Iowa Cultural Groups

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Cultural Groups[edit | edit source]

In 1860 there were 674,913 Iowans. Immigrants made up 106,081 of the population. Here are the totals for each nationality with a small number of settlers from other countries. [1]

  • Germany 38,555
  • Irish 28,072
  • British 11,522
  • Canadians 8,313
  • Norwegians 5,688
  • Scottish 2,895
  • Dutch 2,615
  • Swiss 2,519
  • French 2,421
  • Swedish 1,465
  • Welsh 913
  • Danish 661

In 1890 there were 324,669 settlers from other nations. Less then one thousand were representing various other countries. [2]

  • Germany 127,246
  • Irish 27,353
  • Swedish 30,276
  • Norwegian 27,078
  • British 26,205
  • Canadian 17,465
  • Danish 15,519
  • Bohemian or Czech 10,928
  • Dutch 7,941
  • Scottish 7,701
  • Swiss 4,310
  • Welsh 3,601
  • French 2,327
  • Austrian 1,715

The Iowa Heritage Illustrated. Fall and Winter 2011 pages 100-103. Iowa Shares and the Cambodian Refugees.  by Matthew Walsh.

1975-1981 Iowa SHARES: (Iowa Sends Help to Aid Refugees and End Starvation)under the leadership of Governor Robert Ray; The Tai Dam (Cambodian Refugees) community of over 1,200 settled in Iowa in 1975.

1979-1981 nearly 8,000 refugees (including the Tai Dam) had resettled in Iowa; "boat people" (Vietnamese refugees)

African American[edit | edit source]

Iowa’s first constitution of 1846 required blacks to pay a $500 bond to enter the state and barred them from voting, holding office, serving in the state militia, attending public schools and marrying whites.[3] After 1865 that the African American population tripled mainly emigrating from neighboring states. [4][5]

Different occupations brought the African American population to Iowa. Lead mining, laying tracks for the railroad, and in the river towns of Burlington, Davenport, Keokuk and Sioux City, they worked as deckhands on ships that traveled up and down the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

Buxton was a coal mining town that was racially harmonious. In 1905, more than one half of the 5,000 inhabitants of this community were African-American. The others were comprised of immigrants from Russia, Belgium, Bohemia, France, Germany, and Norway. [6]

When Fort Des Moines became the site of the Colored Officers Training Camp in 1917 the African American population greatly increased. Many of these families chose to stay in Des Moines after World War I ended in 1918. Many African-American leaders came from this area.

See African American Resources for Iowa.

There were relatively few African Americans in Iowa before the Civil War. For a list of books and articles about slavery in early Iowa, see pages 5–6 of:

  • Iowa in the Civil War: A Reference Guide. [7]

The African American Museum of Iowa

55 12ths Avenue SE

Cedar Rapids 52401

Phone: 1-319-862-2101

The State Historical Society of Iowa at Iowa City has: records of the Iowa Association of Colored Women's Clubs 1903-72. Also known as the Iowa Federation of Colored Women's Clubs.

Dutch[edit | edit source]

Vermeer Mill.JPG

Large numbers of Dutch farmers and craftsman searching for religious freedom left Holland for the lush land in central Iowa. Pella was settled by 800 Dutch immigrants. With encouragement from those in Pella more Dutch families immigrated and Orange City was settled in the mid-1800s. [8] Once these settlements were well established, letters and printed material sent home to Holland generated a constant stream of immigrants to the area. This went for 85 years until 1930 when the Great Depression and immigration quotas but a stop the influx of the Dutch. [9]

French[edit | edit source]

French explorers were the first white men to settle in Iowa. They were there when France ceded the land to Spain. [10] Once they settled on mining more French Canadians immigrated to the area. [11] In 1857 a group of Icariens, about 40 members, crossed the Mississippi and headed west to form a colony Icaria, near Corning, Iowa. [12]

German[edit | edit source]

In the 1840s Germans began to arrive in Iowa. The “forty-eighters” of 1848 brought more German immigrants due to political unrest. Then in 1860, with the conscripting of young men into the army, they, along with their families fled to the welcoming land of Iowa. Keokuk, Burlington, Muscatine, Davenport, Lyons, and Dubuque were destination settlements for Germans.

Amana Colonies[edit | edit source]

In 1841 the German Government was getting extremely intolerant of the Inspirationist congregations so they sent men to America to find them a new area to colonize. They settled first in close to Buffalo, New York in a community they called Ebenezer. Needing a more secluded area, they eventually settled in the fertile land of Iowa along the Iowa river, Amana Colonies In 1855 the first village, Amana, was laid set up. Six more villages had been established by 1863. [16]

Amish and Mennonite[edit | edit source]

The Amish or sometimes known as Mennonite Amish, originally came from three countries, the Palatinate region of Germany, Alsace now in France, and German speaking Switzerland. This group of Amish and Mennonite immigrants came to Pennsylvania with the Palatine groups in the 18th century. They spoke Pennsylvania German commonly known as Pennsylvania Dutch. The Amish are a subgroup from the Mennonites. [17] After arriving in Pennsylvania the immigrants split into different settlements in Iowa among other states.

