Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


The pioneer press of the Iowa Region in Wisconsin Territory was a Washington hand model manufactured in Cincinnati. It was used by John King when he began issuing the weekly Du Buque Visitor on May 11, 1836 and was later used in Lancaster, Wisconsin for what would be that state’s first publication in 1842. The original newspaper changed its name and was known as the Iowa News from 1837-1841.

In Montrose, Dr. Isaac Galland is responsible for Southeast Iowa’s first printing, again while it was part of Wisconsin Territory. Galland purchased the Carthagenian from Thomas Gregg of Carthage, Illinois and established the Western Adventurer and Herald of the Upper Mississippi on June 28, 1837. His motive for publishing was for real estate development, although Dr. Galland was better known for his Mormon activities. The paper was discontinued after one year, and Dr. Galland didn’t publish again until 1847. While it was in circulation, a subscription to his weekly paper consisting of 28 columns of matter was priced at $3 per year (if paid in advance.)

Many important official documents were printed in Burlington, the capital of Wisconsin Territory and first capital of Iowa Territory. James Clarke began a paper in 1837, and a second publication in 1839 eventually became the Burlington Hawkeye.

The first issue of the Ft. Madison Patriot came off the press on March 24, 1838 followed by the Iowa Sun and Davenport and Rock Island News on August 4, 1838. Davenport was Iowa’s fifth printing site, followed by Muscatine during the summer of 1838, and Iowa City when the Iowa City Standard was born on June 10, 1841.

The 8th site in Iowa Territory to have a press was Keosauqua, well ahead of Fairfield, Keokuk, and Ottumwa. Jesse M. Shepherd and J. L. T. Mitchell set up the Iowa Democrat and Des Moines River Intelligencer in 1843. Jesse’s father James bought out Mitchell in 1844, and Mitchell attempted to establish a second paper in Keosauqua. However, the life of the Border Pioneer was very brief.

When Iowa became a state in 1846, less than a dozen printing sites existed including Fairfield and Keokuk. The arrival of Ottumwa’s first press brought farmers from more than ten miles away to “view the new wonder” in operation. Called the Des Moines Courier, the forerunner of the Ottumwa Courier commenced publication in August, 1848. Des Moines, the future capital of Iowa, acquired a press in 1849, as did Council Bluffs, then known as Kanesville. At Mt. Pleasant Kelsey established the Iowa Freeman in 1849. These fourteen pioneers were the only printing sites located in Iowa before 1850. (Annals of Iowa, Vol. 20, 1935-1937.)

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick