HISTORY OF IOWA. DISCOVERY AND OCCUPATIONS,
The name Iowa is said to signify "the Beautiful Land," and was applied to this magnificent and fruitful region by its ancient owners, to express their appreciation of its superiority of climate, soil and location. Prior to 1803, the Mississippi River was the extreme western boundary of the United States. All the great empire lying west of the "Father of Waters," from the Gulf of Mexico on the south to British America on the north, and westward to the Pacific Ocean, was a Spanish province. A brief historical sketch of the discovery and occupation of this great empire by the Spanish and French governments will be a fitting introduction to the history of the young and thriving State of Iowa, which, until the commencement of the present century, was a part of the Spanish possessions in America.
Early in the Spring of 1542, Ferdinand DeSoto discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River at the mouth of the Washita. After the sudden death of DeSoto, in May of the same year, his followers built a small vessel, and in July, 1543, descended the great river to the Gulf of Mexico.
In accordance with the usage of nations, under which title to the soil was claimed by right of discovery, Spain, having conquered Florida and discovered the Mississippi, claimed all the territory bordering on that river and the Gulf of Mexico. But it was also held by the European nations that, while discovery gave title, that title must be perfected by actual possession and occupation. although Spain claimed the territory by right of first discovery, she made no effort to occupy it; by no permanent settlement had she perfected and held her title, and therefore had forfeited it when, at a later period, the Lower Mississippi Valley was discovered and occupied by France.
The labors of the zealous French Jesuits of Canada in penetrating the unknown region of the West, commencing in 1611, form a history of no ordinary interest, but have no particular connection with the scope of the present work, until in the Fall of 1665. Pierre Claude Allouez, who had entered Lake Superior in September, and sailed along the southern coast in search of copper, had arrived at the great village of the Chippewas at Chegoincegon. Here a grand council of some ten or twelve of the principal Indian nations was held. The Pottawatomies of Lake Michigan, the Sacs and Foxes of the West, the Hurons from the North, the
Illinois from the South, and the Sioux from the land of the prairie and wild rice, were all assembled there. The Illinois told the story of their ancient glory and about the noble river on the banks of which they dwelt. The Sioux also told their white brother of the same great river, and Allouez promised to the assembled tribes the protection of the French nation against all their enemies, native or foreign.
The purpose of discovering the great river about which the Indian nations had given such a glowing accounts, appears to have originated with Marquette, in 1669. In the year previous, he and Claude Cablon had established the Mission of St. Mary's, the oldest white settlement within the present limits of the State of Michigan. Marquette was delayed in the execution of his great undertaking, and spent the interval in studying the language and habits of the Illinois Indians, among whom he expected to travel.
About this time the French Government had determined to extend the Dominion of France to the extreme western borders of Canada. Nicholas Perrot was sent as the agent of the government, to propose a grand council of the Indian nations, at St. Mary's.
When Perrot reached Green Bay, he extended the invitation far and near; and, escorted by Pottawatomies, repaired on a mission of peace and friendship to the Miamis, who occupied the region about the present location of Chicago.
In May 1671, a great council of Indians gathered at the Falls of St. Mary, from all parts of the northwest, from the head waters of the St. Lawrence, from the valley of the Mississippi and from the Red River of the North. Perrot met with them, and after grave consultation, formally announced to the assembled nations that their good French Father felt an abiding interest in their welfare, and had placed them all under the powerful protection of the French Government.
Marquette, during that same year, had gathered at Point St. Ignace the remnants of one branch of the Hurons. This station, for a long series of years, was considered the key to the unknown West.
