Keokuk owes its existence, its presence, and its future to its most dominant force, the Mississippi River. There is only one Keokuk in the world, located at the confluence of the Des Moines and Mississippi Rivers in the southeast corner of Iowa.
Rich with history, culture and natural beauty, Keokuk boasts exceptional schools, healthcare facilities, neighborhoods, entertainment and recreational options, and provides career opportunities for the entire Tri-State Area. Today, nearly 11,000 call this beautiful city home.
Natural beauty, from the magnificence of the Mississippi to the delightful surprise of limestone-encased geode crystals, abounds in Keokuk. Many visitors remark on the "greenness" of the city, with its gigantic trees lining most residential areas and its public parks that offer recreational facilities as well as beauty.
Keokuk, Iowa is the place where today and history meet, where opportunities abound, and where the small town atmosphere and great people make it an enjoyable place to call home or to visit.
Keokuk is named in honor of the Sauk/Fox chief of the descendants of aboriginal Algonquin peoples present when white settlers first explored the area. Native Americans fished the Mississippis waters and hunted game in the lush woodlands along the river for centuries, most recently by the Sauk and Fox tribes led by the citys namesake Chief Keokuk.
The area was under French and Spanish rule for nearly 150 years prior to being included in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. In 1804 the area was set aside by special treaty as a tract for half-breed descendants of the Indians and early white fur traders. By 1828, the first white settlers had arrived in Keokuk and began commerce on the Mississippi with the newest scientific wonder the steamboat. Although large unnavigable rapids blocked river traffic at Keokuk, ingenious businessmen and engineers soon solved the problem with a series of canals, and Keokuk prospered.
Evidence of this age of prosperity can be seen in the magnificent homes perched on the bluffs high above the river. Many of those homes still reflect the opulence and refinement developed during the last half of the 19th century.
During the tumultuous 1860s, Keokuk played a vital role as the departure point for northern troops headed for southern battlefields of the Civil War. Returning hospital boats created a need for medical care, and as many as seven hospitals and two medical colleges were established in Keokuk, including one that later became the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. President Abraham Lincoln established the first National Cemetery west of the Mississippi here. It is still the only one in Iowa.
In 1913, a huge hydroelectric plant and dam, an engineering marvel and the largest of its time, fortified Keokuk as a major force along the Mississippi, with rapid industrial growth through the 1950s and expansions into the twenty-first century.
Keokuk is a progressive community firmly rooted in the past and eagerly reaching for the future, while maintaining the Midwests famous small-town friendliness.
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