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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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Peter Lorimier. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

Family History: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=judydavison&id=I3965

LORIMIER, Peter. (Montreal, Canada, Jan. 1783-Dubuque, IA, Oct. 1871). MAYOR. Despite having little formal education, he was hired as a clerk for traveling traders involved in the FUR TRADE. He later went into business for himself and settled in Detroit and then Chicago as one of its first white residents. He traded as far south at St. Louis and northward along the Platte River. He finally opened a trading post near Galena. He was also involved in LEAD MINING and received one of the first certificates granting him the privilege of harvesting timber on 320 acres to supply his furnaces. Prior to the BLACK HAWK WAR he erected a stockade to protect himself and other living nearby. (1)

Coming to Dubuque in 1833, Lorimier began both MINING and merchandising activities and met with sufficient success to purchase land around Dubuque as well as in the town.

On September 8, 1834, he was appointed Supreme Court Commissioner for that part of Michigan Territory west of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. He the first person given judicial responsibility in present-day Iowa and part of Minnesota. (2) In 1838, Lorimier served as a county commissioner along with Andrew Bankston and James FANNING. (3)

Confident in the future of Dubuque, Lorimer invested a large amount of money in 1857 in the construction of the LORIMIER HOUSE. In 1871 it was still the largest hotel in the city. (4)

Lorimier was elected mayor of Dubuque in 1847. (5) During his first term of office steps to organize three fire companies were taken in January,1847; the old fire engine was found to be practically useless; fire ladders were ordered for the upper, lower and central sections. The Fulweiler slaughter house was ordered removed from the city limits in February, 1847; but evaded the order and remained. The islands in front of the city were reserved from public sale. By paying $50 the council obtained permission to use for fire purposes the well of Emerson Shields on Fourth street. (6)

Upon the payment of $100 Timothy FANNING was given exclusive ferry privileges in 1847-8. The grading of Bluff street from Dodge to Twelfth was ordered in May, 1847. A room for a "calaboose" was ordered rented and fitted up; it was ready in July. In August, 1847, the mayor was authorized to buy the islands in front of the city. (7)

He was re-elected in 1851. (8) That year the public square was ordered rented to the highest bidder; grocery (wet) license was fixed at $150, and beer license at $75 per annum. Thomas S. WILSON was authorized to sell the city's $20,000 bonds in New York city. (9)

Proposals for furnishing a steam ferry to travel between Dubuque and the Illinois shore were called for in June, 1851. At this time a proposition to build a suspension bridge across the Mississippi was received from A. G. Garver. The council considered building a PLANK ROAD from Bluff street to the western boundary of the city. The proposition of S. L. Gregoire to furnish a steam ferry was accepted. The offer of T. Davis of ten acres and a house to be used as a hospital, at a cost of $625, was accepted by the council. (10)

In August, the ferry rates were fixed as follows: (11)

         Footman, 10 cents
         man and horse, 25 cents 
         wagon and two horses or oxen, 75 cents
         one horse and wagon, 50 cents 
         minors under 16 years, free
         minors over 16, 5 cents 
         loose freight, 5 cents per 100 pounds
         cattle, per head, 10 cents 
         each hog, sheep or calf, 3 cents. 

It was found necessary in August, 1851, to borrow more money to continue the work on the harbor. The northern boundary of the city under the charter was ordered surveyed and marked. Early in September, the contract to dredge the steamboat CHANNEL was signed with Abel Hawley. More city bonds were ordered issued to meet the harbor improvement expenses. The new graveyard boundaries were defined in October, 1851. The sum of $15 each was ordered paid to the Dubuque delegates to the "Rapids Convention." In December, 1851, the harbor bonds of $20,000 were cancelled and destroyed. (12)

During 1851 the dredge boat did excellent work on the harbor, cutting through the island without trouble. A town clock was requested. Late in September, 1851, work was begun by Abel Hawley of Milwaukee to cut the channel from Lorimier's furnace to EAGLE POINT, one hundred feet wide and four feet deep at low water, for $24,300. Between Fifth and Sixth STREETS the channel was to be 200 feet wide. Late in 1851 the work was pushed rapidly; Hawley was paid by installments as the work progressed. B. J. O'Halloran, Caleb H. BOOTH, Henry A. WILTSE and Edward LANGWORTHY were the committee of supervision. The work was to be completed in two years. Work on the Dubuque and Sageville plank road was begun in September, 1851, under Joseph C. Jennings, engineer. The road was to be completed by April, 1852. (13)

The Dubuque and Maquoketa plank road was projected in 1851, but little was accomplished. It was the original intention to lay the planks as far as Table Mound before winter set in. (14)

In January, 1852, George W. BURTON and others were granted the right to cut a canal through the island opposite First or Second street to intersect the channel through which steamboats were then admitted from the main river. (15)



1. "Death of Peter Lorimier," The Herald, October 17, 1871, p. 4

2. Ibid.

3. "Dubuque Sought Business Methods From Beginning," Telegraph Herald, March 27, 1921, p. 14. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=bi5eAAAAIBAJ&sjid=SmANAAAAIBAJ&pg=6644,4092622&dq=james+fanning+dubuque&hl=en

4. "Death of..."

5. Ibid.

6. 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-21-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml

7. Ibid.

8. "Death of..."

9. Oldt

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.