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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
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DUBUQUE CENTRAL IMPROVEMENT COMPANY. The Dubuque Central Improvement Company was organized January 23, 1857, with capital of $2,100,000. The corporators were Jesse P. FARLEY, Franklin V. Goodrich, Austin J. Goss, Robert C. Waples, Christopher PELAN, Robert M. Walmsley, Alexander ANDERSON and Frederick E. BISSELL. (1)

The City of Dubuque conveyed to the company two islands with a total of twenty-eight acres and enough shallows to make a total of sixty acres when filled. The company assumed two loans of the city totaling $120,000 and agreed to pay the city $80,000 in ten years with 10 per cent interest. (2) The company's boundaries extended from the line of the Harbor Company on the south to the line of the DUBUQUE HARBOR IMPROVEMENT COMPANY on the north. (2)

The company's plan was to make a levee the entire length of their property, to fill all the intervening lands and sloughs and to run First, Second, Third and Fourth streets to the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. (3) The City retained the right to collect wharf fees and to use the roads. (4)

Notes printed by Wellstood, Hay, Whiting, New York and Chicago, were hand-dated from December 9, 1857 to February 10, 1858. Signatures included F.V. Goodrich, president and Robert M. Walmsley, secretary. Notes were also countersigned by H.A. Littleton, register. There was an engraved '18' for the date. All stockholders were liable for payment of notes and their names were printed on the back of each note. Serial numbers went up to 9558 on $1 bills and 8364 on $3 bills. Notes were payable at different times and bore ten percent interest. A total of approximately $300,000 was printed. (5) The notes failed in 1858. (6)

The company in 1858 notified the council that it would be unable to meet the interest on the bonds. The city held a mortgage on the property for $80,000, leaving $120,000 not provided for by mortgage. An estimated four hundred citizens demonstrated against the proposition for the city to take back the property. The company, it was claimed, had failed and was seeking a way out of its troubles. (7)

In August 26, 1874, the Dubuque Central Improvement Company sued the city for $550,000. (8) In its case, the company claimed that on March 10, 1859 the City had developed a new contract. The City was prepared to take back the two loans which it had passed to the company in 1857 if the company would sell to the City one-third of its property and promise to complete the road improvements by September 1, 1863. The company stated that it had spent over $72,000 on road improvements and paid over $33,000 in interest on the loans it had assumed from the City in 1857. It further claimed that the city had sold the bonds upon which the interest had been paid and that while collecting large amounts of wharf fees the City had failed to protect the mortgage and not paid principal or interest. The mortgage had been sold on March 25, 1868 to Henry L. STOUT leaving the Company without title to the land or benefits of the investments it had made. (9) The Company contended that the city was bound to take care of the mortgage, because the title had been warranted and therefore sued the city for $33,000.

The City responded to these allegations by stating that the plaintiff had not completed its work and that any such agreement as described by the company was legally outside the charter rights granted to the city by the State of Iowa. (10)

The city finally agreed to pay the $33,000 claimed by the company partly because in doing so it could secure a withdrawal of the suit for $550,000. In the suit on the guaranty, the Supreme Court decided that the city had no power to make the guaranty and therefore the decision was in its favor. (11)




1. Oldt, Franklin T. and Patrick J. Quigley. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, p. 117

2. "Both Sides," Dubuque Herald, Sept. 1874, p. 4. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=YxxeAAAAIBAJ&sjid=7V8NAAAAIBAJ&pg=1625,8162428&dq=dubuque+central+improvement+company&hl=en

3. Oldt, http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/franklin-t-oldt/history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl/page-19-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml, p. 19

4. "Both Sides."

5. "When City Made Money," Dubuque Daily Herald, March 2, 1900, p. 6. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=2CZBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=dqgMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4714,1799263&dq=dubuque+central+improvement+company&hl=en

6. Oakes, Dean G. Iowa: Obsolete Notes and Scrip

7. Oldt. p. 19

8. "The Dubuque Central Improvement Company's Case," Dubuque Herald, September 1, 1874. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18740901&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

9. "Both Sides."

10. Ibid.

11. Oldt., p. 20