Buchanan County Facts


The First Election

The first general election in the county occurred in August 1848, at which time the following officers were elected to serve one year; Board of County Commissioners, Rufus B. Clark, James Colyner, and Malcom McBane; Judge of Probate, Elijah Beardsley; Sheriff, E.D. Phelps; Coroner, Doctor S. McGonigal; Commissioners' Clerk and Recorder, Doctor Edward Brewer; Clerk of District Court, S.P. Stoughten (Doctor Brewer previously elected before the organization of the county); Prosecuting Attorney, Elijah Beardsley; Surveyor, Daniel C. Greeley. The total number of votes cast at this time, the first general election held in the county , was sixty-two. At this time the county was divided into three voting precincts, viz; Washington, Liberty, and Spring. Prior to this the county had been attached to Delaware for judicial and revenue purposes, and some elections, which took place soon after the first prior to 1848. At the first of these elections, which took place soon after the first settlement of the county, Quasqueton was the voting precinct for the entire county, and all of the country to the north and west as far as the Rocky Mountains and the British Possessions.

First Courts

The first regular term of court held in Buchanan County, convened in the log cabin of Rufus B. Clark, on the 27th day of April 1849, Hon. James Grant, Judge of the 3rd Judicial District, presiding; E.D. Phelps, Sheriff, and S. P. Stoughten, Clerk. The first court, however, which might be called an irregular session, was held by Judge Grant in his buggy, in front of the clerk's office, in the Spring of 1848. He drove up to Dr. Brewers house, called him out, and inquired what cases were on the docket. The clerk informed him that there were two, when the judge inquired what disposition, in his judgment, should be made of them, and was informed that one case should be dismissed, as there was no cause of action, and that in the other judgment should be rendered for the plaintiff. Judge Grant directed the clerk to enter judgments accordingly, and drove off without further ceremony. The second term of court, was held in the storeroom of William Brazelton; then in a small building erected for a school house, and in various other places, until the completion of the present courthouse, in 1857, where it has since been regularly held.

County Buildings

The county buildings consist of a court house, jail, and asylum for the poor. The court house and jail occupy about one-half of a block in the center of the original plat of Independence, as laid out by the county. They are situated on the highest tract of land in the neighborhood, and command a fine view of the City of Independence, the valley of the Wapsipinicon, and the surrounding country. The court house is a plain, substantial, two-story brick building. The first floor is divided into light and pleasant rooms for the accommodation of the different county officers, while in the second story is a large and commodious court room. It was built in 1857, at the cost of $12,000, and was erected under the direction of Hon. H.P. Roszell, who was then Judge of the County Court.

The jail and jailors house is a very neat two-story building, erected under the direction of the county supervisors by John Sutherland, in 1870, and cost, with the jail yard, about $20,000. The jail is built of Anamosa stone, with walls eight feet thick , and contains six cells. The poor farm contains about two hundred acres, is situated some three miles northeast of Independence, and cost, with the improvements, about $8,000.

Insane Hospital

During the winter of 1867-68, Honorable William G. Donman, then a member of the Upper House of the Iowa General Assembly, introduced a bill for the erection of an additional insane hospital at or near the City of Independence. Through his untiring and well directed efforts it passed the Senate without a dissenting voice, and receiving little opposition in the Lower House, soon became a law, receiving at the same session an appropriation of $125,000. The bill named Maturin L. Fisher, of Clayton county, E.G. Morgan, of Webster, and Albert Clark of Buchanan, a board of commissioners to supervise the erection of the building. Albert Clark died about one year after his appointment, and Honorable G.W. Bemis of Independence was appointed to the vacant position. The bill required a donation of 320 acres of land within two and a half miles of the city, which was soon provided for by those interested in the work. The commissioners met in June, 1868, and approved the site, which is on the west side of the river, the east boundary line being about one mile from the river and made other necessary improvements. The building is a little over two miles from the city upon and elevation gently rising from the river to a height of from fifty to one hundred feet above the surrounding country, giving it a commanding view. It was unbroken prairie and had a good supply of living water.

The plan of the building is that drafted and submitted by Colonel S.V. Shipman, of Madison, Wisconsin, and may be described as follows; It will, when completed, present a front view of the 762 feet, consisting of a main center building and wings constructed in longitudinal and transverse sections, each receding toward the rear from the center of the building. The main center building is 60x100 feet, four stories and mansard roof in height. The wings are composed first of a longitudinal section 45x92 feet, then a transverse section 36x87-1/2 feet, then longitudinal section 26x56 feet, ending in a transverse building 35x72 feet. The longitudinal sections are all three stories high with plain slate roof, while the transverse sections are three stories with a mansard roof in height.

