Our Iowa Heritage: Index of Stories.

As you can see, our growing website Our Iowa Heritage covers a lot of time (pre-1700 to the present) and a lot of people. We’ve written about famous people and the not-so-famous ones as well. Yet, despite a person’s prominence (or lack of it), everybody has a story. And as you read our posts, you’ll hopefully discover that everyone’s story is a good one. So, in order to better find these good stories and details surrounding them, we’ve added this INDEX of HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS to help you along the way. Enjoy your journey.

Our Iowa Heritage: An Introduction. We might suggest you start here! Here’s how & why I got started collecting stamps, coins, and other Iowa memorabilia.
Iowa – This Is The Place. Long before Europeans “discovered” the Heartland, Iowa was a Native-American word that had several different meanings. Let’s start Our Iowa Heritage journey by honoring those who came long before us, and explore the truest meaning of our state’s name IOWA.

Ancient Iowa – Exploring The Land. Archaeologists believe that the first inhabitants of what is now the state of Iowa were Paleo-Indians, the earliest ancestors of Native Americans. They occupied ice-free land during the time when the Des Moines lobe was covered by glaciers, up to 14,000 years ago. The earliest archaeological evidence of settlement, however, dates from about 8,500 years ago, with many different tribes, speaking various different languages inhabiting Iowa. For a Timeline of Ancient Iowa – click here.

Meskwaki People – True Native Iowans. At the time of the American Revolution, the Mississippi River Valley was lush prairie-land occupied by several Native American tribes: The Meskwaki (Fox), the Sauk, the Sioux, and the Ioway. Since Our Iowa Heritage website focuses primarily on eastern Iowa, here we give a tip of the hat to the Meskwaki people who migrated to the Iowa River Valley as white settlements began to emerge.

The Discovery 1673-1803. In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet embarked on an expedition to explore the Mississippi River. On that trip, Marquette and Jolliet became two of the first Europeans to set foot on the beautiful land we now call Iowa.
The Louisiana Purchase 1803-1806. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson made a purchase that changed the American story. Iowa was a small part of that big expanse of land west of the Mississippi River.

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.

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.
The Book That Gave Iowa Its Name. In 1835, a 27-year old Tennessee lieutenant traveled up and down the Des Moines River valley with a Regiment of U.S. Dragoons. Their assignment was to map out this uncharted prairie the Sauk and Fox tribes called kiowa (this is the place). The expedition was a success, but it wasn’t until Albert Lea, that soldier from Knoxville, published his notes in book form when Americans united around the name Iowa when describing this beautiful land west of the Mississippi River.

Albert Lea’s 1835 Map of Iowa. When Lieutenant Albert Lea published his descriptive book (1836) about his travels across the uncharted prairie lands of the Des Moines River valley, he also included a large hand-drawn map, neatly folded and stored in the back of the book. This map gave early settlers a clearer picture of the opportunity that awaited them in this land Lea called The Iowa District.

John Plumbe – 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.
Burlington – Iowa’s First Capital City 1837-1840. As Iowa Territory got its start, separating from the much larger Wisconsin Territory, Burlington was named the first territorial capital. Read more about this beautiful city on the banks of the Mississippi River in southeast Iowa.

Burlington & The Hawkeye State. Without a doubt, the nickname, Hawkeye, goes with Iowa like summer sweet corn goes with butter. So, how did the name come about? We’ve got the facts, (well, sort of) . . . and they date back to the late 1830’s in Burlington, Iowa.

Charles T. Mason – Here Comes The Judge. In 1837, a lawyer from New York makes his way to Burlington, just in time for the explosive growth surrounding Iowa’s new territorial capital. Soon, he is appointed as Iowa’s first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, making some land-mark decisions that truly bolster the abolitionist movement in Iowa. By the 1850’s, Mason is investing in the railroad, banking on the Peoria and Oquawka Rail Road to be his ticket to success. But alas, not everything the Judge touches turns to gold.

Oliver Cock – The Burlington Pioneer Mason. In the late 1830’s, a New York City man relocated to Burlington, Iowa. A godly young man, Cock ended up being elected as the first Grand Marshall of the Masons in Iowa, serving as County Clerk for Des Moines County, and helping start a new church. It’s his connection with “the father of the public school system in Kentucky” that first peaked our interest.

A Burlington Hawkeye Keepsake. As long as we’re talking about Burlington, in April of 1850, the board of Christ Episcopal Church wrote to New York City asking for continue support of their pastor John Batchelder. One of the signers of the letter was Judge David Rorer, one of the founding fathers of Burlington and co-originator of the Hawkeye nickname.
Chief Poweshiek – The Roused Bear. During a very volatile time in Iowa history (1830-1854), the Meskwaki Tribal Chief Poweshiek did a masterful job of maintaining peace yet never sacrificing his strong principles, believing that all men should live in freedom. Read the story behind this brave warrior who loved his people and cherished the Iowa River valley, the place we now call Johnson County, Iowa.

Sumner Phelps – The Original Iowa Hawkeye. Fur traders were the first European pioneers to travel up the unchartered inland waters of the Mississippi River. One entrepreneur from Illinois, who had a striking resemblance to another man from the Prairie State (can you guess who?) set foot in 1832 in what would soon become Johnson County, establishing trade with the Meskwaki tribes living on the Iowa River.

Will The Real John Gilbert – Please Stand Up? Over the years, John Gilbert has been heralded as the first white man to set foot in Johnson County and the first man to build a trading house here. Yet, there’s a dirty little secret we must tell you. Not only didn’t John Gilbert do these things, his real name was actually John W. Prentice! Come read the rest of the true Gilbert/Prentice story here.

1820’s/1830’s – Phelps/Gilbert Join us for an in-depth look at the burning question: Who came first to Johnson County – Sumner Phelps or John Gilbert? And when? For Iowa City historians, this just might be the ultimate who-done-it!

Napoleon 1832-1839. In 1832, Stephen “Sumner” Phelps, fur trader, canoed his way up the Iowa River until he found a nice valley where he could develop a trading relationship with the local natives. In 1835, John Gilbert, a New Yorker, took up where Phelps left off, and within a year or two, a new town sprung up. Read more about this short-lived, Johnson County community named after a French dictator and its sudden demise.

Philip Clark – Johnson County’s Irish Settler. In 1836, two brave souls from Indiana met up with John Gilbert at Fort Armstrong on the Mississippi River. Within a year, Philip Clark and Eli Myers had moved their families to what would eventually become Johnson County, Iowa. Here’s the amazing story of one man’s transition from being an Irishman from Indiana into one of our area’s most famous farmers.

Courting Johnson County. In December 1837, Johnson County – Iowa District – Wisconsin Territory came into existence. Within a year, Iowa became a territory and the first county court house was built – the first of four over the last 180+ years. Follow the story with us, as we move from Napoleon to Iowa City, ending up today with a whole new Johnson namesake.
Iowa Territory 1838-1846. On July 4, 1838, the U.S. Congress established the Territory of Iowa. President Martin Van Buren appointed Robert Lucas governor of the territory, which at the time had 22 counties and a population of 23,242. Within months, thousands began flocking into this new land, and slowly, the open prairies became rich farmland and little villages became thriving communities.

