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Bill Thayer

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Chapter 10

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Ioway to Iowa

Irving Berdine Richman

published by
The State Historical Society of Iowa

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 12
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p197  Overhead

Overhead in Ioway
The Name

 p199  Overhead in Ioway

The crowns of Europe handed laws down to our forefathers, but we, 'squatters' of Iowa, handed laws up to our rulers and they acknowledged our 'sovereign power' and accommodated their laws to suit our necessity. — Suel Foster, Muscatine, 1872.

On June 28, 1834, Congress proclaimed that Ioway (hitherto a No‑Man's Land) 'shall be, and hereby is, for the purpose of temporary government, attached to, and made part of, the territory of Michigan'.142

What led Congress to do this? Blood — the blood of George O'Keaf shed by Patrick O'Connor at Dubuque.

But it took more than the blood of an O'Keaf and an enlargement of Michigan Territory to carry 'Overhead' into the future Iowa: it took a further shedding of blood at Dubuque. The murder of Woodbury Massey by the elder Smith, and the killing of Smith by Massey's border, and the attack in turn on Smith's son by Louisa Massey — this vendetta, this crime-sequence — stirred Congress in 1836 to the setting apart of a new 'Overhead', one pivoting west of the Mississippi — Wisconsin Territory. A Wisconsin with Iowa in its bosom.

 p200  Beginning with 1833 there had sprung up in Ioway a provisional civil township,143 in other words, the 'Claim Association'. The Ioway settler was a preëmptioner — preëmptor — buyer-ahead-of‑time — buyer by anticipation — and the Claim Association secured to him his 'rights' — rights, by the way, which directly contravened the Federal laws of 1807 and 1833 prohibiting all persons from occupying any portion of the public lands until after the lands had been surveyed and regularly opened to public sale.144

Congress passed no general preëmption law until 1841, but the Claim Association township proved everywhere an effective substitute. Its officers, as in Johnson County, might be a president, a clerk, judges, and marshals; or there might be, as in Davis County, a simple committee of three arbitrators supplemented by a trial committee or jury of twelve. The clerk of a Claim Association at Fort Madison (1834‑1835) observed that 'murder and jumping another's claim were crimes of equal guilt'. The Massey case shows that at times claim jumping entailed murder; but that the Claim Association itself was disposed to inflict the penalty which lynchers visited upon murders, is quite unsusceptible of proof.

Of the Claim Association township in action we have a picture by a member of such a body in Johnson County in 1840. 'On the 30th day of July', he  p201 says, 'a number of settlers started to the land sales that were to take place at Dubuque on the 3rd of August. . . . Some forty or fifty settlers composed our company and we started for Dubuque in two-horse wagons, supplied with provisions and camp equipage. . . . On Monday morning early we had made all arrangements for the sale. The bidder and assistant bidder [functionaries of the Claim Association] had furnished themselves with large plats of the two [Federal] townships to be sold, with each claimant's name plainly written on the subdivision which he wished to purchase. When the time came for the sale to begin, the crier stepped out on the platform, and inviting the bidder and assistant to take places on the platform beside him, took hold of one side of the plat, and began at section No. 1, and called out each eighty acre subdivision as rapidly as he could speak. When he came to a tract with a name written on it, he would strike his hammer down, and give the name to the clerk. . . . The two townships were offered in less than thirty minutes. During this time the claimants stood in a compact semicircle in front of the platform in breathless silence, not a sound being heard except the crier's voice. The purchasers were then admitted, two or three at a time, to pay for the land and receive their certificates. . . . On the 5th of August we started for home, many of us enjoying the comfortable  p202 feeling of being owners of real estate for the first time in our lives'.

By blood, then, and by provisional civil township, there had come to the settlers in the two Black Hawk Purchases jurisdictional overhead. It but remained to give to the Purchases themselves a status corporate under a corporate name.

 p203  The Name

Then tell us ere the Indian die, oh! ah!

If this fair land be really I′owa.

Oh 'dusty noses', 'dirty faces'

Give us your ancient recollection.

To council call the scattered band

And when the hungry horde is sated

Then from the sachem dirtiest rated

This question ask: 'Oh warrior, say,

Did Indian tongue name Ioway?'145

— Student of Philology, 1885

Between 1830 and 1850 three names showed a tendency to interlink: Michigan, Iowa, California. Iowa was 'Ioway'; California was 'Californiay'; and Michigan was 'Michiganiay'.

But who among the mountains 'mid cloud and snow would stay,

When he can buy a prairie in Michiganiay?

