Iowa City Stage Ready – 1840-1870. When Iowa City was established as Iowa’s new territorial capital, the priority was getting accessible transportation in and out of Johnson County. With the Iowa River too unpredictable for riverboats, stagecoaches were the wave of the future. Thus, between 1840 and 1870, the stagecoach business was a-rolling all over the Hawkeye State, with Iowa City being right in the center of the action.
H. D. Downey – Iowa City Esquire. Talk about your mover-and-shaker. This 21-year old Pennsylvania native came to Iowa City in 1840, and before he was done (dying at age 48), he became our first lawyer, first banker, a real estate mogul, state representative, and the man who helped steer the M&M Railroad to Iowa City in 1856.
Iowa Newspapers – The Early Years. Between 1836 and 1860, over 200 newspapers sprung up in this new land called Iowa. Yet by 1860, over half of those small-town weeklies had crashed and burned. Come read the stories of these earliest days of Iowa newspapers, from Dubuque to Burlington to Iowa City.
The Iowa City Newspaper Wars. In 1841, two young entrepreneurs came to town, going head-to-head as they published Iowa City’s first two newspapers. William Crum and his Iowa CityStandard vs. Thomas Hughes and his Iowa Capital Reporter. While neither man stayed with their newspapers long term, both greatly influenced the early history of our fair city.
Walter Butler – A True Servant’s Heart. In 1841, the new capitol building in Iowa City is far from completion, but the Iowa Territorial Legislature in Burlington states they’ll meet in Iowa City in December if there is free meeting space. To the rescue – Walter Butler – a good man with a generous heart, and some amazing carpentry and construction skills!
When Old Capitol Was The New Capitol: 1841-1857. Today, we’re so used to using the term, Old Capitol, we forget that, at one time, this beautiful iconic building that’s become the symbol of one great university was once the new capitol building of the new State of Iowa. Join us for a look back to the days when Old Cap was the New Cap sitting on Capitol Square.
Gilman Folsom – Crossing The Iowa River. In Iowa City’s earliest days, crossing over the Iowa River was no easy task. Several flatbed ferry boats came into service in the 1840’s, but thanks to Gilman Folsom, a lawyer from New Hampshire, the first toll bridge was constructed, connecting both sides of the river on the National Road – which today is the Iowa Avenue Bridge.
Letters To Gilman Folsom – Iowa City Pioneer. In 1841, a 23-year old adventurer, left his familiar surroundings of New Hampshire to become a lawyer in the new territory of Iowa. He settled in Iowa City, married, and left a legacy that “bridges” even to today. But his first few years here were not the easiest and certainly, his family back home worried about him immensely.
Walter Terrell & His Waterworks. In 1843, an entrepreneur named Terrell came to Iowa City and built a dam and grist mill on the Iowa River, just north of Iowa City. Over the next 40 years, the Terrell Mill provided area farmers with an invaluable service while making him and his family quite wealthy.
Steamboat’s A-Comin’ – Maybe? Before the railroad reached Iowa City in 1856, there was great hope that the Iowa River would support steamboat travel as a way to import and export goods. During the 1840’s and 50’s, a few came rolling into town, but sadly, by the 1860’s, this grand idea sank like a stone since the river just didn’t have the consistent depth needed to sustain this enterprise.
Iowa City – April 1843 – The Letter Back Home. In April 1843, Edward Eastman wrote a one-page letter to his uncle – Moses Eastman – the postmaster back in Salisbury, New Hampshire. In his short letter, he talks about the long, hard Iowa winter that refuses to quit, the Great Comet of 1843, and gives his uncle all the traveling details for those back home who are seriously considering taking the Oregon Trail westward into the great unknown.
1844 – The Drive to Statehood. In 1844, there was a concentrated effort in Iowa to attain U.S. Statehood. Those efforts included a Territorial census and a proposed re-alignment of state boundaries. Political controversy abounded and fortunately, this premature drive for statehood failed, lest we be left with an Iowa map no one would recognize today.
The Bells of Iowa City. In 1845, a small bell was hung in the belfry of a Presbyterian church on Burlington Street, becoming the first permanent bell in our fair city. In 1855, SUI purchased that same 125-pound bell, placing it in the Mechanics Academy to call students to class. Over the next 150 years, other bells, including three different ones in Old Capitol, have made history, but when it’s all said and done, The Little SUI Bell That Just Keeps Ringing has the most interesting story of all.
Judge Williams & Legal Troubles in Bloomington. On February 10, 1845, the Clerk of the District Court, Johnson County, Iowa Territory – working on behalf of Judge Joseph Williams – wrote to the Sheriff of Bloomington, Iowa (Muscatine) asking for his help in a land dispute. Written from his desk in the Old Stone Capitol, this stamp-less letter provides a wonderful look at life in the Territory of Iowa.