Could there come a time
when you won't be able to
get canning lids?
need to preserve
has a long and fascinating Native American history
that dates back tens of thousands of years. Early
Native American history is divided into three main
stages. The first is the Paleo-Indian period, which
began about 10,000 years ago. The second stage is
the archaic period, which lasted from approximately
8,500 B.C. to 800 B.C. The Woodland period is the
last of the ancient stages, lasting from 800 B.C.
to 1200 A.D. These stages are divided by differences
in migratory, technological, and social developments.
The first people, originally from Asia, reached
North America by crossing the land bridge Alaska
and Asia once shared. The Paleo-Indians were nomadic
hunter-gatherers who followed herds of large animals.
They camped in locations that offered an abundance
of natural features such as shelter, game, and water.
Places along streams and tributaries were common
Their nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle resulted
in low population densities; the population of Iowa
during this time is estimated to have been between
1,000 - 2,000 people.(2)
the Archaic period, which started in 8,500 B.C.,
the Midwest went through a considerable climate
change. The temperature became warmer and large
areas of prairie land formed. With the climate being
more hospitable, population began rising significantly.
Some archeologists believe that the population could
have doubled during this time. Technological advancements
in tool making and pottery were major characteristics
of this era as well, but the most revolutionary
advancements would be witnessed during the coming
creation of better hunting weapons, including the
bow and arrow, the development of agriculture, and
the ability to make better pottery, were all extremely
important developments made by Native Americans
during the Woodland Period (800 B.C. - A.D. 1200).
The Woodland period was a time of growth and prosperity
for midwestern people. The cultivation of food and
the relative ease of hunting made it possible to
sustain larger populations. This also allotted more
time for cultural development. Religious and social
institutions expanded during this time. A number
of different tribes occupied present-day Iowa during
the archaic period. The Hopewell lived near the
Mississippi River, the Oneota were found throughout
the state, the Glenwood People lived in present-day
Mill County, and the Mill Creek tribe lived near
Cherokee. These people are the ancestors of Iowa's
modern tribes, the tribes that the French explorers
and trappers met in the late 1600s.
major modern tribes include the Ioway
(for which the state is named), Sauk, Mesquaki,
Sioux, Potawatomi, Oto, and the Missouri.
The Sauk and Mesquaki were the largest and
most powerful of Iowa's tribes. They had moved
into the Illinois area from Michigan in the
1730s, and used eastern Iowa as a hunting
ground. The Native Americans lived relatively
undisturbed during the French Period of the
Midwest's history, but as Americans began
to settle more and more to the west, Iowa's
Native Americans found themselves being pushed
off of their land. By 1830, The Potawatomi,
Oto, and Missouri Indians had sold their land
claims to the United States. The Sauk and
Mesquaki followed suit in 1845. The Sioux
were the last to relinquish their lands, holding
out until 1851.
1824 - From Sauk & Fox, southeast
1830 - Various sections of land
in the north and west
1832 - Black Hawk Purchase,
1836 - From Sauk & Fox, small
tract in the east
1837 - Triangular tract directly
west of the Black Hawk Purchase
1842 - Last Sauk & Fox treaty,
large tract in the center of Iowa
1846 - Western land ceded from
Winnebago, northern land from the
1851 - Northern land from the
The French Period
French began to explore the Great Lakes region and
the Mississippi River in the late 17th century.
They went on to claim the area, engaged in fur trading
with the Native Americans, and created numerous
settlements. Iowa, because of its location on the
far side of the Mississippi River, did not witness
much French development or exploration. Louis Jolliet
and Father Jacques Marquette are credited as being
the first white men to set foot in what is now Iowa.
Marquette and Jolliet, along with their crewmen,
came ashore near the junction of the Iowa and Mississippi
Rivers in June of 1673. A few years later, Robert
Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, claimed the entire
Mississippi Valley for France. Iowa was part of
this claim, but did not serve as an area of settlement.
