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State Encouragement of Immigration

The first legislative act in Iowa designed to promote immigration, was passed in March, 1860. The law provided for the appointment by the Governor of a Commissioner of Immigration to reside and keep an office in the city of New York, from the first of May until the first of December of each year. It was made the duty of the Commissioner to give to immigrants information in regard to the soil and climate of the State, branches of business to be pursued with advantage, the cheapest and best routes by which to reach the State, and to protect them from imposition. To carry out the objects of the law, the sum of $4,500 was appropriated to be applied as follows: for the payment of the Commissioner two years, $2,400; for printing documents in English, German, and such other languages as the Governor might deem advisable, $1,000, and for office and office expenses for the Commissioner, $1,100. Under this law, Hon. N. J. Rusch, of Scott county, who had previously been Lieutenant Governor, was appointed Immigration Commissioner, and in May, 1860, established an office in New York. The object of the law seems to have had special reference to foreign immigration. The Commissioner in his report to the Governor, in December, 1861, gave it as his opinion, that the establishment of an agency in New York was not the most successful method of inducing immigration to a particular State. He thought far more could be accomplished at less expense by the distribution of documents. In February, 1862, the law was repealed, and the office of Commissioner of Immigration was discontinued May 1st of that year.

The next effort put forth by the State to promote immigration was under an act passed by the Thirteenth General Assembly, in 1870. Hon. M. J. Rohlfs, of Scott county, had at the previous session introduced a bill in the House of Representatives for the purpose, but the measure did not then succeed. At the next session he renewed his efforts with success. The law provided for the appointment by the Governor of a Board of Immigration, to consist of one member from each Congressional district, and the Governor, who was ex-officio President of the Board. It also provided for a Secretary, to be ex-officio Commissioner of Immigration, and to be chosen by the Board. Provision was also made for the appointment of agents in the Eastern States and in Europe, and for the publication and distribution of documents. To carry out its objects an appropriation of $5,000 was made. This was designed to pay expense of documents, salary of Secretary, and compensation of agents, the members of the Board receiving no compensation, except mileage for two meetings each year, to be paid out of the general fund, tinder this law the following persons were appointed by Governor Merrill: Edward Mumm, of Lee county; M. J. Rohlfs, of Scott county; C. L. Clausen, of Mitchell county; C. Rhynsburger, of Marion county; S. F. Spofford, of Polk county, and Marcus Tuttle, of Cerro Gordo county. At their first meeting, held in April, 1870, they elected A. E. Fulton their Secretary, and authorized him to prepare a pamphlet for distribution, in the English, German, Holland, Swedish and Norwegian languages.

Many thousands of copies of a pamphlet entitled "Iowa: The Home for Immigrants," were printed in the several languages named, and distributed throughout the East and in European countries. Many other pamphlets and documents were also distributed, and several agents commissioned.

So successful were the effiarts of the Board that the next General Assembly appropriated $10,000 for continuing the work. The amendatory law, however, reduced the Board to five members, including the Governor. The Board, as reduced, was composed of the following members: M. J. Rohlfs, of Scott county; S. F. Spofford, of Polk county; Marcus Tuttle, of Cerro Gordo county; C. V. Gardner, of Pottawattamie county, and the Governor. The new Board continued the former Secretary, and pursued its work by the distribution of documents, through agents and by correspondence. After four years existence the Board of Immigration was discontinued, but not until it had doubtless been the means of inducing thousands to find homes within the borders of Iowa.

[History of Keokuk County, Iowa, 1880; submitted by cddd]


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