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Iowa in the 19th century


Rivers Mississippi in Iowa
Rivers Mississippi in Iowa

The white population of Iowa increased rapidly from fewer than 100 settlers before 1832. Organized as a U.S. territory in 1838, the region attracted small farmers drawn by reports of fertile land. The same year Robert Lucas, a Democrat and former governor of Ohio, was appointed the first governor of the Iowa Territory. The 1840 census recorded about 40,000 residents, located primarily within 80 km (50 mi) of the Mississippi River. Burlington was the first territorial capital, but as more people settled in the central part of the territory, the capital was moved to Iowa City.

Despite the support of Lucas, Iowa voters, unwilling to bear the cost of state government, twice rejected proposals to become a state. After some argument with the Congress of the United States about the proper location of the state boundaries, however, voters approved a state constitution, and Iowa became the 29th state of the union on December 28, 1846. The population grew rapidly in the decade following statehood, climbing to 192,214 by 1850. New settlers spread across the newly opened prairies, migrating in large numbers from the Ohio River valley, the states of the Upper South, and Missouri. In addition, millions of immigrants who fled the revolutions and famines in Europe searched for cheap farmland in the Midwest. Germans were the largest single ethnic group in Iowa, followed by the Irish. Agriculture was the primary occupation, and farming was a family enterprise. The birth rate was extremely high. In 1860, when the population was more than triple the number of a decade earlier, nearly one Iowan in two was under the age of ten.

Potatoes, wheat, and corn were the three most important crops in the first decades of statehood. The potatoes were consumed on the farms. Settlers ate some of their wheat, milled the surplus, and sent the flour down the Mississippi to St. Louis and New Orleans to be sold. Corn was fed to livestock and the meat sold. Many sawmills were built along the Mississippi to cut logs from the forests of Wisconsin and Minnesota into lumber for the farmers settling on the treeless prairies. Some made fortunes in the lumber industry in the river cities of Dubuque, Clinton, and Davenport. "Iowa" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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