Yea, yea, yea, in Michiganiay.

But the fixing upon Ioway of the name 'Iowa', whose work was that? Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Albert Miller Lea, who knew the original Ioway (the two Black Hawk Purchases) from having aided in exploring it in 1835,  p204 says in 1836 that the work was his. He liked the name 'Iowa' because it was the name of the Iowa River. As early, however, as 1829, seven years prior to 1836, Michigan had created in the present Wisconsin the county of 'Iowa'. And in 1834 Congress decreed that laws in force in the country of Iowa should be extended to the counties of Dubuque and Demoine. That is to say, ever since 1834, 'Iowa District' had stood as the official, if not popular, designation of what Lea did not call 'Iowa' until 1836. This Lea himself tacitly recognizes, for in 1836 he writes: 'In the following notes, the Author designs to place within the reach of the public, correct information in regard to a very interesting portion of the Western country, especially of that part of it known as the "Iowa District".'146

In any event on July 4, 1838, Iowa, comprehending the present Iowa, part of manner, and of the Dakotas, came into being under the name 'Territory of Iowa'.

Delegate Jones and the Daughter of John C. Calhoun

In 1837 I introduced without any petition from the people, a bill in Congress to divide the Territory of Wisconsin and to establish the Territory of Iowa. . . . I found an able opponent to it in the Hon. John C. Calhoun, a Senator from the State of South Carolina, ex-Vice‑President of the United States. . . .

 p205  That winter I escorted Miss Anna Calhoun home to her father's boarding house, at the corner of D and Eight Streets, near Pennsylvania Ave., from a party which was given by Senator Linn and myself at the corner of B and Third Streets, Washington City. As we waited at the door for the porter at about 12 or 1 o'clock, Miss Calhoun said: 'General, I do not know how I can ever return the compliments and favors you have shown me.'

'You can, Miss Calhoun, do me a great service. To‑morrow my bill to establish the Territory of Iowa is to be considered in the Senate, it having already passed the House. Your father, although my good friend, is opposed to my bill. To‑morrow morning, when he comes down to breakfast put your lovely arm around his neck and ask him to vote for my bill.'

'I'll do my best, General, and I know I shall succeed, as my father never refuses me anything.'

'Well', I said, 'Miss Calhoun, I'll come to see you to‑morrow forenoon at about 11 o'clock to hear what your success may have been.' I went as I had promised, when she told me that her father said that his constituents would never forgive him if he should consent to the passage of that bill, to lay the foundation of another abolition State. . . . I thanked her and said: 'I will now go and send your admirer, our mutual friend, Mr. C. G. Clemson, to escort you to the Senate; take your seat over Colonel Benton's on the Democratic side. When I send you my card, come down, send your card for your father, and take him into the library and keep him there until I call for you.' She replied: 'General, I'll do my utmost to serve you.' . . .

I called a page and told him to take my card to Miss Calhoun,  p206 whom I pointed out to him, and to wait on her. He went up with my card, and I saw him deliver it. Soon she was escorted to the door of the Senate by Mr. C. G. Clemson, and sent her card to her father, and I saw him get up and walk out of the Senate. 'Now', said I, "Senator Clayton, please call up my bill to establish the Territory of Iowa.' In a few minutes my bill was passed, Iowa was a Territory, and the Senate adjourned. I walked into the library, where Mr. Calhoun, his daughter and Mr. Clemson were. Mr. Calhoun asked me: 'What was going on in the Senate?' I replied: 'The Senate has adjourned and the bill to create Iowa has been passed.' Then turning to his daughter he said: 'Oh, Anna, . . . you have prevented my making a speech to oppose that bill, as I would have done and done successfully, as the time for the consideration of Territorial bills has expired.' — From the Autobiography of George Wallace Jones.147

The Author's Notes:

142 Shambaugh's Documentary Material Relating to the History of Iowa, Vol. I, No 3, p76.

[decorative delimiter]

143 The regular civil township in the West was tardy in formation. In Iowa under both Michigan and Wisconsin the civil township was identical in area with the county. — Aurner's History of Township Government in Iowa, p22.

In Johnson County there were no regular townships until 1845, and in 1846 the County of Dubuque under special act of the legislature of the Territory of Iowa voted whether to adopt the township form of government or not. — Aurner's History of Township Government in Iowa, p36.

[decorative delimiter]

144 In the spring of 1836 the United States government began putting into effect in the Black Hawk Purchase the Federal Land System — a system of townships by meridians and base lines — a system wholly independent of that of the county and civil township. Indeed, in 1836‑1837 Federal township lines — that is, outer ones — were surveyed and some forty townships reduced to sections. — Jesse Macy's Institutional Beginnings in a Western State in the Johns Hopkins University Studies (Second Series), VII.

