The Period Of Exploration And Discovery—The Labors Of The French Jesuits—Their Pacific Policy Toward The Indians—Discovery Of The Mississippi River—The Claims Of Spain—English Domination—The Bubble Of John Law—The French Population Of Louisiana—Indian Wars—Rival Claims To The Soil—Cession Treaties And Peace—The Country Passes To The United States—Formation Of The Territory Of Iowa, Etc.
IOWA, in the symbolical and expressive language of the aboriginal inhabitants, is said to signify "The Beautiful Land," and was applied to this magnificent and fruitful region by its ancient owners to express their appreciation of its superiority of climate, soil and location. Prior to 1803 the Mississippi River was the extreme western boundary of the United States. All the great empire lying west of the "Father of Waters," from the Gulf of Mexico on the south to British America on the north, and westward to the Pacific Ocean, was a Spanish province. A brief historical sketch of the discovery and occupation of this grand empire by the Spanish and French governments will be a fitting introduction to the history of the young and thriving State of Iowa, which, until the commencement of the present century, was a part of the Spanish possessions in America.
Early in the spring of 1542, fifty years after Columbus discovered the New World, and 130 years before the French missionaries discovered its upper waters, Ferdinand De Soto discovered the Mississippi River at the mouth of the Washita. After the sudden death of De Soto, in May of the same year, his followers built a small vessel, and in July, 1543, descended the great river to the Gulf of Mexico.
In accordance with the usage of nations, under which title to the soil was claimed by right of discovery, Spain, having conquered Florida and discovered the Mississippi, claimed all the territory bordering on that river and the Gulf of Mexico. But it was also held by the European nations that, while discovery gave title, that title must be perfected by actual possession and occupation. Although Spain claimed the territory by right of first discovery, she made no effort to occupy it; by no permanent settlement had she perfected and held her title, and therefore had forfeited it when, at a later period, the Lower Mississippi Valley was rediscovered and occupied by France.
The unparalleled labors of the zealous