Did You Know? 1839.

Laurel Summers – The Man Who Saved Iowa City.

Many people don’t realize how very close we came to not ever having an Iowa City, Iowa. It was in January 1839 in Burlington where one man’s vote made all the difference. 13 yea – 12 nay.

Without a doubt, this 1838-1839 Legislative Session had its moments of great tension. From the very beginning, Iowa’s new Territorial Governor – Robert Lucas – was at odds with the Territorial Secretary – William B. Conway. Conway, who was appointed by President Martin Van Buren, arrived on the scene in Burlington in July 1838. And in the weeks before Lucas arrived – August 15, 1838 – Conway took full authority as the “acting” governor, making many big decisions that Lucas had to reverse upon his arrival.

One of Lucas’ biggest decisions that caused much controversy during this first Legislative session was to announce that while Burlington would remain the Territorial capital for now – that chosen privilege would soon be given to a brand new city called Iowa City in Johnson County. Note here that Treasurer Conway was highly motivated to move things north to his Davenport home in Scott County, while other legislators were found politicking for their hometowns as well.

So, when it came down to the final vote, Governor Lucas’ plan won the day by one vote – 13-12! Here’s a tip of the old hat to Laurel Summers of Parkhurst, Iowa – Territorial Representative from Scott County – for voting in favor of making Iowa City the new capital city of Iowa!


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