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Chapter 8

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Iowa As It Is in 1856

N. Howe Parker

Chicago and Philadelphia, 1856

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Chapter 10
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 p52  Chapter IX

Population — Immense Immigration of 1854

The population of the Territory in 1836, was 10,531; in 1840, it was 43,017; in 1850, 192,214. The census, as returned by the Secretary of State, taken in the spring of 1854, is as follows: Males, 170,302; females, 154,900; total population, 325,202. Voters, 59,984; militia, 50,284; aliens, 10,373; colored males, 258; colored females, 222; blind, 27; deaf and dumb, 28; insane, 47; idiots,º 7. There is one vote to every five and a half and a fraction of the population.

According to this last census, the number of males exceeds that of the females some 16,000. Let the Yankee girls take the hint when they see these figures.

The number of inhabitants in the State in January, 1855, has been estimated at upwards of 500,000. Those who have seen and can realize that Iowa is the mouth of the great Stream of Humanity, whose tributaries extend far and wide, into every State and many nations — that stream which is daily and hourly pouring into this great, and fertile, and beautiful State, its hundreds and thousands, cannot but predict that in 1860 Iowa will be peopled by more than a million of hardy, energetic, and intelligent inhabitants.

 p53  By some, this may be deemed a wild speculation; but we think we have good and sufficient reasons for placing our estimate thus. That the reader may have some idea of the immense influx into Iowa, we will annex a few extracts which appeared in the newspapers at different points in the State last summer and fall.

Of the Immense Immigration of 1854

The Iowa City Reporter says:

"Mr. Watts, of this city, has recently returned from a trip East. On his way home, he represents the immigration bound for Iowa as astonishing and unprecedented. For miles and miles, day after day, the prairies of Illinois are lined with cattle and wagons, pushing on towards our prosperous State.

"A point beyond Peoria, Mr. Watts remained over night; where he was informed that, during a single month, seventeen hundred and forty-three wagons had passed, and all for Iowa. Allowing five persons to a wagon, which is a fair average, we have 8715 souls to add to our population. This being but the immigration of the month, and upon one route only out of many, it would not be an unreasonable assertion to say that 50,000 men, women, and children will have come into this State by the first of December, reckoning from the first of September."

Remembering that those spoken of by Mr. Watts all came by wagons, please add this item, from the Chicago Press:

"Most of the passenger trains came in last week with  p54 two locomotives; and the reason of this great increase of power will be understood when it is known that twelve thousand passengers arrived from the East, by the Michigan Southern road, during the last week — a city in the short space of six days!"

To the above, add the crowds who ascend the Mississippi and Missouri upon every boat, of whom as many as 600 have passed St. Louis in one day!

The Oskaloosa Times says:

"From early morning till night-fall, the covered wagons are passing through the place."

"We learn from old citizens that the tide of immigration is this year greater than they have ever known before."

"We should think at least a thousand persons pass through Oskaloosa every week, about these times, on their way westward."

"Not an hour in the day but we see teams 'hauling up' on the Square."

The Davenport Commercial adds:

"That's our case, precisely. Our ferry is busy all hours in passing over the large canvas-backed wagons, densely populated with becoming Iowaians.º An army of mechanics have added 300 buildings to this city during the past season, yet every nook and corner of them are engaged before they are finished; but our hospitable citizens will not allow any to suffer for want of a shelter. In several instances the citizens have, like true aborigines, withdrawn to close quarters, and given their parlors to those who have come to make their homes among us and were unable to  p55 find dwellings. There is not a vacant dwelling or business room in the city."

The Burlington Telegraph says:

"20,000 immigrants have passed through the city within the last thirty days, and they are still crossing at the rate of 600 and 700 a day. We have these facts from the ferry folks, who keep a sort of running register. About one team in a hundred is labelled 'Nebraska;' all the rest are marked 'Iowa.' "

The Dubuque Tribune says:

"Daily — yes, hourly — ingredients are arriving in this and neighboring counties from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. All are in raptures at the lovely sights which here greet their gaze; and they with one accord yield the palm to Western Iowa for lovely prairies, beautiful groves of timber, and meandering streams of water."

The editor of the Dubuque Reporter thus speaks of the "Prospects of Iowa":

"Never before, in the history of this northwestern region of the United States, has there been a more gratifying spectacle than that now presented to those who take an interest in its progress and welfare. Viewing the almost countless throng of immigrants that crowd our streets, and learning that a similar scene is visible at every other point along the Mississippi border of Iowa, the spectator is naturally led to infer that a general exodus is taking place in the Eastern States of the Union, as well as in those that, but a few years ago, were denominated the West.

"Day by day the endless procession moves on — a mighty  p56 army of invasion, which, were its objects other than peace, and a holy, fraternal, cordial league with its predecessors, their joint aim to conquer this fair and alluring domain from the wild dominion of nature would strike terror into the boldest hearts. They come by hundreds and thousands from the hills and valleys New England, bringing with them that same untiring, indomitable energy and perseverance, that have made their native States the admiration of the world, and whose influence is felt wherever enterprise has a votary or commerce spreads a sail; with intellects sharpened to the keenest edge, and brawny arms to execute the firmest resolves of their iron will, and gathering fresh accessions, as they sweep across the intermediate country, from the no less thrifty and hardy population of New York, Ohio, and Indiana. Tarrying no longer amongst us than is necessary for them to select their future home, away they hie to the capacious and inviting plains, that spread themselves interminably, ready to yield, almost without preparation, their rich latent treasures.

