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Revised 27 December 2010


The great natural wealth of Iowa was reported as early as 1647 by Jean Nicolet, who explored in that region.  Iowa was said to be rich in fur-bearing animals, lead and other natural resources.  The first recorded Europeans to explore Iowa were Louis Joliet, Father Jacques Marquette and a number of voyageurs who traversed from the Wisconsin River into the Mississippi around June of 1863.

Mining of lead was known to have occurred from prehistoric times.  Dubuque led was mined and smelted by Indians and French fur traders.  Pier Le Sueur reported Led mining in the Dubuque area and Nicholas Perrot excavated in mines south of the Wisconsin River.  The early lead mine were fairly well known in the 1700s and appeared on many maps of the area.

The Sauk, Meskwaki and Winnebago Indians mined lead in the 18th century.  The Indians worked the mines as a summer revenue source.  The Meskwakis earned large revenues that were used in purchasing European and American trade goods.  Throughout the 18th century, the lead mining and smelting was included in the French, British and American fur trade economy in that area.  Production continued on an industrial scale and created much of the led for bullets in the American Civil War.

Julien Dubuque, a French-Canadian businessman from Fort Michilimackinac, Michigan, was granted the use of one of the Meskwaki lead mines in 1788.  Eight years later, he applied for a Spanish Land grant, which was awarded by the Spanish Governor of Louisiana in New Orleans in 1796.He held a virtual monopoly on mining, trading and fur shipping north to Michilimackinac and the shipping of lead to St. Louis for almost 22 years.  Upon his death, creditors and land speculators from St. Louis attempted to claim the mines, but the Meskwakis held their ground and made certain no further encroachment would occur by burning all of Dubuque's buildings.  Dubuque was buried in a wooden tomb with viewing windows on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.

From 760 through the 1830s, America and Britain vied with one another for ownership of the area, pitting themselves against French and Indian alliances in the Upper Mississippi and Missouri River valleys.  The breakdown of the French fur trade and barter economy finally faltered after years of wars, including the French and Indian War, the American Revolution and the War of 1812 an the ever increasing settlements of the American settlers.

Fort Madison was constructed in 1809 as the first U. S. Army outpost in the Upper Mississippi Valley.  It housed 50 to 60 troops.  It was abandoned during the War of 1812 after numerous attacks by the British -allied Sauck and Winnebago Indians.  

On June 1, 1833, Under the Treaty known as the Black Hawk Purchase, non-Indian settlement began in earnest.  By 1851, all Indian lands in Iowa had been ceded to the U. S. Government.  The land was divided up as public lands for sale and the eastern cities of Burlington, Davenport, Dubuque and others were established.  

Iowa became a territory in 1838.  The new territorial capital was established in Iowa City in 1839 and when statehood was first announced in 1846, it became the first state capitol.  The capitol was moved to Des Moines in 1857 in order to centralize its location  and quickly became a center for the insurance industry.  After the Civil War, the use of natural resources saw an expansion in the lumbering, milling, coal mining, and stone quarrying fields and mill towns sprang up close to the resources.  In 1845, the Meskwaki Indians were moved to Kansas, but in 1856, a band returned and purchased land, whereupon their descendants continue to reside to this day.

(Source of Information:  The University of Iowa website.  Visit their site for more detailed information.  Click your back arrow to return to this site.  Carl A. Merry has written a number of very fine articles on the subject of Iowa State History.)

