Web www.kindredtrails.com
           
Space

The History of Iowa
From early Native American cultures through WWII
© 2006 Rickie Lazzerini
Page 2

Historical Review 1.8   
New! Digital Download Family Tree Charts - Edit and print from your computer
Could there come a time
when you won't be able to
get canning lids?





Heritage
Scrapbooking

Everything you
need to preserve
your family's
memories forever.

TheFamilyHistoryStore





The Civil War and its Effects on Iowa

          Iowa was not home to any battles during the Civil War, but her citizens were heavily involved through military and domestic support. Over 75,000 Iowa men served in the war, 13,001 died, and 8,500 were wounded.(11) The draft did not take place in Iowa because the state was 12,000 men ahead of its quota.(12) One of Iowa's most distinct regiments was known as the Greybeard Regiment, a group of volunteers who were over the age of 45 (the cutoff age for soldiers). They did not fight in battle; their duties were less physical and mainly consisted of guarding railroads, soldiers, and prisoners. Two Greybeards were killed near Memphis when a train they were guarding was fired upon, but those were the only deaths in the regiment. Over the course of their existence, the Greybeards guarded over 160,000 Southern prisoners.(13)

          On the home front, agricultural output increased and women produced goods for the war. By knitting sweaters, making uniforms, rolling bandages, and raising money, Iowa's women made their productive and important presence known.

Iowa's Civil War Medal of Honor Recipients
Norman Francis Bates
Orson W. Bennett
Nicholas S. Bouquet
Richard H. Cosgriff
James M. Elson
Leonidas Mahlon Godley
George Washington Healy
James Hill
James Kephart
William B. Mayes
Edward James Bebb
Horatio L. Birdsall
Edgar A. Bras
James Dunlavy
Nicholas Fanning
John H. Hays
Pitt B. Herington
Luther Kaltenbach
William C. May
James P. Miller
Calvary Morris Young
James Alexander Williamson
George W. Welch
Voltare Paine Twombly
Charles Alexander Swan
Andrew W. Tibbets
Henry I. Smith
Andrew Jackson Sloan
Albert Power
Richard. H. Morgan


Transportation

          The development of increasingly better transportation was very important to Iowa's population and economic growth. Before the construction of railroads, Iowans depended on a combination of overland and river transportation to move themselves, and their exports, from place to place. Steamboats hauled produce and people in and out of Iowa, but did not function year-round. The 1830s, 40s, and 50s, saw a huge increase in the amount of railroads in the east, and Iowa wanted to be part of that revolution. Iowa's rail history is closely intertwined with Chicago's desire to connect with the west coast. Iowa's citizens were aware of this desire, and were able to obtain railroad grants to make it happen. By 1867, the Illinois Central Railroad and the Chicago and North Western Railroad reached Council Bluffs. This location had also been determined as the eastern terminus for the Union Pacific, which, along with the Central Pacific, built a line that, ran across the state and through the west creating a transcontinental railroad.

          The railroads provided a huge opportunity for producers in Iowa to reach distant markets, helping spur the economy. Unlike the steamboats and overland trails, the railroads functioned year-round, allowing for easy travel of goods and passengers to and from the state. Iowa's agricultural economy was greatly influenced by the growth of the railroads.


The Late 19th Century

          The late 19th century in Iowa was characterized by an increase in agriculture, industry, and immigrants. The railroads facilitated a growth in agricultural and industrial output that stimulated the economy. Farmers began to diversify, branching out beyond wheat to grow corn and raise pork and beef. The first Iowan industries that would develop were those relating to agriculture. Two brothers from Cedar Rapids started the Quaker Oats Company and Sinclair Meat Packing got its start in the same city. Additional meatpacking plants and grain refineries would develop throughout the state. In the later part of the century, coal became an important industry and mining soon developed into a popular occupation for foreigners.