The time was now auspicious for the consummation of Marquette's grand project. The successful termination of Perrot's mission, and the general friendliness of the native tribes, rendered the contemplated expedition much less perilous. But it was not until 1673 that the intrepid and enthusiastic priest was finally ready to depart on his daring and perilous journey to lands never trod by white men. Having implored the blessing of God upon his undertaking, on the 13th day of May, 1673, with Joliet and five Canadian-French voyageurs, or boatmen, he left the mission on his daring journey. Ascending Green Bay and Fox River, these bold and enthusiastic pioneers of religion and discovery proceeded until they reached a Miami and Kickapoo village, where Marquette was delighted to find "a beautiful cross planted in the
middle of the town, ornamented with white skins, red girdles and bows and arrows, which these good people had offered to the Great Manitou, or God, to thank Him for the pity He had bestowed on them during the winter, in having given them abundant chase." This was the extreme point beyond which the explorations of the French missionaries had not then extended. He called together the principal men of the village, and informed them that his companion, Joliet, had been sent by the French Governor of Canada to discover new countries, to be added to the dominion of France; but that he, himself, had been sent by the Most High God, to carry the glorious religion of the Cross; and assured his wondering hearers that on this mission he had no fear of death, to which he knew he would be exposed on his perilous journeys.
Obtaining the services of two Miami guides, to conduct his little band to the Wisconsin River, he left the hospitable Indians on the 10th of June. Conducting them across the portage, their Indian guides returned to their village, and the little party descended the Wisconsin, to the great river which had so long been so anxiously looked for, and boldly floated down its unknown waters.
On the 25th of June, the explorers discovered indications of Indians on the west bank of the river, and landed a little above the mouth of the river now known as Des Moines, and for the first time Europeans trod the soil of Iowa. Leaving the Canadians to guard the canoes, Marquette and Joliet boldly followed the trail into the interior for fourteen miles (some authorities say six)m to an Indian village situated on the banks of a river, and discovered two other villages, on the rising ground about half a league distant. Their visit, while it created much astonishment, did not seem to be entirely unexpected, for there was a tradition or prophecy among the Indians that white visitors were to come to them. They were, therefore, received with great respect and hospitality, and were cordially tendered the calumet or pipe of peace. They were informed that this band was a part of the Illini nation, and that their village was called Monin-gou-ma or Moingona, which was the name of the river on which it stood. This, from its similarity of sound, Marquette corrupted into Des Moines (Monk's River), its present name.
Here the voyagers remained six days, learning much of the manners and customs of their new friends. The new religion they boldly preached,, and the authority of the King of France they proclaimed were received without hostility or remonstrance by their savage entertainers. On their departure, they were accompanied to their canoes by the chiefs and hundreds of warriors. Marquette received from them the sacred calumet, the emblem of peace and safeguard among the nations, and re-embarked for the rest of his journey.
In 1682, LaSalle descended the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and in the name of the King of France took formal possession
of all the immense region watered by the great river and its tributaries from its source to its mouth, and named it Louisiana, in honor of his master, Louis XIV. At the close of the seventeenth century, France claimed, by right of discovery and occupancy, the whole valley of the Mississippi and its tributaries, including Texas, as far as the Rio del Norte.
In 1719, Phillipe Francis Renault arrived in Illinois with two hundred miners and artisans. The war between France and Spain at this time rendered it extremely probable that the Mississippi Valley might become the theater of spanish hostilities against the French settlements; to prevent this, as well as to extend French claims, a chain of forts was begun to keep open the connection between the mouth and the sources of the Mississippi. Fort Orleans, high up the Mississippi River, was erected as an outpost in 1720.
The Mississippi scheme was at the zenith of its power and glory in January, 1720, but the gigantic bubble collapsed more suddenly than it had been inflated, and the Company was declared hopelessly bankrupt in May following. France was impoverished by it, both private and public credit were overthrown, capitalists suddenly found themselves paupers, and labor was left without employment. The effect on the colony of Louisiana was disastrous.
While this was going on in Lower Louisiana the region about the lakes was the theater of Indian hostilities, rendering the passage from Canada to Louisiana extremely dangerous for many years. The English had not only extended their Indian trade into the vicinity of the French settlements, but through their friends, the Iroquois, had gained a marked ascendancy over the Foxes, a fierce and powerful tribe, of Iroquois descent, whom they incited to hostilities with the siege of Detroit in 1712, a siege which continued for nineteen consecutive days, and although the expedition resulted in diminishing their numbers and humbling their pride, yet it was not until after several successive campaigns, embodying the best military resources of New France, had been directed against them, that they were finally defeated at the great battles of Butte des Morts, and on the Wisconsin River, and driven west in 1746.