1838 – Welcome to Iowa, Governor Lucas. When Iowa finally became its own U.S. Territory, President Martin Van Buren looked to the great state of Ohio to pick our first governor. On August 15th of 1838, the new Territorial Governor and his small traveling party arrived by steamboat in Burlington. Over the next three years, Lucas moved the capital to Iowa City, establishing Iowa as one of the most progressive territories in the West.

Surveying the Life of Cyrus Sanders – Iowa City Pioneer. In 1839, a 21-year-old Ohio native made his way west to Iowa. Back home, he’d learned the fine art of surveying as he worked for the Little Miami Railroad. So when he added that talent to farming, this young man made a successful transition from being a Buckeye to becoming a Hawkeye. Later in life, he became one of Johnson County’s most gifted historical writers.

Cyrus Sanders – My 1839 Iowa Adventure. Come on a one-year trek into unexplored Johnson County with a 21-year-old farmer/surveyor from Ohio who journaled his way through this amazing pioneer adventure. From Cincinnati to Burlington to Napoleon and Iowa City, follow Sanders’ path by reading directly from his personal diary.

1839 – The U.S. Mail Comes to Johnson County. One of the most important aspects of life for early settlers in Iowa was the receiving and sending of letters. Postal records indicate that Iowa City established its first “officially recognized” post office in 1841. But other records show that Johnson County had postal service prior to that time (1839), even though that service was sketchy at best.

Iowa City’s Humble Beginnings. Iowa City was named the capital of the new Iowa Territory soon after the territory’s inception in 1838. After the U.S. Government bought land west of the Mississippi called the Black Hawk Purchase, a new government began to take shape, and that became the humble beginnings of the new City of Iowa, now called Iowa City.

Chauncey Swan – The Father of Iowa City. On May 4, 1839, a three-man committee stood atop a beautiful piece of Johnson County land overlooking the Iowa River. As Chauncey Swan drove a stake into the ground, Iowa City had its humble beginnings. Over the next ten years, this same faithful man will prove time and time again why he has long been designated the Father of Iowa City. Come read his Iowa story.

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!

On the Road to Iowa City. In 1839, there were three primary routes leading in and out of Johnson County: the Iowa River, the Sauk & Fox trail, today called Sand Road, and a narrow pathway to Bloomington (Muscatine) where you could catch a ride on the mother of all highways, The Mighty Mississippi. Within five years, all roads in the Territory led to Iowa City, the new capital city of Iowa.

Sylvanus Johnson – Mr. Red Brick. In 1839, a brick-maker from Connecticut was assigned by Territorial Governor Robert Lucas to recruit Iowa militiamen for the border squirmish that was brewing on the Iowa/Missouri border. Iowa City was abuzz at the time, but no sooner did Sylvanus get there, the “Honey War” was over, leaving him with no money and no job. Johnson did what he does best – make bricks. In the process, he ended up becoming one of the founding pioneers of Iowa’s new territorial capital.

Clinton Street – Iowa City’s Center of Commerce. In 1839, a surveyor’s map marked out a city plan that included streets, parks, churches, homes, schools, government buildings, and a place where business would prosper. From the very beginning, Clinton Street was planned as Iowa City’s hub for commerce. Now, all these years later, it’s still the place where business thrives.

Ahoy, Frederick Irish – The Iowa City Sea Captain. In 1838, a whaling captain from New York City rode a horse to Iowa, eventually settling in Iowa City. F.M. Irish became an early mover and shaker of the city, serving as one of Iowa City’s first historians, writing a lengthy, first-hand account in 1868.

Rose Hill – Irish’s Woods. Iowa City pioneer, F.M. Irish added 30 acres to his original log cabin property. By 1849, he had built Rose Hill, a home that stayed in the Irish family until 1964. At that time, the city purchased 17.5 acres of Irish’s Woods, making it into the first section of today’s Hickory Hill Park. Come take a walk through “The Woods” with us.

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.

The Old Capitol Gem That Got Away. On occasion, a great treasure will appear on-line and, as it is in life, sometimes you win – and sometimes you lose. Allow me to cry in my beer and tell you about a rare letter concerning the construction of the Old Stone Capitol in Iowa City that slipped through my fingers. Alas, come share my sorrow.
Iowa City Stage Ready – 1840-1870. When Iowa City was established as Iowa’s new territorial capital, the priority was getting accessible transportation in and out of Johnson County. With the Iowa River too unpredictable for riverboats, stagecoaches were the wave of the future. Thus, between 1840 and 1870, the stagecoach business was a-rolling all over the Hawkeye State, with Iowa City being right in the center of the action.

H. D. Downey – Iowa City Esquire. Talk about your mover-and-shaker. This 21-year old Pennsylvania native came to Iowa City in 1840, and before he was done (dying at age 48), he became our first lawyer, first banker, a real estate mogul, state representative, and the man who helped steer the M&M Railroad to Iowa City in 1856.

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.

The Iowa City Newspaper Wars. In 1841, two young entrepreneurs came to town, going head-to-head as they published Iowa City’s first two newspapers. William Crum and his Iowa City Standard vs. Thomas Hughes and his Iowa Capital Reporter. While neither man stayed with their newspapers long term, both greatly influenced the early history of our fair city.

Walter Butler – A True Servant’s Heart. In 1841, the new capitol building in Iowa City is far from completion, but the Iowa Territorial Legislature in Burlington states they’ll meet in Iowa City in December if there is free meeting space. To the rescue – Walter Butler – a good man with a generous heart, and some amazing carpentry and construction skills!

Gilman Folsom – An Iowa City Pioneer. In 1841, a 23-year old adventurer, left his familiar surroundings of New Hampshire to become a lawyer in the new territory of Iowa. He settled in Iowa City, married, and left a legacy that “bridges” even to today. But his first few years here were not the easiest and certainly, his family back home worried about him immensely.

Gilman Folsom vs. ‘Very Slippery Fellow’ in Iowa City. Right before Christmas of 1852, a letter arrives in Gilman Folsom’s mail. It’s dated December 10, 1852, and it’s a personal, hand-written letter from a concerned man from Oregon, Illinois. “I have a matter that I wish attended to in your city”… needing legal help in tracking down one “very slippery fellow”…Boyd Wilkinson.

Gilman Folsom – Bridging The Iowa River. Picking up where his father-in-law, Pleasant Arthur, started, this lawyer from New Hampshire became the owner/operator of the first toll bridge constructed over the Iowa River (1854), constructed on the National Road, which today is the Iowa Avenue Bridge.

Walter Terrell & His Waterworks. In 1843, an entrepreneur named Terrell came to Iowa City and built a dam and grist mill on the Iowa River, just north of Iowa City. Over the next 40 years, the Terrell Mill provided area farmers with an invaluable service while making him and his family quite wealthy.

