"SHSI Certificate of Recognition"
"Best on the Web"

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
Jump to navigationJump to search
Mines of Spain

MINES OF SPAIN. Name given by Julien DUBUQUE to his LEAD MINING operation after obtaining a permanent grant to the land from the Spanish Governor, Baron de Carondelet, on November 10, 1796. Dubuque's right to the land was originally obtained from the SAUK AND FOX in an agreement dated September 22, 1788, and signed at Prairie du Chien.

When well established on the western bank of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER, Dubuque wished further guarantee of his ownership. He petitioned the Spanish governor in October 1796, and was investigated by Andrew Todd, an important trader in the area. Todd's recommendation to the governor was that Dubuque receive his grant if the Frenchman refrained from trading with the natives without Todd's written consent. Markers on the three sides of the grant opposite the Mississippi determined the boundaries of a tract believed to include 73,324 acres.

By October 1804, Dubuque, heavily in debt to St. Louis businessman Auguste CHOUTEAU, signed away an undivided seven-sixteenths of his land with the provision that upon Dubuque's death Chouteau and his heirs would own the rest of the Mines of Spain. Following Dubuque's death, the natives guarded their land and refused white settlement, claiming that they had only given Dubuque permission to use the land but not own it. Loss of the BLACK HAWK WAR opened the Mines of Spain region to white settlers who were harassed legally by the Chouteau heirs.

A decision on the ownership of the Mines of Spain was finally reached by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Henry Chouteau, Plaintiff in Error, vs. Patrick Molony. The Court confirmed a District Court decision that Dubuque had been given a permit of "peaceful possession" allowing him to live on and mine the land, but that control of the property had never passed from the natives. As a result of this decision, the question of ownership of the former Mines of Spain was settled and pioneers in Dubuque were no longer faced with eviction. In 1981, 1,380 acres of land, including the Mines of Spain area, were donated and sold to the State of Iowa by Herman and Marcella Lott with the assistance of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

The Mines of Spain State Recreation Area was dedicated the same year. In 1993, the area was designated as a National Historic Landmark.




History of the Mines of Spain Area. Online: http://www.minesofspain.org/history.phtml

Ludvigson, Greg A. and Dockal, James A. "Lead and Zinc Mining in the Dubuque Area."Online: http://www.igsb.uiowa.edu/Browse/leadzinc/leadzinc.htm

Mines of Spain. YouTube user: TAy5KeR1Y44

Natural and Cultural History of the Mines of Spain. Online: www.iowageology.org/pdf/GB53.pdf