide state-specific details to those in search of information for Iowa genealogy work.