[Floodgap Roadgap presents the Summer of 6]

Floodgap Roadgap's Summer of 6 -- U.S. Highway 6, Part 24: US 6 in Iowa (Des Moines to Iowa City; Jasper, Poweshiek, Iowa and Johnson Counties)

Go to: Part 23 | Main US 6 page | Part 25

From the urban (or at least relatively urban) surroundings of Des Moines, now back into the quiet rural rolling hills in eastern Iowa. East of Des Moines, the historical River-to-River Rd and White Pole Rd are more or less the same, and US 6 (as the successor to US 32) inherits their collective prior routing today.

Jasper County, Iowa

Jasper county was established in 1846 and is named for Sergeant William Jasper, a Revolutionary War soldier who distinguished himself in the defense of Fort Moultrie, South Carolina by holding the state flag on a temporary staff after it had been shot away by a British ship, maintaining it under fire until a new staff was placed. He was later mortally wounded during an assault on British forces during the Siege of Savannah, Georgia, in 1779; as in Fort Moultrie, he held the regimental standard in safety, this time until his death. The county has 37,147 residents [2019] with its county seat and largest city at Newton.

I-80/US 6

Exit 159 to JasCo F48, which as mentioned in the last Part is the old alignment of US 6 until 1980, here crossing the freeway. We will meet up with it in Newton.
Modern US 6 now leaves along IA 14 at exit 160. The lateness of the realignment is demonstrated by the separate pole.

US 6/IA 14

IA 14 runs between Charles City and Corydon for 188 miles. This multiplex is brief, only about a single mile total.

EB US 6/NB IA 14 leaving I-80.
Junction outside Newton, with JasCo F48 approaching from the left. We turn right.

US 6

Entering Newton as 1st Avenue.
The Newton in what was originally Newton City, as founded in 1846, is generally accepted to be John Newton, a contemporary and close friend of Sgt. Wm. Jasper. However, the City's history page notes a Californian family who alleges their ancestor Joseph Kaiser Newton founded it after he left West Virginia, and as you know by now someone with the name Kaiser can never be wrong. Named simply Newton in 1847 and incorporated in 1857, it was a coal mining town until the early 20th century when it transitioned to an industrial centre. Its most famous resident of that era was the Maytag Corporation, founded in Newton in 1893 as the Maytag Washing Machine Company, until they were bought by Whirlpool in 2006 and the former headquarters and local plant closed the following year. However, the Maytag Dairy Farms still operate, a 1919 spinoff from E. H. Maytag's single Holstein cow, and it is also the home of the 7/8 mile NASCAR Iowa Speedway opened in 2006 (after these pictures were taken). It has 15,182 residents [2019].
Through western Newton.
W 4th St and the historic downtown.
E 5th St and a turnoff to one of the local parks.
Through the eastern drag of the city.
Turnoff to the Iowa Speedway, which at the time was not yet open (this picture was taken in July 2006; it opened in September 2006).
Distance signage leaving town.
Junction IA 224, signed as "TO I-80."
Originally just a small spur to Kellogg to the north, it was gradually extended to IA 14 on the north end and I-80 on the south end. It is 10 miles long.
Along the hills.
Poweshiek county line.
Poweshiek County, Iowa

Poweshiek county was established in 1843 and named for Meskwaki/Fox Indian chief Wabokieshiek, born Poweshiek around 1794, who was one of the signatories to the treaty ending the 1832 Black Hawk War. The Fox and Sauk/Sac tribes were and are closely related, and two federally recognized Sac-and-Fox tribes have reservations today. The modern county has 18,699 residents [2018] and its county seat in Grinnell.

The Black Hawk War was the result of Sauk/Sac chief Black Hawk attempting to quietly resettle former tribal land ceded by the disputed Treaty of St. Louis. His so-called "British Band" of Sauks and other allied tribes was noticed by U.S. officials who erroneously believed they were belligerent, opened fire, and provoked a counterattack in the Battle of Stillman's Run. The war was complex, involving shifting alliances with Ho-Chunk/Winnebago and Potawatomi bands who took advantage of the conflict to settle scores with the white Americans, other bands who allied with the Americans to settle their own intertribal disputes, and still other Indian bands even within the same tribes who sought to avoid direct confrontation. It also featured a who's-who of future American politicians in Army service including Jefferson Davis, Zachary Taylor and even Abraham Lincoln, though he never actually saw combat. After around four months of repeated clashes the U.S. Army managed to successfully prosecute a war of attrition culminating in the Battle of Bad Axe, in which many of the tribal remnants were killed and most of the rest imprisoned.

