Marquette, formerly North McGregor, was first discovered June 17, 1673, by Father Marquette & Joliet. In October 1800, a land grant was given to Basil Giard, in turn known as the Giard Tract. It was one of the three Spanish land grants in what is now Iowa. Marquette was born from the need of a supply point for the proposed railroad that would be passing through the valley. In 1920, Marquette was the largest railroad terminus in Iowa and employed over 400 at the yards. It was the first all-rail route between Chicago and the Twin Cities.
Marquette was incorporated May 12, 1874. Much of the town and the railroad were destroyed during disastrous floods in 1896 and 1916.
The railroad pontoon bridge was built in 1860. It was discontinued in 1961 due to expensive maintenance fees. The pontoon bridge was dismantled and taken to La Crosse, Wisconsin.
The last passenger trains stopped at Marquette in January 1960. This ended 93 years of passenger service to Marquette.
A car suspension bridge crossing the Mississippi River, connecting Wisconsin and Iowa, was built in 1932. At the time, it was the only suspension bridge crossing the Mississippi River. The suspension bridge was dismantled in 1975, after the new Marquette-Joliet bridge was completed in November of 1974.
Marquette boasts a population of 421 as of the 2000 census and continues to grow and prosper. The beauty and charm of the town, along with the Mississippi River, has made Marquette a “must see” stop as travelers make their way along the Great River Road Highway that runs directly through the area. Marquette is home to many great attractions including the Depot Museum, a casino, winery, charming specialty and antique shops and great spa and personal training facilities.
McGregor sprouted from a ferry boat landing that Alexander MacGregor and Thomas Burnett established in 1837. This landing eventually grew into one of the most important shipping depots west of Chicago.
It was 1847 when MacGregor hired a surveyor to plot out a six-block area which later became known as McGregor upon its incorporation in 1857. Bits of history, such as its rapid growth as Gateway to the West; floods; fires; the story of how the famous Ringling Brothers Circus had its beginning in McGregor back yards; a visit from Jesse James on the Moody farm south of town; the colorful story of Diamond Jo Reynolds, whose steamboat shipping office still stands in McGregor and is listed in the National Historic Register; business tycoon, credited today with being one of northeast Iowa’s finest examples of 19th century architecture; and many other stories, make McGregor unique in historical lore.
Today, more than 871 people reside in McGregor. Visitors and residents enjoy a host of great antique and specialty shops, quaint bed & breakfasts, unique restaurants, unlimited river recreation, Pikes Peak State Park, Spook Cave & Campground.