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Iowa History Daily: April 19 - Boone Surveys the Neutral Ground

On April 19, 1832, Nathan Boone arrived at the mouth of the Upper Iowa River to begin the survey of the Neutral Ground required by the 1830 Multinational Treaty of Prairie du Chien. Accompanied by representatives of the Sauk and Dakota, Boone spent the summer of 1832 carefully assessing the northern Iowa boundary between the two tribes.

Often overshadowed historically by his father, Daniel, Nathan (or Nathaniel) Boone first served the American government as a presidentially appointed ranger in Missouri starting in 1812. During his time in Missouri, Boone honed his geographical survey skills. In the aftermath of the war, the government conducted treaties with Indigenous peoples throughout the upper-Midwest including massive gatherings at Prairie du Chien in 1825 and 1830 meant to create tribal boundaries in the lands which became Iowa.

A veteran of the Black Hawk War, Boone found himself stationed at First Fort Des Moines, Montrose, while serving as a Captain in the 1st United States Dragoons during the early 1830s. Also employed by the United States Topographical Survey, Boone garnered the task of determining a boundary between the Dakota and the Sauk.

Chosen to survey the lands of northern Iowa from the Mississippi to Clear Lake. Provided for in the 1830 Multinational Treaty at Prairie du Chien, Boone found himself surveying a forty-mile wide rectangular strip of land running diagonally southwest for 200 miles from the Root River into Iowa. Necessitated by continued warfare between the Dakota and the Sauk, the government hoped the ‘Neutral Ground’ would serve as an effective barrier between the two peoples. As the government removed the Ho Chunk (Winnebago) from Wisconsin starting in 1840, the Neutral Ground served as a temporary home to the dispossessed tribe.

Along for the famous expedition under General Stephen Kearny in 1835 up the Des Moines River (which also launched ‘Notes on Iowa’ in 2021), Boone’s role on the expedition etched itself on maps of the state through the inclusion of the city of Boone, Boone County, and the Boone River. #IowaHistoryCalendar #IowaHistoryDaily


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