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Iowa History Daily: April 1 - Railroad Reaches Cedar Falls

Iowa History Daily: On April 1, 1861, The Dubuque and Sioux City Railroad crossed the Cedar River and the first train chugged into Cedar Falls at 5:30 p.m. The important crossing marked a significant milestone for the northernmost of four railroads built across Iowa following the Iowa Railway Land Grant Act passed by Congress on May 15, 1856.

Cedar Falls, a burgeoning town of around 1,500 by the time of the historic railway crossing, started to grow following the initial American settlement by William Sturgis and his brother-in-law Erasmus Adams in 1845. The small community, known at the time as “Sturgis Falls,” attracted early settlers through the agricultural, power, and transportation potential of the upper-Cedar River Valley. In 1850, John Barrick, as well as the brothers John and Dempsey Overman, acquired the site from Sturgis and renamed the growing hamlet Cedar Falls. 

The Dubuque and Iowa Falls Railroad represented an outgrowth of the earlier Dubuque and Pacific Railroad, an initial extension of the Illinois Central from the Galena, Illinois, area across the Mississippi. By September 10, 1856, the “Dubuque,” an aptly-named locomotive for the occasion, ferried across the Mississippi. As funds poured in from land town lot auctions put on by the railroad enabled by the congressional act, the bills quickly piled up. 

By 1859, the Dubuque and Pacific went into receivership before finding reorganization as the Dubuque and Sioux City Railroad. Two years later, the railroad finally connected Cedar Falls with points east, and citizens celebrated by adorning the locomotive engine with a wreath of cedar. #IowaHistoryCalendar #IowaHistoryDaily


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