The Company, having found that the cost of defending Louisiana exceeded the returns from its commerce, solicited leave to surrender the Mississippi wilderness to the home government. Accordingly, on the 10th of April, 1732, the jurisdiction and control over the commerce reverted to the Crown of France. the Company had held possession of Louisiana fourteen years. In 1735, Bienville returned to assume command for the King.
A glance at a few of the old French settlements will show the progress made in portions of Louisiana during the early part of the eighteenth century. As early as 1705, traders and hunters had penetrated the fertile regions of the Wabash, and from this region,
at that early date, fifteen thousand hides and skins had been collected and sent to Mobile for the European market.
In the year 1716, the French population on the Wabash kept up a lucrative commerce with Mobile by means of traders and voyageurs*. The Ohio river was comparatively unknown.
In 1746, agriculture on the Wabash had attained to greater prosperity than in any of the French settlements besides, and in that year six hundred barrels of flour were manufactured and shipped to New Orleans, together with considerable quantities of hide, peltry, tallow, and beeswax.
In the Illinois country, also, considerable settlements had been made, so that, in 1730, they embraced one hundred and forty French families, about six hundred "converted Indians," and many traders and voyageurs*. (*spelled this way in book.)
In 1753, the first actual conflict arose between Louisiana and the Atlantic colonies. From the earliest advent of the Jesuit fathers, up to the period of which we speak, the great ambition of the French had been, not alone to preserve their possessions in the West, but by every possible means to prevent the slightest attempt of the English, east of the mountains, to extend their settlements toward the Mississippi. France was resolved on retaining possession of the great territory which her missionaries had discovered and revealed to the world. French commandants had avowed their intention of seizing every Englishman within the Ohio Valley.
The colonies of Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia were most affected by the encroachments of France in the extension of her dominion; and particularly in the great scheme of uniting Canada with Louisiana. To carry out this purpose the French had taken possession of a tract of country claimed by Virginia, and had commenced a line of forts extending from the lakes to the Ohio River. Virginia was not only alive to her own interests, but attentive to the vast importance of an immediate and effectual resistance on the part of all the English colonies to the actual and contemplated encroachments of the French.
In 1753, Governor Dinwiddie, of Virginia, sent George Washington, then a young man just twenty-one, to demand of the French commandant "a reason for invading British dominions while a solid peace subsisted." Washington met the French commandant, Gardeur de St. Pierre, on the head waters of the *Alleghany, and having communicated to him the object of his journey, received the insolent answer that the French would not discuss the matter of right, but would make prisoners of every Englishman found trading on the Ohio and its waters. The country, he said belonged to the French, by virtue of the discoveries of La Salle, and they would not withdraw from it.
In January, 1754, Washington returned to Virginia, and made his report to Governor and Council. Forces were at once raised and Washington, as Lieutenant Colonel, was dispatched at the
head of a hundred and fifty men, to the forks of the Ohio, with orders to "finish the fort already begun there by the Ohio Company, and to make prisoners, kill or destroy all who interrupted the English settlements."
On his march through the forests of Western Pennsylvania, Washington, through the aid of friendly Indians, discovered the French concealed among the rocks, and as they ran to seize their arms, ordered his men to *ffre (*fire) upon them, at the same time, with his own musket, setting the example. An action lasting about a quarter of an hour ensued; ten of the Frenchmen were killed, among them Jumonville, the commander of the party, and twenty-one were made prisoners. The dead were scalped by the Indians, and the chief, bearing a tomahawk and a scalp, visited all the tribes of the Miamis, urging them to join the Six Nations and English against the French. The French, however, were soon re-enforced and Col. Washington was compelled to return to Fort Necessity. Here, on the 3d day of July, De Villiers invested the fort with 600 French troops and 100 Indians. On the 4th, Washington accepted terms of capitulation and the English garrison and the English garrison withdrew from the valley of the Ohio.
