Iowa History Timeline: Text Version

 


B.C.E. = Before Common Era
C.E. = Common Era
1850:
Iowa Event

Iowa's population: 192,214

Territorial and state censuses were taken between 1840 and 1850. In 1844 there were 75,152 people; in 1846 there were 102,388; in 1847 there were 116,454; and in 1849 there were 154,573 people. Although the rate of growth slowed during this decade, there were still almost five times as many people in Iowa in 1850 as had been counted in 1840. The frequent territorial censuses were one of the ways Iowans helped to persuade the national political leaders that a new state was needed.

Find out more about the people of Iowa.

1850:
Iowa Event

Hungarian Refugees Establish Colony of New Buta

The revolutions of 1848 involved all countries in Europe, but especially significant was the attempt by the Hungarians to separate from the Hapsburg Empire where they were dominated by Austria. Lajos Kossuth was the major leader, and a county in Iowa is named for him. Laszlo Ujhazi led a small group of Hungarians to the hills of southern Iowa in Decatur County and acquired thousands of acres. The colony of New Buta lasted until 1858, when beset by economic and political problems most of the settlers left for other homes. A township name is all that remains of the Hungarian colony.

Find out more about immigration in Iowa.

1850 and 1860:
U.S. Event

Swamplands Acts of 1850 and 1960

The federal government gave the land where wetlands were located to the county. The counties drained the wetlands trying to make the land under them "useful."

Find out more about Iowa's landscape.

1850s:
Iowa Event

Bison Gone from Iowa

In the early 1800s bison had been hunted for food and skins--or for sport. By the 1850s bison were gone from the state.

Find out more about Iowa's wildlife.

1850s:
U.S. Event

Forests are Removed

In the 1850s forests were cleared to make way for roads and cities. Railroads used the trees for ties.

Find out more about landscape.

Mid-1800s:
Iowa Event

Topsoil

When Iowa's prairies were first plowed there were 14-16 inches of topsoil. Today the average depth of topsoil is 6-8 inches.

Find out more about Iowa's soil.

1850:
U.S. Event

Fugitive Act of 1850

This act called for a fine of $1,000 and a term of six months in jail for anyone convicted of helping a runaway slave escape.

Find out more about the Underground Railroad in Iowa.

Late 1850s:
Iowa Event

First Unions in Iowa

The first labor unions in Iowa date back to the late 1850s when printers from Davenport and Dubuque unionized.

Find out more about labor unions in Iowa.

1851:
U.S. Event

Ice Cream for Sale

Ice cream was first sold commercially.

Find out more about an ice cream treat invented in Iowa.

1851:
Iowa Event

Native American Indian Tribes Give Up Their Last Land in Iowa

The "Sioux Cession" treaty removed the final Native American Indian claim to land in Iowa, in the far north central and far northwest sections of the state.

Find out more about Indian removal in Iowa.

Top

1852:
U.S. Event

Uncle Tom's Cabin is Published

Harriet Beecher Stowe published her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, which described the evils of slavery. It brought the issues surrounding slavery into homes across America.


1853:
Iowa Event

Iowa School for the Blind Opens

The Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School (IBSSS) was founded by Samuel Bacon in 1852 as a private school in Keokuk, Iowa. Within a year, it was established by the State Legislature and relocated in Iowa City.

In 1858 the General Assembly selected a 55-acre site in Vinton as a permanent location for the school. In 1862 the school was moved to Vinton.

Find out how the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 brought changes for many Iowans.


1854:
Iowa Event

Iowa State Teachers Association Forms

The first meeting of the Iowa State Teachers Association is held at the Muscatine County Courthouse in Muscatine. The organization later became the Iowa State Education Association.

Find out more about Iowa's first teachers.

1854:
U.S. Event

Windmill Designed

Daniel Halladay designed a mechanical windmill for pumping water.


1854:
Iowa Event

First Iowa State Fair Held

The first Iowa State Fair was held in Fairfield. State fairs were held annually, with a few exceptions, from then until the present day. Later in the 19th century, the fair moved to Des Moines permanently.

Find out more about Iowa's State Fair.

1854:
Iowa Event

The Republican Party Forms

Meetings in Crawfordsville and other towns lead to the formation of the Republican Party. The party was formed because of the weakness and fragmenting of other political parties. Former members of the Whig Party, the Know-Nothing Party, the Free Soil Party, the Anti-Masonic Party, and others joined together in what was primarily an anti-slavery party. Several other communities claimed to be the birthplace, including Ripon, Wisconsin and Ewart, Michigan.

Find out more about the political process in Iowa.

