Our Iowa Heritage Index: 1832-1837 – Johnson County.

As you can see, our growing website Our Iowa Heritage covers a lot of time (pre-1800 to the present) and a lot of people. We’ve written about famous people and the not-so-famous ones as well. Yet, despite a person’s prominence (or lack of it), everybody has a story. And as you read our posts, you’ll hopefully discover that everyone’s story is a good one. So, in order to better find these good stories and details surrounding them, we’ve added this INDEX of HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS to help you along the way. Enjoy your journey.

Our Iowa Heritage: An Introduction. We might suggest you start here! Here’s how & why I got started collecting stamps, coins, and other Iowa memorabilia.

Chief Poweshiek – The Roused Brown Bear. During a very volatile time in Iowa history (1830-1854), the Meskwaki Tribal Chief Poweshiek did a masterful job of maintaining peace yet never sacrificing his strong principles, believing that all men should live in freedom. Read the story behind this brave warrior who loved his people and cherished the Iowa River valley, the place we now call Johnson County, Iowa.

The Story of Napoleon, Iowa – 1832-1839. In 1832, Stephen “Sumner” Phelps, fur trader, canoed his way up the Iowa River until he found a nice valley where he could develop a trading relationship with the local natives. In 1835, John Gilbert, a New Yorker, took up where Phelps left off, and within a year or two, a new town sprung up. Read more about this short-lived, Johnson County community named after a French dictator and its sudden demise.

Stephen Sumner Phelps – The Original Iowa Hawkeye. Fur traders were the first European pioneers to travel up the unchartered inland waters of the Mississippi River. One entrepreneur from Illinois, who had a striking resemblance to another man from the Prairie State (can you guess who?) set foot in 1832 in what would soon become Johnson County, establishing trade with the Meskwaki tribes living on the Iowa River.

Will The Real John Gilbert – Please Stand Up? Over the years, John Gilbert has been heralded as the first white man to set foot in Johnson County and the first man to build a trading house here. Yet, there’s a dirty little secret we must tell you. Not only didn’t John Gilbert do these things, his real name was actually John W. Prentice! Come read the rest of the true Gilbert/Prentice story here.

1820’s/1830’s – Phelps vs. Gilbert Join us for an in-depth look at the burning question: Who came first to Johnson County – Sumner Phelps or John Gilbert? And when? For Iowa City historians, this just might be the ultimate who-done-it! And find out why it all matters!

Courting Johnson County. In December 1837, Johnson County – Iowa District – Wisconsin Territory came into existence. Within a year, Iowa became a territory and the first county court house was built – the first of four over the last 180+ years. Follow the story with us, as we move from Napoleon to Iowa City, ending up today with a whole new Johnson namesake.

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