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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.”
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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=tazhub5&id=I3008


LANGWORTHY, Stephen. (Windsor, VT, Oct 4, 1777--Dubuque, IA, July 27, 1848) On November 10, 1799, Langworthy married Betsy Massey (February 20, 1781 – September 16, 1820), the aunt of Woodbury MASSEY, in Windsor, Vermont. He graduated with his medical degree from Yale University in 1804 and began working in New York State. He served as an army physician and surgeon in the War of 1812. Following the war, he and his wife moved to Hopkinton, New York where he practiced medicine, served as a U.S. marshal for the northern district of New York and collected revenues for the New York Custom House. (1)

Dr. Stephen moved his family to Pennsylvania, then Ohio, and eventually Shawneetown, Illinois. Established by the Pekowi Shawnee as a village in 1748, the community became an important administrative center after the American Revolution. Langworthy served as a government administrative official. The family moved in 1819 and purchased a large farm in Illinois, and Langworthy practiced medicine in nearby St. Louis, Missouri. (2)

After losing his wife Betsey and son, Stephen Langworthy (July 25, 1801 – April 5, 1820), to malaria, Langworthy moved his eleven children to Diamond Grove, near Jacksonville, Illinois and purchased several acres of land which had been cultivated by the Kickapoo Indians. This land proved productive and good support. It was during this time that Stephen met his second wife, Jane Moureing. She eventually bore him nine more children, giving Stephen a total of twenty-one offspring. (3)

Langworthy remained in Illinois as his older sons moved away, eventually selling the farm in 1831 and moving to St. Louis. In 1834 he came to Dubuque with his son, Solon. The description of what was later called the Couler Valley and nearby Union Park Hollow, just north of the present limits of Dubuque, fits the 160 acre claim of Dr. Stephen Langworthy. By the time he arrived in Dubuque, Dr. Langworthy’s eldest sons, James, Lucius, and Edward, were living on their own. Census takers in 1840 noted that Dr. Langworthy’s household included nine people, including two engaged in mining, three in agriculture, one in manufacturing or trade, and one professional or engineer. (4)

The government’s General Land Office survey of the newly formed Iowa Territory was done in the fall of 1837. Surveyors found that Dr. Langworthy had settled north of town, and recorded his claim as the NW¼ of Section 11, T89N-R2E. The surveyors also noted that Dr. Langworthy had built a house on his claim. For unknown reasons, however, the surveyors did not record the bearing and distance of Dr. Langworthy’s house from the nearest corner post, as they had for other miners and settlers. It was nearly 30 years before civil engineer and map maker T. H. Thompson printed what may be the first commercially published plat map of Dubuque County land ownership. By then the land had passed out of the Langworthy family name and the exact location of Stephen Langworthy’s 1830s house was never mapped. The doctor and his family left no description of their first Iowa home. Dubuque settlers were not allowed to enter their claims in county records until the Chouteau case was resolved. (5)

When he was finally able to enter his Dubuque claim, Dr. Langworthy's home needed some major improvements. Dubuque had no brickmaker in the mid-1830s, but with the success of the local LEAD MINING industry and the rapidly growing population, the construction industry and related trades also grew. By the 1840s, local brickmakers supplied construction brick that previously had to be shipped in from sources east of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. (6)

Sometime in the late 1840s, Dr. Langworthy replaced or extensively remodeled his original Dubuque house. Once again, first hand accounts of the timing and circumstances surrounding the Langworthy family’s decision to reconstruct their dwelling escape us. What is known is that much of the NW¼ of Section 11, T89N-R2E continued to be owned by Stephen Langworthy’s offspring until 1862, when transfer records show that the property passed out of the Langworthy family ownership. (7)

Dr. Stephen Langworthy was buried in the Dubuque City Cemetery and moved to LINWOOD CEMETERY in the 1850s. (8)



1. Hellert, Susan, "The First Family of Dubuque," Telegraph Herald, May 19, 2020, p. 1C

2. "Stephen Langworthy," Linwood Legacies. Online: http://www.linwoodlegacies.org/stephen-langworthy.html

3. Perry, Michael J., "A Territorial Period Site in Dubuque," Online: https://archaeology.uiowa.edu/territorial-period-site-dubuque-0

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. "Stephen Langworthy..."