Steamboat’s A-Comin’ – Maybe? Before the railroad reached Iowa City in 1856, there was great hope that the Iowa River would support steamboat travel as a way to import and export goods. During the 1840’s and 50’s, a few came rolling into town, but sadly, by the 1860’s, this grand idea sank like a stone since the river just didn’t have the consistent depth needed to sustain this enterprise.

1844 – The Drive to Statehood. In 1844, there was a concentrated effort in Iowa to attain U.S. Statehood. Those efforts included a Territorial census and a proposed re-alignment of state boundaries. Political controversy abounded and fortunately, this premature drive for statehood failed, lest we be left with an Iowa map no one would recognize today.

The Bells of Iowa City. In 1845, a small bell was hung in the belfry of a Presbyterian church on Burlington Street, becoming the first permanent bell in our fair city. In 1855, SUI purchased that same 125-pound bell, placing it in the Mechanics Academy to call students to class. Over the next 150 years, other bells, including three different ones in Old Capitol, have made history, but when it’s all said and done, The Little SUI Bell That Just Keeps Ringing has the most interesting story of all.

1845 – Legal Troubles in Bloomington. On February 10, 1845, the Clerk of the District Court, Johnson County, Iowa Territory wrote to the Sheriff of Bloomington, Iowa (Muscatine) asking for his help in a land dispute. Written from his desk in the Old Stone Capitol, this stamp-less letter provides a wonderful look at life in the Territory of Iowa.
1846 Iowa – A Field of Dreams. One historian writes: “The fertility of the soil in Iowa is unsurpassed—not merely by that of her kindred States — not merely in our Union – but throughout the world! And still the field is open – still the coffers of the earth are full, and he may help himself who will.” A Constitution is written and Iowa has now become the 29th State in that Union.

February 25, 1847 – SUI Begins With A Bang. Was it just a coincidence? Or was it a heavenly sign of holy confirmation? We report. You decide. On February 25, 1847, the Iowa Legislature, meeting in Iowa City, proclaimed that our state, only 59 days old at the time, would develop a university of higher learning, a place where doctors, lawyers, and other professionals would be trained for service to our state. Within a few hours of that proclamation, the heavens opened and the Marion Meteorite passed over Iowa City before striking the ground with a mighty boom. Let it be. S.U.I. Amen.

SUI – The Early Days 1847-1860.  On February 25, 1847 the State Legislature, meeting in the Old Stone Capitol in Iowa City, approved the recommendation that the State of Iowa sponsor a new University. While the idea might have sounded very lofty, making the dream into a reality was quite another story. Here’s some of the details behind those first 13 years when the State University of Iowa barely survived!

1847 – Go West, Young Doctor, Go West. When Iowa became the 29th State in the Union, it was the place young entrepreneurs back East dreamed of. Here is the fascinating story of one of those dreamers, a doctor from Massachusetts, who ended up coming to Lyons, Iowa, and serving as a surgeon during the Civil War.

1848 – Iowa City’s Hum-Dinger of A Bell Story. In the late summer of 1848, all hell broke loose in Iowa City as the recently-dismissed Rev. Michael Hummer climbed into the belfry of the Presbyterian Church, trying to “recover” the bell he believed to be his. While his efforts failed, it left one great story for bell-lovers, Iowa City historians and church-goers alike.

1849 – Show Me the Money. Jonas Wescoatt served as Clerk of the District Court in Monroe County, Iowa. In 1849, he wrote to Josiah H. Bonney, Iowa Secretary of State in Iowa City, asking for an $18.59 reimbursement for county expenses. Wescoatt and his brothers went on to become key settlers of both Lucas and Monroe Counties in southern Iowa, but in 1853, while still a county judge, he headed west, hoping to cash in on Gold Fever by bringing a herd of Iowa cattle to California.
The 1850’s in Iowa City. The Keokuk Whig wrote in 1854: “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.” And while Iowa City wasn’t everyone’s final destination, many did stay. Here are just a few.

The Boller Farms – 1853. Recently we discovered a rare surveyors map of Iowa drawn up in October, 1852. This map, which now hangs in my office, gives a wonderful overview of the Iowa our Boller family moved to from Ohio in 1853.

Johnson County Schools & the Boller Family. During the second half of the nineteenth century, most schools in Iowa were one-room schoolhouses. Here’s a neat Boller story connected to School #7 in Johnson County, Iowa.

Louis Englert – Iowa City’s Bavarian Beer Man. In 1853, calling on his Bavarian heritage, Louis Englert opened The Englert City Brewery, Iowa City’s first brewery. Operating his new business out of a basement on Market Street, beer production was a whopping ten barrels per day, using a Brobdingnagian kettle of brass, all carefully brewed in Louis’ modestly-equipped kitchen. Come read more about this name you might recognize: Englert – a big family that made a big impression on our fair community of Iowa City.

Josias & Christiana Ritter – Iowa City Church Planters. In 1856, the good people of German Lutheran heritage in Iowa City decided they wanted a church community to call their own. They summoned a German man from Strümpfelbach to help them and over the next two years the church that became Zion Lutheran in Iowa City had its humble beginnings. Our 1857 Letter: Marie Strübel in Germany to Nannie (Christiana) Ritter in Iowa City.

Heinrich Wehrs – Frontier Pastor. Soon after Josias Ritter got the German Lutheran church in Iowa City established in 1856, others came to build on what God started. Fellow German pastor, Henirich Wehrs, came to town in 1862, becoming a circuit-rider, traveling a 200-mile ministry circle near Iowa City before settling in as pastor of Zion Lutheran from 1863-1866.

Johann F. Doescher – Breaking Down Walls That Divide. This story completes the triad of Ritter, Wehrs, and Doescher: three German-born pastors who all came to Iowa City for a short time, establishing in one decade (1856-1866) the solid foundation of Zion’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church, which later became Zion Lutheran in Iowa City. Maybe the most inspiring story belongs to Johann Doescher, a young man with a true heart to care for souls, regardless of one’s ethnic or racial background.

George H. Yewell – Iowa City’s Pioneer Artist. Eleven-year-old George Yewell came to Iowa City with his widower mother to live with family, and over the next decade, George fell in love with his new hometown. At age 17, he began his journals of both words and art, sketching Iowa City scenes along the way, and by the 1850’s, this artist was well on his way to becoming recognized on both sides of the Atlantic, but this Hawkeye never lost his love for Iowa, leaving us with a valuable portfolio of Iowa City sketches – some of the earliest pictures we have of our beloved hometown.

Isaac A. Wetherby – One Artist with Many Dreams. In the mid-1850’s, one young man from Boston came to Iowa City to set up shop on Clinton Street across the street from Old Capitol. He billed himself as a portrait painter and photographer and as a result, gave us our earliest known photographs of Iowa City.

Celebrating The Iowa State Fair. Iowans have always had a special way of celebrating life. In 1854, the good people of The Hawkeye State held their first State Fair in Fairfield. And only in 1898, WW II, and 2020 did the Fair not happen, continuing now for nearly 175 years. Heck, even Rodgers & Hammerstein celebrated our Iowa State Fair with a musical.