Black Hawk and Wabokieshiek managed to elude capture initially but a passing Ho-Chunk man spotted their party and his chief convinced them to surrender. On August 27, 1832, both men signed the document of surrender on behalf of their respective tribes. They were generally treated well and received as celebrities on the East Coast, which they were obliged to tour to demonstrate the futility of further resistance against U.S. western expansion. They were honoured guests at dinners and plays and even a military parade, though Western crowds were less welcoming and some burned and hanged effigies in protest.

Multiple memorials today stand to Black Hawk in particular, whose 1833 oral interview with a newspaper reporter became the first published Native American autobiography, and he became a symbol of tribal resistance admired even by his former tribal enemies. Indeed, the war was so identified with Native American resistance despite its relatively brief length that it drove the national policy of Indian removal forward at greater urgency. The Fox and Sac tribes were eventually compelled to sell about 6 million acres in eastern Iowa of their former range, leaving Iowa completely by 1842; even the Potawatomi bands, who as a whole had generally allied with the United States, sold the entirety of their lands east of the Mississippi River in 1833. Wabokieshiek was released from custody in June 1833 in Wisconsin and his tribe lived in diminished standing until his death in 1841 in obscurity.

Shortly after crossing the county line, we enter Grinnell.
Grinnell was explicitly founded in 1854 as a "Yankee" town by New England settlers who could trace their lineage back to the Pilgrims. One of these, abolitionist and minister Josiah Grinnell, convinced the others to adopt his name for the town as it was simple and not otherwise in use. (Grinnell was also allegedly the one famously advised by journalist Horace Greeley to "go west, young man," though Greeley denied saying this to Grinnell or, for that matter, anyone else.) Grinnell became a junction point for a great many things, including as a stop on the Underground Railroad for freed slaves and a stop on the Mormon Trail for westbound settlers; some marks of the Mormon Trail survive to the present day. However, Grinnell's most famous resident actually predates it, the modern-day liberal arts institution Grinnell College, established in Davenport in 1846 as Iowa College and moving west to Grinnell, after which it officially adopted the town's name in 1909. The modern city has 9,116 residents [2019].
Junction IA 146.
IA 146 originally ran from this point in Grinnell to New Sharon; the north end was extended to Le Grand shortly afterwards. It is 43 miles long.
Grinnell College. It has 1,733 students [2019] and is one of the top producers of Fulbright scholars.
Passing through the east end.
Distance signage leaving town.
Junction US 63.

US 6/US 63

US 6 and US 63 have a very brief multiplex between Grinnell and Brooklyn. A major north-south highway, its southern terminus had always been at Turrell, AK, but as designated in 1926 its northern end was Des Moines; it was extended to Ashland, WI in 1934. IA 163 was originally US 163 until 1937. The modern highway is 1,280 miles long.

I told you it was short.

US 6

A short "spur" of sorts services Brooklyn to the north, but we don't enter it.
Junction IA 21.

US 6/IA 21

We pick up IA 21 here, which runs between Waterloo and Hedrick for a total length of 97 miles. As originally designated it terminated here; its first southern extension was added in 1939.

Unfortunately, it was late, I was losing light and I was way behind schedule, so I decided to retire early to my room in Iowa City for an early start.
Resuming the next morning, at the Iowa county line.
Iowa County, Iowa

Iowa county is named for the Iowa River, which in turn is named for the state, and is one of seven in the United States that shares its name with the state it exists in (the others again being Arkansas, Hawai'i, Idaho, New York, Oklahoma and Utah, which we first passed through in Part 6). One of Iowa's original counties when established in 1843, it has 16,141 residents [2018] with its seat at Marengo.

IA 21 diverges off shortly after.

