In 1837, a lawyer from New York made his way to Burlington, just in time for the explosive growth surrounding Iowa’s new Territorial capital. Over the first year, Charles T. Mason – who was appointed as Iowa’s first Chief Justice – and his two fellow judges – Joseph Williams of Bloomington and Thomas S. Wilson from Dubuque – traveled extensively around the counties of Iowa, overseeing court proceedings as needed. But during the early summer of 1839, a civic case was brewing, and it all exploded in early July, culminating in this new Supreme Court’s very first assignment. The case was entitled: In the matter of Ralph (a colored man), on Habeas Corpus, and it focused on a Missouri farmer and the ownership issue surrounding his slave, Ralph, who was living and working in Dubuque. On the afternoon of July 4, 1839 – Independence Day – the huge decision was announced. Judge George T. Mason, along with his two fellow judges, ruled that Ralph, the 44-year old slave from Missouri, was now a free man – a decision that truly bolstered the abolitionist, anti-slavery movement across Iowa for years to come.
CHECK OUT THE COMPLETE BLOG SERIES – Iowa City’s Top 50 Influencers – Part I
Back in 1979 – The Iowa City Press Citizen ran a special seven-page section called Chronology 1841/1979 and it featured Iowa City’s famed historian – Irving Weber – and his look at 25 People Who Left Their Stamp On Iowa City. So, here we are – forty-four years later – and now, I’m offering these two posts – dedicated to those who have greatly influenced our city over the first 100 years or so. This page features the First 25, and as you can see, each of the 25 names has a brief overview with a link(s) to read more, if you like. Enjoy!
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