Iowa City – The Railroad. On January 1, 1856, Iowa City changed forever. The long-awaited railroad finally arrived. Now everything, including the way we send and receive communication with others, suddenly took a huge step forward. Come read the full story – all aboard!

The Rock Island Iowa City Depot. In preparation for the coming of the railroad, the good people of Iowa City built a small depot at the south end of Johnson Street. While there are no known pictures of this depot, it faithfully served Iowa Citians until 1898, when it was replaced by the Rock Island depot that still stands today.

1857 – A Capitol Moving Day. From day one of statehood in 1846, there were those who wanted to see Iowa’s capital moved westward. Finally, in 1857, a deal was cut. The capitol would go to Des Moines while the university was exclusively secured for Iowa City. As one newspaper writer quipped, “Des Moines can have the politicians, we’ll take the professors!” Come read this “moving” story.
Iowa City – Iowa River Bridges. The Iowa River played a major role in why Iowa City is where it is today. In the earliest years, crossing the river was no easy thing to accomplish. Here’s the story of how we became a City of Bridges.

The 1860’s in Iowa City. in the 1860’s, photography has now become common-place. Here’s some wonderful Iowa City shots taken during this turbulent decade.

Iowa – RPO’s.  As railroads became the fastest and most efficient way to move both freight and people, so the United States Postal System wisely used the rails to get mail across the country. RPO’s (Railway Postal Offices) were the mobile offices that made it all happen.

Iowa & The Underground Railroad. From the moment Iowa was first proposed to become the 29th State in the Union, the pressure was on the good people of The Hawkeye State to decide if we would be a northern state, siding with those against slavery, or join with our neighbors to the south, Missouri, which was a slave state. Iowa overwhelming supported freedom for all, thus becoming an important stop in The Underground Railroad.

George D. Woodin & The Lane Trail. In the 1850’s the anti-slavery movement was gaining momentum, and Iowa was strategically located to be right in the midst of the battle. When Kansas Territory opened up, John Brown and many others needed the help of compassionate Iowans to help organize The Underground Railroad. George D. Woodin, from Iowa City, was one of those Iowans.

Iowa & The Civil War – 1861-1865. Iowans played a major role in the Civil War. Here are some rare covers and letters postmarked during that era.

Major Ira J. Alder – The Hundred-Day Civil War Veteran. In 1864, the North desperately needed more man-power. President Lincoln approved a recruitment idea that added over 80,000 men to the war effort, asking each man for a 100-day commitment. SUI student, Ira Alder was one of those young men who served his country and then returned to Iowa City, being called The Major until his death in 1922.

Henry County’s Newspaperman, Statesman & Civil War Hero. Here’s a salute to Samuel McFarland, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa’s Civil War hero who also played a big part in the history of Iowa City as it transitioned from State Capitol to Home of the University of Iowa.

A Rocky Mountain Mayor with Strong Iowa Roots. Here’s yet another story of one Iowa farm boy who risked it all in the Civil War and then took advantage of free land in Kansas, eventually becoming the mayor of Great Bend, Kansas and then Colorado Springs!
The 1870’s in Iowa City. The glorious 70’s was a unique time for Iowa City. The Civil War had ended, and the city and University were growing rapidly. Here are a few postal covers from that exciting era.

Iowa City – The Hospitals. Outside of the Mayo Clinic, there is no larger or more prestigious medical center in the Midwest than the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. See how it all started with three dedicated men and four compassionate nuns.

When The Circus Came To Iowa City. If you’ve seen the musical movie, The Greatest Showman, you’ll better understand the impact Barnum & Bailey and others had on the entertainment business at the turn of the 20th century. For most Americans living in rural settings around the Midwest, when the circus came to town, setting up their tent for a few days, life came to a standstill. Such was the case on September 9, 1872 when P. T. Barnum brought his Greatest Show on Earth to Iowa City.

The Great Iowa City Circus Poster Mystery. In the 1870’s, P. T. Barnum brought his Greatest Show on Earth to Iowa City three times. The first visit – September of 1872, the second – August of 75. But it’s the third visit – September 8, 1877 that started a mystery which eventually involved the well-known Englert family. A mystery of circus posters that didn’t get solved until just recently. Or did it?

Boerner & Sons – Iowa City’s Prussian Poppa of Pharmacy. It’s 1876 and the Boerner family, who moved here from Prussia in 1867, opens one of Iowa City’s first drug stores. In 1883, Boerner’s Pharmacy moves into a shop on Washington Street, and from that location, services our city for 63 years! And BTW, in his spare time, Emil Boerner single-handedly starts SUI’s College of Pharmacy, serving as its dean and only faculty member in 1885.
The 1880’s in Iowa City. A city is more than just buildings. Here you’ll find some personal letters that offer a glimpse of what it was like to live in Iowa City at the end of the 19th century.

Cyrus Sanders – Setting The History Record Straight. Cyrus Sanders came to Johnson County in 1839, just as Iowa City was being formed. He not only wrote a daily journal about his earliest days here, but in the 1880’s, The Iowa City Daily Republican invited him to write a regular column on Johnson County history. In 1882, a bit of under-handed shannanigans stole away Cyrus Sanders’ material, but today, we’re giving due honor where honor is due.

The Baileys & The Montgomery Ward Wish Book. In the 1880’s, a 28-year old traveling salesman ran with the idea of a mail-order business that would eliminate intermediaries, cut costs, and make a wide variety of goods available to rural customers who could buy via the mail and pick up their orders at the nearest train station. At its zenith (1880s – 1940s), Montgomery Ward, like its cross-town Chicago rival, Sears, sold virtually everything the average American could think of or desire – and all the shopper had to do was lick a stamp. But on occasion (1889), a small delay might happen. Just ask M.H. Bailey of Iowa City.

The Wonderful World of SUI Colors – Black & Golden. In 1887, a handful of SUI students started asking some tough questions like ‘why do we not have any school colors?’ or ‘why do other colleges have a school song and we’re just singing about corn?’ Good questions, don’t you think? Join us for the colorful story about how SUI answered these burning questions.
The 1890’s in Iowa City. It’s the last decade of the nineteenth century, and Iowa City is transitioning as well. Take a look at some of the postal covers and interesting stories that accompany them.

1895 – The SUI Red Brick Campus. From 1860 through the mid-1890’s, the State University of Iowa (SUI) grew by leaps and bounds. In 1895, the University was alive and well, all centrally located on the east side of the Iowa River on what was affectionately called The Red Brick Campus. Twelve buildings and four smaller ‘support’ facilities, most of which were built using red bricks made right here in Iowa City. By the turn of the century, a “New University” campus was on the drawing board and The Red Brick Campus was on its way out. Sadly, today, only two of these original sixteen buildings are still standing. Join us for this enjoyable journey back to the way it was in 1895. Click here to start the series…

Old Capitol: The Icon of the University

Mechanics Academy: The Cradle of the University

South Hall: The University’s Ten-Chimneyed One

North Hall: The Grandfather of the University

Medical Building: The University’s Ill-Fated Medical Experiment

Science Hall: The University’s Only Mobile Home

Chemistry Laboratory: The University’s Controversial Park Place

Close Hall: The University’s Home for Jesus, Jumpshots and Journalism

Observatory #2: The University’s Eye to the Sky

Dental Building: The University’s Eye Tooth for Eighty Years

Homeopathic Medical Building #2: The University’s Second Medical Opinion 

Unity Hall: The University’s Gathering Place

The Forgotten Four: The University’s Little Engines that Could

The Pentacrest – The New University. The State University of Iowa started small with a central campus (1847-1874) made up of only four buildings. By 1895, the number was up to twelve, but here’s the story of how SUI went from a handful of eclectic buildings to the iconic Pentacrest we all know and love today.