US 6

Entering Ladora.
The small city of Ladora was first platted by settler James Paine in 1867 but not incorporated until 1879. The name actually comes from the musical notes La-Do-Ra (Re), as suggested by a local resident by the name of Mrs Scofield, who was also a music teacher. It has 274 residents [2019].
The large edifice to the left is the former 1920 Ladora Savings Bank, a local landmark. It was a bank for barely a decade, however, as it became insolvent in the wake of the Great Depression in 1931. Subsequently it became a community centre, a civil defense shelter and a polling location, and even variously served as an insurance office, attorney's office, antique shop and eventually a restaurant a couple years after this picture was taken. It is on the National Register of Historic Places for its classical revivalist architecture.
Distance signage leaving town.
Junction IA 212, a short 12-mile spur to IA 21 near Belle Plaine. The sign is for the Hiawatha Pioneer Trail; we discuss it in Part 25.
Entering Marengo.
Marengo was grandly named for the European Battle of Marengo, where Napoleon Bonaparte defeated the Austrian Army in 1800 and sealed the success of his Italian campaign. This was one of many such places in the United States named or influenced by Napoleonic refugees in the wake of his exile and reflects the propaganda campaign by him and his later supporters to commemorate the battle in the historical record. Although the county seat since 1845, it was not platted until 1847 nor incorporated until 1859. The modern city has 2,466 residents [2019]. Although we enter the city limits here, US 6 sees little of it and runs through its southern portion instead.
Spur to the downtown (actually IowaCo V66). It connects to I-80 to the south.
Junction IA 220, a short 7 mile link road between US 6 and US 151. This is also South Amana, but it was not marked from the highway at the time. More about this shortly.
Amana Colonies Trail signage.
The Amana (ostensibly a Biblical Hebrew word for "faithfulness") Colonies are seven villages settled by German Pietists escaping religious persecution between 1855 and 1856. Even today most residents still speak High German, as well as English and the local Amana German dialect strongly influenced by English borrow-words. The villages are named Amana, East Amana, High Amana, Middle Amana, South Amana, West Amana and Homestead. No one village ever had more than 600 residents; their combined population is around 1500 today. Collectively incorporated as the Amana Society in 1859, for almost eighty years the Colonies maintained almost total self-sufficiency by growing their own food and manufacturing their own clothing, furniture and other goods. Their communal lifestyle was strict and eventually caused social strains, and the Great Depression caused the Society to split in 1932 into a non-profit church society and a for-profit joint-stock company. This company had several commercial enterprises and still owns the former communal assets, but its most well-known spinoff was appliance manufacturer Amana Refrigeration, who produced the first commercial upright freezer in 1947. It was eventually bought by Raytheon and later Maytag (Part 23), and is today owned by the Whirlpool Corporation. Agriculture remains an important local industry but today tourism is at least as important, owing to their collective designation as a national historic landmark in 1965.

The Amana Colonies Trail loop is 17 miles and is composed primarily of IA 220, which runs over a hockey-stick routing between South Amana and Amana via West Amana. The remainder of the loop is US 151 from Amana to just west of Homestead, and US 6 here from Homestead to South Amana and IA 220. This was part of a 1980 realignment to form the trail, truncating IA 220 to South Amana.

Junction US 151, proceeding north.

US 6/US 151

US 151 was an original 1926 highway but restricted entirely to Wisconsin; it was not extended to Cedar Rapids, IA until 1938 and extended to its modern terminus at I-80 east of Williamsburg in 1986. A minor spur, it still meets its parent US 51 in Madison, but we will not encounter US 51 until we enter Illinois. Always running at a diagonal to the northeast, today it runs 337 miles. A map of the Amana Colonies Trail is just past the junction.
Entering Homestead.
Homestead, the derivation of its name being obvious, is one of the smaller colonies at 148 residents [2010].
US 151 diverges north to continue the Trail; we turn right.
Amana Colonies Trail signage on US 151, with Zuber's Homestead, one of many heritage tourism attractions, just past the junction.

US 6

Johnson county line.
Johnson County, Iowa

Johnson county was (originally) named for Richard Mentor Johnson, the ninth vice-president of the United States under Martin Van Buren, and the only vice-president elected by the Senate under the 12th Amendment. His political aspirations were limited by idiosyncratic personal behaviour and his openly conducted interracial relationship with Julia Chinn, a mixed-race slave whom he treated as a common law wife and acknowledged their two daughters as his. He became such a liability to the Democrats that Van Buren, already deeply unpopular himself, campaigned for re-election without a running mate instead and lost anyway to William Henry Harrison. Johnson ended his political career as it began, in the Kentucky House of Representatives, and died in state office in 1850.

In September 2020, the county changed the derivation to black historian Lulu Merle Johnson, the second African-American woman to achieve a PhD in history in the United States, and the first to do so in Iowa (in 1941). During her time at the University of Iowa, she was required to take a swimming class but not allowed to use the pool when white students did. She went on to become a professor of history, and later professor and dean of women students at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Part of the first generation of formally trained black women historians in the United States, she died at the age of 88 in Delaware. The modern county has 151,140 residents [2019] with its seat in Iowa City.

Turnoff to the small town of Oxford.
Through the rolling hills.
An old alignment of US 6, now just a nondescript county road, services a small mobile home community to the south.
Entering Tiffin.
Tiffin was first platted in 1867, but not incorporated until 1906. The town site was originally owned by another Johnson, namely Rolla Johnson, who formerly lived in Tiffin, OH (itself derived from Edward Tiffin, first governor of Ohio and later Senator) and named the new town for it. The modern city has 4,157 residents [2019].
Beautiful downtown Tiffin.
Distance signage leaving town.
Crossing under Interstate 380 (also carrying US 218 and IA 27) near its southern terminus. It is a long spur, about 73 miles.
And now crossing under Interstate 80. US 6 has no junction with either highway here.
Entering Coralville, which was not signed at the time.
Coralville's name came from the fossilized Devonian corals found in the region along the Iowa River. Although platted as early as 1857, the repeated discoveries and scientific interest inspired the town to take their name in 1866 and the city was formally incorporated in 1873. The nearby Edgewater Park Site shows evidence of farming in the region as far back as 3800 years ago. Lightly populated in history (with just 433 people in 1940), the nearby University of Iowa as well as the 1958 Coralville Dam encouraged new arrivals to settle, and the modern city has 22,290 residents today [2019]. Despite the Coralville Dam, large floods still occasionally threaten the Iowa River watershed in this region, the most recent such event in 2008.