          Another important aspect of this time period was the increase in foreign immigration. At first, Iowa attracted immigrants from northern Europe, mainly Germany. As the turn of the century neared, foreigners from eastern and southern Europe began arriving in the state. Iowa encouraged the immigration of certain northern European ethnic groups, including Germans, Scandinavians, and English. Booklets and pamphlets were circulated throughout Europe advertising Iowa as a place of opportunity for farmers and entrepreneurs. Iowa's farmland attracted many of these immigrants during the 1850s, 60s, and 70s. The Germans became the single largest immigrant group to settle in Iowa. Most became farmers; others became craftsmen and business owners. The Irish accounted for the second largest sector, followed by the English, Scandinavians, and Dutch. For the most part, these people disbursed throughout the state, however a few enclaves were noted to exist. Many immigrants came in groups and founded cities. Pella was founded in 1847 by Dutch immigrants, Amana in 1855 by Germans, Emmetsburg in 1856 by Irish, Stanton in 1870 by Swedes, and Plymouth County in 1878 by English settlers. (14)





          Between 1880 and 1920, large numbers of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe came into Iowa. Of this group, the Russians and the Italians were most numerous. The majority of these new immigrants worked in the coalmines and in meatpacking plants. The meatpacking industry served as a major source of employment in Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, and Sioux City. A large percentage of Italians worked in the coalmines in central Iowa. Des Moines attracted many early Italian immigrants who were able to start their own businesses, such as the Italian Importing, Company.(15) The city of Oelwein also attracted a large number of Italians who worked for the Chicago Great Western Railroad.

          The population of African Americans also increased during this time, and continued to do so throughout the early 20th century. Blacks too were heavily employed by the coal industry. They were first employed as strikebreakers, but were later hired as regular workers. Des Moines grew to host the largest black population in Iowa.

          During World War I, the ethnic community faced some key changes. The Germans, once Iowa's golden immigrant, were suspected of harboring German sympathies. German place-names were changed, German language courses were removed from school curriculums, and areas of dense German population were put on surveillance. The Germans in
Iowa's Demographics (2004)
White
Hispanic
Black
Asian
Native American
Mixed Race
92.6 %
2.8%
2.1%
1.3%
0.3%
1.1%
Iowa quickly entered into a stage of Americanization. World War I also brought new immigrants to Iowa. The state faced a severe labor shortage because of the war, so companies looked to Mexico to fill the gap. Between 1910 and 1920, the Mexican population in Iowa grew from 509 to 2,560. Many settled in enclaves, such as the community of Holy City, which was created by Mexican immigrants who worked for the Bettendorf Company.

          Large-scale European immigration lessened during the early years of the 20th century. Today, Iowa's population is over ninety percent Caucasian. Small numbers of South Americans and Asians found their way to Iowa during the 20th century, but immigration similar to the 19th century will likely never be rivaled.

Table 1: Foreign Born Population of Iowa, 1850-1930(16)
Place of Birth
1850
1870
1890
1910
1930
Total Immigrants
20,969
204,692
324,069
273,484
168,080
Germany
7,101
66,162
127,246
98,290
53,901
Sweden
231
10,796
30,276
26,763
16,810
Norway
361
17,556
27,078
21,924
12,932
Denmark
19
2,827
15,519
17,961
14,707
Netherlands
1,108
4,513
7,941
11,337
10,135
England
3,785
18.103
26,228
16,784
9,045
Scotland
712
5,248
7,701
5,162
2,871
Wales
352
1,967
3,601
2,434
1,183
Ireland
4,885
40,124
37,353
17,756
5,957
Belgium
4
650
384
929
932
Switzerland
175
2,519
4,310
3,675
2,096
France
382
3,130
2,327
1,618
1,435
Austria
13
9,457
12,643
15,136
1,596
Hungary
-
134
213
1,178
295
Poland
-
178
453
2,115
1,875
Russia
41
96
782
5,494
4,552
Italy
1
54
399
5,846
3,834
Greece
1
1
1
3,356
1,910
Canada
1,756
17,897
17,465
15,687
6,333
Mexico
16
14
41
509
2,517
Asia
-
-
151
64
144


Religion

          Iowa has a diverse religious history full of small sects, communism, and utopian societies. Popular denominations, such as Methodism and Catholicism, were common in the state, but Iowa became home to some less mainstream religious communities such as the Amish and the Amana Inspirationists as well. Methodist circuit riders were the first Christians to cater to Iowa's pioneers. Barton Randle was the first itinerant preacher to be sent to Iowa. Methodism, spread by Randle and other mobile preachers, became very popular among Iowa's early settlers. Presbyterians and Congregationalists also established denominations in Iowa, and assisted in creating a popular academy that attracted students from nearby states. Dubuque served as the center for Catholicism in the state, lead by Bishop Mathias Loras.