C.C. Nutting. Most U of I folks know about Thomas MacBride (MacBride Hall) and Samuel Calvin (Calvin Hall), but there was a third person in what was called “The Great Triumvirate” of the State University of Iowa. Charles Cleveland Nutting, served as professor of natural science and curator of the Natural History Museum from 1886 -1927.

Two Ohio Friends – One Iowa Connection. Charles B. Elliott and Oscar L. Watkins. Two good friends born in eastern Ohio in 1861. Two young men who took different life paths but remained true to each other for nearly 70 years.

Charles B. Elliott: Romancing the Forest City Meteorite. Read this entertaining side-story about Elliott and his meteorite adventure into Iowa.

Charles B. Elliott: As Seen by The Colonel. Enjoy this brief biographical overview of Charles B. Elliott as presented by his eldest son, Major Charles W. Elliott.

The Wieneke Family – Iowa City’s Penny Postcard People. In 1863, H.J. Wieneke returned to Iowa City from the Civil War, becoming a tobacconist, opening a cigar shop on Clinton Street. By the end of the century, the Wieneke family had successfully cornered the penny-postcard market, working out of the St. James Hotel.
Iowa City at the Turn of the Century. In just three unique postcard packets, we get 44 enlightening pictures of Iowa City during the early 1900’s.

1900 – 1920 Iowa City – Central. By 1900, penny postcards had become the primary way to communicate any message. And as the expression goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s a look at Iowa City through a collection of penny postcards postmarked during the first twenty years of the 20th century. Starting first in the central part of the city.

1900 – 1920 Iowa City – North. Next, let’s look at the area located north of downtown: The President’s Home, Terrell’s Mill, and some nice recreational spots on the Iowa River.

1900 – 1920 Iowa City – South. Now, let’s finish up with the southern section of town: the Johnson County Court House, the Rock Island Depot, and Sum Place on the Iowa River.

Let’s Go To City Park! (Part I) Iowa Citians have always enjoyed their parks, and from the very beginning (1839), there’s almost always been a City Park where folks can get away from the busyness of life. Part I covers the history of City Park #1 (1839-1890), Iowa River Recreation & The Island (1880’s through 1906), and City Park #2 (1906-1930).

Let’s Go To City Park! (Part II) City Park became a popular attraction for countless Iowa Citians soon after it opened in 1906. With the advent of the automobile, access to City Park was available to most residents, yet one reoccurring problem still needed to be addressed: Flooding. In 1939, two federally-funded projects drastically changed the Iowa River while reshaping City Park, and two major attractions were added in the 50’s, making City Park what it is today.

Economy Advertising – Midland Magazine. So many of the earliest publications coming out of Iowa City were produced at Economy Advertising located on North Linn Street. Maybe the most recognized of all was Midland Magazine, a forerunner of the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

SUI’s Little Four Made One Big Contribution To Campus. From the very beginning of the University of Iowa, when University Square was the only campus, there were four little buildings that made one big contribution to the day-to-day operations of SUI. While they never made it to the big-time, having their pictures printed on penny postcards, they did do an occasional photo-bomb on Old Capitol selfies. Come take a peek with us.

Captain Tom, Iowa City & The Red Devil Airship. In October 1910, a former circus showman, Thomas S. Baldwin, came to town. The Johnson County Fall Farm Festival was in full swing and the highlight this year was Captain Tom and his Red Devil aeroplane. On October 13, aviation history was made with both the first successful flight and the first plane crash in Iowa history.

Iowa City – The Airport. Come fly with me through the surprising aviation history of Iowa City: a Midwest hub for air travel from 1918 through WWII.
Fred W. Kent – Continuing the Photographic Tradition. Fred Kent was best known as a versatile and talented photographer who documented everything from family and community life to landscape and natural vistas in Iowa City, continuing the fine tradition begun by Isaac A. Wetherby a generation earlier.

Iowa City – Hawkeyes take the Field. On Iowa! Go Hawks! From the earliest days on campus, sports have always been an important part of student life at the University of Iowa. Visit a small part of that Hawkeye history here, including Nile Kinnick, Iowa’s only Heisman Trophy winner.

SUI Mascots – The Big Three. Over the last 175 years of University of Iowa history – there have been a handful of “official” mascots that have roamed the friendly confines of our campus. Come join us as we offer you a brief overview of what we call, The Big Three: Burch the Bear, Rex the ROTC Dog, and of course, Herky the Hawk.

Iowa Homecoming: Hawkeye-Style. Since 1912, Iowa City has served as the gracious host for an annual gathering of Hawkeye alums, students, faculty and staff – all united to celebrate everything SUI. There’s always a football game, of course, but Iowa Homecoming has so much more. Come down memory lane with us and celebrate over 100+ years of Iowa Homecoming.

The Red Ball Route. The Boller family lived in Henry County from 1896-1966. There were two main highways that we used to connect to the outside world. Here is the story of one of them, The Red Ball Route: a road paved with a lot of rich Iowa history.

Iowa Celebrates: The 1920’s. The Roaring Twenties brought much change to both Iowa City and the State University of Iowa, as the campus and the community expanded to the west side of the Iowa River.

Karl L. King – Iowa’s March King. In 1920, fresh off his gig as director of The Barnum & Bailey Circus Band, Ohio bandsman Karl King, came to Ft. Dodge, Iowa, setting up camp there for fifty-one years. Over that time, King established himself as Iowa’s March King, rivaling even the renowned John Philip Sousa as America’s most prolific composer of marches. In 1921, he helped pass The Iowa Band Law, which opened up opportunities for community bands nationwide.

Duke Slater – Iowa’s All-American Trailblazer. In 1921, Iowa had an All-American football player from Clinton that single-handedly took the Hawkeyes to a mythical national championship. A man cut from the same fabric as Nile Kinnick, Duke Slater has largely been forgotten over the last century, primarily because of his skin color. But no more. Beginning in 2021, the Hawkeyes will be playing on Duke Slater Field in Kinnick Stadium. Come read this amazing man’s story.

An Iowa Classic – George E. Boller. Now it gets personal. My dad, George E. Boller, was a Hawkeye at heart. From his first visit to Iowa Field (1926) at age 5, to his dying days, he was always proud to be a Hawkeye.

The Boyers – The Rock Island & Trenton, MO. The Rock Island Railroad played a big part in our Boller history. Read more about my grandfather, William Hollis Boyer, his home of Trenton, MO, and the Rock Island Railroad.