Name Date formed Parent County County Seat
Adair 1851 Cass Greenfield
Adams 1851 Taylor corning
Allamakee 1847 Clayton Waukon
Appanoose 1846 Davis Centerville
Audubon 1855 Cass, Blackhawk Audubon
Benton 1846 Indian Land Purchase Vinton
Black hawk 1843 Delaware Waterloo
Boone 1846 Polk Boone
Bremer 1851 Winnebago, Indian Reserve Waverly
Buchanan 1837 Delaware Independence
Buena Vista 1859 Sac, Clay Storm Lake
Buncombe (see Lyon) 1851 Name changed to Lyon in 1862  
Butler 1853 Buchanan, Black hawk Allison
Calhoun 1855 Formerly Fox County Rockwell City
Carroll 1854 Guthrie Carroll
Cass 1853 Pottawattamie Atlantic
Cedar 1838 Wisconsin Territory Tipton
Cerro Gordo 1855 Floyd Mason City
Cherokee 1857 Crawford Cherokee
Chickasaw 1851 Fayette New Hampton
Clarke 1846 Lucas Osceola
Clay 1858 Indian Lands Spencer
Clayton 1837 Dubuque Elkader
Clinton 1839 Dubuque Clinton
Crawford 1855 Shelby Denison
Dallas 1847 Polk Adel
Davis 1844 Van Buren Bloomfield
Decatur 1850 Appanoose Leon
Delaware 1837 Dubuque Manchester
Des Moines 1836 Wisconsin Territory Yarmouth & Burlington
Dickinson 1857 Kossuth spirit Lake
Dubuque 1835 Michigan Territory Dubuque
Emmett 1859 Kossuth, Dickinson Estherville
Fayette 1850 Clayton West Union
Fox (see Calhoun) 1855 Name changed to Calhoun  
Franklin 1855 Chickasaw Hampton
Fremont 1847 Pottawattamie Sidney
Greene 1854 Dallas Jefferson
Grundy 186 Black Hawk Grundy Center
Guthrie 1851 Jackson Guthrie Center
Hamilton 1856 Webster Webster City
Hancock 1857 Wright Garner
Hardin 1853 Black Hawk Eldora
Harrison 1853 Pottawattamie Logan
Henry 1836 Wisconsin Territory Mount Pleasant
Howard 1855 Chickasaw, Floyd Cresco
Humboldt 1857 Webster Dakota City
Ida 1858 Cherokee Ida Grove
Iowa 1847 Washington Marengo
Jackson 1837 Wisconsin Territory Maquoketa
Jasper 1846 Mahaska Newton
Jefferson 1839 Indian Land Purchase Fairfield
Johnson 1838 Des Moines Iowa City
Keokuk 1844 Washington Sigourney
Kossuth 1855 Webster Algona
Lee 1836 Des Moines Ft. Madison & Keokuk
Linn 1837 Wisconsin Territory Cedar Rapids
Louisa 1837 Des Moines Wapello
Lucas 1849 Monroe Charlton
Lyon 1851 Woodbury Rock Rapids
Madison 1850 Polk Winterset
Mahaska 1844 Fox, Sac Indian Purchase Oskaloosa
Marion 1845 Washington Knoxville
Marshall 1849 Jasper Marshalltown
Mills 1851 Pottawattamie Glenwood
Mitchell 1854 Chickasaw Osage
Monona 1854 Harrison Onawa
Monroe 1845 Wapello Albia
Montgomery 1851 Polk Red Oak
Muscatine 1837 Des Moines Muscatine
O'Brien 1851 Cherokee Primghar
Osceola 1851 Woodbury Sibley
Page 1850 Pottawattamie Clarinda
Palo Alto 1858 Kossuth Emmetsburg
Plymouth 1858 Woodbury LeMars
Pocahontas 1859 Humboldt, Greene Pocahontas
Polk 1836 Indian Lands Des Moines
Pottawattamie 1848 Indian Lands Council Bluffs
Poweshiek 1848 Musquaka Montezuma
Ringgold 1855 Taylor Mount Ayr
Risley (See Webster) 1851 Name changed to Webster in 1853  
Sac 1857 Greene Sac City
Scott 1837 Wisconsin Territory Davenport
Shelby 1853 Cass Harlan
Sioux 1860 Plymouth Orange City
Slaughter (See Washington) 1837 Name changed to Washington in 1839  
Story 1853 Jasper, Polk, Boone Nevada
Tama 1852 Boone, Benton Toledo
Taylor 1851 Page Bedford
Union 1855 Clarke Creston
Van Buren 1836 Des Moines Keosauqua
Wahkaw (See Washington) 1851 Renamed to Woodbury in 1853  
Wapello 1844 Indian Lands Ottumwa
Warren 1846 Polk Indianola
Washington 1837 Wisconsin Territory Washington
Wayne 1850 Appanoose Corydon
Webster 1852 Yell, Risley Fort Dodge
Winnebago 1857 Kossuth Forest City
Winneshiek 1847 Indian Lands Decorah
Woodbury 1851 Indian Lands Sioux City
Worth 1857 Mitchell Northwood
Wright 1855 Webster Clarion
Yell (See Hamilton)   Bordered on Risley County-Changed to Webster.  Also check in Hamilton county for records