[decorative delimiter]

145 'There is more confusion over the exact pronunciation of the word "Iowa" than almost any other name applied to our States'. — Correspondence with the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York City.

'Iowa', or 'Ioway', derives from the Iowa, or Ioway, tribe of Indians — a tribe early dispersed over the present Iowa in the north and west. The name, therefore, in one or other of its forms, may be said to be one of 'manifest destiny'. But, even so, how did the form 'Iowa'? (I′uhwuh) contrive to persist at the expense of the form 'Ioway'? The first white man, so far as known, to meet the Iowas (and he met them in close personal contact) was Father Louis André, and in officially reporting upon them (1676) the Father, a thorough Frenchman, says that they were called (by the Dakotas) Aiaoüa. 'On les appelle', he writes, 'aiaoüa ou [descriptively] mascouteins nadoessi', etc. — Thwaites's Jesuit Relations, Vol. LX, p202.

Aiaoüa, too, the Santee Dakotas called the tribe as late as 1852 when  p431 S. R. Riggs in his Dakota Lexicon sets them down as 'Ayúhpä' — Sleepy Ones'.

La Salle, who next perhaps after André gained close knowledge of the Iowas, called them (1680) Aiounouea. — Margry's Découvertes et Établissements des Français, Vol. II, p258.

Then, in 1689, Nicolas Perrot, who met the Ioways close and oft, writes them down (at first) Aiaoüa, the same as André. And in 1700 Le Sueur, who made a point of learning about the Iowas from the Dakotas, called them in his journal not Aiouez or Aiouais or Aioyës (all pronounced Ioway) but Ayavois — that is to say, Ai‑av‑o‑ah or I'owa.a — Margry's Découvertes et Établissements des Français, Vol. VI, p80. The translation is in the Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XVI, p180.

Frank Luther Mott of the State University of Iowa writes: 'A study of the pronunciation of the word [Iowa] by fifty students in the University of Iowa hailing from different parts of State resulted in forty-six uses of this form [I′uhwuh] . . . It is believed, then, that the standard pronunciation in the State is I′uhwuh'. It should, however, he says, be noted that in 1925 Alanson Skinner wrote that in his ten years' experience with the Ioways, he had heard 'the name repeatedly pronounced by the members of both the Oklahoma and Kansas-Nebraska divisions as follows: ai′‑yu‑way, the accent being on the first syllable and the last syllable having the distinct ay sound'. May not the explanation be that the Iowa Indians of to‑day, in calling themselves Ioway, reflect the influence of the French, who, except in the early period of their occupation of the West, when they reflected what they immediately heard, made use of this ay form? — The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XXIII, p357.

A wholly different name, seemingly, for Ioways was Pahódje (phonetically Pahutch′ae), a term meaning 'Snow Covered', 'Gray Snow', 'Dusty Ones'. — Alanson Skinner's Societies of the Iowa in the Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, Vol. XI, Part IX; Skinner's Ethnology of the Ioway Indians in the Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, p192; Miner's The Iowa, p6; Thwaites's Early Western Travels, Vol. XXIV, pp313, 314; Iowa Historical Record, Vol. I, pp19‑23.

(p432) The name Pahódje was bestowed on the Ioways by their close kinsmen the Otoes and was the name by which the tribe was known to Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet. In his The Iowa, an interesting attempt is made by William Harvey Miner to show identity of meaning between Äyu′h'äpä and Pahódje — both standing for 'Dusty-Heads'. Pahódje as a name for the Ioways did not long or widely persist, but the 'Aiaoüa' of André (masquerading later as Aiounoué or Arounoué or even as Airueaoüa) looks remarkably like the original of 'Iowa' — Aiaoüa (I′uhwuh as we now have it).

[decorative delimiter]

146 Lea's Notes on Wisconsin Territory, Preface; Benj. F. Shambaugh's The Origin of the Name Iowa in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. III, pp641 et seq.

[decorative delimiter]

147 Parish's George Wallace Jones, pp127 et seq.; Briggs's The Birth of the Territory in The Palimpsest, Vol. IX, pp8 et seq.

Thayer's Note:

a This is a mistake, and undoes some of the writer's argument. Although in modern French oi (and ois, in which the s is silent) is pronounced wa, up to and in the late 17c, and some years after into the 18c, oi was pronounced way; Ayavois was thus pronounced I′avway.

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