This alignment along 2nd St was opened in 1951; the earliest routing, and US 32's original alignment, was along 5th St and 1st Avenue (old Patterson and Roger Sts). To the left US 6 passes the Coral Ridge Mall, which when opened in 1998 was the largest mall in Iowa.

Through the newer "city centre" region.
Signage for the University of Iowa (UI) as we approach the main campus.
Entering Iowa City.
The derivation of the name being obvious, Iowa City was the second capital of the Iowa Territory, designated as such after Burlington in 1841, and remained capital of the state of Iowa when admitted to the Union in 1846 (and the remnant Iowa Territory until it became the Minnesota Territory) until 1857. Although Iowa City itself was a creation of law, established by the territorial legislature to replace Burlington in 1839, the new state's constitution merely specified it would remain the capital "until removed by law." Argument already existed for exactly that, given that the population of the state was rapidly shifting south and west, and Iowa City was rather east of the geographic centre. After occasionally bitter debate in 1847 a compromise emerged where the new state university (today's University of Iowa) would be located in Iowa City and the new capital built further west, but the disputes continued on for almost a decade until Des Moines was selected in 1856 and the new site officially established by Governor James Grimes' decree in 1857. Iowa City is today largely a college town as a result, though most of the old government edifices remain intact. The modern city has 75,130 residents [2019] and is one of the state's largest.
Following US 6 as it circles around the University.
The University of Iowa, as mentioned above, was established as a result of the capital city debate in 1847. It is the oldest university in the state and its second-largest (Iowa State University is larger). It was the first university in the United States to open as co-ed and to have the first co-med medical school. A Big 10 Conference member, it has over 32,000 students.

US 6's original routing, as US 32, actually went through the University on Newton Rd. From there it crossed into "downtown" Iowa City as Iowa Avenue over the Iowa River, went south a block on Madison to continue east on Washington, south on Linn and east again on College, then intersected Muscatine Avenue to leave town on what is now signed as JohCo X18, connecting with the modern mainline between Iowa City and West Liberty. In 1932 the downtown doglegs were simplified to its modern alignment on Riverside Dr between Newton and Burlington (what was then Templin Rd), then to cross the river on Burlington and intersect Muscatine there. A part of this routing remains state highway as IA 1. Subsequently that year the Newton Rd curve was moved to the current alignment we just traveled.

Crossing Iowa Ave, US 6/US 32's former alignment. To our right (as we travel EB) we see the Iowa Old Capitol Building.
The Iowa Old Capitol Building was the original seat of government in Iowa City and is now part of the University, being one of its most prominent and well-known landmarks. It was built in 1842 in the Greek Revival style; its design was by architect John F. Rague, former designer of the 1837 Old Capitol of Illinois and commissioned by Iowa in 1839, though he quit in frustration after five months claiming his designs were not followed (this remains a debate of historians). The state constitution was crafted here and the first six general assemblies met here as well.

After the formation of the University it provided classroom, office and administrative space and was the office of the University President until the 1970s. It was restored and reopened to the public first on the Bicentennial (July 4, 1976) and then again May 6, 2006 (a couple months before this photo was taken) after the cupola was accidentally set on fire by contractors in 2001. The ground floor is now a museum, but university meetings and speeches still take place in the building and doctoral thesis defenses may also be made in its chambers.

The Riverside Dr expressway alignment on the west side of the Iowa River we are travelling now became the official routing in 1958, completely bypassing downtown Iowa City.

Junction IA 1, approaching from the east on Burlington St and then diverging on its own alignment towards Kalona.
The alignment east on Burlington St was US 6's routing from 1932 to 1958. IA 1, despite its auspicious number, is a relatively minor southeastern state arterial that serves no major urban area other than this one. It runs between US 151 near Anamosa and IA 2 near the Missouri state line for 120 miles; the multiplex with US 6 here is less than a mile.
Crossing the Iowa River.
The Iowa River, namesake of the county, is another tributary of the Mississippi River in two (east and west) branches. The Coralville Reservoir is formed by its impoundment by the Coralville Dam, but as mentioned the Dam does not completely eliminate the risk of flooding. It is navigable and a major site of recreational and commercial fishing, with a total length of 323 miles and an average discharge of 14,109 cubic feet per second.
Leaving town.
EB US 6.
Muscatine county line.
Continue to Part 25
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