The 1860’s in Iowa City. In the 1860’s, photography has now become common-place. Thanks to Iowa City’s masterful artist – Isaac A. Wetherby – here’s some wonderful Iowa City shots taken during this turbulent decade.
1860 – Let’s Visit The State Fair! Six months before the outbreak of the Civil War, Iowa City played host to the Seventh Iowa State Far. While the autumn weather was a bit wet, still the crowds came – with over 8,000 attending The Trial of Speed – featuring Iowa’s three fastest stallions. Here’s a day-by-day review of all the activities from this exciting four-day event in October 1860.
The Bridges of Iowa City. The Iowa River played a major role in why Iowa City is where it is today. In the earliest years, crossing the river was no easy thing to accomplish. Here’s the story of how Iowa City became a City of Bridges – all beginning with the Burlington Street Bridge in 1860. FYI: This page was nominated as Page of the Year by The BridgeHunter’s Chronicles in 2021!
Samuel J. Kirkwood – Iowa’s Civil War Governor. After the Lincoln-Douglass debates changed American politics, gubernatorial candidates Samuel Kirkwood and Augustus Dodge crisscrossed Iowa debating the pros and cons of slavery. In 1860, Iowans chose rightly, sending Kirkwood to Des Moines, opening the door for a humble miller from Coralville to become Iowa’s famous Civil War Governor.
Iowa & The Underground Railroad. From the moment Iowa was first proposed to become the 29th State in the Union, the pressure was on the good people of The Hawkeye State to decide if we would be a northern state, siding with those against slavery, or join with our neighbors to the south, Missouri, which was a slave state. Iowa overwhelming supported freedom for all, thus becoming an important stop in The Underground Railroad.
Iowa & The Civil War – 1861-1865. As a ‘free state’ Iowans played a major role in the Civil War. Under the leadership of Iowa’s Civil War Governor – Samuel Kirkwood – Iowa offered 48 infantry regiments, 9 cavalry regiments and 4 batteries of artillery to the Union troops. The Hawkeye State also furnished one black regiment and one thousand replacement troops for the war effort between 1861 and 1865.
1862 – Seeking Iowa Civil War Promotions. Between 1861 and 1865, Iowa – with a total population of 674,913 in 1860 – provided 76,534 men to fight with the Union Army. In fact, Iowa contributed more troops per capita to the Union Army than any other state. Here’s the 1862 story of four brave Iowa soldiers who gave their all for the war effort, and in the end, were rewarded with promotions that led to major leadership roles later in life.
1863 – A Proclamation Of Thanksgiving Across America. On October 20, 1863 – in the midst of the great Civil War – President Abraham Lincoln issued a powerful statement from the White House – calling all Americans to stop on the last Thursday in November, be thankful, and remember the great abundance of “gracious gifts of the Most High God.” A good reminder for all of us, yet today.
Meet Four Iowa City Civil War Veterans. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, a unique group of four young Iowa Citians enlisted for the Union Army: two Pritchard brothers – James E. & John N., and two good friends of the Pritchards – John C. Rutan and William W. Kirkwood. Fortunately, we have three of their postal covers and two personal letters written during the war years – letters that offer us amazing insight into both their personal lives and turbulent times in which they lived.
Mattie & Me – Iowa City’s A.B. Cree. When it comes to Civil War letters, there’s no one like Iowa City’s Alfred B. Cree and his collection of letters to “the one I love best” – Mrs. A.B. Cree – or Mattie – for short. From 1862-1865, Captain Cree faithfully wrote back home as his regiment trekked across the south from Texas to New Orleans, from Tennessee to North Carolina and Virginia, finally mustering out in Savannah, Georgia in July 1865.
The Great American Postage Stamp Exchange Of 1861. After the Civil War broke out in April 1861, the U.S. Postal Service was concerned that rebels in the Confederate States would sell their U.S. postage stamps back to northerners – thus providing funding for the South. By mid-year, a whole new set of U.S. stamps was issued with strict instructions for postmasters in the North to make the transition from old to new within a six-day window. Obviously, with communication and transportation issues slowing things down, this Great American Postage Stamp Exchange of 1861 had a few hiccups along the way!
Iowa City’s Civil War Postmaster – J.R. Hartsock. During the Civil War, moving mail quickly across the nation was a high priority. Here in Iowa City, we had a dedicated postmaster who took this job seriously, and in the process, won over the hearts of Iowa Citians. Upon his retirement in 1872, the new building/hotel on the southeast corner of Clinton Street & Iowa Avenue was named after him.
Major Ira J. Alder – The Hundred-Day Civil War Veteran. In 1864, the North desperately needed more man-power. President Lincoln approved a recruitment idea that added over 80,000 men to the war effort, asking each man for a 100-day commitment. SUI student, Ira Alder was one of those young men who served his country and then returned to Iowa City, being called The Major until his death in 1922.
Henry County’s Newspaperman, Statesman & Civil War Hero. Here’s a salute to Samuel McFarland, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa’s Civil War hero who also played a big part in the history of Iowa City as it transitioned from State Capitol to Home of the University of Iowa.
Gustavus D. Hinrichs – SUI’s Own Dr. Derecho. In 1863, this Danish-born chemist – fluent in seven languages – arrived in Iowa City and over the next 23 years made SUI’s science and chemistry department into a world-renowned program. A brilliant mind, Hinrichs researched and published in a wide variety of sciences, including physics, astronomy, geology, and meteorology, yet it was his stormy personality that makes his story so memorable.
A Rocky Mountain Mayor with Strong Iowa Roots. Here’s yet another story of one Iowa farm boy who risked it all in the Civil War and then took advantage of free land in Kansas, eventually becoming the mayor of Great Bend, Kansas and then Colorado Springs!
All Aboard Iowa RPO’s. As railroads became the fastest and most efficient way to move both freight and people, so the United States Postal System wisely used the rails to get mail across the country. RPO’s (Railway Postal Offices) were the mobile offices that made it all happen.
St. Agatha’s of Iowa City – Breaking The Glass Ceiling. In 1861, Mary Haberstroh donated one of her late husband’s prime properties, The Park House, to the Sisters of Charity (BVM), with the condition of it being transformed into a cutting-edge educational haven for women. Over the next fifty years (1862-1911), St. Agatha’s School/Seminary joined the State University of Iowa (SUI) in making Iowa City into one of the most opportune places in the nation when it came to attaining equality in education for women.
Clark + Clark + Cole = Equality in Education. Did you know that the Iowa Supreme Court outlawed segregated schools in 1868 – eighty-six years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education in 1954? Thanks to Muscatine’s Alexander Clark and his 12-year-old daughter Susan, working alongside Judge Chester C. Cole, the color barrier was broken, placing the Hawkeye State on the cutting edge of the civil rights movement.
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