The French had no plans to colonize America in the
way that the British had, they were more concerned
with fur, so their population in North America remained
low and primarily concentrated in the areas adjacent
to the Great Lakes. White activity would not increase
until the beginning of the 19th century.
The Louisiana Purchase and the
Early American Period
did not become part of the United States until the
Louisiana Purchase of 1803. During the French and
Indian War (1754-1763), which pitted the French
against the British for North American dominance,
the French secretly sold their western land holdings,
which included present-day Iowa, to Spain. They
did this in efforts to keep as much land out of
British hands as possible. When the French lost
the war, they surrendered their North American claims
to England. After the American Revolution, all British
claims south of Canada became American. In 1803,
the United States made the biggest land purchase
in its history, the Louisiana Purchase, which officially
made Iowa part of the U.S. Land included in the
Louisiana Purchase would then be divided into two
counties, the Territory of Orleans and the District
of Louisiana, which contained Iowa. In 1812, Louisiana
achieved statehood. The remaining land in Orleans
Territory was renamed the Territory of Missouri.
When Missouri became a state in 1820, the land of
present-day Iowa was left in limbo until it became
part of Michigan Territory in 1834.
famed exploration of Lewis and Clark traveled through
Iowa, but it was only mentioned briefly in their
reports. The only man who died during the trip,
Sergeant Charles Floyd, died on Iowa soil. His last
journal entry, written shortly before falling ill,
read; "Captain Clark and 10 of his men and myself
went to the Mahas Creek [between Iowa and Nebraska]
a'fishing and caught 317 fish of different kinds."(3)
He died on August 20th, 1804, and was buried at
Sergeant Bluff, near present-day Iowa City. "We
buried him at the top of the bluff…with the honors
of war much lamented; This man at all times gave
us proof of his fairness and determined resolution
to do service to his country and honor to himself,"
said William Clark of Floyd.(4)
Floyds River, Floyd County, and Sergeant Bluff are
all places named in honor of him.
interest in Iowa increased during the War of 1812.
Fort Madison was constructed in Iowa, although Indians
burned it down. Further interest and settlement
of the land would not take place until the 1830s,
after sufficient land was purchased from the Native
|"Our third day in Ioway
[Iowa] and our twenty-fifth day on the way
from Ohio to the Indian Country of Ioway.
Sounds romantic, don't it?
- Mary Alice Shutes, Iowa Settler, May 31,
after land had been purchased from the Native Americans
in the 1830s, thousands of settlers rushed into
Iowa. Prior to 1830, only a few white people lived
in the area, mainly around Dubuque and Keokuk. The
first school in Iowa was established in Keokuk in
and by 1836, the population of Iowa had blossomed
to over 10,000 people. Dubuque, Bellevue, Muscatine,
Burlington, Fort Madison, and Keokuk emerged as
main areas of settlement.
majority of Iowa's early settlers came from Ohio,
Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia.
The first land offices were created in Dubuque and
Burlington in 1838, but thousands of people had
already settled by that time. Nobody had a legal
title until the land offices were established and
squatters were able to buy the land for $1.25 per
Often times the squatters formed groups and went
to the auctions together to help ensure they weren't
outbid or pressured by speculators. Kitturah Penton
Belknap, an Iowa pioneer in 1839, described the
settlement process in her journal;
|We had a quarter section
[160 acres] of land. We thought that sounded
pretty big but it was not paid for yet. The
land had just been bought of the Indians and
had not been surveyed so it was not in the
market yet. We could settle on it and hold
our claims and make improvements, but we must
have the cash to pay when it was surveyed
and came in to market or some land-shark [would
be] ready to buy it from under us. Then we
would lose improvements and all so we had
to get in and dig to have the money ready.
settlers were surprised to discover how devoid
of trees the central and northwestern areas of
Iowa were. In eastern and central Iowa, enough
trees were available to build cabins, but not
enough for fuel. As one Iowan noted in her diary,
"Water and timber were considered very essential."(8)
In northwest Iowa, houses had to be constructed
of sod. The prairie lands of Iowa were very different
than many settlers, especially those from heavily
wooded areas, were used too. They quickly discovered
new hardships to prairie living that didn't exist
in areas more abundant with trees and people.
