Zebulon Pike & His Dam’d Rascals. In August of 1805, Lieutenant Zeb Pike and his band of twenty men – his Dam’d Rascals – left St. Louis to explore the Upper Mississippi Valley. Along the way, he made peace with those Native Americans he met, charting out for future settlers, the rivers on which many Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin cities will be built.
Dubuque & The West 1788-1838. Julien Dubuque set up camp on the Big River, making friendships with the Native Americans he found there. His lead mines led to big changes for this territory known as Iowa.
Alexander Levi – Dubuque’s Man Of Firsts. In 1833, Iowa’s first Jewish settler found a new home in Dubuque. Over the next sixty years, Alexander and Minette Levi set many firsts – 1) their daughter was the first Jewish child born in Iowa (1848), 2) they became founding members of Iowa’s first synagogue (1856), 3) A Frenchmen, Alexander became the first foreigner naturalized (U.S. citizenship) in Iowa (1837); all while becoming one of Dubuque’s most highly-respected couples.
John Plumbe, Jr. – Engineering a Railroad to the Moon. In 1836, a visionary came to Dubuque, believing the best future for America would be achieved thru a coast-to-coast railway system. His first step was to convince Congress to finance a set of tracks from the shores of Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. But in 1838, legislators just weren’t buying it, telling Plumbe that it would be easier to convince people to build a railroad to the moon! Too bad no one believed him…because his dream was fulfilled by 1869.
C.H. Booth – The Grand Old Man Of Dubuque. Arriving in The Key City just as Iowa was transitioning from Michigan to Wisconsin Territory (1836), Booth struck it rich with one of the largest lead-mining discoveries in Dubuque’s history. He used that money to invest in his city, becoming The Grand Old Man of Dubuque during his 62 years of service to his beloved community.
G.D. & Mary Dillon – Iowa’s Banking Pioneers. By 1837, Gilbert D. Dillon and his wife, Mary, had settled in Dubuque, and by that fall, G.D. had gathered a team of investors, becoming cashier of Iowa’s first banking institution – Miners Bank of Dubuque. After a falling out with the bank president over questionable business practices, Dillon moved on to Delaware County – becoming one of its first settlers and the county’s first Justice of the Peace.
Lyman Dillon – Plowing the Straight & Narrow. When Iowa became a U.S. Territory in 1838, transportation options were very primitive. Governor Lucas asked the U.S. Senate to fund a Military Road running the length of the Territory from Dubuque to the Missouri border. After surveying the land, Lyman Dillon, a farmer from Cascade, was hired to take his team of five oxen and plow up a furrow from Dubuque to Iowa City (86 miles). Get the straight story here!
John F. Rague – Creator Of A Classic. In 1839, a $46,000 contract was let to the architect who designed the state capitol building in Springfield, Illinois. A friend of Lincoln’s, John F. Rague took the offer, designed our capitol, but left nine days after the cornerstone was laid. Come read the full story of this creative craftsman who ended up becoming Dubuque’s most renowned architect.
Ralph + Wilson + Mason = The Road To Freedom. Did you know that Chief Justice Charles T. Mason, along with his fellow judges Joseph Williams and Thomas S. Wilson, ruled, in the Case of Ralph vs. Montgomery – 1839, that under the Missouri Compromise of 1820, slavery in Iowa Territory was “forever prohibited?” This impressive anti-slavery decision on July 4, 1839 not only freed Ralph Montgomery of Dubuque, but it set a precedent for all future decisions in our state’s court system.
T. S. Wilson – Dubuque’s Good Neighbor. In 1836, Thomas S. Wilson flipped a silver dollar and wound up settling in Dubuque, Iowa (vs. Mineral Point, Wisconsin). Over the next fifty-eight years, Judge Wilson became a very good neighbor to his fellow citizens, defending them in several monumental court cases that are remembered even to today. All Iowans need to celebrate the winning of that Iowa/Wisconsin coin toss!
Recommending John W. Finley – Dubuque’s Good Doctor. Coming to Dubuque in 1836, Doc Finley – Iowa’s frontier doctor – became the city’s first general surgeon, and the second permanent physician in Iowa Territory, often traveling by horseback over fifty miles to help outlying settlements. Leaving a forty-year legacy in medicine and education in The Key City, today’s Unity Point Finley Hospital is named for the good doctor from Charlotte, North Carolina.
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.
Iowa Celebrates Three Sesquicentennials. It’s time to celebrate the 150th anniversaries of Iowa Territory (1838-1988), Iowa City (1839-1989) and Iowa Statehood (1846-1996). Grant Wood’s Young Corn was chosen to grace the USPS commemorative celebrating this year-long Iowa Statehood party (1995-1996).