The 1860’s in Iowa City.

1868 – A Bird’s Eye View of Iowa City by A. Ruger, Chicago Lithographing Co.
Click here for more early maps of Iowa City.

In 1860, Iowa City was entering into her third decade and the growth of our city – from 1850 to 1860 – was quite amazing. 1,250 souls in 1850 – expanding to 5,214 by 1860!

Fortunately, much of this expansive growth was documented by Isaac A. Wetherby – who arrived here in 1854, making his living via the new technology called photography. Read more here.

Isaac Wetherby was the first to photograph such architecturally important sites as the Old Stone Capitol (1854) and historic Clinton Street (1854), and his photographs are invaluable to a full appreciation of Iowa City’s early history. Click here to read more about Issac Wetherby.

Allow me, now, to show you some of…

1860ClintonStreet
1860’s Clinton Street w/ fenced University Square on the left.
Click here to read more about Clinton Street in the 1860’s.
1865 Washington Street in Iowa City
The Hawkeye Auction Store on Clinton Street – circa 1860’s
Late 1860’s – University Square – Old Capitol and North Hall.
1-1866-pentacrest copy
The SUI campus – circa 1860’s
Circa 1860’s – Mechanics Academy – the birthplace of SUI.
1869pentecrest
University Square circa 1869
1869-pentacrest
1861statejournal3
(L-0005) an excerpt from a 1861 publication – featuring Iowa City, Iowa

While the State University of Iowa was formed in 1847, it really wasn’t until the early 1860’s when SUI became a fully-functioning university working with students from around the state of Iowa. That transition began in earnest in 1857 when the Iowa state government left for Des Moines, leaving the capitol building open for university purposes.

Two key buildings opened on University Square in the early 1860’s. South Hall (below left) opened in 1861 and served as a student dormitory for five years (1861-1866), and was then remodeled for classroom use, becoming the host to the majority of the University departments. North Hall (below right) opened in 1866 and served the university for numerous purposes until 1949.

1863-pentacrest
While the notation states 1863 – this etching of University Square was more likely produced after 1865.
(C-0207-C-0210) These four rare covers are addressed to David Newton Heizer of Kossuth, Iowa. All postmarked in Iowa City between 1865 and 1871, one is from a cousin while Heizer is serving in the Civil War (via Cairo, IL). The other three are addressed to him after returning home, while taking classes at SUI. Click here to read more.
April 19, 1865 – Old Capitol draped in black as mourners gather to remember President Abraham Lincoln. Click here to read more about this iconic moment of mourning…
(C-0213) This rare 1860 cover is addressed to Mrs. Caroline or Solomon Riley in Iowa City and includes the oldest U.S. postage stamp in our collection (US #11a). The letter is postmarked August 11, 1860 in Chillicothe, Ohio and is, most likely, from family back home.

Solomon H. Riley was born July 11, 1828 near Chillicothe (Ross County), Ohio and Caroline M. Welsh was born there on February 7, 1836. They were married in 1852 in Chillicothe. Above are both Solomon’s and Caroline’s obituaries, which give us a good amount of detail about these two early Iowa City pioneers and their lives together. At age 22, Solomon Riley came to Johnson County, walking here from central Ohio, and settling (September 20, 1850) on farmland, that is today, Coralville. Two years later (Spring 1852), he returned to Chillicothe to marry his bride, Caroline M. Welsh (age 16), only to immediately bring a wagon-load of belongings, settling in Madison Township (near North Liberty) and living here until 1882, when health issues made them relocate into Iowa City. Apparently there were two children, Josephine Melissa (Raper) (1853-1935), and an adopted son, Carl Hanson (dates unknown). Solomon died at age 72 on August 7, 1900. Caroline M. (Welsh) Riley lived another 26 years after Solomon died passing on September 3, 1926, at age 90. From Caroline’s obit it appears that she returned to Ohio sometime between 1852 and 1857, most likely, to care for aging family. She returned to Iowa in 1857 where they spent the remainder of their time together in Johnson County. Suffice to say, both Solomon and Caroline were, as his obit states, “noble old pioneers who made the west, (both) of simple life and transparent character. Solomon and Caroline Riley are buried in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City.


Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Map – Bird’s Eye View of Iowa City, A. Ruger, Chicago Lithograph Co., 1868

Population History for Iowa’s 25 Largest Cites: 1850‐2010

Iowa As It Is – A Gazetteer for Citizens and Handbook for Immigrants, N. Howe Parker, 1855

Solomon H. Riley, Find-A-Grave

Caroline M. (Welsh) Riley, Find-A-Grave

Caroline M. (Welsh) Riley, My Heritage

Samuel J. Kirkwood, Wikipedia


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