On Dec. 14, 1838, Governor Lucas approved a law requiring the establishment of a road from Keokuk (in southeast Iowa) to, the soon to be announced capital, Iowa City. On December 31, U.S. Congress passed a bill appropriating $20,000 for Iowa’s first “Military Road,” requiring it to pass through as many county seats as practical. President Martin Van Buren, on March 3, 1839, signed the bill into law and Iowa’s Military Road was underway: one north/south road stretching from the mining and river town of Dubuque in the north to Keosauqua, near the Missouri border on the south.
While originally called Iowa’s Military Road, it was rarely used as such, and soon became better known as The National Road, part of the well-worn trail used by thousands to go west between 1840 and 1856 (when the railroad finally reached Iowa City). When completed in 1840, Iowa’s National Road passed through the cities of Dubuque, Cascade, Monticello, Solon, Iowa City, Ainsworth, Crawfordsville, Mount Pleasant, Hillsboro and Keosauqua – nearly 200 miles in length, making it the longest continuous furrow in the world at the time.
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