SOLON– History was marked in Solon on Sunday, Nov. 25, when a plaque was set next to Highway 1 on Main Street. The marker recognizes a point in time along the line that 173 years ago was known as the new military road from Iowa City to Dubuque.
It was built for $20,000 and, after surveying, was plowed by Lyman Dillon, of Cascade. Dillon, 39 years old and born in Utica, N.Y., was single and the owner of a saw mill.
That road became eventually became known as Old Military Road and is now Highway 1 north to Anamosa then 151 to Dubuque. The path established an important transportation route from the territorial capital of Iowa City to the upper Mississippi River trading hub in Dubuque.
Dillon’s task was to lead a team of oxen and plow a furrow as straight as the land and yoked animals would allow. His cut in the grassy sod marked a line for a road crew to follow.
Marsha Hucke of Iowa City’s Nathaniel Fellows chapter of the Daughter of the American Revolution helped document the Dillon path for the new marker, one of the final placed along the route.
When it was designed, the road was commissioned to cross as many county seats as possible. The furrow also went through Cascade, Monticello, Ivanhoe, Ainsworth, Crawfordsville, Mount Pleasant, Hillsboro and Keosauqua.
The new marker for Dillon’s Furrow, Hucke said, was not about Lyman Dillon, but the impact of the early road on Iowa’s development. “Yes, he was instrumental,” she said, “(but the road was important because it) opened Iowa to settlement.”
She noted that Iowa’s settler population grew fourfold during Iowa’s early territory years from 10,000 in 1836 to over 40,000 whites by 1840. Iowa became the 29th state in the union in 1846.
Hucke credited Marlin Ingalls, an archaeologist/architectural historian at the office of the Iowa State Archaeologist, and Mary Bennett, special collections coordinator at the State Historical Society, for their assistance in her research.
The new marker reads: “In 1839, Lyman Dillon plowed a furrow passing Solon, connecting Iowa City and Dubuque. The furrow later became known as Old Military Road and presently is known as Highway 1. Marker placed by Iowa Daughters of the American Revolution 2012.”