Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


The 29th state entered the Union on December 28, 1846 as the "free state" of Iowa. This was the result of several years of negotiations with Congress for entry with hot debates and opposition coming from slave states.

Tension was high throughout America concerning slavery. There were frequent rumors of slave revolts including a frightful altercation in New Orleans in February, an uprising in Richmond in May, and another in Memphis in December. It was also a time of war. The Mexican army crossed the Rio Grande river and laid siege on Fort Texas on April 30th. On May 13, the United States declared war on Mexico. Americans living in California began a revolt against Mexican rule on June 14th.

Amidst all of the tension, there were some peaceful efforts made. For example, the "Oregon Treaty" settled the northwest boundary dispute between the United States and England. Louisiana abolished the mandatory death penalty for 1st degree murder.

In accidents that year, 12 died when the smokestack flue of the steamboat Queen City collapsed on May 24. The steamboat Concordia’s boilers exploded on September 16 killing 28 people. On November 21, steamboats Maria and Sultana collided, and 50 people died. On Dec. 11, the steamboat Amelia sank. Also, the "Donner party" became stranded crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains.

In 1846 Edgar Allen Poe published The Cask of Amontillado. The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Carlo were translated into English.

There were many scientific achievements. The Smithsonian Institution was founded by an act of Congress. The world’s first long-span wire/cable suspension bridge was built across the Ohio River, and the Scientific American magazine was first published. The planet Neptune was discovered by Johann Galle.

Iowa entered the Union with 102,388 residents according to the Census of 1846. Van Buren County, which had been the largest county in population in 1840, was still 3rd with about 9,000 residents. Keosauqua, including its "suburbs" accounted for about 10% of the county’s people, and Farmington with its surrounding "suburbs" could count another 700. Bonaparte now had more than 300 residents. Bentonsport and Vernon combined totaled more than 500. Birmingham, Portland, Winchester, and Iowaville each had at least 150 residents. Many other tiny settlements dotted the county map.

It was a time for celebration across the entire state with nightly displays of fireworks. However, given the time of year that statehood finally happened, you probably would think the citizens were simply celebrating New Year’s a bit early!

(information taken from various web sites)

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