1854:
Iowa Event

Grimes Elected Governor

James Wilson Grimes (1816-1872) became governor of Iowa, serving until 1858. He would then be elected as a Republican to the United States Senate in 1859, serving until 1869.

Find out more about Iowa government.

1854:
Iowa Event

The Iowa School for the Deaf Founded

William E. Ijams opened a private school for the deaf in Iowa City in 1854. On January 24, 1855, Senate File Number 51 was passed and the Iowa Institute for the Deaf and Dumb was born, founded by both William E. Ijams and Edmund Booth. In 1870, the school was moved to its current location in Council Bluffs. The school was a self-sustaining entity with its own farm, power plant and hospital. Students learned traditional subjects but also were provided a variety of trades classes, including baking, shoe repair, furniture making and domestic work.

Learn more about schools in Iowa.

1850s-1860s:
Iowa Event

Draft Horses in Iowa

To keep up with the new farm machinery, farmers in Iowa and other agriculture states began to breed draft horses.

Find out more about agriculture in Iowa.

1855:
Iowa Event

German Immigrants Establish Amana Colonies

In 1842 the Society of True Inspiration came to Ebenezer, New York, from what is now Germany, Switzerland and eastern France. A lack of available land caused them to move further west, and in 1855 the Inspirationists, as the members were called, settled along the Iowa River in Iowa County. They purchased 26,000 acres of land and established seven villages made up of churches, shops and living quarters. The Amana Colonies are the longest lasting communal colonies of the dozens that were founded in the United States during the 19th century.

Find out more about communal groups in Iowa.

Top

1855:
Iowa Event

First Classes at Iowa City

The first classes were held at the State University of Iowa in Iowa City. A term of school actually began at the university, but regular classes would not be held for another four years.

Find out more about higher education in Iowa.

1856:
Iowa Event

Mormon Hand Cart Expedition Leaves Iowa City

Converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, mostly from England, Wales and Denmark arrived in the United States and took the train as far as the railroad was built, to Iowa City. There they built hand carts and pulled them across Iowa and the Great Plains to Salt Lake City. Many completed the journey in 1856, but some arrived at their destination in 1857. More than 2,200 Mormons made the trip with these hand carts.

Find out more about religion in Iowa.

1856:
Iowa Event

Mesquakies Purchase Land in Tama County

Many Mesquakie (sometimes spelled Meskwaki) never left Iowa when they were ordered to do so in 1845, and those who did move were unhappy on their Kansas reservation. In January 1856 the General Assembly passed an act permitting the Native American Indians still in the state to remain, particularly in Tama County. A census was to be taken and the exemption applied only to them. More came back from Kansas that year, and they attempted to purchase land. Because they wished to own the land as a tribal group, rather than as individuals, they petitioned Governor James W. Grimes to act as their trustee for this purpose. He agreed, and in 1857 they purchased their first 80 acres. Over the next few decades they acquired about 3,800 acres along the Iowa River in Tama County, creating a "settlement," not a reservation. Several hundred descendants of these Mesquakies and others live on the settlement near Tama today, and are famous for their Pow Wow and their casino.

Find out more about the Meskwaki of Iowa.

1856:
Iowa Event

First Railroad Bridge Across Mississippi River Completed

The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River connected Davenport, Iowa, and Rock Island, Illinois. It was built by the Rock Island Railroad Company in 1856. The bridge marked the opening of Iowa to the railroad building mania, which continued for many decades. Steamboaters saw nationwide railroads as a threat to their business, and with the building of the railroad bridge, many legal conflicts between the steam boat companies and the railroad companies began. On May 6, 1856, just weeks after it was completed, an angry steamboater crashed the Effie Afton steamboat into the bridge. The owner of the steamboat filed a lawsuit against The Rock Island Railroad Company, who then selected Abraham Lincoln as their trial lawyer.

Find out more about the challenges of railroads in Iowa.

1856:
Iowa Event

Federal Land Granted to Railroads

The federal government made land grants to four railroad lines to begin in Dubuque, Lyons (Clinton), Davenport and Burlington. Alternating sections of land along the right-of-way across the state were granted, and income from the sales of this land was to be used to pay for the building of the railroad lines. If alternating sections were already sold, alternative land in equal amounts were to be granted to the railroads. These four lines were the nucleus of the first trans-state lines in Iowa. Although this began in 1868, the railroads were not completed until 1868, because of the interruption of the Civil War.

Find out more about railroads in Iowa.

1856:
Iowa Event

Mesquakies Buy Land in Tama County

A group of Mesquakies asked to purchase and live on land in the state. The Iowa General Assembly granted their request.

