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Iowa As It Is in 1856
Nathan Howe Parker

The full title-page reads:

Iowa as It Is
in 1856;
A Gazetteer for Citizens,

and a

Hand-book for Emmigrants,º

embracing a full description of

the State of Iowa:
her agricultural, mineralogical, and geological character; her water courses, timber lands, soil and climate; the various railroad lines being built and those projected, with the distances on each; the number and condition of churches and schools in each county; population and business statistics of the most important cities and towns.

Information for the Immigrant

respecting the
selection, entry, and cultivation of prairie soil;
a list of unentered lands in the State, &c.

with numerous illustrations.

by N. Howe Parker

Chicago, Ill.:
Keen and Lee.
Charles Desilver,
No. 253 Market Street.

 p. vii  Preface

After a careful arrangement of information compiled by piecemeal, during a twelvemonth passed in the editorial chair, and during that period subjected to constant revision and pruning — after the receipt from the several counties in our State, of the latest statistical intelligence relating to each — and as the general result of a year's attention and study — it is that the Author has been enabled to prepare his work for the public eye. He is aware that an occasional error may have crept into it, or that here and there a piece of information may have been omitted, but he trusts and believes that the pains he has taken to avoid these have not been in vain, and that if any are found, they will be as few as possible, and in no case, of great importance.

It is the design and aim of the Author in presenting his book to the public, to supply a want that has long been felt, and which is being daily expressed, as well by the present resident in Iowa, as by the countless throng still pouring westward, and the thousands in the crowded East, whose thoughts and aspirations turn towards us.

Iowa holds out to the emigrant inducements such as no other State in our Union can boast, nor is any other at this day being so largely flooded by the onward tide of immigration. Her resources are inexhaustible, her advantages are beyond the scope of calculation, and her claims upon the attention of every class and sex of the energetic, the industrious and the ambitious, are as peremptory as they are vast. Yet is there a deplorable scarcity of such published information as shall set forth these latent sources of wealth.  p. viii The eastern traveller and emigrant; the western resident — whether he be but a new-comer, or whether he has risen to fortune in our midst — and the State itself, require such an exposition as the Author has attempted in the following pages. If he has succeeded in representing, according to deserts, "Iowa, as it is in 1855" — if his task shall tend to throw a light over the immigrant's path, or to erect a guide-board upon his way — if his work will serve to eradicate or lessen whatever of misconception or of prejudice may have existed in the minds of strangers — if, as the fruit of his labors, he shall be able to induce others to join the mighty host that even now is swarming to Iowa's fertile fields — if, in fine, he has been able to place Iowa before the world, in its true light, and to assign to it that lofty rank among the States which it must attain and forever hold — he will feel that he has not fallen short of the elevated goal of his ambition, and, in the consciousness of a duty fulfilled will reap a golden reward.

And here the Author feels called upon to express the gratitude he feels towards those to whom he has applied for information. With scarcely an exception, he has met with prompt and kindly answers, and an earnest co-operation. And while thus returning his thanks, he would ask of those who have aided him heretofore, as well as of any who may bestow their attention upon his book, to further assist him, and whenever they may detect aught that is erratic, or discover any omission, to inform him in the matter, that he may be able, in his next edition, to rectify the one and fill up the other.

N. H. P.

Davenport, Iowa, May, 1855.




Early history and accession of territory — organization — boundaries, area, etc.



The climate



The soil



General appearance of the prairies



Iowa scenery — the bluffs, etc.



Rivers and their tributaries






Geology of Iowa



Population — immense immigration of 1854



General remarks



Instructions to the new-comer respecting the selection, entry, or purchase and cultivation of prairie lands



Sketches by travelling contributors — a stranger's impressions, etc.






Railroad distances on the various lines, connecting Chicago with the State of Iowa






Description of counties



Description of counties — continued



Description of counties — continued



Description of counties — continued



Description of counties — concluded



Western Iowa and Nebraska



New counties



Unentered lands in the State



Constitution of the State of Iowa



State officers and Congressmen, from the admission into the Union to the present time



Policy of government






Religious worship



Benevolent societies






State Capitol, Iowa City


Hills of Silicious Marl, Council Bluffs

facing p31

Section on Creek near Rockingham, Scott County, showing out-crop of Coal.


Castellated Appearance of Lower Magnesian Limestone, Upper Iowa.


Mississippi Railroad Bridge, between Rock Island and Davenport.


Concretions in Carboniferous Sandstone, Muscatine


L'Eclaire's Homestead


Female College, under the auspices of the I. O. O. F. of Iowa


Ladies' College, Davenport


The foregoing table is mine, the printed edition having none.

[decorative delimiter]

Technical Details

Edition Used

The edition transcribed here is the first and only edition. Published in 1856, it has been in the public domain for many years: details here on the copyright law involved.

The book's title varies. It was clearly meant to be released in 1855, and was therefore originally titled Iowa As It Is in 1855; when it made it to the printer's, it was retitled Iowa As It Is in 1856, natch. Under either title, there was still just one edition.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The edition I followed was very well proofread; the inevitable few errors I found, I corrected, when important (or unavoidable because inside a link), with a bullet like this;º and when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A small number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.


The "numerous illustrations" mentioned on the book's title page consist of nine engravings: it is to be regretted that they include no views of the new towns of Iowa, which would have been a great gift to today's historian.

In this Web edition, it's also regrettable that I've been unable to include the large fold-out map, which in the copy I worked from — the exemplar preserved at the University of Chicago's Regenstein Library — is now reduced to the merest stub, up to the first fold. If you have a copy in which the map is whole, please drop me a line so we can complete the online resource for everyone.

Pagination and Local Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

[image ALT: An engraving of a small rectangular building, two stories and a somewhat raised basement, in the Greek Revival style, seen in a three-quarters view. In the center of the long side the entrance consists of a four-column pedimented portico five steps up from ground level; directly behind this entrance, the building is crowned in the center by an elegant small cylindrical domed lantern a bit more than one additional story in height, faced on four sides by a miniature columned portico in the same style, set on a stepped square base. The building is in a park with a few small trees and a sward of grass. It is the first State Capitol of Iowa, at Iowa City; the image serves as the icon of my subsite transcribing Parker's 'Iowa As It Is in 1856'.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is my colorization of part of the engraving of the first State Capitol of Iowa, at Iowa City, which in the printed edition appears as the frontispiece; in this Web transcription I've moved it to chapter 17, where the building is spoken of. The red and blue are those of the flag of Iowa.

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Site updated: 11 Sep 11