The History of Strawberry Point
Chamber of Commerce
The name "Strawberry Point" goes back to the days of 1841, when Iowa was still a territory. It was in 1841 that the "Old Mission Road" was laid out from Dubuque to Fort Atkinson in Winneshiek County, in what was called the Neutral Ground. The Neutral Ground had been established on July 30, 1830 as a means of protecting the Winnebago Indians from the hostile Sec and Fox tribes ... Fort Atkinson was established literally to protect Indians from Indians.
In July of 1830 the chiefs of all Indian tribes in this area were called into a conference in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Presiding over the meeting was General William Clark and his advisors, a group of prominent traders who were all knowledgeable in the rigid protocol of Indian etiquette. As a result of this gathering between the Sac and Fox tribes, a strip of land forty miles wide and running from the Red Cedar River to the Mississippi was ceded to the United States government. The government agreed to pay the Indians $3,000.00 annually for ten years; it also agreed to help the Indians promote agriculture, to supply them with blacksmiths and farm implements, and to furnish schools for the Indian children. Joseph Street was appointed Indian agent.
This forty mile-wide strip of land was designated as "Neutral Ground" -- it would serve as a barrier between the Winnebagos and the hostile tribes. This strip included the Northern parts of Clayton and Fayette counties, and the Southern parts of Allamakee and Winneshiek counties. The army established the "Old Mission Road" as a military wagon road when it began moving the Winnebago Indians from Green Bay, Wisconsin, to the safety of Fort Atkinson. One of the commissioners named by the Iowa Territory to lay out this military wagon road was James Hewitt, an Indian trader who came to Clayton County from Dubuque in 1841. He had settled in the St. Sebald area as the first white settler.
As the army moved 2,900 Winnebagos from Wisconsin to their new home in the present Winneshiek County, they made camp near a spring a mile west of the town of Strawberry Point. The spring was located in a point of timber abundant with wild strawberries. Each mile of the "Old Mission Road" was marked with a stake, and the one at this campsite was inscribed "Strawberry Point." Mission Street, which runs East and West through the town today, was part of the Old Mission Road. This point of timber with its spring became a popular stopping place for Eastern emigrants on their way to Northern Iowa and Minnesota to settle claims.
In 1849 the Winnebagos sold their land and were moved to Minnesota. Fort Atkinson, having served its purpose, was abandoned. The land was then opened for settlement and the boundary lines of Clayton, Fayette, Allamakee, and Winneshiek counties were made permanent. During the preceding 11 years there had still been wars between the Indian tribes, and more than forty Winnebagos had been killed by the hostile Sac and Fox tribes. When the Winnebagos were moved to Minnesota they were the last of the Indian tribes to leave the area.
The population of Clayton county in 1840 was 275; by 1850 the number had swelled to 3,875 as settlers from the East started buying claims for $1.25 an acre. Many of the first immigrants were from New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Between 1847 and 1853 about twenty families established claims a long "Old Mission Road" in this area. A post office was established in Strawberry Point in 1851 as well as blacksmith shops and stores. Saw mills were established in the areas where the Three Crosses Ranch/EWALU Stone Center and EWALU Bible Camp are located today.
The town of Strawberry Point was laid out in 1853 by W. H. and D. M. Stearns. The first recorded plot was listed to E. B. Gardner on December 16, 1854 in the area of the lagoon in back of the Lutheran Home. The Steams brothers had chosen the name "Franklin" for the town they had plotted, in remembrance of their former home in New York state, the town of Franklinville. When application for a post office, using the name Franklin, was made it was discovered that a previous application had come for the same name from Lee county. The application was then changed to read Strawberry Point and the name was adopted. For a while, in the 1870's, the town was referred to by some as "Endfield" ... the name given to the station established by the Davenport and St. Paul railroad in 1872. The railroad had named their station Endfield, because they didn't think the name Strawberry Point was "appropriate". In 1875 the State Legislature was prevailed upon to pass a law requiring the name of the railroad station to correspond with the original town, and so the settlement became permanently "Strawberry Point."
The movement to incorporate the town in 1883 failed by a vote of 98 to 63. After a four year period which brought more growth to the town, incorporation was again voted an in December of 1887. This time more positive thinking brought about an affirmative vote of 101 to 78, and incorporation became a fact.
About the time Strawberry Point was plotted, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Iowa was organized in the unfinished parsonage at St. Sebald and a post office established. Four men from Saginaw, Michigan founded the Synod on August 24, 1854. The St. Sebald (Wartburg) Seminary was built and dedicated on October 31, 1857. The Seminary operated here until it moved to Mendota, Illinois, May 18, 1875. In 1899 the Seminary moved again, this time to Dubuque, Iowa, where it is still located. The present St. Sebald church building was erected in 1867, and still serves a regular and active congregation.
Records show that Strawberry Point was known as the "Cream City." In 1887 the town received 10,731,428 gallons of whole milk, making Strawberry Point one at the top locations for processing whole milk in the entire state. That volume of milk would take 536 tank cars, or a solid train three miles long, to hold it. In 1896 butter production was 426, 191 pounds (7,612 tubs), with receipts of over $100,000. The handling of all the whole milk was done by a co-operative creamery formed by the merger of several small creameries operating in the area. Dairying and the processing of whole milk are still leading agricultural industries in this area, with the AMPI (Associated Milk Producers, Inc.) servicing producers with the operation of bulk tanks and milk trucks.
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