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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.

KING, John

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John King
2404 Broadway. Photo courtesy: Old House Enthusiasts' Club House Tour, 1994

KING, John. (Shepardstown, VA, 1803--Dubuque, IA, Feb. 13, 1871). In 1835 and 1836, King served as a judge in Dubuque when there was no legal authority for a trial of accused criminals. At one of many community meetings that administered justice at this time, King wrote resolutions that resulted in many of Dubuque's rougher crowd being driven across the MISSISSIPPI RIVER into Illinois.

In 1835 King returned to Ohio where he purchased equipment for a newspaper. Returning with equipment and William Carey JONES to Dubuque in May 1836, he issued the first edition of the Du Buque Visitor which had for its motto “Truth Our Guide—The Public Good Our Aim.”

The Visitor was established in a log building on Church street. The first newspaper publishing plant was a two-story log residence of Pascal Mallet and his family. Six months after the first publication, the newspaper plant was moved to a different location on Main Street, and a short time later to a log building on Locust Street just south of Fifth Street. It was printed there until publication was discontinued in 1842.

Held in high regard by his peers, King was appointed Chief Justice of the County Court of Dubuque County, making him one of only three people with authority to issue warrants of arrest for accused criminals. In 1839 King was appointed Postmaster of Dubuque and between 1854 and 1866 he served several terms as a member of the city council. In 1860 King became one of the charter members of the Dubuque County Farmers' Club.

King worked constantly to impress his fellow citizens on the need for shrubbery and shade trees around the city. One of the most carefully prepared men of his day, it is said King purchased and carefully preserved an expensive suit for his burial.

The "King Mansion." Photo courtesy: William K. Hammel.

When Judge King built his mansion there was no other house west of Central Avenue and south from Diagonal Street to Twenty-fifth Street. At the start, Judge King built only the center section of the house. Later he added the wing to the north and at a still later period the south wing. The house stood at the top of a gradual incline that extended all the way down to the level of Central Avenue, then known as the PLANK ROAD.

Included in the homestead was a plot of land approximately 2.5 acres with 480 feet along Central Avenue and reaching back to Broadway and from Diagonal Street to Twenty-fifth Street. (1) On the slopes at every side of the house were vineyards and orchards. To protect the products of his vines and trees, Judge King had a five-foot wall of stone built about the entire property extending all the way down Central Avenue, on Twenty-fifth and Diagonal streets and all the way along Broadway between these two streets.

In the years after the death of Judge King, the property was owned by several people. It was sold for $9,000 in 1888 by John MEHLHOP, Sr. to alderman John TREXLER. The lands which he beautified by the planting of vineyards, fruit trees and berry bushes and flowers of many varieties was made into a subdivision. Streets were laid out through it and new homes were built on its slopes. Fulton School annex and its playgrounds were located at the foot of the slope in front of the old residence.



1. "The Mehlhop Residence Sold," Dubuque Herald, December 7, 1888, p. 4

Oldt, Franklin T. The History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880, p. 821-823