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Iowa History Timeline
Important Dates, Events, and Milestones in Iowa
Offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in Iowa history.
The area now known as Iowa is home to Native American tribes 13,000 years before European settlement. About 17 tribes reside in the Iowa region at various points in history, including the Ioway (for which the state is named), the Sioux, and the Missouri. By the Woodland period (1,000 BCE–1,000 CE), they are using the area’s rich soil to grow crops like corn and have established complex societies. These peoples will eventually be driven out of the area by social and political upheaval and U.S. encroachment.
Iowa was admitted to the union as the 29th state on Dec. 28, 1846. As a Midwestern state, Iowa forms a bridge between the forests of the east and the grasslands of the high prairie plains to the west. Its gently rolling landscape rises slowly as it extends westward from the Mississippi River, which forms its entire eastern border.
17th Century Iowa History Timeline
1673 - French explorers Louis Jolliet and Father Marquette explored for the King of France. They canoed down the Wisconsin River and then down the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Arkansas River. Upon the return to Montreal, Joliet's journal was lost when a canoe capsized, and our information about the expedition comes from Marquette's journal and map. They supposedly landed on the west bank of the Mississippi and met with some Native American Indians, and most people believe that site was near the mouth of the Iowa River. All the journal says is that it was near the mouth of a river.
1682 - LaSalle explored the Mississippi River from its mouth, and claimed the river and all land drained by it for the King of France. It is upon the claim of LaSalle that France claimed the interior of North America. Such means of making land claims, by planting a flag at the mouth of a river and claiming all land drained by that river and its tributaries, were common at the time. The area was known as Louisiana, after King Louis XIV of France.
18th Century Iowa History Timeline
1762 - The King of France transferred the claim to the land described above to the King of Spain during the Seven Years' War, usually known in the United States as the French and Indian War.
1785 - The Land Ordinance created the mechanism by which new states could be admitted to the Union from the Old Northwest Territory, and also the methods to be used for surveying the undeveloped and unclaimed land. The so-called "Square mile survey" was later used in Iowa, and Iowa was admitted to the Union under the provisions of this act.
1788 - Julien Dubuque becomes the first white settler in Iowa. He and other French from Canada lived along Catfish Creek, under an agreement with the Mesquakies, whom they hired to do most of the actual mining work.
1796 - Dubuque's land claim was confirmed by the Spanish colonial government at this time, but he had been in effective control of it since 1788.
1799 - Tesson's land claim was initially made at this time. He supposedly planted a grove of apple trees, and made other improvements to solidify his claim to the land which was in Lee County, near Montrose.
19th Century Iowa History Timeline
1806 - In the trip back down the Missouri River, Lewis and Clark again camped on the "Iowa" side but made no further impact on the future state.
1808 - The US Army builds Fort Madison
1812 - When Louisiana was admitted to the Union as a state, the northern part of the Louisiana Territory was re-named Missouri.
1813 - After being besieged twice during the war that the United States called the "War of 1812", the garrison abandoned the fort and burned it as they escaped down river to St. Louis.
1820 - The Missouri Compromise makes Iowa a non-slave territory
1824 - A treaty signed in St. Louis with the "Sac and Fox tribe" relinquished their claim to 119.000 acres in what would be Lee County. T
1830 - The "Neutral Ground" was a 40 mile wide strip of land running from the northeast corner of the state in a southwesterly direction to the upper fork of the Des Moines River. Nathan Boone, one of Daniel Boone's sons, was a surveyor on this line. The treaty was signed on 15 July 1830.
1832 - After the military expedition sometimes called the "Black Hawk War", the Sauk tribe was forced to cede land on the west side of the Mississippi River to the United States.
1833 - As a result of the treaty in 21 September 1832, the Black Hawk Cession land was open to legal white settlement after 1 June 1833.
1834 - Law enforcement was lax in the area and the need for a formal structure of government led to the attachment of the "Iowa" area to Michigan.
