Our Iowa Heritage Index: 1855-1859.

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.

1855-1860 – Everything’s ‘Normal’ in Iowa City.  In February 1847 the State Legislature approved the recommendation that the State of Iowa sponsor a new University. Yet, nothing much happened in Iowa City until 1855 – and even then, only the Normal School was finding any success at all. From 1855 to 1860, it was the SUI Normal Department that literally kept this fledgling university alive. Come find out what ‘normal’ was at SUI.

D.F. Wells – It Is Well With SUI. When SUI began classes in 1855, it was only the Normal School that kept the university afloat. Behind this success story was one young man – D. Franklin Wells – who literally gave his life for the advancement of state-supported public education across Iowa. Come meet Professor Wells – the teacher from Muscatine who started the Iowa State Teacher’s Association and so much more.

Iowa City’s Banking Corner. Throughout most of the 1850’s, Iowa City was prospering just as the nation was prospering. In 1854, Iowa City’s first regional bank opened – Cook, Sargent & Downey – on the corner of Clinton & Washington Streets. In 1856, their new three-story Bank House opened and things were looking rosy. But the Panic of 1857 suddenly hit, and now, the bloom was off the vine.

Josias & Christiana Ritter – Iowa City Church Planters. In 1856, the good people of German Lutheran heritage in Iowa City decided they wanted a church community to call their own. They summoned a German man from Strümpfelbach to help them and over the next two years the church that became Zion Lutheran in Iowa City had its humble beginnings. Our 1857 Letter: Marie Strübel in Germany to Nannie (Christiana) Ritter in Iowa City.

Johann F. Doescher – Breaking Down Walls That Divide. This story is the second in the triad – Ritter, Wehrs, and Doescher: three German-born pastors who all came to Iowa City for a short time, establishing in one decade (1856-1866) the solid foundation of Zion’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church, which later became Zion Lutheran in Iowa City. Maybe the most inspiring story belongs to Johann Doescher, a young man with a true heart to care for souls, regardless of one’s ethnic or racial background.

Heinrich Wehrs – Iowa City’s Frontier Pastor. After Pastors Josias Ritter and Johann Doescher got the German Lutheran church in Iowa City established (1856-1862), others came to build on what God started. Fellow German pastor, Henirich Wehrs, came to town in 1862, becoming a circuit-rider, traveling a 200-mile ministry circle near Iowa City before settling in as pastor of Zion Lutheran from 1863-1866.

William Penn Clarke – Iowa City’s Abolitionist. In the 1840’s, a passionate abolitionist arrived in Iowa City, and immediately went to work spreading the word of freedom, writing many editorials for The Iowa Standard newspaper. A leader of the Free Soil Party in Iowa, W. P. Clarke became a personal supporter of John Brown, hosting the bold abolitionist on his many trips through Iowa (1854-1859). Active with The Underground Railroad across Iowa, this “Wide-Awake” lawyer was instrumental in transitioning the Whig Party into the Republican Party that nominated Abraham Lincoln for President in 1860.

George D. Woodin & The Lane Trail. In the 1850’s the anti-slavery movement was gaining momentum, and Iowa was strategically located to be right in the midst of the battle. When Kansas Territory opened up, John Brown and many others needed the help of compassionate Iowans to help organize The Underground Railroad. George D. Woodin, from Iowa City, working alongside W.P. Clarke, was one of those Iowans.

1856 – Go West, Young Doctor, Go West. When Iowa became the 29th State in the Union, it was the place young entrepreneurs back East dreamed of. Here is the fascinating story of one of those dreamers, a doctor from Massachusetts, who ended up coming to Lyons, Iowa, in 1856 and serving as a surgeon during the Civil War.

Iowa City – Here Comes The Railroad! On January 1, 1856, Iowa City changed forever. The long-awaited M&M railroad finally arrived in town. Now everything, including the way we send and receive communication with others, suddenly took a huge step forward. The Iron Horse had arrived! Come read the full story – all aboard!

Let The City-Wide Celebration Begin: 1856. Two days after the M&M Railroad completed their track into Iowa City, a party to end all parties was held in the Old Stone Capitol. Seven train coaches rolled into town on January 3rd, filled with bigwigs from back East, and while the temperatures were cold enough to keep everybody home, the whole town turned out for Iowa City’s Grand Railroad Festival.

1856 – Bridging The Father Of Waters. In January 1856, the M&M Railroad rolled into Iowa City from Davenport, but it wasn’t until April when the final link of our railroad connection to the East was complete. On April 22, 1856, the very first railroad bridge over the Mississippi River opened, and now, the people of eastern Iowa could travel non-stop – reaching New York City by rail in no more than forty-two hours!

The Rock Island Iowa City Depot. In preparation for the coming of the railroad, the good people of Iowa City built a small depot at the south end of Johnson Street. While there are no known pictures of this depot, it faithfully served Iowa Citians until 1898, when it was replaced by the Rock Island depot that still stands today.

Riding The Five Rails Of Iowa City. Over a 120-year period (1850-1970) there were five different railway systems that attempted to serve the good people of Iowa City with passenger rail service. Today – there is none. Come reminisce with us as we review the amazing stories behind these five railways from our past.

Johnson County’s Own – Amish, Iowa. Between 1850 and 1880, the little Amish/Mennonite community of Amish, or as it is also called – Joetown – was the center of commerce for Washington Township in Johnson County. But, when the railroad came in – 5 miles south of town – Kalona took off, leaving Amish in the dust. Come read the story of C.C. Yoder – proprietor of Amish’s Dry Goods Store during the latter part of the 19th century.

Samuel D. Guengerich – Amish’s School Master. In 1846, Daniel & Susanna (Miller) Guengerich became the first farmers to settle in Washington Township of Johnson County. Their oldest son, Samuel, committed himself to becoming a teacher and between 1865 and 1925, he became one of the best-known Amish-Mennonite educators in the U.S. A writer, editor, and publisher, Guengerich dedicated his life to God and served others faithfully – all from his humble home in Amish, Iowa.

1857 – A Capitol Moving Day. From day one of statehood in 1846, there were those who wanted to see Iowa’s capital moved westward. Finally, in 1857, a deal was cut. The capitol would go to Des Moines while the university was exclusively secured for Iowa City. As one newspaper writer quipped, “Des Moines can have the politicians, we’ll take the professors!” Come read this “moving” story.

The Great Iowa City Tornado Of 1859. Around 6 pm, on Tuesday, May 24, the sky darkened around Iowa City. Soon, a devastating tornado swept across the south edge of the city, leaving a swath of destruction – homes destroyed, crops obliterated, dozens injured, and five dead. The next day, Isaac A. Wetherby – Iowa City’s finest photographer and artist – toured the area, producing both a news story and corresponding wood engravings that took the story to a national audience – appearing in the popular publication, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

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