"SHSI Certificate of Recognition"
"Best on the Web"

Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
Revision as of 20:25, 16 October 2018 by Randylyon (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search
View of Jackson Park from North Main. Photo courtesy: National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium
JACKSON PARK. Dubuque's first designated cemetery. The area now known as Jackson Park was originally called City Cemetery with the early settlement in 1833 and was fenced by subscription. (1)
 The old cemetery at Dubuque consisted of twenty acres, about one-half 
 of which was laid out into lots. It was not well drained, because a 
 circular tract in the middle was lower than the surroundings. It was 
 thus thought best to secure another 20-acre tract lying immediately west 
 and contiguous to the old yard. It was arranged that 70 per cent of the 
 proceeds of the sale of lots should be paid to the owner of the land, and 
 the other 30 per cent go to the treasury to be used in laying out the 
 ground, fencing it, etc. To Alderman Kiene was due this successful plan of 
 securing the new tract. Mr. Norris laid out the lots, etc. The cemetery thus 
 laid out and expanded consisted of forty acres in a regular square, beautifully 
 situated and commanding a view both of the Mississippi and the city. The price 
 of the lots was fixed at sums varying from $5 to $25 each. About four acres were 
 set apart for a potter's field. (2) 

The site soon posed a problem. As early as November 18, 1837, a conflict of certain streets with the graveyard was reported and considered. During a CHOLERA outbreak in the summer of 1852, demands for a new burial site led to the cemetery being condemned. In 1853 a new cemetery was first opened, lots were sold and improvements were made. People whose fences had protected in part the old cemetery now removed them, leaving the graves exposed to cattle and hogs. (3) On March 13, 1856 all persons having friends buried in the old cemetery were requested to remove them to LINWOOD CEMETERY. In 1858 tombstones were removed, the remaining graves were excavated, and the remains taken to Linwood.

1869 grading of the property. Photo courtesy: National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

Jesse P. FARLEY and others petitioned to have the old cemetery converted into a public park. (4) The first efforts to reestablish the area into a natural setting were not completely successful. Skeletons occasionally washed to the surface after heavy rains. In 1869 under contract with the council William REBMAN graded down, leveled and planted with trees the old cemetery now called Jackson park. On July 5, 1869, the Daily Times reported that thoughtless boys were allowed to play 'shinny' with leg bones pulled from piles left by renovation efforts.

In 1872 the Dubuque Herald urged the city council to move forward with their pledge to purchase two outlots adjoining the former cemetery. The paper stated that "public property in Dubuque has never received the attention and improvement it deserves; there has always been a dilatory on the part of those in authority in obtaining property useful and necessary for public convenience, pleasure and ornamentation..." (5)

Pagoda with steep steps in seen among the trees of Jackson Park. Photo courtesy: National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

Efforts continued to proceed slowly. To improve Jackson Square a music stand or pagoda in the park similar to the one planned for Washington Square was constructed in July 1877 from $200 in donations. (6) HEER & NAESCHER won the contract for the $150 building project. (7) Ten people donated funds. The stairs on the pagoda were steep and without railings. Presidential candidate James G. Blaine declined to use the Jackson Park pagoda for a speech in late 1878. Instead he used an A. A. Cooper wagon bed. The newspapers chuckled that a Republican had stood on a “Democratic platform” to give his speech. (8) The pagoda was available for band use only and sitting in it was prohibited. (9) The incomplete nature of Jackson Park is suggested in an 1878 rumor that the Council was planning to purchase the lots north of the park to enlarge it, the Dubuque Herald offered “This is as it should be." (10)

The park was formally presented to the city on September 12, 1877 when the pagoda was dedicated by Congressman David B. HENDERSON. (11) Due to neglect, however, the structure lasted only twenty years before it was torn down and sold for scrap. A memorial fountain to honor Judge Benjamin William LACY was added to the park in 1913. (12)

Curiously the parks were not simply available for any public use and the early years are filled with complaints of inadequate benches, those available being located within the park and not on the outer street fronts, and usually filled with "riffraff" who intimidated "proper ladies." (13) Apparently "Jackson Square" was not generally open to the public. In May 1880 the Dubuque Herald commented that Alderman Jones had offered the suggestion to the council at its last meeting. The newspaper commented that "as it is now, it (the park) is of no comfort to anyone...The objection that the young trees will be injured in far-fetched." (14) Objection was made by some council members that opening the park would create a city expense. (15) The writers of the Herald responded that it appeared objection came from the residents who wanted the park "to remain a private lawn...as so much beautiful landscape to look out upon and enjoy exclusively. (16)

At the July 6, 1880 meeting of the city council plans for the construction of sidewalks throughout the park were discussed. The idea of "ornamenting public grounds as a means of educating the people in many things that have an elevating tendency such as botany and floriculture" was also presented. The plan received council approval. (17)

Both parks Washington and Jackson parks have served as the sites for an impressive array of events, including musical concerts, and educational programs. One rather curious program conducted in Jackson Park in 1895 was a stereoscopic show by Professor J. A. Wilson, who represented the Afro-American Department of the Atlanta Exposition. (18) In recent years, the "Music in the Parks" program has offered families free entertainment from local groups and individuals. (19)