"Soon will be seen innumerable the farmer's comfortable abode, and the frequent thriving village, with its 'people's college,' as its highest worldly pride, and close at hand the house of God, with spire pointing to heaven, as if to remind the worshippers of the source to which they are indebted for all the store of blessings they enjoy. And soon, too, in the wake of such a mighty rush and all its soul-swelling consequences, will follow the laying out and construction of those great works that will link us to the wide-spread members of our confederacy, over which the  p57 iron horse, more terrible in the fierceness of his strength than the war-steed of Job, will snort his triumphant ha, ha! as he bounds along in his tireless race. Science, in turn, will rear her loftiest fanes, and plant deep in the hearts of her disciples the seeds of a deathless devotion to the institutions of our common country.

"And to what, let us ask, is the high tide setting into Iowa fairly to be ascribed?

"We take it on ourselves to answer that the unanimous consent of those who have investigated her claims accords her a climate of unequalled salubrity, a soil of the most generous fertility, and a geographical position unsurpassed by that of any other Western State; in a word, that naturally she contains within her limits all the elements which, properly availed of by man, will secure his highest temporal prosperity and happiness. During the past year, she has been peculiarly favored. Whilst the contiguous States, and many of those more remote, have yielded harvests diminished by drought in the ratio of from a fourth to a half, hers has been at least equal to an average one. She is thus able to supply not only her producers, but likewise all who have since come, and are yet to arrive this year. This has been of incalculable advantage to her. Inasmuch as every immigrant comes provided with the means for entering land and defraying expenses till he can make a crop, money has been in freer circulation here than in any other part of the country. A fact equally gratifying is that the immigration hither numbers in its ranks many men of wealth, who consequently bring to us an accession  p58 of capital that must of course produce results which are usually unseen in new states for years after their settlement.

"We conclude our remarks on the prospects of Iowa by tendering our congratulations to her citizens on the proud and enviable position she occupies — a position obtained without effort, and which is but a foretaste of that she will attain as her strength is increased and her concentrated energies directed to the securing of a yet loftier elevation."

The editor of the Keokuk Whig thus speaks, under the announcement of

" '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 side 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  p59 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 any one, also, who has an eye and a soul for Nature in her grandest forms of lavish profusion and splendid magnificence.

"There is something in the 'growing, glowing West,' with her limitless prairies, her mighty rivers, her mountains of iron, the lavish richness of her all-bountiful soil, that expands the soul of man, and elevates him above the narrow, cramped, and confined ideas of those who are accustomed only to the well-worn channels and small conventionalities of older hum-drum communities. There the 'new man' is apt to find himself an unwelcome jostler, his intrusion viewed askance, his elbow-room begrudged him, and his presence tolerated only upon condition of his accepting the procrustean standard of hoary and respectable 'use and wont;' unless, indeed, a position can be asserted and maintained by force of very superior talent, or unusual accidental advantages. But here all is new, and plastic, and vigorous. Men are wanted here, and are welcomed. And here at once is found a boundless and untrammelled field of enterprise, adequate to the elastic energies of ingenious youth or mature manhood. It is curious to watch the development of a comer from the old fogy settlements: to see his mind expand, his eye light up with the fire of a  p60 renewed energy, and his whole nature grow to the liberal standard of Nature's doings in the West.

"Therefore, we repeat again, let them come — old and young, men and women, boys and girls, with or without 'plunder.' Let them flee from their tax-ridden and miserably governed Egypts in Ohio and Pennsylvania, to the Land of Promise, flowing with something better than milk and honey, and possessing capabilities such as they have hardly dreamed of. Here they shall find welcome homes; and, while they speedily help themselves to attain better fortunes, they shall also have a hand in the proud labor of building up the mighty Empire of the Mississippi Valley."

The editor of the Keokuk Dispatch, after returning from a two-weeks' furlough, says:

"No one can travel up and down the Mississippi without being astonished at the immigration constantly pouring into Iowa from all parts of the country; but especially from Indiana and Ohio.

"Two gentlemen from Richmond County, Ohio, told us that from that County alone 1000 persons were coming to Iowa this fall; at every ferry on the river crowds are waiting to cross; and the land-offices all over the State are unable to meet the demands upon them by those who are eager to enter lands.

"Our journey led us into Jackson and Jones Counties, where we met, in all directions, indications of rapid settlement, thrift, and energy. We spent some days in Jones County, on the prairie watered by Mineral Creek, and learned that but a year ago there were forty thousand acres of unentered  p61 land, while there is not now as much as amounts to a section to be had. Although the prairie is but a few miles in extent, there are already forty habitations upon it.

"We left the river at Bellevue — the seat of Jackson County. It is beautifully situated, and ought to be a considerable town. Jackson County numbers about 11,000 in population. Maquoketa is a thriving place, and Sabula means to do a large business when the Air Line Railroad crosses at that point.

"When we take into account the central position of Iowa in our confederacy, and the fact of the rapid development of her resources, we can easily believe that she is destined to become, at no distant day, all that the most sanguine hope for. Her salubrious climate, the abundance of water, and the favorable distribution of timber, all contribute to give Iowa pre-eminence among the Western States in the minds of those who are exchanging a residence in the East for one in the West."

We could occupy pages more in giving like extracts from the press in various parts of the State; but the foregoing will suffice.

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