Indigenous Peoples[edit | edit source]

Irish[edit | edit source]

Bellevue, Charleston (now Sabula) and Concord Township in Dubuque county were all large Irish settlements. Another large percentage of Irish were among the early immigrants to Bankston, Farley and Dyersville. A few families, about fifty Irish settled along the Maquoketa River near Cascade in 1842. Emmitsburg was founded by a large group of Irish and has as it's sister city Dublin, Ireland.

Jewish[edit | edit source]

Between 1848 and 1878 nearly 1000 Jewish settlers immigrated to communities along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Their talents as cobblers, milliners, grocers, tailors, teachers, doctors and lawyers were welcomed to this new frontier. This Jewish population were mostly from Germany, immigrating to escape anti-Semitism from their native land. After 1900 the Jewish grew in population due to the influx from Eastern Europe, mainly Russia and America's East Coast.[18]

Swedish[edit | edit source]

Burlington, in Des Moines county, was a type of port of entry for Swedish immigrants arriving in Iowa, once arriving several choose to stay swelling Burlington's Swedish population to about 200 by 1846.

The first complete Swedish settlement in Iowa was Cassel colony (New Sweden) in 1845. [19]This was followed in 1846 by Swede Point, later called Madrid, in Boone county. A few smaller settlements sprang up around the area of Madrid, at Boonesboro, Moingona, Pilot Mound, Boxholm, and Ogden.

General[edit | edit source]

See also United States Cultural Groups for additional resources.

Other records and histories of ethnic, racial, and religious groups in Iowa are listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


You will also find records in the Subject Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


Sources[edit | edit source]

Czech, Bohemian, and Slovak

Danish, Dutch, English, Germans, Irish, Italians, Lyuxemburgers, Norwegians, Swedish, Swiss, Welch

Publications for above groups listed in National Genealogical Society Quarterly. Vol 102, No. 4, December 2014. Genealogical Research in Iowa. by Marieta A. Grissom. pp. 263-306.

An excellent bibliography about the different immigrant groups is:

  • Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources [20] Contains bibliographies and background information on history and ethnic groups. Also contains maps and tables showing when each county was create
  • Iowa History Reference Guide [21]
  • Iowa History and Culture: A Bibliography of Materials Published Between 1952 and 1986. [22](Cited fully in the "For Further Reading" section of this article.)

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Colonists from Europe
  2. Colonists from Europe
  3. Outside In: African-American History in Iowa, 1838-2000. Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa, 2001.
  4. Google Books
  5. Alice Eichholz, ed., Redbook: American State, County, and Town Sources, 3rd ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004), 291. (FHL Book 973 D27rb). [WorldCat entry].
  6. Iowa's African Americans
  7. Iowa City, Iowa: The State Historical Society of Iowa, 197- Robertson, James J. Jr. Iowa in the Civil War: A Reference Guide. Iowa City, Iowa: The State Historical Society of Iowa, 197- (Family History Library book 977.7 A1 no. 40; fiche 6049713)
  8. Iowa Pathways The Dutch
  9. Dutch Americans
  10. Mines of Spain
  11. Early Iowa Settlers
  12. Robert P. Sutton, Les Icariens: the utopian dream in Europe and America
  13. Jospeh Eiboeck, "Die Deutschen von Iowa und deren Errungenschaften" (Des Moines, IA: des Iowa Staats-Anzeiger, 1900 pages 295 - 296 ) FHL Microfilm #1036447
  14. Jospeh Eiboeck, "Die Deutschen von Iowa und deren Errungenschaften" (Des Moines, IA: des Iowa Staats-Anzeiger, 1900, pages 92 - 94) FHL Microfilm #1036447
  15. Jospeh Eiboeck, "Die Deutschen von Iowa und deren Errungenschaften" (Des Moines, IA: des Iowa Staats-Anzeiger, 1900, FHL Microfilm #1036447
  16. Amana Heritage
  17. The Difference between Amish and Mennonites
  18. Jewish Settlers
  19. Cassel Colony
  20. Eichholz, Alice, ed. Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources. Rev. ed. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1992. (FHL book 973 D27rb 1992; computer number 594021.)
  21. Petersen, William John. Iowa History Reference Guide.
  22. Dawson, Patricia and David Hudson. Iowa History and Culture: A Bibliography of Materials Published Between 1952 and 1986.