1836 - Opening the Keokuk Reserve to white settlement increased the land area available for claims on the west side of the Mississippi River, and moved the Sauk and Mesquakie further into the interior.
1838 - Congress creates the Iowa Territory
1839 - Abner Kneeland was a pantheist who had been prosecuted and persecuted in his native Massachusetts. He gathered followers and came to Iowa to be free from organized religion.
1841 - Fort Atkinson was built to house the army, whose function was to keep the Winnebago from returning to Wisconsin, and also to protect them from attacks by Sioux and Sauk.
1842 - Additional land was opened to white settlement, and Native American Indians were forced farther and farther west.
1843 - Additional land was opened to white settlement, and Native American Indians were forced farther and farther west. The "Red Rock Line" and extended from the Neutral Ground to the Missouri border running through Marion, Lucas, and Wayne counties.
1844 - The Legislative Assembly provided for a vote on a constitutional convention, and popular vote was in favor of one. The convention met in Iowa City and drafted a constitution.
1848-1849 - Fort Atkinson was abandoned, the Winnebago School was moved to Minnesota, and by terms of a treaty on 4 February 1847 the Winnebagos surrendered their rights to land in the Neutral Ground and agreed to move to a reservation north of the Minnesota River within one year. The army moved most of the Winnebago during the summer of 1848.
1850 - Three 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.
1851 - The Sioux Cession removed the final Native American Indian claim to land in Iowa, in the far north central and far northwest sections of the state.
1855 - A term of school actually began at the university, but regular classes would not be held for another four years.
1858 - Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm began this year, but became a Land Grant College after federal law, the Morrill Act, was passed in 1862.
1859 - Samuel Jordan Kirkwood made his reputation as a strong pro-Union Governor of Iowa during the first part of the Civil War.
1860 - Natural disasters, such as tornadoes, floods, and blizzards were regular events in Iowa history. Loss of life was often considerable, and various solutions to prevent major disasters were proposed.
1863 - The reform in the banking laws this year provided for more safety in banking institutions.
1867 - The first railroad is completed through Iowa
1871 - Amelia Jenks Bloomer was a suffrage and temperance leader from Council Bluffs.
1873 - Like previous economic depressions, this one led to bank failures, mortgage foreclosures, and a decline in employment. It was especially hard on the farmers who were already economically depressed because of adjustments after the Civil War.
1876 - A former Civil War orphan's home in Cedar Falls was the first building used by the Iowa Normal School, which, under the name Iowa State Teachers College, because one of the three leading teacher-training colleges in the United States. The school still operates, now called University of Northern Iowa.
1884 - The new capitol building, the same one now in use, was dedicated. This building was built on a grand scale because it was considered proper at that time in our history for government buildings to be impressive visually.
1885 - William Larrabee of Clermont was noted as the railroad reform governor of Iowa.
1888 - Henry Agard Wallace was a member of a prominent family that included his grandfather, "Uncle Henry", and his father, Henry Cantwell Wallace. Uncle Henry was appointed by the Rural Life Commission by President Theodore Roosevelt, and also began the publication of Wallace's Farmer, a leading agricultural periodical.
1892 - Froelich's invention of the gasoline-powered tractor revolutionized the farm machinery industry.
1893 - The Pomeroy tornado was one of the most destructive in Iowa's history
1894 - The Iowa Bystander became known as one of the leading African-American oriented newspapers in the midwest. From its base in Des Moines it exerted much influence over African-Americans throughout Iowa. It was published for many decades.
1896 - The Rural Free Delivery Act broke the communications isolation of the farm. Now farmers received mail daily and were in regular and constant touch with the rest of the world. They received and mailed letters daily.
20th Century Iowa History Timeline
1900 - Carrie Clinton Lane Chapman Catt was the most famous woman suffrage leader in history.
1902 - The Extension Department at Iowa State College was extremely important in improving the life of farm families in Iowa.
1905 - Automobiles broke the physical isolation of the farms and small towns, and were also the leading cause of the decline of businesses in small towns, after people could drive to larger towns for shopping.
1908 - Allison holds the record for length of service by an Iowan in Congress.
