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Dubuque County is a county located in the U.S. state of Iowamarker. As of 2000, the population was 89,143, rising to 92,359 in 2007. Its county seat is the city of Dubuquemarker. Dubuque County is coterminous with the Dubuque, Iowa Metropolitan Statistical Area, and is the seventh largest county by population in the state. It is named for Julien Dubuque, the first European settler of Iowa.


Early history

Dubuque County is named for Julien Dubuque, the first European settler of Iowa, and an early lead mining pioneer in what is now Dubuque County. Dubuque was French Canadian, and had (by most accounts) a friendly relationship with the local Fox Tribe of Native Americans. He and other early pioneers established a lucrative mining and trading industry in the area. When lead deposits began becoming exhausted, the pioneers developed boat building, lumber yards, millworking, brewing, and machinery manufacturing to take its place.

The establishment of the City of Dubuque in 1833 led to large-scale settlement of the surrounding area. This was greatly encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church, which sent priests, bishops, and nuns to establish churches in the unpopulated countryside. Primarily, Irish and German (many of whom were Catholic) immigrants came to the region. In 1858, Saint Francis Catholic Church was established in Dubuque County.

Middle history

In the 1980s, the farm crisis set in, and devastated large sections of the Midwest, including Dubuque County. Since the area was heavily dependent on agriculture-related industries like Deere and Company and the Dubuque Packing Company, unemployment soared. In one month of 1982, Dubuque County had 23% unemployment, the highest in the nation. The county experienced huge population losses during this time, as workers left the area. It would not fully recover from this until the late 1990s, when the economy diversified, shifting away from manufacturing, and toward various service-related establishments.

Modern history

Since the 1990s, the area has become much more prosperous. Today, the county boasts record employment levels and a growing population. The surging economy can especially be seen in the West Side of the City of Dubuque, and in neighboring Peosta and Asbury. These areas have expanded so much that concerns now lie with trying to manage the growth, a sharp change from just 20 years ago.

It is one of Iowa's two original counties along with Des Moines Countymarker; both were organized by the Michigan Territorial legislature in 1834.

The city of Dubuque was chartered in 1833 as the first city in Iowa.

Law and government

Dubuque County is governed by a 3-member Board of Supervisors elected at large. Current supervisors include Wayne Demmer (chairman), Eric Manternach, and Donna Smith. They meet on alternate Mondays at 9:00 AM or 7:00 PM in the Dubuque County Courthousemarker.

The County Sheriff's Department is responsible for law enforcement in all areas of the county, especially those without their own police departments. The current county sheriff is Ken Runde. The Sheriff's Dept. is located at the Dubuque City/County Law Enforcement Center.

Current county attorney is Ralph Potter, who succeeds the long-serving Fred McCaw, who died while on vacation in 2006.


The county has supported the Democratic Party in each of the last thirteen presidential elections. In the last five elections the Republican candidates has lost by a margin ranging from 13.8% to 19.6% of the vote. As part of Iowa's 1st congressional district, it is represented by Democrat Bruce Braley.


Geographic features

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 617 square miles (1,597 km²), of which 608 square miles (1,575 km²) is land and 8 square miles (22 km²) (1.36%) is water.

The county seat is Dubuquemarker, Iowamarker, which is located along the Mississippi River in the east-central portion of the county. Eastern Dubuque County is markedly different from the western portion in that its topography is very uneven. The city of Dubuque and surrounding areas adjacent to the Mississippi River have many steep hills, bluffs, and ravines. Also, the eastern portion is more heavily wooded than the west, which is mostly rolling farmland.

Dubuque County is widely-known for its impressive bluffs along the Mississippi River, which run along the entire length of the county's riverbanks. These form part of Iowa's Coulee Region, otherwise known as the Driftless Area. During the last ice age, much of the Mississippi Valley near Dubuque County was bypassed by glacial flows, which flattened the surrounding land in eastern Illinois, Wisconsin, and western Iowa, leaving the Driftless Area unusually rugged.


Dubuque County is divided into seventeen townships:

Major Parks

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources administers 3 park and preserve areas in the county: The Dubuque County Conservation Board administers 11 park and recreation areas in the county:
  • Bankston Park
  • Fillmore Recreation Area & Fairways
  • Finley's Landing Park
  • Heritage Trail & Pond
  • Interstate Power Forest Preserve
  • Massey Marina Park
  • Mud Lake Park
  • New Wine Park
  • Pohlman Prairie Preserve
  • Swiss Valley Nature Park & Preserve
  • Whitewater Canyon Park
The City of Dubuque and other towns in the county also operate public park systems of their own. (see Parks in Dubuque, Iowamarker)

Major highways

Adjacent counties

National protected areas


Historically, Dubuque County's economy was driven by heavy industry, including, among others, Deere and Company, and the now-defunct Dubuque Packing Company. However, within the last 15 years, and especially within the last 5 years, the economy has diversified a great deal. Now, alongside manufacturing, which still employs thousands of workers, many county residents work in the tourism/gaming, health care, education, publishing, and financial service sectors.

The county's economy is largely centered around business and industry within the City of Dubuque. With the exception of industrial areas in Cascade, Dyersville, and Peosta, almost all of the rest of the county is rural and agriculturally-driven. Some of the key industries in Dubuque County include: Deere and Company, Eagle Window & Door Co., Flexsteel Industries, ThermoFischer Scientific, Mi-T-M Corp., A.Y. McDonald Mfg. Co., Klauer Mfg., Georgia-Pacific, and Swiss Valley Farms, among others. Besides industry, large numbers of people work for the Dubuque Community School District, Mercy Medical Center - Dubuquemarker, Medical Associates, Finley Hospitalmarker, Prudential Financial, the City of Dubuque, and Cottingham & Butler.


Dubuque County has, in recent years, enjoyed tremendous job growth, low unemployment, and the rapid expansion of business and commerce. Alongside these positives, the county is beginning to see a growing population, as well. Up from a recent low of 86,403 in 1990, the population is now about 92,000 and growing. This can be seen especially in the West Side of the City of Dubuque, and in nearby Asbury and Peosta. This fact is especially significant, considering that all of the counties surrounding Dubuque County have fewer people now than they did in 1900, with the exception of Grant County, Wisconsin.


2000 Census Age Pyramid for Dubuque County.

As of the census of 2000, there were 89,143 people, 33,690 households, and 23,111 families residing in the county. The population density was 147 people per square mile (57/km²). There were 35,505 housing units at an average density of 58 per square mile (23/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.07% White, 0.86% Black or African American, 0.15% Native American, 0.58% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 0.50% from other races, and 0.76% from two or more races. 1.19% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

2005 estimates by the census indicated that Debuque had a population that identified itself as being 95.5% non-Hispanic white, 1.3% African American, 0.7% Asian and 1.5% Latino.

There were 33,690 households out of which 33.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.80% were married couples living together, 8.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.40% were non-families. 26.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.07.

In the county the population was spread out with 25.60% under the age of 18, 10.20% from 18 to 24, 27.20% from 25 to 44, 22.30% from 45 to 64, and 14.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 94.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.30 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $39,582, and the median income for a family was $48,742. Males had a median income of $31,977 versus $22,309 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,600. About 4.90% of families and 7.80% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.80% of those under age 18 and 11.00% of those age 65 or over.



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