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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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


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Family History: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=huppe&id=I134527

James Langworthy
LANGWORTHY, James Lyon. (Windsor, VT, Jan. 20, 1800--Monticello, IA, Mar. 14, 1865). James Langworthy left St. Louis in 1824 and began mining in Hardscrabble (Hazel Green), Wisconsin. He came to the MINES OF SPAIN area as early as 1823 to visit the SAUK AND FOX village at the mouth of CATFISH CREEK.

Around 1827, he was joined by his brothers Lucius Hart LANGWORTHY and Edward LANGWORTHY. While the natives would not allow him to mine LEAD, James Langworthy was permitted in 1829 to explore the entire area between the Maquoketa and Turkey rivers. He persuaded them to allow him to explore the area for three weeks with two of their tribe as escorts. When the time was expired, he returned to Galena carrying a map of his exploration with several places to mine marked if the opportunity arose. (1)

In February, 1830, James, his brother Edward, and three companions crossed the Mississippi River on the ice to explore the area again, but were driven off by the natives. In May, 1830 hearing that the Fox had retreated up the river after an war with the SIOUX, James and Lucius swam their horses across the river to begin mining at the sites he had marked on his map. Other miners quickly followed. (2)

On June 17, 1830, he was the author of the "Miner's Compact," the first LAWS to be written within the borders of Iowa. (3)

DUBUQUE MINES, June 17, 1830. We, a committee, having been chosen to draft certain rules and regulations, by which we, as miners, will be governed; and, having duly considered the subject, do unanimously agree that we will be governed by the regulations on the east side of the Mississippi River, with the following exceptions, to wit:

ARTICLE I.- That each and every man shall hold two hundred years of ground by working said ground one day in six.

ART. II.- We further agree, that there shall be chosen by the majority of the miners present, a person who shall hold this article, and who shall grant letters of arbitration, on application being made, and that said letter arbitration shall by obligatory on the parties concerned so applying.

To the above, the undersigned subscribe.



James McPheeters

Samuel H.Scoles

E.M. Urn.

Around July 4, 1830 the Fox returned, but the miners refused to leave. Since the land was considered to belong to the natives, Zachary Taylor commander of troops at Prairie du Chien, ordered troops under Lieutenant Jefferson DAVIS to drive the miners off to the island in the river. Here the miners lived for two winters. They attempted to return in 1832, but were again driven off. (4)

In 1833 after the BLACK HAWK WAR, white settlement was permitted in the area and the three brothers were joined by their brother Solon LANGWORTHY. After the Black Hawk war, in June, 1833, all Eastern Iowa was thrown open to settlement, and Mr. Langworthy again took possession of his claim. In October of the same year, Mr. Langworthy assisted to build the first schoolhouse erected in Iowa and aided in the construction of Iowa's first schoolhouse. Later he had the route surveyed and then hired Lyman DILLON to construct the MILITARY ROAD stretching from Dubuque to Iowa City. (5) In March 1834, Langworthy was a member of a committee chosen to select ten acres (which came to contain the future DUBUQUE COUNTY COURTHOUSE for a public square. (6) In 1836, Mr. Langworthy built the second brick house erected in Dubuque on the corner of Iowa and Twelfth STREETS using bricks from his own brickyard. (7) Ironically, Langworthy provided 244,518 bricks for the construction of the first courthouse in 1841. (8)

In 1840, Mr. Langworthy married Agnes Milne, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland. He served in the state constitutional convention in 1844 and one term in the territorial legislature as a "free trade Democrat." Langworthy and his family made a voyage to Europe in 1846 and spent six months in visiting different parts of Great Britain and adjacent islands. Returning to Dubuque, the family lived in "the big brick house" on the corner of Iowa and 12th STREETS until about 1850, when he moved to the bluff at the head of Third street. James Langworthy built RIDGEMOUNT, one of the finest homes in the city, at the corner of Peabody and James.

In 1853 James was listed as a director of the DUBUQUE MUTUAL FIRE INSURANCE COMPANY along with many other Dubuque notables. (9) James, Edward and Solon entered into a co-partnership in MINING, real estate, and banking continued until all retired in 1862. So successful was the firm of J. L. LANGWORTHY & BROS. that in 1855-1856 it paid one-twelfth of the entire tax collected in Dubuque. (10) The bank specialized in land warrants which were titles to land given to families settling on government land. Despite its success, the bank closed after the PANIC OF 1857. (11)



1. Langworthy, Henry G. "History of Dubuque as Told to Drake Students," Telegraph-Herald, August 17, 1930, p. 25

2. Ibid.

3. Richard, Lord Acton and Patricia Nassif Acton. To Go Free: A Treasury of Iowa's Legal Heritage, Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1995, p. 8

4. Langworthy

5. Ibid.

6. "Dubuque County Before 1880," Telegraph-Herald, May 25, 1933, p. 10

7. Gibson, Michael D. "Dubuque's First Family: The Langworthys," Julien's Journal, July 2013, p. 46

8. "Old Courthouse," Telegraph-Herald, October 3, 1962, p. 15

9. "Dubuque Mutual Fire Insurance Company," Daily Miners' Express, June 4, 1853, p. 1

10. Ibid., p. 47

11. Ibid.

Hudson, David; Bergman, Marvin; Horton, Loren. The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2008, p. 139

Goodspeed, Weston Arthur, History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1911, p. 697

"James L. Langworthy," Linwood Legacies. Online: http://www.linwoodlegacies.org/james-l-langworthy.html