Find out more about Native Americans in Iowa.

1857:
Iowa Event

Community of True Inspiration

The Community of True Inspiration founded the Amana Colonies in Iowa.

Find out more about religion in Iowa.

1857:
Iowa Event

Economic Depression Slows Iowa Settlement

The economic depression, called the Panic of 1857, had major effects in Iowa although most of these effects were in 1858. Banks failed and population growth was slowed in almost every town in Iowa.

Find out more about other hard economic times in Iowa.

1857:
Iowa Event

The State Historical Society of Iowa Created

When the State Historical Society of Iowa was created, public funds were granted for its use. The first offices were in the former state capitol building in Iowa City, and the organization moved from location to location until permanent quarters were located in Schaeffer Hall on the campus of the University of Iowa. It remained there until a new building was constructed for its use in 1959.

Find out more about arts and culture in Iowa.

1857:
Iowa Event

Capital Moves to Des Moines

The capital of the state of Iowa moved from Iowa City to Des Moines.

Find out about the first capitol building in Des Moines.

Top

1857:
Iowa Event

Iowa's Constitution Goes into Effect

The new constitution of 1857 revised several things about state government, adding the office of lieutenant governor and reducing the terms of the governor to two years. The capital was moved to Des Moines from Iowa City, to be nearer the projected center of population for the state.

Find out more about the Iowa constitution.

1858:
Iowa Event

Lowe Elected Governor

Ralph P. Lowe became the governor of Iowa.

Find out more about Iowa government.

1858:
Iowa Event

Legislature's First Session in Des Moines

The Iowa Legislature held its first session in Des Moines.

Find out more about the Iowa Legislature.

1858:
Iowa Event

Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm created in Ames

Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm was created in Ames in Story County by the General Assembly. It would become a Land Grant College after a federal law, called the Morrill Act, was passed in 1862. No classes were held by this college until 1869. Eventually, the name would be changed to Iowa State University.

Find out more about higher education in Iowa.

1858:
Iowa Event

Dubuque Hotel Destroyed by Fire

The St. Cloud Hotel in Dubuque, the "largest building in the entire west," was destroyed in a fire.

Find out more about the insurance industry in Iowa.

1859-1889:
Iowa Event

Sawmills Boomed

During these years sawmills were an important part of Iowa's industry. When many of Iowa's forests were gone, lumber businesses shipped logs down the Mississippi River from Minnesota and Wisconsin. At the Iowa sawmills the logs were milled into boards.

Find out more about the sawmill industry in Iowa.

1859:
Iowa Event

Waterloo Newspaper Published

Black Hawk Courier (Waterloo Daily Courier) first published.

Find out more about newspapers in Iowa history.

1859:
Iowa Event

Kirkwood elected governor

Samuel Jordan Kirkwood made his reputation as a strong pro-Union governor of Iowa during the first part of the Civil War. He went on to serve as a U.S. senator and member of President Garfield's cabinet, the only Iowan ever to serve as governor, senator, and cabinet member.

Find out more about Iowa government.



Questions to Consider:
When viewing information in the timeline, consider the following questions:

  • What time in history did this event occur? What else was happening at that time?
  • What events led to this event? What events followed it? Does this event begin or end something? Is this event part of a sequence of other events?
  • How did this event influence the present? How might it influence our future?


 

Sources:
Several entries for this timeline were adapted from Prairie Voices Iowa Heritage Curriculum, Annotated Iowa History Timeline, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1995. Used with permission.

Additional Sources:

  • Agriculture in the Classroom: Growing a Nation: The Story of American Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture.
  • Discovering Historic Iowa Transportation Milestones, Iowa Department of Transportation, 2000.
  • Downey, Mathew T. American History 1 and 2. Chicago: McGraw-Hill, 2006.
  • History and Life: The World and Its People. Glenview, Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1980.
  • Keenan, Sheila. Scholastic Encyclopedia of Women in the United States. New York: Scholastic Reference, 1996.
  • National Standards for History, UCLA National Center for History in the Schools, 1996.
  • Randy Lyon, This Month In Iowa History, State Historical Society of Iowa.
  • The Challenge of Freedom. River Forest, Illinois: Laidlaw Brothers, 1982.
  • William Kovarik, Ph.D., Environmental History Timeline, Radford University,
  • World Adventures in Time and Place. New York: Macmillan McGraw-Hill, 1997.

Iowa Pathways: Iowa History Resources for Students and Teachers
Home ~ My Path ~ Artifacts ~ Timeline ~ Quest ~ Teacher Resources ~ Project Information ~ Sponsors
Iowa Pathways © 2005 - 2014 Iowa Public Television