Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

Where was Iowaville?

I learned something at a recent Van Buren County Historical Society meeting.  I was the guest speaker, and I spoke about the legendary squatters who already resided at Leando (originally called Portland) when the white settlers arrived there in 1834.  In my discourse, I made several references to Iowaville. 

Many people that have grown up in and around Van Buren County know something about Iowaville.  They at least know where it was located.  We take it for granted that people, particularly those who go to the historical society meetings, know exactly what we are talking about when we refer to the village....and many other former towns. 

After the meeting, I was asked the question, "Where was Iowaville?  Was that an early reference to Des Moines?"  It dawned on me that even something as simple as the name of one of our early villages should be identified and explained when making a reference.  So, for the benefit of newcomers to Van Buren County and those who are freshly and recently interested in the county's unique history, I will explain the history of Iowaville in a brief overview. 

Before 1824, Iowaville was the chief village of the Iowa Indian tribe.  The loosely constructed center extended through the Des Moines River valley between what is now Selma and Eldon, on the northeast side of the river. 

In 1824 the Sac/Fox tribe overcame the Iowa Indians in a massive battle at that location.  The Iowa Indians who survived the onslaught were kept at bay by the Sac/Fox people who built their village approximately at the Davis/Van Buren County line, in Section 7 of Village Township.  It continued to be called Iowaville, and within a few years it replaced Saukenuk at Rock Island as the primary village of their nation. 

Near the end of 1837, white settlers made arrangements to buy the land where Iowaville existed, from the Sac and Fox residents.  During the first few weeks of 1838, most of the tribe vacated the village and moved to Wapello County.  Meanwhile, the white settlers who purchased the land established their own white village of Iowaville at the same spot, which grew to a population of about 200 people by the early 1860s. 

Iowaville was an early competitor of Independent but failed to secure the railroad.  When the railroad was built through the county, the depot that serviced the area was built at Independent, and this soon signaled Iowaville's demise.  By the 1880s it had virtually disappeared. 

Iowaville was a mile upstream from Independent, which was the forerunner of present day Selma.  Across the river in Section 7 of Village Township was the venture known as Black Hawk City in the 1840s.  An intended village of New Market sprang up near Black Hawk City in section 18, on the west side of the present Selma bridge. 

There were other names for upstart villages within the vicinity including several post office names, which were sometimes different from those of the existing hamlets which they served.  Pameko was one of those names along with Old Hickory, or Hickey, as locals called it.  All were within a stone's throw of the present village of Selma, sometimes nicknamed "Stumptown" for Joe Stump's ancestor who was one of the founders.

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