May 11, 1921 – One Hundred Years Ago Today. Happy 100th Birthday, George E. Boller. Here’s my tip of the old hat to Dad, written on May 11, 2021.

The Daily Iowan. Any Boller story has to include a tip of the hat to The Daily Iowan, the long-standing University of Iowa student newspaper that employed both me and my dad.

Political Cartooning and The Rich Iowa Tradition. From the mid-19th century to the early 21st century, Iowa artists have been using the tool of political cartooning to confirm the old saying – “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Join us as we tip the hat to five Iowans who have excelled at giving us a chuckle while helping us digest the seriousness of world and local events.

Ding Darling & Herbert Hoover – Two Iowa Friends. In 1919, Ding Darling, The Des Moines Register political cartoonist, met an up-n-coming public servant named Herbert Hoover. Over the next forty-three years these two men became close friends despite all their many differences. One pursued politics while the other won two Pulitzer Prizes for his editorial work poking fun at politicians.
Iowa Celebrates: The 1930’s. In the 1930’s the Depression was in full gear, but that didn’t stop Iowa from celebrating its Territorial Centennial (1838-1938) with the USPS issuing its first postage stamp dedicated exclusively to the State of Iowa.

Ozzie Simmons + Racial Targeting = Floyd of Rosedale. In 1933, a young black man from Texas showed up in Iowa City, looking to follow in the footsteps of Duke Slater. Before he graduated in 1936, he had become an All-American football player, but more importantly, he blazed a trail for other people of color and is remembered each year with Floyd of Rosedale – going to the winner of the Iowa/Minnesota game.

Grant Wood – Iowa’s Iconic Artist. Born in 1891 on a farm near Anamosa, Grant Wood went on to become one of the world’s best-known artists. Working out of a small studio located above a Cedar Rapids mortuary garage, Wood created one of the most familiar images in 20th-century American art: the iconic American Gothic.

The Murals of Mildred W. Pelzer. In 1934, the Jefferson Hotel commissioned an Iowa City artist to create eight murals that represented our rich Iowa City heritage, focusing on the theme of Transportation. For fifteen years, these murals were proudly displayed in the hotel lobby until a ill-fated remodeling effort nearly sent these beauties to an early demise. Today, five have been rescued and remain as a beautiful tribute to both Mildred Pelzer and Our Iowa Heritage.

Iowa City 1839-1939 Centennial. As the 1930’s came to close, Iowa City celebrated its Centennial with a big bang, including the infamous 1939 Ironmen team featuring Iowa’s only Heisman Trophy winner, Nile Kinnick.

Nile Kinnick – Iowa’s Heisman Winner. 1939 was a banner year for Iowa City. Under the leadership of Coach Eddie Anderson and the athleticism of one young man from Adel, Iowa, the Iron Men of Iowa shocked the college football world. As a result, that one young man won the Heisman trophy and went on to become a legendary figure in Iowa football – Nile Kinnick.
U.S.S. Iowa – The Navy’s Finest. In 1940, the world was headed for war. In preparation for the battles to come, the Navy ordered a new set of warships (BB-61) that would be the mother of all battleships. On August 24, 1942, the U.S.S. Iowa was commissioned, serving the country faithfully until 1990.

1946 – Iowa Celebrates 100 Years Of Statehood. World War II came to an end in 1945, and in 1946, Iowans celebrated the entire year, remembering the 100th anniversary of Iowa statehood in 1846.

SUI 1847-1947 Centennial. It’s time to celebrate! The State University of Iowa (SUI) is now 100 years old. One century in, but still only just begun.
Iowa Celebrates: The 1950’s. Yup, it’s me, your humble guide, taking a brief look at my first decade on planet earth. Nothing earth-shattering here, but a fun trip back to the days of black-n-white television and Leave It To Beaver.

My Iowa – 1951. This “official” State of Iowa Highway Map takes us back to 1951 – no interstates – no rest stops – no cruise control. Come drive across the Hawkeye State with this roadmap!

Growing Up in Mt. Pleasant – Old Threshers. Agriculture and Iowa go hand-in-hand. Look back with me at the by-gone days of steam-operated threshing machines, as celebrated annually in my home town of Mt. Pleasant: The Midwest Old Settlers & Threshers Reunion.
Our Hawkeye Sing-Along. At Homecoming 1962, The Daily Iowan published an article called “Sing Along with SUI’s Parade of Music”. Here four Hawkeye song classics and their stories were presented. Now, sixty years later, join us as we look once again at those memorable spirit-songs plus add another four to the list. From 1905 to 1985, the Hawkeyes have had some great (and not so great) chart-toppers. Clear your throat and come sing-along.

An Iowa President – Herbert Hoover. August 10, 1965 marked the 91st birthday of Herbert Hoover. Over 22,000 people ascended on West Branch to celebrate Stamp Day, the first day of issue for the Hoover commemorative stamp. For this 14-year old stamp collector from Mt. Pleasant, it was a thrill of a lifetime.

Old Capitol Iconic Moments – 100 Years Apart. Since it’s inception in 1841, the Old Stone Capitol has been a gathering place for Iowa Citians. Revisit three iconic moments in American history: Lincoln (1865), Kennedy (1963), and King (1968) via photographs taken by iconic Iowa City photographers, Issac Wetherby and Fred Kent.

SUI or UI – What’s In A Name? From 1847 to 1964, my alma mater was known as the State University of Iowa (SUI). When the other two state colleges (Ames and Cedar Falls) decided to be known as universities, the confusion began. As a result, the long-standing SUI moniker became the U of I. Here’s the story behind the SUI story.

U of I Gathering Places. Attending college is so much more than tests and textbooks. Social gatherings, large and small, have always been an important part of college life. So here’s my salute to my alma mater and the time students and faculty spend outside the classroom.

Marching, Musical, High-Stepping Hawkeyes. Originally a military unit, in 1937, the Hawkeye Marching Band transitioned to the School of Music and never looked back. In 1969, “I modestly took my place as the one and only bass” (actually there were a dozen of us in the sousaphone section), and we never looked back. Today, the HMB is a vital component to Iowa Football and everything Hawkeye.

Tom Davis – Our Musical Mom. The Tom Davis-era (1968-1972) just might have been the golden age of the Hawkeye Marching Band. This jazz percussionist from Wyoming arranged some of the HMB’s best-known classics, including the timeless crowd-pleaser, Hey Jude.
Iowa Celebrates: The 1970’s-1980’s. By the 1970’s and 80’s the United States Postal Service found increasingly clever ways to sell postage stamps to collectors. The Bicentennial (1776-1976) celebration brought an array of postage stamps including the most popular 50-state flags sheet.

The Cy-Hawk Game – Iowa’s Super Bowl. In 1977, after a 43-year drought, The University of Iowa and Iowa State University renewed their football series. The two teams started playing each other in 1894, but stopped in 1934 due to high-levels of tension between the two schools. Those last two games (1933-1934) featured the very first Cy-Hawk Trophy – a Victory Bell that has a long, entertaining history in Iowa City. On Iowa! Go Hawks!

