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Adair County Iowa


1875 Iowa State Gazetteer
published by Bailey and Hair, Chicago, and as written by J. C. Gibbs, Esq., Fontanelle
transcribed by Carlyss Noland

Adair County is situated in the south-western part of Iowa being the third county east of the Missouri River, and the third north of the state of Missouri. It is bounded on the north by Guthrie, on the east by Madison, on the south by Union and Adams, and on the west by Cass. The Grand Divide, or the high land dividing the waters of the Missouri from the waters of the Mississippi, passes through the eastern portion of the county. The land is undulating, and mostly rolling prairie. The proportion of prairie to timber is about as twenty-five to one.

TIMBER--The timber is well distributed throughout the county, covering most of the bottom lands. The are three large bodies, one the Middle River, in the northeast part of the county, on on Grand River, in the southeast, and one on the Nodaway, in the west and southwest. It is composed principally of black walnut, oak, linn, cottonwood and elm.

SOIL--The soil is chiefly black loam, containing a sprinkling of sand, from two and a half to four feet in thickness, and resting on a bed of clay. It produces in abundance corn, wheat and all kinds of vegetables that grow in this latitude. Plums, crab apples and grapes grow spontaneously, in great abundance, and of an excellent quality. Young orchards of the different fruits are looking finely, and this promises to be a good fruit-growing county.

COAL, BUILDING STONE, ETC.--No coal has yet been discovered, but in several places coal slate is found on the surface near the streams. Limestone is found in abundance on the banks of the Middle River. Good brick clay in small quantities is found in different localities.

STREAMS, MILLS, ETC.--Middle River, running in a southeasterly directions, enters the county near the centre of the northern boundary, and passes out near the centre of the eastern boundary. Grand River, rising in the northern part, runs in a southeasterly direction and passes out near the southeast corner of the county. The two branches of the Middle Nodaway River rise in the northwest part and running south, unite near the southwest corner of the county. These, with many smaller streams, and fine durable springs make this one of the best watered counties in the State.

There is some good water power in the streams, but at present there are only one water and two steam saw mills in the county.

As the farmers have to a considerable degree turned their attention to wool raising, and as the country is well adapted to this purpose, a woolen factory is much needed at present, and would be in the future also be a very profitable investment.

The county is divided into eleven townships, viz: Grand River, Greenfield, Grove, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Lincoln, Richland, Summerset, Walnut, Washington.

RAILROADS--The Mississippi and Missouri River Railroad, and the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad upon their approach to the Missouri River, if they do not pass through this county, will approach, the former very near to the north, and the latter very near to the south line, and it a few years it will have the advantages and benefits arising from a competition between the two roads.

ORGANIZATION--The county was organized in April, 1855, by the election of Samuel Holiday, Judge; John Gibson, Clerk; and William Alcorn, Sheriff. The State Legislature have previously appointed commissioners to select and name the county seat, Summerset was chosen. The name was afterwards changed to Fontanelle.

EARLY SETTLEMENT--The first settler was Thomas A. Johnson, who came in 1849. During the coming season John A. Gilman, James Campbell, William Alcorn, John Gibson, William McDonald and Alfred Jones settled in different parts of the county, and commenced improvements. As they all located in the timber, and were in a manner isolated, the early settlements progressed slowly. The first white child, Margaret Johnson, was born in 1850, and the first death was that of a child of John Gibson, in the same year. During the years 1855 and 1856, the land was nearly all entered by capitalists, and has been held by them for speculation, thus retarding the improvement of the county, but heavy taxes have induced many of them to place their lands in market, and good locations can not be obtained at from three to five dollars per acre.

The county has an agricultural society which has been in operation for years.


FONTANELLE, the county seat, is located a little southwest of the centre of the county, and is finely laid out in a beautiful prairie.

It contains some fine public buildings, and has a population of about two hundred. The Methodists, Christians and Congregationalists all have societies organized, but are as yet without church edifaces. There is one newspaper, published weekly by James C. Gibbs. Fontanelle Lodge, No. 138, A. F. & A. M., which has been in operations seven years, holds its meetings on Saturday evenings previous to the full moon.

ARBOR HILL is a post office in Harrison township, 18 miles northeast of Fontanelle, and on the State road from Des Moines to Council Bluffs. It receives six mails per week. The soil of the surrounding country is rich and well adapted to the production of wheat and other small grains. Population of township 180.

There are also the villages and post offices of Adair, Greenfield, Hebron and Holiday.

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Adair County

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