Johnson County Historical Resources.

In truth, no man (or woman) is an island – we all build our life’s work on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. So it is with the writing of historical accounts about people, places, and events from Iowa City, Johnson County, and eastern-Iowa. For nearly two hundred years, those of us who write about our distant past must pull from the work that’s already been done by others.

As you peruse Our Iowa Heritage website, you’ll notice that, as we tell our stories, we try, whenever possible, to link you to as many on-line references as we possibly can – all located at the bottom of each post.

When it comes to researching the history of Johnson County, there are many wonderful resources that we’ve found invaluable to our work. Here on this post, I’d like to tip my hat to a few of those good folks who have gone before us, sharing twelve Johnson County historic gems, beginning with the earliest (1838) and then moving closer to today. So, here goes…

1838-1843 – The Journal of Cyrus Sanders. Fortunately, one of Johnson County’s earliest settlers, Cyrus Sanders, recorded his early adventures over a five-year period (1838-1843), in a journal – giving us a day-by-day account of one man’s trek from Ohio to Iowa. An amazing first-hand account for all Johnson County historians. Read more here.

Iowa City pioneer – F.M. Irish. Read more about him here.

1868 – Iowa City pioneer, F. M. Irish (1801-1875), was the first person to systematically write an eye-witness history of Johnson County. His article, History of Johnson County, was divided into four sections, first appearing in four consecutive volumes of the Annals of Iowa (1868).

History of Johnson County – Part 1, Iowa History of Johnson County, Iowa, F.M. Irish, The Annals of Iowa, Volume 1868 – Number 1, 1868, pp 23-31

History of Johnson County – Part 2, Iowa History of Johnson County, Iowa, F.M. Irish, The Annals of Iowa, Volume 1868 – Number 2, 1868, pp 105-120

History of Johnson County – Part 3, Iowa History of Johnson County, Iowa, F.M. Irish, The Annals of Iowa, Volume 1868 – Number 3, 1868, pp 191-215

History of Johnson County – Part 4, Iowa History of Johnson County, Iowa, F.M. Irish, The Annals of Iowa, Volume 1868 – Number 4, 1868, pp 302-328

1880 – Sketch of Johnson County – The Iowa City Board of Trade – this small 28-page booklet offers a great overview of early businesses and other biographical sketches.

This Internet Archive on-line version comes from a copy from the Newberry Library.

1883 – History of Johnson County, Iowa containing a History of the County and the Townships, Cities and Villages from 1836 to 1882 – Together with Biographical Sketches is, by far, is the weightiest volume on Johnson County history with 966 pages of Johnson County history. The editor/publisher is not listed anywhere in the book, but the preface credits the writings of famed Iowa Citians such as Henry Felkner, John P. Irish (son of F.M. Irish), S.C. Trowbridge, T.S. Parvin, Samuel Kirkwood, Samuel Calvin, and many others.

There is a dirty little story behind the publication of this massive 1883 volume, and it involves the writings of one of Johnson County’s earliest residents – Cyrus Sanders. Click here to read the juicy details.

This Internet Archive on-line version comes from a copy from the New York Public Library.

1893 – Iowa City – A Contribution to the Early History of IowaBenjamin F. Shambaugh (1871-1940) – This classic book by Shambaugh is the first of many books this SUI professor wrote over his 40 years of service. Click here to read more.

This Internet Archive on-line version comes from a copy from the University of California Libraries.

Portrait and Biographical Record of Johnson, Poweshiek and Iowa Counties, Iowa, Chapman Bros. – 1893.

1893 – Portrait and Biographical Record of Johnson, Poweshiek and Iowa Counties, Iowa contains biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens, also biographies of the presidents of the United States – 742 pages from 1893.

This Internet Archive on-line version comes from a copy from the Library of Congress.Click here for an alphabetical index.

1898-1922 – A Collection of 25 Yearbooks from the Johnson County Old Setters’ Association – In 1866, a handful of Johnson County pioneers gathered for a picnic where they reminisced about the early days. That group grew over the years and continued meeting until 1925, and beginning in 1898, published an annual reunion booklet. Here are twenty-five of those classic pieces.

This Internet Archive on-line collection of 25 different yearbooks comes from the Allen County Public Library.Click here for an alphabetical index.

1912-13 – Leading Events in Johnson County, Iowa – Volume 1 & 2 – Clarence Ray (C.R.) Aurner (1902-1930) – a huge collection of writings in two volumes, the second of which is purely biographical sketches.

1912 – Volume 1 – This Internet Archive on-line version comes from a copy from the New York Public Library.

1913 – Volume 2 – This Internet Archive on-line version comes from a copy from the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center.

1939 – The Old Stone Capitol Remembers – When Iowa City Was Young – Benjamin F. Shambaugh – Published in 1939, upon the one-hundredth anniversary of the founding of Iowa City, The Old Stone Capitol Remembers contains a huge collection of facts and figures, but more importantly, it includes many of the entertaining stories surrounding the history of Iowa City, Johnson County, The University of Iowa, and the Territory/State of Iowa. Click here to read more.

1973-1997 Irving Weber Writings (1900-1997) – In January 1973, when Weber was 72, The Iowa City Press Citizen began publishing his stories on local history on a weekly basis. Over the next 25 years, under the banner Irving Weber’s Iowa City, our community’s best-known historian published over 800 of his columns, half of which were then reprinted in eight volumes published by the Iowa City Lions Club. Click here to read more.

Review Irving Weber’s published material – thanks to the Johnson County IAGenWeb Project.

2001-2010 Bob Hibbs Writings (1941-2019) – Historian Bob Hibbs followed in the footsteps of Irving Weber, writing over 350 articles on a wide variety of Johnson County subjects and publishing them under his weekly “Saturday Postcards” by-line with The Iowa City Press-Citizen. His collection of Iowa City-themed postcards (3,200) made him the perfect author for the 2010 book from Arcadia Press. Read more here.

Review Bob Hibbs 90+ writings via his collection of turn-of-the-century penny-postcards hosted by the Johnson County IAGenWeb Project.

Marybeth Slonneger is long-time resident of Iowa City and author of five beautiful books focusing on Johnson County history: Remembrance ParkA Wildflower Park to Contemplate the Origins of Johnson County, Iowa (2022), Finials: A View of Downtown Iowa City (2015), Wetherby’s Gallery: Paintings, Daguerreotypes and Ambrotypes of an Artist (2012), The Burg: A Writers’ Diner (2011), Small But Ours: Images and Stories from a Nineteenth Century Bohemian Neighborhood (1999). Click here to read more.


Check out our Iowa Historian Hall of Fame.

Remembrance Park is the newest spot off Sand Road that offers a tip of the old hat to the diversity of the people who worked together during these early years in Johnson County history. Learn more here.

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

The Annals of Iowa, The State Historical Society of Iowa website

The Internet Archive website

Preserving Local History Is Truly A Community-Wide Effort, Bob Hibbs, Iowa City Press Citizen, May 19, 2007, p 17

The Johnson County IAGenWeb Project website


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