John Holladay – Hawkeye Artist at Heart. In 1975, a graphic arts school teacher from Davenport, Iowa sold a Nebraska Cornhusker sports cartoon at an Omaha art show. That began a successful career in cartooning for the Hawkeye artist, John Holladay, who went on to sell five million sports posters as he worked a day job as staff artist at The Quad Cities Times.

Remembering 1985 – Kinnick Stadium’s Last “Top-Five” Football Match-Up. In October of 1985, the #1 Hawkeyes lined up against the #2 Michigan Wolverines – a game for the ages. No true Hawkeye fan can ever forget the last 2 seconds of this thriller in Kinnick Stadium.

My Calvin Hall Story. In the late 1980’s, I returned to Iowa City (after nearly 15 years in Chicago) and found myself working with Mr. Calvin Hall. You gotta click on this one to hear more about all that!

Iowa Celebrates: The Sesquicentennial. 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).

May 1989 – Iowa City Celebrates 150 Years! On May 4-5-6, 1989, Iowa City celebrated its 150th birthday and the Iowa City Press Citizen publishes a special 27-page section that offers us a historical overview of our fine community. Come join the celebration.

Honoring The U.S. Postal Service. The first post office opened in Dubuque in 1833, and since then, Iowans have come to expect their mail to be delivered promptly and precisely. While that job has never been accomplished perfectly, we do offer this tip of the old hat to the men and women of the postal service who have stayed true to their oath: “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds.”
Iowa Celebrates: The 2000’s. Lots of fun Iowa-related commemoratives have been released in these last two decades. I especially like the “Greetings from” stamp series that pays tribute to the colorful penny postcards of old.

My Iowa Art: The Iowa Millennium Art Poster. In 2000, Des Moines Register political cartoonist Brian Duffy created a masterpiece depicting 58 Iowa icons. Check it out and the amazing heritage of political cartooning here in Iowa!

My Iowa Art. OK. So, none of these collectibles will ever be placed in a museum, but for me, they are treasures that speak of my love of Iowa, the University, and everything Hawkeye.

My Iowa Art: The Book Collection. Now, that you’ve seen the art, allow me show you some of our favorite books. From history books to musical biographies to Iowa trivia, here’s our collection. Some, really old. Some, not. Enjoy this trip to our library!
On The Road to Statehood – Celebrating 175 Years! On December 28, 2021, The State of Iowa celebrates its 175th Anniversary of Statehood. To honor the event, we’ve assembled a list of Our Top 20 “Did You Know?” Facts About Iowa – twenty points of interest surrounding our state’s history. See how knowledgeable you are when it comes to Iowa trivia.

Iowa Statehood Day – December 28th. Over the years, Iowans have celebrated our statehood on the day it all happened – December 28th (1846). Join us as we look at past Statehood Day celebrations over the years and celebrate our 175th Anniversary on December 28, 2021.

On Iowa! Go Hawks! – Celebrating 175 Years! On February 25, 2022, The University of Iowa celebrates its 175th Anniversary. To honor the event, we’ve assembled a list of Our Top 20 “Did You Know?” Facts About SUI – twenty points of interest surrounding my alma mater’s history. See how knowledgeable you are when it comes to Hawkeye trivia.

Three Hundred Years of Iowa Maps. In 1718, the French map-maker, Guillaume (William) De L’Isle put together an amazingly accurate map of the central section of North America, at the time called Louisiana. Iowa was a part of that map back then, and over the last 300 years, others have filled in many more details. Join us as we take a look at some of these classic maps of The Hawkeye State.

The Mapping of Iowa City. In 1832, a map of Iowa City/Johnson County would be pretty simple: The Iowa River, a Native Iowan trail, and three Meskwaki villages. Today, we are fortunate to have access to numerous maps that give us a glimpse of our favorite town as it appeared over the last 200 years. Come take a historic look.

Iowa’s Very Own: 1846-Present. Lots of famous folks have Iowa connections. Some of them have even been pictured on US postage stamps. The only prerequisite, sadly, is that you have to be deceased. Take a look at these famous Iowans who made their mark in the world.

The Iowa Award – 1951 to Today. As a result of the 1946 Iowa Centennial Celebration, a new award, called The Iowa Award, was developed. The plan was to celebrate every five years or so by honoring one significant Iowan, giving them this award – our state’s highest honor. President Hoover won the first award (1951) and his friend, Ding Darling, won the second (1955).

Johnson County Historical Resources. Over the last one-hundred and fifty years, there have been local historians who have painstakingly laid out the stories of our county, leaving us a treasure trove of facts and figures, names and places. Allow me here to introduce you to nine key historic resources, written from 1868 to the present, with on-line links included so you can easily access them as well.
Two Iowa Friends – Making & Collecting Iowa History. In the mid-1800’s, Iowa became the new home for two young men from the East. Throughout their lives, they both made history and became impressive collectors of all things Iowa. T.S. Parvin and Charles Aldrich – two friends who left their unique mark in Iowa history.

The Old Stone Capitol Remembers – Benjamin F. Shambaugh. Professor Shambaugh was born in 1871 near Clinton, growing up as an Iowa farm boy yet always with a deep hunger for education. Over time, he became a dynamic administrator and teacher, authoring three books – the best known of which is The Old Stone Capitol Remembers (1939), editing nine more, and writing scores of articles as the first Supervisor/Editor of the State Historical Society of Iowa. Here at Our Iowa Heritage, his writings have served as a cornerstone to all we have published.

William J. Petersen – Steamboat Bill. Raised on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi, this young man from Dubuque went on to become world-renowned as a history professor at SUI (1930-1968) and as the long-time supervisor for the State Historical Society of Iowa (1947-1972). Taking after Samuel Clemens, Petersen became famous because of his writings about life and steamboating on the Father of Waters.

Irving Weber – Mr. Iowa City. Named the “official historian” of Iowa City, Irving Weber was an ice cream salesman for most of his career. But when he retired in 1966, he began writing down his Iowa City memories which, over the next twenty-five years, produced more than 800 newspaper articles and eight historic books, all treasures for those who want to relive the rich heritage of Iowa City and Johnson County.

Weber’s Winners – Iowa City’s Finest. In 1979, The Iowa City Press Citizen ran a special section called Chronology – 1841/1979. It featured the famed Iowa City historian, Irving Weber, writing a short blurb on the top 25 people who “left their stamp on Iowa City.” Join us as we pick up where Weber left off, writing a post on each of those 25 Iowa City history-makers.

Weber’s Fun Facts – Old Stone Capitol. In 1976, the Iowa City Lion’s Club published Irving Weber’s Iowa City: 102 short historical stories that had originally been published by the Iowa City Press Citizen. Here is the first article from Weber’s first book, written in a quiz format, focusing on the most prominent landmark in Iowa City.