This attack of Washington upon Jumonville aroused the indignation of France, and war was formally declared in May, 1756, and the "French and Indian War" devastated the colonies for several years. Montreal, Detroit and all Canada were surrendered to the English, and on the 10th of February, 1763, by the treaty of Paris--which had been signed, though not formally ratified by the respective governments, on the 3d of November, 1762--France relinquished to Great Britain all that portion of the province of Louisiana lying on the east side of the Mississippi, except the island and town of New Orleans. On the same day that the treaty of Paris was signed France, by a secret treaty, ceded to Spain all her possessions on the west side of the Mississippi, including the whole country to the head waters of the Great River, and west to the Rocky Mountains, and the jurisdiction of France in America, which had lasted nearly a century, was ended.
At the close of the Revolutionary war, by the treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States, the English Government ceded to the latter all the territory on the east side of the Mississippi River and north of the thirty-first parallel of north latitude. At the same time, Great Britain ceded to Spain all the Floridas, comprising all the territory east of the Mississippi and south of the southern limits of the United States.
At this time, therefore, the present State of Iowa was a part of the Spanish possessions in North America, as all the territory west of the Mississippi River was under the dominion of Spain. That government also possessed all the territory of the Floridas east of the great river and south of the thirty-first parallel of north latitude. The Mississippi, therefore, so essential to the prosperity of
the western portion of the United States, for the last three hundred miles of its course flowed wholly within the Spanish dominions, and that government claimed the exclusive right to use and control it below the southern boundary of the United States.
The free navigation of the Mississippi was a very important question during all the time that Louisiana remained a dependency of the Spanish Crown, and as the final settlement intimately affected the status of the then future State of Iowa, it will be interesting to trace its progress.
The people of the United States occupied and exercised jurisdiction over the entire eastern valley of the Mississippi, embracing all the country drained by its eastern tributaries; they had a natural right, according to the accepted international law, to follow these rivers to the sea, and to the use of the Mississippi River accordingly, as the great natural channel of commerce. The river was not only necessary but absolutely indispensable to the prosperity and growth of the western settlements then rapidly rising into commercial and political importance. They were situated in the heart of the great valley, and with wonderful expansive energies and accumulating resources, it was very evident that no power on earth could deprive them of the free use of the river below them, only while their numbers were insufficient to enable them to maintain their right by force. Inevitably, therefore, immediately after the ratification of the treaty of 1785, the Western people began to demand the free navigation of the Mississippi--not as a favor, but as a right. In 1786, both banks of the river, below the mouth of the Ohio, were occupied by Spain, and military posts on the east bank enforced her power to exact heavy duties on all imports by way of the river for the Ohio region. Every boat *decending the river was forced to land and submit to the arbitrary revenue exactions of the Spanish authorities. Under the administration of Governor Miro, these rigorous exactions were somewhat relaxed from 1787 to 1790; but Spain held it as her right to make them. Taking advantage of the claim of the American people, that the Mississippi should be opened to them, in 1791, the Spanish Government concocted a scheme for the dismembership of the Union. The plan was to induce the Western people to separate from the Eastern States by liberal land grants and extraordinary commercial privileges.
Spanish emissaries, among the people of Ohio and Kentucky, informed them that the Spanish Government would grant them favorable commercial privileges, provided they would secede from the Federal Government east of the mountains. The Spanish Minister to the United States plainly declared to his confidential correspondent that, unless the Western people would declare their independence and refuse to remain in the Union, Spain was determined never to grant the free navigation of the Mississippi.
By the treaty of Madrid, October 20, 1795, however, spain formally stipulated that the Mississippi River, from its source to the Gulf, for its entire width, should be free to American trade and commerce, and that the people of the United States should be permitted for three years, to use the port of New Orleans as a port of deposit for their *merchandize and produce, duty free.
In November, 1801, the United States Government received, through Rufus King, its MInister at the Court of St. James, a copy of the treaty between Spain and France, signed at Madrid, March 21, 1801, by which the session of Louisiana to France, made the previous autumn, was confirmed.
The change offered a favorable opportunity to secure the just rights of the United States, in relation to the free navigation of the Mississippi, and ended the attempt to dismember the Union by an effort to secure an independent government west of the Alleghany* Mountains. On the 7th day of January, 1803, the American House of Representatives adopted a resolution declaring their "unalterable determination to maintain the boundaries and the rights of navigation and commerce through the River Mississippi, as established by existing treaties."
