1850’s – Meet Some New Iowa City Friends.

Read more about this huge influx of new settlers in the 1850’s here.

As Iowa City stepped into the 1850’s, the Hawkeye State was growing like a weed. The editor of the Keokuk Whig addresses this amazing growth…

STILL THEY COME! By railways and steamers, the flood of immigration continues pouring into the great West. The lake-shore roads are crowded to their utmost capacity; single trains of fourteen or fifteen cars, all full of men, women, and a large sprinkling of children, are almost daily arriving at Chicago. The Ohio River steamers are crowded in the same way. On Friday last, two steamers brought into St. Louis some 600 passengers; most of whom, being destined for the northwest, have already passed through this place. And still they come, from Pennsylvania, from Ohio, Indiana, and other States, until, by the size of this exodus, that of the Israelites becomes an insignificant item, and the greater migrations of later times are scarcely to be mentioned. Whether the older States are suffering by this rapid depletion, or how long they can endure it, is their own look-out. Certain it is that Iowa in particular,and the other Western and Northwestern States generally are rapidly filling up with a hardy, industrious and wealth-producing population. Let them come! Here is room, and to spare! Here is a theatre for human operations on the grandest scale! Here is the place for the young man, just starting out in life, for the old man, seeking to provide for his children, for all sorts of men, in search of fortune, fame, or wealth; for anyone, also, who has an eye and a soul for Nature in her grandest forms of lavish profusion and splendid magnificence.

Click on the links to see Iowa City sketches by George Yewell and photographs by Isaac Wetherby from the 1850’s.

Here are just a few letters to and from folks in Iowa City during the 1850’s…

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(C-0026) Circa 1855 – A letter to H.W. Reynolds – postmarked December 8 in Iowa City.
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(C-0027) Circa 1855 – A stamp-less letter to Dr. Dwight Carlos Dewey, postmarked in Iowa City on September 29. Dewey was born December 17, 1824 in Turin, New York. In 1849, he went to medical school in Buffalo, New York, where he attended lectures by Austin Flint and Corydon La Ford, two of the most renowned doctors of their time. In 1855, Dwight Dewey moved his practice from New York Mills, New York, to Keokuk, Iowa, and later to Iowa City. He accepted a post as assistant physician at the newly established Iowa Mental Hospital in Mt. Pleasant in March 1861, and stayed until 1865, when he moved to Washington, D.C. He practiced there for a brief time before returning to Turin, New York. Dewey married Mary Hart on October 20, 1868. He died in Turin, New York, in 1875. Read more about “stamp-less” mail and how postage rates were determined.

(C-0028) Circa 1856 This decorative letter addressed to William F. Johnston, Esq. in Iowa Cityhand-postmarked in Blue Earth City Township in Faribault County, Minnesota. Born in Mt. Pleasant, PA in 1833, William F. Johnston learned the trade of carpentering from his father and pursued that business for several years. He then took up merchandising and for two years was employed as a salesman in his native town. In 1856, accompanied by two companions, he started Westward to Portage City, Wisconsin. After a few months, however, they left Portage, with one going to Minnesota (the author of our letter?), and the other two to Iowa. At Iowa City, Johnston was offered a clerkship in a store, but concluded that advancement in that position would not be very rapid so returned to his trade, working for $2 per day, his tools being furnished him by the contractors. In the fall he again began clerking, continuing that business until 1858, when he came to Toledo (Tama County) where he became a very highly respected member of the community.

(C-0029) This letter postmarked November 21, 1859 – from “Mother” Catherine Paxson Darlington – in West Chester, PA., is addressed to Stephen P. Darlington, Iowa City, Iowa. The latter “arrived November 24, 1859” and was “answered November 27.” Stephen Paxson Darlington (1836-1915) was born in Chester County, PA, and relocated to Iowa City, with wife Josephine Lewis Darlington (1836-1910) where they had 3 children. In September 1868, cousins invited him back to West Chester where he became a partner of Hoopes Brothers & Darlington Wheel Works. Both Stephen and Josephine are buried in Oaklands Cemetery in West Chester, PA.


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