Did You Know? May 4, 1839 – Happy Birthday, Iowa City!

Happy Birthday – Iowa City!

On May 1, 1839, two appointed-commissioners – Chauncey Swan and Robert Ronalds – met in John Gilbert’s trading house in Napoleon (Johnson County, Iowa) to “officially” begin the search for the best location for Iowa’s new capital city. The next day, May 2, 1839, the search began, ending two days later – May 4, 1839 – on a rolling hillside overlooking the Iowa River, just about two miles north of Napoleon. One writer states that the commissioners described the wooded site as “shaped like an amphitheater.”

On that day, a small ceremony was held in that “amphitheater” with a surveyor’s stake or wooden slab (see pic above) being driven into the ground. According to Swan’s records, the official location was…

Section Ten, Township Seventy-Nine North, Range Six West of the Fifth Principal Meridian.

Today, we call that same spot – Old Capitol on the University of Iowa Pentacrest!

So on this day – May 4, 1839 – the City of Iowa City was born!


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