          Iowa also hosted a few less mainstream religious groups. Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, and Mormons all hold a history in the state. One of the most interesting religious groups to come to Iowa was the Inspirationists of the Amana Colonies. The Inspirationists were German Separatists who broke away from the established church during the 18th century. In the 1840s they fled to the United States to escape religious persecution. They first settled in New York. The group adopted a communal lifestyle that enabled them flourish in New York and spread into Canada. They wanted to remain fairly isolated from the rest of society in order to preserve their faith and communal culture, so they decided to move to Iowa when New York became too developed. The Inspirationists abandoned their colonies in the east and established a new community in Iowa, called Amana, in 1861. They were able to keep their separatist communal society together throughout the 19th century, establishing different companies to sustain themselves. Economic pressure from the Great Depression in the 1930s forced the group to relinquish their communal lifestyle, but their religious conviction bonded them together as a group. The Amana Colonies still exist today.

  
Table 2: Iowa's Present Religious Demographic
Denomination
Percentage
Christian
73%
     Protestant
50%
          Lutheran
16%
          Methodist
13%
          Baptist
5%
          Presbyterian
3%
          Pentecostal
2%
          Congregational
2%
          Other Protestant
11%
     Catholic
23%
     Other Christian
1%
Other Religions
6%
Refused to Answer
5%
          The Mormons experienced an interesting and sporadic history in Iowa. When Mormon founder and leader, Joseph Smith, fled New York, he set up two communities in the west, Nauvoo in Illinois, and Zarahelma in Iowa. Smith resided in Nauvoo, which became a large and powerful city, leaving Zarahelma to flounder and eventually dissolve. When angry locals chased the Mormons out of Illinois, they began their trek west to Salt Lake making many stops and camps throughout Iowa. Their route, called the Mormon Trail, went from Sugar Creek to Farmington, continued north of the Des Moines River, crossing it at Bonaparte, then continued west, along what is now Highway 2. They set up camps along the way at Richardson's Point (Farmington), Centerville, Garden Grove, Mount Pisgah, and on the Missouri River. Over 3,000 Mormons crossed Iowa on their journey west.

          Iowa's heavily Protestant background is reflected in the current religious denominations of the state. Half of the population identifies with a Protestant sect and about twenty percent is Catholic.


Reform Movements


          The late 19th century saw the rise of big business and corporate America. More companies were created and wealth became concentrated among business leaders. Working conditions were horrible, wages were low, and workers were unhappy. By forming unions, factory workers were able to bond together to rally for change, but were often unsuccessful. Iowa was still very rural and had an agricultural-based economy in the late 19th century. Farmers, like industrial workers, felt the strains of big businesses and they too began to organize. The earliest farmer organization was the Grange, also known as the Patrons of Husbandry. Formed in 1867, the Grange was a place farmers could come together to exchange ideas and talk about politics. The Grange movement spread across the country, but was especially popular in Iowa, which had the highest membership in the state with 1,999 local chapters. The Grangers wanted the government to reform the railroads in order to control shipping prices. They backed reform legislation in Iowa that led to the Granger Law of 1874. This law reclassified railroads by their earnings, set maximum freight rates based on distance, and regulated passenger fares. Later, a railroad commission was set up to further regulate this business. This law was not always enforced, but it was a major building block for future reforms.

          Using the momentum of the Granger movement, the Peoples Party, also known as the Populists, became an important third party in the 1890s. Their platform included issues that appealed to farmers and industrial workers, which created a considerable following. The Populists supported Democratic nominee, William Jennings Bryan, for president in the 1896 elections, but were defeated. The Populists did not have much success within Iowa either, and the movement died out soon after the election. Despite the Populists' lack of success, their demands set the stage for the reforms that would be made during the coming Progressive Age.

          The Progressive Age (1900-1914) was a time where the entire country rallied to enact social, political, and educational reforms. Between 1858 and 1900, the
Republican Party dominated Iowa. In 1900, the party
split into two groups, the conservatives, who were called
Stand-Poles, and the progressives. Albert B. Cummingsbecame the leader of the progressive wing of the party, and was elected governor in 1901. His election ushered in a reign of reform politics that lasted for nearly twelve years. Reforms, ranging from railroad taxes to pure food and drug bills, were passed during this time. The only major reforms that the Iowa progressives failed to pass before the Progressive Age came to an end were child labor laws. The outbreak of World War I changed the focus of the country away from domestic reform and towards foreign relations, thus ending the progressive movement.


