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THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Galland, Isaac
(May 15, 1791–September 27, 1858)

–entrepreneur, land speculator, doctor, author, and frontiersman—was a son of Matthew and Hannah (Fenno) Galland. The third of five children, he was born in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, during his parents' journey from Norfolk, Virginia, to the frontier settlement at Marietta, Ohio. Land in the Northwest Territory had become available to those "war-like Christian men" willing to live under the constant peril of Indian attack. In that environment, Galland learned the lessons of frontier survival.

    His mother took responsibility for his early education. Later he was befriended by the son of Ohio University's president, and Galland is said to have graduated from that university's theological school. Some sources say that he went to Mexico, was seized by the Spanish government, and held prisoner at Santa Fe for a year.

    While in his 20s, Galland married twice. He left those women behind when he traveled down the Ohio River to Indiana Territory, where he studied and practiced medicine among the settlers there (hence the frequent references to "Dr."Galland). He mastered several American Indian languages and gained the trust of the Indians, among whom he would live and trade for much of his life.

    By 1826 Galland had married a third time and moved to a remote site on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River, and he established a trading post at Yellow Banks, the site of present-day Oquawka, Illinois. Two years later he sold his trading post, moved across the Mississippi River, and founded a settlement called Nashville in what would later become Lee County, Iowa. He promoted the location as a future commercial center, established another trading post, and practiced medicine. Several families soon joined the settlement. For the children's education, Galland hired a teacher and built a log structure to create a school, the first in the territory.

    Harsh frontier conditions disrupted Galland's life. His wife died, leaving him alone to raise two very young children. In the mean time, relations between the U.S. government and the Sauk and Meskwaki tribes in eastern Iowa deteriorated. Warned by a Sauk friend of the impending Black Hawk War of 1832, Galland moved his family across the Mississippi River to the safety of Fort Edwards at Warsaw, Illinois.

    At Fort Edwards, Galland met and married a sister of the commanding officer. Then, after more than 40 years living on the edge of the frontier, he embraced a more civilized mode of life. He entered politics and wrote and published prodigiously. He ran for Illinois state representative in 1834 and for state senator in 1836, but voters, influenced by his opponent's accusations of dishonest land dealings, quashed both bids for office.

    Galland then turned his full attention to land speculation. Although there were questions regarding the legality of land titles, he bought and sold land in the Half-Breed Tract, a reservation of land in Iowa Territory set aside by the federal government for families of white traders who took Indian wives. He purchased Illinois land adjacent to the Mississippi River and laid out the town of Commerce, where he lived with his family in a large, two-story house. During his residence there, he wrote and published five issues of a periodical, Chronicles of the North American Savage. With David W. Kilbourne, he laid out the plat for Keokuk, Iowa.

    Always the entrepreneur, Galland attracted Joseph Smith Jr. to the Commerce, Illinois, site. The Latter Day Saints were searching for a place to establish a community following their expulsion from Missouri. Galland won Smith's confidence, and he sold 20,000 acres of land in the Half-Breed Tract to the Mormons in addition to the town of Commerce, which was renamed Nauvoo. Subsequently, Galland converted to the Mormon faith. Although he was suspected at least once of misusing church funds, he remained in high esteem among church leaders, and was con sidered a "Mormon benefactor" and "instrument of the Lord."

    In 1837 Galland established the Western Adventurer and Herald of the Upper Mississippi and used it to encourage real estate development. He also published Galland's Iowa Emigrant, a guide to promote immigration to the Iowa Territory.

    In 1851, at age 60, Galland ran unsuccessfully for the Iowa state legislature. Upon his failure to achieve that position and under legal scrutiny for some of his land transactions, he moved to California until his legal difficulties were resolved, whereupon he returned to Fort Madison to live out the remainder of his life.
Sources For a thorough, well-annotated biography, see Lyndon W. Cook, "Isaac Galland-Mormon Benefactor," Brigham Young University Studies 19 (1979), 261–84. See also Martin Kaufman, Stuart Galishoff, and Todd L. Savitt, eds., Dictionary of American Medical Biography (1984); William Coyle, ed., Biographical Data and Selective Bibliographies for Ohio Authors, Native and Resident, 1796–1950 (1962); and "Dr. Galland's Account of the Half-Breed Tract," Annals of Iowa 10 (1912), 450–66. A portrait of Galland hangs at the State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City; see Ellwood C. Parry III and Margaret A. Bonney, "Bingham Portrait Rediscovered in Midwest," American Art Journal 7 (1980), 75–78.
Contributor: Margaret Atherton Bonney

Cite as: Bonney, Margaret Atherton. "Galland, Isaac" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 25 October 2014