French explorers Joliet and Marquette first sighted Iowa in 1673 when they canoed the Mississippi River. In 1682 LaSalle explored the Mississippi River and claimed all lands drained by it for King Louis XIV of France.
In 1788, Julien Dubuque, the first white settler arrived. He cleverly lived among the Mesquakie Indian tribe and together they successfully mined the 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 with prairie grass - most as tall as a house. The remaining land was timbered. As many as 17 Native American tribes populated Iowa then, yet only the Mesquakie remain today. Most of Iowa's land was included in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and the remaining was "later acquired" from the Sauk and Fox tribes after the Black Hawk War of 1832.
Iowa attained U.S. territorial status in 1838. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 declared that Iowa would prohibit slavery in any form and be a free state; that officially occurred on December 28, 1846. The capital city, 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 Iowa's land in the last 70 years of the 19th century boggles the mind! By 1900 nearly all of its 36 million acres had been cleared, drained and plowed, and were then being cultivated by a population of 2.2 million people, compared to about 96,000 only 54 years earlier. It was certainly one of the most rapid land use transformations in the history of the world.
During the American Civil War, Iowa led the states in per capita enlistment in the military. 60% of eligible males were involved in the effort. Iowa lead mines made bullets for that war as well. The staunchly free state of Iowa provided a wide Underground Railway network for escaping 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 the Amanas and the Quakers. Herbert Hoover, Iowa's only US President, was a Quaker.
Not surprisingly, Iowa is today a major agricultural state. It nearly always leads the nation in the production of pork, corn, soybeans, and eggs. The state is also the largest producer of biodiesel and ethanol fuels, and 3rd in the nation 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 nation's focus is on the State of Iowa when the country's first Presidential caucus is held here. The trend-setting results of the Iowa vote frequently hold true when all of America votes.
Major attractions in Iowa include the Amana Colonies, Crystal Lake Cave, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, the Field of Dreams (of movie fame), Effigy Mounds National Park and the State Capitol building. In addition, interesting points-of-interest along both the Mormon and Lewis and Clark Trails are not to be missed.
With its beautiful green countryside, many historic sites, and outdoor activities of all description, Iowa is an attractive family destination.