Iowa History Timeline

By | May 12, 2022

French explorers Joliet and Marquette first sighted Iowa in 1673 when they were canoeing the Mississippi River . In 1682, La Salle explored the Mississippi River and claimed all the lands drained by it for King Louis XIV of France.

In 1788, Julien Dubuc, the first white settler arrived. He thrived among the Mesquakie Indian tribe, and together they successfully mined lead deposits in the northeast corner of the state. Of course, the Indians did the manual labor.

At that time, about three-quarters of the state was covered in prairie grass – most as tall as a house. The remaining ground was wooden. As many as 17 Native American tribes inhabited Iowa then, yet only the Mesquakie remain today. Much of Iowa’s land was included in the Louisiana Purchase 1803, and the remainder was “later acquired” from the Sok and Fox tribes after the Black Hawk War of 1832 .

In 1838, Iowa achieved US territorial status. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 declared that Iowa would abolish slavery in any form and be a free state; December 28, 1846 it officially happened. The capital, first located in Iowa City, was moved to Des Moines in 1857 so it was closer to the center of the state.

What happened to the land of Iowa in the last 70 years of the 19th century is amazing! By 1900 almost all of its 36 million acres had been cleared, drained and plowed and then cultivated by a population of 2.2 million people, compared to about 96,000 just 54 years earlier. It was certainly one of the fastest land use transformations in the history of the world.

  • Topschoolsintheusa: Guides to study in Iowa, including geography, climate, economy, and tourism of the state.
  • A2zcamerablog: Offers general information about Iowa, covering history, population, economy and county list.
  • Campingship: State outline of Iowa, including geography location, state capital, brief history and a list of largest counties by area.

During the American Civil War, Iowa led the states in enlisting per capita in the military. 60% of eligible men were involved in the effort. The lead mines of Iowa made bullets for that war as well. It is true that the free state of Iowa provided a wide Underground Railroad network to avoid slaves before their emancipation was a reality.

After the civil war ended, railroads began to traverse the state bringing increased opportunities for growth. As a result, many religious communities settled in Iowa, among them Amanas and Quakers. Herbert Hoover , Iowa’s only American President, was a Quaker.

Not surprisingly, Iowa is today the largest agricultural state. It almost always leads the nation in pork, grain, soy and egg production. The state is also the largest producer of biodiesel and fuel ethanol, and 3rd in the country for wind power production.

The education of its young people is a front burner issue in Iowa, and in fact the state has some of the highest SAT scores. Every four years, the national center is on Iowa when the country’s first Presidential caucus is held here. Iowa’s trend-setting voting results often hold up when all of America votes.

Top attractions in Iowa include the Amana Colonies, Crystal Lake Cave, the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, Field of his Dreams (of movie fame), Image Mounds National Park and the Capitol building. Also, interesting points of interest both along the Mormon and along the Lewis and Clark Trails are not to be missed.

With its beautiful green countryside, many historic sites and outdoor activities of all descriptions, Iowa is an attractive family destination.

Iowa timeline

1600s – 1700s

(1673) French explorers Jolliet and Marquette explored the area for the King of France

(1682) La Salle explored Mississippi River, claimed river and land for King of France

(1762) The King of France transferred the land claim to the King of Spain during the Seven Years’ War

(1788) Julien Dubuc became first a white settler in Iowa


  • (1800) Spain returned land to France during the Napoleonic Wars in Europe
  • (1803) United States acquired Iowa in the Louisiana Purchase
  • (1804) Lewis and Clark’s expedition arrived; only death on the expedition occurred
  • (1808) US Army built Fort Madison
  • (1811) New Madrid fault caused earthquakes in central Iowa
  • (1813) Troops abandoned and burned Fort Madison
  • (1820) Missouri Compromise made Iowa non-slave territory
  • (1832) Hawk’s Black War ended; the Sauk tribe caused to cede land west of the Mississippi River
  • (1833) Iowa Territory opened to settlement
  • (1834) Patrick O’Connor first man hung in Iowa
  • (1846) Nearly 20,000 Mormons crossed Iowa; Iowa was admitted to the Union as the 29th state
  • (1847) Dutch immigrants reached Pella
  • (1856) First train from Chicago arrived Iowa City; a group of Indians Sioux destroyed the settlers in Spirit Lake
  • (1857) State capital moved to Des Moines from Iowa City
  • (1858) First legislative session held in Des Moines
  • (1867) Grasshopper invasion occurred, crops damaged; first railroad completed through Iowa
  • (1890) Huge meteor hits the ground 11 miles northwest of Forest City
  • (1893) Pomeroy tornado hit Caloon County, destroyed 80% of houses, killed 71 and injured 200


  • (1901) Record temperature 113 degrees set at Sigourney
  • (1907) The Last Lynch Happened
  • (1909) Earthquake felt in eastern Iowa
  • (1912) Record low temperature -47 degrees set in Washta
  • (1913) Keokuka Dam completed; Martin Block Coal Co. produced the largest single piece of coal – 2,445 pounds
  • (1916) Prohobition closed the Iowa breweries
  • (1920) Devil’s Base designated Iowa’s first national park
  • (1928) Herbert Hoover elected the President of the United States.
  • (1935) First Heisman Trophy presented by Iowan, to Jay Berwanger
  • (1940) Henry Agard Wallace elected Vice President of the United States.
  • (1942) Five Sullivan brothers killed in World War II
  • (1949) Image Mounds National Monument designated
  • (1954) Governor William S. Beardsley killed in car crash
  • (1965) Herbert Hoover National Historic Landmark established
  • (1983) Last Maytag wringer washer produced
  • (1991) Riverboat gambling legalized
  • (1993) Flood caused more than $2 billion in damages
  • (1998) Derecho in Washington, Iowa caused 123 mph wind gusts
  • (1999) New state slogan “Fields of Opportunites” selected


  • (2001) Amtrak train derailment killed one, injured 90
  • (2002) Six people, including four postmen, injured when mailbox bombs exploded
  • (2006) Nine Egyptian students who went missing were found and arrested in Des Moines
  • (2010) Deli Dam Lake failed due to major rain, forced residents to flee their homes
  • (2012) China’s next leader, Xi Jinping, visited home in Musketine where he was two decades ago

Iowa History