Our Iowa Heritage: The 1860’s in Iowa City.

1868 – A Bird’s Eye View of Iowa City by A. Ruger, Chicago Lithographing Co.
Click here for more early maps of Iowa City.
1-1866-pentacrest copy
1860 Wetherby photo. (Click here to read more about Issac Wetherby)
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1860’s Clinton Street w/ fenced University Square on the left.
Click here to read more about Clinton Street in the 1860’s.
(C-0213) This rare 1860 cover is addressed to Caroline or Solomon Riley in Iowa City and includes the oldest US postage stamp in our collection (US #11a). The letter is postmarked August 11, 1860 in Chillicothe, Ohio and is, most likely, from family back home. Solomon H. Riley was born July 11, 1828 near Chillicothe (Ross County), Ohio and Caroline M. Welsh was born there on February 7, 1836. They were married in 1852 in Chillicothe. Below are both Solomon’s and Caroline’s obituaries, which give us a good amount of detail about these two early Iowa City pioneers and their lives together.
Interesting notes on Solomon Houseworth Riley: At age 22, Solomon came to Johnson County, walking here from central Ohio, and settling (September 20, 1850) on farmland, that is today, Coralville. Two years later (Spring 1852), he returned to Chillicothe to marry his bride, Caroline M. Welsh (age 16), only to immediately bring a wagon-load of belongings, settling in Madison Township (near North Liberty) and living there until 1882, when health issues made them relocate into Iowa City. Apparently there were two children, Josephine Melissa (Raper) (1853-1935), and an adopted son, Carl Hanson (dates unknown). Solomon died at age 72 on August 7, 1900.
Caroline M. (Welsh) Riley lived another 26 years after Solomon died (1900) passing on September 3, 1926, at age 90. From Caroline’s obit it appears that she returned to Ohio sometime between 1852 and 1857, most likely, to care for aging family. She returned to Iowa in 1857 where they spent the remainder of their time together in Johnson County. Suffice to say, both Solomon and Caroline were, as his obit states, “noble old pioneers who made the west, (both) of simple life and transparent character.
Solomon and Caroline Riley are buried in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City.

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(L-0005) Two-page excerpt from a 1861 publication – featuring Iowa City, Iowa
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The Republican was one of the primary newspapers in Iowa City in the 1860’s.
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1863 Etching of University Square.

Governor Samuel J. Kirkwood (1864 – a CDV photo by Isaac Wetherby) Samuel Kirkword was born in 1813 in Harford County, Maryland and at age 17, he began teaching school. Samuel spent part of his youth in Washington, D.C., then joined his father in moving to Ohio in 1835. There, he became a well-known anti-slavery Republican and was elected to several state offices. Click here for more info on Samuel Kirkwood and his work in overturning slavery in America.

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The Coralville Mills (Kirkwood’s Flour Mill on the right). In 1855, Kirkwood moved to Iowa, living northwest of Iowa City and becoming involved with the Clark family, also from Ohio, in a Coralville milling venture. Although Kirkwood intended to leave politics behind him when he left Ohio, he was summoned from his mill, and while still coated in flour dust, gave a rousing speech at the founding meeting of the Iowa Republican Party in February 1856. That year he was elected to the Iowa Senate, serving from 1856 to 1859. In 1859, Kirkwood was nominated for governor and defeated Augustus C. Dodge after a bitter campaign which focused on the slave issue. In 1860, Kirkwood’s first year in office, the John Brown raid on Harper’s Ferry further polarized the nation over slavery, and Kirkwood was clearly on the side of the militant abolitionists. During the Civil War, Kirkwood gained national attention for being a strong supporter of President Lincoln, offering his extraordinary efforts to secure soldiers and supplies from Iowa for the Union Army and the war against slavery.
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1869 Wetherby photo
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1869 Wetherby photo

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

Map – Bird’s Eye View of Iowa City, A. Ruger, Chicago Lithograph Co., 1868

Iowa As It Is – A Gazetteer for Citizens and Handbook for Immigrants, N. Howe Parker, 1855

Solomon H. Riley, Find-A-Grave

Caroline M. (Welsh) Riley, Find-A-Grave

Caroline M. (Welsh) Riley, My Heritage

Samuel J. Kirkwood, Wikipedia

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