Why 1846 was an “Astonishing and Decisive” Year

In 1846, the planet Neptune was discovered, September 23.

Iowa became a State, the 29th, on December 28, 1846.

As author Timothy Foote, an editor at Smithsonian, points out, beyond the Smithsonian Institution’s founding, 1846 was an astonishing and decisive year in American history. “It was the year the Mexican War began. The year when the country, taking a quantum leap forward, suddenly completed the westward course of empire that Jefferson had dreamed of when he sent Lewis and Clark out exploring 40 years before. As 1846 began, the Union occupied less than half of what is the continental United States today; when it was over we possessed, or were soon to possess, all of it.”

The man who set it all in motion was President James K. Polk when he acquired California, New Mexico, and most or all of what are now Arizona, Nevada and Utah.

Meanwhile, in Indiana, a baby girl was born that year to Ephraim and Lucy Jane Moore. They named their sixth child Emelia Ann. Emelia would eventually become Leora Goff’s beloved grandmother.

In Iowa.

And in Illinois, also in 1846, Sam Wilson (who grew up with Indians in Ohio) married Emily Huyck. They would eventually become grandparents of Clabe Wilson.

In Iowa.

Nearly seventy years after Iowa became a state, Leora and Clabe would be married.

In Iowa.

I’m thankful that my ancestors decided that this new state would be a good place to settle. Happy Birthday, Iowa!

Iowa in 1846. No Guthrie County yet. It would be formed on January 15, 1851.



  1. Hello Joy! That’s quite the telling, well written, history lesson. Hmm, had space flight been possible back in the 19th century, Polk likely would’ve blasted off explorers to Neptune, too.

      • Of course a space-age Polk would’ve launched a mission; by now there’d be at least 3 Starbucks open for biz, too! BTW, I still deem Pluto to be planet 9. I mean if puniness is the sole criterion for demotion, that’d mean all the non-gas giants of the inner solar system should get the heave-ho, too.

  2. I suspect you know this. The 1846 treaty that brought the U.S. our family home of 44 years, California, created a lot of angry Mexican leaders. That was because just three years later gold was discovered near Sacramento. And, we keep reminding the current Mexicans with teams like the 49ers.

    • Thank you for this. I disliked history until I discovered genealogy, so my studies of it have been myopic. When I learned (in my mid-40s) that one of my mother’s brothers lost during WWII (five served, only two came home) has never been found, in a B-25 off New Guinea, I asked what New Guinea had to do with WWII. I’ve had a lot of catching up to do! I’ve written the family’s WWII stories, Depression Era stories (published just last June), now working on their early stories, at least starting about the time Iowa became a state. Yes, another crash course in history.

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