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A History of Where Iowa Started

From the founding in 1833, to the colorful landscapes of the modern day, Dubuque has a rich history full of Iowa’s firsts and world famous destinations, just waiting to be rediscovered today.

1785

JULIEN DUBUQUE

The first permanent settler to Dubuque was a French-Canadian fur trader, Julien Dubuque. He befriended the Mesquakie Indians who occupied the region at the time. After developing close relationships with the Mesquakie, Julien was shown and permitted to mine the many lead deposits of the area. He named the area Mines of Spain, and successfully operated it until his death in 1810.

1833

OPEN FOR SETTLEMENT

Under the Black Hawk Purchase Treaty in 1833, the United States Government opened the area up for settlement. It came to be known as Dubuque when it was chartered in 1837. Iowa later became a state in 1846, 13 years after the treaty. Dubuque truly is #WhereIowaStarted!

1856

HISTORIC SHOT TOWER

Dubuque’s Shot Tower was built in 1856 to efficiently produce lead shots for the military. Molten lead was poured through a grate at the top of the tower. Then, the relatively uniform drops that fell from the grate would land in the water below which cooled the lead into its solid state. The tower has been burned (interior only), hit by a train, repaired and renovated to its current state.

1882

FENELON PLACE ELEVATOR

Back in 1882, everything closed for an hour and a half over the lunch hour. Unfortunately for Mr. J. K. Graves, the route to his house required a half hour buggy ride around the bluff. He decided to build a cable car to cut down on his commute. The original cable car was hauled up and down on two rails by a hemp rope. After the cable car burned down twice, ten neighbors founded the Fenelon Place Elevator Company.