Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


A senator from Delaware named John Clayton used his influence to help the Iowa squatters in 1836, when the large portion of land west of the Mississippi River known as Iowa was included in Wisconsin Territory. George Jones, a territorial delegate to Congress worked hard to separate the two segments.

John C. Calhoun from South Carolina was bitterly opposed to organizing Iowa as a separate territory. Slavery could not be carried north of Missouri, thus he figured that the safest way to preserve slavery was to refuse the admission of any new northern territory.

The friends of Iowa resorted to a bit of scheming and used Calhounís daughter Anna to draw him away from the Senate long enough for a bill to pass that would give Iowa territorial status. The bill was signed by President Van Buren on June 12, 1838.

Robert Lucas who had once governed Ohio was appointed governor of Iowa Territory by President Van Buren. A strong prohibitionist, Lucas was president of the Iowa Territorial Society and vowed that he would never appoint to public office any man who used liquor. He also distanced himself from slavery and high taxation.

One of the governorís friends was Ed Manning of Van Buren County. Manning was a shipping magnate, a business entrepreneur, and had helped propitiate the village of Van Buren near the center of his county.

Although Farmington was the largest village and had been the seat of Van Buren County since it was organized in 1836, it was difficult to govern the quickly growing frontier population from Farmington because of its distant location in the southeast corner.

A commission was formed to select possible sites for a new county seat, and some 23 existing or proposed villages responded by competing for the honor. From all of these, the commission favored Keosauqua, a cluster of cabins within the horseshoe bend of the Des Moines River between the already platted triangle named Van Buren and a proposed triangular-shaped village to be called Des Moines City. Efforts headed by Ed Manning were already underway to combine the three settlements into one town. Proprietors made plans to build a court house.

In September, 1838 the territorial legislature chose the nearby community of Rochester to be Van Burenís government seat. But on the following day, Governor Lucas used his influence to persuade the legislature to rescind their vote in favor of an election by the people of Van Buren County for choosing their own government center. It is believed that during the night, Ed Manning either visited Governor Lucas or sent a message that convinced the governor to intercede. Keosauqua won the election by a narrow margin in October, and the choice was approved by the territorial legislature in January, 1839.

The post office at Van Buren was officially Port Oro, but after Des Moines City was platted, the three villages decided to merge under the old name of Keosauqua. By the time this happened, Keosauqua had already been Van Burenís county seat for nearly a year. Later the post office also changed its name to Keosauqua. Once again, history was changed by action behind the scenes as a result of knowing the right people in high places.

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