These difficulties lessened as more settlers arrived
and as they began adapting to the land. By 1860,
most of the state had been settled and pioneers
no longer lived in isolation.
Border Disputes and Statehoood
people in Iowa were ready for statehood long before
it was achieved. The call for a constitutional
convention was first made in 1839, then again
in 1840, and again in 1842, but were all voted
down. Finally in 1844 the Territorial Assembly
passed the bill for a convention. The convention
was held and a constitution created, but boundary
disputes in both the north and the south caused
major problems. In 1839, Governor Lucas recommended
that Iowa's northern boundary run from the mouth
of the Big Sioux River where it emptied into the
Missouri and continued along the St. Peters (Minnesota)
River) and down until it collided with the Mississippi
Known as the Lucas Boundaries, they encompassed
present-day Iowa and parts of Minnesota. In 1843,
a report by Joseph N. Nicollet, a French-born
geographer and explorer, created a hypothesis
for a different border that cut in more to the
west and south, creating a smaller area. These
differing boundaries were in competition when
Iowa petitioned for statehood. The convention's
committee on boundaries adopted the Lucas Boundaries
in 1844, but upon admission to statehood, the
House of Representatives chose the Nicollet Boundaries.
The Senate passed the bill, and President John
Tyler signed the act admitting Iowa into the Union
on March 3rd, 1845. Citizens of Iowa did not agree
with the Nicollet Boundaries and rejected statehood
until the boundaries could be agreed on. A new
constitution was drafted in 1846 and was accepted
by the citizens. Iowa officially became a state
in December of that year.
another border dispute, this time in the south,
plagued Missouri from 1839 to 1850. Congress had
established the southern border of Iowa to run
through the rapids of the River Des Moines, but
Missouri speculators determined that the line
was ten miles further north. Missouri settlers
soon moved in and took up the land, which was
home to valuable trees where bees deposited their
Troubles began when Sandy Gregory, sheriff of
Clark County, Missouri, entered the area to collect
taxes. A group of Iowans kidnapped the sheriff
and held him prisoner. Locals retaliated by cutting
down some of the honey trees. The citizens of
Iowa and Missouri became furious, and both called
up their militias. In August of 1839, Iowa's army
of 1,200 men marched towards the border. The Missouri
Militia followed suit, and both sat waiting for
a call to battle that never came. Nobody fought,
but political battles continued over the boundary
until the United States Supreme Court established
the border at the junction of the Des Moines and
Mississippi rivers. Iowa kept the bee trees and
the Honey War, which wasn't actually much of a
war at all, came to an end in 1850. Iowa's borders
were finally secured.
Lynn M. Alex, Iowa's Archeological
Past, (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2002),
(2) Alex, 43.
(3) James J.
Holmberg, Exploring With Lewis and Clark, The 1804
Journal of Charles Floyd,(Norman: University of
Oklahoma Press, 2004), 91.
1. Leland L. Sage, A History of Iowa, (Ames: Iowa
State University Press, 1974), 46.
(5) Joseph Frazier Wall, Iowa, A Bicentennial
History, (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1978),
(6) Diary of Kitturah Penton Belknap,
Glenda Riley, ed., Prairie Voices, Iowa's Pioneering
Women, (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1996),
(7) From the Memoirs of Ada Mae Brown
Brinton, Riley, 197.
(8) Sage, 86. Allan Carpenter & Randy
Lyon, Between Two Rivers: Iowa Year by Year, 1846-1996,
(Ames: Iowa State University, 1997), 11.
(9) Dorothy Schwieder, "History of
Iowa," Iowa Official Register,
(10) Carpenter& Lyon, 37. Carpenter
& Lyon, 37.
© 2006 Rickie Lazzerini,
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University of California, Santa Barbara
of Historical Reviews
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