Further ornamentation of the park was announced in October 1880. When a circular foundation was completed, a statue of General Jackson was to be added near one corner of the park. (20)

In 1890 the park was suggested as the site for the new DUBUQUE COUNTY COURTHOUSE. Among the reasons given for not using the site in this way was a city ordinance of 1861. This stated that the council:

               reserved, dedicated and established as a public square
               (giving the dimensions) to be known as Jackson Square,
               forever that the said square shall be reserved and
               appropriated solely as a place of public resort and
               recreation. (21)

So intent were some citizens on making Jackson Park the site of the courthouse that they attempted to purchase the land and make an offer to the supervisors at their meeting in July 1890. (22)

This monument in Jackson Park showing POTOSA, daughter of Meskwaki chief PEOSTA and the wife of Dubuque's founder, Julien DUBUQUE was part of a fountain, sculpted by Leonard Grunelle, given in 1913 to Judge Benjamin Lacy by his three sons. The fountain was estimated to cost around $4,000. (23) Photo courtesy: http://dubuque-tour.tripod.com/

In 1966 a proposal was made to the Dubuque Park Board to sell Jackson Park as the site of a new DUBUQUE BOYS' CLUB building. Directors of the Boys' Club had suggested they waned to use about one-seventh of the land for the new building. On February 10, 1966 the idea was rejected by the park board with two members voting against the proposal and one abstaining. After the vote, the chairman of the board expressed the idea that the board should discuss the purchase of the land with representatives of ST. PATRICK'S CATHOLIC CHURCH. Board members conceded the park had not been kept up, but that was because of a lack of funds. (24)

The grave stone erected in 1996.
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Photo courtesy: Cathy's Treasures, 156 Main, Dubuque

At Linwood a common grave was created. On September 1, 1996 during Iowa's sesquicentennial a marker was dedicated to these unknown pioneer citizens. The inscription reads:

    Unknown but not Forgotten. Buried on this 
    hillside are the remains of unknown pioneer 
    citizens of Dubuque. Bodies exhumed from the 
    area of Dubuque now known as Jackson Park were 
    re-interred at this site in 1867. This marker 
    was dedicated September 1, 1996 in the 
    sesquicentennial year for the great State of Iowa 
    to honor these unknown pioneer citizens of Dubuque 
    - Iowa's first city.

In 2014 the DOWNTOWN NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION, working with several city departments, planned signage identifying the park and informing visitors of the area history. On September 27th members of the MESKWAKIES, joined an estimated one hundred Dubuque citizens and members of the city council in attending a dedication of the new signage and the 1913 memorial of Potosa. (25)

Signage included the installation of three informative plaques.
Joseph Noll, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, and Preston Duncan of the Tama Meskwaki tribe carry out a Native American ceremony blessing those in attendance and the grounds.
Preston Duncan of the Tama Meskwaki tribe
The design committee of the new signage and plaques (Jeff Montgomery, Sr.; Eric Heim, Sr.; Randy Lyon, historian; and Joseph Noll with three members of the Meskwaki entertainers.
Joseph Noll and Eric Heim, Sr. beside one of the informative plaques made by the Dubuque Sign Company.

NOTE: For a video of the Jackson Park re-dedication see: http://cityofdubuque.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=2960 produced by the City of Dubuque.



1. Oldt, Franklin T. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Online: http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/franklin-t-oldt/history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl/page-10-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml

2. Ibid. Online: http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/franklin-t-oldt/history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl/page-17-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml

3. Oldt, Franklin T. and Patrick J. Quigley.History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Asociation, 1890, p. 96

4. Ibid. Online: http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/franklin-t-oldt/history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl/page-13-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml

5. "Jackson Square," Dubuque Herald, October 3, 1872, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18721003&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

6. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, July 15, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770715&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

7. "The Park Pavilions" Dubuque Herald, July 17, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770717&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

8. Jacobsen, James E. "Jackson Park Historical District-Phase IV District Report," (The Development of Jackson Park) Des Moines: History Pays! Historic Preservation Consulting Firm

9. Ibid., p. 7

10. Jacobsen, James E. p. 6

11. "Jackson Park," Dubuque Herald, September 12, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770912&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

12. Jacobsen, p. 7

13. Jacobsen, p. 7

14. "The Parks," Dubuque Herald, May 5, 1880, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18800505&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

15. "Jackson Square," Dubuque Herald, May 19, 1880, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18800519&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

16. Ibid.

17. "City Council," Dubuque Herald, July 7, 1880, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18800707&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

18. Jacobsen, p. 6

19. "Music in Jackson Park." Online: http://www.sustainabledubuque.org/index.cfm/51784/49505/music_in_jackson_park

20. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, October 9, 1880, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18801009&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

21. "The Court House Location," Dubuque Herald, June 17, 1890 (no pages given)

22. "The Courthouse Up Town," Dubuque Daily Herald, July 10, 1890, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18900710&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

23. "To Erect Fountain in Jackson Park," Telegraph Herald, December 18, 1913, p. 11

24. Thompson, Dave. "Use of Jackson Park by Boys' Club Denied," Telegraph Herald, February 10, 1966, p. 1

25. "Ceremony Dedicates Signs, Monument at Jackson Park," Telegraph Herald, September 28, 2014, p. 13A