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History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/Albert M. Lea

ALBERT M. LEA, who gave the name to Iowa before it had an organized existence as a Territory or State, was born in east Tennessee in 1807. With a common school education he entered the Military Academy at West Point in 1827 from which he graduated in 1831. He was appointed second lieutenant in the artillery service. In 1832 he was detached on topographic work and in 1834 was transferred to the First Dragoons, in the company commanded by Captain Jesse B. Browne. The regiment was sent to the upper Mississippi with headquarters at old Fort Des Moines (now Montrose) in Lee County, Iowa. It was from here in 1835 that Lieutenant Lea accompanied the exploring expedition under Captain Boone which marched through the wild regions bordering on the upper Des Moines, Boone and Iowa rivers. Lieutenant Lea wrote the first description of that part of the country ever published, from notes and maps made while on the march. After his return, he published a book of forty-five pages to which he gave the title “Notes on the Iowa District of Wisconsin Territory.” This is believed to have been the first time the name “Iowa” was applied to the country which two years later became the Territory of Iowa. While in camp on the shores of a beautiful lake in southern Minnesota, Lieutenant Lea made a plat and sketch which was sent to the War Department, where the name “Albert Lea” was given it. He soon after resigned his commission and purchased claims at the mouth of Pine Creek on the west side of the Mississippi, eighteen miles below Rock Island, where he laid out a town which he named Ellenborough. He expected this to be an important city as the country became settled but the founding of Davenport on one side and Muscatine on the other, ruined his hopes and the plat became in time a farm. Lieutenant Lea was employed as a civil engineer to assist in establishing the disputed boundary between Iowa and Missouri. In 1841 he was chief clerk in the War Department and in 1843 was Professor of Mechanics in the University of Tennessee. During the Civil War he was an officer in the Confederate army. He died at Corsicana, Texas, on the 30th of January 1891.