A Rich History

Anamosa, Iowa is located in Jones County. Historically, Jones County was in the heart of the “Black Hawk Purchase”. Following the Black Hawk War, a treaty was made on September 21, 1832 with the Sac and Fox Indians. They ceded a strip of territory extending 50 miles westward from the Mississippi River to the U.S. Government. This land was opened to settlements on June 1, 1833. It was a part of Michigan territory, then Wisconsin. Jones County is named in honor of General George W. Jones of Dubuque.

At the second annual session of the legislature of Wisconsin, this land was subdivided into 14 counties as it is at the present time. This subdivision covered land in the Black Hawk Purchase and even further west to Indian lands not yet ceded to the United States. The first settlement in the Anamosa area was in 1838. The region was called “Buffalo Forks” because of the meeting of the Buffalo and Wapsipinicon Rivers. In 1856, the area was known as Lexington and was incorporated. In 1877, it was incorporated as a city. The name was changed to Anamosa, however, because of the confusion with mail delivery. There were many Lexington’s in the United States.

Anamosa was supposedly the name of a young Indian girl. Anamosa means white fawn. Several other legends exist about the story behind the name, one of which says that Anamosa and Wapsipinicon were star-crossed Indian lovers. The more popular story says that the Indian girl, Anamosa, stayed at an inn with her father at the time that the City fathers were searching for a unique name for their town. The Indian girl was unique in her dress and manner and her name was different-suitable for the new name of the city because it would not be confused with other cities.

In the early days, two-thirds of the Anamosa area was in timber, mainly oak. Along the Buffalo and Wapsipinicon Rivers, there were thick forests, mostly of oak trees. The soil was a rich black loam with an under layer of clay-well suited for growing corn and grain.

The north half of Fairview Township, in which Anamosa is located, has rolling hills while the south half is more level. The Wapsipinicon River enters at the northwest corner of the township and runs southeasterly. Buffalo Creek runs in a southeasterly direction, uniting with the Wapsipinicon River west of the city of Anamosa. Situated at the edge of Anamosa is Wapsipinicon State Park that features caves and camping as well as fishing and hiking or bicycling on the steep hills and winding curves in the park.

Other towns in Fairview Township include Stone City, home of the Grant Wood Art Festival, which is held the second Sunday in June. This festival celebrates the work of artists and artisans and the well-known work of native son, Grant Wood. His most famous painting is the “The American Gothic”, a work of satire that has been parodied many times. Controversy surrounds the issue of whether Grant Wood meant for the couple to be father and daughter, or husband and wife. Models for “The American Gothic” were Grant Wood’s sister, Nan, and a dentist, Dr. Byron H. Mckeeby. Grant Wood and his sister Nan, are buried in Riverside Cemetery in Anamosa.

The village of Fairview is one of the oldest settlements in Jones County. It is situated 4 miles from Anamosa on the Old Military Road to Martelle. Strawberry Hill, an independent village, was annexed to the city in 1901. On February 6, 1872 Anamosa was divided into wards and declared a city.

Anamosa has a population of 5,595 and has been the county seat of Jones County since 1847. Within the city limits are the Jones County Courthouse and the Anamosa State Penitentiary, which is also known as the “White Palace of the West” because of its impressive dolomite structure. The Penitentiary was built by inmates with stone from the quarries in Stone City and is listed on the National Historic Register.  At the height of the Railroad era, there were three railways running through Anamosa: Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul; Chicago and Northwestern Railway; Chicago, Anamosa and Northern Railway. There are no longer any railroads in Anamosa. An added asset to commuters and travelers is the widening of  U.S. Highway 151. DOT has completed the extension of U.S. Highway 151 so that it is four lanes from Cedar Rapids to Dubuque.