In the rear of the main building is located the rear center building, the front section of which is 42x60 feet, three stories above the basement, the upper being the chapel, and is connected with the main building by a corridor seven feet wide by twenty feet long. The rear section of this building is 44x49 feet, three stories above the basement, and connected with the fan tower and engine house by a passage-way fourty feet long. The engine house, which is directly in the rear of the center building, is 55x115 feet is one story high with a roomy attic, which is used as a work shop and contains considerable valuable machinery. The chimney, directly in rear of the engine house, is 130 feet high. The base, which is built of granite, is twenty-two feet and six inches in diameter, while the top is fourteen feet six inches. It is of an octagon shape, handsomely fluted, and took in its construction 250,000 brick. An iron pip in the center of the chimney carries off the smoke from the furnace, leaving a large vacuum which is connected by subterranean ducts with all parts of the building, forming a superior and effective system of ventilation.

The lower portion of the main center building is occupied by the apartments of the superintendent, steward and matron, with room for the trustees and accommodations of visitors, while the fourth and fifth stories will be used for the better class of patients. The wings are divided into wards, each of which are entirely separate, and are provided with dining rooms, bathrooms, promenading halls, sitting rooms, water closets, and the attendants rooms, each ward being complete in its self. The north wing, which is now completed, is designed for male patients, but is now used for both, and the south wing for females. The rear center building is devoted to a dining room, kitchen, sitting and sewing rooms for patients, general storage rooms, and sleeping apartments for female help. Every convenience is being introduced to do away with attendants as much as possible. A car is run in the basement from the kitchen to all parts of the building, and the food is elevated in dumbwaiters, one to each section, to the dining rooms, which are situated on above another.

By this means, the entire hospital can be served with food by one man in twenty minutes, waiters being in each dining room to receive and remove the food from the dumbwaiters. The entire building is heated by steam, pure air being driven by fans over radiators and forced into all parts of the building, giving a uniform heat and perfect ventilation. cold and Hot water are forced to all parts or the building by the engine, while the entire hospital is lighted by gas manufactured on the premises.

The main buildings are constructed of Anamosa and Farley limestone, which is finely dressed, and at a little distance has the appearance of gray marble. The basements are of native granite, worked for the immense boulders which are found in large quantities in this part of the state. The engine house is also build of granite, which, owing to the variety of its color presents a very novel and attractive appearance. The walls are surrounded by a plain iron cornice, with a variegated slate roof, giving to the building a fine general appearance. There has also been erected a large barn, costing about $5,000, with several immense cisterns. The first contract for the erecting the two northern building was awarded to David Armstrong, of Dubuque, at a contract price of $86,114. At the end of the first season the commissioners decided that the interests of the state would better sub served by having the work done by the day, and an amicable arrangement was made with Mr. Armstrong, by which he relinquished his contract. Since that time the work has progressed under the  immediate supervision of the superintendent of construction, George Josselyn who has conducted in a very satisfactory manner.

Appropriations have been made as follows; By the 12th General Assembly, $125,000; the 13th, $165,000; 14th, $200,000; 15th, $93,000; making a total of $583,900. Honorable George W. Bemis, treasurer and resident director, estimates that it will, when entirely complete and ready for occupation, cost about $900,000, and be the best built and arranged institution of the kind in the west. Its ordinary capacity is 450 patients, although by crowding somewhat, 600 can be admitted. The present number is 230, a larger portion of whom were removed from Mount Pleasant upon the opening of the hospital in 1873.

Present officers are A. Reynolds, M.D. , Superintendent; Willis Butterfield, M.D., Assistant Physician; George Josselyn, Steward; Mrs. Anna B. Josselyn, Matron.

Middlefield's first settler was Dunn

September 21, 1858 was the day that the township of Middlefield was organized. The first election was held in a school house and the officers elected were G. Smith, R. Stoneman, M. Broadstreet and Daniel Leatherman.

The township's first settler was Patrick Dunn. He settled in the area on April 2, 1850 on the banks of Buffalo Creek. Daniel Leatherman and family were the next settlers. They came to the county June 2, 1854 and built the first frame structure in the township. The stage from Dubuque to Coffins Grove passed by their house and each night they placed a light in an upstairs window to guide the travelers.

R. Stoneman settled in the township in 1855 and was Leatherman's first neighbor. He was a Wesleyan minister and conducted the first religious services in the area.

Among the other early settlers were William Broadstreet, a Mr. McWilliams and Stillman Berry.

A cemetery company was organized about 1874. The ground had previously been used for burial but the company was not organized until that year. A post office was established about 1872 with L. P. Stitson as the first postmaster. The office was called Middlefield.

(Editors note: The following stories and historical sketches of Buchanan County towns and townships are based on original accounts in the "History of Buchanan County" which was published in 1914 by Harry Church and Katharyn Chappell.)

The birth of Edward Leatherman on April 4, 1855 was the first in the township. The first wedding vows in the township were exchanged by Willard S. Blair and Permelia Ann Leatherman.

The first crop in the township was raised by Patrick Dunn and consisted of turnips, sod corn and potatoes. He also raised the first wheat crop in the township in 1851.

The first school was taught in a house constructed by the residents and was paid for by subscription. The first teacher was Malinda Gageby, later Mrs. Samuel Braden.

April 13, 1898

The Independence Steamboat Co.'s boat now christened "Iowa", again rests on the bosom of the Wapsi. The repairs and refitting were completed and she was launched last week.


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