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Chief Keokuk

This statue of Chief Kiyo' kaga, (one who moves about alert), 1788-1848, later known as Chief Keokuck, or Chief Keokuk, stands in Rand Park, the front yard of the city named after him. It is unclear why the city was named after a man who barely if ever spent any of his life in the town named after him but one thing is clear, the town was christened with whiskey. It is said that on July 4, 1829, at a river party celebration held upon a steamboat here, Col. George Davenport proposed the name of Keokuk. As they were non-residents, the official naming of the town took place 5 years later in 1834 by 9 citizens here. In John Gaines saloon a decanter of whiskey was set on the bar and at Gaines' suggestion, all those present who wanted to name the settlement "Keokuk" were to step up to the bar and have a drink. The vote carried 8 to 1. The town when named contained one frame house and ten log cabins. Kiyo' kaga was not a full blooded Indian, and was not in line to be the Chief that he later was acknowledged to be. His father was 1/2 French and 1/2 Indian. His mother was a full blooded Indian, in fact, if surnames were used as they are today, his last name would have been LaMott(e). According to the records, he was more of a politician than a brave leader.

Rand Park
Scenic Rand Park was formed in 1882 from former cow pastures. The park is named for George Rand, Keokuk’s mayor at the time. Rand Park is home to the Chief Keokuk Gravesite. His body was exhumed from his 1848 grave in Kansas and reburied in the park. Chief Keokuk’s gravesite is marked with a monument and statue created by female Iowa sculptor Nellie Walker, which was dedicated in 1913. Rand Park is located on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi, giving the spectator a breathtaking view of the river. Other features of the park are a beautiful flower garden and fountain, pond, eighteen-hole disc golf course, playground equipment, shelter houses and picnic tables. It is also the site for April’s Civil War Re-enactment. The number to reserve a shelter house at Rand Park is 319-524-2050.
The Lock and Dam of Keokuk

Construction on U.S. Lock and Dam #19 began in 1910, and when completed in 1913, it was the largest electricity generating plant in the world. Lock 19 is the largest lock on the Mississippi and is on the National Register of Historic places.  The area is open 24 hours a day for viewing of river traffic. Call (319) 524-6363 for information.The lock and dam, as well as the rest of the river, can be viewed from a distance on the Observation Deck of the old bridge.

The locks are 1200 feet long and 110 feet wide, with a lift of over 38 feet. The present lock was put into operation in 1957 at a cost of 13.5 million dollars. It is owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Power House and spillways (shown above) are owned and operated by Union Electric Company.
Miller House Museum

Samuel F. Miller House and Museum is located at 318 North 5th Street, and is owned and operated by the Lee County Historical Society.

Click here for a full description of the Miller House.

Observation Deck
After the completion of the new bridge in 1985, the Keokuk side of the old bridge was transformed into an Observation Deck. The deck provides a beautiful view of the River, Lock & Dam 19, the George M. Verity and Victory Park. Park benches and lights enhance your viewing pleasure.

Click here for a view of Victory Park and the bridge.

Click here for a view of Lock & Dam 19 and the powerhouse.
George M. Verity Riverboat Museum
The George M. Verity River Museum is located in Victory Park on the riverfront. The paddle boat was built in Dubuque, Iowa by the U.S. Government in 1927 to revive river transportation and move barges from St Louis to St. Paul. It was then known as the S.S. Thorpe. Armco Steel Corporation bought the boat in 1940 and put it into service on the Ohio River, renaming it after the founder of their company, George M. Verity. The George M. Verity was donated to the City of Keokuk in 1961 after being retired from service. The museum is open April 1 - October 31. The hours are 9 AM - Noon & 4:00 PM - 6:00 P.M., Thursday, Friday and Monday, then 9:00 A.M. - 6:00 P.M. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $3 for adults and $1.50 for children.To learn more, write for a free brochure at P.O. Box 400, Keokuk, IA 52632-0400, or call (319) 524-4765.
Keokuk's Historic Riverfront on the Mississippi

Riverfront Statue of General Samuel Curtis

General Samuel Ryan Curtis commanded the Union Army to victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge. This statue of him sits on the Riverfront in Victory Park. It originally was located in the intersection of Third and Main Streets.

Keokuk National Cemetery
Keokuk National Cemetery is located at 1701 J. Street. It is one of 12 original national cemeteries designated by the U.S. Congress. During the Civil War, the presence of the College of Physicians and Surgeons caused the federal government to locate a military hospital in Estes House (formerly at 500 Main Street), and four other sites in Keokuk. The sick and wounded were transported to the hospitals in Keokuk by riverboats on the Mississippi River. Many soldiers, from the North and South, died at the hospitals in Keokuk during the Civil War, and were buried in what became Iowa’s only National Cemetery. The cemetery is currently the final resting place for the remains of over 4,000 American soldiers. In 1997 the Cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The cemetery is open seven days a week from dawn to dusk.Contact the Cemetery at 319-524-1304.
The Grand Theatre
The Grand Theatre, located at 26 North Sixth Street, is a completely restored 1920’s opera house. It is one of few remaining "hemp" houses. Built it 1924, it replaced the previous theatre which was destroyed by fire in 1923. It is still in use today for special cultural events.
Historic Homes and Sites

Many historic homes and buildings of Keokuk’s glorious past still stand, restored to their original grandeur. Drive around the historic streets of Keokuk to experience these beautiful sites. Brochures of walking tours of dozens of historic homes and sites are available at the Keokuk Area Convention and Tourism Bureau. Call them at (319) 524-5599. Or write them at: KACTB, 329 Main Street, Keokuk, Iowa 52632. The brochures provide routes, addresses, and historical information about the homes and sites.