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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.


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SPANISH LAND GRANTS. Deeds of ownership granted by Spanish officials to settlers on land claimed by Spain. In 1763, with the end of the French and Indian War, English and Spanish claims faced each other across the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. In 1762 realizing that it was about to lose its war with England, France secretly ceded New Orleans and all French claims west of the Mississippi to Spain, then a weak international power.

Spain had difficulty from the start controlling the sparsely settled territory of the Upper Mississippi. Settlers along the Lower Mississippi were generally French and hated the Spanish. North of where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers meet, French trappers continued to roam the river valleys in search of furs. Although the Spanish put down a rebellion of French settlers between 1769 and 1770, the land of the Upper Mississippi remained too remote for absolute control. For administrative purposes, the Spanish divided the Louisiana Territory into districts which included St. Charles, an immense area north of the Missouri River, in what is now Iowa.

Settlement was nearly non-existent in the Iowa country during the Spanish era. In the Dubuque area the only names linked to the region were those of Jean Marie CARDINAL and Julien DUBUQUE, neither of whom were Spanish. Both of the men linked to the Dubuque area were French Canadians and of these only Dubuque received a land grant. Spain's decision to restrict its interests to an area south of the Missouri was probably due to the costs in money and personnel that were directed toward Central and South America.

In 1796 Julien Dubuque petitioned Governor General Carondelet for confirmation of his title to land given to him by Native Americans west of the Mississippi. The tract was given the name MINES OF SPAIN. According to his petition, the land lay a distance of about seven leagues (approximately twenty-one miles) from the "margin" of the Little Maquoketa River to the "margin" of the TETES DE MORTS and approximately three leagues (nine miles) in depth.