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To Iowa!

Iowa State Flag

Westward expansion has been an important part of the American experience. After arriving in Pennsylvania, it was only a matter of time before branches of the Schoener family tree took part in that adventure. The initial move was from eastern to western Pennsylvania. Gradually spreading to a couple of counties in the area, some family members would continue their journey. This is the story of three brothers and their children's move to Iowa.

Johann Peter Schoener was 5 years old when he arrived in Philadelphia on 21 Sep 1742 aboard the "Francis and Elizabeth" with his parents, Johann Melchoir and Anna Marie Schoener, and his three brothers. On 20 May 1753, he was confirmed at the New Hanover Evangelical Lutheran Church in Montgomery County, PA. He would later marry Mary Margareth Appolonia Benner in 1758 and they would have about 11 children. Three of their sons would eventually settle in western Pennsylvania: Johann Heinrich "Henry", Johann Adam, and Daniel.

Henry and Adam would reside in Butler County, while Daniel lived in Westmoreland County. The three would marry and raise 6 or more children.

In 1803, the size of the United States instantly doubled when then-president Thomas Jefferson completed the Louisiana Purchase, buying a massive territory (around 827,000 acres) west of the Mississippi River from the French for $15 million. This transaction included the land that now makes up the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, along with the majority of the land in Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, and Wyoming.

To Jefferson, westward expansion was the key to the nation’s health. He believed that a republic depended on an independent, virtuous citizenry for its survival, and that independence and virtue went hand in hand with land ownership, especially the ownership of small farms. "Those who labor in the earth," he wrote, "are the chosen people of God."

In order to provide enough land to sustain this ideal population of virtuous farmers, the United States would have to continue to expand. The westward expansion of the United States is one of the defining themes of 19th-century American history.

When the Black Hawk Purchase opened a triangle of fertile land in eastern Iowa to white settlement, the surge was on into what would become the first free state carved from the Louisiana Purchase.  The first census, taken in 1836 recorded 10,531 American settlers.  Only two years later, an 1838 tabulation more than doubled the previous figure with 22,589.  The numbers continued to grow exponentially.  In 1840, it was 43,112.  After two new tracts of Indian lands in central Iowa were opened for settlement, the numbers soared. By 1846, the year Iowa entered the Union as the 29th state, census takers tallied 96,088 Iowans.

Males outnumbered females in territorial Iowa which was typical of life on the frontier and those under 21 outnumbered those over.  Statistics from Dubuque County reported that households averaged just under five person.  After the initial wave of settlers, Iowa never had an overwhelming predominance of single males. 

Iowa soon became a farming frontier and 19th century farming was a male-female partnership.  Women's work was essential to the survival of the family and the success of the farm.  One result of those male-female partnerships was an abundance of children.  Rural families where children could contribute to the family labor pool even at an early age tended to be larger than urban families.  On the eve of the Civil War in 1860, census records show that one-third of Iowans were under the age of 10.  The presence of children in early Iowa promoted the early development of schools, churches, and social stability that were often lacking in western communities heavily dominated by transient males.

When the U.S. took over the trans-Mississippi lands from France, Congress created the Territory of Orleans, including the city of New Orleans, which evolved into the State of Louisiana.  The rest was labeled the Territory of Missouri with Captain William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame as its first governor headquartered in St. Louis.  When Missouri was carved out as a state on its own in 1820, the remainder of the unincorporated land west of the Mississippi had no appointed administration for thirteen years until it was attached in 1834 to the Territory of Michigan.  The addition was a far-ranging jurisdiction including future states of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas.  As Michigan headed toward statehood, the western portion of the territory was split off to become the Territory of Wisconsin with the lands across the Mississippi designated as the District of Iowa. 

One development at this stage was the creation of two large counties in Iowa, DuBuque County and DeMoine County.  These would later be divided into many smaller counties of a more traditional size.  Burlington was named as one of two capitals of the Wisconsin territory.  The legislature met there only a couple times before, in 1838 with the population of the Iowa region growing rapidly, Congress created the Territory of Iowa as a separate entity. 

In comparison with the boundaries of the future state, the Territory of Iowa was huge.  It extended through most of western Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas, lands that were not then opened to white settlement.  Martin Van Buren was President when the Territory of Iowa was created.  Robert Lucas, the former governor of Ohio, was Van Buren's pick as Iowa’s first territorial governor. 

By 1840, nearly 7 million Americans, 40 percent of the nation's population, lived in the trans-Appalachian West. Following a trail blazed by Lewis and Clark, most of these people had left their homes in the East in search of economic opportunity. Like Jefferson, many of these pioneers associated westward migration, land ownership and farming with freedom. In Europe, large numbers of factory workers formed a dependent and seemingly permanent working class; by contrast, in the United States, the western frontier offered the possibility of independence and upward mobility for all.

In 1845, a journalist named John O’Sullivan put a name to the idea that helped pull many pioneers toward the western frontier. Westward migration was an essential part of the republican project, he argued and it was Americans' "manifest destiny" to carry the "great experiment of liberty" to the edge of the continent. The survival of American freedom depended on it.

It was at this time some of the Shaners in western Pennsylvania picked up and moved to Iowa, two of which were Adam's grandsons. By 1854, Simon Heiberger Shaner (born 1813) was living at Farmers Creek, Jackson County. In 1856 he was in Perry, Jackson County with his wife and six children. His younger brother, Jacob (born 1826) had joined him and was living with the family as well. Simon worked the farm and Jacob was employed as a carpenter.

At the time of the 1850 census, Daniel's son George Shaner, Sr. (born 1807) was living in New London, Henry County, Iowa with his wife and six children. On 14 Nov 1848 he was appointed as a U.S. postmaster in New London. He also worked as a tailor.

Eventually, one of Henry's grandsons, Elias Shanor (born 1830 and yet another spelling change) would move to Iowa and settle in Ward, Clarke County in time for the 1880 Census. He was a farmer and together he and his wife had ten children.

These are just a few of the family members who were part of the westward expansion. For some of them, it was merely a temporary stop before heading further west to Oregon and Washington.

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