In the same month, President Jefferson nominated and the Senate confirmed Robert R. Livingston and James Monroe as Envoys Plenipotentiary to the Court of spain, with plenary power to negotiate treaties to effect the object enunciated by the popular branch of the National Legislature. These envoys were instructed to secure, if possible, the cession of Florida and New Orleans, but it does not appear that Mr. Jefferson and his cabinet had any idea of purchasing that part of Louisiana lying on the west side of the Mississippi. In fact, on the 2d of March following, the instructions were sent to our Ministers, containing a plan which expressly left to France "all her territory on the west side of the Mississippi." Had these instructions been followed, it might have been that there would not have been any State of Iowa or any other member of the glorious Union of States west of the "Father of Waters."
In obedience to his instructions, however, Mr. Livingston broached this plan to M. Talleyrand, Napoleon's Prime Minister, when that courtly diplomatist quietly suggested to the American Minister that France might be willing to cede the whole French domain in North America to the United States, and asked how much the Federal Government would be willing to give for it. Livingston intimated that twenty millions of francs might be a fair price. Talleyrand thought that not enough, but asked the Americans to "think of it." A few days later, Napoleon, in an interview with Mr. Livingston, in effect informed the American Envoy that he had secured Louisiana in a contract with Spain for the purpose of turning it over to the United States for a mere
nominal sum. He had been compelled to provide for the safety of that province by treaty, and he was "anxious to give the United States a magnificent bargain for a mere trifle." The price proposed was one hundred and twenty-five million francs. This was subsequently modified to fifteen million dollars, and on this basis a treaty was negotiated, and was signed on the 30th day of April, 1803.
This treaty was ratified by the Federal Government, and by act of Congress, approved October 31. 1803, the President of the United States was authorized to take possession of the territory and provide for it a temporary government. Accordingly, on the 20th day of September following, on behalf of the President, Gov. Clairborne and Gen. Wilkinson took possession of the Louisiana purchase, and raised the American flag over the newly acquired domain, at New Orleans. Spain, although it had by treaty ceded the province to France in 1801, still held quasi possession and at first objected to the transfer, but withdrew her opposition early in 1804.
By this treaty, thus successfully consummated, and the peaceable withdrawal of Spain, the then infant nation of the New World extended its dominion west of the Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean, and north from the Gulf of Mexico to British America.
If the original design of Jefferson's administration had been accomplished, the United States would have acquired only that portion of the French territory lying east of the Mississippi river, and while the American people would thus have acquired the free navigation of that great river, all of the vast and fertile empire on the west, so rich in its agricultural and inexhaustible mineral resources, would have remained under the dominion of a foreign power. To Napoleon's desire to sell the whole of his North American possessions, and Livingston's act transcending his instructions, which was acquiesced in after it was done, does Iowa owe her position as a part of the United States by the Louisiana purchase.
By authority of an act of Congress, approved March 26, 1804, the newly acquired territory was, on the 1st day of October following, divided: that part lying south of the 33d parallel of north latitute* was called the Territory of Orleans, and all north of that parallel the District of Louisiana, which was placed under the authority of the officers of Indiana Territory, until July 4, 1805, when it was organized with territorial government of its own, and so remained until 1812, when the Territory of Orleans became the State of Louisiana, and the name of the Territory of Louisiana was changed to Missouri. On the 4th of July, 1814, that part of Missouri Territory comprising the present State of Arkansas, and the country to the westward, was organized into the Arkansas Territory.
On the 2d of March, 1821, the state of Missouri, being a part of the territory of that name, was admitted to the Union. June 28, 1834, the territory west of the Mississippi River and north of Missouri, was made a part of the Territory of Michigan; but two years later, on the 4th of July, 1836, Wisconsin Territory was erected, embracing within its limits the present States of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
By act of Congress, approved June 12, 1838, the
TERRITORY OF IOWA
was erected, comprising, in addition to the present State, much the larger part of Minnesota, and extending north to the boundary of the British possessions.
Visit our family of homepages and join us.
Copyright © 2000 - 2001 D. J. Coover
All Rights Reserved
Webmaster: D. J. Coover - firstname.lastname@example.org