Note: Additional images from Bowen's Prairie can be viewed in Flikr
History of Settlement
Following the Black Hawk War in 1832, the U.S. Government established the Black Hawk Purchase, an area extending 50 miles west of the Mississippi River along the eastern border of the Territory of Iowa. Under this arrangement, resident Sac and Meskwaki were forced to relinquish 2.5 million hectares of land which was then opened to Euro-American settlement. The area that is now Jones County was located at the center of the Black Hawk Purchase. Early settlers were attracted here because of the proximity of good soil, water, land, timber, and building stone. Census records suggest that, while most of the first arrivals in the 1830s and 1840s were American-born, almost 10 percent were immigrants hailing primarily from Ireland, Canada, England, and Germany. In addition to farming, local industries included flour, saw, and grist milling, and stone quarrying. The dairy industry became prominent in the 1870s. The Ross Cheese Factory, first of its kind in Jones County, was built in 1867. Preliminary archaeological survey of an area southwest of the Bowen's Prairie Townsite has identified the former location of this early enterprise as archaeological site number 13JN211. The Palmer Cheese Factory or Oneida Factory Site (13JN168) was a cheese factory and creamery in operation by 1878. The Old Military Road was a key transportation corridor through the area in the mid-nineteenth century. Regular stagecoach routes linked homesteads such as that of Moses Collins (13JN196) and villages like Bowen's Prairie (13JN152), Richland, and Prairie Springs (13JN203), providing impetus to their growth and expansion. These same communities later witnessed a decline when bypassed by the first railroads. The relatively short interval of time during which sites on Bowen's Prairie existed provides a unique snapshot of nineteenth-century life on the frontier and the changes that accompanied the opening of the Iowa Territory and the establishment of Statehood.
GLO plat map from 1837 showing the village of Bowen's Prairie
1930 photo, parsonage
The Military Road
In 1839 the U.S. Congress passed a bill approving $20,000 to construct a road from Dubuque to the northern border of the state of Missouri. The U.S. Military built the road, which was designed to pass through the county seats of justice. The Military or "National" Road ran west from Dubuque to Cascade and then south through Bowen's Prairie, Mount Vernon, Ivanhoe, Iowa City, and beyond. The road proved an impetus to the growth of those communities along its route. Current U.S. Highway 151 in Jones County follows and incorporates the route of the Old Military Road.
1919, paving U.S. 151, formerly the Military Road
1839 Map of the Military Road through Bowen's Prairie