Mississippi River Fuels Iowa Industry

The Mississippi River helped industry by transporting people and materials. Logs floated down the river from Minnesota and Wisconsin to Iowa mills where they were cut into lumber.


Iowa towns first sprang to life along the Mississippi River. The river brought in the new immigrants, tobacco from down south, logs from up north. The river powered the mills that turned out thousands of feet of sawed lumber. Few people expected to spend a life time in a log cabin, so only milled lumber could form the type of houses people really wanted. Iowa had an abundance of hardwoods and many of these trees were felled by farmers and hauled to nearby mills to be cut. But many people looked upon the hardwoods as useful only in the construction of furniture or coffins—not houses. The vast pine forests of Wisconsin and Minnesota satisfied Iowa’s demands for the more easily worked soft woods. The Mississippi River was an excellent means of floating the giant log rafts down to the mills along Iowa’s border. Men who guided the raft had to know every snag and bend in the river, and after a few years many of them became riverboat pilots. Steamboat captains and raft pilots were the true heroes in those days.

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