Marybeth Slonneger – Iowa City’s Artistic Historian. Iowa City has a rich heritage of talented artists and gifted historians, but Marybeth Slonneger just might be our city’s first resident who is actually both. Come meet Marybeth and take a brief look at her fourth book (2015), Finials: A View of Downtown Iowa City.
1838 to Today – Unity Through Diversity in Johnson County, Iowa. Believe it or not, in 1838, when a group of seven pioneers gathered to chart out the future of Johnson County, there were five white men (no surprise, right?), but also a black man named Mogawk, and a Native American woman named Jennie, all working alongside two Meskwaki chiefs. Could it be that MLK’s Dream where men and women are judged by character, and not by the color of their skin, is possible today? Come look at the lineup of brave Iowans (past and present) who believe it’s possible.

Meskwaki People – True Native Iowans. At the time of the American Revolution, the Mississippi River Valley was lush prairie-land occupied by several Native American tribes: The Meskwaki (Fox), the Sauk, the Sioux, and the Ioway. Since Our Iowa Heritage website focuses primarily on eastern Iowa, here we give a tip of the hat to the Meskwaki people who migrated to the Iowa River Valley as white settlements began to emerge.

Chief Poweshiek – The Roused Bear. During a very volatile time in Iowa history (1830-1854), the Meskwaki Tribal Chief Poweshiek did a masterful job of maintaining peace yet never sacrificing his strong principles, believing that all men should live in freedom. Read the story behind this brave warrior who loved his people and cherished the Iowa River valley, the place we now call Johnson County, Iowa.

George Washington Carver – Iowa’s Mr. Peanut. Carver was an agricultural scientist and inventor who developed hundreds of products using peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans. Born into slavery a year before it was outlawed, George left home at a young age to pursue education and continued that training in Iowa – Simpson College in Indianola (1890-1891), agricultural science (Iowa State University -1894) and was the first black faculty member at ISU (1894-1896) earning a master’s degree. He would go on to teach and conduct research at Tuskegee University (1896-1943).

Carrie C. Catt – Iowa’s Champion for Women’s Rights. Growing up in Charles City as a farmer’s daughter, very few people expected Carrie Lane to be a world-changer. But over her 88 years, this ISU graduate became one of the key leaders of the American women’s suffrage movement. Her superb oratory and organizational skills led to ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote in August, 1920.

Johnson County’s New Namesake – What a Lulu! In June 2021, Johnson County, Iowa did something that rarely happens – they officially changed their eponyn, removing a racist slave-holding southerner in favor of one amazing African-American Iowa native who spent her life teaching us things we all need to know. Meet Lulu M. Johnson – our county’s new namesake.

Making Elbow Room for a Pulitzer-Prize Winner. Over a thirty-year period, James Alan McPherson, the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, found plenty of “elbow room” for both himself and others while teaching at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. In 2021, Iowa City renamed one of its city parks in his honor.

Honoring James Alan McPherson. On August 5, 2021, the City of Iowa City held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the newly-renamed park honoring McPherson. Both the mayor and McPherson’s daughter, Rachel, were there for the festivities…and so were we. Enjoy the pics!

Duke Slater – Iowa’s All-American Trailblazer. In 1921, Iowa had an All-American football player from Clinton that single-handedly took the Hawkeyes to a mythical national championship. A man cut from the same fabric as Nile Kinnick, Duke Slater has largely been forgotten over the last century, primarily because of his skin color. But no more. Beginning in 2021, the Hawkeyes will be playing on Duke Slater Field in Kinnick Stadium. Come read this amazing man’s story.

Ozzie Simmons + Racial Targeting = Floyd of Rosedale. In 1933, a young black man from Texas showed up in Iowa City, looking to follow in the footsteps of Duke Slater. Before he graduated in 1936, he had become an All-American football player, but more importantly, he blazed a trail for other people of color and is remembered each year with Floyd of Rosedale – going to the winner of the Iowa/Minnesota game.

Simon Estes – From Centerville to Center Stage. Born in 1938 in Centerville, Iowa, Simon Estes is the son of a coal miner, with a grandfather who was once a slave sold for $500. Crediting his strong faith in God, Estes rose above the racial prejudice, finding his singing voice at SUI, before establishing himself as a world-renowned opera singer, with many calling him the finest baritone-bass in the world.

Johnson County Remembrance Markers. Over the last 175+ years, the good people of Johnson County, Iowa have established many remembrance “stones” – memorials placed here and there with the hope that when you and I see them, we will stop and remember the person, event, or story that lies behind the monument we’re looking at. In this post, we give you a quick look at twelve such examples, ranging from 1837 to today.

Johnson County Remembrance Park. As we close this journey into Our Iowa Heritage, allow me to retell one more story that comes from Johnson County’s first business meeting. It was January 1838. Seven pioneers met in John Gilbert’s Trading Post on the Iowa River to draw up an expansion plan for their new county. It’s not surprising to find five white men here, but what is absolutely shocking is that the other two individuals were a black man and a Native American woman. Unity through diversity. Could it be as we pause to remember, we might also choose to walk a similar path today … for a time such as this?
W.P. Kinsella – Write It and They Will Come. In the spring of 1978, a graduate student from Canada, who came to Iowa City to attend the world-renowned Writers Workshop, started working on a 20-page short story that envisioned a discredited baseball player from 1919 being restored back to life through the sacrificial work of a young Iowa farmer who had “father issues.” W.P. Kinsella’s writings went on to become a 300-page novel and, in 1989, a blockbuster movie that many believe to be the best baseball movie ever. Welcome to IOWA – is this heaven? You decide.

The Field of Dreams Game. In 1978, W.P. Kinsella wrote it. In 1989, Hollywood produced it. On August 12, 2021 – the world came to see it. A perfect evening provided for a perfect game of catch – and on this magical night, it all ended with a walk-off homer. I’m sure W.P. Kinsella was looking down from above and smiling. Come look at some great pics from heaven – IOWA.

Iowa’s Music Man – Meredith Willson. No list of famous Iowans can be complete without a big 76-trombone tribute to my very favorite…Meredith Willson of Mason City. Better known to the world as Iowa’s Music Man.

Iowa City – A July 4th Celebration. July 4th has a special place in Iowa City history. On July 4, 2020, I added this little tidbit to Our Iowa Heritage.

Inside Old Capitol. Come with us inside the Old Stone Capitol Museum, courtesy of the University of Iowa Pentacrest Museums. Enjoy the show.

The Old Capitol Dome. Not many have taken the narrow stairs to the top of Old Capitol. Thanks to the University of Iowa Pentacrest Museums, these colorful pics will get you there.

Old Stone Capitol. We can’t close without one final salute to the cornerstone of Our Iowa Heritage: the Old Stone Capitol in Iowa City.

Click here for a complete INDEX of PEOPLE-PLACES-THINGS…

Click here for a complete INDEX of stories listed CHRONOLOGICALLY…

Click here for a numerical INDEX to all of the U.S. postage stamps, postal cards, and coins in our collection…

Click here to read an introduction to Our Boller Family ancestry stories…

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On occasion, as we are collecting Iowa-related Postage Stamps, Postcards, Letters, Books, Coins & Iowa Collectibles, we find a great deal on an item we know you, our readers, might enjoy adding to your collection. Visit Our Iowa Heritage Country Store.

For more info on any of these stories found in Our Iowa Heritage, please drop me an email.