1910 - This is the first federal census in Iowa's history to show a decline in population. There were no further declines until the census of 1990.
1911 - The tune for "The Song of Iowa" is the same as for "Maryland, My Maryland", both taken from the German Christmas song "O Tannenbaum", which translates as "Oh Christmas Tree". Many people think that the "Iowa Corn Song" is the state song, but it is not and never has been.
1912 - Rural health came to be recognized as an issue that needed attention. This is still one of the tenets of the medical school at the University of Iowa, and the problem of finding doctors to serve in small towns in Iowa is an ongoing problem.
1913 - The completion of the Keokuk Dam
1919 - Radio changed the lives of Iowans by bringing news, culture, and entertainment into their homes.
1920 - Air mail was a refinement of the communications system of the day. Iowa was on the first transcontinental air mail route.
1922 - Following ratification of the 19th amendment, women not only voted, but they ran for office as well. May Francis was the first woman elected to a statewide office in Iowa.
1926 - Pioneer Hi-Bred International was the first major company to commercially market hybrid seed corn. This revolutionized the corn yields per acre in Iowa, and led to Iowa's position as provider of food to the world.
1936 - This year is remembered as probably the worst in Iowa history for bad weather. The summer was unusually hot and dry, and the winter was unusually cold and there was heavy snow.
1937 - While a professor at Iowa State College, Atanasoff and a graduate student did the experimental work that laid the foundations for the modern computer industry.
1940 - Henry Agard Wallace is the first Iowan to be elected to the office of Vice President of the United States.
1941 - Entry into World War II ended the agricultural depression and Iowa, and led to unparalleled prosperity for farmers.
1946 - John Mott won the Nobel Prize for his work with the international YMCA.
1948 - Wallace's campaign for president was unsuccessful. He joined James Baird Weaver as another Iowans who ran for president as a candidate of a 3rd party. It was during this election that Weaver's record for 3rd party popular and electoral votes was broken, because of Wallace and the Progressive Party and the candidacy of J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina with the Dixiecrat Party.
1950 - Television revolutionized the communications industry, as radio had done 30 years before. Iowa was served by TV from the first.
1955 - The NFO was founded to combat the age-old problem of low priced for farmers and a market system that was out of their control.
1958 - Dr. Van Allen, as a professor of astronomy and space science at the University of Iowa, led the nation in experiments involving the "space race".
1970 - Borlaug won the Nobel Prize for this work in promoting the "Green Revolution". He developed strains of disease-resistant wheat.
1976 - The Iowa caucuses change the form and substance of the choice of presidential candidates.
1989 - "Iowa - Eye To I" is a class through Iowa Wesleyan College. It involves immersement in things and people "Iowan", and includes lectures on general subjects, and bus travel to little-known places throughout the state.
1990 - Attorney General Campbell was the first woman to hold this executive office in Iowa.
1993 - Flooding causes more than $2 billion in damage
1995 - Through clerical oversight, the law adopting Iowa's flag was never officially enrolled. When this became known, the legislature quickly remedied the oversight.
1999 - Upon completing his 4th four-year term in office, Terry Branstad holds the record for most years as Iowa's governor, 16, breaking the former record held by his immediate predecessor, Robert Ray, 14 years. It was during the administration of Governor Ray that the term lengths were changed from 2 years to 4 years, although the first two governors of the State of Iowa also served 4 year terms.
21st Century Iowa History Timeline
2001 - Amtrak train derailment killed one, 90 injured
2002 - Six people, including four mail carriers, injured when mailbox bombs detonated
2006 - Nine Egyptian students who went missing were found and arrested in Des Moines
2010 - Lake Delhi Dam failed due to massive rain, forced residents to flee homes
2012 - China's next leader, Xi Jinping, visited home in Muscatine where he had been two decades ago
US History Overview
The word History comes from the Greek word historķa meaning "to learn or know by inquiry." History is not static. It's fluid. It changes and grows and becomes richer and more complex when any individual interacts with it.