Who Was Albert Lea?

Activity 5

Exploring the Prairie

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"The general appearance of the country is one of great beauty. It may be represented as one grand rolling prairie, along one side of which flows the mightiest river in the world, and through which numerous navigable streams pursue their devious way towards the ocean. In every part of this whole District, beautiful rivers and creeks are to be found, whose transparent waters are perpetually renewed by the springs from which they flow. Many of these streams are connected with lakes; and hence their supply of water is remarkably uniform throughout the seasons. All these rivers, creeks, and lakes are skirted by woods, often several miles in width, affording shelter from intense cold or heat to the animals that may there take refuge from the contiguous prairies."

From: "Iowa District of the Wisconsin Territory" in The Book that Gave Iowa its Name, A reprint, Published at Iowa City Iowa in 1935 by the state Historical Society of Iowa. Used with permission.

You may enjoy reading more biographical information about Albert M. Lea. Following his 1835 journey through Iowa, he also wrote a memoir of his journey and later published his Notes on the Wisconsin Territory; Particularly with Reference to the Iowa District, or the Black Hawk Purchase. These documents provide an abundance of information about Iowa in 1835 in the actual words of Albert M. Lea.

Photos used by permission, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City.

Quick Facts about Lieutenant Albert M. Lea

  • He was born on a farm near Knoxville, Tennessee on July 23, 1808.
  • Albert Miller Lea was from a family of eight children. Seven were boys.
  • His grandfather was a Baptist preacher who had come to Tennessee during the American Revolution in the late 1770s.
  • Albert Miller Lea started school in Knoxville, Tennessee.
  • At age seventeen he quit school for a while and worked on the farm, clerked in a store, and taught Latin on the side.
  • From 1827 to 1831 he went to school at West Point United States Military Academy. He became a Lieutenant in the Army following graduation in 1831.
  • In October of 1834, he reported at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. There he was ordered to join Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Watts Kearney's detachment of dragoons at Fort Des Moines.
  • During the summer of 1835 he participated in a great adventure up the Des Moines River valley and across the southeast corner of present-day Minnesota.
  • Based upon his travels, he later wrote a book and published a map showing where the military explorers went during the summer of 1835. His book and map were titled Notes on Wisconsin Territory, Particularly with Reference to the Iowa District.

Based upon: "Albert M. Lea," The Palimpsest, March 1935, pp. 69-79.

Photos used by permission, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City.

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