Welcome To Remembrance Park – Here’s A Helpful Timeline.

Today, Remembrance Park is a small plot of land set apart in the southern-most part of Iowa City – a place for remembering the rich heritage we have here in Johnson County, Iowa.

When you visit Remembrance Park, you are standing on ancient land that, literally, has thousands of years of history. Many have come before us, and sadly, we only know bits and pieces about their lives. But fortunately, we do know enough about the last 300+ years, we can share some of those details here. Let’s start with the year 1673 and progress to about 1820. This Remembrance Park Timeline includes links that will take you to additional stories we’ve assembled for your reading enjoyment…

This might have been what the Iowa River Valley looked like in 1820.

As early as the 1820’s, a handful of French fur traders explored the larger rivers of Eastern Iowa, building trading relationships with the Sauk and Fox (Meskwaki) Tribes who traversed all of, what is today, Johnson County. Two routes of transportation were available – the Iowa River and long-established Native American trails, of which today’s Sand Road was one. Now, let’s explore the years 1820 through 1832

A Big Thank You to Iowa City artist Jo Myers-Walker for her Remembrance Park artwork found on this page.

In 1832, with the Black Hawk Purchase pushing the Meskwaki people westward, the Sak & Fox people left their homes on the Mississippi River, and at least three tribes re-located to the Iowa River Valley, where you stand today. Fur trader Stephen Sumner “Hawkeye” Phelps – who had built a long-standing trading relationship with Chief Powesheik when the tribe lived on the Mississippi River – traveled here regularly to work with his friends. Phelps built a temporary Trading Post just east of the Iowa River on Gilbert/Snyder Creek.

Eastern Iowa – as we know it today – was opened to white settlers in 1833, following the 1832 Black Hawk Purchase (yellow on map above). In 1835, John Gilbert – escaping financial problems back east – moved permanently to this area to take over Phelps work, building in 1837a newer, larger Trading Post that was located just north of where you are standing today (see map above) – immediately across Napoleon Road. His competitor, Wheaton Chase, soon build another post very near where we are standing – just south of the little creek – which left the original post (Phelp’s) abandoned.

Johnson County was originally part of the (1836) Keokuk Reserve (green on map above) and the second (1837) Black Hawk Purchase (blue on map above) – officially becoming an Iowa county on December 21, 1837 – part of the Iowa District of Wisconsin Territory with the capital in Burlington.

In January 1838, John Gilbert called an organizational meeting for those who had made his little Iowa town – called Napoleon – their home. Seven people (including Gilbert) attended the meeting – Johnson County’s first business meeting – and it was held in his trading post.

In 1838, Iowa became a U.S. Territory and Governor Robert Lucas declared Johnson County to be the home of Iowa’s new capital city – proposing that the new capital be named City of Iowa or Iowa City. The rest, as they say, is history.

The cornerstone for the new capitol building was laid – one year later – on July 4, 1840, and the building was first used for hosting the Iowa Territorial Legislature in December 1842. Read more here.
Our friends from Iowa’s Meskwaki Tribe have provided us with a beautiful vision statement that says it all. Read more about the work of keeping the Meskwaki language alive.