Populist's Platform

  • Free coinage of silver
  • Paper money issued by government
  • Reformed land system
  • Immigration controls
  • Government ownership of railroads
  • Government ownership of telephone and telegraph lines
  • The 8 hour workday
  • Abolition of strikebreaking
  • Instatement of the initiative, referendum, and the recall
  • Single term presidency



    Important Reforms

  • Reformed railroad taxes and limits on passenger rates
  • Creation of an insurance commission
  • Creation of the Iowa State Board of Education
  • Direct primary law
  • Pure food and pure drug law




The Great Depression and the Second World War


          The decades of the 1930s and 1940s were like polar opposites in the United States. The Great Depression devastated the country's economy and sent the nation into a whirlwind of doubt and despair. The Great Depression was only relieved by the huge demands created by America's entrance into World War II. The economy made a full recovery and the country entered into a stage of stability and progress.

          The Great Depression was foreshadowed by the failing agricultural economy of the 1920s. The First World War created a large demand for farm products and a boom in America's agricultural community. Unfortunately though, a post-war recession would only hurt farmers. Iowa, a heavily agricultural state, suffered more than most other states. Between 1921 and 1929, Iowa led the country in bank suspensions and many farmers faced foreclosure. The Great Depression only worsened conditions for farmers. In 1932, Iowa farmers harvested their largest crop to date, but found no market for the produce. Farm goods sold between one-half and one-third of what they did during the 1920s. The Depression was equally disturbing for city dwellers. Thousands of workers were unemployed as railroads and businesses were forced into making major cutbacks. President Roosevelt's New Deal helped Iowa cope with the Depression. The federal farm program aided farmers and work relief programs employed urban men. The Agricultural Adjustment Act helped farmers recover during the mid-1930s, but it took the demands of World War II to effectively end the Great Depression and reassert the country's economy.

          The onset of the Second World War, and its incredible demands, lifted America out of the depths of the depression in a most dramatic fashion. In Iowa, farm production reached all time highs, breaking records in every year between 1941 and 1945. The state developed industrially as well. Factories, such as John Deere, Rath Packing, and Maytag, shifted their efforts to producing war goods. Tractors, aircraft and tank parts, and canned meat were produced in Iowa. Iowa was also involved in the military aspect of the war. Over 260,000 men and 4,000 women from Iowa served in the military, and 8,400 were killed. Iowa was home to four training centers; naval training in Ottumwa, B-17 training in Sioux City, Women's Army Corps in Des Moines, and Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services in Cedar Falls. There were also two prisoner of war camps in Iowa, one in Algona and the other in Clarinda. Iowans were able to serve their country in a plethora of different ways through these diverse outlets.


Conclusion

          The history of Iowa's people is full of perseverance, strength, and hard work. The first people to live on the land faced long days of hunting and gathering to sustain themselves and were constantly on the move. Native Americans called Iowa home for thousands of years, but gave up their land to American pioneers in the 19th century. These pioneers faced hardships they could not have foreseen. Long tracts of prairie land devoid of trees and water made the Iowa frontier nearly impossible to live on. The hardships lessened as farmers discovered how fertile the land was and began to successfully grow wheat, corn, soybeans and other crops. During the 19th century Iowa became home to not only Americans, but also Europeans. Iowa grew from an inhospitable prairie to a welcoming state over the course of the past two centuries, housing a diverse population of American pioneers, European immigrants, and religious radicals, all of whom contributed to the development of the state and its captivating history.

Bibliography >>


(11) Sage, 94.
(12) Dorothy Schwieder, Iowa, The Middle Land, (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1996),192.
(13) Sage, 93.
(14) Sage, 94.
(15) Dorothy Schwieder, Iowa, The Middle Land, (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1996),192.
(16) Sage, 93.


By Rickie Lazzerini
Historian

BA History
University of California, Santa Barbara

Index of Historical Reviews

2006 Rickie Lazzerini, All Rights Reserved
This page may be freely linked to but may not be reproduced
in any form without prior written consent from the author.


Resources
Visit Our Websites
Visit Our Affiliates
Contact Us
  • Email
    editor AT kindredtrails.com
    (replace AT with the @ symbol)



Footnote.com

First Name

Last Name



© 2002-2011 Kindred Trails, Inc.  All Rights Reserved
Kindred Trails World Wide Genealogy Resources ~ Linking the World Together With Roots!


Click Here to Bookmark Our Site!